Friday, October 24, 2014

Means of Grace: Preaching or the Preacher? (Part II)

On September 25, 2014, Dr. James Renihan presented a lecture titled "Preaching as a Means of Grace" at the Southwest Founders' Conference at Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas.  You can see my first post on his lecture here.

As I previously stated, Dr. Renihan's lecture profoundly changed my view of the Reformed Baptist community in America.  I've listened to the disdain that Dr. James White, a Reformed Baptist Apologist, has for the King James Bible based on his interaction with Dr. Jeff Riddle of Christ Reformed Baptist Church.  Honestly, I thought his strong stand against the King James was a minority opinion, and that the majority of Christian scholars and pastors were at least tolerant of the King James.  It's becoming more clear that my conviction that the King James Bible is God's preserved Word through the Textus Receptus is not tolerated by Christianity in general or by the reformed leaders of my denomination specifically.

As a participant in a family conference for Reformed Baptists, I did not expect the strong degradation of the "older translations" (i.e. The King James Bible) by Dr. Renihan.  He created doubt on the veracity of the King James and caused division--at least for me.  I do not plan to attend another Southwest Founders' Conference because it was very clear that the leadership of the the host church wholeheartedly agreed with Dr. Renihan.  I certainly did not agree with him, so I'm going to post my remaining notes of Dr. Renihan's lecture and show how his arguments are not supported by the King James Bible or The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.  [Format clarification from my lecture notes:  Bolded words were emphasized by Dr. Renihan; underlining is my emphasis.]

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Dr. Renihan continues his lecture with Question #3:  How are they to hear him (Dr. Renihan points out that the way this is structured 'him' belongs here) without someone preaching? He states that if you don't have 'him' in your Bible, it's alright to write it in there, and you ought to write it in.  (He can show us the exegesis in the Greek a little later on if we really want to see it.)

[Personal observation:  As I noted in my previous post, Dr. Renihan is privately interpreting the Bible, and now he is strongly insisting that we follow him.  In the King James Bible, the final question in Romans 10:14 reads:  "and how shall they hear without a preacher?" The 54 men appointed to translate the King James Bible were well-educated men who were knowledgeable of the Greek language, and the Second Westminster Company assigned to translate Romans through Jude agreed that the reading should not include the word 'him'.  Of the 13 major English Bible translations listed on blueletterbible.org for Romans 10:14, NONE of them include the direct object 'him' in the final question; they are ALL consistent with the King James.  The New Living translation includes a prepositional phrase 'about him' after the verb 'hear', but this inclusion contradicts the point the Dr. Renihan continues to force upon the text.]

He notes that up to this point, 'they' in the text have been unbelievers; but now, all of the sudden, at the end of the 3rd question something different happens because we don't have a finite verb anymore; now we have a participle. Paul ends this question with a participle that is the object of the preposition 'without'.  He could have used the noun for preacher, but he didn't.  Instead, he uses a verbal noun with a dual emphasis that focuses on preaching as the act of a commissioned person.  It emphasizes preaching and the preacher.  You have to have both.  A message needs a messenger.  Paul also changes the referent of 'they'.  In the first 3 questions, 'they' are unbelievers.  In the 4th question, 'they' are preachers.  Paul is shifting our eyes from the audience to the pulpit.  Both are necessary for the activity.

Question #4:  How are they to preach unless they are sent? The preacher must be sent.  The voice of Jesus Christ comes through preaching; comes through the men that He has sent.  Dr. Renihan stresses that the verb is important here; it is picked up from the Hebrew OT to denote the authorization of someone to fulfill a particular function or a task which is normally clearly defined.  If the sending is linked with a task in the use of this verb, it follows that attention is always focused on the one who sends--the ascended Lord.  In other words, the stress falls on the one who gives his authority to the one whom he sends and whom he takes into his service.

This is based upon a Jewish practice that became very important in the New Testament.  Rabbinical Judaism in the time of Jesus clearly recognized the function of the representative derived from the old Semitic law concerning messengers.  It is expressed in the principle found in the Mishna:  A man's agent is like himself; hence the messenger becomes the proxy of the one who has given him the commission irrespective of the personality of the messenger of the one who has commissioned him--irrespective even of the commission.  The expression means a person acting with full authority for another.

[Personal observation:  According to wikipedia.org, the Mishna(h) is one of the "earliest extant works of rabbinic literature, expounding and developing Judaism's Oral Law" or Oral Torah.  "Kabbalistic knowledge was believed to be part of the Oral Torah, given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai" (although there is a view that it began with Adam).  This mystical side of Judaism should never be used by Christians as the basis for reading and interpreting the Bible.]

Dr. Renihan also notes that the point of the 4th question is that true Christian preaching, through which Christ himself speaks, is not something that men can accomplish on their own initiative.  It can only take place where men are authorized and commissioned by God.

In verse 17 a less common Greek word is used.  It is not the 'word of Christ', but the 'message of Christ'; the message that Christ brings through His appointed preachers.  This is how faith comes, from hearing.  What we must notice here is the emphasis on the present activity of Christ in preaching.  They call upon him; they believe on him; they hear him.  A different 'they' are sent by him.  And at all times preaching is considered an activity done of the risen Christ himself and this is how faith comes.

That's why it's so important for people to pray for Jesus to come and speak through preachers when pastors preach.  The preacher needs to hear the words spoken because the preacher's soul needs to be nourished on the doctrines of the Gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ when they are proclaimed both to the world and to God's people.

2 Cor. 5:16-20 also emphasizes salvation.  The ESV (which is the version Dr. Renihan uses) gets verse 20 exactly right; some of the older translations do not.  It should be "God making his appeal through us," not "as though God did beseech you by us."

"God making his appeal through us" is how it ought to read.  It is a genitive absolute that follows the conjunction hos and has a very specific grammatical reading in the Greek language, and Paul uses it in a very specific way.  Translated like this: "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ seeing that God makes his appeal through us."

Some older translations say something like this:  "As though God makes his appeal."  That's not right.  It's "seeing that God makes his appeal through us."  Very strong language, but Paul makes our point for us.  Here, verse 20 describes to us the power and the work of Jesus Christ.  We are God's ambassadors seeing that Christ or that God is pleading through us.  There's a very real sense in which the ambassador is viewed as endowed with God's authority.  But it's more than that.  It's not simply that there is a representative authority in the preacher.  It is that God comes and pleads through him when he serves as an ambassador of Christ.

[Personal observation:  Again, Dr. Renihan is making a private interpretation with strong insistence that his listeners follow him; otherwise your Bible is wrong.  In the King James Bible, 2 Cor. 5:20 reads:  "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." Of the 13 major English Bible translations listed on blueletterbible.org for 2 Cor. 5:20, 4 versions do not include the conjunction 'as though' (NLT, ESV, HCSB, RSV); the other 9 versions are consistent with or similar to the King James.]

Dr. Renihan says that the Gospel in Romans 1:16 is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.  When Christ's ambassador speaks, He [Jesus] speaks through him.  Though men may think it foolish, those who understand, see the wisdom.  He [Jesus] speaks to unbelievers; He speaks to believers.  He presents Himself to us.  He calls us to trust in him.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.  We recognize the importance of an utter dependence on the Spirit of God in preaching and this is why the Gospel ministry is so important.

[Personal observation:  This is the only time that Dr. Renihan mentions the Holy Spirit.  I agree  that we are dependent upon the Spirit of God in preaching; but this is NOT what he has been saying up to this point, and it's not what he continues to stress after this statement.   Because it is the only time that the Spirit is mentioned, it may be that he is equivocating Jesus with the Spirit of God.  While it's true that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are both God as part of the Godhead, they have different roles.  Jesus calls the elect to Himself through the preaching of the Word by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is not being channeled through preachers.  However, this is exactly what Dr. Renihan is erroneously expounding from Scripture.]

Dr. Renihan continues with the question, what happens when pastors preach?  Conditions must be met.  God must commission and send men through His church.  Those men must declare the truth of Scripture, (Acts 20)--the whole counsel of God centered on Jesus Christ who fulfills the Old Testament promises.  Christ brings salvation because people hear His voice and through that preaching they call on the name of the Lord.  Faithful declaration of the truth is needed, not of opinion, but careful, honest explanation of what has been written in the word of God.  When these things are present, Jesus Christ Himself comes and speaks through the preacher to God's people.  This is not a new kind of inspiration; we're not talking that.  This is not a form of mysticism; we're not talking about that.  Rather it is a recognition that as Lord, exalted to the highest place in heaven, claiming that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him.  Knowing that He is the God-man, He sovereignly comes through the preaching of the Word to bless His Word as it is proclaimed; assuring that it will accomplish His purpose, His will, His plan, His counsel.  All of us, congregations and churches--wherever we worship--can always expect that Christ will be present, our great Prophet, and address His church through the faithfully preached Word.

Dr. Renihan concludes that preachers should speak the truth.  There is no promise in Scripture, no commitment from the ascended Lord Jesus, to bless the preacher's words or opinions; but we can expect Him to bless His Words.  Preachers should study hard and make sure that what they say when they stand before God's people is 100% pure the word of God.

Psalm 95 and Heb. 4:7 tell us to hear His voice and not harden our hearts.  You must receive the preached word as if Christ Himself were speaking to you.  Therefore, pay attention to the word that is preached, come with expectation, listen with faith, and pray diligently for pastors.  This will lead to growth.  The grace of faith by which the elect are enabled to believe is ordinarily the result of the preaching of the word.  Preach the whole counsel of God about Jesus Christ.  Jesus is not absent, but present.  Preachers declare Him boldly; hearers, by faith, listen to His voice.  And God will be glorified through the preached Word.

~~This ends Dr. Renihan's Lecture~~

Based on the concluding remarks, does Jesus preach through false preachers who have "felt" a call to preach?  I can turn on the TV and listen to many "preachers" who don't study and preach the Word of God rightly.  Is Jesus speaking through them?  If not, how can a Christian tell?  Jude specifically warns us that there are certain men crept in unawares; false preachers and teachers who are ungodly men and filthy dreamers, (Jude 4, 8).

Obviously, Christians should listen to preachers who rightly divide the Word of God, but Dr. Renihan did not address the fact that all Christians should be like the Bereans who received the Word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily, (Acts 17:11).  Christians should compare what is being preached to the Scripture; however, just like we cannot tell if a person is truly a Christian, we cannot tell if a preacher is truly called by God.  As Christians mature and seek godly counsel, we are better equipped to discern true, biblical preaching; but there is no modern day prophet or Vicar of Christ who speaks as Jesus here on earth.  This concept is dangerous and will lead to cults of personality rather than churches of Christ.

In John 10:16 Jesus tells us:  "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd," (KJV).

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith uses John 10:16 as biblical support under Chapter 26 Of the Church [the footnoted phrase for John 10 is in bold]:
"In the execution of this power wherewith He is so intrusted, the Lord Jesus calls out of the world unto Himself, through the ministry of His Word, by His Spirit, those that are given unto Him by His Father, that they may walk before Him all the ways of obedience, which He prescribeth to them in His Word.  Those thus called, He commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which He requireth of them in the world," (1689 LBCF, Ch. 26, para. 5).
Jesus Christ is the Word, (John 1:1-14), and He calls His elect through the Word by the Holy Spirit.  There is no verse that says Jesus is channeled through the voice of a preacher.  Channeling familiar spirits is an abominable occultic practice that is condemned in the Bible, (Deut. 18:10-12).  Dr. Renihan states that he is not talking about mysticism; which is exactly what it sounds like, and probably why he made the disclaimer.  He states that his point is to recognize that as Lord, Jesus is exalted to the highest place in heaven with all authority in heaven and earth.  I don't deny that fact; it's biblical and it's confessional.  But just because Jesus is exalted doesn't mean that His voice is heard through preachers; this concept is neither biblical, nor confessional.

The 1698 London Baptist Confession of Faith states that "The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience," (Chap. 1, para. 1).  It also states that "The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly," (Chap. 1, para. 9).  In his lecture, Dr. Renihan undermines the Bible by changing the translation based on his own private interpretation; and he does not compare Scripture to Scripture to clarify the passage, but he picks individual words that support his argument without considering other verses that speak more clearly.  Dr. Renihan's conjecture that Jesus Himself preaches through called preachers presumes too much regarding the pastoral office than what is found in the Bible.  I find his forced, erroneous contention blasphemous to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


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"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works," (2 Tim. 3:16-17).