Tag Archives: Lewis Sperry Chafer

The False Branch Theory and John 15


So I’m in the shower (weird how we think there) and I’m going over John MacArthur’s view of John 15 about abiding (in my mind).  I listened to MacArthur at a pace of 6 tapes a week for two years in my early days after coming to faith.

He described the branches that were ‘thrown in the fire’ as false branches (Judas Branches).  Lest you think I’m making this up, I tracked it down:

There were the true branches and there were the false branches in the analogy. The true branches are represented by the eleven and the false branches are represented by Judas Iscariot. That whole thing flows out of the context of Judas’ betrayal. And at that point, the “In Me” simply means “identification.” I don’t think you can push too much theology into that “in Me” and say that it means absolute conversion. It’s attachment at that point, that’s all. And I think you have a Judas branch, and I think what it’s saying is that there will be people who will attach themselves superficially to Christ but in evidence bearing no fruit at all, will ultimately be cut off and cast into the fire because they show they have no life, because if they are had any life at all, they would have fruit. So I think it’s a graphic illustration of the whole context of what the disciples have just been through with them as compared to Judas.

(from: http://www.biblebb.com/files/macqa/1301-N-8.htm )

So, I did a little more digging and found that my old pastor and teacher Ken Gangel said something similar in the Holman NT Commentary on John 15:

15:6. Verse 6 narrows other possible interpretations of verse 2. We struggle a bit with the words, “he cuts off.” But thrown away and withers takes it further than we want to go in any reference to people who may have been true believers at one time. Certainly the words thrown into the fire and burned could never refer to those who were at one time true believers.
Blum treats this carefully and wisely:

These words have been interpreted in at least three ways: (1) the “burned” branches are Christians who have lost their salvation. (But this contradicts many passages, e.g., 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:28–29; Rom. 8:1.) (2) the ‘burned’ branches represent Christians who will lose rewards but not salvation at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:15). (But Jesus spoke here of dead branches; such a branch “is thrown away and withers.”) (3) the “burned” branches refer to professing Christians who, like Judas, are not genuinely saved and therefore are judged. Like a dead branch, a person without Christ is spiritually dead and therefore will be punished in eternal fire (cf. Matt. 25:46) (Blum, p. 325).
Kenneth O. Gangel, vol. 4, John, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference, 283-84 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000).

Yes, of course it is strange that fire means literal hell in an analogy…and…yes, of course, it is strange that ‘in Me’ doesn’t mean ‘in Me’ (within their own view) consistently throughout the passage.

But what really struck me under the 98 degree stream of water was the whole idea of a FALSE BRANCH.

The reason this struck me (all these years later) is that there is NO SUCH THING in reality as a FALSE BRANCH.  There are parasites (mistletoe) that look like they belong to the tree, yet Christ clearly (and easily could have said that) said the were vine branches.  Back then there were no such things as ARTIFICIAL BRANCHES either.  Artificial came along with wax and plastics and science (‘contrived by art’ around 1300AD).  Christ is using a real, live thing as an illustration.

When the Lord uses sheep, He says some of the sheep are “not His.”  He does not say that they are false sheep (you know…look like the real thing…but really aren’t sheep).  False prophets are still real people and false teeth are still used for teeth….and, we know where these things come from.

But, where would a false branch come from?  In nature (certainly in the NT era) no one had a notion or word for ‘false’ branch (any more than they would have for a false rock, stream, or fish).  The branches are real, and they are In Christ.  Obviously you must understand Him to be speaking of losing salvation or losing reward (see 1 Cor 3).

From Whence Cometh this Interpretation?

Necessity…and…it turns out to be a wonderful example of eisegesis, or imposing meaning on a text.  Since Blum/Gangel exclude any alternate meanings of the word ‘dead’ in the context, they miss the obvious nature of the warning for believers.  Therefore, with that as impossible and losing one’s justification as impossible (I agree)—all that is left for MacArthur, et al, is to make up the notion that there could exist in Christ’s mind (and on the earth) the idea that some branches (in Him) are actually fake or artificial branches.

I love these guys and I have no bones to pick, but all of us must learn to be very, very careful when we handle the Word of God.  Saying, “It must mean A because B is false elsewhere, can easily tempt us not to read the actual words of the text.”

My practice is to try to settle on a meaning from the immediate passage BEFORE I compare it to other places in the Word.  The comparison is valuable, but it is a dangerous way to interpret a passage by imposing meaning from elsewhere right off the bat!  The Analogy of Scripture is great, but you must inductively begin with the parts rather than than the whole.

So, what do you think?

Fred Lybrand


The Great Mistake: Thinking Christ’s Kingdom is Here Now

I run into this often, and I find it really distorts our ability to read the Bible accurately.

Innocently, it is found in the phrase ‘already / not yet’… propagated, I’m sure, from Ladd’s The Presence of the Future.  Often we do this sort of thing for rhetorical reasons, and many do it to promote unity.  I mean, honestly, aren’t we all working together for ‘the kingdom’?  Isn’t it all about kingdom work?

I suppose the answer is ‘yes’; except that none of us seem to know what we mean be the word itself.

First, a little logic.  In Back to Faith (p. 15) I said,

Logic does not exceed the plain statements of Scripture;
however, the Scriptures cannot violate logic. The most
foundational principle in logic is the law of non-contradiction (also
called the law of contradiction).

Carl Henry underscores the importance of the law of non-contradiction:
Divine revelation involves intelligible sequences of information, not an incoherent and self-contradictory
chaos. The fact is that whatever violates the law of contradiction cannot be considered
revelation. The truth of revelation is not a series of unrelated and disconnected propositions like ‘Today I
love my wife.’ ‘The astronauts have returned.’ ‘The salmon are running.’ The God of biblical revelation
is the God of reason, not Ultimate Irrationality; all He does is rational.

Basically something cannot be both true and not true, A and -A, exist and not exist. The reason for this mention of the law of non-contradiction is that it has never applied so well as to the ‘already / not yet’.  The idea is that the kingdom is literally here in some sense, but is yet future in another sense.  Of course, the idea of ‘some sense’ has faded away.  Nowadays we say the kingdom is already and not yet as thought it is as well established as the fact that 1,006,201 angels can sit on the head of a pin (isn’t that right?).

So here’s the lesson in logic:

Both ALREADY and NOT YET are true


(substitute equivalent terms)

both ALREADY and NOT ALREADY are true

In other words, people are saying that the kingdom is Already / Not Already.  Now, no one would say it  out in the open this way…but, in effect, it’s exactly what they’re saying!

The issue is equivocation; different meanings of ‘kingdom’ are in play at first, but then they are treated the same.

The verse most commonly quoted is

“The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20b-21 NIV

Notice the rest of the verse in context,

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21 NIV

It is the Pharisees Christ is telling ‘the kingdom of God is within you’— who actually believes that the Pharisees possessed (or even belonged to) the kingdom?  Pretty much no one.

Most translations offer it correctly,

20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” ESV (Lk 17:20–21)

There in the presence of the King is the kingdom.  In the south we’d say, “If it were a snake it would’ve bit you!”

The kingdom is not within us, we are in it…or will be when it comes.

We belong to the kingdom as children of God, but we are currently aliens (Hebrews 13:14) and serve as ambassadors (2 Cor 5).  We are seeking to populate the kingdom on behalf of the coming king!  The kingdom simply is not here right now.  The earth is ruled by the Prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) who owns the kingdoms of this world (see Luke 4:5).

Our King is coming.

So, finally, there is one last argument often mentioned.  Some define the kingdom as wherever the king rules (so if He rules in your heart, then the kingdom is there).  This seems largely made up and doesn’t match the nature of kings or kingdoms (which actually often have rebellion in them).  The support is primarily from the Lord’s prayer,

10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.  (Mt 6:10)

Notice the sequence is FIRST the kingdom comes, and SECOND His will is done.  The already/not yet advocates misread this passage as saying,

Your will be done,
your kingdom come
on earth as it is in heaven.  (Matt 6:10) ESV

HUH?  In fact, if it is already here, then why pray for the kingdom to come at all?

It really is simple.  The kingdom is not here now…and when you impose that assumption on a verse you are reading all will go awry.  The kingdom is coming and you’ve been sent ahead to proclaim it and gather it’s membership and well represent the king.

Here are a couple of final suggestions—

1.  At least ask each time you read a verse, please decide if it is referring to the future kingdom or a present one.

2.  Try reading Matthew with ‘future’ placed before ‘kingdom’…WOW will that particular book of the Bible make sense!

Just to nail it down, here are two irrefutable passages about the future of the kingdom:

3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
The Ascension
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. (Acts 1:3–7) ESV

21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:21–22) ESV

God bless,

Fred Lybrand

P.S.  Ever noticed that the kingdom is only mentioned in a mere 3 verses in the Gospel of John?

The Bible:Two Men Saved from Hell By Their Money?

I had a recent discussion with someone who is apparently deeply dedicated to the idea that we must be perfect on earth in order to get into heaven (at least that’s what it all sounded like to me over a series of correspondences).  So, I threw something I find interesting his way.

Notice these two lines are 29 verses apart in the same book of Luke:

Concerning the Rich Young Ruler: “When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”” (Luke 18:22, ESV)

Concerning Zacchaeus: “And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”” (Luke 19:8-10, ESV)

Then I said:

So here one person is told that he must give away ALL while the other is saved by giving HALF (etc.)….If your view is right, that people must become perfect in this life to get into heaven, then Christ must also have different standards for what this means for each person (Rich Young Ruler vs. Zacchaeus)…

Now, Luke knew good and well he was putting these events right next to each other.  So, why would Christ require all of one person’s wealth, but only half of another person’s wealth, to get into heaven?

Frankly, I’m surprised someone in the political arena hasn’t misused this interesting situation to explain why we should all have the same amount of money (socialism?) or the same amount of ‘no money’ (communism?).  Really, the point is evident.  Jesus is not concerned about our money, but about our neediness.  None of us ever takes nasty medicine or painful surgery until we need it.  Even the folks who obsess on cosmetic surgery have become convinced it is necessary for some result (beauty / youth / job).

The Rich Young Ruler was quite clear that he had done all the law required, so Christ upped the ante.  He offered the man an opportunity to see where his faith rested.  With Zacchaeus, the kindness of Christ entering his home opened up his need for Christ, and shortly, his own need to be generous.

The lesson here is that we Christian-types often miss the point because of our obsession with works in other people’s lives (if you want to get free from this, please read Back To Faith, its truths cured me!).  Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, said something really fascinating on an old cassette I found in a church closet one time.  In this message (from 1946-ish) he said something like the following to a group of would-be preachers,

Gentlemen, don’t preach against the world.  Don’t preach against the things in the world.  To the spiritually dying, everything in the world is the anesthetic for their pain.  To preach against is to preach more pain for those who don’t know the Savior.  Instead, preach grace.  Preach about the kindness of God and His love for them…this will be a better offer that will allow them to let go  of their pain-killer as they embrace God’s answer in Jesus Christ by faith.”

Well, he said it better than that, but Paul said it even better—

“That is the way we should live, because God’s grace that can save everyone has come. It teaches us not to live against God nor to do the evil things the world wants to do. Instead, that grace teaches us to live in the present age in a wise and right way and in a way that shows we serve God. We should live like that while we wait for our great hope and the coming of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us so he might pay the price to free us from all evil and to make us pure people who belong only to him—people who are always wanting to do good deeds.” (Titus 2:11-14, NCV)

The point is that grace teaches us…and the result is that we seek to do ‘good’.  How often do we get cause-and-effect twisted around to miss (completely) the power of God’s kindness…leading to change…leading to good deeds.  When Christians walk well and do it right, they are taught by grace to do good…not to do good to see if God might be gracious.


God bless,

Fred Lybrand