The Pendulum Strikes Again

We continue with our theme of exposing instances of the pendulum effect at work among brethren. These are well-meaning brethren who have re-sponded to false teaching with an over-reaction of their own. In many cases, the original battle was waged many decades ago, but the effect of their over-reaction continues to reverberate as often as their slogan is repeated. Old sayings die hard. It is the goal of this series of articles to shed light on some of those positions so that we can “center” ourselves, or realign ourselves with the truth. 

In our last article we noted how such a central concept as “the grace of God that saves us” has taken a backseat so that we could fight the doc-trines of those who turn the grace of God into licentiousness. This we ought to have preached, without leaving the other un-preached! 

I do not envision an entire article for each topic; we wouldn’t want anyone losing interest.. If the goal is to sound the alarm and shed light on abus-es we have perpetuated in our effort to answer false doctrine, then we can do so by exposing a few instances per article. For example, in this in-stallment I’d like to address two issues: Premilleni-alism and the Holy Spirit. Premillenialism is a seri-ous apostasy in that it offers a different hope than the “one hope of His calling” mentioned in Eph. 4. Often people talk about what one believes about the end times not being important, or refer to it as “not a salvation issue.” But, Hymenaeus and Phile-tus taught false doctrine about the coming of Christ and their teachings were called: profane, idle, ungodly, cancerous, and faith over-throwing (2 Tim. 2:14ff). In a nutshell, Premillenialism explains that Jesus’ original plan to establish an earthly king-dom during His incarnation was thwarted by the Jews, and that, in the inter-im, He instituted a “church age” until He is ready to try again. We recognize that the church was not an afterthought, but that His death was predeter-mined by God’s foreknowledge. We understand that His “kingdom is not of this world.” Also, that His kingdom has been established, and that His church is a large part of that fact. Rightly have we pointed this out, but sloppy and lazy have we been in doing so. In our haste and excitement to link church with kingdom (which admittedly does eviscerate that false doctrine,) we have failed to consider the shortcomings of a position that unilaterally equates the two words in every instance. One simply cannot substitute “church” any-where we find the word “kingdom” in the N.T. and come away with any sem-blance of a coherent doctrine. For example, Jesus said: “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ Indeed, the kingdom of God is within you (Lk. 17:21).” Good luck explaining how the “church” of God is within you. That really would be a Christ-complex! 

Those who have bought into the idea that these two words are merely syno-nyms of one another also usually conclude that we can’t even express the sentiments of Jesus’ prayer because “the kingdom already came.” In essence, Jesus taught the disciples how to pray a prayer that had a time stamp or expi-ration date on it of just a couple of years, and has no bearing on us today. 

A well-known book through which the church has recently been studying offered as a proof-text that the church is the kingdom, Matthew 13:24—the Parable of the Tares. The parable begins, “The kingdom of Heaven is like…” and it tells the story of a man who sowed good seed in his field. But then, he found there to be tares. When asked if he would like his servants to remove them, he says that they will be separated at the harvest (which represents the judgment day after the return of Christ. This parable isn’t about the church. The setting for this parable, as Jesus tells us, is “the world.” “The field is the world (v. 38). Jesus is king over all creation, and in His kingdom there are good and bad. In the church, there’s only supposed to be holy. If we find a tare in the church then we know what to do (1 Corinthians 5). If we equate church and kingdom in this parable, then it would be advocating an abdication of our duty in the church. And thus, we’ve overstated our case by plucking a couple of proof-texts out of their context and forcing them into a separate narrative, which frankly is not needed to defeat Premillenialism. 

Another example of overstating our case is seen in our handling of false teach-ing about the Holy Spirit. On one end of the pendulum we have a crowd who believes that the Holy Spirit plays a very active part in their daily lives. They feel led throughout their day, and believe that He creates positive opportunities, and that He is in constant contact, if one learns to discern the way that He nudges them in the right direction. On the other end of the spectrum you have some of my brethren who have responded with such statements as: The Spirit’s only role is in revealing the word of God; the Spirit does nothing outside of God’s Word.” Or, “there is nothing that the Spirit does that the Word of God doesn’t do.” This kind of short-sided explanation may be helpful for countering the above false doctrine, but it is another of example of proving too much. Are Spirit and Word merely synonymous like church and kingdom supposedly are? For the sake of answering false doctrine, will we try to put our great God into a box and limit the capacity with which He is able to function? 

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, believers are saved, filled, sealed, and sanctified. The Holy Spirit reveals God’s thoughts, teaches, and guides believers into all truth. The Holy Spirit also helps Christians in their weakness and inter-cedes for them. He is our Comforter/Advocate/Helper. He convicts of sin, and empowers the saint. Is there anyone so bold as to explain that the Holy Spirit is limited in the way that He does this? Can He use any other means than the wording that appears between Gen. 1:1 and Rev. 22:21 to accomplish any of the above objectives? Nehemiah said that God “put it on his heart” to seek the welfare of the Jews after their return from captivity. Where was the scripture specifically commanding him to do so? Do you ever wake up from a night’s sleep thinking about something you need to do better in your life? Is it possible that God invited your to think on that for a while? Can He do such a thing, or does He have no business operating on you apart from His word? I’m not sug-gesting we give credence to every thought we wake up with. I’m mostly just hoping that those who say He can’t might think again. 

Can the Comforter comfort us apart from the Word? How about 2 Cor. 7:6? The heart of Paul was comforted by the coming of Titus, does that count? Indeed, the word of God convicts us of sin. But, can the Holy Spirit convict us by any other means? Do you suppose He could use even other sinners to convict someone of sin? Imagine how Jonah must have felt as a prophet to be rebuked by a bunch of pagans for not praying to his God (1:6). Let us not limit the Holy One of Israel (Ps. 78:41) for the sake of defeating false doctrine!