Is the Jesus of incarnational ministry the same as the Jesus that is presented in Scripture?
This question must be asked in light of the new movement in evangelicalism, known as being “missional” and “incarnational”. Many Reformed Theology adherents are following this movement with zeal, and are even learning about it in seminaries, such as Westminster Theological Seminary. Incarnational ministry is built upon the, Pelagian, “substitutionary theory” of Christ’s Atonement, which claims that Christ came into the world to give mankind a moral example of how to live. Although this is being taught in Reformed Seminaries, it is not being taught to the exclusion of the, Reformed, “vicarious substitutionary” view of the Atonement, which rightly claims that Christ came into the world to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind (Romans 3:21-26, Romans 5:18-19) . Therefore, two doctrines are being merged as one within the minds of many new Calvinists.
This merging of the two views of Christ’s Atonement is the basis for incarnational ministry, which is an attempt to follow Christ’s example of being a humanitarian, for the purpose of evangelism, and, for some, bringing about the kingdom of God on earth, as though the church age is the thousand year reign of Christ on earth. This movement holds a promise of a better world, which will be brought about through the good works of one’s own hands, for many who follow it. This better world is to be realized by taking on the social problems of the world as though the church has been empowered by Christ to put an end to the affects of sin, such as poverty, war, and tyranny (Revelation 6:1-6). This is why many new Calvinists claim to be on a mission of reclaiming the culture, and even creation itself. Many have even taken the focus off of evangelism, and have, instead, began teaching the Jesus came to reconcile all creation to himself, and therefore, he has reconciled his church to creation. They are also teaching that God made mankind to be creators, just as God is a creator. This belief that the church will bring about the redemption of all things is consistent with the 1679 “Prophecy of the Coming Kingdom“ by the Christian mystic, Jane Lead, minus the conversion of the world through signs, and wonders, but it is inconsistent with the teachings of Scripture.
In order to believe that the church is able to bring about a better world, certain Biblical truths must be ignored, misinterpreted, and even completely thrust aside. One of those truths is Revelation 12, which teaches that Satan has been cast down to the earth, and is full of wrath, because he knows that he only has a short time to persecute Christians. Also, 2Corinthians 4:4 teaches that Satan is the ruler of this world. Daniel 12, Revelation 13, 19 and 20, shows that Christians will endure persecution, and murder, until Christ returns, and destroys this present world’s system, and sets up his own kingdom, which is the kingdom of Heaven come down to earth. These passages, and many others, prove that Christ did not send his church to reclaim, or to transformed, the culture, because it is Satan’s territory. Jesus’ return to earth, and nothing else, will transform this world.
Christ’s incarnation was not centered on humanitarianism, but saving lost souls from eternal punishment, and reconciling them to God. Jesus clearly affirms this when he said “…the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost”, and “…as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (Luke 19:10, John 3:14-17). Also, Christ’s ministry of preaching the gospel for the saving of the lost was the same ministry that he gave to his Apostles. That is why Jesus said “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high”, “…and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:8). That is why Paul said, “all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2Corinthians 5:18-21).
Therefore, the Jesus of incarnational ministry, who came into the world to empower his church to teach the world how to be good people, is not the Jesus of the Bible. The real Jesus is the Savior of the world, and not a humanitarian. To merge two different teachings of who Jesus is, by teaching both the Pelagian and the vicarious substitutionary view of the Atonement, is to create a different god – a false God. According to the Apostle John, those who try to change the teachings of who Christ is, is an antichrist (1John 4:1-3).
The proof that the missional movement is not from Christ can also be found in the actions of the movement. For example: the movement is not centered on evangelism, and discipleship, but embracing the non-believing communities of the world as though it were the church; thus blurring the lines between those who are the family of God, and those who are not. This is also reinforced by applying certain passages of Scripture that only apply to the church to everyone in the community in which a local church is planted in, such as the following passage:
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
This passage is used to support the social efforts of the missional movement, when it is really addressing Christ command to his church to love one another, by saying “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”, and “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me” (Matthew 25:40 & 45). The world is not Christ’s brethren, but the church is. Incarnational ministry ignores that important detail.
Some have also used the Apostles’ charge to Paul to remember the poor, which Paul was also eager to do (Galatians 2:10). But Paul’s ministry to the poor did not reflect the missional movement, because the book of Acts, as well as, Paul’s epistles, did not mention Paul caring for the poor people of the unbelieving world. Instead, what is mentioned in 2Corinthians 8 is Paul’s collection of the gifts of the Gentile churches for the relief of the poor believers in Jerusalem, which began in Acts 11:19-20, because of a great famine that impoverished Judea. No where in Scripture has Paul reflected the work of the missional movement.
Is it wrong to meet the needs of the poor?
It is wrong to call humanitarian work “the work of God”, because believing in Jesus is the work of God in the world (John 6:26-29). To call something else that Scripture does not acknowledge as “the work of God” for the church, is to take the Lord’s name in vain, and God will not hold such a person, or movement, guiltless who does this, because it is contrary to the will of Christ (Exodus 20:7, Luke 12:47-48).
Nevertheless, it is not wrong to meet the needs of the poor “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Galatians 5:14). Therefore, it is not wrong to meet the needs of poor unbelievers, but it is wrong to call this act the work of Christ’s church, or incarnational minsitry, or being missional.
It is by the church’s love for one another that the world will know that they belong to God, because they love one another just as Christ loved them (John 13:34-35). This is one of the ways that the church allows their light to shine, so that men will see their good deeds, and glorify their Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:14-16). This love for other believers is the light of the church that has been recorded in Scripture in passages such as Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32-37, and Acts 6:1-6). Furthermore, this kind of love was also taught by the Apostles in passages such as Romans 12:4-16, Romans 15:1-7, 1Corinthians 13, Philippians 2:1-8, James 2:14-16, 1John 3:16-19.
Therefore, the missional movement would do well to redirect its focus from the world, and onto loving the church just as Christ loved his church. A movement such as that could indeed be supported by Scripture, but the social efforts of incarnational ministry, which is nothing more than the social gospel, is the work of a different religion. This work will only serve to cause people to hope in an earth-based/works-based salvation. Such a movement is not the work of God, but it is more consistent with the ministry of white-wash, which the false prophets of Israel were well adapt in (Ezekiel 13:4-14).
In conclusion, incarnational ministry is not the work of the gospel, but it is the work of the social gospel that is deceiving Christians into putting their efforts towards helping the world to work for, and hope in, an earth-based/works-based salvation. It is causing people to be under the same condemnation that the rich man of Luke 12:16-21, who was not condemned for being greedy, but for not preparing for the more weightier matter of being justified before God. The missional movement does this by taking the focus off of evangelism, and instead, putting the focus on earthly cares, and heart-felt needs, as though that is what matters to God the most. But Scripture makes it clear, that believers must love their neighbor as themselves, and they must love the church, just as Christ loved the church, by giving his life for them. Therefore, loving the church is the orthodox focus for Christ’s church, and not incarnational ministry. The missional movement is more consistent with Rick Warren’s world wide “Purpose Driven Emerging Church movement” than the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3 Thus says the Lord GOD: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!
4 O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts.
5 You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the LORD.
6 They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD!’ But the LORD has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed.
7 Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, ‘The LORD says,’ but I have not spoken.”
8 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you,” says the Lord GOD.
9 ”My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.
10 ”Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace — and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar —
11 say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down.
12 Surely, when the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the mortar with which you plastered it?’ “
13 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I will cause a stormy wind to break forth in My fury; and there shall be a flooding rain in My anger, and great hailstones in fury to consume it.
14 So I will break down the wall you have plastered with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be uncovered; it will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.