Monday, May 25, 2015

Straw Man Arguments (part 3)

I ended the last post by saying that we must consider what the apostle Paul says and follow him. That point brings up another common straw man argument against right division. 

"I follow Christ, not Paul." 

Sounds real pious, doesn't it? The implication is that we follow Paul as a man, but nothing could be further from the truth! Paul rebuked those at Corinth who were following him as a man. He ALSO rebuked those who said they were of Apollos, Peter, and even Christ (1 Cor. 1:11-12). Scofield wrote in his introduction to 2 Corinthians, "It is evident that the really dangerous sect in Corinth was that which said, "and I of Christ" (1 Cor. 1:12). They rejected the new revelation through Paul of the doctrines of grace; grounding themselves, probably, on the kingdom teachings of our Lord as "a minister of the circumcision" (Rom. 15:8); seemingly oblivious that a new dispensation had been introduced by Christ's death. This made necessary a defence of the origin and extent of Paul's apostolic authority." 

After Paul rebuked those at Corinth who were following him as a man, he went on to instruct them to follow him! 

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. (1 Cor. 3:10)

Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. {17} For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. (1 Cor. 4:16-17) 

But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. (1 Cor. 7:17)

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1)

If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. (1 Cor. 14:37)

We are not to follow Paul as a man (isn't that obvious?!) but as the divinely appointed pattern and spokesman for the Body of Christ in this present age. All the words in his thirteen inspired epistles are the words of God, not his own words. The apostle Peter recognized Paul's epistles as scripture and "All scripture is given by inspiration of God". 

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; {16} As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Pet. 3:15-16)

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Tim. 3:16)

The words in Romans through Philemon are just as much the words of Christ as the words in Matthew through John! In reference to what he taught in 1 Tim. 6:1-2, the apostle Paul said:

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; {4} He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, {5} Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. (1 Tim. 6:3-5)

The risen and glorified Christ from heaven revealed mysteries for this present age through His chosen vessel, the apostle Paul. Just as Christ sent the 12 apostles to the 12 tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28), He sent Paul to the Body of Christ (Col. 1:24-29). How can you reject Paul's authority and yet claim to follow Christ?

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. (John 13:20)

God raised up Moses to be His spokesman to the nation of Israel. He took him up on a mount in Arabia (Sinai is in Arabia, Gal. 4:25) and revealed the Law to him. When Israel departed from the Law of Moses they were in apostasy. Likewise, God raised up Paul to be His spokesman to the Body of Christ. He took him out into Arabia (Gal. 1:17) and revealed mysteries to him. We are living in days of apostasy because the professing church has departed from the distinctive message and ministry of Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul warned about this apostasy in his last inspired letter. 

Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. {14} That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us. {15} This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. (2 Tim. 1:13-15)

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; {4} And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

The apostle Paul again and again talks about and defends his distinct message and ministry. He magnified his office as the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13). Why do so many Christians try to diminish what God has magnified? Paul was not puffed up about himself.

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. {10} But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Cor. 15:9-10)

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; (Eph. 3:8)

I want to close this post by challenging those who claim they follow the teachings of Christ in the Gospel records. I understand that Christ taught many moral principles in His earthly ministry that still apply today, but have you ever really thought about Rom. 15:8?

Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: (Rom. 15:8)

In His earthly ministry Christ was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24) and He taught pure law (Matt. 5:17-20). Do you really follow the teachings of Christ in the Gospel records? How about these, for example:

And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. (Matt. 8:4) 

... Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: {6} But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. {7} And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. {8} Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. {9} Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, {10} Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. (Matt. 10:5b-10)

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? {17} And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. (Matt. 19:16-17)

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, {2} Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: {3} All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (Matt. 23:1-3) 

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. {33} Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. (Luke 12:32-33)

The last words of Christ are not found in the "Great Commission". Christ continued to speak from heaven through His apostles and the books of Acts through Revelation are the words of Christ! To try and pit the words of Christ against the words of Paul is to deny the inspiration of scripture.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Straw Man Arguments (part 2)

The most common straw man argument that is made against right division usually goes something like this, "Well, I believe that we need the whole Bible and not just Paul's epistles."
I have never read or heard ANY "hyperdispensationalist" even imply that believers should only read and study Paul's epistles! We who follow Paul (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1) as the divinely appointed pattern and spokesman for this present age are well aware of what he said about this matter:
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Rom. 15:4)

Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (1 Cor. 10:11)

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Tim. 3:16)
Every word of God is pure (Prov. 30:5) and we would not diminish the importance of a single word of scripture! It is our spiritual nourishment and we are to feed on every word it (Matt. 4:4). There are spiritual applications that we can draw from every book. I have read through the entire Bible more times that I can remember. I have read it all the way through in as little as 90 days (and I am a slow reader). I try to read from the Old Testament every evening. I have preached expository messages from MANY passages outside of Paul's epistles. I have taught verse by verse through a number of books NOT written by Paul. Just recently I preached verse by verse through one of my favorite psalms (Ps. 19).
But, while all the Bible is for us, it was not all written about us or directly to us. Before Paul said that "All scripture... is profitable", he said (in the same epistle) that we must rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). When we fail to follow this divine key to Bible study the word of God can become unprofitable. When that is the case the problem is not with the Bible but with how people misuse it. Most of the false doctrine that abounds today is a result of not following 2 Tim. 2:15.
Rightly dividing the word of truth is not distinguishing truth from error (which we also need to do). All the Bible is the word of truth. To rightly divide the word of truth is to recognize and consistently maintain the divisions that God put in His word. What therefore God hath put asunder, let not man join together! For example, the word of truth that Peter preached to the men of Israel as recorded in Acts 2:36-38 is not the word of truth by which sinners are saved in this age of grace (Eph. 1:13). God makes a clear division in His word between the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of the grace of God. I have heard preachers claim that Peter preached the same gospel as Paul in Acts 2 because he mentioned the death and resurrection of Christ. Yes, Peter preached the cross in Acts 2 but he preached it as a murder indictment (v.23, 36)! He certainly did not glory in the cross and announce the good news that Christ died for our sins. Yes, Peter preached the resurrection of Christ in Acts 2 but he declared that He was raised to sit on the throne of His father David (v.30), not that he was raised to be the Head of one new spiritual man wherein there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Eph. 1:20-23).
We are well aware of the truth that the Lord does not change (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8). He is perfect and therefore does not change in His person, moral principles, and promises. However, He certainly changes in His dealings with man (compare Ps. 51:11 with Eph. 4:30)! There is horizontal truth that runs like a straight line through the whole Bible. For example, from the beginning it has been sin to commit murder. There is also vertical truth that has been revealed progressively resulting in changes. For example, we are living in the only dispensation in which we are free to eat whatever we want (1 Tim. 4:4-5). Thank God for that! Christ gave the apostle Paul an "abundance of revelations" (2 Cor. 12:7) for the Body of Christ in this present age. There are some major differences between how God deals with us under Grace and how He dealt with Israel under the Law.
Rightly dividing the Bible is not "chopping up the Bible" or "doing away" with any part of it. Actually, it helps us to understand the Bible and thereby causes us to get a greater blessing out of it than ever before! Most treat the Bible as a devotional book but it was given primarily for DOCTRINE (2 Tim. 3:16). There is certainly nothing wrong with making devotional applications. However it is wrong to make a secondary devotional application to be the primary doctrinal interpretation of a passage. We should study the whole Bible but when we come across something that does not line up with the specific doctrines that Christ revealed through Paul for us in this age, we must consider what Paul says first (2 Tim. 2:7) and then follow him (Phil. 4:9).

Monday, May 4, 2015

Straw Man Arguments Against Right Division (part 1)

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him. (Prov. 18:13)  

And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just. (
Rom. 3:8)
Image result for straw man
Charles Finney once said, "Before you are able to convince me of error you must first demonstrate that you understand what I say." Although I disagree with some things that Finney taught (and yes, I understand what he was saying), I do appreciate and understand that statement! Every Bible teacher will at some time or another feel like they have been misrepresented or even slandered concerning what they believe and teach. That is just an unavoidable reality, especially in this technological age in which everybody thinks they are an expert and they have a "platform" online to spout off about how much they think they know. I am not complaining about criticism. I read that Harry Ironside had a sign in his office that read, "To Avoid Criticism: Do Nothing; Say Nothing; Be Nothing."
The purpose of this series of posts is not to defend myself but to encourage and help those who understand the distinctiveness of Paul's ministry in this present age as the apostle to the Gentiles (Eph. 3:1-12). When you first learn this truth and how it opens up the Bible to be understood more than ever before (2 Tim. 2:7), you immediately think, "How did I not see this before?" You then assume that other Christians that haven't seen it yet will also want to learn this great and important truth and so you excitedly begin to tell others what you have learned. It usually doesn't take long to discover that many professing Christians are apathetic about learning the word of God and if they do have any measure of zeal it is for tradition and not Bible truth. As soon as they hear something that sounds different than what they have always heard they just dismiss it without any further investigation or consideration. Those who seem to be receptive are often scared off by preachers who warn them about the dangers of that dreaded theological disease they call "Hyperdispensationalism".
Do you know who a Hyperdispensationalist is? Why, it is anyone who is more dispensational than you are! Much of what is called "Hyperdispensationalism" is not really that at all and most people who carelessly hurl that term around don't even know what it means. The prefix "hyper" means to go over and beyond. Hyperdispensationalism is the error of putting divisions in the Bible where they don't really exist. The teaching that the Church which is the Body of Christ did not begin until Acts 28:28 (called the "dispensational boundary line" by Welch) is legitimate Hyperdispensationalism. We know that the Body of Christ started during the Acts Period because Paul wrote about it in epistles that he wrote during that time (Rom. 12:5; 16:25; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27-28). But is it going over and beyond what the Bible says to believe and teach that there is a difference Peter's ministry to Israel in early Acts and Paul's ministry to the Body of Christ? Instead of letting some man tell you what to think, why not just carefully read and consider the following verses:
The apostle Peter said to Israel in Acts 3:19-24, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;  {20} And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:  {21} Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.  {22} For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.  {23} And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.  {24} Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days." 
The apostle Paul said to the Body of Christ in Romans 16:25-27, "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,  {26} But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:  {27} To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen."
The apostle Paul also said to the Body of Christ in Ephesians 3:1-9, "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,  {2} If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:  {3} How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,  {4} Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)  {5} Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;  {6} That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:  {7} Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.  {8} Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;  {9} And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:"
How can that which was SPOKEN by the prophets since the world began possibly be the same as that which was kept SECRET and HID IN GOD since the world began? The former concerns the kingdom that God promised to establish on the earth (Israel over the Gentiles) and the latter concerns the spiritual and heavenly Body of Christ (that is neither Jew nor Gentile).
The scripture is crystal clear on the difference between the prophetic kingdom program of Israel and the mystery program of the Body of Christ. To acknowledge and consistently maintain this division is to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Sadly, many will not go to the scripture itself and "prove all things" (1 Thess. 5:21). They will not search the scriptures for themselves to see if it is so (Acts 17:11). They would rather go to the internet or some man to find out what they should believe. Over the years I have heard many pitiful straw man arguments against right division. This month I plan to do several posts in which I will answer them from the word of God. 
From Wikipedia:
"A straw man is an intentional misrepresentation of an opponent's position, often used in debates with unsophisticated audiences to make it appear that the opponent's arguments are more easily defeated than they are. [1] Unintentional misrepresentations are also possible, but in this case, the individual is guilty only of simple ignorance. While their argument would still be fallacious, they can be at least excused of malice. The title of the argument comes from the art of practicing fighting techniques against men made of straw: which is a problem in that straw men don't fight back, don't wear armor, don't bleed and generally aren't anything like the sort of thing you would actually encounter in a battle."

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