Monday, August 30, 2010

Isaiah 63:17, the Active Decree of Reprobation

"O LORD, why do you make us wander from Your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear You not? Return for the sake of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage."

I am not sure which of the doctrines of grace are most hated by the lovers of free will: reprobation or particular atonement.

The doctrine of reprobation is the biblical understanding that God actively hardens the hearts of some, to the glory of His justice. We see it in the verse above. While this quote is from the ESV, it is closely parallel to other Protestant translations, such as the KJV and NASB. Young's Literal Translation reads, "Why causest Thou us to wander, O Jehovah, from Thy ways? Thou hardenest our heart from Thy fear. Turn back for Thy servants' sake, The tribes of Thine inheritance."

However, opposition to it is so strong that other translations avoid such wording. For example, in the God's Word Translation, the verse reads, "O LORD, why do You let us wander from Your ways and become so stubborn that we are unable to fear You? Return for the sake of Your servants. They are the tribes that belong to You." In the New Living Translation, the first sentence reads, "LORD, why have You allowed us to turn from Your path?" Notice the change in wording: "let us" and "allowed us."

Notice how the more-literal translations give active verbs, "make us wander" and "harden our heart." In contrast, the looser translations water it down to "let us wander" or "allowed us to turn." The pride of the human heart turns them from biblical truth to self-empowering error.

I say, Let God speak, and all men keep silent!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hebrews 12:29, The Law for the Believer


"For our God is a consuming fire."

From a sermon by Robert Traill, a Covenanter minister in Scotland during the 17th Century.

"It is true that there is a change in the state of believers in their justification and adoption, which is a begun change in their natures in sanctification; yet still they are creatures - still there is much unholiness in their hearts and lives, and all sin in itself is equally hateful to God, and contrary to His holy nature; still they are under His holy law, and bound to obedience, though not as a covenant of life, yet as the rule of their life; still they are in hazard of His anger (though not as an unappeased enemy, yet as an offended father), and of the fruits of it, upon their breaking of His laws."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ezekiel 46:18, The Property of the Family Before the Needs of the State

"The prince shall not take any of the inheritance of the people, thrusting them out of their property. He shall give his sons their inheritance out of his own property, so that none of my people shall be scattered from his property.

Such a simple verse, yet it strikes at the root of tyranny, i.e., the greed of power. The inheritance of the family in the land is not to be set aside or undermined by the civil magistrate. Whether this applies to any act of eminent domain, or simply to the wholesale confiscation of property, such as to create state or federal parks, I don't know. However, the implication for the balance between the rights of the people and the authority of the magistrate is obviously weighty. Think about persecutions under supposedly "Christian" kings, such as the Covenanters under the Stuart kings, who faced confiscation of property for refusing to take loyalty oaths. And the Kelo decision in our own Supreme Court.

It flows out of the verse in the previous chapter, Ezekiel 45:8, in which a portion of the land is set aside to the royal family, while the rest is preserved to the people, "so My princes shall no longer oppress My people" (NASB). This, of course, is an application of the VIIIth Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Hermeneutics of Sentiment: Criminal Justice According to God

If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses. But no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness. Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death. And you shall accept no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the high priest. You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.
- Numbers 35:30-34

There are a number of professing Christian groups that work against capital punishment in the United States. The most prominent is the Catholic Church. However, it is most-closely associated with churches of the pietist and Anabaptist tradition, such as Mennonite statements here and here.

I suggest that there are two hermeneutical errors involved. The first is placing sentiment ahead of obedience in approaching Scripture. The second is a disparaging of the Old Testament. The first is a matter of obstinacy, not reasoning. However, the second is based on faulty reasoning. After all, when Jesus quoted Scripture, what did He quote? The Old Testament, of course, such as Deuteronomy during His temptation (see Matthew 4:1-11). When Paul commends Timothy for his knowledge of the Scriptures, at the knees of his mother and grandmother (II Timothy 3:15), for the knowledge they give of salvation in Jesus Christ, the New Testament hadn't even been written yet. This is especially telling in verses 16-17, the classical statement of Scriptural inspiration and infallibility. When Anabaptists disparage the Old Testament, they go against the examples of both the apostles and of Christ Himself!

Even their sentiment speaks against the Catholic and Anabaptist attitudes. They place victim and perpetrator on a level, something that Scripture testifies against. Isaiah 5:20 anathematizes the one who equates good and evil. Jesus in Matthew 12:35 tells us that actions come from the nature of the heart, whether good or evil. Good people and evil people are not the same! (This is a different issue from fallenness, by which all men are sinners.) And Amos 5:15 and Romans 12:9 give a testimony in both testaments to the requirement of justice in order to true love! Sentiment is hatred; justice is love!

In Numbers, we see God's standard of justice. The unlawful taking of life creates an imbalance of injustice that exposes both land and people to the judgment of God. To restore the balance, the blood of the guilty must be shed. This is required by the very presence of a holy God among His people. The importance of this principle is so great that even the inability to convict a murderer does not dispense with the requirement. Deuteronomy 21:1-9 establishes a procedure for dealing with an unsolved murder. According to Moses here, a virgin heifer is to be killed, and the blood poured out in symbolic judgment on the actual human murderer. That is, the shedding of guilty blood is so important to God's justice, that He even commands the symbolic shedding of blood when actual guilty blood cannot be determined.

The standard isn't man's love, but God's holiness!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Does First Thessalonians Teach a Rapture of the Church?


There are three verses here that I want to consider.

First, 4:17, "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord." This is the classic verse used by certain strains of premillenialists to prove that the church will be "raptured," i.e., taken out of the world, before the Second Advent.

However, two other verses prior to that rule out that literalistic interpretation.

Look at 3:13, "[S]o that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." Notice that Jesus isn't taking away His saints. Rather, He is leading them here. Paul is instructing the living Thessalonian Christians to be prepared for the return of the blessed dead at the Second Advent!

Also, 4:14, "For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep." Again, Jesus isn't taking believers there, he is returning with the saints in heaven to here!

Not only does the immediate context rule out the rapturist interpretation, the language used in 4:17 cannot possibly mean what the rapturists impose on it. The Greek word translated "meet" is used in only two other places in the New Testament. In Matthew 25:1-12, we read Jesus's own words in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In verse 1, we read that the ten virgins "took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom." The other is Acts 28:15. "Meet" in all three verses is the translation of a Greek diplomatic term, referring to a delegation sent out to greet a VIP, such as an ambassador, and escort him back to the city. It cannot mean to greet him and then leave with him. The word simply doesn't mean what rapturists teach it to mean.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Deuteronomy 20:1-9, Rousas Rushdoony on Biblical Warfare


When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is He who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’ Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Is there any man who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. And is there any man who has planted a vineyard and has not enjoyed its fruit? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man enjoy its fruit. And is there any man who has betrothed a wife and has not taken her? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man take her.’ And the officers shall speak further to the people, and say, ‘Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.’ And when the officers have finished speaking to the people, then commanders shall be appointed at the head of the people."
[Note that this is from The ESV, while Rushdoony originally used the KJV. The passage below is from Rushdoony's commentary on Deuteronomy. I reproduce it here because of my fear of the current support among conservative American Christians for imperialistic wars around the world.]

J. A. Thompson has cited the biblical texts governing godly warfare. First, no such war could be conducted apart from God's word or orders (I Sam. 28:5-6; 30:7-8; II Sam. 5:19, 22-23). Second, there had to be a consecration to the task by the men of Israel (I Sam. 21:5; II Sam. 11:11; Isa. 13:3). All that would offend God must be separated from them (Deut. 23:9-14), because God dwells in the camp with His people (Deut. 23:14; Judg. 4:14). Third, the Lord can deliver His people by many or by few (Judg. 7:2ff; I Sam. 13:15ff; 14:6, 17). Fourth, God can and does send panic into the ranks of the enemy, and thereby bring about their defeat (Josh. 10:10; Judg. 4:15; I Sam. 5:11; 7:10; etc.). Fifth, the spoils of the war belong to God, not to man. [J. A. Thompson, Deuteronomy, IV Press, 1978, pp. 2187-219]

One of the Dead Sea Scrolls is entitled, The War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness. Its concern was with the great war with God's enemies at the end-time. These laws had their influence. Throughout the Christian era, much has occurred in the way of efforts, both successful and unsuccessful, to limit injustices in wartime. Although the history of Western warfare is not good, it still is different from the ferocity of most pagan conflicts, until recently.

In v. 1, God stresses through Moses that He is with them: therefore, "be not afraid of them." This is a command: to believe in God means to trust in His word.

As a result, two kinds of exemption from military service are granted. First, all those whose minds are distracted and preoccupied by their affairs at home, i.e., a new house as yet not dedicated nor used, a bride betrothed but not taken, or a new vineyard finally producing but as yet unharvested. All such men, however willing to fight, are to be sent home, both as a merciful act and also to eliminate distracted minds (vv. 5-7). Second, all who are fearful and fainthearted are to be sent home. Their presence in the army is a threat to their fellow soldiers.

These exemptions are to be declared by a priest. They are religious exemptions and are therefore to be set forth by a priest. According to numerous texts, a campaign was to be preceded by burnt offerings (Judg. 6:20-21, 26; 20:26; I Sam. 4:3; 7:9; 13:10ff; 14:18; 23:4, 6, 9; 30:7ff). These verses also tell us that attempts to replace obedience with the presence of the ark led to disastrous results.

The exemptions applied to all ranks of soldiers. If, therefore, clan leaders dropped out because of some kind of exemption, then captains of armies were to be made out of the remaining men. The officers were thus named by the men of courage.

The army must then trust in God, not in the size of the army. Wars are not outside of God's providential government, and the most necessary equipment for battle is a trust in God.

It is clear from all of this that military service was voluntary, not compulsory. The covenant people were to place their hope in God, to use godly soldiers, and to eliminate from the ranks of the volunteers all men who might be for any cause double-minded.

[Joseph] Morecroft noted, "When wars are fought in the defense of justice, in the suppression of evil, or in defense of the homeland, they are godly, and are part of the work of restoration. Such wars are 'wars of the Lord," Num. 21:14.'" [A Christian Manual of Law]

Again citing Morecroft, v. 2 indicates that the priest accompanied the army; this was the origin of chaplains. Moreover, the exemptions make it clear that the family has priority, together with exercising dominion over the earth under God.

Deuteronomy deals with warfare in chapters 20:1-20: 21:10-14: 23:9-14; 24:5, and 25:17-19. Even a modernist like Anthony Phillips has called the laws "humanitarian." [Deuteronomy, 1973]

In v. 9, the officers speak "unto the people." Instead of a drafted army, the soldiers are the people, come together to defend their cause or their homes. This is basic in Deuteronomy. Instead of a state decreeing war as a matter of policy, we have a people ready to fight for their cause. Instead of men drafted, made soldiers by compulsion, we have a gathering of the clansmen to defend their cause. The first step before battle is to send home some of these men.

The captains or commanders were, according to A. D. H. Mayes [Deuteronomy, 1981], apparently chosen on the same basis as were elders in cities and in the temple life of the people, captains over tens, twenties, hundreds, and thousands. The original commandment for this in cited in Deuteronomy 1:9-15.

P. C. Craigie's [The Book of Deuteronomy, 1976] comments on this text are very telling. He states, "Israelite strength lay not in numbers, not in the superiority of their weapons, but in their God. The strength of their God was not simply a matter of faith, but a matter of experience." The legitimate wars were godly wars because their purpose was to remain secure in their possession of the land and their exercise of godly dominion therein. Again quoting the admirable Craigie, "The basis of these exemptions becomes clearer against the background of the function of war in ancient Israel. The purpose of war in the early stages of Israel's history was to take possession of the land promised to the people of God; in the later period of history, war was fought for defensive purposes, to defend the land from external aggressors. The possession of the promised land, in other words, was at the heart of Israel's wars, and the importance of the land, in the plan of God, was that Israel was to live and work and prosper in it. The building of homes and orchards, the marrying of a wife, and other such things were of the essence of life in the promised land, and if these things ceased, then the wars would become pointless. Thus, in these exemptions from military service, it is clear that the important aspects of normal life in the land take precedence over the requirements of the army, But this somewhat idealistic approach (in modern terms) was possible only because of the profound conviction that military strength and victory lay, in the first resort, not in the army, but in God."

Israel's military muster included all men between ages twenty and fifty, but not all were used. In Judges 7, we see how Gideon reduced his army in terms of this law. Our Lord applied this in selecting His army, the apostles and other disciples, and He sent home all who were not totally dedicated (Luke 9:57-62). In Luke 14:18-20, our Lord makes it clear that the law of exemptions from military service did not apply where men are summoned into the Kingdom.

Verse 4 states that "God is He that goeth with you." This has also been rendered as "God who marches with you."

We see here as elsewhere that there is nothing outside of God's government. Work, worship, war, eating, sanitation, and all things are subject to His laws. He is totally the Governor of all things. The marginal note to this text in the Geneva Bible tells us, "God permitteth not this people to fight when it seemeth good to them." We are in all things totally under His government.

God's laws of warfare view legitimate warfare as the defense of the family and the land. Modern warfare is waged for political, not covenantal, reasons. Moreover, nonbiblical wars are waged more and more against civilians, as were pagan wars. Thus, there is a great gap between political wars and those permitted by God's law.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Sojourner and Illegal Immigration


"Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place."
- Jeremiah 22:3


I generally do not address political issues. The only other time I have done so is when I have written on abortion (such as here). However, it is time to reveal my heresy: I am not a Republican. There, I've said it! I know that many people believe that Christians must reflexively join the Republican Party. But I am a Libertarian. And the current persecution of Hispanic immigrants is one example of why.

God commands us not to persecute the resident alien (KJV "stranger," ASV "sojourner"). Are conservative Christians in America obeying this commandment? I suggest not!

Other verses to look at include Genesis 23:4 and especially Exodus 23:9.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Covenantal Hermeneutic

This article is by the same guy. He's giving me an inferiority complex.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Four Insurmountable Arminian Errors

I think that this article is so well-written, that I will simply link to it, rather than to attempt to express the same things myself.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Savior Shall Reign Prosperously!

"Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, 'Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.' Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'"
- Zechariah 8:20-23

I am fascinated here by the parallel with the Apostle Paul, in Romans 11. Zechariah here prophesies a time of the prosperity of the Gospel among the Gentiles, and predicts that this time will be a great blessing to the Jews. In contrast, Paul in Romans 11:25-26 ("a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved...") prophesies a Gospel revival among the Jews, and predicts that that time will be a great blessing to the Gentiles. Thus it appears that the two passages are describing the same event, but one from a Jewish perspective and the other from a Gentile perspective.


"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is He,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and He shall speak peace to the nations;
His rule shall be from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit."
- Zechariah 9:8-11

A couple of direct quotes connect this passage to Christ. Riding on the foal of a donkey is quoted in Matthew 21:5, when Jesus does literally that. And Jesus also refers to the blood of the covenant, that is, His own blood, in the institution of the Lord's Supper, in Matthew 26:28. Thus, Zechariah now prophesies the benefits of the coming Redeemer for both Gentiles and Jews, combining the Jewish emphasis of Zechariah with the Gentile emphasis of Paul. The two kindreds together shall experience the blessings of the reign of King Jesus!

Jonathon Edwards used this same passage as the basis of his famous Humble Attempt.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

John 10:34-36, the Testimony of Christ for the Bible as the Word of God


"Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your Law, "I said, you are gods"? If He called them gods to whom the word of God came - and Scripture cannot be broken - do you say of Him Whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, "You are blaspheming"?'"

We have three words or phrases used here interchangeably: Law, Word of God, and Scripture. Against the Documentary Hypothesis, Christ gives his imprimatur to the inspiration of the Pentateuch. And against Modernism of any sort, He equates the Scriptures with the Word of God. Thus he puts the lie to those who claim to be Christians while denying the infallible inspiration of His Word. It is as if such people claim, "Jesus is a liar, but we love Him anyway." How can that be considered a saving faith?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Zechariah 5:5-11, Does God Sanctify His People by Transferring Their Sin to the Reprobate?


"Then the angel who talked with me came forward and said to me, 'Lift your eyes and see what this is that is going out.' And I said, 'What is it?' He said, 'This is the basket that is going out.' And he said, 'This is their iniquity in all the land.' And behold, the leaden cover was lifted, and there was a woman sitting in the basket! And he said, 'This is Wickedness.' And he thrust her back into the basket, and thrust down the leaden weight on its opening.

"Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven. Then I said to the angel who talked with me, 'Where are they taking the basket?' He said to me, 'To the land of Shinar, to build a house for it. And when this is prepared, they will set the basket down there on its base.'"

On first reading, this passage is certainly obscure. However, we can pick up several things scanning through it. In the Hebrew, what is called here a basket is the word "ephah," a jar and unit of measure used for flour. See, for example, Leviticus 5:11 and Numbers 15:4. However, when this ephah is opened, it contains, not flour, but a woman! And to compound the oddness, the angel gives the woman's name as Wickedness. And curiously, the lid of the ephah is made of lead. Is Wickedness radioactive? In a manner of speaking, I think one could say so.

This ephah is sealed with the lead cover, and lifted up by two woman with wings. To the best of my recollection, this is the only case where angels are described as female, perhaps to match the anthropomorphizing of wickedness as female. The angels lift the ephah, and carry it away to Shinar, that is, Babylon, where a house is to be built for it. A temple, perhaps? Perhaps using a pagan temple as a symbol of the adoration of sin?

What served to trip my understanding of this passage was a marginal note in the Geneva Bible. Referring to verse 11, the note reads, "To remove the iniquity and affliction that came for the same from Judah, to place it forever in Babylon." In other words, the Geneva editors here are suggesting that God is removing wickedness from His covenant people, and placing it instead in the land, and presumably the hearts, of Babylon.

This isn't about the eternal penalty of sin. Since each sinner has sin of his own for which to atone, then no sinner can atone for another. Rather, some portion of the sinful nature of Israel is being transferred to the Babylonians. Gracious, certainly, but normative? Is the sinfulness of Christians redistributed to reprobate unbelievers? I don't know. I'm intrigued by the thought, and will pursue it the commentaries. However, I know of nowhere else in Scripture that would seem to indicate such a thing.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Putting on the Righteousness of Christ

"We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away."
- Isaiah 64:6

Using clothing as a metaphor for sin is a recurring theme in Scripture. Here, Isaiah compares the best actions of fallen men to filthy garments. The theme continues in Zechariah 3:3-5.

"Now Joshua [the high priest, v.1] was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, 'Remove the filthy garments from him.' And to him he said, 'Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.' And I said, 'Let them put a clean turban on his head.' So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by." Confer also Exodus 28:36-38. The Angel of the Lord represents the presence of the pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity, the Christ of the New Testament.

The point here is that the filthy garments of sin represent the natural condition of fallen man. In contrast, the clean garments are placed upon him by the external application of Christ. This is the difference between grace and works-righteousness.

In the New Testament, the Apostle picks up the changing-of-garments theme, commanding us to "put on Christ," in Romans 13:14 and Galatians 3:27. What does this gain us? Philippians 3:9, "[that I may] be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith." As English Presbyterian Walter Marshall said in his book, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, "The end of Christ's incarnation, death, and resurrection, was to prepare and form a holy nature and frame for us in Himself, to be communicated to us by union and fellowship with Him; and not to enable us to produce in ourselves the first original of such a holy nature by our own endeavours."

So, what do you want to wear when you stand before God in eternity: the polluted garments that you have from Adam? Or the clean garments of Christ's righteousness, received by faith?