A brother whom God has gifted for special ministry to the divorced and remarried has lately taken on the task of exposing what he considers to be false doctrines creeping into his particular Christian fellowship. However well-intentioned, his misguided efforts in this regard illustrate the harm that can result when a believer attempts to perform ministry outside the sphere of God’s calling and personal gifting (2 Cor. 10:15-18). His comments also reveal an unscriptural perspective when reading the Bible — a focus on a man-made doctrinal system rather than on Jesus Christ our Savior.
In his March 2007 bulletin, our brother states that “The Bible tells us the exact procedure God appointed by which man is to relate to Him.” He then misquotes Acts 10:41-42 with the comment: “Peter says God’s word [emphasis added] was revealed ‘not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before of God,’ and that the apostles were commanded then to ‘preach to the people’ (Acts 10:41-42). If the apostles were appointed to deliver the message to us, and Jesus said to them, ‘He who hears you hears me’ (Luke 10:16), how obvious can it get?” Having put his own words into Peter’s mouth, he extends the logic of his misquotation and warns readers not to be deceived by erroneous teachings lest they lose their salvation as a result.
In his other writings, our brother specifically includes among these diverse but (in his mind) damnable doctrines both charismatic understandings and the insights of Calvinism. Again his zeal exceeds his knowledge as he denounces as “charismatic” the suggestion that God supernaturally heals people today and the affirmation that the Holy Spirit guides individual believers other than through words from the Bible itself. In fact, most non-charismatic Christians outside this brother’s religious tradition gratefully acknowledge both divine healing and the Spirit’s guidance as precious blessings available to all believers. Our brother then explains that “charismatic” teaching is actually the fruit of “Calvinist” thinking, although the sober reality is that those two “C’s” rarely (though sometimes) even dwell under the same roof.
Far more significant, however, is the confusion that results from his distortion of Peter’s gospel comments to the Italians in Caesarea as recorded in Acts 10. Our brother has Peter talking about “God’s word” being “revealed” to the apostles. In fact, in the passage cited and throughout this discourse, Peter proclaims the resurrected Savior — Jesus Christ, whom God raised from the dead and “revealed” to specially-chosen witnesses who were commissioned to proclaim him as both judge and savior (Acts 10:36-43).
I do agree completely with this brother’s punch-line although he and I use the same sentence but mean entirely different things. He writes: “The Bible tells us the exact procedure God appointed by which man is to relate to Him.” Because he substitutes a system for the Savior, our brother sees this “exact procedure” as a series of acts of obedience including the baptism of believers by immersion for the expressed and intended purpose of receiving forgiveness of sins. While endorsing many of the actual details (but rejecting either a mechanistic or commercial framework), I prefer to stand with Peter, for whom God’s “exact procedure” highlights a Savior and not a system. Concerning this Savior, by the way, the Apostle Peter boldly proclaims that “all the prophets bear witness that through His name every one who believes in Him has received forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43, NASB). With that firm gospel promise clearly in mind, tangibly confirmed by God’s gift of the Holy Spirit as at Pentecost, Peter’s hearers were now ready to be baptized (Acts 10:44-48).