Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Did the Apostles Advocate the use of the Instrument in Acts 15 Without Even Knowing It?

In December, 2006, bro. Rick Atchley of the Richland Hills church of Christ asserted in his first “Both / And” sermon that we can and should add the instrument to worship today since the Apostles did not make circumcision a requirement for salvation in Acts 15. Rick’s assertion, argument and premise is that the apostles and elders did not meet at in Jerusalem to preserve and defend the gospel, they met to “make it easier” for Gentiles to become Christians. In other words, it is his contention that the only meeting EVER recorded in Scripture with the apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem congregation was to, in effect, conduct an “outreach and methodology seminar.” One can almost see the rows of “church growth” vendors inside the convention hall, as it were. Acts 15 becomes his primary, central and foundational “proof text” for adding the instrument to worship. In true circular fashion, bro. Atchley takes a secondary and byproduct (1) point from 15:19 and elevates it to core, central and dominant status in his “interpretation” of the passage. In Rick Atchley’s world, the theological tail wags the theological dog.

This choice of “proof texts” relates to us more than “surprise,” it conveys outright astonishment, amazement and incredulity. Such is the case “IF” Acts 15 turns out NOT to be about answering the question; “What must I do to be saved?” NOT about “adding to nor taking away” or NOT about the preaching of “another gospel.” In fact, “IF” Acts 15 is about adding the instrument to worship our only response would of necessity have to be one of stunned amazement. The adoption of Acts 15 as a “proof text” for the instrument would create such centrifugal force from radical circular reasoning as to leave one suspended in mid air with no where to go.

Even as I type these words, the whole idea of discussing this passage in such a light seems so bizarre as to defy all logic and reason. Unfortunately, as my mind returns to rationality, I sadly begin to understand what Paul spoke of so passionately to Timothy just before he died the martyr’s death:
For the time will come, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts will they multiply to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they will turn away their ears from the truth, and will be turned to fables. (2)
To read into (3) Acts 15 a “proof text” for the use of the instrument in worship is indeed… a fable. Gill says that these “fables” are “…everything that is vain, empty, and senseless.” (4) Thayer says that a fable is, “…a story…a fiction… an invention, a falsehood.” (5) How, then, could bro. Atchley possibly see the instrument in this passage? In order for one to “see” the instrument in this passage one must first adopt:

• Origen’s theory that Scripture has “hidden and multiple meanings,” all equally valid. (6)
• Origen’s theory that individuals can understand Scripture via “allegorical” (fictional) stories.
• Thomas Aquinas’ theory that truth is primarily revealed through the “senses” and not revelation. (7)
• Thomas Aquinas’ theory that one of man’s “senses” is the “sense” of “imagination,” i.e. if one can imagine something as true, it becomes true for that person – think John Lennon, “imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you can, no hell below us, above us only sky…” (8)
• Circular Theology that theorizes that one best understands Scripture when seen through the light of “one’s life experiences” and that nobility is found not in the finding of truth but the SEARCH for it. In other words, one ends where one begins… with questions and no answers. (9)
• “Emerging” or evolutionary theology that theorizes that truth evolves over time like Darwinian evolution. Each generation, like rings on a tree, grows stronger and more sophisticated than the generation before it. Therefore, today’s “truth” is superior to yesterday’s “truth” and tomorrow’s “truth” will be superior to today’s… and so on. Darwin incorrectly assumed that the “simple” evolved into the more “complex.” We now know that even the smallest of cellular organisms are far more complicated than we can even begin to understand, even with today’s advanced technology. Upon this same foolish notion, the “emerging” church assumes that 1st century Christianity was “simple” and today’s is far more complex and sophisticated. (10)
• Sensus Plenior (“fuller sense”) biblical interpretation theory that assumes that men today, with all the accumulated “wisdom” of the ages, can actually better understand the Scriptures than those who lived before, even the writers of the Bible!

When one blends all these murky and erroneous ingredients into a lens mold, a pair of “rose colored glasses” is the sad result. Through these glasses one can then stare through and “see” the use of the instrument in worship supported in Acts 15. In our next installment we will hear what Acts 15 has to say about Acts 15. By the way, we continue our study on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on this subject at the Archdale church of Christ in Charlotte, NC. You are more than welcome!


(1) A byproduct is not the essence. Resulting effects are not possible without the essence of a thing being first delivered. When the Holy Spirit inspired truth of the gospel was defended and defined at Jerusalem, one effect was that no additional roadblocks were put in the way of Gentile believers, they came to Christ the same way as the Jew.
(2) II Timothy 4:3-4 – 1833 Webster Bible via
(3) To read “into” a passage something that is not there is called “eisegesis.”
(4) John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible via
(5) Thayer’s Greek Definitions via
(6) Origen lived and taught in the early 2nd century, primarily from Alexandria and Palestine
(7) Thomas Aquinas lived in the 13th century
(8) Lyrics via:
(9) Here’s a technical definition of Circular Theology: “Bible interpretation (hermeneutics) is therefore the circular process of understanding sacred Biblical literature, namely interpreting the component parts of the sacred text in the light of the whole and the whole of the light of its parts. It is the ongoing dialogue between one’s initial understanding of the sacred text and the impressions of the Holy Spirit gathered from subsequent readings and reflections on it. It’s the dialogue between one’s own frame of reference (one’s own sphere of existence) and the context of the text.” - Ferdinand Deist, A Concise Dictionary of Theological and Related Terms (Pretoria, South Africa: Van Schaik, 1990, 1992)
(10) For more detail, see: Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (El Cajon, CA, Youth Specialties Books / Zondervan, 2004) pg. 286-280.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Did the Holy Spirit Speak to a Man in 1994 (Or There-Abouts)? Perhaps 1996?

In December of 2006 bro. Rick Atchley of the Richland Hills church of Christ in Ft. Worth, Texas, preached a series of three sermons. These sermons were all entitled, "Both / And." The purpose of these lessons was to "justify" the addition of the instrument to their worship and to add the taking of the Lord’s Supper on days un-authorized in the New Testament. Since that time many congregations have followed the erroneous path blazed by Richland Hills. Many more, sadly, may be contemplating the embrace of such error as well.

The opening…and most aggressive argument…set forth in these lessons to justify such radical changes to the New Testament pattern (YES… there IS a pattern! See II Timothy 1:13’s statement regarding the “pattern of sound words”) is the assertion that the Holy Spirit instituted them by way of a "special knowledge" communication directly and exclusively to Rick Atchley. Here is the exact quote:
Right there in that spot about 1994 in the middle of my sermon, the Holy Spirit said to me (emphasis mine RM): “And that’s what you and all the preachers like you are doing who haven’t for years believed that the worship to God with instruments is wrong but you continue by your silence to let people think it’s wrong to allow the body to be disrupted and you do so under the plea, “Well, we’re maintaining peace,” but that’s not peace, that’s cowardice.” I knew then the day would come I’d have to teach this lesson.(1)
In the very first lesson, and at the very beginning of that lesson, bro. Atchley asserts that the Holy Spirit told him (“about” 1994) during the middle of a sermon that he would "have" to teach these lessons. Is this possible? Did the Holy Spirit actually "speak" to Rick Atchley? Why weren’t these “new truths” preached in 1994? Why did bro. Atchley have to wait until 2006? How did he know when to preach them? Did the Holy Spirit speak to him again and give him the time table? Why did elsewhere in the sermon did bro. Atchley say this “statement” from the “Holy Spirit” took place ten years prior? [That would have made the conversation in 1996, not 1994!] Which year was it? "IF" the Holy Spirit actually "speaks" to a man, would not that very date and time become tatooed on his brain? Did the Holy Spirit change His mind on the instrument? Let’s see what the Scripture says:

o Special knowledge was a spiritual gift given in the 1st century to "confirm the word" before it had been written down – Mark 16:17-20
o Special knowledge was to "cease" when the Word was completed – I Corinthians 13:8-10
o Today God speaks to us ONLY through His Son – Hebrews 1:1
o Jesus Christ is the Word and the Word is Jesus Christ – John 1
o ALL Scripture is profitable for doctrine – II Timothy 3:16
o ALL things "pertaining to life and Godliness" have been (past tense) given to us – II Peter 1:3
o The faith has been (past tense) "delivered to the saints" – Jude 3
o God is not a "respecter of persons" – Acts 10:34-35

Summarizing, "IF" the Holy Spirit did "speak" to Rick Atchley, the following would have to then be true:

• Special knowledge is still a gift and the Word of God is not complete and is still being written today – Mark was in error
• God speaks through men in addition to His Son Jesus Christ – the Hebrew writer was in error.
• Words other than Scripture are profitable for doctrine – Paul was in error.
• God has not, in fact, given us all things pertaining to life and Godliness – Peter was in error.
• The faith has not been delivered to the saints – Jude was in error.
• God is, after all, a respecter of person – Peter, again, was in error
• Since Mark, the Hebrew writer, Paul, Peter, and Jude were in error, Rick Atchley is the only one with the truth.
• By logical extension of bro. Atchley’s contentions, HE has more revelation from God than the very writers of the New Testament! “IF” such is the case, these men will have to seek bro. Atchley out in heaven one day to sit at his feet and hear his discourse on these matters!

These conclusions are, of course,absurd! The Word of God is complete, special knowledge has been done away with, God speaks exclusively through His Word Jesus Christ, all scripture is profitable for doctrine, all things pertaining to life and Godliness have been given to us, the faith has been delivered to the saints and God is not a respecter of persons.

One other “small” matter… “IF” the Holy Spirit” did speak to bro. Atchley, he MUST produce tangible evidence [Mark 16:17-20] that he is telling the truth, i. e. heal the sick, raise the dead, speak in languages he did not study, drink deadly poison, pick up deadly snakes, etc. You know what I mean… the whole “goose and gander” thing….

In conclusion, the Holy Spirit did not change His mind on the instrument (or any other point of doctrine) and He did not speak to Rick Atchley while he was delivering a sermon in 1994. Regardless of any other "proof" trotted out by bro. Atchley, his arguments crumble for they are built on a foundational falsehood and a bedrock of shifting sand…the assertion that the Holy Spirit speaks to some men and not others outside and apart from the Scripture today. The truth is plain...the Holy Spirit does not today speak to mortal men outside of the Revelation of Scripture, PERIOD.(2)


(1) Transcribed by the author off of the Richland Hills website ( The sermon is no longer available on the website per se, though it is FOR SALE on CD format on said website.
(2) During the Fall Quarter, we are studying a series of Bible lessons entitled, "Wrong Division - A Study of Proof Texts Used in Support of the Instrument." JOIN US! Every Wednesday at 7 p.m. - Archdale church of Christ, 2525 Archdale Drive in Charlotte. For directions go to:!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Miss Bertha's Revival

On February 20, 1894 in Thorp Spring, TX (1) the world changed forever. In violation of both Scripture and conscience Miss Bertha, as she was called, was asked to “play on.” Play on she did, on the organ, that is. The occasion was a gospel meeting held at Add-Ran College (now known as Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, TX). It appears that the “tail wagged the dog” at this particular place of learning for the inclusion of the instrument was the students idea and not the faculty or the staff. Sadly, the “ghost” of Miss Bertha is stalking churches of Christ even now! She’s somehow been “revived…” Error is progressive and constantly pushes all who will listen to the very edge of the abyss and then drags all present over that very same edge to their destruction. Like so many so-called “progressive”(2) congregations of our day, these students had persuaded their teachers and administrators to allow the use an organ in both their social and devotional events for some time. That night they went for the jugular. When the smoke cleared, the church in Thorp Springs was torn asunder, the Clarke family was openly divided with two sons, (Addison and Randolph) against their faithful father and a once flourishing Christian college began its slow decent into the endless dust of history. The elder bro. Clarke died brokenhearted in 1901. In 1906, it all became “official” when the U. S. Government Census listed “churches of Christ” and “Christian churches” separately. History, sad to say, is repeating itself. In 1906, the instrumental faction focused on taking buildings away from the faithful church of Christ. At least these wayward brethren had the good grace to change their name once they became apostate! Today they are known primarily as “Christian Churches” and “Disciples of Christ.” Were that it would be so today! Were that those bent on bringing in the instrument would be content with simply taking over a building! Beginning in 2006, many self identified progressives have been “celebrating” the legacy of Miss Bertha, not by stealing a building but by attempting to steal the very name – church of Christ. Though the instrumental denomination party among us “has gone out from us,” [I John 2:19] they continue to demand the hijacking of the very name of the Savior’s Body for their own chaotic purposes! How does one “embrace the name of Christ” and yet oppose the very clear teaching of His Word? Some of you may be saying as you read this; “Hold on now Russ!”
• “The Bible doesn’t ever call the use of the instrument a sin!” • “That’s just your opinion!” • “Using the instrument is not a salvation issue!” • “Using the instrument helps attract young people!” • “Why argue over the instrument when we should be out spreading the gospel?” • “Aren’t there instruments in heaven?”(3)
There are these arguments and others as well. Our parent’s generation, and their parents, heard them in their day. “There’s nothing new under the sun” says the wise man. Now these same old, already answered arguments, are now being … as it were… brought down from the attic, dusted off, polished up and set down before us once more. In the coming weeks we will prove… with Scripture alone… that the use of the instrument in New Testament worship is not only UN-authorized by God, it’s presumptive presence among us today is the sad result of the mindset of King Saul in I Samuel 15. The flawed logic and pragmatic mindset of King Saul resulted in the Kingdom of Israel being stripped from him and given to another. Far from being “just an opinion,” the use of the instrument is indicative of having the mind of an apostate. How we interpret the Bible (or MIS-interpret it as the case may be) has either blessed or catastrophic results. May God bless us as we seek the truth that is given in His Word as we commence this study;
Wrong Division – A Study of Proof Texts Used in Support of the Instrument.
Let’s stop listening to a ghost from the past and put Miss Bertha back where she belongs… in the history books.


(1) For a very interesting, yet sad, history of this incident see:
(2) “Progressive” in the sense of the 1964 Glen Ford movie, “Advance to the Rear!”© Those in error often “spin” for themselves new and self congratulating descriptions. They may define themselves with terms quite opposite from reality, i.e. what was once called fornication is now known as “co-habitation” and ones illicit lover is now called a “significant other.”
(3) The arguments raised and the proof texts given are from the very words of one of the instrumental faction’s own spokespersons, bro. Rick Atchley of the sadly misnamed Richland Hills Church of Christ in Ft. Worth, TX. Rick troubled the entire brotherhood regarding these matters in December, 2006 with a series of three lessons on the subject, all entitled: “Both / And.” As no printed transcript of these lessons is available, the author transcribed large portions of the three addresses by hand off of audio from the Richland Hills website.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An Exegesis of John 3:1-21

The restoration plea has always called us back to the Scriptures as they were first written. From the day our brother Paul penned I Corinthians 1:10fl until this very moment constitutes what we refer to as the Restoration Movement. God continually, through His Word, hearkens us back to what He said in the first place; clear, singular and plain truth. God “says what He means and means what He says!” When we presume to add to or take away from the Word we are found to be liars (Proverbs 30:6). Unfortunately, many continue to distort the very words of God.

A certain passage, perhaps more than any other, continues to be assaulted by those who would have God’s Word conform to their preconceived notions. That passage is John 3:16. Most recently it has been misapplied by a famous denominational author in a book entitled; 3:16. Since the time of Martin Luther and John Calvin, most Protestants have claimed that baptism is a “work of man” and therefore not necessary for salvation. (The Bible clearly identifies baptism as a work…a work of God as noted in Colossians 2:12). Based upon this false premise (that baptism is a work of man), the author of 3:16 replaces the “…should be saved” conditional language of the original Greek with the subjectively arrived at “shall be saved” contractual language of circular interpretation. Under this kind of devilish eisigesis, the universal opportunity of salvation upon responsive obedience morphs into the “assumed” universal “guarantee” of salvation for the non-responsive and non-obedient “believer” regarding the absolute necessity of baptism. (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1fl; et. al.) Few changes to God’s Word have rendered more damage over the years to the truth of the gospel.

A contextual look at John 3 will reveal that Jesus exegesis of Numbers 21:4-9 in John 3:14 is not only critical to the understanding of the entire John 3 passage, it is core, central and foundational to that understanding. Jesus teaches in John 3 that God’s Salvation requires a RESPONSE to an OPPORTUNITY through OBEDIENCE.

Though Satan twists the passage to teach a “faith only” pseudo-salvation, Jesus clearly teaches that “faith alone” will do as much to save one spiritually as “staying in the tent” saved the Israelites physically!

Non-response and non-obedience to God’s opportunity of salvation will leave one dead in their sins now, just as it did in the wilderness. Here is an exegetical outline highlighting Jesus’ teachings on this critical subject in John 3 in order as they are made:

1. John 3:3 – Jesus tells Nicodemus that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
2. John 3:5 – Jesus tells Nicodemus that “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
A. When Christ had died on the cross a soldier pierced His side and “out flowed both blood and water.” – John 19:34
B. Christ came “by both blood and water.” – I John 5:6
C. Jesus shed his blood in his death.
D. We are baptized “into his death” (Romans 6:3)
E. There is “no remission (of sins) without the shedding of blood. “ – Hebrews 9:22
F. The Blood of Christ renders many gifts:
1) Propitiation – Romans 3:25
2) Justification – Romans 5:9
3) Salvation – Romans 5:9
4) Redemption – Ephesians 1:7 & Colossians 1:4
5) Forgiveness – Ephesians 1:7 & Colossians 1:4
6) Peace – Colossians 1:20
7) Reconciliation – Colossians 1:20
8) Remission – Hebrews 9:22
9) Sanctification – Hebrews 13:12
10) Cleansing – I John 1:7
G. The blood of Christ renders “remission (of sins).” – Hebrews 9:2
H. Baptism is for “the remission of sins.” – Acts 2:38
I. The Gift of the Holy Spirit is given ONLY in baptism – Acts 2:38
J. “Three” bear witness in the earth.” – I John 5:8
1) The Spirit
2) The Water
3) The Blood
a. These 3 are found together ONLY in Baptism and no where else!
K. NOTE on John 3:5 – The well know evangelical preacher John MacArthur et al assert that this passage could not possibly refer to water baptism for the church had not yet been established and Nicodemus could have had no knowledge of things to come. “IF” such were the case, then the entire gospel section of the New Testament applies ONLY to the Old Testament dispensation! In truth, the gospels contain the WILL of Chirst, His New Testament if you please. This WILL was read on the day of Pentecost and required both repentance and baptism for ALL persons of understanding there present. John 3:5 DOES refer to baptism for the remission of sins, regardless whether Nicodemus understood it or not and is the time, place and portal of salvation under the current Will of Christ.

3. John 3:9-13 – When Nicodemus asks the question (“How can these things be?”) Jesus replies with ALL the authority of the Godhead.
A. As “The” teacher of Israel, Jesus asserts that Nicodemus should have already been aware of Messianic prophesies in the Old Testament in the form of a rhetorical question.
B. “WE speak of what WE know, and bear witness to what WE have seen…” – If Nicodemus ever listened to anyone or anything…this is that time!
1) Jesus speaks with the authority of the triune Godhead.
C. Jesus speaks on His own singular authority as well as the “son of man.”
1) No one ever (except Jesus Christ) EVER did, or ever will, ascend and descend to and from heaven as He did.
D. These verses contain perhaps the most powerful introduction to any
statement in the entire Scripture! What follows next is the key verse
in the entire passage and essential to understanding the passage in
it’s proper context. In fact, ANY exposition of John 3 not hinging upon
John 3:14-15 will miss the message of salvation!
4. John 3:14 – “And as Moses…” are the three most important words in the entire passage. Jesus sets up a metaphoric parallel between the uplifted serpent and the soon to be uplifted Christ. In other words the physical salvation of physical Israel in the wilderness is a type, a shadow, of spiritual salvation of spiritual Israel. Salvation in the wilderness required a physical response to God’s free offer of salvation just as God’s free offer of spiritual salvation requires a physical response today. Jesus tells Nicodemus in the very strongest of terms (a direct message from the Triune God by way of the Son of Man) that Nicodemus (and us by extension) cannot understand what Christ says next in 3:16-17 until Nicodemus (and us by extension) grasps what Christ says in 3:14-15.
A. The word “as” is from the original kathos which, according to Strong’s means: “…according to which thing, that is, precisely as, in proportion as: - according to that, (inasmuch) as.”
1) By using kathos, Jesus makes clear the fact that we understand, comprehend and partake in our spiritual salvation “as” the Israelites in the wilderness understood, comprehended and partook in their physical salvation.
5. John 3:15 – Jesus here uses very specific language when discussing the opportunity for and response to the free gift of salvation just alluded to by the serpent / cross parallel.
A. “Whomsoever / Whoever” – The opportunity of salvation is universal and is offered to every person.
B. “Should / May” – The response, however, is conditional. Some will respond and be saved, others will not and be lost…JUST AS with the Israelites and the brazen serpent. All were offered salvation in the wilderness, not all took advantage of the free gift of life. The same parallel reigns true today, ALL are offered salvation…some respond to it, some reject it. The language is clearly conditional when these words are chosen. Mere belief without response is not sufficient as it was not sufficient in the wilderness…those who stayed in their tents perished. “Just as….”
6. John 3:16 – The world’s most beloved verse…for all the wrong reasons.
A. God DOES love the world enough to send His only begotten Son that…
1) “Whosoever / Whoever” – The opportunity for salvation is universal and open for all.
2) “Should / May” – The response Jesus referred to in vs. 14 and 15 requires responsive action “just as” the Israelites in the desert had to physically respond to God’s free gift of life…
a. They had to move out of their tents far enough to actually look upon the brazen serpent to complete their obedience and be saved from physical death.
b. In like manner, (“And as Moses..”) we must contact the saving blood of Christ in the waters of baptism (water and spirit of vs. 5) where “the Spirit and water and the blood bear witness in the earth” for “life is in the blood.” (Leviticus 17:11) Jesus Christ shed his blood in his death, into which we are baptized, for “without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)
c. Jesus’ language here to Nicodemus is not contractual in a quid quo pro kind of way with God, it is conditional upon a proper physical response…just as in the desert.
7. John 3:17 – “…in order that the world through Him might be saved.”
A. Again, the language of salvation used by Jesus to Nicodemus is conditional.
8. John 3:18 – “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned…”
A. As the Israelites “belief” in the desert required a response, so does the belief Jesus is relaying (the new birth) to Nicodemus, and by extension, you and I.
1) Belief and obedience are synonymous
a. “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” – John 3:36 (ASV)
A) Believeth – pisteuo – “…to entrust, commit…”
B) Obeyeth – apeitheo – “…to disbelieve, disobedient, obey not, unbelieving…”
1. Belief and obedience are synonymous as are faith and works (James 2:14-26)
a) Repentance cannot be achieved and validated without baptism (Acts 2:38)
b) Forgiveness of sins cannot be achieved without both repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38)
c) The Gift of the Holy Spirit cannot be received without both repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38)
9. John 3:19 – Judgment is that Light has come into the world and the people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.
A. Evil deeds = darkness
10. John 3:20 – Evil deeds mean two things:
A. Evil deeds = a hater of the light
B. Evil deeds = will not take one to the light
C. Why?
1) So evil deeds will not be exposed by the light
11. John 3:21 – True deeds mean one thing
A. True deeds take one to the light
B. Why?
1) So that it will be clearly seen that “his works have been carried out in God.”
12. Conclusion of John 3:19-21:
A. Belief…true belief that is both intellectual and responsive…is required of Nicodemus, and by extension, you and I.
B. Evil deeds condemn
C. True deeds save.

The conclusion of the entire passage is that God’s free gift of salvation, just as it was with Moses and the children of Israel in the wilderness, requires a RESPONSE to the message. The message of salvation is an OPPORTUNITY that can be accepted or rejected. The proper RESPONSE to the OPPORTUNITY is OBEDIENCE. OBEDIENCE requires that a person must be “born again of both the water and the spirit.” Jesus came by both “blood and water.” We access the saving blood of Christ in the waters of baptism. OBEDIENCE to both repentance and baptism is a “true deed” that takes us to the light. One cannot be saved without OBEDIENCE to the commands of Christ which includes baptism. Repentance and baptism is a “true deed” that RESPONDS to the OPPORTUNITY of salvation in complete OBEDIENCE. Thank God for the inquiry of Nicodemus!

Russ McCullough
8 April 2009 – Charlotte, NC

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

EXegesis and EISigesis - An Analysis

There is a world war being fought with renewed intensity these days. It is a war, not of guns and bullets, but one of truth and error. This war began in the second century and continues to this very moment. It is a war of biblical interpretation.

The Scripture is very clear about what it is and how it is to be interpreted. Two passages come quickly to mind:

II Peter 1:19-21 – We have also a more sure word of prophecy; to which ye do well that ye take heed, as to a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (American Standard Version(ASV)

II Timothy 3:16-17 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works. (ASV)

These verses are saliently clear, ALL Scripture is inspired of God and Scripture is not to be interpreted according to one’s own emotions, feelings or opinions. This was the un-contested understanding of the early church. However, near the end of the 2nd century, this began to change. Origen of Alexandria began to teach that the Scripture had “multiple meanings” and that each person could “interpret” each Scripture “allegorically,” i.e. according to their own individual experiences. This philosophy, grounded in the pagan Homeric Greek philosophy of Plato, took hold in the apostate church and holds sway to this very day. It is a philosophy embraced by the Roman Catholic Church and “emergent” theologians such as Brian McLaren. It is a man centered philosophy that essentially places God in a secondary position in the search for and the establishment of truth. Mechanically, this “allegorical method” is one that looks inside the Sacred Writ and allows the seeker to “pour in” his or her own “meaning” into the passage. The “truth” that is therefore “discovered” is of the making of the seeker and in the “image” of man. This is what Paul warned of in Romans 1:25 when the “interpreters” of his day…”changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.” (Webster' 1833 Bible) This madness is known to us today as eisigesis (ice-a-gee-sis). A relative new term coined ca. 1878, eisigesis is defined as;

“The interpretation of a text…by reading into it one’s own ideas.” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, (Merriam-Webster, Inc. Publishers, Springfield, MA, 1991), pg. 399)

To coin a phrase, for one to embrace eisigesis in the pursuit of truth would lead one’s search for salvation onto the “thin ice.” Eisigesis has brought us everything from 2nd century Gnosticism to 19th century liberalism to the so-called “Emergent church” of today. The process takes one in circles, always searching and yet never finding. Eisigesis allowed King Saul to rationalize keeping alive the king of Amalek as well as the best of the herds and flocks instead of utterly destroying them as God had clearly commanded in I Samuel 15. Today, eisigesis allows men and women to rationalize all kinds of things un-biblical though the Scripture clearly teaches that additions and subtractions to God’s Word are strictly forbidden as we see in Proverbs 30:6.

There we are enjoined to “…not add to His words or He will rebuke you and prove you to be a liar.” (Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.)

On the other hand, those who wish to honor God and move “neither to the right or to the left,” view Scripture from an exegesis [ex-a-gee-sis (“ex” – out of)] basis. Exegesis is what Jesus Christ referred to as “having ears to hear.” It is the mindset that instead of injecting our own opinions into the Scripture, we humbly extract God’s will for us from the Scripture without question or argument. The exegete is totally subservient to his or her Lord and Master’s Word, the final say in the on-going war of biblical interpretation. In I Samuel 15, Samuel was the exegete while Saul was the eisigete. Samuel is now honored among the faithful while Saul was removed from the throne of Israel. Just how we interpret God’s Word has the most serious of consequences.

Eisigesis views the Word of God as a collection of “stories, historical fiction and fables” to be “interpreted” via one’s own life’s experiences rendering God a god of “confusion” and “contradiction.” It produces a foundation of sand causing both spiritual collapse and spiritual death. The end of eisigesis is unbelief and the end of unbelief is death eternal.

Exegesis views the Word of God as 100% “God breathed,” “Holy Spirit inspired” and is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (Websters 1833 Bible, op. cit., II Timothy 3:16) It has nothing to do with our own life’s experiences, opinions or conjectures. It is not influenced by circumstance or any kind of pragmatically conceived benefit. It produces a foundation of rock solid faith rendering both spiritual stability and spiritual life. The end of exegesis is belief and the end of belief is life eternal.

So dear reader, which are you, an “ice” or an “ex?” Heaven and hell anxiously await your response.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Does An Evangelist Rule Over An Eldership?

We often note that in our society that “the tail wags the dog.” Preconceived notions often change otherwise sound conclusions in matters of policy, values and faith. Without thinking we sometimes accept falsehoods without examination. One such area very seldom examined has to do with congregational government. In one form or another, most denominations and many churches of Christ are “ruled” by one man. He may be called a priest, a pastor or an evangelist. This perceived pattern is so prevalent and is so old, most people actually think it is biblical. But…is it? Now, don’t take my word for any of this, check the book! (Acts 17:11)

First of all, there no longer is a singular priesthood, we are all priests. (I Peter 2:9) Secondly, a “pastor” is part of a plurality of elders, presbyters or bishops, all four terms are interchangeable and are never identified in a singular manner, always in the plural. (Acts 14:23)

When we come to the term “evangelist” we find that the word occurs but three times in Scripture, Acts 21:8, Ephesians 4:11 and II Timothy 4:5, according to Vine’s. In all three instances the word is descriptive of a function, “…a preacher of the gospel,” with no indications of either office or office holder. “Evangelist” is, therefore, a description and not a title.

Finally, when we come to the word “office,” it is used some six times in the New Testament according to Strong’s Concordance:

Romans 11:3 – Paul’s “office” as the apostle to the gentiles
Romans 12:4 – “Office” as synonym for parts of the physical body
I Timothy 3:1 – “Office” of a bishop
I Timothy 3:10 – “Office” of a deacon
I Timothy 3:13 – “Office” of a deacon
Hebrews 7:5 – “Office” of the priesthood

We can safely conclude that the term “evangelist” and the term “office” are never used together as in the above examples. The 1st century evangelist was a preacher of the gospel and not an office holder in the church.

We must now ask the question, “If a plurality of elders governed the congregations of the first century, how did the “one man ruler ship” of congregations come to be to the point of becoming entrenched for 20 centuries or more?” Alexander Strauch puts it very well:

At the beginning of the second century, many churches developed three separate offices or leadership ministries. That was the start of episcopally structured churches:

The overseer (bishop)
A council of elders
A body of deacons

At the start of the second century, the overseer (bishop) presided over one local church, not a group of churches. Thus he is called the monarchical bishop. Through the centuries, inordinate authority became concentrated in the bishop. Unchecked by the New Testament Scriptures, his role continued to expand. The bishop became ruler over a group of churches. Some bishops emerged as supreme over other bishops. Eventually they formed councils of bishops. Finally, in the West, one bishop emerged over every Christian and every church.

But in the churches of the New Testament period, there was no clearly defined, three office system. Instead, there were only two offices as found in Philippians 1:1.

The council of overseer elders
The body of deacons

This Roman Catholic leadership pattern was followed by the Reformers as well, though it was somewhat amended. Instead of a celibate singular congregational priesthood, the Protestants liked to refer to their “priests” as “pastors” and allowed them to marry. However, both Catholics and Protestants continued to require their adherents to go through a mortal man to have access to God…clearly a blatant false teaching in light of Scripture.

The New Testament teaching of a plurality of elders in leadership was largely adhered to during what we now call the “Restoration Movement” during the nineteenth century. However, during the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, many denominational churches were converted in mass…denominations one week and New Testament churches of Christ the next! Many of these new congregations did not have proper teaching regarding congregational leadership and the denominational “pastor” evolved into the “evangelist.” He continued a “one man rule” as he had before. Unfortunately, a “supporting theology” has sprung up to support the false notion that the “evangelist” is the singular “leader” of the congregation.
The “supporting theology” surrounding the preeminence of the “evangelist” centers primarily on one argument:

• Paul appointed Timothy and Titus as evangelists
• Timothy and Titus appointed “elders in every church”
• Therefore, evangelists are superior and rule over elderships, negating the need for said elderships.

Since Paul simply states the qualifications for elders to Timothy (I Timothy 1:3-7), his authority to appoint such is implied. However, Paul clearly instructs Titus: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.” (Titus 1:6 (NASB) We can clearly see that Titus appoints elders, not on any authority of any “office” or because he is an “evangelist,” but on the authority of Paul the apostle.

To complicate matters further, it has become regretably popular among the so-called "mega-churches" among churches of Christ to adopt this error in stealth. These "Emergent" congregations have opted to have "senior ministers" who lead a "council of elders" that act as "deacons" because...these congregations often have no deacons. One man rule that the average person would not even notice. How convenient. These "dual track" congregations, "appearing" bibllical, fool no one, especially the Almighty.

In conclusion, we can safely say that instead of the “evangelist tail” wagging the “eldership dog,” elderships appoint and oversee evangelists…the gospel preachers of our day and time…just as it was in the first century. “One man rule” of a congregation is Romanesque, is extra-biblical and is a false teaching.