Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

Category: Truth (page 1 of 3)

Prophet 401

A few days ago I finished reading 1st Kings, which ends with the story of story of Micaiah. A good friend of mine calls him “Prophet 401.”

Here’s a summary:

Judah and Israel have been politically divided for some time, ruled by separate kings. The vast majority of these kings (both in Israel and Judah) were wicked and unfaithful to the Lord. Now Ahab was the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah. At this point Israel had enjoyed three years of peace with its enemy Syria.

This would soon change. Jehoshaphat approached Ahab and asked him to join him in battle against Syria. He suggested they inquire of the Lord to see if such a campaign would be victorious.

Ahab gathered around four hundred prophets, all of whom unanimously assured the kings of a successful battle. One of these so-called prophets even used a visual aid to enthusiastically predict victory (1st Kings 22:11).

But Jehoshaphat wasn’t completely convinced. He wondered if there was anyone else they could inquire of. “There is one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord,” Ahab replied, “but I hate him.” It seems this particular prophet never had anything positive to say about the king of Israel or his future. They sent for him, hoping he would agree with the other 400 and finally bring a positive message.

Enter Micaiah, Prophet 401. The king’s messenger told him what had transpired and encouraged him to approve of their plans to go to war. I love the way Micaiah responds: “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak” (1st Kings 22:14). Micaiah was not impressed with royalty or swayed by popular opinion. His only concerned was being completely faithful to God.

Micaiah’s harsh prophecy was not good news for the kings. He told Ahab Israel would soon be like “sheep that have no shepherd.” This enraged the king, but Micaiah wasn’t finished: he went on to say the heavenly host were conspiring against Ahab, using the 400 false prophets as divine instruments.

Micaiah paid a high price for delivering this message. One of the false prophets immediately punched him in the face and accused him of speaking falsely. The king ordered that Micaiah be sent to prison and be given only the absolute minimal amount of bread and water for survival.

Ahab ignored the warning and went ahead with the ill-conceived battle plan. He even disguised himself so the Syrians could not identify him as king. But the Lord had spoken: a “random” arrow struck Ahab in the small place between his armor. He died that day, paying the ultimate price for his arrogance.

I can see parallels between the Micaiah’s story and our current spiritual environment. We have a multitude of false preachers who ignore inconvenient biblical truths in favor of their own agendas (the gay “marriage” issue comes to mind). But God will always have His remnant—people who will follow Him faithfully. Consider Paul’s charge to Timothy:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
-2nd Timothy 4:1-4

What matters most to you—the approval of people or God? Are you willing to be the only person in your class, office, or group of friends who will speak for the Lord? Will you stand on the unchanging truths of Scripture, even if doing so makes you unpopular? God is looking for more 401’s.

What is a Saint in the Bible?

“Do you believe in saints?”

I’ve been asked this question many times since moving here to the Philippines. I always affirm my belief in the saints since they are mentioned in the Bible. But I also do my best to clarify what the Scriptures really mean when this term is used.

Many people believe that saints are an elite group of Christians who did remarkable acts of piety before dying. This is a common teaching in some religious traditions. But I would simply encourage you to look at the way this word is used in the Scriptures.

To put it simply, the word “saint” or “saints” is always used as a general reference to God’s people. Anyone who is a true follower of Christ is, according to the Bible, a saint.

Let’s look at a few New Testament references for the sake of simplicity. Notice who Paul is writing to and how he addresses them:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours 
-1st Corinthians 1:2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
-Ephesians 1:1-2

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:1-2

A couple of things are clear from these Scriptures:

1. Paul was not addressing dead people.
2. Paul was addressing the entire church—all believers.

Why does this teaching matter? Let’s study a little more deeply.

The word translated “saint” literally means “holy one” in the original language of the New Testament. This is why some English translations (New Living Translation, for example) use “God’s holy people” instead of “saint” for the before-mentioned verses.

We should not overlook the significance of this adjective. “Holy” is a word that belongs exclusively to the God. He alone is holy, therefore only He can make someone holy. The Scriptures never present sainthood/holiness as something that is achieved through good works or religious service. You also won’t find “saint” used as a title given to a select few by the church leadership.

I believe the New Living Translation of 1st Corinthians 1:2 is particularly helpful for clarifying this:

I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

I’ll point out two truths from this verse:

1. God has made all His children holy through Jesus Christ.
2. God has called all His followers to live in holiness

Tragic consequences come from altering the original meaning of “saint.” First and foremost, the focus has been taken off of God and placed it on human beings. Some go so far as to pray to the saints, even though the Scriptures teach that Jesus alone is our intercessor to God the Father (see 1st Timothy 2:5). This is a form of idolatry.

Some may object to my last statement, claiming they are only honoring or venerating the departed people of faith. But let’s think about this: how can a mere mortal answer hundreds (or thousands) of prayers? Can an American saint who has passed away now understand Tagalog and Mandarin prayers? Is the Lord God not the only one who has the power to understand and answer millions of prayers? Is it right to attribute this kind of power to mere flesh and blood?

This leads into a second, yet equally important issue: salvation. According to the Scriptures, salvation is a gift of God’s grace. We are made holy in the sight of God by trusting Christ—not due to our own efforts. Here’s what Paul told the Ephesian believers:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. 
-Ephesians 2:8-9

But canonizing an individual shifts the emphasis from grace to good works. I’ll clarify something here: there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the lives of God’s servants. But what I have seen goes far beyond celebration by claiming an elite group has achieved special status/favor with God by their own merits.

The last consequence has to do with Christian living. Just as all believers are made holy, we are also called to live and grow in holiness (a process known as sanctification). Creating an artificial category of “super-Christians” sends the message that only a select few can really live holy lives. The rest of us are thus demoted to second-class citizen status in God’s kingdom.

Final Thoughts/Summary:

A saint is anyone who has trusted Christ and chosen to follow Him. We are made holy in God’s eyes through our relationship with Christ. We can be inspired by the lives of faithful believers who have gone before us. But we should not give them exclusive titles, pray to them, or do anything else that may rob God of the glory He fully deserves.

I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols. 
-Isaiah 42:8

Note:  You can check out Living By Love–the Gospel if you’d like to learn how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Gospel and Gay “Marriage”

Gay “marriage” seems to be a hot topic right now since some parts of the world are changing their laws to make it legal (including here in the USA).

My regular readers know where I stand on this, but I want to reiterate what the Bible teaches for those who may be searching for the truth. What I’m about to say may not be popular, but that doesn’t really concern me.

What does the Bible really say about homosexuality? Let’s first consider three points:

The Biblical Foundation:

We need look no further than the second chapter of Genesis to see God’s original plan for love, sex and marriage:

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. –Genesis 2:24

There you have it: God’s designed sex to be experienced by one man and one woman in a covenant of marriage. He did not make a mistake in His original plan.

The Biblical Condemnation:

The Old Testament law lists homosexual behavior among practices unacceptable to God:

Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.
–Leviticus 18:22

The Book of Romans (New Testament) describes homosexual behavior as “unnatural”:

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
–Romans 1:26-27

There are other Scriptures, but I’ll get to that later.

The Absence of Biblical Celebration:

The Bible repeatedly celebrates the relationship between husband and wife. Proverbs puts it this way:

He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD. 
–Proverbs 18:22

The Song of Solomon (also called Song of Songs) celebrates the sexual love and desire between a young bride and her husband:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers.
-Song of Solomon 1:2-4

But you won’t find a single verse in the Bible celebrating homosexual acts/relationships—not one! No gay “weddings,” no “Born this Way” lyrics, no indication that God blesses or condones any kind of same-sex union.

You can try to twist the Scriptures any way you like, but the Biblical message is clear: God’s plan for love and sex has not changed.

I’ve explained the biblical foundation, the biblical condemnation, and the lack of biblical celebration in regards to homosexuality. Now let me share one more thing:

The Biblical Solution—The Gospel:

Is there any hope for those who struggle with same-sex attraction? Yes! It’s the same hope that is available to murderers, adulterers, drug addicts, alcoholics, liars, churchgoers, preachers, campus ministers, and bloggers. We all desperately need the Gospelthe good news of a Savior who offers forgiveness to those who repent and believe.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord 
-Acts 3:19

This gospel has been changing lives since the ancient church. We see it in Paul’s admonitions to the believers in Corinth:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 
-1st Corinthians 6:9-11

Pay careful attention to the last two sentences (vs. 11). Those trapped in all kinds of sins (including homosexual sins) where changed by the power of the gospel!

Here’s what grieves me about churches that condone gay “weddings”: they have ignored the biblical definition of sin. This kind of teaching leaves us with people professing to be Christian, yet rejecting the clear teachings of Scripture.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. 
–Isaiah 5:20

Earlier I mentioned the word “repent.” This word indicates a change of mind and a change of direction in one’s life. Repentance is agreement with God on the nature of sin and my need for the life-changing gospel. I don’t need salvation if I can conveniently ignore or redefine sin. I don’t need to repent from sexual immorality if there is no such thing!

Let me summarize the Gospel and how it relates to sexual purity:

1. All of us have sinned and fallen short. God’s holy nature required payment (sacrifice) to atone for our sins. God does not ignore sin or change his mind about it. Instead, He has dealt with it in a way that his consistent with His character. Salvation is offered freely to those who repent and believe in the gospel:

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood 
–Romans 3:23-25

2. Followers of Jesus Christ are called to be holy. This means avoiding all forms of sexual immorality:

God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor—not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. Never harm or cheat a Christian brother in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 
-1st Thessalonians 4:3-8

Responding to Objections:

I’ve decided to expand this post a little in order to respond to some of the most common objections to the traditional interpretation of the Scriptures.

Some object to the quotation of Old Testament law, arguing that we (Christians) no longer practice the entire law.  Leviticus also has commandments against wearing clothing made from two different types of thread (Leviticus 19:19), for example.  I can’t fully address the Old and New Covenants in one post, so I’ll explain it this way: the sexual ethic, built on the foundation of Genesis 2:24, is consistent throughout the Scriptures.  We no longer practice some of the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, but we do continue to follow the its moral laws.

Why didn’t Jesus ever directly address homosexuality?  Because his ministry was primarily to a Jewish audience that would have already understood the teachings of the Old Testament.  But Jesus did define marriage as a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-9), referring back to Genesis 2:24.  Jesus also listed “sexual immorality” among the “evil things” that defile a person (Mark 7:21-23).   The Greek word we translate into “sexual immorality” comes from the root word porneia (from which we get the term pornography).  This term referred to any form of sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Jesus never directly addressed incest, zoophilia, or child sacrifice (all of which are also mentioned in Leviticus 18), yet it would be foolish to assume he approved of these practices.

Paul  address the issue of homosexuality in more explicit terms because he ministered to Gentiles (non-Jews; pagans).  But some have challenged the translation of 1st Corinthians 6:9 and 1st Timothy 1:10.  The word translated “men who have sex with men (NIV), or “men who practice homosexuality” (ESV) is the Greek word arsenokoitai.  It is an unusual word, but it isn’t really that difficult to explain.  Paul simply combines two words from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint): aresno (man), and koitai (to lie with–from which we get the English term coitus).  Both words appear in Leviticus 18:22.  Paul was reiterating the Old Testament prohibition of homosexual sin.

You may wonder why there are relatively few references to homosexuality in the Scriptures.  I think the answer is pretty simple–it’s the same reason that most of my articles regarding sexual purity are geared towards heterosexuals: sexual immorality between men and women is a lot more common than same-sex acts.

Final Thoughts:

I’m not arguing that God has some special disdain for homosexuals–He doesn’t (and I don’t either).  Homosexual acts are just one way we (human beings) have rebelled against God’s original design for sexual intimacy.

I’m sure some of you reading this post are still convinced I’m wrong.  If nothing else I hope I have helped you understand why Christians believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

Recommended Reading:

Check out Kevin DeYoung’s,  What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? if you want a good resource on this topic.   For those who want a lengthy, in-depth, scholarly book I’d recommend The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (by Robert Gagnon).

Harold Camping, False Predictions, and False Prophets

Harold Camping is at it again: he’s rescheduled the end of the world from May 21st to October 21st. I thought he’d keep his mouth shut for a while, but predicting the end seems to be big business (Camping’s “ministry” draws millions of dollars from foolish contributors).

I’d like to share some biblical admonitions regarding Camping and the Family Radio International (his “ministry”):

It only takes one failed prophecy to be a false prophet.

Let’s look at Deuteronomy 18:19-22:

“I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”

You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

This harsh penalty discouraged people from spouting out empty words in God’s name. We no longer impose the death penalty on false teachers, but the principle is clear: a true prophet will never make a false prediction—never.

God’s word commands his followers to be discerning. 

This means we are to be careful about who and what we listen to. Consider 1st John 4:1:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

The Word commands us to “test the spirits”—we should never blindly accept a preacher’s message just because he’s holding a Bible and a microphone. False prophets have been in the world from the times of the ancient church until now. It’s vitally important to study the Bible and know what it really says. Do this and you’ll be able to find a church that preaches the gospel—the timeless message of Jesus Christ.

Jesus plainly told his followers that no one knows the exact time of His return:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. –Matthew 24:36

I don’t see how this could be any clearer–Camping is claiming to know something Jesus Himself didn’t know while He was here on earth!

No one is above God’s word—no one. 

Paul gave us some clear warnings about those who would teach false doctrines:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! –Galatians 1:8

The Apostle Paul himself did not have the right to invent his own message—he could only preach the gospel. Those who invent their own message, man or angel, are under God’s curse.

Final Thoughts:
Harold Camping is one of many false teachers predicting the end of the world.  Ignore him and don’t be troubled by his foolishness.

Older posts