If You’re a Christian Leader, You Should Have a Target on Your Back By Dr.…
Back to Biblical Basics – Part 1
By T. A. McMahon
Biblical basics: why are they so important to revisit?
First and foremost, if I don’t know the fundamentals of what I claim to believe, I can’t live it out in truth. I can’t understand it, nor can I teach it or share it.
Men who are biblical Christians, Scripture declares, are to be the spiritual heads of our households (Ephesians 5:22-23). This means that we are to teach our wives and children what the Word of God says.
If I don’t know the fundamentals of the faith, I can’t teach the faith with any sense of accuracy. If what I’m sharing is not accurate, then it’s not the faith that Jude tells us was “once for all delivered unto the saints.”
Knowing the fundamentals, therefore, is critical in just about every area of life. How so? Let’s begin with mathematics.
Suppose I were to come up with an investment deal that I say is guaranteed to make you rich. My secret is based upon my unique mathematical formula: 2 plus 2 equals 5!
While that may improve my income (through those who fall for it), that fundamental error will certainly not enrich anyone enticed by it.
It’s interesting that when sports teams, including those that are at the highest skill level and performance, have a bye week during their season (which is usually a week off before having to play their next opponent), their practices rarely focus on clever new plays or strategies but rather on returning to the fundamentals of their sport.
The reason for this is because an athlete’s most skilled performance is best attained when his or her fundamentals are correct, and those can get sloppy or diminish throughout a season of competition.
Making sure one’s fundamentals are correct is a good thing in sports, but it’s even more important in one’s walk as a biblical Christian. The fundamentals are simply the essential truths and practices that God has communicated to us in His Word, the Bible, to which we must hold fast.
The letter to the Hebrews gives us a sober warning: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (2:1).
Peter, knowing that his death was near, exhorted his brothers and sisters in Christ to keep in mind and in practice what they had been taught: “I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour” (2 Peter 3:1-2).
Biblical fundamentals make clear the simple yet vital truths of Scripture in our day of widespread deception, and we need to be continually reminded about them. Furthermore, they also supply what Jesus has done on our behalf…and how profound those things truly are.
In the 1920s and ’30s Christianity in the US was far less complicated than it is today, at least superficially. The spiritual battle back then was said to be between the fundamentalists and the modernists.
The modernists rejected—or at least compromised—the basic tenets of biblical Christianity, such as the authority of Scripture, its inerrancy, and salvation by faith alone in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in full payment for the sins of all mankind.
Since that time, the errors among Christians have, like leaven, worked their way through the entire loaf of Christianity. They have increased exponentially today to the extent that describing yourself as an evangelical Christian is next to meaningless, and worse.
No one can tell you what being an evangelical stands for because of the mixed beliefs held by those who call themselves evangelicals.
For example, one of the major evangelical magazines, Christianity Today, was started in the mid-1950s by Billy Graham, who at that time was known as a fundamentalist. If you are a subscriber, I recommend that you cancel your subscription and throw your back issues in the nearest dumpster.
For the last two decades, I have been referring to the so-called evangelical magazine as Anti-Christianity Today. Why would I do that?
Because it has promoted nearly every heresy and false practice that has come into the church over the last half-century. And Billy Graham has to take the blame for most of it, being the one who started it off.
Graham initially was regarded as a fundamentalist, as I mentioned. But before too long, fundamentalism was looked upon as narrowmindedness and exclusionary by the modernists.
For example, in the 1940s, Graham stated that the chief evils in the world at that time were Communism, Muhammadanism, and Roman Catholicism. No argument there.
Then, in the 1950s, for a number of reasons, he did not want to be called a fundamentalist, especially with its exhortation to separate oneself from those promoting teachings contrary to biblical truth. There was also the increasing accusation that fundamentalism was built upon ignorance and bigotry.
In the spirit of ecumenism, he turned to the Catholic Church for support for his crusades, which was exemplified by his having Catholic priests and nuns as crusade counselors. Catholics who came forward because of Graham’s invitation to receive Jesus for their salvation were encouraged by the Catholic counselors to return to their local Catholic church!
Mr. Graham has stated in numerous interviews that he saw no significant theological differences between his “good friend” Pope John Paul II and himself.
The litany of Billy Graham’s denials of the fundamentals of biblical doctrine are shocking, to say the least. He received the Templeton Financial Award for Progress in Religion from the founder, the late John Marks Templeton, whose stated goal was to transform all the religions of the world into a one-world religion. That, of course, would be the occult religion of the Antichrist.
Graham ultimately rejected biblical creation in favor of theistic evolution. He said he wasn’t sure whether or not the flood of Genesis was a global event.
When asked if there would be sex in heaven, he replied that there would be if it were important to our happiness! No. That clearly contradicts what the Bible teaches (Matthew 22:30).
Sadly, I could go on and on regarding Billy Graham’s flight from sound biblical doctrine, which only increased throughout his lifetime.
In preparing this message and running it by some folks I respect, a few were concerned that it might be viewed as denigrating a man regarded as an American icon of evangelization. I have no doubt that many people were saved through the Billy Graham crusades when the biblical gospel was preached by him and others.
At the same time, there is no doubt that Graham was a prime example of ecumenicalism, which is the acceptance of various religions and religious beliefs that are not scriptural and which, in fact, undermine biblical truth.
It was also suggested to me that since Billy Graham is no longer living, he ceases to be influential among this generation, especially the youth of today, and therefore, why mention him? That is an approach I usually follow unless the false teachings of the deceased continue to be promoted, as in Billy Graham’s case.
Lou Engle, a false teacher and prophet of the Healing and Prosperity movement and one of the leaders of The Send (a gathering that brought 50,000 young people together to a stadium in Orlando, Florida), declared that the movement was fostered by the mantle of Billy Graham, which Engle said would fall upon the nation right after Graham’s death.
This message simply points to Billy Graham as one example, albeit an important one, of what will naturally take place when anyone drifts away from sound biblical doctrine, which is what the Bible prophesies will take place as the Lord’s return draws near.
Second Timothy chapter 4 warns us that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” Who can reasonably deny that we are in such a time?
What can be done about it? How about ascertaining that we ourselves have not slipped away from the basics, the fundamentals of the faith?
It seems like a simple solution, right? Well, yes and no.
Yes, for some—but not so simple for others. One’s answer is dependent upon the believer’s maturity as a Christian, his or her knowledge of the Word of God, and one’s walk with the Lord.
Where those things are lacking, building or restoring them is certainly achievable, but it may take some doing. However, in any case, the solution I’m recommending is this: Let’s get back to the basics of biblical faith.
And I mean the very basics, as you’ll see in the two I’m addressing in this and the following article.
Certainly, the gospel is right at the top of the list. In Acts 16:30, the Philippian jailer asked a very basic question that every true Christian must be able to answer: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The response of the Apostle Paul and his associates was this: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Although the above discourse is given in the Book of Acts, it lacks the details that explain what it means to “be saved” and “to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” These details, nevertheless, are provided throughout the Word of God.
Saved from what? Believe what regarding our Lord Jesus Christ? Also, who is the gospel for? Why is it critical? How is it received? What exactly is received? Can salvation, once received, be lost?
Again, the answers to these fundamental questions are found and explained throughout the Scriptures.
You men who are believers, can you answer these questions? You men who are the spiritual heads of your household, can you, and have you, taught your family members the answers?
On a side note to this, if you know the answers, have you ever considered asking each family member those questions? If you can’t readily communicate the answers, you are not living up to the responsibility in which God has placed you.
If you are well aware of the answers, my suggestion is that you have a private one-on-one meeting with each family member and ask each one to give you his or her understanding of what constitutes the biblical gospel.
Why privately? This will prevent family members from simply copying and repeating what another member has articulated rather than each one giving his or her own understanding.
Whether or not the individual believes the biblical gospel is a matter of each one’s heart’s commitment. What will be made clear by questioning family members is each one’s own knowledge of the gospel, something that is critical when it comes to one’s personal acceptance or rejection of it.
Although I just referred to the responsibility of men as the spiritual heads of their households, women have their own responsibilities as teachers (Titus 2:3-4), as was exemplified by Timothy’s mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1:5).
Scripture commands believers to know what we believe and why we believe it. This begins with our understanding of the gospel regarding our own salvation and is absolutely necessary in order for us to share it with others.
First Peter 3:15 instructs us: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
I hope every believer rejoices at the opportunities God provides when an unbeliever — r even a believer young in the faith or one who is ill-informed regarding biblical truth — asks “a reason of the hope that is in you.”
Sadly, even for many true believers, that opportunity is lost because the reasons amply supplied by God’s Word are not given. Instead, too often, when a response is given, it is not based upon “the faith” (Jude 3) but rather on responses steeped in human emotions and subjective information that requires a leap of faith rather than faith that has been verified by the content of Scripture.
Dave Hunt addressed the erroneous idea that reason undermines biblical faith in one of TBC’s Q & As. To the questioner, he responded, “You are struggling with a serious misunderstanding that has brought multitudes throughout history into religious bondage.”
“The Bible puts belief and faith on an equal footing, with no difference between them. Common sense itself and a little reflection will tell you that faith must have as sure a factual foundation as belief. Faith is not a leap in the dark. Furthermore, faith in God and His Word, because it involves eternal matters, is far more important than belief about things of this life.”
“Faith, therefore, ought to have an even more solid basis than mere belief. One may be willing to allow some uncertainty in earthly matters, but only a fool would be comfortable with even the smallest degree of doubt in things that affect him eternally. No wonder the great Apostle Paul wrote, “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).”
“Luke tells us that during the 40 days Jesus spent with His disciples after His resurrection, He ‘showed himself alive…by many infallible proofs’ (Acts 1:3). Clearly, Christ did not consider it enough merely to show Himself to His disciples without providing irrefutable evidence of His resurrection.
“He considered it both legitimate and essential to prove that He was the very same One who had been crucified and that He had risen from the dead in the same body (but now in a new and glorious form) that had been placed lifeless in the grave.”
“‘Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself,’ Christ told the shocked disciples the first time He came to them after His resurrection. ‘Handle me and see, for a spirit [ghost] hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have’ (Luke 24:39).
“They had thought they were seeing a ghost, but He proved otherwise to them. To doubting Thomas, who had not been present on this first occasion, Christ declared later: ‘Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side…’ (John 20:27). Here was irrefutable, tangible evidence.”
“It is only common sense that strict proof should be demanded before making a commitment or an investment in this life. How much more important, then, to be absolutely certain, based upon solid proof, before accepting by faith those things which affect one’s eternal destiny. True ‘faith,’ can only be founded upon fact—not upon feelings, intuition, or emotion. Much less does faith arise out of blind submission to some religious authority.”
The gospel therefore must be understood in order to be received—in order for a person to be saved. That is basic to biblical Christianity.
Yet there is a fundamental aspect of the gospel for every believer who commits himself to it, which too few recognize and emphasize in their lives. It is the first and great commandment. That will be the focus of part two in this series.