NINETY – FIVE THESES
------- AS PUBLISHED IN KELOWNA, B.C., CANADA, JUNE 24TH, 2009 ------
author: Larry Jones
A CHALLENGE TO EVANGELICALS, ETCETERA
Etcetera? Etcetera is everyone. Non-evangelicals, all christians, non-believers…. everyone. But these 95 theses are especially directed to evangelicals. I define an evangelical as one attached to an evangelical church, one who believes in the born-again experience, one attesting to the inerrancy of the Bible.
Theses is the plural of thesis. A thesis is a proposition or statement to be considered, discussed and possibly disputed. Martin Luther wrote his famous "95 Theses" in 1517, a challenge to accepted religious beliefs and practices of that day. Evangelicals consider him a hero of the faith.
My "95 Theses," interesting to most and relevant to all, are my opinions regarding certain spiritual matters for the reader’s consideration. This compilation of reflections and teachings is the result of 37 years of christianity, many of those years lived within evangelical influence. Hopefully they will stimulate many conversations. Certainly there will be a response from several pulpits. So here we go...
1. Truth has never, and will never, change.
2. Spiritual truth is available. God dispenses spiritual truth generously. We each have the amount of truth desired; had we wanted more we would have more; had we wanted less we would have less.
3. Resisting truth is resisting God, the giver of truth. Resisting truth hardens the heart and brings alarming consequences.
4. Truth, when proclaimed, is powerful, much more so than untruth.
5. Jesus proclaimed truth - the good and the ugly - before the religious society and the secular. Withholding spiritual truth can be immoral.
6. Jesus wants His church to be transparent. Obscurity corrodes the good; transparency reforms the defective.
7. Christ commissioned His church to proclaim the truth about Himself and the salvation He provides.
8. Evangelicals have always declared Scripture, the original writings, to be true.
9. The Bible claims itself to be God’s written word, fully true. David: The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. (Ps12:6)
10. Jesus often quoted the Old Testament; His quotations are His endorsement. Jesus appealed to Scripture to prove Himself to be the long awaited Messiah ("The Scriptures.... testify of Me."); this appeal is His endorsement. Scripture is as true as Jesus is true.
11. Jesus taught the life built upon His words will be successful. And Jesus taught the life not built upon His words will be disastrous. (Mt7:24-27) Solomon: He who despises the word will be destroyed. (Pr13:13)
12. Christians are equally free and responsible to preach Bible truths to "the world" and to each other.
13. Each is responsible to evaluate customs and teachings by Bible standards. The person, group or organization one refuses to examine by Bible standards are idols.
14. Faithfulness to Christ is faithfulness to the Bible. Disobedience to the Bible is disobedience to Christ.
15. The Bible is a disclosure of the character of God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Scripture is an account of the fall of man into sin, his need for a redeemer, the promise of a redeemer, and the coming of the promised redeemer.
16. Jesus was sent by His Father for the purpose of redeeming man from his sins. Only a perfect and innocent sacrifice could satisfy God’s just demand.
17. Christ’s virgin birth was a dramatic beginning to approximately 33 years on earth. John (the baptist): Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn3:29)
18. Jesus: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (Jn3:16,17)
19. Jesus was thoroughly tempted by the devil. Unlike every other person, Jesus did not falter, He did not sin. Jesus went to the cross an unblemished sacrifice.
20. The greatest suffering of Christ was taking the sins of all people upon Himself while on the cross. No one understands how this occurred.
21. The salvation Christ provided for every man, woman and child is beyond ability to describe or comprehend. Believers in Christ are actually "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." (Rm8:17) God has "blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." (Eph1:3)
22. The death and resurrection of Jesus were fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and His own prophecies.
23. Jesus foretold most people would reject Him and His salvation.
24. Because of His obedience Jesus Christ now sits in indescribable majesty and glory at the right hand of His Father.
25. Those embracing Jesus and His salvation have opportunity to further develop their relationship with Him.
26. Relationally, christians have as much of Jesus as they want. A deeper, richer relationship is always available to the one determined to acquire it. Pursuing Christ should be a way of life.
27. Jesus taught a vibrant relationship with Him is a requirement for fruitfulness. Jesus: Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. (Jn15:4)
28. The ultimate example of a healthy, abiding relationship is Jesus and His Father. Jesus often spoke of His Father because the Father was the emphasis of His heart.
29. Jesus: Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Mt12:34) The spiritual health of a christian can be determined by the number of times he speaks the name of Jesus. The spiritual health of a church can likewise be determined by the number of times they collectively speak the name of Jesus.
30. Oddly and perplexingly and sadly, evangelicals seldom speak the name of Jesus. Preachers often neglect Jesus in their sermons.
31. Some evangelicals speak ‘God’ often but ‘Christ’ rarely. Paul’s letters 'spoke' God often and Christ more often. New Testament writings ‘speak’ Christ more times than God, Father, and Holy Spirit combined.
32. Since evangelicalism seriously affects the relationship between Christ and evangelicals, evangelicals would be wise to evaluate evangelicalism.
33. Refusing to examine evangelicalism under Bible light is certain evidence evangelicalism is an idol. (An idol is that which has captured one's focus and loyalty.)
34. As loyalty to Christ is evidenced by loyalty to the Bible, so loyalty to evangelicalism is evidenced by loyalty to evangelical traditions. Neither centuries of observance nor endorsement of most validates non-Biblical practices.
35. Evangelicals choosing evangelical traditions over Bible teachings have a feeble relationship with Jesus.
36. Evangelicalism would bear much more good fruit if it discarded traditions contrary to the Bible. There are many such traditions.
37. The dividing of Christ's church into two groups, the clergy (or ministerial) and laity (laymen), is a harmful, non-Biblical practice.
38. The notion that a few are to spiritually equip the many is contrary to Ephesians 4:16: the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body.
39. Choosing the licensed over the anointed has always been a practice of evangelicalism.
40. Non-Biblical words familiar to evangelicals - such as membership, denominations, program, covering, seminary, senior pastor, home church, ministerial, and many others - reveal a wide chasm between evangelicalism and the Bible.
41. Denominations are non-Biblical and therefore contrary to Christ. The ruling structure of evangelicalism mimics the business enterprise. No early church christian attended a denominational church as we know it.
42. Most certainly, evangelicalism is not a creation of Jesus Christ. Within evangelicalism Christ is a symbolic lord only. Man, not Christ, is the decision-maker. Man, not Christ, is lord.
43. As God ministers to others through feeble christians, He likewise ministers through feeble churches. Multitudes benefit from attending an evangelical church. Evangelical churches compare well with non-evangelical churches.
44. Within evangelical churches are some who maintain a healthy enthusiasm for Christ.
45. Many evangelical churches have a powerful time of praise and worship during the church service whereby the Lord Jesus manifests His sweet, sweet presence.
46. Many quality spiritual insights proceed from evangelical pulpits every sunday.
47. When one considers church leadership one should think of Jesus Christ and not any man or group of men.
48. The pastor, not Christ, is the actual leader and shepherd and teacher of the evangelical congregation.
49. Three dissimilarities place the pastor above the rest - his license, titles and salary; none of the three have Bible precedent.
50. The pastor is the connecting door between two spiritual spheres, the denomination that licensed him and the congregation he serves. It was the man's loyalty to his denomination that secured him his post as pastor.
51. The pastor is expected, by his church and his denomination, to capture the congregation's loyalty. He is usually successful.
52. Many evangelists 'turn' pastor because only the pastor is salaried. This results in less people spending their eternity with Jesus in heaven.
53. The pastor dictates who speaks from the pulpit. Almost always he appoints himself.
54. It is non-Biblical and unhealthy for one (or a few) to have excessive influence over many.
55. The evangelical pastor who repents of compromise and makes a decision to obey the Bible will lose his position.
56. The elder in New Testament writings has very little in common with the elder of evangelicalism. There is no Biblical precedent for a board of elders.
57. The evangelical should not consider himself (herself) to be what God never made him (her) to be. He is not a layman, not an evangelical, not a protestant, not a denominational person, not a charismatic, not a pentecostal, baptist, etc.
58. The evangelical should consider himself to be only what the Bible declares him to be - an adopted child of God, a disciple of Christ, a joint heir with Christ, blood-washed, sanctified, justified.
59. The evangelical is hindered by the low expectation placed upon him by church leadership (and by fellow 'laymen'). He has little chance of fulfilling the high calling of God on his life or even coming to the realization of what that calling is.
60. The fruit one bears is relative to the quality of relationship with Jesus Christ, not the quality of relationship with one's church.
61. Every christian has the calling of either apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher, in varying degrees of anointing. Each is called to minister the Word to the church and to the world.
62. It is an insult to Christ to consider or call a man Pastor. (Pastor means shepherd.) Jesus reproved those who called men Father and Teacher. Had it been their custom to call men Pastor, Jesus would have likewise corrected them.
63. The evangelical is accountable to Jesus Christ alone and not any man. Peter was not accountable to John and John was not accountable to James; they were each accountable to Christ.
64. Everyone can recapture the fervor for Jesus he had at rebirth. There is more of Christ for the evangelical wanting more of Christ. Attaining more of Christ could necessitate removing one's loyalty from man and placing that loyalty back onto Jesus.
65. Evangelicals would be wise to repent of compromise, of man-gazing, of giving a reverence to man that belongs to Jesus alone.
66. Revival is simply rededicating oneself, sincerely, to Christ and Scripture. Signing the last page of the Bible as a declaration of obedience to the Bible (as the Holy Spirit gives understanding) will help seal one's commitment.
67. Only those placing themselves under the lordship of Christ and His Holy Spirit will be rejoicing at the judgment seat of Christ. (2Cor5:10)
68. Jesus: Freely you have received, freely give. (Mt10:8) Selling spiritual teachings, revelations, testimonies and songs in written, audio and video design is contrary to Matthew 10:8. An admittance fee to conferences, seminars and concerts is contrary to Matthew 10:8. Selling one's christian service is contrary to Matthew 10:8.
69. Neither decades of observance nor endorsement of most validates non-Biblical practices. It was monetary abuse that prompted Martin Luther's "95 Theses".
70. Jesus, the twelve, Paul, and many others are ample proof selling is not required to fulfill one's calling. There is no Bible precedent for selling spiritual truths.
71. Solomon: The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself. (Pr11:25) Since God replenishes, it costs nothing to give. It costs nothing to give little and it costs nothing to give much.
72. With God motive is everything. Though we receive by giving, receiving should not be our motive for giving.
73. The old covenant method of financing God's work was the tithe. The new covenant method of financing the Lord's work, how much to give and where to direct one's giving, is submitting to the lordship of the Holy Spirit. There is no New Testament example of a christian tithing or being admonished to tithe.
74. Nonetheless, most evangelical churches teach their adherents to give ten percent of their income to the local church. While there is serious disagreement among denominations on many issues, there is, suspiciously, very little disagreement on the issue of tithing.
75. Tithing is the only Old Testament regulation evangelicalism has adopted. Those most passionately defending the tithe are those relying on the tithe for a living.
76. Since there is a strong argument against the practice of tithing, fair play requires that "It is time to collect the tithes" be changed to "It is time to collect the tithes from those who believe in tithing".
77. The burden of church building maintenance and leadership salaries passes from one generation of believers to another to another. Many, perhaps most, church buildings and salaries are maintained by money intended to finance the great commission - to reach the nations for Christ.
78. A house church is a practical alternative to the evangelical institutional church.
79. A house church is not a cell group (which is an appendage of an evangelical church), not a Bible study, not a prayer meeting. A house church is (or should be) a gathering unto Jesus Christ.
80. The principles that make an individual christian spiritually healthy and prosperous are the same principles that make a house church healthy and prosperous. God's ways do not change when one becomes two, when two becomes three, when three becomes a dozen.
81. As the sole agenda of the individual should be to enrich his/her relationship with Christ, the sole agenda of the group should be to enrich their relationship with Christ.
82. As the individual must surrender to the governorship of the Holy Spirit to relationally gain Christ, so the group must surrender to the Holy Spirit to gain Christ.
83. A collective endeavor of the group to focus on Jesus and a determination to allow no person to usurp the governorship of the Holy Spirit will assure a favorable outcome.
84. A people truly gathered unto Christ can expect Christ to manifest His presence; an absence of His presence indicates an inferior motive for gathering.
85. A house church should manage itself by consensus.
86. Elders must not yield to the temptation to take over the group, but rather apply their influence to safeguard the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
87. One does not require any person's permission to start a house church once he or she has been so directed by God.
88. The most feeble, slack christian is immeasurably wealthier than the most successful non-christian.
89. Failure of christians do not make Christ and His gospel less authentic.
90. Non-christians are incapable of committing a crime Jesus is unwilling or unable to forgive.
91. More than any other person in the Bible, Jesus warned of an eternal hell. Eternity is a long time.
92. There is no redeemer on the other side of death. Immediately after death the non-christian will fully realize his/her opportunity to attain Christ's salvation has passed.
93. Non-christians attempting to gain heaven by self-effort or religious observances will fail.
94. The love of Christ for the non-christian far surpasses the love of any man or angel for Christ.
95. A non-christian becomes a christian by embracing Christ into his/her life and accepting Christ's cross as payment for his salvation. This is done in prayer. Embracing Christ is submitting to Christ. Submitting to Christ is submitting to the Bible (as one is progressively enlightened to understand it).
Note: All the above subjects are covered extensively in my website www.larryjones.ca
Note: The above theses are discussed at www.95theses.ca