Moses

Without doubt one of the most significant characters in the history of the people of Israel is Moses. He brought them out of the land of Egypt and slavery, he brought them the words of their God, and he led them through the wilderness to the very border of the Promised Land. For forty years Moses was the visible leader of the people of God. What made Moses into a leader? Was he effective? Can we use his example to teach us how to be effective leaders of God’s people? Let’s look at Moses’ example and see what we can learn.

Even though Moses was raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, his earliest years were spent with his natural mother as she was the one called upon to be the wet nurse for the baby Moses. During those years she instilled in the young boy a knowledge of who he was, one of the people of God. The people of God were waiting for God to rescue them from the slavery they were left in. God had promised to Abraham that four hundred years were all He would let the people stay in the land of Egypt. The time for deliverance was near and it looked like the young man Moses was being positioned in the best possible way to lead the Israelites.

In the years after he was given completely into the care of his Egyptian teachers, Moses never forgot his heritage. He used the opportunity God had given him to learn the best that he could. He became wise in the teaching of Egypt (the most advanced civilization of that day). (Acts 7:22) He became a powerful soldier in one of the world’s most powerful armies. “By the time he reached the age of forty, there was probably no greater leader . . . in all the land than Moses.” (Rodgers, p. 35) Indeed to man, and most likely to Moses, he seemed to be the perfect leader to set the Israelites free (cf. Acts 7:23-25). But God does not see as man sees. Moses rashly decides to take matters into his own hands by joining his people. Almost immediately he finds an excuse to begin the rebellion by killing an Egyptian. But instead of being the rallying call to bring the people to his side in rebellion, it rather leads to his betrayal into the hands of Pharaoh. “However, this attempt was in the energy of the flesh and, although God had chosen him for this great task, he attempted through self-effort to bring it to pass. This never accomplishes what God has in mind.” (Rodgers, p. 35)

Instead of facing the wrath of Pharaoh, Moses flees from Egypt. Certainly by then he must have thought that he was wrong about his usefulness in God’s plans. God must have decided on someone else. The next forty years Moses spends as a simple shepherd. He leads mild-mannered sheep along mountain trails to find food and drink for them. He probably fought off wild beasts to protect his sheep, and his heart was probably torn with grief when one of his sheep died. A far different man he became than the young self-reliant man who thought he could deliver his people from Egypt with the might of his arms and the eloquence of his speech.

Yet it is exactly this kind of man that God chooses. God does not want a leader who thinks he can stand alone. God needs leaders who know how to provide, protect and show compassion. The humble are useful to God, the proud cannot serve Him well. So when God calls upon Moses to be the leader of His people and deliver them from bondage, Moses protests that he is not fit to lead. Moses was still thinking in human terms. No longer was he the strong young man he had been. He was no longer well known, he had not used his voice for speeches in many years. Moses did not think he could act as a leader. “When he met God at the burning bush, he was a broken man.” (Rodgers, p. 36)

That is why God chose him. He chose him because he no longer thought of himself as the leader. God wants Moses to rely on Him. God tells Moses to tell the people that He, the great I AM, had sent Moses, and God would deliver the people with His own powerful hand. So eventually Moses agrees to lead the people and when the people hear that God will deliver them, they believe and worship God (Ex. 4:31). Perhaps with this initial success “the old feelings of success and conquest came back.” (Rodgers, p. 36) However, God does not let him keep those old feelings for long.

Things do not proceed as Moses and the people probably expected. The Pharaoh did not let them go immediately. Instead things got harder for the Israelites. Even Moses was reduced to blaming God for the trouble on Israel. (Ex. 5:22-23) Moses still thought God should act as man desired. But God is not a man. A leader of God’s people has to be able to accept God as God is, not as man wants Him to be. A leader of God’s people must be able to accept adversity without doubting in God or His plans. So during the time of the plagues upon Egypt, Moses is growing in his faith toward God and in his ability to be an effective leader.

After the plagues while the people were leaving Egypt, Pharaoh and his army approached. Here might have been the great opportunity for the military mind of Moses. Moses, trained as a mighty warrior of Egypt, could he defeat the Egyptian army with his band of slaves? A question never to be answered because Moses had learned a lesson about leading God’s people: let God lead. Moses told the people, “The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Ex. 14:14) But that faith did not excuse Moses from acting. He simply waited for God to tell him what action He desired, then he did as he was told. Moses had finally become a fit leader of God’s people.

Yet leadership always involves problems. Moses quickly faced a series of problems that would test his leadership. First there was the problem of water for all these people. Although Moses had learned to trust in God, the people “failed to trust God or respond to Moses’ leadership.” (“Moses”) When the people brought the problem to Moses, he cried out to God. (Ex. 15:25) Moses did not try to solve the people’s problems by himself. These were God’s people and he knew that God would be able to solve their problems. In like manner Moses let God solve the problems of food and meat. Moses refused to be the one to solve the problems. God was the true leader of this people. One who leads God’s people must always remember whose people they are and allow God to be the source of answers to problems.

But leadership requires more than a casual commitment. When Moses was up on Mount Sinai, the people committed a very great sin. They turned against God and Moses, and God said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.” (Ex. 32:7) No longer did God claim the people as His own. They were Moses’ people and he had brought them out of Egypt. Originally that was exactly what the younger Moses had intended. He was going to be their savior. Now God was offering Moses the chance to be the kind of leader he once wanted to be.

Yet Moses is no longer the bold and arrogant young leader. He has learned humility from those years leading sheep. But he has also learned to care for the sheep. Boldly Moses stands before God and intercedes for the children of Israel. (Rodgers, p. 41) Humbly he reminds God that they are His children whom He had brought out of Egypt. He also reminds God of the effect it would have on God’s reputation if He destroyed His people in the wilderness. (Exodus 32:11-14)

Moses has been able to intercede on behalf of the people placed under his care. He has put into practice the leadership skills he spent his first eighty years in acquiring. But there are greater challenges facing his leadership. To begin God has agreed to let Moses take care of the problem of idolatry going on with the children of Israel. Moses must be able to discipline the children of Israel if he is going to lead them on behalf of God.

When Moses finally approached the camp of Israel, his initial reaction was one of uncontrolled anger (Exodus 32:19; cf. Cook, p.89). The anger is certainly a result of his early years in Pharaoh’s house where strict obedience was to be expected. Moses breaks the tablets and grinds up the golden calf and makes the people drink of the gold dust mixed with water. Perhaps that would have been the end of the discipline except that some children of Israel were continuing in their idolatry by running around naked (Exodus 32:25). More severe discipline was required for some. This continued rebellion was a test of Moses’ leadership. If he failed to get the rebellion under control, then he could never lead this people for they would always be rebelling against him and God. So Moses calls for those who were loyal to God. The rebels, about three thousand men, were put to death. (Exodus 32:27-28) The rebellion was at an end. But Moses knows that his leadership is still called for. Now he must lead the people back to God and he calls upon them to set a day aside for the LORD. But Moses knows the sin is very great and that sin requires atonement. Moses knows that he may be called upon to make that atonement (Exodus 32:30). So when he stands before God, Moses takes responsibility for his flock and offers his life for them. God does not accept that offer, but he does not allow Moses to forsake his position as leader either. He tells Moses to “go, lead the people”. (Exodus 32:34)

Again Moses had passed a challenge to his leadership. He was able to discipline the rebellious people, quash the resistance of the more stubborn rebels, bring the people back to God, and be accepted by God as still a fit leader for His people. However, his success led to more challenges to his leadership.

Being chosen by God as the leader and then reaffirmed in that leadership position caused some other potential leaders to be jealous. The first attempt to take over, or at least share, the leadership came from Moses’ own family. Miriam and Aaron protested to Moses that they were at least as capable as he was as a leader. After all God spoke to them, as well as to Moses, they said. (Number 12:2) Moses did not make a rebuttal, perhaps as is stated, it was because Moses was such a meek man (Numbers 12:3). Again consider how much has changed in Moses life. Where is the bold and arrogant young Moses who killed the Egyptian? Moses has learned his lessons about leadership. The battles belong to God, so Moses steps aside and lets God do battle. The Lord wastes no time in putting Miriam and Aaron back into their places (Numbers 12:5-12; cf. Edersheim, p. 2:164). Once again Moses is called upon, this time by Aaron, to personally intercede with God. (LaSor, p. 109)

The next challenge to his leadership came in the form of a full-fledged attempt to permanently remove Moses from leadership. The people rose up to stone him to death, along with Caleb and Joshua and Aaron (Numbers 14:10). Once again it is notable that Moses intercedes for the people who sought to kill him (Numbers 14:13-20). But still Moses must accept that the people under his care are to be punished. Moses has to bear with the people in the consequences of their sin, for again he must lead the people back to God and prepare the next generation for entering the Promised Land.

One last attempt is made to displace Moses as leader. This challenge came from the leaders of the assembly. Two hundred and fifty men led by Korah of Moses own tribe of Levi (Numbers 16:1-2). These men protested that Moses and Aaron had made themselves too important, that Moses had failed to bring them to the Promised Land, and that the priesthood should not belong exclusively to Moses and Aaron (Jones, “Korah”) Again Moses faces the battle by saying that the Lord would choose (Num. 16:5) And again Moses was rewarded by God doing battle on his behalf (Num. 16:28-35), and also again Moses is called upon to intercede for the rebellious flock he leads. (Jones, “Korah”)

The final challenge to Moses’ leadership was one that he did not overcome. For the final challenge that faces all leaders is one that comes from within — pride. Moses had struggled and succeeded in letting God do battle with the obvious rebellions and challenges. Moses had stood up for the people time and again sparing their lives even while they sought to kill him. But deep down inside Moses was still the Egyptian trained leader of men. The constant complaints were wearisome. Finally, while the people yet again complained about needing water, Moses slipped. “Moses looked at the people as they were in themselves, instead of thinking of God who now sent them forward, secure in His promise, which He would assuredly fulfill.” (Edersheim, p. 2:186) In the heat of his frustration or anger Moses complained that he must again bring forth water for them (Num. 20:10; cf. Rodgers, p. 55). Moses had said HE was bringing forth water. It was not Moses who brought the water; it was God. Moses had failed to give God the glory due to Him. Perhaps he felt justified in having a share of the glory after all he had put up with, but God immediately notified Moses that he would be punished for his sin (Num. 20:12). “Certainly, this should teach us that no individual can sin with impunity, regardless of who he is or what his station in life.” (Rodgers, p. 55)

So what lessons can we learn from Moses example of leadership? We learn first that a leader may need to be educated in the ways of the world. God’s people live and work and move in the world. Knowledge of how the world works is a helpful tool. But the leader must always remember that his training is only a tool. More important than an earthly education are humility and service, like what Moses learned as a shepherd. Then God’s leader must be able to balance the two parts of his training, leading the people of God with wisdom and humility. Also the leader must be willing to sacrifice of himself and to intercede on behalf of God’s people, even when the people are unkind toward, or rebelling against, the leader. Finally, the leader must be able to step aside and let God fight the battles, and then he must give God the glory. For it is only in God that the battles can be won. Moses, as a leader of God’s people, was “a man who performed great deeds in the strength that only God can provide.” (“Moses”)

By Glenn E. Hamilton

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cook, F. C. ed. The Bible Commentary: Exodus-Ruth. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1953.

Edersheim, Alfred. Bible History, Old Testament. 7 vols. 1890 ed. Reprint 1 vol. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982.

Jones, T. H. “Korah.” New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. Ed. I. Howard Marshall, et al. Downers Grove: IVP, 1996.

LaSor, William, et al. Old Testament Survey. 2d ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.

“Moses.” The Revell Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids: Revell, 1990.

Rodgers, Thomas. The Panorama of the Old Testament. Newburgh: Trinity, 1988.

Sins Just Prior to Death

       What will happen to a Christian if he commits a sin just prior to his death?  Will he be saved?  It certainly is an intriguing question.   It seems plausible that a Christian could curse just prior to his death say in an automobile accident.  In light of James 2:10, does that mean his soul is eternally lost just because he slipped up just prior to his death?

          If that scenario is possible, then we could easily think of many more situations where God’s mercy would be required to save us.  By extension of that logic, if God is willing to grant us mercy for one unrepentant sin, He certainly should be willing to extend mercy to us for all our unrepentant sins.  However, that would not be just if God extended mercy either arbitrarily or with partiality.  So is it even possible for God to make exceptions to His law?

In order to properly analyze this hypothetical situation, we must be careful to address the subject by examining what is revealed in scriptures.  It is very tempting for us to speculate on the outcome of a person’s conduct (Matt. 7:1-2).  We should always allow the Bible to be our guide in this and any other important question.  We should also respect the silence of the scriptures if it does not address the issue (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19).  We certainly do not want to make up our own rules for God’s judgments.

We cannot be certain what decisions Christ will make on the Judgment Day unless He reveals it to us.  “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.   But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.   But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.   For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:11-16).  The apostle Paul continues these thoughts when he wrote, “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!  For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”  So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:14-16).  God’s judgment will be righteous and God will have mercy on whomever He decides to have mercy.  Obviously, God’s mercy is conditional.  Just because we live as a Christian does not mean God will automatically extend His mercy.  John asked a good question that illustrates this point well.  He wrote, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17).  In light of James 2:13, it would seem such a merciless individual does not deserve any mercy even if his only other transgression was committed just prior to his death.

Christ is not a respecter of persons (Deut. 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:9; 1 Pet. 1:17 ).  “But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality” (Col. 3:25).  The fact that a person is a Christian does not skew His judgment.  How we feel about a matter does not change the truth (Prov. 3:5; 28:26).  Just like in math class, how we feel about the problems has no bearing on the answers.  Human logic that suggests God will forgive unconditionally is not the kind of justice God will use on the Judgment day.

God has revealed that He expects obedience (Lk. 6:46; Jn. 14:15, 21; Rev. 22:14).  We must keep ourselves pure (1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:22; Jas. 1:27; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:3).  For the Christian, this is accomplished through confession and repentance of our sins (1 John 1:5-2:6; Lk. 17:3-4).

One unrepentant sin could cause us to lose our souls (Jas. 2:10).  One misspoken word subjects us to judgment (Matt. 12:36; Jas. 5:12).  Hating our brethren will prevent salvation (1 John 3:14-15).  A Christian that teaches a false doctrine will be accursed (Gal. 1:6-9; 5:4; 2 Pet. 3:16-17). God is not even going to cut any slack to a weak brother whose sin was caused by a more knowledgeable Christian (1 Cor. 8:11-12).

Ananias and Sapphira were Christians.  They lied just prior to their death (Acts 5:1-11).  Will they be saved even if they prayed for forgiveness of all their past sins just prior to the events that took their lives?  Remember, it was Christ who said, “All liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8).  If we say Christ will be merciful to all Christians for a few unforgiven sins at the Judgment, then Ananias and Sapphira should be safe.  But then again, who would dare to make such a judgment since we aren’t God?

Many will ask, “What hope of salvation is there if God is so strict (Heb. 12:29)?”  Peter provides the answer.  “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.  For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”  (2 Pet. 1:4-11).  Peter is saying if we give all diligence to these things we will be fruitful, productive, obedient, forgiven at a moment’s notice to God.  However, if we aren’t obedient in our diligence to these things, we are blind perhaps even thinking that we can’t keep ourselves pure because we are so wicked.

God gives time for repentance.  Longsuffering means patient endurance.  It is a quality of God toward all mankind (Rom. 9:22; 1 Tim. 1:16; 2 Pet. 3:9).  “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4)?  This doesn’t mean God tolerates sin.  It means God gives us an opportunity to repent (Matt. 7:7-11; Lk. 11:9).  God knows our hearts and will give us time to repent (though it may not be for long).  He gave the churches in Asia time to repent (Rev. 2:4-5, 14-16).  Ananias and Sapphira had their moment just prior to their death to repent.  However, it appears they didn’t take that opportunity nor was that opportunity extended for very long.

Notice how quickly Peter rebuked Simon the Sorcerer and the reason for the rebuke in Acts 8:18-24.  Despite the fact that Simon is a new convert committing a sin in ignorance the Apostle required immediate repentance.  There is as much urgency for us to repent of our sins as there is to be baptized once we learn the truth (Acts 16:25, 33; 22:16; 2 Cor. 6:2; Jas. 4:14).

Sin is a choice.  When we are tempted to sin, God not only gives us a way out but He won’t allow a temptation beyond our ability to resist.  “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).  If we sin just prior to death it is because we allowed it to happen.  Once we recognize our error, we must immediately repent as we might not have much time remaining.

God is as long suffering as he is merciful.  When you think about it, the scenario where a person sins just prior to death is really a hypothetical situation that is unlikely to ever occur to any true Christian.  If we are living our lives as we should, we will take every opportunity to repent of our sins. The Lord doesn’t wish anyone to perish (2 Pet. 3:9).   It doesn’t make sense to think that God would allow our death to occur in a manner in which no opportunity for repentance exists.  We can take comfort in knowing that God will give all of us an opportunity to repent of our sins; even for a sin that occurs just prior to our death.

By Steve A. Hamilton

Book Review: From Fear to Faith by Matthew Allen

“The goal of our study has been to help New Testament Christians move toward a new paradigm that is characterized by a confidence in God and an increased assurance of His promise of salvation” (p. 59. Emphasis mine).

A paradigm is a pattern.  Webster particularly defines a paradigm as “a pattern, example, or model.”  So I wonder, what’s wrong with the pattern laid out for us by Christ?  Why do we need a new pattern to follow?  Is Matthew Allen implying that the pattern laid out in God’s word does not adequately produce confidence?  The Apostle Paul said, Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13).

So what is this new pattern?  Sadly, this book outlines a “grace based” philosophy that isn’t new at all.  Rather, it is a perversion of the gospel (Gal. 1:6-9).  Wittingly or unwittingly Brother Allen has fallen into a doctrine as old as the King James Version when John Calvin wrestled with this same question.  Does God require perfect obedience to obtain the remission of sins?

From the opening chapter of this book, perfect obedience is marginalized.  Grace is emphasized as an unconditional favor post-baptism.  Repentance is trivialized.  God’s mercy is limitless.  Continual cleansing is advocated.  The culminating effect of such writings makes one think we are fine being sinful; after all, we “cannot meet all of God’s standards” (p. 55).

Perfect obedience is marginalized.  To the author, perfection is not attainable.  “All Christians need to move away from the idea that human perfection is attainable.  It simply is not” (p. 9).  He writes in the first chapter, “We need to get away from the unspoken teaching that says we have to be absolutely perfect all the time in order to get to heaven” (p. 6).  Never mind the fact that the scriptures do not talk about absolute perfection.  The author makes that point clear by sighting passages such as Romans 3:23.   However, scriptures do say, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).  Human perfection is attainable from time to time in righteousness while God is consistently perfect.  In Matthew 19:21, Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  If perfection was not possible why did Jesus tell the Rich Young Ruler he could have been perfect?  Other passages teach the same concept that perfection is obtainable (Jn. 17:23; Eph. 4:13; Col. 1:28; Col. 4:12; 1 Thess. 3:10; Heb. 11:40; 12:23; Jas. 1:4; 2:22; 3:2; 1 Pet. 5:10).  Jesus even sights the church in Sardis for not having perfect works (Rev. 3:2).

Brother Allen needs to consider that if perfect obedience is not attainable, then perfect love is not attainable.  In order to love Christ, we must obey him (Jn. 14:15; 1 Jn. 5:3).  Yet, we all fall short of our obedience to our Savior as the author abundantly emphasizes.  If we cannot obey Christ it means we don’t love Him!

Further, the Apostle John says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 Jn. 4:18).  If we can’t attain obedience, we have not been made perfect in love because love requires obedience.  If we can’t attain perfect love through obedience then we have something to fear.  If we don’t love Him because we don’t obey Him, we don’t have the assurance of salvation!  Obviously, the author’s understanding of obedience is seriously flawed.

The author goes on to state, “We must not expect Christians to come out of the baptistery water and be capable of perfection” (p. 6).  I would beg to differ! Simon the Sorcerer was a new convert (Acts 8:13) but notice the rebuke he got from Peter (Acts 8:20-23).  That was anything but mild.  Peter did not coddle Simon in his sin.  Perhaps the author sees this as “shooting our own” (p. 7).  Yet, it serves as an example that we must confront sin rather than tolerate it.  People should not be encouraged in their sins (Rom. 6:1-2).

Further, it seems the author is blaming the church for the sins of the weak or ignorant.  “Our weakest and most vulnerable Christians fall away too soon because some congregations have created such a sterile environment that they feel completely uncomfortable and intimidated by others sitting in the pew” (p. 6).  If I understand this argument, Brother Allen is upset that Christians have the gall to live righteously in their “environment” because it makes others feel bad about their sins.  Again, we find an attitude toward the acceptance of sins.  Does a sterile environment in the pew actually cause people to fall away?  James says sin occurs when people are drawn away by their desires (Jas. 1:13-16).  Remember, it is in obedience to God’s instructions that we worship Him in that sterile environment (1 Cor. 14:40).  Surely, God is not tempting the weak to feel uncomfortable by setting them next to a godly individual during worship.

The chapter on “New Perspectives on Obedience” gives me pause.  The author sarcastically ridicules the obedient as keeping a check-list that has to be fulfilled as though they are void of love for God.  He creates a dichotomy between “having to obey rather than wanting to obey” (p. 45).  Does it matter whether a person obeys from a sense of obligation (2 Cor. 9:5), fear (Eccl. 12:13), or love (Jn. 14:15)?  As parents, does it matter to us how our child obeys when he is about to run out in front of traffic?  Works from love don’t merit our salvation any more than works from fear.  If we do what we are supposed to do we are still unprofitable servants (Lk. 17:10).

Repentance is trivialized.  Repentance is “to change one’s mind or purpose” concerning sin (Vines).  It is the resolution not to sin again!  Yet, Brother Allen believes repentance is impossible and sets a person up for failure. “We can resolve to never sin again.  If we do this, we set ourselves up for failure.  This is impossible.  See 1 John 1:8” (p. 10).   A few lines later he reiterates, “Since resolving to never sin and not facing our sin are ways leading to defeat we must learn from our sin” (p. 10).  This is extremely troubling for me to accept.  God says that repentance is required for the forgiveness of sin and Brother Allen says it leads to defeat and failure.  Is this part of the new paradigm (Acts 5:29)?  Why would God tell us to do something that would lead to our defeat in the fight against sin?  Obviously, the author has made a tremendous blunder in his rationale.  If that is not the case, his sheep skin is wearing thin (Matt. 7:15).

Mercy is limitless. The author generalizes to the point of fallacy on the subject of mercy.  “God has never begrudged any gift to mankind. God’s mercy is without limit. No one is beyond His saving power” (p. 21).  Yet, God told Moses that His mercy was conditional.  “For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.   So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:15-16).  God “repays man according to his work, and makes man to find a reward according to his way. Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice” (Job 34:11-12).  Mercy is obtained at baptism (1 Pet. 2:9-10).  Yet, mercy can be lost through disobedience (Heb. 10:26-31).

Grace is unconditional post-baptism.  The underlining problem with this whole book is Brother Allen’s misunderstanding of grace.  He recognizes the free gift of our Lord’s grace but he fails to see how it is accepted on our part.  He would have us believe there is nothing we can do after baptism but passively accept His free gift.  He fails to recognize that anytime we obey God’s commands we are working the works of God unto salvation (Jn. 6:28-29).  Obedience is part of our faith in Christ.

Obedience is required because God commands it (Jn. 14:15, 21; 1 Cor. 7:19; 1 Jn. 2:3-4; 3:22, 24; 5:2-3; 2 Jn. 1:6; Rev. 14:12; 22:14).  Grace is based on human performance.  Grace teaches us to conduct ourselves in certain godly ways.  “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14; emphasis mine).  To say, “Grace is not based on human performance” (p. 26) is to mislead people into thinking there is nothing they must do for salvation.  We are saved “by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8).  Grace is God’s part in our salvation while faith is our active part which is demonstrated by our obedience (Jas. 2: 17-26).

For a proper explanation concerning grace I would highly recommend an article written by James R. Cope entitled, “Salvation by Grace.”  The article can be found at:  http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVarticles/SalvationByGrace.html.  Brother Cope’s article explains just how we accept our salvation by grace through faith.

Continual cleansing is advocated.  The chapter on “Justified in Christ” is a soft peddling of the continual cleansing concept.  He states in that chapter, “God promises to cleanse us of all sin.  Our salvation is not dependent upon our perfection – but on God’s cleansing!” (p. 32).  Again, we find the author contradicting scriptures on the subject of perfection while affirming the work of God in our salvation to the neglect of any involvement of the sinner.  A few sentences later he states, “God wants to forgive people who want forgiveness.  He forgives people who realize they need forgiveness.  He forgives people who feel truly unworthy of forgiveness” (p. 32).  One will notice he never says God forgives those who repent or ask for forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4).  The reason for that oversight is because the author seems to believe forgiveness is complete at baptism.  After Brother Allen sights passages that teach salvation occurs at baptism he writes, “We will be saved, wholly, completely and forevermore!” (p. 7).  To the author it seems asking for forgiveness is not necessary after baptism.

Conclusion.  This book review should not be taken as documenting every possible error.  There are many more questionable statements throughout this book.  The five points above represent the most glaring contradictions to God’s word in Brother Allen’s book.

From Fear to Faith by Matthew Allen and published by Spiritbuilding Publishing is the worst Bible class book I have ever had to endure.  Brother Allen’s influence has caused one congregation that studied this material to divide within a few months.  Instead of building one another up in the assurance of salvation, this book helped tear apart a once loving congregation.  False doctrine has that affect (Acts 20:29-30).

 By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net