The Faith of Devils

James 2:15-19, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (17) So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (18) But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (19) You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!”

As we have said before, Satan is an excellent theologian.  He knows the Bible well – he was able to quote it from memory when he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4).  Satan believes in God, and so do his emissaries.  And the God in which he believes is no false god.  Satan believes in the living and true God.  He believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  He knows all about Christ’s incarnation, atonement, and resurrection.  He knows them to be true.  He even knows that Christ is coming again to judge all men and himself –

Revelation 12:12, “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Matthew 8:29, “And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?””

So let’s talk for a bit here about the faith of the devil and his demons.  First of all, it just needs to be said – the devil and his demons have a stronger and more accurate faith than many professing Christians.  The devil lives and acts in light of his faith.  He knows his time is short, so he rages.  The demons fear Christ because they know their time is coming.  Do you see it?  How many people who profess the name of Christ truly live out what they believe?  That was James’ whole point when he said that a faith that does not yield works is no real faith at all.  If I see a brother or sister in need or being oppressed by an evil person, and I only give them pious sounding words but do nothing to help them, my faith is not genuine faith.  It doesn’t save that victim, nor can it save my soul.  The demons are very sound and accurate in their theology proper – they confess full well that God is one.  They adhere to the doctrine of the trinity.   In fact, their faith is so accurate that it leads them to shudder!

Are we telling our congregations, as pastors and as church members, that man needs to fear God?  That apart from genuine repentance – a real, heartfelt turning from sin to Christ – the only thing that awaits a person when they depart out of this world is, hell?  Are we calling, as Scripture commands us to, all people to turn from their love for the world and love Christ above all else? Does anyone ever leave our worship services shuddering and trembling out of the fear of the Lord?  Unfortunately, we know the answer to these questions, at least in the vast majority of cases.  People leave our worship services thinking about what the special is at The Sizzler, or any number of other things.

And it gets worse than that, because there ARE people who leave our services shuddering and trembling.   The victims of abuse.  The oppressed and down-trodden, the humble of soul, find no relief.  They often leave condemned, thinking that it is they who have been too judgmental and unkind or unforgiving toward their oppressor.  The wicked man leaves justified in his own mind.

The professing, Bible-believing Christian church is fostering a devilish faith.  The faith of demons is a faith that knows all about various facts and details of Scripture, but is devoid of fruit.  It confesses God is one, then it goes out and oppresses the innocent and weak.

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Charles Finney, an evangelist in the Northeastern United States (New York area?) back in the 1800’s.  Finney is the one who is “credited” with inventing the altar call approach to evangelism.  He had some kind of bench that he would put up front for sinners to come to a be saved.  He believed that the preacher can actually, by following certain guidelines, effect a real revival.  If you have any doubts, pick up a copy of Finney’s writings and you can see for yourself. What has this to do with the present state of the church and with abuse and domestic violence?  I believe, and I am not alone, that Finney’s methodology so infected the church that it is still with us today.   Instead of telling people who are under conviction of sin to go home and plead with God to show them mercy, as the humble tax-collector did –

Luke 18:13, “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”

… we tell them they can say a simple prayer and then be absolutely confident that the Lord has saved them. This is what we call easy-believism, and it is probably exactly what the Apostle James was opposing in James 2.  All of us who are deeply concerned about abuse and abusers and the church’s unjust handling of abuse victims, need to understand that it is this very kind of unbiblical theology that is responsible for creating an environment in our churches where evil can hide.  As we fill our pews with people we have pronounced to be saved, but who do not know the Lord, we endanger the flock and act as allies of the enemy.

Where there is genuine, saving faith, there will be fruits and evidences of that faith.  The love of Christ will be evident – a real love that is so foreign to this world that when the world sees it, they know we are followers of Christ.  But sadly, Christ’s name is being blasphemed among the world today because even an unsaved man knows hypocrisy when he sees it.  We are not calling our people to genuine repentance and faith as Christ demands, and we are reaping the whirlwind as a result.  No one knows this better than the battered victim of the “Christian” abuser.

The “Christian” Abuser: Couldn’t He be a “Carnal” Christian? (Part 4)

The following is a summary of the conclusions of Sam Storms, who writes at Enjoying God Ministries.  His take on 1 Cor 3:1-3 is a bit different than we have presented in parts 2 & 3 of this series of posts, but it is also excellent and he also rejects any notion that there exists a “carnal Christian” who is genuinely regenerate but who persists without repentance in a state of sin.  I think that you will benefit from this article as well.  Here is the link:

http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/the-carnal-christian-study-of-1-corinthians-31-3/

This is how Dr. Storms concludes his article:

“From what has been seen, we may now draw four conclusions.

First, there are two senses in which a Christian can be spoken of as “carnal”. (1) As new converts, all Christians are to varying degrees carnal. (2) Among long-time Christians, some may be. The former is expected. The latter is not. However, insofar as the word “carnal” has come to have such negative connotations, it would be wise for us to forego calling new Christians “carnal”, and do as Paul: refer to them as “babes” in Christ.

We are still left with the fact that Paul refers to the Corinthians, by way of rebuke, as carnal. The use to which Paul puts the word in v. 3 should not be rejected, for it is clearly biblical and appropriate as a descriptive term for those Christians who fall into a similar pattern of behavior. So I see no reason to be disturbed that someone would distinguish between “carnal” Christians and “spiritual” Christians, especially in view of the obvious distinction between “mature” and “immature” found elsewhere in the NT.

Second, I caution against referring to “carnal” and “spiritual” as rigid categories or classes of Christians. The idea of a distinctive class or category implies a strict line of demarcation between one group of believers and another. It suggests there are readily identifiable stages in the Christian life into which one may enter if certain things are done or out of which one may fall if other things are done. Sanctification, however, is far too fluid for such strict categorization. In other words, sanctification is a process which, because of its constantly dynamic and progressive nature, defies rigid classifications. There are “babes” in Christ, as Paul indicates, but no two Christians are ever at the same stage of spiritual infancy. There are “carnal” Christians, but again in varying degree. No two Christians manifest the same depth or degree of carnality. There are “spiritual” or “mature” believers, but all the marks or fruits of spirituality are not apparent in all Christians at the same time and to the same extent. No individual’s spiritual growth is wholly constant and undisturbed and you will rarely, if ever, find any two Christians at precisely the same stage of sanctification. There are countless hills and valleys, stumblings, falls, moments of victory and defeat in the process of our growth in grace.

Carnality, then, although ideally a condition to be found only in the newly saved, is such that may raise its ugly head at any and every stage of the Christian life. Thus, it may be more accurate to say that there are as many categories and classes of Christians as there are individual believers. The principle which bears repeating is this: carnality and spirituality, rather than being categories or classes into which one enters in the Christian life, are characteristics or moral tendencies which one manifests in varying degree throughout the course of the Christian life. The ideal as set forth in Scripture is, of course, a progression that is always upward – away from manifestations of carnality and toward manifestations of maturity.

Third, carnality in the Christian, whenever and in whatever way it manifests itself, is a temporary condition. There is no basis in Scripture for the teaching that genuinely born again and justified Christians can persist, without great discomfort, in their sin (a discomfort, I might add, due to the promptings of the Holy Spirit or the chastisement of the Father, such as lead to repentance). Samuel Bolton put it well:

“We still have the presence of sin, nay, the stirrings and workings of corruptions. These make us to have many a sad heart and wet eye. Yet Christ has thus far freed us from sin; it shall not have dominion. There may be the turbulence, but not the prevalence of sin. There may be the stirrings of corruption. It was said of Carthage that Rome was more troubled with it when half destroyed than when whole. So a godly man may be more troubled with sin when it is conquered than when it reigned. Sin will still work, but it is checked in its workings. They are rather workings for life than from life. They are not such uncontrolled workings as formerly. Sin is under command. Indeed, it may get advantage, and may have a tyranny in the soul, but it will never more be sovereign. I say, it may get into the throne of the heart and play the tyrant in this or that particular act of sin, but shall never more be as a king there. Its reign is over; you will never yield a voluntary obedience to sin. Sin is conquered, though it still has a being within you” (The True Bounds of Christian Freedom [Banner of Truth], p. 26).

Fourth, our consideration of this issue must never result in an unbiblical separation of sanctification from justification. Holiness and a progressively changed life are not optional. “By this we know that we have come to know him,” says John, “if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3). Mere profession of faith, unattended by good works, does not guarantee the reality of faith. We would do well to remember the rebuke of Jesus to those who professed their loyalty and cited their miraculous deeds: “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Mt. 7:23).

Go to Part 3 of this series

The “Christian” Abuser: Couldn’t He be a “Carnal” Christian? (Part 3)

In his article “Rethinking a Much Abused Text: 1 Corinthians 3:1-15” Brian Borgman provides a great summary of the background and elements of the “carnal Christian” teaching.  I will provide you with just enough material from his article to whet your appetite, and then you can read the entire article at the following link:

http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ref-rev/11-1/11-1_borgman.pdf

Here then are some quotes from the article:

The Carnal Christian Teaching (3: 1-4).  The founder and first president of Dallas Theological Seminary (originally The Evangelical Theological College), Lewis Sperry Chafer (D.D.), published He That Is Spiritual in 1918. In tha t work, now dubbed in its reprinted subtitle, “A Classic Study of the Biblical Doctrine of Spirituality,” he gave full exposition to the “carnal Christian” teaching, which had been briefly articulated in the Scofield Reference Bible, just one year before.  In Chafer’s work, he opens up the first chapter with “Three Classes of Men.” Chafer based his teaching on 1 Corinthians. 2:9-3:4. He states:

The Apostle Paul, by the Spirit, has divided the whole human family into three groups: (1) The “natural man,” who is unregenerate, or unchanged spiritually; (2) the “carnal man,” who is a “babe in Christ,” and walks “as a man”; and (3) the “spiritual” man.”

In that opening chapter, Chafer describes the “carnal Christlan” in the following terms:

“Though saved, the carnal Christians are walking “according to the course of this world.” They are “carnal” because the flesh is dominating them (see Romans 7:14) . . . . The objectives and affections are centered in the same unspiritual sphere as that of the “natural” man.”

According to Chafer, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3: 1-4, is teaching that a saved person can be under the dominion of sin. Amazingly he uses Romans 7:14 to support this idea! Further, he asserts that a regenerate man may have his objectives and affections completely untouched by the regenerating grace of the Spirit! Finally, he summarizes,

“There are two great spiritual changes which are possible to human experience – the change from the ‘natural’ man to the saved man, and the change from the ‘carnal’ man to the ‘spiritual’ man.”

Unfortunately, Chafer’s “carnal Christian” teaching from 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, gained widespread acceptance, and has been given new life time and again. One of the most popular heirs of the Chaferian interpretation of 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 is Charles Ryrie. Ryrie even marshals Herman Bavinck and John Calvin in support of making a distinction between the carnal believer and the spiritual believer. [Neither would agree with Ryrie]

What is important to notice is that Chafer, and those who have followed him, have taken 1 Corinthians 3: 1-4 and used it to justify that there are actually three classes or kinds of people: natural, spiritual, and carnal. In Chafer’s scheme, there are two types or kinds of Christians, those who are spiritual and those who are carnal. Furthermore, what characterizes this “carnal” Christian is that his life can be completely unchanged; his objectives and affections can remain untransformed. There is no observable difference between him and the natural man. He can be walking according to the course of this world. In fact, he can even be completely indifferent to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Certainly there are other related problems with Chafer’s teaching- for instance, regarding the nature of man, the nature of regeneration and sanctification. However, for our purpose we are simply focusing on his use of 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 to justify the “carnal Christian” doctrine.

Borgman gives some pastoral observations:  [emphasis is mine]

My personal evaluation of these two teachings, derived from 1 Corinthians 3:1-15, is that they are not only exegetically indefensible, but also pernicious doctrines. The exegetical observation will be dealt with in the next section, where we will closely examine the text in its context. The other observation, that these are both pernicious doctrines, comes from a theological and pastoral perspective. These doctrines have been used to instill in people the notion that they can have true faith and yet be carnal and fruitless. The worst thing that can happen to such people is that they lose out on millennial rewards. This is not a hypothetical observation, it is one that I have heard many times over the years. A presumptuous laziness can creep in, making people comfortable with their carnality and fruitlessness. What makes this so dangerous is that it gives ground for people to think they are converted, when in fact they may well be unregenerate and hellbound.

My contention is that 1 Corinthians 3:1-15 has been abused by Chafer and others. The abuse of this passage has been tragic and remains with us to this day. It is my purpose in the next section to layout a clear exegetical exposition of the text, and then conclude with some doctrinal and practical implications.”

I encourage all of our readers to take the time to read this article. This kind of thinking, along with the hyper-covenantal Roman Catholic teachings of the Federal Vision theology in some Presbyterian churches (i.e., that if a person is baptized then they are a Christian), is bringing great grief and suffering to Christians who are victims of “Christian” abusers.

Go to Part 4 of this series
Go to Part 2 of this series