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to spare those who may stumble.
Before I pick up with some more of the passages he cites, most of them very briefly, now is a good time to address the elephant in the room.
Harvest Bible Chapel" family of churches. He's not a novice. In some cases the passages he cites have had a long history of debate about their meaning, in just a couple of these I can understand the debate to some extent. However, in the majority of cases, someone who is not a novice with the Scriptures ought to know better. The Pastor obviously holds his position passionately. I cannot speak to his intentions but I can speak to the fact that it is not wise to base a position on the blatantly wrong interpretation of many passages, and the commonly held and debated interpretations of a couple of passages. Especially when it deals with a subject like the Gospel or Salvation. My purpose in writing this series of articles is not to disparage the man, but to reach any of those who follow him (and other like minded teachers) before they become unrecoverable.
There's still a lot of ground left to cover in his 43 minute sermon. It's much easier, and quicker, to cite a passage in error than it is to explain it properly. I know the length of these articles will limit the audience they reach. However, I'm writing for an audience of One, and any He draws.
After Pastor Millar discusses 1Jn 3:23-24 (were we left of last in Part 2) he moves on to a rapid fire session of citing passages with very little comment; having already laid a foundation of understanding in his audience guiding them to believe that belief is obedience, or at least includes obedience. I however cannot gloss over the passages he speeds through because I don't have his same luxuries.
Acts 5:32 he says means that God only saves those who obey God.
Acts 5 starts with the fearful recounting of what God did to Ananias and Sapphira when they lied to the Holy Spirit by making false statements to Peter. Next we learn that people laid the sick along the road where Peter would walk so that his shadow might fall on them so they would be healed. When more people heard about these things a great multitude gathered to be healed. When the Jewish High Priest found out what was going on he had Peter and companions put in jail. That night an angel came to Peter and said “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.” Acts 5:19-20
Peter was not only saved, he was "filled" with the Holy Spirit. Pastor Millar only quotes the end of what Peter says and also teaches on it out of context. This is the very definition of Proof-Texting.
The High Priest reminds Peter that he had explicitly commanded them NOT to preach about Jesus Christ in Acts 5:28. Peter's full response is found in Acts 5:29-32. Here we see that Peter is talking about his own obedience to God in preaching the Gospel, as the Angel commanded him to do, instead of staying quiet the way the High Priest had commanded him. Peter had such a powerful ministry, he was given or "filled with" the Holy Spirit because he obeyed God and not man.
Acts 5:32 is not at all expressing what Pastor Millar uses it for.
Next he says that there is a good example of his teaching in Rom 2:1-8. At first look I find the passage a strange one for him to quote because of the fact that he didn't want his congregation knowing what he had done all week... Verse 1 reads "Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things." But as I read it became clear why he quotes it. Rom 2:7-8 is his focus. Now I'd like to remind you that he claims not to be adding obedience to the Gospel, but here he is using this passage to say that God only gives eternal life to "those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality" Now if this is what you tell a sinner they must do to be saved, then that is most surely works based salvation, no matter how emphatically the Pastor claims otherwise. The word rendered as "immortality" in the NKJV is actually incorruptibility. Darby renders the verse this way "to them who, in patient continuance of good works, seek for glory and honour and incorruptibility, life eternal."
Why is this important? Back up to verse Rom 2:6 speaking about God in His judgment. That He renders to each according to their works. When is He going to do this? When we are in Heaven, that's when we will be given rewards based on the things we have done in the flesh - whether good or evil. Paul explains this to the Corinthians in 2Cor 5:9-10, and of the same function, with a slightly different context we see the same sort of impartiality of judgment being taught by Paul in Rom 14:10-13 Of course here he's talking about Christians judging each other for how they serve God. We would do well to camp in this chapter for some time.
In short Romans 2 is not telling sinners that in order to be saved they must endure in good works. It's telling high minded Gentile sinners, and Jewish sinners alike that God will judge them with impartiality. That all will be "rewarded" at judgment for what we have done. Those of us who look forward to resurrection ( to incorruptibility in Heaven) will receive our rewards for our good works there, but those who do not have that hope will receive condemnation in the Lake of Fire.
That's a lot of explanation for a verse he only mentions in passing, I suggest you read the whole chapter of Romans yourself, and 1Peter 1:13-21 as well.
Next up is Romans 6:16 with which he equates obedience leading to righteousness as obedience leading to Eternal Salvation. Need I remind you once again that he claims over and over again to NOT be saying one obeys in order to become saved? It is clear from the passage, which is actually the chapter in full, that the people he's writing to have a choice about obedience. Again and again this is clear in the passage. In Rom 6:22 we find explicitly that these people have in fact been saved. They are not mere professors as Pastor Millar appears fond of accusing people of being, no not at all! Paul says of these people, in Rom 6:17-18 "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." What did they obey? The doctrine that had been delivered to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 1Cor 15:3-4. Obeying the Gospel is believing it. Rom 10:16 and Isa 53:1. Not living a life of obedience.
Fail-Safe For Fallacy. In short, a teacher will wear down his audience with his double barrelled citing of a huge amount of verses with very little explanation. The listener is not able to challenge each verse and eventually most people listening to this kind of argument will just give in. The man must be right... look at how many verses support his view! This sort of teaching does great abuse to the weaker Brethren who trust their teachers.
Hebrews is a challenging book. It is especially hard to overcome the bad teaching so many of us have been exposed to.
Hebrews 5:9 he says explains that God only saves those who obey Him, and if you read only that verse it sure does sound like that. Sort of like if you only read Mark 16:16 you might think that you need to be baptized in order to gain Eternal Life. Heb 5:9 says that God is the cause of salvation for all who obey Him, and interestingly enough this is the exact same statement as we saw in John 3:36. See this Bad Kool-Aid post for an explanation. He has been made the High Priest by God, which is the point of the passage, and when we obey Him we believe His testimony of Himself about Himself. Just the same as John 3 tells us. Also, look at Heb 4:9-11 that the obedience is for us to enter into rest. There can be no assurance if you base it on your performance. What's more, the focus Hebrews is not much getting saved but being sanctified. Read Heb 5:12-14 and the continued thought in Heb 6:1-3. The Writer of Hebrews is bringing believers to the topic of perfection in the faith, not teaching about how to get, be or know if you're saved.
Last on the menu for this part of the series; Pastor Millar brings up James 2:14-26 and claims that James the Brother of the Lord Jesus Christ says that true saving faith works. This is also a passage that has become exceedingly difficult to understand because of multitudes of teachers who inflict exactly the opposite of what James said on the Church. I have a detailed post entitled James 2 From The Text which ought to be helpful. James actually, factually, said that the one who says "show me your faith by your works" was being foolish! James himself never taught that concept as truth!
The Pastor quotes James 2:24 and notes that it says that a person is justified by works, not just by faith alone. Remember that the Pastor claims not to preach that salvation by works. However, he claims that James says that Eternal Salvation (Pastor's context, not James') is not by faith alone, but also by works. Confused? James is talking about justification before men, and the perfecting of a person's faith (not the proving of it, as the Pastor inserts into the Text here).
The perfecting of a person's faith is what James is teaching about. The animation of faith with works, so that it is profitable for others as well.
Pastor Millar applies James 2:26:
"He concludes in verse 26 for as the body apart from the spirit is dead so faith apart from works is dead. So how do you know you're a Christian? It's a crucial question, how do you know you have saving faith?"It's another complicated problem with his presentation of the Text that can be hard to understand, so for a very clear and detailed examination I suggest that you read Dr. Fred Lybrand's Back to Faith. However, here's an exert from the book from pg 99-101.
The final interpretive issue is found in the analogy in James 2:26. The analogy involves the relationship between the body and the spirit, making the simple point that when a body does not have a spirit, the body is dead. Those who hold to the cliché tend to misunderstand this as a simple reiteration of dead faith, and while apparent, they miss the nature of the analogy. Again, the analogy is that when the spirit is removed from the body, then the body is dead. It shows an intimate relationship between the two. Those who hold to the cliché tend to speak in terms such that a moving and active body shows that there is a spirit within, the two are inseparable, as are faith and works. In their understanding, they see the activity of the body as paralleling works, while the hidden nature of the spirit parallels faith. In offering the analogy this way, it seems to perfectly explain their concern, such that they insist “that faith proves itself by works” just as “the spirit proves itself by the body.”
The problem is that James’s example is the exact reversal of the way in which those who hold to the cliché understand it. James parallels the body with faith and the spirit with works. In other words, it is not that the spirit animates the body, and so faith animates works; rather it is that the works are that which animate, or give life, to the faith. Kierkegaard noticed this fact and has this view labeled as a “new interpretation,” Kierkegaard provides a new interpretation, based on the sola fide principle, for the epistle of St. James:
‘When James says: just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (2,26) – one might rather reverse the order and say: so also works without faith are dead; for faith, apparently, corresponds rather to the spirit, and works rather to the body, than conversely.’ (X:1 A457).
It is noteworthy that Kierkegaard’s understanding of sola fide allowed him to see what has always been apparent in the text. Those who hold to the cliché need the verse to read conversely: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so works without faith are dead also.” In essence, James is not so much talking about sequence, if faith then works, but rather combination, faith plus works. The combination of faith plus works is not to secure salvation from hell to heaven, but to propel the spiritual growth of the already-saved by giving fullness to a faithful walk with God, and a warning for avoiding “death” through the failure to add works to one’s faith.It is always more complicated to explain why something someone is teaching is wrong than it is to simply teach a point wrongly. We've made great progress though. There are only three more passages which the Pastor uses in his sermon. Mat 7, Col 1:22-23 and 1Jn 5:13.
We'll get to those passages, and deal with the 5 questions he tells his audience to use in evaluating whether they are saved or not. I'll be focusing on the special problem of why he back peddles at the end of his sermon to say that he's not saying they are not saved if they faith the test.
The finish line will come in Part 5 as I look at his proposed solution to those who will fail his test, and what I believe the Bible truly has to say about all of this.
Of course, my plans are most subject to the immutable will of God. So all my boasting aside this series will continue and finish as God allows.
Please find Part 4 here.