Thursday, March 13, 2008

You've got mail. Yes. Three very powerful words.

For your edification/enjoyment, I share with you an email discussion I had over 5 years ago. It was initiated by a man who received our "Come visit our church" flyer.

I've labeled the sequence of the emails as well as color coded them. I've also changed the man's name to "Sir" to prevent any potential for embarrassing a brother. (So, if the conversation seems too formal at times, remember we are actually addressing each other on a first name basis throughout, instead of actually using the more formal, "Sir.")

Honestly, the name's not that important because he's not alone. I get such random drive-by emails all the time.
#1
> > > To: "Rev. Eric "Gunny" Hartman"
> > > From: "Sir"


Pastor - I received your pamphlet by mail yesterday and have a comment or two. First, I believe I'm called as an evangelist, although I'm not presently functioning in that office. I presently attend a non-denominational church in ______ and have since 1980. Prior, as a kiddo, I attended FBC in ______ as my ancestry was Southern Baptist, founders of Southwestern Theological Seminary, presided over the Southern Baptist Convention, board chairmen of Baylor Univ. and Hospital. Of course, I've learned from the apostle Paul to count my resume dung.

I've not heard of the Cambridge Declaration. I looked it up and read through it a moment ago. I'm confused by it. It talks of ministering the Law along with the Gospel. Is the Law referring to the 10? If so, I can't believe the Holy Spirit would lead one to minister both.

Galations [sic] 3 says that the people were bewitched because they departed from the Gospel and quickly returned to the Law of Moses, which certainly implies that they are two very different doctrines. One of the old covenant and one of the new. That's serious. You must know there are countless scriptures referring to the Law as "Not of faith", and that the "Just shall live by faith."

1st Timothy 1, 9 says that we ought to know that the Law doesn't apply to righteous men. How are you righteous? Roman 1, 16 & 17 says it's revealed in the Gospel. But only if you believe it. The Gospel is the power of God. (demonstrated in the resurrection - 1st Cor 15, 1-4) That's why Jesus told us to repent and believe the Gospel, not repent and believe the Cambridge Declaration, nor the Law.

If I misread the declaration, I'm happy to be corrected.

In His service,
Sir
#2
> > > From: "Rev. Eric "Gunny" Hartman"
> > > To: "Sir"


Sir,

Thanks for your comments and I'd appreciate any others with regard to our pamphlet or anything else. I certainly appreciate a critical eye so we might improve upon that which we do, Semper Reformanda.

However, I do think you must have misread the Cambridge Declaration. You noted that "Jesus told us to repent and believe the Gospel, not repent and believe the Cambridge Declaration, nor the Law."

If the Cambridge Declaration is to be internally consistent, it cannot be advocating any such thing, for that would be inconsistent with Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, AND Sola Fide. ; )

With regard to the use of "Law and Gospel" I'm actually a bit puzzled as to how you would miss the use of the law in evangelism, especially as an evangelist. It's the Law that brings forth knowledge of sin and is perfect toward converting the soul (Ps 19:7). Paul said he would not have known sin, but by the law (Rom 7:7). Gal 3 that you mentioned notes the proper use of the law, to be a tutor to lead us to Christ (3:24) and it's the believer who has a different relationship to the law (3:25).

The law is a mirror to show us our sin and the need for cleansing, forgiveness, etc. (i.e., the Gospel). It's like Spurgeon noted in his Lectures to My Students in the section "On Conversion As Our Aim" ... "It is of no use trying to sew with the silken thread of the gospel unless we pierce a way for it with the sharp needle of the law. The law goes first, like the needle, and draws the gospel thread after it." Clearly there is a purpose for preaching the law, if not a necessity, with regard to justification.

But what about sanctification? Is there any purpose there? Now, that being said, there is the question over the definition of "The Law," but you'll note that the Cambridge Declaration reads "if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching," and not "The Law" or The 10 Commandment or the Old Testament or the Pentateuch, etc. I think there's a double meaning here.

Taking this statement in light of the totality of the Cambridge Declaration and in light of the Reformation, but mostly from my New Testament, I think there is an emphasis on justification, but sanctification as well.

Let me explain, for here it is helpful to understand law as not merely referring to the Decalogue or even the Old Covenant, which a Gentile like me was never under. That covenant is obsolete and I'm a part of the New.

However, that does not mean there is no guiding principle of "law" on how to live the Christian life. There is, of course, the "Law of Christ" (Gal 6:2) which seems to entail the standards that Christ has set for His people with regard to their behavior, for which Christians will all one day give an account (2 Cor 5:10).

To be fair, the standards of that judgment are clearly displayed in the teachings of Christ (Matt 5-7, etc.) and the imperatives in the epistles of Paul, John, Peter, etc. Even the authoritative "Great Commission" entails teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded (Matt 28:18-20).

Thus, in the life of the believer one needs to hear the standards of God preached so that he/she can be conformed to the image of His Son, confessing sin when appropriate, etc. So, perhaps another rendering of law in this sense would be obligation so that one is exhorted to preach duty
(Law) and God's grace (Gospel) for forgiveness when we fall short.

I think perhaps that your initial confusion had to do with justification, but salvation is and has always been by grace alone through faith alone, never through the law (Gal 2:21; Rom 4). That has not changed, but the rule or obligation for one of God's people is dramatically different in
the Old Covenant vs. the New, as is the empowering of the Holy Spirit, etc.

In short, the Law is useful in evangelism so people will know they have a disease (sin), else they would never want the cure (justification). The Law (in the sense of the standards of God) are useful and necessary for believer to know and do that which is pleasing in His sight, in becoming holy (sanctification).

I hope this helps, but please let me know if not.

By His grace and for His glory,
Rev. Eric "Gunny" Hartman, pastor
#3
> > From: "Sir"
> > To: "Rev. Eric "Gunny" Hartman"


Eric- It is plain that the writers of the declaration wish for the church to repent and believe it. But it's the power of God (the Gospel) that converts one to the image of Jesus, not the declaration, nor the law, is what I meant.

Gal 3:2 asks if they received the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith? You said they should hear the preaching of the law in order to be converted. But Galations [sic] says they were foolish and bewitched for listening.

1st Timothy 1 says if you desire to teach the law, not only do you not know what you're saying, nor whereof you affirm, but he calls you a vain jangler. I'm not going to be a vain jangler. I'm going to preach the Gospel!

Sir
#4
> From: "Rev. Eric "Gunny" Hartman"
> To: "Sir"


Sir,

Although I'm enjoying the discussion, I'm just a little confused. Are you insinuating that the Cambridge Declaration is setting itself up as a replacement of the Gospel?

Also, are you seriously denouncing the use of the law in evangelism? Clearly the Gospel is the medicine for what ails, but it's the law that diagnoses it. What about the verses I noted about the use of the law therein?

I'd be curious as to how you could preach the Gospel properly or effectively without mentioning the standards of God that have not been met (i.e., the law).

Lastly, it seems to me, Sir, that you have developed a false dichotomy, as though one preaches either the law OR the Gospel. The law is no substitute, but the forerunner of sorts (cf. the ministry of John the Baptist prior to Christ - he called attention to their sin, calling them to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near (Matt 3:2), the exact same message of Christ (Matt 4:17)).

With regard to the Galatians, I did not say that they should hear the preaching of the law in order to be converted, for that would be redundant. The Galatians had already heard the law and it had done its job (Gal 3:24-25).

With regard to 1 Timothy 1 that you noted, in v.8 it notes "But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully." Clearly, Paul is not saying, "Never use the law," but on the contrary he's saying that the law must be used properly.

I guess my questions for you would be 3-fold:
1. What does Paul mean in 1 Tim 1:8; how should one use the law properly?
2. How do you define the Gospel? and
3. How does one preach the imperatives of the Bible (OT & NT) apart from those calling one to faith in Christ?

Sola gratia,
Gunny
#5
From: "Sir"
To: "Rev. Eric "Gunny" Hartman"


Let's take the Cambridge Declaration for what it is. It's the opinions of some folks that got together and said, the scripture is not enough, we must have churches adopt this as part of their doctrine - when we've already been told to simply preach the Gospel to every creature.

Would you agree that Philip - the evangelist -preached an effective Gospel? There's no evidence of him teaching the law. It says he preached Christ unto them and miracles took place afterward, which is a scriptural result of preaching the Gospel. Philip then went to the eunuch, who was reading about Jesus in Isaiah, and he preached Jesus to him as well, baptized him and didn't bother teaching him the 10.

Jesus discussed the law in Matthew for sure. He said it's not even adequate. And I know he came to fulfill the law. What do you do when you fulfill a jail sentence for instance, you walk away from it.

Answers to your questions - 1st Corinthians 15:1-4 defines the Gospel as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus - and wherein we stand. But the Gospel is more than words, as Romans 1:16 says the Gospel is the power (or ability) of God to those who believe (hence the things that took place after Philip spoke, and they believed).

As far as using the law lawfully, I won't say I have a revelation of that verse because I don't. But Timothy is clear about folks that desire to preach it. I agree that the law applies to a certain group, but the people who preached it were bewitching the body of Christ, shutting up their faith and putting them in bondage. And, I didn't say to omit the OT in your teaching, those passages are there for our learning, as stated by Jesus.

One can surely preach the law along with the Gospel. It's done every Easter by teachers of the law. But the ones [sic] who attempts to combine the 2 is in the flesh, and obviously doesn't have a revelation of the Gospel. It will change the heart of a man by the power of God and you won't have to point out his sin! It's amazing.

Sir
#6
> From: "Rev. Eric "Gunny" Hartman"
> To: "Sir"


Sir,

You brought up a great many issues and I think it would be easier for my small brain to deal with them in multiple emails.

I'll try to give your comments a more fair treatment shortly, but this part most puzzled me.

"... It will change the heart of a man by the power of God and you won't have to point out his sin! It's amazing."

When you preach the Gospel, with a goal toward salvation I assume, what do you tell people they must be saved from?

Even the 1 Cor 15 you noted says that He died .... for our sins.

What is the Gospel you’re preaching saving from, if not sin?

Gunny


#7
> From: "Rev. Eric "Gunny" Hartman"
> To: "Sir"


You wrote: "Jesus discussed the law in Matthew for sure. He said it's not even
adequate. And I know he came to fulfill the law. What do you do when you fulfill a jail sentence for instance, you walk away from it."

I assume you're speaking of Matt 5 of the Sermon on the Mount. My question for you would be your exegesis of Matt 5:17-20:
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these
least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

In particular, to what is Jesus referring in v.19? It seems as though He's castigating breakers of the commandments of the law and at the same time heralding those who do AND teach them.

Is that not how you see what Christ is saying?

Thanks,
Gunny


#8
> From: "Rev. Eric "Gunny" Hartman"
> To: "Sir"


Sir,

One other quickie ...

You wrote: "Let's take the Cambridge Declaration for what it is. It's the opinions of some folks that got together and said, the scripture is not enough, we must have churches adopt this as part of their doctrine - when we've already been told to simply preach the Gospel to every creature."

Actually, that's not true, Sir. We're not told to "simply preach the Gospel to every creature."

For example, Christ commanded (i.e., not an optional activity) that His followers teach all that He had commanded in the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20). Paul proclaimed "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).

I feel almost silly telling you this, for I assume you know it, but The Cambridge Declaration is like a "Creed," coming for the Latin "creedo" which simply means "I believe." It's not uncommon for churches to have statements of faith historically, in fact it's odd when they don't. If you look at the early church's conciliar proclamations you see creeds of what is orthodoxy (i.e., not heresy).

For example, a heretic would be one who denies the trinity. Now, "trinity" is not a word found in the Bible, but it is a label for a biblical concept. I'm not aware of what church you presently attend, but I'm sure they have some sort of notion of commonly held beliefs, whether explicit or not. I doubt they would allow a Jehovah's Witness or a Mormon to teach a Sunday school class since they believe differently. A formal, written creed is not necessary to decipher that, but it can be a useful means of such.

Your SBC ancestors would not have been in opposition to a statement of faith. For example, many Baptists held to the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1644 or 1689) until we had the first SBC creed in 1858 (The Abstract of Principles). In 1925 the SBC Baptist Faith & Message was produced, being revised in 1963, 1998, and 2000.

I find it odd that you're not on board with The Cambridge Declaration as you see it as a statement of biblical insufficiency (although the document itself attests to such sufficiency), but you've said nothing about our church affirming the Baptist Faith & Message. Would you make the same criticism of it as well (i.e., your comments I quoted above)?

Gunny

I never heard back from him after his last email, #5 above.

10 Comments:

At 13 March, 2008 13:36, Blogger Rev. said...

At least it wasn't the, "Sir, I'm the widow ____ and my late husband in Kenya..."

Seriously, great discussion regarding the Law and evangelism. Amazing how many "evangelists" miss the point. What did the Lord Jesus do with the Rich Young Ruler? The Apostle Paul on Mars Hill? The Apostle Peter on Pentecost? They all proclaimed the Law, in varying forms, and the Gospel.

Amen, Gun!

 
At 13 March, 2008 15:31, Blogger GUNNY said...

I'm thinking it shouldn't take a PhD in Evangelism to figure that out, but I do find it affirming when one with a PhD in Evangelism gives me that affirmation.

Thanks, brother.

 
At 13 March, 2008 16:46, Blogger Jesus Girl said...

Seems to make all my emails seem trivial and insignifigant.

You sure do have your brain packed with godly wisdom and biblical knowledge. What a blessing. I covet the depth of understanding that you have for the Scriptures and things of God. Impressive. You certainly have made time for the important things in life.

I tend to realize more and more just how cool it is that you are my brother. How foolish I had been prior to such revelation.

 
At 13 March, 2008 17:02, Anonymous lionel woods said...

I went back and forward with some guys on the blog about this very issue. They though I was conveying not to preach sin. I was saying you preach sin to show men their utter wickedness I meant "The Law" as the tablets of stone found in the Ark. I also have a huge problem with people who so easily endorese Comfort and crew. They continually redefine words such as adultrey, and the concept of "taking the Lord's name in vain". It is funny you always see the 10 commandments and they never mention the Sabbath!

 
At 13 March, 2008 19:11, Blogger Jesus Girl said...

I can see how your recent comment conversations might bring to mind your emails from years past.

 
At 13 March, 2008 21:44, Blogger GUNNY said...

Jesus Girl,

Your kind and gracious words are both appreciated and humbling. Let me just say what a blessing the Lord has been to enable me to call you my "sister" in the family where it matters most.

Praise be to God for His transforming grace in both our lives.

Ever think about the folks who knew us before? If they could see us now, huh?

Keep it up with the transformation. (Romans 12:2)

 
At 14 March, 2008 09:38, Blogger Timothy said...

Hi Gunny,
I think you handled the situation with great wisdom and clarity. It was a blessing to read through it. I'm currently preaching through the 10 Commandments, and have tried to be very clear that without the Law, we really cannot appreciate God's grace. The Law shows us our need for God's grace, because it reveals that His wrath upon Law breakers is just.

As for the discussion, this is the problem I do have with a lot of evangelists. They don't feel it necessary to understand these concepts at all, but want to 'just share Jesus.'

It's sad they have such a low view of Scripture and the full counsel of God.
Blessings

 
At 14 March, 2008 15:59, Blogger Jade said...

Gunny wrote:
I'll try to give your comments a more fair treatment shortly, but this part most puzzled me.

"... It will change the heart of a man by the power of God and you won't have to point out his sin! It's amazing."

When you preach the Gospel, with a goal toward salvation I assume, what do you tell people they must be saved from?


Haahaha. That had me laughing. It's so true! If they think that they could preach the Gospel without bringing in sin or the Law, then they truly do not understand the Gospel. I'd have to wonder if they themselves have truly accepted Christ on HIS TERMS! Not ours! As the Scriptures state:
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 
At 15 March, 2008 09:40, Blogger mike rucker said...

i found a comment of yours at the challies.com website.

david and tim repeatedly delete my comments there, in my opinion quite unfairly. while i may come across a little rough-edged at times, i truly believe it's an unwillingness on their part to enter into legitimate, serious discussion that prompts their actions. i have been called a "troll" several times, but anyone reading the entire range of comments i've written can easily see the baseless name-calling in that.

i'm posting this to ask you to look at a recent interchange i had at a post there. i've captured the interchange on my blog; click on the link "challies angels" under the heading And Now The News on the right sidebar. i would appreciate any reaction you have after reading it - even if it is of a critical nature.

and, if you're interested, i also have a lengthy (and still-in-progess) review of Tim Keller's recent book, The Reason for God. you can access it, too, in the And Now The News section. and, for what it's worth, i even got an email from Tim that said some people had directed him to the review, and that he appreciated my interaction with his book. needless to say, that put some welcome wind in my sails after all the head-butting i've been doing around the web...

thanks for reading.

mike rucker
fairburn, georgia, usa
mikerucker.wordpress.com

 
At 27 August, 2008 11:39, Blogger Sean Crowe said...

Yes, people (even professing Christians) seem to be uncomfortable talking about sin, and consequently about the need to hate it. As you know, I myself have enjoyed some back and forth over this issue (Thanks for your comments on that post). I really enjoyed reading your back and forth with "Sir." Keep preaching the truth Gunny, whether by pamphlet or by pulpit.

 

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