Friday, January 16, 2015

BILL JOHNSON: Squandering Our Spiritual Inheritance

Part 5: The Physics of Heaven:
A Serial Book Review & Theological Interaction

Read Part 1: "The Physics of Heaven"
Read Part 2: "The Power of the Zero-Point Field"
Read Sidebar: "Jesus' Lesser Works"
Read Part 3: "Extracting the Precious From the Worthless"

Read Part 4: "Vibrating in Harmony With God"
Bill Johnson discussing the "Presence" (source)

Review of Chapter 4 authored by Bill Johnson:
"Recovering Our Spiritual Inheritance"

“God is glorified by not speaking in plain language to you.
He’s glorified by speaking in parables, symbols and dark sayings.”

–Bill Johnson
(TPOH, 31)

Though this chapter does not fit The Physics of Heaven’s exploration of the ways quantum science can energize the Christian faith (i.e., tap into Pentecostal power by harnessing the universe’s quantum “sounds, vibrations, or frequencies”), the authors decided to include Bill Johnson’s teaching “on recovering our spiritual inheritance... because there are whole realms of insights that belong to the people of God we’ve failed to explore and, therefore, haven’t been leaving as a legacy for future generations.”(TPOH, 29) If today’s indifferent Church fails to move forward by reclaiming “lost ‘God truths’,” “a vacuum forms that the enemy fills” and “future generations of Christians” will loose the inheritance this generation should have left to them.[2](TPOH, 29) In developing this theme, Johnson employs the word “inheritance(s)” and “generation(s)” numerous times.[3] The chapter’s title, “Recovering Our Spiritual Inheritance,” suggests that there’s an inheritance out there to be recovered, reclaimed and bequeathed to future generations. “It’s time to start constructing... a hundred-year vision,” he says later.(TPOH, 37) So what does Johnson mean by the “legacy” he wants this generation to reclaim and pass on to future generations of Christians?
Bio in an advertisement on TheElijahList, 7/13/24

The Inheritance—“Hidden Things”
The inheritance has to do with “anointings, mantles, revelations and mysteries that have lain unclaimed... because the generation that walked in them never passed them on.”(TPOH, 30-31) Along with other of the book’s contributors, Johnson believes they possess the potential and possibility “to recover realms of anointing, realms of insight, realms of God that have been untended for decades... and perpetuate them [in what he calls a “domino effect”] for future generations.”(TPOH, 31) He believes that “there are realms opening up right now to people because they realize their destiny.... that God has ordained and given them access to hidden things” [hidden means occult, ed.].(TPOH, 32) To buttress his hand-me-down theory, Johnson quotes Deuteronomy 29:29 (italics in the NKJV translation, emphasis added).[4]

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (TPOH, 31)

Extracting the word “secret” from this verse, Johnson then leapfrogs to the Gospel of Luke (though he fails to cite the verse’s location) to connect Moses’ statement to one Jesus made to His disciples when He told them (Johnson rewords Luke 8:10), “It’s the Father’s good pleasure to give you the secrets [Greek, musterion, “mysteries”] of the Kingdom.” From this verse Johnson observes that, “Jesus taught in parables, not to reveal truth, but to hide truth.”(TPOH, 31) Then he gave this stunning opinion embracing esotericism (that only a limited number of initiates can comprehend meanings):

Truth is not hidden from you; it’s hidden for you... God is glorified by not speaking in plain language to you. He’s glorified by speaking in parables, symbols and dark sayings. (Emphases added, TPOH, 31)

Seekers of the Secrets
According to Johnson, it thus becomes the responsibility of the “royal priesthood”—the king’s kids—to realize they have “legal access” to explore and unlock the secrets (the parables, symbols and dark sayings) and leave the things they discover as an inheritance for future generations.[5](TPOH, 31) So “trip out” into the mysteries all ye seekers, and delve into the “realms of science, of politics, of business, of creativity in the arts” to discover God’s secrets. From these realms this generation will discover a legacy to hand down to future generations because Jesus told Johnson, “The things that are revealed are for you and your children forever.”(TPOH, 32) A legacy then “enables us to start our Christian life at spiritual levels that might have taken us years to reach. Another generation’s ‘ceiling’ in God can become our spiritual ‘floor’.”(TPOH, 30) What exactly constitutes an inheritance is vague, but in addition to personal revelations from God, may involve recovering the experiences of “mystics” and “revivalists” that in past centuries “broke into realms of the Spirit to leave something....”(TPOH, 38) But regardless of the past, Johnson says, “We’ve never seen the accelerated spiritual growth that comes from inheritance. We’ve never fully seen what a spiritual ‘jump start’ can mean to the next generation.”(TPOH, 30)

But before addressing other issues raised in this chapter, Johnson’s twisting of Scripture ought to be noted. Bill Johnson’s mixing of words Moses spoke to Israel in Deuteronomy 29:29 and those spoken by Jesus to His disciples in Luke 8:9 serve to illustrate the author’s misuse of Scripture.
Bill Johnson, advertisement on TheElijahList, 8/20/13

Scripture Twisting
Deuteronomy 29:29—“secret things”
Regarding the importance of this verse to construct his doctrine of discovering “secrets” in order to create a legacy, Johnson stated that, “I want to make sure you get this message out of Deuteronomy because it sets a stunning precedent throughout Scripture.”(TPOH, 34) On several points, Johnson distorts this Scripture’s meaning to fit his preconceived notion about what he wants the Bible to say.[6]

First, as the verse upfront states, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Emphasis added, NASB). These words of Moses present a stark contrast (How can it be missed?) between the unrevealed “secrets” belonging to God and “things revealed” belonging to man.[7] God, not man, owns the secrets. They are His, not ours. As one commentator points out, “The contrast... between what is hidden and what is revealed lies between things that are known only to God, which humans may leave to him, and his laws that he has made known, which they must obey.”[8] The point: the secrets belong to God and if by hook or by crook humans can know them, the secrets are no longer secret! They no longer belong to the Lord.

Second, Johnson transposes Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 29 to have been spoken by Jesus. He says, “Jesus said [and then paraphrasing Deuteronomy 29:9b], ‘The things that are revealed are for you and your children forever’. (TPOH, 32) The problem is that Jesus was not speaking in the 29th chapter of Deuteronomy. Moses was! Moses was giving a summary statement to Israel regarding the nation’s obligation to observe and obey the commandments God had revealed to, not concealed from them. Impossible it is that God would be require His people to obey secrets they had no knowledge of. The Ten Commandments, as well as the other parts of the moral and ceremonial Law, were not esoteric, but public. So Johnson muddles the words Moses spoke and ascribes them to Jesus, words the Gospels do not verify Jesus said.[9]

Third, as based on Deuteronomy 29:29, Johnson suggests contemporary Christians should prepare to discover divine secrets God has sequestered in the realms of science, business and the arts. When found out, these secrets will become an inheritance for this generation to pass on to future ones. But there are problems with developing this scenario from this chapter. The Law, not secrets hidden in science, is the legacy. The whole chapter concerns keeping commandments, not discovering secrets. Yet Moses (not Jesus) warns Israel that despite the Lord’s providential dealings with the nation, “Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear” (Emphasis added, Deuteronomy 29:4; Compare Isaiah 6:9-10; Ezekiel 12:2.). During the course of Israel’s history and for reason of their sinful and rebellious ways, the people had difficulty obeying the things Yahweh plainly revealed to them, and Moses’ words warn of judgment for their disobedience.

Fourth, Moses warns Israel against adapting their ways to the ways of the Egyptians and other pagan nations (Deuteronomy 29:18). So why does Johnson suggest, based upon the closing verse of Deuteronomy chapter 29, that there are secrets to be discovered by climbing mountains (like Mt. Sinai, the revelatory mount where God gave the Law to Israel through Moses) into “realms of science, of politics, of business, of creativity in the arts” in order to receive new revelation to influence and control society (i.e., Dominionism). As they would confront the pagan cultures surrounding them, Moses is commanding Israel to do the opposite! (Deuteronomy 29:14-21) The entire chapter warns the nation of the catastrophic judgment that awaited them if they did not accept and obey the “inheritance” the Lord had revealed to Israel through Moses, if they left their “legacy” by accommodating their national life to that of the pagan nations surrounding them.

Luke 8:9—“parables, symbols and dark sayings”
In explaining the genius for exploring the “secrets” of God, Bill Johnson boldly states: “God is glorified by not speaking in plain language to you. He’s glorified by speaking in parables, symbols and dark sayings....(TPOH, 31) In other words, plain language is not the sufficient vehicle to carry God’s communications to humans.[10] Therefore, the role played by parables, symbols and dark sayings in the Bible should be noted because of the important place they occupy in other religions, secret societies and cults.[11]

Obviously Jesus used parables to teach “mysteries.”[12] In making his case that God is most glorified when He speaks in parables, Bill Johnson refers to Luke’s record of Jesus’ Parable of the Soils. (Again, no specific reference is given. Readers have to figure out that Luke 8:4-8 is being cited). So in a Q & A format, the verse alluded to by Johnson reads:

The Disciples’ “Q”: What does this parable mean?
The Lord’s “A”: To you it has been given to know the mysteries [Greek, mysterion, secrets or hidden truths] of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that “Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand”. (Emphasis added, NKJV)
Johnson assesses correctly that while God gave Jesus’ disciples “to know [with His explanation to follow, Luke 8:11-15] the mysteries of the kingdom of God,” He did not in this instance explain to unbelievers the understanding of His parabolic teachings. As did Isaiah’s prophesying to Judah and Jerusalem in their unbelief (In context and to explain the Jewish rejection of Jesus their Messiah, Matthew cites Isaiah 6:9-10.), Jesus’ parabolic teaching served to further entrench the resisters in their rebellion and unbelief. These smug and complacent religious folk, for reason of their being unrepentant (a spiritual condition that is trans-generational), were under divine judgment and didn’t even know it. In other words, the disciples considered Jesus’ parable to be a revelation and asked Him about its meaning, while unbelievers proudly asked no questions as they dismissed His parables as riddles—the communications of a wise rabbi temporarily arousing their intellectual curiosity in and discussion about the parables’ “meanings” only then to dismiss Jesus’ teaching and walk away in the dust of unbelief.

Note: Unlike true learners, the superficial followers did not ask Jesus about the meaning of what He said. The problem was not with the transmission of God’s revelation by Jesus (if so, nobody would understand any of His teaching), but with the rebellious Jews’ attitude toward and reception of it. God’s judgment caused rebel Jews to consider Jesus’ words to be esoteric, enigmatic and parabolic utterances that any great teacher of that era might utter. The rebels in the generation which heard Jesus preach didn’t “get it” because they really didn’t “want it” (See 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.). So by His use of earthly illustrations, Jesus was not obfuscating but communicating divine truth.

Jesus did not leave the meaning of the Parable of the Soils shrouded in mystery and secrecy. After they asked, the Lord gave His disciples (and us) the parable’s interpretation and meaning (Luke 8:11-15). Though He did not do this with every parable He spoke, He did so in this instance and ironically, this parable which Jesus explained is the one Johnson uses to springboard into his assertion that in an occult sort of way, God most glorifies Himself by communicating in mysteries and secrets.

Jesus was speaking to a mixed multitude (some believed Him, most did not), and what was true of rebels then remains true of rebels now. Jesus didn’t leave mysteries for future Christians to explore. He spoke truth, witnessed to and recorded by the Disciple-Apostles (John 17:20), a legacy to be accepted and believed by future generations. The idea that God is most glorified when He speaks in parables doesn’t jive with Scripture. Excepting perhaps the parable Nathan spoke to David (2 Samuel 12:1-10), “Parables are otherwise rare in the OT....”[13] If God is most glorified when He speaks in parables (plus symbols and dark sayings), then there’s much straight-forward communication in both the Old and New Testaments that does not give God the “most glory.” We now turn to Johnson’s assertion that God’s communication by symbols glorifies Him.
Advertised on TheElijahList, 6/23/10

Though the use of symbols is common among many religions and cults, the word “symbol” is not found in the Bible. It therefore becomes difficult to comprehend what Bill Johnson means when he states that God is “glorified by speaking in... symbols.”(TPOH, 31) Rosemary Ellen Guiley remarks that, “Symbols are important to all esoteric teachings, for they contain secret wisdom accessible only to the initiated.”[14] The Masonic Square and Compass symbol and Mormonism’s Choose the Right shield are but two among numerous examples. Guiley then refers to Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung (1875-1961) who “lamented the deterioration of the symbolic nature of Christianity.”[15] Why the deterioration? Because other than the memorial of the bread and cup of communion (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) and the rite of baptism (Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:36-38; 1 Corinthians 1:16), Jesus left no symbols as legacies for the church to recognize. He, not statutes, symbols, sounds, smells, smoke and songs, is to be the focus of believers’ attention. In focusing upon these other enhancements (They might be called legacies!), danger exists that Christians and the Church will forget Christ Himself who is “the exact representation” of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3). Occult religion thrives on traditions (Legacies or inheritances?) that titillate the senses of sight, touch, sound, smell and taste (See Deuteronomy 4:15-20.).[16] True Christianity thrives upon faith alone, “the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This brings us to “dark sayings.”
Advertised on TheElijahList, 4/18/08, red emphasis added

Dark Sayings
As quoted by Matthew in his explanation as to why Jesus spoke in parables, the English word translated “dark sayings” (Hebrew, chiydah) occurs in various translations of Psalm 78:2. (Matthew 13:35 quoting Psalm 78:2, KJV, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, ESV; See Proverbs 1:6, KJV, ASV). Generally the Hebrew word (chiydah) can carry meanings of “riddles, hard questions, enigmatic sayings or perplexing questions.”[17] In this Psalm specifically, the word means “a lesson taught indirectly.”[18] That “dark sayings” lays parallel to “parables” (Hebrew, mashal) in Psalm 78:2, suggests the two words carry connected meanings, the meaning of the one explaining the other. Both words (mashal and chiydah) are explained in context by the verse that follows Psalm 78:2. Verse 3 explains: “Which [parable and dark sayings] we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us” (Psalm 78:3). Note: parable and dark sayings were already considered a legacy by Psalm 78. So the contents of the “parable” and “dark sayings” were not mystery, but history! The contents were not secrets-hidden but historical-observations (i.e., lessons taught) which were passed down by and among the Hebrew people from generation to generation. So in the Psalm’s context, “dark sayings” does not refer to esoteric or hidden truth. These parables and dark sayings were, “An exposition of the true design and meaning of the history of Israel... which escaped a merely superficial observation.”[19] But what had escaped the notice of Israel?

Israel’s history was littered with examples, as this Psalm rehearses, of God’s gracious redemptive acts toward the Israelites and their callous indifference to them. In a teaching format, Psalm 78 recounts God’s blessings upon and deliverances of Israel (Psalm 78:5-8, 23-30, 38-39, 42-53, 54-55), the nation’s rebellions against the Lord (Psalm 78:9-20, 36-37, 40-41, 56-58), an exceptional instance of repentance by the Israelites (Psalm 78:34-35), and the curses the Lord placed upon His people for their rebellion (Psalm 78:21-22, 31-33, 59-64). Though spoken by one generation to the next (Psalm 78:3-4), the obvious interaction between God and His people was a historical legacy Israel ignored! The enigma or riddle was that the very people for whom the Lord had done so much appreciated it so little. They were oblivious to the obvious. A commentator observes that, “Matthew quotes Psalm 78:2 (“dark sayings”) in reference to the parables uttered by Jesus “which [parables] made sense to the teachable but remained riddles to the self-willed.”[20]

The intergenerational rebellious attitude rehearsed in Psalm 78 was again manifested by the generation of Jews that rebelled against and rejected Jesus (Matthew quoting Psalm 78:2 in his Gospel, chapter 13, verse 35). The words of Jesus were not intrinsically “dark,” but were extrinsically perceived as riddles by the rebels. The rebels in the generation which heard Jesus preach didn’t “get it” because they really didn’t “want it” (See 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.). As the Apostle Paul wrote,

We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery.... Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7-8, KJV)

Another Psalmist stated: “Your word [God’s communication] is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105; See Proverbs 6:23). In “light” of this forthright statement, it becomes difficult to see how “God is glorified by [His] speaking in... dark sayings.(TPOH, 31) Is not light the opposite of dark? Is there any darkness in God and if there is not, how can “dark sayings” originate or come from Him? (See 1 John 1:5.)
Advertised on TheElijahList, 1/23/08

The Master Communicator
To summarize—there was nothing esoteric or dark about Jesus’ teaching. He didn’t leave secrets in the form of parables, symbols and dark sayings for today’s Christians to explore and decipher to create a new legacy to pass on to future generations. No, God’s working among the Jewish people and their indifference to and rebellion against His word to and work for them is a matter of historical record. Note the response of those who heard Jesus teach (Emphasis added):
  • When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. (Matthew 22:33)
  • The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching. (Mark 11:18)
  • They were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority. (Luke 4:32)
  • Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks. (John 7:46)
According to Johnson’s paradigm (i.e., that the kind of communication by which God glorifies Himself is to be found in parables, symbols and dark sayings), we would be forced to conclude that Jesus’ language did not glorify God because on average, the crowds immediately understood Him even when He spoke in parables (Mark 12:12). The Apostle John referred to Jesus as the Word, the supreme communicator between heaven and earth. Jesus claimed He did not speak upon His “own initiative” explaining that “the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49; See John 7:16; 8:26, 28; 14:24; 17:8.). There was nothing dark about what Father told the Son to speak and there was nothing dark about Jesus’ communication. Fact of the matter is, God’s “sayings” become “dark” to those who refuse listen to Him and rebel against His word (Amos 5:18; Zephaniah 1:15). Dark sayings do not come to man from the God who is light. Dark sayings were forebodings of judgment upon Israel if they should persist in their rebellion against God. God’s word becomes dark to those who refuse to listen to it (See Romans 11:8-10).

What “Puffs Up”?
“Encounter” over Knowledge
In contrast to “knowledge” in Scripture which can make them arrogant and contentious, Johnson advocates that Christians should understand that when “revelation comes... it is intended to launch [them] into a divine encounter[s]” that will humble them.(TPOH, 32) These revelation-encounters are meant to promote the discovery of “secrets” that then can be passed on as a legacy to future generations. These experiences become transformative and therefore superior to “knowledge,” which he defines as knowledge of Scripture (Johnson cites John 5:39-40.). As Paul told the Corinthians, knowledge “puffs up.” But divine encounters, whatever they are, make us “in less danger of pride,” says Johnson.(TPOH, 33) To prove his point, Johnson alludes to (He does not quote.) 1 Corinthians 8:1, where Paul states:

Now concerning things offered to idols: We know (Greek, oida) that we all have knowledge (Greek, gnosis). Knowledge (gnosis) puffs up, but love edifies. (Emphasis added, 1 Corinthians 8:1, NKJV)

Johnson then refers to Saul’s conversion-encounter on the Damascus Road where he imagines the Apostle-to-be “was knocked off his donkey [i.e., humiliated] in his encounter with God.”(TPOH, 33) But on this point, Johnson confuses Paul with the disobedient prophet Balaam (Numbers 22:22-35). Acts records that Saul was not riding a donkey but walking on the road to Damascus, and Numbers narrates that Balaam was not knocked off his donkey, but only that the belligerent animal wedged the legs of the riding prophet between the walls on the narrow trail and then “lay down under” him (Numbers 22:24-27). So after confusing and conflating the biblical facts, Johnson diminishes the Scriptures Paul would write (2 Peter 3:15-16) as he surmises that Paul “didn’t strut away from the encounter boasting, ‘Wait till you see the books I’m about to write’.(TPOH, 33) Thus when compared to “divine encounters” that revelation “launches us into,” Johnson reduces knowledge of the Scripture to be less valuable if not unimportant (Contra 2 Timothy 3:13-17.). So if Christians become too doctrinaire and their knowledge is not tempered by revelations stimulating encounters, Johnson judges them to be proud (thus including me and some of you, dears readers), contentious and divisive.[21] In a word, every Christian needs to be knocked off his donkey, even if he not riding one. Johnson’s revelations-launching-into-divine-encounters proposal may be summarized by the following logic:
  • Knowledge of Scripture makes Christians proud and contentious.
  • But divine encounters humble Christians.
  • Therefore, Christians should seek divine encounters to cultivate humility.
But again, Johnson evidences a failure to connect the biblical dots, dots extant even in the Corinthian letter stating that “knowledge puffs up.” (Compare 1 Corinthians 8:1 to 1 Corinthians 4:6.)

Antidote to Arrogance
To alleviate the divisions in the Corinthian church, Paul stated how he and Apollos served “as curative examples of men under authority who did not go beyond what was written [and] obeyed the Word of God, not their own inclinations or worldly opinions.”[22] After declaring the sincerity of his ministry in light of his accountability to the Lord when He comes, Paul wrote:

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that you may learn in us not to think (Greek, phroneo) beyond what is written (Greek, grapho), that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.(Emphasis added, 1 Corinthians 4:6, NKJV)

The contrast between the example of Paul and Apollos contradicts what Bill Johnson teaches, that “encounter” humbles while “knowledge” arrogates. If the manner in which Johnson imports and adds meanings to Scripture give any indication, then Paul states that the distorters of, not the submitters to, what is written will become “puffed up.”[23] The Point: Revelation encounters will have, according to Paul, the opposite effect upon the soul from that Johnson envisions; extra-biblical revelations-encounters-experiences will not humble the receivers, but arrogate them (See 2 Corinthians 12:1 ff.).

“Not beyond what is written!”
The Apostle Paul (who “planted”) and the gifted Apollos (who “watered”) worked together in establishing the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). The genius of their cooperation lay in their mutual humility before “what was written.” Used commonly in the New Testament, the phrase “It is written...” denotes the authoritative, codified and official writings of the Old Testament Canon of Scripture (e.g., Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; John 10:34; etc. and etc.).[24] Noted scholar F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) suggested that this phrase (“not to exceed what is written”) might be understood interjectionally to say, “Not beyond what is written!” The saying may have been “well known in the Corinthian church, where some were disposed to go beyond the gospel of Christ crucified and risen, which they had received ‘in accordance with the scriptures’.”[25] So Paul reminded the Corinthians against adding secular wisdom, Gnostic philosophy or anything else to the Gospel. “Keep the book!” he told them.[26] In an exemplary way and in a show of mutual humility and true unity, both Apollos and Paul submitted themselves “to what is written.” In the Scriptures they found common ground.

Of the Scriptures, John Stott (1921-2011) wrote:

The church is built on the New Testament Scriptures. They are the church’s foundation documents. And just as a foundation cannot be tampered with once it has been laid and the superstructure is being built upon it, so the New Testament foundation of the church is inviolable and cannot be changed by any additions, subtractions of modifications offered by teachers who claim to be apostles or prophets today.[27]

So the question arises, do experiences of encounters stimulated by receiving revelations exceed the boundaries of the Bible? If so, they are at core divisive. Then the question arises, encounter what? As exemplified in the Corinthian church, self-originated knowledge and experiences—something demons can take advantage of (1 Timothy 4:1)—perennially threaten the humility and unity of Christians.

Spiritual Swindling
Paul warned the Colossian Christians against the dangers of Greek philosophy, Jewish traditions, naturalistic science and folk religion which surrounded them; all of which could distract them from Christ (Colossians 2:8). In this chapter Paul also states that visions (which are “encounters”) “puff up” and swindle rewards from Christians. The various translations of Colossians 2, verse 18, evidence this.
Translations of Colossians 2:18
  • Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen [divine encounters?], vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind . . . (KJV)
  • Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions [divine encounters?] he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind . . . (NASB)
  • Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions [divine encounters?], puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind . . . (ESV)
  • Do not allow yourselves to be condemned by anyone who claims to be superior because of special visions [divine encounters?] and who insists on false humility and the worship of angels. (TEV)

Literally the Greek text informs Christian believers that they can be defrauded from their rewards by spiritual teachers (“Let no one disqualify you,” ESV) who “delve into things he has seen.” The Net Bible suggests that, “The idea in this context seems to be that the individual in question loves to talk on and on about his spiritual experiences, but in reality they [the experiences] are only coming out of his own sinful flesh.”[28] But not only will teachers claiming to experience supernatural visions and encounters become proud warns the Apostle, but they will also influence their followers to become “puffed up.” Two decades ago in their book Strange Fire, the van der Merwes, themselves Pentecostal, warned about elitist Charismatics who possessed a “notorious reputation for riding roughshod over the Scriptures... in pursuit of extreme religious ideals.”[29] That trend continues.

Not Keeping the Book!
Yet in attempting to define “the legacy,” Johnson tells followers, “We’ve been given an inheritance of hundreds of years of mystics, of revivalists, of those who broke into realms of the Spirit to leave something as an inheritance,” then adds “and it needs to matter to someone.”(TPOH, 38) So it should be asked, does what Paul said “puffs up”—“going beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6) and “going on in detail about [delving into] visions” (Colossians 2:18)—apply to Johnson’s advice to discover “the secret things” of mystics and revivalists to create a legacy to leave to future generations? Can encounters have the opposite affect upon Christians than what Johnson says they will have; that is, “puff” them up and make them proud? The Colossians text tells us this is the case. What puffs up is not knowledge per se. Paul and Apollos both possessed great knowledge but were humble before what was written. What arrogates human hearts is experiencing visions or encounters beyond the bounds of Scripture.

Johnson postulates that God has hidden secrets that after they are revealed, recovered and reclaimed in this generation, can then be passed on to and perpetuated by future generations. “It’s time” he says, “to start constructing in our thinking, in our planning and our prayers, a hundred-year vision.”(TPOH, 37) The secrets of “mystics, of revivalists, of those broke into realms of the Spirit” will when their legacy is passed on, serve to “jump start” the spirituality of future Christians.(TPOH, 38) As stated in the chapter, Recovering Our Spiritual Inheritance, this is Bill Johnson’s theory.

So assuming (for the sake of argument only) that Johnson’s theory of discovering “hidden things” in the realms of government, science, business, education, media, entertainment and religion to pass on to future generations has validity, wha's the guarantee that future generations will value the inheritance any more than their forbearers valued theirs? (Again, hidden means occult.) If Israel and the Church provide examples, they won’t.

Israel’s Legacy
The Jews possessed a legacy called the Law. On behalf of Yahweh, Moses told the generations of Israel to keep it (Deuteronomy 6:1-25).

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; 4:9; 11:14)

But as predicted in Deuteronomy and recorded in the rest of the Old Testament (the historical as well as prophetic books), the history of Israel indicates that the nation squandered the inheritance God gave/revealed to them through Moses (Deuteronomy 29:22-28; 2 Kings 17:9-23; Psalm 78:1-72; Daniel 9:11). So the idea that the next generation will appreciate any legacy this generation might leave them is a myth. “God has no grandchildren,” as has been popularly said.

The Church’s Legacy
Christians too have a legacy; the teachings of the New Covenant. Jude calls our inheritance “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). Elsewhere it’s called the “apostles’ doctrine [or teaching]” (Acts 2:42). Paul told Timothy to pass the legacy on. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses,” he wrote, “entrust [Greek, paratithemi] these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). In other words, treat the teachings like a savings account to pass on as an inheritance to future generations! Where would any of us be today if we did not have the legacy the Lord’s Disciple/Apostles left to us? (See John 17:20.) All Christians have been charged to keep this legacy during these latter days, the time period between Jesus’ two comings when mockers will heap scorn and ridicule upon God’s words spoken by the Apostles (2 Timothy 3:13-4:5; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 3:3.).

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” (Emphasis added, Jude 17-18)

It can be noted how within a year or two, the Galatians were having difficulty keeping the legacy the Apostle Paul left them. “I am so amazed” he wrote, “that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another” (Galatians 1:6-7a).[30] Study of the early church fathers indicates how in the era of church history closest to the Apostles, the Gospel of Grace became compromised.[31] History is littered with nations (including Israel) that fell because future generations squandered the legacy (the values, traditions and sacrifices) their forbearers made for and left to them. So what is it that Johnson thinks he can discover to change the disintegration dynamic? In light of this statement, “We’ve never fully seen what a spiritual ‘jump start’ can mean to the next generation,” it must be asked, is not “new birth” as stated by Jesus (e.g., regeneration), or was not Pentecost a “jump start”? (John 3:3, 7; Acts 2:1-4) I guess not, at least according to Johnson.

Further, does seeking after a new legacy suggest that the biblical legacy is not good enough? Are we going to assume that the “revelation-encounters” experienced by this generation are to be valued above the “teachings” that Jesus and His Apostles have already left to us? (Matthew 28:19-20) As F.F. Bruce said, “Steadfast adherence to the apostles’ teaching... is the best evidence of being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”[32]

A theologian once observed that heresy arises from either adding to or subtracting from Scripture, either the Bible plus or the Bible minus. In developing this chapter’s theme (about reclaiming a spiritual legacy sequestered in “secrets” belonging to God), it can be observed that Johnson’s emphasis upon “revelation-encounters” denies the sufficiency of Scripture (the Bible plus) even as his pre-texting (i.e., switching verses around and contorting their meanings) denies the plain sense of Scripture (the Bible minus). Johnson’s fanciful interpretive antics, as evidenced in his chapter in The Physics of Heaven, resemble the method of the false teachers (“untaught and unstable”) who the Apostle Peter warned will “distort” (i.e., “wrest,” KJV; “twist,” NKJV; “explain falsely,” TEV) the plain meaning of Scripture, and sadly to both their “destruction” and those who follow them (2 Peter 3:16).[33] So Christians beware: other legacies become other gospels!

For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased— and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. Emphasis added, 2 Peter 1:16-19


[1] Bill Johnson, Chapter 4: “Recovering Our Spiritual Inheritance,” The Physics of Heaven: Exploring God’s Mysteries of Sound, Light, Energy, Vibrations and Quantum Physics, by Judy Franklin & Ellyn Davis (Crossville, TN: Double Portion Publishing, 2012): 29-39.
[2] I do not argue with such a scenario as, for example, we see this generation’s indifference to the Federal Constitution, and what that portends for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren’s freedom.
[3] By my count, the word “inheritance(s)” is used 25 times and “generation(s)” 29.
[4] Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995).
[5] Johnson states, “It’s the glory of God to conceal a matter; it’s the glory of kings to search it out.” (Again, Johnson alludes to but does not provide the reference of Proverbs 25:2.), and since Peter designates Christians to be a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), Johnson teaches that believers “have legal access to hidden things... to pursue the unlocking of those mysteries.”(TPOH, 31) The problem with Johnson’s interpretation is that believers are king-priests not for pursing “secrets, hidden things or mysteries,” but for proclaiming the Excellencies of God! (See 1 Peter 2:9.)
[6] As he introduces Deuteronomy 29:29, Johnson says that, “Proverbs says that a righteous man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”(TPOH, 31) First, the author does not properly cite the location of this verse in Proverbs which is chapter 13, verse 22. Second, unlike Johnson’s free rendering of “righteous man,” reliable versions unanimously translate it “A good man. . .” (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, etc.). The Hebrew word for “good” (towb) does not carry the meaning of “righteous” (the Hebrew word, tsadaq). And third, as defined by the following parallel phrase (“But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous,” NKJV), the inheritance is not spiritual, but material. Again, the speaker/author confuses words of Scripture to import his meaning into the text (2 Peter 3:16b). But the author yet demonstrates another example of text tampering. He stated that “Paul was knocked off his donkey in his encounter with God.”(TPOH, 33) Though the disobedient prophet Balaam was riding a donkey when he encountered the Lord (which caused the belligerent donkey to “lay down under Balaam,” Numbers 22:27), the narratives of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1 ff.; 22:1 ff.) record that while Paul “fell to the ground,” they do not record he was riding a donkey. Then telepathic-like, Johnson reads Paul’s mind (the Apostle didn’t strut away boasting, “Wait till you see the books I’m about to write!”) and assesses that revelation must involve “divine encounter” because doctrine minus encounter will only stroke the  folks as they “strut” and “boast” of their knowledge. Johnson does not suggest that “encounters” minus the restraint of truth can, as happened with the false teachers at Corinth, lead people to arrogate that they are apostles when they are not (2 Corinthians 11:12-15, 18; 12:1-6). What can be more arrogant, I ask, than to make the claim that one is an Apostle-Prophet when in fact, one is not? (See Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 12:28-29a.) We might also note that Paul wrote, “Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 12:1).
[7] Thompson affirms that, “The secrets are “things beyond man’s knowledge, such as the future, are God’s concern.” See J.A. Thompson, Deuteronomy: An Introduction and Commentary (London, GB: Inter-Varsity Press, 1974): 284.
[8] Emphasis added, J.G. McConville, Deuteronomy: Apollos Old Testament Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002): 419.
[9] It might be replied that because Jesus is the Jehovah of the Old Testament (John 12:41), that Jesus spoke these words. But the entire chapter of Deuteronomy records the prophetic words Moses spoke to Israel (“These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel,” Deuteronomy 29:1). Furthermore, verse 29 records Moses’ reflection upon his personal identification with the nation and their responsibility to “observe all the words of this law” that had been revealed through him to them (Deuteronomy 29:29b).
[10] See Larry DeBruyn, “Deliteralizing the Bible, From Plato to Peterson: Scripture amidst the Shadows,” Guarding His Flock Ministries, January 3, 2012 ( The literalness of the Bible, the “smallest letter or stroke” of the Law as Jesus referenced it (Matthew 5:18), is being attacked from different angles by professing evangelicals today. First, like Johnson, they advocate that God’s ultimate revelation resides in secrets (parables, symbols and dark sayings) which need to be explored and unlocked. Second, like Eugene Peterson, they assert that God’s revelation comes to us in experiences that can only be explained in metaphors. And third, like Chuck Missler and other post modern prophets, the Bible consists of codes to be deciphered via mathematics or consulting ancient extra-biblical sources. The common thread with these various approaches to Scripture is that they promote an esoteric (the divine is hidden), mystic (the divine is feeling) and relativistic (the divine is various) spirituality which denies the One Way, One Word, One Witness to the One God in the Holy Scripture. In the modern evangelical view, spirituality has become intrinsic within every human soul and not extrinsic with God and as such, is humanism. Spirituality becomes subjective to everybody and objective to nobody. As the crafty serpent asked, “Indeed, has God said...?” (Genesis 3:1)
[11] Rosemary Ellen Guiley, “Symbol,” Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience (New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991): 593-595.
[12] The biblical meaning of the word mystery does not carry the normal meaning of the English word. As Vine defines it, “In the ordinary sense a mystery implies knowledge withheld; its Scriptural significance is truth revealed.” See W.E. Vine, “MYSTERY,” An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, by W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984): 769. In other words, in the New Testament “mystery” refers to truth revealed while the English word denotes truth concealed. Johnson’s theory makes necessary the importation of the non-biblical meaning of the word mystery into the Bible.
[13] G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, Editors, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2007): 46.
[14] Guiley, “Symbol”: 594.
[15] Ibid: 595.
[16] Relevant to this point one can note the role sacraments, statutes and symbols (i.e., hand the tradition down) play in Christendom (e.g., the Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism). Johnson’s modus operandi is not unlike what these religions attempt to do; and that is, ritualistically and mechanically (sacraments and signs), beatifically (statutes, symbols, sounds and smells) and catechistically (study) perpetuate their legacies unto future generations.
[17] Francis Brown, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979): 295.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Joseph Addison Alexander, D.D., The Psalms: Translated and Explained (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1975 reprint of 1873 edition): 327.
[20] Michael Wilcox, The Message of Psalms 73-150: Songs for the People of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001): 26.
[21] In 1 Corinthians 1:8, in addition to stating that, “Knowledge makes arrogant,” Paul also wrote “we know that we all have knowledge.” Using Johnson’s equation that “knowledge puffs up,” then that must mean we’re all puffed because we all have knowledge. This assessment may be closer to the truth than any of us might like to admit.
[22] David K. Lowery, “1 Corinthians,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, New Testament, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Editors (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983): 512.
[23] The verb “puff up” (Greek, phusioo) is used several times by Paul in his letters, mostly in the first Corinthian letter which congregation ironically was, to Johnson’s point that encounters humble, arrogant and divided for among other reasons, confusion over spiritual gifts and claims supernatural experiences among its members! (See 1 Corinthians 12:1-14:40; *1:10-11; 13:4.)
[24] The verb “written” (Greek, grapho) “is used of Scripture as a standing authority.” See Vine, “WRITE, WROTE, WRITTEN,” Expository Dictionary: 1252.
[25] F.F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians (London, ENG: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, LTD., 1971): 48-49.
[26] Ibid: 48.
[27] John R.W. Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.1979): 107.
[28] NET BIBLE: New English Translation, Second Beta Edition (Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C., 2003): 2163, Translator Note #16.
[29] Travers and Jewel van der Merwe, Chapter 5: “The ‘Elite’ Concept,” Strange Fire: The Rise of Gnosticism in the Church (Discernment-Ministries, Inc., 1995): 29. (
[30] Likely, the Paul established the Galatian churches on His First Missionary Journey (46-47 AD) and wrote the Epistle by that name to them in 48 AD. Obviously, the Gospel legacy did not last. But we can thank God that—as witnessed to by the Spirit and the Scriptures—we still possess the testimony to this legacy!
[31] Excepting a few statements by a couple of church fathers, Hannah writes that “there is no synthesis of the teaching of the relationship of humankind’s sin to the reception of God’s unmerited favor in Christ.” See John D. Hannah, Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001): 205. In reading the Apostle John’s letter to the seven churches (Revelation 2:1-3:22), the deterioration is also noticeable. Legacies are often not appreciated.
[32] F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Ephesians: A Verse-by-Verse Exposition (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1961): 57.
[33] At first glance I know that readers might (some I know will) take this conclusion to be too harsh. Yet the word “distort” (Greek, strebloo, “wrest,” KJV, “twist,” NKJV) is used of “one who wrests or tortures language in a false sense.” See James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Woodside, Ontario, CAN: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996): #4761. One cannot read this chapter Recovering Our Spiritual Inheritance without noting how the speaker weaves random Bible verses together and then assigns off-the-wall interpretations to them to support his theory. This forces the assessment that Bill Johnson is a Scripture twister who wrecks the meaning of the Bible. As one who has spent four and one-half decades studying the Bible and in pastoral ministry, this conclusion is a sad one for me to make. I could wish it was different. But it is what it is.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

“A Time to Speak”

“a time to keep silence, and a time to speak”
(Ecclesiastes 3:7b)

It has been ten years since the Herescope blog was first launched in the Fall of 2005. 832 posts later, we are still writing and publishing, but only by God’s grace. How much longer we can do this is fully in His hands. Times are darker. So many have drifted away from the faith. We continue to write and to warn because of our love of the brethren. Our hearts break daily as we see the consequences of a church gone astray from the glorious message of redemption found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Early in the 1980s I was a right-to-life activist and leader. My first experience on a live TV debate was with a man who was the director of the local abortion clinic. The interviewer was sympathetic to his position, not mine. I was intimidated and terrified. Throughout the interview the other two had the upper hand. Finally, near the end of the debate, the interviewer, in order to attain the appearance of objectivity, asked me to comment. I blurted out, “Abortion is a barbaric and brutal solution to a complex human problem. Surely we can find other more peaceful alternatives than the shedding of innocent human blood.” There was a prolonged moment of stunned silence. The abortion clinic director appeared shell-shocked and mumbled an inarticulate reply. The interviewer hastily concluded with a garbled “something to think about; thanks, folks, for watching.”

I was surprised at what had just come out of my mouth. But I meant it with all of my heart. I hated violence. It got me thinking about the shedding of innocent human blood. How long would God tolerate it? How long would we in America continue to live in peace and affluence? I had hoped for systemic revival – true revival where people repent – but it never came.[1] The abortion mills chugged along relentlessly, and slowly society – and the church – became acclimated to it.

When the United States adopted torture as a method of interrogation after 9/11 it wasn’t surprising – at least not to me. I saw it as the inevitable consequence of decades of increasing decadence and desensitization to violence. The fact that torture was supported by a Republican administration was also not a surprise. In the mid-1980s top Party officials had bluntly informed me that I needed to face facts: they had no intention of actually changing the profitable abortion ethos. One politician sucked on his index finger and stuck it in the air. “I just vote how the wind is blowing,” he chuckled nonchalantly. No conscience, no conviction.

These self-professing conservatives, who for decades had arrogantly asserted that America was of a higher moral fiber than the Soviets, ended up adopting the very methods of brutality (not to mention lack of due process) that had been championed by Joseph Stalin. Solzhenitzyn vividly depicted this transformation process in Russia in a chapter titled “The Interrogation” in his book The Gulag Archipelago (Volume 1):
If the intellectuals in the plays of Chekhov who spent all their time guessing what would happen in twenty, thirty, or forty years had been told that in forty years interrogation by torture would be practiced in Russia; that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings; that a human being would be lowered into an acid bath; that they would be trussed up naked to be bitten by ants and bedbugs; that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (the “secret band”); that a man’s genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot; and that, in the luckiest possible circumstances, prisoners would be tortured by being kept from sleeping for a week, by thirst, and by being beaten to a bloody pulp, not one of Chekhov’s plays would have gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to insane asylums….

Thus it was that the conclusions of advanced Soviet jurisprudence, proceeding in a spiral, returned to barbaric or medieval standards. Like medieval torturers, our interrogators, prosecutors, and judges agreed to accept the confession of the accused as the chief proof of guilt.
What goes around, comes around. The rise of threatening brutality would inevitably target free speech. Free speech is rooted in the biblical mandate to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) and to spread the Gospel of salvation message:
  • These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: (Zech. 8:16)
  • But [Paul] said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. (Acts 26:25)
  • In Whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation: in Whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, (Eph. 1:13)
The level of defense of free speech and satire since the Charlie Hebdo killings has been astonishing. Yet even with the massive support worldwide there is an undercurrent of increasing unease. The threat of retribution looms. The potential for more brutality lurks everywhere. Violence prowls around all of us who write publicly.

In America we have become accustomed to the Christian Right charge that its “free speech” is being threatened by the Liberal Leftists with their politically correct causes. Indeed, this is a most perplexing inconsistency, especially in evidence on college campuses. There are apparently some on the Left who hold such aggressive agendas that they are willing to shut down the free speech of any opposition. So much for the First Amendment. So much for our 1960s dreams of tolerance and true diversity. The intellectual ideal of free and open debate in a pluralistic society is gasping to survive.

But the Left isn’t the only group that sold out its ideals. The Right also, particularly with the cooperation of the Religious Right, has abandoned the moral and ethical high ground. The mainstream evangelical press, not to mention the seminaries, fell away from their high calling decades ago, leaving in its wake a sadly truncated and denuded Gospel message. In this vacuum there arose a newfound zeal for mega-affluence, guru-like stardom and self-centered mysticism.

This rising tide of vacuity and vanity effectually crippled the Christian voice of conscience and conviction – just at a critical time when the world was starving to hear it. The moral and ethical integrity that might have raised its voice against the tortures after 9/11 was silenced as the church morphed into a garish caricature of itself. Even the elite cadre of Emergent/ing special forces were silent. Being hip was more important than being truly counter-to-the-culture. Weep on….

Those of us who published the plain old-fashioned Scriptural message, who warned of these faulty teachings and their superstar leaders, found ourselves sidelined. In fact, many of us had been blacklisted since the 1990s in the mainstream evangelical “industrial complex.” We have amazing stories we could tell… if anyone cared to listen.

It is a different day now, a scarier time. Words are powerful. Wielded words are perceived as even more threatening than wielded swords. Words have always offended the powers-that-be sitting on the religious and political thrones of the world. The Word of Truth has the potential to offend nearly everyone – The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (1 Peter 2:9; see also Is. 8:14 and Rom. 9:33).

This blog has often warned about the increasing use of militant language by those who are teaching radical new eschatologies of Dominionism. We presume that we may become a primary target – on that day when its teachers shift gears from their violent rhetoric to calls for real extermination. Shockingly, some of these extremists are now enabled to go mainstream thanks to their newfound associations with reputedly godly leaders – leaders who we had once hoped would have the courage to speak out against them. Now these compromisers can be found riding with the herd on the conference circuits and speaking platforms of the NAR and IHOP. Evidently hitching a ride with this unsavory group is viewed as a ticket to fame and fortune. God help us all! Even worse, this fraternizing with extremists is being justified as a way to extend God’s Kingdom.

There are pockets of good news. Especially since the demise of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill networking empire. Decent, ordinary people got hurt. They are sharing their stories of abuse, enabling others to gain courage. They are asking hard questions, looking into the history of Leadership Network, following the money trails, re-thinking the postmodern mantras, and publishing their findings publicly on the Internet. They’ve learned that waking up to reality hurts. It is hard thing to do when a darkening dusk has settled over the slumbering church on earth. They look around and ask – where are the men who should have been standing with them? They are learning just how far the mighty have fallen.

Freedoms are diminishing rapidly. Shortly after the television interview mentioned at the beginning of this post I ran Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s film The Silent Scream (depicting an ultrasound of an actual first trimester abortion) on a local television station. I appeared on the panel discussion. Shortly afterwards a death threat arrived in my mailbox. For the next several years I never went anywhere unaccompanied. Two burly men served as my bodyguards. Were they armed? Only with prayer.

Solzhenitsyn wrote an amazing piece of advice, found in the same chapter of his book. He applied it to interrogation and imprisonment, but shouldn’t we also apply it to our daily walk as Christians?
From the moment you go to prison you must put your past firmly behind you. At the very threshold, you must say to yourself: “My life is over, a little early to be sure, but there’s nothing to be done about it. I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die – now or a little later. But later on, in truth, it will be even harder, and so the sooner the better. I no longer have any property whatsoever. For me those I love have died, and for them I have died. From today on, my body is useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me.”

Confronted by such a prisoner, the interrogation will tremble.

Only the man who has renounced everything can win that victory.
Jesus forewarned us, For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28). Likewise Paul wrote that we are to consider ourselves as “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (2 Cor. 4:10). Should we fear? Or not!

There are many voices who have not yet spoken out, who have stayed silent for fear of retribution. (Prov. 29:25.) It is time. It is time for them to speak, to not be silent. May God grant us all courage for the time that remains to us upon this earth.

But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” (2 Cor. 6:4-10)

“I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” (Rev. 3:18)

1.     See the article “How Can There Be Revival Without Repentance, starting on page 3 of the Sept./Oct. 2001 Discernment Newsletter:

This post is authored by Sarah H. Leslie, editor of the Herescope blog. Many of the topics mentioned in this post have been constant themes on this blog over the past 10 years. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Faith & Repentance

A Much Neglected Subject

 By Professor Johan Malan,
Mossel Bay, South Africa

In the New Testament doctrine on salvation there is a mutual relationship between the concepts of “faith in Christ” and “repentance.” If we truly believe in Christ, repenting from our evil and selfish ways is inevitable. If we fail to recognize the close association between these two aspects of our salvation, giving due recognition to each of them, we are at risk of undermining and distorting the foundations of our spiritual life. Such people may even end up only having a form of godliness because of their biased thinking. Faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior can only be expressed by turning away from the spiritual darkness of sin and taking refuge in Him who alone is able to forgive our sins and save our souls. He is the light of the world, in Him is life everlasting, and repenting is the way towards approaching Him and becoming a member of His spiritual body on earth (the true church consisting of all born again believers).

The basic objective of the Gospel message is the proclaiming of faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah and Savior of the world. To believe in Him implies turning away from our sins and trusting Him for forgiveness and salvation, while committing ourselves to a continued process of growing up towards spiritual maturity. Let us briefly examine the integrated nature of faith in Christ, the universal call to repentance, and the need of growing up spiritually, which are indispensable to prepare us as able and effective witnesses of Christ in a hostile world.


Biblical faith is not a natural attribute of the human mind but a gift of the Holy Spirit. It functions on a spiritual level and is only instilled in a person when he hears the gospel message: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Keep in mind that the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God to impart the divine life and promises of God to us. Jesus said: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

When the Holy Spirits calls sinners to repentance He convicts them both intellectually and spiritually of their sinfulness and lost state, and also of the grace of Christ to forgive their sins and give them new life. He empowers them to react spiritually to the invitation to salvation by believing in Christ and receiving Him as Savior. When they react positively to these convictions their hearts and minds are in agreement, which means that they are ready to believe spiritually and also to confess intellectually with their lips to these truths: “… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10).

When the heart of man reaches out to Christ in faith, fully embracing His salvation by virtue of His atoning death and resurrection, a spiritual regeneration occurs. This act is accompanied by a verbal confession during which the person repents from his sinful past by confessing and forsaking his sins and accepting the gracious deliverance offered to him by the Savior. Being justified by the Lord, his spirit is quickened and renewed while the Holy Spirit also endows him with enlightened eyes of the mind to understand the Word of the Lord and to order his life accordingly.

However, there are also highly deceptive substitutes for conversion in which the spiritual dimension is not adequately emphasized. In such cases the Gospel message (usually a simplified and diluted version of it) only addresses the intellect of a person, who then responds to it by rationally accepting and believing the historical facts about Jesus, His atoning death and His love for all people. The person then academically identifies with Jesus as Savior, and is subsequently declared to be saved by pastors who aim to achieve instant results. But mental beliefs of this nature are not instilled by the Holy Spirit and do not constitute a biblical faith. Such people are members of the vast body of nominal “believers” who are only Christian in name – not in Spirit and in truth. They draw near to the Lord with their mouth and human reasoning, and honour Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him (cf. Matt. 15:8).

Superficial preaching which gives rise to the laying of false spiritual foundations in people’s lives usually does not strongly focus on people’s sinfulness and lost state, thereby depriving the Holy Spirit of the opportunity of convicting them of their sin and stirring their hearts to realize their dire spiritual plight (cf. John 16:8). These convictions need to be very explicit before a person will be well prepared to receive the message of Christ’s saving grace. Standing before the Lord as a lost sinner who fully deserves eternal punishment, he will be overwhelmed by the realization of Christ’s love which moved Him to take the penalty of all sinners upon Himself and to die in their place. The Holy Spirit enables the sorrowful sinner to believe in Christ and to submit his entire life to Him.

A surrender of this nature is described as repentance, and takes the form of confessing and forsaking all sin and iniquities that separated the sinner from God: “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10). Repentance driven by godly sorrow over sin is the hallmark of a true conversion. Godly sorrow is instilled by the Holy Spirit in association with a vivid consciousness of a person’s sinfulness; but it is also attended by the spiritual motivation and capacity to repent from his sin and put his trust in Christ as Savior. A sinner will never regret facing the nature and consequences of his sinfulness, and for being emotionally and spiritually shattered by his predicament, because the Holy Spirit uses this experience to guide him towards repentance and salvation.

Sinners who are not confronted by the Gospel message often experience remorse for what they have done, but this is merely a fleshly reaction. They suffer from self-pity and are seeking other people’s forgiveness and reassurance, and often also psychological counseling to correct their selfish, lawless and anti-social behavior. Their problem of being lost sinners is not solved, and therefore this kind of fleshly (or worldly) sorrow only produces spiritual death. The unsaved sinner continues along his way and only resorts to futile humanistic methods to improve his life.

There are also large numbers of sinners who are indeed introduced to Christ as Savior, but without confronting them with their sinfulness which separates them from God. They are convinced that all they need to do is to accept Christ as Savior by faith, without specifically reflecting on ways in which to deal with their sin through confession and repentance. This is a dangerous spiritual pitfall as it is unbiblical to proclaim salvation by faith without repentance and the confession of sins (cf. 1 John 1:8-9). This humanly-imposed way of salvation leads to a mere intellectual commitment to Christ without clearly addressing the issue of sin, and only produces a form of self-righteousness which is devoid of a changed heart produced by divine regeneration. Such a person is still dominated by the flesh (the depraved human nature) and is therefore not truly a follower of Christ.


Just as much as true faith in Christ is demonstrated by repentance, the latter is always the consequence of faith and therefore inherently part of the act of believing and trusting Christ. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples: “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:46-49).

Repentance and the forgiveness of sins can only take place when faith is confessed in the crucified and risen Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts people of their sin and enables them to put faith in Christ and confess their sins to Him. That is the reason why the execution of the Great Commission could only commence after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

In the same vein, repentance is used as a key concept when preaching Christ to a lost world: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). It is obvious that repentance without firmly believing in Christ would not be possible. We are accountable to Christ for what we have done with our lives, and repentance is the way of being faithfully reconciled to God through Him.

Paul’s ministry

It is often argued by extreme Dispensationalists that Paul proclaimed salvation by faith alone, without the need for repentance and the confession of sins. The latter are allegedly part of an Old Testament doctrine of salvation based upon human works such as repentance, confession of sin, and a commitment towards Law observance. However, this is a complete misrepresentation of the Pauline Gospel of salvation. This apostle relates faith in Christ to a spiritual disposition which, in no uncertain terms, includes and actually demands repentance.

Paul explained his divine mandate to evangelize the Gentile world and said that God sent him to the Gentiles, “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18). It is obvious that turning away from the power of Satan towards Christ (repenting) is an act of faith which leads to the forgiveness of sins. The Thessalonians are commended for their “work of faith,” and to this Paul added, “… how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:3, 9).

Faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. Paul explained to the Hebrew believers that faith and repentance are foundational to their spiritual life as these constitute the point where their relationship with Christ first began. He urged them to continue growing spiritually, “not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith towards God” (Heb. 6:1). Could there be any clearer statement than this on the relationship between repentance and faith? True salvation includes repenting from dead works as well as faith in the Triune God.

The message which Paul proclaimed was the same to sinners of all nationalities, “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). He reminded the congregation in Rome that the goodness of God leads them to repentance (cf. Rom. 2:4). 
In the light of these pronouncements it is obvious that when Paul says that we are saved by faith and not by works (cf. Eph. 2:8-9) he does not deny the necessity of repentance and the confession of sins, but only discounts human efforts towards good works as a basis of salvation. We must put our trust fully in Christ’s redemptive work. When doing that, we will experience salvation which is rooted in faith, godly sorrow over sin, and repentance (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10). Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit we will flee from our sin and embrace Christ as Savior.

The fact that the term “repentance” is not frequently used by Paul is due to his preference for other terms which even more clearly convey the meaning of repenting (turning from sin towards Christ). He often refers to our obligation to put off sin and to put on the divine nature of Christ: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:5-10; cf. Eph. 4:22-24).

Our calling to sanctification demands that we continue to search ourselves and put off all sin and fleshliness. We therefore have to continue repenting from sins of which the Holy Spirit convicts us: “Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. … But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts” (Rom. 13:12, 14; cf. Eph. 5:11).

Sin is a destroyer of faith and should not be allowed to do its evil and destructive work in our lives. Paul wrote to the Jewish believers, many of whom were backsliding because of compromising with sin: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Heb. 3:12-14). We should persevere on the way of faith, holiness and dedication to the Lord with a pure heart filled with the love of Christ.

To lose your sensitivity for sin, to make room for it in your life and willingly submit yourself to its domination and slavery, is a recipe for spiritual disaster. Live a holy life and stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free. The biblical way of freedom from the intimidating power of sin is to identify with the cross of Christ to such an extent that you will die to sin, to the flesh and to the world: “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:11-13).

Keep on repenting and obeying the Spirit of truth

The great significance of repenting when you first put your faith in Christ as your Savior should never be forgotten and allowed to lose its relevance since you are called upon to continue prevailing over sin and temptations for the rest of your life. The Holy Spirit is able to empower you to be more than a conqueror through Christ our Lord, and He will also guide you into all truth if you are fully surrendered to Him. If you continue walking in the light as Christ is in the light, you will have fellowship with Him through His Spirit, and His blood will continue to cleanse you from all sin (1 John 1:7).

Only those believers who fall prey to carnal pride, love of money, or any other fleshly lusts, tend to exalt themselves – even above obvious truths in the Word of God – thereby becoming easy targets to the spirit of error which is ever intent on leading Christians astray. In their fleshly arrogance these deceived believers even condemn other believers who dare to differ from their own understanding of the Word. One of the most common forms of deception in our time is that sin in the lives of Christians is overlooked and condoned, on condition only that they keep on “believing” in Christ. There is no insistence on continued repentance.

But Christ has come to the world to “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). It is imperative that we are continually cleansed from all sin and that its power over us should be broken. Paul looks back to the sinful past of the Corinthian believers and confirmed that they repented and were thoroughly cleansed from all these sins: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Jesus Christ did not only die on the cross to save sinners from the eternal punishment upon sinners, but also from the power of specific sins in the lives of His followers. He came to set us free. If we fully embrace His saving and sanctifying grace sin will not reign over us. If the flesh is dethroned and crucified in our lives, the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth and also give us the correct understanding of biblical doctrines (cf. John 16:13).

That is the only biblical way of fostering true unity among believers, as well as singleness of purpose: we should all be fully grounded and rooted in the love and truth of Christ. Paul encouraged the Philippians to this end: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the Gospel of Christ … stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel” (Phil. 1:27).