Thursday, April 24, 2014

Replacement Theology

Replacement Theology suggests that the Church has replaced Israel.  It is suggested that all those who obey the new covenant are Israel.  This position appeals to Scripture by claiming that the Church is the new Israel.  For instance…

And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:29 (HCSB)

May peace come to all those who follow this standard, and mercy to the Israel of God!
Galatians 6:16 (HCSB)

There are several problems with this position.  The simplest way to refute Replacement Theology is to understand that the Bible never uses the terms Church and Israel to refer to the same group of people.  For example, in 1 Corinthians 10:32 (HCSB), it reads, “Give no offense to the Jews or the Greeks or the church of God.”

Ephesians 2:11-16 clearly explains that the Church and Israel are two groups of people.  The Church has responded to Jesus as Messiah while Israel has not.

The clearest reference to the new covenant in the Old Testament is in Jeremiah 31:31-37 which promises both a new covenant and the continued existence of Israel as a nation.  Paul confirms a future for Israel in Romans 11:26 where he tells that “all Israel will be saved.”  Whether this refers to spiritual salvation or physical deliverance from the Great Tribulation it is still clear that this refers to future plans for Israel. There will also be a time when Israel comes to see the Jesus is their Messiah and they chose to crucify Him, (Zechariah 12:10.)

Even with all of that, the strongest indictment against Replacement Theology is this:  If God has replaced Israel with the Church that must mean that God has changed His mind about those covenant promises to Israel.  If God has changed His mind about His covenant promises to Israel then why should we think He will not change His mind about salvation promises to the Church?  The position of replacement theology cannot be accepted because it attacks the character of God.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The True Gospel

It is often overlooked that the Bible holds the local Church accountable for the content of preaching in that local church.  Paul admonished the Church in Galatians to not put up with “another gospel.”  I’ve been blogging about “other gospels” recently and want to refer you to a book that has been very helpful to me in this regard: Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax. 

This book does a great work exposing the subtle yet significant departures from the gospel that are present in the Church today.  Given the influence that our culture is having upon the Church today, it is imperative that every Christian read this book.  I’m asking pastors to join me in preaching the gospel as it is revealed in the Bible.  Preach the Word.  Preach Jesus.  Tell the great story of God sending His Son Jesus to be our Savior.  Then tell the story again.  Be creative.  Be contemporary.  Be different.  Be old-fashioned.  Style points don’t matter but the gospel must be preached.

Worship in heaven as recorded in Revelation 5 tells a story.  Jesus is worshiped as the Lamb who was slain.  Throughout eternity we will know that Jesus was the Lamb who was slain.  We will never have a conscious moment when we think that we are there because we lived a great life.  We will always be aware that we needed God to send His Son to be our Savior.

Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!  Galatians 1:6-9 (NIV)

The true gospel is the story about Jesus.  The true gospel will always be easy to recognize because it’s Christ-centered and not man-centered.  The true gospel runs throughout the entirety of Scripture and doesn’t need to be improved, updated or changed.  It simply needs to be told.

I am also indebted to a statement that I found in one of R.C. Sproul’s book because of its simplicity and clarity:

“You are required to believe, to preach and to teach what the Bible says is true, not what you want the Bible to say is true.”  Chosen By God, page 4.

Christians everywhere should demand nothing less of their pastors than this – preach the true gospel.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Prosperity Gospel

The prosperity gospel is a false gospel and will lead you away from devotion to Jesus.  The most extreme version of the prosperity gospel directly says that God wants you to be rich.  It may be suggested that you are kingdom kids and you shouldn’t be wearing rags.  There are many versions of the prosperity gospel with varying degrees of emphases.  You should know the pitfalls of the prosperity gospel.    

Joel Osteen is someone that preaches the prosperity gospel and he has said this:

"God has already done everything He's going to do. The ball is now in your court. If you want success, if you want wisdom, if you want to be prosperous and healthy, you're going to have to do more than meditate and believe; you must boldly declare words of faith and victory over yourself and your family" 
Your Best Life Now, p.132

Here are three serious weaknesses of the prosperity gospel:

1) The prosperity gospel does not prepare you to endure any measure of suffering for Jesus’ sake.
Jesus suffered as an example to us.  It is costly to be a Christian.  Following Jesus will be hard at times.  We are told in Scripture to count the cost.  We are also told that all those who want to follow Jesus will be persecuted.  Hard times are normal times for the Christian.  To follow Christ is to suffer but it’s brief compared to eternity.

2) The prosperity gospel does not prepare you to be content with what God has already given you.  I remember talking with a Christian man I admire and I expressed my appreciation for how he was able to raise a family on his means without a double income.  He reflected on that and realized that God had made him content.  They never had an abundance but they always had enough.

3) The prosperity gospel emphasizes the gifts of God more than the person of God.  In Revelation 4 & 5 the focus in heaven is clearly on the person of God and His Son, our Savior Jesus.  That should be our focus in this life as well.  Focus on Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible.

You can listen a long time to the prosperity gospel without hearing any mention of sin.  When sin drops out of your teaching, the cross will be dropped as well.  When the cross drops out of preaching you are not listening to the gospel.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Inclusive Gospel

I once heard a pastor refer to Matthew 11:28 where Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.”  He emphasized the word all.  “All means all” he said.  He went on to either say or imply: “All who come to Jesus are received.  All are invited.  All who come find rest.  All means all and this was said to include all kinds of lifestyles.”  That’s what the preacher was after – inclusion.

The pastor who made the remarks that all means all was promoting an inclusive gospel.  All people of all walks of life and all lifestyle preferences can come to Jesus.  True, all are invited and all may come.  However, it is not the Church that makes demands on our choices, lifestyles and preferences.  It is Jesus.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.”  (John 14:15)  We don’t get to pick and choose which commands to obey just as we don’t get to pick which aspect of Christ’s being we will embrace.  Everyone likes Jesus the Savior but He is also Jesus the Judge.  (2 Tim 4:1)  That’s not the Church’s imagination, that’s just the way it is.  You can trust Jesus to tell the truth.  Jesus said all may come.  Jesus also said He is Lord.  When a person comes to Jesus, that person comes to Him as Lord.  All are included in the offer.  However, all will not choose to be included in the blessing.  

Jesus invites you to come to Him but you don’t get to choose the terms.  You cannot soften the person of Jesus or weaken His commands or reduce His holiness to your comfort level and then come on those terms.  You have to come on Jesus’ own terms.  All must come to Jesus and receive Him for who He is.  Jesus is Lord.  All who come to Jesus must come to Him as Savior AND Lord.  Lord is not what Jesus does, it is who He is.  As Lord, Jesus has the right to require us to live under the authority of God’s Word.  How we live is His call, not ours.