9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them (Article + Podcast)

Many people approach church with preconceived ideas or expectations about what makes an excellent service. Rather than allowing God and the ministry the liberty to lead us, we stand (or sit) in judgment if God doesn’t “show up” in the way we expect Him to. In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself in many ways: burning bush, cloud by day & pillar of fire by night, whispering, thundering, and the list could go on and on. The moving of the Spirit is more than just a dance (and I’m all for dancing in the Spirit), and it’s more than only a time of blissful silence (and I’m all for those quiet and deep moves of the Spirit). Verse number two in our Bible gives a clue as to how the Spirit operates; “…And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2).” John 3:8 compares the Spirit to the wind that blows where and when it wants to blow. My point is simply that the Spirit of God is not predictable, controllable, entirely understandable, and it is certainly not able to be manipulated by you or me.

The Spirit of God is not predictable, controllable, entirely understandable, and it is certainly not able to be manipulated by you or me.

It seems counterintuitive for an Apostolic to say the Spirit’s moving is more than emotional (although it can often be emotional). It’s foolish to relegate the Holy Ghost’s operation to mere emotion because our emotions often play tricks on us. The Holy Ghost can and should cause us to celebrate, speak in tongues, sing, shout, become demonstrative, and extravagant in our praise. However, we should also be receptive when the Spirit convicts, corrects, rebukes, teaches, perfects, and other various things that are sometimes painful. In other words, if we are genuinely seeking God’s will every time we gather together as the children of God, we will lay aside our manmade expectations and sincerely ask God to have His way. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of nine types of church services.

It seems counterintuitive for an Apostolic to say the Spirit’s moving is more than emotional (although it often is emotional). It’s foolish to relegate the Holy Ghost’s operation to mere emotion because our emotions often play tricks on us.

Comforting Services (John 14:26). Some church services are meant to bring comfort to our hearts. This can happen in many ways, but the Holy Ghost is indeed the great Comforter (John 15:26, John 16:7).

Evangelistic Services (Acts 2:38). Often church services are designed to evangelize the lost and answer the question, “…what shall we do (Acts 2:37)?” When the Spirit moves to reach the lost, it is vitally important that those of us who are already saved remain involved in the process. Spiritually mature Christians are ok when a service isn’t explicitly aimed at their needs. If you emotionally check out of evangelistic services, you need to check your Holy Ghost pulse.

When the Spirit moves to reach the lost, it is vitally important that those of us who are already saved remain involved in the process. Spiritually mature Christians are ok when a service isn’t explicitly aimed at their needs.

Reminder Services (John 14:26, Jude 1:5). Regardless of how long we have been following Jesus, we still become forgetful. Even worse, sometimes we slip into complacency, and so the Spirit often moves in our church services to remind us of things that we should already know.

Proclamation of Truth Services (John 16:13). When the Spirit moves, it guides us into truth. Proclaiming truth is one of the Church’s primary functions, and all of its activities should lead to the Truth.

When the Spirit moves, it guides us into truth. Proclaiming truth is one of the Church’s primary functions, and all of its activities should lead to the Truth.

Prophetic Services (John 16:13). Apostolic churches must be comfortable with the reality that God has not changed, and the gift of prophecy is still authentic. I know that prophetic gifts are sometimes abused, but so is everything else. The Church as a whole profoundly needs genuine prophetic gifts to be in operation.

Prophetic gifts are sometimes abused, but so is everything else. The Church as a whole profoundly needs genuine prophetic gifts to be in operation.

Family Reunion Services (Galatians 4:6). God is our Heavenly Father, which makes us brothers and sisters in the Lord (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, it is appropriate that we gather together and honor our family heritage. I think of this as a family reunion because the Church is not just one congregation. The Church is comprised of a massive number of congregations from all over the world. There should be times when we connect, refresh, uplift, and encourage one another.

Teaching Services (Ephesians 4:11). It’s important to remember that the apostle Paul included teaching within the parameters of the Five-Fold Ministry. Teaching services equip, train, and solidify our minds. Mature Christians covet good teaching.

Teaching services equip, train, and solidify our minds. Mature Christians covet good teaching.

Celebration Services (Exodus 15:19-21). We should celebrate the goodness of God all the time, but when God does something especially tremendous, we should focus our celebration around it. Some services will celebrate the goodness of God.

Giving Services (1 Chronicles 29:9, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Although consistent giving is needed, sometimes a spirit of sacrificial giving is required to advance the Church’s mission. This is the type of service that usually meets the most resistance. Even pastors fear this kind of service. Don’t let fear or carnality keep you from reaping the blessings birthed out of sacrificial giving.

Although consistent giving is needed, sometimes a spirit of sacrificial giving is required to advance the Church’s mission.

Conclusion

Healthy churches experience a blend and balance of the nine types of services mentioned above. Furthermore, healthy Christians are comfortable with each of these service types. Unhealthy churches get stuck overemphasizing two or three types of services to the exclusion of the rest. This creates a spiritual imbalance. Every church service contains some elements of the things mentioned above, but there is an overarching theme that God is directing us towards. Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit is one of the most important spiritual disciplines a believer can cultivate.

Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit is one of the most important spiritual disciplines a believer can cultivate.

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Fiery Evangelism – What Can Elijah Teach Us About Revival Today?

Simply put, evangelism is spreading the Gospel by whatever means possible. Having said that, preaching and word of mouth are still the most effective forms of evangelism. But whenever I preach or teach on the subject of evangelism, I can almost hear the internal sighs and groans. No one likes to feel pressured or guilt-tripped into evangelism. We all know that we could and should do more to reach the world around us. There are very few Christians so hardened that they don’t care about lost souls. So if we care, why don’t we share (see what I did there)?

Immediately following the outpouring of the Holy Ghost and fire on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:3-4), a powerful force of organic evangelism was unleashed into the world. They literally turned the world upside down with the Gospel, and they did it without cell phones, blogs, websites, television, radio, or reliable transportation. They didn’t formulate catchy sermon series that cleverly incentivized evangelism by every member of the church. Rather, when the Holy Ghost fire started falling, people were attracted to the warmth of the blaze. In a cold world, the fire of the Holy Ghost will always attract a crowd. Not only that, when people left the Upper Room, they were so full of that same Holy Ghost fire they couldn’t help but spontaneously share their experience with others. That’s what genuine evangelism looks and feels like.

In a cold world, the fire of the Holy Ghost will always attract a crowd.

When people left the Upper Room, they were so full of Holy Ghost fire they couldn’t help but spontaneously share their experience with others. That’s what genuine evangelism looks and feels like.

If evangelism feels forced, fake, fancy, or frightening, then you have likely lost the fire. I have seen desperate individuals, hurting families, and broken churches hungry for the fire to fall again. Elijah desperately needed the fire of God to fall from heaven too. His story has much to teach us regarding how God operates. Here are five things that we must do if we want the fire to fall. All five are taken directly from Elijah’s famous showdown on Mount Carmel.

If evangelism feels forced, fake, fancy, or frightening, then you have likely lost the fire.

23 Let them, therefore, give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under 24 And call ye on the name of your gods. I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well-spoken. 25 And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under (1 Kings 18:23-25).

1. We must not settle for manmade fire.

Over and over again, Elijah emphasized that they were to put no fire underneath the sacrifice. He knew that it would take God’s fire to impact his culture. Many churches try to substitute heavenly fire with manmade fire, and they end up with a form of godliness that ultimately denies the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5). This isn’t always done intentionally; many times, it’s an act of desperation rather than an act of rebellion, but nothing can replace the true power of the Holy Spirit. Refuse to settle for false fire.

Many churches try to substitute heavenly fire with manmade fire, and they end up with a form of godliness that ultimately denies the power thereof.

Nothing can replace the true power of the Holy Spirit. Refuse to settle for false fire.

And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down (1 Kings 18:30).

2. We must repair the altars.

Notice that Elijah didn’t build an altar from scratch. He repaired an existing altar that had fallen into disrepair for lack of use. We lose the fire when we lose sight of the significance of the altar of repentance. There can be no resurrection power without a cross. It’s amazing how repentance warms things up in the realm of the Spirit.

We lose the fire when we lose sight of the significance of the altar of repentance. There can be no resurrection power without a cross.

And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed (1 Kings 18:32).

3. We must acknowledge the name of the Lord.

Whatever we do in word or deed, it should be done in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3:17) because there is no other name by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). And one day, every knee is going to bow, and every tongue is going to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Romans 14:11).

33 And he put the wood in order, cut the bullock in pieces, laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. 34 And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. 35 And the water ran round about the altar, and he filled the trench also with water (1 Kings 18:33-35).

4. We must be willing to sacrifice.

When Elijah had them dump twelve barrels of water on the altar at the tail end of a three-year drought, he demonstrated tangible sacrifice. In essence, he was saying, “Lord, if we don’t see fire and rain today, we’re going to die.” There can be no fire without tangible sacrifice, whether our money, time, energy, or things. In fact, God requires all of the above.

There can be no fire without tangible sacrifice, whether our money, time, energy, or things. In fact, God requires all of the above.

36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. 37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench (1 Kings 18:26-38).

5. We must have faith in God’s Word.

In the end, it all became a matter of faith. Either Elijah trusted the voice of God, or he didn’t. It’s really no different with us today. We either believe in the power of the Gospel, or we don’t. We either believe that God is still pouring out his Spirit, or we don’t. Do we believe God will do what He said He would do?

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Oneness Theology, Church History & Where the Church Is Right Now – Podcast Transcript with Dr. Talmadge French

Below is the podcast transcript (episode 22) of a candid conversation between me and my dad, Dr. Talmadge French, author of the best-selling books Our God Is One, and G.T. Heywood: Early Interracial Oneness Pentecostalism. This is probably one of the best discussions you will ever hear about church history, the oneness of God in Church History, The Burning of Michael Servetus by John Calvin, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the Existence of Truth during the Dark Ages. If you’d like to listen to the entire podcast conversation I’ve attached it to the end of this article.

Ryan French: [00:01:44] You are my dad and you’re the premier Apostolic Pentecostal oneness historian, probably in the world, and I have a unique and rare opportunity to be able to just drag you in here kicking and screaming to talk about church history. And so I’m really excited about it and I hope we’ll do it fairly regularly. But what I wanted to do today is kind of backtrack from where most people want to start, which is the turn of the last century. And we’ll get to that. But there’s kind of that long gap of church history, certainly for us as Pentecostals that we don’t discuss as often, maybe as other traditions or denominations do. And certainly, the Dark Ages. Which brings me to the very first topic that I wanted to have you weigh in on. And it’s also a question that I receive a lot from people through the website and at www.ryanafrench.com. And it’s basically this question and I’m going to ask it to you the way people ask it to me. Do you believe the Church and by the church, I mean full truth, people filled with the Holy Ghost, baptized in Jesus’ name? Do you believe the Church existed throughout the Dark Ages and somewhere up until the outpourings of the Holy Ghost at the turn of the last century… Basically from the Book of Acts until today? Do you believe that a remnant somewhere, even if it might have been just a small group, do you believe it existed?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:03:45] Ok, well, that’s the question that every apostolic is interested in, because and it’s not just apostolics, but every Christian group has to believe or hope that their faith is a Bible faith, whether you can prove a direct line all the way back or not. Right. And of course, Pentecostals are like all restorationists. They believe that Pentecost and speaking in tongues is biblical. Therefore, our experience is biblical. So what happened during those intervening years and so on? And then secondarily, you have the issue of like for me, I was Trinitarian, but came to an understanding of oneness, belief, like millions of people have. And so I wanted to know, how did my faith line up with the apostles? That is what I’m saying, actually, apostolic. And if so, what happened to it? Yeah. So the short answer for me is, yes, the church has always existed. But what’s really important is, I mean, that’s important to be able to say, OK, my faith goes all the way back. But how do I know that and how does it work itself out? And the truth of the matter is that church history itself is extremely complex because of the way we interpret church history, there was a great deal of things going on all the way back to the time of the apostles. So I’ve spent a better part of my faith, especially since I’ve been apostolic looking at the historical record, trying to understand what people were saying and what actually occurred back there. And I would… I’d summarize it like this so we can maybe go to the next step. But that the fact of the matter is, for a very long time, the apostolic faith was definitely being preached in the early church. But there came a time when it began to evolve into something else so that after about the time of Sebelius, around two eighty-five roughly right in there, it started to be less and less where the truth was one hundred percent believed in all the churches. There came to be what I call an attack of intellectualism on the church, especially Greek intellectualism. And there was also a movement which was pretty well connected to Greek intellectualism. It was called Gnosticism; it was a movement that believed they were super-spiritual. And these things have always been what they’ve been throughout church history, but when that began to take effect, then the Greek mind, the intellectual mind began to try to square everything with Greek, with Philo and the Greek intellectualism. And the Church began to become more diverse so that you would have these really super smart guys out there at the periphery of the Church that were saying, well, Jesus is not actually the one God, he’s in the one God. And you begin somewhere in there around two hundred. And later, the beginnings of what we would think of as a trinitarian way of thinking or a binatarian way of thinking. And eventually, by the time you get to the councils in three, twenty-five, and so on, you’ve got full-blown Trinitarianism or debates about Trinitarianism and who Jesus was. And was he God or was he just in the Godhead? Well, these are things that the Bible doesn’t even address because they’re not biblical, but they’ve become pretty powerful by the time you get to the councils, and by the time the Catholic Church is an issue which is around 500, you’ve got I mean, just think about how long America’s been here, in about five hundred years of Christianity. That’s a lot of time. And by the end of it, you have Truth, and you have error all throughout Christianity

Ryan French: [00:08:18] Would you say it’s kind of a merging of the secular and the sacred or maybe a merging of secular philosophy in the same way and even throw government in there?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:08:31] Right. Because when you get to the time of Constantine in three hundred in the Council of Nicaea, there wouldn’t have been a Nicaea had there not been a Constantine who had converted to Christianity. But many, many scholars will tell you that Constantine was not much of a Christian, but yet he had the greatest impact on Christianity. And so, I would…

Ryan French: [00:08:55] Can we pause for the low information. I, I know we have a lot of wonderful listeners out there who may not know who Constantine is. Could you just give a brief description?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:07] He became the emperor of Rome. The Roman emperor.

Ryan French: [00:09:11] So was that roughly around three hundred?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:14] Let’s just say around three…

Ryan French: [00:09:15] Around three hundred. By then, the Church was in full swing…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:20] …and when he became a Christian, then the Roman Empire became Christian whether they were Christian or not. Right. Right. So, it was a whole new era.

Ryan French: [00:09:30] So in a lot of ways. You had kind of the advent of the Christians in name only.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:35] Well, it was definitely Christian in name only. But see, a lot of Christians today have a struggle with that because they want to believe that all of this error that’s going on in Christianity and the diversity of Christianity was just part and parcel of it. They don’t want to believe that at the very beginning there was a pristine Church that held to a pristine doctrine. So how do you explain in the Bible them baptizing in Jesus name and three hundred years later, they’re advocating for Trinity baptism? How do you explain that? Well, you go to Matthew chapter 19 and try to prove that’s the real baptism and they can’t do it. So, but of…

Ryan French: [00:10:16] …wouldn’t we as apostolics, point to Jesus himself who warned that there would be wolves that would come in and there would be false doctrines and false Christ of all kinds?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:10:29] And Paul himself said it was happening right under his nose

Ryan French: [00:10:33] Right in the beginning, Judaizers…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:10:34] But those errors, of course, weren’t Trinitarian, you don’t see anything remotely Trinitarian until close to two hundred, certainly, I’ve had a lot of Trinitarians say to me, well, oh my goodness. Well, if it could happen if Trinitarianism evolved by two hundred, it could have been one hundred years earlier as if the one hundred years doesn’t make a difference. Look at America right now, how quickly it’s gone from one type of country almost into socialism or bordering on it. We’re literally battling right now for the soul of America all within twenty-five years. So, think of that.

Ryan French: [00:11:16] Amazing how in one or two decades the whole world can change.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:11:19] And if you add a century to it, so in a century you could have a church, for example, a Pentecostal group could start off as holiness and one hundred years later, not even know what holiness is.

Ryan French: [00:11:33] Not even resemble what they began as…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:11:35] I was a part of a Pentecostal group that was strict holiness. And then within twenty-five years, they dropped it and moved on to something else. And today they don’t even know if they’re Pentecostal.

Ryan French: [00:11:46] I was listening to a podcast the other day. I can’t remember his name. The podcast is called Apologia and they’re Trinitarians. I think they consider themselves Southern Baptists of some kind. And he was really attacking… Actually, the podcast, for the most part, they’re pretty interesting. But out of nowhere, he started attacking what he called Modalists. But of course, he’s talking about oneness people and he wasn’t attacking us because I think he was looking at a kind of a charismatic, non-denominational, kind of wishy-washy group. They’re not really oneness, but they’re not really Trinitarian either. They’re just kind of a “whatever” kind of a deal. And it was so interesting because he had spent the beginning of the episode talking about Sola Scriptura and the inerrancy of Scripture, which, of course, I was on board with that. It sounded like something I would say that we’ve got to hold… we’ve got to pull all of our doctrines out and hold everything up to the light of Scripture, which is language that I identify with. But then when he started attacking modalism or the oneness and basically rebuking this group very strongly for basically rejecting what he called the Triune God or the Triune Godhead, he never used the word Trinity, which I thought was interesting. He always used the word triune. Instead of appealing to Scripture, he never once appealed to Scripture to do that, he appealed to church history. And I thought, how interesting, you just spent your forty-five minutes basically saying we’ve got to hold all of our beliefs up to the Word of God. But then when you’re defending your triune belief in the Godhead and a triune baptism and all of this, instead of going back to Sola Scriptura, you’re going to church history and stopping there and you’re not even going all the way back in church history. You’re going…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:14:00] Well, it’s really enlightening that you’re hearing this podcast and they’re doing this because that’s exactly what goes on with Trinitarian thought. Now, that doesn’t mean that Trinitarian scholars don’t think they can prove the trinity in the Bible. They basically think that they’re proving the trinity in the Bible through a series of hints. Like how can you have a Son if there’s not a Father? And so, everything’s through hints. There’s no direct teaching about it.

Ryan French: [00:14:39] You’ve got the dove and Jesus and the voice…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:14:42] I’ve often said this, and this is the way most oneness people think. If the Bible meant to teach a trinity, it would say there is a trinity. Now, then you would have the problem that Moses did not believe in a trinity, and the God of the Old Testament then and the revealed God of the New Testament would be very different. So they would say, well, the Son came. This is Trinitarian logic. So the Son came, was born, and came to earth and that proved there was a trinity before. So the logic of Trinitarianism theologically is not rooted in the Bible. It’s rooted in what the church accepted over three hundred years. And so, they have several issues with it, of course. But let’s go back to this group then that says, well, we’re going to condemn oneness people because of church history. That’s basically what they’re doing. They’re saying that we have to trust the church. So, whatever the church said in three hundred or five hundred, no matter that it became Catholic…

Ryan French: [00:15:46] I was just going to say, why aren’t we all Catholic then?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:15:48] Well, we would be if we followed that logic. But they’re not following logic. The only thing they’re following logically in that period is the doctrine of the Trinity. They don’t believe much else about it. And of course, the Catholic Church had lots of issues that even to this day are so far from Scripture. And oneness people are simply saying the trinity is not found in Scripture, therefore we don’t embrace it.

Ryan French: [00:16:18] This guy went so far as to say, and I’m not even mentioning his name because it’s not worth it to me, but I’m just wanting to think through the logic of how… I view him, I guess, as maybe a stand-in or a type of that group’s way of thinking. He was basically saying that if you’re not Trinitarian and again, I thought it was fascinating he never used the word Trinitarian or Trinity, but if you don’t believe in the triune Godhead, you’re not a Christian. You’re a cult of Christianity. In fairness to him, I’m actually thankful that he believes what he believes and that he’ll fight for it because I feel much the same way. But in reverse, I feel like, for example, I look at the Catholic Church in some ways as a Christian cult as well, at least theologically. I don’t mean that everyone in the Catholic Church is a cult, but at least the leadership of it. But then there’s also this secondary growing movement. That. Other generations have not seen like my generation is seeing, and that is a middle group that says, well, it doesn’t matter if you’re trinitarian or oneness. Because what people will say and I know you’ve heard this, that it’s all, it’s just semantics. It’s just semantics. So that’s why you have a lot of people, and we’re really rabbit trailing, but this is a great discussion. You have a lot of people who will say, how we’ll all kind of meet in the middle and we will baptize people and we’ll say in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, whose name is Jesus, and then they feel like they’re covering all their bases. And they’ll say, well, when you speak of the Trinity, we’re actually oneness. But then you have groups like this guy at Apologia who considers that to be heresy, and then you have groups like us on the complete other end of the spectrum. How do we start to combat? What I think of as the growing trend towards this kind of middle ground wishy-washy it doesn’t matter?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:18:42] That is exactly the most important question because what you’re really describing is the state of the Christian church today. You have Christianity, let’s call it Orthodox thinking. All right. The fellow you’re describing, whoever he is, is typical of people that are trying to hold on to Orthodoxy. Now he would be opposed to Catholicism. I’m just guessing. And so, in most of its varieties. But yet what he means by Orthodox thinking is there has to be something that roots, that roots the church and that’s Trinitarianism. Now, the fact of the matter is, though, that Christianity has moved away from that. They’re no longer looking at trinity. Christian liberalism is no longer worried about the trinity. This has been going on for a very long time. We’re talking seventeen hundreds all the way to now. So, we’re talking a very long time where Christians have begun to quit… For example, the deity of Jesus will this fellow you’re talking about is going to fight for the deity of Jesus. So really what we’re

Ryan French: [00:19:58] Really common ground there, which is interesting…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:19:59] We have common ground.

Ryan French: [00:20:01] It’s weird because we wind up almost having common ground with people who are very opposed to some of our beliefs…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:20:06] His starting point is the trinity. You either start with the trinity or you’re nothing. That’s what he says. Right. Liberalism has no starting point whatsoever. It’s what we think of it as sort of the squishy middle. All right. Now, Catholics are very Orthodox. They are basically unchanged now. There’s lots of troubles in the Catholic Church, but they’re basically unchanged. They’re still holding to the idea of the pope and the universal nature of Catholicism and the trinity. They’ve altered almost nothing regarding the trinity, even though many Catholic scholars have come along and wondered about the possibility of modal thinking and so on.

Ryan French: [00:20:51] And there’s even been outpourings of the Holy Ghost in the Catholic Church, is that correct? I don’t mean in the church as a whole, but in individual churches and…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:20:59] Absolutely, there’s been a major outpouring in all denominations and people have accepted speaking in tongues. It’s somewhat fading at the moment.

Ryan French: [00:21:24] Let me tell you about Anchor, it’s the easiest way to make a podcast, and best of all, it’s absolutely free to get started. There are creation tools that allow you to record and edit your podcast right from your phone or computer. Anchor will distribute your podcasts for you so it can be heard on Spotify, Apple, and all the other platforms as well. It’s important because it’s hard to get a podcast started. I’ve tried in the past. It’s hard to get it off the ground. It can be very complicated. Anchor does a great job of making it user-friendly and kind of keeping things in one place for you, which just helps you organize your thoughts. And as you get better and better at it, Anchor is just a great central location for you to have all your workflow. It’s everything you need to make a podcast in one place. If you’ve been thinking about podcasting at all, download their free Anchor app. Just go to Anchor.fm to get started. You can also find their app on Apple and Android devices.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:22:48] What we’re seeing then is that there’s what liberalism has become, and what the oneness movement has become, and this is what this fellow is reacting to. The oneness movement, if you look at various groups that have diverged from Trinitarian thinking, you could think of the squishy middle and the liberals as diverging from Trinitarian thinking. But it’s not wholesale abandonment of Trinitarianism. But so you look at the groups out there that say, I just don’t think the Trinity is the right answer. Well, the largest group of those are oneness people because we’re talking somewhere between 30 and 50 million living believers right now that stand strong for oneness theology. All right. And so these folks are trying to hold on to a complete one hundred percent trinity is the answer. Well, the Catholic Church does it and they’re doing it. And we might call him the orthodox conservative element, they are doing it.

Ryan French: [00:23:50] Is there anybody else who holds on? And I know there is. But we could just for people who might be thinking with us in this discussion, aside from the Catholic Church, aside from maybe the Southern Baptists, are the Presbyterians still holding on to Trinitarianism?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:24:07] They’re split on the issue; Lutherans are split over lots of issues. So, you have a lot of liberals who would talk about the trinity, but they don’t believe in the Trinity in the way that we would think of as Orthodox. Right. They’re not quite sure of, for example, the deity of Christ is extremely squishy in the middle…

Ryan French: [00:24:35] Can you explain to people who may not understand what you mean by the deity of Christ…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:24:39] That Jesus is actually God…

Ryan French: [00:24:40] So maybe mention a popular, I’ll use the word heresy or false doctrine, that people are falling into about the deity of Jesus, that he was not God…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:25:04] Liberal Christians like, you know, it goes all the way back to the seventeen hundreds of people like Schleiermacher who thought that you could never be certain that Jesus was Divine. He wasn’t necessarily Divine. What he did was from God. So, the heresy would be what conservatives today would refer to as the Fatherhood of God, that God was just the Father. The Son was not Divine. So, you would end up with one God, but Jesus wasn’t part of a Godhead.

Ryan French: [00:25:40] What would you call that doctrine?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:25:42] Well, I call it liberalism or theologically, it was this idea of the Fatherhood of God.

Ryan French: [00:25:48] Now how is that different from Divine Flesh?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:25:53] Oh, totally. Yeah. There’s no relationship. Divine Flesh is that Jesus was not only God but that his flesh was Divine. His flesh was not his actual flesh. It was not an actual flesh. It was Divine something. Yes. Which is which is heresy!

Ryan French: [00:26:08] Which denies the humanity…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:26:10] It sacrifices the real humanity of Christ. So that’s a totally different error which is not just something that we see in Pentecostalism, it’s something that you see all the way back to the time of Luther. This idea that there was for example, that all comes from the idea that the Catholics said you could eat the actual flesh, the Eucharist, that when you take the Eucharist, you put it into your mouth, it becomes flesh. So, in that came all kinds of error, which, of course, is one of the problems with Catholic thinking, just one of the things. But you see, the fellow you’re talking about is attempting to hold on to the absolute trinity of God, whether the Bible ever taught it or not, because what they’re going to do is extrapolate it back. Now, in other words, say, even though the Bible doesn’t explicitly teach it, it’s there and that’s what they believe, though they never said it. Now, that’s, of course, rather crazy to say they believe something they never said they believed and never even used the word trinity.

Ryan French: [00:27:12] Yeah, I was going to say… So, this is kind of how our relationship for those that don’t know, I’m very privileged to serve with Dad, going on nine years now, here on the south side of Atlanta. The way we work in our church is, dad’s the genius and I’m always kind of the everyday weird word guy, but speaking of the word weird to use completely nontheological terminology, don’t you think? I don’t mean this in an ugly, disrespectful way. Just logically, isn’t it weird to go to church history? To pull the doctrine of the Trinity, but then ignore church history to leave the Catholic Church and then try to go back to the Bible? Just logically, isn’t that flawed? It’s flawed in so many ways…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:28:17] So one way to think of it, if we could not get too complex, is that they look back into church history and try to find the trinity. And of course, it did develop in the hundreds and hundreds of years so that you ended up with basically just one church that was Catholic. Now, that doesn’t mean there was just one church because we started up this discussion asking the question, did the oneness movement go all the way back? And I said, well, the answer is yes, it does go all the way back. But the question is, how does it do that?

Ryan French: [00:28:54] Well, and my answer is always that this movement goes all the way back to the Old Testament. Right. But you know that that’s a simplistic answer.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:29:02] So what oneness people need to be doing is finding out how it went all the way back, because you’re not going to have the enemies of the oneness of God looking for answers for how the oneness was embraced. I’m quite convinced by church history that there were tons of oneness people. And I see…

Ryan French: [00:29:25] Yes. OK, so we’re going to jump into that in just a second. But I keep feeling the need to backtrack for people who aren’t… I know we have people who have these kinds of discussions and read these kinds of things all the time, but I know there are some wonderful people out there and maybe this is the first time they’ve really used some of these terms. So, let me go all the way back to kind of the beginning. And you used the word restorationist. Can you just give a brief definition of what a restorationist is? OK, and you know, we’re restorationist.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:29:57] Many Christians that are not Pentecostal are restorationists and almost all Pentecostals are restorationists. A restorationist is someone who views Christian faith as something that they lost.

Ryan French: [00:30:17] Martin Luther for example?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:30:18] Well, Lutherans are not, strictly speaking, restorationists, but there were many restorationists…

Ryan French: [00:30:27] But Martin Luther himself was…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:30:28] Martin Luther saw himself as restoring to the church what he viewed as Catholicism’s having lost. So, you end up with Lutheranism now, Lutherans themselves did not view themselves as strict restorationists. And like Pentecostals do, Pentecostals view themselves as restorationists because people were not baptizing correctly. Well, let’s say, for example. The Catholic Church baptizes infants, yes, so do Methodists, so do lots of people, but restorationist-minded people say we have to go back to the Bible to find our answer. Or oneness Pentecostals say that not only for the way you baptize but people speaking in tongues. Well, did speaking in tongues stop? No. But did the church as a whole stop preaching, speaking in tongues? Obviously, they did. Certainly, was not practiced in the era of the Catholic dominance and so on, and so now does that mean nobody was speaking in tongues? No, I suspect a lot of people were speaking in tongues, but it was not something you got away with because Catholicism basically choked it up. There was a whole lot of rooting out people that didn’t believe what they wanted you to believe.

Ryan French: [00:31:51] That tags perfectly with where I wanted to go next, which is kind of a twofold question. I wanted you to maybe introduce Michael Servetus to people who maybe have never heard of him before. You might give some information they don’t know. But also tagging into that, at what point did the Catholic Church become militant in the sense that they forced you to believe with the sword? You’ve got the Crusades and you’ve got the Catholic Church burning people at the stake. I often tell people, well, of course, in history, if you’re oneness and if you were speaking in tongues you were probably going underground because otherwise you might get burned at the stake. Or you might have your tongue cut out. So, when did that start? When did the church become violent, which to me is evil, of course? Can you imagine if the Church was trying to be militant today how we’d be…?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:32:59] You know, it’s interesting because the group that you were describing at the beginning that is trying to hold on to strict Trinitarianism and condemning oneness people would probably say that when Calvin burned Servetus at the stake that that was OK because how dare him deny something that Calvin believed was 100% theologically correct.

Ryan French: [00:33:27] So for people who don’t know John Calvin…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:33:30] Was a reformer of Protestantism who had Servetus because he was oneness had him burned at the stake.

Ryan French: [00:33:39] So what time are we talking about here?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:33:41] That was in the fifteen hundreds.

Ryan French: [00:33:45] So you’re about a thousand five hundred or so…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:33:49] So we’re talking five hundred years ago. So, think of it. The Church involved in five hundred years at the beginning from an Apostolic Bible group. By 500 years later you have basically them talking about is Mary the mother of God and is there a pope that rules the church? None of that’s in the Bible. And yet that’s where the church is. Trinitarianism is pretty rampant in Christianity by then.

Ryan French: [00:34:15] John Calvin, even today, you have Calvinism and probably, I think, one of the most dangerous, deadly false doctrines that still permeates a lot of. Quote unquote, Christian thinking is what I call once saved, always saved, or the doctrine of eternal security, where no matter what you do, you can’t be plucked from the hand of God. You can be an adulterer. But if you’ve said your prayer and all that, then you’re saved. Or you’ve got some people who are Divinely destined for Hell and some people are Divinely destined for Heaven because God chose… All of this is Calvinism or finds its roots in Calvinism. And so, you have this massive segment of Christianity that puts Calvin on this huge pedestal. And yet he was a murderer. In my mind. I consider him wicked. Are you willing to say? We’ve talked about this, but are you willing to say that Calvin was a wicked maniac. And I know he was a genius in a certain sense, but…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:35:15] Oh, I don’t think anyone that burns people alive, is anything short of a wicked person. OK, so but to what I was referring to a moment ago, I’ve been very outspoken that Calvin’s behavior was unbelievable. And he was no. It turns out that here he was one of the most outspoken critics of Catholicism in the fifteen hundreds, and yet he used the same tactics. That was to kill the people he opposed, kill the opposition. Now, I had a professor because I’m oneness, but I haven’t always been and had a professor at a Christian university that I attended told me that you have to expect you’re going to be burned alive if you oppose theological thinking. And I said, so you’re saying that killing Christians is OK? And he said, no, no, I’m not saying that. I’m trying to say you have to understand that we have to forgive Calvin. I said, no, I cannot forgive Calvin. Nobody can forgive Calvin. But God. He murdered a man for no reason. So in other words, using that was the Catholic notion. And by the same token, Catholics forgive their past for killing, who knows how many thousands of people. I mean, in horrific ways, just think of the Inquisition. But to simplify this, though, what actually occurred. So you got 500 years of the early church where there was things happening, where the faith and speaking in tongues and baptism in Jesus’ name was becoming a minority and people were pushing it back. I call it the Dark Ages and I don’t get this from oneness people. I get this from conservatives who now are nervous about using the term the Dark Ages, where they begin to move into a period of time where one group began to take control of Christianity and everybody like you couldn’t, for example, at the time of the Reformation, which was fifteen hundreds and the hundred years or two-hundred years before that, you could be executed for owning a Bible. Yes, for printing a Bible, because the Catholic Church said nobody could control the Bible but them.

Ryan French: [00:37:41] Amazing stories of people who got a Tindale Bible and go hide in their closet to be able to read and…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:37:48] So a lot of people were really moving back into what I’m thinking of as a New Dark Age and have been for a very long time. It’s probably the era just before the coming of the Lord. But what actually occurred is that in that era where, for example, you could be executed and were executed by either a Catholic or a Protestant if you immerse people. If you just took a person out and baptized them in a river and buried them and they found out about it and got caught. You could be executed.

Ryan French: [00:38:31] So and then in modern history, I don’t think it’s as bad now as it was. But, you know, theologically speaking, there was a time where you were culturally burned at the stake or intellectually burned at the stake, you were blacklisted, you were boycotted. If you deviated from at least trinitarian orthodoxy, it’s always amazing to me how you have all these denominations, the Baptists, the Catholics, and of course, the Baptists have all kinds of variations of denominations, the Methodists, the Lutherans…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:39:06] And the Church of God…

Ryan French: [00:39:07] You have all of these and they’re all united by trinitarianism. And if you walk in that orthodoxy, it’s like you’re OK, no matter what else you do. I’ve always thought that was strange and very telling… It’s one of the major doctrines that they have that is non-biblical and totally historical in context. And yet that’s what unites them. And then they put everyone else in this camp of being anti orthodoxy when in reality we’re really the orthodox ones… I want to just say something before we go back. You were talking about people being burned at the stake just for owning a Bible in the Dark Ages, where all of this time in church history, where the Catholic Church controlled the narrative of Scripture because only, they had access to the Bible. So, you were having to completely trust a priest and the pope and his emissaries to tell you what the Bible said via their interpretation. And, of course, we know now that the Catholic Church has moved far beyond the Bible and the pope can speak for God as God, and his word becomes in their way of thinking, just as an errant as the word of God. So that creates all kinds of problems. And so, you have all of these years where people were hungry. This is a whole nother discussion. I’d love to have about men like Tyndale, who you mentioned, and Wycliff, who I mean, they gave their lives to be able to translate the word of God into a language that the commoner could read and understand without having to know Latin or Greek or Hebrew. And they did all of this knowing that they were going to be persecuted and probably killed at some point. And then they distributed these precious Bibles to people, often handwritten, and people were secretly getting them. I mean, some of these stories that I’ve read where I mean, it just makes you weep when people get a Bible and they’re having to hide it, they’re trying to read it for themselves. And so, you have this kind of this imposed dark age of spiritual ignorance where people, God bless them, they’re walking in darkness. But it was really the blind leading the blind. And the blind had no access to light because the Scripture was being completely controlled. But today, I think this is the point I wanted to get at. As you said, it’s like we’re going back to that. But this is different today. It’s like we have a self-imposed dark age where people have more access to the Bible than ever in the history of the world. I mean, even as I’m old enough now to remember a time when if you wanted to read the Bible. You were going to have to go to the bookstore and purchase a Bible for yourself. And if you wanted one that was going to last you were going to have to spend a good deal of money. But now people via smartphones, which it just seems like smartphones, have been with us since the beginning of time, but they haven’t. It’s a fairly recent phenomenon. And the Internet and computers, you can go to Bible Gateway right now and you can read the Bible online day or night, completely free, any translation you want, even horrific ones. But you have access to it. And yet statistics tell us that people are reading the Bible less and less and less. So, it’s almost as if we have this overwhelming access to it and now people are indifferent to it. It’s not that there’s a class of people above us keeping us from the Word of God, it’s that people are keeping themselves.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:43:42] Ok. Well, let’s go back to something we were talking about, and that is what does a man like Michael Servetus represent? Because the initial question has been do I believe that the oneness, Apostolic Pentecostal faith of repenting, and baptizing in the name of Jesus, receiving the Holy Spirit, and living holy, did that go all the way back to the early church? All those centuries, so Servetus represents a person. Who not only died for the very message that I’m preaching right now, but he represents an entire generation of people that believed because even though church history is difficult to trace, because, you know, the victors wipe out a great deal of the writings and..?

Ryan French: [00:44:50] Yeah, they get to write the history.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:44:52] And plus, if you know your children are going to die, if they find out who you are and where you are, you keep that a secret. So, you have these, you know, evidences. So, I’m going to give just a quick answer now that we’re in the context of Michael Servetus, who died brutally, by the way, I mean, of course, you couldn’t be burned at the stake without it being brutal, but the entire episode was brutal. It was a man that at the age of fourteen knew seven languages, I mean, he is one of the most brilliant men of the Reformation.

Ryan French: [00:45:25] …and not just the theologian.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:45:27] And he had gone to Calvin because he wanted so desperately to talk to him about the need to get back to Scripture. And they executed him. So, all of the people that held to oneness views throughout the centuries, we cannot excavate all of their writings even though we know about lots of them, but we don’t know what all of them believe because they’re lost to history.

Ryan French: [00:46:04] They’re not in the iCloud.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:46:05] And yet, if you say that to someone who’s the victor, who says, well, I’m a trinitarian and I am, bless God, it goes all the way back. And you said, well, you have killed all of our people. How are we supposed to be able to then mount a historical defense? We don’t have the ability to dig out their graves and find all their writings. But we know they were there because when we trace the evidence, we can find the group that he came from and why he held the oneness view goes all the way back to his childhood. And it’s difficult to do, but it can be done. We know that in, for example, that in Spain, where he was born, there was a group there baptizing in Jesus’ name all the way back. So, and what that did for me was it didn’t just demonstrate that Servetus believed in the oneness of God, but that he applied it to his understanding of baptism, in other words, he didn’t baptize in a trinity formula because he came from a group that didn’t baptize in the trinity formula and that this is the way you almost have to do history. Throughout the entire period.

Ryan French: [00:47:17] Servetus was a genius. Yes. Don’t you think some of Calvin’s venom towards Servetus was jealousy not just theologically rooted?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:47:30] There’s no doubt it was jealousy. There was a whole lot of jealousy. Yeah, Calvin as a man, not as a scholar, had a lot of faults. And one of them was this. I mean, he’s the great scourge on Calvin was the burning of a Protestant. He was burned. He became the martyr that shocked the world. There’s not a long history of Protestants burning one another. Right. But Servetus who was oneness is the one that they that basically…

Ryan French: [00:48:07] Is Servetus the only individual that we know of that Calvin burned or did… Was that common practice for him to have people executed?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:48:15] No, it was not common practice for him to execute people.

Ryan French: [00:48:20] You mentioned…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:48:21] So I want to say this, since we’re right there, that it’s difficult to understand why a trinitarian would be so opposed to oneness thinking because modalism espouses 100 percent the Father, Son, and the Spirit. Absolutely. And as one God, totally not in a trinitarian sense, but absolutely one God. Jesus is Divine. Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is God. And they’re all one, actually one. And yet they’re so opposed to it that the hatred for it would literally lead a man to burn another man at the stake. I find it. I mean, to…

Ryan French: [00:49:07] To me, I’m just going to make a very controversial statement, maybe not to us, but to many Christians, it’s demonic. It’s rooted in a demonic…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:49:19] Well, you mean to kill someone?

Ryan French: [00:49:22] Well, trinitarian itself is, well, demonically inspired. I mean, when you have a group of people perverting the word of God and then turning into a movement that’s murdering people. To me, that is evidence of it being a demonically inspired theology. And for that to be the hill that, quote-unquote, Christians would be willing to kill people on. Throughout history and then today, for people to be willing to intellectually and culturally kill people to use extreme language…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:50:04] It’s extreme to burn someone at the stake. And then you also have the context that now after the oneness movement has been around here for over 100 years now. So today the trend is what liberalism is doing to say, I don’t believe in all that holiness and baptism in Jesus’ name and moralism, but I accept that they’re genuine Christians. That’s the trend. Yeah. So, your friend, the fellow you were listening to, he’s in the minority because today…

Ryan French: [00:50:41] He’s rejecting that…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:50:43] He’s rejecting that trend that says, hey, I can accept because the Pentecostal church today, the oneness movement within it is massive. And even Trinitarian Pentecostals are more and more embraced. For example, I’m involved because I have a Ph.D. and I’m involved in lots of things in Pentecostalism. I’m involved with Trinitarians that I totally oppose their theological stance. And yet I’m in academic societies with them trying to get the oneness message in my beliefs and my writings out there. And they’re willing to allow that by not burning me at the stake,

Ryan French: [00:51:26] Not anymore.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:51:27] They’re not anymore that’s the trend. Now, that doesn’t mean there are tons of people that hold to a Trinitarianism. I guess we’d have to wait till the Lord comes to figure out what’s in people’s hearts. But the sad thing is that Calvin didn’t wait, he just went ahead and burned, burned oneness people. That’s what he did.

Ryan French: [00:51:49] Maybe we have someone listening who and I’m sure we do or will maybe they are trinitarians or maybe they’re not sure. And. They’re trying to think through, and I’ve had many sincere people, many sincere, good Christians who when I say this may take it in a condescending way and I don’t mean to be condescending, but what I think of as low information Christians, they don’t really know anything about church history. It’s amazing how many people you meet now. They don’t know anything about church history. They really don’t know their Bible. They might know like for God so loved the world. They might know, John, 3:16 or something like that, but they don’t really know Scripture. And so, they’re trying to very simplistically and sincerely, which, by the way, you know, if you will approach God simplistically and sincerely and you’re truly doing that with a heart to seek after God. You know, I believe the Bible says Jesus himself said seek and you shall find knock on the door, it will open. So that’s a beautiful thing. I’m not criticizing that. But maybe someone’s asking themselves and I even know apostolics who ask themselves this question, what is the difference theologically, and how does it affect our salvation? I always come back to baptism, but if I’m a trinitarian, or if I’m oneness, what does it matter to God? Why would God care how I view it, and I know that’s a big, broad, crazy, strange question loaded with minefields, but what does it matter? That’s really what the middle is asking. What does it matter? Does it ultimately matter if you’re trinitarian or if you’re oneness or…?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:53:35] It must matter. Let’s keep it in the context of our conversation right there. If it mattered enough to a trinitarian to kill a man who didn’t believe it. Then there is an enormous difference in my mind, having been a Trinitarian. And of course, I know a whole lot of oneness people who were trinitarian and there’s lots of them, they get a lot of flak because trinitarians believe that, as you said a moment ago, that if you think that Jesus is God but is not a second person in the Godhead, then you’re not even going to Heaven. That’s how strong they are now, I believe that trinitarianism and oneness doctrine are the same as light and darkness, because trinitarianism is not a biblical message when you say that Jesus is not God himself, but he’s part of God himself. That’s not a biblical message. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. He’s the totality. He’s not part of the Godhead. He is the Godhead. So in my mind, trinitarianism was the godhead of a Christianity that had lost its way. The oneness doctrine is the godhead of the apostles, so it makes all the difference now, which is why we call ourselves apostolic.

Ryan French: [00:55:06] And so they change baptism. From Jesus’ name baptism to trinity baptism. But that in itself is heresy beyond… This is where I always go, right? Because it’s the easiest one to go to. The greatest flaw or the greatest evil of trinitarianism. Is that it now becomes a changing of the mode, the salvific mode of baptism, where now you are baptizing people in titles instead of in the name and we know that the name is really where the efficacy of baptism comes into play. It’s not the water. It can’t be the water. The Bible tells us that over and over again we’re supposed to be baptized in water. But it’s the calling of the name that is where the power comes from. So, you have trinitarianism that now affects the way you’re baptized, that directly impacts your salvation. And then also in the way that you prayed, because I talked to people all the time who are trinitarian and they’ll say or I’ve talked to people who used to be trinitarian and now they’re oneness and they say, I don’t know how to pray because should I be praying to the Father? Should I be praying to the Son? Should I be praying to the Holy Ghost? So now you’re not fulfilling Scripture and saying whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus. It affects all of it in a strange way.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:56:48] I agree. So, we’re deep here, we’re tiptoeing into church history, but we’re currently in a very deep theological question when we are thinking about how trinitarian thought and oneness thought are different. But that’s precisely what the church, the church was dealing with, going all the way back. What we’ve done is we’ve pulled ourselves for a moment out of just a theological intellectual conversation into a real practical world. How does this theology practically affect individuals and the tragedy of any false doctrine, just like any error, whether it’s religious or not? Error, always falsehood always has practical, real-world implications that wind up hurting everyday human beings who are seeking after God. This is the great tragedy of error and false doctrine. Of course, Jesus warned us this would happen. I’m always amazed when people act shocked that this could happen because it was so clear he couldn’t have possibly been clearer. You’re going to be persecuted. I think as Americans, though, we’re just so spoiled because we’ve had such a long history of freedom, although I think that’s in jeopardy. We may not get to enjoy that, at least not the way we have for much longer. At the rate, we’re going. What’s on the horizon? Only God knows. Only God’s plan is good. The rest of it is looking darker and darker as we go.

Ryan French: [00:58:57] Quickly. And I know we’ve gone close to an hour here, and I appreciate your time. I really do. We’ve already talked about Michael Servetus. I mean, we could just spend an hour introducing Servetus to people. And I feel bad saying what we’ve said without clarifying more for people. My hope is maybe this will spark people’s interest and some people will go dig deeper.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:59:22] Yes.

Ryan French: [00:59:23] Sebelius as well, a different era. But in church history, we do know of some oneness or at least medalists who were speaking of these things. Can you mention just some of the common ones that we know of aside from Sebelius, and give just like the quick bullet point information about who those people, those people might be?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:59:47] Well, there are dozens of oneness… What scholars sometimes call modalists. And the word modalists means that instead of there being multiple persons of God, there is God acting in different modes. So you call that modalism and the trend in modern theology is to think of God in modes. And so Carlebach, for example, spoke of modalism and favorably, but he, of course, still maintained they believed in the trinity. But so all the way back through church history.

Ryan French: [01:00:28] Is it correct to call ourselves modalists? Are we?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:00:31] Well, I’ve always said there’s nothing wrong with it, but sometimes people are uncomfortable, especially current leaders in the modern oneness movement. I think most oneness people are uncomfortable with that because they don’t know where it came from or they think it came from the enemy or something. The fact of the matter is, modalism is a way of describing anyone who holds to a godhead in which the Father, Son, and the Spirit are in some way modal. And Oneness beliefs hold that Jesus and the Father were just modal differences, that the way in which God revealed himself in the Son was not a different person than the God who revealed himself in the Spirit. That’s what oneness is. So, to me, that modalism is fine. It’s just that some oneness people today are worried that there are forms of modalism we disagree with. So, I don’t have a problem with it. But, you know, that’s just the way it is. And so, for trinitarians to say modalists is helpful because they then realize you’re talking about church history, they typically think of them as modes because the term oneness is a fairly recent term. It’s a term that came to be very popular among former trinitarians that had become modalists and their view of who Jesus was. They saw it as a revelation a Divine revelation that Jesus was the Father in his human form, in the mode of humanity and therefore the son was not another person. It was the Father revealing himself. And this is exactly what Servetus taught. It’s exactly what Sebelius thought.

Ryan French: [01:02:24] Is it overly simplistic theologically, because I always go to the overly simplistic, but is it overly simplistic theologically for me and many others who have done it? To use the analogy that I’m a father and a son. Because people say, how can you be the father and son and I often say to people, I’m a father and a son. I could be multiple things at once but that doesn’t make me multiple people. But in the end, I have a legal name that must be used legally.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:02:57] And we can see that we’re moving now again into a very deeply theological way of understanding, which is important. It’s absolutely essential, but it’s difficult for some people, like, for example, trying to understand trinitarianism, you cannot comprehend. It’s not hard because you would have a father and a son who are both internal and they’re both God, they’re both gods within a God. That’s simply illogical. How can you be? And they’re going how can you…

Ryan French: [01:03:24] Right. How in the world can you both be all-powerful? Right.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:03:28] So but the same is true here when we’re talking about trying to explain modalism. Does it mean that I was a father, and I was a son? And of course, it is true of God. God was both Father and Son. How did that occur? Well, at the same time that he was a Father. He also became the Son. He didn’t quit being the Father when he became the Son. So, any modalism that held to that view I’ve just described. And so, this becomes deeply theological, rather because…

Ryan French: [01:04:03] He overshadows Mary.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:04:05] That’s right. The Father and the Spirit. So, the Spirit is the Father’s spirit. The Son is the Father’s humanity, you see. So, God becomes the Son. God is working in the Spirit. They’re not separate persons as though…

Ryan French: [01:04:22] Well, and even with Jesus you have this kind of interchangeable language where I come from my Father, but then I’m sending it. So even Jesus was kind of using interchangeable language that to me if I was trinitarian, would be extremely confusing because how could Jesus be sending his Spirit? You know, how is that even possible if they’re not the same thing?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:04:45] So what we’re doing is we’re explaining how the oneness view differs from the trinitarian view. And so when oneness people view, Jesus, they view Jesus as being the revelation of the Father. He is the Father in his human form. He came to earth in Jesus Christ. So, yes. So, when says, for example, we’ll just give one example that this is very important to oneness theology, that Jesus said it’s not my work I’m doing. Yeah, I’m doing the works of the Father. All right. So it’s trinitarianism that can’t account for that. Now they claim they can because they say the Son laid down his deity or something like that.

Ryan French: [01:05:31] Almost every intellectually honest trinitarian that I’ve ever talked to or heard. At some point will get to a place where they say, I believe in the trinity, but it’s inexplicable. I believe in it, but it’s a great mystery that we’ll never fully understand. It’s the great mystery. How does the average trinitarian deal with Jesus saying something like, you know, Philip, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:06:00] Right now, my contention is they can’t. Now they will appear to be answering it, they’ll give answers. But, you know, you can give answers that aren’t answers. And that’s what trinitarians have to do when you get to the point where you’re talking about the biblical Jesus. He is not saying I’m another person from the Father. He’s not saying that. But they would then argue they said the opposite. How could you be the same person? This is where trinitarian. But when you’re not going back to John 14, where Jesus said, if you’ve seen me, well, you know, that’s not the question you ask. You didn’t ask that one you ask. Yeah, you did. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen that his response was, if you’ve seen me, how can you ask me?

Ryan French: [01:06:45] Right.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:06:50] So a trinitarian would have to go back to John 10, four chapters earlier where Jesus said, I and the Father are one. And then they would have to argue that one there doesn’t mean one.

Ryan French: [01:07:02] I was just going to say, how could you even go to John…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:07:08] They have to attempt to build a multiple-person God. That’s still one God, which of course, that in itself is illogical.

Ryan French: [01:07:17] Yes, it’s illogical. Now, this brings me to something I wanted to mention and define for people. We’ve used the word modalist, but then there’s another word people use for oneness people. Apostolic monotheism or monotheistic. So just simple mono meaning one and theistic meaning God. In the Old Testament, one of the great defining characteristics of the Old Testament and the great separator that God gave for the Israelites was the fact that they were a monotheistic people. Israel, the Lord, our God is one in a world at the time where Egypt, they’re worshipping thousands of gods and they have a god for everything. The sun, the moon, the stars, the grass, the bugs. And then you have all of these other pagan nations that are worshipping multiple gods. And then and then God commands. He says, you know, there’s no other God before me. Thou shalt have no other God before me. Do Trinitarians? Now, I’ll just put my belief out there, no matter how offensive it might be, I believe that trinitarians, if you follow their doctrine logically, are polytheists, meaning that they do believe whether they claim it or not, because most of them don’t, but they do essentially wind up worshipping three gods, which to me is an absolute affront to God himself in the sense that God over and over and over commands us to…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:08:56] Yes.

Ryan French: [01:08:57] …understand that there is one God and that we’re to serve him alone. And when you separate him into three persons or beings now, you have done exactly what God essentially in my mind, what Satan did was he came in and he was able to convolute, quote unquote, Christianity to the point that now you have idolatry in the church.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:09:17] Right.

Ryan French: [01:09:19] But the idol that winds up being worshipped is supposedly the true God. But I know that most trinitarians would not. Am I correct in saying most trinitarians would never claim to be polytheistic? Is that correct? Absolutely. No one would claim not to be monotheistic.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:09:37] They do claim to be. And they and technically they are monotheists now, OK, because they say…

Ryan French: [01:09:43] How?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:09:44] The reason they can claim it is that they make every effort from Nicaea till now to say that the trinity itself is one God, but existing somehow mysteriously beyond any human comprehension is that the three that are let’s call them the three divines that are in their right persons? Because let’s just not say persons for now that they’re still. It’s so mysterious. It’s incomprehensible. And of course, what they’re actually doing is having to be oneness. They have to start out being oneness. Yeah. In order to end up with three separate persons and they have to go back where they think they have to end up with three separate persons because there was a Father, Son, and a Spirit.

Ryan French: [01:10:37] So this takes me back and I keep coming to this because it’s so incomprehensible to me. So, if you’re claiming to be monotheistic.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:10:46] Right.

Ryan French: [01:10:48] Because most times when you pin them down, they want to say, well, there’s one God. I mean, I hear this all the time. You can hear it in music, in Christian music, popular Christian music written by trinitarians, where you can have a song written by a trinitarian called One God. I mean, there is one right now. It’s a great song. And I often ask myself, how can they write a song like that and then reject oneness. So why if they’re doing that why would you go to John Calvin for example, if he’s starting with and saying I’m monotheistic, why in the world would he attack someone and be angry towards someone who is monotheistic in every sense of the word? Does that make sense?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:11:38] It makes sense to me. It’s complicated to the average person. We’re sitting here trying to explain why a deeply theological basically leader of one of the largest movements in Christianity murdered another Christian. That’s what we’re trying to explain.

Ryan French: [01:11:56] So that’s impossible. Let’s come to now let’s come to the present.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:12:00] All right.

Ryan French: [01:12:02] The unnamed guy that I can’t think of his name on the podcast, Apologia. How could he spend so much time and people like him? Why would they find it in their hearts so necessary to condemn truly monotheistic people? When yet he himself claims to be monotheistic, how does that jive and are you able to…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:12:27] This is becoming I mean, very, very few people today take the position. I mean, fewer and fewer. He might could name millions, but very few people today look at oneness people and say you’re damned to hell. It’s not like it was…

Ryan French: [01:12:44] Because of your belief, not like it was at the turn of the last century.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:12:47] Things have changed so drastically. And they would consider that unfortunate because we ought to be condemned. We ought to do just what Calvin did. And this gentleman has to be careful because what he’s wrestling with is and it’s a fear of other monotheists that that upholds. Now, if you are violating Jesus himself and saying he’s not God, then you would have the basis on which to begin to condemn, truly condemn someone. But he believes that his trinitarian understanding of the oneness of God, of the one God blessed, that is so true that my denying it or not believing or accepting it, by the way, there’s tons and tons of trinitarians who do not believe the concepts of the trinity in their minds. They can’t accept that. They somehow just believe that it’s just one God. They cannot make this three person distinction that trinitarians want you to do so among their own people. They do it. More and more, but…

Ryan French: [01:13:55] Which is why I think if you’re not a theologian, someone’s listening who’s not a theologian or philosopher, you’re just, you know, a good person who loves the Lord. We have to try and help these individuals.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:14:03] Yes.

Ryan French: [01:14:07] When I say average, I don’t mean that in the sense that, I mean they may be very above average, but I mean average in the sense of their understanding and exposure to the Bible and theology. We have to help them understand there are real life spiritual consequences when you embrace the false doctrine of the trinity.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:14:18] Yes.

Ryan French: [01:14:20] …and we have to try to show why that is in the sense of baptism, in the sense of how you pray, in the sense of how you’re viewing God and does God care how you view him? Well, of course, he does, because the vast majority of the Bible is God very clearly saying to people, it matters what you believe about me and it matters how you worship me. It matters how you serve me. God doesn’t have the kind of the universal philosophical mindset that the world has embraced today where everything’s fine as long as you’re sincere, as long as you’re…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:15:05] Well, basically the modern cultural mindset is it doesn’t matter at all what anybody believes, even conservative Christians today, among some of them, there is this notion that, well, in the end, it’s just all going to be just fine. But the consequences for believing that, look where we are in a culture, the culture is completely anti-Christian. America today is in dire straits.

Ryan French: [01:15:31] Yeah. And the question is, did the church begin that or did the world have it and it trickled into the church in a kind of ecumenical universalistic way of thinking, but that’s almost…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:15:43] Like the chicken…

Ryan French: [01:15:44] Yeah. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s really almost impossible to know.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:15:49] Almost impossible.

Ryan French: [01:15:51] It’s tempting. I think for oneness people, you know, the oneness movement and the tongue talking movement and we won’t even throw holiness in. That’s a whole nother deal. But historically, and when I say historically, I don’t mean going back to Servetus. I mean since the turn of the last century we were very persecuted, lots of persecution, physical persecution, but…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:16:18] Right.

Ryan French: [01:16:20] …even greater was the cultural persecution, the rejection, the being cast out from society, being marginalized. When you talk to the elders and there’s still elders today who are right here in our church, we have to Sister Cole, whose father founded Tupelo Children’s Mansion, and the stories of him being taken out and beaten within an inch of his life and the scars on his back and all of the things that people went through, the horrific things that we can’t even imagine. And as horrible as that was, and none of us would want to experience that, in many ways, it galvanized the movement. The church is always, I mean, even when you go back to the New Testament, the Church has always galvanized and grown in persecution. And the Church seems to always struggle in times of ease. I think it’s one of the reasons why you see, for example, this summer, we’ll talk about it hopefully soon. You know, your research on the oneness movement in China, you were shocked when you were writing and studying for the book Our God is One, which was first your thesis for your master’s at Wheaton College. And you studied how the preachers and the pastors, how they were I mean, unbelievable physical persecution, not just being thrown in jail. I mean, to be thrown in jail would have almost been a mercy. But the things that they went through beyond just being thrown in jail, the horrific physical things that happened to them in China, and even today, there’s persecution there.

Ryan French: [01:17:58] And yet the church, the oneness apostolic Church, the revival that has been mostly underground, that has just exploded in that nation. You see that repeated in different places around the world where there’s this great massive movement and outpouring of the Holy Ghost and in nations where there’s great persecution. And then you come to America, where we’re really fairly stagnant right now. And I think a lot of that is because of the ease. So, there’s a danger. I’ve spent a lot of time drawing you into a conversation about why do the hard-core trinitarians reject the modalists and or the monotheists. But really, in some ways, I would rather deal with them. Because at least we can have a discussion where we all believe things then the squishy middle, because the squishy middle, the danger of that, we’re and we get comfortable with the squishy middle or I don’t. But many apostolics do because they’re nice to us. Does that make sense? They’re nice to us. Of course, we’re nice to them, but they’re nice to us in the sense that they might say, well, you know, you’re saved. You know, you’re fine. And, you know, I am, too, of course. And there’s really not a major difference. You know, what you believe is great, and what they believe is great. And let’s all just be in this together. Well, that’s very dangerous.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:19:32] Pulled into the idea that everybody’s just fine is the temptation.

Ryan French: [01:19:38] It is very appealing to the church in this, especially for people who want to avoid persecution at all costs. Or preserve their ease or their assets. We might could say preserve their financial gain,

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:20:01] It reminds me, where it just seems to insert itself in your discussion here, that the last days of Revelation were described to be to ease. Where they simply say, I have need of nothing. And whenever you’re in that area of time, there are always tremendous dangers. And you’re describing.

Ryan French: [01:20:26] Yeah. And I think that I do believe that’s exactly what we are seeing.

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Buried Alive (The Gospel According to the Bible)

The fear of being buried alive has been around for centuries. But it was especially prevalent during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The famed horror poet Edgar Allen Poe wrote nightmarishly about fantastical scenarios of people being buried alive on several occasions. The societal fear of premature burial became so prolific it eventually led to the invention of the safety coffin, an odd contraption with a string leading up from the coffin to a tiny bell placed near the gravestone. The idea being, if someone found themselves buried alive, they would ring the bell and hope someone would hear them and dig up their prematurely buried body. The safety coffin has been reinvented many times over the centuries. Even today, high-tech versions of the safety coffin are available for exorbitant prices.

Pulse Check Please

Interestingly, and debatably, several modern expressions are derivatives of the safety coffin era. For example, out of concern that someone buried alive might ring a bell in the middle of the night, a new shift was added to church graveyards called the “graveyard shift.” We also get expressions like “dead ringer” and “saved by the bell” from that historical period. Thankfully, modern medicine has done much to eliminate people’s fears of being buried alive. Regardless, some people still have irrational fears of waking up in a coffin underneath an immovable mountain of dirt. Admittedly, I get the shivers and chills if I let my imagination run wild. It’s difficult to imagine anything more horrifying than realizing you have been buried alive and there’s nothing you can do about it. Let’s just say I want my gravedigger to check and double-check my pulse before they plop me in the ground. Why? Because burying living things is barbaric, cruel, and torturous. On the other hand, burying dead things is humane, kind, and decent.

Repentance Check Please

If you are baptized without properly repenting, it is equivalent to being spiritually buried alive. Yes! It really is that dramatic and problematic. If you are baptized without repentance, you’re just getting wet. It does absolutely nothing for you in terms of salvation. We should make sure the sinful nature has been crucified to death with repentance before stirring the waters of baptism. Check for a pulse before burial because to be buried alive creates all kinds of spiritual problems. Pastors, we aren’t doing anyone any favors rushing them to baptism if they aren’t dead.

If you are baptized without properly repenting, it is equivalent to being spiritually buried alive. Yes! It really is that dramatic and problematic. If you are baptized without repentance, you’re just getting wet.

We should make sure the sinful nature has been crucified to death with repentance before stirring the waters of baptism. Check for a pulse before burial because to be buried alive creates all kinds of spiritual problems.

God Doesn’t Resurrect Living Things

I’ve noticed a trend in my church (and other churches as well). It’s pretty easy to convince people they need to be baptized. However, it’s difficult convincing people they need to repent and receive the Holy Ghost. I think there are several reasons for this, and one of them is the traditional and cultural acceptance of water baptism. But it goes deeper than just culture; baptism is the easiest part of the salvation process. Think about it. Only you can repent of your sins. No one else can repent for you, and it’s a painful, bloody, messy, tearful, gut-wrenching process when you face your wretchedness head-on. Our flesh doesn’t die easily, and many people avoid genuine repentance altogether. Which sadly keeps them from ever receiving the Holy Ghost (unless they repent at a later time). Meaning they just stay buried alive and are never resurrected because God doesn’t resurrect living things. God only resurrects crucified hearts that are ready for a new life.

Only you can repent of your sins. No one else can repent for you, and it’s a painful, bloody, messy, tearful, gut-wrenching process when you face your wretchedness head-on.

God only resurrects crucified hearts that are ready for a new life.

The Easy Part of the Gospel

Furthermore, the infilling of the Holy Ghost is something that only God can do for us. The Holy Ghost is our spiritual resurrection. The stone over our tomb rumbles and rolls away as we go from death to new life in Christ. The Spirit of God fills our empty hearts with power, presence, and purpose. We surrender and believe we will receive it by faith, but ultimately, we don’t fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit. That can be a little intimidating for people because it requires faith and trust in the unseen and the unknown. Most people have not previously surrendered to God in that way, and they aren’t exactly sure how to do it.

The infilling of the Holy Ghost is something that only God can do for us. The Holy Ghost is our spiritual resurrection. The stone over our tomb rumbles and rolls away as we go from death to new life in Christ.

The Spirit of God fills our empty hearts with power, presence, and purpose.

We surrender and believe, but we don’t fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit. That’s intimidating for people because it requires faith in the unseen. People haven’t surrendered to God in that way, and they aren’t sure how to do it.

On the other hand, baptism is simple because it’s the one thing someone else can do for you. All you have to do is let someone put you under the water in Jesus’ name. However, we could do with some old-fashioned fear of being spiritually buried alive. Let’s not rush people to premature burials that will leave them traumatized and unchanged. Otherwise, we are guilty of giving false comforts of pseudo salvation to people who haven’t been crucified with Christ and died to sin. Baptism is powerful and life-changing when done biblically, but it can do more harm than good when done incorrectly.

Let’s not rush people to premature burials (baptisms) that will leave them traumatized and unchanged. Otherwise, we are guilty of giving false comforts of pseudo salvation to people who haven’t been crucified with Christ and died to sin.

Baptism is powerful and life-changing when done biblically, but it can do more harm than good when done incorrectly.

The Gospel Graphic

I created this simple graphic to explain how to be saved according to the Bible. Unfortunately, many people will tell you how to be saved according to tradition or opinion but what they describe isn’t even close to what the Bible teaches. I think we are often guilty of trying to oversimplify the Gospel so people can understand and accept it easily. We should try to keep it as simple as the Bible presents it, but we must be careful not to bypass vitally important elements of the process. And it is a process. You can’t be saved in fifteen seconds or less. Anyone who tells you differently is skipping lots of essential things. For example, two things must happen before you can repent of your sin: One, you must have faith that God is and that He is a rewarder of people who diligently seek Him. Two, you must realize you are bound by sin and unworthy of God’s grace. If you don’t have faith that Jesus lived, died, was buried, and resurrected for your sin, nothing else matters. The entire salvation process begins and ends with faith. If you think you are basically a good person that doesn’t need saving all that badly, the whole process will be meaningless to you because you won’t repent properly, and you won’t receive the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, many people will tell you how to be saved according to tradition or opinion but what they describe isn’t even close to what the Bible teaches.

We are often guilty of trying to oversimplify the Gospel so people can understand and accept it easily. We should try to keep it as simple as the Bible presents it, but we must not bypass vitally important elements of the process.

Two things must happen before you can repent of your sin: One, you must have faith that God is and that He is a rewarder of people who diligently seek Him. Two, you must realize you are bound by sin and unworthy of God’s grace.

If you think you are basically a good person that doesn’t need saving all that badly, the whole process of salvation will be meaningless to you because you won’t repent properly, and you won’t receive the Holy Spirit.

Sin is a Bigger Deal Than You Might Think

We all tend to view ourselves as kinder, nicer, more well-meaning, sincere, and good than we actually are. Also, our day’s prevailing philosophy believes that sincerity is like an ultimate golden ticket to Heaven. The rule of emotion and feelings has toppled the worship of reason and logic. Essentially, this is humanism (self-worship): I think myself to be good; therefore, I must be good. But what if evil feels good to us? Historically millions of wrongs have been sincerely committed by people who believed they were righteous. Even scarier, what if good things feel wrong to us? This happens all the time, faithfulness and self-sacrifice are demanding things, and our feelings deceptively convince us that selfishness is virtuous. Of course, none of this takes God by surprise. The Bible warned against the danger of trusting our hearts (feelings, emotions) centuries ago. Humanity’s egoistical affinity towards looking inwards rather than upwards to God is one of many prevailing flaws ingrained in the sinful human condition.

We all tend to view ourselves as kinder, nicer, more well-meaning, sincere, and good than we actually are. Also, our day’s prevailing philosophy believes that sincerity is like an ultimate golden ticket to Heaven.

The rule of emotion and feelings has toppled the worship of reason and logic. Essentially, this is humanism (self-worship): I think myself to be good; therefore, I must be good.

Humanity’s egoistical affinity towards looking inwards rather than upwards to God is one of many prevailing flaws ingrained in the sinful human condition.

Centuries of humanistic philosophy and false religion have resulted in a general indifference towards sin. Oh, sure, most people consider murder or senseless violence sinful or immoral. Dusty unused Bible’s demonstrate that people aren’t consulting Scripture to define sin and illuminate right living. Most sin is viewed like a speed limit, just a good suggestion, and it can be broken just as long as you don’t go too far above it. Plus, we keep changing the speed limits (sin limits) to fit our feelings all the time. Meaning, most people don’t care about the limits God originally put into place at all. They’re speeding along through life without a care and feeling comfortably self-righteous. Meanwhile, God is grieved, and His nail-scarred hands reach for us lovingly.

Centuries of humanistic philosophy and false religion have resulted in a general indifference towards sin.

Most sin is viewed like a speed limit, just a good suggestion, and it can be broken just as long as you don’t go too far above it. Plus, we keep changing the speed limits (sin limits) to fit our feelings all the time.

Most people don’t care about the limits God originally put into place. They’re speeding through life without a care and feeling comfortably self-righteous. Meanwhile, God is grieved, and His nail-scarred hands reach for us lovingly.

Sin is the focal point of the Gospel. Our frail, fallen, finite, sinful human condition required a sacrifice. Since no human born of Adam’s lineage could ever be a perfect sacrifice, God robed Himself in flesh and overshadowed a virgin named Mary. She miraculously conceived the Messiah (God with us) named Jesus. Because Jesus had no earthly father, the Bible refers to Him as the son of God. It is biblically false and theologically inaccurate to consider Jesus to be a preexisting, eternal, coequal, separate being from God the Father. Jesus was the human manifestation of the Father. Jesus answered Phillip’s request to see the Father by saying, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?” (John 14:9, NLT). Our sin, no matter how mild it may seem to our carnal minds, nailed Jesus to the cross. Failure to take our sinfulness seriously is an insult to the suffering of Jesus. Failure to die to our sin is a blatant disregard of the significance of Calvary.

Sin is the focal point of the Gospel. Our frail, fallen, finite, sinful human condition required a sacrifice. Since no human born of Adam’s lineage could ever be a perfect sacrifice, God robed Himself in flesh.

Because Jesus had no earthly father, the Bible refers to Him as the son of God. It is biblically false and theologically inaccurate to consider Jesus to be a preexisting, eternal, coequal, separate being from God the Father.

Jesus was the human manifestation of the Father. Jesus answered Phillip’s request to see the Father by saying, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?” (John 14:9, NLT).

Our sin, no matter how mild it may seem to our minds, nailed Jesus to the cross. Failure to take our sin seriously is an insult to the suffering of Jesus. Failure to die to our sin is a blatant disregard of the significance of Calvary.

Your Tomb Should Be Empty Too

Suppose you boil down every page of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In that case, it’s the story of sin separating us from a loving, intimate relationship with God and God’s love finding a way to draw us out of sin back into a relationship with Him. You see, God’s holy perfection isn’t compatible with our sinful imperfections. Therefore, God made a way for us with His blood to be washed clean and sanctified (made holy). Once you are dead and buried, you’re ready for resurrection. The only reason we know who Jesus is today is because of His resurrection. It’s beautiful that Jesus died for us, but, miraculously, He conquered death for us. Jesus didn’t die for you to die with Him and stay buried. God wants to breathe His Spirit into your lifeless spiritual body and raise you up with the power to be a new person. His tomb is empty, and yours should be too. If you’ve been buried in baptism but haven’t received the Holy Ghost speaking in other tongues, it’s the spiritual equivalent of staying stuck in your tomb. There’s a great song by the Christian group Cain called Rise Up (Lazarus) that says:

Can't you hear the voice of Jesus calling us
Out from the grave like Lazarus
Rise up (like Lazarus) rise up, rise up
Out from the grave like Lazarus
He's calling us to walk out of the dark
He's giving us new resurrected hearts

What a powerful anthem reminding us that Jesus is calling us to resurrection power. There’s no reason to stay dead when Jesus is offering us new life. The new life Jesus offers is wonderful, powerful, abundant, eternal, joyful, purposeful, hopeful, and supernatural. Once you have been filled with the Holy Ghost, you have the ability (power, authority, desire) to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh. Meaning you no longer have to be a slave to sin. It’s not just that you are freed from the penalty of sin, but you can overcome sin. Old chains of sin and temptation can be broken, and you can access liberty in the Spirit.

If you boil down every page of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation; it’s the story of sin separating us from a loving, intimate relationship with God and God’s love finding a way to draw us out of sin back into a relationship with Him.

Jesus didn’t die for you to die with Him and stay buried. God wants to breathe His Spirit into your lifeless spiritual body and raise you up with the power to be a new person. His tomb is empty, and yours should be too.

If you’ve been buried in baptism but haven’t received the Holy Ghost speaking in other tongues, it’s the spiritual equivalent of staying stuck in your tomb.

There’s no reason to stay dead when Jesus is offering us new life. The new life Jesus offers is wonderful, powerful, abundant, eternal, joyful, purposeful, hopeful, and supernatural.

Differing Definitions (Freedom & Bondage)

One of the oddest issues facing our culture is the mishandling of words. Even among “Christians,” we frequently use the same words, but our definitions differ. Two perfect examples are the words “freedom” and “bondage.” Many self-professing “Christians” have accused me of living in bondage because I live a biblical, holy, separated, consecrated, Spirit-led lifestyle. As the Bible teaches, I believe that God saved me from my past sin and calls me to walk in holiness. That doesn’t mean I’ve obtained perfection. He’s definitely still working on me, but it does mean I’m actively walking away from bondage rather than living in bondage to sin. This is what the Bible means when it refers to freedom and liberty. However, many Christians ignore the Bible and redefine freedom from sin as the freedom to sin freely without consequences. In other words, according to their way of thinking, the cross gives them the liberty to keep sinning. Do you see the disparity? We have completely opposite and opposing views of biblical freedom and bondage. Problematically, Christians of all stripes can use the same language but mean totally different things. Therefore, it’s vitally important to narrow down and lock in our definitions. Otherwise, we run the risk of saying things without honest communication taking place. “Grace” and “mercy” are two other words people often misuse, misunderstand, and misdefine (but that’s another subject for another day).

Many Christians ignore the Bible and redefine freedom from sin as the freedom to sin freely without consequences. In other words, according to their way of thinking, the cross gives them the liberty to keep sinning.

Christians of all stripes can use the same language but mean totally different things. It’s vitally important to narrow down and lock in definitions. Otherwise, we run the risk of saying things without honest communication taking place.

The Gospel According to the Bible

Thankfully, God knew defining definitions and homing in on the correct meaning of words would be difficult. Human dishonesty and forgetfulness constantly rearrange connotations. This is precisely the reason God preserved His Word for us in written form. God charges us with the responsibility to rightly (correctly) divide (accurately handling and skillfully teaching) the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Therefore, any information regarding how to be saved from sin and eternal judgment can only come from the Divinely inspired Word of the Lord. Anything else is less reliable than a thirty-day weather forecast. Most Christians agree with the premise that the Gospel must be obeyed according to the Bible. However, many Christians mysteriously misinterpret, add non-biblical elements of tradition, insert opinions, or overlook inconvenient sections of Scripture, diluting the Gospel into something ineffectual. The early New Testament Church certainly would not have recognized most modern gyrations of the “Gospel” presented in churches claiming to be Christian.

Human dishonesty and forgetfulness constantly rearrange connotations. This is precisely the reason God preserved His Word for us in written form.

Many Christians mysteriously misinterpret, add non-biblical elements of tradition, insert opinions, or overlook inconvenient sections of Scripture, diluting the Gospel into something ineffectual.

The early New Testament Church certainly would not have recognized most modern gyrations of the “Gospel” presented in churches claiming to be Christian.

The Gospel Summarized: A Beginning with No End

Salvation begins by acknowledging you need a savior and that Jesus is the only risen Savior (John 3:16, John 1:12, Romans 10:9, Romans 3:23). You must have faith in God and believe that His Word is accurate (Hebrews 11:6, Ephesians 2:8-9, Ephesians 6:16, 1 Corinthians 2:5). Not only are we sinners, but we were born under the grip and curse of human sin (Romans 5:12, Romans 7:14, Psalm 51:5). You must respond to the sorrow you feel over your sin by repenting before God. Repentance is more than “I’m sorry.” Repentance means to turn around and go the other direction. In other words, repentance is the determination and decision to stop sinning (Romans 6:6, Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, Acts 17:30).

Repentance is more than “I’m sorry.” Repentance means to turn around and go the other direction. In other words, repentance is the determination and decision to stop sinning.

Once you have repented of your sin, you are spiritually and symbolically dead and ready for burial (water baptism in Jesus’ name) [Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12, Acts 2:41]. Again, it’s vital to be buried (baptized) exactly as the Bible commands. The word baptism literally means to be “immersed” in something. Just like we wouldn’t sprinkle dirt on a dead body and say burial was complete, we wouldn’t splash water on a dead sinner and call them buried either. Recently, I saw a video of a man being baptized standing in a kiddie pool. The pastor poured a bottle of water over the poor man’s head and pronounced him baptized. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be utterly hilarious.

The word baptism literally means to be immersed in something. Just like we wouldn’t sprinkle dirt on a dead body and say burial was complete, we wouldn’t splash water on a dead sinner and call them buried either.

Because there is so much misinformation surrounding baptism, we need to make three things very clear: One, as already mentioned, you must correctly repent before baptism. Two, you must be wholly immersed (submerged, buried, covered, plunged) in water for the remission (washing away) of your sin. By the way, this is why babies cannot and should not be baptized because a baby can’t understand the Gospel and repent properly. Three, and this one is probably the most important and most debated subject concerning baptism, the person baptizing you must baptize you calling on the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38, Acts 4:12, Acts 10:48, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27). To clarify further, the person baptizing you must not call out the “titles” Father, Son, or Holy Ghost (or any other name or title) because the titles don’t have the saving authority of the name of Jesus. The cleansing power of baptism comes primarily from invoking the name that is above every other name, the name of Jesus. If you have been baptized in a way that is not biblical, you should consider being rebaptized correctly immediately (Acts 19:1-5).

The cleansing power of baptism comes primarily from invoking the Name that is above every other name, the name of Jesus. If you’ve been baptized any other way, you should consider being rebaptized correctly immediately (Acts 19:1-5).

Once you have died and been buried, you are ready to be resurrected (filled with the Holy Ghost). Here’s a little secret, if the Holy Spirit doesn’t resurrect you, eventually, your old flesh will come back to life. In fact, even after you are resurrected, your flesh will keep trying to come back to life (we’ll talk about that next). Without the Holy Ghost, you can’t access newness of life, and you are not a new person in Christ Jesus. Remember, everything about salvation must be done according to the Bible. And, according to the Bible, everyone who receives the Holy Ghost for the very first time will supernaturally speak in tongues (in a language they do not know or understand). Of course, there are many other continuing evidences that a person has been filled with God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22) but speaking in other tongues is the very first evidence God requires (Acts 2:4, Acts 2:38, Acts 10:44-46, Acts 19:6, Mark 16:17, 1 Corinthians 14:2, Acts 19:1-7).

According to the Bible, everyone who receives the Holy Ghost for the very first time will supernaturally speak in tongues (in a language they do not know or understand).

There are many other evidences a person has been filled with God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22) but speaking in other tongues is the very first evidence God requires (Acts 2:4, Acts 10:44-46, Acts 19:6, Mark 16:17, 1 Corinthians 14:2, Acts 19:1-7).

Once you have been resurrected (filled with the Spirit), you are like a newborn baby in the family of God. That’s why we often call it being born again (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:3). At this point, your life is just beginning. It’s an exciting, abundant, wild, scary, adventurous, joyful, powerful, overcoming life walking in the Spirit. Everything changes once you have been filled with the Spirit. God will rearrange you from the inside out. The Bible calls this process of becoming holy like the Lord sanctification. The Holy Spirit will convict, correct, purify, strengthen, empower, and encourage you daily. No area of your life is off-limits to the Spirit. There is nothing the Spirit isn’t allowed to change, rearrange, or eject from your life. Furthermore, there are countless things the Spirit will add to your life that you could not have otherwise. This ongoing process of walking in the Spirit is never-ending. The Gospel is a process with a beginning and no end. It’s a complete restart, do-over, new beginning, lifelong relationship with God. Count the cost in advance because living for God will cost you everything you have, but it will give you more than you could ever imagine. The Gospel isn’t just a checklist you complete and then forget about as you move through life unchanged. No. The Gospel is radically refining, totally transforming, and Divinely disrupting. Walking in the Spirit will take you through the valley of the shadow of death and to mountain peaks of triumph. Life in the Spirit is never boring. And the afterlife benefits are without compare.

Everything changes once you have been filled with the Spirit. God will rearrange you from the inside out. The Bible calls this process of becoming holy like the Lord sanctification.

The Holy Spirit will convict, correct, purify, strengthen, empower, and encourage you daily. No area of your life is off-limits to the Spirit. There is nothing the Spirit isn’t allowed to add, change, rearrange, or eject from your life.

The Gospel is a process with a beginning and no end. It’s a complete restart, do-over, new beginning, lifelong relationship with God. Count the cost in advance because living for God will cost you everything you have, but it will give you more than you could ever imagine.

The Gospel is radically refining, totally transforming, and Divinely disrupting. Life in the Spirit is never boring. And the afterlife benefits are without compare.

Apostolic Voice | Ep. 21 – Buried Alive

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Politically Incorrect Prophets (Speaking Truth In an Age of Timidity)

When modern ears hear words like “prophet” or “ prophecy,” they typically invoke imagery of futuristic predictions or something sensationally mystical. Most people relegate the role of prophecy to the ancient scrolls of the Old Testament. And, prophecy does often involve a God-given vision of the future. Furthermore, the prophetic role certainly seems more prominent in the Old Testament.

To understand the role of prophecy today, we must begin by understanding the ancient prophets’ role. Otherwise, it’s like trying to understand algebra without a rudimentary knowledge of addition. It doesn’t take much casual browsing through Scripture to realize that biblical prophets were intensely controversial, mostly misunderstood, extremely negative, and overwhelmingly politically incorrect.

To understand the role of prophecy today, we must begin by understanding the ancient prophets’ role. Otherwise, it’s like trying to understand algebra without a rudimentary knowledge of addition.

It doesn’t take much casual browsing through Scripture to realize that biblical prophets were intensely controversial, mostly misunderstood, extremely negative, and overwhelmingly politically incorrect.

The Role of Biblical Prophets

Pre-Pentecost prophets were politically incorrect centuries before politically correct speech, and behavior was embedded into mainstream culture. Contrary to what most modern “prophets” peddle, their predictions of future events were rarely rosy. Their predictions were typically terror-inducing warnings straight from the mind of God. Aside from eschatological prophets (like Daniel and Ezekiel), their warnings were anything but vague. Prophets were acutely aware of the looming death penalty if they lied or spoke out of turn (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). God despises false prophets who invoke His authority to speak lies or manipulate people to their own will (Jeremiah 23:9-40).

God despises false prophets who invoke His authority to speak lies or manipulate people to their own will (Jeremiah 23:9-40).

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 was the backdrop that framed the mindset of true men of God. They feared the judgment of God and eschewed the opinions of men. To be sure, that nobility of heart and strength of moral character took a toll. Habakkuk felt abandoned by God (Habakkuk 1:2-11). Jeremiah mourned the prosperity of the wicked and felt the loneliness of being discounted (Jeremiah 12:1-4, Jeremiah 20:8). Elijah longed for death (1 Kings 19:4). Noah succumbed to strong drink after the fulfillment of his prophecy of worldwide judgment (9:21). And, God instructed Hosea to marry an unloving prostitute (Hosea 1:2) and endure a lifetime of heartbreak. Their difficulties and struggles don’t make the prophetic calling particularly compelling. Modern readers glamorize the prophetic life, but the reality described in Scripture is sacred, scary, and sacrosanct. To put it mildly, most people claiming the prophetic gifting have more in common with Balaam than Elisha.

To put it mildly, most people claiming the prophetic gifting have more in common with Balaam than Elisha.

Further convoluting the confusion surrounding prophecy, the definition of prophecy itself is mostly misunderstood. Old Testament prophets did more than predict the future. They bubbled forth the Word of the Lord. They were God’s mouthpiece. They spoke what God spoke regardless of the personal repercussions. They taught they reproved, rebuked, informed, corrected, and did all of this with long-suffering. In other words, they operated much like the preachers described in the book of Acts. That being said, in many ways, all preachers carry the prophetic mantle.

Old Testament prophets did more than predict the future. They bubbled forth the Word of the Lord. They were God’s mouthpiece. They spoke what God spoke regardless of the personal repercussions.

The Role of Apostolic Prophecy

The five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13) is divided into distinctly separate categories by apostolic thinkers. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are usually viewed as non-overlapping roles. Even those who theologically recognize the simplistic nature of this way of thinking revert back to it in practice. However, every New Testament preacher operates with a blending of the five-fold ministries. The prophetic mantle rests on the shoulders of every God-called preacher of the Gospel regardless of official title or position.

Every New Testament preacher operates with a blending of the five-fold ministries. The prophetic mantle rests on the shoulders of every God-called preacher of the Gospel regardless of official title or position.

Modern preachers should be fountains that bubble forth the pure Word of God. They are keepers of the Word and carriers of the cross. They are the original truth to power brokers. Tweaking the Word for convenience is unacceptable in the eyes of God. Refusing to speak the full revelation of God’s Word is a perversion of the prophetic office. To pollute, dilute, or exclude any God-given words for profit is detestable and stirs God’s wrath. I am genuinely concerned that many apostolic preachers are losing the courage to remain righteously counter-cultural and unavoidably politically incorrect. I say “unavoidably” because it’s not possible to be biblically correct and politically correct at the same time. Politically correct preachers are really just biblically incorrect preachers.

Modern preachers should be fountains that bubble forth the pure Word of God. They are keepers of the Word and carriers of the cross. They are the original truth to power brokers

Tweaking the Word for convenience is unacceptable. Refusing to speak the full revelation of God’s Word is a perversion of the prophetic office. To pollute, dilute, or exclude any God-given words for profit stirs God’s wrath.

Politically correct preachers are really just biblically incorrect preachers.

Six Prophetic Tensions

I’d rather eat glass than jump into impossible-to-resolve eschatological debates. And, there’s probably no stickier debate than the question of who the Two Witnesses are in Revelations chapter eleven (Revelation 11:3-12). However, it would be foolish to overlook the appearance of burlap-wearing, fire-breathing, element-controlling, loudly-testifying, plague-inducing, death-defying prophets roaming the streets in the last days. When God calls two witnesses to preach during apocalyptic times, they will be eerily Old Testament in nature. And yet, more often than not, New Testament preachers seem frightfully out of step with the biblical prophetic legacy.

Every self-aware preacher wrestles inwardly with the tension that exists between their human desire to be excepted by men and their calling to be godly counter-cultural mouthpieces. Some bow, some bend, some break, and some refuse to surrender their will to anyone but God. No one desires to be politically incorrect, but it’s the nature of the calling. The truth (especially God’s Truth) is rarely mainstream, annoyingly inconvenient, and stubbornly unchanging. The world desperately needs courageous modern godly mouthpieces that will speak the truth in an age of timidity.

Truth is rarely mainstream, annoyingly inconvenient, and stubbornly unchanging. The world desperately needs courageous modern godly mouthpieces that will speak the truth in an age of timidity.

I’ve noticed six growing tensions developing in the hearts of ministers in my lifetime. Every politically incorrect prophet must win these battles that rage within their hearts and resist the pressure to become just another name on the long list of false prophets. This is a real-life and death, and Heaven versus Hell battle between good and evil. Not only does their eternity hang in the balance, but the souls of their followers do as well. Many have lost their stomach for the fight, others are just learning the importance of the struggle, yet a powerful remnant of true prophetic men of God are stepping to the forefront of spiritual warfare.

1. Truth vs. Timidity

Postmodernism has been eroding the perceived value of truth for at least sixty years. Just calling a biological man a man is considered borderline hate speech in our stupefied society. Peddlers of confusion malign and attack simple voices of reason. Spiritual truths are betrayed, minimized, and shunned by purveyors of moral ambiguity. Preachers are portrayed in pop culture as buffoonish curmudgeons or wild-eyed lunatics. Sometimes, godly truth-tellers are physically punished or stripped of their comforts.

In America, they are silently bullied and quietly derided (at least publicly) in an attempt to intimidate or embarrass them into submission. More and more, western preachers feel the urge to be timid about truth. They fear preaching controversial topics and eventually avoid speaking of the things God cares about altogether. But true men of God choose to shake off the shackles of timidity and speak the truth with boldness (Acts 28:32, Proverbs 28:1, Acts 4:13, Acts 4:31, Ephesians 6:19).

2. Clarity vs. Confusion

God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). True prophets clarify. False prophets confuse and convolute. Genuine preachers aren’t vague, cryptic, or overly speculative in their preaching. If a prophetic preacher generates more confusion than revelation, he’s more than likely a false prophet.

False prophets confuse and convolute. Genuine preachers aren’t vague, cryptic, or overly speculative in their preaching. If a prophetic preacher generates more confusion than revelation, he’s more than likely a false prophet.

3. Conviction vs. Compromise

Have you ever noticed how excruciatingly uncomfortable the Last Supper must have been for the disciples? Judas was on the verge of betraying Jesus, and Jesus was painfully aware of that impending “kiss” of death. Judas was probably acting super strange. Jesus was always perfectly willing to make people squirm. So, naturally, He decided to mention a betrayer was in the room. That little grenade caused a lot of commotion.

As if that wasn’t enough drama for one night, Jesus took the opportunity to warn the disciples about all kinds of discouraging things (John 16:1-4). He told them they would be kicked out of synagogues and become societal outcasts. He even told them they would be killed by people who thought they were doing the work of God. Surely the disciples thought this is the kind of stuff we should have been told a long time ago. And, Jesus perceptively addressed those thoughts by assuring them that even though He was leaving in the flesh, He would remain with them in the Spirit (John 16:5-7).

During this revelatory conversation about the coming of the Holy Ghost, Jesus laid out a description of what the role of the Spirit would be on the earth (John 16:8-11). Jesus didn’t mince words; He said the Holy Spirit would convict people of their sin, reveal their need for righteousness, and warn them of the coming judgment. Notably, conviction is one of the primary roles of the Holy Ghost.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would convict people of their sin, reveal their need for righteousness, and warn them of the coming judgment.

Conviction. Sin. Righteousness. Judgment. All of these are becoming taboo topics. But if these topics are the primary issues the Holy Spirit was sent to address, then preachers who refuse to handle them are not Spirit-filled. Compromising eventually places preachers in the position of actively resisting the work of the Spirit. Essentially, they become an enemy of God.

Compromising eventually places preachers in the position of actively resisting the work of the Spirit. Essentially, they become an enemy of God.

As people search for “safe” spaces, and Truth is viewed more and more as confrontational hate speech, preachers are placed in a precarious situation. The temptation is to avoid conviction and replace it with an ooey-gooey, warm, and fuzzy brand of non-intrusive, conversational preaching. Please understand, there’s rarely a need to be intentionally offensive or off-putting, but God’s Word usually offends carnal sensitivities. Conviction isn’t comfortable, but it’s irreplaceable and indispensable. Preaching conviction is a huge part of the prophetic job description. Prophets who never preach conviction of sin into the hearts of their flock are not prophets at all.

4. Faith vs. Fear

The spirit of antichrist doesn’t care if prophets speak the truth as long as they whisper it in fear and cower in the corner. Anxiety is normal and often justified, but true prophets overcome their fears with faith. They preach fearful things, but they temper it with faith that encourages and edifies. They preach doom and coming judgment, but they also preach that faith will bring us into an eternal relationship with God that is blissful beyond comprehension. Faith and fear are not compatible. One eventually pushes the other out. True prophets allow faith to cast out their fears, and they inspire their followers to do the same.

Faith and fear are not compatible. One eventually pushes the other out. True prophets allow faith to cast out their fears, and they inspire their followers to do the same.

5. Reverence vs. Irreverence

There is a growing sense of irreverence towards spiritual things, even among “religious” people. I believe this is reflected in many ways, including how people dress for church (check out Should We Still Dress Our Best For Church?). Ancient prophets brimmed with righteous reverence for the things of God. They demanded the same from those listening to their divinely inspired words. Modern Christianity must overcome the growing tension between reverence and irreverence in our culture. God will not accept irreverent sacrifices in His name. British theologian Thomas Smail gives an interesting warning in his book The Forgotten Father:

“Abba is not Hebrew, the language of liturgy, but Aramaic, the language of home and everyday life… We need to be wary of the suggestion… that the correct translation of Abba is ‘Daddy.’ Abba is the intimate word of a family circle where that obedient reverence was at the heart of the relationship, whereas Daddy is the familiar word of a family circle from which all thoughts of reverence and obedience have largely disappeared… The best English translation of Abba is simply ‘Dear Father.”

I think Smail was attempting to strike the delicate yet hard to achieve the balance between reverencing God and simultaneously feeling closely connected to God. In the apostolic movement, many have over-corrected away from highly liturgical denominations (like Catholics, Methodists, and Presbyterians) whose reverence is more like a cold indifference, into a mushy “God is my best buddy” mindset. Not only does this endanger reverence, but it also breeds lots of unintended theological fallacies as well.

Modern Christianity must overcome the growing tension between reverence and irreverence in our culture. God will not accept irreverent sacrifices in His name.

6. Power vs. Prosperity

Perhaps, the worst degrading of prophecy has come from the proponents of prosperity theology. The “God will double your money if you send me a thousand dollars right now” crowd. These charlatans, either genuinely or disingenuously, believe that wealth, health, and fame are spiritual success measures. But, ancient biblical prophets were far more concerned with spiritual power than earthly power. They called down fire from heaven while barely having enough food to eat or a place to live. If prosperity theology is correct, the ancient prophets were wildly out of the will of God.

Most people reading this have long ago rejected prosperity theology; however, there is a lingering (unspoken) assumption that struggling preachers are somehow out of God’s favor. This assumption is a subtle trick of the enemy. It’s just another way to shame godly preachers into conforming to the will of the carnal majority. The real measuring stick of apostolic authority isn’t bank accounts. Instead, it’s the manifested power of God. Interestingly, as materialism grows, manifestations of the Spirit decline. Men of God should seek the power of God, not positions or materialistic prosperity. I’m all for the blessings of God, but never at the expense of the power of God.

Conclusion

The household of God is built on the blood-soaked foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). Jesus is the chief cornerstone of that unshakable foundation. Next time you read through the Gospels, pay attention to how astonishingly politically incorrect Jesus was in word and deed. He wasn’t trying to be odd or quirky. It wasn’t a gimmick or a facade that Jesus put on for attention. He just spoke the truth even when it was unwanted.

God is calling a fresh generation of preachers who are willing to be completely unashamed of the Word of God. They will preach without thought for their safety or societal security. They will leave their comfort zones and abandon the shackles that carnal culture wraps around their minds. They will seek to grow the Kingdom of God and not their ministry. They will value the Truth above tolerance and wisdom above worldliness. The spiritual revolution is already beginning; which side of it will you be on?

God is calling a fresh generation of preachers who are willing to be completely unashamed of the Word of God. They will preach without thought for their safety or societal security.

Apostolic Voice Podcast

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Connection vs. Carnality – In Student Ministry

It would be prudent, to begin with, this statement of belief: I believe in solid connection with students while being connected to each student in a unique and individually specific way. I believe and am an advocate for personal, one on one connection. Yet, I think we (student pastors, youth pastors, youth workers) are in danger of blurring the lines of connection and crossing into carnality. Let’s talk about it.

The Field and the Pressure

If we look at student ministry, we will find one of the most significant evangelism fields in the world. In the United States alone, there are 74 million people under the age of 18, which accounts for nearly 25% of the population. It’s not a stretch to say students make up a substantial part and are the driving force of our culture. As adults, we look to teenagers to see what is new, trendy, or popular. While pre-teens look to the 15 to 18-year-old group to see what aspirations they should be entertaining. This reality places a powerful burden of influence in the hands of teenagers.

I have no problem with the fact teenagers can help define and shape culture. In fact, as youth pastors, we should capitalize on this fact and use it to our advantage. If we gather teens and connect with them, if we can help them connect with a spiritual walk with God, then we will, in turn, affect both younger and older generations. However, there is a disturbing trend of blurred lines on how to connect with the current generation. In prayer recently, the Lord put this thought in my mind: “The danger of student ministry is justifying carnality and calling it connection.”

If we gather teens and connect with them, if we can help them connect with a spiritual walk with God, then we will, in turn, affect both younger and older generations.

The danger of student ministry is justifying carnality and calling it connection.

The Danger of Social Media Mirroring

One of the dangers of blurring the line between connection and carnality is social media mirroring. Allow me to explain. I served as an assistant and full-time youth pastor for eight years. During this incredible season of life, my wife, Jessica, and I were privileged to be youth pastor to some of the most amazing students. As we transitioned to Youth Pastor, we felt excitement but also horror in our position. We were committed to reaching our students but also totally “out of touch” with our role as their youth pastor. Our predecessor, Rev. Chadwick Craft, was a phenomenal leader and spiritual guide. We knew we couldn’t fill his shoes, nor were we supposed to fill them. We would need to walk “OUR” path with our giftings and abilities. So, despite Paul warning us about comparison (2 Corinthians 10:1-11), I looked at other student ministry social media accounts and felt instantly demoralized.

I discovered incredible graphics, mind-blowing stage designs, relevant lesson plans, and youth pastors who looked incredibly; yes, I’m old enough to use the word “cool”. My goal was to immediately mirror these ministries by being in schools at lunchtime and being at their events and recitals. I wanted to post pictures of myself with students to prove my connection, my impact on their lives. It was a rush to mirror the “social media success” stories posted daily.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with wanting connection, but here is where the danger came into play. In the rush to mirror student ministry, we became very uncomfortable with the “connection” moments we were seeing and felt pressured to perform. Lunch was a great time to connect with new students, so this continued for us. However, other events began to weigh heavily on us spiritually. As pressure to post and “connect” increased, we joined in, trying to conform to other groups’ pressure, even though they were in other cities with different church cultures. In doing so, we realized our purpose, worship, and witness would quickly become compromised and carnal if we followed these trends.

The Crossroads of Connection and Carnality

The purpose of spending time with a student to witness was quickly becoming time spent at school functions with no spiritual depth. Connection meant being pressured to attend ballgames, chaperone dances, and have student movie nights in place of youth services. The pressure was unreal. I was told, “This is how you do student ministry,” “This is the way to connect with students,” “Meet them where they are… be in the environment they are in, encourage them in the endeavors of school athletics and programs.” “Dress casual.” “Don’t yell so much” (this was in reference to preaching). That pressure to be like other student pastors left me feeling drained spiritually. It felt wrong. It felt carnal.

Daily I was doing my best to have the right haircut, to wear trendy clothes, listen to the right music, and play the right games on my phone. Yet what was happening was wholesale accepting a culture of carnality. My pressured changes were disingenuous and created a false narrative of who I was and what an apostolic youth group should become. It was time to take a step back and review where we were as a group, where we were spiritually, and where God wanted us to go. We began to search diligently for authentic connection, and in doing so, realized several truths:

  • Students do not care about trendy clothes, as long as someone cares about them.
  • Students do not care if I play the games they play, as long as I spend time with them.
  • Students didn’t care if I was at a sporting event if we were there to weep with them while in an altar.
  • The only person who cared if I was “cool” was other youth workers.
  • Carnal connection was not what God intended; Spiritual connection is what was going to be the difference-maker in their lives.

Students do not care about trendy clothes, as long as someone cares about them.

Students do not care if you play the games they play, as long as you spend time with them.

Students don’t care if you are at a sporting event if you are there to weep with them in an altar.

Genuine connection comes from sitting down and connecting over shared interests. If the interest is carnal, then the connection by proxy will also be carnal. How, then, could real connection happen in carnal environments?

The Case for Genuinly Apostolic Connection

Please receive this in the spirit in which it’s written. We need apostolic student pastors to be apostolic. The wholesale acceptance of involvement in sports, proms, accepting worldly artists who are suddenly “Christian” is not only dangerous but flies in the face of the Scriptures command: Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you (2 Corinthians 6:17).

Do you see the danger? It starts so simply, “I am trying to connect with them. I am trying to connect them to Jesus. If I host a movie night, we have common ground. If we listen to traditionally ungodly artists who suddenly find salvation, we show them how to accept new converts. We must dress casually so they will be comfortable. We must like their posts, so they know we approve.”

While all of these arguments seem valid, each of them draws a very fine line between connection and simply being carnal. We should connect with students. We should lead them to Jesus. We should teach them to accept new converts. But, to do these things without maintaining a clear apostolic voice is simply justifying carnal behavior under the guise of connection. 

It is time. We must shift our focus and become more focused on SPIRITUAL connection, not carnal connection. Should we be present when we can? Should we have P7 clubs and CMI chapters? Should we visit students at school during lunches or breaks? Absolutely, YES! Should we be at their ballgames, dances, and carnal events? Decidedly, the answer would be no. Because in doing so, we are giving permission for their involvement in these carnal events. Our presence equals permission in the minds of teens.

We must shift our focus and become more focused on SPIRITUAL connection, not carnal connection.

Student ministers are pressured on so many fronts: Host movie nights, institute casual approaches to dress codes in service, accept secular artists’ new Christian albums, like posts on Facebook of students going to prom while dressed ungodly and involved in unacceptable activities. Liking carnal posts (pics of ungodly dress or worldly music in an IG story) is like giving a high five to a drowning person. It says I see you drowning, but I don’t love you enough to make you uncomfortable by pulling you out.

Liking carnal posts (pics of ungodly dress or worldly music in an IG story) is like giving a high five to a drowning person. It says I see you drowning, but I don’t love you enough to make you uncomfortable by pulling you out.

Youth group movie night should never happen in an apostolic youth group. It is shocking to see movie nights’ acceptance as not just a fringe idea but being accepted and lauded by many student pastors. In an effort to connect with students by watching movies, we are teaching them to look towards the world for their spiritual lessons and morality. This thinking is a significant error because the Bible is the only guidebook we should use to find our moral compass.

Connecting with students by watching movies, teaches them to look towards the world for their spiritual lessons and morality. This is a significant error because the Bible is the only guidebook we should use to find our moral compass.

Snoop and Kanye suddenly becoming “Christian” does not mean we should immediately play their music in youth service. I’m thankful they are moving in the right direction; their private lives reflect their true nature. Smoking weed, calling themselves yeezus, and the other filthy and frankly barbaric lifestyles they entertain should be reason enough to keep them blacklisted from Apostolic environments.

Apostolic Precedence Over Pressure

Paul connected not by taking new converts to the coliseum or the Olympic games, but by prayer, fasting, and house to house studying the Word of God together. He got them involved in the field! As student pastors, we only get 45-50 hours of connection with them each year in youth service. If you are lucky and have a small group on Sundays, then maybe another 45-50 hours. Above all else, our connections must be viewed as the single most important hour of their lives. That connection must be apostolic.

Paul connected not by taking new converts to the coliseum or the Olympic games, but by prayer, fasting, and house to house studying the Word of God together.

So, what does true apostolic connection look like? It starts with daily prayer and study personally. Daily prayer and Bible study sets the mind and spirit on a path of biblical connection personally and focuses your vision through a spiritual lens. As a gentle reminder, you get what you preach, but who you are is what you produce. This personal devotion aligns you with God as you move through the day. Once you have prayed through, next, you must be honest. Honest with yourself. Is there anything slipping in which promotes carnality and not Christ? If so, be honest with yourself… and change it.

Daily prayer and Bible study sets the mind and spirit on a path of biblical connection personally and focuses your vision through a spiritual lens.

As a gentle reminder, you get what you preach, but who you are is what you produce.

Our Experience and Positive Change

We cut out all of the fluff. We stopped trying to be the “textbook” student pastor. Instead, we began to focus on prayer. Our group was running 79 students when we decided to do an event we called The Hunger Event. It was a simple call to fasting and prayer. We would fast together as a group from Friday at 7 am until Saturday at 7 am. We would meet at the church and pray from 7 pm until 7 am and break our fast together.

We announced this: If you want to play basketball, that will happen next week. If you want to play video games, please don’t be offended, but we won’t be playing games. If you aren’t serious about growth, no worries, we love you… but this event isn’t for you.

The night of the event, we had a sign-in sheet. Ninety-three students signed in by 7 pm. (remember, we were averaging 79 in service). I cannot adequately describe the move of God we experienced. From this meeting, we began a very intentional plan to connect. We promoted prayer as the premier event on our calendar. It was our way of common connection. We preached about prayer. We preached about being apostolic. We promoted prayer and apostolic lifestyle as we would a giveaway. It became the fundamental pressure applied by our team.

We would meet one on one with students and be honest with them about music, lifestyle changes needed but also the importance of being a disciple. We didn’t run an errand alone. If we had to go out of our way to pick up a student to pick up dry cleaning, we did. We became rabid in our connection. We were staying in their texts, calling them, showing up at school or work. Always, every meeting was an encouragement for them to stay connected to God and us.  

It was during this season we began to tell them how God wanted to use them. We shifted all connection, all narrative, to being a worshipper and a witness. Every action had to fit those criteria in some way. It was tough. It was different. But in eight months, we grew from 79 in youth service to 135. We taught a dozen bible studies a month because our connection was based on their spiritual growth. True connection focuses on their spiritual growth and accepting the responsibility to be the Apostolic Voice in their lives.

True student ministry connection focuses on their spiritual growth and accepting the responsibility to be the Apostolic Voice in their lives.

Final Word and Witness

Titus 1:16 is, frankly, very heavy. But it’s a Scripture that stands out. It defines or should define our interactions and connection. It warns about blurring the line between carnality and connection. Paul says (and I’m paraphrasing), they say its connection in relationship, but actually what they are doing is in opposition to His nature; it is unthinkable and unlawful. It makes their work worthless.

They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Titus 1:16

It is in us to fall into the trap of carnal connections. It is an easy snare to fall into, yet it is my desire for someone to read this and realize our connection to students can be deeper and more impactful. I beg you, evaluate how you connect. Filter it through the fact; you have a biblical mandate to be unapologetically apostolic. If you connect them to the Spirit first, God will honor this and bring multiplication to the ministry you serve.

Apostolic Voice Podcast | Listen Now

Darrell Bates is married to his incredible and sweet wife, Jessica. They have been married twelve years. Currently, they serve as Youth President of the UPCI Mississippi District and evangelize full-time. They served in Youth Ministry for nearly fifteen years at First Pentecostal Church in Jackson, MS, and eight years in the MS District Youth department. They both love coffee, reading, and being with students. You can connect with them on Facebook here.

COVID Carnality (The Cause & Cure)

Pastors are doing their best to navigate the confusing and challenging impacts of COVID in the way they best see fit for their entire congregation’s needs. They are looking at the needs and concerns of the whole flock. Yet, pastors are (as always) scrutinized and judged from the comfortable armchairs of sideliners who do not bear the same burdens of responsibility. Furthermore, trying to balance a local flock’s physical and spiritual needs is tricky, to say the least. Universally speaking, most churches have faced unprecedented physical sickness, psychological trauma, and spiritual fallout over the past year. There isn’t a perfect solution to each of these problems. Anyone who says differently is either lying or very foolish. Aside from the actual dangers of COVID (we can argue later about the real depth of the physical risks), a spiritual danger is lurking that I call “COVID-Carnality.”

COVID-Carnality: Cause & Effect

For some, COVID revealed hidden pockets of pre-COVID spiritual sicknesses. For others, the tragic spiritual side-effects of COVID weakened them spiritually (or worse), and they are struggling with sinful symptoms and conditions they would not have encountered otherwise. Joblessness, fear, uncertainty, lack of vibrant community, limited fellowship opportunities, stifled church gatherings, inhibited worship, canceled conferences and meetings, impersonal online worship, and adjusted service schedules continue to take a spiritual toll on us all.

For some, COVID revealed hidden pockets of pre-COVID spiritual sicknesses. For others, the tragic spiritual side-effects of COVID weakened them spiritually (or worse).

I certainly hoped writing about COVID in this new year would be unnecessary. We all prayed fervently that we would not be dealing with yet another wave of COVID. Like you, I’m tired of hearing about COVID, talking about COVID, and thinking about COVID. As someone who has walked personally with many individuals through COVID, I’ve learned that almost nothing about the virus makes sense. I’ve known of perfectly healthy people dying and tremendously unhealthy people surviving the virus. COVID is a death sentence for some people, and for others, it’s little more than the seasonal flu. I don’t say this to stoke fear but instead, as a reminder that circumstances force spiritual leaders on the ground to make big picture decisions armed with more information than Monday morning quarterbacks.

In Defense of Pastors

With that in mind, I sense a renewed need to lift pastors’ hands and support them in their decisions. Many pastors have made decisions that differed from what I considered best for my local church. However, I firmly believe they are striving diligently to do what is right in their local context. Even in rare situations where pastors made decisions that, in hindsight, turned out to be imperfect, I give them grace for all kinds of reasons. One, often the “facts” they had were convoluted at best. Two, grace is a vital part of the Christian faith (Ephesians 4:29). Three, their motives were pure. Four, we need unity more than ever before. And five, circumstances change so quickly that yesterday’s right decision becomes tomorrow’s wrong decision.

Saints who abandon or attack their pastor from within during this season are a disgrace to the Kingdom of God. Truth preaching pastors who verbally attack other truth preaching pastors COVID-related leadership during this season are foolish, unwise, and ungodly. Those statements might sound harsh, but the truth always sounds offensive to ears suffering from COVID-Carnality. I realize carnality is not a new problem. However, covert and overt carnality has exponentially increased over the past year.

Saints who abandon or attack their pastor from within during this season are a disgrace to the Kingdom of God.

Truth preaching pastors who verbally attack other truth preaching pastors COVID-related leadership during this season are foolish, unwise, and ungodly.

Carnality is not a new problem. However, covert and overt carnality has exponentially increased over the past year.

COVID-Carnality: Spiritual Symptoms

Studies show that addictions (of all kinds), pornography, rated M Netflix viewing, domestic disturbances, child abuse, molestations, harmful self-medicating, and more are at all-time highs. My anecdotal experiences reveal that unusual levels of carnality are running rampant even within apostolic churches. People who are usually wise are making foolish decisions. Strange sins of perversion are on the rise. Out-of-character attitude issues are being manifested outwardly in the lives of saints. It’s often difficult to tell if these problems are just being exacerbated by COVID or as a direct result of COVID-induced carnality. In other words, is COVID the cause or the revealer? Likely, we’ll never really know for sure. However, I believe it’s a blend of both, depending on the situation.

Studies show that addictions (of all kinds), pornography, rated M Netflix viewing, domestic disturbances, child abuse, molestations, harmful self-medicating, and more are at all-time highs.

Unusual levels of carnality are running rampant within apostolic churches. Wise people are making foolish decisions. Strange sins of perversion are on the rise. Out-of-character attitude issues are being manifested in the lives of saints.

Private Prayerlessness Diagnosed

Just recognizing COVID-Carnality is hardly helpful. However, the sickness must be diagnosed before the cure can be prescribed. Now that we’ve identified the spiritual virus, we can talk about solutions. For example, while prayer gatherings are essential, COVID is revealing the private prayerlessness of saints. Anemic personal prayer lives left the door wide open for COVID-Carnality. Far too many saints were utterly dependent on corporate prayer gatherings. They barely made it from prayer meeting to prayer meeting, and they had no real prayer times between corporate gatherings. Even worse, while in those church prayer meetings, they were mooching off the anointing of a handful of godly prayer warriors in their midst. Meaning, they didn’t know how to touch God for themselves, so they needed others to usher in the anointing on their behalf.

Prayer gatherings are essential, COVID is revealing the private prayerlessness of saints. Anemic personal prayer lives left the door wide open for COVID-Carnality.

The solution is simple yet profound at the same time; our churches need a revival of private prayer closets. I fervently believe in the gathering together of the Church for prayer, worship, and the Word. But the assembling of saints is not a substitute for personal spiritual disciplines. In Matthew 6:5-13, Jesus teaches about prayer during His famed sermon on the mount. He instructs us not to imitate the hypocrites’ prayer lives: …when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:5). Jesus wasn’t telling us that we should never pray together or in public, but He was stressing the importance of private prayer that isn’t contrived. The hypocritical Pharisees loved public prayer but shunned private prayer. Their reward wasn’t the blessings of God but the accolades of men.

Our churches need a revival of private prayer closets. I fervently believe in the gathering together of the Church for prayer, worship, and the Word. But the assembling of saints is not a substitute for personal spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual Vaccination

Jesus continued saying: …when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:6). Private prayer has public results. Again, we have tons of Bible mandating corporate prayer, but Jesus carefully taught us that corporate prayer must be an extension of our secret prayer lives. While giving us an example of how to pray, Jesus said: And lead (bring) us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen (Matthew 6:13, Amplified Bible). Do you see it? Our private prayers should invite God to deliver us and guide us away from temptation. Consistent personal prayer is a vital component in the vaccine against COVID-carnality.

Private prayer has public results (Matthew 6:6). We have tons of Bible mandating corporate prayer, but Jesus carefully taught us that corporate prayer must be an extension of our secret prayer lives.

Our private prayers should invite God to deliver us and guide us away from temptation. Consistent personal prayer is a vital component in the vaccine against COVID-carnality.

Adding Diligence to Divine Promises

“May grace (God’s favor) and peace (which is perfect well-being, all necessary good, all spiritual prosperity, and freedom from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts) be multiplied to you in [the full, personal, precise, and correct] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue). By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature. For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence), And in [exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control, and in [exercising] self-control [develop] steadfastness (patience, endurance), and in [exercising] steadfastness [develop] godliness (piety), And in [exercising] godliness [develop] brotherly affection, and in [exercising] brotherly affection [develop] Christian love. For as these qualities are yours and increasingly abound in you, they will keep [you] from being idle or unfruitful unto the [full personal] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). For whoever lacks these qualities is blind, [spiritually] shortsighted, seeing only what is near to him, and has become oblivious [to the fact] that he was cleansed from his old sins”.

2 Peter 1:2-9, Amplified Bible

I hope you read that entire passage because it gives the final additives to spiritual vaccination against COVID-Carnality. First, the apostle Peter defines godly peace as the absence of moral conflicts. Perfect peace comes from God as a result of godliness. The Divine power of God comes through the correct knowledge of Jesus. Understanding who God is and knowing Him invites His favor and power into our lives. We can’t know God without faith. We know God through faith, and He gives us all the things needed to serve Him properly. Remembering the promises of God is crucial to maintaining faith, which is the opposite of carnality. The ultimate promise of God is that we will be with the Lord in Heaven for eternity. When we sincerely long for that promise, it takes our affections off the things of this world. The knowledge of God and His promises are achieved through prayer, Bible study, and spiritual discipline. Remembering the promises of God helps us escape the moral decay of this world.

The ultimate promise of God is that we will be with the Lord in Heaven for eternity. When we sincerely long for that promise, it takes our affections off the things of this world.

The knowledge of God and His promises are achieved through prayer, Bible study, and spiritual discipline. Remembering the promises of God helps us escape the moral decay of this world.

The apostle Peter implores us to diligently remember the promises of God, which increases our faith. Then Peter goes on to list the final additives to the ingredients of spiritual vaccination from carnality. Add to your faith virtue (moral excellence). Add to virtue knowledge (of good and evil). Add to knowledge temperance (self-control). Add to temperance patience (steadfastness, endurance). Add to patience godliness. Add to godliness brotherly affection. Add to brotherly affection charity (love). As we add these things into our lives, our faith becomes effective and productive. Those who fail to add these things to God’s promises diligently are shortsighted and forgetful of their old sins. They are highly susceptible to COVID-Carnality and in great danger of falling away from God.

“So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”.

2 Peter 1:10-11, New Living Translation

Continued COVID-Carnality Vaccination

The vaccination against carnality is a constant process. But it’s not something your pastor or anyone else can do for you. To be sure, God designed the Church to help us and strengthen us in this process. But having church is no substitute for prayer and diligent faith. Whether or not COVID caused or effected current carnality matters little in the grand scheme of things. What matters now is that we vaccinate ourselves from carnality moving forward. God can turn this into good and usher in great revival if we learn how to serve Him in this season. Perhaps God is preparing the Church for victory by sifting the carnal out from among us much as He did for Gideon at the spring of Herod (Judges 7:1-8). At that spring, God dwindled Gideon’s army down to 300 men by separating the fearful and less watchful from the rest. I pray God doesn’t have to sift us down that drastically. Either way, let’s commit ourselves to fearless faith and a careful posture so we can be a part of the astonishing things God is about to accomplish.

Perhaps God is preparing the Church for victory by sifting the carnal out from among us much as He did for Gideon at the spring of Herod (Judges 7:1-8).

God dwindled Gideon’s army down to 300 men by separating the fearful and less watchful from the rest. Let’s commit ourselves to fearless faith and a careful posture so we can be a part of the astonishing things God is about to accomplish.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ… | Podcast Edition

From the original blog article, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ… this episode examines what genuine repentance looks like from a Christmas perspective. Topics covered: Holiness, repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the Holy Ghost’s infilling. Ryan looks at the winter’s perceptual dichotomy in the natural, repentance in the spiritual, and the cross of Christ. Christmas readings included: If Jesus Came to Your House and The Christmas Guest, two classics that are sure to warm your heart. So, from my family to yours… Merry Christmas!

Ep. 27 | 9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them Apostolic Voice with Ryan French

From the original article at http://www.ryanafrench.com called 9 Types of Church Services, Ryan discusses the different ways the Spirit moves in our gatherings. This episode explores the nuances of the Holy Ghost and why we should be sensitive and available to those different operations within the Church (more specifically in our local church). Also, Ryan concludes the program with two poems by Kevin Smith Max (formerly of DC Talk) called At the Foot of Heaven and Of Dogs & Whistles. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/support
  1. Ep. 27 | 9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them
  2. Ep. 26 | Four Problems Preacher's Kids Face with Talmadge French (My Son)
  3. Ep. 25 | BONUS Recitation – A Poem by Scott Cairns
  4. Ep. 24 | Have Tongues Ceased? Does Everyone Need to Speak In Tongues? What Can Elijah Teach Us About Evangelism Today? Three Common Things That Keep People From Speaking In Tongues
  5. Ep. 23 | Been Hurt By A Pastor? – 8 Reasons You Should Stop Talking About It

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ…

I love the Christmas season, and I love Christmas music too. I’m one of those annoying people who starts listening to Christmas music way too early. One of my favorite slightly frivolous Christmas ditty’s is It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. Penned in 1951 by Meredith Wilson, it’s been a holiday staple since its first iconic release. You’ve most likely heard it played many times. Admittedly, at first glance, at least, it isn’t the most Christ-centered Christmas tune. But its catchy melody is fun and family-friendly.

I recently heard It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, and it lodged in my brain and would not let go. We had a few snow dribbles that same day so that imagery combined with the song created a memorable Christmassy scene, which is a rarity in Atlanta. The song paints vivid word pictures of how stores, streets, hotels, landscapes, and people begin to show the not-so-subtle signs of transforming in preparation and anticipation of Christmas. Stores glisten, and streets glow, and kids hope. People’s visages visibly change, and winter snow dominates the scenery. The atmosphere described is beautiful, happy, transcendent, expectant, and surrounded by death.

It’s A Wonderful Death

Epiphany blindsided me on that wintery day as It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas jangled around in my brain. While we’re beginning to look a lot like Christ, we are inevitably surrounded by the transformative beauty of death. Winter is the season of the completion of death. Throughout the fall season, leaves struggle to stay alive, and vegetation does its best to hold on, but winter finally wins, and old things pass away in preparation for new life. Philosophically, there’s a strange perceptual dichotomy at play in wintertime.

On the one hand, we can view winter as stark, harsh, and bleak. But, on the other hand, glowing lanes, candy canes, church bells, and carolers out in the snow can change our wintery perspective. All the joy mingled with the austerity of winter might seem enigmatic. However, it isn’t because we know the cold will give way to warmth, and new life will bloom in springtime. The inevitability of death precedes the miracle of life in the natural order of the universe.

The Visible Image of the Invisible Maker

The universe’s ability to produce new life from death isn’t by accident. The Maker of the universe designed it that way (Psalm 104:19), and He mirrored that same spiritual law in the lives of human beings. The invisible Maker visibly manifested Himself in the form of man and became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (Colossians 1:15-23). Because our sins deserved physical and spiritual death, He willingly died in our place (Romans 6:21-23).

The invisible Maker visibly manifested Himself in the form of man and became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (Colossians 1:15-23).

The cross displays a more remarkable perceptual dichotomy than anything else imaginable. Calvary was a gruesome, bloody, agonizing, humiliating scene ending in the unjust execution of a guiltless man. Yet, it was the most beautiful sight the world has ever seen because it symbolizes God’s profound personal love for us (Romans 5:8). In return, all Jesus requires of us is our death, burial, and resurrection (Philippians 3:10, Romans 6:3-8, Acts 3:19). Thankfully, we don’t have to die or be resurrected from a grave physically. Our death, burial, and resurrection are spiritual events made possible by the work of Jesus on our behalf (Acts 2:38).

Calvary was a gruesome, bloody, agonizing, humiliating scene ending in the unjust execution of a guiltless man. Yet, it was the most beautiful sight the world has ever seen because it symbolizes God’s profound personal love for us.

The Very Beginning of Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ

The Bible repeatedly teaches us that before we can have new life in Christ, we must die. Old things – ways, habits, lifestyles, mindsets, ideas – need to pass away (2 Corinthians 5:17). Those old things don’t die naturally, so we crucify them with repentance (Romans 6:6). We brutally nail our sinfully embedded affections and lusts to a cross and allow them to perish (Galatians 5:24). God doesn’t force us to do this either. Furthermore, our carnal flesh hates the idea of dying to self.

Before we can have new life in Christ, we must die. Old things – ways, habits, lifestyles, mindsets, ideas – need to pass away (2 Corinthians 5:17). Those old things don’t die naturally, so we crucify them with repentance (Romans 6:6).

Repentance is the only part of salvation that we must do completely alone. At baptism, someone else baptizes us in the saving name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). We consent to be baptized, and we participate in baptism, but we don’t perform it. Dead people don’t bury themselves because they are dead. Likewise, when we are filled with the Holy Ghost, which is our spiritual resurrection, we can’t fill ourselves (Acts 11:15). God pours out His Spirit on us and dwells within us (Acts 2:1-4, Ezekiel 36:27). Once again, we are merely participating and consenting to a Divine process. Repentance is the gateway that leads to baptism and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Without repentance, a person just gets wet at baptism, and without repentance, God will not give us His Spirit.

Repentance is the gateway that leads to baptism and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Without repentance, a person just gets wet at baptism, and without repentance, God will not give us His Spirit.

Hidden with Christ (From Life to Death to Life)

When we repent of our sins, we are willingly offering our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). And that isn’t a one-time thing. Authentic repentance is a commitment to pick up our cross and regularly die to sin (Luke 9:23, Romans 6:1-23, Matthew 10:28, Colossians 2:20). When Jesus commanded us to carry our cross daily (Matthew 16:24-26), it was a reminder to take the burden of repentance with us at all times. Why? Because continual death to sin releases joy, abundant life, power, self-control, and authority in Christ (John 10:10, 2 Timothy 1:7, Acts 1:8, John 14:12). Consider what Paul said to the church in Colossae:

“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:3

Just as Christ became literally dead in the tomb, so we, by virtue of our connection with Christ, have become dead to sin, to worldly influences, pleasures, and ambition. Or, in other words, we are to be to them as if we were dead, and they had no more influence over us than the things of earth had over Him in the grave.[i]

But what does it mean to be “hidden” with Christ in God? Certainly, Paul was alluding to the idea of secrecy and safety in God. Our life and salvation are secure in God when we are dead to sin. But we are not literally hidden from the view of the world. No. The meaning here goes deeper than merely being out of sight. The term hidden (kekruptai) can also mean “concealed.” The implication here is that our life is unknown or not understood by the watching world. But these unseen realities will be revealed to the world by God in due time (1 John 3:1-2).[ii] The spiritual death of a sinner produces a saint that is continuously misunderstood by sinners.

When we repent, we are willingly offering our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1). That isn’t a one-time thing. Authentic repentance is a commitment to pick up our cross and regularly die to sin (Lk 9:23, Rom 6:1-23, Mat 10:28, Col 2:20).

When Jesus commanded us to carry our cross daily, it was a reminder to take the burden of repentance with us at all times. Because continual death to sin releases joy, abundant life, power, self-control, and authority in Christ.

Just as Christ became literally dead in the tomb, so we, by virtue of our connection with Christ, have become dead to sin, to worldly influences, pleasures, and ambition.

The spiritual death of a sinner produces a saint that is continuously misunderstood by sinners.

The Prettiest Sight to See

Therefore, as we begin to look a lot like Christ, which is what we are called to do (1 John 2:6, Galatians 3:27, Philippians 2:5), the dead weights of sin begin to fall off the branches of our lives (Hebrews 12:1, John 15:5, Romans 13:12, Ephesians 4:22-25). When the leaves of sin are falling one by one, we know that a joyous death is about to take place, and winter is coming. Old habits take their last gulps of air, fear and condemnation lie on their death beds, carnal thinking is being transformed, sinful dysfunctional relationships are severing, as the joy of salvation and holiness begin to take root amidst the chill. The death is harsh, tear-soaked, unrelenting, yet it’s one of the prettiest sights to see because Christ’s image is being made manifest in human life.


[i] Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 24986.

[ii] Max Anders, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians & Colossians, ed. Max Anders, vol. 8 of Holman New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 1999), 327.

What About Hell? – Everything You Need to Know

Satan’s Hellish Scheme

If I were Satan and wanted to influence people to be less concerned about their eternal soul, I would stir up lots of confusion about Hell. And, that is what he’s done. Hell was a relatively non-controversial doctrine for centuries. It’s one of only a handful of universally agreed-upon doctrines in history. Of course, post-modernism is defined by disagreement and predisposed to disregard Truth. So, it shouldn’t surprise us that Hell became a hotly contested, controversial theology. However, Satan’s misinformation campaign is silently creeping its way into apostolic thinking like a spider stalking prey. This confusion about Hell is deeply concerning, and it’s time to shed some light on Satan’s hellish scheme.

Why Are People Confused About Hell?

Before we dive into specific false doctrines, we need to understand why we’re having this problem in the first place. Somehow, preaching about Hell became taboo. I believe this happened and is happening for several reasons: 1) Preachers are unprepared to defend the paradox of God’s love and judgment. 2) Preachers are afraid modern hearers can’t handle the truth about Hell. 3) Some preachers haven’t “settled” a theology about Hell in their hearts. 4) Preachers are afraid of being labeled wild-eyed lunatics. 5) Many ministers don’t believe in “scaring” people into Heaven. 6) They sense that Hell is a taboo subject and simply give in to peer pressure. 7) Some preachers wanted to distance themselves from genuinely distasteful, hellfire preachers. 8) Preachers are being influenced by mainstream misinformation about Hell that isn’t rooted in solid biblical exegesis. When preachers are silent, saints become vulnerable to every wind of false doctrine.

Sadly, saints ingest lots of false doctrine via “Christian” television, radio, social media, and literature. They read, see, and hear misinformation all the time. Christians who are not comfortable seeking out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) are highly susceptible to believing misinformation about Hell (or anything else for that matter). It’s easy to blame preachers; however, saints are responsible for growing in God’s Word themselves without being spoon-fed every vital thing from a minister. Listen to the frustration in the Apostle Paul’s writings as he reprimands saints in the following passage for their lack of biblical knowledge and understanding:

” …you have become dull in your [spiritual] hearing and sluggish [even slothful in achieving spiritual insight]. For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others, you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word. You have come to need milk, not solid food. For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]! But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law (Hebrews 5:11-14, Amplified Bible).”

Finally, the Devil knows his time is limited. He’s intensifying and strategically honing his attacks. Although Revelation 12:12 is speaking of a future event prophetically, it gives insight into how the Devil operates: …rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the Devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (Revelation 12:12). When Satan is running out of time, he hits harder. Time itself is wrapping up, and even if the Church isn’t fully aware of it, the Devil is.

Why Does It Matter What People Believe Concerning Hell?

Technically, it might be possible to have an incorrect understanding of Hell and be saved, but false doctrine damages other essential areas of our walk with God. For example, if Hell isn’t a real, painful, never-ending place, why in the world would we need to evangelize? Without a correct belief in the horrors of Hell, we are unlikely to carry a real burden for the lost or take the Great Commission seriously (Matthew 28:18-20). After all, what do people need to be saved from in the first place?

It is correct that people are not likely to be terrified into a good relationship with God. However, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10). That word fear is best-translated reverence. Which means awe mingled with healthy fear. I respectfully submit that our culture (religious and non-religious) has lost its sense of reverence for God. Wisdom begins with fear, which leads to a proper understanding of God (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10). We can’t know God without reverence (fear mingled with awe). An improper view of Hell results in a wrong knowledge of God. All false doctrines have ever-expanding unintended consequences. So, while it might be correct that people will not serve God long-term out of fear because ultimately, we must fall in love with the Lord, the beginning of our relationship with God must include some healthy fear. If we bypass reverence on the way to love, our walk with God will be off-balance.

If we bypass reverence on the way to love, our walk with God will be off-balance.

The Terror of the Lord!

Consider this passage of Scripture where the Apostle Paul speaks briefly of death: …to be absent from the body, … [is] to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). He continues by saying that we labor to be present with the Lord in death (2 Corinthians 5:9). Then Paul pens these politically incorrect words:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God… (2 Corinthians 5:10-11).”

Paul is carefully emphasizing that we will all stand before the Lord in judgment for the things we have done in this life. And, because we have this holy fear of God, we are motivated to reach people with the Gospel so they can stand before the Lord blamelessly. Genuine Christians are highly determined to reach lost people because they understand the fearsome judgment of God. If God’s adjudication is not dreadful, there is little reason to feel an urgency about evangelism. Indeed, it makes sense Satan would create an aura of confusion around the subjects of God’s wrath and Hell.

We All Need A Healthy Fear of Hell

Look at this often-overlooked passage where Jesus startles His audience:

Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into Hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear (Luke 12:4-5, New Living Translation).”

I love how Jesus started gently and then… Wham! He pounced like an old-time preacher (actually the old-timers were preaching like Jesus), telling them to fear God and shun Hell. The word throw could also be translated hurl, which gives a little more gravitas to the message: …Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then hurl you in Hell…. Yeah! That’s pretty terrifying. But Jesus didn’t end the sermon with fire and brimstone. He gave us a beautiful example to follow in our preaching and teaching. Watch how Jesus brought that gut-wrenching thought back around to the overwhelming love of God:

What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows (Luke 12:6-7, New Living Translation).”

This snippet of Jesus’ preaching shows us precisely how to strike a balance between fearing and loving God. Indeed, as we realize just how majestically awesome God is, we grow to love Him more. But if one views God as the great-big-cuddly-teddy-bear in the sky, one is more likely to disrespect and disobey God. It can’t be helped; we keep circling back around to Proverbs: …the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10). We all need to begin and end with a healthy dose of fear. We just can’t be saved if we don’t fear God and Hell.

Common False Doctrines About Hell: Metaphorical View

The metaphorical view of Hell is growing in popularity despite its lack of biblical support. In the metaphorical doctrine, the unsaved will spend eternity in Hell. But the extreme pain and environmental conditions described in the Bible are not interpreted literally. The biblical descriptions of fire, heat, bondage, darkness, thirst, worms, pain, flogging, fire, etc. are considered symbolic. Proponents of this doctrine believe separation from God to be the ultimate pain of eternity. To them, the only agony endured in Hell will be the agony of complete Divine divorce. As Billy Graham once stated: I have often wondered if Hell is a terrible burning within our hearts for God, to fellowship with God, a fire that we can never quench. Billy Graham leaned towards the metaphorical view of Hell.

Common False Doctrines About Hell: Purgatorial View

The Roman Catholic Church is unique its purgatorial view of Hell. According to this doctrine, everyone is judged by God immediately after death. Only a small minority of saints will go directly into Heaven. God will send most people to purgatory, a place of punishment (basically a temporary Hell). Most Catholics believe that people are released by God from purgatory into Heaven after a certain length of time. Purgatory is like a cosmic prison sentence ending with a ticket into paradise. There is not one iota of Scripture supporting this false view of Hell.

Common False Doctrines About Hell: There Is No Hell

A small minority of Christians claim there is no Hell at all. In their doctrine, unsaved people cease to exist at death. They incorrectly cite Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord. They interpret this Scripture to mean that death is the ultimate and final wage of sin. They are fond of saying death always means literal death in the Bible, and therefore Hell as a place should never be taken literally.

However, they overlook Luke 15:24: For this son of mine was dead and is alive again (New International Version). They ignore the symbolic use of life and death repeatedly used in Romans 7. Also, they fail to contend with Scriptures like Genesis 2:17: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. In this passage, God was speaking directly to Adam and Eve. We know Adam and Eve eventually did the exact thing God told them not to do, but they didn’t instantly fall over dead. Did God lie to them? Of course not, they died spiritually on that fateful day, and literal death entered into the world as an inescapable reality.

All this and more affirms safely interpreting Romans 6:23 to mean the wages of sin is spiritual death and eventual literal physical death. However, even if you are uncomfortable with this interpretation of Romans 6:23, it does nothing to prove Hell is not a real place. Literal death is an attached consequence to original sin from Genesis 2 and on. We know from a vast array of other Scriptures that death is the precursor to judgment, and judgment is the precursor to Heaven or Hell. This doctrine misinterprets one Scripture, and blatantly ignores obvious passages describing Hell’s realities and eternal damnation.

Common False Doctrines About Hell: Hell Isn’t That Bad

In his classic book The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis envisions Hell as a dreary, bothersome, almost pleasant place, whose inmates can take a day trip to the outskirts of Heaven. This biblically illiterate view of Hell seems to be pop culture’s favorite. Pop music often refers to Hell as a kind of eternal party for the naughty. Nearly everyone casually and exhaustively uses Hell as a curse word. Television and movies like to portray Hell as an obnoxious, almost silly place of torment-ish. For many, Hell might even be considered preferable to Heaven.

Common False Doctrines About Hell: Hell Is Only Temporary

This false doctrine is the evangelical version of purgatory. The lost are sentenced to Hell for a particular length of time, depending on their sinfulness while on earth. When the sentence has ended, the sinner experiences a second death, and their soul is extinguished by God forever. Adherents to this doctrine abandon belief in the immortal soul, and they are forced to become extremely creative with several passages of Scripture. A spin-off of this doctrine believes (much like Catholics) that after a severe sentence is completed, the fire purified soul will be admitted by God into Heaven. I concur with this comment by Stanley Horton: It is hard to see why the Cross would be necessary if the lake of fire could provide another means of salvation.[i]

Is Hell A Divine Overreaction to Sin?

“In no way does man reveal his littleness more effectively than when he exhibits surprise over the fact that there are realities in the universe which he cannot understand. The permission of sin in the universe by a sovereign, holy God who hates sin to an infinite degree, the damage it does to uncounted multitudes of beings—angels and men—whom He loves with a Creator’s love, and the fact that sin must demand of God the greatest sacrifice He could make, all this only tends to enlarge the mystery involved.”[ii]

In no way does man reveal his littleness more effectively than when he exhibits surprise over the fact that there are realities in the universe which he cannot understand.” -Lewis Sperry Chafer

Wrestling with the profound weight of Divine retribution upon sinful humanity is troubling. It requires a great deal of humility to accept our inability to understand how evil sin is and how it conflicts with God’s absolute holiness. We know because Scripture revealed it, that God’s holy answer to unrepentant sin is perdition and retribution. Serving the Lord with real honesty requires growing comfortable with the mysteries of God. Human arrogance assumes that it can always find the answer or solve the puzzle. However, in God’s economy, we aren’t guaranteed every answer to every question, at least not in this life. Deuteronomy 29:29 applies nicely: The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

It requires a great deal of humility to accept our inability to understand how evil sin is and how it conflicts with God’s absolute holiness.

Trying to understand why God will punish sin with eternal suffering isn’t wrong. Job indeed sought understanding in his torment, but he did so without sinning or charging God foolishly (Job 1:22). Consider this: “Sins may be committed by unbelievers or believers, both of whom are injured by it and require grace. Sins may be committed against God, others, self, or some combination. Ultimately, however, all sin is against God (Psalm 51:4, Luke 15:18, Luke 15:21).”[iii] God alone reserves the right to avenge sin (Psalm 94:1, Romans 12:19). But we can take comfort knowing that He takes no pleasure in punishing sinners (Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 33:11, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). The reality of Hell, combined with the revelation of God’s overwhelming love, should elucidate just how grave sin is. It’s not merely that God refuses to be compatible with sin. Instead, God’s unchanging nature makes it impossible for Him to coexist with evil (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17, Hebrews 13:8). Humanity is grossly underreacting to sin; God’s response to sin has been consistent since the beginning of time.

The reality of Hell, combined with the revelation of God’s overwhelming love, should elucidate just how grave sin is.

It’s not merely that God refuses to be compatible with sin. Instead, God’s unchanging nature makes it impossible for Him to coexist with evil

Humanity is grossly underreacting to sin; God’s response to sin has been consistent since the beginning of time.

Will There Be Different Levels of Punishment in Hell?

I believe the Bible affirms there will be varying degrees of punishment in Hell (Matthew 10:15. Matthew 11:22, Matthew 12:36-37, Luke 12:47-48, Romans 2:5, Hebrews 10:26-31). All the lost will suffer for their sin; for some, that suffering will be worse than for others. Hebrews 10:26-31 is one of many compelling passages indicating various degrees of judgment:

“…if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (English Standard Version).

People who do not believe in various punishment levels for individuals in Hell reduce the throne of judgment into a sham where God pretends to be fair. The Bible is clear that God will be so entirely just in His decisions that not one person will claim unfair treatment (1 Peter 1:17, Romans 2:11, Colossians 3:25, Romans 3:19, Revelation 19:1-2). God will judge in absolute righteousness (Acts 17:31). His decisions will not be limited to who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell. God will also assign punishments in perfect fairness. Every lost soul will receive a personalized sentence directly from their Creator.

What Criteria Will God Use to Determine Levels of Punishment?  

The Gospel Coalition lists three biblically sound considerations: 1) The extent to which a person has abandoned himself to sin (Matthew 5:21, Romans 2:5, Revelation 18:6-7). 2) The extent to which a person by example and influence led others to sin (Matthew 18:5-7, Mark 9:38-47, Matthew 23:13). 3) The extent to which a person abused their exposure to revelation and opportunity (Luke 12:47-48, Romans 2:12, Matthew 10:15, Matthew 11:22-24).[iv] I believe that age and mental capacity will also be taken into consideration by God (Genesis 18:25). Furthermore, God will evaluate things we have never contemplated in this world (Psalm 19:7-14).

There is No Hope in Hell!

There is no biblical basis for holding onto any hope that grace will extend past this life into eternity. As Chafer eloquently points out:

“Such a case should not be considered as being without precedent. Uncounted legions of angels have sinned, and for them, there is not the slightest intimation to be found in the Bible, which extends to them a ray of hope. By Divine decree, these angels are already consigned to the lake of fire, not under a possible proviso that this doom will be averted if, in the meantime, they repent; but they are arbitrarily, unrevokably consigned to retribution and that without remedy. Since God has said, without condition, that the fallen angels will be cast into the lake of fire, He would be found untrue should the destiny of the fallen angels be otherwise.” [v]

Chafer continues by pointing out the utter lostness of the Gentiles from Adam to Moses. Their pagan plight is chronicled in Romans 1:18-32, as those who willfully rejected God. Three times in one context, Scripture declares that God abandoned them to their sinful ways. Ephesians 2:12 shows just how emphatically God discarded the Gentiles before the New Covenant: …at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. No more decisive terms could be used than men being without Christ, without promise, without God, and without hope.Furthermore, God destroyed the entire earth with water, and at least two cities with fire because of humanity’s iniquity; all this judgment came before God gave mankind a Bible or a Messiah.[vi] Chafer concludes with a mind-altering thought: The result of any unprejudiced investigation into God’s revealed truth respecting fallen angels and God-rejecting Gentiles of past ages will be a conviction that the marvel of it all is not that sinners are lost, but that they are ever saved.[vii]

“…the marvel of it all is not that sinners are lost, but that they are ever saved.” -Lewis Sperry Chafer

Does Hell Just Mean the Grave?

It’s essential to address one final objection often raised against Hell being a place of eternal torment. There’s a convoluted idea floating around, which asserts that the Hebrew word Sheol (the KJV sometimes translated Sheol as Hell, sometimes as the grave, and sometimes as the pit) always means the grave and does not refer to the afterlife at all. Others erroneously contend that Sheol always refers to Hell (if you’ve Googled articles about Hell, you’ve likely read an article fervidly arguing this fallacy). One is used to undermine biblical teachings regarding Hell, and the other is an overzealous attempt to uphold orthodox teachings about the afterlife. Horton handily dismantles the myth that Sheol only means the grave:

“Actually, Sheol is often described as a depth that contrasts with the height of Heaven (Job 11:8, Psalm 139, Amos 9:2). Often, the context refers to God’s anger or wrath (Job 14:13, Psalm 6:1-5, Psalm 88:3-7, Psalm 89:46-48), and sometimes to both wrath and fire (Deuteronomy 32:22). In some cases, the references are brief, and it seems it is treated simply as the place or the state of the dead. In it, the dead are called rephaim, what we might call “ghosts” (Isaiah 14:9, Isaiah 26:14). Other passages refer to some of the dead as elohim, in the sense of “powerful spirit beings” (1 Samuel 28:13). But very often, it is clear that Sheol is the place for the wicked and “all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17, Psalm 39:12–13, Psalm 55:15, Psalm 88:11–12, Proverbs 7:27, Proverbs 9:18, Isaiah 38:18). Where the New Testament quotes Old Testament passages referring to Sheol, it translates the word by Hades, which it sees, not as the vague place pagan Greeks talked about, but as a place of punishment.”[viii]

Interestingly, in Acts 2:27, Peter quotes Psalm 16:10, clearly understanding Sheol as Hades. It’s perfectly proper to link the Old Testament (Sheol) and New Testament (Hades) verbiage together with the word Hell. Also, it’s incorrect to assume ancients did not believe in the afterlife. Enoch and Elijah did not taste death because the Lord took them directly to Heaven (Genesis 5:24, 2 Kings 2:11). David believed he would “dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6, Psalm 16:11, Psalm 17:15).” David speaks of being redeemed from Sheol’s power (Psalm 49:15), indicating his desire to be with God rather than in Sheol in death. The psalmists Asaph spoke of being received into “glory” at death (Psalm 73:24). Another phrase seems to indicate Old Testament saints expected an afterlife. God told Moses that after he went up the mountain and looked across to the Promised Land: You too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was (Numbers 27:13). But Aaron was buried at Mount Hor, and no one knows where God buried Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5–6). Therefore, being “gathered to one’s people” does not refer to the grave.[ix]

How Does the Bible Describe Hell?

Jesus intimated that Hell was initially designed for Satan and other fallen angels (Matthew 25:41). Revelation 20:14 reveals that Hell will contain a horrific lake of fire. After the Final Judgment of God (Revelation 20:11-15), the lost will experience continual and unimaginable suffering and torment. In contrast to Heaven, where there will be no more tears (Revelation 21:4), there will be dreadful weeping and gnashing (or grinding) of teeth in Hell (Matthew 8:12). This gnashing suggests, among other things, the pain will perpetually cause people to grind their teeth in agony (Matthew 8:12, Matthew 22:13, Matthew 24:51, Matthew 25:30). Numerous times Jesus mentioned hellfire or the fires of Hell (Matthew 5:22, Matthew 29:30, Matthew 18:19, Mark 9:43-47). Jesus called the fire everlasting, leaving no doubt that Hell’s torments are eternal (Matthew 25:41). Jesus underscored the seriousness of Hell, saying it would be better to cut off your hand or foot or pluck out your eye, rather than use any of those things sinfully and be cast into Hell (Mark 9:43-47).

Some find it troubling that Jesus mentions outer darkness in the context of Hell (Matthew 22:13). 2 Peter 2:4 references chains of darkness, and some also find that hard to reconcile with the fiery images of Hell the Bible typically evokes. But this is hardly proof of biblical errancies, the afterlife will defy our sense of logic, and it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that God created dark hellfire. Beyond that, we know that Hell will be large and is ever-expanding (Isaiah 51:4). Scripture doesn’t specify that every square inch of Hell will be fiery or that every square inch will be dark. Hell may have significantly different regions throughout its length and breadth. We probably know less about Hell than we know.

In Mark 9, Jesus abruptly ends His ominous comments about Hell by mentioning worms that never die and fire that never goes out (Mark 9:48). The word translated Hell in Mark 9:43 is the Greek word Gehenna, which comes from the Hebrew name for a place called the Valley of Hinnom.[x] Jesus used this place to paint a vivid mental picture of Hell. Gehenna was Jerusalem’s giant garbage dump located on the southern outskirts of town. In the past, children were sacrificed to idols by pagan parents in Gehenna (2 Kings 23:10); in Jesus’ day, it was a place burning with constant fires to devour the city’s trash. The things burned there included everything from household trash to animal carcasses to convicted criminals (Jeremiah 7:31–33). Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 66:24, and the worm mentioned in connection with dead bodies means grub or maggot. Maggots bring the awful imagery Jesus intended to conjure sharply into focus.

The Bible gives us enough information about Hell to know; avoiding it should be life’s paramount priority. Nothing is more crucial than diligently ensuring we enter Heaven and escape the anguishes of Hell. Jesus lovingly and compellingly asked His disciples: What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? (Matthew 16:26). Then Jesus asked another rhetorical question: Is anything worth more than your soul? (Matthew 16:26). Satan challenged God on this very subject while seeking to destroy the righteousness of Job. Satan argued that a man would give everything he has for his life (Job 2:4). He was wrong about Job, but countless others have traded their righteousness for temporary things. Again, Jesus cautioned us to prioritize heavenly things above earthly things encouraging us to store up treasures in Heaven, not on the earth (Matthew 6:19-21). All of creation and God’s Word compel us to live with eternity at the forefront of our minds.

The Bible gives us enough information about Hell to know; avoiding it should be life’s paramount priority. Nothing is more crucial than diligently ensuring we enter Heaven and escape the anguishes of Hell.

All of creation and God’s Word compel us to live with eternity at the forefront of our minds.

How Can I Escape the Torment of Hell?

The ultimate question is, how can a person be guaranteed to avoid Hell in the afterlife? This, of all questions, should be searched after with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Yet, many people think very little about the salvation of their souls. Tragically, one of Satan’s magnificently malicious victories is convincing generations of people that salvation is easy, cheap, and convenient. The average person spends more time searching for temporal pleasures than searching for redemption. Yet, salvation is not found with casual commitment or through convenient conversion. The Bible says that even righteous people barely escape Hell; think of the awful fate awaiting those who have not obeyed the Gospel (1 Peter 4:17-18)? That alone should remove any casual or careless approaches towards the discussion of salvation. Especially knowing it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). The God who created the universe and Heaven and Hell is the only One able to tell us how to be saved. And, He chose to reveal the answer to us through the Bible (His Holy Word).

Tragically, one of Satan’s magnificently malicious victories is convincing generations of people that salvation is easy, cheap, and convenient.

The average person spends more time searching for temporal pleasures than searching for redemption. Yet, salvation is not found with casual commitment or through convenient conversion.

The God who created the universe and Heaven and Hell is the only One able to tell us how to be saved. And, He chose to reveal the answer to us through the Bible (His Holy Word).

There is only one place in all Scripture where people specifically ask: What must we do to be saved (Acts 2:37)? The Apostle Peter gives the most transparent, concise response possible in the following verse: …Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38). That precise formula is the only way to be birthed (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:23) into the Kingdom of God. At the heart of the Gospel is the teaching that we must undergo our own spiritual death, burial, and resurrection just as Jesus did physically (Romans 6:3-8, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 2:12-13).

Essentially, repentance is our spiritual death (Galatians 5:24, Romans 6:11, Galatians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:24, Romans 6:6), baptism in Jesus’ name is our spiritual burial (Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12-13), and the infilling of the Holy Ghost is our spiritual resurrection (Romans 6:5, Colossians 3:1, Romans 8:8-14). Furthermore, the infilling of the Holy Ghost is first evidenced by supernaturally speaking in unknown (previously unlearned) tongues (languages) just as they did in the book of Acts (Mark 16:17, Acts 2:4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6) and every time from then on. And, baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12, Colossians 3:17, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3).

Baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12, Colossians 3:17, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3).

After we are obedient to the fullness of the Gospel, all the old sinful things pass away, and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). We walk in agreement with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Meaning, God not only saves us from our past sin, but He also empowers us with His own Spirit to live righteously (2 Peter 1:3-4). The extra good news of the Gospel is that God doesn’t just save us and leave us the same: He saves us, changes us, dwells within us, and continues to strengthen us daily. Now that’s excellent news, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what it means to be transformed by the power of God.

The extra good news of the Gospel is that God doesn’t just save us and leave us the same: He saves us, changes us, dwells within us, and continues to strengthen us daily.

Hell Motivates Christians Morally

Grudem lists four ways the doctrine of Hell influences our lives morally: 1) It satisfies our inward sense of a need for justice in the world. 2) It enables us to forgive others freely. 3) It provides a motive for righteous living. 4) It gives an excellent motive for evangelism.[xi] Engrained in the complexity of human nature is the desire to see justice served. The doctrine of Hell assures us God is in control and that justice will be done in the end. Because that is true, we can forgive without worrying about final judgments. We must love God to serve Him truly, but there are seasons where the fear of Hell keeps us on a righteous path. Finally, the doctrine of Hell should compel us to go into all the world, preaching the Gospel out of concern for the lost (Matthew 28:16-20).

The doctrine of Hell should compel us to go into all the world, preaching the Gospel out of concern for the lost (Matthew 28:16-20).

I sincerely hope this article has been helpful, informative, and compelling to you. If so, please consider sharing this article with a friend. If you are uncomfortable sharing it publicly on social media, consider printing it out and giving it to a friend or loved one. I realize Hell and the afterlife is an uncomfortable topic for many people to discuss openly. Maybe this article can be a good starting point to open up a dialogue between you and people you know and love. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me, and I will respond accordingly. As always, thank you for reading and may God bless you.


[i] Stanley M. Horton, Systematic Theology, Revised; Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2007), 654.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Horton-Theology#4606

[ii] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology Kregel/Accordance electronic ed. 8 vols.; Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1976), 4:427.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Chafer-Theology#5341

[iii] Stanley M. Horton, Systematic Theology, Revised; Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2007), 280.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Horton-Theology#1295

[iv] Degrees of Punishment in Hell | The Gospel Coalition

[v] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology Kregel/Accordance electronic ed. 8 vols.; Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1976), 4:429-430.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Chafer-Theology#5342

[vi] I highly recommend Sodom Had No Bible, Leonard Ravenhill.

[vii] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology Kregel/Accordance electronic ed. 8 vols.; Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1976), 4:430.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Chafer-Theology#5343

[viii] Stanley M. Horton, Systematic Theology, Revised; Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2007), 608.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Horton-Theology#2785

[ix] Stanley M. Horton, Systematic Theology, Revised; Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2007), 609.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Horton-Theology#2789

[x] David G. Shackelford and E. Ray Clendenen, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, s.v. “HELL,” paragraph 7790.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Dictionary#7790

[xi] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Bits & Bytes/Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 1148.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Grudem-Theology#12731