Revelation 3:20: “I stand at the door and knock . . .”

There are passages in the Bible that are often misunderstood but taken for granted. Over the next year or so I’ll address some of these from time to time. Here are several translations of Rev. 3:20:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,

I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (NKJ)

 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,

I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20 ESV)

 

Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door

I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20 NET)

 

Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,

I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. (Rev. 3:20 CSBO, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

 

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door,

I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20 KJV)

 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door,

I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. (Rev. 3:20 NAS)

 

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,

I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Rev. 3:20 NIV)

 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door,

I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20 RSV)

 

First, some comments about the translations. Every translation hits the mark on the words “I will come in to him”. The Greek is not that hard. But let us notice how often modern readers have not understood the verse even in English because of bad assumptions they bring to the text.

Naturally, the NIV has to change something: “eat with that person, and they with me”. If we truly believe in an inerrant, verbally inspired text, we must not tamper with it. The Greek does not say “eat with that person, and they with me”. It just does not say that but says “eat with him, and he with me”. Why did the NIV change the singular “he” to plural “they”? The only reason I know is that they were trying to be inclusive. “He” sounds sexist, at least to the NIV translators. So, without divine authority, they changed singular “he” to plural “they”. What have we lost? We have lost the preciousness of one person having a close personal relationship with Jesus the Son of God!

We don’t deny the corporate aspect of the context, which is the Church at Laodicea It is not “either or” but “both and”, but our point is to look at the translation of the verse.

One more thing on the NIV. It leaves out completely the words “to him”: “I will come in and eat with that person” instead of “I will come in TO HIM and eat with that person”. Why do that? When the NIV first came out, I was in seminary as a Hebrew and Greek major, and I was excited to see it. We students were given an advanced copy of the Gospel of John. I was startled when I got to John 1:13: “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”. (John 1:13 NIV)  Gad’s, are you kidding me? Is it theoretical possible to translate it HUSBANS’S WILL? Yes. Is it likely? NO! I have found many such errors in the NIV, some much more egregious. My advice: stay away from it! [I checked out Augustine, Chrysostom, Gregory of Nissa, Ambrose, St. Leo the Great, John of Damascus, Clement of Alexandria, and a few others, and all translated the text not as “the will of the husband” but always as “the will of man”. And some of these men had Greek as their first language. The “will of the husband” just did not dawn on them.]

Next, the NET Bible is what I call an exegetical paraphrase. It is always interesting to consult, but not something I would want to recommend to the layperson who is untrained in the biblical languages. The NET says: “I will come into his home”, which is an exegetical paraphrase. The context is Christ standing at the door of a church, but the fact is that it does not say “home” but “I will come in TO HIM”. Let us leave the interpretation alone in translation, as much as possible. But if you want my interpretation, it is the church where He is knocking, not inside a person, but I would not add that to a translation. I take the Fox News approach: “I translate, you decide.”

More to our point:

  1. Notice the bold print in each verse above in Rev. 3:20, rendering the verb and preposition correctly, something like “I will come in” (one word in Greek and space after “come in”) “to him.” It does not say, and cannot be made to say, that Jesus, knocking at the door, will come INTO the person. No, it cannot mean that. The verb is clear that something is entered (“come in”) and someone is dined with the One coming in “to” that person.
  2. Why is it that virtually all competent translations translate the verb and preposition accurately as “come in to him,” not “come into him”? The simple answer is that the Greek does not allow anything else. The verb means TO ENTER something, and the preposition means to go TO something, or in this case, TO someone.
  3. Here is a proposed translation: “Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter to him, and I will dine with him and he with me.”

So what difference does it make? There is no doubt that Jesus comes into the heart of those who come to know Him, and I would not deny that Jesus overrules our lack of precision in presenting the Gospel when we say to have eternal life just ask Jesus into your heart, but that is not the way the New Testament presents the Gospel. The point in believing in Jesus is to have eternal life, to have forgiveness of sins, to have righteousness (Phil. 3:9). It can be a very subtle error to substitute the work of the Holy Spirit for the work of Christ. That is one of the errors of Pentecostalism. The fact is that when we believe in Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit automatically:

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom [Jesus] also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Eph. 1:13-14 NKJ)

. . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love . . . (Eph. 3:17 NKJ)

“Did you received the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2)

We do not deny but maintain that Christ lives in our hearts by faith. But what we have in Rev. 3:20 is not initial salvation, but the ongoing ministry of Holy Communion, and perseverance in the faith. The door at which the Lord stands, according to the context, is the door of the church, saying that He wants to “dine with him, and he with Me”. (Rev. 3:20 NKJ)

John is writing to the church of Laodiceans, and he is asking them to have the Communion meal with him and Jesus (Rev. 3:14 NKJ).

The point is that the Gospel is not asking Jesus into our hearts; it is believing in Him, trusting in Him for forgiveness of sins. This may sound very picky, but there are important principles. In other words, the Gospel is objective, outside of us, not subjective, inside of us. When we believe in Jesus, we receive His eternal life; indeed, we receive Him. The gospel is not financial prosperity, not physical health (at least in this life), it is not that we need to be happy and expect Jesus to grant us wishes to make us happy. It is holiness, not happiness, that the Lord requires for our lives. The gospel is that we are sinners, that we are under the wrath of God (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 2:5-8; 9:22; 12:19; Eph. 2:3; 5:6; Col. 3:6, 1 Thess. 1:10, etc), and if we trust in Jesus He will forgives us our sins, give us His righteousness, and enter into our hearts as a result of believing in Him.

. . . be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith. (Phil. 3:9 NKJ)

9 . . . if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame”.  (Rom. 10:9-10 ESV)

The word “heart” here, as often throughout the Bible, means the mind, the inner-man, the immaterial part of mankind. Jesus is the object of our faith (along with the Father and the Holy Spirit), and when we believe, Jesus knocks on the door of our church, asking to have communion with us.

There are many other things in this verse that we could explore. Sometimes this verse is used for the Arminian idea that we’re in charge of our own salvation, that Jesus is a helpless savior who sits on the sidelines, wringing His hands, waiting for someone to open the door of his heart so He can grant salvation. There is nothing like that in the context. Jesus is judging this church and commanding it, in an indirect and merciful way, to bow to Him to get their sorry church in order. Let us not mistake His mercy for our presumed sovereignty. Even as an indirect command, it does not confer ability to obey. In other words, “ought” does not infer “ability”, never does, never will (John 6:35, 44-45). AMEN. Ω.

Jesus is your superhero (or is He?)

© The Very Rev. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D., 2017

My wife and I were coming home last weekend (June 2017), and we detoured to Hot Springs, AR for a couple of nights. As we left the tourist-busy town, there was a church with these words on their sign:

“Jesus is your superhero, God is your superhero, you are a superhero.”

I just shook my head, and sighed to the Lord how long He will put up with this milkquetoast Christianity in the USA. Look at the words: there are three superheroes: Jesus, God, and you, and would not an unbeliever think all three were on the same level. We have presented a saccharin Christianity, sicky sweet and artificial.

And when we think of a superhero, do we not think of breaking and smashing things, much violence, killing everything in sight with bitter power, having difficulty overcoming, but Jesus was not like that. He could have been, and He did smash things but not in the way we would like to see. He certainly did those things under the old covenant (Old Testament). Yet, in the New Covenant (New Testament), though He healed and raised the deadHis miracles were done to overcome Satan and sin, not Roman armies. He restrained Himself in one sense, though He had resonating power to destroy anything He wanted anytime He wanted.

For example, when Pilate told Jesus that he had the power “to crucify [Him], and power to release [Him]” (John 19:10 NKJ), Jesus’ answer was very telling: “Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.’” (John 19:11 NKJ) Recall what happened when the Roman soldiers went to arrest Him, who was in control?

“Now when He said to them, ‘I AM,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:6 NKJ)

Moreover, as the early fathers often reminded us, at the same time that Jesus was incarnate and healing, sleeping, getting hungry, He was “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3 NKJ) Do not think for a moment that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, either gave up being God or gave up the use of His attributes. Either way, that would eclipse the Holy Trinity and destroy who God is. Can you image one person of the Trinity not being able to function as God. That would be incarnation by deicide!

No, the incarnation is by addition, not by subtraction. The Son of God added sinless humanity to Himself, and did not remove either the essence of deity or the functions of deity. For example, in John 1:1 we learn that in the beginning was the Word (eternal existence), the Word was with God (distinct from the Father), and the Word was God (one in essence with the Father). Then in John 1:14 we see that the Word “became flesh,” and there is not a hint of removing His attributes. Indeed, God’s attributes are not like pins in a pin cushion that any member of the Holy Trinity can remove and replace at will. Each attribute contains all the other attributes, for God is one. Remember John 10:30 where Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews rightly understood His claim to deity because in the next verse they picked up stones to kill Him for blasphemy. In John 8:58 Jesus claimed to be the I AM, who does not and cannot change. Thus, the incarnation did not change Him, for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

The Bible is now a popular psychological manual for self-improvement. Many preachers I hear on the radio approach the Bible as one big OUGHT, turning the IS of grace into the OUGHT of obedience for blessing. In other words, if I do the three things (or five things) the preacher says, I’ll be blessed; otherwise, I’ll be defeated. How many times do I hear, “It’s all up to you,” at which point I must be a superhero, or I’ll get nothing.

We want to see Jesus as superhero destroy all those bad people (not us, of course) with some supernatural event so we Christians can be vindicated. I was a defendant (one of 18) in a church-state trial, and as I sat in court for 4 ½ months, 4 to 5 days a week, listening to lies, how often I wanted to call down fire from heaven and yell at my lungs capacity, “Elijah is back!!” But God normally does not work that way.

We hear that the Triune God wants us to be happy all the time, time, time. We are told we are deprived but not depraved.  All of life, ALL of life, is for ME, and God exists to help ME find MY happiness.

What we need is old fashioned preaching where the wrath of God is boomed out, with impending judgment suspended over us like a guillotine held by one thread. Here are verses you rarely if ever hear:

“O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds. God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:9, 11 NKJ)

“The LORD tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.” (Ps. 11:5 NKJ)

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36 NKJ) [And that wrath abides, now, as an ongoing matter. One never has a soul to sell, for it always belongs to God or to the devil. At judgment, all hope is gone, FOREVER.]

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18 NKJ)

“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Rom. 5:9 NKJ)

“Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Rom. 9:13 NKJ)

“The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 5:6 NKJ)

Picture Noah’s ark floating on the turbulent waters with rain coming down in torrents. People are swimming in water, pounding on the doors of the ark to get in. It is too late. God’s judgment has come. On the side of the ark is a large smiley face that says, “Smile, God loves you.” That is where we are today. Too many weak preachers are holding people’s hands saying “There,” “There” while their parishioners go to hell.

So, is Jesus your superhero? No! He is the Lord God omnipotent, and His power and authority go way beyond all things imaginable. He upholds all things by His omnipotent power. He is in all places at the same time (Matt. 28:18-20). He has all knowledge. He can cause destruction and misery in any part of His world at any time, and there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. OR, He can cause a good election, or bring people back to the Gospel, or transform a nation to love righteousness and hate iniquity. He is Lord!

Jesus is way beyond superhero status, for He is creator of all that is (John 1:1-3; Heb. 1:1-4; Col. 1:16), the sustainer of all there is (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:17), and the redeemer of His people.

He is to be worshiped, not slapped on the back as some kind of hero.

AMEN.

The Church Is for Sinners

(The Rev. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw, Th.D., 2005)

And I am sure of this,

that he who began a good work in you

will bring it to completion

at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6 ESV).

In my first pastorate, a man said to me that he would not go to church because there were too many hypocrites there. I had enough rapport with the man to say: “You’re right so join us—we need another one.” We often have the idea that Church is just for those who have no problems, for those whose life is always rosy, who never have rebellious children, whose spouses are models of virtue, whose bosses love everything they do, who never have an impure thought. If that is who you think you are, you don’t need the Church; but then, you don’t need the Triune God either, or so you think.

And we Christians should be willing to admit that we have a long way to go in our growth in holiness. Pretending is hypocrisy, though we should not tell everyone all our problems. Yes, we have been forgiven by God through the merits of the death and resurrection of Christ, but we are still growing, still being forgiven. We have been adopted into God’s family, but like legal adoption today, that does not automatically make the child instantly and perfectly like his new father. It does make the child an heir to the father’s estate, and if we parents are rich so is the child. But it takes a lifetime to train a child and for the child to grow into the kind of person we as parents desire him/her to be. Likewise, the Father adopts us into His family based on the legal attorney Jesus Christ, who puts up the bond, the surety, who is Himself our pledge, our guarantee of the completed adoption. This gives us a change of legal status, but inwardly we are the same as before the adoption. But the Father and the Son gave us the Holy Spirit to make us better over time—but that is the key word, TIME.

Consider that our heavenly Father is seeking to “rear” us in the faith all our lives, that he brings about problems so that we can learn to be mature, to respond in faith and love to one another and to love His providence, that His priorities are not money, farms, cars, bank accounts, though there is nothing wrong with those in themselves.

And this heavenly Father has adopted us into His family, in His Church, the bride of His Son, so that we can care for one another. We are our brother’s keeper. And consider further that our sibling Jesus has already been through all the trials we have and knows what they are like, but also as God He gives us the grace we need to grow. We are in a family that is supposed to love its own as the badge of our relationship with God: “By this shall all will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). What do we do when our loved ones are sick? You care for them.

We are called to live by a different set of priorities from the world, to consider the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to be the highest priority and our church family second. (Church and family actually go together.) Have you seen the bumper sticker that reads: “He who dies with the most toys wins”? That is the philosophy of the world, but our riches belong to another family—the Church. Our estate and inheritance are from Christ, not in pursuing ever more schemes to make money. Our security is in the Lord, not in our bank accounts that can quickly evaporate. We have an inheritance that is infallible:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Who

according to His abundant mercy

has begotten us again

             TO a living hope

                                                                                                    through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

                                                                                         from the dead,

               4 TO an inheritance

                        Incorruptible

                     and undefiled

                                                 and that does not fade away,

                                             reserved in heaven for you,

        5 who are kept by the power of

through faith

TO salvation

ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5 NKJ)

The world does not expect Christians to be perfect, but it does expect us to be genuine, which means we must be willing to confess mistakes when we make them and then seek to make things right. Remember the case of the televangelist caught with a prostitute? At first he was contrite, submitted to the discipline of his brethren, and agreed to the time suspension from the ministry that they placed on him. This was a good start, but then he rebelled, rejecting their authority, and put himself back in the ministry under a new church. It was a great testimony to the world to see the Christian Church at work, helping a fellow brother to grow in grace, exercising the authority of Christ, saying to everyone: “Yes, we are sinners, but we are willing to forgive when a brother repents.” Who could have faulted that? But the preacher rebelled and neutralized the great testimony.

In the early 1970s, Ruth and I were living in Dallas while I attended seminary. W. A. Criswell was a great Baptist preacher in Dallas, TX, who loved the Lord, preached great Gospel sermons, and had a large congregation in downtown Dallas. He was highly respected in the community. Dr Criswell was interviewed on a local TV station. The interviewer was very caustic, and assuming all the self-righteousness she could muster, she forcefully demanded to know why it had only been in the recent past that his church had opened their doors to African American Christians. I’ll never forget Criswell’s answer, for it stopped her cold, and she stuttered for a comeback. His answer was something like this: “We sinned, and we’ve asked the Lord to forgive us. Now we are glad to have our black brothers and sisters worship with us.” That was genuineness! The interviewer changed the subject! We are not perfect but sinners, so let us recognize that! But let us be confessing sinners, not arrogant or rebellious ones. Pride will destroy us, but humility will lift us up in great favor with God and man. AMEN

God’s Persevering Grace

(© The Rev. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw, Th.D., 2005)

About a year ago I had a discussion with someone who was ready to give up on the Christian life, saying it was too difficult, that it seemed that the Triune God did not care.  In our hustle and bustle of life, we sometimes forget that God is persevering with us more than we are with Him.  God finishes what He begins, unlike us.  If He did not, we would never make it to heaven.  As humans, you and I are always beginning things that we never seem to find time to finish.  But consider God’s matchless grace in Philippians 1:6, that what He begins He finishes: “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it at the day of Jesus Christ.

Look at the butterfly wing—was it begun and not finished?  Look at the woodpecker—was its specialized bill not finished?  Look at the atom—was it a partial work?  Look at the moon—is it a work abandoned?  Look at yourself, the apex of God’s creation—will you be thrown away after the work was begun?  God works by a plan.  He begins a work of grace in us, not as an experiment to see if we and He can make it together, but that He may complete His design in and for us.  Can you imagine an architect who begins a project without plans, just going along to see how things work out?

If the Triune God began a work in us but did not finish it, who would lose more, God or us?  It would definitely be God, for then He would be known as a failure.  Others could say that God just could not handle it, that He gave it His best effort but finally gave up on us, that we were just too much for Him.

Moreover, according to Paul here in Phil 1:6, who initiated the work in you, you or God?  God!  And if God did, will He decide against it later?  As one man expressed it in a hymn:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew

He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me;

It was not I that found [Thee], O Savior true;

No, I was found [by] Thee.

And is it not true that we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  His love and grace are initial and ours responsive, for it was He who began the work in us, not we in Him!

And how do we know that God has begun a work in us?  We can tell by our obedience, by the love we have for God, for mankind, for God’s Bible, by our faithful attendance at worship on the Lord’s Day, reading His word, the Bible, praying, and so on.  Faith, hope, and love will be the hallmarks of our lives.

Let me give you a good example.  Years ago I led a man to Christ who was only 18 years old.  He mouthed some words, good words, but I wondered how committed he was to them.  He was very much in love with a young lady, but she was not a Christian.  When I told him and showed him from the Bible that God did not allow a believer to marry an unbeliever, he paused for a long time and said with tears in his eyes: “If that’s what God says, that’s what I’ll do.”  His life has revealed the same commitment all these 48 years.  More than anything else, one’s obedience to God reveals whether there has been true conversion or not, but our obedience does not merit our acceptance with God.

3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:3-4).

And do you know why it is God who first seeks us, and why we are responsive to Him, why it is that He saves us in this way?  It is so that we cannot boast (see Eph 2:8-10).  We’ll never be able to say that God did 99%, but if it were not for the 1% I did, I would never have made it to heaven.

Let us rejoice that for all those who trust in the death and righteousness of Christ for forgiveness of sins, our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has taken charge of our salvation, that our sins are forgiven, that His Name and reputation are on the line, and that by His persevering grace, we shall make it home!  AMEN.

FREE WILL–WHAT IS IT?

(c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

(I know that I covered this once before.)

This is a true story. Decades ago I was called by a lady who was offended at some of my teaching. When I asked her what it was, she said you don’t believe in “free will”? I answered, “So we can be on the same page, what is free will?” She said, “Well, free means you can do what you like.” I responded that everyone believed that. She tried again: “You don’t believe that the lost can believe in Christ, that regardless of what they want, if they are not elect, they can’t believe.” I pointed out that her statement was a half-truth. It is true that the lost cannot believe in Jesus, but they also do what they like. They don’t want to believe in Jesus.

I tried to clarify the difference between “wanting” to believe and being “able” to believe, which she did not get. Then I said, “Let’s approach it this way. Is the converted person free from the control of the world?” She correctly answered No. Then I asked, “Is the unconverted person free from his indwelling sin, his sinful heart,” to which again she answered correctly, No. Finally, I challenged, “Is the unconverted person free from the control of the devil?” Again her answer was correct, No. Then what is the lost person’s will free from. She paused and proclaimed, “Their will is free from God,” at which point I almost dropped the phone. I politely said, “If the lost are under the control of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and God can’t help, then how does anyone become a Christian?”

POINT: Everyone uses the words “free will”, but no one knows what it means or the implication. Our choices are ours, but they are not free from outside or inside control. We can never come to Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life without trusting in Him, and we’ll never trust without His powerful grace that overcomes the controls. Here is the problem: WE LOVE THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL; we hate God. Who will deliver us?

The Triune God is our ONLY hope: The Father chose us to be in Christ BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD to His glory (Eph. 1:4-6); the Son AT A POINT IN TIME shed His divine blood for us for forgiveness of sins to His glory (Eph. 1:7-12); The Holy Spirit brought us to faith AT THE POINT OF OUR CONVERSION (Eph. 1:13-14), to His glory. TO HIS GLORY is repeated each time a person of the Holy Trinity did His work. Three works: the Father chose His elect before time; the Son redeemed His elect 2,000 years ago in time; the Holy Spirit applies the merits of Jesus’ work to us in our lives in our personal experience. GLORY BE TO THE FATHER AND TO THE SON AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.

Crisis Regarding Christ

© by The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.,  2017

Some years ago a preacher visited my church. After the Sunday School class, during which I was teaching on various “Christian” cults, he said, “In my church we have no creed but Christ.” I responded, “Which Christ? The one of the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the word-faith movement, or of the ancient creeds?” Today we have a crisis regarding Christ because we no longer value truth.

The historic Church has always assumed that there was truth and error, not just opinions. It was zealous to maintain the truth about the Son as revealed in Holy Scripture. It was not tolerant (the politically correct word today) of error concerning Christ, though they could be tolerant of other things. It came together on several occasions in ecumenical councils to proclaim the Gospel, the truth about Christ, writing doctrinal statements that were considered binding on all Christians. We have creeds that summarize those councils, such as the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. (The Athanasian Creed is my favorite.)

The Church realized that faith was only as good as its object, and the object of faith (Christ) only as good as the content about Him. And from that day to now, those councils, especially the Council of Chalcedon, have been considered by all branches of Christendom—Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodoxy—to be the epitome of orthodoxy regarding the person of Christ. During the greatest revival in the history of the Church, the Reformation, the Reformers did not challenge Chalcedon’s teaching that Christ was fully God, fully man yet sinless, one person, and no mixture of the two natures of divinity and humanity (John 1:1-3, 14; 5:28; 10:30; Col. 1:15ff; 2:9; Heb. 1:1ff; etc). That was bedrock.

Unfortunately, today is different. The ambiance of this age is ripe for heresy since personal opinion is considered to be more important than truth, especially truth from the past. The Church has become obsessed with making people feel comfortable, not with truth. (Indeed, some preachers build large congregations by not preaching on sin or other “controversial” matters.) The Church has devolved into a radical egalitarianism, and truth has been reduced to its lowest common denominator. Now each individual—with or without his Bible—will decide for himself what truth is.

In contrast to the heresies, the early fathers understood that Christology was at the heart of redemption, that who Christ was determined whether man was redeemed or not. Their constant watchword was “what is not assumed [in the incarnation] is not redeemed.” Thus, if Christ had not assumed full humanity (sin excepted), we would have no redemption.

This worked the other way also. The early Church fathers recognized that if Christ had not been fully God and functioning fully as God (contra word-faith leaders who deny that the Son of God used His divine attributes on earth), there could be no reconciliation of God and man, Christ would have had no infinite merit to what He had done, but only the work of a man. At the Council of Ephesus, therefore, the fathers clearly stated in A.D. 431: “If any man shall say that the one Lord Jesus Christ was glorified by the Holy Spirit, so that He used through Him a power not His own and from Him received power against unclean spirits and power to work miracles before men and shall not rather confess that it was His own Spirit through which He worked these divine signs; let him be anathema” (emphasis added).

Anything less than one who functioned fully as man and fully as God in one Person could not die for our sins. He had to be man to die. He had to be God to give infinite value to His work. He had to be one person to bring God and man together, bringing the acts of God and man together as one act. The two natures of God and man could not be mingled, making Him less than God or more than man. If Christ had not been God or had not functioned as God while on earth, we would have the acts of a man and of the Holy Spirit through Him—separate acts of two persons—but that would have been no different than the prophets of old who had the Holy Spirit in them. No, Christ functioned fully as man and as God in one person, thus uniting His work of redemption as one work of the God-man.

Today we have many heresies. There are those who deny the deity of Christ altogether. There are others who deny that the Son functioned as God while on earth. Indeed, in the word-faith teaching, man can be a god and create his/her own providence by audible words. In the separation of God and man in Christ, there is no reconciliation of man with God since there is no real union of God and man in one person. Thus, salvation is eliminated. If Christ is only a creature, or only functioned as a creature, God is not revealed, but a wholly unknown being. Thus, God is eliminated.

If there was ever a need for a second Reformation, it is today, and this Reformation must begin where the first one did: with the Church’s stand for truth and with the Christ of the Councils and of the Bible. We must not invent a new “Jesus” for each succeeding generation, but proclaim the old, revealed Jesus, who never changes (Heb. 13:8). The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church that proclaims Christ as the Son of God! AMEN. Ω

The Modern Crisis

(c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

In the Reformation of the 1500s, both sides believed the Bible to be God’s infallible word, both held to the Holy Trinity (one God in three equal person, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and both taught that Christ was fully God, perfect man, one person, and no mixture of the natures of deity and humanity. Today the crisis is worse as even “Christian” people wonder if the Bible is God’s word, if the Trinity is really all that important, and if Christ was only a good man or something less than God.

There are two ways to be heretical: formally in belief and practically in one’s immorality, and our age is given to both.  In formal heresy, there are many in mainline denominations who take delight in denying the historic faith as expressed in such timeless statements as the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, which all branches of Christianity have held (Protestant, Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholic). They deny that Christ is the only way to God; indeed, they deny that He is God. They deny the Holy Trinity. They pretend that all religions are the same, which means that none of them mean anything, an insult to all claims to know God.

But one can also be heretical in morality, such as the sexual promiscuity that is rampant today in so many circles. One may be right in his beliefs, but if his morality is contrary to God’s holy commandments, and especially if he/she declares such openly, then he/she is heretical.

There is no hope for anyone unless they repent, which means that they confess they are wrong, take God’s view on both belief and practice, and bow to His Lordship. There is not enough room in this universe for two lawgivers: God and man, which is what man wants, his own pretended autonomy.  The serpent’s lie to Adam and Eve was that they could be their own lawgiver, determining for themselves what was right and wrong. We know the consequences when our first parents believed such. Indeed, even in the New Testament many centuries later, God has stated that there is only one lawgiver: the Triune God (James 4:12). He, and He alone, determines what we should believe and what is true morality.

But when our culture dreams up beliefs or ethics out of his/her mind instead of listening to God, they have created a god after their own image to worship, and just coincidentally, one who will approve their latest fad in belief and ethics. The only way one can know anything about God is if He tells us, not when we dream up things that He must approve. If fact, the only way we can know anyone is if that person reveals himself to us. I once worked (unknowingly) with a con man who was my boss, who had us fooled that he was a fine Christian, but he was stealing from our clients. He knew Christian language and could fake a few very nice prayers.

Was it the great St. Augustine who said that God created man in His own image, and man has been returning the favor ever since? People thousands of years ago made physical idols to worship, and we make mental idols. In both cases, a new god is created after the heart of sinful mankind. Paul the Apostle noted such in his own day in Romans 1:18-24.

Yes, the great crisis today is Who is God, Who is Christ, and What shall we do with our sins? The Modern answer is that God and Christ are whatever we make them to be, and there is no sin except by our definition. I often hear politicians say “God bless you,” and I immediately ask myself “which God”? They usually just mean for us to fill in the blanks as to which God and how He will bless us. That way they can sound Christian, which is still politically expedient, for now, but they don’t commit themselves to any truth.

It is time that the true people of God stop listing to such heresies in belief and in morality, and leave ungodly churches that promote such. Moreover, if a parish will not stand openly for the faith and for God’s Ten Commandments, one must leave, for the Lord stated that the one who is not for Him is against Him (Luke 11:23). Go to a church that is in line with the history of the Church and still believes Holy Scripture. God’s principles are more important than the property! AMEN.