WEBSITE CHANGE

As you can all see, the website theme was reverted to one we used in the past. We have been meaning to make some changes to the site anyway, so we will take this opportunity to do so, rather than taking the time to rebuild it to its latest, and unfortunately, lost, style. Please be patient and we will get the new theme and layout up as expeditiously as possible.

As far as I can tell, everything is still accessible, but if there is something you need. Please let me know HERE. Byron

Fruit Inspection

FRUIT INSPECTIONCAN A BELIEVERS JUSTIFIED STATUS (WHETHER OR NOT HE IS SAVED FROM THE DEBT AND PENALTY OF HIS SINS) BE KNOWN BY HIS LIFESTYLE: AN EXEGESIS OF

MATTHEW 7:15-20

 

by Corey Richardson

 

INTRODUCTION

Have you ever heard someone say “You can tell whether or not someone is saved by the way they live their lives”? Previously, I believed this because it was taught at the church I attended.  Often, Matthew 7:15-20 is used to justify this teaching, so an examination of the passage would be prudent. It is my desire to show the true meaning of this passage in order to help correct false doctrine that leads to incorrect thinking.

 

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.  Mt.7:15-20

 

CONTEXT IS KING

Whenever you approach a passage of scripture it is always important to interpret the meaning of the passage in light of the context in which the passage is found.  In the case of Matthew 7, the passage is found near the end of what is commonly referred to as “the Sermon on the Mount”.  This teaching is given by the Lord Jesus to a Jewish audience, described as “the multitudes” (Mt.5:1), made up of believers and unbelievers, near the beginning of his ministry.  Jesus comes into the world at a very specific time in God’s dealings with His nation, Israel.  The nation did not live up to its end of the covenant made back at Mount Sinai. In this covenant, they agreed to obey God’s commandments; and He agreed to bless them if they obeyed but curse them if they disobeyed (Lev. 26).

The entire history of Israel in the Old Testament is one of them coming under the curses found in Lev. 26 because of their disobedience.  But God said in Jeremiah 31 that he would make a New Covenant with the nation of Israel, and it would be different than the covenant made at mount Sinai.  God would do for them what they couldn’t do for themselves.

 

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.  Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.  Jeremiah 31: 31-34

 

In Matthew, the time schedule given to the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9) is ticking along and nearing the end (Mark 1:15). God is beginning to “speak comfortably” (Hosea 2:14) to His nation, first through John the Baptist and then through the Lord Jesus.  This is following 400 years of silence where God has not been speaking to His people (Amos 8:11-12—represented by the blank page in your Bible between Malachi and Matthew).   He is teaching the multitudes, who should have the doctrine of the books of Genesis thru Malachi working in them.  If you start reading the book of Matthew without an understanding of what has transpired up until that point, much of the content will not be properly understood. The sermon has several purposes contained in it: to teach the law in truth (unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees who added their own precepts and commandments to it), to show forth the coming hope of the kingdom, to prepare the believers for the time to come, to warn them of a coming deception, and various other components like teaching them to pray.   One of the components of the Lord Jesus’s earthly ministry is to prepare the remnant of Israel for the time to come when He would return to the Father and eventually return to establish his kingdom (much of the Old Testament prophets are concerned with this time).   One of the issues that the remnant will face in the Lord’s absence is the issue of false prophets who will come to them looking like members of the remnant (sheep), but are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Christ Jesus is warning them in Mt. 7:15-20.  The way they could differentiate the true sheep from the wolves in sheep’s clothing was by their fruit.  The question then becomes, what is the fruit he is speaking of?

 

FRUIT OF THE LIPS

In order to understand the meaning of the word “fruit” in this context, we will take a quick trip through the scriptures to help establish the meaning of this term.

 

The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips: but the just shall come out of trouble.  A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth:…        —Proverbs 12:13-14

 

A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth… —Proverbs 13:2

 

A fools lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. A fools mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

 

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.  Isaiah. 8:20

 

I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.  Isaiah 57:19

 

Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.  A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.     Matthew 12:33-37

 

PESKY PROPHETS

False prophets were nothing new in God’s program with the nation of Israel.  When the Babylonian Captivity (the 5th course of punishment in Lev. 26 describes that they would be removed from the land) was about to come upon Judah, many false prophets were saying “Peace and safety” until destruction came upon them. Under the law, a prophet that falsely professed to be speaking on behalf of God was to die (Deut. 18:20).   This rule, like most of them, was not obeyed by those claiming to be prophets in Israel.  This is clearly seen in Jeremiah 14.

 

I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.  But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.  Jeremiah 23:21-22 (Read all of Jeremiah 23)

 

Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.  When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place.  Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.Jeremiah 14:11-15

 

      Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace…”  —Ezekiel 13:10 (Read all of Ezekiel 13)

 

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.  Behold, I have told you before.  Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.    Matthew 24:23-26

 

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety: then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child: and they shall not escape.     I Thessalonians 5:2-3

 

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.                                                       2 Peter 2:1

 

-also read the book of Jude.

 

The 5th course of chastisement (Lev.26) began with false prophets reassuring the people of “Peace and safety” when the sudden destruction of the Assyrian/Babylonian captivity came upon them, removing them from the land. The same scenario will end the 5th course of chastisement when the false prophets will once again speak lies to the nation of Israel, saying “Peace and safety” when the destruction is coming. It will once again be an Assyrian/Babylonian connection.  (I would refer you to a great book on this subject by David Winston Busch entitled The Assyrian).  Destruction and desolation will come upon the nation of Israel and they will not escape.  The faithful remnant of Israel who are heeding Christ’s words will know better. They will recognize that they are false prophets by the fruit of their lips, the words that they speak.  The remnant will know that the coming destruction is nigh and, when they see certain things happen, they will flee to the mountains and wilderness (Mt.24:15-21; Revelation 12).

 

AUTOMATIC GOOD FRUIT?

While the scriptures teach that we have a new life in Christ and that we should walk according to our new identity, it doesn’t teach that we will automatically live according to our new identity.  If this were so, then Jesus, Paul, Peter, James,  and John wouldn’t need to admonish believers to walk worthy—we would automatically live godly, but such is not the case.

 

Flee fornicationI Corinthians 6:18 (No need to say this if they will automatically do it.)

 

For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are Gods. I Corinthians 6:20

 

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

 

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the SpiritGalatians 5:25

 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.                   Ephesians 2:10

 

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called…   —Ephesians 4:1

 

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. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.  Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil.  Let him that stole steal no more:… —Ephesians 4:22-32

 

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.  Ephesians 5:1

 

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18.

 

All of these passages, and many more, beseech believers to walk worthy of their new identity in Christ.  But, if they are automatically going to “walk worthy” because they are good trees and can only bear good fruit, then there is no reason the Apostle Paul would need to implore, admonish, or beseech them.

 

CONCLUSION

We have examined Matthew 7:15-20, considering the context in which the passage lies and hopefully have redeemed this passage from its commonly held misunderstanding.   A proper understanding of the contents of the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) requires familiarity with all that came before them in Genesis thru Malachi.  You would not start a book in chapter 40 and expect to understand who the characters are, their motivations behind the decisions that they make, or the meaning of the dialogue between characters.  In like manner, you cannot begin reading the 40th book in the Bible (Matthew), and expect to understand all of the reasons why Jesus Christ does certain things when he does them, and why he says certain things to a specific audience. May you continue to seek after the truth of the scriptures, and to understand and appreciate all that God is doing in His infinite wisdom and grace.

For further study on the overall plan and purpose of God contained in the Bible, I would refer you to Keith Blades’ books Properly Handling the Word of Truth and Satan and His Plan of Evil.  These can be purchased online at www.enjoythebible.org

 

 

 

Deny Him, deny us…

Where do I find Paul’s answer to those who believe that Matthew 10:33 applies to believers today?

 

Mt.10:32-33:

32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.

33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.    

 

While there are several issues that need to be addressed in reply to your question, the first thing to establish is the fact that the entire book of Matthew is not written to or about us, the body of Christ, today.  While God wants us to know and understand his prophetic program found in Genesis—Acts 7 and Hebrews—Revelation, these books are addressed to the nation of Israel specifically.  It is in our Apostle Paul’s epistles that we find the marching orders for the Body of Christ today. Most Christians today believe that Mt-Jn and Hebrews-Revelation is written to us but they are inconsistent in deciding which commandments to follow and which to reject.

God has not told you and I to “sell that ye have, and give alms” (Lk.12:33). We learn, through our epistles (Romans thru Philemon) that God has interrupted his prophetic plans and purposes for the repossession of the earth through the nation of Israel.  We are introduced to this doctrine in Romans 9-11, so that after studying those chapters we should understand that God is doing something different today than he was in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.   We also learn that we are a unique entity, the church, the body of Christ.  We also learn through our epistles that God is carrying out a plan that he kept secret but now revealed through the Apostle Paul (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3; Col. 1:24-27).  This plan involves the heavenly places rather than the earth.  This subject, of course, requires a much larger study and if you are interested in learning more about this, then I would suggest a couple of good books—Satan and His Plan of Evil by Keith Blades or Properly Handling the Word of Truth by Keith Blades).

 

So, having established that the doctrines dealt with in the book of Matthew are not specifically addressed to you and I today living in the “Dispensation of the Grace of God” toward us Gentiles (Eph.3:1-3), the question becomes somewhat of a moot point.  But, since you asked, I will give you my understanding of what Jesus means when he states, “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Mt.10:33).

 

The issue of denying him and being denied certain things is not only true in God’s program with the nation of Israel but also in our program today.  Paul states in 2 Tim.2:12 “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him,

he also will deny us”.  The question that must be asked is, “What is being denied?”  Is it our justified status before God in which we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life?  It can’t be that, since that was a free gift given to us when we placed our faith in Christ. This doctrine was expounded in Romans 1-5.   Then what is being denied in Mt.10 and 2 Timothy 2? It is the issue of rewards in glory.  Both, in Paul’s epistles, and Mt-Jn/Heb-Revelation, there is a copious amount of material dealing with the issue of rewards in glory.  Rewards are based on faithfulness, enduring, bearing fruit, etc.  Many problems in Christian theology can be traced to a failure to maintain this distinction.  Our position in Christ (our justified/sanctified status) is a free gift, the rewards in glory are not. They can be gained or lost.

 

This issue of confessing Christ, and suffering the consequences of it, and denying Christ (as Peter did) to avoid suffering for his name’s sake, are big issues in Israel program.  They have major consequence both temporally and eternally.   For a member of the remnant of Israel (which is who Mt-Jn/Heb-Rev is written to), the two results of faithfully following Christ are: physically surviving through the Lord’s Day of Wrath (Lk.21:36), and rewards in the kingdom (which would include entrance into the wedding feast, positions of authority and rulership over cities, a dwelling place in the temple, being counted as part of Christ’s royal house, etc)

 

Mt.16:24-27 — 24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”

 

In Mt. 16:24-27, you see that losing you life for his sake in v.25, is tied to the issue of rewards when Christ returns in v.27.  Verse 26 is dealing with the issue of dying in the Lord’s day of wrath.  Those that don’t follow Jesus’s commandments in that day will die and will not be able to live through that time, which is another benefit of remaining faithful to Christ in that day. (Lk.21:36).   Unfortunately, many Christian teachers would expound this passage as a justification passage. They would teach that if you don’t submit your life to Christ then you aren’t justified.  This is wrong, wrong, wrong.  Justification unto eternal life is a free gift.  That’s why God will only except faith as the proper response to receive justification because faith (taking God at His word) is a non-meritorious response.  It is not a work. (Romans 4:4-5).

 

Paul, our apostle, has much to say about laboring and being faithful to receive a reward, which is tied to the issue of reigning with Christ.  (Romans 8:17; Romans14:10-12; 1Cor. 3: 5-15; 1Cor. 9:14-27; 2Cor. 5: 9-10; 2Cor. 9:6-7; Phil. 3:10-14; Phil.4:15-17; Col. 2:4,8,18; Col.3:23-25; 2Tim.2:10-15; 2Tim.2:19-21;Titus 3:8).

 

This is by no means exhaustive nor meant to be, but I hope it gives some clarity to you and others that are wrestling with the meaning of the passage in question and other similar passages.  Don’t forget, that God has always justified man by grace through faith.

 

Your brother in Christ,

Corey Richardson

David Winston Busch New Correspondence

As some of you may have heard, David has created a new website which will be his main presence on the web. You can find all of his articles and other information that has been on our fellowship website at his new address here: http://ambassadorbusch.wix.com/embassyofthemystery

Many of you have been following his correspondence that we have been putting on the site covering questions he has received and dealt with. He has recently added another addition on the subject of the conditional offering of the Kingdom early in the book of Acts.

 

View this, and other queries on his site:

http://ambassadorbusch.wix.com/embassyofthemystery#!QA-The-Kingdom-Offer-Conditional-Wrath/c1q8z/D1BCDBDD-1981-4B0C-B30D-D10AC5CECAC0

New Meeting Location!

As you know, the keys to the old building were handed over on July 29th, and everything is currently in a storage unit. The move and clean-up went fast and smooth thanks to many of you.
We are grateful for the years we had in that building, and closing that door for the last time was bitter/sweet. Change can be hard. BUT, this is a great opportunity to focus on what a “church” really is……its not a building, but a called-out assembly. WE are “the church, which is his body” (Eph.1:22-23). We are God’s building (1Cor 3:9, Eph. 2:19-22) Regardless of our address, we (the church) have the glorious privilege to make known the manifold wisdom of God (Eph 3:9-10). As we move forward with this transition, may we be knit together in love (Col. 2:2, Phil 2:1-16), “ with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil.1:27).

The staff at Cascade Inn Assisted Living Community have graciously offered to host our group free of charge on Sunday mornings.

They will have it set up for us to arrive at 10:30 am.
We will begin around 10:45am.

There is parking in the front, and we also have permission to park in the Cinetopia parking lot across the street.

The address is:
11613 SE 7th Street
Vancouver, WA 98683

Follow-up to Brief Thoughts on Recent Controversies in the “Grace Movement”

Follow-up to Brief Thoughts on Recent Controversies in the “Grace Movement”

 

As a result of subsequent correspondence with the brethren, I am including this follow-up article to address concerns that were raised by my original article on this subject.

 

It was communicated to me that certain of the brethren in question felt misrepresented by my article. I take this very seriously. I tried very hard not to do this, as I would not want this done to me, but I obviously did not do all that I could in this regard. If it was not clear before, I want the following to be clearly understood:

 

  • The GSB brethren believe in the edification process of the believer (sanctification)

 

  • The GSB brethren believe in the doctrine of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

 

If I in any way gave the impression in my article that these brethren do not believe in these doctrines, then I sincerely apologize with all that is within me. The questions I raised did not serve to question their belief in these doctrines, but rather to show the unfairness and inconsistencies of the alarm they were raising about other brethren and the understanding of the passages in question. I thought this point was clearly made, but if not, let it be so here.
I also fully realize that conferences, by their very nature, are not comprehensive, let alone exhaustive. I indicated that I appreciated this by making reference to the limitations of the venue. Criticizing a speaker simply because something wasn’t said or discussed at a particular venue would be greatly unfair. That said, at the very end of the article I made a point of commending another message delivered at this same conference. This was not meant to in any way disparage the other speakers, but rather as a commendation to GSB and as a personal encouragement in light of some issues I have with the overall tenor of GSB regarding what gets presented as “legalism”. I thought this point was clearly made, but if not, let it be so here:

 

  • My concern is with what was said at the conference, not what wasn’t said.
  • The GSB brethren believe and teach any number of essential and non-essential things that were not, and couldn’t possibly be discussed in a conference venue.

 

I further made the point that while they confess, affirm and teach the above doctrines, I believe there are further inconsistencies in how these issues are often related to the sanctification of the believer. That is, there is much concerning the role of the believer that I perceive they present as being legalism and inconsistent with the “grace life”. In my view, the conference was a manifestation of this larger tension. This is my judgment, and this I stand by, but it should be clearly understood that they would take issue with this and feel it is an unfair characterization. I can only respectfully differ concerning this point and let every man’s ministry stand as its own testimony.

 

Again, the issue was not the basic underlying doctrines (which I stated everyone agrees on). It was for this very reason I feel it is inappropriate to be marking certain brethren doctrinally as they apparently did at the conference. This went beyond interpretive and expositional differences. It labeled brethren who differ on certain passages as dangerous and utilized arguments that are both unfair and inconsistent with many other things that the GSB brethren themselves believe and teach. If the GSB brethren did not confess the basic underlying doctrines in question, I would not have bothered commenting on the matter as we would not be in active fellowship. The issue was what was being said about fellow brethren they differ with, and certain aspects of the arguments that were being used to that end. The conference was not simply expositionally “passionate” as has existed within the grace movement for quite some time. No, it was theologically “hostile” to those that differed with GSB on these passages, with warnings about infiltration of the grace movement. You can’t have it both ways. If that is how they honestly feel then fine, I can respect that, although I feel it is unfair and unnecessarily divisive. If they feel it was a mistake to present it in that manner and wish to communicate that, then I can respect that as well. What occurred at the conference, however, and the lines that were being drawn in the sand for those that differed with them, were clear to all. I don’t doubt they may not have realized how far those lines would ultimately extend, but here we are.

 

Moving Forward

 

Having stated the above, and in light of certain feedback, I feel it is important to reiterate some key things concerning what are the issues going forward in light of the perceived theological “hostility” that was expressed at the conference. It appears there may still be confusion on the part of certain brethren as to why I felt it necessary to publicly speak on this issue. If that was not clear before, let me hopefully make it so here. This is particularly addressed to all my GSB brethren who are dear and precious to me in the Lord.

 

I definitely don’t want there to be any confusion or feelings of being misrepresented. I tried to be as careful and clear as I possibly could in the article. I made it plain that all the brethren both confess and teach variations of these things in their ministries, which is why I am not hostile to these differences in our understanding of certain passages, and believe certain brethren are being treated unfairly simply because they differ on the passages in question. What was presented at the conference went beyond “passion” and differences in exposition. It presented those who differ in a certain light. I choose the word “hostile” very carefully. I don’t feel it is negative, or a word to be eschewed. I am hostile to any number of theological positions, and unabashedly so. The problem is if GSB is making these interpretive differences in question one of those issues.

 

I realize there may be some personal things going on behind the scenes we are not aware of, but there are larger implications in the way things were being presented and attacked at the conference. The personal issues should not be dragged into these conferences. The perception was/is that those who differ with you on these passages are being called out, marked and isolated as teaching things that are causing the “foundations” to be “under fire”.

 

Brethren are being presented as dangerous if they teach certain things in connection with the joint-heir passage and completeness passages. This was argued at the conference in such a way that raised the concerns I detail in my observations. I have differed with Richard (and presumably other GSB brethren) for quite some time concerning there being more involved in the joint-heir passage. However, this has never been made a litmus test, until it apparently was made such at this conference. The same would go for the completeness passages. I have no desire to divide over these issues. The distinct impression that many of us had from the conference was that GSB seemingly does. I realize you brethren may have personal issues with certain other brethren for whatever reasons, but in what was said at the conference you were taking aim at many other brethren who currently identify with you. The conference was not personal. It was doctrinal. My observations and response to it are not personal, they are doctrinal. I was being told that certain differences with GSB are “foundations under fire”. I don’t feel that I, along with many other brethren who heard the messages, misunderstood what was clearly being conveyed at the conference concerning dangerous influences infiltrating the grace movement. However, I am more than happy to forgive such misunderstandings if that was the case. That is why I called for clarity on just how far this theological hostility extended regarding the expositional issues in question.

 

Brethren are being presented as if they are undermining the believer’s position in Christ and the grace life if they differ in their understanding of certain passages. That puts those of us who differ with you brethren in an awkward position. As I said, I actually agree with you in certain key interpretive differences you have with some of the brethren in question, but I still felt you went unfairly beyond these expositional differences in your critiques, to the point of implicating issues which are routinely taught by us in connection with sanctification, edification and rewards. If you don’t believe they are what is in view in a given passage in question that is fine, but those of us who believe they are (despite any number of other interpretive differences we might have among us) are not dangerous.

 

You may not have realized it, but you were clearly marking me, and many others, when you presented those who differ with you on particular passages in a certain light. I have no desire to water this down. I do not fault you, or any other brethren, for differing with me in your understanding of those passages. What we need to know is where GSB stands in light of those differences. It appeared that they were marking and isolating those who differed with them. If that is so, I respect you, but I stand on the other side of that line. If that was not what was occurring, I welcome our continued fellowship, as I will certainly not be the one to cut it off over these expositional differences. As I plainly stated in the article, you clearly confess and teach the key underlining doctrines. Mine was/is a call for unity and peace in light of what has been perceived by many as a call for division by GSB against certain teachings in “the movement”. If that was not GSB’s intention, then I, and I suspect many others, welcome this clarification being made clear.

 

With this second article, I have done all that I can to assuage any feelings you may have of being misrepresented, as that was certainly not my intention. I really thought I made it plain in the article that you believe in rewards, judgment seat of Christ, etc., but hopefully this second article has made it abundantly clear that you believe and teach the doctrines in question. While I am happy to acknowledge that you take issue with my assessment and believe it is unfair, I cannot modify certain language concerning sanctification and what I see as a larger GSB hostility that seems to classify much of the believer’s role as legalism, as those are my honest observations and assessments, and have been for some time. I never felt it necessary to personally address as I did not feel it would be particularly productive. We are basically likeminded and other brethren are free to teach what they like. There may be what I honestly perceive to be some double talk in certain areas of sanctification, but the integrity of the core issues and doctrines have always been maintained by GSB. I am content to maintain my independence with respect to my teaching and others are free to do with it what they like. However, given our ministry associations, what was done at this conference has forced my hand in this regard. I believe there are sanctification inconsistencies with what is routinely presented by some GSB brethren in connection with the “grace life” and what is considered as legalism. It is what it is, and I understand the legitimate concerns about legalism that often drive how this issue is presented by many GSB brethren. However, this underlying legalism tension came to a head at the conference where it was made the centerpiece of a platform used to attack brethren who differ on certain passages believing they involve edification, rewards and “attaining” to various things in the believer’s sanctified life. Concerning this, I could not remain silent with regard to fellow brethren who, despite any number of differences I may or may not have with them, found themselves unnecessarily and undeservedly “under fire”.

 

Again brethren, I am truly sorry that you felt misrepresented by what I wrote and have attempted to remedy this with my follow-up article. I hope you know that any personal hurt I may have caused you in this regard is wholly unintentional. I trust you know that I have nothing but love and respect for you both personally as friends and for your valuable ministry as fellow-labourers in the body. I was saddened by the divisive and confrontational tone of the conference knowing what it would necessitate on the part of many likeminded brethren and what would likely follow. As much as I might like to, I cannot ignore the doctrinal gauntlet that was apparently thrown down by GSB as to who is in or out of their circle of trust. That said, I remain kindly affectioned toward you in deep brotherly love and this conference will never change that. I hope and pray our closeness will not be diminished by this. My heart, and arms, remain wide open to you. There is no animosity on my part, only a desire to move forward in unity and peace. This is where I stand, and will continue to stand.

 

Seated in heavenly places with Him,

 

David Winston Busch

Brief Thoughts On Recent Controversies In The Grace Movement

To my brethren in Christ,

It was recently brought to my attention by some of the brethren in “grace movement” circles regarding a controversy that recently came to a head at the Soldiers Training for Service Conference held at Shorewood Bible Church in Chicago, Illinois.  There were several issues raised, mostly surrounding the exposition of Romans 8:17.  After having listened to the messages, mainly those by Bryan Ross and John Verstegen, I felt that it was necessary that the elders at Columbia River Bible Fellowship discuss these matters and issue a response so that the brethren at various ministries around the country would know what our position is regarding the issue at hand.   To this end, brother and fellow elder, David Busch wrote an excellent essay regarding the various issues raised, and the way in which it was handled.  His essay is in keeping with the views held among the eldership at Columbia River Bible Fellowship.  I trust you will find it both edifying and enlightening as to our position.

Your brother and fellow labourer in Christ,

Corey Richardson

Pastor of Columbia River Bible Fellowship

Vancouver, WA

 

    BRIEF THOUGHTS ON RECENT CONTROVERSIES IN THE “GRACE MOVEMENT”

 

The following is being written in light of recent controversies which seem to have emerged in “grace circles” in connection with the recent 2014 Soldiers Training for Service conference hosted by Grace School of the Bible in Chicago (hereafter referred to as “GSB”). The controversy centered around the issues pertaining to being a joint-heir with Christ, and concerns the brethren there apparently have with what is being taught by various other brethren about it.

 

Due to the nature of this particular controversy and ministry associations, I feel it necessary to personally address this as it has implications that will inevitably involve myself and the local fellowship of which I am a part (Columbia River Bible Fellowship). It is unclear precisely what the implications will be, as it is unclear just who and what precisely was and was not being criticized/attacked at this conference. This may simply be due to the limitations of the venue, but something of this magnitude demands caution and carefulness in its presentation. Without knowing what steps led to this event, it is difficult for me to comment further concerning what may have been going on “behind the scenes”. I wish certain things had been clarified in this regard, and I certainly welcome clarification/correction if I have misunderstood any of the things that I have heard thus far in connection with it (and therefore the conclusions I have drawn in light of it).

 

I will only be addressing two primary messages delivered at the conference which have been brought to my attention concerning this. While I did not hear any particular individuals identified in these messages, it is my understanding that the issues being raised were specifically in response to a paper produced by brother Ron Knight and key associates at his fellowship in Northern California. While other individuals and groups may have been implicated indirectly, it is apparently from this paper that certain excerpts were being quoted and criticized at the conference.

 

Having reviewed the two primary messages concerning this (delivered by Bryan Ross and John Verstegen), I am still unclear on the extent of their concern/hostility. There were narrow points made concerning certain textual and interpretive issues that I would be in general agreement with GSB on, although I would not share the seeming hostility (I have no problem with theological hostility when it is justified with core doctrinal issues at stake). There then seems to be larger issues which are being raised and implications being drawn that I must differ with. I have already addressed the relevant doctrine and verses substantively in other writings, particularly in the Fulness of Christ, so I will not be doing so here. I will simply be addressing in brief form the concerns that were raised at the conference, and the concerns I have in light of it.

 

Joint-Heirs

 

This point was addressed by Bryan Ross. Concerning being joint-heirs, particular aim was taken at those who teach there are two inheritances in Romans 8. I agree that there is only one inheritance. However, there is something further in view in connection with that inheritance focusing on the “joint-ness” of it. This concerns the “reward of the inheritance”. All believers are joint-heirs (as I don’t believe this is the conditional element. The conditional elements in view flow from this “jointness” fact, not to it). However, not all believers will partake of that glory equally (this is the conditional element in view that is tied to what we have with him “jointly”). Paul’s tying of sufferings to this is extensive. Romans is the establishment introduction to this important Pauline doctrine that will be expanded on throughout his epistles. God’s inheritance, along with its glory and riches, is “in” the saints. This is why Paul is so concerned about you understanding the work of God in the believer today. It has a direct bearing on our hope and glory. We are not the only ones that “get” something in connection with the judgment seat of Christ and our coming glory. It is Christ as head and firstborn who will reap rewards in and through us as well. It has been God’s “good pleasure” to ordain it so and link his future riches with us. What we have “with” him now as a joint will affect what we have “with” him then.

 

Conditional: In an attempt to deny any conditional elements in regards to being joint-heirs, particular attention was paid to the phrase “if so be”. The endless appeals to “the Greek” were not only ineffectual and unconvincing, they were troubling. Why was he unable to defend this from the King James Bible? Why are we hearing this kind of thing from GSB of all places? The passages that were pointed to proved the opposite of what he was attempting to show with regard to the “conditional” aspects of the phrases involved and are wholly irrelevant to whether there are one or two inheritances. There is only one inheritance, but there is a conditional element in connection with it pertaining to our predestinated glory. There are indeed various ways that the single word “if” can be used by Paul with nuances being indicated by the text, but they only further confirm the “if/then” conditions in view in light of our unconditional position in Christ (ie. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above”, etc.).

 

Dwelling: Moreover, an appeal was made to the “dwelling” of the Spirit as proof that “if so be” was not conditional. The “dwelling” of the Spirit is not the same as having the Spirit. Paul makes this clear here and throughout his epistles. This is tied to the knowledge and effectual working of the word in the believer. It is tied to being “filled” with the Spirit. Many brethren do not appreciate this distinction with regard to the word “dwell”, and while I feel it is a very important doctrine that Paul will direct your thinking in accordance with and expand further on, I have no problem respectfully differing with them on that. However, it is improper to accuse brethren of being in danger of not believing all believers have the Spirit simply because they recognize there is a conditional element involved in the “dwelling” of the Spirit. I do agree, however, that this passage has nothing to do with a “corporate versus individual” interpretive lens apparently promoted by the paper in question.

 

Sufferings: There also seemed to be a downplaying, dismissal of, and hostility to the importance and role of sufferings in connection with the life of the believer and the effectual working of God’s word. Sufferings (however one may define them) are a huge issue throughout Paul’s epistles, and are explicitly linked to faithfulness, godliness and glory. What is driving this seeming defensiveness to the issue? Is there a reluctance to enter into these sufferings? Do verses declaring that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” rub certain people the wrong way because they are not experiencing this? There are many saints who are not experiencing this to the degree that Paul did (or anywhere remotely near it), but they also will not refuse to acknowledge what Paul confronts us with in this regard. The tenor of this particular speaker concerning the issue of sufferings does not seem to match the appreciation that I believe many of the brethren at GSB have concerning this issue, and the testimony they have given over time. Sufferings, and their “alway” progression, are a centerpiece of your sanctified life under grace and your establishment introduction to this in Romans makes this clear. The snide, light and insulting tone with which this particular issue was flippantly referred to was disturbing. Again, if this impression was simply due to the limitations of the venue, then I am happy to forgive this misunderstanding and ask the same in return.

 

My larger concern is this: It is unclear just what these brethren believe and what they are attacking. They seem to at times confess the same basic things concerning rewards, but then seem to attack these concepts in their critiques (not just the exposition of particular verses). Why is there such hostility to this idea being found in Romans 8? Do they only have a problem with it here? Or anywhere? If not elsewhere, why here? If the only gripe is with the semantics of Romans 8, I don’t understand what seems to be a larger hostility to the doctrine of rewards and the implications for sanctification. Brother Ross indicated that if one brought conditional elements into Romans 8, there was a dangerous “logic” that would ultimately lead to the undermining of the believer’s position in Christ. I do indeed see a certain logic here, but a quite different one. It became clear that if one seeks to downplay the joint-heirship of the believer in Christ, he will begin to downplay a number of other associated Pauline doctrines concerning godly sanctification as it relates to edification, sufferings and glory. In light of your settled position in Romans 1-7, you are supposed to be able to move forward in liberty from Romans 8 on where your Father will confront you with some key things before doing so. It is only after being grounded in the unconditional justified, sanctified and glorified position that you have been given in Christ that your Father can begin to deal with the various conditional aspects of your walk experienced with Christ as a “joint”. Many of the brethren seem incapable of getting past Romans 8 and unwilling to deal with the conditional elements your Father presents you with.

 

Simply put, my concern is not that they differ with other brethren and believe there is only one inheritance in Romans 8, as I myself only believe there is one inheritance. As it stands now, my concern is the deeper underlying reasons as to why they oppose the brethren who believe in two inheritances. Since the brethren being critiqued affirm that we are all heirs of God, I see no inherent danger in them holding to two inheritances, though I differ with them semantically on this point. The fact that certain brethren are apparently uncomfortable with the reality that the coming glory has conditional aspects and will not be the same in all of its particulars for all believers, and believe that it is somehow incompatible with the “grace life”, doesn’t change what is clearly taught by Paul throughout his epistles.

 

    Complete

 

This point was addressed by John Verstegen. In addition to the joint-heir issue, a further issue was raised concerning being “complete” in Christ. The emphasis was upon critiquing a particular interpretation that involved making a distinction between “corporate versus individual”. Concerning this narrow point, I agree with the criticism that was raised by the GSB brethren. However, there were then larger issues implicated concerning edification.

 

Positions & Conditions: The case was made that any understanding of the believer’s completeness in Colossians that differed with that of the GSB brethren, particularly those interpretations associated with the idea of “attaining”, was an undermining of grace and the believer’s position in Christ. This is unnecessarily divisive. This is an unnecessary attack against brethren who are in agreement concerning the believer’s position in Christ and its implications for sanctification. It is one thing to say you disagree with these brethren regarding the interpretive lens they are viewing certain passages in. That is, yes, this is individual and not corporate. That, however, doesn’t answer anything. What do the verses and passages mean? What is the completeness being referred to? Why is anyone who may differ on the understanding of this passage being accused of undermining the “grace life”? Taking the position that many of the brethren do concerning this verse, one would be forced to use this verse repeatedly against Paul himself. I tell you, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. And you say, “But I thought I was complete”, and on and on the response could go to numerous Pauline exhortations. They don’t do this of course, but that is because they are being inconsistent with what this kind of general “positional” meaning to the verse would logically demand with regard to sanctification. The brethren are being selective in their use of this meaning, but the meaning (whatever it is they are ascribing to it) will not allow this. It may be handy when arguing with certain legalists (ie. They say, “You need to be water baptized” and you say “But I’m complete”, etc.), and when properly understood it can and should be used appropriately in this regard. But to use it the way many brethren do is simply nonsensical. The GSB brethren don’t think the believer is complete practically with regard to any number of things. If the desire is for the believer to stand complete, does this not have obvious and inescapable implications, regardless of his position in Christ? To use completeness the way that they do results in no true completeness at all for the word has been stripped of its substance and meaning. They are saying “complete”, but they mean something else concerning the believer’s position, something which is properly conveyed by other words, but not conveyed in the word complete. I agree with what many brethren mean when they say complete, but I don’t believe that is what the word complete means (both the word itself and its accompanying context). Regardless of the different views taken, all the brethren are attempting to understand the verse in a way that is consistent with the believer’s position in Christ. To say they are not doing so because you differ with their understanding of what completeness means in this verse is unnecessary and wrong. If they were attempting to use this verse to call into question the believer’s position in Christ as defined by Paul, then I could understand the alarm. But such is not the case.

 

Definitions & Contexts: Complete has a core concrete meaning. It stands in contrast to “in part”. Whether one has a complete set of something, or has completed a task, it has a specificity to its meaning which cannot be applied to your position in Christ in any practical way. Your position and identity is what it is. You are never partially who you are. Your identity may be many things, such as secure and unchangeable. Your position may or may not demand certain things of you. But it is not relevant or appropriate to talk of the position and identity itself as being complete, any more than it would be to describe the nature of God as being complete. Furthermore, various aspects and parts of your position and identity, such as your adoption, are not complete yet. There are various things that were/are involved in our position in Christ which could properly be described as being complete, but that is not the same thing as talking about your identity as being complete.

 

It is only in Colossians that you are told about the particular completeness in view. This is the group of saints it is written to and that has implications edification wise. This is only told to you after having been confronted with the Ephesians doctrine. He would not tell you that you are complete in this sense when you still only know “in part”. He will tell you this after Ephesians. You have a certain redemptive position in Christ, and while it is certainly part of your completeness, he does not use this language to describe it. You are specifically complete in connection with the doctrine of Christ being the “head of all principality and power” which he has “spoiled”. This is what you were confronted with in Ephesians. It is in light of Ephesians that you no longer have to know “in part” concerning your identity and position in Christ as the “one new man”. In light of knowing it, you are then exhorted to walk in accordance with it. Philippians and Colossians are to Ephesians what Corinthians and Galatians are to Romans. The Colossians were in danger of being “spoiled” and “beguiled” of certain things in connection with their completeness. Your completeness is to be found “in him”. He must be “learned”, and this process involves being “rooted”, “built up” and “stablished” in “the faith”. Many will attempt to “spoil” you and direct you elsewhere for your edification (philosophy, tradition, etc.) but Paul points you to the “knowledge of Christ” contained in his epistles, which knowledge is now complete, and which knowledge he now exhorts you in connection with having been “received”. This is where your life is to be found. This is what you are to walk in accordance with, not “vain deceit”. Moreover, simply because the believer is “complete” as far as their identity education is concerned, this does not mean they are done if you will. In many ways, it is just the beginning. It is only in light of their now “completeness” that they can be exhorted to pursue the prize, put on the “whole” armour, etc.

 

Before being complete,you did not have the “all” knowledge and therefore “whole” armour spoken of by Ephesians. Now you do and you are to “stand” in it. Certain labourers may be fond of using a particular verse utilizing the word “complete” as a moniker of their ministry, and this is in many ways legitimate and appropriate when understood properly. At the same time, it is important to understand that it is language from an advanced epistle being used and has a context in that setting. Brethren may still differ on the particulars of what they think the word complete means in a particular verse, but that doesn’t mean they are undermining the “grace life”. Complete must be properly defined and understood. This is not the language God uses when he speaks to you in Romans. He has other words and phrases to speak to you as a Roman. Complete is not one of them. This in no way undermines your position in Christ. It is rather an acknowledgment that you are not saved with a “complete” knowledge of it. It must be “attained” through “learning Christ”.

 

Edificational Status: Being complete in Colossians concerns knowledge and edification in light of our position and identity. The passage is referring to the believer’s position in Christ, as everything that Paul writes does. This position is not in itself, however, described as being complete (which would be meaningless without further definitions and limitations). The knowledge of it is what is being described as complete. Edification is about coming to the knowledge of that position and walking in accordance with it. There is an “image” that we are to “put on” which you have only seen “in part” up until Ephesians. The GSB brethren seem to both confess this and attack it at the same time with their hostility to the idea of “attaining” to something in connection with their sanctified life and walk. Your education concerning who you are in Christ is not complete without Ephesians. It is only here that you see “face to face” and know even as you are known, that is, how God himself knows you in accordance with his one new man. You are not complete without the Ephesians doctrine. Paul and his fellow-workers laboured to bring men unto the full knowledge of these things. Christ is where all the knowledge, wisdom, treasures, etc. are to be found. Where is this? There is only one way to know him (and specifically your position in him), and that is through Paul’s epistles. Your redemptive position in Christ was forever settled in Romans. That, however, does not complete your education as a son concerning the knowledge and “image” that Paul is going to teach you concerning who God has made you to be in Christ. He makes it clear he has more to tell you, particularly concerning your predestinated “hope” and “glory”.

 

This pattern has a relationship to the progression of Paul’s epistles, both historically (Acts epistles versus post Acts epistles) and edificationally. As promised in Corinthians, the things of the Acts period have been done away and Ephesians presents us with the things associated with the “fulness of Christ”. In light of Paul’s completed ministry, we now have the scriptures of “faith” which communicate to us the complete knowledge of Christ. What we have in the totality of Paul’s epistles not only remedies the “in part” knowledge, it is perfect. It works in connection with a “more excellent way” unto edification. Your Pauline education as found in the scriptures is not only complete, it is perfect. It has been designed a certain way and will perfectly accomplish it. In light of this perfect standard, we can engage in the work of perfecting the saints.

 

Complete vs Perfect: I further believe it is improper to view complete as referring to the full “effectual working” of God’s word in connection with the believer’s sanctified life. This is not what is being achieved when one “attains” completeness. This is rather the work of “perfecting” (which may also involve “attaining” to various things, such as being wise concerning that which is good and simple concerning evil). This point was not raised at the conference, but something of concern to me nonetheless. There are two parts to edification, knowledge and practice. If “completeness” is being taught by various brethren as synonymous with this practice aspect of sanctification/edification, then I do believe this can potentially have larger problems as it will inherently create issues in the proper exposition of many verses, in addition to not being a proper use of the word complete. As with applying it to the believer’s position, it would strip it of any real concrete meaning. I am not familiar enough with the teachings of the brethren under fire to know whether this is the case with them or not (and having listened to the conference messages it is still unclear to me what precisely they believe about the passages in question other than adopting a “corporate” view). Concerning my GSB brethren, I would agree with what they mean (concerning the immutable, unconditional and secure position we have) when they say these things about being “complete” in Christ, but I would not agree with the use of these “completeness” passages to that end. Complete is a specific concept in connection with “the revelation of the mystery” with its “knowledge of Christ” and the “will of God” today. In light of this, there is then a “perfecting” work that takes place as the believer “proves” certain things in his “transformed” daily life concerning the revealed will of God.

 

One should not make the mistake of equating the concept of “complete” with the ongoing perfecting work in the believer. I myself do not always speak this precisely in my common speech, but God does. The words complete and perfect, while closely related, are not the same. One may perfect what they have and not be complete. One may be complete and have everything they need to work, but then go on and perfect that as godliness is exercised and skills are honed. Such is the progression of wisdom and charity in the life of the believer. If this were not clear from the words themselves, the judgment seat of Christ and the reward of the inheritance should make this plain. We have a certain position and identity in Christ. We are to walk in accordance with the complete knowledge of it, which we must first know, which is precisely what Paul declares is the object of the Ephesian epistle. Their is very specific information that Paul wants us to come to the “knowledge” and “understanding” of concerning the “will of God” and “the mystery” so that we may “stand” in it and walk in accordance with it and its “effectual working”. This completeness then has many practical implications as we battle various systems that seek to “spoil” and “beguile” us concerning our identity and reward. We are complete in the faith, and need not look elsewhere for our edification. As Colossians makes clear, it is our complete faith, and only that, which should be governing and directing our walk of faith. Having “received” this completeness, the Colossians are exhorted to “stand” in it.

 

Definitions & Doctrine: I believe there are potentially equal dangers expositionally if one either makes “complete” synonymous with the believer’s position in Christ, or makes it refer to practical sanctification. It rather deals with the knowledge component of your edification. If the passage simply refers to the believer’s position in Christ, then it is clear that he has no true completeness in any meaningful sense that does justice to the word complete. Its application from that point to sanctification will only ever be selective, never being able to say “but I’m complete” to anything in a consistent and meaningful way. When brethren talk about being complete in Christ, they are talking about something that is indeed true of the believer (usually the eternal security of the believer, the irrelevance of works to that position, etc). This, however, is not what Paul refers to when he speaks of being complete. Your position in Christ is not described as being complete. The communication and knowledge of it is. The word complete, when properly defined and understood, would not be appropriate to describe your position in Christ. Equating it as synonymous with other vital doctrines concerning the unconditional security of the believer does not make it so. This in no way undermines the believer’s position in Christ. It is a difference in what we believe the passage is talking about. This is a difference of definition, not a dispute over the nature of the believer’s position and identity. That said, while I do think it is important to properly define complete and understand its usage in these passages, I am not hostile to the different understanding of these various brethren. These brethren differ on definitions, not the doctrine.

 

My larger concern is this: It is unclear just what these brethren believe and what they are attacking. They seem to at times confess the same basic things concerning sanctification, edification and “attaining”, but then seem to attack these concepts in their critiques (not just the exposition of particular verses). Why is there such hostility to any idea of “attaining” being connected with completeness and sanctification? Do they only have a problem with it in Colossians 2? Or anywhere? If not elsewhere, why here? If the only gripe is with the semantics of what is in view in Colossians 2, I don’t understand what seems to be a larger hostility to the doctrine of “attaining” and the implications for sanctification. They may not believe these passages refer to edification, but that doesn’t mean that those who do are somehow in danger of undermining/denying the believer’s position in Christ.

 

Simply put, my concern is not that they differ in their understanding of the completeness passages. To my knowledge virtually everyone would differ with my understanding as it appears both groups of brethren see it in terms of the believer’s position, whether individual or corporate. The brethren who see it as “corporate” are simply attempting to deal with the conditional elements of the believer’s life and also preserve the integrity of the believer’s unconditional position in Christ. The GSB brethren rightly reconcile many of those matters with a positional/practical dichotomy, whereas the other brethren apparently attempt to do so with a corporate/individual dichotomy. As it stands now, my concern is the deeper underlying reasons as to why the GSB brethren oppose the brethren who believe differently. It seems to be going beyond this interpretive difference. There is a hostility to the idea of “attaining” to anything in connection with the believer’s sanctification despite the clear and repeated declarations of Paul concerning it. This is being presented as if it is opposed to grace, and this is simply not so.

 

To Sum Up

 

Joint-Heirs:

 

  • If the issue is simply differing about two inheritances versus one in Romans 8, I agree with the brethren at GSB.

 

  •  If the issue is about denying that the joint-inheritance has conditional elements connected with Paul’s doctrine concerning the “reward of the inheritance”, I differ with the brethren at GSB.

Complete:

 

  • If the issue is simply about the corporate versus individual interpretive lens, I agree with the brethren at GSB.

 

  • If the issue is about denying that the “completeness” of the believer is not referring to the  believer’s position in Christ, but rather is describing the edification process and the believer coming to the knowledge of that position, then I differ with the brethren at GSB.

 

Larger Concerns

 

Terminology: There are issues being raised with the terminology used by some in describing aspects of the edification process. The only question should be whether the concepts are scriptural and accurate. Do the GSB brethren deny there is a difference between a Roman and an Ephesian? If there is a corresponding package of “advanced” (itself a word God does not use in this context) doctrine, would it not be perfectly appropriate to describe it as a “level” (as is common with any education curriculum). This does not mean that one must agree with everything that someone may teach in connection with this. I agree that it is preferable to use scriptural words as much as possible. It is for this reason that while I will use many different words and phrases to describe the edification process and the Pauline education, the words that I primarily use to describe it are the monikers that God himself does, namely “established” in connection with Romans and “complete” in connection with Ephesians. This is the edificational status they are designed to accomplish in your education concerning “the mystery”. Since all of these brethren use terminology not found in the Bible to describe various biblical subjects and doctrines, it seems pointless to address it further. They don’t like it when it is done to them, but they seem willing to do it to others when they find it useful. I don’t expect that any of these brethren will cease using the unbiblical word “Bible” any time soon.

 

Treatment: There may be more going on here behind the scenes, but as it stands now I am a little confused about the way this matter/concern/controversy is being handled. We may differ on certain passages, but to my knowledge the fundamental doctrines are not being opposed. I am sure the GSB brethren don’t appreciate being accused of opposing the deity of Christ simply because they rightly understand that the “mystery of godliness” in 1 Timothy 3:16 is referring to God’s work in the body of Christ during the mystery (or variations thereof). The brethren are certainly free to differ in their exposition of particular passages, but to unnecessarily accuse other brethren of denying the larger doctrines in view because of it seems odd and unfair. To my knowledge, the brethren in view are not denying the completeness of the believer in the way that the GSB brethren mean it. They may differ in the meaning of the passage in question, but this is not the same thing. If there is something more dangerous being taught by these brethren in question that I am not aware of, I welcome education and correction on this score. Based on what I have heard from the conference, however, I have not seen it. As near as I can tell, both would ultimately agree about the basic issues involved when it comes to the security of the believer in Christ and the inescapable conclusions with regard to the judgment seat of Christ (despite the seeming double talk of some GSB brethren concerning the latter). They simply differ on certain passages, not the doctrine. Examination and vibrant discussion is healthy. Sharing differences and disagreeing with various brethren is an inevitable, proper and godly thing. However, there should be a corresponding dignity, honor and respect in how this is pursued. This is especially so when dealing with those in one’s own household. On the surface anyway, it does not appear it has been handled in this way.

 

Sanctification & Rewards: There seems to be a larger hostility to the doctrine of rewards and any “conditional” elements in Paul’s epistles. This at least is the impression that many, myself included, have gotten after continued fellowship with the brethren at GSB. They confess it, as they must, but it seems almost reluctant, as something to be explained away and not being in line with their ideas of the “grace life”. This is perplexing in light of the emphasis and tenor of Paul’s teaching concerning the importance of this subject not simply as a reality in the life of the believer, but a motivator as one keeps their eye on the prize and something not to be “beguiled” of. This can be pursued improperly of course with pride, conceit, etc, but that makes it no more illegitimate than any number of other things connected with the believer’s sanctification and walk.

 

While these brethren are certainly not Calvinists, there at times seems to be an almost Calvinistic view when it comes to the role of the believer in sanctification. That is, there are irrational cries of alarm anytime the role and responsibility of the believer is in any way brought into view, just as the Calvinists insist that belief is a “work”. Are you somehow not in the equation when it comes to the reward of the inheritance? Yes, it is Christ living in you. In you. How does this take place? Are you involved? Are you engaged in a work that will be reviewed at the judgment seat of Christ? Is this an event you need not attend as Christ will only be reviewing his own work which will, for some Calvinistic reason, be different for different people? It is tied to the effectual working of God’s word in you. The Holy Spirit is not doing everything. He is working “with” you. We are “labourers together with God”. We are now “free” to do this and because of it we can bring forth fruit that is acceptable to God as it is the product of grace.

 

Again, these brethren will confess this at various times, but then seemingly attack it when it is being addressed and expounded on practically in connection with the believer’s justified, sanctified and glorified position in Christ. I see the current controversy as a manifestation of this larger hostility. The reward of the inheritance, and the Pauline exhortations in light of it, are not contrary to grace. They are rather the very pinnacle of grace, and the Father desires you to appreciate the issues of his “glory” and “riches” being connected with it in the “ages to come”. This is part of the image that you are to be coming to a knowledge of and conformed to by the “renewing of your mind” in connection with the “effectual working” of his word. Those who should have the least to fear from the law seem to live in perpetual fear of it. We have nothing to fear from the law. It is in light of our grace position that we labour with our Father. Among many other things, this involves exhorting, rebuking, reproving, correcting and judging. Grace does not negate responsibility, it intensifies it. We are not children. We are men and are called by our Father to take the godly responsibility that is ours in accordance with the position we have been given in Christ.

 

I was encouraged by brother Rick Jordan’s message on the judgment seat of Christ at this same conference and hope this becomes a more prominent part of what is taught by GSB in connection with the grace life. The brethren at GSB are dear to me. The work they do is highly valued and has been profitable to many. They have truly been “helpers of your joy”. Based on what was said at the conference, it still remains unclear to me just where they are taking their stand (if at all) and how far their concern/hostility extends regarding the expositional issues in question. Regardless, for those saints interested, this is where I stand.

 

 

Seated in heavenly places with Him,

 

David Winston Busch

 

 

New Book Series by David Winston Busch

David has just published a new series entitled “Biblical Briefs”.

***NEW BOOK ADDED! 03-28-14***

Current books are:

BEHOLD: A Brief Introduction to the Gospels”
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: A Brief Tour of the Biblical Cosmos”
THE DEVILS IN THE DETAILS: A Brief Examination of Biblical Possession ***NEW***

 

 

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