January 7, 2015

Editing the 10 Commandments and the Sacredness of the Pulpit

by Eric Davis

Perry Noble replied to the controversy addressed below with his own blog post. In it he apologized for what he said about the Hebrew word for “command.” The post below is not edited in light of that, but instead we encourage you to read Noble’s post.

commandmentsOver the past few weeks noise has arisen over the recent Christmas Eve service preached by pastor Perry Noble. Among other things, he performed a sweeping edit of the ten commandments in Exodus 20 during the sermon.

His justification for doing so was three-fold. God spoke to him, telling him to preach a message in which he edited each of the commandments, then he received affirmation from fellow-staff to do so, and a Jewish friend told him that there is no word in Hebrew for, “command.” The claim is made that instead of “Ten Commandments that you have to keep…they’re actually ten promises that you can receive when you say, ‘Yes,’ to Jesus.”

So, for example, the first commandment, which says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod 20:3), is better understood as, “You do not have to live in constant disappointment anymore.” As a sidenote, the commandments are not promises to which we say, “Yes,” but standards by which we are shown to be condemned so that we would see and sorrow over our inability to render ourselves acceptable to holy God, repent, and embrace the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ for acceptable righteousness.

So, the errors here are significant. First, this is a remarkable edit and jumbling of Scripture (which others have sufficiently addressed). But there are some other issues which merit consideration, especially for those of us who stand behind a pulpit each week.

One issue here is the sacredness of the pulpit. By pulpit, I do not mean a physical stand which sits in a church, but the spiritual act of preaching the Bible. Biblical preaching is to be a sacred endeavor, because of the sacredness both of the office of pastor and the task of preaching. Further, the sacredness is not ourselves, but the God we represent, the God for whom we speak, and the word of God from which we preach. In that sense the pulpit carries with it a sacredness.

Consequently, here are some considerations for the sacredness of the Christian pulpit:

  1. The pulpit is too sacred of a place to be making edits on the word of God.

what we doThe church of the living God is “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). A pillar serves one function: to continually sit there and lift up something without altering or wavering. Preaching, then, is instituted by God to do just that. The pulpit serves as that unwavering truth-pillar through submitted and surrendered expositional preaching.

When we come at Scripture with the red pencil, or in any other way, we risk functioning, not as the pillar, but the editor of the truth. At that point, we are no longer a pillar. We are more like a self-appointed sculptor.

badGod has summoned preachers to the pulpit for one task: not to edit his word, but exposit it; not to alter the truth, but announce it (cf. 2 Tim 4:2).

Now, some might comment here, “OK, what’s the major deal? It’s just a few minor edits. Several other helpful things were said.” God’s desire for the pulpit is to do something more helpful than say some helpful things now and then, but that, on every occasion, we accurately exposit Scripture without revision or edit (cf. 2 Tim 2:15).

If we are revising his word then, by default, we are opening the door to several hazards.

First, we open the door to the idea that Scripture is insufficient. If it needs such revisions, then it is lacking.

Second, we open the door to the idea that God has not completely spoken. If the Lord is telling us to edit the ten commandments, then, perhaps, he will tell us to do the same with other portions of Scripture. Perhaps more verses are needed in Exodus or elsewhere. Perhaps a 67th book is needed.

Third, and similarly, perhaps God needs us to upgrade his word. If that’s the case, hopefully we have some means by which we can determine the what and how of doing so.

Fourth, when we edit God’s word, we influence people away from Spirit-filling and Sprit-leading. The more we expose people to correctly-interpreted Scripture, the more we are used to set them up for the true power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Col 3:16, Eph 5:18). Thus, revising Scripture subjects people to something other than the power of his filling and leading. God’s words are spirit and life (John 6:63); words of eternal life (John 6:68). Our words are not. Especially not our words used to supplant God’s. And adjudicating this is not by numbers or decisions, but faithfulness to the word.

noFifth, we open the door to putting Scripture on the judgment seat. Editing Scripture fundamentally is an act of sitting in judgment over Scripture when the opposite should be the case.

Finally, if we use the pulpit as a time for scriptural revision, then we are lowering the authority of God and elevating our own. Sola scriptura veers more towards interdum scriptura.

If we are still wondering what the big deal is, let’s recall God’s concluding words for humanity:

“I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Rev 22:18-19).

  1. The pulpit is too sacred of a place for personal agenda.

These kinds of approaches to exposition venture away from biblical preaching and towards personal ranting. I, personally, have ventured into this error at times. As preachers, we have to be self-controlled in this area. Our task is far too sacred.

spotlightFrom the methods of many contemporary pastors, one might suppose that the pulpit is about agenda-enthronement. But this is not why God qualifies men for pastoring and ordains them for preaching. If we’re not careful, the whole package; the audience (perhaps a big one), the popularity, the accolades, the spotlight; it can become about us. It’s alluring. We lasso those moments on stage for the little Mr. Rant-and-Rave inside us. He’s always looking for the opportunity. But its best for him to be mortified, not enthroned.

New Testament churches are to use their pulpits only for the enthronement of Scripture, in content and method. God has one agenda for those who stand behind a pulpit. It is not personal, but biblical. It’s not to serve up our opinions, but to submit to every word of God. Christ does not give us a pulpit and a Bible to spotlight our itching agendas, but explain and apply every verse. The use of the pulpit is singular: biblical exposition from sound exegetical labor.

The pulpit is a place to stand up and disappear. We get ourselves out of the way through holding high every verse and, like a diamond, turning it to see the glory from every angle. In Iain Murray’s excellent biography of David Martyn-Lloyd Jones, he records how, in his preaching, Lloyd-Jones had this ability to vanish in the pulpit. That’s because Lloyd-Jones was an expositor. Faithful biblical exposition, by design, renders the preacher as secondary and the glory of God, primary. We are to decrease so that God may increase.

  1. The pulpit is too sacred of a place for lacking proper training and affirmation of biblical qualification.

If we are committing these kinds of grievous errors with respect to Hebrew words like, “commandment,” and editing the ten commandments, (without turning from the error) then we commit pulpit malpractice. It may evidence that we are lacking proper training and pastoral affirmation.

throneChrist deserves we take those things seriously. Preaching is the enthronement of our Master’s word. Souls are at stake. The stakes are too high to play fast and loose like this. We have got to know what we are doing. The art and science of biblically faithful preaching is not an arbitrary one.

If a pastor finds himself in a position where he is insufficiently trained and/or affirmed for the task, that’s OK. He can inform his leadership team and seek out additional training. Plenty of resources exist to equip us for the pulpit. God will bless that necessary and humble approach.

we all need itNow, can God use us if we are lacking pastoral training and proper ordination? Of course. But our Lord’s providence should not serve as permission for indifference towards our insufficient equipping. I understand that, in some sense, we are ALL insufficient for the Lord’s work (cf. 2 Cor 2:16). We know that. We feel that. But it is both possible and prerequisite for us to be qualified in accurately handling the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15, Titus 1:9).

  1. The pulpit is too sacred of a place for things like subjective visions, dreams, and “the-Lord-told-me’s.”

These kinds of justifications for sermons and preaching is simply hazardous. It demonstrates a problem of authority and sufficiency.

God has designed the pulpit as a place for his authority to be exercised through accurate, submitted exposition of his word. But the more we use the pulpit for speculations, hunches, dreams, and visions, the more we diminish God’s authority and assert our own.

Christ leadsYet, preaching is fundamentally to be an act of submission. As we stick to careful, verse-by-verse exposition, we demonstrate that we are in submission to God’s word, and, therefore, to God. But when we import “the-Lord-told-me’s” and biblical revisions, we are inherently questioning the Lord’s authority and teaching our audience to do the same. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s comment from the ‘60’s is pertinent: “They are ready to listen to a man who can speak in an authoritative manner on the basis of personal experience. Doctrine is being discounted and experiences is being exalted at its expense” (Iain Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Volume Two, 481).

God had firm words along these lines in Jeremiah’s day as well:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord…I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, “I had a dream, I had a dream!” How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart…The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?’ declares the Lord” (Jer 23:16, 25-26, 28).

Further, this subjective approach calls into question (and teaches our audience likewise) the sufficiency of God’s word. Instead of the 66 books alone, we need our subjective premonitions plus Scripture. We, then, dangerously demonstrate that the content of our preaching can be arbitrary.

Again, we have a simple task. It’s not to exposit our subjective hunches, but God’s objective word. His words are written down, so we need no hunches.

And it does not matter how many of our associates might affirm our hunch. Four hundred of Ahab’s false prophets affirmed that a false prophecy was a word from the Lord (1 Kings 22:6, 19-23).

phone lineGod is not telling any of us to do these kinds of things with his word. He has already told all of us in His word that we must not alter or add to it (Rev 22:18-19). The Bible is the sufficient word of God. He has spoken. We pastors need to stop using the pulpit to hypnotize and mesmerize our audience with our supposed private, privileged phone conversations with heaven. These kinds of things are unsound teachings which titans of the faith throughout church history did not affirm. Our generation needs to turn back to exegetical accuracy and historical fidelity by turning away from these things.

  1. The pulpit is too sacred of a place to affirm pastors by superficial criteria.

We are often superficially affirming preachers. If, for example, they make mention of Jesus and say “Jesus” a lot, they seem great. But would we take that approach, for example, with our tire shop or dentist or surgeon? “He talks a lot about heart surgery and seems to love heart surgery. Never mind if he has sufficiently passed his board exams or not, correctly understands cardiology or not, and performs heart surgery incorrectly.”

hands-upThe spirit of the age is glamour and applause. It’s alluring for all of us. So, we ought to guard ourselves here. Even if our audience applauds and affirms us, it’s best for us to resist interpreting that as God’s approval.

Faithfulness and success in the Christian realm are not to be pragmatically or arbitrarily determined. And it’s especially difficult for us, contemporary American evangelicals, to bring that fact into our mental grid because its not the natural or cultural modus operandi. But let’s refresh our memories with a walk through God’s faithful and successful hall of fame. Out of the entire world, Noah had about seven who liked him. During his approximately fifty-year ministry, Jeremiah probably had no converts. John the Baptist had his head chopped off in his early thirties, yet Christ called him the greatest. At the conclusion of his ministry, all Asia ditched Paul and he was alone in a jail cell.

Scripture promotes an alternative to superficial approval. It is measured by a humble surrender to, and exegetical fidelity under, God’s word (cf. Isa 66:1-2, 1 Tim 4:6-16, 2 Tim 2:15). Our affirmation is to be on those who have been properly trained and ordained by existing biblically qualified men and then remain faithful, in character and proclamation, to biblical exposition.

Every one of us who stands in a pulpit struggles with the weight of the task. Combine that with the fact that the needs around us are massive, and the implication is that we cannot play fast and loose with preaching. By God’s grace, let us all fear and tremble as we carefully and correctly approach the sacredness of the pulpit each week.

Eric Davis

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Eric is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. Leslie is his wife of 14 years and mother of their 3 children.
  • Brian Morgan

    Good stuff brother. Hadn’t heard about this issue. What a slippery slope.

  • Lars B

    Very good article Eric. One editorial comment: the third paragraph is a little confusing, starting with “briefly,” because it seems you are laying out his argument still, and it switches gears without any warning. Blessings brother.

    • Eric Davis

      Thanks Lars, and thank you for keeping an eye out.

  • Jason

    It’s ironic that, when people change the Bible’s message into something they believe is more relevant to their listeners, they are actually robbing the message of it’s effectiveness. It’s time we trust that God knows what he’s talking about!

    • Eric Davis

      Agreed, thanks Jason.

  • Brad

    I thought Noble’s sermon was helpful. It helped me see how, in Christ, God’s commandments and promises are for my good and his glory. I felt like he was preaching truth, just with different, less technical words.

    • MR

      “You shall have no other gods before Me, is better understood as, “You do not have to live in constant disappointment anymore.” That sounds like prosperity gospel to me. Salvation in Christ doesn’t mean we will be happy. Changing the meaning of Scripture is never helpful.

      • Brad

        Actually, Noble was preaching hard against the prosperity gospel. In that portion of the message he was talking about how people and things (idols, false gods) disappoint us because God is the only one who can completely satisfy us. He was urging us to look away from false gods (materials things and people) and to Jesus to find satisfaction. If you have a chance, give it a listen. I think you will be convicted and encouraged.

        • curtis sheidler

          Brad,

          I listened to most of Noble’s message myself. I’ll agree with you that the way he recasted the First Commandment wasn’t the sort of prosperity gospel we typically hear from, say, Joel Osteen or Creflo Dollar or T.D. Jakes.

          However, it wasn’t all that far removed from that sort of preaching, either, precisely because Noble denied that the commandments were, well, COMMANDMENTS. By recasting them (illegitimately) as simply ‘promises,’ Noble moves far closer to portraying God as a sort of heavenly Sugar Daddy (a la Osteen and so forth) than as the Lord who reigns over His chosen people.

          You see, in changing the commandments to ‘promises’ (which in the first place is an illegitimate argument; I’d encourage you to examine the Chris Rosebrough piece that Eric links to), Noble obscures the whole nature of the relational context of the Decalogue. Specifically, it obscures the larger point that all of Exodus (and, more broadly, all of the Pentateuch) is making: that Yahweh is the Sovereign LORD over all creation, and over His People Israel in particular. Yahweh is the Great King Who makes a treaty with the people He has redeemed from slavery; and at the heart of that treaty are commands for how His people are to live in a way that reflects His Own righteous and holy nature.

          That’s the really bizarre thing about how Noble reads the Decalogue–how on earth could he apply the same reading to the legal code as it’s expounded in, say, Leviticus or Deuteronomy, where Yahweh prescribes legal penalties (in some cases, the DEATH penalty) for violation of the law? What kinds of ‘promises’ require legal magistrates to administer the death penalty for people who don’t believe them?

          Finally, I’d urge you to consider, Brad, whether the way a sermon makes you feel is really the best way to judge whether or not it was a good sermon. Preaching isn’t simply the Christian equivalent of motivational speaking–it’s supposed to be grounded in the exposition and application of the Word of God. On that score, Noble’s message was very nearly as bad as it’s possible to be while still remaining vaguely Christian.

          • brad

            I would agree with what you said. I would just add that in His commandments, among other things, God is also PROMISING us that we can only find perfect JOY and SATISFACTION in Him and His ways!

            I am realizing the word “feel” is on the hit list in this context. I was using it in the sense of “what I understood Noble’s message to be about” not how it made me excited or motivated.

            In the end, I see how there are problems with Noble’s message, but he really opened my eyes to some wonderful truths about God’s commandments (how they are promises for our good and for our benefit because of Jesus). I think seeing God’s commands as also promises is biblically faithful (and yes, I agree that such a view doesn’t tell the entire story or all of what the Bible says about God’s commandments, but that is ok. You can’t talk about everything in a 45 minute sermon) and worth sharing!

    • Adam James Howard

      Brad, my friend – I would encourage you to weigh his message more against the Scriptures than your feelings. Jesus said very clearly, and we have it recorded in God’s Word in John 14, that our love for God is actually tied to our obedience to his commands.

      Read this from the Word of God – hear the truth and be set free:

      ““If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

      (John 14:15-17 ESV)

      ” Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

      (John 14:21 ESV)

      ” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

      (John 14:23-24 ESV)

      Love and Commandments! It’s all right there! Incredible! Jesus didn’t think there was a dichotomy there, and neither should you. If this still seems like Perry Noble was speaking truth, then he wasn’t talking about the God of the universe – and your soul is in Jeopardy my friend. Also of importance – we see ‘Words’ and ‘Commandments’ used here interchangeably. This is, of course, the new testament – but the same can be said about the Hebrew – which I have studied and many have pointed out.

      • Brad

        I probably shouldn’t have used the word “felt” to describe my understanding of Noble’s sermon – too many negative connotations.

        My take-away from Noble’s sermon is that God’s commandments can also be seen as promises that will bring us joy as we say “Yes” to Jesus and obey the commandments that He gives us. He seemed to be saying the same things that you are saying, just in a different way.

        I could quibble over some of the ways Noble said things – but overall he communicated some great truth.

        • Helk

          Brad,

          The commandments cannot bring you joy, just despair. The rich young ruler when confronted with the true meaning of the commandments by Jesus went away sad. And that is the state of all of us without the faith that God gives to his children. The commandments can not save they actually only expose your filth without the power to save. They are not promises, they only indict us. Only God can save us from the power of the law by grace through faith and not obedience to the law.
          Also as an aside to consider the commandments as promises makes nonsense of the admonition by Paul in Ephesians for children to obey their parents. Ephesians 6:1 that reads, “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise)” would then read “Honor your father and mother (this is the first promise with a promise)”.
          You seem convinced that Perry Noble is correct while the rest here seem to be of contrary opinion so without getting into argumentative discussion, I pray that God will open your heart to the truth of his holiness and the depths of his mercy.

          • Brad

            Perhaps, we are talking about slightly different things. I can see how the commandments condemn us before we say “Yes” to Jesus or if we use them as a way to earn approval and acceptance from God.

            But I must say that I have also known great joy and freedom and protection in obeying God’s commandments. I must ask: Do you take no joy in obeying God? Have you ever known the joy of walking with the Lord or is it just despair?

            Finally, when I command my son to obey me, if I am a good father, it should be implicit that I am also making a promise to him that I know what is good for him and what will bring him the most joy. I think the same could be said of our Heavenly Father. You could say that, in one sense, a commandment and a promise are two sides of the same coin. That is one reason I don’t have major problems talking about commandments as promises in a sermon or two.

  • Johnny

    #3 is a big one for me, “The pulpit is too sacred of a place for lacking proper training and affirmation of biblical qualification”. I’ve been, sadly, to a number of reformed baptist churches where unqualified dudes, who had full-time jobs on the side, would take the pulpit, and that just seemed ridiculous and dangerous to me. There is so much to be said of proper training for men who serve in teaching elder roles.

    • Adam James Howard

      Yeah bro. James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

    • MR

      What’s your definition of “properly trained?” And if you recall, Paul was also bi-vocational on occasion, there is nothing wrong with that.

      • Johnny

        There’s just no way would I submit myself, my wife and my children to the teaching of a hobbyist. Give me the church led by a pastor who treats the role as a full-time obligation – deep in study during the week, diving into the text, commentaries, languages – not some dude who cobbles together a sermon during his coffee breaks at the office. No thanks.

        • MR

          Johnny, I happen to be a bi-vocational “dude,” as you put it. I pastor a small church with multiple preaching elders that share the pulpit. I wake up @ 4am to “cobble” as you say for hours before work, so I can spend time pouring into my family after work. I do dive into the text, Greek and Hebrew, and multiple commentaries. I do this because I feel called and also have been affirmed by other pastors. Once again you make arrogant blanket statements.

        • Jeff Schlottmann

          I agree with MR on this. I don’t think being a ‘hobbyist’ is the same thing as being a pastor who needs to take another job to support his family. I’ve been in churches that could barely pay the pastor. I’m talking less than a hundred a week most weeks.

          To me, if the pastor is able to properly and faithfully do his job, but isn’t making enough to support his family, then I’m going to back him on his decision.

          I have similar feelings on training. Seminary is expensive. Some just can’t afford it. But if a non seminary trained pastor can fulfill his pastoral responsibilities just as well as the guy who did go, then I could sit under him. I mean there weren’t always seminaries and universities, right? Is every potential pastor disqualified because he couldn’t afford seminary?

          And to be clear, i support seminaries, and I think men should go if they have the means. I would love to have gone myself. Not a pastor. I drive trucks for a living.

          • Johnny

            Unfortunately, and maybe this is my own misfortune, but I’ve been at enough reformed baptist churches where there have been “elders” who were little more than laymen with a kind of Napoleon complex and they’d deliver a message that sounded like it was copied out of a book. They couldn’t read Greek to save their life and something just seemed phoney about their taking the pulpit, like a “I do it because I can” sort of thing, not because of qualification.

            The other question about lay-pastors is how do they do the day-to-day work that a full time pastor would do, namely visitation? There’s no way you can jive Richard Baxter-style ‘Reformed Pastor’ qualifications with some dude working in in an office all week who squeezes out a superficial sermon on his smoke breaks…

          • MR

            Well if you have a plurality of elder leadership, and not a CEO business model leadership, then there is no problem taking care of the needs of the body(without disturbing smoke breaks). Have you at least considered that the various churches you visited and were disappointed with, may have not been the issue?

      • chrisleduc1

        To be fair, Paul was a Pharisee of pharisees and personally trained by Christ Jesus Himself for 3 years. That’s not your typical bi-vocational pastor.

        Paul said to rightly divide the Word. That is nonnegotiable, right? How much training is necessary for this, thats variable.

        There are plenty of “full time” guys that havent the slightest clue. In all honestly, while many lament how many “churches” close every day/month/year, pruning something dead is never bad.

        Id rather sit under a man proficient in the languages and able to use the proper tools and steps and adhering to the right framework for grammatical historical exegesis leading rightly to premillenialism and calvinism, who works two full time jobs plus being a pastor, than a “full time” pastor who is anything less.

        • Nick_from_Detroit

          @Chrisleduc1,
          Id rather sit under a man proficient in the languages and able to use the proper tools and steps and adhering to the right framework for grammatical historical exegesis leading rightly to premillenialism and calvinism, who works two full time jobs plus being a pastor, than a “full time” pastor who is anything less.

          What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? – 1Cor.1:12-13
          Or, one might ask, “Was Calvin crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Luther?”

          Ephesians 4:
          4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.

  • Otter2

    Just excellent Eric. Why we pray or *should* pray for our pastors to keep them from temptations since we’ve witnessed the failings of some when the allure of fame came to them.

    As a someone sitting in a pew, the weight of being a pastor/teacher isn’t something that I will ever know. But you are one and please know that we do pray for you and your brothers, approved and equipped to equip and exhort us and to teach us the Word.

    This melted my heart: “Lloyd-Jones had this ability to vanish in the pulpit. That’s because Lloyd-Jones was an expositor. Faithful biblical exposition, by design, renders the preacher as secondary and the glory of God, primary. We are to decrease so that God may increase.” SL Johnson was the same.

    There’s many times I’ve wondered why anyone would want to be a pastor with the bar set so high. Then I thank our God that men did. 🙂

    • Eric Davis

      Otter2 – Thanks for the comment and amen. And thank you for the prayers. Agreed about S. Lewis Johnson, as well. His theological precision combined w/ competent exegesis makes for some helpful preaching. I still benefit from his online messages at Believer’s Chapel.

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  • Jack Dove

    Excellent on all points!

  • On top of the things you shared (which I enthusiastically agree with), it sounds like a basic homiletic pattern was violated. The message under consideration seems to go straight to application, while cutting out the teaching.

    Okay, idolatry really does disappoint. I am not giving free pass to Noble, but that is one viable application of the first commandment. Worship another God and you’ll get what’s coming–disappointment (among other things, of course).

    But the honest, accurate teaching of Scripture comes first. And it’s the real “star of the show.” It’s what directs and shapes application. NOT the teacher. Not his personal authority or imagination or some alleged “God told me to edit the Bible.”

    I think every preacher feels a least some temptation at times to cut to the chase and tell people how this passage fits their life. Do it though, and you’ll be sawing off the very branch you’re sitting on.

    It is often extremely difficult to bring God’s word to a mixed group of people. But if faithfulness were easy, we wouldn’t call it faithfulness. We’d probably just call it fun.

    http://bareknuckle.org/2014/06/13/how-do-you-like-your-bible-cooked/

    • Brad

      How is the statement (and the contemporary applications of), “Idolatry disappoints us. Worship another God and you’ll get what’s coming-disappointment” not the honest, accurate teaching of Scripture?

      When I think it through, application and teaching/the meaning of a text are basically the same thing.

      Would love to hear your push back!

      • My point was not to say they are unrelated; only that they’ve been put out of order.

        Applications do not drive the text. It is the other way around.

        For instance in this situation, God gave a commandment regardless of whether you are in danger of being disappointed. In fact, some people are at a stage of idolatry where they feel quite rewarded. They should know that regardless of any possible disappointment, curses, cancer, accidents, or overt acts of divine discipline, they shouldn’t commit idolatry because it is a divine command. This command reflects reality—the way things are in the universe. Regardless of what kind of temporal outcome it produces for you, it represents the will of God.

        So having made this point, there are actually a couple of places we could go with the application. 1. Idolatry issues in disappointment to us. 2. Idolatry interferes with our forging a relationship with God. 3. Idolatry means we live in a state of unreality., etc.

        Regardless, application first depends on the accurate teaching of the Word and then secondly, the needs and state of the people sitting in the room. If the application takes the place of the Word, the message merely becomes utilitarian in nature. The Bible becomes something used for proof-texting and advancing personal agenda, whether it is those of the preacher or those of the congregation.

      • curtis sheidler

        Brad,

        Consider Noble’s handling of the first two commandments.

        The first commandment, as you’ve mentioned in your comments elsewhere on this article, he boils down to the promise “you don’t have to be disappointed in idols anymore.” The full text of the first commandment in Ex. 20:3 is as follows: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Period. Full stop. End of story. There’s nothing in the context at all to suggest that Yahweh is promising His people that he “can fill the void left in their hearts.” It just isn’t what the text says, so frankly the most charitable thing we can say about Noble’s message as it touches the First Commandment is that it substitutes for an exposition of the text a host of other things completely foreign to it.

        But thinking more closely about this, notice how it completely changes the biblical discussion about what idolatry is and does. To hear Noble talk about it, the idolater is essentially like a naive teenage girl, who puts her trust in a guy who seems on the surface to be everything she could want, only to find out later that her trust was sadly misplaced. Compare that with what the Bible says about idolatry–that it’s the doubling-down of a sin-infected heart that continues to thumb its nose at the Creator and deliberately exchanges the truth about God for a lie (Rom. 1), loving the darkness rather than the light because its deeds are evil (John 3).

        So not only does Noble import a ton of foreign material to the text of Exodus 20:3, the stuff that he DOES bring in (again: at the expense of what the text itself actually SAYS) at BEST offers an incredibly watered-down view of idolatry that’s frankly dangerous to be teaching to ANYONE.

        Now look at Noble’s treatment of the Second Commandment. The text of this is as follows:

        “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Ex. 20: 4-6, ESV)

        Noble’s portrayal of this commandment is that it’s a promise that “you can be free from rituals and religion and trust in a relationship.”

        Notice, Brad, that Noble’s entire treatment of this commandment completely IGNORES verses 5 and 6. Why do you think that is? From here, the answer seems pretty obvious: all that talk about Yahweh’s jealousy and about Him “visiting iniquity” upon “those who hate [Him]” and explaining that those who love Him are those who “keep [His] commandments”…all that’s awfully hard to square with the idea of a God Who never commands ANYTHING, isn’t it? Seriously, Brad–how would YOU square the idea of a jealous God Who takes personal affront to (and exacts VENGEANCE against) anyone who decides His promises aren’t trustworthy?

        You’ve made the argument before in this thread, Brad, that we should cut Noble some slack because “you can’t say everything important about a text in one message”…but consider this: Noble imports a *LOT* of material completely FOREIGN to the text of the first commandment, as I’ve already shown; I’ve further demonstrated that at the same time Noble has completely IGNORED major swaths of the text of the second commandment. Even assuming that you’re correct–that we can’t say everything important about a text that we’d like to–doesn’t Noble at the very LEAST have an obligation to say WHAT’S ACTUALLY IN THE TEXT?

        Put another way, if Noble doesn’t have time to say everything important about what’s actually IN the Decalogue, doesn’t he therefore have an even GREATER obligation to confine himself to things that the text actually DOES say?

        • brad

          Yes, Noble has an obligation to preach what the text actually DOES say, and he did.

          I’ll limit the discussion to commandment #1 for the sake of time and clarity. The English text says:

          “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

          Now, in those sentences are hundreds of propositions and applications. You mentioned some of them. Noble just chose to focus on the fact that God satisfies and idols don’t (which is actually quite a prevalent theme throughout the Scriptures).

          So I would say Noble did explain and tell us what the text actually says. After all, he has to do more than just repeat the text word for word and, at the same time, he can’t totally exhaust the meaning of the text in one sermon.

          • curtis sheidler

            Brad,

            First, it’s very telling that you’d confine your response to the discussion of the first commandment–particularly when the more damning part of the sermon that I addressed is the second commandment. I’d still LOVE to hear how you’d harmonize what the text actually says with Noble’s complete non-starter of an exposition of same text.

            Second, show us where, among the words from the text that you cited, Exodus is saying “false gods will disappoint you.”

            See: it doesn’t MATTER whether this idea that Noble has is “a prevalent theme throughout Scripture”–what matters is whether the text at hand actually TEACHES that. If it doesn’t, then Noble is dealing with the text irresponsibly and doing his entire audience a grave disservice. Good stewardship is also a prominent, prevalent theme throughout Scripture, but to make it the main point of, say, Philemon, is to show callous disregard for what the text actually says, and to ‘teach’ it in such a way that you end up failing to truly teach the text at all.

            You keep arguing that Noble “can’t totally exhaust the meaning of the text in one sermon,” but that’s not the point at all. Indeed, it’s a straw man, because no one here is saying otherwise. What we’re saying–and what you have yet to disprove–is that Noble’s message doesn’t actually get anywhere NEAR the actual meaning of the text AT ALL.

          • brad

            I tried to be clear as to why I was limiting my discussion to the first commandment. Please see previous comments.

            The text is teaching us about having one God and not worshiping false idols. Exploring the meaning of that means we can search the Scriptures to see what the Bible says about having one God, not worshiping idols etc. I would simply say that one of the reasons the Bible tells us not to worship false gods is because they will disappoint and destroy our lives. And one of the reasons the Bible tells us to worship God is because only in Him do we find true satisfaction.

            I think we can do biblical and systematic theology as well as make some modern-day applications in a sermon. We aren’t limited to just wooden exegesis and teaching of the words in front of us.

  • Man… amen all over the place!

  • Brad

    I would say “Amen” but in the context I would be wrong. So instead, let me simply say “thank you” for a well written, concise and biblically supported statement. I completely agree with you

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  • Linda

    Excellent word! So grateful to have a pastor who doesn’t play fast and loose with God’s Word!

  • char

    The Pharisees are alive and well. Religious leaders were persecuting Christians in Jesus’s time, too.

    Hope your churches are prospering and have the salvations that Perry Noble’s church does. God is blessing him. I’ll be praying for you.

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  • Lizzy

    What strikes me is the enormous hubris of the pastor to believe that his false rendering and interpretation of God’s Holy Word is somehow acceptable to God. Then the fact that others in leadership in that church were supportive of his folly reveals a scary level of pastor worship. This is one of the main reasons I am not in church at this time, pastor’s preaching their edited version of the Holy Word of God to the detriment of the church and their own gross arrogant fall into grievous sin. God bless you:)

    https://holdingforthhisword.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/true-shepherd/

  • songbirdmcgraw

    Amen and amen!

  • chrisleduc1

    I’m a little late to the comment party, but after reading Perry’s post, I couldn’t get over the bright, flashing Broadway sign that is point #3 in his letter. I believe it really demonstrates the basis of the entire problem.

    “#3 – I take teaching the Bible very seriously and desperately want to always put forth my best effort as I really do believe that when God says “don’t” in Scripture it is more like Him saying, “don’t hurt yourself,” because, as a friend of mine often says, “choose to sin, choose to suffer.”

    So when Perry reads God’s commands, he believes that the ultimate motive behind God giving the command is man’s greatest good. God is much like a genie in the sky who’s purpose is to serve man’s purpose of comfort and happiness. Forget God’s sovereign rights as Creator, Sustainer and one and only King. Forget the fact that absolute obedience is obligatory even if it causes severe pain and suffering. No, man’s greatest good is what Perry’s god is all about. And that ultimately is the problem – his god is way too small. In Perrys world it appears that man is the center of the universe and all of God’s revelation is primarily about man. That falls way, way short of what this is all about.

    And for the comments (including Perry’s own that open the post) about how his methods work – of course they work! Who wouldn’t want an all powerful all wise and all knowing god is primary purpose in revelation is my greatest good! Does anybody want that god? Of course! Please, I’ll take two!!

    A sermon I haven’t listened to in a couple years, but really rocked my world in exposing how sucular humanism had not only infiltrated the Church in general but also my personal prayer life and evangelism as well is “10 Sheckels and a Shirt” by Paris Reidhead. He came to his convictions after going to Africa to save the poor heathen who hadn’t had the opportunity to hear the gospel. In the process God showed him that he was all doing it for man’s good, not God’s. That changed the entire trajectory of his life. It’s worth the listen.

    http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/singlefile.php?lid=282&commentView=itemComments