By Jerry Jackson
(Originally published December 2006)
Ever since the 11th of September 2001, we have been told over and again how tolerant the Islamic religion is. We are also told over and over that we must be tolerant of that religion, above all others. But, the Muslim world considers religious tolerance to be a one way street. Take, for example, some news articles that recently came to my attention.
Hizb ut-Tahrir and Israel
According to the August 29, 2006 issue of The Age, a Melbourne, Australia newspaper, the Islamic group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, held a lecture in Sydney entitled, “Israel is an illegal state that Muslims will never accept.” It seems that during the lecture, Israel was described as an illegal state that must be destroyed. There was a fervor of reaction to this lecture, as there should have been. Hizb ut-Tahrir responded in several ways to this unfavorable publicity: 1) They said that most Muslims thought the same, 2) the media was aiming to intimidate the Muslims by creating fear and hysteria, and 3) the attack against Hizb ut-Tahrir by both media and politicians was hypocritical, because the media and politicians were disregarding the “sacred values of freedom of speech and democracy.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir is invoking freedom of speech to justify the unjust statements that were made during their lecture, and in their literature. They demand that we must be tolerant of their intolerant talk. That doesn’t make sense. The next news item makes even less sense.
According to the August 23, 2006 issue of The Age, and the August 25, 2006 issue of the Herald Sun, the Islamic Council of Victoria has dragged two Pentecostal pastors to court for allegedly vilifying Muslims. They were found guilty by the Victorian and Civil Administrative Tribunal last year, and ordered to never again say these terrible things concerning Islam and to publicly apologize in full-page newspaper advertisements. This case has since been appealed to the Victoria Court of Appeals, and is awaiting a final verdict.
The basis for this vilification case was a seminar, newsletter, and article, all from 2002. In the seminar, one of these two men read passages from the Koran in a way that got “a response from the audience at various times in the form of laughter.” The fact that the quotations were true and accurate was no defense for these men, according to Debbie Mortimer, SC, counsel for the Islamic Council of Victoria. She told the Victoria Court of Appeals, “Truth is not a defense, it’s irrelevant to contravention of the Act (Racial and Religious Tolerance Act).” So, her position is that people can be charged and convicted for telling the truth, if it is derogatory of the Muslim faith.
The Muslims use the freedom of speech to spread their philosophy and error, but do not want to allow anyone else that same freedom. We should be wise enough to realize this truth. Although these two instances come from the nation of Australia, we cannot hide our heads in the sand, claiming that it could never happen here in the United States. This is what we have to look forward to in a very short time, I fear.
We cannot combat this trend by trying to pass pro-Christian laws in our nation, or by ignoring or avoiding people of the Muslim faith. Our task is to reach the world with the Gospel, and that includes every Muslim that draws breath. We must not be intimidated by this trend that we see, but we must be busy, while we still have freedom, in reaching every Muslim that will listen to and receive the Word of Almighty God.
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” —2 Timothy 3:14
As a young child, I remember the man who served as our church treasurer, Brother Marvin Bakker. Brother Bakker seemed as big as a bear but was always kind and gentle toward me. I loved to hear him pray whenever we had church prayer meetings or he was called on to pray for the offering or to close out a church meeting. I always felt like I would see the throne room of God if I opened my eyes while he prayed. He was a special man to this little boy.
At some point, he was diagnosed with cancer. I was too young to know all the details, but Brother Bakker ended up in the hospital. My Dad, his pastor, visited him frequently during his hospital stay. On my Dad's final visit to see Brother Bakker, the meeting ended like so many other occasions. Instead of saying “Goodbye” or “See you later,” Brother Bakker was known to say, “Carry on.” Those were the last words he spoke to my Dad. Leter, Dad shared these words with me, and they have stuck in my mind and heart over the years.
The phrase “carry on” has been defined as: To continue or proceed. In this usage, the phrase can be used as an imperative (https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/carry+on).
In 2 Timothy 3, the apostle Paul knew his life and ministry were at the end. He had passed along all he could to young Timothy. Now Paul called on Timothy to “carry on,” using the phrase “continue thou.”
The Reality of the Times
Paul did more than tell Timothy to “carry on.” He shared with Timothy two reasons why it was necessary to carry on. Both of these reasons revolve around persecution.
Persecution Expected. Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." Persecution is a certainty because Satan has always hated the truth and has attempted to twist or deny the truth since the Garden of Eden.
If Satan hates the truth, it should come as no surprise that his pawns hate the truth. Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you (John 15:18).” This persecution is very light in North America, but we can see the dark clouds of persecution heading our way. Believers in other parts of the world deal with harsh persecution
The following is excerpted from a Christian Post, entitled Report Chronicles assaults on Christians in Manipur (https://www.christianpost.com/news/report-chronicles-assaults-on-christians-in-manipur.html):
“On May 3, Mrs. Thangi Hmar’s home in the Meitei-majority Imphal area (north India) served as a sanctuary for 22 tribal Christians from four households, including two individuals who were critically ill. A mob of about 100 people led by the radical groups Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun arrived, threatening and looting before ordering them to leave.
“Meanwhile, a woman, Thari Hmar, went missing. Her son, Sasang, returned to their home only to find her being brutally assaulted by the mob. As he sought to save his mother, he was shoved into a drain. The attack on her persisted until local women enabled a narrow escape. But their home was looted and burned, and their two dogs died.
“On the same night, an under-secretary with the Manipur government, Mrs. Gouzavung, and her family sought refuge at a relative’s house. The next morning, they decided to head to a relief camp. En route, they were intercepted by a mob of 200 to 250 people. Despite showing her government ID, her pleas fell on deaf ears.
“The mob set their car on fire and discovered their hiding place. Her son, Goulalsang, was brutally attacked on the road. Gouzavung’s brave attempt to shield her son was met with cheers from the crowd. Both tragically lost their lives in this cruel onslaught. Gouzavung’s daughter-in-law sustained severe injuries, while Kim, an aunt, her one-year-old grandson, and their cousin escaped via a car trunk.”
After reading this short article, we cannot find legitimate grounds for complaining about persecution we have faced in North America. Regardless of the severity of the persecution, it has been promised to the people of Christ. This is one reason why God’s people must “carry on!”
Perniciousness is Expanded. Paul continued by stating, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”
The charismatic crowd exults in “revival sweeping our land,” but the stark reality is no widespread revival is coming. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Paul taught, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” In other words, we will see people turning away from Bible Christianity en masse rather than turning toward Christ en masse.
The Last Days will be characterized by a falling away and by deception. Everywhere we look, we see people deceiving and being deceived. This is true among so-called Christians, who try to deceive Bible-believers into compromise with the world, with carnal believers, and with outright heretics.
These deceivers are in love with the world (1 John 2:15) and their sin (Matthew 24:12). They depart from sound doctrine and latch on to doctrines of devils (1 Timothy 4:1).
In the face of the deceivers, God’s people must “carry on!”
The Reality of the Testimony
The apostle Paul continued to instruct Timothy in what he was to “carry on.” Timothy wasn’t required to learn some new skill, but to remain faithful to what had been offered to him.
Timothy had not only learned tremendous truths, he had been assured of those truths. I believe that is missing today. Many young men are taught good things relating to Biblical truth and the ministry, only to have the rug pulled out from under them by a lack of assurance. This is clearly seen whenever a young man is taught to love his Bible, but be aware there “there are errors or discrepancies” to be found there. These young men learn to love their Bible, but they lack assurance on the validity of the Bible. This makes them prone to wander away from Bible doctrine and practice. We see this same issue regarding the church. Young men are taught to love the church just as Jesus loved the church, but we have so many men closing down their Sunday evening and midweek services. This, in spite of the instruction to meet “so much the more" as we approach the coming of the Lord. This happens because these men were taught the truth but were never assured of that truth. Over and over we see example of men of God falling away from where they once stood. Could it be that this falling away is not the result of a lack of teaching but a lack of assurance?
Timothy had learned and been assured of Bible truth, but he also needed to pay attention to those from whom he had learned. Believers today must exercise great discernment regarding the men they listen to regarding the Bible and its practice.
I am so thankful for the many faithful men of God who have poured of themselves into my life, to help me better understand my walk and service for the Lord. These men are not men of renown, but humble, faithful men who lived and laboured for the Lord in “insignificant” places. These men of God showed the importance of fellowship around the table — not emphasizing food, but simply sharing the Scripture and its application with a young man who had so much to learn!
I am also thankful for faithful preachers who boldly proclaim the Word of God — especially those men who have shown consistent faithfulness over time. These men encourage me that I do not stand alone for the truths of God. These men show the importance of fellowship around the pulpit.
The Scripture tells us that when we “carry on," we set a higher standard based on the Word of God. Jesus made this principle clear in Matthew 5:43-45. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
When we “carry on” we also hold a higher standard. In other words, we set the higher standard and refuse to change that standard for any reason. Hebrews 2:1 says, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.”
The Reality of the Target
There is a Biblical purpose for which we “carry on.” We do not do so out of tradition, routine, or habit, but because we love our Lord and long to be faithful to Him.
There are also goals to achieve when we “carry on.” Paul laid out these goals in 2 Timothy 3:17: “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
The first goal or target is a perfect relationship. This is not to say that we are sinless, but that we are mature and complete in our standing with the Lord Jesus. This maturity is needed for our relationship with the Lord Jesus, for the man of God to set a proper example before the flock, and to complete his methodology and message to the flock.
The second goal is to remain perfectly ready. In other words, when we "carry on" we place ourselves in the position of being qualified and ready to serve the Lord at a moments notice. The qualification and preparation are essential to move the work of God forward in these Last Days.
Faithfulness in the face of growing sin and opposition must be based upon what has been learned from God’s Word. We must also be assured of these things so we are not tempted to let anything slip.
With all that has been said, we must determine to stay faithful to the Word of God, the Bible. Men of God must remain faithful to read, study, teach, and preach the Word of God. We must remain faithful regardless of what the next guy is doing!
If you choose to “carry on” in a Biblical manner, I will rejoice with you and pray for your continuing faithfulness. If you choose not to “carry on,” I will hurt for the poor decisions you have made, and I will pray for you to return to a place of faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Most of all, let me encourage you to "carry on!”
Pastors and church members always ask how many people attend some church where they are not a part. When the response is that a small number of people attend a particular church, many will question whether that small group is even a church at all. These questions can result in two problems: 1) the questioner may be filled with pride that his church has a greater attendance than the small church and 2) the one attending the small church may feel discouraged that his church isn't growing like the larger church or he may begin questioning what is wrong with the small church of which he is a part, even if there is nothing wrong.
There are two ways to answer the question of how many people are required to properly establish a New Testament church 1) from the Scripture, and 2) from history.
Jesus taught church truth during His earthly ministry. The apostles didn't understand much of what they were taught until after the resurrection, yet the truth is there for us to understand and apply today.
When teaching church truth in Matthew 18, Jesus delved into how many people are needed to organize a New Testament church. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Jesus was not teaching about a random gathering of believers at the local grocery store or restaurant. Jesus taught about a gathering of believers in His name. That means these believers were gathering together by His authority. The only authorized gathering of believers to be found in the New Testament is the gathering of a New Testament church.
Look how many Jesus required for a New Testament church gathering! He said, "...two or three..." Isn't that amazing? An assembly of believers does not have to wait until there are 50 or 100 before they organize as a New Testament church. It only takes two or three! If we want to believe and apply the Word of God, we will start looking at church attendance differently. Jesus does!
The following was adapted from an email sent out by Pastor David Oldfield. It shows us the practice of what Jesus taught in the New Testament.
Gustaf Palmquist was born in 1812 into a family of seven children in Sweden. At some point, his mother came under Holy Spirit conviction, but turning to her Lutheran priest, she was told that her deep piety was sufficient for her salvation. Having no peace, she turned to an old neighbourhood widow who pointed Mrs. Palmquist to salvation in Christ. With the peace of God in her heart, she began to pray for the salvation of her family.
At the age of thirty-two, eight years after his mother's death, while a professor at a teacher’s college in Stockholm, the grace of God came upon Gustaf, and he trusted the work of Christ on the cross for his salvation. When he started earnestly witnessing for Christ, the Lord led him to F.O. Nilsson, a Baptist pastor in Helsingland in northern Sweden. Nilsson helped Palmquist to understand God’s Word. Before his training was complete, a group of Lutheran acquaintances told him they were emigrating to the United States and wanted him to be their pastor. After months of preparation and travel, Palmquist found himself almost alone in Rock Island, Illinois. From there, he started travelling all over the Midwest, looking for Swedish-speaking people with whom he could share the gospel.
Then in 1851, he heard about a wonderful moving of the Holy Spirit in a Baptist church in Galesburg, Illinois, and he went to investigate. There the seed of Baptist doctrine that had been planted in his heart back in Sweden germinated. On 27 June 1852, he was immersed. A month later he was ordained in the Galesburg Baptist Church. Then forty-seven days after his baptism, on 13 August 1852, he organized the first Swedish Baptist Church in America, consisting of two men and one woman. The church grew and prospered under the Lord’s blessings, and one church led to another and another for the glory of God.
What God did with that tiny church is amazing, but that little church would have been discouraged by many pastors today.
Numbers do not always indicate the blessing of God. The apostle Paul prophecied a "falling away" during these Last Days, which could translate into little attendance in a New Testament church. In these Last Days, numbers can mean that compromise has occurred. We should look for spiritual indications of growth rather than just the attendance, baptism and offering totals. As Jesus admonished us, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment (John 7:24)." Let's stop focusing on the numbers and just get back to being faithful to the Lord Jesus.
It only takes two or three to establish a New Testament church. Those two or three can be used to accomplish God's work. That is the greatness of our God! That also brings glory to God, which is the purpose of a New Testament church (Ephesians 3:21).
“Pride” is a term that is attached to the month of June as a means of celebrating sinful ideologies and lifestyles. The question is not whether these ideologies or lifestyles are pleasing to God. The question to consider is whether pride is an acceptable approach to life.
Pride is defined in two ways. First, Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines pride as "Inordinate self-esteem; an unreasonable conceit of one's superiority in talents, beauty, wealth, accomplishments, rank or elevation in office, which manifests itself in lofty airs, distance, reserve, and often in contempt of others." Webster's 1828 Dictionary also defines pride as "Insolence; rude treatment of others; insolent exultation."
We can actively see these definitions in those celebrating "pride" month. But, we must also honestly consider that many people, even those who claim salvation in Christ, are guilty of the sin of pride. We must even be prepared to acknowledge pride existing in our hearts.
Once we recognize the pride that permeates humanity, we must consider what is to be done about it. Should we simply shrug our shoulders and carry on? Should we blame others for forcing us into a prideful attitude?
The Reality of Pride
To begin, we must recognize the reality of pride. Is it real? How does it look in action? What does the Lord say about pride?
Yes, pride is real. God tells us that pride is the natural condition of the fool's heart. "In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them (Proverbs 14:3)." The sin of pride is just as natural as breathing. You may argue that pride is only in the mouth of the foolish, but you must also consider that "foolishness is bound in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15)..." When we compare these Scripture, we conclude that every child has a heart of pride because of his sin nature. It is no surprise that teens, young adults, and seniors all tend to display pride.
Pride is deceptive. Pride makes the individual believe he is "all that," even when he is not. Obadiah 1:3 puts it this way, "The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?" Pride will also deceive the individual into thinking they are the most humble person to walk the face of the earth. We have all heard the joke about the man who wrote the book entitled, The 10 Most Humble People in the World, and How I Taught the Other 9!" While this joke is humorous, the truth is some people think they are humble when they exude pride from every pore. They are so deceived!
Pride is hateful to God. Solomon told us, "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19)." Pride is not only something God hates; these verses spell out pride as an abomination to the Lord.
Pride is found in many areas of life. John wrote, "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16)." The "pride of life" covers many facets of life, from the way we think to the way we look at things, to the way we act, react, and interact with others.
Pride is found in our spiritual life. Pride will keep a lost sinner from admitting his need for salvation. Consider Psalm 10:4, which says, "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts." I have often heard sinners state, "I'm not a sinner; I've never killed anyone." This is a statement of pride, which prevents that sinner from reconciliation with a holy God. It breaks the heart of the soul winner, who longs to see that individual saved and transformed by the power of Almighty God.
Pride will also keep the Christian from following Christ. Look at Hosea 7:10, which says, "And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him for all this." Too often, a Christian refuses to admit his backslidden condition because of his pride. He will live as if nothing could be wrong, resenting the slightest intimation of any issue between himself and God.
Pride is found in our interactions with others. A prideful heart does not stay in the heart but becomes evident in the way it interacts with family, friends, and strangers.
First, when pride exists in the heart, contention will be the result. Proverbs 13:10 says, "Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom." Many New Testament churches have received great harm by the hand of prideful church members! We have heard of churches splitting over the colour of the church carpet or the choice of a new hymnbook. These extreme examples show the contention that is the result of pride. In other churches, members refuse to speak to one another because of a disagreement from years ago. Church meetings should not be a place where tensions run high. Instead, church meetings should be a time of rejoicing together in the Lord and encouraging one another in our walk with God. Where these things are missing, you can rest assured that pride exists.
Second, when pride exists in the heart, persecution will result. "The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined (Psalm 10:2)." A prideful heart cannot stand competition or anyone exposing his pridefulness. To combat these things, the prideful individual will persecute those he perceives as his attackers. He will use snide comments and put-downs to "put them in their place," but he will refuse to admit his pride or the hurt he causes to another. Every instance of pride, with its sad results, will be the fault of others. The prideful individual will feel as if they must teach a lesson to those they consider at fault for the failures of the proud. How often have we been guilty of this very thing, when we only need to look in the mirror to find the reason for our failure?
A prideful heart cannot stand to associate with those who are "beneath" the proud. The proud will do many ugly and hurtful things to "persecute the poor" and keep them away.
Pride is such a hateful attitude because it produces hateful actions toward fellow believers and the lost; it is dangerous to those toward which our pride is directed. Oh, how you and I need to admit the reality of pride in our hearts before that pride causes harm to others!
The Ruination of Pride
Pride is also dangerous because of the negative effect it reaps on behalf of the prideful individual. It is much like a boomerang that causes harm to the object at which it is thrown, but will ultimately come back on the thrower. The Bible sets forward several sad conclusions of the proud.
First, pride produces sorrow for the man of God. Old Testament prophets and New Testament preachers have had their share of dealings with proud people. The man of God can see the terrible wages of sin looming on the horizon while the proud confidently continues in his sin. Ultimately, the heart of the man of God is broken over the sin and eventual judgment of the proud. The prophet Jeremiah put it this way: "But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD'S flock is carried away captive (Jeremiah 13:17)."
Second, pride disqualifies men from answering the call of God into the ministry. To encourage young men to surrender to the ministry of the Lord Jesus, many pastors have wrongly stated that God can use anyone. When we consider the bishop's qualifications in 1 Timothy 3, we find that God will not use anyone. He wants qualified men to answer His call. Pride has no place in the ministry. Some have begun in pride, while others have become proud after seeing God's blessings on their ministries. Either is not an appropriate condition for the man of God. 1 Timothy 3:6 disqualifies a prideful man from the ministry when it says, "Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil."
Third, pride produces entrapment. Psalm 59:12 says, "For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak." Pride can be a trap for those who are proud, even though they may see it as a way to protect themselves.
Fourth, pride produces shame. Proverbs 11:2 says, " When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom." In Webster's 1828 Dictionary, shame is defined as "A painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt, or of having done something which injures reputation..." Eventually, even the most prideful person will be proven wrong. That revelation brings a painful sense of guilt to the proud. The typical reaction to this sense of shame is for the proud to attack the individual who brought the error to light. This reaction only serves to increase the shame of the proud.
Fifth, pride produces judgment. One of the well-known verses regarding pride says, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18)." God Himself will act against the proud man to humble him for his good. "And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass (Leviticus) 26:19):"
King Nebuchadnezzar learned from hard experience the terrible judgment that comes upon pride. There was nothing he could do, despite his power and prestige, to prevent the judgment of God on his pride. When he finally came to his senses, he spoke of the Lord's ability to judge in this way: "Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase (Daniel 4:37)."
The Response to Pride
You would think no one would pursue pride when they realize the ruination that results, but that is not the case. Many ignore the judgment of pride and pursue it with all their hearts. God's people should not be among those who pursue pride despite the judgment accompanying it. Instead, we must Biblically respond to pride so we might be pleasing to the Lord.
There is only one response to pride: humility. Jesus said, "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23:12)."
This statement from our Lord teaches us we have a choice concerning pride or humility. No one can honestly say, "That's just me; I am naturally proud, and there's nothing I can do about it." When Jesus used the word "whosoever," He made humility a universal choice.
This statement from our Lord also teaches us we can humble ourselves. The plain fact is most people do not want to humble themselves before God or anyone else. Pride has such a hold on their hearts that they cannot see a life beyond pride.
Every Christian needs to examine his heart for evidence of pride. If you see any hint of pride, humble yourself quickly! Confess the sin of pride to God and forsake it. Only then will you find mercy and grace from the hand of God. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy (Proverbs 28:13).”
(Originally published September 2006)
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” Revelation 2:12–17
The Nicolaitans are only mentioned twice in Scripture. Once, when their deeds were hated (Revelation 2:6), and again where their doctrine was held (Revelation 2:15).
Their doctrine was similar to the doctrine of Balaam, in that they taught that all Christians were free to eat things offered to idols and to commit fornication (Revelation 2:14–15). This leads us to understand that they taught total freedom of the flesh. They also held Gnostic tendencies, meaning they felt they had superior knowledge of spiritual things. The Nicolaitans caused a great controversy which threatened to destroy the unity of many churches and afterwards threatened to taint the purity of these churches. They did not simply follow the indulgence of appetite; they held to a “doctrine” which taught that this indulgence of the flesh was spiritual and right before God.
Their doctrine was contrary to the decision of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:29). The two sins of eating meat sacrificed to idols and committing fornication were considered to be closely allied since both could and did occur at any of the local heathen temples. In the days of persecution, eating things offered to idols was more than ever a test of faithfulness to Christ. However, the Nicolaitans taught that it didn’t matter whether a believer was involved in these sins or not. They taught that the “spiritual” Christian would partake in these sins. And, not only did the Nicolaitans defile themselves with these pagan feasts and orgies, they brought this same filth into the churches where they were members. “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots (Jude 12).”
Their Doctrine Permeates Our Churches
It is sad to note that, in these last days, this same doctrine of the full freedom of the flesh is alive and well. Many of God’s churches are full of this doctrine, not only in the pew but even preached from the pulpit. Many different catchphrases are used to justify this doctrine and these deeds. For example, “Nothing matters except believing in Jesus.” This statement sounds good to the unsuspecting believer; however, it cannot stand up in light of Scripture.
Those who hold this doctrine of the Nicolaitans believe that the places you go do not matter. When the individual believer chooses to frequent the movie theatre, go to dances or take dance lessons, attend an apostate church’s special events and services, or ecumenical prayer meetings, is he not practicing the doctrine of the Nicolaitans? Of course, churches are also guilty of this same thing. When a church group goes to the movie theatre to view a “religious” movie (i.e., The Passion of The Christ, C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, And the Wardrobe, etc.), takes part in ecumenical gatherings, or goes on lake or beach outings where godly dress standards are not followed, this church is involved in the doctrine and deeds of the Nicolaitans.
Those who hold this doctrine also believe that the things you do are of no matter. Most of us have probably heard the argument that the outside doesn’t matter to God. This doctrine is used to justify such things as tattoos, body piercing, long hair on men/short hair on women, and sensual and immodest dress. We are told that we are “judging” if we dare to speak a word against these types of things. We are told that nothing matters to God but the heart. This argument, of course, is false doctrine since the Scripture teaches that what is outside reflects the heart. “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Matthew 15:18–19).”
Churches, too, fall prey to this idea that the outside doesn’t matter to God. As a result, churches will seek ways in which they can emphasize the carnal man. There are many ways of doing this: church sports teams, hour-long meals before a church service, followed by a 30-minute message, and church workout centres, to name a few. Each of these things is geared to appeal to the carnal man, while there is nothing for the growth of the spiritual man. Churches also seek ways in which they can entertain the carnal man. They do this by allowing drums in the church, using dramas and plays in the place of preaching, promoting dancing in the aisles and calling it the Spirit of God, placing less importance on preaching or allowing no application of the preaching into church practice or daily life. These things are happening today in the name of “getting closer to God,” but no one can come closer to God by emphasizing or entertaining the carnal man while starving the spiritual man.
The Bible must be the basis of all doctrine and practice. Those who hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans seek the support of Scripture, even though none can be found. The first Bible verse that those who adhere to this doctrine cling to is Galatians 5:1 : “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” The fact that they have to take this verse out of context to justify their doctrine and practice is of no importance to the Nicolaitans. All that matters is that they can point to some verse of Scripture to support their doctrine. Once they feel that they have justified themselves, they have no problem with performing anything contrary to Scripture (Galatians 5:17). This makes no sense but it is exactly what has happened in many good churches across our nation. How is it that the Lord would lead us to live contrary to His written Word? Of course, the Lord would not do that, but it is imperative to believe that He would do so to hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.
These Nicolaitans feel they hold a “superior” knowledge of spiritual things because they have learned enough to be “free.” This knowledge gives them a condescending, superior attitude toward anyone who truly desires to follow any standard God has set. They will disbelieve anyone would be so naive as to choose to live a godly, separated life. They will ridicule and pity those who seek to maintain a godly life; those who are too “weak” to be “free,” in their estimation. Their false humility does not hide the pride and utter carnality of their position.
The Nicolaitan is so busy being “free” that he will not listen to the clear teaching of God’s Word. “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein (Jeremiah 6:16).” “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world (Titus 2:12);” When a godly preacher brings forth God’s message concerning standards and holiness, one of two things will happen. Either the Nicolaitan does not believe or receive the application (Ezekiel 33:32), or he becomes angry and leaves the church to find other “free” thinkers. It is sad to see people turn away from God’s Word so they can “grow closer” to the Lord.
In the end, the Nicolaitan develops the attitude that “no one can tell me what to do.” This attitude is like a spoiled child. We remember the nation of Judah that would rather hear lies than the truth (Isaiah 30:9–11). No one who cares enough to study the Scriptures can honestly believe that God will bless any Christian who develops this terrible attitude. If God were to let this attitude by without any response, He is not being true to His Word (Hebrews 12:5–11). We know that God is always faithful to fulfil His Word; therefore, we must be sure we do not allow this attitude to gain ground in our hearts.
The Nicolaitans have put forth great effort to undermine those who seek to follow the Lord. “But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not (Amos 2:12).” They glory in the opportunity to cause another brother to fall into sin because they feel they have been able to help their brother to be “free.”
Finally, the Nicolaitan brings judgment upon himself and his church (Revelation 2:16). When this doctrine is allowed entrance into the Lord’s church it will spread like wildfire, defiling the whole church (1 Corinthians 5:6). How sad to think that one person can be the cause of so much trouble and heartache in a church. It is sad to think; it does happen.
This doctrine is dangerous because it is easy for the flesh to go along with this. If we are not watchful we and our churches will fall prey to this doctrine and bring upon ourselves the judgment of God before we even realize that we have strayed from the truth and the right.
The Deeds and Doctrine of the Nicolaitans Must Be Exposed and Eradicated
The Nicolaitan must realize that his “freedom” has caused him to worship another, not the Lord God. In the case of the original Nicolaitans, as they partook of meat offered to idols, they became partakers of the heathen worship that accompanied the sacrifice. “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 10–11) .” In the case of the present-day Nicolaitans, when they seek to fulfill the desires of the flesh and hide their lust, impurity, and carnality behind “doctrine,” they worship themselves rather than the Lord God. In doing so, they actually ally the church of God with their idolatry (2 Corinthians 6:14–16). This alliance is certainly not the will of God and must be exposed for what it is.
The “freedom” that the Nicolaitan speaks of is nothing more than total surrender to a carnal life. In this doctrine of the Nicolaitans, self is placed first and is called spiritual and right before God. There is no turning from sin but an embracing of sin. “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:17–24).”
This “freedom” is contrary to God’s will for any believer. It is not God’s will for some believers to be holy while others are free to fulfill the desires of the flesh. No, it is God’s will for every true believer in Jesus Christ to be holy and separate from this world and the desires (lusts) of the flesh (Romans 6:6). Christ did not redeem us so that we might continue to serve the flesh (1 Peter 2:11–12). Instead, Christ redeemed us so that we might serve His desires (Romans 6:16–18; Ephesians 2:8–10). While it may seem easier to allow the old man complete control of our lives, it certainly is not better.
For those who hold the doctrine and deeds of the Nicolaitans, there is a call to repentance (Revelation 2:16). The Lord does not simply turn a blind eye and allow His children to do as they please, thus bringing Him shame. He demands a change, not only inwardly, but outwardly (2 Corinthians 5:17). Repentance (in this context) is to change one’s mind about his sinful ways leading to a return to holiness. This means that the Nicolaitan must first accept his error (Proverbs 26:18–19). When the Nicolaitan will not accept his error, he will see no need to repent. Usually, we speak of repentance as something that the lost sinner must have to be saved, but there are times when the people of God must repent of their ungodly deeds and doctrines (Revelation 2:5, 16: 3:3, 19). And sometimes it takes sharp words to open the eyes and heart of the sin-hardened Nicolaitan (2 Corinthians 7:8–11). The sinner can never enjoy hard, direct preaching, but that is what he needs to recognize the need to repent. Preachers need to be direct and plain in their preaching so that people will be able to understand exactly where they have failed to follow the Lord and correct their errors. Woe to the preacher who does not preach against sin and false doctrine, because his people will never know or acknowledge the need for repentance.
For those who hold the doctrine and deeds of the Nicolaitans, there is also a call to holiness. To heed the call to holiness, we must be separated from the world (2 Corinthians 6:17). This does not mean that we should seek to have no contact with the world. There are groups around that hold to this very philosophy. They seek to have no contact with anyone not associated with their group. While this may appeal to some, there is no way to seek isolation and reach the world with the Gospel at the same time (Luke 14:23). What this means is that we are to have no fellowship with the world in any area of our lives: in dress, in activity, in action, and speech (Ephesians 5:11). We must understand that as long as we retain ties with the world, we negatively affect our relationship with God (James 4:4).
Anytime we are separated from one thing, we must be separated to another thing. When we separate from the world, we must not remain neutral, or we will fall back into the same carnal life. We must separate to God as we heed the call to holiness (1 Peter 1:15–16). To achieve this separation to God, we need to study and seek to understand His holiness. Also, we must imitate His holiness (Leviticus 11:44–45) so we are holy, as He is holy. Of course, this means we must put forth an effort to achieve true holiness in our daily lives. Holiness is not something that just comes naturally to us, but holiness is something that we must really work toward (2 Corinthians 7:1).
In the days of the original Nicolaitans, eating meat offered to idols became a test of faithfulness to Christ. In these last days, with our own Nicolaitans to deal with, true repentance from carnality and a return to holiness are tests of our faithfulness to Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7–8). Many have failed in their faithfulness but can find restoration through repentance and renewed holiness. We must constantly be on our guard and monitor our faithfulness so that we might pass the test and be found free of the deeds and doctrine of the Nicolaitans. “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men (Titus 3:8).”
We live in days when God's people need revival. The world has become brazen in its love of sin and hatred of God and holiness. Instead of standing firmly for right and against sin, many of God's people have moved along with the world into the darkness. As a result of this move, Christians are cold to the things of God and unconcerned about the plight of lost souls.
Faithful believers hunger for revival, both personally and corporately (in their churches), and spend time before God begging for a glimpse of His glory. Eyes strain to find a spark of revival anywhere, and when it is found prayers are poured over that spark to fan the feeble flame.
We need revival. We desire revival. We do not need or desire a false revival. A false revival is dangerous to the believer. It may look like the real thing, but it will distract from the focus of true revival. It will lead believers into error rather than truth.
If we wish to avoid the distraction of a false revival, we need to understand what true revival is.
On 8 February 2023, the so-called "Asbury Revival" sprouted. "The event was prompted after students spontaneously stayed in Hughes Auditorium following a regularly scheduled chapel service on 8 Feb. 2023 (wikipedia.com)." What has occurred since has left people divided about the legitimacy of this revival. As always, we must turn to the Scripture, our sole authority, to discern whether or not this revival is of God or men.
To begin, we must acknowledge what Biblical revival is. We cannot discern between right and wrong, truth and error unless we know what is true.
Truths Concerning Revival
First, we need revival. Check out Revelation chapters 2-3. Here you will find the Lord speaking to the seven churches in Asia. Some churches received praise, while others received a warning. These warnings were a call to revival. The church at Ephesus had left her first love. The church at Pergamos allowed false doctrine to bloom among the members of the church. The church at Thyatira permitted a woman to teach and practice false doctrine. The church at Sardis was spiritually dead. The church at Laodicea was lukewarm; neither far from God nor on fire for God. The obvious conclusion is that God's people require revival from time to time.
Second, God uses people of His choosing to produce revival. When revival came to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, God used the prophet, Jonah. This prophet would be the last individual you or I might choose to send for this purpose. Jonah was headstrong. Jonah held prejudice against the people of Assyria. Jonah argued with God and became angry when God showed mercy to the people of Nineveh. Despite his want of character, God tremendously used Jonah. This is not an excuse for believers to live as they please, expecting God to use them, for God's people are called to holiness and Christ-likeness. Neither is this an excuse for the odd methods of men that are used to produce "spiritual results." I am merely pointing out that God can use odd people for His purpose and glory. However odd Jonah was, he was still the man of God, preaching the message of God, using the method of God to reach the lost for God.
Third, revival results in individual change among God's people. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God said, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." The following are the changes that God spells out as the expected fruit of revival.
These are the changes that one would expect to see as the result of revival. Sadly, many revival meetings do not focus on these things, instead finding distraction in other "fruit" of revival, like attendance figures, emotional music, demonstrative preaching, etc.
Fourth, revival results in corporate changes. In other words, New Testament churches are restored to fellowship with her Head. Jesus said to the Laodicean church, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20)." Jesus desires fellowship with His people, both individually and as a church family. When revival begins in the heart of the individual, it will affect the revival of the church body, as a whole. The one thing that Jesus identified as the sign of spiritual revival in a church was its desire to fellowship with Jesus. This fellowship will not be found through more church activities or more church fellowship meals. This fellowship will be found in a greater desire to hear from the Saviour through the preaching and teaching of God's Word. How we need revival in our churches!
Fifth, true revival will result in a greater zeal for the evangelism of the lost. When an individual or church is spiritually lazy, it will not have a holy desire to see souls come to the Saviour. Why bring someone to Christ, for whom we hold no great love? But, when our love for Christ is revived, how greatly will we want others to know the same love we have received?
Truths Concerning False Revival
Once we recognize the special aspects of real revival, it is easier to recognize false revival. There are many characteristics of a false revival of which every Christian must be aware.
First, Jesus prophecied the prevalence of false revivals in the Last Days. In Matthew 24:23-24 He said, "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." How many revivals proclaim the presence of the Holy Spirit or a move of God? These MAY be real revivals, but the claim does not make it so. This teaches us not to take these claims at face value, but to dig deeper.
Second, Jesus told us that professing Christians would be deceived. In Matthew 24:24, we read, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." True Christians SHOULD NOT be susceptible to these fake revivals, but fake Christians will fall for every "revival" that comes along.
Third, the Bible proclaims the existence of false apostles and teachers. The existence of these false apostles should not be a surprise to us, but it is good to be reminded that they are out there. They look like the "real deal," but they represent the devil. "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)."
Fourth, a false revival will promote false teaching. In 2 Timothy 4:3-4, Paul told Timothy, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." These false revivals will promote fables, like public exorcisms, sharing visions and dreams, and emotional events.
Fifth, a false revival will promote ecumenicalism. Each fake revival announces a "cross-denominational work of God." I do not believe that revival can only be found in an independent Baptist church, but I do know that real revival will cause God's people to look to the Scripture rather than hold on to and defend false teaching. Revival will spark a desire to follow God's Word to the letter and set aside every false thought, action, and doctrine. Ecumenicalism is the opposite of real revival. Paul told the church in Rome, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Romans 16:17)."
Sixth, a false revival will ridicule discernment. There will be accusations of judgmentalism and jealousy. There will also be accusations of hateful speech, simply because a Christian sees and identifies a fake revival. Christians are commanded to discern between true and false, right and wrong. " Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 John 4:1)."
Seventh, a false revival will promote a different spirit. The Spirit of God is not present in a false revival because Christ and His Word are not exalted; Bible preaching is not the centre of each meeting; repentance is not the goal of each meeting. We are to "try the spirits whether they are of God (1 John 4:1)." That tells us a false spirit will permeate a false revival, making the undiscerning believe it to be a legitimate revival meeting.
Christians and New Testament churches need revival, but revival is not always revival in the Scriptural sense. We do not need fake revival. We must use Biblical discernment to separate the false revival from the true. When you hear of a revival or a great "move of God," look for the signs. They will clearly show the real revival, in which you can rejoice. They will also expose the false revival, from which you must distance yourself.
We can look at Novatian and those New Testament churches who stood with him and say, "See, New Testament Baptist churches aren't Protestants; New Testament Baptist churches were protested against from that time to this." We would be correct in that conclusion. But, if that is all that we learn from this situation, we have failed to learn from history and are likely to repeat the same errors that were made back then by those whom Novatian opposed.
Novatian teaches us the importance of separation. When we fail to separate from sin and error, things may move along much as before, but there will come a time when we recognize that we aren't where we used to be or what we used to be. There are two types of separation that Novatian's life and stand manifest.
First, Novatian opposed those "Christians" who were faithful to God when it was easy but returned to paganism when things got hard. He believed that Christ's followers would follow Christ and avoid pagan practices in their everyday living as the Bible teaches. "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)." Jesus never promised that living for Him would be easy. He said that His disciples would deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). Novatian was standing for personal separation from the world, even in the face of adversity.
Second, Novatian opposed those churches that coddled these unfaithful "disciples." He preached that these churches were denying the faith and were no longer Scriptural, New Testament churches. As a result, he, and those churches that remained faithful to the Word of God, rejected the baptism of these corrupt churches as invalid. Novatian was standing for ecclesiastical separation from unethical and unbiblical churches, even in the face of ridicule.
Today churches are making decisions regarding these same two principles of separation. Will they preach separation from the growing pagan influences of our world? Will they preach separation from the growing number of churches that infuse error into their doctrine and practice for the sake of numbers and popularity? We could learn a lot from Novatian!
I pray that men of God will stand as Novatian did: identifying error and calling for separation unto holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16)!
Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment? -Malachi 2:17
The Jews who had returned from Babylonian exile wearied the Lord with their words. I believe that many professing Christians also weary the Lord with their words.
The Lord clearly states what He means when He says His people have wearied Him with their words. He gives two different, though intertwined, statements.
First, the Lord is wearied by those who claim that God loves everyone, regardless of their lifestyle. We have a glut of preachers and churches who claim that the outside does not matter; it is only what is inside that counts (ie: "God sees the heart."). This is not in tune with the Scripture in either the Old or New Testament. Leviticus 18:5 says, "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD." Ephesians 4:1 says, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called..." Both the Old and New Testaments call for believers to live, think, and respond like believers. I realize that not one of us is perfect, but this must be the goal of every born-again believer in Jesus Christ. If we love the Lord will all our heart, soul, and mind, we will also obey the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37; John 14:15).
When we begin to make excuses for sin ("God loves me like I am."), we are guilty of making the Lord weary with our words. When we make excuses for ungodliness in the lives of fellow believers, we make the Lord weary with our words. We can even go so far as to say, "I know their life doesn't follow the Bible, but they are the best Christians I have ever known," we are making the Lord weary with our words.
Second, The Lord is wearied by those who reject Him as a God of judgment. Too often, believers will talk about the "Old Testament God of judgment" that is always looking for something for which to punish His people. Then, they turn to talk about the "New Testament God of grace" that lets believers get away with wickedness and turns a blind eye to continuing bondage in sin.
It might be hard for you to grasp, but we serve the SAME GOD in the Age of Grace that Moses served under the Law. He is not less holy than He was back then. He holds the same standard of holiness for His people today, regardless of whether His holiness is followed or rejected. He said in 1 Peter 1:15-16, "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." Notice how this applies to New Testament believers, but Peter reaches back into the Old Testament to prove the statement he makes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God has the same standard of holiness for you as He had for Abraham, Moses, and David.
Rather than making the Lord weary, we must live in such a way as to be refreshing to the Lord. That comes about by humility and total surrender to God and His Word. Without these two key ingredients, believers will continue to make the Lord weary with their words.
Back in the third century, something incredible happened. The churches in existence had gravitated into two camps. One camp held firmly to the teaching of Scripture, while the other camp felt that some Bible truth could be "tweaked" for the sake of convenience. One example of this "tweaking" is found in "clinical baptism:" a baptismal candidate, being too sick to be immersed, had water poured over him instead. The result of this "tweaking" was the churches in this camp teaching false doctrine, such as the necessity of baptism to forgive sins, the importance of the "saints," and other heretical doctrines.
In the middle of this conflict between these camps stood Novatian. He denounced the camp of corrupt churches, stating that their baptism was invalid due to their false teaching. He preached that any born-again believer coming from one of these churches to a church in the camp of faithful churches must receive Scriptural, valid baptism.
Needless to say, the compromising churches reviled Novatian as "divisive." New Testament Baptist churches today are reviled as "divisive" when we refuse to accept any immersion from a church that is not a New Testament church in doctrine and practice. Things haven't changed that much over the centuries.
The point is that the compromising churches "protested" against Novatian and those New Testament churches that stood faithful to the Word of God. They protested that their compromise was exposed for all to see and that there were real consequences for their compromise. These "protesters" began to deride these faithful churches as "Novatians" and "Anabaptists."
These "protesting" churches further developed into the Catholic and Orthodox churches of today. The Bible teaches that "like begets like," so it is no surprise that in 1517 and after, many stood to protest the things in the Catholic church with which they disagreed.
No, New Testament Baptist churches are NOT Protestant. They were the first to be protested against because they desired to remain faithful to the Lord and His Word. We, too, need to continue faithful to the Lord and His Word, no matter the names we are called and the "divisiveness" that is created.
Much debate has occurred on the topic of Christian music. These debates have ended friendships and split churches. On the one side are those who believe music is "amoral" and, therefore, beyond criticism, regardless of its form. On the other side are those who believe music is a tool of God or the devil, and the Christian must submit his musical preference to the Scripture.
Whenever there is debate regarding Christian music, certain arguments inevitably find their way into the conversation. There are accusations of songs being too repetitive, too vague, too shallow, and so on. These may well be valid points, but they aren't the main issues concerning this ongoing debate.
I believe there are four main issues surrounding the debate over Contemporary Christian Music and whether a Christian or church should participate in and listen to this type of music. If we can get a firm grasp on all four of these issues, we will be better prepared to judge what music is truly Christ-honouring and what music must be avoided.
The Issue of Origin
One of the biggest issues that surround the CCM debate is its origin. CCM came from a rebellion against "traditional" worship. It was produced as an appropriate alternative for those who have an appetite for the world's music.
One "Gospel" group was promoting their latest recording. As part of that promotion, they pointed out that a guitarist from a major secular pop-rock band was involved in performing the music for their recording. They felt extremely honoured that someone "of that calibre" would play on their recording. In other words, this "Gospel" group was actively looking to the lost world for the music they would perform. This is not an isolated incident.
The vocal playground (swings and slides), breathy style, and even how words are pronounced in CCM are nothing less than the imitation of worldly artists. This imitation contradicts what John told us in 1 John 2:15: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
The problem is that secular music promotes ungodliness (drunkenness, adultery, rebellion against authority, etc.) and that music should never be imitated to glorify a holy God. Secular music worships self, and this cannot be adapted to worship God. It is a trap to think that changing the words to ungodly music somehow sanctifies the music. When godly words are placed into ungodly music, the godly words are made null and void, for it is the music that drives the song rather than the words.
"Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise (Deu 12:30)."
The Issue of Direction
There is a problem with CCM in the direction of the music. Godly music directs the attention to God, while most CCM directs the attention to man.
CCM artists shamelessly promote themselves and their recordings. Their album art is generally all about them. The way that they sing their songs is designed to bring greater attention to themselves, taking away from the God for Whom they claim to sing. This is the opposite of the attitude displayed by John the Baptist. In John 3:30, he said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." We could do with more of this attitude in every aspect of the Christian walk, but it is impossible to possess this attitude while promoting self.
The popular songs in CCM bring God in as a way of self-help. They do not promote selflessness or dedicated service to God. This is no surprise when we recognize charismatics are the majority of CCM artists. Their doctrine and philosophy are that believers are "little gods," who can selfishly declare and decree things into existence on their whim. That self-centred outlook naturally develops into music that sees self at the centre of everything. This type of music leads to self-worship rather than worship of the Lord of all.
The Psalms are a tremendous resource for how God-honouring music should look. The psalmist often speaks of self and issues he faces but always turns his attention to God. Other psalms focus on God without any reference to self. I am thankful that there are godly songwriters today, writing songs that focus the attention on God rather than man.
The Issue of Ideology
Contemporary Christian Music, especially as it applies to a church gathering, teaches that music is used to draw the presence of the Holy Spirit into the service. This reminds me of a snake charmer, who plays his pipe to raise the cobra from his basket. This is man thinking that he can manipulate the Spirit of God through music. He cannot believe that worship can occur in the absence of music.
The only instance in Scripture of "believers" seeking to attract the attention of their "god" is when the prophets of Baal competed with Elijah on Mount Carmel. They yelled and scream, in a vain attempt to gain the attention of Baal. I am sure that music was somehow involved in their efforts, although this is not stated in Scripture. The philosophy of these Baal-worshippers is exactly what is promoted and practiced among those who use CCM.
On the other hand, the Scripture tells us something completely different. We are not to use music to conjure up the Spirit. We are to use music because of the presence of the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18-19 tells us, "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;" Notice that verse 18 does not end with a period. The thought of being filled with the Spirit is carried forward into the next verse, where we find psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. That teaches us that songs of praise will come when the Spirit of God is in control.
The Issue of Theology
Doctrine matters! The New Testament is full of the importance of knowing right doctrine, teaching right doctrine, and standing for right doctrine. This cannot be emphasized enough!
One problem with CCM is it promotes the denial of doctrine. They tell us that doctrine must be set aside so that we can "get a blessing" from the music. At any given concert you will find Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics and other groups represented. How can these groups get together when their doctrine is not remotely similar? The only option is to deny or set aside doctrine for the sake of entertainment or "edification."
Another problem with CCM is it promotes false doctrine. Time and space would not allow an exhaustive study of this issue but consider the following.
CCM, as a whole, isn't looking for the Rapture; it is looking for the kingdom (Titus 2:13). This is an a-millennial point of view, and it is not supported by the Scripture.
CCM tells us that a revival is sweeping the land, when the Bible clearly states that the Rapture will not occur without a falling away first (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Timothy was encouraged to preach the Word of God because the time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine. That is not a prophecy of an end-time revival, as is claimed by CCM artists and their music.
CCM tells us that Christians can live any way they choose because of God's grace, but the Scripture teaches differently (1 Peter 2:16). Many CCM artists have mocked Bible-believing Christians for abstaining from smoking and drinking and for choosing to live a holy life for the Lord. More recently, many are coming out in support of "alternative lifestyles," which the Word of God declares to be sin. This is not in line with clear Bible doctrine.
This is not a complete list of the doctrinal errors that are found among CCM songwriters, artists, and the churches that produce it. They are listed to open your eyes to the real issues of CCM.
The issues with Contemporary Christian Music run much deeper than the repetition of the lyrics or the beat of the music. These are major issues that we must honestly consider. When we have completed our consideration of CCM based on these four issues, we will find it lacking any reason to be used in a Bible-believing, Bible-practicing church. We will also find it lacking any reason to be listened to by the individual believer.
About Jerry Jackson
Jerry has been writing for many years now. He has written tracts for several churches, as well as his ministries in Papua New Guinea and in Canada. He has had the opportunity to have many of his articles published in several Independent Baptist periodicals over the years. His main goals are to teach truth and lift up the Saviour.