by Mike Ratliff
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24 ESV)
Despite what the emergent or “missional” focused folks attempt to say, the biblical definition of the Gospel is not “sufficiently broad” to accommodate their non-biblical focus along with our specifically biblical focus according to what they call a “balance point.” There is the biblical gospel and then all else is either apostate or pagan.
It was as if the Apostle Paul wrote the following passage specifically for this time of great deception.
I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:4-8 ESV)
Here is v4 in Koine Greek: τουτο λεγω ινα μηδεις υμας παραλογιζηται εν πιθανολογια.
This (τουτο) I say (λεγω), that (ινα) no one (μηδεις) you (υμας) should mislead (παραλογιζηται) in (εν) plausible arguments (πιθανολογια). (Colossians 2:4 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
Here is v8 in Koine Greek: βλεπετε μη τις υμας εσται ο συλαγωγων δια της φιλοσοφιας και κενης απατης κατα την παραδοσιν των ανθρωπων κατα τα στοιχεια του κοσμου και ου κατα χριστον
See (βλεπετε) not (μη) some (τις) you (υμας) will be (εσται) the one (ο) kidnapping (συλαγωγων) through (δια) the (της) philosophy (φιλοσοφιας) and (και) empty (κενης) deception (απατης) by (κατα) the (την) tradition (παραδοσιν) of the (των) men (ανθρωπων), by (κατα) the (τα) elements (στοιχεια) of the (του) world (κοσμου) and (και) not (ου) by (κατα) Christ (χριστον); (Colossians 2:8 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
The KJV translates πιθανολογια as “enticing words” The Holy Spirit via the Apostle Paul is warning us against “arguments that sound reasonable” in v4 and in v8 against those always-present teachers or leaders in the church who seek to “captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy.” He also warned the Roman Church of the same issue.
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:17-18 ESV)
Verse 18 reads, “For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive,” which in Koine Greek is, “οι γαρ τοιουτοι τω κυριω ημων χριστω ου δουλευουσιν αλλα τη εαυτων κοιλια και δια της χρηστολογιας και ευλογιας εξαπατωσιν τας καρδιας των ακακων.” Paul tells us that it is through χρηστολογιας και ευλογιας, smooth talk and flattery, εξαπατωσιν, they deceive thoroughly, τας καρδιας των ακακων, the hearts of the naïve.
Please notice my brethren, that the means of deception used in these examples are deceitful, but plausible arguments given via smooth talk and flattery in an attempt to deceive those with no discernment. There is no reasoning from the Word of God in debates with those who know the Bible and are spiritually mature. Therefore, what we must do is pray for wisdom, discernment, and for God to give us the Mind of Christ that we may be able to warn our brethren about the lies and deception that are being perpetrated on the Church. These are just a few of such warnings given to us in the New Testament.
Warnings exist for a purpose. Apostles do not waste our time with irrelevancies. In fact, Paul spoke of the “great struggle” he had for Christians in this regard, his large-scale, consuming concern that believers would know the truth. Thinking clearly and properly is a trait of the solidly grounded believer, and Paul felt it was something every Christian should experience. We have the mind of Christ, and we are to think in a way that honors Him This includes working hard resisting the influence of the world’s way of thinking.1
One of the arguments or protests I get quite often from the “missional” fellows is that I am opposing those who are “doing great good for the Lost and Winning Souls.” However, I receive these protests on articles that are specifically about doctrine such as Justification by Faith. I contrasted what this doctrine says with the lack of doctrinal focus in the seeker-sensitive, “missional” efforts. Because of the protest, I believe we need to define what the real Gospel is to the same fine point that the Word of God does.
There truly is no salvation where there is no recognition of sin and a confession of the righteousness of God in the just punishment of it. There may be great religious fervor and a lot of “Christian talk,” but unless a person confesses that God is right to punish sin, and that he or she is a guilty sinner, completely deserving of eternal death, there is no true faith, no true repentance, no true salvation.2
The Truth War includes battles to recover Biblical thinking within the Body of Christ that is according the Mind of Christ. When Christians think like the world, they reason like the world and this is disastrous. We end up with a marketing oriented church and that means that it has become secularized and has lost all concept of what the Gospel really is. We must fight the Truth War and recapture the Heart of the Gospel and that means a Biblical understanding of Justification.
Justification. The word should bring to mind “the gracious act of God the Father through the perfect work of Jesus Christ whereby I have been pardoned and made right before God!” It should be a personal word, a thrilling word, a word filled with rich meaning. For many, by God’s grace, it is. And by that same grace, it always will be.3
When the emergents or “missional” folks insist that they are “doing great good for the Lost and Winning Souls,” but they are doing so via becoming just like the world while removing all of the offensiveness from their version of the Gospel, then we must obey these warnings and point out to the Church that even if there are some being persuaded via their πιθανολογια and χρηστολογιας και ευλογιας, we are not the ακακων. We are not easily fooled because we have the Mind of Christ and are not afraid to boldly confront what claims to be Christian, but isn’t. We know this because their gospel is not doctrinally sound if it has been altered in any way from the Biblical Gospel and that includes becoming like the world instead of shining God’s light of truth into the darkness of this lost and dying world to draw sinners out of it to Salvation in Christ via Justification by Faith alone. No one is saved by joining a local church or a religious group or anything man-made. Salvation is by Grace through Faith alone (Ephesians 2:1-10).
Soli Deo Gloria!
1James R. White, The God Who Justifies, (Bloomington, 2001), p. 30.
2Ibid,p . 48.
3Ibid, p. 31.