Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 2/2/03
"But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day" (Luke 13:14).
We spent a considerable amount of time last week discussing the difference between religion and life in the Spirit. Religion is usually a set of rules for behavior by which the participant seeks to know God and be in better standing with Him. Life in the Spirit flows like living water from the indwelling Christ, and through us to the thirsty world. Religion leads to frustration and bitter disappointment, for no one could ever keep the Law, though it was perfect (Ps. 19:7). In Galatians, we see the dilemma Christians face if they try to add works to the grace of God. Paul compared Ishmael, born of Hagar and Abraham, who had tried to fulfill the promise of God on his own terms, with Isaac, child of promise, the fulfillment of God's grace to Abraham. Paul concluded, "Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 4:31;5:1). At issue was whether or not believers in Christ should be circumcised, an integral part of the Law. I observe that Christians today have the same struggle, not with circumcision, but with tithes and offerings, self denial, forbidding women to minister, making some days holier than others, mandatory attendance at gatherings, to name but a few items of legalism.
To those tempted to live by law, the Apostle admonishes, "Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised (or whatever rule you care to insert here), Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace" (Gal. 5:1-4, NIV). Many Baptists use the phrase, "fallen from grace," to mean that someone has lost his right standing with God. In actual fact, this is so, not necessarily because he committed some egregious act, but rather, because he put the son of God to an open shame by replacing Christ's work on the cross with works of his own hands. Paul makes a serious charge here, when he declares that if you obey part of the law, you are obligated to obey the whole law. No one can do that, which is why people who try have fallen from grace.
It is never my intention to bring people down. Religion has done that quite handily, with no help from me. My calling is to declare the grace of God to all men so long as the Lord gives me breath and words to say or write. I mentioned last week that a brother had e-mailed me a statement of faith for my comments. Not wanting to be contentious, I said nothing. He asked again, and I told him that I did not agree with the statement of faith, but it is not my job to amend his theology or anyone else's. He wrote back and said he understands that I do not agree with what he sent, but he still wants to know what I think. I replied that if the Lord gives me the green light, I would do so, hoping actually, that He would not. But He did.
So, before going farther, let me just say that what I now believe is a result of walking with God since I was a child, being led through two doctrinal paradigm shifts as I was drawn by the Spirit into an ever closer relationship with the Father. As I began to grasp what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is actually about, and the power and authority which He grants to those who share it, I saw that God's love is infallible, unconditional, and nonnegotiable. Therefore, in the scheme of His plan of the ages, He will do what He wills with every man and His word will NOT return unto Him void (Isa. 55:11). What I say or write really has no impact on God's plan, because no one can stand in His way, nor deter His will no matter if all the forces of evil try to do so, and have, as a matter of fact. I write because of the hope that is within me, and to bear witness to what God has shown me.
Having said that, let's look at this statement of faith, which reminds me of one that the church where Lenny and I met required people to sign. They compiled it after finding out that one of the Pastors believed in Ultimate Reconciliation. He had never preached it publicly, but had shared it with a deacon privately over lunch. The elders declared him demon possessed, fired him summarily with no severance pay, even though his wife was weeks away from delivering their third child, and demanded that the rest of us in the congregation sign this Statement of Faith. I saw it for what it was then, a legalistic code, which the members would have to sign or be cast out. Needless to say, I left that church immediately. God worked good out of it, however, great good, for I began attending home fellowship meetings in the Pastor's house, and there became acquainted with Lenny. I was friends with the Pastor and so was Lenny but we didn't know each other until then. The rest, as they say, is history, and even though that was a particularly painful, difficult time in the lives of many, the Pastor in question, Lenny and I and many others are flourishing in the Spirit, bearing fruit for the kingdom, while that church, which stood against the inexorable grace of God, was blown away like dry leaves before a strong wind, and is no more.
We will look at each of the nine points in the Statement of Faith. Unless otherwise noted, all scriptures are from the Revised Standard Version of the bible.
1) We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative word of God.
I stand with Paul's affirmation: "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (II Tim. 3:16). Notice that he says what scripture should be used for, but, of course, he was not speaking of the bible we know now, for it was not canonized until four centuries later. All they had was the Old Testament. In the bible belt, Christians speaking in stentorian tones, refer to the leather bound book called The Holy Bible, as "the word of God." Dear ones, Jesus the Christ, the only begotten of the Father IS THE WORD OF GOD! "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (John 1:14).
In terms of infallibility, Benjamin Wilson, the man who translated The Emphatic Diaglott, an Interlinear Greek New Testament, says that the King James version of the bible has 20,000 translation errors. More about that later.
2) We believe in the unity of the Godhead and the Trinity of the persons therein; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I am NOT a trained theologian, so will simply say that I have great difficulty with words that are not found in any translation of the bible. "Trinity" is one such word and "Rapture" is another. I know the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Trinity I do not know.
3) We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, and in His ascension to the right hand of the father.
I can say "amen" to this one, with the exception of the vicarious death of Christ. Vicarious means "performed, received, or suffered in place of another." This is not what scripture teaches. Christ died on the cross for us, not instead of us, for the Apostle Paul affirms, "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" (Gal. 2:20). If we were not crucified, buried, and risen with Him, then we have no access to what Christ did for us. "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin" (Rom. 6:3-7). Being in Christ when He died is what gives us freedom from sin, victory over death, and resurrection from the dead.
4) We believe in the personal return of our Lord Jesus Christ in power and Glory.
The Lord returned in power and glory on the Day of Pentecost, only ten days after He ascended into heaven. "And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:2-4). The First Century Church knew He had returned, as promised, because they were immersed in Him, empowered by Him. The professing, extant church today has become weak and impotent, I believe, because it has pushed out into the future the power and glory which are the hallmark of the kingdom of God now. They are "holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people" (II Tim, 3:5).
5) We believe that the justification of the sinner is solely by the grace of God through faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead.
I can say "amen" to this, provided we acknowledge that even faith is a gift of God, not a work we can perform: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8).
6) We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit whose indwelling enables the Christian to live a godly life.
Amen to this one. "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Rom. 8:14).
7) We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; the saved unto the resurrection of eternal life and the lost unto the resurrection of damnation and eternal punishment.
This one categorically flies in the face of what scripture teaches. a) "The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (II Peter 3:9). If God is not willing for any to perish, then to say some will perish in spite of that, is to say He is unable to accomplish His will on earth.
b) "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15:21-22). The church world agrees that all died in Adam, but refuse to see that in Christ, all shall be made alive. Even as we were A-L-L included in Adam's sin, even so we are A-L-L included in Christ's victory over sin and death.
c) "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:10,11). This verse includes every knee and every tongue in heaven (in spirit), on earth (the living) and under the earth (the dead). That includes every last one of us.
d) This section is partly a result of two translation errors for the word, "hell" and the word "eternal, everlasting, or forever." "Hell" comes from the Greek word "Gehenna," meaning Valley of Ben Hinnom, a physical location, situated on the southwest side of Jerusalem, where they kept the fires burning constantly to destroy dead bodies, vermin and other waste they threw in there. (Jer. 7:31-32; 32:35). Those listening to Jesus' dire warnings about Gehenna (hell), understood that it pertained to this life, and had nothing to do with our fate after death.
The word translated "Everlasting" or "eternal" comes from the Greek word "aion," which means age-lasting. It is an adjective which takes it meaning from the noun it modifies. Thus, when speaking of God, it does mean forever (Deut. 33:27; Rom. 16:26). When speaking of Solomon's magnificent temple, it means "age-lasting" (II Kings 8:13). I did a thorough study of this called, "Primrose Path to Gehenna." (See link at end).
8) We believe that all true believers are members of His body, the church.
Amen to this, with the caveat that only the Lord, not men, can add those who are saved to the church. "And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47).
9) We believe that the ministry of evangelism is a responsibility of both the church and each Christian.
Each Christian can only be responsible for what God has given him. "And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers" (Eph. 4:11). The distribution and utilization of the gifts are given by the authority and power of the Holy Spirit, not men.
"and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one" (I Cor. 12:6); and "All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills" (I Cor, 12:11).
To summarize, Statements of Faith come from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a classic example of second hand religion. Life in the Spirit flows from the Tree of Life, who is Christ Himself. Father, release the flow of living water in the lives of your sons that we may speak peace to the heathen and bring Your life and unconditional love to the dying world. Amen. Jan Antonsson. To be continued.......
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Second Hand Religion, Part I"
"Statement of Faith, Second Hand Religion, Part III"
"Risen from the dead, Second Hand Religion, Part IV,
"Anointing the Lord, Second Hand Religion, Part V"
"All things under His power, Second Hand Religion, Part VI"
"The Kingdom Option, Second Hand Religion, VII"
"My Father's House, Second Hand Religion, VIII"
"Connected to the Vine, Second Hand Religion, IX,"
"Chosen by God, Second Hand Religion, X"
"Labor Pains, Second Hand Religion, XI"
"Coming Home, Second Hand Religion, XII"
"A New Beginning, Second Hand Religion, XIII"
"Declaring the end from the beginning, Second Hand Religion, XIV"
"Primrose Path to Gehenna"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 1/29/03,
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/21/08.