Sunday, January 23, 2011

Applying Acts 21?

If you were the Apostle Paul how would you have reacted to what the Church at Jerusalem was practicing? Read what he was told on his arrival in Acts 21:17-25 
17 And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; 21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. 23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. 25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”
Paul was returning to Jerusalem after having preached that if you strive to obey the Law that Christ profits you nothing, and that you are indebted to obey the whole Law. Gal 5:2-3 (for example). What's more he talks about those who compel men become circumcised do so to avoid their own persecution of the Cross of Jesus Christ, that they only want to boast in the fleshly works of men. Gal 6:12-13 He also states that he would rather they cut their own selves off - if you know what he means. Gal 5:12 Yes that is graphic and harsh.

How does Paul react to the news of Jewish Believers being "zealous for the Law"? Well some people have said that Paul made the ultimate compromise... some say he made the biggest mistake of his ministry... some say that Paul recognized that Jewish Believers are not the same as Gentile Believers in that Jewish Believers are still under the Law while the Gentiles never were and are still are not now.

The rest of Acts 21 tells us how he reacted and what ensued. Acts 21:26
26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them
Paul capitulated, and obeyed ceremony and entered the Temple in accordance with the Law. Was Paul recognizing that he was under the Law? No. Was he compromising? Perhaps... but I don't think so. Can there be middle ground between under the Law and not under the Law? Some teachers in the Church divide the Law between ceremony and morality and claim that Christians are under the "moral law" however, here we have Paul obeying ceremonial law. Scripture does not divide the Law any more than Paul did in his actions at Jerusalem.  I don't think it was compromise.

Did he make a mistake? Perhaps an intentional mistake. I think he intentionally became a hypocrite in order to win the hypocrites. I believe Paul became all things to all men that he might win some.  1Cor 9:19-23 And even more so, Paul was acting exactly according to his words and so NOT being a hypocrite. In Rom 9:1-5 Paul says that he could wish that he was himself accursed of Christ, if by such he could win the Jews to Christ.

Was Paul, a Jew still under Law? NO! He explains his, and all Jewish Believers relationship with to the Law when he rebukes Peter, who had been living like a Gentile until some Jewish Believers showed up in Antioch. Gal 2:11-21

11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. 
17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

Jews become like Gentiles when they believe because they have died in Christ, and are dead to the Law.

So was Paul mistaken to go into the Temple the way he did, under Law? No I don't think so. I think he set aside the freedom he had in order that he could win those in bondage. Read the wonderful sermon he was able to preach to the huge crowd that sought to kill him. Acts 22:1-21 I think Paul knew what would go down and used that opportunity to tell them about Christ the Just One, and the true washing away of sins - not just being purified for a moment so that one can enter the Temple.

So what's my point here? 

Well, I want everyone reading to be thinking about how we can do this with our Lordship Salvation Brothers; if they have in fact received the Gospel of Christ 1Cor 15:1-11 before they were swept aside by the wind of this false doctrine.

See while successful Discipleship is not a condition for, or of true Salvation in Christ, it is the very focus of the Epistles of the New Testament. It's interesting that today in church we were studying 1Thess and I think it's the only letter from Paul that doesn't include the correction of grave disorder. The only correction Paul gives is about the reality of our hope in Christ's return being a good thing. So I can say wholly confidently that Discipleship is a HUGE topic in the Bible. We really are supposed to submit to Christ and live holy, and do good works - we really are!

Those in the the bondage of Lordship Salvation see this as a condition for and/or an unavoidable result of salvation because it is so prevalent in the New Testament. So how can we do a better job of giving ourselves the opportunity to preach the washing of sins by the death burial and resurrection of the Jesus Christ the Just?

How can we surrender freedom to win the opportunity to preach freedom? How SHOULD we do this? Can we do this without blaspheming God?


Jan said...


I never thought to put it in those terms before, but you are asking a question I have been asking myself for a long time now, too.

I think the main impediment is the knee jerk reaction that the gospel as the gospel, and not law as gospel, is antinomian. They are terrified of antinominanism and have been taught that anything less than full submission to Christ for salvation is an antinomian gospel. We already know that MacArthur has said that the FG gospel INEVITABLY leads to licentiousness, in spite of many proofs to the contrary currently and throughout history.

Most of my research of late has been among Reformed and Lutheran men who see the problem with the LS gospel. Even Michael Horton wrote a book in the 90s calling MacArthur out for teaching what amounted to Roman Catholic doctrine. He is still being called out for that today by some Reformed and Lutheran men.

There is a small cadre of men among those groups who agree with us that the law is not the gospel and the gospel is not the law and they must each be kept separate and put to their respective use. They would by no means approve our position as Dispensationalists, however, being Covenantal themselves. We of course would return the sentiment. However, on the law/gospel distinction we are very much in agreement.

My hope is, since LS is mainly a Reformed view, perhaps these men can have some influence that we can't have, being already dismissed as heretics in their minds.

As to how to deal with it in our own camp, I'm not sure.


Kevl said...

Hi Jan,

Perhaps we should be spotlighting the challenges these men are raising.

While I find Conventional Theology disorderly, disjointed, and dis... I need another dis word here... I stop short of calling it heresy by a long shot. There are surely some "Kingdom now" types who go into heresy... but that's neither here nor there.

I wonder when I read about Cov Theology types calling Dispensationalists (Dispies!) heretics.....

Frankly Dispy, Covy... lovey-dovey... if the Gospel is correct then that person is my Brother and I can partner with him in the endeavor of protecting the pure preaching of the Gospel.


Jan said...

I posted a bunch of links to their sites and You Tube videos at Jack's site, if you want to see what they are saying. I could email you some other ones, too. I have found them very educational. Ironically, their understanding of what TULIP implies as far as the requirements of a person to get saved necessarily excludes LS.

I highly recommend reading the article at The Trinity Foundation on John Piper. It offers a great deal of insight on what is coming out of his church.

In the main, they have the exact same complaints we do, but for some different reasons that fit in with TULIP and such.


Look up said...

The difference comes down to the ultimate reason that one turns from sin.

Is it to know that you are a Christian? No. Is it to impact the world for Christ? No. Is it because one is a slave to a new master? No. Is it for rewards? No. Does it make you a better person? No. Does it make you a keeper of the law? No. Because it is expected of God's people? No.

So then what is the ultimate reason that motivates a Christian to turn from sin? When one finds that out, all the rest falls away....

Kevl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevl said...


Your comment was not approved because of the link it contained.

You wrote just dropped by your site, what can you say about this article linked below? this article is trying to defend lordship salvation.

I'm familiar with Mr. Piper's preaching and writing. There are a multitude of posts about Lordship Salvation on this blog. Check the "Lordship Salvation" tag at the bottom of the article above for a lot of information.

I have read only the first couple of lines of the link you supplied. I see that it is from 1990. Dr. Charlie Bing wrote his dissertation about that time and it dealt with Lordship Salvation very soundly.

See my post about it here.


Liam Moran said...

When I read Jan's comments about Michael Horton's book in comparing the similarities between MacArthur's doctrine and that of Roman Catholicism, I thought of Roman Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis. He wrote a book titled Not By Faith Alone where he attempts to defend justification by works and refute faith alone theology. It is of concern that throughout the book he finds numerous areas of agreement with not only MacArthur but other Reformed writers in the area of justification and works.

Kevl said...

Hi Liam, thanks for the comment. I've got a strange story that relates to it to share - but I've got to get to a men's Bible study group so I must leave now.

I'll tell you later - I found it very hard to figure out at the time but you know how hind sight works.


Kevl said...

Hi Liam,

Until August last year I was the writer & producer of a Christian radio program. A radio station in London Ontario which we were broadcasting on (they actually gave us our start) changed ownership. A devoted Roman Catholic purchased the station.

I live 1,600KM away from London, and so I never had direct conversations with the man - but the head of the ministry (and host of the show) lived in London. So those two got to know each other fairly well, and the host of the show sat on the board of advisers for the radio station.

I could never figure out why this Roman Catholic could put up with the show I was writing. We even aired a four part series on Roman Catholicism. Then I received an email telling me how much he appreciated us... I couldn't figure it out.

Then I learned that the head of the ministry had been won over to the Lordship Salvation view of Christianity. I resigned, because the head was driving where the ministry was going - and so I had to obey the principles of separation.

Now in hind sight I wonder if this Roman Catholic owner of the station ever actually listened to the radio show - which never drifted into LS theology at all under my writing and production. I believe he simply got to know the host of the show who had LS theology...

This is the long way of saying, that RC is very close to LS in a lot of ways. LS trades old traditions for new, and idol worship for obedience to other tenants but in the end the actual theology is the same.


Jan said...


I forgot about the Robert Sungenis thing. But that is true. The LSers will run willy nilly away from any association with Catholics, but the Catholics have a different take on things. Another man who is a former Catholic priest and now Reformed has taken the evangelical church to task for how we share the gospel in an article called "The Invincible Gospel and the Modern Evangelical Lie." He speaks from a plainly TULIP perspective, but his criticisms of how the gospel is communicated are very similar to ours. He particularly does not like the "give your life to Jesus" and "ask Jesus into your heart" approach. I don't know where he is on LS per se, but his rebuke of the evangelical gospel presentation is scathing. He says that he began searching for assurance of salvation when he was still a Catholic priest. He sent away to ministries for books and tracts and saw only that they said what he already believed as a Catholic.

Another former Catholic from our own camp is Tom Stegall. He says the evangelical gospel had the exact same effect on him as a Catholic. And it was his intention to become a Catholic priest.

In my research I was directed to a talk given by R.C. Sproul where he preached on the 10 lepers that Jesus healed, 9 of which did not come back to thank Him. For the most part it was a pretty good talk. But then toward the end he said that the man's faith and his faithfulness has redeemed him. He said it like he was quoting Jesus so it sounded like, "go your way. Your faith and your faithfulness has redeemed you." This is awful and it was pointed out by another Reformed man.

You know, it's one thing when Dispensationalists criticize Reformed men. Not that we are wrong, but that is like the Hatfields vs. the McCoys. It is a feud that will never go away. But when other Reformed men criticize you and then Catholics praise you and think you sound just like them, Houston, we have a problem!


Jan said...

I see I forgot to say the former Catholic priest is Richard Bennett of Berean Beacon ministries.


Kevl said...

Jan you said a mouth-full there

You know, it's one thing when Dispensationalists criticize Reformed men. Not that we are wrong, but that is like the Hatfields vs. the McCoys. It is a feud that will never go away. But when other Reformed men criticize you and then Catholics praise you and think you sound just like them, Houston, we have a problem!


Jan said...

Oh, by the way. Did I happen to mention that John Piper was mentored at Fuller Seminary by Daniel Fuller? And that Daniel Fuller said:

I then had to accept the very drastic conclusion that the antithesis between law and gospel established by Luther, Calvin, and the covenant theologians could no longer stand up under the scrutiny of biblical theology.


I would say that Moses was justified by the work, or obedience, of faith..... [There are] many passages in Scripture in which good works are made the instrumental cause of justification.

And worst of all:

A faith that only looks back to Christ’s death and resurrection is not sufficient..... Forgiveness for the Christian also depends on having....a futuristic faith in God’s promises. Thus we cannot regard justifying faith as sufficient if it honors only the past fact of Christ’s death and resurrection but does not honor the future promises of God....

And those quotes were pointed out by a Reformed man, John Robbins, who took Piper to task for saying:

I am hard pressed to imagine something more important for our lives than fulfilling the covenant that God has made with us for our final salvation


The term ‘works’ refers to the warfare of righteousness unempowered by future grace

Among a myriad of other like things.

So between the two of them we have the doctrine that in order to get to heaven believing Christ crucified is not enough, we must also fulfill the terms of the covenant God made with us, whereby we are given grace according to our faith, which is works, and there are many passages in Scripture that show we are justified by works, but not really because works only count as works if they are done in unbelief. Otherwise those works are really faith.

Yep, Houston. I would definitely say we have a problem.

And no, I am not making any of this up nor exaggerating in the slightest. I will give the site so anyone can go read it for themselves if Kev will allow a link to a Reformed site. If not, just google John Robbins Pied Piper.


Liam Moran said...

Kevin and Jan,

Thank you both for your comments and stories. Yes, one cannot study Reformed Theology in depth for very long without seeing similarities between their view of salvation and Lordship Salvation with Roman Catholicism. It was only a couple years ago when the president of the Evangelical Theological Society resigned because he left evangelicalism for the Roman Catholic church.

It concerns me what leading Reformers are saying about "final justification" and the role works plays in this. This was under discussion in the last meeting at Evangelical Theological Society as well.

Kevl said...

Hi Jan,

You can certainly link, please mark it clearly for what it is.



Jan said...

OK. Here's the link to the article on John Piper. It is from a staunchly Reformed site, so bear that in mind as you read. The author is strongly covenantal and writes from a covenantal perspective which we cannot endorse. But his exposure of John Piper (who also seems to desire to remain covenantal while apparently reinventing covenantalism to have only one covenant instead of two, as the covenantalists hold) is, IMO, worth the effort of wading through. Dispensationalists would largely agree with what Robbins identifies as errors, except Piper's failure to find a covenant of works in Scripture. We would agree with Piper on that, though not with what he does with that fact. What he does with that fact is, IMO, worse than the two covenant system that has a covenant of works fulfilled by Christ on our behalf. At least then the work is still extrinsic to us, done by Another, so faith alone in Christ alone is maintained. Not so with Piper's arrangement.


Kevl said...

Hi Jan,

I'm reading your comment seriously for the first time - sorry I've been very busy with work.

I'm TRULY shocked by this:

I would say that Moses was justified by the work, or obedience, of faith..... [There are] many passages in Scripture in which good works are made the instrumental cause of justification.

I can't get my head around the implications - if this is what Piper was taught.. no wonder the man has problems with separating works from salvation.

Then you wrote worst of all and I thought - how could it possibly get worse than that?

A faith that only looks back to Christ’s death and resurrection is not sufficient..... Forgiveness for the Christian also depends on having....a futuristic faith in God’s promises. Thus we cannot regard justifying faith as sufficient if it honors only the past fact of Christ’s death and resurrection but does not honor the future promises of God...

Jan.. this is unspeakably wrong. He is saying, explicitly, that it was not "finished" at the Cross. That Christ's death did not in fact PROPITIATE God for our sins. What HORRID HORRIBLE BLASPHEME IS THIS???

I am now terrified for Piper.

I have never been more fearful for the man. His mentor is a heretic. And you KNOW I do not make that statement lightly.


Jan said...

He is saying, explicitly, that it was not "finished" at the Cross.

Robbins makes that same observation in his article. I don't see how that conclusion can possibly be avoided.

I am more scared for those who rely on Piper as a teacher. I wonder if they know this background? I did not know he went to Fuller Seminary until I read Robbins' article, nor did I know that Daniel Fuller (or anyone else) taught this. But it does explain how he could have Doug Wilson, an architect of the Federal Vision heresy, at his Desiring God conference and say Wilson was not off on the gospel to any serious degree.