Those pugnacious “super apostles”

Among the most pugnacious and disagreeable of Paul’s opponents were the so-called “super apostles,” those who claimed a superior knowledge of the mysteries of God and derided Paul as a novice. Two of the worst offenders were Hymenaeus and Philetus, who were propagating the outlandish claim “that the resurrection has already happened.” Paul disowned these men and their claims, noting that “They are upsetting the faith of some.”

The claim by Hymenaeus and Philetus “that the resurrection has already happened” was “upsetting” to some because it was self-serving and self-glorifying. It set these “super apostles” above those, like Paul, who humbly and freely admitted that “the resurrection from the dead” was a goal which they had “not yet attained” (Philippians 3:12-16).

The resurrection is the outcome of a life lived in obedience to Christ. Paul was correct in his attitude of humility, knowing that the closer he got to the goal, the less he should think of himself. Union with Christ was, for Paul, a lifelong journey which required dying to self in order to be fully realized. This side of eternity, he knew that he could never confidently claim to have reached this ultimate outcome without calling attention to himself instead of Christ.

The resurrection, after all, is all about Christ. Inasmuch as we experience Christ working in our lives to transform us out of a life of sin and into a life of obedience, we can experience something of the benefits of the resurrection now. But the full implications of the resurrection will not be realized until the final consummation at the last day. In Christ, the last day is brought into the present from the future. But by claiming “that the resurrection has already happened,” Hymenaeus and Philetus were projecting themselves from the present into the future, thus “upsetting the faith of some” by setting themselves above all accountability and discipline. They were free to “live and let live,” indulge every carnal passion, and look down upon those pitiful souls who had not yet realized such “freedom.”

Paul warns Timothy to avoid such persons and to go about his work faithfully, not quarreling about words but “rightly handling the word of truth.” For the truth, spoken humbly yet unashamedly, will expose every lie for what it is.

To call this man a “false prophet” is giving him too much credit

One common characteristic of prophetic leaders in Israel—from Moses to John the Baptist—is their reluctance to take on a task which promised little in the way of comfort and much in the way of hardship. Moses, having grown comfortable tending his father-in-law’s sheep, tried to negotiate his way out of his call to be Israel’s deliverer. Amos, also, would have been content to remain “a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees.” Jonah had to spend three days in the belly of a fish before being convinced to go to Ninevah. Jeremiah thought himself too young to be taken seriously. Even Isaiah, before saying, “Here am I. Send me,” was overwhelmed by his unworthiness to stand in the presence of God.

The reluctance of the biblical prophets stands in stark contrast to present-day wannabes who seem quite eager to claim the prophetic mantle, regardless of whether or not God actually called them to take it up. . .

. . . and regardless of how many times their “judgments” fail to be “executed.”

The biblical prophets did not constantly go around telling people, much less viruses, to listen to them because they were “standing in the office of the prophet of God.” Their sole purpose was to proclaim the Word of God, not to call attention to themselves. Jesus could identify John the Baptist as Elijah (Matthew 11:14), but he who said he was unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandals would never make such a claim on his own (John 1:21).

The gift of prophecy ought to be readily apparent to a community endued with the spirit of discernment. If someone is constantly boasting that he is “standing in the office of the prophet of God,” it is a near certainty that he is merely falling for his own egotistical machinations.

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20).

The fruits, or lack thereof, of Kenneth Copeland’s over-the-top theatrics in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis are plain for all to see. So much so, in fact, that to call him a false prophet is giving him too much credit. One imagines that even the most nefarious of false prophets would be embarrassed to be included in the same company with this buffoonish charlatan.

Biblical truth for “Progressive Christians”

For reasons unknown to me, I have wound up on the mailing list of an outfit known as Wood Lake Publishing. From what I can gather from their frequent contributions to my inbox, this is a company specializing in providing teaching resources for “Progressive Christians.” I suppose I could spare myself a few gigabytes of data by unsubscribing to the list, as I do with all other junk dealers who offer products I would never purchase. However, I have elected to remain on this particular vendor’s list, and even archive some of its mailings, because the entertainment value more than makes up for the loss of data space. An outside observer, reading the detailed descriptions of the contents of the numerous titles “for Progressive Christians” could be forgiven for thinking the whole operation is some kind of Babylon Bee parody.

Consider this rather detailed blurb for Wood Lake’s latest offering, Easter for Progressive Christians, which is apparently getting rave reviews from readers who have no idea what it means to believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

When it comes right down to it, the Bible doesn’t really tell us much about resurrection. This is hardly surprising, because the gospel writers are trying to make sense of a story that, well, doesn’t really make sense – at least not to a rational mind. This has led people to a variety of positions that roughly fall somewhere between two extremes:

Of course Jesus never rose from the dead; people don’t do that. Anyone who says so is crazy,


Jesus rose physically from the dead and appeared to lots of people, and you must believe this or you are going to hell.

While most people lie somewhere between these two positions, they may not be sure just where exactly – nor are they always sure that they are “allowed” to be where they think they are. To put that another way, many people who understand themselves to be Christian struggle to accept the idea that Jesus physically rose from the dead, but are afraid to say so.

The “two extremes” here are caricatures set up as straw men for the express purpose of marketing the book as a reasonable “middle way” between them. It is a tactic so old and tired that it warrants no effort at refutation. It is a better use of time simply to consider the obvious absurdity of the first sentence. How can one read even a small portion of the Bible and claim it “doesn’t really tell us much about resurrection?” Even if you were to leave out the Gospel accounts, you would still have the witness of the Apostles throughout the book of Acts; frequent references in the letters of Paul, Peter, James, and John; and John’s apocalyptic vision on Patmos; not to mention the numerous prophecies of the Old Testament that can only be understood in light of the resurrection.

So, how can one read the Bible and claim it “doesn’t tell us much about resurrection?” The answer is as obvious as the absurdity of the claim. Anyone who says “the Bible doesn’t tell us much about resurrection” has not read the Bible, at least not as the Word of God. That sad fact is made clear in the remaining portion of the blurb:

This guide does not set out to “prove” or “disprove” that Jesus physically rose on Easter Sunday. Instead, it invites participants to engage with the biblical stories of Christ’s resurrection to try to understand what the gospel writers meant to tell us, what they wanted us to take from these stories. After all, they did not set out to prove a point of history; they wrote them down because these stories had transformed their own lives, and the lives of many others at the time. Hopefully, reading and exploring these stories can enhance our lives too. Ultimately, how we experience Christ today is what matters – not what might have happened 2,000 years ago.

Part and parcel to so-called “progressive” Christianity is the reduction of any semblance of objective biblical authority to subjective human experience. To “Progressive Christians,” the Gospel writers were only recording “stories” that “had transformed their own lives, and the lives of many others at the time.” Never mind if “these stories” were true or accurate or even plausible. They made people feel good (about themselves, apparently) and they inspired them to tell others so they could also feel good (about themselves).

None of this, of course, even remotely resembles the authentic Christian faith and its belief in the inspiration and authority of Scripture. The Gospel writers were not merely relating their own individual experiences. They were proclaiming the Good News that God had sent his Son to suffer, die, and rise again in order to bring forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life to all who put their faith in him.

Here is what you might call some Biblical Truth for Progressive Christians: Ultimately, what did happen 2,000 years ago matters as much today as it did then. What we believe about Christ today can only be the same as what was believed about him by those who were eyewitnesses to his life, death, and resurrection.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

The President needs mature, wise, and godly counsel–and he will not get it from Paula White

I once heard an older pastor recount an incident in his ministry when he was meeting with a man and a woman involved in an illicit affair. The man had a wife and two children but said he was in love with this other woman and the two of them had been “struggling in prayer” over whether or not it was “God’s will” for him to leave his wife and children so the two of them could get married.

“I can tell you right now what God’s will for you is,” the old pastor replied without hesitation. “God’s will is that you leave this woman, go home, and be a husband to your wife and a father to your children.”

A man abandoning his wife and children for another woman is so obvious a transgression of God’s law that it takes little, if any, effort to discern “God’s will” in the matter. The man may claim he is “struggling in prayer,” but the wise and godly counselor will have little time for such false piety.

Godly counsel is rarely, if ever, pleasant to the ears of persons merely seeking affirmation for ungodly endeavors. David, after railing in righteous indignation when Nathan told him of the rich man who stole and slaughtered the poor man’s ewe lamb, hardly expected the next words out of the prophet’s mouth to be, “Thou art the man!”

David had committed a most egregious sin, lying with and impregnating another man’s wife and arranging for the murder of the man in order to cover up the deed. He repented after Nathan’s rebuke, even penning Psalm 51 as one of his several acts of contrition.

David could count it a blessing that he had in his court a prophet whose first allegiance was to God, and not to him. Nathan was willing to tell David something David did not want to hear. The prophet courageously confronted the king and called him to account for his sin.

Kings and princes, presidents and governors have often sought counsel on matters spiritual from persons of a spiritual inclination. The best of such counselors have been those who, like Nathan, have never forgotten their first allegiance is to God, and not to any human authority. The worst have been those who have forgotten this and simply given affirmation to and massaged the ego of the person in power.

President Donald Trump needs someone advising him on matters spiritual who is unlike him in every way; someone who will speak to him honestly and courageously, unafraid to look him in the eye, when necessary, and say, “Thou art the man!”

The president’s reliance on the counsel of prosperity preacher Paula White is cause for great concern. For a position of such significance, Trump has chosen someone who is like him in every way.

Like Trump, she is thrice married and twice divorced.

Like Trump, she has gained notoriety more from being a celebrity and friend of celebrities than from being a legitimate person of substance in her field.

Like Trump, she has built her fortune by convincing gullible people to invest in questionable financial deals that often turn out to be scams and confidence games.

Suffice it to say, this is not a person who needs to be anywhere near the nation’s chief executive.

The landscape of American religion, although somewhat more fallow than in years past, nevertheless still offers a rich field of pastors, priests, and prayer warriors who can provide the mature, wise, and godly counsel the president undoubtedly needs.

Sadly, he will not be getting such counsel from Paula White.