Monday, August 12, 2013

An Exegesis of Romans 14

An Exegesis of Romans 14

1.       Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.

[Receiving one who is weak in the faith is welcoming one who has not yet grown strong enough in his new-found liberty in Christ to feel free to eat all things. His Jewish upbringing, for example, had trained his conscience to avoid certain meats. For example, even after 8-10 years of being a Christian, Peter did not understand that the old-law diet restrictions had been changed. He could not “kill and eat” as the Lord instructed him in Acts 10 because his conscience had not yet understood that God had cleansed those unclean animals and now he was at liberty to kill and eat animals that his conscience had been trained to think of as unclean for a Jew all of his life. His conscience was “weak in the faith”.

Each time a Jew was converted to Christ there was an adjustment period for his conscience.  Until he can grow accustomed to the new liberties, it was not time to force him to violate his conscience.  We are to receive him, but not get into disputes with him over things about which his conscience needs time to adjust to the new liberties. The stronger Christians are not to force his conscience. We are free to gently teach him the truth and encourage him to expand his conscience into full liberty, but do not belittle and antagonize him into doing a thing he does not have to do to please God and that before and without his conscience being fully assured and ready to participate in eating a particular formerly unclean food item. The Amplified Bible speaks this way:

14:1 AS FOR the man who is a weak believer, welcome him [into your fellowship], but not to criticize his opinions or pass judgment on his scruples or perplex him with discussions. AMP

Paul is not speaking of being weak in believing the gospel, but weak in believing in the extent to which he can adjust his conscience to the liberty in Christ. This section is about how to apply love to brethren who struggle with the adjustment of his conscience to the liberty in Christ.  We welcome into our fellowship the newborn babes that do not know what the conscience can allow and should allow. We do not welcome the weak brother with a view to antagonizing them and discouraging them before their conscience has time to grow into the liberty in Christ. The conscience has got to be handled carefully and gently and patiently brought along as a babe is not expected to be able to do what mature people are able to do. Paul will now discuss the particular issues he has in mind.]

2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.

[There is a right position and a wrong position here, but there is not a position here that immediately involves one in SIN. The one who believes he may eat all things is actually correct. But, the person who has a problem eating certain foods is not trying to bind that view on others and therefore is not trying to restrict another’s conscience or teach others the doctrines and commandments of men. The more knowledgeable brother (the one with the correct view that we may eat all things) does not need to “despise” a brother for being ignorant on this point and for having a conscience issue on what he feels he can eat.  He may have served God and trained his conscience under the old system where certain meats were restricted. His conscience had been trained to please God this way and now those restrictions no longer apply. Even if a newborn babe in Christ can intellectually absorb that for others in Christ, it does not mean his conscience is emotionally ready to switch into that gear and go that way. 

So, if we know the principle of love and we know this is not an issue of sin, we should know that despising this brother or sister is really the last thing they need from us right now. They are not to be judging the eater, because the eater is not sinning by eating. Thus, the non-eater is not to judge the eater as doing wrong. This also means that the non-eater is not binding his conscience on another or trying to teach the doctrines of men and bind them upon others. Thus, both sides of this issue are not engaging a sin issue whether they eat all things or if they hold a conscience that does not allow one to eat all things.  Freedom to eat all things does not necessitate that we eat all things.  If a conscience is not ready to give itself the freedom, but does not impose his conscience on others, there should be no problem in allowing each to live with their differences within freedom.  If he was “baptized into Christ”(Rom.6:3-5), the master (Jesus) has been able to make him stand right with God.  Which brings us to Paul’s next point.]

4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

[Our brethren are not our servants or slaves.  They do not have to please us in every way. They do not have to immediately bow to our consciences just because it is our conscience and we know the truth on the matter.  Each brother has to bring his conscience into conformity with what he has learned and is assured is God’s will. God made Peter to stand even when his conscience did not feel that he could eat the things God let down in a sheet.  He thought some of those animals were “unclean”(Acts 10). His knowledge was wrong and therefore his conscience was wrong, but God was “able to make him stand”. Was Peter in such error as to be out of fellowship with God? No!  When he learned better, he could bring his conscience into a fuller level of liberty, but until then, each must be allowed to grow and expand their knowledge and the liberty of their conscience in time.

We cannot judge every servant of another man.  We would have to know exactly what that servant’s master thinks of that servant.  When we learn what our master expects of us, we adjust our conscience and behavior accordingly.  We simply do not know what we do not know and will have to rely upon the master to correct us and to believe that he will do so when He deems that time to be right. Peter was corrected on the matter of meats by his own master.  If the Lord had no problem with Peter for 8 years remaining ignorant about this issue, a matter involving no sin against his master, then another servant had no business judging Peter and declaring him to not be right with God.  To his own master he stood. A newborn babe is made to stand right with God and he cannot go against his present understanding of what God is pleased for him to do and refrain from doing.  His conscience must be developed as he learns from the Master.]


5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.

[Here is a principle of spiritual development. We cannot move into an activity that we are not first “fully convinced” is right. We must not be reckless. We must be careful. There is a right and wrong about this issue, but there is not necessarily a SIN involved in the wrong position.  Esteeming a day, like the Jews who kept the Sabbath Day holy (the seventh day, our Saturday) may not now be the right position, but it may not involve the newly converted Jew in SIN either. Before the newly converted Jew throws it to the wind, he needs to first be “fully convinced” that he can safely do that before his God.  Each conscience is to be carefully trained and that means we should patiently allow each person’s conscience to be adjusted according to the rate of growth in their understanding, knowledge, and conviction.]

6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

[This is not said where ignorance is used to judge others. If a newborn babe tries to bind the Sabbath on others, the others need to speak up and defend their liberty in Christ.  If the newborn babe is trying to bind dietary laws from Leviticus on the Christians, they must speak up and not allow such to be bound. But, where an individual is not binding on others but is simply not sure they can give themselves the liberty that others are engaging, then the charitable thing to do is to allow them the room to develop their own personal conscience since God is the one they are seeking to honor and God has allowed them to stand without perfect knowledge.

But, let us notice the difference between Paul encouraging patience and love in the case of individual conscience and the very different case in Galatians where he is “afraid” for those Galatians who “observe days”(Gal.4:10f).  The difference in the approach in the two cases is that of personal conscience versus the binding of the law upon others for their right standing before God. To brethren who have not tried to teach the false doctrine that we must observe days in order to be right with God, but who merely have a hard time moving their conscience into the full liberty of Christ, Paul urges that we receive them and treat them with love and care for their consciences. But, when brethren begin teaching others the error that God requires the observance of days and of clean and unclean meats, then this is a time to be greatly concerned. It perverts the gospel and endangers the souls of all. We cannot coddle such people. It is no longer an individual conscience matter. It is now a perversion of what is to be taught to others in training THEIR consciences.  The wrong standard cannot be passed along to others.]

7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.

[None of us Christians are living to ourselves. We are living to God, and for the good of others.  We also have to live with the consequences of making those around us miserable. We live and die to God and for the purpose of getting our own conscience in order. That will involve us in the work of loving our neighbor as ourselves. This means that we cannot force our will and conscience upon others. We can tenderly and patiently teach them as they allow us, but we cannot force a growth rate upon them that their conscience is not ready to handle. We live and die among people, and we must be sure we love them and are handling their conscience needs as we would like to be handled. Remember the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.]

 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

[We Christians “live to the Lord” and we “die to the Lord”. This means that we know that life and death is in the Lord’s hands, and we live and die to please the Lord.  If this is truly what we are about, then how can we force people to act against their conscience?  The Lord holds authority over all, and we are to try to teach what the Lord wants and wills for us, but each Christian must live to the Lord to the level of knowledge he/she has acquired and to the extent that their conscience has been properly trained. We are the Lord’s. We belong to Him. Our actions toward one another should reflect that consciousness.]


10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.   11 For it is written:


"As I live, says the LORD,

Every knee shall bow to Me,

And every tongue shall confess to God."  


12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.

[Judging our brother is condemning him/her for not acting according to our conscience.  Showing contempt for a brother shows a problem with our own maturity in Christ.  There are times to show righteous indignation, but it is not because a person whom we know has been baptized into Christ has not grown to our level of liberty in conscience.  If a person is simply hesitant to do something, such as eat a particular meat because his conscience does not feel right about it, it is not a situation that calls for condemnation and contempt.  We will give account to God for how we treat those with a weaker conscience.  If a brother is confessing Jesus but does not feel free to engage a particular liberty yet, we must be careful that we do not put a stumbling block in the way.  When a person acts contrary to what they are convinced is right, they are not acting by faith and they are doing damage to their conscience.

Giving account of ourselves will involve how we treated a brother.  Jesus said “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren you did it to me”(Matt.25:33ff).  A brother that is doing his best to understand and do the will of God is precious in the eyes of God. In a matter of liberty where it is not required that all conform to the common things performed together in the assembly, there is room to let the individual conscience develop at the pace that each can handle.  In some things there is no hurry and there is no need to press a brother into an action in which his conscience is not yet ready.  A person must first be fully convinced in his own mind that it is right with God before he acts. Paul will now state the truth of the issue at hand.]

14, I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

[Paul is making the point that his knowing and being convinced that he can eat all things and that there is nothing unclean of itself does not necessarily translate into a brother knowing and being convinced of the same. When a person “tests all things” and come to knowledge and conviction, then they can adjust their conscience accordingly. Until then, there has to be respect for a man struggling to do the right thing but needing some space to retrain his conscience.  The food that Paul feels free to eat is still food that a brother feels is unclean.  What does Paul think God wants him to do toward this brother?]


15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.

[The “grieving” here is not so much because you feel that you have the liberty to eat this particular food, but that you knew he was having a problem with this issue and yet you decided to serve it to him anyway. You cannot destroy with food unless you served it to them against their conscience. You cannot destroy a brother by eating your food away from him. It is only possible to destroy a brother with your food if you serve it to him and expect him to eat it against his conscience.  Vincent’s NT Word Studies says of this word, “grieved”:  It is a "hurt" to conscience, which, while not necessarily fatal, may lead to violation or hardening of conscience, and finally to fall. Compare 1 Cor. 8:9-12.-Unquote!

We do not hurt his conscience by our own private eating. We hurt his conscience when we bring pressure for him to go against his own conscience. We do that by serving food to him that he feels is unclean. Now, he is in the dilemma of feeling he must either insult his host by not eating what is served, or go ahead and eat what he feels is unclean. We did not give him another option, and our good (showing hospitality) can now be spoken of as evil.]

16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

[The kingdom of God is about “serving Christ” the King of all kings, and His kingdom is “not of this world”(John 18:26). It has a primary mission of promoting righteousness, peace, and joy “in the Holy Spirit”.  When food becomes more important than those things, we have quit serving Christ and have begun again to serve our own desires and appetites.  When you pressure a man to do what he is not convinced himself is right, your good in the kingdom can be spoken of as evil.  You have forgotten that the kingdom of God is about doing the right thing, peace among ourselves and within ourselves, and it is about joy in Christ, not making a brother or sister miserable.  Let us keep in mind that eating all things is not a matter of righteousness, though it is a correct position to hold.  Let us also keep in mind that a brother may be wrong about whether a certain food is unclean, but he is not sinning by refraining from eating such, and he is right to protect his conscience until he can educate it and then adjust it.

By judging, ridiculing, and despising a weaker conscience and trying to belittle them and pressure them into conformity with our own practice, we are not promoting righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Remember, we are not being forced against our own conscience to be compassionate and understanding toward the weaker conscience. We are not compromising the truth of the gospel by allowing a soul to grow into the knowledge of the new freedoms in Christ. We are not allowing a false teacher to force the traditions of men upon the church.  We are merely allowing a conscience room to grow and be at peace while doing so.]

19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.

[Since the kingdom of God is about righteousness, and this issue is not a matter of moral right or wrong, and since the kingdom of God is about peace within ourselves and among ourselves, then here is a good way to handle a difference between us. We want peace and edification between us. Pursue the things that make for peace. One of the things we can do is to be careful not to force a brother to violate his conscience. Give him room to grow.  As edification and learning takes root, he may in time learn that he can indeed consider that there are no foods that God characterizes as unclean in the kingdom.  But, as long as he thinks he should refrain from some foods, then don’t tempt him to harm his own conscience.]

20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.

[The man with a weaker conscience is still “the work of God”. He is “created in Christ Jesus for good works”. He has much potential. We all grow and develop our consciences.  Let others grow their consciences in matters that you know are liberties, not moral or congregational essentials. When a man eats “with offense”, he is eating while his conscience hurts.  We cause a man to stumble when we pressure a man to violate his conscious conviction before he has had time to study, come to new conviction and thus retrain his conscience.  Do not be the reason a man “eats with offense” for such may send him to disillusionment and then to a destruction of his faith in Jesus and His people. For the sake of optional food, would we take such a careless approach to someone that God has “created in Christ Jesus for good works”?]

21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.

[Your brother can stumble, be offended, or be made weak and be destroyed, thus he can fall from grace. If we pressure a brother to go against his conscience, we can do damage of an eternal nature. It would be far better to abstain from the meat or wine or anything that can influence another in the wrong way. Perhaps they think you are not taking sin seriously and so neither should they. We can refrain from some liberties if it will encourage people to take sin seriously.]


22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.

[If we have faith that no meats are unclean, that is good to have to yourself. But, when you are involving others and bearing an influence upon others, be careful that you are not condemning yourself by being careless about how you are affecting people around you.  It is not all about your rights. It is also about your influence on others.]

23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.   NKJV

[If a person has doubts about whether it is right before God to eat certain meats, he is acting sinfully if he eats. There is an important principle here.  If we cannot prove something is right to our own conscience by the word of God we cannot act until we remove the doubt and have confidence that it is right. Silence is not permission. Silence creates doubt. If we cannot be sure that something is right, we cannot do it by faith.  Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom.10:17).  God’s word is the corrector of the conscience. Until our conscience has removed the doubt by the assurance of God’s word, then we cannot act.  Whatever is not of faith is sin.

Now a word about the misuse of this text and context.  Be careful of brethren who try to conveniently throw every issue into a Romans 14 matter.  Every issue was not handled the same way as instructed here. For example the same issues are handled differently in Galatians.  Every issue is not the same as a liberty. The man who had his father’s wife at Corinth (1 Cor.5) was not to be coddled as you patiently wait for his conscience to learn better.  Some things are actually sinful, not liberties. They must be handled with urgency.  

Some issues are divisive and a brother needs to be marked and avoided (Rom.16:17). So, even in Romans we can see that all issues are not to be handled the same way. We must be careful to weigh each issue on the merits of the issue and whether sin is clearly involved, or if it is a matter of individual liberty and conscience. 

There may be some principles that we can use to deal with issues like the covering of 1 Corinthians 11, but we must exercise great caution and care before we use Romans 14 as a cure-all for all divisions.  There are times when we must take a stand on the merits of the issue.  One thing that we must keep in mind is that Romans 14 is about liberties that are not matters of sin. Neither side of the issue is sinning in practice though attitudes can become sinful and careless. Colossians 2 also warns about allowing someone to bind the doctrines of men upon the church. We cannot allow ourselves to become tolerant of anything and everything.  Personal conscience is to be handled with care and love. Let us determine to study each issue out with care and love and without compromise of the truth. – Terry W. Benton


Monday, June 10, 2013

Are Business Meetings Scriptural?

Are Business Meetings Scriptural?

Answer:   They are as scriptural as song-books, church buildings, Bible
classes for all ages.  Are those things scriptural?  Yes!  But, you will not
find specific examples of any of these in the Bible.  A recent Bible class
question discussed whether there is any “example” of a church having men’s
business meetings.  The implication was that it was questionable if there
was no biblical “example” of it.  However, I believe the reasoning is
flawed.  Here are my thoughts on why I believe a men’s business meeting is a
scriptural expediency.

            First, let me say that an “example” is not all the necessary
criteria to determine whether a thing is scripturally authorized.  The
premise that an “example” must show such a thing is faulty logic.  There is
no example of communion trays, song books, black boards,
church-owned-property, or banks to hold and keep the church treasury.  There
are no “examples” of churches dividing into classes.  However, all of these
things are scriptural expediencies. 

            Secondly, the relevent questions have to be asked in order to
arrive at the proper answer to our question.  1) Is it scriptural for
churches to have matters of business to attend to?  2) If not, then no one
(including elders and deacons) should meet at any time to discuss any
matters of business belonging to the church.  3) If it is scriptural for
churches to have matters of business to attend to, then expedient
arrangements should be made to attend to those matters (with or without
elders and deacons).  Business can include discussion of maintenance and
upkeep concerns of facilities, class needs, materials, teaching arrangement
needs, considerations for growth efforts, information exchanges on budget,
and fallen members.  These are business concerns of the church, and they
must be expediently addressed with or without elders and deacons.
Therefore, a men’s business meeting is a scriptural expediency for handling
the business needs of the church.

            Thirdly, a local church is fully authorized to make any kind of
expedient arrangements for any temporal needs.  For example, the church in
Judea had a need to administer to the needy Grecian widows (Acts 6).  They
were instructed to choose seven men to see after this need.  Thus, when the
situation calls for special arrangements, the church can make special
arrangements for special situational needs.  The church at Corinth was
rebuked for not making arrangements to “judge” a case between two brethren
instead of letting the disagreement go before the courts of unbelievers (1
Cor.6).  There should have been at least one righteous man they could have
arranged to judge the case inside the church.  Thus, the church can arrange
for holding its’ own court with men in leading judgment roles (1 Cor.6;
11:3; 14:33f).  If you were to ask for a specific “example” of a church
arranging its own court, we could not give an “example”.  But, if you ask if
it is “scripturally EXPEDIENT” for churches to hold their own courts when
needed, we would find such authority in 1 Cor.6.  A men’s business meeting
does not take the place of anything.  It does not abuse anything. It simply
arranges to carry out expedient ways to tending to the necessary business
that churches have with or without elders. 

            The men’s business meeting is simply representative heads of
households (1 Cor.11:3) meeting to discuss and decide expedient matters that
need to be handled.  It does not replace the need for elders, nor the role
and work of elders.  But, if it is expedient for churches WITH elders to
meet to discuss the business of the church, then it is certainly expedient
for churches WITHOUT elders to make arrangements to see to the business of
the church.  There is no specific authority for elders and deacons to hold a
“business meeting”.  There are no “examples” of it.  Likewise, there is no
specific authority for churches to arrange for classes.  But, there is
general authority, and there is general authority for heads of households to
meet to discuss the business of the church.

Terry W. Benton

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mistaken Perception

Mistaken Perception

When Jesus used righteous indignation to clean out the temple and presented anger at what the Jews had made of His “Father’s house” (John 2), some people think He should have never gotten angry and especially shouldn’t have expressed such anger in public, and that John should not have used a public media to circulate this behavior in public. But, that is a perception that is quite mistaken. There are appropriate times to deal firmly and with anger even in public. “Be angry and sin not” (Eph.4:28) shows that not all anger is sinful of itself. Sometimes it is wrong NOT to get angry.

When Paul wrote his rebuking letter to the church at Corinth, and he had good reason to rebuke them and call them spiritual babes, there are some today who seem to think that such behavior in Christians is out of place and should not be aired publicly. He wrote because he loved their souls and hoped that they would take the rebuke in the right manner. Some perceive that it is never appropriate to write on publicly accessible media things that expose error that otherwise have a free reign in that media. Some think that such a letter as Paul wrote to Corinth and Galatia should be handled only in private. God guided Paul to write these letters and approved the passion of Paul’s rebuke. God also approved of Paul’s open rebuke of Peter. Perception that such should never be done publicly is not correct, else Paul should have only dealt privately with Peter and Barnabas and should not have written about it. See Galatians 2. Some would perceive that to be poor behavior and very “unloving”, while the truth is that Jesus and Paul’s actions were displays of real love.

Sometimes perception is very mistaken. Looking at the externals of these events is not pleasant, and sometimes we get mistakenly angry at people who express anger for ANY reason including those who really have justifiable reason to rebuke firmly and publicly. All anger and all words of rebuke and correction are not wrong. There are times when it is right and calculated. As Paul wrote the rebuking words of the first letter to the Corinthians he was aware that they could be childish and choose to take it in the wrong way. God was not embarrassed about making this case public. Paul was not mean, and he was not being a bully, and he was very concerned with how some might chose to perceive of this letter. But, he was right. He was glad that they chose to take his words in the right way and with godly sorrow chose the way of correction and repentance. See 2 Corinthians 7.

We live in a time of a very misinformed culture and many very misinformed churches filled with people who are not truly yoked to Jesus and thereby learning from Him, else they would have their senses exercised to discern the place for the firmer side of love that possesses and expresses righteous indignation at sin and hardened hearts. There are times to be sensitive and gentle and compassionate, and there are proper times to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather EXPOSE them”(Eph.5:11). There are times to rebuke “before all”(Gal.2) and to “mark those who teach contrary to the doctrine” we learned from the inspired apostles (Rom.16:17). There are times when the sin is public that the rebuke or exposure needs to have the same venues and avenues to be heard as the error gets. We need to choose those times carefully, and measure it with righteousness, fairness, and love. But, we do not need to become so sensitive that we allow error to have free reign in public media, and try to make modern public rebuke sinful or to posit that public correction of error is wrong. That would be placing a standard on modern teaching that would, by necessary inference, make Jesus and Paul into sinners who pushed people around in sinful ways. That is simply a perception that is mistaken.

Instead of being so unapproving of those who correct public error in the same medium that the error is pushed publicly, I would like to see those who believe it is wrong to ever do this, to show that their way of not ever correcting wrong is better. I have never seen the superiority of the way of letting public error go unchallenged and uncorrected. There are many times when going private HAS been done by this writer, and still the teacher of error kept right on publicly teaching their error. When all private effort has been ignored and the teaching of error continues on public media, then it is only right to use the same medium to expose the error. It would be wrong not to. Any other perception is simply mistaken because it makes Jesus and Paul sinners. -Terry W. Benton

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What is included in faith?


When I ask certain change agents, who have swallowed the modern doctrine of salvation by faith alone, what is included in their “faith alone” things get strangely quiet. Since Muslims have “faith” will their faith save them? We get an answer then that it is a certain faith in a certain person, named Jesus. So, they qualify the faith that saves as “faith in Jesus” by pulling in other verses, and rightly so. So, now we need to explore this a little further. Since it matters about the content of faith, can we be saved by believing in a Jesus that the apostles did not present? Remember, Paul was afraid that some brethren had been taught “another Jesus” (2 Cor.11:3-4). What if people are unwittingly taught “another Jesus” and they believe in that Jesus? Will their faith in THAT Jesus be the means of their salvation? Now the issue of faith in Jesus must be explored a little further because faith in the wrong Jesus will not give us real salvation. It may deceive us into a false assurance. We cannot afford to be believing the wrong Jesus and entertain a false assurance.

What are the necessary ingredients of saving faith?


So, now we explore a little further about the content of saving faith. It has to believe the right Jesus and have knowledge of the right Jesus. Does it have to be a faith in the Jesus who came in the flesh? Reading 1 John we find that some were teaching a Jesus who only appeared to be in the flesh but was not actually come in the flesh. What if we believed in a Jesus that we sincerely believe only appeared to be in the flesh but really wasn’t? Do we have enough of the right Jesus to save us? No, John said that a person believing such “is not of God”(1 John 4:2,3). So, we have to know enough about the right Jesus to be able to confess that He HAS come in the flesh. So, the right ingredients of faith has to be in place before one can have fellowship with God.

Now, there are other facts to believe regarding Jesus that are essential to believe before salvation occurs (1 Cor.15:1-6). So, let me pose a question right here. If belief requires knowledge, then it requires the work of hearing the evidence and considering it. Would the belief in Jesus include a knowledge of our sins and why we need Jesus? And, I think we can safely say that belief in Jesus would have to include conviction of our sins and of our need for what Jesus’ death was all about. So, it is safe to say that belief includes “conviction of sins” and “godly sorrow”. Would anyone say that you can be saved by faith before there is godly sorrow for sin? Now, godly sorrow is not a synonym for “faith”, is it? Yet, in all honesty, we cannot say a person has saving faith that does not have godly sorrow as a necessary ingredient of saving faith.

This leads me to another question about what all else might be necessary ingredients of saving faith. If a person has godly sorrow but has not yet repented, does his faith contain all the necessary ingredients to save him? We really need to know also if the Lord might require believing His requirement of repentance is essential to salvation. IS THAT POSSIBLE? Could it be possible that saving faith MUST have the essential ingredients of godly sorrow AND repentance? Can one really “believe” in Jesus who commanded repentance, and not repent? Or, does true faith require repentance before one is “accounted righteous”? Jesus said “except you repent, you will all likewise perish”(Luke 13:3). Can a person really “believe” in Jesus and be saved before they have decided to leave a life of sin and turn to God? Since repentance is a change of the mind and will, can a person possess saving “faith” before they change their mind and will about sin and God? If not, then repentance is an essential ingredient of the kind of faith that connects us to salvation.

Now, if a person can see that godly sorrow and repentance are indeed necessary ingredients to saving faith, then it should be easy to see why Peter told the sin-convicted Jews on Pentecost to “repent and be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins”(Acts 2:37-38). Here, we can see that repentance is a necessary ingredient of “faith in Jesus Christ”. In other words, a person who believes in Jesus must possess these necessary ingredients of saving faith.

Remember, faith in Jesus without believing specifically that he “came in the flesh” does not possess the necessary ingredients of the faith that saves. The faith that saves has to have the right ingredients. Faith without believing what Jesus said about repentance is not the faith that possesses the necessary ingredients of saving faith. But, now we see also that baptism is the point in faith where a person buries the old sinful man with Jesus (Rom.6:3-5) and has faith that God will operate to cut away sins (Col.2:12; Acts 2:38; 22:16). This is the point in faith where a person becomes “united together with Christ”(Rom.6:4-5). Do you believe this just as Paul did? Or, do you believe “another Jesus” (2 Cor.11:3-4) that does not teach this?

So, it should be easy to see that scriptural baptism is “for remission of sins” and to “wash away sins” because in being “united together with Christ in baptism”(Rom.6:4-5) we then make the connection with His blood that becomes applied to our account at this moment in saving faith. Thus, repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus are also necessary and essential ingredients of “faith in Jesus”. This is why Paul said that “you are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. For (because) as many of you as were baptized INTO Christ have put on Christ”(Gal.3:26-27). This is the point of entering into relationship with God. This is the moment and the ingredient in faith where the connection to the blood is exchanged in the divine books. The question is whether you really believe Jesus in these matters. Can you truly believe in Jesus without the necessary ingredients that HE says is the moment of unity with Him? Did the Lord promise remission of sins without these necessary ingredients? Or, did some people who did not believe Jesus’ words make that promise in spite of what Jesus said?

Remember, if “another Jesus” is teaching that one is saved before and without repentance, you cannot afford to believe that Jesus or that preacher. The right Jesus said, “He that believes AND is baptized shall be saved”(Mark 16:16). Do you believe what He said? If not, how can you claim to believe in Him? You cannot afford to get this wrong. Believe the scriptures. Let the scriptures correct your views and your faith. It DOES matter what the ingredients are in your faith. –Terry W. Benton

Friday, February 15, 2013

The First Century Change Agents

The First Century Change Agents

Departure from the faith is not something new.  Getting people on board the “non-traditional” wagon is not something new.  Promising liberty is not something new (2 Peter 2:18f).  It has always been going on. Among the churches of Galatia Paul was shocked that they were “so soon” removed from Him who called you into the grace of Christ to “another gospel”(Gal.1:6-10).  They were soon tired of the traditionalism that kept them under threat of rejection or persecution.  It was uncomfortable to live in Galatia where Judaism had a large influence and talk like Jesus was the only way.

These change agents were not mentally ignoring the truth that Jesus was and is the Son of God, but they felt that we were making Jews unnecessarily mad at us for teaching that the law of Moses was nailed to the cross and that we are now to be exclusively under the authority of Jesus alone.  They simply wanted to repackage themselves as teaching what a large element of society thought the church of Christ ought to teach if they want to fit in with the rest of society.  A more appealing way to win people over is to make the gospel more appealing to those who want a teaching program that is more accepting of the religious faith of others.

The early change agents were wanting to “make a good showing in the flesh”(Gal.6:12). They were feeling the effects of social rejection and wanted to make the gospel more palatable.  This is also the way change-agents operate in churches today.  The gospel is inclusive of all who will obey Jesus  and exclusive of those who only want to obey certain choice items.  Of the early change agents, there was fear of rejection and persecution that socially comes when you believe that Jesus’ way is the ONLY way.  Consider the spirit of those wanting to “make a good showing in the flesh”.


[A fair show in the flesh.] The Jewish religion was general in the region of Galatia, and it was respectable, as it appears that the principal inhabitants were either Jews or proselytes. As it was then professed and practiced among the Jews, this religion had nothing very grievous to the old man; an unrenewed nature might go through all its observances with little pain or cross-bearing. On the other hand, Christianity could not be very popular; it was too strict. A Jew made a fair show there, according to his carnal system, and it was a temptation to a weak Christian to swerve into Judaism, that he might be exempted from persecution, and be creditable among his countrymen. This is what the apostle intimates: "They constrain you to be circumcised, lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ."(from Adam Clarke's Commentary)

Barnes observes:  If they insisted on entire dependence on the merits of his blood, and renounced all dependence on rites and ceremonies, they would suffer persecution. This verse shows the true cause of the zeal which the Judaizing teachers evinced. It was the fear of persecution. It was the want of independence and boldness in maintaining the doctrine that people were to be saved only by the merits of the Lord Jesus. By attempting to blend together the doctrines of Judaism and Christianity; by maintaining that the observance of the Jewish rites was necessary, and yet that Jesus was the Messiah, they endeavored to keep in with both parties; and thus to escape the opposition of the Jews. It was an unhallowed compromise.  It was an attempt to blend things together which could not be united. One must really displace the other. If people depended on the rites of Moses, they had no need of dependence on the Messiah; if they professed to depend on him, then to rely on anything else was in fact to disown and reject him.  Embracing the one system was in fact renouncing the other.  Such is the argument of Paul; and such his solemn remonstrance against embracing any doctrine which would obscure the glory of simple dependence on the cross of Christ.(from Barnes' Notes).

The first century change agents simply wanted to find ways to believe in Jesus without offending people, and it did not seem to occur to them that they were offending the Lord by making His gospel insufficient for all the truth that all men needed.  Change agents then did not consider how offensive they were to the apostles who stood their ground and engaged “much dispute” in the same matters discussed in Acts 15. The change agents had so leavened the churches in this teaching that it does not hurt to mix a little of the Law of Moses into the gospel since people might be more inclined to accept us if we were not always being so negative about their traditions.  Change agents then and now have a lot of similarity. It may be different traditions that they want to adopt, but it is usually for very similar reasons: to be able to be accepted by the denominations around us.  A fair showing in the flesh does not help to change the world, but always works to change the church so that she looks like a close friend, and Jesus, well, He is such a nice fellow who accepts everyone just as they are. Never mind that it is “another Jesus”, not the One the apostles presented.  Terry W. Benton

Saturday, February 9, 2013

These Things Became Our Examples

These Things Became Our Examples

So much talk about “examples are not binding” is really not helping brethren understand the reason why examples are very important.  It did not matter to Paul about whether the Old Testament contained “narrative” or “story” (who would ever dispute that?).  Yet, as he read the stories embedded in the Old Testament, he found things that “became our examples”(1 Cor.10:6).  The mistakes of Israel were examples NOT to follow in the church.  He said “they happened to them as examples and they were written for our learning”(v.11).  Get this!  Christians are to learn from the examples embedded in the stories of the Old Testament.  That would especially be so in the New Testament as well.  From examples we learn what is NOT acceptable to the Lord, and from other examples we learn what IS acceptable to the Lord. 

By the same token, if Paul “ordained” things in “all the churches” (1 Cor.7:17), one of which was to learn from examples, then what we see in the uniform practices of the early churches would be examples for us to follow.  Paul urged the Corinthians “not to think beyond what is written”(4:6). That means to get all your ideas and information from this source and don’t even desire to listen to something if it is beyond what is written.

One thing that is written is “imitate”(follow the example of) Paul (1 Cor.4:16), and let yourself be reminded of his “ways in Christ”(which includes his approved examples)(v.17).  The reason we can follow the apostles “ways in Christ” is because they had “the mind of Christ”(2:16). The wisdom of God was revealed to them by the Spirit (2:10).  These men were led by the Spirit and they were “ministers of the new covenant”(2 Cor.3).  The Old Testament had been a ministration of death, but the New Testament was a ministry of the Spirit and of life.  As we follow the examples of the apostles we learn things that we can “prove are acceptable to the Lord”(Rom.12:1-3; Eph.5:11; 1 Thess.5:21).  What Paul taught in one church, he also taught “everywhere in every church”(1 Cor.4:17).

When the church at Corinth got off track with the Lord’s Supper and made it into a meal to feed their appetite, Paul reminded them of the EXAMPLE of what Jesus did the night of His betrayal when He SHOWED what He wanted done (1 Cor.11:23).  Jesus showed them what He wanted (example to follow), and He told them what He wanted (command). “Do this in remembrance of Me”.  From the command and example Paul also drew some necessary inferences: 1)When you partake of the Lord’s Supper you are “proclaiming His death till He comes”, and 2) when you do not take it with the focus on the body and blood, you do it in an unworthy manner and therefore are guilty of the body and blood.(v.26,27).

When did the early disciples come together and partake of the Lord’s Supper?  We learn from the examples in Acts 2:42 and Acts 20:7, that they did it “on the first day of the week”.  Nobody questions but what that is “acceptable to the Lord”.  The same thing done in one church with apostolic approval is what all churches did.  Those who follow that same example are no doubt doing what is acceptable to the Lord.  But, what of those who want to do it on Thursday?  They cannot “prove it is acceptable”. They have no statement or example after the Lord “drank it new IN THE KINGDOM” except the examples of doing it on the first day of the week.  Thus, if you cannot “prove it is acceptable” you have no business doing it. It should be that simple since even the uniform practice of the early disciples “became our examples” and are written for our learning.  The apostles showed us things that were acceptable to the Lord as well as told us. They even showed us how they reasoned from examples and came to the necessary inference that Gentiles do not have to be circumcised (Acts 15). That gave us an example of how to use statements and examples and come to the “necessary conclusion” or judgment of what the will of the Lord is.  Using the model of settling issues and questions by this process shows us how to go about “proving what is acceptable to the Lord”.  These things also became our examples in how to “test all things, hold fast what is good”(1 Thess.5:21).  Some examples are incidental and do not form a uniform pattern.  But, some examples clearly show us what we can prove is right and cannot be wrong, and those examples ought not be dismissed in favor of something you cannot prove.  The stories and narratives of scripture are to show us examples of what we can safely follow and of things we should avoid.  Terry W. Benton

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jeroboam's Mistakes

Jeroboam’s Mistakes

There were many different factors that led up to the division in Israel that left that nation split in two. We read of this split in 1 Kings 11-12.  There were the usual attempts to make the northern ten tribes to be convinced that they were right. They were wrong, but they tried to justify their new divided state and what they were now doing.

In the New Testament John mentioned that those that “went out from us were not of us”. In other words, they had been in a mental and spiritual drift away from us long before they decided to relocate their bodies away from the faithful brethren.  There are brethren today like that.  Some have left for liberal churches, and some have left to join denominations. Some are still physically among us but their heart is not with the authority and teaching of God’s word and with brethren who seek to maintain the authority of scriptures and the commitment to “prove what is acceptable to the Lord”.  They will be leaving soon but they want to see if they can take whole groups with them.  Please notice the parallels to be seen in the division in Israel and the divisions among spiritual Israel today.

Jeroboam made the following mistakes:

1.       Trying to appear legitimate by outward honor of special historical places. 12:25

2.       Cutting off the house of David. V.26

3.       Cutting off exposure to truth. V.27

4.       Making his religion more appealing, liberated, and convenient. V.28

5.       Ignored the “example” of David, the nature of “specific authority”, and hated the idea of seeking authority first before acting. V.31,33; 13:33-34; 14:7-10

6.       Employed the doctrines and commandments of men. V.32


How can the people be led to worship with a different place of worship, with a priesthood that is not from Levi, and in the manner so different?  How does such a change become accepted?  I can see that all it would take is to lead the people to question the “old hermeneutic” and those who interpreted the scriptures incorrectly all this time did so because of “traditionalism” and “legalism”. The change agents can keep criticizing the old practices as “traditionalism”. The old “traditionalism” of worshipping at Jerusalem was because the “legalists” had been very arbitrary in WHICH examples they followed.  Because of “traditionalism” and the blindness of the old hermeneutic and being so arbitrary in which examples to follow, they had neglected these important places like Penuel and Shechem.


The 10 northern tribes can say, “We will not be legalists and traditionalists that think their traditionalism is the only way. If others were more open-minded they would realize that we should have never neglected places like Shechem, Penuel, and Bethel. Here are some examples that they have not been keeping. They are so inconsistent with which examples are binding”.  In view of the way change agents today are operating, I can begin to see more clearly how such a large segment in Israel could have gotten swept into the change and justified it in their own minds.

Today there are change agents that use Facebook and other social media to gather “friends”. But, like the northern ten tribes, they then begin “cutting off” brethren who might question their views on this media. These brethren grow their number of friends, appealing to the weak and undiscerning, cut off dissenting  voices as “traditionalists”, “Pharisees”, and” legalists”, gathering sympathy from the undiscerning, blocking friends who do not agree with their views.  By cutting of dissenting voices and keeping only those who approve or will say nothing negative, and feeding prejudice against faithful brethren by such terms as “legalists”, “Pharisees”, and “traditionalists”, the crowd they keep on their list are now swallowing the Kool-Aid. Those are points two and three in Jeroboam’s program of justifying his promoting and maintaining the division in Israel he was now leading.


Look at the six mistakes listed above again.  Point three is cutting off exposure to truth.  To maintain a sense of legitimacy, Jeroboam could not afford to let his people be exposed to the truth taught by the old traditionalists in Judah.  So, he cut off the opportunities for his friends to see and hear discussions where his views could now be challenged.  It is easy to say the Levites in Jerusalem were “traditionalists” using a faulty hermeneutic, but that cannot hold up well is actual discussion where the change agents have to prove their own hermeneutic is correct and where they are actually called on to “prove what is acceptable to the Lord”.  Prejudice does not work as well when someone can answer them.  So, the change agent must always back away from actual discussion and debate with the old “traditionalists”. They could never stand up in the kind of discussion and “much dispute” seen in Acts 15. They know it too, and so their mode of operation must always be to cut off those voices of truth that might expose them.


The modern change agents cut off any on their “friends” list who might expose the weakness of their teachings, or those who might give their readers a different impression of the change agent. Thus, they create a cult of personality and use the old “promise liberty” routine that false teachers have long used in the past (2 Pet.2) to “allure” people into the changes.  The change agents promise liberty from misguided, hypocritical “traditionalism”, and they have their “friends” swallowing the bait and regurgitating it to each other as they now have little or no voices on their list who might reel them in and provide a needed scriptural rebuke and effort at correction.


Look at the list of mistakes Jeroboam made again.  We have seen parallels in those first three items. There is an amazing similarity between the mistakes of Jeroboam and the modern change agents. I hope you can see what is happening now and how it is moving among brethren in so many congregations. The bodies may still be together, but soon those who have influenced them the most through social media will have convinced them to change the local church or move out from those close-minded traditionalists.  The devil has been at work.  He is seeking to devour you and any church that still believes in “proving what is acceptable to the Lord”.  We will consider the last three items on the list in our next post.  Please, give it careful attention.  Terry W. Benton