Ascribing to and endorsing orthodox doctrines should never be confused with genuine faith. Demons can confess monotheism (Jas. 2:19), and yet their hearts are far from the one true God. Indeed, they hate Him and all of His ways. Consider the reactions of the demons when they encountered Jesus during His earthly ministry. They acknowledged that He was “the holy one of God” (Mk. 1:24), and in that sense, “they believed” in Him and knew more about Him at that stage in His ministry than most anyone, even Jesus own disciples. But they certainly didn’t love Jesus, and they didn’t believe in Him to the extent that they entrusted their lives to Him. This leads me to conclude that there is a kind of faith, and intellectual understanding, that is “bare” and “empty.” It subscribes to mental propositions but doesn’t embrace and love Jesus, and in the final analysis it proves to be no faith at all.
Faith is shown as genuine when it is brought to completion by our actions.
The only proof of genuine faith, then, is fruitful faith – faith that perseveres and leads to a long-term bearing of fruit, a faith that leads to good works.
Faith is a many-splendored thing; it is a living, breathing, and pulsating reality. Yes, salvation is by faith alone, but faith is dynamic, energetic, and life-changing.
Now, could God in cutting-edge missionary situations grant miracles and signs and wonders to accredit the gospel as He did in apostolic times? Yes. But that’s not the same thing as having these gifts as a regular feature in the ongoing life of the church. If the signs and wonders of the apostles have returned, we should see the blind receiving their sight, the lame walking, and the dead being raised. God heals today (sometimes dramatically), but the healing of colds, the flu, TMJ, stomach, and back problems, and so forth aren’t in the same category as the healings found in the Scriptures. If people truly have the gift of healing and miracles today, they need to demonstrate such by performing the kinds of healings and miracles found in the Bible.
[The Apostles] gave us the authoritative teaching by which the church continues to live to this day, and that is the only teaching we will need until Jesus returns. We know that new apostles won’t appear since Paul specifically says he was the last apostle (1 Cor. 15:8). And when James the brother of John died (Acts 12:2), he wasn’t replaced. Apostles, in the technical sense, are restricted to those who have seen the risen Lord and have been commissioned by Him, and no one since apostolic times fits such criteria. The apostles were uniquely appointed for the early days of the church to establish orthodox doctrine. There is no warrant, then, for saying there are still apostles today. Indeed, if anyone claims to be an apostle today we should be concerned, for such a claim opens the door to false teaching and to abuse of authority.
Paul says the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets” (Eph. 2:20). I conclude that all we need to know for salvation and sanctification has been given to us through the teaching of the apostles and prophets, and that this teaching is now found in the Scriptures. Now that God has spoken in the last days through His Son (Heb. 1:2), we don’t need further words from Him to explain what Jesus Christ has accomplished in His ministry, death, and resurrection. Instead, we are “to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all” through the apostles and prophets (Jude 3).
Legalism has its origin in self-worship. If people are justified through their obedience to the law, then they must merit praise, honor, and glory. Legalism, in other words, means the glory goes to people rather than God.
Conversion occurs when sinners turn to God in repentance and faith for salvation. Paul describes the conversion of the Thessalonians, “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thes. 1:9). Sinners are converted when they repent of their sins and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, trusting in him for the forgiveness of their sins on the Day of Judgment.
We can become proud of our right theology but contradict the very theology that we hold dear by lack of love.
Regeneration means that one has been born again or born from above (Jn. 3:3, 5, 7, 8). The new birth is the work of God, so that all those who are born again are “born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:8). Or, as 1 Pet 1:3 says, it is God who “caused us to be born again to a living hope” (1 Pet 1:3). The means God uses to grant such new life is the gospel, for believers “have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23; cf. Jas. 1:18). Regeneration or being born again is a supernatural birth. Just as we cannot do anything to be born physically – it just happens to us! – so too we cannot do anything to cause our spiritual rebirth.
It is…tempting to appoint someone who is theologically brilliant and agrees with the doctrinal position of the church. But we need to remember that Paul especially stresses character qualifications for elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). We need elders who are theologically faithful and who live out the gospel in their everyday lives. We must not sacrifice the latter simply because the former is present, for the words of elders must accord with a godly life.
I think we also learn from this to be charitable towards different views. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind, at least if you can be. But we must distinguish between central issues of the faith and issues which aren’t central. Some people have a hard time doing that. Everything for them is of equal importance in the Bible. But that’s not true. There are some things that are non-negotiable in our faith. The Trinity is non-negotiable. The authority of Scripture is non-negotiable. The substitutionary atonement, justification by faith alone, the deity of Christ, and, of course, I could mention other things. But there are less clear matters in the Bible as well; things like when the rapture will take place and what we’re looking at today regarding the millennium. We must beware of being divisive, and schismatic, and inflexible on matters that are less important. That really shows, I think, a character flaw in us – something that God wants to work on in us.