8 Questions for Don Starkey

Don Starkey is a former pastor & the author of “Heaven’s Lockbox: Finding Eternal Security in an Insecure World” and you might know him from the christian blogging world for his personal questions and answers blog.

This week I asked him 8 loaded questions in an interview so lets dig in this Q&A!

Your latest book focuses on Eternal Security.
Why is this an important topic?

What difference does it make if Christians are uncertain of their own salvation if you can still be saved without certainty.

Of course the obvious answer is that we want to get the Bible right on this subject. John included in his last chapter of 1 John that we can “know” that we’re saved. When you remove this assurance you subtract from what the New Testament authors have previously established. Jesus made a bold statement in John 5:24 that a “born again,” or literally, “born from above” believer will not face judgment and has “already passed from death into life.” Naturally, when He made this statement, He knew that we would sin after our acceptance of Him. Later in chapter ten of the same Gospel, John quotes Jesus as saying, “…No one will snatch them out of my hand…” referring again to the believer. Paul made it very clear in his writings that we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit.”

When we come before the Lord in worship and prayer, our appreciation will be only half-full if we doubt Jesus’ words. How can we truly be joyful regarding God’s grace if we never are assured that we have arrived? The fifty-four times the phrase, “Good News” is mentioned in the New Testament might as well be changed to “hopeful news.”

This also affects our attempts at evangelizing. After all, do we want to invite people to be as doubtful about the Lord’s assurance and grace as we are? Any other view than the one that Jesus offers causes us to be robbed of our joy and confidence in the Lord. We’re also in effect saying, that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to save us from our past sins but inadequate to save us from our future ones. Also we forget the fact that both in Romans and Ephesians, our salvation is called a “gift.” Paul is very clear that a gift has no strings attached, nor does it include wages of any sort.

If you’re interested here is Don’s Book

What is one thing we should know or practice to advance through our sanctification?

There is an often misquoted passage found in 2 Timothy 2:15 that reads: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” I use the KJV to illustrate a point. This verse is badly mistranslated. It’s not about study at all. We can go to Romans 15:4 and elsewhere to prove our need to absorb God’s Word. This verse is actually a sanctification passage. The word “study,” should correctly be translated, “urgently,” or “diligently.” The phrase “word of truth,” unlocks the passage for us. Eph. 1:13 says, “in Him you also, when you heard the Word of Truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” 2 Timothy 2:15 is telling us to live up to the holy calling by which we’ve been saved, the gospel of our salvation. Indeed, the New Testament is replete with the issue of following the Spirit in the way we live, work, talk and celebrate His worthiness. We are His kids and we want to live a life that is worthy of the gift of eternal life that we’ve received.

There are many Christians today who struggle with porn, what advice would you give to them?

Today, porn is the most popular drug in the world. It affects almost every household.

Porn will etch pictures in your memory that won’t be forgotten, yet can still be forgiven. I don’t need to address the dangers of porn, most believers are aware of these dangers.

However, just like with any sin, it’s forgivable at the cross where Jesus paid our sin-debt. You are never beyond hope or beyond rescue. Jesus loves you with a love that defies all human understanding. After all, Jesus spent far more time with the down and out sinners than the religious elite. His love for you is unshakable and unfathomable. God can still heal you and use you for the greater good of His kingdom!

There are movements within COC that claim grace through faith is not enough & that you must be baptized into water to receive the gift of salvation.

How would you address that?

Having preached in the COC, I’m very familiar with their arguments on the subject (since I used them myself).

  1. Church of Christ its baptism
    First, I would say that their belief is in direct contradiction to the words Jesus gave regarding salvation.
  2. Secondly, you cannot use a few isolated passages to promote a major doctrine when there are hundreds that say otherwise.
  3. Third, we have several examples of those who were saved prior to baptism, one being found in Acts 10.
  4. Fourthly, if we consider that great salvation book, the Gospel of John, our minds will be changed forever on the subject. John’s reason for writing his gospel was to bring people into a saved relationship with Jesus (according to John 20:30-31). Interestingly, there is no mention of Christian baptism (John 3 does not teach water baptism), and there is no mention of repentance. This was the convincing proof I needed when I changed my mind on the purpose of baptism.

However, even though baptism doesn’t save us, I do believe that we’ve robbed baptism of its power. In some cases it appears that the “sinner’s prayer” has taken the place of baptism. As you read through the twenty-eight chapters of the Book of Acts, you’ll discover that water baptism was that God-given ritual that immediately celebrated that new birth that had just taken place.

How should we evangelize religious people who adhere to a distorted Gospel?

First and foremost is to love them and not be argumentative. Allow them to see our unrestrained joy in being saved. Secretly, they want the same thing. They have just been taught that God’s grace is just too good to be true– but then isn’t that what grace is, too good to be true? In our conversation, keep sharing passages that speak of a liberated joy and celebration in the Lord’s presence.

There are many pastors & leaders calling themselves Prophets.
What is a Prophet & how can you know if a person is a prophet?

This is a person who speaks God’s truths to others. It’s from the Greek word, prophetes. It means, “one who speaks forth.”

There are over 133 who are called prophets in the Bible (not counting the false prophets). There are some instances in the Bible where a prophet does foretell the future, but the warnings are clear: If even one statement he makes regarding the future is false, he in turn is a false prophet. Jesus warns us that in the last days there will be many false prophets.

A true prophet of today would never go beyond God’s Word as far as foretelling the future. I personally, frown on the use of the word prophet for today. For many it creates a false image of someone who is constantly going beyond the boundaries of the Bible. However, I’m not going to be anyone’s judge who uses the term.

One of your blog posts suggests that Repentance is required for salvation but it is not a repentance of sin.

This is quite controversial in light of Protestant & Reformed Soteriology (& frightening I might add).

What are you changing your mind & disposition from if its not sin?

I think the issue is in getting the cart before the horse. Also we’re getting sanctification confused with works. For instance, you will hear from many pulpits today during the altar call, “Repent of your sins & ask Jesus to come into your heart and you’ll be saved.” But where is this invitation in the New Testament? I haven’t found it yet.

The clearest statement regarding salvation is found in Acts 16:30-31. In fact this is the only time in the New Testament where the question is asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas’ answer is to “believe on the Lord Jesus.” This would have provided the Holy Spirit the perfect opportunity to throw in anything else that we needed to hear such as, “be baptized to be saved,” “repent of your sins to be saved,” “stay faithful to be saved,” and so on. But no, it’s a simple and to the point–we are saved through the person of Jesus Christ!

One of the errors that we all practice is reading into a text something that isn’t said. We have been so brainwashed to believe that repentance of sins is necessary for salvation that we automatically insert the words, “of sins,” whenever we read the word, “repent.” In Acts 20:21 Paul preached, “I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” It’s a change of mind regarding Jesus. Repentance of sins is taught in the Bible, but it is taught to believers. There is only a one-step plan for salvation and that is in the person of Jesus. We don’t tell prospective believers to “stop sinning and come to Jesus.” Once we are believers, the Holy Spirit aids us in this sin struggle and in overcoming. I can’t stop sinning on my own. In fact when I came to the Lord, I didn’t even know what all my sins were so I couldn’t repent of all of them! It’s never wise to add to the Gospel message. We should just use the words that Jesus and the New Testament writers used.

If someone is truly turning to God and trusting in the Lord, their desire will be to discontinue sin. If they fight this spiritual urge, the Holy Spirit will discipline and correct (Hebrews 12). When we say, “stop sinning” to be saved, we’re adding a work to the salvation process.

Speaking of Protestants & Reformers & in light of T4G, is the protest over?

t4g protestant reformation 500 years later

Under what circumstance would you consider the Catholic Church to be reformed back to orthodoxy?

I think that any group that sets themselves up as the vanguard of the faith is dangerous. And I certainly don’t want to sound arrogant regarding my own beliefs. Nor is it my job to attack other believers in their walk with the Lord.

Regarding the Catholic Church, they will always be locked in by their own orthodoxy. Manmade rules and centuries of traditions become a closed casket to one’s spiritual liberation and resurrection. I think nothing further needs be said in that regard.

Review

I’d like to thank Don L. Starkey for his time!

Starkey gave many wise words but I certainly disagree with his understanding & defining of repentance. So off record we had a short respectable exchange & I would point people here for an explanation of repentance. Albeit our disagreement I am comforted with this quote from the end of Question 7:

If someone is truly turning to God and trusting in the Lord, their desire will be to discontinue sin. If they fight this spiritual urge, the Holy Spirit will discipline and correct (Hebrews 12). When we say, “stop sinning” to be saved, we’re adding a work to the salvation process.

If there is 1 thing that Christians can take from this Q&A is Don’s approach when evangelizing religious people of another gospel. Though It can be burdensome unindoctrinating a person’s false gospel, we must primarily “love them and not be argumentative.” because its the love of God that saves. So when we are tearing down the doctrines of demons lets do so in the scope of a blessed love.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19