19 Nov 2003

Preaching Christ versus preaching oneself

Submitted by theshovel
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I was reading your writing in “NT uses of the word, hell” and was wondering if you would mind elaborating on these particular statements contained in that writing.Anonymous - “S”

I had written in that article:

This is the description of those who find freedom from some vice or some evil and then become experts and divine authorities regarding the particular freedom they have achieved. From their own experience of having escaped the defilements of the world they begin to promise this same freedom to others, demanding that it is the true freedom of The Lord Jesus Christ. This is nothing more than a Christianized law-man.

You see, I found freedom from the vice or evil of alcoholism. I do not assert that I am a divine authority regarding the freedom that I have “received” (not achieved) but I do believe that I can pass along the good news, which is the power of God for the salvation of those who believe. This salvation is not limited to being saved from alcoholism but it does include it. I do not promise this freedom to others because only God can free them by grace through faith. But certainly I was freed by hearing and believing the truth about what God has done for me through Jesus Christ. And the same good news that was God’s power to save me is God’s power to save others who believe. I certainly do not perceive myself as a Christianized law man. I do not live by law (I tried before but finally accepted my inability to do so). The law is the power of sin, it arouses our sinful passions & it kills as surely as it nearly literally killed me when I believed I was under it. Now I live by faith in Jesus. He’s the only person who ever successfully lived the christian life & now he lives in me. I rely totally on Him for everything (including my continued freedom from alcoholism & even my continued reliance on Him). I’m writing about what you’ve written here because I somewhat saw myself in what you wrote & it’s one of those writings that we don’t want to see ourselves in. Anonymous - “S”

Hello S!

My comments are not meant to suggest that there is not a real freedom in Christ from things like alcoholism — because there truly is — but that those without the Spirit must latch onto some form of external freedom to validate their authority as teachers. That is the matter that Peter was addressing in his letter, for it was those who were preaching themselves that ended up as the “dog returning to its own vomit”. Here is that passage:

For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:18-22

Consider Paul’s distinction:

For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 2 Corinthians 4:5

If you really pay attention to the flow of that whole letter it will begin to stick out more and more how there were many such men who were supposedly preaching Christ but were in fact preaching another Jesus and a different Spirit and a different gospel (2 Corinthians 13). The bottom-line, after you get all the religious crap out of the way is exactly as Paul stated: they were only preaching themselves under the guise of preaching the gospel.

For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. 2 Corinthians 10:12

These are the same kind of men Peter spoke of in his letter. And for what reason … to scare the believers into thinking they would lose Christ if they faltered? No way!! They wanted to highlight the only true reality behind life and freedom: CHRIST. The reason for Peter and Paul in making such a heavy emphasis on this fact is that those who preach themselves will use any means to remove the sense of confidence that was built upon the miraculous work of the Spirit of Christ. Why? Because they themselves had no such confidence since their professed confidence hung so delicately upon their own ability. Listen to this statement by Paul:

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4

By the way, the KJV seems to present a simpler concept of the mentioned “simplicity” by translating it “the simplicity that is in Christ”. Paul preached Christ, and such a message does not appeal to the flesh as it gives it no room for boasting, but those who preach their own merits in connection to the salvation they speak of only intertwine the boastable freedom so that it becomes something upon which to stand because it most certainly appeals to the flesh.

And here these believers were tolerating those who only wanted to enslave them to their own form of salvation. Paul got right into the faces of these believers telling them that if they needed a flesh comparison to get the point he would give it to them!

Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. 2 Corinthians 11:18-20

Of course, as Paul went on with his fleshly boasting it only ended up revealing his total weakness because in having been given such a great revelation of God’s grace he had been made a spectacle to the world, one who would be insulted and scoffed at by those who APPEARED to be glorious spokesmen for God.

Consider the many religious institutions that do nothing more than harp on sin and/or vice while telling their listeners that if they can only give this particular thing up then they can be saved by the Lord Jesus Christ. This is so very common in many religious institutions that perhaps a majority of the professing Christian population believes their salvation consists of their ability to have given up a particular vice (or at least their continued attempt to do so). And then you have those who never fell into the particular vices preached about from the pulpit so that they assume that having kept themselves free of such things proves how saved they must be.

The irony behind all this is that those who stand upon a freedom that is built on their own doing (in the name of Jesus, of course!) is that they would only become more self-righteous by the very thing that caused you to wonder about your own experience. But what you wrote only expresses a heart that has truly been freed by Christ.

Love, Jim


than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:18-22 I guess the part that always threw me off the most is the ‘turning away’ form the ‘Holy commandment’ delivered TO THEM. I always have to ask: ” what Holy commandment’?[the Gospel?] Was it delivered ‘to them’? Aren’t they doing all the ‘delivering’ if they are the ones teaching? Just a few questions I had about that one. By the way I absolutely see [through my own experience] what you are saying in this post…it is wonderful to see someone pointing this out. I am proud of that in you! Adam
theshovel's picture

[quote]I guess the part that always threw me off the most is the 'turning away' form the 'Holy commandment' delivered TO THEM.[/quote]

Hello Adam :)

You have to put yourself in their shoes to catch the sense of this. After all, where would the believers have been hearing such things, if not from the false teachers themselves. Remember your own experiences with preachers where all throughout their sermons and Bible studies and counseling sessions you might hear their own claims of having received their message from God himself. How often have you heard phrases such as, "the Lord told me", "God gave me this message", "God spoke to me", etc.? I can easily hear the claim repeated over and over again, "God delivered this most Holy Commandment to me!" as they mixed their own desires into the words they gave to the people. Peter would have written to them within the framework by which they heard these words when he demanded how they turned away from that which had been delivered to them.


Ah I see…I also found it interesting that he uses holy ‘COMMANDMENT’ and not the Gospel. Any relation there possibly to the law?
theshovel's picture

Perhaps the "Holy Commandment" might have something to do with what Jesus told his disciples:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

I suspect that the use of "Holy Commandment" carried more authoritative weight, and I imagine that would be the way they presented themselves. Some of these false teachers may have received some kind of ordination, only to later show their true colors. Maybe they had been recommended by another group. Consider this statement to the Corinthians:

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? 2 Corinthians 3:1

It's obvious that Paul didn't think much of the commendation system by which men validated each other.


what’s even more fascinating is the fact that Paul mentions that the Corinthians thought of themselves as worthy to be sending out commendation to others.

Man, this is the sort of stuff I used to ponder in view of freedom..but then it just became too risky. For just when I was getting confident..someone would come along and drop a word of warning : “though shall not add or subtract from scripture”…. kept me bound for many years…

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Random Shovelquote: Asking God to remove your sin (view all shovelquotes)

Now, if any of you are hearing this with the spirit of condemnation hanging over your head, it’s only because you’re trying to hold on to two radically different propositions at the same time. It’s like trying to travel east and west simultaneously. But trying to do the one while believing we are still doing the other is the very thing that leaves us confused and paralyzed. You see, asking God to help you to remove your sin is built upon the assumption that Jesus Christ hasn’t already done it. source