Today in Church History

Elizabeth Sang in Answer to a Bird 

Elizabeth Sang in Answer to a Bird

Elizabeth of Hungary was only 24 when she died on this day, November 17, 1231. She packed so much life and suffering into those 24 years that her story became the subject of art and legend.

Elizabeth von Thuringia was born in 1207, in a royal castle. Her mother Gertrude was a deep Christian who imparted faith to her daughter. Elizabeth’s father, Andrew II, fought valiantly in the crusades, but was not a good king. His nobles forced him to sign Hungary’s Magna Carta, the “Golden Bull.”

Before she was two, Elizabeth was betrothed. At four she was sent to live with her prospective in-laws to learn their customs. Within the thick gray walls and iron gates of Wartburg, she grew to womanhood.

Gertrude was assassinated when Elizabeth was seven. The grieving girl knelt in the Wartburg chapel, praying for the souls of the murderers. Shortly after this, Elizabeth’s fiancee died. Her status in Thuringia was cloudy. However, another son, Ludwig, said he would like to marry her.

When Elizabeth was just fourteen, her dream day came. In spite of family attempts to send her away as too holy, the beautiful girl married Ludwig. The two bound themselves to rule justly and to open their home in hospitality. Ludwig took as his motto “Piety, Chastity, Justice.” Elizabeth adored him.

Elizabeth brought great wealth to the marriage. After her wedding, she had the choice of five castles to live in and so she was called “Elizabeth of many castles.” But until she became pregnant, Elizabeth preferred to ride across the war-torn land with Ludwig.

A son was born to her. She carried him in her arms and walked barefoot to St. Katherine’s chapel where she recited psalm 127: “Children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”

St. Francis of Assisi had recently been called men to repent, cast aside the chains of wealth, and show kindness to the poor. Franciscans arrived in Thuringia in 1221. Elizabeth longed to share her blessings with the poor. Placing herself under the instruction of Brother Rodeger, she opened eastern Europe’s first orphanage and tended lepers with her own hands. This outraged her hoity-toity in-laws. They tried to drive a wedge between Ludwig and her but failed. After he died, they seized her inheritance and expelled out.

She became a Franciscan tertiary, the first in the German empire and, after Ludwig’s friends exerted their influence to restore her dowry to her, she opened a hospital and worked herself to death tending the sick. Overworked and undernourished, she succumbed to disease herself. As she lay dying, she was heard singing in response to a bird upon the wall. At cockcrow of her last day, she said, “It is now the time when [Christ] rose from the grave and broke the doors of hell, and He will release me.”

Is the Social Gospel the Whole Gospel?

Another in the Frequently Abused Verses Series 

by Cameron Buettel /  Monday, July 22, 2019

In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. Of our previous blog series, none better embodies that emphasis than Frequently Abused VersesThe following entry from that series originally appeared on October 7, 2015. -ed. (For other articles in this series just type Frequently Abused Verses into the search bar on the right). 

Is the Social Gospel the Whole Gospel?

You wouldn’t tell your children, “Bathe regularly; if necessary, use water.”

Nor would you advise a friend, “Be a faithful husband; if necessary, love your wife.”

Those redundant instructions defy logic. They also beg the question about what other means you would employ to accomplish those goals. You might as well tell someone, “Stay alive; if necessary, breath oxygen.”

And yet many Christians rally around a similarly illogical statement when it comes to evangelism. “Preach the gospel; if necessary, use words,” is a mantra that is a darling of social gospel activists. That quote, wrongly attributed to Francis of Assisi, is wielded when it’s time to poke zealous evangelists in the eye, or rebrand social work as a form of evangelism. Social gospel advocates like Rick Warren [1] and Jim Wallis [2] love to use it.

And let’s face it, there is a winsome ring of truth to the idea that my lifestyle can be a testimony of God’s saving work. Moreover, there is a built-in rebuke of evangelists who fail to walk their talk. Their hypocrisy—faith without works—is a reproach on God, His Word, and His people (James 2:14–17). But it’s absurd to turn that hypocrisy into an argument for the primacy of good works apart from the clear proclamation of the gospel.

The Necessity of Words

Paul never said, “How will they see without a preacher?” He said, “How will they hear without a preacher” (Romans 10:14). That is because every time the word “preach” appears in the New Testament it refers to vigorous verbal proclamation. It is verbal in its testimony of the works of a Savior who fulfilled the law that we have continually broken (Matthew 5:17–18; Romans 3:23), suffered the punishment that we could never bear (Isaiah 53:4–6; 1 Peter 2:24), and defeated the grave (2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14).

And because Christ’s people depend entirely upon His unique work done on their behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21), there is no way to fully demonstrate it through actions alone. As Voddie Baucham points out: “For me to think that I can live the gospel is to put myself in the place of Christ.” [3]

So where does that leave works of social justice such as feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and caring for the oppressed? No one would argue that they are bad things to do. Indeed James defines them as integral to pure religion (James 1:27). But do those acts of mercy have any role to play in a person’s salvation?

Advocates of the social gospel argue yes, and appeal to Matthew 25 as their apex argument:

Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

Then He will also say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.” Then they themselves also will answer, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?” Then He will answer them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:34–46)
Was Jesus saying that our eternal destinies hinge on feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, clothing the naked, and visiting the oppressed? And how would that square with salvation by grace through faith apart from works (Ephesians 2:8-9)?

The Whole [Other] Gospel

Tony Campolo is one of the most prominent advocates for the social gospel. His handling of Matthew 25 typifies the wider movement. While not explicitly denying the gospel of grace alone, he argues that it is our treatment of the poor and oppressed that will determine our eternity:

I place my highest priority on the words of Jesus, emphasizing the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus makes clear that on Judgment Day the defining question will be how each of us responded to those he calls “the least of these.” [4]
The recently closed Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE), of which Campolo was founder and president, clearly defines who he thinks “the least of these” are:

That Jesus was homeless and taught that we may encounter Him in “the least of these”—the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, widow, stranger and imprisoned (Matthew 25:35-40), is the basis of what Tony calls the Whole Gospel and informs EAPE’s holistic ministry.  And it raises questions for the Church and every Christian: what should be our response to the homeless and to “the least of these”? [5]
Note Campolo’s use of the term “Whole Gospel.” He is implying that proclamation of the good news is only a partial gospel and must be accompanied by social action in order to become a complete or “whole” gospel. But his imbalanced emphasis betrays his mishandling of Matthew 25:35–40.

The Bible repeatedly teaches that good works are ultimately God’s works because they are the natural fruit of salvation; never the cause (cf. Ezekiel 36:25-27; James 2:14–17). And in Matthew 25you don’t see judgment based on works, you see works revealing who is truly saved by faith. John MacArthur is emphatic on this point:

The good deeds commended in Matthew 25:35–36 are the fruit, not the root, of salvation. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that they are not the basis of entrance into the kingdom. Christ will judge according to works only insofar as those works are or are not a manifestation of redemption, which the heavenly Father has foreordained. If a person has not trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, no amount of seemingly good works done in His name will avail to any spiritual benefit. [6]
Who’s Who Among the Judged

Another critical issue in understanding Matthew 25 is to recognize that the division Christ makes is not between the church and the pagan world, but between true and false Christians. While the pagan lives in open unbelief, the false Christian is an impostor who has blended in among God’s people. False Christians are the recipients of Christ’s most terrifying judgment:

So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:20–23)
Matthew 25:34-46 makes a similar division between those who have genuine faith and those whose faith is false, according to the evidence of their works. Note carefully that both groups of people think they are Christians because they address Jesus as “Lord” (Matthew 25:37, 44). Both groups are also surprised by the verdict. The surprise reveals humility among Christ’s people (“when did we,” Matthew 25:37–39) and self-righteousness among those who are faking it (“when did we . . . not,” Matthew 25:44).

Who’s Who Among the Lowly

Finally, the beneficiaries of these good works are not the disenfranchised people of the world, as Campolo suggests. The word “brothers” (Matthew 25:40) is vital to understanding where our benevolence is to be directed. Jesus is saying that the fruit of genuine faith is evidenced in the way we care for fellow believers who are suffering (cf. John 13:35; 1 John 3:10–11). MacArthur brings this point home:

The King’s addressing these people as brothers of Mine gives still further evidence that they are already children of God. . . . Because of their identity with Christ, they will often be hungry, thirsty, without decent shelter or clothing, sick, imprisoned, and alienated from the mainstream of society. [7]

This is not to deny any duty we have to love the disenfranchised people of the world. But if proponents of the social gospel were serious about Scripture, they would target passages that refer to loving our neighbors—even loving our enemies (Matthew 22:39; 5:44). Christ’s words in Matthew 25 have nothing to do with the social justice they advocate.

Matthew 25:34­–46 was never written as a blueprint for salvation through social work nor should it be employed as such. It’s not an argument for preaching the gospel through our actions alone, but rather that our actions authenticate the gospel we preach. And those actions must be prioritized towards our suffering fellow believers. So please, care for other believers because Jesus commanded us to. Realize that a lack of care may point to a lack of saving faith. And preach the gospel with words because they’re always necessary.



15 Things Churches Can Do to Help with Mental Illness

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (11.2 million) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.¹ Many are afraid, confused, can be disruptive and are looked upon differently. Is that how the church should be effectively ministering to these people? – Mike


Note: This guest contribution by Amy Simpson is an excerpt from her book, Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission.

If you want to help your church be more faithful and effective in ministering to those with mental illness and overcoming its related stigmas, what do you do? How can churches help, besides referring people to professionals?

things churches can do to help with mental illness-min

Ready or not, the church is the first place many people go when they are in crisis. And if they end up in a counselor’s office, sometimes counselors are sending people back to their churches for complementary spiritual and pastoral help. Based on my research, very few churches are ready to offer this kind of help. All of them should be equipped to offer at least some basics. Here are several things churches can do, ranked in order from what I perceive as most basic to most complex.

Continued at Source: 15 Things Churches Can Do to Help with Mental Illness

¹ = Source

Whatever Happened to Mercy Ministry?

| October 18, 2018

The so-called culture war is largely a battle over the dictionary. Control the language, control the conversation.

Bible-believing Christians know that words have meanings. We are shaped in our spiritual lives, after all, by a Book—by texts.

Given this reality, it is alarming how quickly buzzwords fall in and out of vogue ** in the evangelical subculture. We insist upon the unchanging character of truth while riding culture’s coattails, adopting whichever catchphrases rolling through the broader discourse are gathering the most moss…

Continued at Source: Whatever Happened to Mercy Ministry? 

** Maybe it is just me, but I thought Christ commanded us to go out into the world and make disciples? No where do I find the suggestion that the church or it’s body of believers should bring the world into itself (adopt worldly ways, words, etc.). – Mike



 I am appointed preacher – 2 Timothy 1:11

A good minister of Jesus – 1 Timothy 4:6

A minister of holy things – Hebrews 8:3 (R.V. Margin)

 A sleepy preacher cannot expect a waking auditory. – William Jenkyn

 Three things make a preacher: reading, prayer and temptation. – Jean Daille

 If I were to choose my calling, I would dig with my hands rather than be a minister. – Martin Luther.

 Taken from: The Puritans Day by Day © The Banner of Truth Trust 2016

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Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones excellent “Walking with God” daily devotional.