Mohler reflects on the life of Oral Roberts

NewsNote: The Death of Oral Roberts – AlbertMohler.com.

Al Mohler remembers Oral Roberts after his death at the age of 91. It is indeed difficult to measure a man’s legacy. Seeing that Oral Roberts accomplished many great things for the kingdom of God during his life, it remains difficult to celebrate these good deeds in light of the abominable false gospel he promoted so vigorously throughout his life. Knowing that this man has misled thousands, distorted the Scriptures (surely unintentionally), and also was used by God to bring many into a living relationship with Jesus Christ somewhat baffles me. I did not know the man, and I’ve hardly read anything he wrote or listened to anything he preached, so I dare not pass judgment on whether or not he now resides with Jesus or forever separated from Jesus. I know that Jesus himself said that many will say on the day of judgment that they performed many miracles in his name, but Jesus will turn them away, never having known them. Oral Roberts can say that he performed many miracles, perhaps hundreds or thousands of legitimate healings (and many were surely illegitimate). But one must wonder if Paul’s cursing of the false teachers in Galatia for preaching another gospel might unfortunately apply to Roberts and many others of our day who promote a sickly deficient message which trades limitless, eternal, priceless reward in receiving Jesus himself for eternity for the fading decadence this world has to offer. What a sobering thought! I pray that I will continually cling to Christ as my only treasure and count all of my possessions as loss. And I pray that I may be given grace to preach the true gospel of Jesus crucified, buried, and raised from the dead for the sins of the world faithfully, consistently, and powerfully until the day I die.

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Published in: on December 16, 2009 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Kingdom People book giveaway

Trevin Wax is giving away ten awesome books. See registration instructions here: http://trevinwax.com/2009/12/15/kingdom-people-christmas-giveaway-2/

Published in: on December 16, 2009 at 12:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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1 Corinthians 11 and James 5

In light of 1 Cor. 11:29-30, which I understand to be a reference to God’s judgment in the form of weakness, sickness, and/or physical death as a result of participating in the Lord’s Supper “in an unworthy manner,” how should we understand James, for example, who commands that those who are sick should seek prayer and anointing from the elders of the church (James 5:14)? Also, from James 5:15-16, how does this all relate to confessing our sins?

Upon reflection, I think James 5:13-20 is an excellent passage to bring into the discussion of 1 Cor. 11:29-30. In fact, I wonder if Paul might have some practical guidance in mind that very much resembles James 5:13-20 by saying, “About the other things I will give directions when I come” (1 Cor. 11:34). In other words, I wonder if the “other things” he intends to explain to them is how they need to deal with this situation in their church, besides merely stopping the selfish behavior they are currently practicing. We’ll never know.

But, let’s see if we can’t flesh out what this all might look like together. The situation Paul describes in Corinth shows that 1) believers have sinned; 2) many of these believers (though apparently not all) have received judgment from God in the form of weakness and/or sickness, and some have physically died (as a result of an illness?); and 3) God’s judgment/discipline occurs so that these believers would not be finally condemned (which is not holding out the possibility that a person may lose his or her salvation; rather I think he is acknowledging that there are unbelievers in the midst of the Corinthian congregation, as in all churches, and if a person were not judged/disciplined by the Lord in this way, it might be a sign that the person is not a true believer, so that he or she will be condemned with the world; see Heb. 12:5-6). Now, it does NOT say that everyone who has participated in the Lord’s Supper has been judged in this way. When he says, “Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself,” I don’t think he means that everyone who does this actually receives God’s judgment; I think it means that the person deserves judgment, or invites judgment. It is a punishable offense, we might say. Who, when, and how God judges/disciplines believers is his sovereign right, and he does so only with good purposes.

So, what of James? Let me translate this passage to highlight the real force of what he is saying, which is somewhat softened in the English versions. This will be James 5:13-16a, 19-20 (skipping vv. 16b-18 for the sake of space, and because, while clearly important to James in this context, they do not help us directly with our question).

13 Is anyone among you suffering? He must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He must sing. 14 Is anyone among you sick? He must call the elders of the church, and they must pray for him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And faithful prayer will save (or heal) the sick one, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another in order that you may be healed….19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders away from the truth and someone turns him back, 20 he must know that the one who turns back a sinner from wandering off his way will save (or heal) his soul (or life) from death and he covers a multitude of sins.

So, let me make a few observations, and then we’ll try to tie all this together. First, it’s interesting that he doesn’t tell the one who is suffering what to pray for. Particularly, I notice that he does NOT tell him to pray that the suffering would be removed, which makes sense because James wrote in chapter 1, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Nonetheless, the appropriate response to suffering for the believer is to pray. Also, the appropriate response for a believer who is sick is to ask the elders of the church to pray (which may or may not necessarily include anointing with oil; if you’d like to ask more about that, I’d be happy to talk about the reasons I don’t think anointing is being prescribed here, but for now I’m going to keep moving forward). Then, v. 15 promises or assures that “faithful prayer” (as I have translated the phrase, which is usually translated more literally as “the prayer of faith”) will save the sick one. The word translated “save” here and in the Gospels can also be translated “heal,” and this is probably the sense that James intends here. So, there is a promise of healing for the sick one in response to the elders’ faithful praying. Now, I don’t think this is a guarantee that a person who is sick and comes to the elders for prayer will have their illness taken away immediately. The text, first of all, never says when healing will take place; it just says that the person will be healed. And, it says that the Lord will raise the sick person up, which is probably a metaphor that refers to recovery. (With the metaphor of “raising up,” I suspect we are to envision a person who is sick and incapacitated, lying on their back, unable to “raise themselves”; but, I don’t think that the metaphor limits the types of illnesses in view. However, as I reflect on this passage now, I wonder if James does have incapacitating illness specifically in view because it is interesting that the one who is sick summons the elders, rather than going to him. Perhaps he is unable to go to the elders.) This teaching also does not imply that if the elders do not pray for a sick person that God will not heal that sick person. Again, God is free and sovereign to heal whomever, whenever, and however he decides to heal (which is probably reflected in the various methods Jesus used to heal sick people), but as I have argued in a recent blog post, God delights to work through the prayers of his people.

Now, it’s interesting that, at this very point, having just mentioned healing the sick in response to the prayers of the elders, James mentions forgiveness of sins. This may imply that James understands a potential connection between illness and sin (please notice my emphasis on “may”; I am tentative in how I want to talk about the connection between illness and sin; is sickness always a result of sin? I suspect not, at least not necessarily the direct result of an individual’s sins. But, 1 Cor. 11 certainly indicates that it can be sometimes. Are we able to determine when a sickness in our own lives might be due to the judgment/discipline of God because of sin in our own lives? I’m not sure. Ah, I’m getting ahead of myself!) So, in the context of coming to the elders for prayer about his or her sickness, James says, “If he has committed sins, they (his sins) will be forgiven.” Immediately following this promise of forgiveness, he draws a conclusion: “since the person’s sins will be forgiven, therefore, confess your sins to one another.” So, James links forgiveness and confession of sins tightly here (perhaps as in 1 John 1:9). I think he means that the availability of forgiveness is held out to the one who is sick when he or she comes to the elders for prayer, and the person may take hold of that forgiveness by confessing his or her sins. Then, he commands, “Pray for one another so that you may be healed.” So, again he brings healing into the picture (and this word in Greek is specific for healing; i.e., it’s NOT the same word used above that could mean “to save”).  Thus, it seems that he wants to link confession and prayer, forgiveness and healing in some way. So, perhaps we are justified to think of the sin being connected to the illness. I think this connection is somewhat reinforced in v. 20. “The one who turns back a sinner from wandering off his way will save his soul (or life) from death and he will cover a multitude of sins.” Here, the connection is made between saving from death and covering sins. The word translated “soul” can also be translated “life,” and I think that is better here. I think he is still talking about believers in community, confessing their sins to one another, praying for another, anticipating healing from God in response to these prayers, and receiving forgiveness for sins. Any illness can lead to death; perhaps this is one way that they saw God answering their prayers. These believers who were sick came for prayer to the elders (or to one another; notice how he has shifted from a focus on the elders’ prayer to a focus on prayer “for one another”), the remained sick for a time, but then they eventually recovered, and did not die from their illness.

So, how shall we tie this into what is envisioned in 1 Cor. 11? Paul indicates that some in the church are sick as a result of judgment/discipline meted out by God because of their participating in the Lord’s Supper flippantly and/or selfishly. Some have even died. Paul commands them to stop behaving this way, to repent of their sinful attitudes and behaviors. James would not only have the Corinthians who were sinning this way repent, but he would also have those who have received the judgment of God in the form of sickness to go to the elders and confess their sins (which assumes their repentance). Then, the elders should pray for them. The sick person may then walk away with confidence that 1) his sins have been forgiven and 2) that he will be healed, whenever and in whatever way the Lord chooses to do so.