In the church today, there’s a great abundance of wolves and dangers, not only from outside the church, but also inside the church, as well as from those behind many of the pulpits in America. Paul warned us of times like this prior to his final arrival in Jerusalem:
For I know this, that after my departing shall GRIEVOUS WOLVES enter in among you, NOT sparing the flock. Also of YOUR OWN SELVES shall men arise, SPEAKING PERVERSE THINGS, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of THREE YEARS I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31; Emphasis Mine)
Throughout the church’s history, it has been under attack from the outside and the inside, but in these last days, the deceptions and attacks have become more acceptable by the flock, destroying the lives of many.
Yes, the church is being deceived, and my wife and I have been standing up and yelling to the flock, “BE CAREFUL! THERE ARE DANGERS! WATCH OUT FOR THE WOLVES AND THE TRAPS!” Some have listened, but some have not. “Deceptions” are defined as “half-truths,” things taken out of context and misrepresented, or just lies that are presented as truth, and if you listen to many of the popular Christian New Testament Only (NTO) ministers and Bible teachers, their “deceptions” are being widely received and embraced by many within the church. What we need are pastors, TV ministers and Bible teachers who believe in teaching the whole Word of God from cover to cover, but unfortunately, those are becoming increasingly hard to find. So what are these deceptions being taught? They are the following:
(1) All it takes to get saved is to pray the “sinner’s prayer;”
(2) Jesus’ life and teachings are not required for Christians; and
(3) To be saved, we can accept Jesus as our Savior without accepting Him as “Lord”; and
(4) Salvation is an event, NOT a life-long process.
(1) ALL IT TAKE TO GET SAVED IS TO PRAY THE “SINNER’S PRAYER”
The first error that’s being commonly taught among many Christian NTO pastors and teachers is that all it takes to get saved is to pray the “sinner’s prayer.” For example, I was speaking to a minister friend of mine who said that he was at a funeral where the man who had died had lived his life as a gang member stealing, killing and raping women, and there in the congregation were many of his friends and family members who were leading similar lifestyles. The minister who was conducting the service said to these people that he knew that this person was in heaven, because when he was five he had gone forward to accept the Lord. Imagine what he had just told all these people? You can steal, kill, rape and destroy all the lives you want, and still go to heaven, as long as you go forward, say the “sinner’s prayer,” and get your free “go to heaven ticket.”
The “sinner’s prayer” has become the modern day version of “circumcision” in the New Testament. During Paul’s time, there were those who were saying that all one had to do to get saved and go to heaven was to “get circumcised.” A minor operation for guys, and “bam,” instant ticket to heaven. In the world today, it’s “the sinner’s prayer.” Just go to church, or wherever, say the “sinner’s prayer,” and “bam,” instant ticket to heaven! In fact, I’ve heard many pastors say after leading people through the “sinner’s prayer,” “I want you all to remember that today, at 12:17pm (or whatever time it was), that you’re now a child of God! You’ve done everything that you need to do to go to heaven.” But what these ministers don’t think about is what this strongly suggests: that we don’t have to develop a relationship with God and His Son Jesus Christ to go to heaven; instead, all we have to do is simply say the “sinner’s prayer.” Even though this teaching about the “sinner’s prayer” does NOT line up at all with the teachings of Jesus or the rest of the Bible!
I think many people forget that through most of the history of the church, there were no altar calls, nor was there a “sinner’s prayer.” Instead, when people wanted to publicly proclaim their allegiance and loyalty to Jesus Christ, they got baptized in water. This is the pattern we see throughout the New Testament. In fact, Jesus, Peter, Ananias, and Paul taught water baptism is an important part of repentance (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:12-16; and Romans 6:3-4). Nor did the water baptism have to happen in church. For example, Philip shared Christ with the Ethiopian Eunuch and then baptized him, as they were traveling along their journey and came across some water in Acts 8:26-40.
Also, Paul makes it quite clear in Romans 6 that we are not to live our lives any longer in sin. In fact, Romans 6-8 is Paul’s argument about the fact that since we have died with Christ and been buried with Him in baptism, then we are no longer to live in submission to the control and power of sin. And then in Romans 8, Paul writes that to be “carnally-minded,” to have your mind on fleshly desires and pleasures (e.g., sex, sensual pleasure, money and material wealth, pride, greed, coveting) “is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is ENMITY [HOSTILE, IN OPPOSITION AGAINST] God; for it is NOT subject to THE LAW OF GOD, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the FLESH CANNOT PLEASE GOD” (Romans 8:5-8; Emphasis Mine). And yet, somehow, according to these NTO preachers and teachers, you can go to heaven by simply saying a prayer, even when you continue to live a lifestyle that’s offensive and not pleasing to God.
By these people teaching this, they are discrediting the power of the cross to transform lives from a sinful, me-oriented life to a holy, God-oriented life. Obviously, if these people continue in sin, even though they prayed the “sinner’s prayer,” then their continued disobedience only proves to others the weakness of the cross – NOT the power of the cross! Jesus died to free us from the power and control of sin, so we could live a life of holiness before God, not so we could get our free ticket to heaven, while continuing to live in sin.
(2) JESUS’ LIFE AND TEACHINGS ARE NOT REQUIRED FOR CHRISTIANS.
Another error that’s being taught is that Jesus’ life and teachings isn’t for Christians, but it was ONLY for the Jews. This bogus argument is based on the idea that the great dividing line between the Old and New Testament is the cross. Therefore, since Jesus’ life and teachings were BEFORE the cross, they don’t apply to Christians.
Consider what this is actually saying: They are saying that the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, His parables, His description of eternal life, His warnings against Hell – NONE of this, according to them, is for Christians. They say that the ONLY part of the New Testament that’s for Christians is from the cross on, or the last 32% of the Bible, which makes up less than 1/3!
But did Jesus ever say that He was part of the “Old Testament” as these pastors and teachers say? No, He didn’t. In fact, in Matthew 12, Jesus says in regard to John the Baptist,
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of heaven is GREATER than he. And from the days of John the Baptist UNTIL NOW the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. For ALL THE PROPHETS AND THE LAW prophesied UNTIL JOHN. (Matthew 11: 11-13)
This means that according to Jesus, Malachi is NOT the last Old Testament prophet, but instead, the last one was John the Baptist. Therefore, in contrast to these NTO pastors and teachers who again say the cross is the dividing line between Old and New Testament, JESUS HIMSELF said the dividing line was not the cross, but John the Baptist. So who are we going to believe: Jesus or these NTO preachers and teachers?
I’ve seen these NTO preachers and teachers draw a line between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and then quote 2 Timothy 2:15 to justify their act.
Be diligent [and study] to present yourselves approved to God as a workman who does not need to to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.
However, when Paul wrote this verse, there wasn’t any New Testament. Paul’s epistles had been written and the book of Matthew, but that was about it. But they weren’t in any one collection; instead, they were being circulated around to the different churches. The rest of the New Testament had not been written yet. Therefore, the idea that when Paul wrote the words that have been translated as “handling accurately the word of truth” (NASB) or in the King James Version, “rightly dividing the word of truth” to mean to divide the Old and New Testament when there wasn’t yet a New Testament cannot possibly be right.
This is an example of them reading into the text – a mishandling of the text – instead of placing the text back into its proper context and understand it from that context. You see, when we look at the original Hebrew and Greek documents – rather than our modern English translations – we would see in the original documents, no periods, no commas, no paragraphing, and no chapter breaks, so in order to properly know where one idea ends and another one begins, you have to be able to accurately know where to “divide the word of truth,” not just in one place, but every time there’s a change of an idea.
This is much more likely what Paul meant by this statement than this idea about dividing the Old and New Testament. Their interpretation again only demonstrates that the NTO people who teach this are imposing their own denominational beliefs into the text, rather than placing the text back into its original historical, social, cultural and linguistic contexts. Therefore, by doing this, they are clearly misusing Scripture, not properly teaching it.
But in looking at their messed-up doctrine, even though they say that what’s for Christians is from the cross on, they ignore Romans 8, and 2 Corinthians 16-17 and other passages like these, which contradict their teaching that salvation is acquired by only saying “the sinner’s prayer.” So apparently, the part of the Bible they follow is even smaller than 32%. And when you figure in that 80% of the New Testament is made up of quotes, references or allusions to the Old Testament, which according to them is not for today, then their Bible is down to maybe 15-18%.
But hey, if these ministers and teachers are right (I’m saying this sarcastically), then why not just send everyone in the world a card with the “sinner’s prayer” on it, and say, “Just pray this prayer, and you’ll receive eternal life and a home in heaven! Nothing else required.” Think about how much money and expenses churches could save not having to support missionaries at all, right?
But if that was all that it took, why would Jesus commission us to go DISCIPLE ALL THE NATIONS? Notice, He didn’t say, “Go and make “saved people” or “religious people,” but to DISCIPLE people; therefore, it only seems logical to say that there is no real salvation apart from discipleship to Jesus Christ. Therefore, we need missionaries, and we need to do all we can to support them. Because as far as Jesus is concerned, if you are NOT one of His disciples, then you are NOT truly saved. It’s really that simple.
In part 2, which will come out tomorrow, Friday, March 15, 2019, I’ll discuss the last two deceptions being preached.