By Don Koenig
I have written about much error in the Church for what I believe are good reasons and I have also written about the dark side of Christianity that talks about legalism in the church and those who condemn other confessing Christians for too many petty reasons. I feel I need to speak further on this issue and give my views about confessing Christians that are condemning other confessing Christians to hell over nonessential salvation doctrines of the faith.
In our personal walk in the flesh, we all make errors. The theology of the best theologians in the history of the world contains errors. If we condemn those who make errors in what is not essential doctrines of the Christian faith for salvation, or if we judge deeds of Christians and say because they do not meet our personal moral standard they are not in the body of Christ, we bring judgment on ourselves. By the same measure with which we judge other Christians we ourselves must be judged. When we set up our own criteria to define who is and who is not a true Christian (apart from the absolute truth of how one receives salvation) we very well might find ourselves falling short of our own standard. If we had walked a mile in our brother's shoes and played the hand he was dealt in life, I am sure their would be far less condemnation of Christians by Christians.
As readers of my website should know, I get very upset about the amillennial, post millennial and preterist theology that is plaguing Christianity today. I also get very upset with movements that are inclusive of denominations whose doctrines deny the only true path to salvation. I have even said that some huge Christian organizations have gone off track in this area and for this reason, I can no longer support them. I said this because some of them are sending people back to the same denominations where they never heard the gospel to start with.
All this is true and my anger continues but it is one thing for me to say the leaders of these organizations are wrong and in error and it is quite another for me or anyone else to condemn these leaders and their followers and accuse them of being allied with the forces of Hell. I am hearing confessing Christians condemning confessing Christians to Hell even though those they condemn teach the essential doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is not right and those taking part in this condemnation are more in danger of condemnation than are those they condemn.
The main reason some Christian leaders teach the things they do is that they lack proper understanding of the scriptures. They often just embrace incorrect theology taught to them in seminary. I need to reemphasize that knowing all correct theology on non-essentials of the faith is not required for salvation or none of us would be saved. I am not saying that correct doctrine is not important - it is very important. What I am saying is that neither you nor I have all correct doctrine. If you really believe you do, you are only self deceived.
The fact remains, even if they have what I feel is wrong theology, many of these leaders do lead people to Christ and if they are doing this work of the Spirit, they simply cannot be in league with Satan. We must have unity in the essentials of the faith and grace in the non-essentials or we will all condemn each other.
This does not mean that I cannot criticize a person, organization or doctrine when I believe there is error. It does mean I should not judge their motivation as if I know they are willfully in league with Satan because I cannot possibly know that. Nor should I question their salvation when at the same time they confess and lead others to our Lord. This grace I should give toward other Christians also does not mean that I should accept as Christians those whose doctrine or actions are clearly demonic and destructive to the Body of Christ (e.g. those cults which do not accept the essentials of the Christian faith outlined in the apostle's creed and whose doctrine truly leads people to a "Jesus" that is not found in the inspired scriptures).
Some have even condemned people like Billy Graham because he is more ecumenical than they like. Many have linked him to the occult and accused him of being in league with the Antichrist because they read some lie about him being a Mason somewhere on the Internet. I hope in my life that with God's help I will accomplish even one percent of what God used Billy Graham to do to reach souls for Christ. He did present the gospel of salvation very clearly and he was very effective. As he aged he seems to have modified his views so that some of what he says does not line up with clear teaching in scripture. So lets challenge those views and not his salvation.
Yes, there are those who will criticize and say that confessing belief in Jesus is not enough and that you must display your belief by works. However, nobody has ever come up with a good litmus test to classify what displayed work makes a confessing believer a true believer. Besides, the deeds a confessing believer does at one point in his life may have nothing to do with what he does at another point in his life. Does that mean that he is not saved during all periods? Some denominations and Christians would say yes but these lack understanding about what it means to be born from above into a new creation.
Most if not all Christians have unproductive periods in their lives. Does that mean that during these unproductive or even destructive times they are no longer saved? Of course not! Christians are taking a journey in life with the help of the Holy Spirit. On that journey sometimes we descend into valleys because it is not possible to take a long journey only on mountain tops. Anyone who takes a long journey will have to go up hills and down into valleys. Who but God can judge the hearts of those who are now in the valleys? When we are on the mountains and we are looking down, all seem to fall short of where we are. However, when we ourselves are in the valleys and we are looking up at those on the mountains we might wonder how our light can be seen at all and why God would even bother with us.
When we are on the mountains, would it not be better to give grace and to aid those in the valleys and to offer them help so they can get to the place we are at? Instead, many of us like to jump to the conclusion that all those in the valleys are in the valley of the damned. That is, until we ourselves lose our bearings and find ourselves in the valley. Then we cry for grace from those on the hilltops to help us find the way out but few help and some hinder by throwing rocks at us. Nevertheless, we should know that God has grace enough to hear the cries of even wayward sons lost in the valleys and He Himself will lead us out.
In our Christian walk the important thing is not that we have climbed a mountain or descended into a valley for this is only temporal. What is most important is why are we are making this journey of hope at all? Are we by faith trusting in Jesus to direct our paths to a city whose builder and maker is God? With that in mind, the focus should always be on our hope and not on our present circumstances because circumstances will change daily. Our hope and our desire should be the salvation of our souls, to obtain entrance into the city of gold, and to hear our Lord say to us “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord” and to receive eternal rewards. This is where our hearts should be focused in all the circumstances of our temporal walk.
Those who tell me that Christians should not desire rewards from the Lord but should do everything out of love, have never really thought through why we love the Lord. We love the Lord because He first loved us and saved us from our sins. The love comes because He promises those of us who trust Him the reward of salvation of our souls.
The just rewards that accompany that salvation is according to what we did by the Spirit while we occupied the body of flesh. Scripture makes it clear that we are to run the race for eternal rewards, so please do not tell me that to do deeds for Christ expecting eternal rewards is a selfish motivation. It is no more selfish then expecting salvation as a reward because you have trusted in Him.
Since I have heard this said so often, I might take away my grace for a moment from those who say this and say that I believe that those who say such things are saying them to sound wise and humble in the eyes of the group they said it to. To me they just display that they lack understanding. Children do expect gifts from their father and Christians are no exception. We were created so the Father could show His love for us by giving us good gifts. The first and foremost gift was Jesus who saved us so we could enter the door to receive many other eternal rewards.
There certainly is a promise of eternal rewards for the deeds done in the body in the scriptures. God tells us to desire spiritual gifts. The result of us using those gifts for the cause of the kingdom of heaven is eternal rewards. In any case, a Christian would have to be a fool not to desire eternal rewards from God.
Some say, "just give me salvation and the presence of the Lord". They think if you work for rewards it is selfish and wrong - this is false humility. Tell Paul not to run for the prize! He said he ran the race and fought the good fight for rewards. Tell those in in hall of faith in Hebrews that what they did was not for the hope of rewards.
Many who say such things do not understand that when we get to the Holy City we are not all going to be all sitting around strumming on harps in Heaven saying Holy Holy Holy for eternity. This is not going to be some kind of emotional trip for eternity like some seem to think. Do not confuse the wedding ceremony and the coronation of the King displayed in Revelation with normal every day life in the eternal Kingdom.
We are going to have real tasks and responsibilities in God's new creation and those with responsibility are those who have proven by their works that they can be trusted (e.g. the servant given leadership over ten cities). These get their rewards for eternity by doing good works during their sojourn on earth.
Eternity is forever and it will be a little late for us to work for eternal rewards after the rewards have already been handed out, so let us all get busy and work while it is still day. We all should believe that rewards are a rightful expectation for those doing the will of God. If one wants, one can believe he has few or no rewards because he thinks working for rewards is a selfish motivation. I however, will not and I do not accept that presumption. I know Enoch, by faith, walked with God for 300 years and this pleased God so much that Enoch never saw death. What was Enoch doing during the 300-year walk? Was he into a continual mystical experience saying Holy, Holy, Holy all the time or was he working everyday doing God's will because he understood that God rewards those who diligently seek Him?
What is faith anyway but the substance of things hoped for? Faith is the hope that we will receive eternal rewards from God for trusting and obeying Jesus. Unbelievers cannot see the evidence of the things we hope for but we can.
Now that I am done chasing that pet peeve of a rabbit, let me get back on topic and say God will judge who is a true believer and who is not. This is really an issue between God and that person. I am convinced that no true believer will ever be lost. Some of the criticism I am hearing against all in Christian leadership is nothing but rebellion. This certainly is not from God when these critics are judging the souls of confessing Christians and implying that their motivation (not just their doctrine) comes from Satan. The criticism seems to be across the board against almost all Christian leaders and anything they teach. Again I say, none of this is coming from God.
Many Christian leaders are being attacked as being apostate and even Antichrist while they publicly confess Jesus Christ as Lord to the world! For example: how many times have I heard that Rick Warren is the Antichrist because he seems to embrace the belief that the Church will Christianize the world?! I do not find his assumption in scripture until after the return of the King, I also disagree with his form of replacement theology and I will continue to teach against it. Nevertheless, the Bible says the world will be Christianized in the millennium. There is no reason to think that Rick Warren is not a brother in Christ just because of his view on the millennium and on his view of eschatology.
Rick Warren, and many like him, may not see that the conversion of the world is after the return of King because of their replacement theology that the Church is Israel. So because I believe this theology is in error, do I now jump to the conclusion that those who believe the spiritual body of Christ establishes the kingdom on earth are antichrist, or in Warren's case "the Antichrist"?! These claims are simply loony. They are not at all logical! As far as I know, Rick Warren and people like him confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of the world! Warren is not "the Antichrist" and he is not even anti Christ. All who are saying such things that claim to be Christian should check out where their own motivation for saying such things comes from.
In our zeal to have pure doctrine, let us have the grace not to condemn those who are doing the best they can with the theology or light that they have. Instead, let us turn on a brighter light so that they can see the truth more clearly. We should correct Warren and others that do not teach sound doctrine. We should let him and others know that we do not believe the Bible supports their positions. We should not condemn them.
We also should let them know we will not accept the watering down of the gospel just to make it more appealing to the world. In no uncertain terms we should say that we will not compromise the gospel to be popular to an unbelieving world. If the approach to win the lost is not of God it will certainly fail to achieve that. Therefore, let true Christians give Warren reasons from scripture why this worldly, market driven, pop psychology approach will fail. However, let us have the grace not to put our own confessing brethren in the same camp as the Devil or call him the Antichrist.
In almost all churches - amillennial, premillennial, preterist, dispensational and in those who take no position on these issues at all - there is a healthy small core group of very dedicated believers who love the Lord and seek to do His will. Because we think we are more enlightened about end time events and Bible prophecy, do we now make all these other Christians second class citizens in the body of Christ or even say they are not part of it?
Many in these core groups might be doing more for the cause of Christ than many of their critics. To believe that someone is less Christian than ourselves because their non-essential theology is different from ours, is a grave error. It is an error as bad as the Pentecostals saying that Evangelicals have not reached the same spiritual level as they have because they do not accept their doctrine that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate experience from conversion and evidenced by speaking in tongues. The works produced over the centuries In Evangelical churches by people led by the Holy Spirit prove that this doctrine is a lie. (It also should be changed because it is unwarranted and divisive.)
These grave errors - and all grave errors where we do not properly discern the body of Christ - divide the true body of Christ and we should have no part in it. As Paul said, "This is why there are many sick in the Church and why many have died". He said it was because they did not properly discern the body of Christ. Paul was not talking about being in a state of reverence toward a wafer or a cracker or us having sin in our lives when we take it because we all have sin in our lives when we take it, rather, he was talking about specific sin against the Body - the Church.
Thus, In the full context and understanding of the passage I believe he was saying that those in the body who have no regard for the poorer or weaker members in the Church in their love feasts (or in other areas) are not treating the body of Christ as they ought. Paul was saying the Lord will not hold those in His Body as represented by the loaf of bread unaccountable. Those who have no regard for those in the Body are working against the unity of the Body.
Yes, we should work out our own salvation in fear and trembling because the Lord rightfully judges the motives of His people. We died with Christ at the cross and only by grace do we live in the flesh to do good works for the cause of the Kingdom. When we are no longer productive and are destructive to the Body we should fear the Lord because He just might decide for the good of the Body that we need to be removed. Thus, the warning from Paul about why some are corrected and others are no longer with us.
That does not mean that Christians are not to correct bad doctrine when they can give a reasonable argument from scripture that the teacher is wrong. Steel sharpens steel and disagreement on doctrine cause us to learn from each other. Nevertheless, because we believe someone is wrong, let us not pridefully say that a confessing family member has defected to Satan. Jesus said ,“He who is not against us is for us”.
As a good example: Many are against Promise Keepers and have many hard things to say about the movement and about their leaders. Much of what is said has some merit but if you have been in as many different Evangelical Churches as I have you will know that the men who really love the Lord in the various denominations for the most part are the same group of men that go to these Promise Keeper functions.
If we find a problem with some of the teachings that comes from some of their leadership (as I do) then let us try to correct the problems as much as possible from within by dialogue and correction. If we find after expressing our grievances to them and to our local church leadership that they will not stay on solid biblical ground, then we should indeed separate from their activities. At least we will have expressed to them and the godly men in our individual churches why we will not join with this group.
Those that say that this group or the leadership of this group is knowingly or even unknowingly leading Christians into a world religion are frankly dead wrong. There is little doubt that the remnant of ecumenical groups like Promise Keepers will join with world religion after the rapture. However, what these critics are not telling you is that all other religious groups that have been left behind after the rapture will also be joining with the world religion. So why act as if this movement is somehow the one bringing in the Antichrist? The Antichrist cannot come, I repeat, he cannot come until the true Church together with the restrainer within the Church (the Holy Spirit) is taken out of his way.
Those who have taken a harsh stand against this movement for men and against other similar movements for woman often find themselves fighting against pastors and elders who are only trying to lead the men and women of their flock into a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Believe me, the men of some Baptist churches as well as some other denominations need to go to Promise Keepers if for no other reason that they will have to get out of their frozen chosen pew and relate to other Christian men of other denominations in the body of Christ. They might also learn something from the way other Christians worship the Lord, pray and fellowship.
I would much rather be associated with men who are on an emotional high for Jesus that might fade than to be with cold pew sitters who do the once a week Sunday ritual and claimed they have been saved because they were once baptized and now have membership in some Christian denomination. If we actually find we can no longer support Promise Keepers because of grave differences with their leadership then what alternative can we Christians institute in our churches so that our men develop leadership skills and grow spiritually?
In conclusion, in the non-essentials of the faith let us give grace. After all, the Savior gave us grace while we were still dead in our sins. Let the spiritual and proven among the Church serve meat from the word. Too much milk sucked through straws handed out by theologians with their own narrow agendas continue to soil the diapers of those who should long ago be eating meat. Let the spiritual feast together on the meat of the Word. Only the Word will bring Christians to any real unity in the faith because that unity must be based on sound biblical doctrine. Those well trained in tasting the meat of the Word will recognize what is real, what is an imitation, and what is a garnish that is not essential for the nourishment of the Body.
Because we have few meat eaters in the churches today, flavored milk is usually given out in many churches because that is all the spiritual infants sitting in their crib pews will stomach. Rather than dividing the church over whether to serve chocolate or white milk let the spiritual in the Church wean the infants by teaching them how to chew and to taste for themselves that the meat of the Word is good and when swallowed and digested brings strength to the Body.
This is called discipleship and it is best done in small groups or one on one. Let us also give grace to all that confess Jesus as Lord without compromising sound doctrine as we should all know that this is the Lord's will.
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