Dearly BelovedGreetings in the precious name of our wonderful Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is precious to me and all who have believed.
I often receive letters in which the writers share their experiences in the truth of God. It is always a blessing to my heart to hear that there are others who love and rejoice in the truth, Who is Jesus (John 14:6). It is a joy to see those who so love the truth that they are anxious to follow Him wherever He leads them.
I believe that the attitude of people to the truth, is their attitude to Jesus. So many, in this religious confusion, are afraid of the truth. They are afraid it will lead them outside the boundaries of their self-imposed theological position. They have taken a stand for what they believe is the truth and, from that point on, refuse to be influenced by any opposing views. They assume they are infallible in their convictions and, as though they have learned all the truth there is to learn. To put it as one man did to me arrogantly, "Twenty-five years ago they delivered the faith to me at seminary, and I haven't learned anything since." I replied, "God help you!"
The person of Jesus Christ cannot be reduced to paper. He cannot be neatly set forth in a creed beginning, "I believe . . . ." He is God's eternal Word, and as such, will always remain an unfathomable fountain of revelation. In spite of this, there are some things we know for certain, but we should welcome the enlargement of all revelation to our hearts. We need not fear to hear Him, for Jesus will never lead us beyond that which glorifies His Father. This is the test of true doctrine: does it glorify God and set forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the object of the hearer's heart and affections? If so, rest assured it is of the Holy Spirit.
Remember how Moses met God at the burning bush? The shepherds of Moses' time followed well-defined paths with their flocks. Apparently Moses was a searching soul who was not content to follow the paths of others. He deliberately turned out of the well-worn and often trodden ways. He pressed on to examine a strange, mysterious mountain called Horeb (Mount of God). This mountain was avoided by shepherds, for they believed the frightening stories about God dwelling there. Moses, by his willingness to explore that mount, showed the kind of heart that delights God.
God loves a heart that longs to know and discover Him in His fullness, no matter what dangers or strange experiences lie in the way. Had Moses not been willing to turn out of the mainstream, he would never have seen that marvelous bush that burned, yet was not consumed. (A type of our Lord Jesus Christ in His death at Calvary). Neither would he have heard the voice of God, or received the glorious commission to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage.
My desire in this letter, is to encourage your heart to step out in holy boldness. I wish for you a willingness to know the Word and learn the Truth (Jesus), even if He takes you from the mainstream. Oh, I can testify to the abundant reward of such a course! The joy and fellowship I have enjoyed with the Father and with His Son, have surpassed all the loss of human association I have experienced.
Perhaps a little background about myself would be helpful. I became a Christian in 1948 by grace, through faith in the atoning and substitutionary work of our Lord Jesus Christ. When God saved me, I didn't know anything about religion or theology. All I knew for sure, was that I was a sinner, bound for Hell and deserving of the wrath of God. In the Word of God I learned that Jesus Christ, His Son, took my place and died for me. This was the basis of my faith. My heart simply rested in the testimony of God that my sins were forgiven me, for His Name's sake.
Coming to rest in this glorious Saviour, I experienced a zeal to tell others about Jesus, and began to do so at every opportunity. As this zeal became known to my religious peers, I was soon pressed into the ministry of my denomination. I was duly appointed the pastor of seven mountain churches, in a remote area of West Virginia. There I rode horseback to the churches, and plunged into the Word of God with a hungry heart. I determined that whatever the Holy Spirit made known to me, I would preach to others.
For two years I lived in the Word, preaching openly and boldly all that I learned. As I continued to preach, I found myself moving away from the doctrinal position of my denomination. The conference superintendent soon confronted me, and I was rebuked sternly. The message was clear; preach what the denomination believes or get out. The two main points of controversy were the eternal security of the saints of God, and the rapture, or blessed hope of the saints. Both these precious truths had been plainly revealed to me in the Word. I was not taught of man; I attended no seminary or Bible school; if I had, it would have been one that would have denied both these truths. I was taught by revelation of the Holy Spirit. I could not deny the testimony of God, for the convenience of escaping the pressures of the religious world and receiving their approval. It was clear to me that Jesus was head of the Church, and I was responsible to Him and Him alone. This simple conviction forced me to leave the denomination in which I was raised and my family held responsible positions. Most of the so-called "Christian" friends I knew, soon left me. I learned that what they had offered me was not fellowship in Jesus Christ, but doctrinal and denominational fellowship.
The Baptists heard of my plight. They assured me my trouble came because I was really a Baptist and didn't know it. They explained that my doctrinal views and theirs were in full accord; hence, they concluded, I was a Baptist. It seemed so very simple. They ordained me and I was immediately called to pastor an "Independent, premillenial, evangelical, missionary minded, fundamental, contending for the faith, preaching the Book, the blood, and the blessed hope, Church." It seemed that at last I had found my place in the religious world. My heart soon discovered that I had moved from one camp, to another. BAPTIST fellowship was also based on agreement in doctrine; NOT in the Person of Jesus Christ and our participation in Him.
Real fellowship, is not in how much LIGHT we have, but in the LIFE we have. The religious world either never learns this, or rejects it, I am not sure which. The churches and assemblies appear to be afraid of any person who may happen to think differently about things spiritual. They never consider that someone might have some precious truth of Christ to share with them. They adamantly take the position that "we" are right and "they" are wrong. I am not saying that real fellowship is without agreement in some doctrine. Agreement in the doctrine of the atoning work of Jesus Christ, is what makes us Christians. I am saying that most religious fellowship today is based on the worship of a "paper pope." I define "paper pope," as our various creeds, pet doctrines and theological systems. If we should meet another person whose views were different and we really felt they were wrong, should we reject him? Why? Is not our assembly, or church, the place for him? There, he can sit under the Word and perhaps see the error of his way and be brought to the truth.
I left the Baptists after a few years. It became clear to me that they were more interested in making Baptists out of non-Baptists, than they were in making believers out of unbelievers. The "Historic Baptist Faith" (whatever that vague, meaningless term may mean) was their ground of fellowship, not our bonds in the true body of Christ. They may deny this in word, but their deeds and policies are void of any real understanding of the one Body, of which all believers are a part. They, like many others, preach the "fundamentals of the faith," but in practice often deny them. The Pharisees were forerunners--loudly proclaiming their faith in the commandments of God, while denying them by practicing the traditions of men. Religious traditions were held in higher esteem than the faith they professed. The great tragedy was they did not know the difference. When they were told this by our Lord Jesus, they could only do what religion does today; call their accuser insane and seek His destruction.
After returning to my home town, the Lord led me to begin a Bible study in a home. There, in our common participation in the Lord Jesus, I found real and satisfying fellowship. The meeting grew, and then evolved (I say evolved because of the circumstances that brought it to pass) into an organized church. It was to be an "Independent, fundamental, Bible believing, Bible teaching Church" and would be different from all others. It would be the only church in town where "real" fellowship could be found. I conducted a radio ministry for seven years. I preached Christ and Him crucified, and made little mention of my church. For eleven years I sought to preach diligently, nothing but the Word. I trusted the Holy Spirit to lead me and the church, as well.
We began to see the foolishness of many things we copied from the religious world. We saw the error of the "spiritual numbers racket"; always counting noses and dollars, and boasting or being discouraged, whatever the case, in the statistics of our "business." This "numbers racket" was considered the measure of the blessing of God. It was also the measure of our failure to produce more results. Seeing the truth of this, we took down the bulletin board and took no notice of numbers.
We ceased to take public offerings, depending only on love gifts, given freely by the saints. We discontinued our Sunday School (a thing highly esteemed in the religious world). We found not one shred of authority in the Word of God for such a system. We saw it as a contraption designed to relieve parents of their God-given responsibility of teaching their children the way, as it is in Jesus. It was a means of dividing the Body into intellectual groups, in order to teach the mind. We depended on the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to the heart, as the Word was preached in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit.
We stressed church membership less and less, but there was a growing pressure in me for more liberty than I had ever known. John 8:32 was pressed upon my heart often: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you FREE." Was I not free? I was not affiliated with the World or National Council of Churches. I was not in the Ministerial Alliance or denominationalism. Yet, the Spirit of God groaned in me for more liberty. This liberty came to pass as the Word (Jesus, our Shepherd) led me into the green pastures of Ephesians and Galatians.
Studying Ephesians I discovered (to my surprise) I was in the same despicable business, in which the rest of the churches were engaged. I had only established another church. Because I believed my church was better, I was seeking to proselyte others to my church, seeking their fellowship in agreement in doctrine, church position, etc. I began to preach, with real conviction, the truth of the one Body. I emphasized the reality of fellowship in the Body, of those who know and love our Lord Jesus. This is not to be confused with interdenominationalism, which is a hodgepodge of nothingness. It consists of a group of religious people who believe nothing, wallowing around in pseudo fellowship based on common ignorance. What I speak of, is a spiritual fellowship born of the Holy Spirit in our position in Jesus Christ. My messages leaned more heavily to this kind of liberty. I longed to be free of the "church business," and free to greet all who love our Lord Jesus in sincerity. This freedom came as the Lord led me to give a series of messages from Galatians.
I began, as my manner had always been, to expound the book verse by verse. This is, to my way of thinking, a sound, acceptable way to teach the Word. Verse by verse exposition keeps the teacher honest. He knows that every verse must complement the preceding and following verse. Each chapter must bolster the truth of all other chapters. Every doctrine must stand the test of whatever follows in that book. The preacher cannot engage in side issues; he cannot ride hobby on favorite doctrines. He must say only what the Word says and keep on saying it. The preacher preaches himself under conviction each time. As every message is outlined and properly emphasized by the Holy Spirit, the preacher himself does not know where the message will lead, nor what line of truth will be pressed home. Hence, each heart is ministered to and, in a personal, intimate manner. I never considered a message born of the Holy Spirit unless it brought me to conviction and met the needs of my own heart.
As I began to preach the book of Galatians, I had no idea where it would lead me. I simply started with chapter one, verse one, and soon I was faced with a great dilemma. I heard Paul saying that his distinctive gospel, was the only gospel of God. So emphatic was he that he said anyone preaching another gospel was under the curse of God. This terrible curse even included angels from heaven. This made me wonder: were there other gospels being preached in Paul's day? What were they? Of course there were perverted gospels; those that twisted and warped the true gospel out of shape. But, Paul seems to speak of a gospel that was accepted as the true gospel, yet was opposed to the true gospel of grace, as it is in Jesus Christ.
My problems were compounded as I got deeper into the chapter. There I learned that the gospel Paul preached was not of human nature (Gal.1:11). It was not passed on to him from another man (verse 12). Paul was not taught this gospel, (the emphasis is on systematic teaching) by didactic teaching (verse 12). According to Paul, his gospel was received by direct revelation (to take the lid off, implying a previous hiding) by the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul states that he did not learn his gospel from the apostles, nor have it confirmed by them. They opposed his preaching and, for fourteen years, refused to accept him as a true Apostle.
I learned that Paul's gospel was not the gospel preached by the eleven. His gospel was uncovered, or revealed to his heart. The lid had was taken off this new gospel, and he was enabled to see it by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This gospel has to do with the GRACE of God and not with the KINGDOM of heaven. It has to do with GENTILE salvation, not JEWISH alone. It has to do with the baptism of the SPIRIT, not the baptism of WATER. It has to do with the BLESSED HOPE of the soon coming of Jesus, our Bridegroom, not the MESSIANIC HOPE of Israel's King.
I then looked at the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke as though I had never read any other portion of the Bible. I sought to get the viewpoint of the writer, instead of reading them through the light of Paul's epistles. I found the only gospel the eleven had ever heard, was the gospel of the KINGDOM. They did not comprehend the true meaning of the cross, not even after the resurrection, for they asked the Lord if He would at that time restore the KINGDOM, to Israel. They went out at Pentecost to witness to the fact of the resurrection of Christ, not to the meaning of His death, burial and resurrection.
I learned that had Peter walked in the light he received on the roof top at Joppa, his revelation would have matched the revelation of Paul in Arabia. As a result, no fourteen year rejection of Paul would have occurred. I learned that Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians I about not being sent to baptize but to preach the gospel, was his way of saying that water baptism had nothing to do with the gospel of grace. This is why he thanked God that he had baptized no more. I then saw clearly the transition period of Paul's ministry. During this time, he passed from the preaching of the kingdom message to the gospel of grace, and ceased the many things he once practiced. Water baptism was one of them. I also experienced a transition period in my ministry much like his.
As I preached these things with growing enthusiasm, a division resulted in the church. There were those who saw the revelation of the Word, and those who shrank back from .the truth, seeking more traditional and comfortable beliefs. The pressure in the church increased as the Word was preached. As a result, I was set at liberty to enter the ministry the Lord was preparing for me all along.
I had long seen from Ephesians 4 that if I had any ministry of the Lord Jesus, it was described there as "Pastor teacher" (one office in the original Greek). That office is Jesus Himself, guiding and leading the sheep of God by the Word of God. I could not deny that the sheep had for years been led, guided and shepherded by the teaching ministry.
I also saw that the ministry was to the BODY, not to some church or denomination. My responsibility to Jesus was to place the ministry, in an uncompromising position and available, to all who were in the Body. I saw that the office was a gift to the BODY of Jesus, of which He is the HEAD. My ministry was not to act as an overlord to God's people, proselyte others, convert them to anything, or seek to join them to anything. God's people were already joined to Jesus; not organized, but joined to a living organism, His BODY! My work was teaching and preaching Jesus and to place the ministry at the disposal of everyone in the area. Here, they could be saved and freely fellowship, without fear of being organized, joined, converted, or proselyted.
I rented a public hall and proceeded to preach the Word as the Holy Spirit enabled me. Oh, what liberty there was in not having anything to sell. We had no position to defend, organization to build, doctrine to convert anyone to, programs to promote nor bonds to put on those who fellowshipped with us! Just the sweet, precious liberty of knowing them in Jesus Christ and seeking not theirs, but them. Just the wonderful liberty of greeting them simply because they knew and loved my Lord Jesus. They were free to go and free to come, and the only common bond was Jesus! The ministry prospered, and God was the doer of it all.
The distinctive message of Paul's gospel was the key that unlocked the Scriptures. It also gave me a better understanding of the religious world itself. I saw that most churches and assemblies were preaching the KINGDOM gospel and rejecting, by practice, the ministry of Paul. Paul is as misunderstood and rejected today, as he was in the first century. His gospel alone is the gospel of reproach, for it is the good news of the SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT of Jesus Christ. It explains how that Christ died FOR (in the stead of, in the place of, because of) our sins ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES.
When Paul wrote his epistles the only scriptures in existence, were the Old Testament scriptures. Than means the only true interpretation of the Cross of Calvary is found in the Old Testament scriptures that deal with atonement. Leviticus 16, Exodus 12, Genesis 22, Isaiah 53, and other key passages, become the great expositions of the Cross and Paul's gospel. They tell the story of how God, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, stepped into the sinner's place and stead, bore the wrath that was due to him, tasted the death that belonged to him, descended into the pit that awaited him, satisfied God for all that was charged to him, and was raised to be accepted in the sinner's behalf. Beloved, that is a gospel to preach from the house tops! It alone can save the sinner from his sins and Hell, and place him in the standing of Jesus Christ at the right hand of God!
The gospel of the "church business" today is the gospel of the KINGDOM. They bind the people to kingdom teaching (Matthew, etc.) and force upon him a yoke his fathers could not bear, nor can he. This kind of preaching concerns itself about the mode of baptism and man-made discipline, in man-made churches. It is generally more concerned with conforming people to a position than to the likeness of Christ, the hope of glory in them. It emphasizes works of self-righteousness, not Christ righteousness. The true CHURCH can never be seen until the CHURCHES are exposed for what they are. The true gospel of Paul brings to light the secret of the religious confusion around us. Religion is the preaching of another gospel that is like Paul's gospel, but an entirely different gospel and for another dispensation. The kingdom gospel further divides the people of God and, I fear, will be the eternal ruin of many lost souls. Most modern day evangelism is based on it, and the popular message of the evangelist is "Repent--turn your life over to God--believe in Christ--and be baptized." This is KINGDOM preaching.
Paul, if he were here, would simply instruct the convicted sinner to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. The sinner need only believe, in his heart, that God made Jesus Christ a substitute in judgment for him. The godly One has taken the place of the ungodly and God is satisfied for eternity with this finished work of His Son Jesus! Paul called it believing in the heart unto righteousness.
There is little preaching of the Cross as Paul preached it. Everyone talks about Calvary, but few have any comprehension of what really happened there. The religious world prattles on about Good Friday, Palm Sunday, Easter morning and the rest of the Romish rags of tradition. Few know of Wednesday's crucifixion or the fulfillment of Passover and its Lamb. The churches never speak of the three days and nights Jesus spent in the heart of the earth. Paul called it the lower parts of the earth, or as in Romans 10:7, the "abussos" or bottomless pit into which Jesus descended. He did not spend three days and nights in the pit, but in the lower parts (Hades). His visit to the pit was only to leave the sins of the world which He bore away at the Cross of Calvary. This is where He bore them away to, and from which they will never return to damn and doom the believing sinner. There is so little preaching of Jesus' ascension at resurrection to His Father and our Father, His God and our God. So little is said about Him presenting His eternal and incorruptible blood on the mercy seat of heaven for the eternal redemption of all who would believe. (See: John 20 and Hebrews 9:11-14)
This is Paul's gospel. No wonder he was the most hated man of his time. Paul's gospel ends man's pride and self-righteous efforts to establish his own righteousness in the sight of God. Righteousness cannot be obtained by obeying the golden rule, practicing the beatitudes, reciting the Lord's prayer or the apostle's creed. Man cannot be saved by doing penance at the hands of some earthly priest or preacher, and repeating meaningless creeds and learning dead dogmas. Paul's gospel rends the veil between man and God from top to bottom. It leaves nothing between the sinner and God but the torn veil of Jesus' body and the altar of heaven sprinkled with a better blood than Abel's.
And so, beloved, I have written to you out of my heart. Let me bring this to a hasty conclusion. Like Paul, I did not learn this gospel from other teachers. I never heard of anyone teaching this truth during my time of revelation from the Word. I found this message to be the gospel of reproach. I have been accused of being the follower of every heretic in history. I long to be known as the follower of the Truth, Who is my beloved Jesus. My feelings are quite simple: I have no doctrinal hobby; I preach what I find in the Word, where I find it and as often as I find it. I do not want to be characterized as a "Rapture" preacher, a "Pauline" preacher or any other kind. I want to be known as a preacher of JESUS CHRIST and Him CRUCIFIED.
Let us follow the blessed Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus, and be unafraid to follow Him wherever He leads us. The pastures are sure to be green and the waters still, for He is the good Shepherd and gave His life for us. I love the truth of God and will follow Him wherever He leads me. I am unafraid of truth, and desire only the smile of His holy face. I am disinterested in what others think or feel about me, or what I do. I seek daily to keep my eyes on the face of Him Who was marred for me at Calvary. May the Holy Spirit of God bless and encourage your heart, through this testimony.
One final thing: If these matters have been made plain to your heart, you will find yourself sharing them with others. Your love for Jesus will compel you. God bless you and may fellowship with Jesus be a reality every day of your life. Perhaps our paths will cross. If not, I will see you at the feet of Jesus when He comes in the air for His own.
Because of Calvary,THE END