The Church’s First Internal Problem

The Church’s First Internal Problem

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

We cannot call what happens in Acts five the church’s first problem. Having your members hauled before community leaders and threatened would be stressful and concerning. Having members in financial need would be considered a tough issue. But, neither of those things were “unforced errors.” In an organization filled with people, there will be internal problems because we have struggles and sins. What we do about them and after them spells the difference in ultimate success and failure. 

THE REBELLION (1-10). We are introduced to a couple named Ananias and Sapphira, members of the Jerusalem congregation. In the spirit of sacrificial generosity, Barnabas, who owned a tract of land, “sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (4:37). This couple also sold a piece of property, an admirable and generous thing to do to prevent needs among the Christians (4:34). But, what they did after the sell was anything but righteous. They kept back part of the proceeds from the sale. What was the sin in that? Apparent there was an intent to deceive, to suggest that they were giving all the money while keeping part of it for themselves. The word translated “keep back” is the word for pilfer or embezzle, suggesting they had pledged the full price of the sale but kept back some for their own security. This would also suggest covetousness or greed, hearts influenced by worldliness. It also certainly implies pride, wanting to be seen as generous as Barnabas while not suffering the full sacrifice of surrendering all the money for the needs of the saints. This husband and wife were united, but in the worst possible way. Do we struggle with materialism, pride, greed, dishonesty, and selfishness? It is good for us to appreciate how seriously God takes the willful sin in the lives of His children (Heb. 10:26ff). God preserved this in Scripture for us to contemplate how harmful “sin in the camp” is to the spiritual health and well-being of His sacred community (the church). 

THE RESPONSE (3-10). Peter calls out Ananias (3-4), then Sapphira (8-9) three hours later. He specifies what they had done and why it was so wrong. God’s response was to strike each of them dead! Looking back on this, especially if we struggle to see the “big deal” of their sin, we might think the reaction was overly harsh or unreasonable. No doubt this event gets our attention and sharpens our focus on how seriously God views premeditated sin and sin that threatens to harm the entire spiritual community. Conceiving transgression in the heart and attempting to lie to God is such a basic betrayal of our Lord. While we should be grateful that God does not choose to respond with such immediacy today, we should also reflect deeply upon how grave it is to engage in unrighteousness. It’s not “no big deal,” something to be rationalized away. Even if church leadership does not address it in this life does not mean God will not address it at the judgment. This text encourages us to keep our heart soft to His will and to the reality of our willfulness. 

THE RESULT (11-16). We might think that people would have left that church in droves! After all, if they had a marquee in front of their “building,” it might say, “Come inside and try us. The Holy Spirit strikes down our liars.” Yet, what happens next? As we might suspect, “great fear came upon them all” (11). But, the judgment on the couple did not drive people away or even send the cause in a backward direction. The apostles demonstrate God’s power (12), the church spent more time together (12), the broader community held them in high esteem (13) and benefited from their benevolence (15-16), and, maybe most startling, “all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number” (14). How could this be the result of the ultimate example of “church discipline”? Simply, this is God’s wisdom. Paul will later say, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). Just because we don’t understand God’s ways does not make them inappropriate and improper (Isa. 55:8-9). The Potter has a right over the clay (Rom. 9:20-21). We must resist the temptation to protest the teaching and conclusions God’s Word makes because we find it too hard and narrow. If we trust God’s wisdom and pattern, we’ll find it works in any culture, time, and place. 

Homesick

Homesick

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

I’ve never been a homebody. I tend to get stir crazy if I’m there for more than a few hours. While this may be true here on earth, this won’t be the case in Heaven. Homesickness is a desire to not only be back in a familiar place, it’s a longing to be around the ones you love and care for. 

I long for the day when I’ll never have to be away from the ones I love again. When the body of Christ, past present and future will all be together. Forever at a home free from tears. Forever at home with likeminded brothers and sisters. Forever at home with the Father, His Son, and the Spirit. 

We will be with the Father that crucified His Son. We will be with Christ, the one who hung on a cross for us. We will be with the Spirit who gave us the Words of life. Philippians 3:20 says, “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Heaven is our true home. It’s where we belong. And it’s where God wants us to be. 

I’m homesick for heaven because it is my true home. The sad reality of heaven is that not everyone will be reunited. The wives who walked alone with God. The husbands who tried so hard to save the soul of their dearest friend. The parents that pleaded to their wayward children to come home to no avail. The heartbreaking reality of eternity is that some will get to heaven and notice family members and loved ones are missing. 

I don’t want to be the rich man in Luke 16  who wanted to warn his family but it was too late. The question we must ask ourselves, will I be the one missing in heaven? If sin is controlling your life, God will judge you based off of your decisions. Don’t be the one missing in eternity. If your family is lost, don’t stop trying to save their soul. 

The God We Serve

The God We Serve

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

25 ways God has shown His love to us: 

  1. Creation (Genesis 1-2) 
  2. The Cross (Matthew 27:32-56) 
  3. Salvation (John 3:16) 
  4. The Bible (2 Timothy 3:16) 
  5. The Church (Ephesians 2:19-22) 
  6. The Ability To Pray (Philippians 4:6) 
  7. A Caring High Priest (Hebrews 4:15) 
  8. The Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) 
  9. True Peace (Philippians 4:7) 
  10. Purpose (1 Peter 2:9) 
  11. Made Us Alive (Ephesians 2:5) 
  12. Servitude (Matthew 12:18) 
  13. Gave Us An Identity (John 1:12) 
  14. Joy (Proverbs 10:28)
  15. An Example (John 13:1-17) 
  16. Revealed Knowledge (Ephesians 1:17)
  17. Compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) 
  18. The Good Shepherd (John 10:11) 
  19. Strength (Exodus 15:2) 
  20. Good Advice (Matthew 6:34
  21. Takes Our Anxiety (1 Peter 5:7) 
  22. A Refuge (Psalm 46:1) 
  23. A Resurrection (John 11:25) 
  24. A Place Of Rest (Matthew 11:29)
  25. He’s Coming Back (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
ROMANS 5:5 AND THE LOVE OF GOD

ROMANS 5:5 AND THE LOVE OF GOD

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Romans 5.5 is a verse that I know I’ve read many times, but never paid attention to. 

It says, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” 

This whole section of Scripture is awesome, but this verse really caught my attention. How is the love of God poured into our hearts? How do we experience this? Is it a feeling or understanding? Are we given a sense of calm knowing we are saved? 

Context reveals that Jesus showed this love by dying for those who hated Him. God’s love is experienced through Jesus’ death (Romans 5.6, 8). So in that sense, we are able to access God through the sacrifice Jesus made with the Spirit who was given to us. 

However, it does seem that the love mentioned in verse five is something a little different. 

Firstly, it isn’t the only thing we have with God. We also have peace with God and grace (Romans 5.1, 2). The context of this chapter and much of the next is about the benefits of salvation. 

Secondly, the love of God seems to be pretty directly applied. The word “poured” in 5.5 is ἐκχέω (encheo), which means, “to cause to fully experience” (BDAG 312). It’s also a perfect passive verb, which means it was poured in the past and continues to be poured; God was the one doing the pouring. 

The destination of this love is our (that is, those who are saved) hearts. When we have been justified, and when we take pride in our trials because they develop endurance, proven character, and hope, God pours love into our hearts. 

Because of the multitude of “for”s and “therefore”s following this verse, I lean more towards the idea that this love is something we experience as a result of gaining rational confidence of our salvation through Christ. 

My goal in writing this article is not necessarily to explain Romans 5.5 – I do not pretend to know the answer – but to hopefully provoke thought and demonstrate the depth of scripture. I love these difficult passages, and hope that you will study them as well. 

pouring-water-on-glass-bowl

Attributing Work To The Holy Spirit

Attributing Work To The Holy Spirit

Neal Pollard

Inquiring minds want to know.  How does God work through providence? How does He answer our prayers to strengthen, help, lead, and endow us with wisdom? We are without doubt that God is active, interested, and involved in our lives today. Deism denies this, saying that a Creator set things in motion and then permanently stepped out of the picture on planet earth. Theism affirms His present involvement and interest in the affairs of men today. The dogmatic at either extreme purport to speak for God, absolutely affirming or denying what He does or does not do. There is an area in which we cannot say how God operates or whether it is the Father, Son, or Spirit who is at work simply because it has not been revealed and we are not in a position to observe what is transpiring in the heavenly realm. Moses once said, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).  Moses told Israel that some things aren’t revealed to us, but he also said some things are revealed. We are obligated to observe what is revealed.  We are on dangerous ground when we affirm what Scripture does not reveal.

Scripture does not reveal that the Spirit is involved in our decision-making in a direct way apart from the Word. It does not indicate that He is stirring inside our hearts, influencing us to think, speak, or act in a given way for a given purpose or moment.  He does not give us our words in the miraculous way He did for the apostles, who had no need to prepare or study for a given moment (cf. Matt. 10:19-20).  When we boldly assert such things, we stand without the foundation of revealed truth beneath us and, at best, stand upon dangerous conjecture.

The Spirit’s work in written revelation informs my heart and mind, and it (Scripture) awakens me to appreciate and depend upon the power of God through that word and its promises.  The Bible says we are strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man (Eph. 3:16).  We do not know the full implication of that promise, though we are thrilled by it. What a leap it is to go from acknowledging the Spirit strengthens us to claiming He gives us thoughts, ideas, or direct guidance in addition to His Word.  If we say, “The Spirit led me to take this job” or “The Spirit told me to speak to that person” or “The Spirit told me I’m saved,” we speak from ignorance (i.e., lack of knowledge or information). Kathy once studied with a woman and showed her the multitude of passages proving the essentiality of baptism, but she replied, “But the Spirit told me I’m saved.” We know that it was her own will and desire in her heart that she attributed to God. That is the danger of such reckless assertions. We easily confuse what we desire and prefer with “the will of God” or even “the Spirit’s work.” God repeatedly warns that our hearts can deceive us, that we can credit God for what, in reality, is our will (Prov. 14:12; 16:25; Jer. 10:23).

We do need to study the personality, the work, and the Deity of the Holy Spirit more. It is obvious, hearing and reading after even some brothers and sisters in Christ, that we have neglected studying about Him. Let us handle each other without suspicion, in a spirit of love and kindness and without attacking people and personalities. Let us also always be careful not to “exceed what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), never adding to or taking away from what is revealed (Rev. 22:18-19). Yet, let us be grateful that our great God is interested and involved in our lives, being content to affirm only what Scripture reveals.

“How Does The Spirit Indwell The Christian?” (Or, Some Guys Just Love Trouble)

“How Does The Spirit Indwell The Christian?” (Or, Some Guys Just Love Trouble)

One of my favorite preachers (taken during his younger days) (CAN YOU GUESS WHO THIS IS?)

Neal Pollard

The controversy preceded my birth.  Wendell Winkler was the first man I remember talking about the Open Forum, spirited debate between Gus Nichols and Guy N. Woods over how the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian.  In those days, despite the vigor with which each man presented his view, the matter was not seen as divisive or worthy of a breach in fellowship. So long as the Spirit’s Deity was not denied or so long as one did not believe that the Spirit miraculously or directly operated upon the heart of an individual to convert or exert His will upon that one, the “how” was not seen as crucial.  I remember that many of my role models, Wendell Winkler, Hugo McCord, William Woodson and Roy H. Lanier, Jr., on one side and Franklin Camp, V.E. Howard, and Winfred Clark on the other, loved each other and worked together despite their divergent view on how the Spirit dwells in us.

 

Society as a whole has become more rancorous and divisive.  Turn on talk radio or cable news shows and you will see partisan bickering that approaches “media rage” levels.  At times, God’s people have adopted such tactics and attitudes.  While I was taught the representative view growing up, I have adopted the view that the Spirit non-miraculously, but personally, indwells God’s children.  Some of my dearest preaching friends maintain the representative view, but we love and work alongside each other.  Yet, there are some who seem to be utterly consumed with one extreme or another on this matter.  Right here, I am not referencing those who claim direct Spirit guidance apart from the Word, who seek the Spirit as proof or defense of their making decisions or moves that conflict with written revelation.  I mean those who are arguing for how the Spirit indwells.  These men have spent an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy and have troubled and even divided congregations of God’s people.

 

Every preacher’s personal life and work as a preacher will be audited by the perfect, Divine Auditor some day.  Will it be the case that some have been so issue-oriented that they left undone the weightier matters of the law–to include not just justice and mercy and faithfulness but also evangelism, edification, and enlistment?  That very thought should humble all of us to the core and give us pause as we reflect on what kind of stewards we are of our charge as gospel preachers.  The same principle applies to whatever hobby horses we chase and what kind of attitude we display while riding them.  We used to be warned in school that “you can be right and be wrong.” Let us be careful that, in trying to show the world or our brethren that our view is right, we do not find ourselves in the wrong!

IS IT POSSIBLE TO RECEIVE DIRECT REVELATIONS TODAY?

IS IT POSSIBLE TO RECEIVE DIRECT REVELATIONS TODAY?

Neal Pollard

A letter dated January 17, 2013, and addressed to me at the church’s address arrived a few days ago.  It was from a woman pastor who works with a “charismatic” church just east of Denver. It purported to be a message dictated to her from Jesus.  The message was for His “servants throughout this city” and it said, “All you who cry out for revival, All you who are waiting for the move of God; I have prepared my servant, I have prepared my holy warriors, I have released them to bring revival to this city, open the doors of your church to my chosen ones, so that I may bless you through them, and grant you the revival you have been crying for.” She assured me (and the other recipients?) that at this revival there would be “Open heavens, deliverance, healings, opening of spiritual eyes, baptism of Holy Spirit and fire, outpouring of spiritual gifts and much more.”  As I do not receive many letters like this, I found this correspondence quite noteworthy.

The question is, “Could this be true?”  Could this very ardent and sincere woman have received such a revelation?  If so, I am troubled by the implications.  Going to their website, I saw teaching about salvation (“sinner’s prayer”), the end of time (premillennialism), worship (“holy dance”), women’s role (multiple women prechers) and demon possession that contradict revealed Scripture.  If Jesus was behind what she and her church claims He is, then the situation exists that He would be contradicting through people like these what He taught through the apostles and prophets who wrote the New Testament.  Ironically, the web site prominently features a passage from near the end of the Bible which says, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).  Jude declared “the faith” (objective, not subjective) handed down “once for all.” What does that mean? The faith was handed down once, not continuously or progressively.  The faith was handed down for all, not just the saints of the first-century.

When people claim receiving direct messages and revelation from Christ, they face two insurmountable problems.  The first is confirming the message with miracles, wonders, and signs, since the miraculous age ceased.  The second is pitting God against Himself, by having Him tell us in the Bible that it (the Bible) is His complete guide for man (cf. 2 Peter 1:3; Gal. 1:6-9) and then sending messages in addition to it.  Not doubting the lady’s sincerity, I still dispute her claim.  May we be content to faithfully receive God’s Word and actively live it.  Alleged additional revelations today are impossible in light of the fact that God chose to limit Himself to that message “once for all handed down to the saints.”

“The Spirit Is Leading Us To ___________”

“The Spirit Is Leading Us To ___________”


Neal Pollard

When I was preaching in Virginia, I received a call from a concerned brother in another state.  He related to me that the congregation where he was attending was trying to push for women to serve in the church’s leadership roles.  He explained that the preacher’s and leadership’s defense and rationale was that the Holy Spirit was moving among them and leading them to this conclusion.

Have you ever heard a person or congregation seek to promote or defend a practice by claiming this kind of Spirit-guidance?  On the surface, it may seem powerful or compelling.  After all, if God is leading one to do something who is to oppose it?

The interesting (and important) thing is that the Spirit has already led us to truth on the matters pertaining to life and godliness (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3).  The Spirit inspired His Bible writers to reveal all truth (cf. John 14:26; 16:13).  Other passages, like 1 Corinthians 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:21, show God’s deliberate process of revealing His truth through inspired men in the time of the Bible.  You will also notice that God confirmed the word of His spokesmen through miracles, wonders, and signs (Acts 2:22,43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; Rom. 15:19; Heb. 2:4).

When someone contends today that the Spirit is moving them or the congregation to do “X,” a couple of puzzling conundrums must be solved.  First, if “X” conflicts with God’s revealed truth in Scripture, why is the Spirit calling for it and why should this calling trump God’s original will on the matter?  Second, what miracle, wonder or sign will be done to confirm the validity of it?  Third, what if someone else says, “But the Spirit is leading me to tell you that’s not correct?”

The Spirit is leading us and speaking to us today.  He does so powerfully, through the Word He moved men to write (cf. Heb. 4:12).  This sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17) is ample to guide us to do all the will of God!

FACTS ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT

FACTS ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT

Image

Neal Pollard

  • The Holy Spirit is one of three everlasting personalities of the Godhead, and as such He possesses all attributes of Deity (cf. Gen. 1:2,26; 1 Cor. 2:11).
  • The Holy Spirit moved the approximately forty men to write the Bible, breathing out God’s Word so that each writer, though equipped with free will and distinct personality, was guided completely, word for word, in the written message of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21).
  • The Holy Spirit has never directly operated upon the heart of man to bring about conversion, and thus He does not do so today (cf. Acts 2:40; 11:14).
  • The Holy Spirit has never overtaken an individual’s will or overrode one’s free choice, and that is true today, too (Rev. 22:17).
  • The Holy Spirit does not communicate Divine Revelation apart from Scripture today, as such would either be contradictory or superfluous in light of the written Word (2 Tim. 3:17; Jude 3).
  • The Holy Spirit provided miraculous gifts to the apostles to confirm the men and the message (Heb. 2:4).  Once that message had been faithfully delivered, there was no longer a need for miraculous evidence (John 20:30-21; Jude 3).
  • The Holy Spirit empowered first-century Christians with miraculous gifts, but these were to pass with the completion of the written Word.  Having thus the completed Word, there are no longer miraculous gifts (1 Cor. 13:8-13; Eph. 4:11-13).
  • The Holy Spirit indwells the Christian.  Faithful Christians may be divided as to how, with some saying He does so representatively (through the Word only) and others saying He does so personally and non-miraculously, but either view can be harmonized with Bible truth (Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 3:16; etc.).
  • The only instances of Holy Spirit baptism were of the apostles (Acts 1:5) and Cornelius’ household (Acts 10:47).  The one baptism of Ephesians 4:5 is water baptism, of which there are many examples in the New Testament (Acts 8:38; 1 Pet. 3:21).