Posted in By Ron Thomas, Doctrine

Denominationalism exists because?

By Ron Thomas

Why are there so many denominations? This is the question asked in a Bible study book called God’s Answers to Man’s Questions (p. 178). The answer given? “Each is probably like a variety of fruit and it takes many varieties to make an orchard. (Many spokes to make a wheel.) Christ’s desire is that the Church on earth should be clean, glorious and holy, Eph. 5:27. ‘That He might present it (the Church) to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it (you and I) should be holy and without blemish.’”

This is all there is to his answer. Did he answer it? Yes, I suppose you can say he did. Is his answer adequate or, better yet, biblical? It is not. The Bible passage he referenced is certainly biblical, but it does not support the contention of the “orchard” he mentioned.

In the same epistle of Paul to the Ephesians there is also a reference to the church obeying Christ in everything (5:24), and that there is only one church or body (4:4; 1:22). There is no mention of more than one, and there is no mention of anything corresponding to an orchard.

This is the problem with such an approach to the topic. In one’s desire to be charitable to others of a different persuasion or understanding of Scripture, there is an answer given that is wholly inadequate and unbiblical. It is good to be charitable, but it is better to be biblical.

Problem. Denominationalism got its start with the thinking of man. One can go as far back as 1 Corinthians 1:10, and note the seed of denominationalism being planted. Paul took note of it and “headed it off at the pass” before the seed broke ground (so to speak). Denominationalism is a plague that every man has to address at some level with regard to himself. A man constantly struggles to suppress his own thoughts and his own ways under the authority of Christ. Jeremiah proclaimed quite a number of years ago that in man there is no direction within that allows him to know where he is going – if he desires to go to God. “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23, KJV).

Denominationalism exists because man has allowed his way of thinking to rise to the top. In Galatians 2:20, Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (ESV). Thus, the Lord’s apostle made it very clear that the only thinking that was (and is) to rise to the top is that thinking that belongs to Christ. This is another way of saying that which Paul wrote to the church in Rome. The NET reads, “For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in order to bring about the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed” (Romans 15:18).

Solution. Considering further what Paul said in his remarks to Rome, he would not allow himself to speak by his authority, but only by the authority of Christ. Given the fact that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to preach and write, one can be sure he spoke only the word of God (cf. 1 Timothy 6:3). Second, Paul would only do that which the Lord authorized. In other words, if the Lord did not “ok” it, it was not to be done!

The New Testament does not speak, not even a little bit, of denominationalism. It is a man-made concept; they are institutions of ideology that allow us to “agree to disagree.” If there is one “Church” (one body) in the heavenly realm, why is there not the same on earth? Because many want to eat from an orchard full of variety. I, on the other hand, want to eat from the singleness of the Lord’s hand.

Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

Remarriage Right and the Law of the Husband

By Mac Deaver

Recently, Weylan posted the oral exchange between my father, Roy Deaver, and Gus Nichols (listen at: biblicalnotes.com/audio/roy-deaver-gus-nichols-debate). The exchange took place on the campus of the then Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee in 1973. At issue between the two parties was whether or not the “guilty party” of Matthew 19:9 could by scriptural authority remarry. Deaver said that the “guilty party” could not remarry. Nichols said that he could.

Deaver spoke first and gave an argument based on the alleged unfairness of allowing the guilty party to remarry since God disallowed the “innocent party unjustly put away” the option of a remarriage. That is, according to Matthew 19:9, if A put his wife B away, not for fornication, then A and B were still joined in marriage, and so if someone married B after the legal divorce, the second marriage was only legal but not scriptural. The case is such that A’s condition at the time of the putting away is simply that of a non-guilty party who legally divorces his wife but not for fornication. The wife in the now legally divorced condition commits adultery with whoever legally marries her. So, she is stuck in a scripturally necessitated celibacy as long as she remains the “innocent party” unjustly put away by a person not guilty of fornication. She is still scripturally married to her husband regardless of his attempt to get rid of her.

Now, Deaver’s argument that he presented was based on this point. That is, if God necessitated the perpetual celibacy of the “innocent party unjustly put away,” that it would be unfair for God to allow the remarriage of a “guilty party” put away because of his fornication. How could God reward the “guilty” with a new marriage and “punish” the “innocent” by withholding one? Dear reader, it doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? Deaver’s syllogism was:

(1) If it is the case that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 do not allow the remarriage of an innocent party unjustly put away, then it is the case that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 do not allow the remarriage of the guilty party justly put away.

(2) It is the case that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 do not allow the remarriage of an innocent party unjustly put away.

(3) Then, it is the case that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 do not allow the remarriage of the guilty party justly put away.

This syllogism was based on the principle that punishment is justly related to sin committed. He cited Matthew 12:41-45, Matthew 11:20-24, Luke 12:47-48, and 2 Peter 2:20-21 to identify the principle that the syllogism incorporates.

In response, Nichols declared that we, as a people, have always taken the position that someone who kills his wife has a scriptural right to a new marriage, but that if we say that (1) a murderer can remarry, but that (2) a guilty fornicator cannot, we are allowing, in effect, the more guilty more right and the less guilty less right. Nichols did not use these exact words, but these words represent precisely his point. He was saying, in effect, that Deaver’s position is not fair. That is, if a man can kill his wife in order to marry another woman, but that the “guilty party” cannot remarry, then we are imposing on people a position that is completely unfair. So, he was hitting at Deaver’s argument based on the concept of fairness. I must confess that I had always taken Nichols’ position on the murderer’s right to a remarriage as the correct position, but in this reinvestigation, I think that my father was, after all, correct in his analysis of the situation. And I am very glad to now see what he and Warren affirmed in 1973. As usual I come to the truth as a latecomer.

Now, let me say that Deaver’s position (that the guilty party has no right of remarriage) did not depend upon any argument on “fairness,” though I now agree that the argument is sound. And in all fairness to my father, in his discussion with Nichols, he rightly observed that the contention that the guilty party can remarry is in outright contradiction to the “except for fornication” clause! It was not clear to Nichols at the time, however, that Deaver’s own position regarding the guilty party was fair at all.

When my father later faced James D. Bales (from whom Nichols said that he had learned his position on the “guilty party”) at Searcy, Arkansas he had a syllogism based on Matthew 19:9 that was not based on the concept of fairness. The syllogism was written:

Maj. Prem. If it is the case that Mt. 19:9 teaches that the only scriptural ground for divorce and remarriage is the ground of one’s having put away his companion because of that companion’s fornication, then it is the case that any interpretation of any passage which contradicts that teaching is an erroneous interpretation.

Min. Prem. It is the case that Mt. 19:9 teaches that the only scriptural ground for divorce and remarriage is the ground of one’s having put away his companion because of that companion’s fornication.

Con. It is the case that any interpretation of any passage which contradicts that teaching is an erroneous interpretation (“Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage—Harding Lecture, April 19, 1977, p. 15).

Now, this more wide-sweeping argument covers the “guilty party” issue as well as other matters. But in Deaver’s 1973 confrontation with Nichols, he used an argument that was more narrow in scope or focus and which he thought would do the job in exposing the idea that the “guilty party” did have a right to a remarriage. God is, after all, always fair. That is certainly correct, but it needs to be noted that “divine fairness” is not always easy to comprehend due to human failure to grasp features of a situation that only God can know. What was fair to Deaver didn’t seem fair to Nichols at all.

Fairness” is not always easy to discover. Some issues become so involved that it is hard to determine where fairness lies. And I would repeat that, though we know God is always fair since he is infinite in justice, we are not always able to determine how it is that he is fair when he gives definite positive legislation. At times the “fairness” is somewhat hidden from our view. God kept Cain, the brother-murderer, alive and allowed him to remarry and yet later decreed that all such murderers should be put to death (Gen. 4:9-15, 17; 9:6). And following his humanly undetected adultery, David was allowed to marry the widow of the soldier that David had killed under the camouflage of war (2 Sam. 11, 12). Because we are not privy to all knowledge to which God is, we are not always aware of how something is fair or “fair enough” in the eyes of God at a given time. So, from this angle of examination, “fairness”—though always rightly ascribed to God and to God’s applicable law—can be fair without our being able to explain in what way it is fair or why it is fair at all. The “fairness” of some laws is not on obvious display.

The issue of “divine fairness” has come up many times in marriage discussion. Some have wondered how it is fair for God to allow fornicators (before marriage) to commit fornication for hundreds of times and then be given scriptural right to marriage, while at the same time disallowing a “guilty party” the right of one more marriage. No preacher that I know has ever taken the position that the Scriptures teach that unmarried fornicators cannot enter a scriptural marriage. What about a person who—knowing Bible teaching—purposefully refuses to marry for years, during which time he fornicates over and over again? Let us say that in his 60’s he decides finally to marry. Where is the passage that disallows the marriage? Is the New Testament law on marriage and divorce unfair if it allows an habitual fornicator to get married?

Note carefully that we are not discussing whether practicing fornicators can go to heaven. They cannot (Gal. 5:19). But entry into heaven is not to be confused with marriage rights on earth. Nichols made this point in his part of the discussion. And he was correct. To say that a man has a right, given his circumstances, to another marriage is not at all the same thing as saying that the man stands before God approved and heaven bound. Plenty of people have a right to marriage who at the time of the application of the right are not in fellowship with God. But since God allows all persons guilty off pre-marriage fornication the right of entering a scriptural marriage and yet disallows, per Matthew 19:9, some parties to remarry, it is evident that God looks at the marriage covenant as something to be protected and maintained. After all, God does the actual joining in marriage (Matt. 19:6); he is no party to fornication!

Now, at the 1973 confrontation between Deaver and Nichols, Nichols took the position that if a man killed his wife in order to marry some other woman, that even though the murder was certainly sinful, marriage right still characterized the murderer since his wife was now dead. Evidently Nichols was thinking of Romans 7:1-6, though I do not remember his actually referring to the passage. But when he said that a man could kill his wife and marry again, both Deaver and Thomas B. Warren (who was in the audience and who in the question/answer session asked Nichols some questions) objected and declared that the murderer had no such right. When Nichols called for the passage that prohibited the murderer from remarrying, Deaver cited Matthew 19:9.

Earlier in his own presentation, Deaver had gone over Matthew 19:9 very carefully, presenting the words in Greek and giving a detailed analysis of the passage. Clearly, per Matthew 19:9, someone may and someone may not remarry. If all can remarry, according to God’s approval, then, Deaver asked, why did the Lord address the topic at all? The passage affirms that someone may remarry without being guilty of adultery and that someone may remarry but only by becoming guilty of adultery. “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery.” According to Deaver, the Lord said that only persons who put away their mates for fornication are persons who may marry again without committing adultery. And guilty fornicators are not in that class of persons.

I agree with my father and Warren that the guilty party cannot with divine sanction remarry. And it is my view that Deaver’s 1977 syllogism that he gave to James Bales presents the truth on the topic. Furthermore, in the past (although I have taken the position that Nichols took at Memphis with regard to a wife-murderer having the right to another marriage since his wife was now dead), I now confess that such is absolutely wrong. I now see that Deaver and Warren were both correct in their claim that no wife-murderer has the right of remarriage even though his wife is dead. I had taken the position that even though a wife-killer was hell bound, his eternal destiny and his marriage rights were not to be confused. And they should not be. However, as we will see as our examination continues, though a wife-murderer is no longer bound to a wife, he is still bound to God who in the New Testament gives him no more marriage rights.

When Nichols called for the passage that prohibits a wife-killer from remarrying, Deaver, as already stated, cited Matthew 19:9. Now, Matthew 19:9 deals with putting away and marrying again and with someone’s marrying the party put away. Murder either is a form of putting away or is not a form of putting away. If Deaver cites Matthew 19:9 as conclusive that a murderer (who kills his own wife in order to marry some other woman) has no right to a remarriage, then he is saying either that murder is a form of putting away or he is saying that murder is not a form of putting away. But, he cannot be saying that it is a form of putting away, because the last part of the verse contemplates a marriage on the part of the put away party. The “put away party” is not a dead person but a living one. Since we are told that “he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery,” we know that the “put away” party is a living party. If we say that murder is a form of putting away, we are then implying that someone can marry the dead which is, of course, absurd.

So, Deaver must be saying that murder is not a form of “putting away.” So, why would he think that Matthew 19:9 applied to the murderer’s case? How does the passage apply at all to the case of a murderer? Evidently, he thought it did because the only cases of remarriage allowed by Matthew 19:9 were cases involving “putting away” by parties whose spouses or ex-spouses were still living. No one else (no murderer) was being contemplated in the cases that involved “putting away.” Since all that we are to do is to be authorized by the New Testament (Col. 3:17), and since Deaver knew or at least assumed that there was no other passage that gave the scriptural right of remarriage to anyone else, then he cited the passage as conclusive that no man could kill his wife and then marry again. And this would mean that Deaver (and Warren, who agreed with Deaver that no man could kill his wife and remarry) considered Romans 7:1-6 to be inapplicable to the murderer’s case.

And this would mean, then, that Warren and Deaver considered Matthew 19:9 as applicable to the case of murder in the sense that it authorized only cases of remarriage on the part of non-murderers (just as the passages that authorize singing authorize singing only, and because of the complete absence of any other passage authorizing mechanical instruments in worship in addition to singing, then only singing is authorized). Deaver and Warren evidently thought that Romans 7:1-6 was inapplicable to the case of the murderer since, though the passage teaches that when the husband dies, the wife is free from the law of the husband so that death ends the application of the law of the husband generally speaking, it does not terminate the application of that law in cases of murder.

Now, if Romans 7:1-6 does not apply to a wife-killer (thus giving him a right to another marriage), how can we prove it? How was it that Deaver and Warren were both convinced that the wife-killer had no marriage rights? This exact point was not a part of the formal discussion at Memphis. And I do not remember ever discussing this point with my father or with Warren. But if they were right, how could we prove it now? From the discussion it is clear that Nichols thought that Romans 7:1-6 released the wife-killer so that he could remarry; it was Deaver’s and Warren’s contention that Romans 7:1-6 did no such thing. But there was no recording of any elaborate support of the Deaver-Warren position. I want to supply that information right here.

In Romans 7:1-6, Paul draws an analogy between the relationship that obtained between (1) a man and his wife and between (2) a Jewish Christian and his relationship to Christ. First, he gives the fundamental principle that the law was binding on a person only so long as that person was still alive. The law ceased in application to anyone who had been under it at the point of that person’s death (7:1). Second, after stating the fundamental feature of any law regarding its application, he then applies the binding nature of applicable law to marriage. He states that a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he is living. When he dies, she is free from “the law of the husband” (7:2). If she is joined to another man while he still lives, she is an adulteress, according to marriage law, but if the husband is dead she is not an adulteress though joined to another man (7:3). Third, Paul then draws an analogy between the two cases: that of a woman bound to a husband under the law and to Christian Jews who were once married to Moses but who are now married to Christ (7:4). Paul affirms that Christian Jews are not now in “spiritual adultery” because the first husband was dead (7:4). Moses, (the binding law of Moses) was now dead. And even though they were now joined to Christ, the joining was not “spiritual adultery” because the first husband had passed away.

Now to the very point of contention: how do we know that this passage does not free a wife-murderer to remarry? We know it because Romans 7:1-6 is a discussion of the relationship of the law of Moses to Jews who were now Christians. And these Jewish Christians who were now joined to Christ had been formerly married to the first husband (the law of Moses, or Moses) to whom they were “made dead” by the body of Christ (7:4). And notice: that law (the first husband) to which these Jewish Christians had formerly been married was a law that demanded the death of any murderer! Murderers did not have remarriage rights in Israel. Murderers were to be put to death (Exod. 21:12; Lev. 24:17). The analogy that Paul draws is between (1) the law of Moses and its binding nature on Jews (a law that gave no marriage rights to murderers) and (2) the law of Christ which, unless it be Romans 7:1-6, gives no marriage rights to murderers either). This proves that “the law of the husband” does not give marriage rights to murderers of their wives even though their wives are now dead! Wife-murderers are still bound to God’s marriage law which disallows them a new marriage.

And this serves as proof that in Deaver’s confrontation with Nichols, he and Warren were correct to think that according to Bible teaching, no wife-killer had scriptural right to another marriage. Notice further that if “the law of the husband” (now completely incorporated within the law of Christ) still binds the “put away fornicator” (the “guilty party”) to God so that any marriage attempt on his part in the future will be simply a case of “adultery,” then it follows that “the law of the husband” binds a wife-murderer to God so that any marriage attempt on his part in the future will be simply a case of “adultery” as well. Both cases entail “adultery” by parties no longer bound to their spouses but still bound to God’s marriage law. Nichols had contended that when the handcuffs that bound a husband and wife together were taken off due to fornication or death, both parties were free to remarry since they were now free from each other. Deaver had correctly observed that there were three sets of handcuffs in any scriptural marriage. One set of handcuffs bound the married persons to each other, and one set bound the husband to God’s law, and the final set bound the wife to God’s law.

It amazes me that my father and brother Warren were so clear and correct in 1973 in their contention that not even Romans 7:1-6 gave a wife-murderer the right to remarry. They were far ahead of most of us then and, perhaps, many of us now.

Let me make one final comment concerning the relationship of Matthew 19:9 to Romans 7:1-6. Please note that the precision in language used by Paul together with the precision of language used by the Lord presents to us a striking instance of internal testimony to the profound inspiration of Scripture! Not only does Romans 7:1-6 not condone “murdering one’s way” out of a marriage so as to give the remarriage right to the murderer, but the language is so precise as not to contradict the allowance of polygamy under Gentile-ism and Judaism! Notice carefully that while Jesus restricted divorce right, compared to the most generous divorce allowance by the law of Moses (Deut. 24) in his remarks in Matthew 19:9, that Paul is careful in his use of marriage in his analogy as to protect divine sanction of polygamy under the previous regimes. He says that if a woman is joined to another man while she retains a living husband, she shall be an adulteress, but he does not say that a man joined to another woman while having an already living wife shall be called one under the governance of “the law of the husband.” The “law of the husband” allowed, in principle, both polygyny (one husband with more than one wife) and monogamy (one husband with one wife). The kind of polygamy (many marriages) allowed by God in the previous regimes was only polygyny. It was never polyandry (many husbands with one wife). Thus, Paul’s precision is for the purpose of harmonizing his illustration not only with the permanent New Testament requirement of monogamy but with divine approval of polygyny under Gentile-ism (i.e. Patriarchy) and Christianity. Incredible!

Posted in By Roy C. Deaver, Doctrine

Roy Deaver-Gus Nichols Debate: Can the Guilty Party Remarry?

By Weylan Deaver

A preacher’s forum took place in November 1973 at the Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee between Roy C. Deaver and Gus Nichols. Each man respected the other. In fact, in the November 1972 issue of his paper, Biblical Notes (p. 73), Deaver wrote: “When brother Nichols preaches, it is obvious to the hearer that here is a man who is not just keeping an appointment. It is apparent that he knows the difference between having to say something and in having something to say.” But love for the gospel compelled Deaver to defend it, even if doing so meant opposing a friend. At the time, Deaver was in his prime (around age 51). The question at issue that day at Harding Graduate School was: “Can the guilty party, put away for fornication, scripturally remarry?” Gus Nichols said “yes” and Roy Deaver said “no.” Thomas B. Warren was in the audience and, when it came time for the Q&A session, he also held Nichols’ feet to the fire on this crucial doctrinal point. Listen to the two speeches and the Q&A session at the three links below.

1 Roy Deaver. Can the Guilty Party Remarry? (November 7, 1973 / Harding University Graduate School of Religion)

2 Gus Nichols. Can the Guilty Party Remarry? (November 7, 1973 / Harding University Graduate School of Religion)

3 Questions and Answers. Can the Guilty Party Remarry? Deaver vs Nichols (November 7, 1973 / HUGSR)

Posted in By Weylan Deaver, Doctrine

The Fog Is Lifting

By Weylan Deaver

Start with John 3:34, which teaches that God “gives the Spirit without measure” (ESV, cf. ASV, NASB, NKJV, etc.). Here is one verse where the venerable King James Version disappoints by adding the words “unto him” in italics at the end (italics, because “unto him” is not in the Greek, and so does not belong in the text). An accurate translation makes the simple point that the Holy Spirit is given “without measure.” That is significant.

The church of Christ in America in the twentieth century largely accepted, and even insisted, that the Holy Spirit is given “by measure” (not “without measure”). In other words, we taught ourselves to believe the very thing John 3:34 denies. We taught ourselves that there are measures of the Spirit, including a “baptismal measure,” a “laying on of hands measure,” and an “ordinary measure.” We thought this helped fend off claims of modern day miracles because we insisted that miracles were always connected with the first two measures, and that those measures are not available today. But, our artificial construct was fatally flawed because it denies what John 3:34 says. Our humanly devised “measures” gave us peace of mind and we thought we were being true to Scripture. All the while, the doctrine of measures of the Spirit ensured we were enveloped in a theologic fog which could never lift, so long as the artificial categories we created remained entrenched.

To some degree, immeasurable by us, the church was crippled. Two camps opposed each other (based on their views of whether the Spirit’s indwelling was literal or figurative), but both managed to get along—more or less—because both groups bought into the doctrine that there are measures of the Spirit. Not surprisingly, the issue of the Holy Spirit’s presence and role in the church never got conclusively settled in the brotherhood. How could it, when the opposing sides both began from the same flawed premise? In fact, it got so bad that the flawed premise, itself, became vaunted to such status that anyone veering from it risked losing fellowship with those clinging tenaciously to it.

Yet, we could see that the New Testament described the Lord’s church from various angles. We knew it was called the church, but also referred to as a kingdom. Nobody insisted that the church and kingdom must be separate entities. We knew that the church was called the body of Christ, but also his bride, and even God’s house. And no one claimed that the body must be something other than the bride, or that the body cannot be the church, or that God’s house cannot be his kingdom, etc. We all understood these various terms were descriptive of the same institution. The church was the kingdom and also the body and also the bride and also the house of God. They were all the same thing, despite different terminology. We welcomed the assortment of descriptions as giving us insights on the nature of the church.

However, when we found different words used about the Holy Spirit’s connection to saved people, we completely missed the point we were so clear on regarding different portrayals of the church. We somehow concluded that, if the Holy Spirit “fell on,” or was “poured out,” that must be something different from being a “gift” to be “received” by all. We knew the Bible said we are “in” the Spirit, and we are to be “filled” with the Spirit, but we vehemently denied that we could be “baptized” with the Holy Spirit. Our coherent approach to passages on the church became a muddled effort on passages about the Spirit. It needlessly complicated the simple gospel. It made key passages harder to explain, rather than easier. John said the Holy Spirit is given “without measure,” and we said the Holy Spirit is given “by measure,” but never perceived the discrepancy. Without any Scriptures using the terminology, we went ahead and crafted what we called a “baptismal measure of the Spirit,” and a “laying on of hands measure of the Spirit,” and a so-called “ordinary measure of the Spirit.”

Such a mistake could not but hurt. We labored under weight of a blunder which kept facts hidden, given our presupposition. Of course, it never prevented our being dogmatic about our position. In fact, for many, our insistence that we were right was exceeded only by our ignorance which made us wrong. We forfeited “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” and opted for disunity on the Spirit and an uneasy peace (if not outright conflict). God’s Spirit was supposed to give life, foster love, unite the church and prevent its fervor chilling to lukewarmness. Instead, we turned him into a battleground for an ill-advised doctrinal Cold War which flared up now and again, but never seemed to bring more than a tension-filled “unity.”

The Holy Spirit is “the gift of God” (John 4:10 cf. 7:38-39; Acts 2:38; 5:32; 8:20; Luke 11:13; etc.). When God gives a gift, we ought to pay attention. Our appreciation of the gift is connected to our comprehension of the gift. If we do not understand it, we will not value it, and will be unable to exploit it for our good. Imagine you are given a short stack of papers as a gift. You do not recognize their nature. They are covered with tiny print expressing what appears to be much technical, financial, and legal jargon which you are not interested in trying to decipher. A friend sees them and, not knowing what they are, suggests to you that they look important. But neither of you is motivated to do the research required to precisely identify the gift. Ignorant of their worth, you stick the papers in a desk drawer and move on to other matters. Someone finds them years later, after your demise, and cashes in. What you failed to recognize was that the papers were bearer bonds with coupons attached which, if redeemed, would pay $2,000,000 to the bearer. Whereas perception would have led to profit, instead blindness leads to blight.

When it comes to the “gift of the Holy Spirit,” we have too often undervalued the gift while overestimating our knowledge of it. And, when our flawed approach to the topic blinds us to Bible facts, it robs us of the full blessing God intended. Many brethren think the subject is murky, at best. Some think it is to be mostly avoided. It is as though they stick it in an envelope labeled “controversial,” put the envelope in a dark drawer and move on to other matters.

The church does not grow when we shrink from Bible subjects. And, if the Holy Spirit is “controversial,” maybe it is because we have made it so. All that can be known about the Spirit is what the Bible teaches, and God did not write it to confuse us (cf. 1 Cor. 14:33). He wrote it to help us by producing understanding in us, which leads to our appreciation of what he is giving to us.

So, start with John 3:34. There is no “baptismal measure.” There is no “laying on of hands measure.” There is no “ordinary measure.” There are no measures. When we see that truth, new vistas of understanding open and the fog can begin to evaporate. As long as we insist there are measures of the Spirit, we will never be able to fit the relevant passages together. Our manmade theology of different Holy Spirit measures is a ponderous chain, to the detriment of all who choose to carry it.

Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman about “the gift of God,” which he referred to as “living water” (John 4:10). Nearby context is clear that “living water” describes “the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.” And, “the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:38-39). So, the gift is the Spirit, who could not arrive till Jesus had ascended.

After his resurrection, Jesus told the apostles to “wait for the promise,” which was granted when they were “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). John the Baptizer could immerse people in water, but only Jesus could baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11). Thus, in his inaugural sermon, Peter states that Jesus had been “exalted at the right hand of God,” after which he “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit,” which “he poured out” on Pentecost (Acts 2:33). So, we learn that the Holy Spirit is “the promise” and the promise was “poured out” by an exalted Jesus. This is the same promise in Acts 1:4-5, which was identified by Jesus as baptism with the Holy Spirit. This baptism took place when the Spirit was poured out by Jesus in fulfillment of God’s promise.

Furthermore, the promise was a matter of prophecy, which is why Peter quotes from Joel 2, claiming that “in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17). Traditionally, we claimed that “all flesh” meant only a handful of Jewish men (i.e. the apostles) and a handful of Gentile folk (i.e. Cornelius’ household). We were satisfied with such anemic analysis because it fit the paradigm created by our presupposition (that there are measures of the Spirit). Our simplistic interpretation never did justice to the language used by God, Joel and Peter. Think of it. There is no way that “all flesh” can be accurately taken to apply exclusively to a tiny group of first-century people who would all fit in a single room. The Spirit was poured out by Jesus in Acts 2 as a promise from God which had been prophesied in Joel 2. The promise was for “all flesh,” and it began to be fulfilled when people began to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

In fact, in the same sermon, Peter calls on hearers to repent and be baptized so they can receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). There is absolutely no reason to conclude that this gift is other than the promise being poured out in Acts 2. Moreover, in the very next verse Peter is emphatic that “the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39). This promise (Acts 2:39) is the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38), which was poured out by Jesus (Acts 2:33), which Jesus equated with the baptism in the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5), which stems from a prophecy in Joel 2 that applies to all flesh (Acts 2:17).

This fits perfectly the fact that the Holy Spirit is “given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32). Paul writes of “the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6). The “us” refers to all Christians. It cannot be limited to apostles, just as the “all flesh” of Acts 2:17 cannot be limited to apostles (or, apostles plus a few Gentiles). Remember, when God gives the Spirit, it is “without measure” (John 3:34).

When Peter preached to Cornelius, “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (Acts 10:44). The same phenomenon is then called “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” which was “poured out” (Acts 10:45). Thus, they could be said to “have received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:47). Later, retelling the events, Peter says that when the Spirit “fell on them just as on us” (Acts 11:15), he remembered that Jesus had promised Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 11:16). Then, Peter calls the Holy Spirit baptism of Cornelius “the same gift…he gave to us when we believed” (Acts 11:17). There are no measures of the Spirit, and the Spirit is “given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32).

What happened to Cornelius is what happens to us today. He had to be “born of water and the Spirit” in order to “enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). In his case, the Spirit baptism preceded the water baptism because Cornelius was already “a devout man who feared God with all his household” (Acts 10:2), living faithfully under the divine law he had. His right religion was being replaced by its successor: Christianity. With the gospel spreading the message of accountability to Christ, Cornelius needed to enter the kingdom to be saved. Jesus poured out the Spirit on his household, resulting in their being baptized in Spirit. Miraculous tongue speaking followed as a sign to the Jewish witnesses that the Spirit had actually been given to the Gentiles exactly as it had been given to them. That sparked Peter’s question, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47). Thus born of water and the Spirit, Cornelius and company entered the kingdom. They entered it the same way the apostles entered, the same way we enter, the same way everyone enters.

By this time, some will undoubtedly be claiming that we are opening the door (either directly or, at least, implicitly) to miracles today. That is not at all the case. But it brings us to another signal fact we have too long overlooked. The Holy Spirit was never given by measure, but miraculous abilities from the Spirit were always given by measure! Speaking of miraculous gifts, Paul said, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). When miracles were extant, it was always God—not the apostles—who decided and distributed the miracle-performing abilities as he chose.

Miracles were never promised to every Christian, but the Holy Spirit was promised to every Christian (Acts 2:38-39; 5:32). Throughout history, most saints have lived and died without ever seeing—much less performing—a single miracle. Just as a book is not equivalent to its author, so miracles are not the Spirit. And, miracles need not accompany the Spirit in every case. Historically, in fact, in most cases miracles have not (and do not) accompany the presence of God’s Spirit. God said, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke” (Joel 2:28-30). Notice that “all flesh” can easily be broader than the specified groups who would prophesy and see visions. We are part of “all flesh,” but we do not perform miracles. Notice verse 30 references “wonders in the heavens and on the earth.” Today, we inhabit the same earth, but we behold no wonders being performed. Just so, no one is prophesying, etc. today, even though the same Spirit is still being “poured out” on all who call on the Lord’s name (Titus 3:6).

The miraculous power was a temporary allowance from the Spirit, but it was never identical with the Spirit. Jesus told the apostles they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). The power would be outward, observable evidence of the Spirit’s internal presence. Likewise, Jesus said the kingdom would “come with power” (Mark 9:1). The non-occurrence of miracles today has nothing to do with there being measures of the Spirit. There are no measures of the Spirit. But there are passages that teach the temporary nature and cessation of miracles. To say it again, miraculous gifts were always given by measure; the Holy Spirit is never given by measure. The measured out miraculous gifts are no longer with us, but the Holy Spirit is.

He has been poured out on us (Titus 3:6), just like he was poured out on Pentecost (Acts 2:33), just like he was poured out on Cornelius (Acts 10:45). He was a gift to Cornelius (Acts 11:17), just like he is a gift to us (Acts 2:38). The promise the apostles were told to wait for was the baptism with the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5), and “the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39).

Long ago the Jews could not see what their Old Testament was teaching because they refused to see Christ in it, so a veil was over their hearts (2 Cor. 3:14ff.). Too long we have not seen what the New Testament teaches about the Spirit, at least in part because we clung to the artificial distinctions of manmade categories created by our wrong idea of measures of the Spirit. A fog descended which remains dense, though a ray of light is beginning to pierce it here and there. Eyes are starting to open. We owe it to God to know his “gift.” Surely, greater understanding will foster better days ahead for the kingdom, “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:20).

The Holy Spirit’s presence in the church is both literary and literal; he informs us with his pen and he indwells us with his person. We do disservice to the word of God if we deny what it says about the Writer. And, the Writer says, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5), that we are saved “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly” (Titus 3:5-6), that this is “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38), “given to those who obey” (Acts 5:32), that this “promise of the Father” was rehearsed to the apostles as the reason they must wait in Jerusalem since “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5), that this “promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off” (Acts 2:39), which had been prophesied when Joel recorded that “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17), that this had to come from Jesus, “exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this” (Acts 2:33) because, as John had always said, “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8), “for he gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34) in order that, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11).

Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

Has the Great Commission Been Fulfilled?

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 5: Has the Great Commission Been Fulfilled?

Note: The “great commission” has been fulfilled because the purpose of its completion was to make all men answerable to the gospel. The book of Acts is not basically about conversions or even about kingdom entry, though it certainly discusses this in detail, but it is about how God changed human accountability for all time from Gentile-ism and Judaism to Christianity, thus making it possible for the reconciliation of two heretofore separated groups of people (to each other and of these people to God) by means of one divinely authorized approach (Eph. 2:13-22; cf. Acts 19:9). We cannot now do what the apostles were commanded to do (see chapter 15, “Facts That Paint the Picture of Acts” in Except One Be Born From Above).

  1. The apostles were the ones to whom the commission was given (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:44-49; Read carefully Mark 16:15-20; cf. Heb. 2:1-4; cf. Acts 8:1-4).
  2. The ones responsible to the great commission were the “ambassadors” of Christ, distinguished from the rest of the church (Acts 1:21-26; 26:16; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Acts 1:22).
  3. Two of the apostles were even given special assignments entailed in their great commission (Matt. 16:19; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; 8:14-24; 10:44-48; Gal. 2:7; Acts 9:15).
  4. Each apostle had “witnessing” power unavailable to other Christians (1 Cor. 12:11; 14:1, 13; 1 Tim. 4:14; 1:6; 2 Cor. 12:12).
  5. Not all Christians were given the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 14:6, 22).
  6. Even if it could be proven that the early church bore the same relationship to the commission that the apostles did, we today still could not have that relationship to it (Eph. 2:20; 4:11; Heb. 2:1-4; the apostles were in a category all their own: Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 4:9-13; 2 Cor. 12:12; Matt. 18:18 with Matt. 16:18-20; 19:27-28).
  7. During the thirty year period of evangelism in all the world, God was miraculously managing the whole affair (Acts 13:1-4; 16:6-10; cf. 1 Cor. 13:8-13; Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:8, 9, 11; Rev. 3:7; Col. 1:16, 23).
  8. Passages that obligate Christians today to teach cannot in and of themselves prove that the evangelism is to be based on the great commission (1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Tim. 3:2; Matt. 22:37-40).
  9. God has withdrawn all miraculous assistance, which was absolutely necessary to carrying out the commission in the first century (Mark 16:15-20; 1 Cor. 13:8-13; cf. Acts 17:27; Matt. 7:7-11 with Luke 11:13; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4).Note: Our world is not like that of the first century (transition era)! Today all men outside the church die in sin when they die without obeying the gospel. In the first century, there was a way (Judaism and Gentile-ism) for men outside the church to be saved before the gospel reached them because of the religious arrangement that had been made by God for them! Gentile-ism (Patriarchy) and Judaism were finally superseded by Christianity!

Consider these arguments:

Argument #1:

  • All assignments that the apostles were given to do that required the capacity for inspired speaking and miracle working are assignments that Christians today cannot carry out.
  • The assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature was an assignment that the apostles were given to do that required the capacity for inspired speaking and miracle working (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:12-13; Heb. 2:3-4).
  • Therefore, the assignment to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature was an assignment that Christians today cannot carry out.

Argument #2:

  • Any assignment that the apostles were given which changed human amenability on earth for all time is an assignment that cannot be carried out following its fulfillment.
  • The assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature is an assignment which changed amenability on earth for all time (Col. 1:23; Acts 10:36; 17:30-31).
  • Therefore, the assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature is an assignment that cannot be carried out following its fulfillment.
Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

Correct and Incorrect Reasons for Rebaptism

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 4: Correct and Incorrect Reasons for Rebaptism

I. Some incorrect reasons for rebaptism:

  1. I knew only a little truth when I was first baptized (cf. Heb. 6:1-3; 1 Cor. 3:1ff.).
  2. Others for whom I have love or respect have been rebaptized (cf. Acts 19:1-7).
  3. I would feel better if a certain preacher baptized me (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-17; 3:4-9).
  4. To increase the “chances” of my eternal salvation (cf. Col. 2:12; Luke 10:31; Eccl. 9:11).
  5. My baptism was ineffectual because I could not make the confession with my mouth or I did not make the confession before many men (cf. Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10; Rev. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:12).
  6. I’m not sure the water was pure (cf. Heb. 10:22; Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26).
  7. The person who baptized me was not a Christian or later apostatized from the faith (cf. Luke 8:11; cf. Demas in 2 Tim. 4:10; Col. 4:14; Philem. 23).
  8. I did not realize at the time that I would receive the actual baptism of the Spirit (Acts 2:38).
  9. I was baptized because I didn’t want to go to hell (cf. Acts 2:40; 1 John 4:18).

II. Some correct reasons for rebaptism:

  1. I was baptized simply because others wanted me to be (Rom. 6:17).
  2. I really didn’t understand what I was doing (John 6:44-45).
  3. I did not have faith that I was being saved from sin (Col. 2:12).
  4. I did not really repent of my sins (2 Cor. 7:10).
  5. I thought I had already been saved and that I was being baptized to join some church (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
  6. Even though I was an innocent child (having no sin), I was taught that I should submit to baptism in order to be like Christ (Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5-6).
  7. I was “baptized” when I was a mere baby (cf. Matt. 18:1-6).
  8. I never heard anything about the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 19:2).
  9. I did not know that in baptism I was leaving the world and entering the church (1 John 4:4; 5:19).
  10. To have a clear conscience and make my calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10).
  11. When I was baptized, it was for the remission of sins, but I did not believe that Jesus was divine (cf. Matt. 16:16; John 9:35-37).
Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

What Happened in Samaria (Acts 8)?

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 3: What Happened in Samaria (Acts 8)?

  1. This account of kingdom entry must correspond with Acts 2:1-4 and Acts 10, 11.
  2. Consider the background (Acts 1:8; Acts 8:1-11).
  3. Baptism in water only is baptism into the name of the Lord Jesus only (Acts 8:12, 16; cf. Acts 19:5).
  4. The Holy Spirit came as a result of prayer offered and hands laid (Acts 8:15-18).
  5. The hands identified those to receive the Spirit and provided the conceptual connection between the water and the Spirit (Acts 8:12, 14-19; cf. Acts 19:6; John 3:3, 5; cf. Heb. 6:2).
  6. Jesus was the One who administered Holy Spirit baptism (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 1:33).
  7. With both water and Spirit, the Samaritans had been now baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:33).
Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

Was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit a One Time Event Only?

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 2: Was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit a One Time Event Only?

Discussion: No, because —

  1. There are no measures of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34).
  2. All who obeyed the gospel received the Spirit (Acts 5:32). [Question: Why didn’t the kingdom arrive ten days prior to Pentecost?]
  3. Baptism in the Spirit is no more miraculous than the forgiveness of sins is (Romans 8:2).
  4. There is only one way into the kingdom (John 3:3-5; Ephesians 4:4-5). [Note: If some entered at the point of Spirit baptism (Acts 2:1-4), and if some entered at the point of water baptism (Acts 10:44-48), then all entered when water and Spirit were combined in their human experience (John 3:3-5)!]
  5. Of the meaning of John 3:3-5.
  6. Of what Jesus did not say in John 3:3-5 —
    (1) Water must come first and then the Spirit;
    (2) Spirit must come first and then the water;
    (3) Water and Spirit must come at the same time;
    (4) One’s forgiveness had to occur at the moment of kingdom entry;
    (5) Forgiveness would occur in every case of water baptism;
    (6) One born of water only could enter the kingdom;
    (7) One born of Spirit only could enter the kingdom.
  7. Entering the spiritual body of Christ (the church) is accomplished by means of entering the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; Galatians 3:26-27).
Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

What Happens While We Are Under the Water

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 1: What Happens While We Are Under the Water

  1. We are delivered, forgiven, and redeemed (Colossians 1:13-14; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
  2. We are regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-6; Matthew 19:28; cf. Acts 3:19; Romans 6:3-4, 11).
  3. We are indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32; Romans 8:9-11; Ephesians 1:13-14).
  4. We are added to the saved (Acts 2:47; Matthew 12:46-50).
  5. We are transferred (Colossians 1:13).
  6. We are made sons by birth (John 3:3-5; Ephesians 1:3-5).
  7. We make the great escape (2 Peter 1:4; 2:20-22).
  8. Our nature is altered (2 Peter 1:4; Galatians 6:7-8; John 15:1ff; Galatians 5:22-24).
  9. We are spiritually circumcised (Colossians 2:11-12).
Posted in By Weylan Deaver, Doctrine

Blessing Backward

By Weylan Deaver

King Saul’s was the sad case of a career gone south due to his persistent refusal to obey God. Such colossal failure caused the Lord to tear the kingdom from Saul, giving it to a man more worthy (1 Sam. 13:14). The next king would be David, freshly pulled from the sheep pasture, but transitioning from Saul to his unwelcome successor took a long time, during which Saul did his utmost to track down and annihilate the young shepherd.

Jealousy had surfaced when David was given higher praise than Saul among the women singers (1 Sam. 18:6ff.). Saul feared David’s popularity and tried, surreptitiously, to get him killed by the Philistines (1 Sam. 18:25). That failing, Saul went for the direct approach by hurling his spear, in effort to “pin David to the wall” (1 Sam. 19:10). Then he thought to murder David in his own bed (1 Sam. 19:11ff.). Nothing worked. Perhaps the pinnacle of Saul’s perversity was reached when he executed eighty-five priests at Nob because Ahimelech, a priest there, had given aid to David (1 Sam. 21-22).

If ever a man had things backward, it was Saul. His skewed perspective is displayed when, learning David was in Keilah, Saul says, “God has given him into my hand” (1 Sam. 23:7). Saul seemed to think God was on his side, when reality was quite the opposite.

As the pursuit continued, David went to Ziph, when, of all things, the Ziphites contacted Saul and offered to turn David in to the bloodthirsty king (1 Sam. 23:15ff.). Saul was elated, and said to the Ziphites, “May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me” (1 Sam. 23:21).

The chase will continue, but let us pull in the reins as we ponder verse 21 — a statement of thick irony from a man of thin conviction. When the Ziphites offered to hand David over, Saul said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me.” Think of it. God had already disowned Saul and told him his reign was over (1 Sam. 15:23, 28). Saul was rebellious, wretched, rejected. David was chosen by God to succeed Saul, and Saul wanted David dead. David was being helped by God, while Saul was multiplying his own mistakes. In spite of it all, Saul still thought he could tell the Ziphites, “May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me.” In truth, Saul was not enjoying the Lord’s favor, and he really had no right to speak as though he and God were on the same page. His blessing of the Ziphites was as backward as could be.

Which brings us a sober reminder. Not everyone who says “God bless you” is on God’s side. Not all who talk about the Lord in a pleasing way are actually pleasing the Lord. Talk is cheap if your sins are costing your soul. Look at Saul. Look at the oceans of churches out there, teeming with schools of conflicting theology. Denominational differences form a palette of clashing colors to paint a portrait of Christianity scarcely resembling anything in the gospel. Yet, every such church thinks itself on God’s side, thus combining a legacy of rebellion with the language of righteousness. God does not intend that we ask his blessing while avoiding his Book. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).