Pastor John Samson
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5 ESV
To serve as the pastor of King’s Church is a high calling and an amazing privilege. To serve the King of Kings and the people Christ died for – what could be greater than this? Yet with every great privilege comes great responsibility.
Have you noticed in the above text how it is the presentation of Scripture as God breathed (at the end of 2 Timothy 3) that is the basis for the solemn and holy charge given to preach the Word, in chapter 4? The one thing naturally leads to the other. It is because of the nature of Scripture as divinely inspired that Paul tells Timothy to preach it with boldness, in season and out of season. Literally this phrase means “in good times and bad times,” or by way of application, “preach the word when the people like it and when they do not.”
Being a pastor and talking with other pastors, I think I understand how pastors think. God has placed a servant’s heart in every true shepherd’s heart. The genuine pastor did not get into this for money or fame, for the gold or the glory, but because there is a driving passion in the heart, placed there by God, to obey the One who called him for His own eternal purposes. Sadly, what is crystal clear at the beginning phase of ministry can become fuzzy over time as Church pressures, politics and personalities all have their influence. But the above passage gives us a solemn charge to stay at our post knowing our chief responsibility under the gaze of God is to serve the people of God the Word of God.
I have met some people in ministry who have openly told me that they teach through the Scripture but seek to avoid controversial subjects. I know why they do this. They do not wish to divide their congregation. The Evangelist may count how many people were in a service, but a pastor is far more likely to count how many were not there – he aches inside to see the people he loves come and be built up in their most holy faith and knows what the Word of God can do for them. He organizes his whole week to make room for the serious study of God’s word. It is labor indeed – real work. Often it is in the early hours of the morning that he is awakened from sleep with inspiration to dig out or mine the Scripture – and the inspiration lasts until the clock tells him he must take a quick shower and get on with the business of the day (and restful sleep is only a hope for the next night).
But here’s the problem. Love for the people is very commendable, but it should not be the chief motivation in ministry. There should be a greater love for the God who called us to obey Him. The truth is, if we preach the Word accurately and with the fire and passion He instills in us, this shows great love for people too, because we are giving them the very best thing imaginable – the word of Almighty God. People need a lot more than a pep talk once a week, as in a coach’s half time team talk. No, they need far more substance than this. What they need is a genuine word from God.
If we love Him, we will teach and preach in order to please Him first, for the message of the text is that we preach to the audience of One. God is watching us closely as we preach His Word. 2 Timothy 4:1 could accurately be translated, “I solemnly charge you as one under the gaze of God…”
I think if we were to see this from God’s perspective, when a pastor or preacher says he teaches the Bible but avoids controversial issues, he is acting as a disobedient slave of the Master as well as short changing the people. The fact is that controversy cannot be avoided. There’s no main truth of Scripture that is free from controversy. That’s true whether we are talking about the existence of God, His purpose in suffering, the Trinity, the full Deity and full humanity of Christ, the atoning work of Christ, the Person of the Holy Spirit, the doctrines of grace and how God saves by His grace alone through faith in Christ alone. You can try to find something in there that is not controversial, but I cannot. Truth is controversial – so get used to it.
Having a doctrinal position is unavoidable if we are to say anything about what Scripture means. The question is not can we avoid theology, but which theology is biblical. To try to avoid it is like saying to a waiter, “may I have some water, but can you hold the wet!” The wet comes with the water, because quite simply, water is wet.
If for illustration purposes the waiter is the preacher, then the cook (and owner of the restaurant and the franchise) is God Himself. Waiters are not permitted to look at the plate handed to them by the cook and then cut off the edges of the meat before serving the people. The cook determines what is served to the people not the waiter.
If the text speaks of controversial things such as true discipleship or Divine Sovereignty, who do we think we are if we then say, “this is not what the people want to hear, so I will leave that part out of the sermon”? This would be an act of defiance not of servant-hood, both of God and of the people. We need to ask, “who is it we are really serving?”
It is because of the fact that we are called to serve God first before we serve people that the text goes on to say “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions…” This is the truth so let us face it. Not everyone who listens to us will like us or the message we proclaim. As preachers, we must face this and get over it! If everyone likes the message, and I mean everyone, then perhaps the One we should always seek to please first may well be displeased. And this should scare us a lot more than it does, because one day we will stand before Him and give an account to Him, when no crowd is applauding us, its just you or me standing before the King.
There is an offense to the message of the cross – Jews want signs and Greeks seek wisdom – but preach the cross anyway, for this indeed is the true sign and the true wisdom of God. Not everyone who hears us can handle the truth of God’s Sovereignty, and they may leave. Lets remember that the crowd left Jesus, the Master communicator, when He preached it too:
John 6:65-68 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…
People will come and go. As much as it may sadden us, not everyone will stay with us for the long-haul. So lets face this fact and decide beforehand who we will be serving, and who it is we will be prepared to lose! We will lose people, but let us not lose true disciples who really want to know what the Word of God says. If we are going to lose people, lets be prepared to lose those who put their opinions and traditions above His word. Making this choice does not mean that in doing so our ministry will always be small. The God who called us is in charge of such things. Paul may plant, an Apollos may water but it is God who causes the growth. The size of the ministry is not in our hands, that is God’s decision, but because of His amazing providence, God’s book certainly is. Lets preach this Divine Word with boldness as heralds of the King, knowing the truth that “Christ’s sheep will never be offended by Christ’s voice.” (C. H. Spurgeon)
Preachers are to use wisdom in how they go about this task, of course, but that’s another subject for another day. But when it comes to a preacher’s job responsibilities, we have no real choice when it comes down to subject matter concerning what we leave out or what we put in. It is the height of presumption to think any other way. God has never asked us for our opinion on the matter. He is the Owner and cook – we are simply humble servant-waiters with an amazingly high calling to be His Royal Ambassadors.
2 Timothy 4 reminds me that my primary task at King’s Church is to serve the King’s food to the King’s people. Let us also realize that Christ’s sheep are amazingly precious to the Shepherd. He is concerned for the welfare of His flock and has established the menu for the diet of the sheep.
“Excuse me waiter, did you mess with the food?” Selah.
Pastor John Samson
The Trinity: our one God is eternally existent in three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal.
I love the Trinity. That’s because I love God, and God is a Trinity.
Very few people have a firm grasp of the concept of the Trinity. It is important therefore to determine what we as Christians mean by the term. The doctrine of the Trinity, stated simply is that there is one eternal being of God, and this one being of God is shared by three co-equal, co-eternal persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is therefore one in essence and three in personality.
It is necessary here to distinguish between the terms “being” and “person.” It would be a contradiction, obviously, to say that there are three beings within one being, or three persons within one person. There is no contradiction though because that is not what is being said at all. There is one eternal, infinite being of God, shared fully and completely by three persons, Father, Son and Spirit. One what and three who’s.
All the major cults today (Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Latter Day Saints or Mormons, etc.) contend that Christians have simply made up the concept of the Trinity, saying that the term is not even found in the Bible. Though it is true that the actual term cannot be found in Scripture, I would have to say, “so what?” for even the word “Bible” is not found in the Bible! The term “Bible” comes from the word “biblos” meaning “book,” and therefore means “the Book.” The Bible is not just “a” book but “the” book. Because it is the very word of Almighty God, and therefore the most important book anyone can ever read.
So while the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, the concept of the Trinity certainly is. On the basis of Scripture itself, Christians throughout the centuries have professed belief in the Holy Trinity, affirming the fact that our one God is eternally existent in three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal. This is because the following three things are very clearly taught in Scripture:
(1) There is only one God, who is eternal and immutable (unchanging). (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10; Mal. 3:6; Mark 12:29; John 17:3; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jam. 2:19)
(2) There are three eternal Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These Persons are never identified with one another – that is, they are carefully differentiated as distinct Persons. The Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Holy Spirit, and nor is the Holy Spirit the Father. (Matt: 3:13-17; 28:19; Luke 10:22; John 1:1, 2; 3:16, 17; 15:26; 16:7; 17:1-26; 2 Cor. 13:14)
(3) The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, are identified as being full Deity – that is, the Bible teaches the Deity of the Father, the Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit. (Isa. 9:6; John 17:3; John 1:1, 18; 8:58; 20:28; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; Acts 5:3, 4; 2 Cor. 3:17, 18)
Some believe in the unity and oneness of God, but deny that He consists in different persons. Heretics such as monarchists, modalists, and Arians (the modern day counterparts are the Jehovah’s Witnesses) take this position, as do followers of non-Christian religions, such as Unitarians and Muslims. Others believe in the different persons but deny their unity in one God. This is the position of heretics such as the tri-theists and followers of other non-Christian religions, such as the LDS (Mormons) and polytheists.
When someone denies any of these three statements (above), severe error is the result. Dr. James White states, “if one denies that there are Three Persons, it results in the “Oneness” teaching of the United Pentecostal Church and others. If one denies Full Equality, one is left with Three Persons and One God, resulting in “subordinationism” as seen in Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Way International, etc. (though to be perfectly accurate the Witnesses (JW”s) deny all three of the sides in some way – they deny Full Equality (i.e., they believe that Jesus is Michael the Archangel), they deny the Three Persons (the Holy Spirit is an impersonal, active “force” like electricity) and One God (they say Jesus is “a god” – a lesser divinity than Yahweh). And, if one denies One God, one is left with polytheism, the belief in many gods, as seen clearly in the Mormon Church, perhaps the most polytheistic religion I have encountered.”
“God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.” (Dr. Wayne Grudem)
“To all three belong the same eternity, the same unchangeableness, the same majesty, the same power. In the Father is unity, in the Son equality, in the Holy Spirit the harmony of unity and equality; and these three attributes are all one because of the Father, all equal because of the Son, and all harmonious because of the Holy Spirit” (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine: Preface/Book 1 Chapter 5).
Pastor John Samson
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23: 39-43
I have often contemplated the potential scene in my mind as one by one, the proponents of all religions were given the opportunity of talking to the thief on the cross, and what they would say to him. This was a man who was a criminal, a notorious sinner, and definitely one whose so called “bad deeds’ would outweigh the good ones. Being nailed to a cross negates any further opportunity for good works to be done. But it would be an interesting conversation, wouldn’t it, to hear what each religionist might say to him? In every case (apart from perhaps universalism which teaches that all people will be saved regardless of their works) each religion would require the man to somehow come down from the cross to do something.
What would a spokesman for Islam say? How about a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness? What would a Buddhist say? or a New Age guru? How about a Roman Catholic? If each could speak to this man, what religious advice would or could they give to him for the purpose of being saved (however they even define what that means)? Some might say that all he could do would be to hope for mercy, but Christ, the biblical Christ gave him far more than just hope. In contrast to what all man made religious systems could give the man, Christ gave him full assurance of salvation – and not just eventual salvation after countless years in the fires of purgatory, but bliss and paradise that very day!
Certain religions would require baptism, others would require the man go through religious instruction and devotion of some sort, while others would ask him to do more good works before his death hoping that they might outweigh the bad ones. But here’s my point, the man could never find salvation in those religious systems because he was stuck, pinned, nailed to a cross. His chance to help elderly people cross roads, or to give to charity or to live a life of service was gone. Nailed to a cross, works and service were no longer possible. His was a totally hopeless case.. except that crucified next to him was Someone who was able to save him by what He was doing, rather than what the man might do. Only the real biblical Jesus with the real biblical Gospel could announce to a criminal that before the day was over, he would be with Him in Paradise.
This thief’s salvation portrays the Gospel so clearly. Someone embracing anything other than the biblical gospel can only scratch their heads in wonder at the precious words given to this man, for in their system, such words would be impossible to say.
As far as I know, this man was the only person in the Bible that Jesus gave instantaneous assurance of salvation to. Jesus’ words, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” removes all doubt.
Can we know what was going on in the heart of this man? Well, we do not have a perfect understanding, but putting the pieces of the biblical text together, we can get quite a good picture. What is clear from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark is that this man had been amongst the many who had mocked Christ. Yet seemingly, out of nowhere, he turns to the other thief and says, “Don’t you fear God?” Obviously, this thief was now fearing God for him to be asking this question of the other one.
He also knew he was getting exactly what he deserved – “we indeed suffer justly” he said.
He also recognized the innocence of Christ when he said, “this man has done nothing wrong.”
When he turned to Jesus and requested, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom” though knowing death was inevitable for all three of those crucified, he believed Jesus would triumph over death, and therefore, would be resurrected.
In affirming the fact that Jesus would come into His kingdom, he affirmed the Lordship or even the Deity of Christ. How much he knew of this we do not know, but obviously, he knew that Christ was indeed King.
So, he had an awareness of divine judgement, he knew the availability of forgiveness, he believed Christ was the true King and that in Christ there is hope even for him, he knew of the coming Kingdom and wanted to be a part of it.
As God opens our hearts and mind to the one true biblical Gospel, we will also find in Christ the full assurance of salvation. As we turn away from any attempt at self justification, knowing that it is by grace that we are saved, through faith and all of this is the gift of God, not as a result of works (Eph. 2:8,9), we too will enjoy the sweet saving mercy of God.
What a testimony to the Gospel this thief is. His testimony is exactly the same as mine. God saves sinners through the perfect work of the perfect Savior, plus nothing! Hallelujah!
Pastor John Samson
(adapted from an illustration by Ray Comfort)
IMAGINE – Its 9/10/01 – and you are are given an amazing assignment – the privilege of preaching to all on the 11th floor of one of the Twin Towers… and somehow, God lets you know that EVERYONE you will talk to that day will be dead within 24 hours…
(ohhh – and you are absolutely forbidden to tell them that)..
Some Questions: WHAT would you preach? HOW would you preach it? Would you have to adjust your sermon from the regular feel good “five steps to a happy life” or “try Jesus” or “try Christianity, you will really like it” idea? If you have to adjust your sermon from your normal one – what does that tell you about what you normally preach? Does your normal sermon seem just trivial now? Or does what you normally preach carry with it the weight and urgency and power of the Gospel? Quite a thought, isn’t it?
Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (that based on Scripture alone, the most wretched sinner is justified – declared right before God – by God’s grace alone, received through faith in Christ alone, all to the glory of God alone) with GREAT boldness, with SINCERE love, with REAL urgency, and with AUTHORITY as A HERALD OF THE KING, as if HEAVEN AND HELL were real places that people go to for eternity – and that hell is a certainty for all who ignore or reject this Gospel you are preaching that day – but that God’s love for the world is seen by the giving of His one and only Son so that everyone who places their faith and trust in Christ would in no way perish, but have everlasting life for certain!
And.. one final question: As you would consider what and how you would preach that day and find your answers in God’s word, should it not be that you preach the exact same way every time you preach, for is it not true that there is no guarantee than anyone hearing you will live another 24 hours?
THE CENTER OF THE GOSPEL
Pastor John Samson
At the Council of Trent in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church placed its eternal and irrevocable curse on the Gospel, announcing it as actually heretical. I am certain that in the hearts and minds of the delegates at the Council, this was never intended – not even for a moment – but that is in fact what happened.
The most relevant Canons are the following:
Canon 9. If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone…, let him be anathema.
Canon 11. If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins,… let him be anathema.
Canon 12. If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy (supra, chapter 9), which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.
Canon 24. If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema.
Canon 30. If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.
Canon 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ…does not truly merit an increase of grace and eternal life… let him be anathema.
As Dr. Michael Horton rightly noted, “It was, therefore, not the evangelicals who were condemned in 1564, but the evangel itself. The ‘good news,’ which alone is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ was judged by Rome to be so erroneous that anyone who embraced it was to be regarded as condemned.”
But the Council of Trent met a long time ago. Hasn’t Rome since modified its position? In another place Dr. Horton wrote, “Has Rome’s position changed? In fact it has not. The Vatican II documents as well as the new Catechism of the Catholic Church reinvoke the theological position of the Council of Trent, condemning the gospel of justification by an imputed righteousness.” But knowing full well that Rome’s full curse is on me for believing the following, I quote the Scripture and embrace the only true Gospel of my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“To the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). God justifies the “ungodly.” God does not wait until sinners are righteous in and of themselves before He declares them righteous. If He did, I for one would despair of ever getting there. The word “Gospel” means “good news” and the amazing “good news” of the Gospel is about how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection breaks all the power of despair and saves sinners by supplying to them a perfect unassailable righteousness AS A GIFT.
Question: Whose righteousness is supplied?
Answer: Christ’s own righteousness (1 Cor 1:30).
The connection between the sinner and the Savior is trust, not improvement of behavior. THAT COMES LATER (Eph 2:8-10).
This is our hope – while ungodly in and of ourselves, when we give up all hope of self attained salvation, trust in the Savior allows the Savior to save and He does so with resplendent and majestic power! Paul wrote, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). The basis of this despair shattering hope (the ungodly justified) is “Christ for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, literal translation). Through the mechanism of faith alone (which itself is God’s gift) God counts sinners (the ungodly) as righteous because of Christ.
“For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Justification by faith alone is really shorthand for justification by the Person and work of Christ alone. Jesus saves – not merely potentially or hypothetically – but He actually saves – all by Himself! All the sins of all the people who would ever believe in Him were transferred to Christ on the cross and He bore the penalty these sins deserved; and what is transferred to these sinners is a righteousness that has never known sin – the very righteousness of Christ. That is the kind of righteousness given to me – a righteousness that always obeyed every command of God fully and perfectly from the heart. The wonder of it all is that now, because of Christ, God not only merely tolerates me, but He has declared me as just, righteous, and fully pleasing to Him. “Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1). This peace is not a mere temporary ceasefire on God’s part. I am forever justified before God through faith in the perfect Savior. To quote Martin Luther’s Latin phrase, I am “simul iustus et peccator” – at the same time just and sinner. Christ’s own perfect righteousness is mine. It is not merely that God because of Christ now sees me as “just as if I’d never sinned”, but more than that.. much more than that… He now sees me as “just as if I’d always obeyed!” This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.