Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Plea for Grace (Part 1 of 2)

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy

I have had some favorable things to say recently about Oral Roberts and his ministry — both in this magazine and on one of our television programs. Those statements have prompted a number of negative responses from people who questioned whether or not anything good should be said about the man. One lady denounced him as an "apostate" and said she wanted nothing more to do with me or this ministry.

So, I thought I would share some thoughts with you about evaluating ministries.

First, let's keep in mind that there are no perfect ministries. All of them, including Lamb & Lion, are headed up by people and are composed of people, and people are flawed.

I would urge you, therefore, to look for the good — for that which lines up with the Scriptures — and either ignore or criticize responsibly what does not. Otherwise, you are going to miss some spiritual blessings.

Let me give you some examples from my personal perspective.

Examples of Ministries I Admire But Disagree With

I have always greatly admired the incredible courage that Martin Luther showed when he stood up to the Roman Catholic Church, the most powerful institution of the Middle Ages and one that did not hesitate to burn its critics alive at the stake. I am thankful that he pointed Christendom to God's true plan of salvation of grace through faith in Jesus. And what a blessing it was for him to translate the Bible into the German language and to bless all of Christendom with his marvelous hymns.

Yes, I am very grateful to Martin Luther, and I will always admire his courage, despite the fact that he turned out to be the worst anti-Semite in Church history. The pamphlet he wrote near the end of his life in which he denounced and condemned the Jews served as a blueprint for the Holocaust.

And then there is the example of C. S. Lewis. He was a brilliant Oxford professor of Mediaeval literature when he came to a belief in God and then later placed his faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior. His Christian writings soon established him as the greatest defender of the Christian faith in the 20th Century. Those writings, like Mere Christianity (1943) and The Problem of Pain (1940), greatly impacted my life by drawing me deeper into the Scriptures and closer to the Lord. I will be forever grateful to him for his marvelous spiritual insights. He is going to be one of the first persons I will want to meet personally when I get to Heaven.

Yet, the incredible thing that most people do not know about C. S. Lewis is that near the end of his life he revealed in letters that he believed in Purgatory! To me, it is mind-boggling that a man with so many deep spiritual insights could have been spiritually blind concerning this doctrinal issue. Because he was so off-base on this point, should I throw out everything else he had to offer? I think not.

Bringing my examples more up to date, let's consider two great modern-day ministries whose leaders have recently been called home to the Lord.

The first is the ministry of Dr. James Kennedy who served for 47 years as the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was a powerful spokesman in behalf of the Christian heritage of America, and he was a man who spoke out fearlessly against the secular drift of our nation. I admired him greatly. Yet, he was one of the foremost proponents of Replacement Theology, a theology I consider to be absolutely abominable.

In like manner I highly valued the ministry of Chuck Colson. His conversion story was inspirational, and the prison ministry he established was an outstanding one. I also appreciated his syndicated columns in which he expressed a biblical worldview regarding political, moral and social issues. I praise God for him and his ministry despite the fact that he was a terrible Catholic compromiser and he lacked respect for God's Prophetic Word. Should I have just written him off and refused to pay attention to anything he had to say? I don't think so.

Let's take a look at some contemporary ministries that are alive and well today:

  • I highly respect the preaching and teaching of Charles Stanley, and I have learned much from him, despite the fact that I abhor his hyper-Calvinism.
  • I love the preaching of John MacArthur and his teaching of Bible prophecy. It would be hard to find a better expositor of God's Word. But when he starts talking about the Holy Spirit, I have to tune him out. To me, he just seems to have a spiritual blind spot in that area.
  • I have always had great respect for the Pentecostal Movement — for its zeal, enthusiasm and passion. The praise music it has produced has blessed my soul, and I have been thankful for the Movement's appreciation and understanding of God's Prophetic Word. I am also thankful for the way God worked through the Movement to resurrect the gifts of the Spirit from the dead. But I have never been able to accept their core teaching that the baptism of the Holy Spirit must be manifested in the gift of tongues.
  • I have always respected the wonderful ministry of David Barton and the insights he has provided regarding the Christian heritage of our nation. I hold him in high esteem despite the fact that he is a Postmillennialist who denies that Jesus could return anytime soon.
  • I greatly admire the fantastic Creation ministry of Ken Ham, and I praise God for it, despite the fact that he thinks that a person's end time viewpoint is irrelevant.

I suspect that after having read the list above, some of you are ready to say that I am also spiritually blind in some ways — and that could well be. If you feel that way, I hope you will pray for me to be enlightened and not just write me off as hopeless.

The Point

The point is that I have learned much from each of the men and ministries mentioned above despite the fact that there are areas where I disagree with them and, in some cases, disagree with them strongly.

And I am convinced that I would have lost many great spiritual insights if I would have written off their teachings because I disagreed with some part of what they had to say.

The Ministry of Oral Roberts

The same is true of the ministry of Oral Roberts. I greatly admired his faith. And I appreciate the fact that he revived belief in God's healing power, returning that belief to mainline Christianity. I also respected the fact that he always insisted that those seeking healing had to first hear the Gospel preached. He cared about the welfare of people's souls as well as the health of their physical bodies. Another thing I respected about the way he operated his ministry is that before he would start praying for healing, he would always emphasize that if any healing occurred, it would come from God and not from him.

Oral Roberts was a great man of faith. He was a fabulous Gospel preacher. And he was anointed by God for healing.

I never agreed with his prosperity teachings. And I always felt like his dogged determination to build the City of Faith medical facility was based more on presumption than faith. I think its tragic fate proved that he had run out from under God's anointing on that particular project.

But he dramatically showed us the meaning of faith; he revived belief in healing; he established a great Christian university; and he pioneered Christian television. All of that should make us grateful to God for his life and ministry.

The second half of this plea for grace, I will explain where we as Christians should draw the line with regard to respect and support of a ministry and how we should behave towards one another.


1 thessalonians 5:21 said...

Hey David,

Thanks for the thought provoking article. I am a big fan of John MacArthur and was a little surprised to hear you had such problems with him (and possibly me ;-) ) when it comes to the Holy Spirit. I was hoping you could give a little more detail as what your differences are or maybe point to a book or article that matches what you believe vs. John.

BTW, I'm not asking this so I can start a debate with you. I simply would like to know what you believe vs. MacArthur.

Thanks, Ron

Susie said...

Ron, i read ur comment and since i have never heard john mac speak, i googled him and listened to his salvation message on you tube. U may want to check it out. Imo, he has a works based salvation belief. He states that one must give their entire life over to the Lord IN ORDER to be saved. This is not true. We walk in obedience to the Lord on a gradual basis as we learn scripture and He takes us from faith to faith. Thats my take on what he teaches. He does bring up other valid points as well tho. Seems like an o.k. guy otherwise...

Dr reagan, lamb and lion ministry has blessed my life in many ways and im grateful for all of u here. We r all bound to differ on some issues... but i definitely agree with the fact that certain doctrines cannot be compromised (sp?)

Susie said...

One more comment i wanted to make about john mac.... i listened to his teaching on the HS and i think he misinterrprets scripture on speaking in tongues. I agree with him that many people in the corinthian church were perverting this gift and that many today do too. Having said that, speaking in tongues is a gift between the believer and God. Lets not forget paul said forbid not speaking in tongues. Also i wanted to point out that paul acknowledges the corinthians as saved believers whos behavior needed to be corrected. That goes against john mac teaching on salvation. Anyway just my opinion.. i think he is off base. No offence intended to anyone.

Nathan Jones said...

Dr. John MacArthur states that one not only has to accept Jesus’ salvation, but have Him as the Lord of our lives as well, calling this “Lordship Salvation.” There are some merits to his view in that having the Lord in control of one’s life is proof of salvation. But, since we sin, the view could be taken to the extreme in that we could then fall in and out of Jesus’ being Lord of our lives constantly. If we died on one of those lapse moments, we’d be lost forever.

That doesn’t jive with what Jesus teaches about our sins being forgiven and covered by Christ’s blood. Jesus being the Lord of our lives – that I believe is evidence that we are truly saved, along with the bearing of spiritual fruit. Such a tenuous state is not how Jesus describes the requirements for salvation (Jn. 1:12; 3:16,36; 14:6; Rom. 10:9-10; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Jn. 3:5; Acts 2:21; 3:19; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 11:6; 1 Jn. 5:5).

James the brother of Jesus clearly taught in James 2:17,26 that "faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." Likewise, Paul in Romans 6:11 says that we should "count yourselves dead to sin." If sin is still reining in our lives, then we are not walking by the Spirit and our salvation is in question. That’s what I’ve always understood MacArthur and Comfort and Tozer as teaching, which is biblically sound.

Due to 1 Jn. 3 we can know if a person is saved by their spiritual fruit. Salvation should bring about a transformation in one’s lives, and a disdainment for sin. Sure, we may sin, but when we engage in continual, repetitive sin with no remorse or repentance, then we are either seriously backfallen and God will discipline us so that we come back to Him, or we were never saved to experience that transformation and so God lets us continue on in our rebellion because we were never with Him to begin with.

While I don’t fully agree with MacArthur’s view of Lordship Salvation, he does have an excellent point that if Christ isn’t Lord of our lives, then we should be seriously wondering if we are truly saved.

Nathan Jones said...

Ron, Dr. Reagan's disagreement with John MacArthur concerns whether the spiritual gifts are relevant for today (ie cessation), which Dr. Reagan believes they are relevant for today.

1 thessalonians 5:21 said...

Nope sorry Susie, unlike you, I have heard John MacArthur speak… for decades now, so I don’t need to find some YouTube video that probably takes him out of context. He is the last person in the world that believes in “works” for anyone’s salvation. He has explained his position on “Lordship Salvation” in both sermons and a book he wrote devoted specifically to the topic. For that matter, all one would have to do is listen to him take the Catholic church to task for their works based beliefs to know that he doesn’t believe in such a thing.

As far as his position on tongues and gifts that he no longer believes are active, he explains his position in the commentary of 2 Cor. 12-14? in his Study Bible. Since he also has separate commentaries for the entire New Testament, I’m sure he goes into even greater detail there. He also just last year finished preaching through the New Testament verse by verse, which took him over thirty years, and all of his sermons are available at for free where 10’s of millions (yes millions) have been downloaded.

I don’t so much have a problem with you holding whatever positions you hold Susie even if I disagree with them. What I do have a problem with is you knowing so little about a person like John MacArthur and then after listening to a YouTube video jumping to such conclusions especially considering the availability of the man’s life’s work.

1 thessalonians 5:21 said...

Thanks Nathan for answering my question. Maybe down the road a series of posts could be devoted to the topic of cessation. It would probably prove to be a lively one. ;-)

Susie said...

Ron, my apologies i didnt nean to offend u! In the future when im bored i will remember not to check out ur comments. I get it u were talking to nathan. God bless!!

1 thessalonians 5:21 said...

Yes Susie, checking out my comments was definitely the "thing" you did wrong here. lol

MaryannMack said...

I found myself a bit upset on reading Suzie's comments on John MacArthur. Thank you for your post and yes indeed I thank The Lord that he gave me a Preacher / Teacher who stands on the Word and that is John MacArthur. He is a great and gifted man. He is my Teacher and I am so blessed to have him help me draw more near to The Lord.

I am also grateful for Dr. Reagan an his wonderful ministry.