The apostle Paul wrote to the young pastor Timothy, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). This heartfelt statement came right after the apostle had briefly outlined his personal history, saying he had been “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious” (v. 13). We live in a society today in which people desire experiences and are drawn to tremendous or miraculous acts. It is the age of superheroes and one of the results of this age has been the rise of the so-called “New Apostolic Reformation” (NAR).
The NAR is an unofficial term first coined by the leader of this movement, C. Peter Wagner. Wagner’s movement has given rise to a loose network of churches led by so-called apostles or prophets, including but not limited to:
- Lou Engle
- Bill Johnson
- Cindy Jacobs
- John P. Kelly
- Heidi Baker
- Rick Joyner
- Che Ahn
- John Arnott
- Mike Bickle
- Todd White
- Georgian and Winnie Banov
- Daniel Kolenda
- Randy Clark
And numerous others. Some are more radical than others, Bickle’s IHOP the mildest for example. Yet, all such leaders promote the miraculous and believe in continued revelation by the Spirit outside of the Bible. Many NAR leaders also believe in and teach a doctrine known as “soul-ties,” that even if someone is a Christian then things that their unbelieving ancestors did will continue to keep them in bondage until the tie is broken. Such a doctrine, however, is in direct contradiction with Scripture which teaches that the Lord “hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: In Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). The words for “hath delivered” and “hath translated” are both in the aorist tense which refers to punctiliar action. This is not something that progressively happens when we become believers but it is something that took place the very moment that we received Christ.
The Christian life is not characterized by tremendous events and miraculous healings, but is characterized by what our Lord Jesus Christ did on the cross that stood on Calvary’s hill. The testimony of the apostle Paul to Timothy is peculiarly forcible because he was by nature a very straightforward man. Before his conversion he was second-to-none in opposing the gospel and never did anything by halves, throwing his whole self into anything he espoused. He was an honest, sincere, and outspoken man who wore his heart on his sleeve and carried his soul in an open hand, and thus, when he says that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, we can know that he believed it with his entire being. The apostle lived to prove this fact and died to seal it with his own blood; he lost everything for its sake, counting that loss his greatest gain. No fact has ever had a better witness than Paul gave to this fact.
Yet, I want to call your attention to the framework upon which Paul builds this fact. He says, This is a faithful saying. This is why I stated that the Christian life is not characterized by tremendous events and miraculous healings, but by what the Lord Jesus did at Calvary; the apostle says this is a saying. Now, for anything to be “a saying,” it must be commonly spoken and commonly known; it is the talk of the town. That Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners is certainly a truth that all Christians believe, but do we talk about it so frequently as to make it in very deed “a saying”? Would people we work with, or perhaps our barber or hair-stylist, or the cashier at the grocery store, or our primary care doctor, say about us in their gossips:
He’s always talking about Jesus coming into the world to save sinners.
Men and women, young and old, love bon mots and pithy sayings; social media is evidence of that. If there is a new saying, it quickly goes viral, such as “MeToo,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Blue Lives Matter,” or “Make America Great Again.” Newspapers and news websites quickly find a spot to report such things. Yet, Christians have the best of all sayings and the best of all news, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners! Let’s publish it far and wide; let’s Make the Gospel Known Again.
However, the apostle did not merely write “it is a saying,” but “it is a faithful saying.” That is, it is worthy of faith and full of truth, a saying about which no doubts may be entertained. It is a sure and certain saying, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. There are many sayings out in the world today that would have been better to have been left unsaid, many secular proverbs which pass current in society as gold and yet are nothing more than iron pyrite. No one can tell the possible mischief that an untruthful proverb can work, but this saying we have as Christians is pure truth, a leaf from the tree of life sent for the healing of all people groups.
Another characterization of the NAR is what is known as “dominionist,” or “seven mountains,” theology, that it is the duty of Christians to rise to the top of every sector of society. The “seven mountains” are claimed to be: business, government, family, religion, media, education, and arts/entertainment. The idea is that if Christians can just get in power they can bring in Christ’s Kingdom on earth by force from the top down. Yet, Christian evangelism according to the New Testament has nothing to do with rising to the top of one’s profession. In fact, the apostle Paul says the opposite to the Corinthian church, saying (1 Corinthians 7:17, 20-21):
But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. … Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
Christians are not to be quick to change the station in which the Lord has placed them. If someone has the chance to rise up, Paul says they should take the opportunity, but they should not be seeking promotion. Christians are called to serve the Lord in whatever station they are presently working. Evangelism is not done by forcing Christian principles on society from the top down, but is done one-on-one, making the gospel “a faithful saying” by which society’s gossip knows us. Have you made the gospel a saying by which people know you?