Blogtext: "With hearing ears they hear not"

With hearing ears they hear not”

On of the most perplexing mysteries of this ministry of the word is the frequent reality of “word upon word and precept upon precept” with little to show for it other than more words about words.
Although the promise is made by God in the prophetic writings that “His word never returns void” so much preaching is done which appears to be far from fruitful. See for instance Isaiah 55:11
“So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.“ What conclusions must we come to if we find that after having said everything that we thought was ‘sound doctrine’ we still see nothing of what we have said actually take form?

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7 is well known in it’s outspoken critique of long-winded praying, but is it not also true about other vocal expressions? What is Paul on about here: “But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness? “ 1 Cor 4:20 Or what is in his sight here: “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” 1Cor 2:3-5

As soon as we discover that our words have no power what should we do? What do we mean by them having no power? That they do not produce what they contain in their linguistic meaning! And if the deeper and further meaning is not even understood by the speaker then it surely will not land in the listeners. The words in themselves can be 100% true year in and year out but still produce nothing like what they contain. Is this not the night mare of every orator? Is not this the frustration of Jeremiah?
Jer 20:7-9
“O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived;
You have overcome me and prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day long;
Everyone mocks me.
For each time I speak, I cry aloud;
I proclaim violence and destruction,
Because for me the word of the Lord has resulted
In reproach and derision all day long.
But if I say, “I will not remember Him
Or speak any more in His name,”
Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
And I am weary of holding it in,
And I cannot endure it.”

They like my tune, but wont dance to it.” Echoed in the NT also. Not an unfamiliar problem then as far as the word goes. That hearing even of the finest truth does not guarantee the suitable result is the burden of all who labour in the transmission of the word of the Lord. How can this be? The highest level of oratorial skill crashes harmlessly against the rocks of the human hearts.

A considerable clue is found in a sermon summary from Acts ch 13:27. The enormity of what is here quickly established as a fact of history will become apparent when you understand the full meaning of the text.
Here is my paraphrase of
verse 27 and 28: For those that live in Jerusalem, and all their chiefs, failed to understand and recognize or discern the voice of the prophets, although they had heard the texts of the prophets read every sabbath all their lives. Had they heard the voice of the prophets in the texts they would not have fulfilled what the prophets spoke of by denouncing Jesus and handing him over to be killed by the Roman authority under Pilate.”

They had heard every text read a hundred times in their life time. But they had never heard the Voice of the Prophets! What is the true voice of the Prophets? Peter knows and tells us:  As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories  to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. “ 1 Pet 1:10-12

You may ascertain the veracity of my paraphrase by comparing a number of English versions of the original text:

NASB  For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him.

The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath.

ISV For the people who live in Jerusalem and their leaders, not knowing who Jesus was, condemned him and so fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath.

GNB For the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the words of the Prophets, which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

Darby For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, not having known him, have fulfilled also the voices of the prophets which are read on every sabbath, [by] judging [him].

ASV For they that dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.

AMP  For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, who failed to recognize or understand both Jesus and the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled these [very prophecies] by condemning Him.

DRA For they that inhabited Jerusalem, and the rulers thereof, not knowing him, nor the voices of the prophets, which are read every sabbath, judging him have fulfilled them.

CJB  For the people living in Yerushalayim and their leaders did not recognize who Yeshua was or understand the message of the Prophets read every Shabbat, so they fulfilled that message by condemning him.

ESV For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.

EXB  Those who live in Jerusalem and their leaders ·did not realize that Jesus was the Savior [L were ignorant of this; or did not recognize him]. They did not understand the ·words that the prophets wrote [L voices of the prophets], which are read every Sabbath day. But they ·made them come true [L fulfilled them] when they ·said Jesus was guilty [L condemned him].
MEV 27 Because those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, did not know Him, in condemning Him they have fulfilled the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath.

LEB 27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize this one, and the voices of the prophets that are read on every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.

A note or two on the actual text: the word translated “voices of or utterances” is the Greek word “Phone” and is virtually always translated by “voice”. Many of the versions make no distinction between the voice of the prophets and their texts. Paul did. And therefore the Spirit inspiring the writer did also.

It is the more important to note that since so many hold that knowing the text and or knowing the doctrine is enough to be in possession of the truth of it. They had heard the TEXT but had no understanding of it’s MEANING. And that is the dilemma that throughout the history of the Church has proved a most common ‘lockdown’ of the life of the Spirit in the Churches.

The crux of the matter.
Here is the obvious core issue. They would have known the prophetic texts down to a T, many could recite them chapter and verse. They knew on a purely intellectual level every jot and tittle of the text. But none of that knowledge was of any use in either understanding what the words meant or serve as guides to recognizing the Messiah himself. Their doctrine of the coming Messiah was bereft of the Spirit of Christ, and without the revelation of the Holy Spirit no gospel preaching is ever going to open hearts and minds to the truth. If all they knew was the factual truth, they as yet did not know the actual truth. The actual truth is that character transforming truth which the Spirit uses to affect the change in man that is the preparation for receiving the Kingdom.
Another echo of this difficult insight is found in the teaching of our Lord in John chapter 5.

A quick look at this will reinforce what the issue is.
The relationship between the written Word and the living Word is here in sharp focus.
John writes:
“ And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.  You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.  How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.” John 5:37-45
First note that the only access to the truth about Christ is faith in the Father sending His Son. The understanding of their inner relationship is important since to be unsure of that is the main gate into the heresy of Antichrist according to the same author John in his first letter.

Secondly note that the Word cannot abide in them without that faith. They may hear it many times but nothing stays in them from one hearing to the next. It is not then, merely, the hearing with the ear that is the aim of reading the scriptures, but the hearing with the heart that abides and remains and bears fruit.

Thirdly note that they were eager to study the scriptures with the view to being able to show that they knew them and that they were sincerely hoping that the scriptures would open up the life eternal. But the testimony to that life is not in itself the Life. The vitally needed relationship between the readers and the Word behind the written words could not be more clearly defined. “They speak of me when they speak of eternal life, but you think that knowing that they do so is to have it! You are off by a thousand miles!” “You know not enough if the time spent reading the words does not lead you to Me who am the Life and the Truth.”

What a tremendous verdict on their Bible study method: “ you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” When that study is later turned into a series of sermons we will find faithful preaching that for years leads people into the Word but never beyond it’s letters. If the Word does not become flesh the words remain words. And it is in this context that Paul lights up the issue by showing that the kingdom of God is not in meat or drink but in power and righteousness and that the letters without that power are dead. The one thing the kingdom is never is merely a set of correct doctrines on their own.
“ Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. “
“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,
 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
“How shall they...Indeed they wont..
 “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!
However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?”
If all they hear are people talking about Christ then a vital element of “sound doctrine” is lost.
Sound doctrine has the power to accomplish that whereof it speaks, because only that teaching can accomplish anything which is born of the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ commits only to glorifying Christ, it never satisfies itself by correct and ever so factually right doctrine alone.

If the proper understanding alone was needed then neither Christ nor Paul would have drawn up such clear distinctions. Understanding the truth is an intellectual exercise. Living the truth is a spiritually acquired change of life in and through the radical work of the Spirit. Bible study would have guaranteed true faith if that was all that was needed. I t does not.
The very core of preaching is to let Christ speak, since no words of any man or woman boy or girl can be a substitute for the people to hear Christ. The obvious question is: how can we hear Him speak? To answer that we need to be on the right side of “sound doctrine”.

Whereas preaching is done to the outer man until he is converted and born again into newness of life the teaching of the Holy Spirit is an inward revelation that is brought about by the words of Christ dwelling in the believer and activated by the Spirit in response to the reception by faith. The born again come into the life of the Spirit. A life that is within the believer.

The crucial role of the cross
The cross of Christ is central to every aspect of being a Christian at all. It is the essence of what must be proclaimed because without the cross we would only have seen a suffering servant but not understood what he was suffering for. He suffered death on the cross to give access to the cross to all those who believe in Him. The cross of Christ must needs lead to the crucifixion of the Christian with Christ. If it does not then the cross is emptied of it’s power.

You have read it, heard it, but is that all that is needed? I have been crucified with Christ; and 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 up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” Gal 2:20-21
The matter of hearing is the beginning, not the end.
Romans 6:3-11 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Dead men do not eat

Preaching the words of life is without any success if the people who hear are dead in sin. “Dead men do not eat”. The faith in the death of Christ is without any result unless His death on Calvary is extended to ourselves and that we have died with him. Because the words that Spirit and truth are directed to, are those who are born again in the Spirit. It follows naturally that the purely natural man never understands the words of the Spirit. The Spirit of God speaks to the spiritual man. It has nothing to say to the unburied flesh. The natural man will be able to appreciate the sermon as to it’s natural content, but it will leave the real purpose for those words without a hold in the inner man. If the audience is still dead then no amount of Spiritual food will have the slightest effect on them who listen. It runs off as water runs off the back of a goose. The word spoken cannot become flesh until the flesh, the old nature of the fallen creation, has died with Christ. While the old flesh is in the driving seat then life of the new man is left kerbside.

People may have been brought to the cross of Christ ever so often and yet never have been crucified with Christ. Then the preacher has left the work half done and created a half baked loaf. The crucial testing of a living faith is not about what we theoretically believe, but who actually is alive in us. It is either Christ or I myself. The latter is impervious to the Spirit. And will not change however true the preaching and teaching is. You cannot talk wood into becoming a cross. The axt must be laid to the root of the tree. You cannot talk what is dead to life. It must be buried and rise again before it is any use to look for spiritual perception.
I am reminded of a preacher, much appreciated for always bringing “powerful” messages, having been invited back to a large gathering of eager listeners. Getting up to speak the speaker stood still behind the pulpit and only after heart-aching long minutes spoke these words: “I have asked the Lord for the right words to say to you. But all that The Spirit of God indicated to me was this: “ Why should I give this people of my treasure when they have done nothing with what I gave them last time?” The Atmosphere in the hall was tangible. No stronger invitation to repentance can be imagined. Did they repent? Or merely never asked that preacher back?
Casting pearls to swine
The difficult statement made by Christ about the futility of trying to turn swine into saints by giving them God’s best is one of the most chafing challenges to any one who wishes to speak truth. Matt 7:6 pinpoints a difficult issue. Elsewhere Christ also makes a case for not labouring beyond certain points. “If you are not received, shake the dust off your feet and move along.”
Having just spoken of the danger of sitting in judgment over fellow man, Christ Himself identifies some people as veritable pigs. Holiness they understand not and they should not be given pearls of great value. There is worse to come if you do: they will turn against you and and tread your words under foot. How ever true and precious those are they will not change a whisker on either a dog or straighten the tail of a pig. Recall the plight of the as yet unrepentant prodigal son: not even the foods given to pigs were available to him. It was the very poverty of his feed that caused him to consider turning back.

I summarize: your words may be true and right and still they have no effect. Spiritual things cannot be received by unspiritual people. So the position in grace is vital for the words of God to be received as pearls. To the pig pearls are inedible and will be wallowed under in the same mud as the pig itself likes to roll in. Proverbs 26:11  As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.And Simon Peter adds: “
But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

And in the end of times things will not get any better: “ But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, [a]haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of [b]godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who [enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.

But the next twist of the matter turns against the speaker.

Sower, what are you sowing?
The laws governing seeding and harvesting are well established to all. What you sow is what comes up to be harvested in time. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

In the parable of the four kinds of ground that receives the word of God it is the ground that is seen as the conditioning factor of the harvest. But not just the ground as there is always a “second sower” hard on the heels of the first. The element of the wild oats sown alongside by the enemy must not be lost out of sight.
Nevertheless there is the matter of the quality of the seed. Unless it is the true word of God then neither it’s ratio of germination, nor it’s ability to grow, how ever good the soil is, can be appreciated. You may preach your doctrine and never know the truth of it. But doctrine that does not lead to life is dead. And it kills the Spirit.

A dried out church is not fed good food. A Church of people who have no understanding of the difference between the Holy and unholy will not grow because they
can not feed. The repeated lament of Paul and the writer to the Hebrews is unanimous: after years of bible reading many are still unable to eat meat but have remained babes in the Faith. They are still on the ABC and have no eyes to see the “Encyclopedia Biblica” as ever being theirs. What you feed is what you get. What you have got shows up what you have fed the people.

Note: the words are not magic. They are not mantras or charms that immunize a man or woman against sin and falsehood just because they ‘own’ them and chant them. They are both Spirit and truth, never one without the other. If the truth content cannot be found to be along the revelation given then it is neither Spirit nor Truth. The inspirator of the Word will not superceed the given revelation by a new one. But he will take the words and reveal to the living what the dead could never see simply because they did not need to see what we need to see. The element of prophecy in the teaching ministry of the Church of Christ is the application of the word to the needs of today.
The backdrop is this
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. ...Jude 3
The application of the word is not the repetition of how the word was understood in ages past. Each successive generation has found different elements of the common faith being highlighted in practical experience. The Church in Jerusalem would have been utterly lost at sea in a Church of the Reformers or Puritans. And the Puritans would be lost in most Churches of our day. The confusions between “The eternal gospel” and the re-enactment of this or that arbitrarily chosen epoch of the Church in this or that time plagues the gospel to this day. Church History is only the collection of mirror images of how the gospel was applied in various ages and social and political situations. Literally we see them “as through a glass darkly.” Those blurred images are not what they mirror. To repeat them chapter and verse is pure folly and makes form superior to content.

Back to the beginning then. With hearing ears they hear not. Reading the texts every sabbath of a dozen
cycles of Jubilees still left them clueless about what the very text said, until it was revealed to them by the Spirit of Prophecy and Truth. A revelation known to be of God by the way it glorified the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Ignore this and you will for ever be casting pearls to dogs. Or attempt to turn unregenerate men into saints by the mannerisms of religion.

It has been tried often and long enough. Time to take stock and re-evaluate. “Wise men look in the mirror, and do not forget what they have seen.”

Teddy Donobauer 28
th April 2020


Blogtext: Grace and the gifts of Grace. "Charis and Charisma"

The doctrine about Grace and the 

Grace of God as it is.

The doctrine of grace is sometimes upheld at the cost of Grace itself. ‘

For some time now I have been guided to reread the available literature about some very large events in Church History. I say ’guided’ in a most cautious manner lest some should think I claim divine revelation to do so. All the same I have, among hundreds of other things, been reading about the events under a series of popes all called Innocent (which is the worst case of abuse of language you can accomplish) as they attempted to exterminate various ’heretics’. ”Champions of the Faith” they called themselves, these bloodhounds of religion.

Which basically is the same as someone saying: ‘They think differently than we. But because we are right and they are wrong it is our duty to make them recant, and if they do not, to prevent them from ever speaking again. Our truth, and our doctrine is totally and unequivocally God’s truth and anyone not agreeing is an enemy of Faith, of God, and of the one Holy Catholic Church. It is our duty to convert them from their severe co-operation with the Devil Himself. And if they do recant we will still make life hell for them for as long as they shall live. And if they do not recant we will blot them out from under the sun in the most inhumane and cruel way possible. Hear Hear. This is the grace of God that protects the Church from the pestilence of false doctrine..’

Did you ever understand the doctrine of grace in this way? Does the Bible support a doctrine of Grace that allows even an infinitesimal fraction of such a perversion of what the word means? Ah but you say: that was true for a time in the middle Ages and then it was a trait of the Unholy Roman Church, and has nothing to do with us today. Say things like ’The inquisition’, whisper ’Torquemada’, cry the ’Dominican order’ and all fingers point to Rome. Say: to call a brother, sister, wife, son or daughter a heretic, could supply you with the forgiveness of sins and you immediately know that the Lutheran reformation started with Luther denouncing the sale of indulgences. But did it stop Luther from denouncing the heretics of His time in the same manner as the Catholic Church had done? It did not. Conveniently forgotten does not mean eternally forgotten. I assure you, it did not refrain from exactly the same self-righteous condemnation of those who disagreed on Doctrine as ever Rome. It is painful reading. Every giant has feet of clay and iron.

A but I am a Protestant of a different order, you see I am of a Reformed leaning, I heavily rely on Calvin and Zwingly and Farel and Bucer and Oecolampadius and they surely did nothing of the sort?!” You are seriously mistaken. But you see they have written what is there in the official Church history, cleverly defending what of their misdeeds are known with their own Doctrines, not with the Grace of God. In Fact they all frequently and deliberately flaunted the express words of God and excused their Actions with high faluting speeches such as : ”For the Higher glory of God”

Every man will have sinned against himself and against God during his lifetime. But some rewrote theology to justify their deeds. That is truly extraordinary. But well attested in the history of the Church.

I could quote you chapter and verse on the betrayal of the Good News for the next thousand pages if that was my aim. It is not, but I assure you had I done so your faith in your ’Church Fathers’ of whatever denomination would be under heavy flack. Whisper ”Michael Servetus” to a Calvinist and watch the reaction. Mostly there will be merely a blank stare because he will know nothing of it.

A very hard question
Would you buy a car from a man who in order to be the sole provider of cars in your area had sneaked into the only neigh-boring car salesman’s place at night, doused his wares with petrol and burned his shop down? If you knew? Depends on your scruples and on how much you are prepared to pay for the car on sale. (The price will have been jacked up the moment the competition was gone.) Knowing the moral timbre of that man would you trust him, his sales tactics and his honour?

You will answer that for yourself. Where am I heading with that parable?

This next question is still harder to answer

Would you trust a Doctrine of Grace formulated by a Church which defended

 it’s doctrines from scrutiny and dialogue by shutting up anybody asking

 legitimate questions? A Church which evidently was prepared to accept any

 amount of breaking of all the laws of God in order to make its definition of

 the Doctrine of Grace the only available one, by killing off the opposition?

 And doing so by denying the Grace of God to those who saw things in a

 different light?

You would not? Thousands out there do and never give it a moment’s thought. The backdrop to this monograph is the very strange situation in the world of Christianity regarding the gifts of the Spirit. I have written several papers on various aspects of the topic in previous weeks. Thy will be found on my website along with other treatises of various matters.

I was again guided back to the original New Testament teachings on Grace. My Koiné Greek has been upped lately by various means and for reasons that begin to dawn on me more and more. Doing so about the Doctrine of Grace lead me to examine the role of both Doctrine and Grace in the NT and caused me to see what I had always known, (Well for fifty years anyway) but was suddenly revealed to my inner man in a most forceful manner. The Greek word for grace is ”Charis.” The Greek Word for Spiritual gifts is (very conveniently) ”Charismata”. Conveniently, I say, for those who separate the two from each other and thereby legitimize the withholding from the people, that any denial of the Spiritual gifts is also a denial in part of the Doctrine of Grace. Because the same grace that saves us from ”the kingdom of darkness” provides the gifts to the body of the Church, with no ’best before buy date’. The English reader of the Bible would not stumble on ’Charis and Charismata’ at all. Although the Grace of God is unthinkable without the gifts of Grace. And the other way round.

Will you let that sink in? Some of the most ”anti-charismatic Churches” in the world still claim to be in full possession of ”Charis”. They have adopted a theology that allows them to cut and paste and delete freely in the word of God and while hiding some (obviously excepting the ones they have retained) spiritual gifts under any carpet maintain to be defenders of Grace and Truth. To maintain a truncated doctrine of Grace is to my mind disgraceful. I say that they have adopted a theology because what today is in their sack has been in a bag before. Those very Churches of whom I spoke in the beginning of this monograph have passed on their specific scholastic and rationalist theologies to our modern day. The more rationalistic they are the less of Grace and the work of the Spirit do they know. Modified, sure, some harsh edges cut off, sure, but essentially in possession of the very same attitudes and doctrinally stone-faced gracelessness has survived. From the bags of then to the sacks of now. And they are also, many of them, showing all the signs of being on the way down a cul de sac, a one way street. Meet an ultra-Calvinist fully informed of his eternal calling and eternal salvation and hard on the doctrine of predestination and you have seen the hardness of the Inquisitor.

Who defines who the heretics are?

Particularly helpful is the reading of the history of the Heretics that came in the way of Martin Luther. Sebastian Frank and Gotthard Arnold come to mind. They both converted from Rome to Wittenberg and both of them became doctors of the faith and were leading figures in Lutheran Universities. And then they up and left! Great shocks. What did they give as reasons?

 Sebastian Frank met Luther in Heidelberg but became terribly disillusioned by the total lack of character reforming effect that the Lutheran preaching had on people. The teaching of Righteousness by faith alone simply passed over the heads of a people conditioned for centuries on salvation by works and obedience to the doctrines of the Church of Rome. A doctrine that did not do what the NT said would happen if sound doctrine was preached could by definition not be sound doctrine. Chew that over! Sound doctrine produces life not more doctrine. See John 5:39 “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life: and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to me that you may have life.”

Doctrine and knowledge of the written word do not equate the spiritual life of the Church of Christ.

Gottfried Arnold motivated his giving up the Professorship of Secular History on this account: ”He was nauseated by the high-faluting emptiness of the self-glory seeking rationalists filling the Lutheran Universities. Doctrinal correctness is most conducive to pride. He added: out of what he had seen ”
there was no longer any hope that anything wholesome or even in the slightest manner reminiscent of true Godliness would ever arise out of a university.” What is that about not finding suitable raw material for the needs of the churches? The Church does not need a theologically indoctrinated broiler. It needs men who know the grace of God, not merely the doctrine of it.

A doctrine of Grace that hides the Charismata out of sight while pretending to be a work of The Spirit, but without the transforming power of that spiritual claim, cannot be either Grace or Spirit.

Whatever the Doctrine of God means, having a more or less correct doctrine in no way guarantees the presence of God in that assembly. It is the glory of the Lord, His holiness, His power and righteousness evidenced in the fellowship of believers that proves His presence, not the doctrinal statement on the handout.

The Doctrine of Grace means that the unmerited favour of God is bestowed upon sinners. For those who have sinned before they first came to trust in Christ endless forgiveness is offered. But fail in your marriage as a believer and go through a divorce and local grace is gone, how ever much you repent of that known sin. The silent ostracism going on in many gatherings of believers is mute testimony to the most graceless reality. Forgiven but not restored is the caption over the head of many. Fail to comply with the unspoken social customs of the current church group and you will more often than not be left on the fringe. Grace and forgiveness should go together. But it is the very lack of forgiveness that characterizes innumerable splits in and among churches. Observers of the effects of the reformation rather nail it when they say that the reformation gave rise to the worst  fissiparity* ever seen in the life of the Church.

See the danger of giving a church a name after a Doctrine?
How many Salem Churches lost all 
PEACE and were swallowed up by ignominy?
How many Philadelphias lost all 
BROTHERLY LOVE and hung out the sign: Closed for good?
How many a Grace church ended in 
GRACELESS brawls of the flesh?
How many a Mercy Church has shown the most callous and 
MERCYLESS legalism?

The idolatry of Doctrine.

I hesitate not to speak of the idolatry of doctrinal correctness. Not any longer, especially not after many hours of Church history. The one  irrevocably  definite teaching about the Church that is the core of John 17 has fallen victim to doctrinal war after doctrinal war. And, absurdity of absurdity: each splinter-group claims to know the Grace of God..

Here is a short list of Words of Spirit and Truth that our Lord stands by until Kingdom come.

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 

 ‘Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” 
The people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 

” And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.”

”Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, 
Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. ”

”When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd 
divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Defending the truth is not done by gagging the opposition but by shutting it up by superior standard of conduct and behaviour. Only if engaging in dialogue with the opposition and joining a common quest for the truth by the spirit and the Word alone will we learn to be people of grace. The living Church is Unity in diversity. A fellowship where all know that they only see in part and therefore never pretend to know it all. That is when Grace operates as more than a relic from a lost continent.

One further bad news from the original languages: the word ’Traditions’ comes from a word meaning ’to step over, to betray’. Christ is betrayed when unchallenged traditions are allowed to curb the Living Word. Paul made it plain: Stop your inherited traditions, if they obviously sacrifice the truth for ideological uniformity. The fear of the vital dialogue stems not from the Lord but from the fear of losing power.

Be still for the presence of the Lord is in this place?

It is with abject shame that we must acknowledge that the Doctrine of Grace is put higher than Grace itself. But it takes Grace to see that.

No doctrine of anything has ever saved a single soul. But on that altar of correctness thousands literally have lost their lives. The illusion that a formal statement, however correct, is what it signifies will not hold before the Judgment seat of Christ. If the doctrine of Grace, or any doctrine, can only be maintained by the killing off, the silencing, the marginalisation of those who question the doctrine when they see it being abused or twisted, then it is neither true nor should it any longer be defended. If restored it will fill the lives of the believers with generous Grace, Mercy and Love.

The best illustration of the insufficiency of doctrine before God is given by the Lord himself. Matthew 7:21f "
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’  Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’ (CSB)

Truth be told?

Truth that needs defending by Doctrine is not truth at all. Because the truth of the Holy Scriptures is Christ Himself, the great I am of the Bible. 
It is not in the doctrine about Christ, but Christ himself. ”Why seek ye the living among the dead? ”Doctrine is a filtered down description of truth. It is filtered through the minds of fallible men. Whatever our titles and doctorates and power positions and clerical robes. But never the Truth itself. We do not preach the Doctrine of the deity and humanity of Christ, we lift Him up so that he can draw all men to himself. The doctrine does not need the living Lord in order to be taught. Thousands of dead doctrines are taught to those who merely want knowledge about things. We preach Christ and him both crucified, dead and risen. To those who think that correct doctrine is the only thing needed, the words of Paul come in like a thunderclap: ”You did not so learn Christ”

Hanging your doctrine on the wall is like the home where the Father of the Household had gone off to war. When he left he hung his hat on a peg in the hall. Whenever the Children asked after their Father, Mother would point to the hat. ”He will come for his hat one day..”

She continued to tell the children that even when the letter had come from the war office ”Missing believed, dead in action.”

Charis” without the ”Charismata” is merely a hat on the wall. So indeed are ”charismata” without ”Charis”. Church history has known both.  Has known? Knows..

We either learn from history or we are doomed to repeat it.
“All things were written for our instruction who have the end times upon us.”
We will not know grace by a Doctor’s hat in the pulpit but by our reddened knees from when we bowed so low that not a vestige of pride or intellectual stronghold any longer had the slightest value to us or, indeed, power over us. Only those who need grace ever know it. And to those who have a formal grasp of the doctrine of grace but have seen no need for it themselves, it can become a dead albatross around their neck.|

Through my own loss of everything back in 1985 I learned a lesson. “Never to judge anybody except in those areas where I myself have been forgiven, that is, shown grace and mercy." There are things in the
doctrine of grace that I will never understand fully. But I know in every part of me what Grace is. It taught me the justice of God and made me fear before Him, but it also enlightened me and released me from all that fear. His Grace is never loveless.

By the grace of God, I am what I am. It is all I can hope to be.

Teddy Donobauer April 20 2020

*fissiparity=multiplication by division



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