Monday, November 12, 2007


1Jo 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

In Luke chapter five Jesus was teaching on the great commandment when a lawyer “willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour”? At that point, Jesus set out to strip him of his conveniently narrow (albeit legal) definition, and to help this man understand the meaning of the Golden Rule.

Considering the passages above it seems I can hear the formation of a similar yet appropriate question for our consideration: “and who is my brother”? Since Jesus no longer walks this earth in physical form, let us apply the principles that He taught us while here, and let us see if we can formulate an answer to that question: “Who is my brother?”

First of all we must recognize that for the word “brother” there are two meanings used in Scripture. In the broadest sense, this word can be defined as “a fellow member of the human race.” Certainly this definition would apply in our text. If it is true that we should love even our enemies, we could also conclude that there would not be a human being on earth not included. Obviously there is a Christian love that should be extended to every member of the human race, and as such, everyone would qualify.

In Scripture, however, there is clearly a distinction between a spiritual brother and a brother in the broad sense of the word. According to the tenor of Scripture, there is a deeper love reserved for the more narrow definition of the word brother: the Christian brother. The question is how narrow is that definition, and “who is my brother”?

On the one side we see some who tend to approach the subject with such a wide definition that they accept almost anyone to be part of the family of God. Their love seems gushy and cheap, and it certainly is not biblical. God’s Word places some very definite limits upon those who would be considered part of the family of God, and those limits clearly exclude the mere profession of Christianity.

On the other side are those who have the feeling that their spiritual family extends little beyond the parameters of their own denomination. Believers outside that denomination are viewed with suspicion at best, or even as non-Christian or apostate at worst. “The church” has become synonymous with the denominational name, not the body of Christ. To these, the command to love the brethren has taken on a very narrow meaning–certainly more narrow than what biblical teaching would allow.

Others of us come from independent churches who are not loyal to a single denomination, nevertheless we sometimes have some distinct boundaries of fellowship which can be even more restrictive. Those boundaries might not extend much beyond a small circle of “believe-alikes.” By this term I mean just that. These not only believe alike on essential tenets of doctrine, but in almost every other way as well. Definite measures are taken to ensure that the circle will not be penetrated or expanded. True brotherly love is reserved mostly for that small circle of “believe-alikes.” This is all fine and well if this narrow definition of the word ‘brother’ is supported by Scripture. Let’s take a look!

It is certainly true that God’s Word is restrictive concerning those who should be taken into the fellowship of believers. There are at least eight New Testament passages that clearly teach the exclusion from fellowship of certain “brethren” whose lives do not match their profession. God is very jealous of His name. Some of those issues that disqualify a man from taking the name of Christian brother are: fornication, covetousness, idolatry, drunkenness, railing, or extortion. (I Cor. 11) He also is to be excluded if he is one to harp upon nonessentials or untestable controversial issues which cause envy, strife, railings, and evil surmisings. Ouch!! ( I Tim 6:3-5) Other causes for exclusion are disorderly conduct, causing division, and the promulgation of heresy.

On the other hand, there was a greater diversity of belief and opinion tolerated in the New Testament and early church than currently found in some circles. There were those of the new order and those of the old. Some were zealous of the law, others were not. For religious reasons some ate all meats, and others ate practically none. Some observed certain days as holy (other than the one out of seven) and others did not. Some believers held slaves, and while slavery was not condoned, neither were those who held them excluded either. Some were with Christ each day as he healed the sick, raised the dead and cast out devils, but others cast out devils who were not daily with Him or the twelve. Jesus specifically gave instructions for them to not be hindered, saying, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.”

The Apostle Paul encouraged the leaving of some issues between the brother and his God, and discouraged an overly zealous narrowing of the ranks by saying on one occasion, “but why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”

Then who is my brother? Scripturally, a spiritual brother is one who has passed from death unto life and from the power of Satan unto God, and is a new creature, old things having passed away and all things having been made new. He is that man who is led by the Spirit. (Ro 8:14) Though he may not walk in all the light that I have, he is one who walks in all that which has been made light unto him, enabling him to have fellowship with the brethren and to enjoy the cleansing of the atoning blood. ( I Jn 1:7)

To this unique group of people we have a Scriptural obligation–an obligation to love them on a deeper level than anyone else. We are charged to treat them with the love and respect due a fellow traveler who is as much a child of God as are we. It is a love so deep that we would be willing to lay down our lives for them. Ironically, according to our text, one evidence that we personally have passed from death unto life is that we grant acceptance of our brethren evidenced by that unique brotherly love.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Universal Priesthood of the Believer

Upon the ushering in of the New Testament dispensation, the Old Testament priesthood was on its way out. To finalize that Old Testament office, divine providence had it that Titus would march into Jerusalem, the temple would be destroyed and animal sacrifice suspended, thus bringing an end to the Old Testament priesthood.

From the beginning of the New Testament era, its church leaders were not referred to as priests, but were indiscriminately called bishops, presbyters, or elders. There were good reasons for this. The Old Testament Priest offered up sacrifices for the people, and in that sense became a mediator between them and God. After the ultimate sacrifice of our great High Priest, New Testament believers began to regard themselves as priests that offered sacrifices through Jesus Christ.

Over time there developed a break-down in the understanding of the role of our eternal High Priest and the equal access of believers to God. There developed an unscriptural distinction between the clergy and the laity, with the former being known as "sacertotes" who exercised a priestly function. This, in time lead to the priestly character of the higher clergy, and the sacrificial character of the mass.

God, in His wisdom and mercy, reached Martin Luther’s intellect, then his soul, and through him brought about the great reformation. One of the most basic tenants of that reformation was the teaching of the Universal Priesthood of the Believer. The Protestant Church has maintained this belief ever since. Though she has not wavered from this teaching, some branches of the modern-day church have begun to stray in practice from the fundamentals of that doctrine.

To better understand the implications of that doctrine, it is important to note that in the Bible we find that there is both a visible and invisible Church. The invisible church is made up of those who have placed their faith in Jesus our High Priest, and through divine power have passed from death unto life and from the power of Satan unto God. It is an invisible Church, because its legitimacy is based upon an inward relationship with Jesus Christ which is not visible to the human eye.

The visible church, on the other hand, though it should, does not always consist of the same. It is that structured body of worshipers that is made up of prophets, teachers, evangelists , layman, etc. It does not of necessity have a civil entity, but it is structured as a body of worshipers generally under the leadership of a shepherd, but always under the headship of Jesus Christ and His written Word.

Where some of us have again begun to stray from Scripture and the fundamentals of the reformation is in the assumption that the visible church has a divinely-ascribed legislative authority. This is precisely where the old Roman Church went astray. Actually it went astray on two pivotal points: the mediatorial role that the high clergy took upon itself, and the attribution of legislative authority to the visible Church. Let there be no misunderstanding. There is a place for the outlining of what we believe to be taught in God’s Word as was done in both the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, but the time for legislation is past, the Biblical Canon in complete.

Is there any reason for us to believe that by building upon the same false foundation as did the Roman church, our structure will be any more true than her’s? Those two false premises have lead that church far from God and truth, and it threatens to do the same to us as well. The doctrine of the Universal Priesthood of the Believer is clearly supported by Scripture, and has proven to be a safe haven for that visible church of the past, leaving no good reason for it’s abandonment now. If the study of history is to mean more to us than mere entertainment, it should be that we learn from the mistakes of the past and not repeat them.

Something is not Quite Right

I was walking down the streets of Saltillo, Mexico when I heard a noise: plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop. It was a car coming down the street from behind me. At first it sounded like a car backfiring as it descended the hill, but as it approached I could see that the driver was driving on a flat tire. He continued on down the street-plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop- until he was out of sight. I thought: "Well, that was strange." Then moments later I noticed it coming back up the hill with the same plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop. I was amused, and thought that it was odd when, after if had again gone out of sight, I heard it again, and lo and behold here it came again- plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop-and down the hill it went till, once again, it was out of sight. On the second or third time by, I tried to get the driver’s attention, but it was no use; his thoughts were elsewhere. Maybe he was thinking, "What a gorgeous day!"

After thinking about the incident, I have come to the conclusion that there could be but four reasons why a man would drive up and down the street on a flat tire: (1) he was deaf and unaware of the world around him, (2) he was distracted by some powerful distraction, (3) he heard the warning sounds but was unable to determine the source, or (4) he heard the warning sounds but didn't care. This man reminds me of so many who should be tending to the needy, and mending broken lives, but, for one reason or another, are taking "pleasure rides" up and down the streets of life, unaware of a calling Saviour. We could take these same four points, and apply them to those who have not yet heeded the call of God.

(1) Could it be that the reason that we are not tending to broken hearts and lives is that we are deaf to the world around us and unaware of the world around us? If so, it is not because we were born that way, for only healthy babies are born into the family of God. We are "born" with healthy hearing, healthy eyesight, and a good appetite. When we are "born" spiritually, we are concerned about those who have yet not found what we have found, and we begin immediately to do something about it. Spiritual deafness comes when, instead of promptly obeying God's voice, we cause Him to continue to call so long that we lose our ability to hear.

(2) Some have heard God's call to attend to the spiritually needy, but have simply been distracted. What could so distract a person? The devil has all kinds of "toys and whistles" that will take our full attention if we'll let them. I'm afraid that there are a lot of good people who have become so distracted that they simply do not hear the call to take care of the needs of a dying world. No, it's not that they are rebellious, and do not want to; they have merely been distracted, and the Enemy is happy.

(3) There are others who hear the call but are unable to determine the source. They are fully aware that something is not quite right, but what is it? They know that their life is not fulfilled; something is not what it ought to be. So they continue to drive up and down the streets of life, back and forth, trying to figure out what is wrong. Friend, could it be that God calling you to tend to the needs of others?

(4) Yet there is another class of people. This group hear the call, but they are having too much fun "pleasure riding." They don't want their fun interrupted, so they ignore the needs of others, and go on having a good time. No, their pleasures may not even be "worldly pleasures." They are having too good of a time attending a good church, listening to good preaching, good singing, and enjoying good fellowship. There is nothing wrong with that, but what about the needs of a dying world?

As in this case on the streets of Saltillo, some are attempting to awaken us to a problem that needs immediate attention. Will you give serious consideration to God's call today? Life is too short, and the eternal destiny of souls too serious, to fritter away this life in self gratification. God is calling us ALL to do something (our part) to slow the never-ending stream of souls that are plunging daily into a lost eternity.

The analogy may be poor, but the truth remains-God is trying to call our attention to the more urgent affairs of life. The question is: Will we heed His call or continue on the pleasure ride that our life might afford?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Take it by Faithism" vs. "The Death Route"

Heb. 13:12

Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.

As our selected text clearly teaches, there is no question about God’s will when it comes to our sanctification. It is His will that His people be sanctified. What is sometimes unclear is how this sanctification is achieved.

As a holiness movement, the experience of holiness is fundamentally vital to our very existence. Without it we might as well call ourselves anything, for we have not only lost the very thing that makes us distinct, but we have also lost a basic requirement for heaven. Despite its’ importance, on the fringes of our movement the battle is all-but-lost for this precious experience of heart purity. Even in the more conservative side of the movement there is a fierce battle raging. This battle threatens to keep souls away from the experience, either by discouragement or by deception.

The enemy of our souls does not care how he trips us up, just as long as in the end we miss heaven. If we tend to be off "dead center" even slightly in any certain direction, that is the very direction he will push us so that we might totally err on that end.

Although the devil has many tactics that he uses to keep us from obtaining this enabling work of grace, there is probably no other single tool that he uses more than the "encouraging," yet deceptive words: "Take it by faith."

Let me first define "Take-it-by-faithism," as I call it. This prevalent theory is the counterpart to the Calvinist movement’s "Easy-believism." What "Easy-believism" is to the Calvinist in salvation, "Take-it-by-faithism" is to the Wesleyan-Armenian in the second work of grace. As "Easy-believism" is merely a head belief, so also is "Take-it-by-faithism." The former is a counterfeited short-cut to real salvation, while the latter is a counterfeited short-cut to genuine heart purity. In the same way that "Easy-believism" eliminates the unpleasant step of repentance, "Take-it-by-faithism" eliminates the unpleasant step of death to self.

This doctrine, I believe, is a choice tool of Satan because it is so plausible or deceptive. Let’s look at a couple reasons why this is so: 1) Because to a certain point it is true. Paul clearly confirms this in Romans 5:2; "by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand." However, faith is achieved only when God supplies the grace to believe, and when man exercises his faith empowered by that grace. It is not something that we can arbitrarily muster up.

"Take-it-by-faithism" is also very deceptive 2) because that is exactly what the old carnal self wants to do. The carnal man wants to take a short-cut, jump the fence, take it by faith, and then hope that it will work.

"Take-it-by-faithism" implies force. Literally, it is the attempt to take by force that which has not been paid for. There is a price to pay if a man will be sanctified wholly, and until that price is paid, God will not provide the grace to believe that the work is done. To attempt to believe before the price is paid is indeed attempted coercion.

Finally, "take it by faithism" simply does not work. Nine times out of ten, when a man is encouraged to take it by faith and he does, that man will either be back at the altar seeking to be sanctified all over again, or end up living under a cloud of uncertainty in regards to his "sanctified" experience. The exception to this is the man who has made a complete consecration, has died to self, and is on believing ground at the time that he is exhorted to take it by faith. We ought to be extremely careful who we exhort to "believe," or else we could share responsibility for the multitude of souls who are wandering in the wilderness as did the children of Israel.

Could this be one of the reasons why the church is so spiritually anemic? Is it also the reason why so many people live with question marks about their "sanctified experience?" Could this explain why so few hear, as Isaiah did, the words of God: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Could it, as well, explain why so few are answering, as did the prophet, ‘Here am I; send me?’ I am convinced that there is a direct cause-and-effect connection between these two phenomenons. Few, like Isaiah, have had a true revelation of the holy nature of God or of the sinful nature of their unsanctified heart. They have taken "by faith" that which they have not truly been convinced is necessary. This is not a paradox; what it is, is a contradiction between profession and fact.

Let’s look at the other side: the "death route." There is also a solid scriptural basis for this belief as well. I will only give a couple references: John 12:24; and Romans 12: 1, which reads: "I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service".

"Death route" proponents have their problems as well. Just as soon as the devil sees that a man pulls away from "take-it-by-faithism" and leans toward the "death-route" position, he begins to try to push him to extremes on that side of the issue.

I see at least two dangers that all members of the "death-route" camp should carefully avoid. 1) There is the danger of causing seekers to believe that the death-route is so long, and that victory is always ‘way out there in the distant future. This kills faith and gives birth to discouragement. Men should be made to understand that the death route can be long, but need not be if they will swiftly mind God.

2) Some proponents of the "death route" paint the journey as one so long, so gruesome, and so undesirable, that some believers never even attempt the journey. They fail to point out the joy, blessing, and satisfaction that accompany every act of obedience as we walk this route.

In the final analysis, it is not "take-it-by-faithism" versus "the death route," rather it is both "the death route" and faith. However, let us not forget that it is first the "death route," then faith.



We are all familiar with the warning that Jesus gave concerning “the leaven of the Pharisees” found in Matthew chapter 16. However, we may sometimes find ourselves at a loss as to how to appropriate that warning, and we may struggle to even see the relevance of the teaching to our modern times. After all, the sect of Pharisees of whom Jesus spoke are no longer around. Though that might be true, the problem of leaven is as contemporary and relevant as the Tempter himself

The adding of “leaven” to the gospel today has become, in some circles, a common and even a popular thing to do. Some have reached the place that were they to hear the gospel preached free from all leaven, they would not accept it as doctrinally sound. They have become so familiar with the error of leaven that it has become a “security blanket” without which they would be overcome with fear. This fear does not allow confidence in the gospel in its virgin form. It believes that the Gospel is insufficient in and of itself to rid the Church of, and maintain it free from sin. This persuasion is a serious reflection upon God’s ability to govern His church, and exalts the wisdom of man above that of God.

It has been perplexing to me for years to see the fondness that some have for “leaven.” No, the term is never used, but it is typically added either under the banner of “Old-fashioned rugged holiness preaching” or “old fashioned holiness church standards.” Please, don’t misunderstand; both are good and desirable, but they can also provide excellent cover and a perfect “climate” for leaven to thrive. I might remind you that spiritual leaven is defined as any teaching that corrupts the Word of God by adding to it or taking away.

I would assert that this fondness is strictly an subjective emotion. It is not logical, for it has long since divorced all logic. It is not Biblical, because it has developed an immunity to all biblical evidence that is not convenient. In reality, it is an emotional attachment to an ideology. It is none other than a love relationship–not with Jesus Christ, but with religious code. It is a modern-day counterpart of Judaism mixed into Christianity. In New Testament times certain tenets of Judaism were so woven into the very fibers of the thinking of many Jewish Christians to the extent that they were so emotionally attached to them that they did not want to let them go. A similar condition can be found even today.

By digressing for a moment to think briefly in the political realm, we can find an analogy in what is referred to as the “platform” of any given party: the document which outlines the ideology and priorities laid out by that party. As yet I do not know how to fully explain it, but it seems that due to the overemphasis on separation from the world, some have made that the PRIMARY plank in their doctrinal platform, and have built the entire structure upon it. Since it has had such a prominent place in their doctrinal structure for so long, just like those Jewish Christian, they have developed an emotion dependency upon it. Whenever someone tries to pull on that plank to restructure the platform or reorganize priorities, it begins to pull upon their very heart. It matters not that logic supports the restructuring, nor does it seem to be of any consequence that the Bible demands it. What matters is that it doesn’t “feel” right.

Studies have shown that when patients are shown pictures of people that they love something happens in the brain. A chemical shows up that blocks out both depression and rationale. This supports the old adage that says “love is blind.” For that reason I maintain that to LOVE what I have referred to as leaven or even “separation from the world,” is spiritual adultery. We are commanded to love the Lord our God with ALL our heart (Deut.6:5 )-- not love an ideology. This explains why that when such a love exists there is an absence of rationale and intellectual treatment of God’s Word. In the same way that young people (and some not so young) who are “in love,” many times, make decisions based upon their emotions, this type operate by the emotional bond with an ideology rather than by an intellectual understanding of God’s Word.

The Scriptures clearly teach, yea, even demand a separation from the world. THAT TEACHING I WHOLE-HEARTEDLY EMBRACE, but at no place in Scripture are we taught to be separate from the world merely as an end in itself. We are taught to forsake sin in order to have Christ. We are taught not to be conformed to this world that we might be transformed and conformed to the image of Christ. In the Scriptures, separation is taught only as a “means to an end”--that end being Jesus Christ. We are taught that “no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” Mt 6:24. This Scripture can clearly be applied to people on both ends of the spectrum: to those who DESPISE separation (they love the world), and to those who LOVE it (separation). And to state that some love it is no exaggeration, for I have heard that confession made. Indeed, I believe that one form of modern day leaven is clearly seen in an ideology that is more in love with the means (separation) than with the end (Jesus Christ Himself).

To those who would doubt the above statement, let me ask the following: Why is it that the preaching of standards (biblical and otherwise) take a more prominent place during the course of a camp meeting or revival than does either the subject of holiness or prayer? Why is a preacher judged more harshly by his failure to touch on certain pet issues than should he fail to preach on heart purity, or forgiveness? Why is it that before an evangelist is called he is more likely to be interrogated about his stand for or against certain technological inventions than about his personal relationship with God or his passion for souls? I suggest that this reversal of priorities is in itself a form of leaven.

Certainly men do not profess to be numbered amongst the Pharisees who added leaven. We all claim to be BIBLICAL Christians, but that cannot possibly be true since the very Scripture God uses to lead one man to take a certain course of action, another uses to condemn that very action. Some seem to treat passages like 2Co 6:17 as blank checks signed by the All-mighty. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord,” is not an invitation for us preachers to fill in the blanks with whatever we believe and with that which is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. Do we not take seriously II Pe 1:20 “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation?” It is amazing how carelessly we handle the eternal Word of God.

Not only do we frivolously apply Scripture so that it agrees with our personal likes and dislikes, but at times we will venture to publicly ridicule or belittle those who would dare to differ on issues that God did not feel important enough to include in His Word. In some cases, not only is there the absence of unequivocal teaching of God’s Word upon the subject, His Word on that subject might be entirely silent. Yet we add our leaven unnoticed by men due to the public support of those who are like-minded. Do we not take into consideration God’s opinion on the matter?

Maybe we should examine our loyalties. Are we recklessly loyal solely to God and His Word, or are we primarily loyal to a predetermined mind-set or philosophy? What is sad is the fact that leaven is added to the Scriptures, many times, not by its foes but by its friends who are not entirely aware of their actions. These friends read and interpret Scripture through a grid of personal philosophy rather than allowing that philosophy to be determined and molded by Scripture. One man set aside Vincent’s Word Studies simply because they did not always collaborate his preconstructed concept of Scriptural teaching. Apparently some of us read God’s Word, not for the purpose of being taught thereby, but with the intent of finding support for what we already believe? Think about that!

Furthermore, leaven is added to Scripture today in much the same way and for the same reason that it was back then, and many times that reason is due to a “herd-like ” mentality. Remember the Gadarene swine? There were no rifts among them. They were of one accord, one mind, traveling the same direction, all for the same reason, but they were ALL, EVERY ONE OF THEM, going the wrong way. In our humanity, we draw such comfort from companions and fellow travelers. That is not wrong: it’s natural. Where we go wrong is when we love and esteem more highly the “herd” and its opinion than we do God and His eternal Word.

Take heart my brother. There is hope. Love doesn’t have to be blind. We hear of courageous young men and ladies all the time who ignore their emotions and break off relationships that they know to be wrong. We can do the same. I am not proposing division between God’s people. Rather, I am encouraging the reader, as did Jesus, to beware of leaven, and if there has developed that emotion bond with leaven, break it at any cost. Fall in love with Jesus Christ, and in so doing you will genuinely love the brethren. Once that has taken place, the last thing you will want to do is stir up discord by adding leaven and demanding of others what you do not positively know to be required in Scripture.

– Philip Burch


On one occasion we were traveling as we often do, and my wife was reading to the family a passage of scripture for our devotional reading. The chapter that she read was Matthew 16. Many times before I had read this same chapter, but this time verse six seemed to catch my attention as never before: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” The disciples, at first, thought that Jesus was referring to bread, but after Jesus’ gentle rebuke they understood that what he was actually talking about was the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

What was the doctrine of the Pharisees? Whatever that doctrine was, we are clearly warned to beware of it. It must have been dangerous; it must have been spiritually unhealthy; otherwise, Jesus would not have taken the time to so clearly warn against it. It was so important that three out of the four gospel writers record Jesus’ words of warning. It must have been significantly important, and we ought to “listen up” and take heed.

What was this dangerous doctrine? A better question would be, “What is this dangerous doctrine?” You see, it has survived the centuries and is very much alive today, many times in places least expected. What is this doctrine? It is any teaching that adds to or amends the gospel and then relies on the keeping of those amendments for salvation. Not only that, but this doctrine requires all others to abide by those amendments as well.

Yes, I know that no one is going around claiming that what they teach is an “add-on” to the gospel. Those who teach this doctrine feel that they have some type of biblical backing, however obscure or remote that might be.

The Pharisees truly felt that they had Scriptural backing for what they taught as well. They took the simple command, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” and as one man said “rode off into the sunset” on their hobby-horse, defining what “God failed to make clear.” Incrementally, over the centuries, the Pharisees had accumulated hundreds of amendments to define what God meant when He instructed us not to do any labor on His holy day. They defined as labor carrying anything heavy, and since iron was heavy it was wrong to carry anything of iron or containing iron. So, since some shoes had tacks in them, those shoes were not to be worn on the Sabbath. See how their logic went? They felt that what they taught was Scriptural.

Most false doctrine today claim biblical support as well, and indeed most false doctrine can be traced back to some biblical passage. It is almost without exception based on circular reasoning. Just as the Pharisees would make an assumption based on scripture, then on the basis of that assumption draw other conclusions, in that exact same way do some, over the period of many years, develop extra-biblical teachings. It is not my purpose here to identify those teachings, but rather encourage the reader to lead his life based on the “unleavened gospel.

Is the doctrine of the Pharisees really as dangerous as Jesus led us to believe? I believe that it is. Here are just a few of its dangers that we should consider (1) Any time we go beyond what the Bible clearly teaches in what we require of others, we start down a slippery slope with no place to stop. The moment we define anything more strictly than what God said it, we have just added “leaven,” and it will grow.

2) When we add amendments to what God has said to better define what He meant, we make a serious reflection on God, and question the relevance of His eternal Word to our day. We break down its credibility with those who would be followers. His Word becomes merely a nice place to start and from there we stretch it in any direction we like.

3) Leaven dilutes the gospel, rendering it weak and dependent upon human interpretation.

4) A “leavened” gospel greatly hinders evangelism by stifling all healthy enthusiasm. It is somewhat difficult to get excited about propagating such a gospel. It is difficult to feed spiritual babes a gospel that has been submitted to human tampering. Maybe that is why we are becoming less and less evangelistic and why our churches are increasingly smaller. It seems that we are focusing so much of our attention on our controversies over how far to carry the latest “add-on,” instead of preaching the gospel to every creature.

The gospel does not need human tampering to make it well-rounded and complete. Is there anything missing in a gospel that says: “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple?” Or can anything be more radical than a gospel that says: “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple?” Is there any thing lacking in the part that says: “I beseech you ... that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service?” Can any improvement be made on II Cor. 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new?”

You can add “leaven” to the gospel if you want to, but as for me I’m perfectly happy with the gospel of Jesus Christ just as He gave it to us. It is something that I can get excited about. I can agree with the Apostle Paul when he said “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth...”


In 1956 movie producers began to first experiment with a technique in advertisement that was, at that time, completely new. It was called subliminal advertisement. Twenty one years later the FCC released a report on the subject. In that report, "subliminal projection" was described as “a technique of projecting information below the viewing audience's threshold of sensation or awareness. It involves flashing a message lasting only a fraction of a second on the television screen.” Theoretically, the viewer receives such a message without realizing he or she has observed it.
In a Fort Lee, N.J. movie theater, during a six-week period, patrons reportedly were exposed to two advertising messages projected subliminally on the screen during the regular presentation of the motion picture "Picnic." The words "Drink Coca-Cola" and "Hungry? Eat Popcorn" were flashed on the screen every five seconds at the subliminal level of 1/3000th of a second. As a result, increased sales in popcorn and Coca-Cola were reported.

Apart from using it in television advertising, radio stations have also used an audio version of the same technique by inserting and fading in under musical recordings, in quick low voices, a barely audible phrase. Thus there is both a visual and audio version of the same technique.

In subliminal projection, while the viewer or listener is not consciously aware of the message, the advertiser is fully aware of the design of his project. In contrast, I believe that in our church world today there is such a thing as a subliminal teaching that is so subliminal that both the teacher and the learner are less than fully aware of the process. So that we might not be guilty of acting, either consciously or subconsciously, in a way that would not be constructive to the kingdom of Christ, would it not be helpful to examine this theory? I believe that it would!

As with subliminal projection, so there is more than one version of “subliminal teaching.” 1) There is first of all subliminal teaching by insinuation. This form can be very powerful. Certain issues which are usually personal beliefs as opposed to universal mandates, are briefly mentioned in such a way as to leave the implication (whether intended or not) that they are universally-held positions, and as such need no elaboration. Therefore anyone believing or practicing the contrary is made to look like a willful rebel.

2) There is also what I refer to as the “sandwich” technique. A belief or teaching of insignificant proportion is thinly sliced and sandwiched between two weightier matters of thought or Biblical theology. This way, that which is very small in and of itself is categorized along with that which is indeed of great importance. This explains, in part, the inverted priorities of some. For example: a preacher might be listing some of those issues of dress and personal appearance to which we as Christians should adhere. He might condemn short hair and pants on women and in the same breath condemn beards on men. While the first two are clearly Scriptural principles, the latter at best might be classified as merely prudential. But by listing the prudentials in the same breath as these that are Scriptural essentials, the prudentials are given the same weight as those things that are clearly Scriptural mandates.

3) There is, in addition to these, the isolation technique. By isolating ourselves from those who would vary even slightly in their beliefs on nonessentials, we subliminally teach our young people by giving them the “illusion” that anyone of any importance in the Christian world believes exactly like our church or pastor. What happens many times is that when they are eventually introduced to the real Christian world and their eyes are opened, they become “disillusioned.” But now the disillusion is with the ones who subjected them to the isolation technique and subliminally taught an Elijah mentality, when there are indeed many who have not bowed the knee to Baal.

4) Then there is what I will call the “monkey-see-monkey-do” technique. More than by what is systematically taught, the preacher or teacher’s underlying belief system is taught by what he does. Nothing could be more true than the old adage “Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear a word you say.” One man said that more is caught than is taught. It is common for a man to verbally teach only that which is strictly orthodox but do so with contradictory overtones. For instance: a man might verbally teach that sin is a willful disobedience to a known law of God, but at the same time the obviously unenlightened or less enlightened Christian from the non-conservative church is treated, in many respects, as a non-Christian.

This underlying belief system is also subliminally taught by the high level of priority placed on outward conformity to the dress code held by the church. Not that the outward man is not important, but in this case the inward state of the heart is forced to take back seat to the outward merely by the over-emphasis placed on the latter. This man might clearly teach in his sermon that it is`by grace that we are saved through faith; and that not of ourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast--- yet the more persuasive message is that which is subliminally taught by what he does.

We must also realize that this “monkey-see-monkey-do” technique works both ways. The same thing happens when a man verbally teaches separation from the world yet puts his approval on everything he condemns when those who have ignored the teachings of God’s Word are placed in leadership positions. “Oh consistency, thou art a jewel!”

May God enlighten us that we might wholly teach what we believe, believe what we teach, and be consistent in all things.

Philip Burch