Rescuing verses . . . “Do not call anyone on earth your father” (Matthew 23:9)

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

In my denomination, even though we are Protestant, the tendency is for parishioners to call the pastors “father”.  Sometimes the verse above is quoted against saying “father” to pastors. Sometimes they say that is Roman Catholic. I can dispatch the last objection quickly. Roman Catholics also believe in the Trinity; does that make it wrong?

Now for saying the word “father” to pastors allegedly being wrong. First, consider the other verses connected with Matthew 23:9:

“But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matt. 23:8-10 NKJ)

Second, notice that if it wrong to say “father”, then also we must not call anyone “teacher”. Should we address our human fathers as “male parental unit”? Or, how about this version of the Fifth Commandment: “Honor your male ‘parental being’ and your mother.” The idea in context is that such people should not want personal glory in the position of authority. They are in authority to serve, not to be served. Notice how the Lord Jesus characterized such people:

“They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues,  greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men,’Rabbi, Rabbi.'” (Matt. 23:6-7 NKJ)

Third, the problem is not with the word itself, but with wanting personal recognition and self-glory. Notice what the Apostle Paul said about being a spiritual father:

“I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” (1 Cor. 4:14-15 NKJ)

Paul stated that he only was their father in the gospel, for he had “begotten” them.

Finally, in 1-2 Timothy and Titus, Paul referred to Timothy and Titus as a “true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2); “a beloved son” (2 Tim. 1:2); “to Titus, a true son in our common faith” (Titus 1:4).

Thus, we conclude that saying “father” is not the problem; indeed, it is encouraged by Paul. Rather, the word “father” was being misused, lording it over others, and seeking vainglory, but when one uses his gifts for the good of the church, not seeking vainglory, he is blessed. AMEN 

Crisis Regarding Christ

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

(Please consider sending the link to this article to others, at no charge.)

Some years ago a preacher visited my church while on vacation. 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, Christian Science, 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. The Church 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. Then 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 own providence by audible words spoken in the air. In their view, God and Man are so completely separated in Christ that He only functioned by the Holy Spirit on earth, not by His own divine nature also. Since there is really no union of God and Man in Jesus, according to them, there is no  reconciliation of man with God in one person. Thus, salvation is eliminated. If Christ is only a creature, or only functioned as a creature on earth, 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, ThD
In the Reformation of the 1500s, both sides believed the Bible to be God’s infallible word, held to the Holy Trinity (one God in three equal person, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and 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 religions.
But one can also be heretical in one’s 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. Satan told them and they believed it that they could partake of the Tree and not die, whereas God told them if they did partake of that tree, they would die. We know the consequences when our first parents believed the devil. 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.
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, 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 1:18-22:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans1:18-21 NKJ)

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.
It is time that the true people of God stop listing to such damning heresy, and leave ungodly churches that promote such. Moreover, if a parish/church 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 accumulating property! AMEN.

Hilarious Marriage Proposal: Theologian John Owen (1616-1683) to Mary Rooke

The great theologian John Owen (1616-1683)

The purpose of the discourse laid out – The major points therein established – The sundry benefits of marriage discussed – The vices thereby abstained from much derided

Bearing in mind that the covenant of marriage is not to be entered into, as the Scriptures tell us, unadvisedly or lightly, but rather with all reverence, according to the sundry commandments given for the mutual benefit of all persons, yet which can bind no man but that he take upon himself the yoke, I submit the following discourse for your due consideration, with the exceptional proofs thereunto belonging, wherein you might be made aware of my intentions in this regard.

First, that it be for the furtherance of that mutual joy of which all married persons must partake.

Second, that it might affect the greater help and comfort of the same, wherein they may thereby experience both prosperity and adversity with no decrease of faith.

Third, that it might be for the increase of that procreation which was established by God upon his first covenant with man, for the compassing of which end such persons ought to be joined together in holy matrimony.

Now follow my expansions upon those points heretofore stated.

1.      The mutual joy which is spoken of by means of allegory in the Canticles, the mystical union betwixt Christ and his Church spoken of by Saint Paul in his discourse to the Ephesians, the many covenantal benefits made efficacious to those who take part – such things we must not deny.

(1.)  That he who possesses a happy wife doth, as spake some philosopher, possess also a happy life.

(2.)  That troubles paired be not troubles squared, for they shall not cross the threshold of such as make the Lord their God, or if they do, they are but the trials of a moment sent to make us noble, and for the furtherance of that mortification of the flesh that is incumbent upon all believers.

2.      I am hereby advised to “get on with it”, and shall as such make haste to finish, neglecting this point. God forgive me.

3.      That man exists still in a state of carnal lust we must certainly acknowledge, and that the occasions therein for deeds of the flesh are rampant, it would not behoove us to deny. We must therefore set ourselves unto the following aims.

(1.)  That, as the apostle writes, “It is better to marry than burn,” and thus the gift of marriage is granted to all believing men, that they might flee from the prospect of fornication and lend due reverence to the wife to whom they be predestined.

(2.)  That paradise be not lost upon entering into matrimony, but rather regained, according to that covenant made at the first, having escaped the snares of the devil, by which he seeks to pull us into the bonds of iniquity, we embrace rather the bonds of marriage, for the furtherance of our sanctification.

(3.)  And as someone hast said with regard to procreation, it is the ready means by which we grow the Church of Jesus Christ, and knowing as we do how the odds be stacked against the gospel truth in this present age, we must find our strength in numbers and make of thee a second Eve and mother of all the living.

We await now such sundry answers as you see fit to grant to us, that we may be hereby directed to a course that will be for the mutual satisfaction of both parties.

(And here was her reply…)

My dearest John,

I scarcely understand this letter you have sent to me. Indeed, I scarcely understand half the things you say, be they ever so exalted. Nevertheless, if it is marriage you seek, I shall submit myself to this yoke, as you so artfully call it, if you will but promise me three things upon pain of your eternal soul. First, that you should never speak Latin in my presence again. Second, that you should on one occasion per week pry yourself from your books long enough to change a nappy. Third, that you should find some means of sustenance beyond your tomes, for such things as you write are more fit for the shelves of Duke Humfrey’s library than the hands of the common man, and if they be our only source of sustenance, shall be the making of our eternal poverty. This is my reply. May heaven help me.

–   Mary Rooke

Pelagianism: Has KIM JONG UN of North Korea Had a Change of Heart?

COULD IT BE THAT KIM JONG UN of North Korea is playing the West? He has been all smiles and grins lately, promising the West that he will be a good boy and not test nukes. Meanwhile he meets with South Korean president, China’s leader, and other leaders. Could it be that he is building leverage with them against the West? Then when the moment is right, he’ll pull out of the talks, blame Trump, giving the Democrats leverage against the Republicans in the upcoming election, and then we’ll have a democratic Congress again? I for one do not believe that he has had a change of heart. How pelagian can we get to think that a leopard can change his spots (Jeremiah 13:23)?

The fact of the matter is that for 70+ years N. Korea has always played us for stupid. What has changed? Has Trump’s pressure and threats changed Un? Has he suddenly seen the light? We’re in a very dangerous position because the West WANTS to believe Kim Jong Un, which means we’re engaging in self-deception. We’re interpreting his actions the way we WANT to believe. Maybe the Lord of Glory is setting us up. I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. But one thing I’m certain of: Jesus said: “unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). At bottom, repentance is bowing before His sovereign majesty, the King of kings, confessing Him as Lord, not only with our lips but also with our lives, which in turn means confessing our sins (such as the Ten Commandments), and seeking renewed obedience.

Could I be wrong about Un? I’m not wrong about pelagianism, which was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431 after St. Augustine had written many pages against those self-saviors (autosoterism) in the Church who would think that the will of man is sovereign over his nature. (Augustine died in A.D. 430.) Rather, our choices are a revelation of our natures, not that which determines them. Christianity in the 21st century is in love with pelagianism. I may be wrong about Un, for now, but unless he has been converted, all is NOT well with him—nor with us. All Christians in the West should look in the mirror of God’s word and say, “Stupid; you’re just plain stupid.” And then go to church every Sunday, learn His commandments, believe in the Triune God, bow to Him, and tell others of the good news of forgiveness of sins. AMEN.(Pass this on to others.)

 

God’s Persevering Grace (Philippians 1:6)

4 May 2018
(c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw 2018

Some time 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.” “At the day of Jesus Christ” would seem to be the Last Day, the Day when all things are completed. We must recall that justification, as single work, was completed on the Cross, but sanctification, that which Paul speaks about here, is an ongoing process that begins at justification and is completed at the Last Day. Justification is an act; sanctification is a process.

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, the only creature made in God’s image—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 Philippians 1:6, who initiated the work in you, you or God?  God!  And if God did initiate the work of sanctification, 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 Him 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 how much we love God’s Bible, by our faithful attendance at worship on the Lord’s Day,  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 49 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. Ω

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

The Truth of Self-Deception

13 April 2018
(© 2018 Curtis I. Crenshaw)

What is self-deception? For this article, let us say that it is allowing ourselves to be persuaded against the evidence for some point of view. In other words, we don’t want to believe the truth; thus, we manufacture “reasons” against it. We are all guilty of this to some extent.

When we say something negative about some of the pet sins of our culture, we often get screaming back, and screaming without an ounce of logic or evidence of their position on some moral point.

But how does their response demonstrate that they are suppressing the truth and self-deceived? One can recognize this kind of self-deception by its immediate response to the light, for without even considering what the truth is, he rejects it. When someone opposes him, there is immediate suppression of the truth.

When the emotion kicks in, the brain kicks out. The interesting thing is that they do precisely what God said they would do: Hate the light, hate the gospel, hate Christians, and because they cannot harm the Triune God, they seek to harm Christians who represent Him.

Consider several passages on self-deception:

From Romans chapter 1:

  • 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (Romans 1:18 ESV)
  • 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. They are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:20-21 ESV)

From the Gospel of John chapter 3:

  • 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

Again from 1 John chapter 1:

  • If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:6)
  • If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)
  • If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:10)

Notice the progression downward in these three verses from 1 John chapter 1: v. 6 is deceiving others; v. 8 is deceiving ourselves; and v. 10 is deceiving God, or attempting to do so. God, of course, cannot be deceived. Moreover, notice that they use unrighteousness to push the truth out of their minds. In other words, they immediately hold back righteous thoughts by identification with sin, and then they dare anyone to say anything under penalty of screaming and bearing false witness. It seems to me that what we have in Romans one, John three, and 1 John 1 is self-deception in this form:

  • What the heart desires, the will embraces, and the mind justifies

To put this another way, it is not lack of reason that keeps non-Christians from faith—though they claim that—but that their faith (or better, unbelief) leads them to adopt whatever reason works at the moment to promote their agenda. To restate it, their commitment to their sin in the heart means their will has a commitment to that sin, and then they use their minds to justify a position already embraced. It is never the reverse; that is, that the mind leads them to embrace something in the will, and then the will forces the heart to embrace the sin. No, what we see in Romans 1, John 3, and 1 John 1 is that self-deception begins with the sinful heart, with the person’s desires for some sin that God forbids. Then they embrace that sin with a vengeance, they commit to it with their sinful wills, and then, and only then, they seek to justify the sin with the mind, with evidences.

It is not an intellectual problem with unbelievers; it is a moral problem. They embrace some sin and then use the mind to justify the sin. Thus, the nature of their deception is embracing sin with their hearts or sinful natures. Then their will embraces what they desire, and the finally the mind seeks to justify it. We Christians have an enormous responsibility to help them see the wonderful light of Jesus Christ less they perish.

No one fails to become a Christian because he demands more intellectual proof but because he hates the Triune God, hates His righteousness as revealed in His commandments, and wants to practice some sin that the Triune God forbids. Unbelief is never an intellectual problem but a moral problem. The unbeliever uses his intellect as a cover for self-deception; he WANTS sin and HATES righteousness. That is the problem and nothing else. AMEN. Ω