Industrialized Salvation (Understanding Decisionism, Easy-Believism, and Shallow Conversion)

Industrialized Salvation

Robert Wurtz II

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 
But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.” (Acts 8:18–24 NKJV)

Simon the Sorcerer is a New Testament example of how a person can profess to believe in Jesus Christ; submit to water baptism; demonstrate a desire for the Holy Spirit; and their heart still is not right towards God. 

The Greek word for “right” in this verse is translated “straight” in the John the Baptist narrative where he is said to “make His paths straight.” This is a way of saying, “get peoples’ heart right with God.” Simon had not yet gone through this process. He never repented of his sorcery or the underlying issues that drove him to want to be a sorcerer and manipulate people. 

In fact, Simon was bound up in wickedness and in a state of perishing. “Your money perish with you…” said Peter. Clearly he never repented in such a way that his heart became “right” with God and he exercised saving faith. Yet he is continuing in fellowship with others who had repented and truly believed. This is very sobering. He was going through the motions and had almost everyone fooled. But God is never fooled. Men may have failed to see his true heart condition, but God sees all peoples’ hearts and at all times. 

If man had the power to baptize with the Holy Spirit as easy as man can baptize another man in water — Simon would have went into the church and caused untold destruction. He was baptized in water and had made a profession of some kind, but he still was a wicked man in need of forgiveness and regeneration. This reveals for all times that we must never place too much emphasis on outward things. Man looks on the outward appearance of things, but God looks on the heart. 

Unlike in Peter’s time, in the 21st century a person can actually pass into the churches under the guise of having received the Holy Spirit when in fact they have not. Sound shocking? Consider that in many full-gospel circles a person is considered to have received the Spirit if they can move in the prophetic or perform miracles. In Classical Pentecostal circles “speaking in tongues” has been made the supreme evidence for Spirit baptism. Doctrinally, they will affirm that speaking in tongues is “the initial evidence;” however, over the last 100 years it has become the evidence on a practical level. If a person gives ecstatic speech they are said to have the Holy Ghost. Holy living and the fruit of the Spirit are marginalized if not secondary in many circles. Therefore, we are wide open to “Simon the Sorcerer” types in our day. Jesus said you will know them by their fruits not “spiritual gifts,” talents, education, etc.

Because this is a blog post I kindly refer you to my book Televangelicalism by Robert Wurtz II available on amazon in paperback and Kindle for an in depth look at this topic. However I will share some useful history for your consideration. In evangelical circles in the 1900s Evangelicalism went through a time when salvation basically became industrialized. People were being brought to Christ like cars rolling off an assembly line at the first Ford Motor plant. Moreover, people started being told they were “saved” for the first time. Prior to that nobody dared using that kind of language. It was believed that that salvation and assurance was God’s domain and few if any dared intrude into it. Sadly, telling a person they are saved is as normal today as anything. This was not the case prior to Billy Sunday. 

Prior to Sunday people were said to be Hopefully Converted. This means that their conversion was “hopeful” and suggested that the person go on seeking the Lord. Today, people are told they are “saved” and generally stop seeking the Lord in any real and meaningful way. God’s dealings with the person grind to a screeching halt. Why? They already have their ticket to heaven. Why go on seeking? There are few things more dangerous than telling a person they “are saved.”

Below is an image I captured in 2009 back when Google allowed searchers to analyze the distribution of words over time. The feature placed the relevant distribution data on a nice little chart and sorted it by year. Take a close look at the distribution of the words “hopefully converted.” You will see that in early 1900 that phrase stopped being used in publications almost completely — though there was a high amount of usage since the advent of mass publication in the early 1700s. We need to ask, how and why did this happen?


    


The Inquiry Room

The use of the inquiry room became so popular, that it became necessary to provide those who labored with the anxious sinners a guide on how to conduct themselves. In 1884 George Soltau (1847-1909) of England wrote a handbook on the subject entitled, Enquiry Room: Hints for dealing with the anxious. He moves first giving basic directions:

As a company of workers desiring to engage in the solemn and important work of dealing with the anxious in the enquiry room, we all are agreed at the very outset that the Holy Spirit alone can lead a sinner to the Savior; that each of us must look to Him for the right word, the fitting text, the wise counsel; and that we are to be but the mouthpieces through whom He will speak. Our constant attitude must be one of communion with God; our memories and minds must be well stored with Scripture, that we may be ready for the Master’s use. Before entering into the details of our subject, the following general suggestions will be found worthy of consideration:

1. Do not be too eager to lead a soul into peace. In Jeremiah 6:14, and 8:11, we find the words, “They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace; when there is no peace.’” It is not desirable to use the expression, “Have you found peace?” seeing that the anxious soul needs a Person, rather than a blessing.

2. Avoid the expression, “You have only to believe, to be saved,” until you have very fully stated and explained the facts and promises to be believed; and then point out that it is a person in whom the soul’s trust is to be placed, and not your statements about Him.

3. Always read your quotations from the Bible, turning to the passage; so that the Enquirer may be able to distinguish between your statements and the Word of God. The latter has an authority that your statements can never possess.

4. Avoid telling your own experience or that of others; as the Enquirer must lean on the Word of God, and not on any one’s experience of it.

5. Do not try to apply to the need of the Enquirer any text, the truth of which you have not yourself experienced.

6. Make it clear that at conversion the Lord Jesus claims possession and control of the entire being. Show that it is not merely the salvation of the soul that is needed, but also deliverance for mind and body from all the power of sin in every direction.

7. If an enquirer baffles you with difficult questions, hand such an one over at once to a more experienced Christian.

8. As far as possible converse only with persons of your own age or younger; of your own sex and walk in life.

9. Do not tell a person he is saved. Let the Holy Spirit be the witness in the heart of the believer, telling him that he is delivered from sin and its penalty. (end of quote)

George Soltau then gives directions as to the importance of making sure the anxious person recognizes their sinfulness. He continues:

An inexperienced worker, having a few favorite texts, would probably speak to each person in this way, “You must just believe that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses from all sin. You know He said, ‘Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.’ Cannot you believe that ‘Now is the accepted time,’ that ‘Now is the day of salvation’? ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.’ Just kneel down, and say from your heart, ‘Take me as I am’” We would not say that none of those thus addressed would get any blessing through such treatment: but what we ought to do is to – First ascertain the cause of this blindness; and lameness; and numbness, etc.; and then by God’s help apply the right remedy.

Our first questions then should be, “What brings you into the Enquiry Room?”

“What do you think you need?” The answer may be, “I want to be saved,” or “I want to become a Christian,” or “I don’t feel I am quite right,” or, “I think I ought to turn.” In none of these replies is there any very definite statement concerning sin, or any apparent consciousness of sin. Therefore the first thing to be arrived at is to convict deeply of sin. The Gospel is not designed primarily to make people happy, and give them peace; but to deliver them from sin, its presence, power, and penalty; and to bring them into communion with a Holy God. Sin is not an accident or a misfortune, but a disease. Active in its principle, permeating every fiber and tissue of mind and body; hideous and loathsome as a foul leprosy; abominable and irremediable; not to be dealt with piece-meal, but to be attacked at this root. All the restlessness of soul, the craving for excitement, the love of the world, the dislike of holy things, the reluctance to come forward for Christ, are the effect of sin dwelling in the heart. What, then, is the state of the heart of a sinner? (end of quote)
_____

We will not continue to quote from this book as the reader may acquire it free since it is now in the public domain. Nevertheless, I have shown the approach to leading an anxious sinner to Christ in an inquiry room type environment as late as 1884. This method was similar to D.L. Moody, Charles H. Spurgeon, and many others. According to the Religious Intelligencer, “The inquiry room was the place for the most heavy and successful labor, because here the attention could be fixed.” Indeed it is “heavy labor” working with God to lead souls to a genuine conversion experience in Christ. There is nothing haphazard or slapdash about it. These counselors pressed the anxious to make a decision for Christ, as had been being done for almost 100 years.



Decisionism in Infancy
 
Beginning with Finney, and later D.L. Moody, we experienced an up-tick of the notion that a person just needs to make a “decision” and a down-tick of the New Covenant necessity of being born again of the Holy Spirit. As I explain in Televangelicalism, in Finney’s case this is due in part to his lack of belief in Original Sin. If a person does not agree with the diagnosis — their remedy is sure to be off. Nevertheless, these changes in approach to salvation and New Birth happened so slowly over the course of time that they would have been almost imperceptible to anyone living in that day. However, they did not go fully unnoticed. Some theologians and preachers denounced the new measures and their effect on Christianity. 

What happens? New Measures serve as inflection points, but emphasis on regeneration (new birth) steadily dies out. The emphasis was shifting totally towards man and the minister. Indeed, there is a sense in which God does the work; the Word of God does the work; the minister does the work; and the anxious does the work. When this reality is forgotten the whole process is thwarted, and the result is often a spurious conversion.


Billy Sunday

Fast forward to the ministry of Billy Sunday. Most serious-minded evangelists knew that Billy Sunday’s methods produced spurious conversions. This led to the derisive term “Sunday Convert.” A fellow student at Wheaton College kidded Torrey Johnson, founder of Youth For Christ, “Got religion, have you? I suppose it’s the Billy Sunday type. It’ll last about six months.” What an awful comment, but it was all too true. People would go through Sunday’s scheme and “backslide” in about six months. This is exactly what Finney’s contemporaries feared, and now it came to pass. Although Finney was not the originator of the measures he was rebuked for using, he popularized them and brought them to the mainstream. He made them acceptable. Once something is made acceptable by a famous figure, it is almost impossible to stop it. Finney influenced Moody who influenced Chapman, who mentored Billy Sunday. Each minister compromised the measure more than the person who taught it to them. The compromises added up until Christianity went from a repent, believe and “wait and see” to “walk this trail and you’re saved.” In fairness to Finney, he knew it was impossible to fully know who was saved. Again, upon seeing fruits of repentance, verifiable faith, and seeing a compelling change of lifestyle—Finney would consider the person hopefully converted. Unlike Billy Sunday, he never allowed people to rest in any assurance that man could give.

The End of “Hopeful Conversion” Terminology

God and His Word doesn’t change; only the definition of what it meant to be “saved” slowly changed. By 1918, a newspaper headline reported:

“CONVERTS RUSHED TO GRASP HANDS OF BILLY SUNDAY.” According to the media, “Publicly acknowledging their belief in Jesus Christ as their savior, and expressing their repentance for sin, 425 men, women and children of all ages and types, surged down the sawdust trail to the platform at the tabernacle last night to grasp the hand of Billy Sunday and to be enrolled as professing Christians.

It is almost inconceivable that 100% of the people who went forward were considered “saved” because of this “singular act” and “supposed mindset.” Lost in the frenzy was the Biblical teaching of the sovereignty of God and the born-again experience. The terminology “hopeful conversion” was lost by the end of Billy Sunday’s career. Within a 39-year span, “hopeful conversions” were replaced with “x number of people got saved.”

The "Ancient" Inquiry Room (Enquiry Room and Praying Through)

The “Ancient” Inquiry Room
Robert Wurtz II


The inquiry room is an example of a once novel measure that has come and gone from mainstream Christian practice. It began prior to the ministry of Charles Finney (1800s) and continued on until early in Billy Sunday’s ministry (early 1900s). This was a room or church sanctuary set apart for the sole purpose of counseling and praying with anxious sinners in an attempt to help lead them to genuine conversion. “Anxious sinner” is a term that used to describe people who had heard the Gospel and came under great conviction of sin. We don’t use this term any more mainly because we rarely encounter anyone who is anxious for their soul. Nevertheless, we have an account of the use of such a room taken from the May 1834 edition of The Religious Intelligencer:

In all of our protracted meetings we have had the “anxious seat,” and the meeting for inquiry, and have desired those who had submitted to God to manifest it. The same measures have been adapted at this meeting, and only one new measure has been added; viz: giving liberty in the public assembly to ask prayers. And very numerous requests have been preferred, and many gracious answers have been obtained, and the influence of this measure, both upon saint and sinner, has been happy. Our measures have been those, viz: In the forenoon, meetings for prayer in different parts of the congregation, and a meeting for inquirers in the anxious room (inquiry room). At 2 o’ clock P.M. and in the evening—public preaching. At the close of the evening sermon, the impenitent were invited to present themselves on the front seats as subjects for prayer. 

Then they were sometimes addressed in a few words of instruction, and at the close, they were affectionately urged to be present the next day, at the inquiry room. This same course was pursued during the whole meeting. The inquiry room was the place for the most heavy and successful labor, because here the attention could be fixed. We did not invite into this room visitors, lest the attention should be diverted. Here the character and the claims of God were presented, and each one singly conversed with, and urged to an immediate and honest submission to God

After this interview with individuals, the whole were instructed by presenting divine truth under a variety of illustrations. These measures, whether new or old is immaterial, have been signally blessed. They are pre-eminently calculated to lead sinners into the kingdom of Christ; and to fit and to prepare souls for heaven. Any church with a minister who loves and who faithfully preaches divine truth, with a believing reliance upon the Holy Spirit, which will adopt and pursue these or similar measures, may expect certain and blessed success.[1] (emphasis added)

The Inquiry Room Experience


The use of the inquiry room became so popular, that it became necessary to provide those who labored with the anxious sinners a guide on how to conduct themselves. In 1884 George Soltau (1847-1909) of England wrote a handbook on the subject entitled, Enquiry Room: Hints for dealing with the anxious. He moves first giving basic directions.


As a company of workers desiring to engage in the solemn and important work of dealing with the anxious in the enquiry room, we all are agreed at the very outset that the Holy Spirit alone can lead a sinner to the Savior; that each of us must look to Him for the right word, the fitting text, the wise counsel; and that we are to be but the mouthpieces through whom He will speak. Our constant attitude must be one of communion with God; our memories and minds must be well stored with Scripture, that we may be ready for the Master’s use. Before entering into the details of our subject, the following general suggestions will be found worthy of consideration:

1.     Do not be too eager to lead a soul into peace. In Jeremiah 6:14, and 8:11, we find the words, “They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace; when there is no peace.’” It is not desirable to use the expression, “Have you found peace?” seeing that the anxious soul needs a Person, rather than a blessing.

2.     Avoid the expression, “You have only to believe, to be saved,” until you have very fully stated and explained the facts and promises to be believed; and then point out that it is a person in whom the soul’s trust is to be placed, and not your statements about Him.

3.     Always read your quotations from the Bible, turning to the passage; so that the Enquirer may be able to distinguish between your statements and the Word of God. The latter has an authority that your statements can never possess.

4.     Avoid telling your own experience or that of others; as the Enquirer must lean on the Word of God, and not on any one’s experience of it.

5.     Do not try to apply to the need of the Enquirer any text, the truth of which you have not yourself experienced.

6.     Make it clear that at conversion the Lord Jesus claims possession and control of the entire being. Show that it is not merely the salvation of the soul that is needed, but also deliverance for mind and body from all the power of sin in every direction.

7.     If an enquirer baffles you with difficult questions, hand such an one over at once to a more experienced Christian.

8.     As far as possible converse only with persons of your own age or younger; of your own sex and walk in life.

9.     Do not tell a person he is saved. Let the Holy Spirit be the witness in the heart of the believer, telling him that he is delivered from sin and its penalty.[2]
        George Soltau then gives directions as to the importance of making sure the anxious person recognizes their sinfulness. He continues:
An inexperienced worker, having a few favorite texts, would probably speak to each person in this way, “You must just believe that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses from all sin. You know He said, ‘Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.’ Cannot you believe that ‘Now is the accepted time,’ that ‘Now is the day of salvation’? ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.’ Just kneel down, and say from your heart, ‘Take me as I am’” We would not say that none of those thus addressed would get any blessing through such treatment: but what we ought to do is to – First ascertain the cause of this blindness; and lameness; and numbness, etc.; and then by God’s help apply the right remedy.

Our first questions then should be, “What brings you into the Inquiry Room?” “What do you think you need?” The answer may be, “I want to be saved,” or “I want to become a Christian,” or “I don’t feel I am quite right,” or, “I think I ought to turn.” In none of these replies is there any very definite statement concerning sin, or any apparent consciousness of sin. Therefore the first thing to be arrived at is to convict deeply of sin. The Gospel is not designed primarily to make people happy, and give them peace; but to deliver them from sin, its presence, power, and penalty; and to bring them into communion with a Holy God. Sin is not an accident or a misfortune, but a disease. Active in its principle, permeating every fiber and tissue of mind and body; hideous and loathsome as a foul leprosy; abominable and irremediable; not to be dealt with piece-meal, but to be attacked at this root. All the restlessness of soul, the craving for excitement, the love of the world, the dislike of holy things, the reluctance to come forward for Christ, are the effect of sin dwelling in the heart. What, then, is the state of the heart of a sinner?”[3]
    We will not continue to quote from this book as the reader may acquire it free since it is now in the public domain. Nevertheless, I have shown the approach to leading an anxious sinner to Christ in an inquiry room type environment as late as 1884. This method was similar to D.L. Moody, Charles H. Spurgeon, and many others. As we already read in the Religious Intelligencer

The inquiry room was the place for the most heavy and successful labor, because here the attention could be fixed.” Indeed it is “heavy labor” working with God to lead souls to a genuine conversion experience in Christ. There is nothing haphazard or slapdash about it. These counselors pressed the anxious to make a decision for Christ, as had been being done for almost 100 years.
As with Finney, and then with D.L. Moody, we there was an up tick of the notion that a person just needs to make a “decision for Christ” and a down tick of the New Covenant necessity of being born again of the Holy Spirit. These things happened so slowly over the course of time that they would have been almost imperceptible to anyone living in that day. New Measures serve as inflection points, but emphasis on regeneration (new birth) steadily dies out. The emphasis was shifting totally towards man and the minister. Indeed, there is a sense in which God does the work; the Word of God does the work; the minister does the work; and the anxious does the work. When this reality is forgotten the whole process is thwarted, and the result is often a spurious conversion.



[1]N. Whiting, Religious Intelligencer XVIII, 1833, P. 220 emphasis added
[2]George Soltau, The Enquiry Room: Hints For The Anxious, 1884, P. 8-10
[3]Ibid, P. 13

Three Years Of Tears (Weeping Prophets)

Three Years Of Tears (Weeping Prophets)
Robert Wurtz II

Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:31)

Paul has brought the elders from the church at Ephesus together for one final exhortation before he leaves for Jerusalem. He knows that he will never see them again. The Holy Spirit has been warning him for some time that trials and afflictions are ahead. Nevertheless, this is not his concern. In fact, he testified that none of those things moved him. He had already been stoned, flogged, and beaten mercilessly on numerous occasions for the cause of Christ. The wretched conditions of a cold jail cell were frequently his home. If these things didn’t move him, what did? Obviously, it was not the prospect of more pain and suffering. What could move a man who was as tough as nails to tears?

Paul Wept

It is sobering to read the full context of Acts 20. The contrasts are stunning. On the one hand, we have a man who has been weeping for three years as he warned the Ephesians about grievous wolves and opportunistic people. He is destined to suffer and die for the faith. On the other hand, we have people waiting for him to leave so they can push their own self-serving agenda. They don’t care about the Body of Christ.

Jeremiah Wept

Few people in the Bible can be said to have wept for years. Jeremiah comes to mind. He was known as the weeping Prophet. Maybe we should think of Paul as the weeping Apostle. Both men share this one similarity — they wept because the people would not listen. When people are destined for destruction and refuse to see it, there is nothing left to do but weep.

Jesus Wept

Jesus even wept over Jerusalem when they would not repent and turn to Him. He wanted to gather them together, but they would not have it. The consequence of this would be unimaginable horror, both in this world, and the one to come. The multitudes would rather follow the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots. As predicted, in less than forty years after His ascension, the entire city of Jerusalem, with its magnificent Temple, would be destroyed and plowed under like a farmer’s field. Masses of people would starve to death as Vespasian, and then Titus, would put the city under siege.

This event, known as the Destruction of the Temple, happened in 70 CE. The people could not have imagined what was coming. Atrocities were committed against the Jews by their own people. Before it was over, Josephus records that one woman even dressed and cooked her own baby for food. Jesus saw it coming; He tried to warn them; they would not listen; so He wept. That’s all He could do.

Storm Warning

In modern times, there is a violent storm coming. The Western World, used to centuries of relative acceptance of Christianity, is headed for persecution. Nevertheless, the cycle of Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul has visited us. Multitudes are blind to the fact that ” trials and tribulations are awaiting. ” There is a hostility to Christianity that is growing by the day. Even within the churches there is a large percentage of people who think exactly like the world. They advocate the same things that the world advocates. The reason for this is that for over 100 years, we have not had the Gospel being properly preached in the main stream. The high-speed industrialized evangelistic methods of the 20th century have filled the churches with nominal Christians.

This is why persecution will also come from within the churches. No matter what religion a person claims, if they have not been born of the Spirit. they are capable of doing anything that any other sinner is capable of. Always know this. If they still have the same heart and spirit after they become a Christian as they had before — they are capable of doing anything that they had done before. This is common sense. And this is why we are in trouble. Millions of professing Christians have not been changed and yet believe they have been. A person like this is capable of anything. They may even kill real Christians thinking they are doing God a service. Why? They were never changed to have the mind and Spirit of Christ, but were told that they were. Therefore, they think that everything they do religiously must be of God. Similar things happened during the Reformation, and I believe it will happen again. This will be the consequence of 100 years of shallow preaching.


Nominal Christianity

Many people over the last 100 years have “entered the ministry” who were never born again. Only God knows the true figure, but people like A.W. Tozer and Leonard Ravenhill warned us about it. All kinds of so-called ministries are popping up —, but preachers and evangelists are in short supply. In fact, the problem is getting so bad that some church leaders would like to do away with preaching and make the whole meeting a song service. Bible preaching is merely ” tolerated ” almost as a necessary evil to them. What did the prophet say?

Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD. (Amos 8:11 NKJV)

Some can sense this fact, while others are fiddling. Nominal Christians who become ministers would rather use the Gospel to build a name for themselves than prepare the people for the suffering that awaits. However, there is a violent storm coming: a category five storm that will sweep many off of there very foundations.

It would be superfluous to give examples from the Bible or history just to demonstrate what I’m referring to. If history is any indicator, true Christians are bound for persecution and death. In spite of this, multitudes are preaching an exaggerated and unbiblical form of love and tolerance to the point that most refuse to take a stand for truth anymore. Grace is being used to dumb down the conscience to the point that nothing is sin anymore. God loves everybody just the way they are. Really? These are some of the doctrines of Devils that are warned of in the scriptures concerning the end times.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:3–5 NKJV)

A “No-repent” Gospel

Repentance and holiness are now among the most offensive words in many churches today. This is not merely in Protestant circles. Many are not surprised that even the Pope has cowered and bowed in compromise with everything from homosexuality to Islam. All the while, a clarion call goes out — faint as it is — drowned by the voices of those who minister hype instead of holiness and prosperity instead of preparation. Like the people in Noah’s day, there is a generation that refuses to ready itself for the wrath that is to come.

But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:37–39 NKJV)

What is there left to do? Preach and weep. Don’t hold back. Warn the people night and day with tears, if necessary. Not crocodile tears— but real ones. As time goes on and we keep our hearts pure we will eventually weep. Some weep already. We are vexed from day to day with the unlawful deeds of those around us. They refuse to listen… So what is there left? Weep for those who refuse to hear. Jeremiah did it. Jesus did it. Paul did it. This is the wrenching response to people who hear the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and still refuse to respond rightly. They would rather go on building their own kingdoms or the kingdoms of men. What can we do? Imitate Paul.

Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:31)

Corismatic Christianity (Corinthianism)

Corismatic Christianity (Corinthianism)
Robert Wurtz II


And when they had come to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:18-21)


Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. (Acts 26:19–21 NKJV)

In Acts 26, Paul had gone before Agrippa to give an account of himself and his ministry. He left Ephesus in Acts 20, and now the prophesies of trouble are coming to pass. During this inquiry, Paul tells Agrippa I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” We must consider this statement in order to appreciate fully the rest of his answer. Paul, the man who was responsible for spreading the Gospel more than anyone else, was acting under direct orders from heaven. This is highly significant. Paul was simply doing what he had been told to do. 


A lot has been preached and written about Paul and his missionary journeys; however, rarely is this passage in Acts 26 focused upon. In fact,  almost everything under the sun has been talked about concerning Paul’s ministry, except this essential fact. He is offering us insight into exactly what he preached on his missionary journeys. He states plainly and in clear conscience, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” “Works befitting repentance” implies “evidence of repentance.” To use an old cliche, if we were charged in court for having repented of our sins, would there be enough evidence for a conviction? 


What was the message Paul brought first as he traveled? It was a very simple, but highly unpopular message. In fact, it is one that historians would love to scratch out of the history books. Nevertheless, we have the biblical record. It has been almost 2000 years now. The message has not changed. However, turn on the Christian Television or the radio and try to find this simple message. After all, most claim they are “reaching the world for Jesus” or “taking the Gospel to the far flung corners of the globe.” What has been done with, “Repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance”? 




Agrippa Only?  


According to our passage in Acts 20, What did Paul preach from the first day he came to Asia? What did he proclaim and teach publicly and from house to house? In his own words, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” He reminded the Ephesians, who already knew what he had preached, because grievous wolves and politicians were coming to destroy the flock. Wolves and politicians are not humble, nor do they generally preach repentance. Nevertheless, Paul preached in humility and in tears the same basic repentance message as John the Baptist. Why? Because repentance and faith are the first steps in our journey with the Lord. They are what every person must do to prepare a straight path into themselves for the Lord to come in. If it was not necessary, God would not have anointed John the Baptist to preach it and commanded Paul on the road to Demascus to proclaim it. This is as clear as anything.

Prepared to Preach 

No minister gets famous by preaching repentance and faith. It was true in Paul’s day, and it is true today. What did he say? For these reasons, the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. Clearly, Paul meant to say that the Jews did not like the message of repentance and faith. Had he not meant it, he would have said something else. Herod beheaded John the Baptist, and the Jews tried on multiple occasions to kill Paul. This is the consequence of preaching Heaven’s Gospel. To go on ignoring this reality is to continue to be part of the problem rather than the solution. 


Corismatic Christianity


Although early Pentecostalism was born in the fires of the Wesleyian Holiness Revivals, in modern times, we have a wholesale “Corinthian” phenomenon going on in Full Gospel realms. We have multitudes who have skipped over repentance and holiness, and moved directly to faith and the gifts of the Spirit. We ought to pause and give that some serious thought. There is a proud Corinthian self-centeredness that glorifies the individual and their “giftings” rather than focusing on the Body of Christ as a unit. I have come up with a word for this by combining Charismatic and Corinthian to get “Corismatic.” A Corismatic is a person who never truly repented of the sins, brought forth fruits worthy of repentance, but went straight for the gifts of the Spirit. This is why so much of the Corinthian money grubbing, proud politics, alcoholism, and sexual scandal has plagued many full gospel ministries in the last 60 years. We received direct orders from Heaven through Paul, but the message of repentance is MIA. 


It is a hard saying, but I frequently wonder if God is going to wait for this entire generation to die off so He can raise up a generation that will preach the Gospel as in the beginning? He patiently did things like this under the Old Covenant. He waited out many decades of bad kings to set a good one on the throne. Nevertheless, I know it is a radical question, but we have a radical problem. I believe it is a question that all the devils in hell cringe to hear. Demons don’t care if we preach all of our pet doctrines and favorite subjects, as long as we preach a repentance-less and impotent Gospel that produces millions of nominal Christians. I believe the devil would anoint much of the evangelistic preaching that goes on today. Why? Because most of it does little more than ensure a person their place in heaven and does nothing to bring about repentance and true new birth. 

I have to ask, where would we be today if our methods had been used in the book of Acts? Would there have ever been a Church at all? What if Paul had been disobedient to the Heavenly Vision? What if Peter used similar evangelistic methods as are used in modern times? Would thousands have ever been added to the church? What if Philip would have led   the Ethopian Eunuch in a repeatable prayer or had him sign a pledge card? God help us. God open our eyes to this catastrophic blindness in which the blind are leading the blind by the millions into the ditch. Can a person who never repented preach repentance? Can a person who at no time brought forth evidence of repentance show someone else how to do it? How can a person who was never truly born again lead a person into a genuine born again experience? 


The Message of Mar’s Hill 


A lot has been said about Mar’s Hill. Ministries named after Mar’s Hill. What was Mar’s Hill really all about? Perhaps we can close this entry by simply allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us. This is the message that we desperately need in this crisis hour. Once we get this right, we can move on to the next thing; but not until then. Again, what did God, through the mouth of Paul tell the people at Mar’s Hill?


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 NKJV)


How Shall They Hear?

How Shall They Hear?
Robert Wurtz II

For “WHOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO PREACH THE GOSPEL OF PEACE, WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” (Romans 10:13-16 NKJV)

I have quoted this passage at length in order to focus on the importance of “hearing” the Gospel. Certainly, there is a sense in which all people everywhere ought to know that there is a Creator. We know that the world is filled with people that should acknowledge the light that they have, but they suppress it. In fact, God has written His laws in the hearts of men and women, so that from birth, we all have a basic sense of right from wrong. Nevertheless, unless people are challenged in some way they will go on suppressing these realities. Paul reminds us that some are so hardened in heart that they do it and approve of others that do it as well. How will they hear? God’s method of challenging these sinners is through what Paul called, “the foolishness of preaching.” Not that preaching is foolish, but rather people (especially those who consider themselves educated) often view preaching as a foolish thing to do. Nevertheless, this is God’s method. 

Unless They Are Sent 

It stands to reason that there are realities that must be true before a person can be sent to preach. Saul of Tarsus is an example. Until his Demascus Road experience, he was not qualified- nor did he desire to preach the Gospel. In fact, he was at odds with God’s revealed Gospel in mind and in practice. To a lesser or greater degree, all unbelievers (the unregenerate) are in a state of disagreement with God when it comes to the Gospel. Saul went so far as to persecute those who believed and would have stamped out the preaching of the Gospel if he could have. However, when Saul was converted and became (as it were) Paul (as a new creation in Christ) he satisfied the first requirement for preaching the Gospel. 

Until Paul was truly born of the Spirit he was not in agreement with God from the heart and could never preach the Gospel. This is because the carnal mind is at enmity with God and cannot be made subject to His law. Bear in mind that I am speaking of the Gospel as it is known in the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament and not the post-tent crusade, man-centered gospel as it has been known now for roughly a century. The unregenerate can preach the “modern gospel,” but they could never preach the Gospel of the book of Acts. So we have to make the distinction between the preacher of the modern gospel and the Preacher that Paul is speaking of when he says, And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?”

The “Report”

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” (Romans 10:16)

Paul, referencing Isaiah, calls the Gospel message “our report.” The first aspect of the message is the revelation of the sinfulness of all men and women. This is argued extensively in the early chapters of Romans and was preached regularly in the book of Acts. It typically produced one of two responses: anger or trembling. When Stephen preached, the people got angry and stoned him. When Paul preached to Felix, he trembled. Paul heard Stephen’s message and later repented. We have no record of Felix repenting. So we see then that it is not enough to tremble at the notion that we have offended God and are accountable to him in the great Judgment. We have to repent (change our mind) and turn to Christ. We have to agree with what God has said about our sinful behavior and our sinful condition. 

Roman’s 10:16 equates obedience with believing the report (message). If a person does not believe they will not obey. This is an act of the will- not a matter of being convinced. God Himself has shown man the truth. Many people have received far more “light” than they should have ever needed to believe, but they go on in disobedience. The religious leaders even saw Lazarus raised from the dead; and rather than believing- they sought to kill him again. Amazing. But this is how obstinate man can be. This is how hostile to the truth of the Gospel some people are. 

A God and A Gospel that Sinners Will Accept  

 Israel was loaded with false prophets that told the people what they wanted to hear. How could these wolves in sheep clothing ever bring Israel to a place of repentance? They were too busy telling the people about peace and safety. The same is true today. Men and women have fabricated a “god” that will accept their sinfulness and be available at their beckon call. Grace has become a synonym for license to sin. Some people will go to their grave worshiping this god- because the process answers their inward need to worship their Creator. It is a placebo. It is false. 

Paul was greatly challenged by Jews that believed they were the elect and could not possibly be at enmity with God. They saw no need to repent under the deceptive religion they believed. We get the impression in Romans that many believed themselves above the common people because they were teachers of the law and of “babes.” In their mind this made them exempt from the very things they taught. They were born and raised Jews and therefore were God’s people by divine right. Paul thoroughly challenged this belief. 

In modern times we have a similar dilemma. Many people are born into Christian homes, and like the Jews, believe that this is what makes them a Christian. They would never admit this, but we have to account for the fact that historically the many children of true Christians are likely to have never undergone a true conversion experience. The Puritans experienced this in the 16th and 17th century in America and had to make compromises in church procedures to accommodate them within the churches. Paul would have challenged these peoples’ assurance-just as John the Baptist had done. God is able of stones to raise up children in Christian homes; nevertheless, this does not make the person a true child of God. 

We can train up a child in a way he or she should go, but this does not make them believers. This was Paul’s message in Romans. We all, no matter our upbringing, have to come to a place of Godly sorrow and true repentance. We have to acknowledge our sins just like everyone else. We have to repent of many of the sins that run rampant within churches and go completely unchallenged. In fact, we have to begin to see how many churches have established their rules of conduct in such a way that it allows children raised in church to fly under the radar. There are a lot more sins in the world than drunkenness and homosexuality (sexual immorality). Hypocrisy, greed, lying, gluttony, pride, and a host of other like things are often the very sins that answer to sinners rebellion. This is what the Pharisees and religious leaders (who thought they were elect) we often guilty of. When these go unchallenged-many people never see their sinfulness and therefore will never repent. Stephen was the type of preacher that could look at Saul (Paul) who was “blameless as touching the law,” and declare “you stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did – so do you.”

 How Shall They Hear?

If there is any question that I dwell on more than any other it is this, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” Until we get some people truly born of the Spirit and called of God- there is no hope in our lands. We have “ministers” a dime a dozen- but where are the preachers like Paul and Stephen that will call the people to repent and believe the Gospel? How long must we go on wearying ourselves as did Israel with false prophet after false prophet? The only hope we have is for the preachers that are truly born again to preach the Gospel as it is supposed to be. Not ear-tickling, and not abusing the people, but ministering the “report.” I have no doubt that if men will do this God will back the words and we will begin to see real change in our lands.         

  

The Power of Paul’s Preaching

The Power of Paul’s Preaching
Robert Wurtz II

Moreover you see and hear, that not only at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger of ruin; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana will be despised, and her magnificence will be destroyed, whom all of Asia and the world worships. (Act 19:26-27)

Demetrius is expounding the effects of Paul’s preaching at Ephesus. He was hostile over it, and was trying to incite an uproar among the unbelievers. It is interesting to note that the Jews had long ago established a synagogue at Ephesus, and undoubtedly would have (at least in theory) detested idols and pagan practices; nevertheless, their presence had no meaningful effect as compared to Paul’s preaching. Ponder that fact for a moment. A synagogue in years was unable to do what one man had done in mere months. With this fact in mind I wish to consider the power of Paul’s preaching.

I have no doubt that one of the great needs in our times is to rediscover what exactly Paul preached. Men have come along and dissected his teaching, debated his doctrines, and distorted his message. What did the man preach? The Holy Spirit has gone to great lengths to make sure we put it all together, but somehow we have missed it in the main stream.

Benjamin Franklin one said, “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing about.” Paul did both. In fact, he is without question one of the most famous men who ever lived. His writings are on the pages of the New Testament epistles, and his deeds are recorded by Luke in the book of Acts. Much of what we know of him is found in narratives such as our passage above. Other important information he provides in his letters. Taken together we find a man whose bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible; nevertheless, this Paul persuaded and turned away many people from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to the power of God. 

Aiming At the Heart

The Lord Jesus talked about salt that had lost its savour as being effectively worthless. Salt that is ineffective is trod under foot. This is what was happening in Ephesus with the Synagogue. Here were people that knew God’s word, but they were not preaching it, or not preaching it effectively. Paul was different. His preaching had such an effect that he was nearly killed by angry mobs on numerous occasions. Understand that he was not trying to start a riot on these occasions, anybody can do that. All you have to do if spout off a bunch of reckless, inflammatory statements. This is not what Paul was doing. He was preaching repentance from sin, and that the people needed to bring forth proof of their repentance. He was opening the eyes of those who were blinded by the Devil- with a view to turning them from him and his ways. He reasoned with men and women, of sin, righteousness and judgment to come. As did Felix, many people would have trembled. Some may have even told Paul he was crazy as did Agrippa. Many, according to Demetrius, forsook their life of sin. Nevertheless, this was the effect of a man’s preaching (as the old timers would say) who aimed the word not over their heads; not at their feet, but directly at their hearts.

Effective Preaching

Paul understood something that we, must likewise understand, if we, the churches of God, are to ever be effective in ministry. We have to agree with the Holy Spirit in our preaching. If we do, He will back the words with conviction of sin. If we do not, He has little to go on but impressions He can make upon the conscience in other ways. God has ordained that people be changed by “the foolishness of preaching.” Why? Because even the weakest and most despised measures are able to affect change when the Holy Spirit is directly involved. Paul’s message matched the Holy Spirit’s mission; And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16:8) He has not come to give us goose bumps or esoteric feelings of a presence; He has come to convince, convict, reprove the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. 

When Paul was before Festus, Felix, and Agrippa, he told these men exactly what he had been preaching since he was born again. He was on the road to Rome to die under Nero, but wanted the world to know, for all ages, what he preached. Luke recorded his words, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for our example and learning. I would encourage the reader to examine carefully Acts 18-28, especially his answers before Felix, Festus and Agrippa. There he spells it all out in black and white.


A Final Message


When Paul had gone before Nero and was about to be (by tradition) beheaded, he sent a final message to Timothy, who was also a leader at Ephesus. He wrote:

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (2Timothy 4:1-5)

Paul is passing his methodology (modus operandi) to Timothy. In fact, he is charging him before God to do it. Paul is saying, in effect, “Do what I do… preach like I preach… say the kind of things that I would say.” Why? Because that is what agrees with the mission of the Holy Spirit. Compare these passages, Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine… and again…  And when He (Paracletos/Comforter/Holy Spirit) is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16:8) Here, the Spirit, the Word and Paul agree. He wants Timothy to agree as well, and carry on the pattern. Understand that these are Paul’s last words. This is his death bed confession. His words here, as I understand it, would be admissible in a court of law as evidence. He is telling us what is most dear to his heart- the most important thing.

 

  

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