First Thessalonians 1

“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 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, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 1 (ESV)

Side NOTE: The background for the first Epistle to the Thessalonians, from Scripture, seems to be in Acts 17:1-9. And based upon that portion of Acts, and Paul’s usage of the plural in the last sentence of verse 5 (and some brief internet searches) it seems that “Silvanus” named above may very likely be “Silas” from the book of Acts. As I do not yet read the original Greek fluently, I’ll leave that observation there for what it is.

It is interesting how Paul is always about thanking God for the saints whom he knows and knows of. And it is encouraging and/or useful (I think) that his thankfulness often stems from a very practical/personal interaction element of how he came to know or be with the group his Epistle is written to. In the case of the Thessalonians he remembers broadly their “work of faith,” “labor of love,” and “steadfastness of hope in Jesus Christ.” And from the account given to us in Acts 17, these aspects of the Thessalonians may be all the more intense for Paul due to the relatively small group that were initially saved there and subsequently persecuted by the Jews.

The second thing that jumps out at me in the beginning of this Epistle is Paul’s persistent consistency in using language that puts the impetus on God in the matter of salvation. Although he does not go into the depth he did in the Epistle to the Ephesians, it is undeniable that Paul believes God chose the particular Thessalonians who believed.

Now, my soteriologically synergistic brethren may be a little agitated at such an observation, however, verse 4 is quite clear. Paul thanks God for the Church at Thessalonica because he knows that they, being loved by God, were chosen by God. And Paul knows this for one reason that is threefold; because the gospel came to them “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

It seems to me that Paul is using Hebrew parallelism in describing his assurance about God’s choosing and saving the Thessalonians – for where does the “power” of the gospel come from but the working of the Spirit to “fully convict” those whom God has chosen for salvation?

And then Paul reminds his readers of “what kind of men” he and Silvanus “proved to be” among them for their sake. It seems here in the latter half of verse 5 that Paul inserts the beginnings of what is an underlying theme of both the Epistles that he wrote to the Thessalonians; and that is something of a Christian “work ethic” or “code of conduct” – if you will. Though this only becomes blatant in 2 Thessalonians (some of them apparently having missed that point) – I do not think it a stretch to see a little of that reasoning in the things that Paul will bring up later in this Epistle.

However, the primary and actual point of Paul mentioning what kind of men he and his companion proved to be was to continue to commend the Thessalonians – and further the list of things he is thanking and “remembering” before God – for their having been imitators of them “and the Lord.”

And in what way does Paul describe them as imitators of Christ? In their receiving the gospel in “much affliction,” being granted joy by the Holy Spirit because of that word and in spite of the affliction – and in so doing being made an example to other believers in nearby regions. And not only a living example, but proclaimers of the gospel of Christ – evidenced from Paul having heard that their “faith in God has gone forth everywhere,” (verse 8).

And subsequently Paul thanks God and encouraged the Thessalonians by including verses 9 and 10. Making it a perfect transition into the underlying themes of both Epistles to the Thessalonians – that of Christian living and the Eschaton.

It will be interesting to see – as we pick up “chapter 2” – how Paul continues with this personal address as he also weaves in teaching and recollections of imitation-worthy examples for how we as Christians should act and think…

For now, I encourage the reader to walk through the entirety of the Epistle in their own private study, and hope my observations have been at least interesting, if not entirely “helpful.”

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Scriptural Examination of the Use of “if the Lord wills” in Prayer

I have heard – far more often than I’d care to admit – so many wolves in sheep’s clothing discourage their followers from using some form of “if it be your will” in their prayers to God.

I would submit to the reader the idea that it is NEVER permissible to discourage anyone from praying “if it is the LORD’s will.”

Now, the reason I put forth this idea is that I believe Scripture teaches the seeking of God’s will over and above our own in our prayers and day to day actions.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” ~ James 4:13-17 (ESV) (I would encourage the reader to also investigate the context of this passage; chapters 4 & 5… better yet read the entire Epistle of James)

The passage above is located in the greater context of rebuking “worldliness” among the people of God, but James’ specific idea follows the thought of the Psalmist (Psalm 39:5 & 62:9) that men are about as substantial as smoke or a thin mist – in the grand scheme of things the individual means next to nothing. Therefore, how arrogant is it for someone to assume they know how their lives will go or even how to make their lives go that way? Especially when they cannot possibly know the minute specifics of the Will of God in their lives? Thus, as God fearing worshippers, we should acknowledge and submit to the overarching and/or specific Will of God in our obedient stewardship of our own lives.
Another interesting thing that James points out here (like Solomon: Proverbs 19:21) is the fact that – regardless of all a person’s plans or thoughts – only the Lord’s Will and plans will ultimately be established, and James explicitly states that we do not necessarily know the specifics of that Will or “plan.”

An account in the Old Testament has a similar idea buried in the worldview of it’s three Jewish characters. In Daniel 3 Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath is incited again Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (a.k.a. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego respectively) for their refusal to worship the golden image he had made. When Nebuchadnezzar confronts them and threatens to throw them in a “burning fiery furnace” if they do not worship his image, this is what Scripture records as their response:

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” ~ Daniel 3:16-18 (ESV)

I’m sure the reader has noted where my previous assumption is shared by Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but for the sake of filling out my argument I will point the reader’s particular attention to verse 18. Specifically the phrase “but if not.” These men would not have said the things they did if they did not have a properly balanced theology of God’s choices when it comes to how He works out His own sovereignty. They knew that God was ABLE to deliver them from the fiery furnace specifically, and they knew that God WOULD deliver them out of the king’s hands ultimately, but they DID NOT know whether God would deliver them in both or just one of those ways.

There is a big deference between trusting in God’s ultimate faithfulness and mercy on behalf of His people, and presuming upon God for the specific ways in which He “must” carry out those qualities. A very big difference, indeed.

Lest there should be any possibility of my making more of something than is warranted by two passages of Scripture (though I believe what I have offered is more than sufficient to prove my case), let us examine another individual who obviously understood how to speak and think about his life in light of God’s ultimate say in the course of events.

“But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power.” 1 Corinthians 4:19 (NASB)

“…but taking leave of them and saying, “I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus.” ~ Acts 18:21 (NASB)

These examples (and more that can be found throughout his epistles) are spoken by the apostle Paul. It is clear by Paul’s references to God’s will and the theology he teaches in the epistles that he believes (and even seems to just assume it without needing to argue for the point) that disciples of Christ are never CERTAIN of the exact (i.e. specific and down to the minute details) will or plan of God in any given situation. What Paul often gives the Church as certainties are God’s mercy and grace in the salvation, justification, and sanctification of the saints; His ultimately meeting out justice at the Judgement; and other such general tenets of the Christian Religion or of the character and/or attributes of God. (See Romans, 1 Thessalonians, Ephesians, etc…)

There is another person who gives us this example, however, and I am sure you already know who he is.

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “my soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” ~ Matthew 26:36-39 (ESV) {for parallels see Mark 14:32-42 & Luke 22:39-46}

Now, the accounts of our Lord’s travails in Gethsemane are amazingly deep and rich portions of Scripture, and I pray the reader will excuse my shallow look at these Scriptures for the sake of my thesis – as it is far from the meat of the particular passage at which I am currently pointing. But I do not think I do the Lord any injustice when I look to His prayers for examples of how I should pray – after all, would He not prove to be the best exemplar of his own teaching? (Matthew 6:9-13)

The fact that I am not looking to the primary intent of the author in recording these words for us aside, notice Jesus’ words: “…nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Repeated in different forms twice more according to later verses)

My point? If the sinless, righteous, perfect Son of God; who knew/knows what was coming with greater clarity and detail than we could imagine; who had/has a more intimate relationship with and knowledge of the Father than we will EVER have; and would feel/felt with agony in the full force of the weakness of His humanity (and endured only because of the strength and perfection of His divinity) the Wrath of God against the sins of His people… if the blessed Christ included a caveat like ‘if it be your will’ in the very prayers that are recorded for us right before his being handed over for crucifixion – how dare any of us even think such a thing is inadvisable?

Again, I hope the reader can excuse my shallow examination of the example given us in a few words spoken by our Lord in one of His darkest hours, but I also hope and pray that you can see the validity of my observations.

Now, the anti-Biblical group I mentioned at the start (i.e. those who discourage people from praying “if it be your will, Lord”) generally only make their heretical statements when speaking in the context of praying for healing.

I spent the other night discussing this with my wife and wondered about this detail. As we talked I pinned down a few things that I think cause even those who seem to be more orthodox in “charismatic” circles to say such things.

The first and primary idea I concluded would cause this is a presupposition; namely “it is ALWAYS God’s will to heal.”
Now obviously if we take into consideration eschatology, any orthodox Christian could agree that the Lord does ultimately plan and desire our complete restoration and “healing.”
The difficulty is what most charismatics actually mean by the statement – and that is that “it is ALWAYS God’s will to heal supernaturally/miraculously in the exact moment a prayer is prayed and in the exact way the prayer is meant.”

Side NOTE: before going further, I want to acknowledge that this assumption is in fact quite huge and complicated, having many aspects; such as how one defines faith, how one is to “act in faith;” and many such other things. But to properly address the idea in its fullest would require far more words than I have to give at this time. So I shall merely be sharing the essence of the conversation my wife and I had the other evening.

As I’m sure the reader has already anticipated, I will say that it is a borderline arrogant, presumption upon God – without any Scriptural basis – to think you know exactly how God feels about or intends to act upon our prayers for the physically ill, handicapped, and/or infirm.

Side NOTE: notice I have said nothing to discourage prayer for the sick – I am assuming any disciple of Christ reading this will take it for granted that we are supposed to pray for them (just as we pray for all those we serve and care for), and even specifically request that God relieve them of whatever malady they might be suffering under.

The connection to this assumption about miraculous physical healing and discouraging believers from using the language of Jesus, Paul, James, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azaraiah in their prayers for healing, I think can be explained in part by a wrong understanding of (or possibly just emphasis upon) an idea most fully articulated by James in James 1:5-8 — but was also taught in many of the places where Jesus tells us we should not doubt God when we pray.

Side NOTE: my wife pointed out that James was specifically talking about requesting wisdom from God, and so that passage has a more narrow application and interpretation intended than Jesus’ statements.

Now as I came to this concept of doubt in the particular area of requesting miraculous physical healing from God, I concluded that perhaps some of the more orthodox people I have heard say we shouldn’t pray “if the Lord wills” because it displays doubt.

My answer to that misconception is twofold;
1) even if a Christian has some form of doubt when it comes to what he is praying for – and BECAUSE of that doubt he concludes with “nevertheless, not my will, but yours” – I do not think it wise to discourage this brother from his chosen phrasing simply because a: if he is requesting something God desires him to have, it will be given whether he is COMPLETELY doubt free or not (Mark 9:14-29… verse 24 I believe is specifically relevant), b: he could have experienced that doubt because he has requested something that is outside of God’s will and the Spirit has pricked his conscience on the matter, and c: if his doubt is going to affect the answer to his pray, leaving out such a sentiment will not change the consequences of his doubt…
2) If using this language necessarily implies some form of unbelieving doubt, then what are we to make of Jesus, the apostles, the men of God in the Old Testament, and the writers of Scripture themselves? There is nothing in Scripture that implies a follower of Jesus cannot be fully confident in the condescension, provision, mercy, and faithfulness of God in his prayer, and yet not know whether what he is praying for is within the particular, specific plan of God and thus he leaves God the room He is owed in the very prayer itself to answer in a way that is not anticipated by the nature of the specific request.

So, all of that to say, I would warn the reader to pause and be wary of someone who says anything negative about praying “if it is the Lord’s will” – because that person has not thought out their position, at best. Or they have an underdeveloped view of God and His interaction with His creation and a wrong view of man and prayer at worst.

“Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” ~ Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)

May the LORD be praised, for He is worthy.

Believer’s authority – Part 1

A critical examination of the doctrine of “the believer’s authority” as taught by Kenneth Hagin in his book of the same title.

Kenneth E Hagin is often referred to as the father of the “Word of Faith” movement – a particular brand of the ‘health and wealth’ or ‘prosperity’ “gospel” – and I would submit to the reader that his definitive manifesto, if you will, was “The Believer’s Authority.”

If not in all cases, it is certainly within my personal experience with “Faith” people that the doctrines espoused within Hagin’s book are key and essential to these people’s very religion.

And so, in providing this examination and criticism of the book, I hope to prevent others from falling into the “Word of Faith” trap, and perhaps offer a light to help those who are already adherents a way out of that cloud and mire.

First, before addressing specific passages of Scripture quoted and statements made in the book, the reader must understand that, like all authors, there are a very many assumptions and presuppositions within what Hagin wrote. In reading anything – even my own words here – I urge the reader to think critically about the content of words and utilize what ever learning they have and resources at their disposal to test what they read. Just because someone makes a statement using a quote from something before it and then using similar language, does not mean their argument stems from or is consistent with what they quoted.

Secondly, if a teacher encourages verbal repetition and memorization or adjustment of a portion of Scripture with no emphasis toward critical thinking and study, be very wary of that teacher. For instance, in the first chapter (page 11) of the “Believer’s Authority” Hagin tells about how he “personalized” the prayers of Paul in Ephesians 1:16-20 & 3:14-19 to “pray” them for himself over and over again – and encourages the reader to do so, without giving any Scriptural basis or reason for doing so… I might point out that the words of our Lord in Matthew 6:7 came to mind as I read this account and suggestion.

Finally the reader should always have this question as a base to examine an idea that is presented to them: is the focus and goal of this idea to glorify God, or to puff up mankind?

And with that we shall begin the Foreword of “the Believer’s Authority” (I am using a PDF of the book that I found online – according to the file it is the “Second Edition – Twenty-Second Printing 1996. ISBN 0-89276-406-6”

The Assumptions of the Foreword

Right from the outset, Hagin gives us the unorthodox and man-centered assumption that he presumably will prove throughout the course of the book; that is that “believers” have some form of undefined, supernatural “authority” given them to use on earth, a power of which they have been failing to take advantage.

He gives us this assumption clearly not only in the foreword of the book, but in the very first sentence; “Back in the 1940s, I asked myself the question, “Do we have authority that we don’t know about – that we haven’t discovered – that we’re not using?””

May I suggest to the reader that this is never how you should approach the Religion of God? Starting with a question that didn’t even come from Holy Writ is dangerous territory to dabble in – the Scriptures should never be approached with a presupposing request for information on a topic it may very well never address.

Now the concept of “authority” is addressed in the Bible, but again, that doesn’t mean we approach the text with a question that presupposes something, because that opens the door to a plethora of misinterpretations.

Which leads to my next thought on the Foreword. Hagin then mentions that he did “word studies” on “power” and “authority,” another questionable and ill-advised tactic that often ends in the “studier” just finding the answers their question assumes – especially when they have no grounding in or understanding of the cultures or languages the original manuscripts of the Scriptures were written in.

In short, the assumptions of Hagin’s book are clear and manifest in the Foreword. The reader’s first questions should be, “why ask this question?” and, “is there even Biblical warrant for it?”

Chapter 1: the Prayers of Paul

In his introduction to chapter 1 Hagin tells us that his book is based on Ephesians, but he only encourages us to read (repetitively) the first three chapters of the Biblical text (pg 9). (I would encourage the reader to read the entirety of the Epistle, if they would like to follow in depth.)

Then he goes on to point out Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians in the first three chapters of the Epistle, at which point he writes “the turning point in my life came when I prayed these prayers for myself more than a thousand times.“(pg 10, italics original)

His subsequent explanation of that I have already addressed where it comes to the vain repetition, however, the reader’s other concern should be that Hagin seems to have a very twisted understanding of what Paul actually meant by what he prayed. But Hagin doesn’t even bother to explain to the reader what he believes Paul means or why he believes it.

We are given a pretty good indication of the vague, superpowerish view Hagin has of some of the things Paul prayed for by his statement in the last paragraph of page 10 when he writes “the spirit of revelation began to function!”

His following proclamation of “I began to see things in the Bible I had never seen before”(pg 10) and his declaration that he “grew spiritually” more in six months than he had “14 years as a minister”(pg 11) does not help me trust that he suddenly gained a “better” understanding of Scripture. Especially not when almost immediately after quotes himself as saying to his wife, “I was so ignorant of the Bible…”(of 11); his ignorance is plain from his view and use of the text of Scripture.

The verse he works these claims, quotes/paraphrasing, and conclusions from, in context is this (I have emphasized the phrase Hagin pulled from the text)

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:15-21 (ESV)

From reading the passage in its entirety it becomes obvious that the “spirit of revelation” mentioned in verse 17 is one in the same with the “spirit of wisdom” – and, regardless of what you think this “spirit” actually is, it is obviously that it’s primary purpose is to grant knowledge and confidence or hope in who God is. The entire idea that Paul lays out in verse 18 and following is the awesome greatness of God the Father in His glory, who has granted us salvation and relationship/peace with Him through Jesus Christ.

The fact that Hagin just rips “the spirit of revelation” out of that context to claim some kind of “new” ability to “see things” in the text for himself just indicates to me that Hagin never had or gained a proper understanding of Scripture…

I will return to this subject later, for now I will leave the reader to consider the thoughts and questions posed this far.

~ J D White

“War Room” & Satan

PART TWO

Keeping along the lines of the Name of Jesus and the proper ways to address and relate to God, I’ll now address the many “prayers,” if you will, that were addressed to Satan in the War Room.

…Yes, I did just say that prayers were offered to Satan in War Room – in fact, I would argue that nearly 40% of the actual “prayers” in the film are addressed to the devil. (NOTE: “prayer” in the sense of “talking to an invisible spirit-being”)

After the Name of Jesus is finally introduced into the film as a way to get what you want, Clara begins to hammer into Elizabeth about how ‘the devil is the real enemy.’ (after a brief outlining of the Gospel – which is utterly ruined by Miss Clara then ‘preaching’ about the Power of Satan) … Side NOTE: Satan is NOT the “thief” who comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10)- the context does not in anyway imply that Jesus would have us think of the devil when we quote that passage.

So, to summarize, we have a massively over emphasized – if not overdeveloped – demonology presented to us just after a brief, outline of the Gospel, which all follows on the heels of finally introducing Jesus as a magic-word formula.

But it gets weirder. After this the first prayer we actually hear from the lips of Elizabeth is in beseeching God to stop her husband from committing the physical act of adultery(her husband has clearly been shown to be an adulterer-at-heart already in the film). This is followed by her reading a few verses on her wall, ending with James 4:7 – repeating and emphasizing the line “resist the devil, and he will flee.” At which point she gets up and walks through her house talking/”praying” to the devil – a practice that is nowhere taught in Scripture. The passage from James is primarily about repentance and the devil is referenced as a “tempter” not some enemy that is out to “steal your joy, kill your faith, and destroy your family.” The moment you resist temptation and refuse to sin, you have “resisted” and are un-influenceable by demons.

NOTE: 1: Satan is not omnipresent, and thus is incapable of being in more than one place – and with the mess Elizabeth and her family got themselves into, I highly doubt they’d be worth his time. 2: Elizabeth makes a silly statement by telling the devil to ‘go back to hell’ after her rant against him – the Bible nowhere suggests hell is a realm from/over which Satan rules.

After this, one of the only four “prayers” we are actually “in on” is that of Miss Clara after she hears the news of Tony’s repentance. Her response is a brief statement of thanks and then she moves immediately into talking to the devil! Telling him he “got his butt whooped” as if he could hear her or had anything to do with the situation, or (heaven forbid) it wasn’t already a guaranty that he would be beaten in the first place… And then she shuffles off camera singing some sort of old gospel song.

My chief concern here – and I’ll wrap it up with this – is that Satan is nowhere in Scripture ascribed as the Christian’s primary enemy (if there is such a thing). To suggest that is the case (that he is in any way ultimately responsible for Tony’s sin), downplays the utter evil and rebelliousness of mankind’s own sinfulness – which is presented regularly and often as man’s primary problem in the Bible.

FINAL NOTE: Because I decided to only address the two subjects that I have, I thought I’d share a few articles that I thought had some good points on the film: http://justinpeters.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/War-Room-Review.docx

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/august-web-only/who-does-screenwriter-say-that-i-am.html & http://www.thewrap.com/critics-destroy-war-room-7-worst-reviews-crushing-christian-drama/ <on these ones I’m just offering some food for thought as to the “negative” responses that people might not have heard unless they went looking for them… I don’t agree with every aspect of every article (but it should go without saying that I don’t necessarily agree 100% with everything I share 😉

”War Room” & the Name of Jesus

PART ONE

Let me start by saying that I have very much enjoyed many of the films the Kendrick brothers have produced in the past. I have appreciated their God glorifying emphasis and careful, balanced presentation of Biblical concepts and the Gospel (particularly in Fireproof).

However, I must admit that the things I am addressing about their most recent film have caused me to come to a rather strong opinion: I hope that either they get to work on a new movie to make up for the heresy/unbalanced half-truth spewing, disaster of a film that is War Room, or they stop making “Christian” themed movies altogether.

Why is that?

Well, let’s start with one of the primary problems with the movie, War Roomthe use of Jesus’ Name.

Ignoring the fact that “Miss Clara” basically establishes that “Elizabeth” is a “Christian” in name only upon their first encounter(and subsequently ignores that fact and starts to “teach her to pray” anyway), there is absolutely no specific mention of Jesus in their conversation; just vague references to “the Lord.” Now, this would be okay if they did not persist in every encounter to only refer to this nameless “Lord” & “God” for nearly half an hour into the film until we find them on the way to their car after having spent time at a park. It is at this point that one of the most offensive things in the film takes place.

Once they enter a parking garage a man jumps out from behind a car and brandishes a knife, demanding their money. Elizabeth tries to calm the man down as she reaches for her purse, but Miss Clara takes on this strange (somewhat hypnotic) stare and says: “no, you put that knife down… In the name of Jesus!” At which the man pauses, Miss Clara continues her disconcerting stare, and the man runs off – or that is at least what is implied in the sudden change of scene.

Why is this offensive? For the same reason any blasphemy or “taking of the LORD’s name in vain” (Exodus 20:7 & Deuteronomy 5:11) is offensive: it mocks the Name of our glorious Savior by misusing it.

Although we have a plethora of examples(primarily in Acts) of disciples(primarily the Apostles) “commanding” things in the name of Jesus, the only actual teaching we have on the disciple’s privilege of calling on the Name of the Son comes from Jesus himself(John 14-16). And – if not for the accounts in Acts – the passages given us from Jesus’ teaching on the subject would imply that only in making a request(I.e. Asking) of the Father in the Name of Jesus is what He is referring to. Never once does Jesus imply that His followers are to demand anything in His name, let alone use His name to bark orders at other people. (Mathew 21 {Matthew 20:255-28, Mark 10:42-45, Matthew  5:38-48}, James 4)

Now, the “Pentecostal” / “charismatic” / “Word of Faith” types will instantly be jumping on the topic of demons: “aren’t the disciples given authority over demons in the gospels and the apostles command demons in Acts?” This is true, disciples of Jesus have the privilege of commanding the flight of demons(that are possessing individuals) by calling on His Name. But where is it implied that this extends to other human beings? And where did one of the Apostles use Jesus’ Name to keep possession of their own material objects or to protect themselves from physical harm? I ask those questions and the phrase “turn the other cheek” comes to mind.

To keep from going too long on the topic: to hear someone irreverently use the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ as if it were some magic catch-phrase to keep you from getting hurt or lose some material possession should offend any God fearing disciple of Jesus.

Now, some may be offended by my statements up to this point. May I ask you to pause and consider why that may be? Do you not care about the Glory of Christ? Do you not care that the Father is worthy of praise and honor in His holiness? Because I do, and that is why this scene offended me…

Am I accusing anyone of not caring about those thing if they don’t agree with me? No. But I would ask that they think about this topic deeply, because the way you think about the privilege of prayer and calling upon the name of God will effect the way you think about God and yourself – and thus the way you live out your life…