Let us return for a moment to the early days of the apostolic church. The church was faced with controversy on account of the doctrine of the Judaizers.
The Judaizers held to an orthodox Christology; they believed in the inspiration and authority of the scriptures; they asserted the abiding validity of the moral law of God. Moreover, professing Christians were greatly outnumbered, living in a pagan society with a government that was hostile to biblical values. Based upon the worldly wisdom of ECT, the apostle Paul should have displayed unity with the Judaizers in order to "Christianize" the Roman Empire.
Instead, the apostle vehemently opposed the Judaizers. Why? The Judaizers upheld Old Testament ordinances, saying, "Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). By making the ordinances into a work performed to obtain salvation, the Judaizers subverted the doctrine of salvation by grace. For that reason, the apostle exclaimed, "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:2-4).
In a parallel fashion, Catholicism has told its followers that "Except ye keep the doctrine and sacraments after the manner of Rome, ye cannot be saved." There is one notable difference: the Judaizers based their claim upon an erroneous understanding of scriptural ordinances, whereas Rome teaches its followers to rely upon a multitude of beliefs and practices which are nothing but "commandments and doctrines of men" (Col. 2:22; cf. Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:7).
Thus, to Roman Catholics who may read this publication, we call upon you to repent from any reliance upon Romish ordinances; for Christ will become of no effect to you if you resort to these ordinances as a basis for salvation. True salvation comes through resting in Christ alone; it is all of grace, or not at all. "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). The true people of God forsake all hope of salvation in any source but Christ alone.
Christians are also commanded to forsake idolatry. That is a principal reason why repentant sinners must leave Rome. The worship of Roman Catholicism is, in large measure, institutionalized superstition and idolatry; and believers must flee from the presence of such corrupt worship. "What concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:15-18).
To evangelicals who read this booklet, we offer a solemn warning. You may hold to an orthodox Christology, the inspiration of the scriptures, a biblical morality: and yet, even with all these convictions, you still may be in need of salvation.
If you are resting your assurance of salvation upon your "decision;" if you think that your "free will" or "accepting Christ" produced the new birth within you; then you are deceived you are no better off than a Judaizer or a Romanist. You have made your "decision" into a work, and subverted the doctrine of salvation by grace.
We showed earlier that faith is merely the instrument, not the ground of salvation. Sadly, we have seen multitudes among evangelicals who have distorted the role of faith, or redefined the term faith so as to nullify its biblical meaning. To any who are subject to such "evangelical" delusions regarding faith, we cry again, "Repent." Come to Christ in genuine faith, resting in him alone, as he is offered in the gospel. "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31).
To any evangelicals who have signed or supported the ECT accord, we have but one thing to say: Repent! The ECT document was bad enough. But, quite frankly, we find some of the rationale offered for its support as troubling (or more so) than the accord itself. The apostle Paul is emphatic, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." Hey! in case you missed the point, the apostle repeats it again in the next verse: "As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8-9).
In light of the apostle's admonition and in view of Rome's perversion of the gospel it is absolutely inexcusable for any professing Protestant to lend support to the ECT document, which speaks of a common mission with Rome. Those who are leaders among the people bear a special responsibility in this regard: "My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation [judgment]" (James 3:1).
We have a particular concern for those who profess to be Reformed in their theology. For too long the Reformed community has winked at the heresies of the broader evangelical community; now the ECT accord has presented a new level of toleration. The apostle's rebuke to the Corinthians is entirely appropriate for the present climate of toleration in Reformed churches: "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him" (2 Cor. 11:3-4).
It is past time for Reformed Protestants to face up to the sin of ungodly toleration. We have tolerated the false gospels, the false Christs, and the false worship of the broader evangelical community. Some "Reformed" denominations have openly embraced the Pelagian evangelistic methodology and the will-worship of evangelicalism. "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works: or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" (Rev. 2:5).
Living in an era of religious pluralism, we are too apt to forget that heresy is a form of moral corruption; it is classed among "works of the flesh" along with adultery, fornication, uncleanness, idolatry, witchcraft, murder, and drunkenness (Gal. 5:19-21). That's how the Lord views heresy. And thus heresy is dangerous to our souls; there are heresies which are "damnable" in their nature (2 Pet. 2:1).
The issues which fostered the Protestant Reformation are not simply matters for academic debate. They are great and eternal matters respecting the way of salvation and the proper worship of God.
Footnotes for Chapter 7
1. For example, see J. I. Packer's defensive article, "Why I Signed It," Christianity Today, December 12, 1994 (vol. 38, no. 14), pp. 34-37. Packer has the audacity to say that "differences about salvation and the church should not hinder them [evangelicals and Roman Catholics] from joint action to re-Christianize the North American milieu." Quite frankly, we are skeptical that society can be truly "Christianized" apart from a proper view of salvation and the church.
Packer goes on to laud joint "mission ventures that involve evangelicals and Catholics side by side." He cites examples, including "Billy Graham's cooperative evangelism, in which all the churches in an area, of whatever stripe, are invited to share." He also mentions, "charismatic get-togethers, some of them one-off, some of them regular, and some of them huge, where the distinction between Protestant and Catholic vanish in a Christ-centered unity of experience." These items which Packer views as positive developments we regard as ominous signs of the apostasy of our times. In chapter 2 above, we noted the heretical nature of Graham's decisionalism; and the participation of Roman Catholics in the "follow-up" to a Graham crusade only confirms our opinion that these rallies are fatally flawed. Space does not permit us to provide an analysis of the charismatic movement; but we emphatically deny that the emotional atmosphere of these "get-togethers" should be labelled a "Christ-centered unity of experience."
2. Church leaders who signed the ECT document should not be exempt from criticism, regardless of their stature as churchmen. After all the apostle Paul says, "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear" (1Tim. 5:20).
One of the biggest supporters of ECT is Charles Colson. For a succinct analysis of Colson's theology, see "The Counterfeit Faith of Charles Colson," by John W. Robbins; published in The Trinity Review, January and February 1994 (P.O. Box 1666, Hobbs, N.M. 88240).
Copyright ©1995 by Kevin Reed