Our Message

What Our Message Declares

Bill Burkett

The Bible believing church of today has made some big changes in the message it preaches compared to the apostles message recorded in God’s Word. Some emphasize the love of God, while other modern preachers insist God wants us to prosper and be wealthy in this life. Most of these very temporal and appealing messages come from the materialistic and sensual believers from the West who have come as “missionaries” to spread the western kind of gospel to us here in Eastern Europe. Some of these western missionaries have been true to the apostles teaching but the majority of them have spread a western culture kind of Christianity. Many of these “missionaries” think the Slavic brethren are very simple and backward and must catch up with the world with more modern ideas about Christianity.

Being an American that has been among my Russian, Ukrainian and other Slavic brethren for more than 32 years I can speak with some accuracy about the attitude of these worldly Charismatic “missionaries.” I have many, many examples of their superior attitude toward the Slavic brethren. Most of them have a hidden agenda to change the Slavic churches to be worldly and loose like the American churches. I have said many times that we should be sending our Russian brethren to America to bring the western churches back to the pure religion we have here in East Europe. None of us are perfect but the Christianity we have in our Slavic world is a much purer Christianity than the kind they are trying to bring to us from the west.

Much of the teaching coming from the west is corrupted with human interpretations of Bible doctrines. Many of the teachers come with superior attitudes and persuade many of our brethren to abandon the traditional ways of the churches here in the East of Europe. Those who listen to these false teachers will give an account to God for listening to them and not living according to clear teaching of the Word of God. The Slavic churches are being tried and judged now in this democratic reform environment. Now God is seeing how the church will handle their freedom and if they be turned from truth for the promise of money and education.

Much of what Americans call the power of God and being a revival is superficial emotionalism – a very cheap substitute for the pure Christianity we hold to be precious and Biblical. But what the churches of Eastern Europe need is not the superior attitude of missionaries from the west coming in to replace the pure Christianity God the Holy Spirit has taught us, but to respect our pastors and do nothing against the teaching of our bishops.

As an American I have been coming to Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia for more than 32 years. The Christianity our brethren have here in East Europe is by far the purer Christianity to that brought here from the West. Our Slavic churches have kept the prayer covering and praying the Lord’s prayer together and many other practices not observed in the apostate churches of the west. These differences indicate the contrast in spiritual and Biblical values between our Slavic churches and the church teachers coming from the west. With all of the education and money comes the corruption of materialism and the Laodicean spirit to our churches in East Europe.

When we go to another country as missionaries we should respect the teachings and customs of those brethren with no secret agenda to make them like the western churches. One American missionary couple returned to America from Russia and told a church here that they had such a burden to return to Russia and teach them to be delivered from the terrible bondage of legalism they are under. This particular “missionary” wife had her face covered with cosmetics, wearing earrings and jewelry, had her hair cut short and wore no prayer covering – and then said the Russian Christians were in bondage. It is the Christian who has conformed to the world that is in bondage – not Christians who conform to the teaching of the apostles.

What is the difference between churches of different cultural and geographical backgrounds? The difference is in the message they preach evangelistically to the world, and the instruction they give to the church. The message of the church today should be the same as the message of Paul and the early church. What was their message? What did it consist of?

To answer this question I want to go to the Scriptures and see from the pages of God’s Word what the apostles actually used as themes when they preached.

And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. (25) And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. Acts 24:24-25.

Paul the apostle is being brought before Felix and his wife, Drusilla to make a petition in behalf of his faith in Christ. What will he preach to these notorious heads of state? Will he tell them that God wants to bless them and that they are people highly favored of God and that he is honored to be in their audience? No! Paul knows that Drusilla was the daughter of a powerful politician, Herod Agrippa I, and that she had been raised a Jewess, that she was engaged to marry Antiochus Aphiphanes but broke the engagement because he refused to become a Jew for her. Paul knew that both Felix and his wife Drusilla were knowledgeable of the Jew’s religion but were people of very little character. He knew Drusilla had come from a line of evil fathers and that it was her grandfather who ordered the babies killed when Jesus was born at the news of the wise men. Did Paul flatter them? Did Paul use special “wisdom” to have their favor that he might be released? Did Paul compromise his love for truth and allow these powerful public figures to intimidate him? The answer is no to all of these questions. Paul preached to them of righteousness, temperance, and judgment Felix trembled!

Paul preached to them the message modern apostates will not preach to this demoralized generation: Righteousness, temperance and judgment. This was the message of the church at its birth and it is still the message of the remnant Christian church today which refuses to depart from the holiness and character of Christ.

Righteousness: Here is that powerful Greek word (dikaiosune) that speaks of the work of Christ providing a just penalty for sin as the sinner’s substitute. He spoke to Felix of the just act of Christ on the tree as his substitute, of Christ’s character and equity. This same word is used as doctrine, or teaching. It is used to refer to the righteous conduct of God’s children also. In Matthew 5:6 Jesus uses this word to speak of those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; and then in 5:10 He spoke of the blessedness of those who suffer for righteousness sake. We are sure that Paul spoke to Felix about the righteousness of Christ and His substitutionary death on the cross because this was always Paul’s message to any of the Jews and would be his first message to Felix. And then also, Paul went on to speak of temperance which deals with the matter of the Felix’ and Drusilla’s character. The preaching of righteousness includes the clear revelation that God hates sin and will judge it! Charismatics have left off with all vital aspects of righteousness and its vital role in bringing conviction that will lead the sinner to repentance. Instead of righteousness, today, we tell people God loves them – there is no trembling and for this reason there is no in depth conversions.

Temperance: Temperance (egkrateia) here is a very strong word for Paul to use speaking to such powerful aristocrats. They were both extravagant people living in opulence with no one who dared to tell them that such luxury wasted on your person is a sin. But Paul told them! from 1468; self-control (especially continence): -temperance. Egkrateia in the Greek simply means that Paul told them about self control and the discipline of their body appetites. He apparently warned them against their lifestyle and the abuses they had tolerated in the area of self control. We have very little of this message being taught in many churches today and the Charismatics actually teach against self control advocating divorce, remarriage, cosmetics and prosperity in this life.

Judgment: Krima in the Greek: the proper use of authority in making decisions of judgment against crime. The Jewish state and religious power structure had already put Jesus to death followed by the death of James the brother of John (Acts 12). Now Paul was being tried and would end up also a martyr for Christ. Apparently Paul warned Felix of using the power of his authority to judge righteously in the matters pertaining to God and the kingdom.

Here stands Paul as Jesus once stood before Pilate. In both cases we at first see that Jesus and Paul were being judged by authority figures and that the destiny of Jesus and paul was in the hands of these men – but not so! Actually it was Pilate who was tried by Jesus. Oh, yes, Jesus was bound and wounded by his captors but it was Pilate who was being judged! As Jesus stood before Pilate the destiny of Israel and its history as a nation was being decided by men who misused the authority vested in them by God. The consequence was the judgment of God upon Israel who would be scattered among the nations of the world for 2000 years. No, it was not Jesus being tried as He stood before Pilate, but it was Pilate and the Jews who judged Jesus wrongly and took part in the unjust execution of Jesus, who were on trial in the great courts of divine justice.

So also in Paul’s case. It is Paul who is in bonds, but it is Felix and Drusilla who are being tried by Paul before God.

Paul’s speech made Felix tremble and ordered that Paul be taken away until another time. Paul’s message to the heart of Felix was not to make Felix feel good, nor did it avoid the matter of sin and righteousness.

Paul and the apostle’s lived in the beginning of the church age and we live at the very end. Let us take note of the themes Paul used to proclaim the gospel to his world and then let us do the same.

This was one of the messages printed in the Amen paper we printed in the Kiev office mailed out over Russia and the Ukraine encouraging the conservative pastors and people in the unregistered and persecuted church after the brethren were released from prison when Communism fell in 1980. I thought the content would be interesting to read after more than 30 years of the church’s history. Here is also a reprint description of our office at that time:

 

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