A Disingenuous Christian?

by Mike Ratliff

18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” (Acts 8:18-23 NASB)

In these times of the “Compromised Church” with very little knowledge of historical Christianity and what makes up what is truly Orthodox, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when I’m called a heretic and false teacher for teaching Reformation Theology and then revealing that my view of eschatology is (gasp) not dispensational/pre-millennialism. I have been told more than a few times over the last week or so that I could not possibly be a genuine brother and hold to the view of eschatology that I espouse or that I am a Calvinist, et cetera. What is it that makes one a genuine Christian rather than a disingenuous believer? Let’s take a look at a New Testament example.

1 Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. 4 Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. 6 The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. 7 For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 So there was much rejoicing in that city. 9 Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; 10 and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” 11 And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. (Acts 8:1-11 NASB) 

This is a very familiar historical account from the book of Acts of how God used persecution of the Church in Jerusalem to move the Gospel to the Gentiles in Samaria. Why were the crowds “with one accord giving attention to what was said by Philip?” It was the power of the Holy Spirit drawing them to hear the Gospel. He was also, by the power of the Holy Spirit performing signs. What signs? The Holy Spirit was working through him to cast out unclean spirits and people were being healed. However, Luke changes the focus of the account in v9 referring to a man named Simon. He was a magician who practiced sorcery though people thought that it came from God. How can demonic “signs” be distinguished from Godly signs? While both signs are supernatural, they can be distinguished by what they point to. Supernatural signs that point to, honor, serve and glorify Jesus are Godly. Supernatural signs that point to, honor, serve or glorify anything or anyone else – pastors and Biblical personalities included – are not.

12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 13 Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed. 14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” 24 But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” (Acts (8:12-24 NASB)

Was Simon a believer? Acts 8:13 says, he “believed” and that he was even baptized, but the rest of the above passage qualifies his belief. What are some of those ‘qualifications’ to his belief? Peter told Simon to “perish” (Acts 8:20), that Simon had “wickedness” (Acts 8:22) but “neither part nor portion” with them (Acts 8:21), that his heart is “not right” with God (Acts 8:21) but “poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:23). This is not the description of someone who had been born again through Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. Someone who is bound by “iniquity“, which means “sin”, isn’t someone whose sins have been wiped clean by the blood of Jesus, so Simon was not a believer. According to historians, Simon later became an enemy of the church and died as one.

In today’s “Compromised Church” someone like Simon would be treated as one who was a true believer because he had “made a decision” and been baptized. However, as we can see here, our Lord’s statement from his Sermon on the Mount, “By their fruits you shall know them” also works with telling a genuine believer from a disingenuous one.

My brethren, I have been a Bible teacher a very long time and have always experienced some push back from those who have beliefs they hold that have become idols in their hearts. These idols have become so well established there that the enemy has been able to build strongholds around them. I know this to be the case because when I teach directly from scripture, word for word, in a doctrinal area that is contrary to what that idol they hold dear demands of them, the response is anything but godly. It is fleshly. It is unreasonable. It is couched in emotional, self-protective anger and the arrogance displayed in some of those cases is utterly amazing. That is not how genuine Christians should behave…ever, under any circumstances. The name calling, the threats, it is like being under some sort of inquisition. You should see the spam folder on this blog at times. These are supposed to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ saying these things? I don’t think so. However, many of them certainly claim to be so.

Let us pray first for ourselves that we do not slip into this self-focused bitterness. Examine yourselves carefully my brethren and repent of what God shows you. Then pray for those professing Christians who seem to think it is their mission to destroy the faith of those who do not hold to the same doctrines they do. Most who do this are focusing in the areas of Reformation Theology vs. some form of Semi-Pelagianism. I have good brothers and sisters with whom I fellowship who are not Reformed. We can fellowship because we have the same Saviour and our hope is the very same.

Soli Deo Gloria!

16 thoughts on “A Disingenuous Christian?

  1. Thank you Mike. This verse comes to mind: ” They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” 1 John 2:19
    Is Christ your life? No ‘decision’ on ‘following Christ’ grants salvation. Jesus commands repentance from sin and belief.The mark of His own (those truly saved) is living a life for Christ, growing in Him through the reading of His Word. It is a life that honors our Savior because we love Him. One does not ‘follow Christ”, put Him on a back burner and continue dancing with the world. Again; Is Christ your life? 2 Cor. 5:21

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  2. Hi mike,

    Can you help me out with this? 12 But when THEY BELIEVED Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 13 Even Simon himself believed;
    How could they believe unless that faith was given to them by The Holy Spirit?? Or could it have been some other kind of faith??

    Then down in verses 14-17, these people had RECEIVED the word of God (again, they believed) But it was incomplete? Because they had not received The Holy Spirit. It sounds like (I dislike using this term) “second blessing”. I wonder how those present could tell that these new believers were now receiving The Holy Spirit. I doubt it was “the sinners prayer”.

    How does all this apply to today? How can we tell if someone has truly believed and received The Holy Spirit. What is the immediate evidence? Yes, the later evidence is a changed life and bearing fruit, but the more immediate evidence of a genuine re-birth.

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  3. Amen, Mike. Rupertus Meldenius said it right, “In the essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
    It burdens my heart to hear that the church, of all people, lack the one thing we, in our prior state were given, and that is grace. Great theologians and scholars have disagreed for 2,000 years. Let us remember that anger is sinful when it grows out of pride, hurt feelings, etc., and when it is expressed in sinful ways through verbal slandering. We can disagree but we are called to speak truth in love to ALL… especially those within the church who hold to a different position theologically. I pray those who are attacking you in ungodly ways become convicted of their sin. Let us disagree as the Proverbs state…”A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Prov 29:11).

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  4. Excellent teaching and valuable counsel. Reformed folk have a tendency to make our confessions idols – no different from those who cling to their less well defined presuppositions,

    Humility before man and God – may we never forget Who is sovereign.

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  5. Peter you said it yourself. The evidence is fruit just like the Apostle Peter used when he examined Simon the Sorcerer here. This is why discipleship is imperative. Also, Simon was not one of those who received the Holy Spirit as he witnessed others receiving it. This was that early period of the Church in which God used this sign of the Holy Spirit to the Jews that salvation was not just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles also.

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  6. Mike, it is all very fine to plead that don’t we all worship the same Saviour when someone points out they don’t believe you are biblical (for example, the issue of the millennial kingdom, which I do side with your critics). The real question is what happens when the tables are turned and you are in the right over issues that don’t hinge on the absolute essentials of the Christian faith.

    For example, are you willing to be patient when someone points out they won’t go and publicly go on crusades against Chick-a-fill boycott, because they believe it’s more imperative to engage and proclaim the gospel to potentially antagonistic audience, and such crusades will be unwise in the sense it closes the door to such sharings. (There are Calvinists that do hold to such position, such as John Dickson from Sydney Australia). Or responding to people like Roger Olson, that even though yes, you disagree with lots of what he teaches, you will still be willing to concede he has some good writings worth to read?

    To me personally, I try to place my trust in God that has revealed Himself plainly through the Scriptures as our records. As an axiom, “God has spoken, and we better listen”, I personally find Calvinism as formulated by the likes of Dordt, Westminister overreliant on human logic as opposed to “moderate Calvinism” that affirm total depravity, unconditional election and irresistable grace, but I don’t see regeneration precede faith, and I don’t see “dead in sin” for the unregenerate as dead as corpse like what Sproul Sr teaches (but rather they are acting, kicking and screaming against God). Conversely I find many Arminians do have a deep sense of reverence/fear of God that even though I disagree with their conclusions, their serious engagements with the Scriptures and trying to procleim the gospel seriously are not something we can dismiss straight away just because they are not from my “home team”.

    And yes, my opinion on your stance on the millennial kingdom could be summed up as (taken from Paul Henebury:

    http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/rules-of-affinity/

    “…A moment’s thought will bring up the question of whether it is wise to view say interpretations of the Millennium in such terms. After all, if a Christian brother believes in the physical return of Christ but is amillennial in his understanding of eschatology, surely he is not to be considered heretical because he denies the literal earthly reign of Jesus upon this earth after the second advent? We answer that in the case of the millennial issue, since there is neither any effect upon the message of the gospel, nor any direct attack upon the character of God, such persons should not be viewed as heretical, but simply as entertaining certain teachings based more upon human reasoning than upon the evidence of the texts of Scripture. But in other cases, e.g. as with the doctrine of justification or the Godhead, any deviation from C1 or C2 formulations must be seen as either highly suspect or else heretical. “)

    Can’t say that I have been faithful at this at all times and I fail at this often, as we on this side of heaven will always be. I do say this as a doctrinal and convinced dispensationalist in the Charles Ryrie mold (and also as a Moderate Calvinist) that you have good and edifying teachings to teach such as the seriousness of sin, the necessity of God’s unconditional grace to bring sinners to salvation, why proclaiming the gospel means most of the modenr day marketing-based evangelism is not true evangelism, the need to set ourselves apart to serve God even when we engage the world with the gospel, even if I disagree with a lot of your other teachings.

    I do pray that you will continue to trust in God that revealed through His Word, and you will reconsider some convictions you have come to hold hear if the Word understood plainly indicates otherwise.

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  7. Joel,
    I have several “issues” with your comment. The first issue is that you assert that I am saying professing believers are disingenuous because they do not agree with my view of eschatology. No, I never said that at all. What I said was that those who were disagreeing with me proved their disingenuousness with their belligerent, hateful, arrogant, unchristian attitude about it. In other words, the fruit that was evident from them revealed an unregenerate nature.

    You mentioned that Chick-a-fill (sp) boycott. I have no idea what you are talking about here. I have been more than clear what the Bible says about Homosexuality and that the Church must not attempt to include people in the Church who are unrepentant of any sin. That is, we must all exhibit a life of walking in repentance or we are not authentic Christians. Roger Olson is blind to and resistant to all doctrines that do not match up to his “traditions.” I find it hard to have respect for “theologians” who elevate their “traditions” (idols) over what the Word of God says. We are to preach the gospel to everyone and all who hear the Word and turn from their sins are those who are called by God to believe (see below).

    I will not get into any discussions with you on eschatology. Any attempt by you to create some sort of disagreement based upon that topic is not going to happen here.

    Now, when it comes to the our salvation, the Fall of Man, our Redemption, etc. I will not budge on my theology. All of mankind is born dead in trespasses and sins. That means that there is no possibility of saving faith coming from unregenerate man. God has to regenerate a person before he or she will hear the calling of God and turn to Christ as Lord, believe, and repent. We are then justified by faith and then God imputes Christ’s righteousness to our account and also his perfect keeping of the Law. We have both imputed to our account and stand perfect before God positionally, however, in this life we are still in these fleshly bodies and so must undergo Sanctification until taken home to be with our Lord forever to glory.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  8. Hi Mike,

    I do welcome your comments. It means we are really putting effort into engaging each other’s thoughts!

    I do have reservations and clarfications regarding your comments though. I will reply point by point:

    ——————————————–

    “The first issue is that you assert that I am saying professing believers are disingenuous because they do not agree with my view of eschatology. No, I never said that at all. What I said was that those who were disagreeing with me proved their disingenuousness with their belligerent, hateful, arrogant, unchristian attitude about it. In other words, the fruit that was evident from them revealed an unregenerate nature.”

    You only touched your point briefly in the second half of the article. I do not agree that you have made it very clear at all.

    I’m afraid the same could be said of the way numerous people in the Covenant Theology camp treat dispensationalists. Ever seen the way Kim Riddlebarger or Sam Storms treat dispensationalism? or John Gerstner? Or the self-declared Council of Nicene? The virtol and hatred I’m sure using your standard will mean all these men are unregenerate, which of course is/could be ridiculous!

    When someone writes passionately disagreeing with someone else theologically, of course it could be caused by they made their pet doctrine an idol, but it is also possible they sense that it is directly related to what they see as fundamental parts of kowing God and who He is like. More below.

    “You mentioned that Chick-a-fill (sp) boycott. I have no idea what you are talking about here. I have been more than clear what the Bible says about Homosexuality and that the Church must not attempt to include people in the Church who are unrepentant of any sin. That is, we must all exhibit a life of walking in repentance or we are not authentic Christians.”

    I don’t think you have understood my point here, and I do apologise if I was’t too clear. What I’m referring is that in this case we are to show the world that we are following Jesus by walking in holiness, and showing our support of Chick-a-fil would be a holiness issue. Other Christians (and yes, many Calvinists as well) disagree, believing such activities will inevitably lead to doors closed for the gospel, which is a “bigger” command in the big scheme of following Christ (because it is part of the Great Commission). This is a legitimate theological point, although I see this as not thinking through the implications that God’s sovereignty will open the door to evangelism regardless. How you are going to respond to legitimate differences on the theological side is very important.

    “Roger Olson is blind to and resistant to all doctrines that do not match up to his “traditions.” I find it hard to have respect for “theologians” who elevate their “traditions” (idols) over what the Word of God says. We are to preach the gospel to everyone and all who hear the Word and turn from their sins are those who are called by God to believe (see below).”

    Apparently your have already decided to switch off your mind because Olson is Arminian and it seems to you that he has made his beliefs on Arminian idols to himself. I must say that I’m closer to you than Olson on his Calvinism vs Arminianism debates not to mention Olson denies infallability of the Scriptures, but I’m willing to read his arguments before putting them aside. And conversely, Olson is willing to engage Calvinists carefully, something you can say of the likes of George Bryson. On the Calvinist/Calvinistic side, Michael Horton and Paul Henebury are willing to give credits where they are due when they see Olson got it right. How about you?

    “I will not get into any discussions with you on eschatology. Any attempt by you to create some sort of disagreement based upon that topic is not going to happen here.”

    Now you are baiting your arguments here. It is not about eschatology per se that I’m really concerned about. The true issue is I see whether we can understand God’s Word as they plainly mean, or are we to import creeds here, add our logic there, plus our formulated doctrine “skeleton” somewhere to come to a conclusion of the “sensible” meaning? I’m not privy to your correspondents with the angry respondants, but as I said above, they could well be angry because they care about God deeply as well and sincerely think you are wrong. So you see the whole issue is not exactly eschatology (though it is a symptom), but rather how we can know God.

    “Now, when it comes to the our salvation, the Fall of Man, our Redemption, etc. I will not budge on my theology. All of mankind is born dead in trespasses and sins. That means that there is no possibility of saving faith coming from unregenerate man. God has to regenerate a person before he or she will hear the calling of God and turn to Christ as Lord, believe, and repent.”

    You see, if someone else presents a different argument disagreeing with you on this theologically, even if they believe in man’s utter sinfulness and only faith in Christ Jesus can save, you will simply brush him/her aside and claim he/she is making idols out of his/her doctrines. In this case then, I don’t see how different it is for them to cast doubts on you being able to walk the talk.

    Looking at your arguments above theologically, I have my differences with you here because I see you are basing the whole chain using your logic, plus the interpretation represented by the lieks of Dordt or Westminster over what the Bible says.

    To quote Paul Henebury, which I think has an intelligent rejoinder based on the Scriptures:

    http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/dispensationalism-and-tulip-total-depravity/

    “…We acquiesce to their statement that “Men left to their dead state are unable of themselves to repent, to believe the gospel, or to come to Christ…etc” (29). But how does this prove regeneration prior to faith? One may claim it as an inevitable outcome of this “deadness” (to be discussed under Irresistible Grace), but that is all it is – a claim. But it is not a strong claim in view of Acts 10, or, for example, Galatians 3:2, where Paul asks, “This only would I learn of you, did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” This question assumes the answer, “we received the Spirit through faith.” Since the Holy Spirit is the Agent of the new birth (regeneration – Cf. Acts 10:47, 11:15-17), Galatians 3:2 provides a pretty telling rebuttal to this statement. I would say it’s plain sense leads to the conclusion that regeneration comes after faith.”

    “We are then justified by faith and then God imputes Christ’s righteousness to our account and also his perfect keeping of the Law. We have both imputed to our account and stand perfect before God positionally, however, in this life we are still in these fleshly bodies and so must undergo Sanctification until taken home to be with our Lord forever to glory. ”

    No arguments here from me. Amen.

    ——————————————–

    I doubt it is edifying if we are to argue in the spirit of bitterness, certainly if we respond angrily I doubt this would glorify God. And I also don’t think that you are likely to convinced. As a result, I don’t think it is productive to continue the conversation unless it is something critically crucial.

    As we all grow and mature in Christ, there are still areas where our sinful nature is preventing us to grasp fully all the knowledge and truth of God and the Christ Jesus. I pray that you will continue to guard the truth, yet also keep the eyes open to reviewing what you hold dear against the Scriptures.

    May we all repent from holding pet doctrines above what God has shown plainly in the Scriptures.

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  9. Joel, you are right. It is not edifying to continue this discussion. Why? You are continually throwing up men’s names like Olson like he is someone worthy of listening to when he is a heretic. That means he is a fool and I do not listen to fools nor will I ever suggest that those I teach read the works of fools.

    I am a Calvinist, but that is because the doctrines I hold to match what I read in Scripture not what I have studied in some book or listened to from some man. If you want a comparison, my theology would best be compared that that of Dr. James White.

    In any case, I suggest you back off the comments about what I said about the angry comments I am referring to since I did not share what they said, etc. However, I will share that not one of them was about what you suggested, but about protecting their favorite “traditions.” Hateful, mean, unChristian. Sorry, that’s not how Christians act.

    Again, as you said, it would be best that we end this.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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