1 Thessalonians 4:17 ‘Then we that are alive, that are left.’

July 9, 2017 by David Farmer 0 comments

Posted in: Weekly Commentary

 

What is a conspiracy? I ask the question because this text brings to my mind what I believe to be a conspiracy in the church at large. We find in our dictionary that a conspiracy may be defined as:

“A plot; a secret combination of persons, as for an unlawful or evil purpose; any apparent combination of circumstances leading to an event: a concurrence; Law, an agreement or arrangement between two or more persons for the performance of an unlawful act.”

Does this definition not embrace part and parcel of a not so subtle conspiracy that has raged in the visible church for many decades? Its’ history in America goes back many years; perhaps two centuries, to the days of men like Charles Finney, D. L. Moody, and C. I. Scofield, and innumerable imitators.

Charles Grandison Finney has been credited with—if indeed there be any credit due such a thing—the inauguration of what is known today as the ‘altar call.’ In his ‘revival’ preaching and tent meetings, he appealed to the will of man, on the assumption that the natural man could will himself to believe the gospel. He called upon his hearers to come forward and take a place upon the ‘anxious bench;’ a seat near the pulpit reserved at some revival meetings for persons especially concerned about their spiritual condition—called also mourner’s bench. This practice evolved into the modern-day altar call; a call to the auditory to respond to the gospel preached by coming down the aisle to the front in order to evidence their decision to accept the invitation to come to Christ for salvation. This served to promote what we refer to as easy-believism. Unlike the sermons of Christ, John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul, which called upon men to ‘repent and believe’ this altar call basically only calls upon men to desire escape from hell, or alcoholism, or a bad marriage; you name it. Many have made their way down that aisle and been deceived into assuming that they have been saved by this act and have become Christians. Of course, some may have truly experienced regeneration; however, not because of the altar call, but in spite of it.

But what is to be said or done about the vast number of ‘professors,’ who like Simon Magus continue ‘in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity’? To answer this concern, the notes of C. I. Scofield were brought forward. These poor, deceived individuals were yet walking after the flesh; they were yet living carnally. Paul, of course, in Romans 8, has clearly told us that ‘the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be.’ Rather, however, than listening to Paul by recognizing that the preponderance of those that had ‘gone forward’ were not saved at all, Scofield’s note on 1 Cor. 3 was referenced:

“Paul divides men into three classes: (1) natural, i.e. the Adamic man, unrenewed through the new birth (2) spiritual, the renewed man as Spirit-filled and walking in the Spirit in full communion with God, and (3) carnal, the renewed man who, walking ‘after the flesh,’ remains a babe in Christ.”—New Scofield Reference Edition, copyright 1967.

Hence the birth of the Carnal Christian theory whereby all that is required is raising the hand, saying the sinner’s prayer, going down the aisle, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Yet another brick in the building of the easy-believism tower. This anti-Lordship concept goes under the designation of the ‘Free Grace’ teaching in our day. Although confessedly an ad hominem argument, still it is quite interesting to read of C. I. Scofield’s history. Reading from notes contained on Wikipedia—admittedly not always the best source—we learn that Scofield’s most consistent trait seems to be that of a deserter. He deserted the army of the Confederacy and escaped behind enemy lines in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He subsequently studied and practiced law which he was later forced to ‘desert’ because of an alleged financial scandal. Afterward, he deserted his Catholic wife and two children.

His biographer, Charles Trumball, asserted, that, ‘According to Scofield, he was converted to evangelical Christianity through the testimony of a lawyer acquaintance.’ We are not given a date for that alleged conversion but one writer says that he was certainly assisting, by the fall of 1879, in the Saint Louis campaign of D. L. Moody. He was himself ordained as a congregational minister in 1883, the same year that his first wife divorced him on grounds of desertion. It may well be unfair, but is it not at least suggestive as to cause little or no surprise that such traits could persist in one eventually ‘deserting’ the Older Testament, while he ‘rightly divided the truth’(1888), and later ‘inscripturating’ his notes in the Bible, ‘deserting’ the gospel according to Paul as we witnessed in the footnote cited above. This was, in the estimation of many, the incarnation—pun intended—of the Carnal Christian theory that was formed expressly to explain away the ‘desertion’ of great numbers of persons that had ‘gone down the aisle’ at a ‘revival,’ and then soon reverted to their former selves. These ‘carnal Christians’ whom Scofield, in his note, refers to as ‘remaining a babe in Christ;’ are they not truly, and sadly, actually still-borns?

‘Free Grace’ may have been inaugurated by C. I. Scofield, but the three ‘conspirators’ in this Satanic plot are, the altar call and its many tributaries, secondly, the carnal Christian theory with its more recent corollary, the Free Grace teaching, and thirdly, the teaching of a secret rapture of the church. It should afford no surprise that easy-believism would provide an escape from tribulation even though our Savior has told us that ‘we shall have tribulation.’ These ‘carnal christians’ go about their lives unaffected by the gospel, crying with Simon Magus, ‘Pray ye for me to the Lord, that none of these things come upon me.’—Acts 8:24. A three-pronged ‘conspiracy;’ easy-believism supported by the other parts of the ‘axis of falsehood,’ namely the ‘carnal Christian’ theory, and the false concept of a ‘secret rapture.’ Paul speaks against easy-believism; he speaks of ‘a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God;’ about as secret as the fall of Jericho.

 

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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