Tag Archives: Alliance Church

Rescuing ‘the lamb that was slain’ from Brad Jersak. Part I of III

Fort McMurray Alliance Church

Sermon Review. Brad Jersak. January 15, 2012. The Gospel in Chairs

I’ve been aware of the ministry promulgations of Brad Jersak for a while now. I first came across it when I read his book “Can you hear me? Tuning into the God who speaks” and then later on when I was looking into all the speakers who would be at Breakforth 2011, I became familiar with and eventually read  “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hell, Hope, and the New Jerusalem” and “Stricken by God?: Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ”.  I hadn’t thought much about him in the last few years, but then I saw that he had delivered a series of lectures and sermons at the Alliance Church. After listening to the sermon and all of the lectures, I became profoundly disturbed at what I heard. For this reason I have devoted a great amount of time ferociously reading all that I can about him in order to understand him better and attain a better grasp of his theology and the implications of his theology. This includes the entire six years of his blog, a dozen sermons, most of what he has written at the Clarion Journal [including several articles he had written that the site had purged and deleted] , as well as the writings and youtube videos of his close acquaintances and ideological partners  Brian Zahnd and Archbishop Lazurte.

For that reason, this will not serve simply as an isolated sermon review, but hopefully may be a resource to serve the greater body of Christ for anyone interested in this man and the progressive missives that he is promoting. Because of the length of it and the copious amounts of verbatim quotations I have done, I will be splitting this up into three parts. The first two parts will be a sermon evaluation of the message itself,  and the last part will be an assessment of how we should now view and treat the Alliance Church in light of their choice to give a platform to this man and promote the theology of his sermon.


Brad Jersak begins the sermon by sharing his desire to speak on the dimensions of God’s love. He commences by offering a translation of the biblical text that he has done, with the hope that it will be “fresh”. In analysing this particular verse, He states that Paul’s point is that we can’t comprehend how big God’s love is for us, that even as we can’t understand it- we need to. And so Paul prays for supernatural power to receive the good news.

“I’m on my knees, praying to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose family in heaven and earth is named after. I’m asking Father to make a withdrawal from his heavenly bank account and to make a deposit of supernatural power of his spirit into your spirit. Why? So that by faith you would find the living Christ filling your heart with his love. And I’m praying God would sink your roots deeply into the rich soil of  capital “L”  love. Then you’ll have the capacity of saints to know in your knower that Jesus’ love is wider, longer, deeper, and higher than you ever imagined. If you only knew the dimensions of Jesus’ love, the fullness of God would fill every corner of your life. So lets raise a toast to the name of Jesus, the one who hears what we ask for and sees what we imagine and then massively exceeds those expectations. And you won’t believe this part. He does this work through human partners, so let’s be the radiation glory of Jesus who shines through us evermore brightly year after year, and for all time with no end in sight. ” Ephesians 3:14-21.

This segment is the only thing resembling scripture we will hear for the next 25 minutes. In this case we can see it is a poor paraphrase of the actual verse, which reads from the NASB

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,  to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen”

I don’t understand the purpose of offering his own paraphrase there. Its certainly not a translation as he has claimed, as no actual translation of the original text is apparent. He also changes and tweak much of the meaning, to the point that it does not actually resemble what Paul has said, but rather a self-interested paraphrase.  Why is this a good thing? This sort of thing was satirized in a post called “I‘m writing my own bible version“, but the reality is that you are not getting our best scholarly approximation or exactations of what  Paul said, rather you are getting one man’s “fresh” understanding of the “gist” of what Paul said. Which one is better to have? If its the former, why is the latter so readily accepted?

But despite that, he states that the purpose of this sermon is to speak on  how we can’t comprehend the love of God- that God’s love has been misunderstood and hijacked, and so the intent of this sermon is is that we have a new perspective on that love.  Brad states

“My understanding is that all of your real problems…. come from not knowing how wide and long and high and deep is his love for you. If you knew, you’d  never sin. All my sinful behaviors, all my struggles inside- the suffering of my soul that causes me to stumble, all of that would be solved forever, eternally if I just knew how much he loved me. So we’re working on it, right? It will not help me to try harder, and to put more religious hoops up to jump through, and to grit my teeth and scrunch my forehead. What will help me is that he loves me.  Period. Because it’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. And this is not a new message, obviously. Paul preached it “

Where in the bible is that taught? Is is neither a biblical concept or category that our flesh would stop sinning and that we would be walking in perfect obedience to the father if only we could grasp the extent of his love for us. Where does Paul preach it, as he alleges? Is it really obvious that all desire to sin would dissipate and we would stop sinning if we understood God’s love? Using this line of thinking, our problem is not that we have a sinful nature, but rather we don’t have enough knowledge, and that our sin problem would disappear if that knowledge could ever be acquired.

Second of all, what is the purpose of squeezing half of Romans 2:4 into that at the very end “Because it’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance”. Romans 2:3-5 reads Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgement of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed.  It’s to note that he is not using his bible snippet in a contextually accurate way. Realistically, a proper exegesis would show that on multiple occasions the Jews had experienced God’s patience and  forbearance. They supposed that such blessings showed that they were right with God and had no need to trust in Christ, but Paul says the opposite is true: God’s blessings should have led them to repent of their sins. Nowhere does Paul teach that it would enable them to stop sinning if they just understood his love. That is a concept utterly and completely foreign to that verse and to the scriptures.

Brad Jersak then reads the hymn “There is a wideness in God’s mercy”  and says that the love of God is deeper and wider than we thought “Longer, think it terms of time, and how his love can outlast anything , even death.” [Its to note that this is an allusion to his belief as a hopeful inclusivist, and the idea that even after we die God will still call people to him and it should be our eschatology hope that they can and will still be savedIn essence, we’ve made the love of God for this universe way too small.

He lays out his reasoning for using the gospel in chairs,

“Because it’s going to demonstrate what I think has been an anointed gospel message that we’ve taught since the 1500′s or so,  and that many people have come to Christ through it, and its too small and we need an upgrade. Way too small. So I’m going to contrast that with a second version, I think more powerful, more deep, but also more ancient. 500 years is too young for the gospel message because our gospel came through Jesus Christ. And so what I want to do is contrast what I call the  the legal version of the gospel with the more ancient biblical version that I think we could call the restorative version.”

He states that the modern legal understanding of the atonement  was established by John Calvin in 1536, who was an angry young man.

“His version pictures God as an angry judge and that he actually said God’s primary disposition towards you is that you’re his enemy and as an angry judge his wrath must be appeased by a violent sacrifice. And we used to use the word propitiation for that. When I learned that word, its a bible word, when I learned that word I was told its sort or like when the pagan religions would take and throw a virgin into a volcano to appease an angry god.”  

Its to note that he disparages Calvin’s charcater as an angry young man, for no reason and without any evidence. Furthermore, the modern legal understanding of the atonement may have been laid out systematically by Calvin, but it is far more ancient than that, with its roots in the early centuries of the faith.

“The idea is that Jesus saved you from God. Now like I said, there’s an anointing in that preaching. I preached it….I saw people come to Christ and I saw the Spirit honor the message, so I don’t want to be too quick to slam it, but I am saying maybe we’re due for an upgrade.”

Interestingly enough, that’s twice he’s said this modern view of the gospel is either anointed or that preaching that message is anointed, and that the Spirit honored it, and yet later on he emphatically states that its a false gospel. This is patently dishonest. If he truly believe its a false gospel, how can he believe that it is anointed? Why play coy in this manner and give lip service while despising it?  Paul states that those who bring another gospel are to be anathematized, so why say that it is anointed while at the same time seeking to demolish it and casting it as a modern, fanciful, unbiblical postulation?

In fact, Brad Jersak edited a book called “Stricken by God” where he assembled the essays of an ecclectic mix of Christians and pagans and offered their articles as a counterpoint to the idea that God’s wrath was being poured out on Christ at the cross, and that a violent sacrifice was taking place. This is important to note. I would argue that its clear from even a basic lexical understading  that “violence” can refer to the use of great physical force even as  its legal sense is “the unlawful exercise of physical force.” From the standpoint of  Brad Jersak there appears to be no lawful exercise of force.

And yet here’s the reality of the situation. If violence is, by definition, always negative, it is obviously inappropriate for God. However, it is extraordinarily difficult to understand the biblical narrative if such is the case. To use “violence” to describe any exercise of force [lawful or unlawful] leads to unfortunate hermeneutical hoop jumping. How one uses the Bible is a key as to how one will understand the atonement, and it is precisely here that the consequences of making nonviolence the primary hermeneutical lens for reading Scripture become problematic, particularly when “violence” is defined as intrinsically evil.

The place of the Old Testament and its depiction of God in the construction of Christian theology is a very important issue. When you listen to Brad Jersak’s sermon you should be struck by how little the narrative of the Old Testament informed the reflections on the life and death of Jesus, especially as it pertains to justice, wrath, and anger at sin.  Jesus pursued his mission as one who fulfilled the promises of the old covenant [being a prophet greater than Moses, a priest greater than Aaron and a king greater than David], it is cause for concern that a pre-commitment to God as nonviolent produces such disjunction between the Old Testament scriptures which were Jesus’ own Bible and the New Testament scriptures, which unpack for us how God’s old covenant promises were realized in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus

Brad Jersak views this as “too small” and considers it our responsibility to reinterpret the character and heart of God, from that of violent to anti-violent. But from where does this “responsibility” arise and how will we tell when such
reinterpretations become invalid? The goal can be to upgrade our atonement belief by reading scripture through the lens of a peace-loving, anti-violent God, but from what canon is that lens derived as the essential hermeneutical criterion for the bible and its interpretations? It’s not. 

If preserving the absoluteness of nonviolence requires us to ignore the old covenant context of Jesus, too great a price has been paid and the Trinity itself may be at risk, for YHWH of the Old Testament comes to look very unlike the Jesus portrayed in these nonviolent constructions. Certainly, Jesus is the supreme self-revelation of God but the God he reveals to us is essentially continuous with the God who revealed himself to Israel in his great acts of deliverance from Egypt and later through judges and kings and by powerful direct acts, such as interventions of the Angel of the Lord in Isaiah 37:36.


As it were, Brad Jersak continues by saying he wants to upgrade this small idea of God we have into what what he considers the more ancient, biblical version that the Church fathers taught and believed. He says that the Church fathers were the disciples of John, and their disciples, and their disciples that occurred with the first few centuries of the church, which he calls the restorative version.

“God comes not as an angry judge to be appeased, but he comes as a great physician who wants to heal us at the very root of our problem- who can see even beneath our sin into the sorrows that cause our sin. And he comes there, and he treats sin not as lawbreaking that needs a spanking, he treats sin as a disease that needs to be healed. Sort of like meningitis. What if its not just about getting babies to stop crying, what if its about healing them at the root of their problem and what if that’s how Jesus sees us? “

If one starts with the presupposition that violence is always wrong, strange and obtuse readings of Scripture are often necessary in order to absolve God of any involvement in the use of force. Such an approach, for instance, leaves no room for the wrath of God which is viewed as antithetical to divine love. Coupled with the contention that divine justice is always restorative and never retributive, these commitments to nonviolence require us to reject much biblical teaching concerning God’s attitude and action toward sin, which we see Brad Jersak doing. In his case, sin is a disease like meningitis, or maybe like herpes,  and the cure is understanding God’s love. That is an extremely sub-biblical proposition. It furthermore removes the possibility of any divine punishment of sin, particularly of the eternal divine punishment that is generally understood by Christians to be at work in the assignment of unrepentant sinners to hell, and so it could lead to complete universalism , or in Brad’s case, hopeful inclusivism. 

Notice how he claims that this is an ancient belief that the Church fathers taught, emphasizing how it is old and biblical and that these disciples of John and Peter taught this, and yet gives NO evidence for it. He talks it up and goes nowhere with it, and in fact never once offers any evidence or attestation that his understanding is more ancient or even that it was believed by any church fathers, which is extremely deceptive.

Contrary to his assertion, I would suggest that substitutionary atonement was the basis for all of the major models of atonement theory in the early church, including the ransom theory, moral influence theory, deification and recapitulation theory, the atonement from the perspective of the mimetic anthropology theory, the satisfaction theory and penal substitution theory. For this reason almost all patristic literature speaks of some form of substitution, [the majority holding to a ransom theory with substitutionary overtones and underpinnings] with Anselm and later Calvin really centering in on the penal aspect of it, using the exegesis of the scriptures for their basis. I would suggest and argue that an author can be held to teach the Penal doctrine if he plainly states that the punishment deserved by sin from God was borne by Jesus Christ in his death on the Cross, which I would argue that even Justin Martyr did in one of his Letters to Trypho.

It’s clear that his restorative theory is another name for the “Christ as example” theory. [more on that later] But the point ultimately is not what the “Church fathers” wrote- many of them writing several hundred years and a dozen generations after the disciples, but rather what the most careful, best systematic exegesis of the scriptures reveals. Its to note that Brad Jersak doesn’t even attempt to back up his claims biblically, and instead resorts to emotional appeals with a decidedly lack of scriptural basis. In any case, the fact  is that he makes a point about saying its biblical and ancient and that the early church believe it, and yet doesn’t back it up.

The main illustration he uses is the gospel in chairs illustration, where he has two chairs that face each other. In the modern legal version, when Adam sins, God turns [his chair] away from them and kicks them out of the garden.

“They are expelled for all time because he is holy and pure and righteous and cannot look on sin and he turns away from man. In this state, man cannot work his way out of sin. All our efforts to please God and justify ourselves and make ourselves righteous are filthy rags, we’re totally depraved and desperately wicked. But God in his love sent his Son to stand on behalf of humanity, who turned toward God himself and walked in perfect fellowship with his Father, preached good news,  healed the  sick and was perfectly obedient to the father. At the end of his life Jesus is put to death and the father puts all the sins of the world on his Son and he who knew no sin became sin, [on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of Christ] he became a curse, And while he was on the cross God poured out all his wrath on his son in our place. He appeased the fathers wrath and anger. Jesus then rises from the dead, and those that believe in him can have a relationship with the father. At that point the chairs are again facing each other. “

Where does it say in the Bible that the reason God kicked them out is because he could not look upon sin? It doesn’t. God states in Genesis 3:17  that he was kicking them out  “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ and in verse 22lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken”. There’s nothing about God kicking them out because he couldn’t look upon sin.

He quotes Martin Luther who he says said “When God looks at you he doesn’t see you. You are a snow covered dung” That’s not true. None who have made this claim have been able to document precisely who originated the phrase, or where it occurs in Luther’s voluminous writings. I would ask for a primary source but he would not be able to provide one, as it does not existHe says that its the idea that God doesn’t really see you, because you’re a mess, but in Christ he sees Jesus.

“For me that’s small comfort. If he could see what I’m really like he would still reject me, he would still turn from me, but lucky me he sees only Jesus,  and the other side of it is if we don’t  believe in Jesus and what he’s done for us we remain in our sin and God must remain at enmity with  us and we’re alienated from God. And if we die in that state, of course we experience the eternal conscious torment of the wrath of God for all times as sinners condemned to hell

“What bothers me about this version is how fickle God is. He is the God who turns from us and turns towards us and turns from and and turns toward us and also he’s a little bit like…. you know…. the one who has to torture his own Son in order to get his anger off his chest. I shared this with Archbishop Lazaure of the Eastern Orthodox Church.. and he goes “that’s not Yahweh, that’s Molech. Molech  was the god who [the] Israelites would try to appease, they would try to suck up to him and try to get his blessing by sacrificing their own children so that his wrath would not come against them. And when in the book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah says ” that’s not ok”. He says this; ” God would never even think of such a thing. It would never even enter his mind.”  That’s odd. what would enter his mind?”

All right. Lets do some comparative biblical work. First of all notice how there is absolutely no exposition of the Bible, and he has been preaching for twenty minutes and making some radical claims. He has not provided any scriptural or textual evidence for what he has said. Its also important to note that neither Brad Jersak nor the Archbishop believe in a literal hell that unbelievers ultimate go to. He will develop this a little bit later, but he has a visceral hatred for the idea that God punishes people in hell for their unbelief, and so the idea of God pouring out wrath on his son is not just an issue of soteriology, but rather effects and affects his hamartology, eschatology,  theology, christology, his view of the afterlife, etc.

That is why he is so against the belief that “if we don’t  believe in Jesus and what he’s done for us we remain in our sin and God must remain at enmity with  us and we’re alienated from God. And if we die in that state, of course we experience the eternal conscious torment of the wrath of God for all times as sinners condemned to hell” for Brad that is a blasphemous false gospel that must be undone.

Brad Jersak also believes that “God is not angry with you and has never been”  That is not limited to Christians, but to humanity as a whole. Let that sink in. God has never been angry with you.  Which is strange, because we hear mention of the wrath of God and the anger of God all the time in the scriptures, particularly in Jeremiah and Ezekial. To offer a brief survey;

Nahum 1:2:  A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies.

Leviticus 26:27-30. Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me,  then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins. Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat. I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you.

Ezra 5:12 But because our fathers had provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.

Jeremiah 7:20  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and on beast and on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and not be quenched.”

New Testament?

John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

Romans 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”

Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 

Romans 5:8-10 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

So how can he say that God has never been angry at humanity? You can’t, and you must question the hermeneutic he is using to say that he hasn’t. Furthermore, who is painting this idea of a God who is constantly turning back and forth as if he were some bi-polar deity? It is a caricature that Brad Jersak is propping up so that he can tear it down. I don’t know anyone who believes that, and in fact no significant believer in penal substitution would portray the Father’s act as done for selfish satisfaction to get his anger of his chest. The description falls into the common error of ignoring the Trinitarian unity in the willing and execution of the Son’s atoning work. Father, Son and Spirit purposed to bring about salvation and no one imposed or demanded anything of another in this or any other work of the Trinue God. 

Rejection of penal substitution is sometimes put in terms of a choice between either/or when those who affirm penal substitution characteristically affirm both/and. Brad Jersak might say that the cross was a manifestation of God’s love rather than his wrath, but this is a false disjunction from the standpoint of penal substitution, which sees God’s work of appeasing his own wrath against sinners as the supreme demonstration of his love. In responding to caricatures such as these, it’s important not to assume that punishment presupposes an emotionally unstable deity who flies into fits of rage. Penal substitution does not require such caricatures.

There is also a category error in his comparison of Yahweh to Molech and saying that it would never enter God’s mind to kill Jesus. And yet what do we see in the scriptures? Acts 2;22-23. “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—  this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men “

In his sermon Peter combines a clear affirmation of God’s sovereignty over world events and human responsibility for evil deeds. Although Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, showing that God had both foreknown and foreordained that Jesus would be crucified, that it was planned, that still did not absolve of responsibility those who contributed to his death, for Peter goes on to say, “you crucified and killed” him.  Notice how he also includes the phrase “by the hands of lawless men.” Peter also places responsibility on the Gentile officials and soldiers who actually crucified Jesus.

We also read Acts 4:27-28: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.”

We are able to affirm both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. The term Whatever” includes all of the evil rejection, false accusation, miscarriage of justice, wrongful beatings, mockery, and crucifixion that both Jews and Gentiles poured out against Jesus. These things were predestined by God. They were part of his and Jesus’ sovereign decree from before the foundation of the world.  And yet the human beings who did them were morally “lawless” and were responsible for their evil deeds for which they needed to “repent” . This prayer reflects both a deep acknowledgement of human responsibility and a deep trust in God’s wisdom in his sovereign direction of the detailed events of history.

In Isaiah 53:10 we readYet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;  he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,  he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Again, we see that it was the purposeful intent of the Lord to crush his son. Some versions read “It pleased the Lord to crush him”. “Pleased” does not connote joy or pleasure or happiness, but rather it was the deferential desire and will of the Lord to do so.  We further see that servant’s sacrificial death compensated for human sin by setting sinners free from their guilt before God, and in fact the Septuagint translates “offering for guilt” as “offering for sin,” which explains why Paul could say that Christ’s death “for our sins” was “in accordance with the Scriptures”

In any case, I hope to not be so verbose next time, but I imagine the next post which will go up Wednesday will be similar in length and scope. This post functions primarily as a primer for more truly horrific theology and beliefs which we will review shortly, but for now I would welcome any feedback that you guys might have.

I’m Writing My Own Bible Version. Which Church In Fort McMurray Will Use It?

Hey all. Just wanted to give everyone an update on a project I’m working on.  I’ve started the process of creating my own Bible version of the New Testament. I’ve tentatively titled it the Dustin Germain Standard Bible, [or DGSB] and am about halfway through writing out the book of Collosians, which will be available as a free downloadable PDF in the near future.  The purposes for writing this has been multifaceted. For one thing, I decided that the Bibles I typically use, the ESV, the NASB and the NRSV aren’t dynamic or relevant enough. The language is a bit too exact and precise for my liking.  I thought of using the Message Bible, but to be honest I’m not entirely satisfied with the Message Bible. It was a good attempt, but I think my translation can serve as a better medium for finding that common ground between the two. For example, in Collosians 2:8-10, the “original Greek” says this :

βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς ἔσται ὁ συλαγωγῶν διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κοσμοῦ καὶ οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος σωματικῶς, καὶ ἐστὲ ἐν αὐτῷ πεπληρωμένοι, ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ πάσης ἀρχῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας.

The ESV, which is a formal equivalent literal translation,  renders it as:

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority”

Whereas the Message Bible, a pseudo-dynamic equivalent  translations reads:

“Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.”

That’s a big difference in word count alone- the Message gets 110 and the ESV gets 57. My translation is not as flamboyant or creative as the Message Bible, but I think it does a good job in offering a readable, contemporary alternative which people might appreciate. The Dustin Germain Standard Bible reads:

“Take care to ensure that no one seizes you captive through empty deception and philosophies- which rely on human traditions and are according to the elemental spiritual forces of the world and don’t rely on Christ. For in Christ the entire fullness of deity lives bodily, and you have been filled up in Him, who is the head of all authority and rule”

My translation has only 64 words, and while similar word count alone does not mean its a good or accurate translation or Bible version, it does suggest less interpolations. Furthermore, while it may not have the addition of all the friendly little flourishes [or jots and tittles, as some might call them] that Eugene Peterson liberally peppered his text with, I think it still does a good job at conveying the thrust of the point.

For that reason I’ll also be looking for some Churches and pastors to partner with to help promote my translation. There are at least two Churches in the city who have made it a habit to utilize the Message Bible as one of their main translations, and have even had services where the preaches have exegeted it. I think those two are my best bet for furthering and developing this project. I’m not sure the exact timetable for when this will be launched, or if they are willing to commit to my project, but I hope they would. In fact, I  can’t think of a single good reasons why they might be adverse to using it.

Some well meaning friends have suggested that there might be a bit of push back. They have said that when people see the Bible verse on the powerpoint slide, replete with a mountain scene in the background and a “Dustin Germain Standard Bible” tacked on to the end, that after the congregants puzzlingly try to comprehend what a DGSB is,  they will grow upset and resentful. I’ve anticipated that critique and having given it some thought, am quite frankly not concerned at all. I don’t think anyone will voice those objections or think that. No one is going to care that they are reading my translation when I laud and promote it as a fresh new way to read the scriptures. They don’t do it to the Message Bible, so why on earth would they do it to mine?

So can I count on the pastors and preachers of Fort Murray to help me with this endeavor? Will you start using it from your pulpits? I will be contacting you all shortly to get your support and endorsements for this project. I  hope to see the DGSB quoted in your sermons very soon, and based on your already existing usage of the Message Bible, I am confident that I will receive it your hearty endorsements of my version with a “yea” and “amen”.

Ecclesial Roundup. Week ending 08.28.11

MGA Church. Pastor Glen Forsberg.

Fellowship Baptist Church.  Pastor Brent Carter

Fm Alliance. Pastor Val Johnson

Family Christian Center

Emmanuel Baptist Church

Worship from the Alliance Church

I was listening to the July 3rd sermon at the Fort McMurray Alliance Church, and right at the end they included the song “Beautiful Savior”.  It is a simple and beautiful song with phenomenal lyrics. I believe it is sung by Lucas Welsh, and I was deeply and personally blessed by listening to it and worshiping with it.

Your nail-scarred hands are beautiful.
Your nail-scarred feet are beautiful.
And by Your wounds, my wounds are healed.
Your crown of thorns is beautiful.
Your cross of scorn is beautiful.
For by Your wounds, our wounds are healed.

Beautiful Savior. Jesus, we believe.
Despised and rejected. Jesus, we receive You.

Scourged for our atonement. You endured it all.
For the glory of the Father.
We were among the ones You saw?

I hope to be able to include  more worships songs from different local area churches in the future, and this is a great one to start it off.

Sermon Review. Alliance Church. April 11. 2011. Bonnie Hodge

The above sermon was preached by [pastrix?] Bonnie Hodge of the Alliance Church. The central text used is 1 Kings 19, with the main purpose of the sermon being to laud the presence of God and teach the importance of being in the presence of God, which is accomplished by listening to God.

To this end, a fair amount of time is spent emphasizing the import of being solitary in the presence of God. We are constantly bombarded with distractions and amusements and therefore we need to begin the habit of taking time to excise those things from our life and spend time alone with God, apart from our kids, music, spouse, etc. She says “There are times in our lives when God has called us to be in his presence, and in those times we have a choice to make; we can brush it off and say “oh, I don’t have time” or “there’s too many things to do” ,or we can actually step up to a mountain, or step to a valley, or step to a desert place, and say “Ok God, I’m in your presence. What is it you would like me to hear, how is my relationship with you?” [Note.  I have no idea what any of that means.]

Bonnie gives us a bit of context for her bible verse, and then quotes 1 Kings 19:8-13a “So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.”

I should point out that I think its fascinating that she only quotes the first half of verse 13, and not the second half. I have a theory of why this is, but I will get into that later. In any case, there are three things she wishes to communicate. 1] Being in the presence of God when he calls you. 2] Hearing God’s voice. 3] Once you hear his voice, what you ought to do.

She makes the case that God wants to spend time with us, and that “We talk about Jesus being in our heart, Jesus being in our spirit. That’s a way to describe how close that relationship with God should be. It should be so intertwined that there is no point of our lives that we walk out of the presence of God. It should be so engaged that every part of our decision making prioritizing process should be intertwined with God, that we continually walk in his presence.”  I don’t mean to be critical at this point, but am I the only one who is distressed and dismayed at the command to always walk in the presence of God in the way it is being described?  It sounds exhausting. Perhaps being in the presence of God is a matter of degrees, but I will straight up say that I cannot bear the weight of that load- not even for a minute. I’m not even sure it is achievable, or that such a situation as described is desireable.

She says that being alone with God is the key to not being burned out, and that when you get bored/ not excited with life- then that is a sign that you need to get into the presence of God. She continues to tell some of the back-story of Elijah, and says that Elijah was depressed because he wasn’t walking in the presence of God. She offers Jesus as an example of someone who stepped back and sought isolation and time with God. [Time in desert, after his cousin John had been killed, after feeding the 20,000, after the sermon on the mount, etc] She builds her case quite well that Jesus did spend time by himself- and then she says that to follow Jesus’ example we need to be in the presence of God, to look upon the face of the Father [historically a very dangerous thing] and allow him to look upon our heart. [I don't know what that means]

Bonnie says that “We are created by God in His image and there is something in the very depths of our spirit that yearns to be connected with our creator God. It yearns. It isn’t just a little thing, especially once you become a Christian, especially once you are connected to that throne of God, that very throne of God to be in his presence.” I would suggest that it is a myth that we have a God shaped hole, and that there is something in the very depths of our spirit that yearns to be connected with our creator God. That is not true. Instead we see a wealth of biblical evidence to show that unregenerate people are hostile to God and are not seeking him, but rather are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. [Romans 1:18-20] Furthermore we see that

  • Romans 3:10-11: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.”
  • Romans 8:7-8: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
  • 1 Corinthians 2:14: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
  • Ephesians 2:1-3: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
  • Titus 3:3: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”

She says that “We cannot separate our own thoughts, when we are in the presence of God, with what Gods thoughts are.” [Again, I have no idea what the means, especially in context.] But her Bible verses comes to a head when they are tied in with her thesis. At this point I must say that her use of 1 Kings 19, quite frankly, is inexcusable. She says that God spoke to people in earthquakes, wind, fires and audibly, but it’s in the quietness and silence where we REALLY hear from God. Really? Does that make any sort of sense? What biblical passages support this? She says that the only way to hear that quiet voice is if you yourself are being quiet, which is consistent, I suppose, with her previous comments. I can see it now.  Rid yourself of the distractions so you can hear God. He’s going to whisper, hiss, cluck his tongue and mutter to us only when our spirits are as quiet as mice, so make sure there’s no faucets dripping or clocks ticking, or else you might miss it.

Here’s the deal. In the context of that very verse, both before and after, God is speaking to Elijah in a very loud, audible voice. Right? All throughout this chapter God is speaking to Elijah as a man would speak a friend- in a direct, audible way. We see in the later part of verse 13b she didn’t quote that God was doing that very thing. And yet there’s no one saying that that is how God speaks to us today- that we should wait and be silent so we can hear an audible voice out of nowhere start talking to us. No, rather they ignore all the verses which are directly before and directly after with God speaking to the man out loud, and focus in on the still small voice.

As it relates to God speaking and communicating to us, if you want to hijack a principle or whatever from this chapter, why on earth isn’t the takeaway that God speaks to us out loud? That’s what’s God’s doing here. In the verse before, and the verse afterward, God is talking to him and straight up asks him “What are you doing here, Elijah?” You can’t get any clearer than that. If you’re trying to peg some spiritual act as normative, why go for the obscure line in an obscure passage that was spoken to a single, unique man thousands of years ago? And why use the “still small voice” as the main way God speaks to us, when throughout this chapter and the next God is speaking to the prophet clearly and directly in an audible voice, which leaves no room for error or confusion?

These very facts betray the problem with this sermon. Bonnie builds the sermon around that idea, with the key words being “I think…” There are these mystical overtones which suggest this idea that you can be alone with God and there is this whole interaction where the presence of God is somehow communicating all these things absent the word of God or absent any real prayer to God to reveal the application in life of the Word. Rather it’s all about “just being connected, just reveling in the presence.” It’s an ethereal, unfathomable, unattainable, misty idea without any concrete foundation, but rather relies on subjective, emotional, mystical state of mind. I’m not suggesting that God cannot speak to us at all, but rather that Bonnie hasn’t even come close to providing us with a biblical and logically orthodox foundation as to how this might come about and how it might transpire.

Listen, how about an alternative? Why not say something like,  “My beloved brothers and sisters. Christ is real and he has revealed himself in his sacred scriptures. Because of his wonderful grace he saved us while we were yet sinners, and out of abundance of love  and gratitude at his mercy, we ought to seek to know Him. [The more you impress upon their hearts how good God is, the more they will be drawn and driven to know him  as a response to their recognition of the glory and of God in salvation,  not because we don't want to be bored or have bad days] For this reason- let us pursue him. Let us learn everything we can about him. You don’t need to speak any magic incantations to hear from him. You don’t need to follow any prearranged formula or engage in any mystical mind-centering. Rather, because he has revealed himself in his word, and that word is trustworthy, let us read about him there, and pray that he might bind our consciences to scripture. Because the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us, we are always in the presence of God, and let us recognize, appreciate, and celebrate that. Let us seek after his righteousness. Take some time to get away from the distractions so that you can quiet your heart and can reflect on the mercies of God, and so that armed with a bible you can partner with Christ in sanctification and cull away the evil thoughts and deeds inside of you as revealed by Scripture, and ask that the fruits of the spirit may be developed within you with greater consistency as you confess your sins and ask Christ to reveal himself to you more in the word”? Why not say something like that, instead of basing your sermon on a really poor understanding and misapplication  of 1 Kings 19?

All in all, not impressed, and to be frank a little bit angry. I believe that connecting people with God with a greater consistency, and I think it’s evident that Bonnie believes this too. That passion and zealousness to have people know God better and understand spiritual things deeper is evident, but the way she tried to do this was through mangling the scriptures and failing to rightly handle God’s word. It was inexcusable. It didn’t have to happen, and I am very disappointed.

Sermon review. The Alliance Church. Val Johnson. May 09, 2010.


Val starts off the sermon speaking about the difficulties in trying to cater a sermon to audience members who fall in vastly different age groups. If you’re preaching to kids from Grades 2-8, it is likely that you’ll either go over their heads or dumb it down, no matter at which age group you target. Likewise she wants to take pains that her message will not be over the heads of new believers or visitors, while desiring to appeal to more mature believers. As a note, she states that sometimes newer Christians have a clearer picture of what Christianity is and who God is, as it’s more clear and more fresh to them, whereas seasoned Christians can get cloudy in their reasons and purposes of belief.  But things getting cloudy isn’t a new phenomena.

By way of background, she spends some time unpacking some Old Testament history. She speaks of how after the Israelites were exiled, upon returning to Jerusalem they wanted to rebuild their identity and remember who they were as a people, and so under Ezra they re-read the law. From Malachi to Matthew there is a 400 year gap, and at the end we see these men called Pharisees who took the good traditions and turned it into religion. And so when Jesus comes to fulfill the law, he sets forth a new concept- what we do is not our religion, but rather who our God is, is our religion. But the Pharisees held the latter.  They judged others by righteousness and how well they acted, believing that you are righteousness and a true Jew because of the works you do.

For Val, the sermon comes out of constantly struggling to be a better Christian by reading  her bible more, praying more, doing devotions more, etc. and getting discouraged.  For the Pharisees, they were trying to follow their laws which was becoming their religion. That was what was defining them as righteous and justified, and likewise we have developed our new breed of “pharaseeism”, where we get so consumed with what we do and how we follow our rules, that we’ve lost sight of true religion. As it were, true religion is Micah 6:6-8.

“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

The people wanted to know how to please God, and so she likens their futile efforts of their traditions of killing rams, to our efforts at praying and worshipping which we think will please God. That’s her modern day translation “How do I please God? Do I worship with my hand raised? Do I get a little teary when the song drops down a little slower….? But that’s not what God wants. God wants us instead to simply act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

She says that when we make our attempts to do our church stuff, but fail to walk humbly and justly, we are just making a bunch of noise. She heads to 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 to show this to be the case “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

She says that if we try so hard to worship louder and pray harder, but are neglecting what God has called us first, and are not walking humbly with the Lord, we are nothing. We need to sink into our hearts the pointlessness of all our religions and traditions if we’re neglecting the one and the purpose of the one who came for us. She then plays the John Foreman song “Instead” of a Show which is summarized with the following lyrics

I hate all your show and pretense
The hypocrisy of your praise
The hypocrisy of your festivals
I hate all your show
Away with your noisy worship
Away with your noisy hymns
I stomp on my ears when you’re singing ‘em
I hate all your show

Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show

Picking up steam, she says that Galatians is Micah 6:8 expanded into a whole book [Which I don’t see] .Paul is asking the people “Why are you going back to works-righteousness?” The summary is that we do it because we feel like we have control. “We are constantly trying to prove why we’re worthy. Why we deserve it. Why we measure up better than someone else. Because we gotta measure somewhere. We can’t be at the bottom, we gotta keep measuring. So our fleshly desire is to constantly do and do and earn and earn to be held worthy to be considered worthy to ourselves and to others”

She says that the purpose of the law is to show us our sins. We are all born sinners and the purpose is to show us that we are dirty and we have a need to be cleansed. In this, the mirror has no power or ability make us cleaner, but rather serves to show us our filth.  We can’t live by that. If we abolished the law, that would remove our ability to know we’re dirty. Jesus came to cleanse us. We don’t look in the mirror and try to cleanse ourselves- that is a satanic tactic. Christ came to cleanse us.

She quotes Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” We are free from comparing our sins and dirtiness to others. We don’t have to look in the mirror because no matter how dirty we are we have been cleaned by Christ. [Romans 3:23],That redemption is the new life in Christ that we begin to live. [Galatians 5,6, 16-19]

We ask ourselves “God how do I do better?” and It’s not by being better, or doing more, it’s by living by the spirit. Because what the flesh desires and what the spirit desires are constantly in conflict, and instead of doing doing doing,. we ought to instead just live by the spirit. Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Turning a corner She gives us Galatians 5 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Val says that not only can we lead a righteous life led by the spirit in our own selves, but we have to love one another by God’s spirit too. And this is where we trip up. We want to walk and expect a bunch of mercy, but we love to judge everyone else. Because it compares us. We are not to judge, as we will destroy one another.

What about our Christian brother? She says that we don’t ignore people who are caught in sin, but those who are spiritual had  better do it gently and with love. Because our job is not to judge, but we can help them. So let us not judge each other, because we will be caught in it.


What a sermon. It was of average length, about 36 minutes, But I listened to the thing four times, as well as exchanged several emails with Val, and I’m still not sure I have it all worked out in my mind. It seems simple and straightforward at first, but this Micah/Law vs Grace vs Law thing is so tricky that I’ve had to sit back multiple times, look at the whole thing, take a break, ponder it, and then come back for more. Let’s start with the good. As always, Val is an engaging and a very gifted communicator who managed to keep me interested throughout the whole thing. For another, she brought us a lot of scripture, which I like, and thankfully did not preach from The Message Bible.

As well, the whole middle section was exceptional. It really was well done. When she was speaking on how we’re dirty, and the law is a mirror, and that it can never clean us, but rather only show us our filth and our need for a Savior- that was great stuff. I was getting  giddy just hearing about it. At one point she rapid-fired off a monologue  about being dirty and comparing ourselves to others, and it really was some of the most compelling preaching that I’d heard in a  long time. Major kudos and points for that bit. As well, I really empathize with her when she’s talking about the frustrations that most believers feel that they’re not practicing the disciplines as they should, when we fail at the churchy stuff. I think she’s tapping into a deep well of despair and felt-needs there, and so it’s good to discuss it.

As for the bad, well, there are a few things which concerned me. The first was her slightly historically inaccurate portrayal of the Pharisees. They didn’t just “make good traditions their religions.” It really is a stereotyped and unfair version of who they were and what they were all about. For the Pharisee, many of them wanted to find ways to practically implement the law, but then those ways became the law, which then became a substitute  for the law, and became used in the hands of sinners and used as a way of getting around the law. That’s certainly not a good thing, but if you’re gonna get blamed for something, you want to at least have done it.  A greater weakness in this first segment though is that I just couldn’t figure out what certain things meant. How is “religion” being defined? What does it mean? How did the Pharisees make law and traditions religion? Are these two words being used interchangeably? Even something like “Who our God is, is our religion” doesn’t make sense on the surface. What does that sentence mean? I can theologize  it enough to surmise the meaning, but wouldn’t something like “What our God did for us is our religion” make more sense?  It’s just really unclear language, and I struggled through that section a bit.

Another issue was the verse Micah 6:8 being normative for us and a valid definition of what God desires us to to. I mean, I don’t know how to say it any clearer- This verse is not for us. These texts are addressed to Judah, where the external form of the sacrifices were proper, but was not combined with genuine repentance and godly living. In such cases the worship is worse than empty; it is an attempt to manipulate God. We read about Balak king of Moab and Balaam the son of Beor and we know this is not a word for us. We read a few verses below Micah 6:8, in verse 13 and 19,  and we see God saying  “Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow, making you desolate because of your sins. You shall eat, but not be satisfied, and there shall be hunger within you… For you have kept the statutes of Omri,  and all the works of the house of Ahab; and you have walked in their counsels, that I may make you a desolation, and your inhabitants a hissing; so you shall bear the scorn of my people.” Here’s the logical question I have; do we surmise that that promise and word is for us too? That if we do not walk humbly and love justice, that the Lord will smite us and make us desolate? I mean, I didn’t know that I was keeping the statues of Omri, but does this mean I am made to bear the scorn of God’s people? That’s what God promises. And so if you’re not preaching the consequence of failing to keep the command as normative, you shouldn’t be preaching the command as if it were normative.

Which is not to say that I don’t think we shouldn’t love mercy and walk justly and humbly and so forth- I just think there are better ways to say that which are more biblically,textually and hermaneutically precise without utilizing Old Testament judgement books which were directed at the Israelites several thousand years ago, and fulfilled. I think we can cull certain principles from these passages about God’s nature and character, but I am wary as all get-0ut of being put under the Old Testament covenant, which is what this verse is for.

Another thing is that her modern interpretation and contextualization that “sacrificing idols=pharasaical traditions=doing devotionals” doesn’t work very well, because the reality is that the people were commanded to sacrifice and kill the creatures. They were commanded to kill bulls and goats. These were not pointless, outmoded and useless traditions, but rather were absolutely essential to having sins covered. And so her analogy breaks down really quickly at least in that respect. Not only that, but I am…disquieted by her definition of “True Religion.” If I had to pick something, I would say that true religion is the Gospel. It is believing and putting our trust in the fact that Christ died for us on the cross, finished the great exchange, and we receive his righteousness and eternal life by grace through faith. True religion is the Gospel, but Micah 6:6-8 is the Law. Gospel is receive, Law is do.

It’s like saying “Stop doing all those church stuff, all that law. Instead, rest in true religion, which is even more law.” Because don’t forget; love is the law, and we can’t keep the law. People often point us to the two greatest commandments, love God with our whole mind, body, soul and strenght,and love our neighbor as ourselves, and offer that as the solution; as the antidote to the stress and burden of being beaten and bruised and weighed down by the law. But that’s just more law. I don’t love God as I should. I don’t love my neighbor as I should, and every time I don’t, it does the work of the law by reminding me that I’m a sinner and that I need the saving grace of the Gospel to save me from not loving God as I should.

As far as the song, it is clearly taken from Amos 5:21-24, and I don’t have many thoughts on it. I get that hypocritical worship is bad, but I don’t even know what the sentence “Instead let there be a flood of justice,” means. Isn’t justice when people get what they deserve? Do I really want that, especially when grace gave for me what I couldn’t deserve?  How about “An endless procession of righteous living,” I think we all want that, and that is part of the slow burn and struggle of sanctification, but why can’t we do both? Why can’t I try to live right while worshiping and praying in spirit and in truth? I think a bit more background and explanation of the song would have helped, at least me, understand it.

Regarding the the whole middle section, it was fantastic, and this is why I was confused and have been listening over and over. It is clear that she does not believe that justification comes from the law. Not even for a bit. In one of our correspondences she says “I believe that Micah 6:8 is what Jesus came as to fulfill, that through Him, living through the Spirit we would be free to do those three things, AGAIN not that we would be justified because we do those tings…Jesus is our justification, but that life through the spirit and its fruit would naturally lead us towards those three things, act justly love mercy and walk humbly. My hope and heart was that despair would be abolished by the fact that it is SOLELY through Christ we are justified so we have freedom to pursue a Micah 6:8 relationship with God”. And I think what got me hung up is the order she presented them in. It’s like telling a cancer patient you have a remedy for them, which is injecting them with the HIV. I just don’t get it.

And I’m not trying to heap it on here, but I have legitimate concerns, of which the last is her restriction from judging. She states at several junctures that we are not to judge, and in fact I have quoted a long section verbatim where she goes off on this very thing. She quotes Galatians 6:1-8  and says “[This is what Paul is saying...] Don’t try to mock God, every man will reap what they sow. Its not our job to judge. If you see someone and they’re not living the way you think they should be, you’re in no place have any need to go judge them because God is not blind….Paul is saying here is don’t mock God. Don’t think that you need to be the judge. That you in any way need to take that judging upon yourself. Because he’s saying this for our own good too…He’s saying “if you start to pull this out again, you’re not only going to see that person, you’re going to see yourself, again. He says if you start to judge you’d better watch out because you’re going to be tempted too. You’re going to look at their dirt and you’re gonna see your dirt, so he’s like just put the mirror down. Just stop judging. Just stop looking, and believe that Christ is the ultimate judge and that’s his job. That’s why he came. Because our job is to love mercy. We are supposed to be walking examples of God’s mercy and love because everyone single one of us can look into our mirror and find some dirt.”

Paul is not saying that. At all. That’s a worse paraphrase than the Message Bible. I don’t know about you guys, but when I read Galatians 6:1-8, I don’t see anything about that at all. I think part of her error, other than eisegesing the “don’t judge” bit into this segment, is that she is not reading “Whatever a man sows, that will he reap” in context. In this context, Paul’s reference to “reaping” is a reference to the blessings of Spiritual life, rather than to temporal blessings that the believer will “reap” as the result of “sowing” his life to the spirit. As well, the scriptures couldn’t be more clear that we are to judge many things, such as false doctrine, false teaching, the behavior of professing Christians who are not living it, etc. 1 Corinthians 5 bears this out quite nicely, in fact, culminating with verse 12-13 “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

When someone stands up in Church [any church] and starts preaching heresy, or a friend starts to tell you that  homosexuality is right and good, or another friend reveals that they’re having sex with their boyfriend and that God doesn’t have a problem with it, or some other clear violation of scripture, it’s not wrong to confront them and to “judge them”  by their actions, and then to deal with it from there. To not judge would be incredibly cruel. To not judge them and say “It’s none of my business, God will deal with it” is one of the most unkind things you could do in that situation. In fact, ironically enough the entire book of Galatians is one Epistle leveled against false teachings with Paul judging the Judaizers, as well as the actions of the church in Galatia. And so where does she get this idea that we as Christians are not to judge? It certainly isn’t biblical. It is certainly not born out in Matthew 7:, especially [and not limited to] by the fact that we see Jesus in John 7:24 saying: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment”. To her credit she does say that we don’t ignore people caught in sin, and rather should help them, but isn’t us determining that they are indeed caught in sin a form of judging? I think that if I pressed Val a bit, she would readily agree with me that some judging is good and necessary, and so I’m unsure as why she would leave things the way they are, with this blanket “Don’t judge others”.

The reality is that Christians are to apply scriptural principles of discernment regarding beliefs, teachings and actions, and then to act on those in order to bring about repentance and restoration. I don’t believe I have ever been given the right or the responsibility of eternally judging someones soul to hell. In this sense, I cannot correctly weigh action, motives, opportunities, nor know all things about any individual, as God alone is capable to do so. However, as a believer and one who is biblically literate, I have been commanded to  make decisions, appraisals, discernments, and even take corrective action towards other believers. Even then, my judging ought to be remedial and leave the door open to the person for repentance and reconciliation. Any judging on the part of a Christian which is not remedial is a false aspect of Christian judgment. As stated earlier, we are called upon to ”judge righteous judgment” and failure to do so is to be negligent in a crucial aspect of our Christian calling. And so unless we have vastly, utterly and completely opposing definitions for what judging means, then I think she’s very wrong in this, and that at the very least she owes the congregation either a retraction or some pointed elaborations which will bring clarity, precision and biblical faithfulness to the message.

In any case, I think this is the longest review I have ever done. Certainly it took me the longest. Overall, a good middle to this sermon, but too many deep flaws at the start and finish for me to recommend this one.

Sermon Review. The Alliance Church. Bonnie Hodge. April 12, 2010.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority  in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20.

And so begins the sermon by Bonnie Hodge. The sermon is structured around those verses, with the emphasis and the focus being on the phrase “go and make disciples.” We are told that we need to be disciples to make disciples, and that it is clear from scriptures that  God has called us to be disciplemakers. In order for us to do this however, we need to understand what the definition of a disciple is; which is a pupil- someone who is trained and taught by a leader. In our case, we’re all in school we are all pupils of Jesus, and as disciples we trying to imitate Christ.

To help us with our understanding of what a disciple is and does, she gives us several key words.

1. Decision. The first step to becoming a disciple is that we need to make a decision for Christ. We need to admit that we need Christ and admit that we are sinners and ask for forgiveness. We then must believe in God and confess that Jesus is Lord. In the initial setup, God has asked every person to make a decision for him, and this is what we must do.

2.Declaration. As disciples we ought to declare that we are children of God. We declare it to our friends and families and in our seal we confess to others that Jesus Christ is Lord. She quotes 2 Corinthians 3:18 which talks about how we we reflect or behold God’s glory and are transformed into his likeness. We declare that the old self has gone, and the new self is here, and that one way this happens is by water baptism. She also brings us Luke 15:7. “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance “ and says that there is a declaration in heaven when one sinner repents. Jesus sits at the right hand of the father, declaring and interceding on our behalf, and we need to declare that Christ has transformed us.

3. Disciplines. These are practices which allow us to see who Christ is and develop that relationship with him. They takes us from children with milk to men with meat, and therefore they are very important. She lists several daily disciplines, such as reading scripture, prayer, confession, worship, interacting with other believers, breaking bread, knowing core theology, and so forth.  These are a basis in our growth in Christ. These are things which we must aggressively pursue, not just passively receive.  As we get to know Christ more, our daily perspective changes, which changes who we are and develops a hunger for him. The closer we get to god, the more we will change.

4. Discipleship. Bonnie says that disciple-making is not a chore, but rather is a holistic consequence  that is borne out of being a disciple ourselves. She says that our purpose is to glorify god and make disciplines, and that to be a good discipler we need to be loving, evangelistic, teacher and encourager all in one. We don’t just tell people, but we need to be in relationship with people to do this effectively. Cell groups are a great way of doing this, as it allows for intimate one-one-one interactions and  time together.

5. Divine. None of the aforementioned steps could have happen without the Holy Spirit. She says [regarding personal salvation] that “unless God is with me there’s no way I could have made a decision.”  All those things that happen- decision, declarations and disciples are powered by the divine.

Bonnie concludes the sermon with the remarks that if we are not making disciples, we are not bearing fruit, and that we are a barren tree. We need to disciple each other and disciple new believers, and that it is important that this be a continual practice. We need to ask God to direct us and examine our hearts so we can see areas where we need to grow and develop and where we can disciple.


For the most part, I though this was a good and well presented sermon. I’m not crazy about the fact they they had a woman usurping the role of the man by preaching this to the congregation, but for what it was it was a decent sermon. I think the subject was a good one to preach on, though I think she could have used her own text a little bit better. After all, we are given a good definition of what a disciple is right after the text she chose to focus on. She might have put more emphasis and spoken on how and why we are to baptize new disciples, and that as the text says, a key element is teaching them all that Christ has commanded. Not just the parts we like, such as teaching about love and mercy and forgiveness, but on the hard parts, like divorce, judgment and hell, election of the sheep, eternal security and so forth. It would have been nice to get more attention there, but it didn’t significantly detract from her sermon either way.  As well, kudos on not using the Message Bible for her texts, but instead using a actual translation. I appreciated it dearly.

Not only that, but I found that the actual construction of the sermon to be very linear, easy to understand, and easy to retain. There were very few if any detractions or bunny trails, and instead it progressed from start to finish very nicely. As to the content, a few things stood out to me. The first was the gospel presentation. Though she did discuss sin and confession that Jesus is Lord, and though she did say [if I'm reading her correctly] that no man can come to Father without the Spirit, there still left much to be desired. If I was not a believer in that church, I would have only a vague idea of what salvation entailed, and even then my understanding would be fraught with errors and misinformation. And so she definitely could have been more thorough. As well, I completely disagree with this mindset that we “need to make decisions for Jesus” or that we need to “ask Jesus into our hearts.” Such language is completely foreign to the scriptures, as is the concept itself. It is very “man-centred” and not “Christ-sovereign centred”, and so I thought in that respect she could have done better. Another small issue, which isn’t really even an issue  but rather a admitted nitpick, is that she spent a lot of time discussing the change that Christians experience in Christ, and the whole time I was thinking “there’s a word for it…there’s a word in the bible that pops up everywhere called sanctification. Use that word!!!!” I know that’s a lame critique, but in a church full of believers, words like justification and sanctification should be readily understood and comprehended. On the other side, I thought she made a good point about how discipleship making should naturally flow out of a believer who is a disciple himself.  She’s also right that small groups are a good place to do that, providing there is pastoral oversight and they are doctrinally sound. Not only that, but I love and appreciate the emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit to permeate and fuel all the outlined steps. Absolutely true! It is something that is completely necessary, and we will fail every time without it, and so I’m glad it was highlighted.

As a final thought, In my own life I think I tend to downplay the role of one-on-one discipleship. Part of the reason for that is because it seems to me that it is something that is overemphasized for less than stellar reasons. It seems the reason why people put so much expounding in the importance of this is because the preaching is so weak in many churches. That is to say that if the preaching was stronger, more biblical and practical, and was the masterpiece and centrepiece of the gathering- the brilliant and deep expounding of the Word and then the communion of saints- then that would take care of much of the need for personal discipleship. Not that it would eradicate it altogether- because I don’t believe  it ought to- but rather that it would temper much of the demand for a certain kind of discipleship, because they would be getting their fill [if such a thing were possible- it's not] of a different kind along with everyone else.  Making disciples is not made just one-on-one, but rather through the collective family of God as children of God together, sanctified by bearing and forgiving the sins of each other and by the rough-hewn edges of the preached scriptures. It seems to me that if this was in place, it would cut out much of the silly and inane discipleship, and instead would enable the full force of the sanctifying power of Christ to be displayed in the life of a man in a way not commonly seen.

In any case overall a good job .

Sermon Review! Alliance Church. Bonnie Hodge. February 7, 2010

Alliance Church. Bonnie Hodge. February 7, 2010

The sermon starts off with a personal illustration involving scents, about how for some people certain smells can  bring to mind joyful and warm memories, while for other people that same smell might bring back painful memories. She then begins talking about the ancient Roman triumph/victory parade, how in those times when conquering and victorious generals came back from battle, they were honoured by the multitudes in lavish ceremonies. These people would come out and cheer them and celebrate them, and one way they did this was by burning incense. For the generals and soldiers, this was a grand smell which meant victory and success and the peak of their prowess and skill and accomplishment.  For the prisoners and captives though, this was the smell of death, as they knew they would soon be executed, and it was symbolic of their loss and their crushing defeat and captivity. [wonderful job giving us the historical context!]

It’s with this in mind that she reads us the following passage. “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life “. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.

She draws parallels [and rightly so] between this verse and the contextually appropriate triumphant parade, with Jesus as the general and the incense as God’s spirit in us. The point of which is that because we are “flavoured” and “spiritually aromatic”  due to the Holy Spirit inside of us, people should be able to smell Christ within us. That is to say that  there should be something different about our spirit and our presence that pagans should be able to pick up on, because we are covered in God’s spirit and the knowledge of him; a fact which has nothing to do with us, but rather as a result of us submitting to His will.

Bonnie spends some time talking about how at the time false teachers rose up in the Church and were bashing Paul and peddling God’s word. [a problem still evident in our Churches today] and how Paul refuted them to make the point that only Christ matters. She says “One of the central themes in 2 Corinthians, especially in chapters 2, 3, and 4. is the unfailing adequacy of the grace of God for every conceivable situation, no matter how threatening or destructive it may seem, it leads us to a victory parade. And this was in refute not to his integrity but to the integrity of the Gospel. To think that something else could take the place of God’s grace in your life, that something else could stand instead, and be more powerful or just as powerful as the grace of God in your life.” [great point and summary!]

She says that Gods grace allows us to be strong when the world around us is difficult and is falling apart, and in the moments of panic and confusion and devastation in our life. When we’re in the presence of other people, their lives should be changed because God’s anointing in on us and we are reflecting that. She quotes 2 Corinthians 4 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

We as Christians walk around understanding that we are weak and are sinners, but that despite that we also carry around the life of Christ in us, and because of this we rejoice in the spiritual realm, knowing that we are covered in Jesus’ glory. She quotes 1 Peter 2:9 which talks about how we as Christians are chosen, and she spends some time remarking on the fact that God chose us, and how ” That means that God was active in the pursuit of me.”

The observation is made that sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the way we serve people and our community and we forget about the “being part of it”. Nothing can come between us and God, and that one oftentimes we walk around feeling defeated because we have forgotten our role, which is that we are victorious. She reiterates the claim that  God wants to march us through our lives and carry the scent of His glory wherever we go in whatever we do, so that there is a residual effect for everyone to partake in. Because of this, when we talk to people having badly, We need to respond with love, not judgment. There needs to be something different about us, because Christ lives in us and resides in us. When we take on Christ’s righteousness we take on all aspects of him- not just the forgiveness, but the reputation and responsibility. In this, we are reflecting his glory.

To wrap it up, she mentions a book she reading, and I’m almost certain it is Exiles: Living missionally in a post-Christian culture, by Michael Frost. which speaks of how we live with dangerous promises and dangerous memories, because as Christians we are at odds with the world bringing in world-view that is antithetical to the current culture. She says that before there was a victory parade in, there was a battle, and we need to recognize that we need to battle things in our own lives. Whether it’s on our knees or in the spiritual realm, we need to walk in victory. Leaving us with a final thought about that incense-filled victory parade; ” You were chosen. God in his wisdom and mercy put his spirit on you and said you were chosen. You are not a reject, you are not a failure, you are not someone who cannot be used,  but [instead] you are chosen and you need to walk in that anointing and victory. And it’s not about dos and don’ts, but it’s about position.”


I found myself pleasantly surprised by this sermon, for a few reasons. The first was that I really appreciated the initial imagery that she pinned her bible verse to, which was the allusions of the Roman parades and the incense and all that, and how it does apply historically and contextually to the verse at hand. I think she really did a good job in painting us that picture to bring out the life of the verse, and I think she was successful in driving home her points as they applied to that. I know that I was fairly engrossed, and I imagine others were as well. Another thing I appreciated was that she used a legitimate bible translation and did not use the Message Opinion Bible at any point throughout her sermon, nor were any verses taken out of context. Everything was solidly grounded and rightly interpreted, and that enabled me to appreciate the sermon a lot more.

I don’t usually comment on a sermon from a homiletical perspective, but a few things did stand out to me enough for me to take notice and want to break from the routine and give some imput. If I could offer a bit of constructive critique, one thing I found distracting was that the sermon had a very…feminized intonation. I think there would have being a stronger presentation if she would have used less trembling and pleading and “artfully placed whispers in order to add a dramatic flair”. If you’re going to preach, do so boldly, confidently, and without any histrionics. Another thing though which I found both positive and negative, was that she made a lot of good and true points throughout the sermon, but because the sermon wasn’t very focused and was scattered something was lost in the mix. It was kind of all over the place,  I think if she would have stuck closer to the texts, and discussed not just the aroma of life but the aroma of death and the theological implications of that, that would have been more than enough to feed us.

As well, it seems that this sermon was wholly devoid of any practical application. That is to say that we’re told “we need t0 be a pleasing aroma” but we’re not told how we do that. I would probably have added some details that would go along the lines of aligning our hearts and minds with Christ, humbling ourselves as he ruthlessly goes after our hearts, not fighting when we experience the slow burn of sanctification, etc. You might say something like “When you’re having a bad day and are stressed and the world is pressing hard on you, you are a fragrance of life when you display the same patience and grace that God has given you and saved you with to the ones who are making you miserable.” And this is where we need to be careful. Living a moral life is not necessarily going to make people stand up and take notice. I suspect it’s a Christian myth that someone’s going to be like “You don’t drink beer!? Tell me about the hope that lies within!!” I’m not saying she’s saying that, but I also don’t necessarily believe that being covered in the glory is going to position ourselves so that we are giving off some ethereal, superfluous aura which pagans will be attracted to. She’s right in that it’s not about do’s and don’ts, but who we are positionally, but I think being a certain way positionally does not translate to people being drawn to that light in us as often as we think. That’s not really a critique, just a personal observation.

One point she did speak a lot about though was this issue of how we are chosen. I completely agree with her, though I’m not sure in the same way. She used 1 peter 2:9 as her text, and to me it would seem to indicate that God’s grace rather than human choice is the ultimate explanation for why some people come to faith and others do not. God has elected [“chosen”] some to be his people, therefore no one can boast of being included. But I don’t think she believes in the doctrine of Election, and so I think it’s a case where we are using the same words but meaning different thing.

Honestly though those are minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things. This was a good sermon, and one which I enjoyed listening to both times, in the initial review, and then after I sifted through it with a fine tooth comb. This is also probably her best sermon yet , and so if you see her and listen to the sermon, give her a kudos.


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