Category: Defending the Faith

The Believer and the Law

The Believer and the Law

(Guest Post by James Quiggle ThM)

What is the believer’s relation to “The Law?” The apostle Paul said the New Testament believer is “not under law but under grace,” Romans 6:14. But then Paul said he was “not being without law to God but within law to Christ,” 1 Corinthians 9:21. Paul said, “The law is good if one uses it lawfully,” 1 Timothy 1:8, and “the law is holy,” Romans 7:12, and “the law is spiritual,” Romans 7:16. How do we resolve this seeming contradiction, as being not under law but not without law?

When Paul says the believer is “not under law,” he is speaking of the Mosaic Law—specifically the way his unsaved Jewish brethren used the Mosaic Law. The Judaism of New Testament times viewed obedience to the Mosaic Law as the only way to obtain the kind of righteousness that resulted in a saving relationship with God. Every negative use of “law” in the New Testament is a reference to this view of righteousness gained through obedience to the Mosaic Law. Paul specifically says this at Romans 9:31–32, “Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.” Paul’s statement at Ephesians 2:9, that salvation is “not of works” is partly a reference to the Jewish effort to obtain salvation through “works of the [Mosaic] law.” (The Gentiles had a similar view of obedience to their gods as the way to pagan heaven.)

What was the real purpose of the Mosaic Law? There are three aspects to the Mosaic Law. First, the Mosaic Law revealed God’s values through its precepts. These are the values by which human beings are to conduct their manner of life. Notice I did not say “these are the commandments” but “these are the values,” because some of the commandments do not make sense in these New Testament times, but the values and principles underlying the commandments remain valid. God’s moral values from the Mosaic Law are repeated in the New Testament—what some call the Law of Christ. God’s moral values do not change, therefore obedience to those values is still required.

Second, the Mosaic Law was a moral guide to protect God’s saved people from the destructive power of sin. “The [Mosaic] law is holy, the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12). “Before faith we were kept under guard by the [Mosaic] law . . . the [Mosaic] law was our paidagōgós to bring us to Christ,” (Galatians 3:23, 24). The paidagōgós was originally a slave who accompanied the adolescent minor heir when he left the security of the home, whose purpose was to protect the heir morally and physically. One of the more frequent trips was to the school house (in modern terms) and thus the paidagōgós became identified with this frequent task. The original meaning is exactly what Paul has said, “kept under guard” by the Mosaic law.

Third, the Mosaic Law condemned the sinner by revealing his or her sin. The Mosaic Law is “a ministry of death” and a “ministry of condemnation” (2 Corinthians 3:7, 9). And Romans 7:13, “But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good,” the Mosaic Law, 7:12,  “so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.”  “I would not have known sin,” said Paul (Romans 7:7), “except through the [Mosaic] law.”

So, when Paul speaks of “the law,” he is usually referring to the Mosaic Law. The New Testament believer is “not under the Mosaic law but under grace,” Romans 6:14. But is the New Testament believer without law? No. We saw above Paul said he was “not being without law to God but within law to Christ,” 1 Corinthians 9:21. The believer has been set free from the condemnation of the Mosaic Law, but obedience to the moral values the Mosaic Law expresses are still required of the believer. The believer has been set free from the worldly pursuit of righteousness and salvation through the works required by the Mosaic Law. But the believer is not free to sin because under grace, Romans 7:15. Rather, there is still a law the believer must obey—not to gain righteousness, but as the expression of righteousness received.

No careful reader of the New Testament letters can fail to be impressed by the commandments to moral behavior. For example, Paul repeats the second table of the Ten Commandments at Romans 13:9 as required of the believer—he even quotes Leviticus 19:18 as a requirement for obedience, noting that love of one’s neighbor incorporates doing the commandments. The Hebrews’ Writer gives several commandments in chapter 13. The book of James gives many commandments to “do this” but “don’t do that.” Peter in his first letter says, “let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, a busybody” (1 Peter 4:15), and positively, “honor all people love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17), and many more “do this-don’t do that” commandments. John’s first letter is full of instruction for Christian behavior. When Jude says “contend earnestly for the faith” he isn’t just speaking of doctrine, but practice also, noting all the immoral behaviors s examples of the things believers are to not do. Paul gives a rather complete list of “do this” behaviors in Titus 2:1–11. The moral commandments of the New Testament, the Law of Christ, as it is sometimes called, tells the believer how he/she “ought to walk and to please God,” 1 Thessalonians 4:1, through the commandments of Christ and the apostles, 1 Thessalonians 4:2–7.

The believer, of course, is able to obey God’s commandments and lead a life pleasing to God, just because he/she has been saved and regenerated (born-again), and continually receives grace, guidance, and power from the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life. The believer has been justified and sanctified, and therefore strives to lead a life of sanctification—through obedience to God’s commandments—as the expression of his or her sanctification, 1 John 2:6. Thus the many New Testament exhortations. Calvin brilliantly describes the believer’s relationship to the law. “The whole life of Christians ought to be an exercise of piety, since they are called to sanctification (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7). It is the office of the law to remind them of their duty and thereby excite them to the pursuit of holiness and integrity” (“Institutes,” 3.19.2).

To summarize. The New Testament writers spoke against the wrongful use of the Mosaic Law as a means to gain saving righteousness, teaching rather that salvation is not by doing but by believing. Thus the New Testament believer is not a participant in the Jewish effort to gain righteousness through obedience to the Mosaic Law. The New Testament writers, however, always exhort the believer to obey the law in the sense of God’s moral commandments, which express God’s moral values in specific precepts (thus the moral commandments of the Mosaic law are repeated in the New Testament for action by the believer), thereby urging a sanctified manner of living.

More simply, the New Testament commands obedience to God’s law as the expression of the believer’s salvific righteousness and sanctification, versus the wrongful use of the Mosaic Law as an attempt to gaining salvific righteousness and sanctification.

Understanding Heresy

Understanding Heresy

(Guest Post by James Quiggle ThM)

Heresy is an oft misused term and concept in Christianity. This essay will attempt to define the idea of heresy and its proper use. My sources are Geoffrey Bromiley, Gen. Ed., “The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia” (ISBE), s. v. “Heresy.” (The initials s. v. represent the Latin phrase, “under the word.”) Everett F. Harrison, Ed., “Baker’s Dictionary of Theology,” s. v. “Heresy.” R. K. Harrison, Ed. “The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary,” s. v. “Heresy.”  Spiros Zodhiates, Gen. Ed. “The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament,” s. v. “139. haíresis.” Gerhard Kittel, Ed., Geoffrey Bromiley, Translator, “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” s. v. “haíresis” (1:180–184).

The basic meaning of the word haíresis is “choice.” The Greeks used haíresis to identify the various philosophical schools: the groups that in larger society follow the teachings of particular leaders in distinction from others. A Greek speaker looking at the FB groups I am a member of might identify the school (haíresis) of MacArthur, or the school (haíresis) of Sproul. To the ancient Greeks, a “heresy” was a teaching, a doctrine, or a school where doctrine was taught. At this time in history the word did not have the negative meaning it developed in Christian history.

The Jews used haíresis similar to the Greeks. For example, Josephus (“Antiquities,” 13.5.9) identified three religious “heresies”: Essenes, Sadducees, Pharisees. Josephus used the word in the neutral sense of a party with a distinctive emphasis. The New Testament, for the most part, uses “heresy” in the same sense as Josephus. Acts 15:17, the party (haíresis) of Sadducees; Acts 24:5, Paul is called a ringleader of the sect (haíresis) of the Nazarenes; Acts 28:22, “this sect (haíresis) is everywhere spoken against.” Paul, in Galatians and 1 Corinthians, further developed the idea of haíresis into dissensions, divisions, and factions. Peter (second letter) added the idea of incompatibility of opinion to that of faction, beginning the process that resulted in the technical sense the word is used throughout Christian history.

“Heresy,” as used in the history of the New Testament church, is a doctrinal departure from revealed truth, or an erroneous view held in opposition to revealed truth. A heretic is one who causes factions in the church through his heresy.

The key to properly using the word heresy is to accurately identify “a doctrinal departure from revealed truth, or an erroneous view held in opposition to revealed truth.” The key phrase is “revealed truth.” In the most simplistic terms, revealed truth is “what scripture says,” “what God says,” “what the Bible says.” I am not denigrating the Bible in using the term “simplistic,” because I know and believe and teach that the Bible is the source of truth. What I am doing is recognizing that an accurate identification of the body of revealed truth depends on what the Bible says *and* how the New Testament Church defines what the Bible says. To the Roman Catholic I am a heretic because I do not depend on works to gain or maintain my salvation. To the Reformed Covenant theologian I am a heretic because I follow Dispensational theology. To some in the Presbyterian or Episcopalian camps I am a heretic because I practice baptism by immersion. To the Anglican—and many other modern denominations—I am a heretic because I interpret the Bible to mean homosexuality is immoral. To me, but not others in the modern Christian camp, “Mormon” doctrine is heresy.

The early church, in its first 500 years (or so) spent a great deal of time and discussion and hard theological labor answering the question, “what is revealed truth?” Modern Christians must be equally careful. Too often “heresy” and “heretic” are used in the sense, “he is a heretic because he disagrees with . . .” and here fill in the blank: “what I believe; what my church believes; what my denomination believes.” No essential doctrine of the Christian faith is without controversy and dissent. To list only modern heresies requires a book (of which there are several, usually identified by the word “apologetics” in the title). Instead of a list, I will use three examples of recurring issues on my FB groups.

The fact of the second advent of Christ is beyond doubt. “I go to prepare a place for you. And when I should go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be also” (John 14:2b–3). Any theology that denies Christ is coming again is heresy, because Scripture makes an unambiguous statement: revealed truth. Some deny this truth with a “spiritual” interpretation: Christ has returned in every soul he saves. That is heresy. Note merely in John’s Gospel, but in other New Testament writings, Christ’s return is a fact of future history, clearly and unambiguously stated.

On the other hand, disagreement as to when Christ will return will occur is not heresy. No one can point to particular scriptures that say when—calendar date—Christ is returning. As a premillennialist I have my opinion, but amillennialism and postmillennialism is not heresy. To me, these two views are erroneous, but the revealed truth is that Christ said, “No one can know when I am returning” (summarizing all he said on the subject). If no one can know, then divergent opinions on the when of his return are not heresy.

Dispensationalism is identified by many as a heresy, primarily because the non-dispensationalist believes Dispensationalism teaches more than one way of salvation. Dispensationalists have reproved this error time and again, but the error persists. Dispensationalism agrees with revealed truth: every sinner from Adam forward to the present and into the future was, is, and will be saved by God’s grace through the sinner’s faith in God’s testimony concerning salvation. On the other hand, few Reformed theologians would declare heretical the dispensational view that the NT church is not Israel. Most Reformed recognize that if they also consistently applied the historical-grammatical hermeneutic to ecclesiology and eschatology, they also would be dispensationalists.

A third issue that continues to appear on FB, (the groups of which I am a member) is (summarizing) “do angels have sexual gender?” Angels usually appear in Scripture as male gender—but not always, as the angels in Genesis 3; Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1; Revelation 4 demonstrate. Moreover, the use of the masculine pronouns “he, his, him” is often an artifact of good English, either because not present in the original language, or a matter of syntax, not gender, in the original language. You can see my opinion in the last sentence. But some look at the same textual evidence and do believe angels are sexually male, and thus angels are capable of sexual intercourse with female human beings. Others take a different view: angels do not have sexual gender as we understand gender, and therefore cannot engage in sexual intercourse with human beings. What do the scriptures say? The scriptures do not say. Neither view is heretical, simply different opinions. There are those on both sides of the interpretation who will disagree, some vehemently, but the Bible does not say—with the same clarity of, e.g., Christ’s return—whether angels do or do not have gender as we know it. Unlike the second advent of Christ, all opinions, pro or con, concerning angelic gender are inferred from what the little the Bible does say about angels.

Christians should take careful thought before applying the label of heresy to any particular opinion or person. The list of essential doctrines and unambiguous interpretations is quite short. There is room for different interpretations where the essentials of biblical doctrine are not present.

 

 

You Can’t Have a Post Tribulation Rapture

You Can’t Have a Post Tribulation Rapture

In Christian eschatology, the post-tribulation rapture doctrine is the belief in a combined resurrection and rapture of all believers coming after the Great Tribulation. This position is fundamentally flawed and, in my estimation, does not fit with the Bible.

 

  1. The Great Tribulation is a time of judgment and the true Church was judged at Calvary

12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
Hebrews 10:12-13

One sacrifice for sin for all time…If your sin was paid for at the cross, it in manifestly unjust to pay for it again in the tribulation.

  1. The Tribulation is the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble” and Israel (Jacob) is not the Church

‘Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress, But he will be saved from it.

Jeremiah 30:7

Quoting Got Questions Ministries, “In the previous verses of Jeremiah 30, we find that the Lord is speaking to Jeremiah the prophet about Judah and Israel (30:3-4). In verse 3, the Lord promises that one day in the future, He will bring both Judah and Israel back to the land that He had promised their forefathers. Verse 5 describes a time of great fear and trembling. Verse 6 describes this time in a way that pictures men going through the pains of childbirth, again indicating a time of agony. But there is hope for Judah and Israel, for though this is called “the time of Jacob’s distress” (NASB), the Lord promises He will save Jacob (referring to Judah and Israel) out of this time of great trouble (verse 7).”

The Tribulation is a time of purification for Israel during which the obstinately unbelieving will be destroyed leaving the faithful remnant to enter the Kingdom.

Ezekiel 37:21,22 Zephaniah 3:19,20 Romans 11:26,27

  1. The Church is not mentioned from Revelation 4-19

            There is not really much extrapolation needed here. If the Tribulation were, in fact, something the Church were expected to endure, surely the Holy Spirit would have warned us. I would go so far as to say that it requires a dismissal of logical inference to presume the Church will go through the Tribulation.

  1. Revelation 3:10 and tereso oras peirasmou

Tereso oras peirasmou (I will keep you from the hour of testing.) The hour of testing being referred to, here, is the Tribulation and it is Christ Himself who says that He will keep from the hour of testing.

  1. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

Where, exactly, is the comfort in facing the Tribulation?

  1. The Blessed Hope

The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.

1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 Romans 8:23 Titus 2:13 1 Corinthians 15:51,52

  1. There will be a final judgment but the Tribulation is not it

There will be a final judgment in which the wicked dead will be raised and judged according to their works but this is not the tribulation period. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to the everlasting punishment in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Matthew 25:46 Mark 9:43-48 Revelation 19:20 Revelation 20:11-15   Revelation 21:8

  1. Lastly, the final judgment for believers is the Bema Seat not the Tribulation.

Quoting Got Questions Ministries, “Romans 14:10–12 says, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. . . . So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (ESV). Second Corinthians 5:10 tells us, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” In context, it is clear that both passages refer to Christians, not unbelievers. The judgment seat of Christ, therefore, involves believers giving an account of their lives to Christ.

The judgment seat of Christ does not determine salvation; that was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (1 John 2:2) and our faith in Him (John 3:16). All of our sins are forgiven, and we will never be condemned for them (Romans 8:1). We should not look at the judgment seat of Christ as God judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us for our lives. Yes, as the Bible says, we will have to give an account of ourselves. Part of this is surely answering for the sins we committed. However, that is not going to be the primary focus of the judgment seat of Christ.

At the judgment seat of Christ, believers are rewarded based on how faithfully they served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5). Some of the things we might be judged on are how well we obeyed the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), how victorious we were over sin (Romans 6:1-4), and how well we controlled our tongues (James 3:1-9). The Bible speaks of believers receiving crowns for different things based on how faithfully they served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5). The various crowns are described in 2 Timothy 2:5, 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, and Revelation 2:10. James 1:12 is a good summary of how we should think about the judgment seat of Christ: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

 

Can Christians really “bind satan” or “take authority over him?”

Can Christians really “bind satan” or “take authority over him?”

These days it is not uncommon to hear people “praying against Satan,” “binding Satan,” or “taking authority over the Devil.” One question always comes to mind, does the Bible really teach this? If not, what does the Bible teach about him and the Christian’s relationship to him? The answer is that the Bible does not teach that Christians can do any of the three. Here are some things that the Bible does teach about Satan and our relationship to him, not in any particular order:

 

  1. Even the angels do not speak against the Devil

Jude 9 (NKJV)

                  Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

In the original language Michael is referred to as an arche angelos, which means a chief or ruling angel. Michael may well be the most powerful of the angels and, yet, he appeals to the Lord as opposed to challenging him directly. If a chief/ruling angel dares not speak against the devil, who are we to do so?

  1. The demons know Jesus and they know who belongs to Him including who has His authority. The consequences of trying to misuse Christ’s authority can get ugly rather quickly.

Acts 19:11-16 (KJV)

11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:

12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. 13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. 14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?

16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

So the sons of Sceva, trying to use authority they did not have, were literally beaten and overcome by the demonized man. If you think someone is being demonized, it is best to pray for them; leave the casting out to the Holy Spirit.

  1. Christians are commanded to resist the Devil

James 4:7 (KJV)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

We, as Christians, are to resist the devil. How do we do this? We resist the Devil in the same way Jesus did, with Scripture. When wicked thoughts come, or situations place us in a position to be tempted, the surest way to deal with that is to stand on the Scripture and trust Jesus to deliver you from the situation.

 

There is so much that could be said on the topic of Christians and their relationship to the devil, but this will serve as a starting point for you.

Freed By Grace

Freed By Grace

Lately I have noticed that a number of my Calvinist friends are anathematizing Arminians for teaching something that they do not actually teach. Before I continue, I want to make clear that I am Calvinist, all five points but I am also a former adherent to Arminianism and I am currently a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians. Why would I, a self admitted Calvinist, be there? Discussion; it is hard to understand someone’s point of view if you will not talk to them and so I pursue friendships with Arminians of both stripes, Evangelical and Wesleyan. I digress…

Many of my brethren go off on tangents regarding things they think Arminians teach that are not actually to be found in Arminian doctrine. In this case, they claim that Arminians teach that man has a free will to choose Christ. This is not quite correct. As a point of reference, when I refer to Arminian Soteriology, I will be referencing the document, the FACTS of Salvation (http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvation-a-summary-of-arminian-theologythe-biblical-doctrines-of-grace/) , by the excellent theologian Brian Abasciano. Permit me a rather large quote from Brian,

“We speak of the will of man being freed by grace to emphasize that people do not have a naturally free will when it comes to believing in Jesus, but that God must graciously take action to free our wills if we are going to be able to believe in his Son whom he sent for the salvation of all. When our wills are freed, we can either accept God’s saving grace in faith or reject it to our own ruin. In other words, God’s saving grace is resistible, which is to say that he dispenses his calling, drawing, and convicting grace (which would bring us to salvation if responded to with faith) in such a way that we may reject it. We become free to believe in Jesus and free to reject him. The resistibility of God’s saving grace is clearly shown in Scripture, as some of the passages already mentioned testify. Indeed, the Bible is sadly filled with examples of people spurning the grace of God offered to them. In Isaiah 5:1-7, God actually indicates that he could not have done anything more to get Israel to produce good fruit. But if irresistible grace is something that God dispenses, then he could have easily provided that and infallibly brought Israel to bear good fruit. Many passages in the Old Testament talk about how God extended his grace to Israel over and over again but they repeatedly resisted and rejected him (e.g., 2 Kgs 17:7-23; Jer 25:3-11; 26:1-9; 35:1-19). 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 mentions that God’s persistent reaching out to his people, which was rejected, was motivated by compassion for them. But this could only be if the grace he extended them enabled them to repent and avoid his judgment yet was resistible since they did indeed resist it and suffered God’s judgment. Nehemiah 9 presents a striking example of Old Testament testimony to God continually reaching out to Israel with his grace that was met with resistance and rejection. We do not have space to review the entire passage (but the reader is encouraged to do so), but will quote some key elements and draw attention to some important points. Nehemiah 9:20a says, “You [God] gave your good Spirit to instruct them [Israel]” and is followed by an extensive catalogue of gracious divine actions toward Israel in vv. 9:20b-25. Then 9:26-31 says,

26 Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. 27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. 29 And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

The text affirms that God gave his Spirit to instruct Israel (9:20a) and that God sent his prophets and warned Israel for the purpose of turning them back to him. God purposed his actions to turn Israel back to him/his Law, yet they rebelled. This shows God allowing his purpose to not come to pass because of allowing human beings a choice of whether to yield to his grace or not. Intriguingly, the word translated “bore” in Neh 9:30 uses a Hebrew word that usually means something like “draw, drag, pull” and gets translated in the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by the early church with the same word used in John 6:44a (“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”). A better translation of Neh 9:30 would be, “Many years you drew them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear.” The text speaks of a resistible divine drawing that seeks to bring people to the Lord in repentance. Stephen also furnished a good example of the resistibility of grace when he said to his fellow Jews, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it” (Acts 7:51-53). Luke 7:30 tells us that “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves.” And Jesus, who spoke to people for the purpose of saving them (John 5:34), yet found that they refused to come to him to have life (John 5:40), and who came to turn every Jew from their sin (Acts 3:26; see the treatment of this text under “Atonement for All” above), yet clearly found that not every Jew believed in him, lamented over his people’s unwillingness to receive his grace, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34; see further Ezek 24:13; Matt 23:37; Rom 2:4-5; Zech 7:11-14; Heb 10:29; 12:15; Jude 4; 2 Cor 6:1-2; Ps 78:40-42).

Arminians differ among themselves about some of the details of how God’s prevenient grace works, probably because Scripture itself does not give a detailed description. Some Arminians believe that God continually enables all people to believe at all times as a benefit of the atonement. Others believe that God only bestows the ability to believe in Christ to people at select times according to his good pleasure and wisdom. Still others believe that prevenient grace generally accompanies any of God’s specific movements toward people, rendering them able to respond positively to such movements as God would have them. But all Arminians agree that people are incapable of believing in Jesus apart from the intervention of God’s grace and that God does bestow his grace that draws toward salvation on all morally responsible people. With respect to the gospel, seventeenth century Arminian Bishop, Laurence Womack, well said, “on all those to whom the word of faith is preached, the Holy Spirit bestows, or is ready to bestow, so much grace as is sufficient, in fitting degrees, to bring on their conversion.”

The concept of “freed will” raises a broader question of whether human beings have free will generally, apart from the realm of pleasing the Lord and doing spiritual good (again, people are not free in this area unless God empowers them). The Arminian answer is yes. People have free will in all sorts of things. By this we mean that when people are free with respect to an action, then they can at least either do the action or refrain from doing it. People often have genuine choices and are therefore correspondingly able to make choices. When free, the specific choice someone makes has not been efficiently predetermined or necessitated by anyone or anything other than the person himself. In fact, if the person’s action has been rendered necessary by someone else, and the person cannot avoid doing the action, then he has no choice in the matter and he is not free in it. And if he does not have a choice, then neither can it properly be said that he chooses. But Scripture very clearly indicates that people have choices and make choices about many things (e.g., Deut 23:16; 30:19; Josh 24:15; 2 Sam 24:12; 1 Kings 18:23, 25; 1 Chron 21:10; Acts 15:22, 25; Phil 1:22). Moreover, it explicitly speaks of human free will (Exod 35:29; 36:3; Lev 7:16; 22:18, 21, 23; 23:38; Num 15:3; 29:39; Deut 12:6, 17; 16:10; 2 Chron 31:14; 35:8; Ezra 1:4, 6; 3:5; 7:16; 8:28; Ps 119:108; Ezek 46:12; Amos 4:5; 2 Cor 8:3; Philemon 1:14; cf. 1 Cor 7:37) and attests to human beings violating God’s will, showing that he does not predetermine their will or actions in sin. Furthermore, the fact that God holds people accountable for their choices and actions implies that those choices and actions were free. Nevertheless, it is important to note that Arminians do not believe in unlimited free will. There are many things in which we are not free. We cannot choose to fly by flapping our arms for example. Nor do we deny that our free actions are influenced by all sorts of causes. But when we are free, those causes are resistible and we have a genuine choice in what we do and are not caused necessarily to act in a certain way by God or anyone or anything other than ourselves.

Finally, the concept of freed will also implies that God has ultimate and absolute free will. For it is God who supernaturally frees the will of sinners by his grace to believe in Christ, which is a matter of God’s own free will and sovereignty. God is omnipotent and sovereign, having the power and authority to do anything he wants and being unconstrained in his own actions and will by anything outside of himself and his own judgment (Gen 18:14; Exod 3:14; Job 41:11; Ps 50:10-12; Isaiah 40:13-14; Jer 32:17, 27; Matt 19:26; Luke 1:37; Acts 17:24-25; Rom 11:34-36; Eph 3:20; 2 Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:11). Nothing can happen unless he either does it or allows it. He is the Almighty Creator and God of the universe to whom we owe all love, worship, glory, honor, thanks, praise, and obedience. Therefore, it is good for us to remember that behind human freed will stands the One who frees the will, and that this is a matter of his glorious, free, and sovereign grace, totally unmerited on our part, and provided to us by the love and mercy of God. Praise his holy name!”

In candor, I do not find in needful to elaborate on what our learned commentator has written. Instead, I would like to summarize/paraphrase:

  • Both the Calvinist and the Arminian believe that man is under Total Depravity (T in TULIP and T in FACTS)
  • Both would believe that it is in act of God’s grace that allows man to come to Christ.
  • Our Arminian brethren believe that the Holy Spirit has freed the individual’s will to respond to the Gospel Call
  • We disagree on whether or not grace is resistible but we do not disagree that it is God who elects and the Holy Spirit who administers the act of grace.
  • Calvinists and Arminians agree that nothing can happen unless God either does it or allows it.
  • We agree that God is the Almighty Creator and God of the universe to whom we owe all love, worship, glory, honor, thanks, praise, and obedience.
  • Like Calvinists, all Arminians agree that people are incapable of believing in Jesus apart from the intervention of God’s grace and that God does bestow his grace that draws toward salvation on all morally responsible people

There are points of Arminian doctrine that I vehemently disagree with, perhaps even to the point of calling them heterodox but I am loath to call them heretical. The charge of heresy is the most serious charge that can be leveled because true heresy damns the soul eternally and I do not find that the Arminian position on salvation meets the level of damnable heresy, I just disagree with it.

 

At the end of the day, there will be Arminians in Heaven and I hope to get close enough to the Throne of Grace to meet Tozer and some of his brethren. If we forget that Arminians also have a place in Heaven, we insult the very One who died to redeem them unto Himself.

 

Until next time, grace to you.

Apostle? Prophet? Prophetess? No

Apostle? Prophet? Prophetess? No

 

I made the following statement on Facebook: “If the pastor of your church goes by Apostle, Prophet, Prophetess, or something similar, run far and run fast. The Biblical Offices of Apostle and Prophet closed when John the Apostle and Elder passed away on Patmos. There has not been another since him. Neither shall there ever be one again.” Following that statement, I was asked, what Scripture I am basing that on. Not to put too fine a point on it, I am basing that on the same passages upon which I base Cessationism, and a few others. Let’s start with the the easiest of these three to deal with and move from there.

Can a “prophetess” be the pastor of a church? Surprisingly, I have been invited to churches where the “pastor” is prophetess so and so. Never mind the question of whether or not there are prophets and prophetesses today, the short answer to the question is no. (1 Timothy 2:12-14, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9) Taking only the qualifications we find in the Bible, a “prophetess cannot be the pastor of a church.

Are there Apostles and Prophets today?
I would like to share with you the answer from one of my favorite websites, gotquestions.org

“The movement to restore the offices of apostle and prophet bases the claim that apostles and prophets are to be a part of the church on Ephesians 4:11-12. These verses say, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”

During the first century of the church, there was an office of apostle and there was a spiritual gift of apostle. The office or position of apostle was held by the 12 disciples of Jesus plus Matthias, who took Judas’ place, and Paul. Those who held the office or position of apostle were chosen specifically by Christ (Mark 3:16-19). The replacement for Judas is seen in Acts 1:20-26. Note in this passage that Judas’ position was called an office. It should also be noted that Paul was chosen by Christ (1 Corinthians 15:8-9; Galatians 1:1; 2:6-9). These men were given the task of setting up the foundation of the church. It should be understood that it was for the universal church that these men were a part of the foundation (Ephesians 2:20). The foundation of the church (universal church) was laid in the first century. This is why the office of apostle is no longer functioning.

There was also a spiritual gift of apostle (this is not to be confused with the office—they are separate). Among those who had the spiritual gift were James (1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19), Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14; 1 Corinthians 9:6), Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7), possibly Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:7), and Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6, 9). This latter group had the gift of apostleship but not the apostolic “office” conferred upon the Twelve and Paul. Those who had the gift of apostle, then, were those who carried the gospel message with God’s authority. The word “apostle” means “one sent as an authoritative delegate.” This was true of those who held the office of Apostle (like Paul) and those who had the spiritual gift (like Apollos). Though there are men like this today, men who are sent by God to spread the gospel, it is best NOT to refer to them as apostles because of the confusion this causes since many are not aware of the two different uses of the term apostle.

The gift of prophet was a temporary gift given by the Christ for the laying of the foundation of the universal church. Prophets also were foundational to the universal church (Ephesians 2:20). The prophet proclaimed a message from the Lord for the believers of the first century. These believers did not have the advantage we have of having a complete Bible. The last book of the New Testament (Revelation) was not completed until late in the first century. So the Lord provided gifted men called prophets who proclaimed messages from God to the people until the canon of Scripture was complete.

It should be noted that the current teaching of the restoration of prophet and the office of apostle is far from what Scripture describes of the men who held the gift of prophet and the office of apostle. Those who teach the restoration of the office teach that the men who claim to be apostles and prophets should never be spoken against, should never be questioned, because the person who speaks against them is speaking against God. Yet, the Apostle Paul commended the people of Berea for checking what he said against the Word of God to make sure he spoke the truth (Acts 17:10-11). The Apostle Paul also stated to those in Galatia that if anyone, including himself, should teach another Gospel, that person should be “accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9). In everything, Paul kept pointing people to the Bible as the final authority. The men who claim to be apostles and prophets today make themselves the final authority, something Paul and the Twelve never did.

It should also be noted that Scripture refers to these men in the past tense. 2 Peter 3:2 and also Jude 3-4, state that the people should not stray from the message the apostles gave (past tense). Hebrews 2:3-4 also speaks in the past tense of the those who performed (in the past) signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Did the Ante-Nicene Fathers recognize any Apostles or Prophets?

As far as I have been able to tell, no they did not. The closest we come are the men who are called the Apostolic Fathers, so titled because they were taught directly by the Twelve. On a side note, if there were ever any “apostolic succession” it would be through these men and since we do not see that in any of their writings, that idea must also be deemed false.

In post apostolic church history, we see the church being governed by the local bishop and his fellow elders. We do not see the moniker of Apostle. In fact, the last person in the Bible to be given the title of Apostle was Paul but since John was the last to die we say he was the final apostle.

Did the magisterial reformers recognize the offices of apostle and prophet?

No. I have extensively read Luther, Calvin, Knox and I am endeavoring to read Zwingli and I cannot find a contemporary “apostle” or “prophet” referenced in their writings.

What about the Church Councils? Surely they recognized the offices of Apostle and Prophet? Again, the answer is no. Jerusalem, Nicea I, Nicea II, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople I, II, or even III, none of them mention (to the best of my knowledge and research) ever mention someone holding the office of a Prophet or an Apostle.

I must, then, conclude that these offices are closed. I do not find any evidence to the contrary prior to the Azusa Street incident. Absent evidence from the Bible, the Church Councils, the Church Fathers or Ecclesiastical History I do not buy the idea of Apostles and Prophets today.

 

Fictional Piety: Why I do not celebrate Lent

Fictional Piety: Why I do not celebrate Lent

I was discussing, with a friend, the fact that I do not celebrate lent to wit he posed the question of why not. In short, I do not celebrate lent because I am a Baptist. Now the longer answer…

Making any kind of publicity of your fasting is a false piety which calls attention to yourself and thus gives your reward.

Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.

Matthew 6:5-6  5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Christ clearly teaches that our fasting and prayer is to be between us and The Father. In fasting and prayer we force our physical bodies into subjugation to the will of God and into communion with God the Father.

 

At best, Lent is an observation begun not by the Church Fathers but by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

As Baptists, we endeavor to be as true to the New Testament at possible. There, currently, exists no record of any of the Apostolic Fathers or and of the other Ante-Nicene Fathers practicing a Lenten Seasonal Fast.

Lenten Fasting tends to miss the point

Isaiah 58:3-8 (CSB) “Why have we fasted, but You have not seen?

We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!”

“Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast,

and oppress all your workers.

You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist. You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high. Will the fast I choose be like this:

A day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord? 6  Isn’t the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

to bring the poor and homeless into your house,to clothe the naked when you see him,

and not to ignore your own flesh and blood? Then your light will appear like the dawn,

and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.

The point of fasting is to align ourselves with God’s will, to break the chains of wickedness, to strengthen us to minister to those in bondage to sin; ultimately to pursue holiness.

Beloved, there is no need for a Christian to celebrate Lent. If we celebrate Lent but to not practice acts of righteousness the other 325 days out of the year then we simply have a fictional piety that leaves us no better than the hypocrites.

Jesus: The Most Excellent Name and His Superlative Name

Jesus: The Most Excellent Name and His Superlative Name

Philippians 2:9-11

For this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I have heard this passage quoted countless times and rightfully so; the Name Jesus is worthy to be bowed down to, worthy to be adored, to be exalted in exuberant song. It is the very best name there is. Or is it? Does Jesus actually have a better name than Jesus? IF He does, what is that name and why will we bow to it?

As it happens, there is a different name that all men will bow down before. It is a name that has belonged to Jesus since before time began. It was His name before His incarnation; before He condescended to come to this earth and allow Himself to be sacrificed for our sins, this name crowned Him in glory and this name arrayed Jesus in every superlative of majesty that you could ever possibly imagine if you had 1000 lifetimes and no limitations to the capacity of your mind. This name, that Jesus has had for all eternity, is the one before whom every knee will bow and it is the name that will cause every tongue to confess; this name is YHWH (Jehovah). Dear children, it is not simply that every knee bows before Jesus, nor is it the confession of lordship that glorifies the Father but it is instead the confession of the Name that glorifies the Father. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, (don’t miss this) Jesus IS YHWH!

Isaiah 42:8 (ASV) “ I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise unto graven images.”

Isaiah 43:11 (ASV) “I, even I, am Jehovah; and besides me there is no saviour.”

YHWH (Jehovah) in the Old Testament declares that He will never share His glory and that He alone is the savior. But in Acts, the Apostle Peter tells us that it is the name Jesus that salvation is found in. Is there a contradiction here? Does Peter contradict Isaiah? Nope. The Greek Iesus is the same as the Hebrew Y’shua and it is in that name that salvation is found. You might ask how on earth I figure that Y’shua is the name in which salvation is found. Well, Y’shua is the shortened form of Yehoshu’a (Joshua) and Yehoshu’a literally means YHWH is Savior. Isn’t that beautiful?

 

It is YHWH which is Christ’s most glorious Name. The very God who was blasphemed by our sin has put aside the offense and has redeemed us unto Himself. Stop for a minute and think about what this means because it means so much more than you don’t have to go to hell for eternity and it means so much more than you get to go to heaven. You get to be with YHWH and you get to be like Him, unable to die, unable to be diminished. Your eternity with YHWH will be in perfect communion; you will behold the One who loved you more than life and gave His to redeem yours. Standing face to face you will see YHWH on His glorious throne. Eyes that have never seen will behold the Lamb, ears that have never heard will behold the majesty of heaven’s symphony of praise, lips that have never spoken will resound the anthem of Christ’s amazing grace, and feet that have never walked will dance before the throne with all their might just as David did in the Old Testament. In that moment, when all who have ever lived see Jesus in all of the resplendent majesty of His person, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is YHWH and the whole world will glorify YHWH, some in judgment and some from an undeserved spot in heaven but we will all give Him glory forever and ever.

The Serpent’s Whisper: Why I don’t see “christian” movies

The Serpent’s Whisper: Why I don’t see “christian” movies

 

“Yea, hath God said…” It’s the oldest trick in the book; bring just enough of the truth to someone to obscure the lie and it is, itself, the reason “Christian movies” are so successful. permit me to digress for a moment.

 

I was recently having a conversation with a friend, whom we will call Eric in order to protect his privacy, and during that conversation, Eric asked if it was true that, as a rule, I will never go to see a “Christian movie” and I answered in the affirmative. The last allegedly Christian movie that I went to see in a theater was The Passion of the Christ and I probably should have saved my money but that is a different story for a different day. I want to take a few moments to explain why I do not go to see these allegedly Christian movies and why I actively discourage others from doing so as well.

 

1st Consider the Source

The same industry that brought 50 Shades of Grey and its attendant filth to the marketplace is the industry that is bringing these “Christian” movies to us. What fellowship can we have with Hollywood (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)? Can we really walk with them (Amos 3:3)? I submit to you that, if you look carefully at Hollywood, you will see that the Church of Jesus Christ has not any common ground there.

 

Consider the Theology

Dr. Sproul has said, many times, that everyone is a theologian and this is very true; everyone has some kind of understanding of God. Unfortunately, if modern Christian books and movies are any indication, that theology is errant at best and damnable at worst.

 

The list of heresies taught in some of these books and movies is quite too long to list but here are just a few.

  • Patripassinianism (God the Father suffered on the cross with God the Son)
  • Universalism
  • Open Theism
  • Pelagianism
  • Sabellianism/Modalism

 

This does not even include the blasphemous garbage found in the “heaven tourism” books and movies that do not present images of heaven that even remotely resemble how the Bible describes heaven.

There is no presentation of God’s absolute holiness, sovereignty, or His Grace. Again quoting Dr. Sproul, “the Bible does not say God is love, love, love. It says He is Holy, Holy, Holy.”

 

3rd, The Bible or rather our ignorance of it

Far, far too many are ignorant of the Bible. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh but I cannot fathom how someone with even a cursory understanding of the Bible could tolerate these movies. The “Christian” movies put out by Hollywood do not present any form of Biblical Truth. Neither do they confront the sinner with his sin leaving me to ask, what’s the point?

 

Lastly there isn’t any point

There is just no point for me to waste time and money that could be better spent serving the flock of Christ on nonsensical crap put forth by people who, clearly, either have no clue about our glorious Lord or they just don’t care. Whether active or passive, they are being used as instruments of Satan and it does not help me or anyone that I minister to if I recommend to see one of their films.

 

 

Beloved, I beg you with all the earnestness in my heart, listen carefully, go past the noise that touts these movies and hear the serpent’s insidious whisper one more time. Every time you see one of these heretical movies, you are agreeing with the serpent that God didn’t really mean what He said and that, dear children is dangerous.

Apostle’s Creed (Our Essential Creed)

Apostle’s Creed (Our Essential Creed)

Below, you will find the foundational statement of faith of all Reformed Christians. Officially codified in AD 390, this is a concise statement on the essentials of Christian Orthodoxy.

 

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

The third day he rose again from the dead:

He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

I believe in the Holy Ghost:

I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

The forgiveness of sins:

The resurrection of the body:

And the life everlasting. Amen.

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