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The PTL Scandal and Biblical Repentance

by Walter Martin

from the Viewpoint column of the Christian Research Journal, Summer 1987, page 31. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another, so that you may be healed" (James 5:16). What a marvelous promise and picture of the healing ministry of forgiveness! I rejoice that, as Christians, we are not helplessly bound in the unholy, destructive, and filthy consequences of our sins. There is healing freedom in Christ! Freedom from the persuasive lure and domination of sin and its consequent guiltiness before God (Rom. 6:6). Freedom from the endless cycle of good intentions dashed to pieces against the monolith of man's fallen nature (Rom. 7:19-23). And that healing forgiveness has all been paid for by the sacrifice of Christ (Acts 20:28).

During the past few months the church in America has been shocked, rocked, and battered by the fiasco of Jim and Tammy Bakker and the PTL ministry. I have never seen a scandal used to better advantage by the Enemy in his ceaseless efforts to destroy the effective evangelism of Christ's Body. Make no mistake about it: this scandal hurts every single Christian in our country. Don't think that because you only support legitimate ministries, your church publishes open financial reports, and you are morally upright that this scandal doesn't affect you. It does. Like it or not, the Bakkers and PTL are part of Christ's visible body, and all Christians must take some of the blame for allowing sin in our midst (1 Cor. 5:13); some of the responsibility for exposing (Matt. 18:15-20) and judging (1 Cor. 6:1-4) the sin; and some of the burden of holding our erring brethren to heartfelt repentance (2 Thess. 3:14-15). Christians must deal with the PTL scandal.

But how? Many well-intentioned Christians are championing the secular press for smearing the church's dirty laundry across the not-too-pristine pages of American newspapers, exposing pastors' sexual misconduct on national television, and calling for government intervention and control of religious finances. How many of these Christians have considered the cost to religious liberty we all may have to pay as a result of "justice" at the hands of secular humanist bureaucrats?

Other just as sincere Christians are warning of the dire consequences attendant on "touching God's anointed," a biblical phrase used out of context ten times as often as in context. How many of these Christians have carefully considered both the clear biblical admonitions of Scripture to hold our leaders accountable (1 Tim. 5:20) and the context of their favorite phrase (Ps.105), which has nothing whatsoever to do with believers exposing and judging sin in their midst, a practice with strong biblical support in both the Old and New Testaments.

Still other believers think the Bakkers have been given a raw deal simply because they're Christians, while executives of other multi-million dollar corporations get away with much more financial and sexual promiscuity because they don't claim to be Christians. Have these Christians considered the words of 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, which are in part:

There are Christians who are urging the Bakkers to return to active public ministry, to put the ugly mess behind them and go on to new heights of glory and "service." They give lip service to repentance but monopolize their conversation with out-of-context talk about forgiveness and restoration.

Frankly, I can't go along with any of these "resolutions." The Bible is completely clear on how to handle a brother in sin: 1) Go to him; 2) Admonish him and call him to repentance; 3) Receive him into restorative process if he sincerely repents (Matt. 18:15); and 4) Rebuke those who continue to sin in the presence of all (1 Tim. 5:20).

That's the key to the PTL scandal. Many men and women, even Christian leaders, have fallen into sexual temptation and have lusted after money and power. David, a man after God's own heart, was guilty of all these things and more. But David admitted his sin, repented, and, through the help of God, changed his actions. At no time have I seen Jim Bakker and his cohorts openly, honestly, and with no duplicity admit their sins and put their so-called repentance into action through restitution (Acts 26:20; Ezek. 33:14-16). Oh, they've made polite noises about "indiscretions," "temptations," "pressures," etc. They're like the child who tells his mother he's sorry he stole the cookies, when he really means he's sorry he got caught stealing the cookies!

We as a church will not rise above the PTL scandal until we see repentance and change from all parties involved, Jim and Tammy Bakker and Rev. Richard Dortch especially. The Lord does not rejoice in a Christian's downfall -- neither should we. But let's come on our knees to the foot of the cross, admit our sins, show our repentance through our actions, and then rejoice in the healing freedom which comes from the Lord alone. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son keeps on cleansing us from all sin" (1 John 1:6-7).

End of document, CRJ0011A.TXT (original CRI file name),
"The PTL Scandal and Biblical Repentance"
release A, September 6, 1993
R. Poll, CRI

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1993 by the Christian Research Institute.

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