Archive for the 'Paul Hamilton' Category

Does the Gospel have a Social Mandate?

The gospel should be the dearest thing to the heart of the redeemed. That God would save a sinner such as I should never cease to amaze me. That there would always be some who stretch the gospel to include things that it does not should not surprise me.

For the last sixty or so years we have heard new evangelicals stress “social involvement.” Harold John Ockenga characterized fundamentalists as being indifferent to the physical needs of people. He and other new evangelicals promoted a positive social message. Their view of a contemporary kingdom of God provided a foundation for engaging the culture and advancing a social element in the Gospel. Ockenga claimed, “There need be no disagreement between the personal gospel and the social gospel.” Fundamentalism was portrayed as leaving out an important part of the Bible message. The push for the Gospel to have a social relevance gained acceptance in both liberal and new evangelical circles. This emphasis has appeared in many different forms, but has never gone away.

Today there are groups which claim to be defining the Gospel. The Gospel Coalition is gaining popularity among new evangelicals and some fundamentalists. I wholeheartedly agree with the Gospel Coalition that salvation is “received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone” (Gospel for all of Life: Preamble). But in the same document they claim that Christian living is supposed to impact the arts and improve living conditions.

“Developing humane yet creative and excellent business environments out of our understanding of the gospel is part of the work of bringing a measure of healing to God’s creation in the power of the Spirit. Bringing Christian joy, hope, and truth to embodiment in the arts is also part of this work. We do all of this because the gospel of God leads us to it…. Christian churches must work for justice and peace in their neighborhoods through service even as they call individuals to conversion and the new birth” (Theological Vision for Ministry, V, 5).

Those who wrote the Foundation Documents for the Gospel Coalition lament that they do not “see enough individual churches that embody the full, integrative gospel balance we have outlined here” (Theological Vision for Ministry).

In 1976 Ronald Sider wrote, “Social reform and social welfare are aspects of proclaiming the gospel.” That has been the rallying cry of most new evangelicals for decades. The Gospel presented in God’s Word calls men to turn from sin and trust the finished work of Christ. The lost must see that they are spiritually bankrupt, and the God of all grace provides salvation through Jesus Christ alone. That’s the Gospel message. Our work is soul work. We should beware of any man or movement that removes repentance from the Gospel, and we should be aware that many are preaching social action as part of Gospel work.

I’m always wary of any movement that presses for evangelism but has little or no use for biblical separation. Historically fundamentalists have warned of an inclusivism that claims we can focus on what we have in common with compromisers for the sake of the Gospel. While some have rejected the terms “fundamentalist” and “new evangelical”, differences in agenda and emphasis still exist. Always look behind the curtain of any “coalition” to see who started it, who’s supporting it, what they are stressing, and what they are leaving out.

The mandate of the Gospel is repent and be saved. A social consciousness is not part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Lord.

June 2010

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Forgiving as We Have Been Forgiven

From a Roman prison cell Paul wrote a short letter to be hand delivered to a Christian brother. The recipient was Philemon, and the deliverer was his runaway slave, Onesimus. Paul could refer to Onesimus as “my child. . . whose father I became in my imprisonment” (v. 10) because this slave became a child of God by faith. As Paul discipled this new believer, his heart was knit to that of Onesimus. This young believer was of great encouragement and service to Paul, but Paul knew that Onesimus needed to be returned to and reconciled with Philemon. On his behalf, Paul writes to Philemon to receive back on brotherly terms this one who had run away.

While it is easy to harbor a hurt and resentment, it is our duty, our “glory to overlook an offense” (Prov 19:11). If we withhold forgiveness, we put a basket over our light. Nothing causes our testimony to shine brighter than when we forgive for Christ’s sake. Onesimus had an opportunity to show obedience to the Lord by returning to the one he robbed by running away. Philemon had an opportunity to show the forgiveness of the Lord. Paul had an opportunity to lead both men to be more Christ-like.

Onesimus had not a farthing to restore him to Philemon. Philemon could not begin to pay Paul for the spiritual debt he owed him. Paul could very easily have pressured Philemon to do him a favor, but instead he tenderly leads Philemon to the high principle of forgiving one who owed him so much.

It could be said of all of us that we have a debt that we could not pay. No one is more in debt than a sinner is to God for sending Jesus to die in our place. Like Onesimus, we were in no position to contribute anything to change our status before God. Whether someone has defrauded you or maligned you, you are not owed as much as you owe your gracious God for salvation.

Our heavenly Father, like the loving father in the story of the prodigal son, gives total, glorious forgiveness. We have no right to give anything less than complete forgiveness. Paul instructed the church at Colossae, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col 3:13). The standard we are to live by is very high and does not change. We cannot seek what we are not willing first to give (Matt 6:14).

When we show mercy we promote unity. When we forgive beyond what is commonly seen in the world, forgiving as often as someone wrongs us (Matt 18:21), then we show we value true fellowship more than anything and want the focus to be on Christ.

Instead of demanding justice or compensation, the Christian practices compassion in light of the great grace shown to us while a sinner with nothing to offer.

To refuse to forgive someone who has wronged you is to declare that you are not forgiven and changed by God, or else that you have been forgiven your sins by God, but are asking for chastening for not obeying the commandment of God. But to forgive as Christ forgave you is to give a clear testimony to the One who redeemed you.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32).

April/May 2010

Spiritual Gifts and the Church Today

The debate about spiritual gifts in the church today has not abated in recent years. While the topic of gifts exercised by the body should not dominate discussions, neither should it be a subject that we ignore. Since the Bible does speak of spiritual gifts being provide by God and used in the local church for its edification and maturity, this area of study should not be surrendered to charismatics to be twisted and abused.

Continue reading ‘Spiritual Gifts and the Church Today’

Some Things Don’t Mix

A senator who switches parties can get press attention for weeks. While some will praise him for his bold move, others will criticize him for his spineless defection. When a popular evangelical pastor or apologist reverses his position on the creation account, there can be a similar response. Some will talk of his courage and intellectual honesty, while others speak of his foolish compromise.

February of 2009 marked the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of his book, Origin of Species. Darwin’s theory of evolution was celebrated not only by Christ-denying secular professors, but also by many pastors worldwide who lined up to eulogize this controversial man. Continue reading ‘Some Things Don’t Mix’

Speaking the Truth in Love

Who among us has never had a situation where you confronted a person about sin, and did so in a firm but caring way, only to have the individual accuse you of being harsh and uncaring? Certainly there will be times when dealing with sin in a biblical manner will set us up for an accusation of being cruel. Although such a charge will sting, we are to be committed to ministry with the mind and manner of Christ.

As fundamentalists we seek to have ministries that speak “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” We remain vigilant against all “deceitful schemes” (Eph 4:14) that prey on undiscerning believers. But not only are we to teach and preach the truth, we are to do so “speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15).

The two words “in love” are to be a discipline which impacts all ministry. I say discipline because it is one of those “simple but not easy” matters in Christian work. Truth is to be presented in a manner marked by Christ’s love and compassion. Anything less is disobedience.

The truth often gets watered down by new evangelicals and charismatics who emphasize love. Fundamentalists sometimes are thought to be heavy on truth but light on love. We have a responsibility to present the gospel and train up believers with truth and love. “In love” is not an option; it is clearly a command. All our communication should be stamped by Christ-like compassion.

The fact that Jesus was a gentle Shepherd should not be misconstrued to mean He was soft on sin. Christ spoke some very stern words and yet everything He taught was in keeping with His character. Elders, never be “domineering over those in your charge” (1 Pet 5:3), but be known for your gentle manner (1 Tim 3:3). Love is not canceled out by truth. Truth is to be declared in perfect conformity with true love. Christ’s love is to be the standard for even the strongest message you preach against sin or compromise.

Preachers need to examine themselves daily in this regard. None of us has license to say what we want in any way we want. Apologetics or preaching done in unloving manner are a detriment. Even when it is necessary to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13), we are duty bound to correct in a manner that testifies to the love of Christ. With truth we at times have to correct, but in love we do so in a way that is not censorious.

Biblical separatists are known for their vigilance, ready to defend God’s Word. May we also be known for our tenderheartedness (Eph 4:32), willing to show God’s love. This is one of the best ways to show that we are under control—the Spirit’s control. Acting in the love of Christ is the best way to show loyalty to Christ.

October/November 2009

“Unmuzzleable” Ministry

feature-article.gifPresident Obama is coming under fire for repeatedly saying that America has many Christians in it, but that we are not, or at least not now, a “Christian nation.” Few would say that we are still a Christian nation, many claim we once were a Christian nation, and some question whether we were ever one. While the United States has a system of government that stems largely from Judeo-Christian values, what qualifies America to be a Christian nation?

Continue reading ‘“Unmuzzleable” Ministry’

Postmodernism

Ours is not an easy time in which to witness and minister, but it is an exciting and needy era. Skepticism and relativism mark the prevailing philosophy in society today. On most any state college campus you will find young people who will argue that absolute truth cannot be known, or is not even important. All around us people are mildly amused by anyone who claims there is definite right or wrong. The majority of Americans live by a creed that says, “reality is what I choose nd what works best for me.” The disciple of Christ who seeks to be a faithful and effective witness must be like the “children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” (I Chron. 12:32). Knowing the scriptures enables us to know the nature of man, the errors of godless reasoning, and the real answer for sinful man’s needs.

Continue reading ‘Postmodernism’


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