One thing that I have consistently noticed is that when I listen to sermons there is inevitably something theological horrendous being expressed. Not that they are purposely trying to teach human garbage as if it is facts about God but almost invariably it is there in their sermons. There is, as in almost any sermon, some good material something, uplifting and intelligent. It is just often overwhelmed with the foolishness that pretends to pass as enlightened expositional preaching. I often think that most of this is simply accepted by the congregations…for what reason, I guess it is simply because they don’t want to think about what was just said. The Pastor is a good man he must be giving a good message leading them to accept the message. Perhaps it is why Barack Obama could attend 20 years of Jeremiah Wright’s church and think he never heard any of the terrible things Jeremiah Wright was saying. (If one were to assume that Barack Obama really did not know what Wright was saying.) We acknowledge that the people in the pews listen and are influenced yet don’t connect enough to analyze the material they are hearing. Yet there is little doubt that it does affect people. That it will color their accepted theology.
Following this article is a transcription of a recent sermon segment offered a few weeks ago by the former pastor of the church I attend. Granted I attend less and less frequently and sermons even less frequently because not only are they long (this sermon was probably an hour and a half) poorly reasoned and boring but because they are a poor method of communication and usually destructive to a reasoned faith.
In the segment of the sermon I transcribed I would say as a description of sermons styles an eisgetical sermon where he starts with an assumption and attempts to find Bible texts to support his assumptions (I looked it up eisgetical is really a word). Thus the Bible texts are used as pretexts to support a questionable beginning assumption. If we were to fit the sermon into a category of sermons we would have to say that it is a Textual sermon. Here the text he begins with is:
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Mat 28:18 NIV)
Pastor Decker then stated: “Why does He have all authority? And I would say that a lot of it is well I would say that it is because He resurrected.” Thus Decker is asserting that Christ’s authority comes from the fact of the resurrection rather than the fact that Jesus Christ is God who has authority because He is God. Something that the book of Matthew set out to demonstrate fairly early on with such verses as:
(Mat NIV) because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
(Mat 9:6 NIV) But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . ." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home."
(Mat 10:1 NIV) He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
To indicate further Decker’s misunderstanding he ignores further that Jesus Christ was/is God by indicating that Jesus was raised from the dead by God the Father. “… So there and a dozen other places it is saying that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead.” In fact there is not even one text that says “God the Father” raised Jesus, only that God raised Jesus from the dead. The closest verse to that idea also includes Jesus Christ saying:
(Gal 1:1 NIV) Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead--
But Jesus is also God and Jesus had in the Gospel of John said that He would raise Himself from the dead.
(John 10:17-18 NIV) The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."
(John 2:19-21 NIV) Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
Interestingly enough in some email conversation with Pastor Decker through a friend Pastor Decker supplied his texts to prove that Jesus was raised by God the Father his list being:
Acts , Mark , Rom , Rom 10:9, Heb , Acts , Gal. 1:1, 1 Cor.
That list of texts uses nothing from the Gospels or the quotes of Jesus in the book of John. Though it includes the questionable text in Mark chapter 16 but that texts says nothing about the resurrection. Mark :
After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. (NIV)
How one thinks they can talk about the resurrection and not even use the quotes that John gives of Christ about the resurrection is strange unless one remembers that the purpose here in the sermon is not attempting to see what the Bible says but to make it say what the assumption of the Pastor wants the Bible to say.
When we look at what the New Testament actually says we see that all three aspects of God are credited with raising Jesus from the dead. We have seen that Jesus said He would raise Himself. The Pastor has supplied us with some texts where it says God raised Jesus from the dead and there is another verse in Roman’s 8 where the Spirit is cited as raising Jesus from the dead:
(Rom NIV) And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
The sermon makes us wonder after all who does Pastor Decker think Jesus Christ is? Is He God or not, did He only have authority after His resurrection as Tom claimed that then all power and authority was given Him. That would come as a surprise to the writer of the gospel of John. Jesus said He would lay down His life and He would take it up again. God and the Holy Spirit are also declared as being the power behind the resurrection. Rather like the creation of the world references where in various places in the Bible all three are given credit for creation. Because these three are the aspects of God that are we may refer to as the modes of operation of the one God. Pastor Decker’s sermon has confused the issue of who God is, fitting more closely with Arian or Semi-Arian view points. This confusion is carried further as the sermon continues but I won’t deal with the part about Jesus either dying for His sins or humanities sins and not understanding Himself what He was dying for, as he does not even try to justify his fanciful speculations, suffice it to say the New Testament account makes no such indications. Though we all know how the Psalms 22 quote Christ used is assumed to mean all kinds of things to some people.
As Pastor Decker continues we see he does not understand the sacrifice of Christ either. This is perhaps the root of most of his confusion because when one accepts the penal Substitutionary view of atonement they often forget that God presented the sacrifice so it was not a sacrifice to God it was a sacrifice of God. Pastor Decker says:
“So everything stalled in terms of salvation for those three days while Christ sat in the tomb. Is He going to resurrect, is He going to come back to life? If He resurrects if He comes back to life what does that say? It says that God the Father accepted the sacrifice. If He stays in the grave It says that God the Father said no it was not a pure unblemished lamb that was sacrificed He was marred He had sinned. He has to die for His own sins. And Remember God the Father is defending this to the universe to the angels to all who would come and ask. So God the Father resurrects Jesus, when He resurrects Jesus what is He doing? He’s saying I accept the sacrifice…”
(Rom NIV) God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—
(John NIV) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
The sacrifice is not to God, the sacrifice is offered by God.
(John 1:1-4 NIV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
Unfortunately Christianity has made an idol out of the penal atonement theory. That theory being that God had to punish somebody for sin so that when they read a verse like Hebrews 9:14:
(Heb NIV) How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
They will interpret as if God demanded the blood rather then through the voluntary acceptance of the plan of salvation of God and the successful completion of that plan as Jesus Christ offered Himself to the submission of death, not to satisfy God’s demands that someone has to die but to cleanse our consciences so that we may be persuaded to serve God. After all He is God, and even in this verse we see the three aspects of God working together of one purpose and that purpose is to help us not to satisfy God’s demand that someone pay a penalty. After all this is God the God who freely forgives how can we then say that such a God demands punishment? It is illogical it is counter productive, yet it is the traditional Adventist view, the traditional Christian view. It is the codification of tradition treated as the gospel. It is not the gospel it is a distortion of the gospel. And if fills our sermons and destroys the gospel and prevents us from truly progressing in our knowledge of God.
I like Pastor Tom, I simply wish he could open himself to the real gospel. Though I realize the Christian world no longer accepts Christian philosophy not of its particular tradition. Teaching a Christian religion like the following sermon segment, reading into the Bible their presuppositions which make God foolish and arbitrary and vengeful all the while saying He is a God of love. It is no wonder Christianity is dying in the Western World. Christians have been killing it for hundreds of years.
Tom Decker’s Sermon “Go” segment transcription:
After noting that Jesus has all authority and that Jesus is with you always Pastor Decker in his sermon stated the following (I will cut out Umms and such time fillers.)
The other question I have to ask in here is why does He have all authority? Where does that come from? He has all authority in Heaven and on earth we sometimes don’t feel like He has all authority do we? But He has all authority He claims to. Why does He have all authority? And I would say that a lot of it is well I would say that it is because He resurrected. Who resurrected Jesus? I remember getting in a fight with Linda about this, do you remember us talking about this? And she had one assertion and we argued about it for a while and made me study it a lot deeper and I went and started looking at passages and you can look and see a half dozen or 10-12 passages that reaffirm that God the Father resurrected Jesus. Let’s look at Romans 4 OK. Just flip over to Romans 4 not very far. OK after the Gospels Mathew Mark Luke John Acts and than Romans. Romans 4 verse 24; But also for us to whom God will credit righteousness for us who believe in Him who raised our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins he was raised to life for our justification. But also for us to whom God will credit righteousness for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. So there and a dozen other places it is saying that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
Why is that important? What does that do to give Jesus Christ authority? How does that affect me? How does that impact my life? You see the crucifixion of Jesus was Jesus dying for sin. If He didn’t have to die for sin He would have lived His and ten or He would have never come here Okay, but Jesus had to die for sin. When Jesus died He died for one of two things. He either died for His own sin if He had sinned or He died for the sin of humanity. Which is what scripture claims. It seems by some of what Jesus said that He wasn’t even so sure Himself which of those two reasons He had died for when He went to the cross. He felt very far from God and He did not understand it, had a very hard time coping with that. If Jesus had died for His own sin it was because He was sinned He would have died and in that state He would have stayed in the ground. God had no right to resurrect Him. If He had died sinless had died not for his own sin but for the sin of us then He would have died a legitimate sacrificial death. And in dying that death God would have been empowered to resurrect Him afterwards.
So everything stalled in terms of salvation for those three days while Christ sat in the tomb. Is He going to resurrect, is He going to come back to life? If He resurrects if He comes back to life what does that say? It says that God the Father accepted the sacrifice. If He stays in the grave it says that God the Father said no it was not a pure unblemished lamb that was sacrificed He was marred He had sinned. He has to die for His own sins. And Remember God the Father is defending this to the universe to the angels to all who would come and ask. So God the Father resurrects Jesus, when He resurrects Jesus what is He doing? He’s saying I accept the sacrifice. Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven all authority in earth and He is the King of Kings the Lord of Lords. That is the foundation the resurrection is the solid foundation of our assurance of justification our assurance of salvation and our entry point into sanctification and eventually the glorification where we are able to join God in heaven. The resurrection validates the sacrifice until the resurrection we don’t know if the sacrifice is valid. When God the Father resurrected Jesus He told the universe the sacrifice is valid salvation is a reality. You can count on it you can bank on it. Therefore because I have resurrected, because I have all authority in heaven and earth Jesus turns to His disciples and says all authority in heaven and earth has been given me therefore go.