Dr. John Hartmann

Proclaiming the Whole Counsel of God

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Introduction to the Book of Ephesians

March 7th, 2013 · No Comments

Introduction

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is the Book of Christ and the Church. The vision is by nature eschatological and teleological, because it uniquely reveals God’s Plan to bring everything in creation into harmony and unity with His order under the Headship of Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth (Eph 1:10). The Church in union with Christ lies at the heart and center of this plan. It is through the Church that God has chosen to reveal His manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places, in accordance with the eternal purpose He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord (3:10-11). Among the books of holy Scripture, Ephesians has a unique role in making known this great mystery of God’s plan for Christ and the Church. It reveals that the Church is God’s purchased and treasured possession (1:12, 14, 18), the “One New Man” (2:14-15), a Holy Temple in the Lord, fitly framed together to be the Dwelling of God in the Spirit (2:20-22). We also find that the Church is the Body of Christ, of which Christ is the Head, called to grow up into Him in all things, to a measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of Christ (4:7-16). Finally, and this is not exhaustive, the Church is the Son’s Bride, betrothed (2 Cor 11:2-3) and one day to be presented to Him in all its glory, blameless, holy, without spot or wrinkle, called to be His eternal companion, bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh, a union which Paul calls a great mystery (Eph 5:28-32). If understood, the content and message of Ephesians should leave us breathless, in awe of God’s great love and power, and of the surpassing riches of His grace bestowed on us in the Beloved (1:7; 2:7). It is a great and indescribable honor and privilege to be redeemed and called to such a high and holy calling. My prayer is that many will come to understand this great vision given by revelation to the apostle Paul and be inspired to walk in a manner worthy of this calling (4::1-6:24), with joy, renewed faith, humility, and submission to God. Time is short, the hour is late; indeed, the time is already past for us to have awakened from sleep, for the night is almost gone and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Rom 13:11-14). Let us, the sons of the light, be alert, sober, and dressed in readiness to do our Lord’s will (1 Thess 5:1-11; Luke 12: 34-36). Let those who have ears to hear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church, for the Spirit and the Bride, say, come! (Rev 22:17).

My hope and prayer then is that the true remnant of God’s people will hear and grasp the message and vision for Christ and the Church in Ephesians. I pray that many will walk away from this study with renewed faith, gripped with a burning vision and passion to pursue the purpose of God in Christ for His people, setting our interests on the things above and resolutely committing ourselves to do His will as the chief objective of our lives. A people purchased by the Blood of His Son and called to such a high calling in Him should do nothing less. We are promised great reward, an immeasurably valuable prize, if we live in a manner worthy of this calling.

Many today are frustrated about the state of the so-called Church, finding it extremely difficult to relate to the versions of “Christianity” and of “the Church” presently on offer in American culture, and even world-wide. We read the Bible and get a glimpse of what it says about the Church; we look at what presently claims to represent it, and something for sure does not add up. Some have been hurt, and struggle to this hour with bitterness and disillusionment; worse yet, some have given up on the whole enterprise of God’s collective purpose for His people and have even been tempted to abandon the faith. The vision of Christ and the Church in Ephesians offers a door into renewed faith, hope, love, and obedience to God that will bring great joy to those who hearken to the Word and seek the Lord with all of their hearts. We must by all means shake ourselves from the dust, and awaken from our slumber. This is not the hour to sleep, nor to allow past offenses be a ground of justification for our own inaction; we will give an account for our deeds at the judgment seat of Christ and the sins of others will provide no ground of appeal for our own sins, whether of commission or omission. We must own our part in the problem, take responsibility for our own sin, repent, forgive, and get back on the road of obedience that leads to glory. God still has a plan for His Church, and it is time for His people to hear the Spirit’s call to return and rebuild the House of God, the place of His Dwelling on planet earth. Our hearts need to be united with and committed to the Biblical vision for the Church and we then must take radical steps to move in the right direction. We must by all means lift up the hands that hang down, strengthen the feeble knees, and make straight paths for our feet, not letting the wounded limb become lame, but rather letting it be healed (Heb 12:12-13). God will heal, for He disciplines us to the end that we may share in His holiness (12:1-11). If we understand and hearken to the message of Ephesians, the Lord will call us out of frustration, isolation, bitterness, blame-shifting, and aimlessness, and back into worship and service that accords with His good pleasure. The Father of spirits calls us to turn from our selfishness and carnality so that we might enter with renewed faith and vision into the fullness of His purpose for us.

Deconstruction of wrong thinking and attitudes, ruthlessly exposing lies and hypocrisy, all this is a difficult, but necessary part of the work that must be done in this hour. This is especially so in these days, as we seek to save ourselves from “a crooked and perverse generation” (Deut 32:5; Acts 2:40; Phil 2:14-16). The things Paul predicted in 2 Tim 3:1-4:5 are taking place right before our eyes. People claiming to be Christians, but still driven by their own interests and desires, have sought out teachers who tickle their ears and tell them what they want to hear. They fill great halls called “churches”, and fill the airwaves of so-called “Christian programming” night and day, incessantly spinning out aberrant teachings that appeal to the interests of men but that do not in any way promote the interests of God (Matt 16:21-23). What is on offer is without question a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel (2 Cor 11:2-4), a form of godliness that lacks the power of true godliness because it is devoid of truth (2 Tim 3:5), driven by covetousness, jealousy, pride, and selfish ambition, which opens the way to a wisdom that is earthly, sensual, and demonic (James 3:14-16), a Satanic counterfeit dressed up in nice Christian garb, but inwardly full of corruption and dead men’s bones. The end product is that most, usually without knowing it, have turned away from the truth and become participants in a fraudulent, ongoing, and well-funded propagation of fables. It is not true Christianity, nor does it have any intention of being so.

We are in a day where the true Gospel, in the tradition of the prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Holy Apostles, must be restored, laying out in no uncertain terms the hope of the coming kingdom of God and the true nature of the repentance attached to that proclamation as the condition for entering and participating in the grace and glory of that kingdom. Part of what makes the task of the true man of God so hard is that the posers and peddlers who adulterate the Word of God (2 Cor 2:17; 4:2) seem at present to have taken the high ground. The sheep have been fleeced and led astray, as they gladly follow and give huge sums of money to these so-called “churches” and “ministries” that will be brought to judgment (in the test of fire) in the day of the Lord (1 Cor 3:10-15). Few want to hear a well-measured Biblical critique of the false teachings and the pathetic and anemic church structures that are functionally little more than social clubs, that do not seek to live out the vision for the Church that Paul lays out so quintessentially in the book of Ephesians.

The false, which poses as the true, is, in the end, not benign, but aggressively cancerous and deadly, counter-productive to the true work God would have for His people. There truly is nothing new under the sun. “Let none find fault”, decried the pained prophet to a lawless generation that had forsaken the knowledge of God and its priestly role in His purpose (Hosea 4:1-6). The same attitude prevails today in a corrupt generation that has no place for correction or Divine rebuke. One simply should not dare to shine a light on the erroneous teachings, love of money, and abusive practices of self-serving ministers of Satan that lead God’s sheep astray, self-aggrandizing peddlers who think the Word of God is nothing more than a piece of merchandise from which they can gather gain and then call it the blessing of God, arrogant, manipulative charlatans dressed in sheep’s clothing who inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matt 7:15-23), whose judgment slumbers not (2 Pet 2:1-2). It all sounds so negative, who needs it? Driven by motives of self-interest, many choose to turn their ears away from the truth, because Christianity, for them, is primarily about what they get out of it, and not about the purpose, praise and glory of God revealed in Holy Scripture. We must here be honest: what today is called ministry and church does not in most cases pursue that Divine purpose that has as its ultimate goal the praise of God’s Name. Almost everything, rather, is driven and guided by motives of self-interest, resulting in egregious hypocrisy. Yes, we can talk a good talk, convincing ourselves that we are about the real thing. But the application of any reasonable standard of Biblical measurement reveals that we in practice do not set ourselves to attaining the teleological goals of which it speaks. In a word, we say a lot about the Word of God, but do not do it, and are, as a result, self-deluded. We would not have to go far to find that the Bible continually warns against this phenomenon. But since “Jesus did it all” and we are all “justified by grace, through faith” it seems to most of contemporary Christianity only a secondary concern to be serious about receiving with humility the implanted Word that is able to save our souls, or about the actual doing of that Word (James 1:21-25). That Word calls us to self-denial and cross-bearing (Matt 16:24-27; Phil 1:27; 2:1-16), and into a life-walk of transformation and image-bearing where Christ lives in us and we as beloved children of God actually walk in love just as Christ did in His own act of self-sacrifice for us (Gal 2:20; Eph 3:16-17; 5:1-2).

That said, we do not in this study intend to focus on criticizing what clearly is false, but to lay out the positive message of God’s purpose for His people as revealed in the book of Ephesians, which should inspire repentance, renewed faith and hope, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Our main objective should be to become the real Church, for Jesus, and to the honor, glory, and praise of God. It will take all of our time, focus, and energy to do so, in the power of God, and there is, at the end of the day, little time for anything else if we are truly of a sober spirit and a serious mind governed by sound judgment. I have seen it too often: wounded Christians justifying their own sinful attitudes of bitterness on the basis of the Church’s hypocrisy and failure to walk in love. We must go another direction, the Jesus way, which is to forgive, to overcome, to walk in love, seeking and setting our minds on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right of God (Col 3:1-4). We must be ready to repent, submit to God’s Word, and get fully on board with the purpose God has revealed, and for which Christ has died. I speak here, not from the high-tower of academic theology, but from a painful pastoral and prophetic pathos that sees the chasm between what God has revealed and what presently exists among the people called by His Name. Taking inventory here is necessary: we should hearken to Paul’s admonition to examine ourselves to see whether we are really in the faith, the proof being that Jesus Christ lives in us, unless we prove to be reprobate (2 Cor 13:5). Many are hurt and stuck in patterns of sinful attitudes and behavior that grow out of a root of bitterness, governed by strongholds of wrong thinking that spring from a wounded heart and that fester into choices of rebellion in which we refuse to submit to God’s Word and sadly fail to embrace the life of crucifixion and resurrection through which alone we may bear good fruit for God, by the grace of God (2 Cor 10:3-6). Added to this, there are structural impedances in the present church paradigms that turn people redeemed by Jesus and endowed with grace-gifts for service into spectators rather than warriors and servants of God’s purpose. The hour is urgent, and we must purpose in our hearts to quit making excuses for ourselves, for we all must stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for what we have done with the stewardship and grace bestowed upon us in Christ. I say this in all sincerity: it is time to get the “log” out of our own eye, so that we may then be the Church for which Jesus died. To that end we now embark on our study of this inspired document that takes us into the great mystery of Christ and the Church.

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Confronting False Teachings about Grace

March 7th, 2013 · 10 Comments

Confronting False Teachings on Grace in a Time of Apostasy
A few thoughts on confronting false teachings about grace in this time of apostasy:

The New Testament teaches that Jesus atoned for sin, once for all, and that His Blood cleanses those who repent. Thank God for His Cross! We are justified, reconciled, and saved from wrath through the precious Blood of our sin-bearing Substitute. In all that follows I build on this premise: that when it comes to atoning for sin and reconciling us to God, Jesus did it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow. Neither is there salvation in any other, for His Name is the One under heaven by which all must be saved. I believe that salvation belongs to the Lord, that all things are from Him, through Him, and unto Him, Who alone receives the glory. There is no such thing as “self-salvation”. Only through Jesus and His grace may we be saved from both the penalty and the power of sin.

The New Testament also teaches unequivocally that those who follow Jesus must deny themselves, take up their Cross and lose their lives for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel. He who loses his life for Jesus’ sake, and the sake of the Gospel, will gain it; he who seeks to save his life will lose it (Mark 8:34-38). So there is another cross, the one we carry, without which we cannot hope to gain eternal life in the age to come. It is not self-salvation. But the Lord clearly teaches that we must follow Him in order to be saved. God is asking criminals and rebels to surrender and come under His Lordship. Those who do will be the objects of abundant overflowing and transformative grace.
The New Testament also teaches that the way is narrow that leads to life and that few find it (Matt 7:13-14; Luke 13: 23-27). Jesus taught in no uncertain terms that unless ones righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees one will in no wise enter the kingdom of God (Matt 5:17-20). We must grow in holiness if we are truly in the grace of God. Examine yourselves to see whether you are really in the faith, the true test being whether Jesus Christ lives in you, unless you prove, after testing, to be reprobate (2 Cor 13:5). Jesus also said that the posers who continue to practice lawlessness and who do not do the will of the Father will be exposed on the last day as frauds and be met with surprising condemnation. Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but who inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Many will be shocked on the day of judgment and will make appeal to their gifts of prophecy, healing, and exorcism. Ah, but Jesus will say to them: Depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness, I never knew you (Matt 7:13-23). Yes, this is all interconnected: a narrow and broad way, false prophets who fleece sheep and lead people astray, condemnation on the Day of Judgment.
Paul teaches that believers participate in the Lord’s death and resurrection life. Not only did Christ die in our place, for us; we also died with Him and through union with Him in death were released from servitude to sin. This is not novel; it is the clear, plain teaching of Romans 6. What Paul teaches in Romans 6 concerning the believer’s union with Christ in death and resurrection is a powerful but much ignored truth that, if understood, lays the foundation for holiness in the church, the community of the redeemed that is called to be the dwelling-place of God’s Shekinah glory in the earth (2 Cor 6:14-18; Eph 2:20-22), the New Temple that is the precursor to the New Jerusalem where the Tabernacle of God is with men (Rev 21-22).

It is entirely impossible to reconcile what Paul so plainly teaches in Rom 6 with the view that Rom 7 describes the life of a believer, an endless cycle of bearing fruit for death, instead of bearing fruit for God unto eternal life. This is not to say there is not a struggle to mortify the flesh and live in the power of the Spirit so that we bear fruit for God. But it is untrue to say that the believer is “sold into bondage to sin” (Rom 7:14) when Rom 6 clearly states that the one who has died with Christ has been released from the power of sin, which will not have dominion over you because you are “under grace” (Rom 6:6-7, 14).
It would seem that we have ignored much of the teaching of the NT concerning the liberating power of the Gospel, the nature of our calling, and the goal God has set for us as the Bride betrothed and one day to be presented to Jesus. Just look at the language used over and over to describe God’s goal; its everywhere in the NT. Here are but two examples:
“that the Lord would cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all men … so that He may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (1 Thess 3:12-13).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him, having in love predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His Grace which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6).
To be honest: one has to ask “what on earth have we been thinking, and what Bible have we been reading”? Grace is much more than forgiveness of sins, or some mythical covering for us when we go on sinning against the Light. We need to repent and change our thinking and get back in touch with the pure teaching of our Lord and His Apostles. The contemporary teaching that we are just “sinners saved by grace”  and that “grace” is nothing more than a provision of forgiveness as we go on sinning is a falsehood that will in the end damn many. it is not really even what the Reformers like Luther, Zwingli, or Calvin really taught. Read what Jesus said in the Gospels about the life of a true disciple, the narrow way that leads to life. Then read what Paul teaches in Rom 6 and 8, Col 2:11-15, 3:1-4, Eph 2:1-10, just to get started. One cannot read these things and come away thinking that the present church ethos or the perverted teaching about “grace” is even close to Biblically sound.
God has called us, as the true Church, to something much higher; a calling so great it is nothing less than being fulled with all the fulness of God (Eph 3:16-19). We will give an account to Him at the judgment seat of Christ, and the main question will be whether we walked in a manner worthy of such privilege. Let us by all means shake ourselves from the dust, awaken from sleep, cast off the deeds of darkness (laziness, sexual promiscuity, backbiting, etc) and put on the armor of light (Rom 13:11-14). The vision of the Church as the dwelling-place of the Shekinah Glory is brilliantly pictured in 2 Cor 6:14-18. Get this vision and there will be no questions about whether holiness is required of the Church. It will also open up the full Biblical message about the liberating and transforming power of Grace. God has given us exceeding great and precious promises that by them we may be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Pet 1:3-4). Let us add to this growth in virtue (1:5-7). If we do these things we will never be unfruitful or stumble, but will gain an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom (1:8-11).
Pure and simple, the Gospel announces the rule of the King and issues a corresponding call to repentance, without which there is no salvation.
People have been sold a bill of goods. If the righteous (those who by grace live righteously before God) are with difficulty saved, what will be the outcome for the ungodly and the sinner?
We may close this brief blog with this thought. Paul’s vision of the church as the dwelling-place of the Shekinah Glory in 2 Co 6:14-18 is followed by an exhortation to cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (7:1). I would encourage every sincere believer to think long and hard about what the apostle is saying here, and, in light of it, begin to do two things: 1) contend in prayer and practice for the true church, the dwelling of God’s glory, to come together in unity for the rebuilding of the House of God, 2) make a deep commitment from this day forward to live your life in a manner worthy of this calling, with 2 Cor 7:1 and Eph 4:1-3 certainly being a good place to begin.
Dr. John J. Hartmann

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Taking Up the Cross of Jesus in Witness and Suffering

September 16th, 2012 · No Comments

Dr. Hartmann discusses taking up the cross of Jesus in witness and suffering.

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A Tale of Two Kingdoms

September 9th, 2012 · No Comments

Dr. Hartmann discusses a tale of two kingdoms.

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Seeking the Lost- God calling sinners to repentance

August 19th, 2012 · No Comments

Dr. Hartmann discusses seeking the lost as God calls sinners to repentance.

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The Quality of Endurance

July 26th, 2012 · No Comments

Dr. Hartmann discusses the quality of endurance.

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Blessed is the Man who Perseveres under Trial

July 22nd, 2012 · No Comments

Dr. Hartmann discusses the blessedness of the person who perseveres under trial.

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The Practical Application of the Servants Songs of Isaiah 40-54

July 15th, 2012 · No Comments

Dr. Hartmann teaches on the practical application of the Servants Songs of Isaiah 40-54

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Essentials of Righteous Living- Prayer, Giving, Fasting

July 8th, 2012 · No Comments

Dr. Hartmann teaches on some of the essentials of righteous living- prayer, giving, and fasting.

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God’s One Redemptive Plan as Expressed in the 5 Main Covenants of Scripture

July 1st, 2012 · No Comments

Dr. Hartmann teaches on God’s one redemptive plan as expressed in the 5 main covenants of scripture.

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