False Evangelism (Decisionism)

False Evangelism (Decisionism)
Robert Wurtz II

Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (Acts 26:19–20 KJV)

For they have healed the wound of the daughter of My people slightly, Saying, “Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. (Jeremiah 8:11)

If I were to make a list of the most important words in Christian vocabulary repentance and regeneration would be at the top of the list. If I had to make another list of Christian words that Satan has attacked the most I would list repentance and regeneration at the top of that list. In fact, these two words have been so thoroughly blasphemed that we have almost lost biblical Christianity all together in the West. Indeed, the blind are leading the blind by the millions and multitudes are falling into the ditch.  

Today, if you ask a believer what repentance means they will generally say it means, “to ask Jesus to forgive your sins.” However, this is not repentance. In fact, it is not even the beginning of repentance because it does not contain a confession or acknowledgment of sins. Repentance is what Paul preached; and what Paul preached is what John the Baptist and Jesus preached. I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. Paul gave this testimony on his way to die under Nero in Rome. What does it mean? He preached that people are to change their mind about sin and turn from it in such a way that there is verifiable evidence that you have forsaken it. When was the last time you heard someone preach that? And that is why we are losing Christianity and replacing it with some cheap counterfeit. 

It has been so long since repentance and regeneration was understood that I dare say that the vast majority of preachers have no idea how to do what Paul did in Acts 26:19-20. To most preachers salvation is an exercise in getting your sins forgiven. That’s all. Then the person is sometimes put through a new converts program to teach them how to be a Christian. This is utterly false and blasphemes the faith. True repentance leads to true regeneration in which a person is born of God. This means they have responded to the Holy Spirit who brings conviction of sin and have surrendered to Christ as Lord and King in a real way. This is not lip service. This is actuality. The pattern is simple: repent; believe on Christ; be baptized in water; and receive the Holy Spirit. Baptism in water is not sprinkling or something that happens in infancy. It is total submersion in water. Receiving the Holy Spirit is not “automatic” either. Nor is it the uttering of some unintelligable words or sentences. It is when God truly and I mean truly comes in to you. When these things happen the result is a new creature. If this is not your experience you are not born again no matter what some preacher or Christian may have told you.     

For they have healed the wound of the daughter of My people slightly, Saying, “Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. (Jeremiah 8:11) It is an awful thing to pronounce a matter finished when it has only begun. To claim that a person is “healed,” when, in fact,  they are not, is to end their pursuit of the remedy. This is the  danger in our text. The people were in a state of perpetual backsliding. Their ongoing iniquity was like a festering leprous sore — designed to kill them. In fact, they were so hardened in their sins that they were unable to blush. They were past feeling. All the while, from the prophet to the priest — they were all given to covetousness. All they could think about was more money and more stuff. They lusted after all kinds of things. From these backslidden hearts issued the words, “Peace, peace!” However, it was a cruel pitiless lie. 

False Prognosis

God told them that they had preached, literally, “shalom, shalom.” In Hebrew, words are doubled-up for emphasis. This is “absolute peace.” Keep in mind that the word shalom means more than an absence of conflict, it denotes well being. This answers to the Hebrew word for wound. In other words, they are being told “it is utterly well” with them when in fact, there is no wellness at all. Their words had only “slightly” healed their festering wound. This word slightly in Hebrew denotes a flippancy towards the seriousness of the problem. 

Modern Application

In modern times, we often have a similar situation as played out in Israel. Because so many who preach the Gospel are given to covetousness, or are only interested in “building their ministry” (church attendees, TV viewers, email lists, etc.) they are unwilling to preach a message that will bring true healing to peoples’ sin-problem. Why? Because repentance does not sell. The so-called “sinners prayer” has become a sacrement in Protestant circles similar to the Catholic signing of the cross or praying the rosary. There is no power in it. 

Sadly, it is all most people know. They can’t even envision what Paul was talking about in Acts 26 because very few preachers follow Paul’s pattern. They behave as though they have a “better way” but they don’t. They are fooling themselves. In fact, they are so intrenched in their ways that they are unchallengable and unteachable in this area. The practice is going to die with them. What did they do? Why is it dangerous? Because people are often asked to repeat it who have not even come under genuine conviction of sin or godly sorrow. If Martin Luther were alive today and nailed a 95 part thesis to the wall of Evangelicalism, it would not look much diferent than the first one. Consider number one through three from his 95 Thesis:

  1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. 
  2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy. 
  3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

What happens? As Jeremiah said, they heal the wound “slightly” by preaching messages that do little more than serve as a numbing agent to stop the “pain” (conviction). Consider Luther’s last three points:

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14) 

93. Hail, hail be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross! 

94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell. 

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).

In place of repentance and faith, their message is more along the lines of (you are) “well, well;” “healed, healed;” or “forgiven, forgiven.” Nothing is said about the deadly wound that is ready to destroy the soul. In fact, people are made to feel good about their condition, when God is trying to bring conviction and Godly sorrow. 

An Inadequate Beginning

God’s unaltering plan is to bring many sons (and daughters) unto glory. (Hebrews 2:10) To accomplish this, people have to be born of God. (John 3:31 John 3:91 John 4:7) This is not a “slight” healing: it is a radical change of the inward man. In fact, the change is so thorough and profound that afterwards Christ is not ashamed to call us brethren. (Hebrews 2:11) This is a new creature in Christ. The old passes away and all becomes new. God gives us a new heart and a new spirit with all new desires. Nevertheless, multitudes are coming to Christ who were never born again. Ministers led them in a prayer or had them sign a church membership card; but they were never genuinely changed.

Most Christians are hostile to the teachings of Darwinian Evolution; however, the doctrine itself is thoroughly embeded in their thinking process. When most Christians think of Christianity, they think of a person starting out with a simple confession of faith and then slowly evolving into a child of God. In other words, with each passing month or year, they become more like Christ and less like the Devil. This is false.

True Christianity begins with a crisis event in which a person passes from death unto life — from the power of Satan to the power of God. This crisis event is known theologically as regeneration. The person is ” born ” of the Spirit (See the illustration above). Once they are ” born ” again, they can begin growing in grace. This is what Jesus was referring to in John 3:3 when He said, “You must be born again.” This is a transformation by the Holy Spirit that renders a person a child of God. They were of their father the devil — performing his lusts; however, now they are born from above and God is working in them both to will and to do His good pleasure. Anything less than this result and we are back in Jeremiah 8:11 having been “healed slightly.”

Another Tragic Mindset

Sometimes false teachings go together like cause and effect. We get one thing wrong and generally some other error is close by. In addition to our subject “Evolutionistic Evangelism,”  we also have to deal with “Industrial Innovations.” That is, we have many innovations that have come into evangelism since the industrial revolution that place the emphasis on speed and quantity, rather than birth and quality. 

What is the goal of an assembly line? Speed. Obviously, there is a desire to maintain a standard, but 
everything is systematic. This is light years from, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 NKJV) For over a hundred years society has been conditioned to want to speed things up. Nevertheless, we can’t speed up New Birth.

Since so few are willing to preach a message that will bring about New Birth; and even fewer are willing to pray patiently with people to see them pass from death to life; we have a deficiency in new births and an abundance of folks that are trying to “evolve” into being a child of God. It is impossible.

For they have healed the wound of the daughter of My people slightly, Saying, “Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. (Jeremiah 8:11)

The Greatest Pink Elephant of All

The Greatest Pink Elephant of All
Robert Wurtz II

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)

“Elephant in the room” or “Elephant in the living room” is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first recorded use of the phrase, as a simile, as The New York Times on June 20, 1959: “Financing schools has become a problem about equal to having an elephant in the living room. It’s so big you just can’t ignore it.” (wiki) Nevertheless, for over 100 years the reality of Acts 26:19-21 has been largely, if not completely, ignored. When it’s not being ignored the passage is being wrested by those who cannot handle its implications. Why did Paul preach John the Baptist “type” repentance? Stephen gives the answer in Acts 7 when he concluded his sermon with, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51 NKJV)

When we read Stephen’s word ” resist ” it is natural to conclude that this is a simple non-compliance. However, this is not the case. Stephen employs a rare Greek word (antipiptō) used once in the New Testament. It means to “run against” or “to fall upon.” This is an allusion to Numbers 23 and Isaiah 63 in which God had done everything in His power to bring about His purposes for His people — nevertheless; they  provoked (vexedHis Holy Spirit — who is not easily provoked (1 Cor. 13:5). This phenomenon could also be seen in the fact that the prophets’ words could not be resisted, but the prophets themselves could be, so they “ran upon” them as they soon did with Stephen. 

Repentance is vital to the Gospel because it addresses the issues of resisting the Holy Spirit head-on. There is no way to get by on some lesser thing. The resistance and rebellion against God must be brought to an end and the person come into a right attitude towards their Creator. The old timers used to say that people need to “get right with God.” This language is from Acts 8 when Peter told Simon that his heart was not “right” with the Lord. Nevertheless, multitudes of ministers and Christians search for ways to avoid this. In fact, the subject is rarely even brought up in discussion it is so detested. However, it is folly to invent doctrines and theologies that sidestep this need. The tragedy is that theologians and Bible teachers are often better at teaching people what a verse does not mean than what it truly means. In modern times clever theologians have tried to reduce repentance to a mere change of mind towards sin; but in practice the teaching is a dead forgery. Their is no expectation that the person with actually demonstrate a change of mind. The strategy is to address the passages in question so as to appear theologically correct; however, the verses are made of no effect. This is what happens when men become theologians who themselves are resisting the Holy Spirit.

It is interesting to consider just how long man has been actively resisting God’s authority. Our passage in Genesis 6:3 is a subtle commentary on the days of Noah; this would have been roughly 2800 BC, or nearly 5000 years ago. When we arrive at Acts 7:51 we have the same diagnoses, You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. In the 21st Century we have the same pattern of behavior. God is trying to establish His authority in the hearts of men and women and they do always “strive” or “resist.” I suggest that “always resisting the Holy Spirit” is the single greatest problem in mankind, and summarizes the relationship between God and unbelievers. Unfortunately, it is also the case in the lives of many professed believers.

In Genesis 6:3 we have the word “strive.” The context is found with Noah a preacher of righteousness, bringing forth a message of salvation. This is God striving with people outwardly. In this way, God had used men as His means of striving with man since the prophet Abel in Genesis 4:8 (compare Luke 11:50-51). Just as Cain rose up to snuff-out his witness to the truth of obedience to God, the response of the masses has rarely altered course. Inwardly, the people would feel the sting of their conscience, and the many strong impressions made upon them by the Spirit of God. The scripture is replete with men who quenched, grieved, resisted, vexed, and even blasphemed God’s Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:101 Thess. 5:19Ephesians 4:30Matthew 12:24-32). This is the message of Stephen to the religious leaders, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51 NKJV

The very people who prided themselves as instructors of the foolish, and teachers of babes — men who had the form of knowledge and truth in the law (Romans 2:20 NKJV) — did always resist the Holy Spirit. In fact, Stephen added, as your fathers did, so do you. It had been a tradition in families for generations. Stephen went on to ask them which of the prophets did their fathers not persecute? He then went on to show that Jesus Christ, the anti type of all who had gone before Him, was given the most hideous treatment of all. The one who was the greatest representation of God was the one most persecuted by the rebellious. The treatment of a man was proportional to His capacity to represent God in striving with men. In other words, the more godly he or she was, the worse they were treated. This is the record. 

Pink Elephant

I once attended a meeting where several men were speaking on the topic of the end-times. One man took the pulpit and opened his address with this unforgettable question, “How are we going to talk about 666 when we can’t even turn off HBO?” It was his way of saying that we love to speak about all kinds of topics that divert our attention away from unpleasant issues. In the late 19th and early 20th century a methodology for “getting saved” was invented that allowed people to continue to resist the Holy Spirit and anyone who preached a “book of Acts” type Gospel and still call themselves “saved.” This is the pink elephant in modern evangelicalism. A person can be actively resisting the Holy Spirit and be told “you are saved and don’t let the devil lie to you and tell you anything different!” And if they go on and try to receive the Holy Spirit they can say a few unintelligible sentences and be told “You got it! You got the Holy Ghost!” Wow. A thousand times, wow! 

If obstetricians were as reckless with childbirth as many ministers are with new birth we would have an infant mortality rate in the land that is unprecedented in world history. People have to be born of the Spirit and there is a right way to preach in order to see that reality come about. Becoming a Christian means we align ourselves with God and His holy word.The Holy Spirit and the word of God agree. If a person does not agree with God’s word — in reality — they are resisting Him no matter what they profess. Jesus asked the simple question , “and why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do the things I say?” As if He would ask, “why do you make my word of no effect by your traditions? Why do you keep doing things that are contrary to God’s word, just as your fathers did?” Answer, because once someone is bold enough to trample on a precept others are emboldened to follow. Soon everyone is doing it (well, not everyone). This is how we have veered off course so bad in the last 100 years. None now live that even remember how repentance and receiving the Holy Spirit is supposed to be.

Ours is the generation that can change all this. A person may have preached a soft Gospel for 75 years, but if they are sensitive to God they can still change. Others will go to their graves doing the same old thing that is not working. Meanwhile the churches fill up with people who have no real desire to comply with God’s will. it’s as if a whole new religion has been created to serve the people who never stopped resisting the Holy Spirit. Environments use music to forge the presence of God while the people keep on resisting. These and many type elixirs numb the conscience enabling people to read their bible and just skip past the verses they don’t like or agree with. This is the tragedy of our times. Nevertheless, there is hope for anyone who will hear the voice of God and truly repent. They can leave of resisting the Holy Spirit and finally receive the Holy Spirit in the genuine article. They can become the real thing — not a forgery. They can begin in the Spirit and live a life that agrees with God and longs to do His will. 

What is The Church? (Part 6)

What is The Church (Part 6)
Robert Wurtz II

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11–14 NKJV)

Our passage tells us that Christ gave Himself to die on the cross so that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. The us is this passage are they who are the heirs to the righteousness of God that is by faith. God started this assembly with a few individuals scattered through the book of Genesis, but then he called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees to bring about a people as numerous as the stars of Heaven or the sand by the sea shore. When we reach the book of Exodus God reiterates this objective:

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine. (Exodus 19:5 KJV)

God reminded Israel in Deut. 14:2, 26:18, and Psalm 135:4 of their status as a “peculiar treasure.” When we get to the New Testament we find God’s people described similarly as in Titus 2 and again in 1 Peter 2:9. The word “peculiar” in this context does not mean they are weird (though the world may esteem them as such); but rather, they are uniquely God’s possession. The NASB renders 1 Peter 2:9:

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you eout of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. (1 Peter 2:9-10 NASB) 

We know that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He owns the Universe and everything and everyone in it. Simply put, everything belongs to God. However, God wanted a people to be uniquely His own. He wanted people made in His own image. In the language of the writer to the Hebrews, He is bringing many sons unto glory (Hebrews 2:10). As the Creator, God owns everybody; but He purchased with His own blood – from all humanity – an assembly of people that could be purified into a special people, with God’s desires and attitudes, committed to living by every word that is proceeding from His mouth. 

After His Kind

Jesus started out with twelve Disciples. From those twelve, hundreds of others were added at Pentecost. However, we need to make note of a principal in scripture and nature that traces its roots to the book of Genesis in order to understand this process. Here God commanded saying: Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. (Genesis 1:11) As with trees and grass – so with people. Apple trees bring forth apple trees. Walnut trees don’t bring forth peach trees. This is common sense. So we understand that ministers will generally bring forth after their own kind as well. So it is essential that the ones preaching the Gospel be the first partakers of the grace and power of the Gospel. Unholy men do not produce holy men. Moreover, men that do not understand God’s design and purpose in purchasing for Himself a unique possession are not qualified to handle the Gospel. God has to prepare the ministers before they are qualified to preach. Otherwise, they will gather an assembly, but it will not be what God is wanting. 

When Jesus ascended into Heaven He sent the Holy Spirit to inhabit a group of followers that had committed to being His disciples. The name of the Spirit signifies His prime characteristic: holy. Without holiness no person will see God. The issue is front and center in God’s mind. We have a picture of the process of God perfecting Holiness in man in the story of Israel in Egypt. God called His “Firstborn” – His unique possession out of Egypt. Understand that Egypt is a type of this present evil world, Pharaoh was a type of Satan, and their slavery and bondage was a form of Sin and its oppressive characteristics. The Disciples heard the call to follow Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, they are “coming out from among them to be separate and to touch not the unclean things.” Figuratively, they had gone through the Passover with the blood applied and were now preparing to head out, once and for all, from their “Egypt.” This was their calling and destiny. The Holy Spirit was coming to perfect their holiness in the fear of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 7:1-2) In a word, the Holy Spirit was for the holy nation. He assists in bringing about God’s purposes in making us God’s unique treasure in the whole earth. 

The disciples had heard the teachings of the Pharisees and scribes as they tried to lead the people in their understanding of holiness. They were bringing forth after their own kind. This is why Jesus said, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 13:15 NKJV) The problem is that they were better at teaching the holiness than living it. (Matthew 23:1-7) It was hypocrisy. God wants holiness of heart. This means we are clean on the inside of our hearts and minds from things that would offend God. 

Only the Holy Spirit can convict a person of their sin – particularly their inward sins (sins of the heart). This is why the Disciples needed to come under the yoke of Christ. Only God knows what the true controversy is between Him and the individual. Men may guess, but God has a priority list of things He wants dealt with. The Holy Spirit has come to make known the mind of Christ to individuals. From now on the Disciples would take their orders from Him. Christ is their Master and Savior. The consequence of this will be a group of people unlike any on the face of the earth. They will be God’s unique people, doing His will and in agreement with Him. 

A Holy People For a Holy Calling

God’s call to individuals is a High and Heavenly Calling (Phil. 3:14; Hebrews 3:1). This is a calling from Heaven and to Heaven (Vincent). Therefore, the men and women God uses to minister this Heavenly Calling must be moving in that High Calling themselves. Unlike the Pharisees who taught the people but did not do it themselves, God’s ministers must be pressing towards the mark for the prize as they are preaching or they are not qualified to call others to the same. 

After Pentecost the disciples began fulfilling the Great Commission. Jesus commanded them saying, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 18:18) From this point forward this is what the disciples had done. Now the words will be fulfilled that were spoken Matthew 16:18, And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. 

The Book of Acts Pattern

A close look at the book of Acts shows a pattern of repentance, faith, water baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit as normative for becoming a Christian (Disciple). However, as Paul was leaving Ephesus for the last time he was very concerned that things would not continued as they were designed to. Whereas Ephesus had been built with genuine disciples that had truly repented, were baptized in water, and had received the Holy Spirit, a group would arise that would move them away from the evangelistic practices that they had used at first. They left Christ, their first love. It is my estimation that this leaving of Christ can be traced back to individuals growing cold in the Lord and then replicating that coldness in making disciples. In other words, carnality gives birth to carnality. The only solution was to preach the Gospel again and allow the people to respond to God for real. This is why Jesus told them in Revelation 2 that they must “repent and do the first works.” What were the first works? They were the things that the first members of the church had done when they first believed in order to establish that church. It is beyond the scope of our study here, but a close examination of the church at Ephesus in the book of Acts is very insightful in showing how churches were established in the beginning. The lesson here is that Biblical evangelistic practices are essential to a successful church. If we marginalize this truth we are destined for disaster. 

A Pure Church

Since the beginning of the Church at Pentecost, there have been Christians who were concerned with its purity. “Too much corruption” has been the cry of those that were vexed by the unrighteousness that has existed within. Not only have corrupt forms of worship or false doctrines been of concern, but also corrupt membership. From the Apostle Paul unto this very day there have been those that sought to protect the churches from wicked persons. In the early days of the Church it was easier to keep such persons out because of the persecution associated with converting to Christianity; however, over time, as Christianity became more accepted, the ungodly have knocked at the doors. Knowing that we all are capable of sin, the doorkeepers, under the constraint of their own frailness, have often allowed all but the vilest of sinners inside. As a reaction to this practice, whole sects have popped up within Christianity in an attempt to form on earth a Church “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”

The Donatists

It would be useful at this point to point out some events that took place in the centuries following the book of Acts. In 303 AD a Roman Emperor by the name of Diocletian came to power and sorely persecuted the churches. Many Christians were put to death. Some Christians renounced Christ as a result, and some handed over names of other Christians, as well as sacred writings to be burned. These people were known as traditors (Latin meaning “to turn over”). After Diocletian’s death some of these people attempted to rejoin the Christians. One of these traditors, named Caecilian, had returned to the fold and was consecrated Bishop of Carthage in North Africa. This did not sit well with those that believed that persecution was a means of detecting who was and who was not a legitimate believer. Those who rebelled against him appointed Majorinus as a rival bishop; however, Majorinus died shortly after and Donatus took his place to continue the rejection of such compromise. The group separated from the Church and came to be known abusively as Donatists. Their actions were considered divisive and uncharitable to those that wanted to forgive and forget.

In answer to the Donatists, Augustine devised a theory of the Church, which was to guide orthodox Christian thought on the subject. There were, according to Augustine, two churches. One was the pure but invisible; it included every person living, dead, or yet to be born, whom God had predestined for salvation. The other was visible but not entirely pure; it included all living persons who professed to believe in Christianity. Since not all people that profess Christ are true believers, the “visible church” could not be without spot or wrinkle. Augustine, however, did believe that we should strive to maintain purity within the Church by excluding gross sinners until they visibly repented of their sins. Nevertheless, we were set on course for a time when churches accepted membership of individuals who had little or no testimony to the grace of God working in their lives. 

Church and church 

It is my understanding of the New Covenant that there are only two ways the word church is used. The first is “The Church.” The Church (ecclesia) is similar to how Augustine put it, it includes every person living, dead, or yet to be born, who is written in the Lambs Book of Life. The other way the word church is used is for the local church. The church that assembled at Ephesus was a local church. All of the Saints down through the ages comprise “The Church.” According to the pattern set forth by Jesus in the Revelation, He deals with  local churches ministering to their needs. As the people gather into an assembly and turn their hearts to Him – He begins to deal with the church according to its specific needs. Revelation 2 and 3 gives seven examples of how this plays out. The key is that the people must have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to them. If they hear and obey they will be rewarded, if they do not they will suffer the appropriate consequence. 

So we see then that the Church and the church are comprised of genuine saints that have been born of the Spirit. They are TRUE disciples of Christ and are bent on having Him direct their lives. This is true individually and as an assembly. The saints gather together to remember the Lord, give thanks to Him, honor and praise Him. They assemble to hear from the Lord and to be built up by His grace. These things are done to ensure that the church fulfills its calling to be God’s unique and special possession. Any alteration of the Biblical principals set forth in our study are bound to compromise the capacity of the church or the individual to move in their unique calling. 

When God Does The Work

When God Does The Work
Robert Wurtz II

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this:

“… He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.”

And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 

And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. (Act 8:26-39)

A True Work of Grace

When God put together the scriptures, He was not like Google that is attempting to provide access to all human knowledge, but rather, he assembled a series of true short stories to tell the big story of salvation through Jesus Christ. The German theologians call it heilsgeschichte; a fancy word that simply means “salvation history.” As I read this account in Acts chapter 8, I see three main truths that we need to grasp. First, the man of God, Philip, was led of the Spirit in his ministry. Second, when a person understands and receives the Word (the Gospel) their is a change of heart that begins to take place that is real and effective. Third, when a person is really changed there is no need for follow up. 

A Right Response

When the eunuch saw water, he wanted to be baptized. Clearly this means that Phillip’s presentation of the Gospel included that as part of the process, otherwise, how would he have desired it? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Obviously Phillip also preached faith to this man. The eunuch’s response is instructive. See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? There was no fuss over baptism in water. The man heard God’s will, and as his right response, he yearned to fulfill it. It seems as if the man would have jumped from a moving chariot to get to the water. 

Left To Himself

In modern times, Christians believe that the main thing we need is more discipleship in order to curb the wholesale backsliding that happens after our evangelistic efforts. Obviously, someone forgot to tell the Holy Spirit and Philip this; because no sooner did this man come up from the water the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more. At this point in the story most ministers and Christians are scratching their heads. What just happened? You mean to tell me Philip didn’t even bother to leave this man some “materials to read to guide him in his spiritual walk?” Well, he already had portions of the Bible, right? I mean, he was reading from it when Philip arrived. Is it possible that God could so change a man that he would not need to be led by the hand, prodded and poked, called three times a week on his cell phone, and put with an accountability partner, in order to “stay saved”? Obviously, not only is this true, it is an example that was written for our learning.

My Sheep Hear My Voice

Paul Washer once rightly said, “you cannot disciple a goat into a sheep.” Unless the person goes through the crisis event of genuine regeneration, they are still a goat no matter how much training we give them. Salvation is of the Lord. Once a person passes from goat to sheep; that is to say, from death to life and from the power of Satan unto the power of God, a whole new reality takes place in their life. Does Satan have discipleship programs for goats? No, he relies on their sinful nature to lead them according to his own lusts. They don’t need to be prodded to sin, they only need means and opportunity. Likewise, when a person is truly born from above, the Holy Spirit comes in and works in them both to will and to do God’s good pleasure. He is more than capable of leading them in the process of spiritual growth. In the words of Jesus:

Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:25-28)

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