Sunday, November 30, 2008

Was Original Sin Wiped Away at the Cross?

I have recently had the pleasure of interacting with a gentleman and his wife in the comments section of one of my older posts. In the original post and the comments, two issues have come up that are causing concern. The first is how I articulate God’s disposition to the sinner when I say something similar to, “God hates the sinner.” The second surrounds my contention that children, from conception, are guilty before God and deserve – deserve – an eternal punishment for our sin in Adam. And the gentleman has come back and stated that it is his belief that original sin was ultimately dealt with on the cross and that we are sinners only when we know right from wrong and choose wrong.

So, in an effort to more fully answer this objection, I am dealing with it here. I will, in effect, be trying to answer this question: Did Jesus’ death on the cross forgive the personal effects for all of humanity of Adam’s sin? In a request for Scripture passages that would positively affirm the position that original sin has been dealt with for all men, I was given the following Scriptural passages that I will deal with: John 1:29; Romans 5:12,13, and Hebrews 9:26.

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

I must honestly say that I was shocked to see this text used to prove the above assertion. No where does this text or the surrounding context specify that the singular use of the word “sin” refers to original sin. Actually, in this context one could just as easily use this verse as a proof text for universal salvation (God forgave all men of all sin for all time so that all will go to heaven) just as easily as my commenter has used it to fit his presupposition to make this verse say that original sin is what the “sin of the world” was that forgiven of all men.

It is true that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – yes and amen. But we must look through the rest of the Scriptures relating to His ministry as the sacrificial Lamb to find out exactly what was done for whom. John 1:29 is not a passage proclaiming that Jesus’ death forgave original sin for all men of all time. There is no basis in the context to make this assertion.
Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Hebrews 9:26)

The context of the above passage in Hebrews is the author’s argument for how Christ in His ministry and sacrifice supersede and replace that of the old Mosaic covenantal system of priests and sacrifices. The old system had a high priest enter a “mere copy” of the holy place and sacrifice with blood not his own on a “year by year” basis, whereas Christ went to the true holy place with His own blood to make His sacrifice once. It seems to me that the context here is referring not to a specific individual sin that was put away, but the fact that sin was put away by His once for all sacrifice, and therefore it does not need to be repeated. Furthermore, the context of Hebrews 9 and the work that is being done is about accomplishing eternal redemption.
and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)

Hebrews 9 is a great place in Scripture to look at for the singularity and the finality of the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation His own, but is not saying that Christ was manifested to put away original sin for all men of all time by the sacrifice of Himself. To make that statement would do great disservice to the text and be rending it out of context.

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (Romans 5:12,13)

In the first few chapters of Romans, Paul goes to great lengths to show how all humanity has sinned. And Romans 5 helps us to put our understanding of sin and death in a comparative context with salvation and redemption. Adam’s sin was imputed to all men, and thus all men are guilty. Christ’s righteousness was imputed to all men who have faith and their sin is imputed to Him, and those men are now not guilty (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The imputation of sin that seems to be in view in this passage is the sinning against the Law of Moses, and this seems to be brought out in the next verse when Paul writes, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” In other words, even though the Mosaic Law may not have been individually transgressed by babies in the womb (those are the ones who die who have not sinned on their own in the likeness of Adam), but they die because they are guilty of sinning in Adam – original sin. Death doesn’t occur except where sin is, and babies die before they can overtly sin. Therefore sin must be reigning in them because of their father Adam and the sin that we are guilty of in him.

John Piper gives a good illustration as to why we should understand the “all sinned” in verse 12 as being original sin or “all sinned in Adam” instead of “all sinned individually”.
Let me try to illustrate what's at stake. If you say, "Through one man sin and death entered the world and death spread to everybody because all sinned individually," then the comparison with the work of Jesus could be, "So also through one man, Jesus Christ, righteousness and life entered the world and life spread to all because all individually did acts of righteousness." In other words, justification would not be God's imputing Christ's righteousness to us, but our performing individual acts of righteousness with Christ's help and then being counted righteous on that basis. When Paul saw that as a possible misunderstanding of what he said, he stopped to clarify.1

Original sin was not universally dealt with on the cross for all people of all time so that babies are born without original sin. We are conceived in sin (Ps 51:5) every thought of ours is only evil and sinful (Genesis 8:21). The sin of man is dealt with in Christ Jesus on the cross and is applied by faith to those who repent of their sin and trust in Him. However lovely and loveable our children are when they are born, our children are born with original sin and with only the propensity to desire and act upon that sinful nature.

The next common question has to do with babies and what happens to them when they die. To be sure, I don’t have as solid of a case to make for them, but I can tell you that on the basis of what I see in the Scriptures, namely 2 Samuel 12:23, that there is some distinct gracious mercy of God extended to children who die in or before infancy.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So many things to be thankful for…

***For those of you reading this note in facebook – I make it a point NOT to send out notes to everyone or to invite you to a ton of groups or things, but I really wanted to share this one with you all. God bless you.***

Thanksgiving is always a time to look around my life and really take into account what I am blessed with and what I am thankful for. There are so many things that I feel blessed about that it is kind of hard to put them into writing…but I’ll try. So, in no particular order (except saving the best/better for the last), here is my thankfulness list for 2008:

1. I am thankful for my job. Now, because this is #1 doesn’t mean that it is the most important thing in my life. But I must say that God has truly been gracious to me with how my job life has gone. I have had the same job since I graduated from college, and although it is not a glamorous job or something that I even went to school to study for, it has allowed me many blessings. My wife stays home with our lovely children – this is a priceless benefit of any job. But that fact coupled with the fact that I leave my work at work and I work only about 40 hours per week is an immense blessing. I have the energy, time, and the sanity to pour my heart and soul into my family and my ministries. Praise God for the blessing, as long as it lasts, of the job that I have now.

2. In so many ways and for so many reasons, I am thankful for my wife. I am so thankful for her for all of the things that she does and for all of the ways that she contributes to the family. But this year, I am especially thankful for her, in a special way. This year we were able to do something that we have never been able to do before – get away for a weekend without children. I know – married for the better part of a decade is a long time to go without a vacation from the kidos. But it was during our time away that we were able to enjoy coffee without a time limit, dinner without constantly encouraging our children to actually eat their food (novel idea, I know), and hours on end of uninterrupted (even though interruptions can be, and very often are, joyous) conversation. It was so great to enjoy time with my wife just as husband and wife, not as parents, but just as the two of us. And for all of you who may have lamented about a lack of things to talk about other than children on outings like this – I can tell you that we did not suffer that problem. I love our children, but I love my wife most of all. I am so thankful to have been blessed with a lovely and beautiful bride who compliments the best things about me and corrects some of the worst.

3. I am thankful for my little daughter, Hannah. Now, she is only just under 1 ½ years old, but she is coming into her own. It is amazing to see how much of a personality you can really see in such a young child. It is cute to see that she loves to sit in her chair and look at books by herself as much as she loves to chase (to the best of her abilities) her older brothers to play with them. However, in a selfish note, I must say that I am most thankful for the way in which she says good-bye to me as I leave for work and the way in which she says hello to me as I return home. About one month ago she began to join her brothers in their silly dash to give me hugs and kisses both when I leave and arrive from work. She doesn’t much go for kissing anyone, but sure enough, if I ask her for a kiss when I get home…daddy gets a big slobbery kiss from his baby girl.

4. Noah. My sweet, loud, happy, accident-prone, unstoppable (except by stationary objects) freight-train of energy son – I am so thankful for him. So many things about this boy of mine make me smile. It is no small thing to say that he is truly a mini version of myself – in many of the good and bad ways, I might add. But one way that he is truly a blessing, and it is this that I am particularly thankful for today, is his love of all things musical. I suppose that this would be something cute in any child, but the songs that he loves and the songs that he sings are not normal children’s songs. He has been known to start singing, out of the blue, a song while we’re in the car. At night time, my boys and I will read the Bible, tell a Bible story, pray, and sing. To my frustration at times, the favorite thing that my sons like to ask is for me to sing a song that “they’ve never ever heard”. So, after exhausting a lot of songs from my youth, I sang one in particular that he really, really liked. So much so that he requested it for a while thereafter. But a few months later (it must have been) when we hadn’t sung that song with any frequency for quite a while, my son began singing this song at the top of his tone-less lungs while we were in the car. I love the fact that he loves to sing and loves music in general.

5. Micah, my oldest son – what a year have I had in regards to thankfulness with him. Micah has always been our sensitive little guy. He’s always been aware of things seemingly beyond his age. But ever since he was little, we have shared the gospel with him – day and night, in all sorts of activities, venues and opportunities. And it was only a few weeks ago that my son, on his own accord, told me that he wanted to repent of his sins and believe in Jesus. Stephanie and I have labored long and hard in sharing the gospel with him, and I was overjoyed to be able to be with him when he vocalized his desire for salvation. Time will tell of the truth of his profession and the reality of his salvation – but I praise God for his soft heart and his child like desire for salvation.

And it is in this same stream of thought that I must share the final (for this little note) things that I am thankful for:

We took a family picture in early October. It is a great family picture – if I do say so myself. But only a few days ago, Micah painted and drew a picture of our family to give to me to bring to work. That is the next picture you'll see. Now, other than the marks of a perfectionist artist (the two scribbled out characters), you may notice the fact that there are seven people on the right but only five on the left. We found out a few weeks ago that my wife is pregnant with our fifth child – yup, our fifth child. We lost our second while he (I always call that baby “he”) was in the womb. We don’t make a point of drilling that fact into our children’s heads, but whenever someone close to us has lost a child, it may come up. So as far as Micah is concerned (and me too, for that matter) we have a family of seven now; five in the picture on the left, one in heaven, and one in his mommy’s tummy. I am thankful that my son has this personal perspective on life at this age.

6. I am thankful for the blessing of yet another child. May God grant health and safety to my child now, and grant faith and repentance to this child at day in the future.

7. Above all and overflowing to all is my thankfulness to the God and Father of my LORD Jesus Christ, to His Son for His justifying work, and to the Spirit for His sanctifying work. Soli Deo Gloria.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bearing Unjust Treatment for Christ’s Sake

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” (1 Peter 2:18 – 21)

This is probably my first “real time” blog entry. What I mean by that is that I am writing my thoughts and reflections about an ongoing situation (however minor this current situation is). My hope is that my meditation on this subject matter will cause me to react rightly, and better than I have already, regarding the outcome of this situation. In all things, I want to reflect the reality that Christ’s righteousness is mine and my life is His, so I need to act and react in ways that honor and glorify my Lord.

Here is the short (and detail-less) version of the story:

Last week I was told by my boss to stay a little late at my job and there was nothing for me to do. When I checked my time card today I found that I was not paid for the extra time that I stayed at work. I didn’t do any work, but I was instructed to stick around for a specific period of time by my boss. I was informed by my scheduling and payroll manager that I would not be paid for this time, regardless of why I stayed late, because I was not doing actual work.

After my initial outburst of frustration following reading the memo from my payroll manager, I went over to discuss the situation with her. She was understanding of the situation, but not optimistic that I would receive payment for the, now disputed, time. I thanked her for continuing to investigate this and then went and “vented” my frustration to a co-worker.

Now, I am back at my desk and I thought of Peter’s words about bearing unjust suffering well as a testimony to my faith in Christ. So, without a doubt, I blew it when I went to find an outlet to complain to my coworker. I sinned in my attitude and in my thoughts, even if my words did not seem foul on the surface.

I now have a choice to make. I need to purpose in my heart and mind to act and react in a Christ like and Christ honoring way to the final decision (whatever it is) regarding whether or not I will be getting paid for this time. If I am paid, glory to God! I will be rightly compensated for what I was requested to do by my employer. And if I am not paid, praise to Christ! I will be wronged by my employer, but I can bear this unjust treatment in a way that displays my “set-apartedness” in Christ.

Friday, September 26, 2008

JEPD Theory, headphones, and Caffine

Studying Higher Criticism and the wacky JEDP theory late at night (late for me, anyway) can make me a bit...loopy.

I guess it is fitting, though, because the whole Documentary Hypothesis is loopy to the core.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Did Moses Write Deuteronomy 34?

Until recently, I had always heard and accepted that Joshua probably wrote the end of Deuteronomy. This is said because this chapter includes details about the death and burial of Moses, and Joshua, as Moses’ successor, would have had the knowledge and position to write about the end of Moses’ life.

Well, I recently read the paper, “The Authorship of Deuteronomy 34: Moses or a Redactor?” by William D. Barrick. This paper was presented at the Evangelical Theological Society in November of 2001, and in it the author was appealing that Mosaic authorship of the entire Pentateuch (Gen 1 – Deut 34) be a boundary for this body. I think he wrote it knowing that this was a tall order and he approached the issue with good humor in noting that his opponents (those who hold to Joshua or someone else writing Deuteronomy 34) might liken stalwart proponents of Mosaic authorship of this chapter to “the soul-mate of a ‘flat earth’ theology/science.’”1
There are three primary (although there are more, for sure) arguments given for why Moses was not the author of Deuteronomy 34, and they are basically this:

  1. There are timing issues in the text that do not seem to fit right if Moses is the author.
  2. There are references to the division of the land of Canaan that was not a reality until after it was conquered and recorded in Joshua 13-19.
  3. There are references to Moses, his ministry, and his works that seem to be best understood as someone, later, eulogizing Moses.

I found that the most compelling reasons to find that Moses is not the author of Deuteronomy 34 coincides with the least satisfying response, and this has to do with one of the timing issues in this chapter. I see no real problem with Moses being able to pen the story of his own death as it would happen in the all-to-near future for him. Since God wanted that included in the Scriptures, He could inspire the man who was going to experience it to write about it. The real stickler of a problem comes later in the chapter,
“The Lord buried him in a valley in Moab, opposite the town of Bethpeor, but to this day no one knows the exact place of his burial.” (Deuteronomy 34:6)
“No other prophet has been able to do the great and terrifying things that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”(Deuteronomy 34:12)

In both verse 6 and 12, there is the sense of a significant time gap between the life of Moses and the writing of the thoughts. A long time wouldn’t necessarily need to pass before someone could realistically pen that “to this day” no one knows where Moses is buried. However, it seems that a longer time would be needed for the same author to write a statement that no prophet “has been able to do” the things that Moses did. Because there is no grammatical or linguistic reason that the actual language of the chapter gives so that, and there is no Biblical witness to the fact that Moses didn’t write this chapter, I have decided not to place too heavy a weight on this temporal objection. My answer to this objection is almost dismissively simple; if God wanted the account of Moses’ death and burial recorded, and if God wanted to include in His revealed Word that Moses would be a singular figure among the prophets of Israel, He had every opportunity and right to have Moses himself pen the words of Deuteronomy 34.

The second major objection to Mosaic authorship is found in how Moses refers to the unconquered land of Canaan.
“…the Lord showed him the whole land: the territory of Gilead as far north as the town of Dan; 2 the entire territory of Naphtali; the territories of Ephraim and Manasseh; the territory of Judah as far west as the Mediterranean Sea; 3 the southern part of Judah; and the plain that reaches from Zoar to Jericho, the city of palm trees.” (Deut 34:1b-3)

The objection basically says that the lands of Canaan were only divided up during the conquest (see Joshua 13-19); Moses would not have been able to gaze at the different territories that he was not familiar with and that had not yet been settled. I think that this objection loses much of its value when we see that Moses had at least some prior knowledge as to the specific inheritance for each tribe. Just before the account of his death, he blessed Naphtali in order that they might “take possession of the sea and the south” in Deuteronomy 33:23. He also references Israel’s blessing of Manasseh and Ephraim in Genesis 48:22 indicating that they will receive “one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.” Then there is the recon and report of the 12 spies recorded in Numbers 13-14. There was some understanding of the land and its fortifications and other of its characteristics was gained from their expedition that Moses definitely had been made aware of (and had had plenty of time to think about while wandering in the desert for 40 years). These instances of knowledge of the land and foreknowledge of some details of the inheritance seems to be sufficient evidence to enable me to refute the objection that Moses would not have had sufficient knowledge of the allotted inheritance of the 12 tribes to make the statements in verses 1-3.

The third primary objection to Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy 34 has to do with the grandiose language used to characterize Moses’ ministry and his relationship to the Lord. The thought is that Moses would not have referred to himself in the third person nor would he have spoken of his relationship to the Lord in the way that he did. First of all, Deuteronomy 34 is not the singular instance where Moses would have used described himself in a perspective other than the first person (see Numbers 11:11; 12:17). But if I were taking position against Mosaic authorship stating that he wouldn’t have referred to himself with such majesty, I would begin by mentioning that Paul referred to himself as the chief of sinners. And if Deuteronomy 34 was written by Moses, would he be referring to himself with such a self-important attitude that set him apart from the other prophets who would come after him, both in powerful works and in his closeness to God? Of course, the answer to this rhetorical question would be “no”. But I submit that this is not the best way to examine the text at hand. One of the primary phrases that objectors use to make their argument is,
10 Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 for all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.” (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

If this is an example of the type of language that is too self-complimentary for something that Moses would have said about himself, then what are we to do with Stephen’s defense before the high priest? In his defense of Christ as Messiah, he quoted Deuteronomy 18:15 where he indicates that Jesus is the prophet who Moses said would come after him who Moses indicated would be “like me.” This verse, as it is used by Stephen, directly relates Moses to Christ in this manner, and it is surely more of a grandiose statement than those referred to in this chapter by those opposed to Mosaic authorship.

It seems to me that the arguments against Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy 34, other than the objections about how Moses would have referred to and characterized himself, are basically anti-supernaturalistic in nature. These objections seem to come from a mindset that is influenced, at least in this case, by naturalism. Because it seems that the objection is basically that Moses couldn’t have known or wouldn’t have known the necessary information needed to catalog the events. This is done in direct contrast to the basic nature of divine revelation. Divine revelation is, in the God-breathed Scriptures, is the revealing of what was previously unknown, unknowable or hidden. Furthermore, objections to Mosaic authorship are not based on the overall Biblical witness or the grammar used in this specific text as compared to the rest of the Pentateuch.

I am not saying that all people who oppose Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy 34 categorically reject the supernatural, far from it. But I am saying that the primary objections, as I understand them, come from the same presuppositional basis, at least in this isolated case, as do the empiricists rejections of all miraculous or divine action in the world and in the Scriptures.

1 William D. Barrick, “The Authorship of Deuteronomy 34: Moses or a Redactor?” presented at the ETS Annual Meeting, Nov 14-16,2001, P. 17

Click here to read the paper that I wrote for my Old Testament Introduction class.

Monday, September 22, 2008

God Created Me This Way…

On Friday, September 12, 2008, former Christian artist Ray Boltz publicly announced, among other things, that he is a homosexual and he has been all of his life. I skimmed through the article in Washington Blade and wanted simply to comment on one particular thing that he said regarding Christianity and his now open homosexuality and how they are mutually exclusive. While the genesis of my comments are specifically related to Mr. Boltz’s comments regarding his sexuality and Christianity, my comments are not only applicable to people who may be homosexual in their inclinations. So, in other words, practicing homosexuals who erroneously want to call themselves Christians are not the only ones who should be upset and offended by what I’m going to say.

Ray Boltz made several comments regarding who he is and how he views himself in relation to his continuing confession of being a Christian. However, it was the final thing that he was quoted as saying in the article that held my attention and has given birth to my comments.

“This is what it really comes down to,” he says. “If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”1

In other words, Mr. Boltz believes that God made him and intends him to be gay, so his decision to live this way – true to who he is – will not cause God to condemn him to hell. If God created him with a specific type of sexual inclination, and his continued attempts to suppress it for decades has not caused it to wane in its ferocity but instead it has continued with vigor, then he should not feel ashamed of it, nor should he feel that his claim of being a Christian will be rendered void by living out his natural inclination. With all due respect, I must, on the basis of Scripture, patently reject this logic and. I don’t see any consolation in Scripture for the person who claims to be a Christian but yet lives a life of unrepentant and blatant sin.

The problem with Mr. Boltz’s theology (as stated above, anyway) is that he doesn’t understand the depravity of man; neither generally with the entirety of humanity nor specifically with regards to himself. I am becoming more and more convinced that a misunderstanding of sin – its effect, scope, and result – leads to so many of the problems and inconsistencies that we see in theology. Furthermore, I think that this error is surpassed in its potential damage only by errors relating to Scripture (denying its sufficiency, inerrancy, inspiration, etc.) and errors related to the Person of Christ Himself.

Mankind, as a whole, is born in sin and is completely and utterly defiled because of our sin in Adam. And because of our sin in Adam, all of the parts of our being have been corrupted from the perfect and sinless model of our first father. In other words, God made a perfect creation but we have corrupted it. So, in a sense, it is both true and untrue for Mr. Boltz to say that “God made me this way” relating to his sexuality. God did not create man to be homosexual, but God did create Ray with the sinful proclivity that lends itself towards homosexuality. This neither justifies Ray, or anyone, in rebelling against God’s command to abstain from that kind of activity, nor does this render God as being unjust or as being unfairly malicious in His eternal condemnation of men and women who practice such forbidden things.

Because if one reads the Scriptures consistently in the way in which they intend to be read (as being a perspicuous divine revelation), there is no way to avoid the condemnation of any sexual activity (mentally or physically) outside of the bounds of monogamous heterosexual marriage between one male and one female. Would it would be wrong if, and I doubt that Mr. Boltz or his “church” body would not disagree with me on this even though they may reject the analogy, after decades of marriage to one woman that produced four grown children, I decided to leave her and go off to engage in all sorts of sexual encounters with as many women as I was able to. If so, then why?

I’m an average man. And any honest hetero-sexual man that I have ever met has desires and tendencies to have as much sex with virtually as many different people as you could imagine. Why should I not go out and live in a lifestyle of free love? That is where my natural proclivities point me? And based on Mr. Boltz’s summarization of his situation, there are no Scriptural grounds upon which to condemn my promiscuous lifestyle. This is done to the utter disregard of the Scripture when it is clear that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God, and neither will the homosexual!2

So, whether you’re a homosexual ex-Contemporary Christian recording artist who has just decided to come out of the closet or whether you’re an average Joe who has decided that warring against the constant bombardment of sexual thoughts is foolish because “God made me this way”, and you’ve decided to live out your natural desires for sexual fulfillment – you are giving evidence that you have not been born again and that you do not love Christ Jesus at all. You love what is plainly called sin in the Scriptures more than you love the God of the Scriptures.

Christians sin. Some Christians have homosexual attractions and desires. All Christians have natural desires that are contrary to the Biblical call for holiness and purity. All Christians war against these sins, and we die still in the war against our sinful desires. Whether we die in while losing a skirmish or standing on a mountain of triumph, we’re still in the fight.

Those who leave the fight, give up the fight, deny that there is a fight and utterly forsake the call of Christ to war against the sin that is present in the flesh give evidence to the fact that they haven’t been redeemed by Christ. It is impossible for man to resist his natural inclinations in the way that Christ calls us to. It takes a supernatural victory and the alien righteousness of Christ to first make war and then to continue that war on the flesh throughout the remainder.


2 I should note that when I use the term homosexual, as I did in this sentence, the meaning is that of a practicing homosexual in the same manner as I would say that the fornicator is someone who is actively fornicating in their life. For a man to be tempted with thoughts of homosexual sin or heterosexual sin and his response is to war against it, this does not make him a homosexual or a fornicator in the sense that it would be evidence of not being a Christian. The man who is tempted with the same sins and gladly runs his mind in this sin or acts out on these sins is the one who is giving evidence to possibly not having been justified.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blasphemy? Really?

A while ago (a long while ago, actually) I did a little study on the “queen of heaven” as it relates to Roman Catholicism’s exaltation of Mary and if that has any relevance to the pagan goddess mentioned in Jeremiah 7:18. The conclusion that I came to is that I’m not willing to say that the same spirit that was being worshipped as the “queen of heaven” in ancient times is modernly incarnated in the Roman exaltation of Mary. That being the case, I view the modern Marian devotion more similarly to run-of-the-mill idolatry that has always plagued man in his sinfulness.

So, I wrote my thoughts and made a summary video of it to put on youtube and there ended up being a fairly lively discussion in the comments section of the video. Recently I have pretty much left that video and the comments alone…until I saw this comment:

"O teach me Holy Mary
A loving song to frame
When WICKED MEN blashpheme thee
I'll love and bless thy name"

Now, this comment from “Rapture1987” was part of a stanza from a hymn to Mary. The primary thing that the commenter wanted to get across was that I am a wicked man because of my comments against the unholy and blasphemous exaltation of Mary. But what caught my attention is that this hymn ascribes the charge of blasphemy to those who dare challenge the exaltation of Mary in Roman Catholicism.

Now, I make the charge that the exaltation of Mary and the veneration of her is blasphemy simply because doing so either gives her attributes that are for God alone, or they make her the recipient of prayer or praise that is due to God alone. I submit that I do this on the basis of the Scriptural precedent that worship and praise and prayer is only to be addressed to God and to Him alone. It is quite a different thing to accuse someone of blasphemy against a person. That charge, I think, goes more to validate my concerns and objections to the elevation of Mary, but furthermore, it may lend credence to those who see the Marian elevation as nothing less than her deification in Roman dogma.

And now, based on this comment and the fact that it was a quotation of a Marian Hymn, I am more convinced that the true deification of Mary is where the modern Roman push will end up, even if that is not the intention of the majority of those who are promoting the fifth Marian dogma. Now, it may be that the hymn writer and the commenter have no real understanding of what they are saying when they accuse men of blasphemy when they attack Mary, but they should know better.

I did a quick concordance search on the word “blasphem” (this was to include both forms of “blasphemy and blaspheme” and I came up with 41 different results from the NASB. Now, granted, this is not an exhaustive study of the Biblical understanding of blasphemy, but it is a quick and cursory look at how the Holy Spirit used this word in God’s revelation to us.

The overwhelming majority of the Scriptures clearly indicate that the offended party in the act of blasphemy is God. The only time in the Scriptures that I could find that where the object of the blasphemy might be found in 2nd Samuel. This is during the account following David’s sin with Bathsheba and Uriah.
"However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die." (2 Samuel 12:14)

Now, although it seems quite clear in the larger context that it was the Lord who was the recipient of the blasphemy of His enemies, this verse itself doesn’t say “…occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme the LORD….” I don’t think that there is any other way that one could interpret the text other than to say that the blasphemy was against the LORD, but others might argue otherwise.1 The other 11 times that the charge of blasphemy was named in the Old Testament, it was specifically listed as being against God Himself. However, there is one verse where the sin of blasphemy was attributed to a human party as well as to God. And it is this Scripture that needs to be addressed, I think.
Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God." (Acts 6:11)

The context here is the testimony, trial, and martyrdom of Stephen. How is it that Stephen was blaspheming against God and Moses if blasphemy is an offense only against God? Well, first of all, the revelation of the Old Testament, specifically the Pentateuch, was referred to as the Law of Moses (see, among others, Joshua 8:31-32; 23:4; Judges 4:11; 1 Kings 2:3; Ezra 7:6; Malachi 4:4; Luke 2:22; Acts 13:39; 15:5; 28:23; 1 Corinthians 9:9). And in this way, one could be said to blaspheme Moses by contradicting the revelation that God had given to him in the Law. And in the account of Stephen, he only used Scripture to point to Christ. He did not attack Moses or their perception of Moses as the most righteous man who intercedes on their behalf before God.

But even if one was to argue that the Jewish officials were accusing Stephen of blasphemy against the person of Moses instead of the Law, I don’t see a precedent set here that we could then use to apply in the case of Marian opposition. And there are three main reasons for why there is no problem with this accusation. First of all, this would be the single time in the Scriptures where the charge of blasphemy was attributed to an assault on a person instead of God. Secondly, this charge is made by those people who have rejected the incarnate Christ Himself and who schemed and “induced” men to make this accusation against Stephen. In other words, this is not the best crowd to look to for a correctly interpreted understanding of the Scriptures to make a precedent in this area or for honesty in their actions and accusations. And thirdly, this verse is nothing less than a single vague reference to a possible offence of blasphemy against a person and not against God alone, and so it should by no means be a verse we look to in order to expand the otherwise clear definition of blasphemy in the Scriptures.

It is on the basis of the Scripture’s use of this term and concept that I defend that the sin of blasphemy is only against God. Men who mock a gospel preacher may mock the man while they blaspheme God. And it is in the same vain of Biblical precedent that I reject the accusation of blasphemy against Mary. Mary is not God, therefore she cannot be blasphemed.

But if Rome wants to defend her Marian dogmas and charge those of us with blasphemy who challenge them for being extra-biblical and a satanic exaltation and veneration of her, they have no biblical ground to do so. And I would further state that the accusations of blasphemy against Mary, intentionally or unintentionally, ascribe a measure of deity to her based on how this word is used in Scripture.

My Roman Catholic friends, I urge you to see this exaltation of Mary for what it is: idolatry and subtle deification of a created being. Defend your dogmas, if you like, but know that their defense is not one that can be done from a consistent interpretation of Scripture.

Soli Deo Gloria.

1 I include this little caveat primarily because many of the opponents of Sola Scriptura (Roman apologists and adherents) believe that the Scripture must say certain things with the exact words that they think that it should in order to uphold our doctrinal conclusions. So, even though the inspired Scripture doesn’t include the “the LORD” after the word “blaspheme”, a fair reading of the text would come up with that interpretation.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins

How did people in the Old Testament have their sins forgiven? How is all of the stuff with the temple, and the stringent requirements that God gave in the Old Testament reconciled with grace through faith in the New Testament? These two questions are answered in very different ways depending on the person asked. The ways that this question is answered varies as much as the people asking it do.

One of the ways that this is answered is by saying that salvation was always by grace through faith (cf. Eph 2:8, 9) and not by works of the Law (cf. Gal 2:16). This happens to be what I see as clearly taught in Scripture, but others see the picture a bit differently. Another view is that the Jews in the Old Testament were saved by a combination of faith and works, and since the coming of Christ, all men are still saved by grace through faith and works. Other schools of thought would hold to a mish-mash assortment of views of varying consistencies that include a dual covenant (Israel is still saved by nature of being Israel, and the gentiles are saved by faith) theology, a hyper-dispensational theology that espouses a works righteousness salvation of the Old Testament and a true grace salvation of the New Testament, and many many more.

In a very roundabout way I came to deal with the question of salvation in the Old Testament, or under the Old Covenant, while studying for a Sunday school overview of John the Baptist. John the Baptist is one of the figures in the gospels who does not get too much attention by the Biblical writers or by the church. Most Christians will know that John was a relative of Jesus, that he was the promised forerunner of the Messiah, that he baptized Jesus, and that he was martyred by Herod. This is a fairly good and complete summary of who John was and what his mission was, so I didn’t want to focus primarily on these issues. What I wanted to investigate was the content, the message, of John the Baptist.

Have you ever noticed it when you gloss over a passage quickly when it seems to say something that you don’t agree with or when you simply don’t understand it? Perhaps I’m the only person who has done this, but I was definitely guilty of that in the past when I’d read a description of John’s message and ministry.

“John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4)

I believe that the New Testament teaches baptism, repentance, and the forgiveness of sins, however the way that Mark formulates John’s message seems to combine these three things in a way that flies in the face the doctrine of justification by faith alone. It was this text that prompted me to study John the Baptist in hopes of coming to see how best to understand this text in light of the rest of the Scriptures.

Checking the other three gospel accounts gives some clues as to what the message of John was even if there is no point by point theological statement written down.
16 John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 "His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." 18 So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people. (Luke 3:16-18)

In this passage I didn’t even focus on verses 16 and 17 except for the context of what John said. It was verse 18 that grabbed my attention. John was preaching the gospel, or at least what Luke identified as the gospel at a later date. I think that it is important to know that Luke, like the other New Testament writers, refers to the message of salvation from the condemnation of God as the gospel. Furthermore, Luke uses this word to summarize what Christ Himself was proclaiming during His own ministry. So whatever we say about John’s message, we cannot say that it differed from that of Christ’s own message.
7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.” (John 1:7-8)

The apostle John understood and related the message of the Baptizer to be one that pointed to Christ and was clear enough so that “all might believe through him.” This would not be possible if John the Baptist was making people a slave of the Law or tradition in order to bring about salvation. The facts that the ministry of the forerunner to the Messiah was to clear the path to Christ and that John’s message was shown to be in harmony with the message of Christ Himself should erase any fear of a proclamation of baptismal regeneration from Mark 1:4. There is still one more Scripture that I had not looked at in this context before, which really captured the truth that John’s message was one that lined up not only with Christ, but also with the apostles.
24 Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; 26 and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 18:24-28, emphasis mine)

I wanted to emphasize the later part of verse 25 but also include 27 and 28 because of the more complete context of Apollos’ early faith and ministry. Notice that before Apollos had been baptized in the apostolic ministry, he was “speaking and teaching the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John.” In other words, Apollos had come into contact with the ministry of John the Baptist and had been baptized by him (cf. Mark 1:5). This may have happened during one of the many Jewish feasts where the faithful would make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate and worship.

John’s message was clear enough and direct enough that Apollos truly was able to “believe through” John’s preaching (cf. John 1:7) but then was not present during the further ministry of Christ, or at least not surrounding the time of the crucifixion and resurrection. The reason I say that is that if he were around, he would have experienced the baptism of the apostles and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

If Apollos was proclaiming the falsehoods concerning Christ and His role as Messiah, he would not have been “speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus”. So the fact that Apollos was accurately teaching the things concerning Jesus without any apostolic instruction but only with the teaching from John the Baptist is a great testimony for the content of John’s teaching. John the Baptist was truly making the paths straight to the messiah, and Apollos is an example of the fruit of his ministry.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reflections on Isaiah 53:6,10


In an effort to set up my thoughts and reflections on Isaiah 53, I am going to provide some of the context around what led me both to study it, wrestle with the seeming paradox in it, and finally come to my personal conclusion as to how we should understand the Isaiah 53:6 in the context of the rest of the chapter.

Even before I really made a personally motivated effort to memorize Scripture on my own, I knew these verses. Now, I may not have remembered the exact reference right away, and I knew what verse 5 much better than verse 6, but I could come close to quoting these verses for you. And it was with this in mind that I planned to study Isaiah 53 to teach in Sunday school. In the past I’ve spent weeks on studying a single chapter, but because I didn’t have that luxury this time, I planned on briefly looking at some of less familiar parts of this Messianic prophesy. My goal was to simply wet the appetites of the class into looking back at this passage with a revitalized sense of awe that may have been diminished because its familiarity.

In my grand design, I wanted to end the last few minutes of the class dealing with verse 6 and how we should understand what “the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” means. I had planned the majority of my time with looking at Christ as the once for all sacrifice as contrasted to the ongoing priestly sacrifices, what “His offspring” and “prolong His days” (v.10) means, or even how it is so important to note that “the Lord was pleased to crush Him” and “if He would render Himself (as) a guilt offering” (v.10) showed both the willingness of the suffering servant and the pleasure of the Father.

We began by reading 52:13 – 53:12 out loud, and when we were done, I asked what impressed them or stuck out to them from what we had just read. Now, I thought that someone would bring up something form verse 10, or something relating to the silent lamb before the slaughter (v. 7) and that is where we would begin the lesson. It was a good idea until the first, and only, person to answer my question referred to verse 6 and marveled at how awesome it was that Christ bore all of the sins for everyone whoever lived.

Now I had a problem. This is exactly the issue and mindset that I wanted to deal with, somewhat briefly, at the end of the class. Primarily I wanted to deal with it briefly because of the potential powder keg that discussing my conclusions on this verse might lead to. What I mean is this: at this time, I don’t necessarily believe that Isaiah 53 teaches the doctrine of particular redemption (limited atonement), but I believe that the correct understanding of it would lead one to think along those lines. And from my experience in preaching anything that touches on the doctrine of election, much less on the doctrine of limited atonement, the reaction could be less than hospitable and even cause enough discord as to motivate people to leave the fellowship of our local body. This is not to say that I will not say what the Word is saying in a particular text or situation, but I am very aware that I must be delicate because it is not my place to be so “controversial” as to motivate people to leave be cause of me.

So when the observation was made that this verse said that all people had their sins placed on Christ, and He paid for them all, I reluctantly took the carrot and decided to begin to look into what this verse means in the context of the rest of Isaiah 53. So without further ado, here are my reflections on Isaiah 53:6 when taken in context (specifically verses 11 and 12).

5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being {fell} upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” (Isaiah 53:5,6)

When looking at these verses, my initial gut reaction is to take them to mean exactly what the words plainly say. Namely, that Jesus bore the punishment for everyone’s sins to bring us all to peace with God because everyone of us have gone astray, but God has caused all of our iniquities to fall on Jesus. I don’t think that I go too by saying that this is the general understanding of the majority of Christians when looking at this verse in the same way. I don’t know if I heard this from someone, or if is simply what I have thought in the past, but these two verses come across almost as the equivalent of Romans 3:23 in the Old Testament. In other words, just as Romans 3:23 (built on the context of Romans 1-3) shows the universality of the sinfulness of man, this verse is portrayed as doing the same thing in the Old Testament.

I had believed that exact thing until studying this chapter for this lesson. It was not verses 5 and 6 that caused me to be up way to late struggling with how to understand it, but it was when looking at these verses in light of verses 11 and 12 that I almost pulled my hair out.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see {it and} be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53: 6,11 emphasis mine)

The language of “all”, “our”, and “many” may have caused some initial confusion, but in the past I had just understood them to be referring to different groups and had no problem with that. All people are sinful but only those who have faith in Christ will be justified. There is no problem with this because that is the glorious truth of the gospel. However, the problem that I encountered came from fact that the context indicates that those whose sins Christ bears will be justified, but if all people’s iniquities fall on Christ then all would be justified. In other words, then all people everywhere would be saved. Not that I would oppose universalism if the Bible taught it, but it blatantly does not. So how can I understand this in context?

Even though we understand that we are justified and connected to the death and resurrection of Christ through faith, Isaiah doesn’t address that. He simply states that “the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” and that the “Servant justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.” So, as I understand it, whether the “all” of verse 6 and the “many” of verse 11 refer to the exact same people or not, neither can be referring to all people of all time because the Bible is clear that many people will be eternally condemned.

My concern was not that this text somehow teaches universalism, my struggle was how to understand this passage consistently so that it said what I know the Bible teaches elsewhere. And the first thing that I was drawn too was the pronouns used throughout the chapter. Isaiah uses “our” (1,4,5), “we ourselves” (4), “we” (5), “all of us” (6), “each of us” (6), “us all” (6), “my people” (8), “many” (11,12), “their” (11) to describe those to whom the action of the Suffering Servant relates.

At first, the “my people” from verse eight seems to be the best clue as to who Isaiah is writing about here. I believe based on Isaiah 52:14 as well as 53:8 that “my people” refers to the nation of Israel, God’s covenant people. But that still doesn’t resolve the “all” verses the “many” problem that we get from verse 6 and 11. And unless “all” refers to all Israel and “many” refers to the number of descendants as related to the rest of humanity, I don’t think that identifying “my people” is the final key to unlocking the who’s who of Isaiah 53. And I say that because of what we know; we know that much of Israel is and was apostate, and we also know that salvation came to the gentiles in Christ. So, my dilemma continues.

After more searching and scouring of the passage for another clue as to what might be the best key for understanding the “many” against the “all” language, I reread and reread the chapter and surrounding context for some help. It wasn’t until after having read it many times that I again noticed that the first possessive pronoun used in chapter 53 was used in verse 1, and it was the word “our”.
“Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1)

I believe that it is this verse, this statement or lament of Isaiah, which gives the key to understanding and making sense of the rest of this chapter. And the question that I think is important is this: who is the “our” that proclaimed the message that was to be believed? This is not the nation, it cannot be. The nation rejected God and rebelled against the laws of God and of worshipping and following Him alone from the very Exodus from Egypt. Because of their constant rebellion and hard hearts, God sent prophets who were to call the nation back to the Lord. We also know that there were devout priests and other people who remained faithful to God during the rampant apostasy of their land (see 1 Kings 19:14-18).

It seems best to understand the possessive and inclusive pronoun “our” in verse 1 as well as “each of us” and “all of us” in verse 6 to refer to those people who were proclaiming the Word of the Lord. And for lack of a better way to categorize them, I’ll call them the prophets, even though this group would include more than those who wrote the prophetic books in the Old Testament. Isaiah wasn’t commenting on the general sin of Israel in verse 6, he was referring to the faithful group of prophets who proclaimed the message. Remember, this is the same Isaiah who lamented his own sinfulness before the throne of God,
“Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." (Isaiah 6:5)

If Isaiah is referring to those faithfully proclaiming the Word of the Lord to the nations when he says “all of us” and “each of us”, then who are the “many” in verse 11? It seems best to understand the “many” in God’s ultimate redemptive sense. In other words, it is not simply the faithful among the prophets of God to Israel and Judah that He will save, but He is the savior of the gentiles too. The prophets knew this well, and that is why Jonah fled; he did not want God to be merciful to the Ninevites, even though he knew that He would be.

So in this case, “many” is actually a larger group than “all of us” is. Everyone who has been justified by faith is included in the “many”, but only Isaiah’s contemporaries proclaiming the Word of the Lord at that time would be included in the “all of us”. I could even be convinced that “all of us” refers to all of the believers of the message, not just the proclaimers of the message, in Isaiah’s time and in all time. And in this case, the “all of us” would include the totality of those chosen by God, and the “many” would refer to their numerical value.

This understanding of who the various groups are allow us to interpret Isaiah 53 consistently in its context as well as in the broader context of the Bible’s teaching on salvation. All of those people who have their sins imputed to Christ will be justified by His righteousness, and there will be many people who come from every tribe, tongue, and nation who receive God’s gracious gift of salvation through Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, July 21, 2008

When Debates Go Bad...Very Bad

James White debates Nadir Ahmed (Muslim apologist) in 2008 over whether the New Testament is reliable.

I watched this debate in its entirety, and I can say that I have never seen anything like it. This was infact a non-debate. The reason being that the Muslim apologist refused to stay on subject, answer questions, or follow the debate rules. Furthermore, Mr. Ahmed was asking for evidence regarding the validness of Paul being a "prophet" but would not even listen to anything that James would say.

Truly, the only thing about this debate that is worthy of remembering, at least from the things that Mr. Ahmed said, was this clip of him calling out a member of the audience in very "Jerry Springer-ish" way.


Praise God for the Bible and for men who can keep their composure much better and much longer than I can.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

“I cannot help but stop for just a moment and remind us that it is not a gospel that does not explain to men and to women and to children why they’re under the wrath of God. Don’t tell me that you’ve preached the gospel to someone when you have not followed the apostolic example and explained, first and foremost, that we all stand justly condemned before a holy God. If you have not proclaimed that, you have not proclaimed the gospel.” - James White, 2008 John Bunyan Conference 2:34 ff.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Baby Steps From Orthodoxy to Heresy

Whenever the Scriptures are misused, it grieves God and all of His children. As one of those children, I initially have a two-fold thought on this matter. First of all, I realize that I am imperfect, quite flawed, actually, and I have misused Scriptures in the past. Worse than that, I am sure that I will misuse Scriptures in the future. I have not done so intentionally, and I will not do it intentionally in the future, but even though I cannot think of a specific example, I am sure that this is a true description of me. The second thought that I have is one of indignation and anger that the Word of God is distorted by careless, immature, or malicious individuals when they use a Scripture to state as a fact what that Scripture, or perhaps even the Scriptures as a whole, does not teach at all.

And it is in the mindset of my two-fold reaction that I hope to address misuses of Scripture. First of all, if I am approached with an example of where I have used a Scripture out of context in order to support a theological conclusion (whether my final conclusion is Biblical or not, it makes no difference), I hope and pray that I will quickly have a humble attitude to investigate the issue to see if I am at fault. And once I become aware of an occurrence of out of context proof texting, then not only will I not use the text in the same incorrect manner, but I will do what I can to rectify my previous use of it in that manner.

My hope and prayer is that my Christian brethren will do the same. However, since we are all sinful, there are verses and issues that will not be given up easily or at all. Even if these misuses of Scripture are for theologically true issues or issues that are false but not at the level of being heretical, it is still a very troubling and problematic activity. If a text can be twisted out of context and accepted to affirm something that it doesn’t, even if that affirmation is not heretical, what is to stop the next person who wants to twist it even further?

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

When I have researched and discussed the issue of female pastors, Galatians 3:28 is the verse that is used, along with other vague references and elusions to women, to argue the point. Furthermore, the passage in Galatians is the primary Scriptural cudgel that is used to bat down the opposing arguments. Proponents of female pastors and elders basically see this verse as washing away the distinctions of men and women as it relates to pastoral ministry. But along with the gender neutralizing application that is taken from Galatians 3:28, those who advocate female pastors from the Scriptures are quick to site the fact that there have been female prophetesses (Ex 15:20, 2 Kings 22:14, Luke 2:36, Acts 21:9), a female Judge (Jud 4:4), and a female member of a prominent husband and wife team that helped Apollos (Acts 18:24-28). However, without the glue of the above interpretation of Galatians 3:28, these examples don’t teach us anything about the role or qualifications of elders in the church, they are simply examples of what women had done under the Law and during the transitional time of the early church. But even the examples of prophetesses in the New Testament are not listed as elders or pastors, and that must not be overlooked or brushed under the rug.

So the question that must be addressed is this: does Galatians 3:28 teach the washing away of gender distinctions in the church, or at least regarding the issue of elders and pastors in the church? My answer is simply and quickly that it does no such thing. First of all, Paul’s letter is primarily addressing the issues raised because of the Judaizing false teachers who were teaching that one must follow the law as well as have faith in order to be saved. Paul’s pronouncement of this idea as anathema in the first chapter is one of the harshest in all of his letters.

So when we arrive at chapter three, Paul is now trying to give a presentation about the correct use or function of the law since following the law has no part in our justification. And it is in the context of the proper understanding of the law that we find Galatians 3:28.
22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:22-29)

Verses 24-26 make it clear that Paul is referring both to who can be justified and how they can be justified. And the answer is that there is no racial, class, or gender disqualifiers for justification that occurs by faith. Forgetting that Paul’s parallel statement in Colossians 3:9-11 doesn’t mention a distinction between male and female. Even if Paul would have made the same “neither male nor female” statement, the context in Colossians is about the renewal that believer’s experience who have been justified by faith and not about serving in the church.

Another textual objection raised in this text, but in my experience much less frequently, is that we are all, male and female, “heirs according to promise”. The promise that we are heirs to in Christ is the promise made to Abraham and not one of temporal gifts or service in the church. Being an heir in this sense is saying that we receive the promise that was made to Abraham and passed down through Isaac, Jacob, and the nation is one of salvation (see Galatians 3:6-9).

But one proponent of the egalitarian view made a very wild “logical” continuation of applying Galatians 3:28 “only to salvation.”
“If Galatians 3:28 only refers to salvation, then we would have a difficult time defending the inclusion of the gentiles in the leadership roles of the church. Let me explain what I mean.

What if someone said that only the Jews were to rule, and all the gentiles had to be subordinate? After all, weren’t all of the books of the Bible written by Jews? Weren’t all of Jesus disciples Jews? Jesus never appointed anyone who wasn’t a Jew to a place of authority in the church.

Is that Biblical? It may sound logical because these are the same arguments that have been used against women. But the wall of separation has been taken down in every case.”1

The proof-text that is used here referring to this dividing wall that is broken down and that the speaker relates to the roles of men and women in the church is Ephesians 2:14-16. While the verses do talk about breaking down a barrier and making the two into one new man, the context is about the Jews and the gentiles, not men and women.

One of the explicit qualifications given for the role of elder or overseer is that the person must be a one woman man. The language is clear that the individual must be a man, not simply a person who is devoted to one other person. He doesn’t say that the elder or bishop must be a good looking man, a black man, a white man, a young man, an old man, a Jewish man (Israelite), or a gentile man; he just says that he must be a one woman man.

Galatians 3:28 does not overrule or even clarify the male qualification for being an elder or bishop when Paul announces that there is no “male or female” in Christ Jesus. Paul is responding to the heresy of the Judaizers in Galatia and their insistence that you must add law-keeping to faith, especially circumcision, in order to be saved. And there is no distinction because of pedigree, gender, or social status. Conversely, when Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus, he was giving positive instructions on leading in the church.

We must be careful not to confuse the Scriptures in their application. Even though it is my conviction based up on the Scriptures that it is wrong for a woman to be a pastor or teacher of men, it is not heresy (not by a long shot). That being the case, using Galatians 3:28 as a verse that breaks down gender distinctions when this passage says nothing of the sort can open it up to further abuses. What context is to stop someone from making the positive case for committed Christian homosexual relationships? Of course the Bible explicitly refers to one man and one woman for marriage, but if there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free man, male or female in Christ Jesus, who are we to stop two loving people from being married?

There are always a few baby steps from orthodoxy to heresy, and we must be careful to school the steps of faith that we take by the Word of God in its proper context.

1 Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free? part 7

The Good-O-Meter

Okay, so normally these types of videos don't impress me, but this one was different. And I would have done things a little different by adding a person saying "I prayed a prayer when I was a kid" or something like that, but otherwise it was good in showing the imputation of Christ's righteousness to our account.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

God is No Respecter of Persons

For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:11)

Over the past month or so, I have seen this verse used to defend the idea that those who haven’t heard the gospel of Jesus Christ may still be covered by the blood of Christ even though they would not have placed their faith in Christ. I have also seen this verse used as the primary Scriptural cudgel used to attack the “demonic doctrine”1 of predestination. In either occasion in my experience, when it comes down to it, the issue that is being defended is the free will of man to choose God apart from divine sovereignty.

This verse seems to be utterly debilitating to the doctrine of election if, as the King James Version puts it, “there is no respect of persons with God” means that God gives all men everywhere from all times the exact same ability and opportunity to respond to the gospel. Whereas the individuals who I have seen use this verse may not have stated their position in just this way, the issue remains the same because users of this verse for this reason hold that God would be a liar if this were untrue. And I agree, if Romans 2:11 means that all people everywhere for all time have the same opportunity and ability to respond to the gospel, then God would be called a liar if the doctrine of election were true. But is that what this verse is saying?

In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul is making the case that all men everywhere, in fact, have not honored God as they ought and therefore do not measure up to God’s standards. In fact, the summary of Paul’s argument up to that point is one of the most memorized verses in the New Testament,

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Paul goes into great detail as to why man is in this predicament, whether or not he’s heard the law of God before, and the end result is the same; Man falls short of God’s perfect standard and is justly under condemnation because of what we have done. And moving forward from Romans chapter three, Paul begins to unfold the great doctrine of justification by faith alone apart from works of the law or any human righteousness.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

With the general flow of the first few chapters of Romans established, we now have the perspective to look at Romans 2:11 to find out if using this verse to proclaim or defend the more Arminian understanding of the doctrine of free will. In the whole flow of the first few chapters of Romans, Paul is not addressing the issue of election or free will; he is making the case for the universal depravity of mankind. He does address these issues in detail, specifically in chapters eight and nine, but that issue has not been introduced in the first few chapters.

In the first 17 verses of chapter one, Paul gives his salutation and opens his letter with some statements concerning the gospel and the fact that it is the power of God for salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16). Paul also gives us glimpses of the gospel in chapter two when he admonishes us that it is God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience that lead the sinner to repentance (Romans 2:4). However, what Paul is saying in verse eleven is made very plain with the immediate context of that verse.

9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God. 12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; (Romans 2:9-12)

Paul’s statement about God showing “no partiality” or being “no respecter of persons” (KJV) is a statement regarding God’s judgment on mankind. Furthermore, I submit that he is saying that all men stand condemned by God in this text even though verse 10 speaks of God giving a positive reward to those who do good. The reason is that in just a few lines, Paul quotes the Old Testament stating that there are none who do good, and his conclusion is that all men fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and the penalty of this offense is death (6:23).

It is true that God doesn’t discriminate on account of race, gender, or social status when it comes to salvation (Gal 3:28; Col 3:11). In other words, being a woman, a slave, a barbarian, or a Jew doesn’t disqualify you from the God’s promise to forgive your sins if you repent of them and trust in His son. This is not either affirming or discrediting the doctrine of election, it simply affirms that there can be (and there will be) people of every tribe, tongue, and nation in Heaven with Christ (Rev 5:9).

It is also true that Christians are not to show partiality in regards to Christian fellowship. One believer is the same as the next. James condemns showing favoritism for a rich man over a poor man in the gathering of believers. Again, we are all of equal worth in Christ Jesus, and we must not discriminate on account of social status, ethnicity, or gender when it comes to our fellowship.

In short, the truth that God is no respecter of persons is in no way related to the doctrine of election, whether you agree with that doctrine or not. This verse is explicitly talking about the universality of judgment and condemnation of mankind on account of sin. This is seen from the surrounding few verses as well as the overall argument that Paul is making in the first three chapters of Romans.

1 TheVineRhyme, “Predestination”, youtube video. 0:40 – 0:54. Uploaded on 5/21/08.

Unreliable Cultists and the Mormon Jesus

Over the past few weeks, some missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have been coming around my neighborhood. Each time that they’ve come around, my wife has just happened to be outside and I’ve either been putting my boys to bed or not at home. According to my wife, their conversations have been pleasant and she’s held her own recognizing some of the subtleties of their language as being concerning. For instance, nearing the end of one of their conversations she said, “You know, there’s nothing better than talking about Jesus” to which they responded by saying, “Yes, there’s nothing better than talking about the church.”

Now, I don’t know all of the reasons for them to make the distinction that they did, but perhaps it was because my wife had been defending historic Christian doctrine about Christ and salvation in the midst of their heretical characterizations of Him. But wherever the conversation went on those two days, my wife said one thing on both occasions. “My husband would love to talk to you.”

It is true that I enjoy talking about Christ and the gospel. Most often these conversations are with my wife, my children, my brother-in-law, or a few of my Christian co-workers. But I’ll also try to talk about Christ and the gospel with co-workers who aren’t Christians as well as anyone else who’ll engage me in a conversation. This is not to say that I do aggressive street evangelism to strangers, but I will take any conversational open door that comes my way. I don’t say this to impugn street witnessing, but as a self-impugning confession that I truly want to change. Because, hey, there’s nothing wrong and almost everything right with politely asking someone to talk, and then witnessing to them in a reasonable and gentle way.

After the last conversation with my wife, the Mormons made an appointment to come back to my home this past Tuesday evening at 7:30 PM so that I could talk with them. When my wife informed me of this arrangement, I was both excited and a bit nervous. But, when Tuesday rolled around I was reading Colossians and studying up on what the Bible says about the eternality of Jesus Christ so that I could have those verses fresh on my mind to counter the Mormon assertions that Jesus is a created being.

We setup a patio table in our garage (in case of rain), setup four chairs, and even made some lemonade so that we could all sit comfortably while we tried to convert each other. But 7:30 came and went and there were no Mormons sitting at my table telling me about the fact that there are still prophets today. My wife and I were getting disappointed, but I made the comment that perhaps these young men were still on Utah time, and so 7:30 on their watches would be 8:30 on ours. I didn’t really think that was the case, but I was really looking forward to speaking with them. Well, once 9PM rolled around, it was a pretty fair certainty that they were not going to show up, and we packed away our gear and retreated to the mosquito-free inside of our home.

While I was preparing to discuss some of the more troubling aspects of Mormon theology, I really had only a few goals for our conversation. I wanted to give some Scripturally sound answers to their assertions about their understanding of Jesus, grace, works, baptism, salvation, and God. They believe that Jesus is their savior, but the Jesus they believe in is not the Jesus revealed in the Bible. They believe that they’re saved by grace, but they confess that they’re saved by grace “after all that we can do”. In other words, they’re saved by their works. This is evident when you pose the “knife in the back” scenario.

The “knife in the back” scenario is simply that you set the stage that you’re a man who has a knife in his back, and you’re going to die in minutes. You confess that you’re not religious, but you’re scared of going to hell. Then you ask for them to tell you what you can do to escape hell. I’ve posed this to Mormons in the past, and their reaction is very telling. The last time that I did this, the young men said plainly that you can’t be saved in three minutes. The obvious biblical rebuttal to their assertion is the account of the thief on the cross or Jesus’ parable of the tax collector and Pharisee at the temple.

But even more important than the truth that their salvation method is wrong is the truth that their Jesus is wrong too. They believe that Jesus is the firstborn son of the former man Elohim. They believe that Jesus, like Elohim before him, was born as a man who then was exalted to deity and given his own domain to rule as god. The Bible is emphatic that Jesus existed from the beginning (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; 8:58) and was not created. He is the first-born of creation (Col 1:25) in that He has power over creation and is the pre-eminent one. The Mormon Jesus is not the same as the Jesus of the Scriptures. Believing in the Mormon Jesus will not save anyone any more than believing in a fictitious 11th century red-headed Viking warlord named Jesus who lived in Scandinavia. That fictitious person isn’t the savior of mankind, God incarnate, and neither is the Mormon understanding of Jesus.

He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (John 5:23b)

Even if the Mormons had a perfect doctrine (which they don’t) of salvation that was by grace through faith alone and not of works, they would be left unsaved because they do not place their faith in the truly revealed Son of God.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Is the Atonement of Jesus Christ Limited?


"I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody..." - C.H. Spurgeon
"...the Arminian view of the atonement can be compared to a wide bridge that extends most of the way across a river." - Loraine Boettner

The video correctly states that the "L" in the Reformed acronym is the most missunderstood and potentially offensive part of reformed soteriological theology. It is primarily because of this doctrinal conviction on the part of historic Calvinistic theology that the presense of four-point Calvinists is prolfic.

It was my struggling to understand this doctrinal statement that kept me "in the closet", as it were, for a few years when it cam to being openly Calvinistic. Even though the quotes that I have written out are in the video, I believe that some of them pack such a punch that they need to be restated. That is true for proponents of a particular redemption as well as its oponents. If I could summarize the objection in my mind that continually led me to question my tendencies for believing in a general atonement, it would be the issue that a steadfast Arminian raised.
many Arminians whose theology is not very precise say taht Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Yet such a view is foreign to [historical] Arminianism, which teaches instead that Christ suffered for us. Arminians teach that what Christ did He did for every person; therefore what He did could not have been to pay the penalty, since no one would then ever go into eternal perdition. - Dr. J. Kenneth Grider,

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Ruin of Sin

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

I am becoming more and more convinced every day that the root cause of so much faulty theology comes from a misunderstanding of the sinfulness of man. Whether my wife is talking to the Mormons that came to my door on Sunday evening while I was snoozing with my boys (I’m so proud of her), or whether you’re talking to a Jew or a Muslim (or any other religious affiliation), or if you are simply talking to a post-modern atheistic secular humanist who believes that religion is the cause for all of the problems of the world, the root cause of all of their false concepts of life and the afterlife come from a view that man is inherently good, or at that man is at least naturally neutral.

I am also becoming more and more convinced that a misunderstanding of man’s sinfulness is the root cause of various deviations inside of orthodox Christian theology as well as the fact that it is also a primary cause, while not the only cause, in the divisions between orthodox Christianity and false religion under the guise of a form of Christianity; Roman Catholicism would be the primary example, while it is surely not the only occurrence, of a truly false religion that masquerades under the guise of Christianity. Whether from Rome or a random preacher’s desktop computer, when men hold to the view that man is somewhat good or capable of good things on his own, they usually mess up the doctrine of salvation and consequently do not understand the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have heard (and read) men of many different stripes inside of Christendom make the mistake of commending to man some ability to do something truly good when the men they are referring to have not been transformed by the saving power of Christ that is received through faith. And it is a fundamental denial of the ruin of sin that lead men to create new ways for good people to get a “fair chance” before God. If we understand that there are no good people and furthermore that there is nothing innately good about any human and that all people are unrighteous and wicked to the core of their being, we then see the message of the cross in the correct way.

As a side note, I don’t believe that the errors of the anonymous Christianity as seen inside of protestant circles or the same types of theologies inside of Roman Catholicism come from a purposeful intent to destroy the gospel of God (for the masses, anyway). This error basically holds that there is, or must be, a way that a loving God has set up for those who have never heard of Christ to still be saved. And I believe that the majority of unbelievers, as well as believers, who sit in the pews each week and are sympathetic to this idea, seem to be motivated by the desire to preserve the justice of God. I believe that this is the reason why some less mature or Scripturally ignorant Christians might be wooed by this idea. But I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that while this might be a factor with unbelievers, a primary reason would also seem to be one of self preservation. You see, unbelievers still have the unmitigated guilt of their sin to deal with, and whether they are in a Christian church or not, this fictional possibility helps to soothe their own consciences with the hope that they might qualify for it if their professed faith is false.

The problems that come from a watered down view of the sinfulness of man and the indistinguishable idea of the ability of man (to do truly good things) very often result in views of salvation that are contrary to the gospel. Now, whereas many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are Arminian in their theological persuasion and they will disagree with me on some of the issues surrounding the doctrines of grace (a.k.a. Calvinism), they would ultimately hold to the correct understanding of the ruin of sin. They hold to the position that every man is able to receive salvation by faith in Christ, but it is not anything good about that man himself that lends to his salvation.

The reason for the importance of this doctrine is not in the fact that it is fun or that it makes people feel good to be made very aware of the fact that, just as the famous song says, we are all wretches because of our sin. Neither is it is not a reveling in the imminent damnation of the vast majority of humanity. It is a bold proclamation of the utter ruin of mankind so that Christ will be seen as the most beautiful and glorious Savior that He is. When you have a watered down view of sin and your own sinfulness, then you only need a watered down Christ to save you or to help you save yourself. The Bible doesn’t speak of Christ as a “kind of” or “mostly” savior; He is the perfect and ultimate savior of a ruined humanity. And it is only by faith in Him as He has been revealed through the pages of Scripture that we can be saved from the ultimate ruin of the wrath of God.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Steven Curtis Chapman, Cinderella, Tragedy

I was running on my treadmill yesterday when I heard on the news that Steven Curtis Chapman's 5 year-old daughter was accidentally killed by her brother.

I first heard the song "Cinderella" following the birth of my own daughter in the summer of 2007. I remember telling my wife that it was the first song that I ever had that "butterfly kisses" reaction that daddy's get when thinking about their daughters...I was a weeping mess.

Now, hearing the tragedy in his family and finding out that 1/2 of the inspiration for this song was his daughter, Maria, who died on Wednesday.

God's grace is is the only thing that can sustain and encourage a family in this time.

(This video was made well before this tragedy)

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