Perry Noble, pastor of a South Carolina megachurch, was rebuked by a Southern Baptist leader in South Carolina for calling the 10 Commandments "10 promises" and for other "problematic positions and statements."
The rebuke came last week from the president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, Tommy Kelly, who said, "We as South Carolina Baptists must publicly state and remove ourselves from these positions and problematic statements and call for NewSpring to correct these positions if it chooses to say that it affiliates with South Carolina Baptist churches."
Noble, who leads NewSpring Church, had preached on Christmas Eve a sermon on the 10 Commandments where he said there is no Hebrew word for command. His friend in Israel, which he visited last year, told him that the 10 Commandments can best be translated as either the "10 sayings" of God or the "10 promises" of God.
Noble had originally planned to show a video during the Christmas Eve service but said he felt prompted by God at the last minute to preach the message on the commandments. He said he wrote the message in 10 minutes as he felt it was what God laid on his heart.
Hoping to bring more people to Jesus, Noble asked those at the worship service to view the 10 Commandments not as rules they have to keep in order to be Jesus followers but as promises that they can receive when they accept Christ.
He interpreted the first commandment (You shall have no other gods before me) as "Promise #1: You do not have to live in constant disappointment anymore." The second commandment (You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything) was translated into this promise: "You can be free from rituals and religion and trust in a relationship."
The "you shall not murder" command, he said, is actually a promise that "you do not have to live in a constant state of anger because you will be motivated by love and not hate."
Two weeks after that sermon, Noble issued an apology on his blog, saying he is imperfect and makes mistakes and that he takes teaching the Bible "very seriously." He apologized for saying there is no Hebrew word for command. He said he had been debating the issue with "godly people" and researching it and found that the original Hebrew is "metzaveh."
He said he was not trying to mislead or deceive anyone when he preached that message.
In his apology, however, Noble also stood by his sermon. " … what I am not apologizing for is saying that the Hebrew word for 'command' is not used when the 10 commandments were given. It literally means 'sayings' - and, according to Exodus 34:28, can also be interpreted as promises."
He did note though that the 10 points are "clearly written as imperatives" and did not deny that.
The main point of his message, he said, was to direct people to Christ as everyone has broken the commands and is in need of Jesus.
Noble also apologized for hitting back at those who were critical of him on social media.
"I apologize for tweeting and putting on FB … 'If those who are angry at what I said about 'The 10 Commandments' were actually following all 10 the world would be such a better place!'"
Despite the apology, the state Baptist Convention indicated that it was concerned about NewSpring's "continued problematic positions and statements that are inconsistent with the beliefs of South Carolina Baptists." Some of the other problems at NewSpring that Kelly alluded to include profane language, music that is not sacred in content, the need for accountability groups for the pastor and the need for more "sound exegetical study and expository preaching."
Responding to a comment in defense of Noble and the hundreds of salvations that resulted from the Christmas Eve sermon, Kelly said: "I wonder if you can see into their hearts to know they are trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. I wonder if you attribute the work of the Holy Spirit which saves to this sermon. If not then it does not matter how many people are saved by the message. That shows the power and mercy of God, not the accuracy of the message."
Kelly also said his statement was not an "attack" on Noble but a rebuke on his words and theological positions.
Noble has moved on from the issue since his apology. He is currently preaching a sermon series on "grace." He tweeted earlier this week, "Grace says you are not what you did on your worse day!"