by Mike Ratliff
Διὰ τοῦτο, ἔχοντες τὴν διακονίαν ταύτην καθὼς ἠλεήθημεν, οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν (2 Corinthians 4:1 NA27)
Therefore, having this ministry as we received mercy, we do not lose heart. (a personal translation of 2 Corinthians 4:1 from the NA27 Greek text)
As we have been exploring the depths of apostasy attacking the visible church from the very beginnings of this ministry, it has been from a viewpoint, at least from me, that we were seeing depths of darkness that had to leading to God’s coming judgment. The Gospel was being abandoned left and right. Those who previously held it and the Word of God high were now compromising and seen standing in ministry with outright heretics. I remember seeing a very well known evangelist being interviewed on television by David Frost alongside a Roman Catholic Bishop and it was if they were old friends. It was then that I realized what a foolish thing it is for Christians to follow after men for then we can make the mistake of idolizing them and when they fall off those pedestals, it can indeed shake our faith. That is, our faith can be shaken if it is not rooted in Christ and Christ alone.
Over the last few years, we have fought against post-modernism in its ever changing forms as well as the seeker-sensitive movement and what its pragmatic approach to “church” has done to kill church after church. I cannot count how many readers of my posts have come to me with their own personal accounts of how the leadership of their church abandoned the Gospel and went hard after post-modernism or the Purpose Driven paradigm, et cetera. Some have concluded that this was the result of God’s judgment on the Church and that God was actually calling us to “come out of the harlot.” While those arguments are compelling, I still cannot get past two nagging Biblical truths. The first is that our Lord promised in Matthew 16:18 to build His church and that the gates of Hades would never prevail against it. He builds it, not men. Can men tear down what He builds? Can Satan tear down what our Lord builds? We can only answer yes to those if and only if it was in God’s timing for that to be so and that would mean that we would be at the end of the age and I do not believe we are there…yet, which is the second Biblical truth.
Harold Camping, a false prophet, has stated that the tribulation began in 1988 and that in 1994 that the Holy Spirit was removed from the Church. Because of that, he says, all this apostasy we have been dealing with is the result. However, he is a false prophet and cannot be believed. He stated that the Judgment of God would start on specific dates twice and, of course, he was wrong both times so he is not to be believed and, in fact, must be shunned. We must warn all believers to not believe anything he teaches. I know all this, but I also know that many of those reading my posts are concerned about what is going in the visible church in our time and I have been working to find answers for them from God’s Word.
Yesterday, May 24th, I was listening to The Dividing Line, which is Dr. James White’s online Radio apologetics ministry show. He started out by covering some Ergun Caner stuff, but then he went in to some updates on Harold Camping. It was then that I picked up my iPhone and dialed the call-in number to see if I could ask Dr. White a question in light of what I shared above. Here is a link to the Mp3. My question is at the 49:39 mark. I hope you can understand my raspy voice since I am dealing with allergies and pain meds for my arm and shoulder. Dr. White’s response was excellent and he brought out what I think is exactly what we really need to understand. What is that?
His answer was that the period we are in now in the Church is most definitely one of darkness, but this is nothing new. The History of the Church is replete with periods of darkness. However, that does not mean that there is not still real Churches with real Christians still functioning as light despite the darkness. Our role is to remain faithful and obey our calling.
Διὰ τοῦτο, ἔχοντες τὴν διακονίαν ταύτην καθὼς ἠλεήθημεν, οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν ἀλλὰ ἀπειπάμεθα τὰ κρυπτὰ τῆς αἰσχύνης, μὴ περιπατοῦντες ἐν πανουργίᾳ μηδὲ δολοῦντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τῇ φανερώσει τῆς ἀληθείας συνιστάνοντες ἑαυτοὺς πρὸς πᾶσαν συνείδησιν ἀνθρώπων ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔστιν κεκαλυμμένον τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν, ἐν τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις ἐστὶν κεκαλυμμένον, ἐν οἷς ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἐτύφλωσεν τὰ νοήματα τῶν ἀπίστων εἰς τὸ μὴ αὐγάσαι τὸν φωτισμὸν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τῆς δόξης τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ. Οὐ γὰρ ἑαυτοὺς κηρύσσομεν ἀλλὰ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν κύριον, ἑαυτοὺς δὲ δούλους ὑμῶν διὰ Ἰησοῦν. ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ὁ εἰπών· ἐκ σκότους φῶς λάμψει, ὃς ἔλαμψεν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμῶν πρὸς φωτισμὸν τῆς γνώσεως τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν προσώπῳ [Ἰησοῦ] Χριστοῦ. (2 Corinthians 4:1-6 NA27)
Therefore, having this ministry as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we renounced the hidden things of shame, not going about with cunning nor falsifying the Word of God but by the manifestation of the truth presenting ourselves to every conscience of men before God. But if indeed our gospel has been hidden, it has been hidden from the ones perishing, in whose case the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. For we preach not ourselves but Jesus Christ the Lord, and ourselves your slaves because of Jesus. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shown in our hearts for us to give an illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (a personal translation of 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 from the NA27 Greek text)
I pray that you see where all Christian ministries must be centered. Where is that? Is it to be pragmatic? Is it to see what people want and try to attract the largest crowds possible by never preaching the Word of God, but only giving motivation talks with a feel-good tweak at the end meant to close the sale? No, our focus must be just like Paul’s was. True Christian ministries are given to ministers according to the mercy of God, by His grace. We who do minister cannot monkey around with the doctrines of our Lord Jesus Christ either. No, we cannot falsify the message, doing away with those parts that may offend those of the flesh. Notice that there are many who simply will not believe because they have been blinded bye the god of this age. However, never forget that many of these people are quite religious and part of the visible church and do not like it when they hear the real Gospel preached with its exclusiveness and call to repentance. No, they cannot stand that because in light of the real Gospel, they stand condemned.
Dr. White was right. No matter what resistance we receive, those of us truly called to serve our Lord in this must faithfully continue to stand firm in our obedience.
Soli Deo Gloria!