|A Christian Guide to Acts||by R. David Pogge|
The premise of my book is that the “gospel” preached by the modern Christian church isn’t the Gospel preached by Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the rest of the apostles. That’s why the Holy Spirit doesn’t fill our congregations with power. Why should the Holy Spirit empower a church to preach a gospel other than the one Jesus preached?
In his Book of Acts, Luke paints a portrait of a church which looks so little like modern Christianity that one has to wonder if it is even the same religion. 1 Many modern Protestant denominations preach nothing but love and grace—two words which don’t appear anywhere in the 28 chapters of the Book of Acts.
“Christianity” has become a synonym for “good.” If you say, “He isn’t very Christian,” people will take you to mean, “He isn’t very good.” That should not be the case because there is a difference between being good and being a Christian. Many Buddhists are good people—but not a single one of them is a Christian by definition. A Christian is someone who believes and acts like Peter and Paul did. Unfortunately, Christianity has become secular humanism dressed up in a coat of many colors.
This new Counterfeit Christianity has one commandment: “Love your neighbor.” Buddha would agree with that; as would a kind atheist—especially if “love” simply means “tolerate” or “accept.” Nowhere in the Book of Acts did Stephen, Peter, Philip, Paul, or Barnabas tell anyone to tolerate or accept sinful behavior. Counterfeit Christianity proudly celebrates sexual sins as evidence of love and enlightenment.
It should be no surprise that modern Christianity has become so corrupt. Peter predicted it would happen.
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories.
These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. [2 Peter 2:1-3, 17-21]
Paul saw it happening.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! [Galatians 1:6-8]
The biggest threat has always come from inside the church. People who don’t like what the church teaches, do whatever it takes to get themselves into leadership positions so they can change what the church teaches. It makes them feel good about themselves because the church no longer condemns their own sinful behavior. If anyone objects to lowering moral standards, they inoculate themselves from that criticism by claiming that anyone who criticizes them is criticizing the church. How dare you criticize the church or the pastor!
Paul dared to criticize church leaders. Just read Paul’s epistles!
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 2 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 3 [1 Corinthians 3:1-3, 18-20]
Theologians are the best examples of worldly wise fools. They believe all religions are myths invented by priests to keep order and give meaning to life. As such, there is no “true” religion—there is only a “best” religion. The best religion is the myth that does the best to keep order and give meaning to life. That’s why theologians are always trying to “improve” Christianity and make it more relevant to modern society. They will pick one word, like “grace” or “justification” or “covenant” and build a whole new doctrine (that itching ears want to hear) around it.
There is one thing about which the theologians are almost correct. All religions, except one, are myths invented by man. The theologians fail to realize that there really is a god, and really is one true religion which was not invented by man. That one true God is the God of Abraham, and the one true religion is described in the Old and New Testaments.
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 4 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [2 Peter 1:16-21]
Over the years, from the Garden of Eden, though the times of the patriarchs, the Jewish dispensation, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Protestant churches, God has had sincere, faithful followers. The aforementioned institutions have attempted to assemble those followers into an effective organization which facilitates worship. Those institutions have, at times been successful, and at times failed miserably. In general, they begin with an effective reformation; but then they gradually backslide until the next institution comes along with another reformation.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” [John 4:23-24]
Now is that time. Christians need to act more like the apostles acted. These words are for us:
I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.
Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. [2 Peter 3:2-18]
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. [2 Timothy 4:1-5]
|Back to Chapter 13||Table of Contents||On to Appendix A|
Footnotes:1 A summary of differences between apostolic Christianity and modern Christianity can be found in Appendix A.