The Cross: Acquittal or Condemnation? Our Choice.

Dr. Fred Antonelli and Pastor Michael Cheshire wrote about my story in Relevant Magazine and Christianity Today, respectively. Both articles were followed by comments that were interesting, revealing, encouraging, and some a little disappointing. I appreciated the comments that taught that the Gospel could be applied to my life and that God’s resurrection in my life was verifiable and authentic. I noticed that those who thought sin should dictate over my life never based their arguments on quotes from any of my sermons over the last 30 years, my 9 published books, or the hundreds of thousands of pamphlets I’ve distributed. My blogs, personal appearances, websites, family relationships, or social media posts were not used as evidence against me. Instead they quoted media accounts, rumors, cited feelings and misused Scripture. Some claimed things they thought they heard me say but, in the comments I read, they were mistaken. What many were saying, without realizing it, was that I should not be obedient to God, his Word, or my spiritual authorities, but instead be ruled by their ideas about me.

I recently taught though 2 Corinthians at St. James Church. My teaching preference is to walk our congregation through a verse-by-verse exegetical study of specific books of the Bible, one at a time. I’ve done this for many years. I believe understanding and applying Scripture is enhanced by understanding the cultural, historical, and social issues that prompted the writing of any specific portion of Scripture. Often this process makes the biblical text come alive and creates a depth of comprehension. Because we start with the actual intent of the author and the cultural mindset of the hearer, we are then able to extrapolate how the Bible text applies to our lives as 21st Century New Testament believers. One of the sources I enjoy reading in preparation to teach the Pauline Epistles is William Barclay. Though non-technical, his insights have been helpful to me.

I thought about Barclay’s comments on 2 Corinthians when reading the comments following Dr. Antonelli’s and Pastor Cheshire’s articles. Barclay claims some portions of 2 Corinthians were Paul’s response to a series of accusations from the church. In his comments on 2 Corinthians 1:12-14, Barclay says Paul was responding to three charges. 1) They said “there was more to Paul’s conduct than met the eye.” Modern church leaders sometimes make this same claim against those they wish to disparage by saying, “If you only knew what I know.” This vilification isn’t specific enough for anyone to hold the accuser accountable, but effectively clouds the reputation of the slandered person.  2) Paul also had to respond to the  charge that he had hidden motives. When I hear someone raising suspicions about another person by presuming to know their motives, I become highly skeptical of the accuser, not the accused. 3) Paul didn’t say what he meant, there were hidden meanings in his words, the Corinthian church charged.  They were essentially saying Paul lied.

If these accusations would have been leveled against him in this generation, Paul’s ministry might not have survived. Our scandal hungry 24-hour news cycles and social media excesses would have left critics exactly where I found them in the comment section: confident in their opinions but unknowingly confused about the facts. Because Paul defended himself, we have read Paul’s response and NOT the accusations against him, we consider these indictments ludicrous and laud him for his courage. He’s exonerated in our minds. It’s interesting that he had to strongly defend himself to the Corinthians.

Barclay says Paul was responding to more slander in 2 Corinthians 1:15-22. Barclay wrote, “His (Paul’s) enemies had promptly accused him of being the kind of man who made frivolous promises with a fickle intention and could not be pinned down to a definite yes or no. That was bad enough, but they went on to argue, ‘If we cannot trust Paul’s everyday promises, how can we trust the things he told us about God?'”

Barclay says, “There are some people whose eyes are always focused to find fault, whose tongues are always tuned to criticize, in whose voice there is always a rasp and an edge. . . If we are constantly critical and fault-finding, if we are habitually angry and harsh, if we rebuke far more than we praise, the plain fact is that even our severity loses its effect.”

Slander is murder. Gossip is sin. Though I do not claim innocence, one of my many regrets is that I submitted to the requirement that I not grant any public interviews while under the Overseers and New Life contracts following my 2006 scandal. This left me and my family vulnerable, powerless, and defenseless, the church victimized, and the public misinformed and confused. That’s in the past. Because of this and other regrets, I have gained a new appreciation for the application of the Gospel. I have concluded that throwing stones is not beneficial for the one throwing the stones, the one being stoned, or the kingdom of God in general. Throwing stones does not work and is not helpful. The new and better way revealed in the New Testament, which is based on faith in the cross appropriating grace for all of us, is God’s way of dealing with our sin.

In 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, Paul wrote, “I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.” Paul argues that this needs to be done so “that Satan will not outsmart us” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Of course quoting this verse seems self-serving since I am the sinner, but I hope it is as true for me as it is for you and everyone else.

We can all thank God that Paul defended himself. As a result, we’ve all benefitted from Paul’s inspired letters.

In that light, I suggest you read these articles and then the comments. Don’t judge or condemn the people who expressed their views. Stick to working with ideas. These articles and the comments following can serve as a mirror that motivates us to choose the cross, to be a friend of the gospel in others, and to fully embrace the application of the New Testament. Links below:

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/elephant-church

http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2012/december-online-only/going-to-hell-with-ted-haggard.html

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13 thoughts on “The Cross: Acquittal or Condemnation? Our Choice.

  1. Carl Holmes says:

    Ted,

    We love you and bless you and your ministry. Thank you for sharing your heart.

    ~Carl and Amy Holmes

  2. Don Gray says:

    Brother, I stand with you. We sometimes believe that we should shoot our wounded and put us out of our misery. It is a shame that when we sin the first to condemn us are those that we look to for the Love of Christ. This is not to say that we do not need correction but correction done in love brings a great profit to us as the to the body of Christ. When we join the voices of the world and heap condemnation upon our brothers or sisters that have sinned we do nothing to enhance His kingdom. In fact we bring damage. He gets glory when we have brought Godly correction and then at the leading of the Holy Spirit bring restoration. In the world once guilty always guilty and they give no room for growth and change. We should not be like them. We have to remember His admonition to remember the beam in our own eye before we point out the splinter in our brother’s eye. When correction is administered we must first consider ourselves and then restore such one gently or else we to will be drawn away.

  3. Peter McGrath says:

    Ted,

    Thanks for your insight.

    If all of my sin were on display, I would undoubtedly be in your position. We are all horribly flawed which is why Jesus died on the cross. Those who are realistic know that not all saints change their decisions right away. Some like me remain stubborn and grieve the Holy Spirit more often than I would want to admit to the church. It grieves me that I have sinned against Jesus and His bride. Fortunately He is the author and finisher of our faith and our job is to cling to him and submit our will in order to obey. He can work with that.
    I have no right or reason to point a finger other than to point to the God who graciously provided a perfect sacrifice for the sins of all who see their need and turn to Him for forgiveness. May He be greatly praised for His immense and immeasurable grace and mercy in each of our lives I am just as much in need of it as you and every other sinner.

    May God continue to bless you

    Pete

  4. Vicki Taylor says:

    Isaiah 58:9b…If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, If you extend your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness….our answer to restoration and renewal in the Body..It starts with stopping the pointing of the finger…and malicious talk of the brethren we need to stop devouring one another…I won’t stand before men, I will stand before Him in the end.

    • Grace Grace God’s grace..grace that will pardon and cleanse within Grace Grace God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin. Graham Cooke asks Was Jesus punished enough..was God satisfied with the sacrifice? Yes as Bill Ruhl said he said “It is finished” blessings to you and your family, Ted..there seems to be alot of pain in the Body and its pain that we have inflicted on one another..

  5. Jordan Haas says:

    You said: “Of course quoting this verse seems self-serving since I am the sinner, but I hope it is as true for me as it is for you and everyone else.”
    You are not “the” sinner, Ted. I think it is a blessing that you were humbled by the public becoming aware of your actions. I hope that the mistakes of your past become the pride of your new self, and that where you are weak, through God you will make it the strongest area of your life.
    But I feel very sad if any of my gay friends feel outcast or somehow lesser than a straight person. Please show resolve in the fact that you are not (nor have ever been) less than an other sinner. By doing so you might encourage those who feel hopeless. Be forgiven! Then, lead the people who had previously thought there was no grace for them. Sincerely

  6. Bill Ruhl says:

    There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…The Cross has always been and will always be the sign of acquitall. Jesus spoke forgiveness from it and declared, “It is finished!” I like that!

  7. Joseph says:

    Ted,

    I truly love this place that you’re in. It’s sad that for too many of us, it takes a trauma or a tragedy to bring us to this recognition of God’s love and mercy. I personally believe you add more value to the Church now than you ever did before the revelation of your scandal. My family and I have always, and will always love you, Gayle, and your precious family. Always in His grip.

  8. kent says:

    Our Radical Lord Jesus said…

    Matthew 5: ” 43 “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. 46 If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. 39 But I say, don’t resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too. 40 If you are ordered to court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. 41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. 43 “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too.”

    Jesus’ heart for all people is to have them in Love with God. …restored. Our job, as his children, are to get past our own or others performance and be God’s Love. Christ came to earth in order for us each to give up and die (figuratively) … only then can His Holy Spirit resurect us, in order to serve him and love every peroson. Whether my sin is homosexual attraction or religious arrogence or lack of love does not matter. He can heal all that after we recognize that we are failures and desperatly need His Love.

    Thanks Ted. Keep loving Him and people.

  9. Linda Tennies says:

    John 8:7 – (Amp)
    7. However, when they persisted with their question, He raised Himself up and said, Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.
    8. Then He bent down and went on writing on the ground with His finger.
    9. They listened to Him, and then they began going out, conscience-stricken, one by one, from the oldest down to the last one of them, till Jesus was left alone, with the woman standing there before Him in the center of the court.
    10. When Jesus raised Himself up, He said to her, Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?
    11. She answered, No one, Lord! And Jesus said, I do not condemn you either. Go on your way and from now on sin no more.

    Oh that the Church today would embrace this scripture passage and ‘begin to go out, conscience stricken” and drop our stones.

    Thank you to you and Gayle for being such great examples of being true followers of Jesus:)

  10. Julia says:

    Dear Pastor Ted, I thank God for the scandal and the resulting greater revelation of grace that we have found in our relationships with God and with all people (because all people are God’s whether they know it yet or not). How can they know it if not for grace? I did not realize how unloving I could be until I watched what you, Gayle and your family went through. I now never want to be the person who does not extend grace.
    I have always said that if I had been famous, I could have made better headlines than you did. I think if most people were honest, they would see themselves clearly also. He who has been forgiven much, loves much. I understand this and pray that all people in the Body of Christ see themselves in their true state, realizing all have sinned and fallen short, then understand how great is the love of God to forgive all of us and to see us clean, forgiven and holy. May we extend the grace we’ve been given to all who have sinned so that they may know love and in knowing love, find everlasting life in Christ.

  11. Roger Olsen says:

    Hi Ted, i know your acquaintences are so many that I am not sure if you would even remember us though Sandra and I were at your home a couple times for the pastors conferences and our daughter Sarah graduated from the Worship School. I just would like for you to know that I often think of and pray for you and your family. Also, thank you for the many insights and teachings that have greatly impacted my life, ministry and church. I will forever be grateful to God for you and your ministry. I pray for His anointing on your life to be manifested in the days and years before you.

  12. Bill Cribbs says:

    If it were up to today’s church and the media, Peter would have never been able to remain a disciple after, gasp!, DENYING the one he called “Christ, Son of the living God” earlier in his life.
    I pray for your ministry and family. I wonder if you remember me from Kueta-T Camp in Louisiana and Bethany in Baker?

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