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

One More Time on the “Onlys” of the Reformation

Quotes from the Early Fathers of the Church on the “onlys” of the Gospel:

Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man:

If they, then, bear the delay who by faith only and by hope saw the good things “afar off” and “embraced them(2),” as the apostle bears witness, placing their certainty of the enjoyment of the things for which they hoped in the fact that they “judged Him faithful Who has promised(3),” what ought most of us to do, who have not, it may be, a hold upon the better hope from the character of our lives?

 

Chrysostom: Homilies on 2 Cor:

“Sound judgment.” And what can it be to have “a sound judgment?” To enjoy the health that pertaineth to the soul: for he that is held down by wicked lusts and dazzled(10) with present things, never can be sound, that is, healthy. But as one who is diseased lusteth even after things which are unfit for him, so also doth he. “And a virtuous mode of life,” for the doctrines need a mode of life [answerable]. Attend to this, ye who come to baptism at the close of life, for we indeed pray that after baptism ye may have also this deportment, but thou art seeking and doing thy utmost to depart without it. For, what though thou be justified(11): yet is it of faith only. But we pray that thou shouldest have as well the confidence that cometh of good works.

 

Homily, Acts 15:1

Everywhere he puts the Gentiles upon a thorough equality. “And put no difference between us and them, having purified their hearts by faith.” (v. 9.) From faith alone, he says, they obtained the same gifts. This is also meant as a lesson to those (objectors); this is able to teach even them that faith only is needed, not works nor circumcision. For indeed they do not say all this only by way of apology for the Gentiles, but to teach (the Jewish believers) also to abandon the Law. However, at present this is not said. “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples?”

 

Homily, Romans 3:

For if even before this, the circumcision was made uncircumcision, much rather was it now, since it is cast out from both periods. But after saying that “it was excluded,” he shows also, how. How then does he say it was excluded? “By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.” See he calls the faith also a law delighting to keep to the names, and so allay the seeming novelty. But what is the “law of faith?” It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting,(1) and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only. And in saying this he attempts to bring the Jew who has believed to act with moderation, and to calm him that hath not believed, in such way as to draw him on to his own view. For he that has been saved, if he be high-minded in that he abides by the Law, will be told that he himself has stopped his own mouth, himself has accused himself, himself has renounced claims to his own salvation, and has excluded boasting. But he that hath not believed again, being humbled by these same means, will be capable of being brought over to the faith. Do you see how great faith’s preeminence is? How it hath removed us from the former things, not even allowing us to boast of them?

 

Homily, Romans 4:

Ver. 2. “By Whom also we have access,” he says, “by faith unto this grace. (7 Mss. add, unto, etc.)

If then He hath brought us near to Himself, when we were far off, much more will He keep us now that we are near. And let me beg you to consider how he everywhere sets down these two points; His part, and our part. On His part, however, there be things varied and numerous and diverse. For He died for us, and farther reconciled us, and brought us to Himself, and gave us grace unspeakable. But we brought faith only as our contribution. And so he says,” “by faith, unto this grace” What grace is this? tell me. It is the being counted worthy of the knowledge of God, the being forced from error, the coming to a knowledge of the Truth, the obtaining of all the blessings that come through Baptism.

 

Augustine, On Faith, Hope, and Love, ch 67:

It is believed, moreover, by some, that men who do not abandon the name of Christ, and who have been baptized in the Church by His baptism, and who have never been cut off from the Church by any schism or heresy, though they should live in the grossest sin and never either wash it away in penitence nor redeem it by almsgiving, but persevere in it persistently to the last day of their lives, shall be saved by fire; that is, that although they shall suffer a punishment by fire, lasting for a time proportionate to the magnitude of their crimes and misdeeds, they shall not be punished with everlasting fire. But those who believe this, and yet are Catholics, seem to me to be led astray by a kind of benevolent feeling natural to humanity. For Holy Scripture, when consulted, gives a very different answer. I have written a book on this subject, entitled Of Faith and Works, in which, to the best of my ability, God assisting me, I have shown from Scripture, that the faith which saves us is that which the Apostle Paul clearly enough describes when he says: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.”(2) But if it worketh evil, and not good, then without doubt, as the Apostle James says, “it is dead, being alone.”(3) The same apostle says again, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?”(4) And further, if a wicked man shall be saved by fire on account of his faith alone, and if this is what the blessed Apostle Paul means when he says, “But he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire;”(5) then faith without works can save a man, and what his fellow-apostle James says must be false. And that must be false which Paul himself says in another place: “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners; shall inherit the kingdom of God.”(6) For if those who persevere in these wicked courses shall nevertheless be saved on account of their faith in Christ, how can it be true that they shall not inherit the kingdom of God?

 

Chrysostom, 1 Timothy:

As the Jews were chiefly attracted by this, he persuades them not (2) to give heed to the law, since they could not attain salvation by it without faith. Against this he contends; for it seemed to them incredible, that a man who had misspent all his former life in vain and wicked actions, should afterwards be saved by his faith alone. On this account he says, “It is a saying to be believed.” But some not only disbelieved but even objected, as the Greeks do now.

 

Chrysostom, Homily on 1 Tim 5:8:

Then there is thanksgiving, and great glory, and joy, every one praying that such may be his own end, that so his own combat may terminate, and he may rest from his labor and struggles, and may see Christ. And if any is sick, instead of tears and lamentations they have recourse to prayers. Often not the care of physicians, but faith alone relieves the sick.

 

Chrysostom, Homily on Eph 2:11-12:

For he makes a wide distinction between “commandments” and “ordinances.” He either then means “faith,” calling that an “ordinance,” (for by faith alone He saved us,) or he means “precept,” such as Christ gave, when He said, “But I say unto you, that ye are not to be angry at all.” (Matt. v: 22.) That is to say, “If thou shalt believe that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Rom. x: 6-9.) And again, “The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thine heart. Say not, Who shall ascend into heaven, or who shall descend into the abyss?” or, who hath “brought. Him again from the dead?” Instead of a certain manner of life, He brought in faith. For that He might not save us to no purpose, He both Himself underwent the penalty, and also required of men the faith that is by doctrines.

 

Theodoret of Cyrus, Letters:

All this I say not for the sake of boasting, but because I am forced to defend myself. It is not the fame of my sermons to which I am calling attention; it is their orthodoxy alone. Even the great teacher of the world who is wont to style himself last of saints and first of sinners, that he might stop the mouths of liars was compelled to set forth a list of his own labours; and in shewing that this account of his sufferings was of necessity, not of free will, he added “I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me.”(2) I own myself wretched—aye thrice wretched. I am guilty of many errors. Through faith alone I look for finding some mercy in the day of the Lord’s appearing. I wish and I pray that I may follow the footprints of the holy Fathers, and I earnestly desire to keep undefiled the evangelic teaching which was in sum delivered to us by the holy Fathers assembled in council at the Bithynian Nicaea. I believe that there is one God the Father and one Holy Ghost proceeding from the Father:(1) so also that there is one Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, brightness of His glory and express image of the Father’s person,(2) on account of man’s salvation, incarnate and made man and born of Mary the Virgin in the flesh. For so are we taught by the wise Paul “Whose are the Fathers and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen,”(3) and again “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness.”(4) On this account we also call the holy Virgin “Theotokos,”(5) and deem those who object to this appellation to be alienated from true religion.

 

Click the next line (“Reformation Solas in the Fathers of the Church” for more quotes)

Reformation Solas in the Fathers of the Church (May have to click this line more than once.)

(THE END)

Did Adam lose the world to the devil?

(c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D. 2016

Some misguided Christians today think that Satan is now the ruler of this world, and that it is not for Christians to have dominion on earth. Perhaps that could be possible when Jesus returns, but not now. They cite such passages as Satan is the “god of this world.” Yet the expression that Satan is the “god of this world” does not mean he is lord of lords, but that he is the god of this world in the sense that many worship him—not that he is almighty. His work is primarily in blinding the minds of people to the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Eph. 2:2; 1 John 5:19), but even that blindness is stripped away when the mighty grace of Jesus brings one to belief in Himself (Matt. 11:27; Acts 13:48; 16:14; Phil. 1:29).

Furthermore, that Satan is called by the Lord Jesus “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30) does not mean that there is not a Ruler above him, Who is Ruler of the universe and the Ruler of all rulers. Because there is a governor of Tennessee, do we conclude that there is not also a President of the United States who has greater authority than the governor? Besides, the Lord also stated: “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31). What else does the expression “Lord of lords” mean except that Jesus is the ultimate Ruler and that NOW?

And was it not true that during the temptation when Jesus commanded Satan to leave Him in Matthew 4:10-11 that Satan did so immediately without a word? Did not the demons obey the Lord every time He commanded them and without hesitation? Where do the health and wealth people get the idea that Satan owns this world? Here is how Frederick K. C. Price reasons.[1] God gave Adam dominion over the earth. This dominion was a legal dominion, much like we would deed someone property. The earth was deeded to Adam by God; it was his [Adam’s] to do with as he pleased. This dominion included not only the animals but also the mineral rights so that he owned all the gold, silver, diamonds, oil, and so forth. When Adam sinned, he gave his property to Satan, and God no longer had a legal right to the earth. Now the planet is Satan’s, and even God must honor this agreement. Redeemed man can reclaim his original inheritance and be rich. Capps agrees: “It’s illegal for God to come to earth and destroy the work of the devil with His divine Godhead powers.”[2]

Yet the truth is that though Adam came under Satan’s dominion to some extent, primarily Adam was under God’s curse for sinning. God never indicated that the land or earth at that time was not His. Indeed, He cursed it to bring forth thorns, but he never gave it up. Kenneth Hagin says: “If God is running everything, He does have things in a mess.”[3] Fred Price is even more blatant:

“God can’t legally do anything in this earth realm except what we allow Him to do.” He also says, “God does not have physical possession of the earth, Satan does,” and “If God came here, He would be arrested as a trespasser.” Price goes on to condition his audience to accept these blasphemies with such statements as these:

“Evangelicals consider this heresy, and they would never say this.” “Tradition and theology reject this.” “I hope you don’t think God is running this world, evangelicals think that.” “If this is an example of how God runs things, I don’t want to go to heaven.” They distance themselves from the evangelical community with such statements (“we” versus the “evangelicals”), thereby separating themselves from the body of Christ, and establishing themselves as a cult.

Price uses two other passages to promote the idea that the world is Satan’s: Luke 4:1-8 and Matthew 9:35-38. The major passage for Price is: “And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish’” (Luke 4:6).

Our first response must be that Satan is a liar (John 8:44). Price says that Satan is telling the truth since Jesus did not rebuke him, which is also a common dispensational argument from this passage. But it is an argument from silence that leads Price to the deafening conclusion that Satan was for once telling the truth. But even if the Lord had not answered the devil, the inference is not valid. In the most elementary logic class one learns that he can conclude anything or nothing from what is not stated. But the Lord did answer Satan: “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (v. 8). The Lord answered the real point behind Satan’s pseudo-offer: worship reveals Who the real God is, and we are to worship the Triune God only. If the Lord had said the kingdoms did not belong to Satan, He would not have been confronting the point of the offer, admitting perhaps he was right. Observe also that Satan instantly obeyed the Lord when He commanded him to leave, which showed Who was really in authority.

Secondly, God the Father made the same offer to Christ. Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm, using the name “Messiah” in verse two (sometimes translated “anointed”) and the word “Son” in verse twelve. In verse seven the Son quotes the Father:

“I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’”

This verse is quoted several times in the New Testament of the resurrection of Jesus. The Father raised Him from the dead, and, to the consternation of the nations (vv. 1-3), He made Jesus King of kings. In other words, even though the nations did not want Him ruling over them, and even though they sought to cast off His “bonds” (vv. 1-3; bonds=His law, see Jer. 2:20; 5:5), the Father laughed and made Him King over them anyway. In light of this, the Father says to His only Son: “Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession” (v. 8).

Now who has made the genuine offer of the world to Jesus, the Father or Satan? Who is the liar, God the Father or the devil? Who really owns the world and could offer it to Jesus, the Father or Satan? In the verses that follow the Father’s offer, it is obvious that the Son did ask and the Father gave Him the nations, for He shall rule them with a rod of iron (v. 9), and the rulers must repent (vv. 10, 11) or perish under the Son’s wrath (v. 12). The Lord Jesus emphatically stated that “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” at the resurrection (Matt. 28:18; see also Dan. 7:14).24 Of course, all these things are speaking of Christ in His Messianic office, not in His essence. In His essence as God, He has always had dominion over the earth (Ps. 24:1).

We Christians have already won, now let’s face down our ancient foe in the NAME of our eternal Savior who rules by omnipotent power not only inherent in Himself but also inherent in the words of the Gospel. AMEN.

[1] 04/27/92 broadcast, WPTY-TV Memphis, TN, 12 p. m.

[2] Charles Capps, God’s Image of You (Tulsa: Harrison House, 1985), p. 50.

[3] Kenneth E. Hagin, The Interceding Christian (Tulsa: Faith Publication Library, 1991), p. 13

Gordon J. Wenham, Ph.D., Genesis: 2 Volumes, 1987, 850 pages

(© review by the Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.)

Bruce Waltke is my favorite Hebrew scholar, and Wenham is my favorite, conservative Old Testament commentator. His two volumes on Genesis are monumental, stunning, leaving no stone unturned. His 50 page Introduction is worth the price of the first volume.

It is a scholarly work and requires some Hebrew to benefit completely, but even lay people will find help. Somewhat disconcerting we find Wenham introducing JEDP in the Introduction as if it were true or at least helpful, but Wenham seems to attack it in The Face of Old Testament Studies: “Pondering the Pentateuch: The Search for a New Paradigm attacks.” Moreover, Wenham validates how that Genesis attacks the new eastern gods with all their silliness, such as the gods creating mankind so we would feed them, and they would not have to work!

His exegesis verse by verse and insights regarding context, both immediate and throughout the Old Testament, are nothing short of spectacular.

Recommended. AMEN. Ὡ

Umberto Cassuto

(also called Moshe David Cassuto, 1883-1951)

Old Testament Scholar second to none in Hebrew grammar

(Review by the Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D., 2016)

I was introduced to the Jewish scholar Cassuto when I was in seminary, and I’ve collected most of his works. His devastating work against JEDP crushes the head of that liberal theory, demonstrating repeatedly in his work (The Documentary Hypothesis) that JEDP is just imagination with no objective evidence. In fact, if you search for JEDP on this blog (www.curtiscrenshaw.wordpress.com), you can find a summary of his work and a paper I wrote against the theory. Here are some of Cassuto’s works:

  • From Adam to Noah
  • From Noah to Abraham
  • Commentary on the Book of Genesis
  • Commentary on the Book of Exodus
  • The Goddess Annath
  • The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch
  • Biblical and Oriental Studies

Cassuto is blind as a bat in seeing the Messiah in the Old Testament, but his grammatical insights and contextual analysis are often superb.

Recommended.

AMEN. Ὡ

A. Skevington Wood, Captive to the Word, 1969

(review by the Very Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.)

This is not so much a biography of Martin Luther as it is a survey of his theology and beliefs. It is less than 200 pages and an easy read. We have such chapters as these:

  • Luther as Commentator
  • Luther as Preacher
  • Luther as Translator
  • Luther as Reformer
  • Luther and the Authority of Scripture
  • Luther and the Revelation of Scripture
  • Luther and the Inspiration of Scripture

He deals with such things as the analogy of Scripture, Luther’s idea that the best interpreter of the Bible is the Bible itself.

For a detailed biography of Luther, Roland Bainton is considered one of the best: Roland Bainton, Here I Stand.

Recommended.

AMEN. Ὡ

Taya Kyle, American Wife (Love, War, Faith, and Renewal), 2015, 300 pages, easy read

(Review by the Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D., 2016)

Taya was married to the Seal who had the most kills as a sniper. They had a very strong Christian love. After several tours, and after begin proclaimed a hero, Chris Kyle was finally home for good, to be with his wife and children. I saw the movie, American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood. Here is what the movie is about:

“Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) takes his sole mission—protect his comrades—to heart and becomes one of the most lethal snipers in American history. His pinpoint accuracy not only saves countless lives but also makes him a prime target of insurgents. Despite grave danger and his struggle to be a good husband and father to his family back in the States, Kyle serves four tours of duty in Iraq. However, when he finally returns home, he finds that he cannot leave the war behind.”

[Quote from https://www.google.com/#q=american+sniper]

I had followed his career on Fox News, and had prayed for his safety. Having been in Vietnam, and having gone through the Tet Offensive, I know how precarious life is in war, and how quickly one can be killed. I lost friends over there in the blink of an eye, walking around one minute and dead the next.

This is their story, Chris and Taya, and it is full of beginning love, his overseas duties, (he held the all-time number of confirmed kills as an American Sniper, and the way Chris put is: “I was saving American lives.”

The tragedy that happened after he was home, how Taya overcame by faith in the Triune God, her renewal, is a true story that will lift you out of despair and set you firmly on the Rock, Christ Jesus. AMEN. Ὡ