Authentic Christianity is a rare commodity. Dr. Paul Brainerd Smith (1921-1995) writes, “It is quite possible that some day there might evolve a world religion, but the Christianity of the Bible will never be a part of it.”[i] Drs. Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes write, “In view of this deluge of counterfeits, believers have an unparalleled need for a deeper understanding of authentic Christianity. For it is impossible to recognize a fraud unless we have an understanding of the genuine. Error can only be correctly measured over against the truth of God’s inerrant Word.”[ii] Dr. Clarence E. Macartney (1879-1957) explains, “Two conceptions of Christianity are abroad in the world today. Or, more correctly, we might say that there is a true Christianity and there is a false Christianity that merely wears the name.
According to the false conception, Christianity is a religion of conduct. It centers upon what we can do or ought to do, as we are instructed, inspired, and led by the teachings, the example, and the tragic death of Jesus. According to the true conception, Christianity is a religion of redemption from sin. It centers upon what Christ did on the cross, when He offered Himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”[iii] Dr. Ray Steadman writes, “True, there is a false Christianity which is practiced by those who aren’t Christians at all. There are many religious frauds who have never been real Christians, and there are apostates who give every appearance of being Christian for a while and then throw the whole thing over. But surely the most subtle stratagem ever devised by the Tempter to deceive and delude men is to take genuine Christians who really and truly know Jesus as the living Lord and Savior and mislead them into practicing a sham Christianity which they sincerely believe is the real thing. It can’t, of course, be detected by a doctrinal statement or adherence to a creed, for this type of phony Christianity is always orthodox. It is frequently very zealous and feeds upon consecration services and dedication meetings. It uses all the right terms and behaves in the proper, orthodox manner, but the net result is to drive people from Christ rather than bring them to him.
In sharp contrast to this, there is the real thing—authentic Christianity as it was intended to be.”[iv] Hebrews 13:20-21 reads, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Note five factors of authentic Christianity in this beloved benediction.
1. Authentic Christianity involves Reconciliation.
Hebrews 13:20a reads, “Now may the God of peace. . .” Dr. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) comments, “God who is the Author, or the Source of peace. 1 Thessalonians 5:23. The word peace in the New Testament is used to denote every kind of blessing or happiness. It is opposed to all that would disturb or trouble the mind, and may refer, therefore, to reconciliation with God; to a quiet conscience; to the evidence of pardoned sin; to health and prosperity; and to the hope of heaven. John 14:27.”[v]
Dr. Clarence Macartney explains, “‘Reconciliation’ carries with it the thought of separation and alienation.”[vi] Isaiah 59:2 reads, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” Dr. Macartney further explains, “Sin always drives us out; out from our true selves, out from our fellow-human beings, and most of all, out from our God.”[vii]
Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) writes, “The God of peace has also graciously restored peace and reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, but it has been by the putting away of sin, for while sin remained peace was impossible. He died for our sins, but He rose again for our justification, which is none other than the replacing of us in a condition of reconciliation with God. He went into heaven to take possession of our inheritance; and what better evidence could there be that we are reconciled to God?
If you pursue the subject you will see more and more clearly the significance of the title, ‘the God of peace’; for, to make us perfect in every good work to do His will is to give us peace. Sin is our enemy, and the new life within us is heartily at enmity with evil, and therefore peace can never be proclaimed in the triple kingdom of our nature until we always do that which is well pleasing in the sight of the Lord, through Jesus Christ.”[viii]
Dr. Thomas Guthrie (1803-1873) writes, “Unconverted man is at peace — neither with himself, nor with others, nor with God.”[ix] Dr. Guthrie explains, “God has made peace. ‘Fury is not in Me, saith the Lord.’ He has turned from the fierceness of His anger, and made peace between Himself and man by the blood of the Cross; but not ‘peace at any price’ — at the expense of His honour, holiness, justice, law, or truth. No. God has not overlooked the guilt of sin; He pardons, but does not palliate it. Peace, as has often been done between man and man, may be established on false basis. . . . Not ‘peace at any price,’ it is peace at such a price as satisfied the utmost demands of His law, and fully vindicated His holiness in the sight of the universe.”[x] Dr. Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) writes, “‘The God of peace’ wills to give to men something not altogether unlike the tranquillity which He Himself possesses.”[xi]
2 Corinthians 5:12-21 reads, “For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Dr. Ray Steadman comments, “Ambassadors are authorized spokesmen. They have power to act, to bind. Thus authentic Christians are not powerless servants. We speak and deliver messages which heaven honors.”[xii]
2. Authentic Christianity involves Resurrection. Hebrews 13:20b reads, “. . . who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead. . .” Dr. Albert Barnes comments, “That brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus. Acts 2:32; 1 Corinthians 15:15. It is only by the fact of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that we have peace, for it is only by him that we have the prospect of an admission into heaven.”[xiii]
Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon writes, “The bringing back of the Lord Jesus from the dead was the seal of His perfected work, and consequently of our peace and ultimate perfection in holiness.”[xiv]
Dr. Thomas Guthrie writes, “In one sense the glory of His resurrection belongs to Christ Himself. The only thing else I have now to give, Jesus might say, is My life; and there it is. Of My own will, by My own, free, spontaneous act, I lay it down. All your wretched tools and cruel tortures, your crown of thorns and bloody Cross, cannot deprive Me of life. It is not you that take away My life; nor is it God. It is not taken away — but given; for I have power to lay it down, as I have power to take it up again. Hence our Lord’s claim on our love and gratitude. But He who said, ‘I have power to lay down My life,’ also said, ‘I have power to take it up again’ — as He had before intimated, when, the Jews having asked a sign of Hint, He said, referring to His body, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’[xv]
Part Two Coming Soon!
[i]John Blanchard, The Complete Gathered Gold (Darlington, UK: Evangelical Press, 2006), 76. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
[ii]Norman L. Geisler and Ron Rhodes, Correcting the Cults: Expert Responses to Their Scripture Twisting (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1997), 18. Database © 2008 WORDsearch Corp.
[iii]The Lamb of God: Previously Unpublished Sermons of Clarence E. Macartney, comp. Richard Allen Bodey,(Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1994), 118.
[iv]Ray Steadman, An Expository Study: Authentic Christianity (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1981), 18-19.
[v]Albert Barnes, Notes, Explanatory and Practical on the Epistle to the Hebrews (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1851), 332.
[vi]Lamb, Bodey, 29.
[viii]Charles H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons, Parts 261-272, “The God of Peace and Our Sanctification” (Hebrews 13:20-21) (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1878), 448 .
[ix]Thomas Guthrie, The Way To Life: Sermons, “The Work of God” (Hebrews 13:20) (New York, NY: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1867), 106.
[x]Guthrie, Life, 106-108.
[xi]Alexander Maclaren, The God of the Amen: And Other Sermons, “The Great Pleas of Great Prayer” (Hebrews 13:20) (London: Alexander & Shepheard, 1891), 99.
[xii]Steadman, Authentic, 33.
[xiii]Barnes, Notes, 332.
[xiv]Spurgeon, Metropolitan, 451-452.
[xv]Guthrie, Life, 109-111.