“Biblical Counselors” Such as the Newheisers Would Tell Phinheas that he Had Sinned

While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor.

And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. And the LORD said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the LORD, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.” And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.”

And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.'” (Numbers 25:1-13)

At the heart of what is variously called nouthetic or biblical or Christian counseling is the simplistic false assumption that all of our problems are due our own sin. Oh yes, others sin, they say, even sin against us, but the REAL issue for nouthetics is how victims respond to the evil committed against them. And so they are all the time telling their counselees to “look to themselves” and see how they have contributed to the sin scenario. It is not unheard of for such counselors to even address cases of rape this way. And then along with it all goes the rest of the baggage: “are you bitter toward your rapist?” “Are you harboring unforgiveness?” “What did you do to contribute to the crime?” All that sort of wicked stuff.

Jim Newheiser, a reformed baptist pastor, is one of these types and has now become, as I have written about before, the head of the counseling department at Reformed Theological Seminary. Here’s a bio from the RTS site:

Dr. James (Jim) Newheiser, Jr., is the Director of the Christian Counseling Program and Associate Professor of Christian Counseling and Practical Theology at RTS Charlotte.

For 25 years, Dr. Newheiser served as the Preaching Pastor at Grace Bible Church in Escondido, California. He is also the Director of the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (formerly CCEF West) and an Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling at The Master’s College. Furthermore, Dr. Newheiser serves as a board member at both the Biblical Counseling Coalition (BCC) and the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

Rebecca Davis recently posted on her blog, Here’s the Joy, about Caroline Newheiser (Jim’s wife) teaching this very kind of nonsense that is sooooo incredibly damaging to the innocent.

So let’s think about all this a bit. Here is Phinehas, a godly man who was zealous for the Lord. When he saw that evil man and woman fornicating in open defiance of the Lord, committing the very wickedness for which many were dying, he took action. And I suggest to you that he was NOT calm and weepy about that poor couple he was about to run through with his spear. NO! Phinehas was incensed. He was ( to use what is regarded by the nouthetic crowd as a curse word) ANGRY! Yes He not only HATED what they were doing, he hated them! And he killed them!

Now, imagine if Phinehas had “shared his thoughts and heart” ahead of his spear throwing with the local “biblical counselor.”  “Hey, Jim, I gotta talk to you. I, I think I feel rage in my heart. I want to take a spear and turn that man and woman over there into shish-kebab.”  “Oh my, Phinehas, that is sin. You must never be so angry toward anyone.”

Am I really being all that ridiculous here in this imaginary setting? I don’t think so. You see, in the nouthetic counseling crowd not even the holiness of God justifies such anger.

But wait just a minute! God blessed Phinehas for his zeal!  And the LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them…” Phinehas did what GOD would do! Phineas’ action was Godly action. To be intensely angry at a rapist is Godliness!

But not according to this bizarre brand of “counselor” that seems to have overwhelmed so many Christian churches and schools and organizations today.

You have had this very kind of thing laid on you I bet. Either from a pulpit sermon or by a book you picked up that the local Christian bookstore or at a “Christian” conference, or by some “Christian friend” who just knew the Lord wanted him to rebuke you for your sin – even though YOU were the victim!  I have,

One of the most devious and deceptive and wicked men I have ever known did this to me numbers of times over the years before I wised up to what he really was. He wore a “saintly” disguise but was in fact a reviler who craved power and control for himself. One time a very wicked man, not a Christian, who popped into our church now and then for selfish reasons, phoned me late at night. He was drunk and started to accuse me and use the Lord’s name in his curses. I told him he was evil, that he didn’t scare me, and that if he wanted to make good on his threats to attack me physically, he could come right over now and I would meet him. I also told him that he should be very fearful of God’s wrath against him. He shut up and then hung up.

And what was this fine, eminent, “Christian” man’s response to it all the next day?  “Oh, that was sinful of you to speak that way to him.” He would bring up that accusation repeatedly in the future. What was he really doing? Exalting himself by putting me down. Presenting himself as the greatest, most patient saint of all. He wasn’t angry about the Lord’s name being blasphemed. Oh no. I have no doubt he would have chastised Phinehas.

Our lesson in all this? Don’t listen to Newheiser. Don’t listen to these lying accusations made by arrogant seekers of self-glory. Walk away. And before you walk, tell them they have no zeal for the glory of God nor do they hunger and thirst after righteousness.

An Absolutely Accurate Description of the State of today’s Church

Our friend Dale Ingraham gave the following assessment of the state of the visible church today. He is saying exactly what I have been preaching increasingly this last year.

I believe the church today is much like Israel in Jesus’ day. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes were the religious leaders. They were the educated elites and yet they didn’t know God. They were selfish, greedy and corrupt. There were only two Pharisees at the time, that we know of, who followed Jesus. [Today] Sex offenders are allowed to freely operate within the confines of most churches and few are trying to hold them accountable. Until the people in the pews throw out the wolves in sheep’s clothing, nothing will change before Christ’s return.

And I would add to that “domestic abuse offenders” as well. Thanks Dale.

The Reprobate Wicked Always Cast Blame, Never Acknowledge Their Guilt

The following verses from Malachi perfectly illustrate the mentality of the wicked who have crept into the visible church. They are never to blame. Someone else is always guilty, not them. In this case, they are blaming God Himself. Read the verses and then we will think further about how this denial of culpability is prevalent in professing Christian churches today:

“I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” (Malachi 1:2-3)

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:6-9)

And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. (Malachi 2:13-14)

“Look at the mess we are in. Crops are failing. Rains aren’t coming. Enemies rising against us. Why? Where is God? He is supposed to be blessing us. This is all His fault.”

And they have the audacity to even say this to God’s face. Directly accusing Him.

Weep. Groan. Pity party.

The truth of the matter was that God was being absolutely true to His covenant Word. These people whom He had set His love upon now despised Him. So much so that these “offerings” they boasted about were second and third rate. Defective stock that no one else wanted. “Let’s donate it to the church then.” “Ok, Lord, now you have to bless us.”

If that were not enough, they regularly and even typically broke their marriage covenant. Adulterers. Revilers against the wife of their youth. Oh, not in “church” of course, but in everyday life. In secret. But God saw it all.

In spite of their obvious guilt, they refused to admit it. They blamed God. The problem was with God. God was the one. Point finger. Accuse. That is what revilers do, you know. They vilify others. They even make God the villain ultimately. Poor them.

I have met many such people hiding in the ranks of the visible church. Many. Nothing is ever their fault. Oh, they might own up to some small thing just to make it look like they are repentant, but keep pressing them and you will see that they remain blame-casters. Make no mistake now. We are not talking about people who are the typical sinner, the unsaved who in their sin put off confessing their lost condition and their need of Christ. No. We are speaking here of people like these “covenant” people of God in Malachi’s day who openly boast about being “the chosen.” People who claim to be Christians and who even put themselves off as eminently holy saints. All the while however, they walk in the paths of evil. Abusers, revilers, swindlers, liars. All dressed in deceptive garments of wool.

It is long, long past time for us in the church to cease being deceived by these deceivers. When victims of their evil come forward and seek our aid, we must not be taken in by the often smooth excuses of the wicked. And we must expect something else when we stand against them, calling them out for their lying perversions of the truth. We must expect them to start blaming us. You will find yourself suddenly painted as the guilty one. It’s all your fault now. No matter how much factual evidence you put before him. No matter. It’s not his fault.

Remove that wicked one from among you. Stop trying to “redeem” him. Cease thinking that you can help “fix” him. That is not how the Lord instructs us to deal with such a person and to set out on some course of “counseling and therapy” with such a one is to flagrantly refuse to obey the Lord:

And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Corinthians 5:2)

 

What the Newheisers Would tell the Wife of the Texas Church Shooter – By Rebecca Davis

This is an excellent article by Rebecca Davis, exposing the horrible counseling that is being taught to seminary students and Christians at large by Jim and Caroline Newheiser. This is a must read post and largely explains the unbiblical, false mentality that is behind churches telling domestic abuse victims that they must not only remain with their abuser but they must look for much of the cause of the abuse as being due to their OWN sin!!! Sickening. Thank you Rebecca.

At the heart of the “biblical counseling” theology is the foundational false insistence that all of our problems are due at least in part to our own sin. All of our problems and sufferings. All! This is the reason why I have long rejected the “nouthetic” counseling school. It has done and continues to do incredible damage to people. This article gives a perfect and common example of what I mean.  Just click on the link to read it:

Should the Texas Shooter’s Wife Have Gotten Biblical ‘Counseling’

 

How to Watch for the Rise of Evil in Your Church

The following verses from Paul’s letter to the Galatians outline a flow of events that has continued to replay itself in every era of church history, and it continues to thrive today. This sequence inevitably introduces evil (through evil persons) into the visible church and most professing Christians are (inexcusably) oblivious to it. Read the following scriptures and then I will explain:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—(Galatians 1:6)

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. (Galatians 2:4-6)

Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. (Galatians 4:16-17)

I am finished with involvement in church denominational organizations. I have given it a go in three different, supposedly genuine, “Christian” fellowships of local churches and each time ended with disappointment, betrayal, and hopefully, increased wisdom. In essence, those groups were not what they appeared to be nor what they claimed to be. What was happening in the churches of Galatia had happened among them.

First, Paul confronts the Galatians with their desertion of the gospel. He had taught them well. They had received the Spirit and that not by any works on their part but by faith alone in Christ alone. Yet here they were, allured to another Jesus, another spirit, another gospel. Why? How?

False brothers had crept in among them with a false gospel and an evil motive. They were full of flattering words but their goal was to be “made much of.” All of their flattery was wicked, aimed at bringing them into power and control among those churches, creating an environment in which they would be praised and hold the reins.

Of course that all necessarily requires a false gospel because the real gospel, Jesus, is obnoxious to the masses. If you want a big following then you are going to have to create a message that fleshly, worldly “christians” want. Out goes grace alone and in comes man’s own self-doings to earn merit with God.

Now, here is my point, I have found that wicked people, like these false teachers at Galatia, thrive and multiply in “structure.” The bigger and more elaborate the structure, the faster they multiply. What do I mean? Let me explain by example.

Initially, when you examine some structured Christian organization such as, say, a denomination, everything looks good. Their doctrinal statement is sound. The leaders appear godly. Unity in Christ, it seems, is the spirit of the thing with everything supposedly being done for the glory of God.

It isn’t.

Naively (and we are without excuse for this), Christians permit “certain persons” to advance up the structure of the thing. He is pastor Jack, let’s say. What a godly guy! What a servant of the Lord! That guy is on several committees. He is willing to do most anything to help. Another leader in the group announces at an annual meeting, “If you all want to know how to ‘do’ worship, just visit Pastor Jack’s church. They ‘do’ worship with excellence there.” Yep, I am witness to that very thing being said. Commonly.

But Pastor Jack and his kind are evil. They do not really know the Lord. Their goal is to exalt themselves, to be praised, and to bring YOU into bondage -into bondage to them! And if you doubt my warning, I suggest that you just try to correct them or disagree with them and see what happens.

As it was in Galatia, so it is today. “Those who seemed to be influential.” Influential. There is an interesting word. People “of influence,” which is really to say, “people with power.” Pretty clear? Then why is it that in spite of these plain warnings in God’s Word given to us, most every church and certainly most every multi-church organization is characterized by “people of influence?” Power-brokers? The moment you see these kind rising into view, you can be certain that sin is operative and evil has already crept in.

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:10-12)

Stop it! Stop permitting this. Stop allowing yourself to be mesmerized. Quit sitting back and “letting them do it.” In my case, a personal application of these truths has meant that I will never again be a member of a church denomination, nor will I crave to pastor a “large” church. I will not help establish a “structure” which evil people can use as their own personal tower of Babel to ascend into the heavens. I find that keeping wickedness out of our single, local church is enough to keep us all busy.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

Fail in these things and you will, be assured of it, end up rejecting the Apostle Paul and embracing the agents of the enemy. Fail in these things and you will find yourself retracing the same old steps to Rome.

 

Why Does the Lord Describe the Motives and Methods of the Wicked for Us?

We have been learning about this category of person called the reprobate. The kind of false teacher described by Peter (2 Peter 2-3), Jude, Hebrews 6, and many other Scriptures. Peter says of such people:

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. (2 Peter 2:17)

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:20-21)

These are not just any sinner, as we have been careful to point out in previous posts. Oh no. These are knowing, willful, evil people parading as Christians, motivated by greed, set out to mislead many and take them to hell along with them. Utter darkness has been reserved for them. Their place in hell is eternally secured. And they brought it all on themselves:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1)

Anyone who refuses to acknowledge this category of person thereby refuses to believe God’s Word.

Now, I can hear another kind of objector. “Ok, so the Bible does say that there are people who are reprobate. But there is no way WE can know who they are. That is God’s business. We must never judge or even assume that someone is one of them. We must always pray for everyone and work our best to lead them to repentance and faith in Christ.”

My response? If we cannot discern who these false teachers are, then why in the world does Scripture warn us about them, describe them for us, tell us their very motives, and then call on us to put them out of the church?  Pretty good question, eh? Let’s just review what Peter tells us about them:

  • They operate secretly/covertly
  • They actively “teach”
  • Their message is heresy, and it is destructive
  • They deny Christ, particularly making the cross unnecessary
  • Their false gospel is sensual. It appeals to the flesh
  • They are motivated by greed and a lust for self-glory
  • They despise authority
  • They have no shame – they revel even in the daytime
  • They particularly target “unsteady souls” (Oh, hello there new young person. Come to my house and I will disciple you).
  • They are very, very deceptive and able to mimic a sheep quite well

Want me to go on? I could by simply looking at other similar Scriptures like Jude. But just look at this list and ask yourself once more – If Peter did not expect us to be able to identify these evil ones as they creep in among us, if in fact identifying them is something ONLY the Lord can do, then WHY did Peter even bother telling us all this? Understand?

The reason God’s Word shines its light on the darkness of these deceivers is because by applying the truths it tells us about these wolves, we can see them for what and who they are, avoid being deceived by them, and put them out from among us.

And yet, what is the prevalent mentality and teaching in the visible church today in this regard? Don’t judge anyone. Only God knows. God’s mercy is infinite. God loves everyone. And on and on and on the formula goes. It is a teaching from the enemy. It is darkness.

Shine the Light of Christ’s Word on it and show it for what it is.

 

When Churches Exceed Their Authority, Evil Comes into the Church

This is a guest post kindly submitted at my request by James and Linda Sander. They are the authors of Rethinking Biblical Divorce: Let Scripture be Your Guidewhich I highly recommend. Let me introduce their article with a few words:

Without thinking, most Christians assume that they must obtain permission from their pastor/church in order to divorce their spouse. And local churches certainly behave as if this were true, even to the point of ex-communicating a member who divorces for “unbiblical” reasons (as defined by that local church or pastor). James and Linda Sander maintain that Scripture nowhere gives churches that authority and they outline at least part of their argument here in this post. I fully agree with them.

Let me make a clear point lest anyone misunderstand. Neither the Sanders nor myself are denying that the church has Christ’s authority in certain arenas. The Word of God is authoritative and when the church preaches it in truth, there is authority. And of course the church has authority to put wicked counterfeits out of their midst and to admonish those who are sinning. Largely in our day churches are failing or refusing to exercise this proper authority and instead are claiming authority that is not theirs. The result is that the wicked are enabled while the innocent are cast out.

In their book the Sanders also argue (quite well I might say) that no one but the individual Christian has the right to decide if remarriage is permissible and that when a church claims authority in this matter, that church is contradicting Jesus’ words:

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”  (Matthew 19:10-12)

Here then is what the Sanders maintain about church authority and divorce:

Jesus said,

Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:4-6)

And the cross reference,

But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. (Mark 10:6-9)

In discussing these verses, we will focus on the words, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (or “let no man separate”).

If asked, “What do the words, ‘What God has joined together, let no man separate’ mean?” many Christians will answer (perhaps somewhat uncertainly), “It means we should not divorce.” But is this what the words are really saying? There are three difficulties with this understanding.

  • One, most Christians agree the Bible does allow divorce.We might differ regarding when it is allowed, but most of us agree Scripture does indicate divorce is allowed. Therefore, it would be inconsistent to assume Jesus’ statement, “What God has joined together, let no man separate” means we should not divorce.
  • Two, the command,“What God has joined together, let no man separate,” is found only in this confrontation with the Pharisees; it is found nowhere else in Scripture.Jesus said this as a retort to the Pharisees in their attempt to trap him.

We often see in Scripture that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in a different way than he spoke to his followers or to the receptive crowd like the one listening to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. This makes sense because the Pharisees were antagonistic and were not interested in learning from Jesus’ answers nor were they interested in becoming followers of Jesus. In the passage we are considering, the Pharisees confronted Jesus and were attempting to trap him and publicly discredit him. Because of this, Jesus does not answer them in the same way he answered questions from his followers who were seeking truth. [NOTE from Jeff: This point about Jesus speaking in a different way to the Pharisees than to receptive people is incredibly important and is in my opinion one of the most important interpretive principles that the Sanders emphasize both here and in their book]

  • Three, there is another meaning of this command that better fits the context. We take a step toward understanding what Jesus meant when we keep in mind that the Pharisees thought of themselves as the arbiters of most issues of Jewish life. They considered themselves to be the ones with insight and understanding. Further, they considered that their rulings should be deemed authoritative for the masses in issues of daily life and religion, which, of course, included divorce.

Once we realize the Pharisees claimed the religious authority to say under what circumstances a husband and a wife could divorce, then we begin to understand how Jesus’ command would challenge their position.In fact, Jesus was doing this very thing with his command—he revealed to all that the Pharisees’ authority was self-appointed rather than from God.

The word “man” is anthropos, here meaning “human being” (male or female). Jesus said, “What God has joined together, let no human being separate.”Jesus is contrasting mere man with the Almighty God. God created marriage and God is the one who joins a couple together in marriage. The idea is, “If God joins a couple (and everyone in Jesus’ audience agreed that this is true), then who is a human being to say when a couple is permitted to divorce? How did the Pharisees, mere human beings,obtain such an authority that they can separate something God has joined together?”

Picture Jesus developing his argument as he responds to the Pharisees’ attack (and the crowd listens in)—

  • “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,” and everyone agrees with these familiar words.
  • “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.” Again, they agree with this Old Testament statement describing marriage; a new family unit begins.
  • “And the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” And again, all nod their heads understanding that in marriage and in the sexual relationship, the man and woman become one.

No one would disagree with anything Jesus said; in fact, they are all in agreement. They revere the words of the Old Testament.

Then Jesus quashes the Pharisees, “What God has joined together, let no human separate.” Jesus bluntly tells them that no human has authority to separate a marriage God created.

The Pharisees had usurped an authority that belongs to God alone, and with these words, Jesus exposed their lack of God-given authority.

The correct way to think is, “What God has joined, God alone separates.” No Pharisee, or any other human being or any human authority, has the right to separate what God has joined together.

“What Godhas joined together, let no humanseparate,” means “It’s not up to you—mere human beings—to decide who is allowed to divorce.” Jesus used the “let no man separate” command to challenge the Pharisees’ self-appointed authority that they are the ones who determine if a couple can divorce. Pharisees should not decide when a divorce is allowed, and they should not decide for a couple if they are permitted to divorce.

Jesus’ command includes the word “therefore.” “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no human being separate.” The “therefore” lets us know that this is the summation and answer to the Pharisees’ original question. The Pharisees’ original question was, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” Jesus’ “therefore” statement renders irrelevant the Pharisees’ question whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason—Jesus commands that no human, which includes these Pharisees, decides this.

There are two interesting points of grammar about Jesus’ words “Let no man separate.” First, it is clear in the Greek that this is a command; we might not fully realize it is a command because of the use of the word “Let.” But make no mistake, this is an imperative—Jesus gave a command.

Second, notice Jesus’ use of third person here. He included other people besides these Pharisees. He uses third person because he is stating a command that goes beyond the Pharisees.

Although Jesus’ command was initially directed to the Pharisees and was designed to strip the power from the Pharisees (who were the ones ruling on divorce issues at that time), the use of third person strips the authority from any who would claim such power today. It removes the right from anyone who would decide for a couple if they are allowed to divorce—or from anyone who might be tempted to take on such authority.

There is no place in the Bible that gives one person the authority to decide or pronounce when or if another person is permitted todivorce. In fact, we see in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees it is just the opposite. Only God has this authority. This is the purpose of the “Let no human separate” command. It is not a statement explaining if or when divorce is allowed.

So in this passage, it is critical for us to note that this command does not prohibit divorce. What it states is that no human has the authority to say if or when a couple can divorce.

Since Scripture does allow divorce, we are then left with the questions, “Who is allowed to divorce?” and “How is it decided?” Simply, Christian men and women decide this in the same way they decide any other issue that might come up in their lives—by prayer, by spending time in the Word, and by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We explain more about this topic, and others, in our book Rethinking Biblical Divorce, Let Scripture Be Your Guide (available at Amazon).

 

Evil Always Has an Element of Betrayal – And this is Very Telling

Matthew 26:47-49 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. (48) Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” (49) And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.

Judas, the epitome of betrayers. He is infamous for his evil. One of the twelve, as Matthew reminds us – and with a kiss – a most cruel symbol of false loyalty wrapped around a heart of wicked treachery.

Psalms 41:9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

I want to talk today about this quality of betrayal that is present in evil. Anyone who has been the victim of evil has felt it, though perhaps not every victim fully understands that they have been betrayed. A vow or trust has been broken. And that is very painful, especially when it comes from a close friend or spouse or some other person who you thought loved you and was loyal to you.

I think that I have felt the most pain from the betrayal of people who were closest to me, and it is for this reason that I can very much empathize with victims of domestic abuse. The sharpest and most traumatic blows of betrayal hit us when they originate in someone we absolutely believed loved us. In my case, as a pastor, these arrows have come from people who I literally spent years and years ministering to, counseling, trying to help and who, because we are a very small church, I considered to be my friends and brethren in Christ. They weren’t. As it turns out they were really just using me for selfish motives. Hard lessons to learn.

Evil is treasonous and treacherous. It is only loyal to itself. When a wicked person appears to be reaching out in friendship, the fact is that he is merely playing the role, like Judas, because he wants something for himself that he believes you can give him. Judas, among other things, wanted money from the coin box and perhaps he wanted some kind of attention through associating with the Lord.

When someone you have loved, and whom you really believed loved you, rejects you, abandons you, turns on you as an enemy, the pain of betrayal hits you hard. YOU loved them, so you gave them your heart. But THEY never loved you, so the betrayer (though he may pretend in order to get pity) doesn’t feel any real pain. And as you begin to realize this, the sense of betrayal grows even more intense. I have sat face to face with people who I counted as very close friends, who I had believed were brothers and sisters in Christ, and had them coldly, with no guilt or sense of conscience, tell me they were leaving and would not be seeing me anymore. That is how divorce feels when someone you thought loved you serves you with the papers. And it is how an abuse victim feels when the fog starts clearing that the abuser has cast over their mind and they begin to realize that this spouse they loved all these years, never loved them. Never. Betrayal. Treason. Treachery.

Now, this is important when it comes to our ability to see where the evil really lies. That is to say, sorting out who the guilty one is and who the victim is. The wicked are often quite skilled at making themselves look like the victim and the victim look like the evil one. So we must take care. And one thing we can watch for is – where is the pain? Where is the sense of betrayal? Because you see, Judas had no pain in betraying Jesus – he kissed Him! Whatever it was that led to Judas hanging himself, it was not Godly sorrow. And so it is with the wicked person who betrays. They may moan and groan about how they have been wronged, but remember – they are feeling absolutely no sense of being betrayed. The victim on the other hand, is. For the most part, the betrayer has no pain of conscience, no grief of remorse. They are, after all, betraying, not being betrayed. And this is very, very telling if we watch for it.

Let me give you an example. I have known people who professed to be fine Christians, and appeared to be, only to be found out years later that in fact they have been practicing wickedness all along. Secretly. Some were domestic abusers in their homes. Others were cruel taskmasters to their employees. But when they were found out, they did not evidence grief or guilt or shame. In other words, they did not repent. What they DID do is blame others, break off fellowship with their victims, and effect that betrayal we are speaking of. You will see grief and pain in the ones betrayed. But you will NOT see it in the betrayer. In fact I have noticed over the years that wicked ones like this are not at all bothered if they come face to face later with those they betrayed. All smiles. Just as if nothing had ever happened. And when you see this, you know with certainty who the evil one really is in the situation. They feel no pain or sorrow.

They only leave a trail of it.

Want to find evil? Watch for the betrayer and you will have found it.

 

 

A Common Door Through Which Evil Enters the Church

This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'(Matthew 15:8-9)

It is, therefore, of the greatest importance for every believer, and particularly for theologians, to know which scriptural truths, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, have been brought to universal recognition in the church of Christ. By this process, after all, the church is kept from immediately mistaking a private opinion for the truth of God. [Herman Bavinck]

Most evangelical Christians assume that they are “Bereans.” Some have even given that name to their church! The Bereans, you know, were said to be of a more noble character than the Thessalonians in that they listened to Paul’s teaching and then searched the Scriptures to see if what he said was true or not. (See Acts 17]

But the fact is that the majority of professing Christians and local churches today do not “search the Scriptures” before they embrace some teaching that has been handed to them since childhood. They don’t search. They assume. And this is how evil enters in among us, bringing us into bondage and leading us away from Christ. Many pastors preach doctrines with a virtual “thus saith the Lord” authority when in reality the Lord hath not “saith” any such thing.

Recently I read a church constitution and bylaws. Included in the list of doctrines which must be believed before someone can be a member were:

  • No consumption of alcohol
  • Divorced persons can never serve in the office of pastor, elder, or deacon
  • Members must cease from all work on the Lord’s Day

And of course we could go on and on and on with a never-ending list of “Bible doctrines” that have in reality been created by men.

Herman Bavinck’s words (quoted above) are wonderful. Scriptural truths which, by the Holy Spirit working in the Christian, have been brought to a universal recognition in the church – these are the common creed. When doctrines which have not been accepted to that degree are pressed upon us, we are in great danger of mistaking man’s private opinion for the truth of God. And that is a disaster. It is an open door for the enemy of our souls to send in His agents.

Did you know that many “Bible-believing” churches today will actually ex-communicate a person if they divorce? It’s true. Over and over again we talk to people who were the long time victims of terrible domestic abuse by a wicked spouse and when they separated from that abuser, they were threatened by their church with ex-communication. Numbers of them ultimately were “handed over to Satan” by their pastors and fellow church members.

Now, think on this very carefully. Is there a universal conclusion throughout the Christian church which recognizes the reasons for which God permits divorce? Let me help you answer the question:

  • John Piper and Jim Ellif and others say God does not permit divorce EVER for any reason.
  • Many teach that adultery and desertion are permissible reasons for divorce, but that remarriage is not permitted
  • Others permit remarriage
  • Many if not most deny that a Christian who is victimized by a domestic abuser can divorce the abuser
  • Myself and a growing number of others insist (and we are right, you know!) that God permits divorce for habitual, unrepentant, ongoing violation of the wedding covenant vows

So, which is it? Does that sound like a doctrine that the Holy Spirit has led the Christian church to universal recognition of? We agree on the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, the necessity of the new birth, the second coming of Christ, the final judgment….how can one even be a Christian and not confess these truths?

And yet as we said, many churches will actually ex-communicate a woman who divorces her long-time abuser husband if she even separates from him and refuses to return, just as readily as if she stood up in the congregation and announced that she rejects Jesus Christ as the Son of God!

And so, evil comes into the church. Evil-doers creep in among us. They are even enabled and encouraged in their wickedness. All because doctrines of men are elevated to the authority of God’s own Word. Many if not most churches have a lesser or greater degree of legalism’s yoke pressing down upon the flock. Others go the libertine route and announce perversions of God’s Word to be Scripture, rejecting the Lord’s plain truth given to us. The enemy delights in either route.

We cannot love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and soul if we wrap our arms around falsehood anymore than the Pharisees loved Him. In fact, when the true and living Christ shows up among such a people, He is hated and rejected because He is not the idol god they have created.