Pristine Grace

Are You Just Pretending?
by Brandan Kraft
Are You Just Pretending?

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;  He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. - 1 Tim. 6:3-5

    Paul in this passage is talking about the proud conceited man that is using his knowledge for material gain.   And while we still have many of these types of preachers today, there are some that although they may not be seeking material gain, they do become proud of their knowledge and the prestige or honor they may find within this knowledge.  In fact some of them can appear quite convincing about their Gospel belief, but all the while they may truly be unbelievers.

    Having the ability to reproduce Gospel material, to defend it, to contend for it, does not make one a believer.  Anyone can study for an exam, take the exam, and pass the exam.  But is the material actually absorbed and believed?  I have studied for and passed many tests in college regarding material that I did not care about.  I passed many exams for physics, matrix algebra, calculus, and other advanced math subjects that I did not care to truly learn and love.  I simply studied for the exam and I passed the exam because that is what the academic path I was on required of me.  And after I passed the course, I conveniently forgot the course material because it was not meaningful to me.

    And remarkably, I've known men that have treated Gospel knowledge like this as well.  They learned the Gospel, studied the Gospel, debated Gospel positions, and even defended the Gospel.  They had a zeal that could not be denied!   But sadly, this Gospel which they loved to debate and defend, they quite simply did not believe.  And they evidenced their unbelief by eventually leaving the Gospel.   They studied the Gospel and they contended for it for the sake of appearance.  And when they no longer cared about their appearance, they revealed their true belief to me.  I've known a few folks that could shockingly articulate and contend for Gospel truth better than most, and yet today they are now avowed atheists!  

     And even today I know some men and women that appear to know so much about the Gospel but are prideful about it and I suspect to not truly believe that which they claim.  They are puffed-up.  They are conceited.  And a proud, puffed-up, conceited man has a strong desire to compete and debate (strifes of words).  Other fruits of this conceited man are as follows:  envystrife (dissension), railings (slander), evil surmisings (suspicions), perverse disputings (constant friction).  And this conceited man is never content with a simple childlike faith.  Nor can he tolerate differences in opinion.  The conceited man must continually fight and argue his way.  And he must always win and come out on top!  And he secretly and sometimes even publicly views those who disagree with him and his knowledge and opinions as inferior to him.

    One can have a knowledge of Gospel propositions and know them so well that they can pass a test.  Folks can appear to others as believers by confessing Christ.  But do they believe what it is they are saying?  Do they assent or agree with the propositional truth they boldly claim and contend for? If not, the truth is dead and meaningless to them because they are dead themselves.  Some might say they are holding to cold and dead orthodoxy.  Others might say they are just involved in an academic exercise.  Some folks will say they have a head knowledge and not a heart knowledge.  No matter what you call it, it's just plain old unbelief.  But this particular type of unbelief is particularly deceitful because it fools those around them.  Tares will grow up around the wheat.  And even tares themselves can and usually are deceived themselves with a false assurance.  An ability to articulate and contend for Gospel truth does not make one a believer.

    This type of unbelief is particularly scary to me.  It's a form of gnosticism because folks can have Gospel knowledge (gnosis) but not assent (assensus).  This is a mistake the gnostics made, and I believe this is the mistake my former friends made that left the Gospel.  They were in reality sovereign grace gnostics because they did not believe the Gospel knowledge they claimed.  

    Just because a preacher comes to you speaking the right things about the Gospel, it doesn't mean he's a believer.  Examine this person closely!  Examine their attitude, and their speech and their mannerisms.  The fruit of the conceited gospel preacher we've already discussed.   But the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (self control)!  (Gal 5:22-23).  And while men can mimick these things as well, there will be a measure of all of this fruit produced by God in all believers.

    Believers should not be elitists.  They are not more worthy than those with whom they disagree.  They shouldn't parade the truth like a bunch of know-it-alls to those that the Lord hasn't given this knowledge.  And they shouldn't browbeat those of another persuasion in order to be seen as victors in an online discussion.  But many sovereign grace believers do this every day.  Believers can and do get caught up in terribly sinful behavior!  But this behavior is also a hallmark of sovereign grace gnostics.  The sovereign grace gnostics indeed are elitists.  They do browbeat others that they disagree with.  They thirst to compete!  And they will argue and dispute vain things.  And then they want to be seen as victors in online arguments because they suppose this gain as godliness.  And Paul says here that we should withdraw ourselves from these types.  

    And I say this now not just as part of a doctrinal study, but I've also observed it with my own eyes amongst the Gospel Defenders that I knew that left the Gospel.  I remember them very well and they exhibited all of these behaviors.  Anthony and Michael were particularly close to me.   I was completely fooled by them, but I'm grateful for my experience the Lord gave me there!  And so I look at who they were and where they are now as unbelievers.  And then I look around at the men that exhibit these terrible behaviors today.  And then I look at myself.  And then I tremble.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.1 Corinthians 13:1-2, (KJV)

    The Holy Spirit will produce in His children knowledge of the truth.  And of course, He will give all of them a measure of faith.  But what is lacking in many today that come in the name of Christ is love.  Banging on the anti-arminian drum all day and browbeating those who have a disagreement with you is not love.  I've heard some say that telling the truth is love.  And that is true!  But it's not love if the primary motive is self glory.  Sometimes the person speaking truth is just a loud clanging cymbal that is hoping to be seen.   But believers will be different from the rest of the world.  God will put into their hearts a love for the truth, a love for their neighbor, and a love for the brethren.  If this love is missing in one's life, they probably are just a lifeless religionist that is clamoring for attention.  They are probably just using Gospel propositions to position themselves to be seen of men.  And they preach the cross so that they may hang their own glory from it so to speak.  Belief in the Gospel will produce peace, joy, and love.

    You may read this article and decide that I need to be rebuked for not phrasing something properly.  Maybe I didn't articulate saving faith properly, or misspoke about a passage of Scripture.  But ask yourself, are you deceiving yourself?   Do you really believe this Gospel you claim to defend, or are you just trying to fit in with the crowd?  Are you just pretending?