Friday, December 31, 2010

Job 9:28-32, Our Condition Outside of Christ in the Covenant of Works

"I become afraid of all my suffering,
    for I know you will not hold me innocent.
I shall be condemned;
    why then do I labor in vain?
If I wash myself with snow
    and cleanse my hands with lye,
yet you will plunge me into a pit,
    and my own clothes will abhor me.
For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him,

    that we should come to trial together."

Job here gives utterance to a concept also found in Isaiah 64:6, comparing our nature to rotten and filthy clothes that must be put off. He goes further, describing the efforts of the unregenerate man to cleanse himself, seeking the purity of snow (contrast Isaiah 1:18), and the cleanliness of harsh lye soap (against Psalm 51:7). This is man under the covenant of works, striving by works to achieve the eternal life first offered to Adam for his perfect obedience (Genesis 1:28-30, 2:17). In Adam's transgression we all became sinners (Romans 5:12), and under judgment for breaking God's commandments (James 2:10 and Galatians 3:10). And Job warns us that the shifty arguments that we offer in defense do not sway our divine Judge (verse 32). That covenant is broken and there is only judgment, not hope, therein.

So, where can we be made clean? Only by being washed in the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:5).

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Apostle Paul and Bishops or Elders? Does the Bible Really Say?

"This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."
- Titus 1:5-9

One of the sharpest conflicts between Presbyterians and Anglicans in Great Britain was over the issue of church government. Presbyterians held - and still hold- that Christ, as Head of the Church, did not leave her to develop a government by accident or by tradition, i.e., that presbyterian government is according to jure divino, divine law. In contrast, most Anglicans believed that church government is not prescribed by scripture, and that the episcopal system developed organically, and should be maintained as an ancient tradition.

However, some supporters of prelacy hold that it, instead, is jure divino. They cite the use of episkopos in the Greek text as a command to have bishops. In their understanding, since both words are used in the Greek, episkopos ("bishops") and presbuteros ("elder", and transcribed into English by some as "priest"), then they must be separate offices, and both necessary to the Church.

However, in the text from Titus above, both words are used, presbuteros in verse 5, and episkopos in verse seven, as referring to the same person! It is on the basis of this passage that presbyterians hold that "bishop" ("overseer" in most modern translations) and "elder" actually refer to the same office, the former describing what he does, the latter describing what he is, older (see Titus 2:2-6). In fact, Paul's words to Titus here would make no sense if the two terms were not equivalent.

I think that this text makes it incontrovertible that presbyterian church government has exclusive claim to the status of jure divino, and prelacy is exclusively a human invention, in rebellion against the Head of the Church.

I do not attempt here to deal with the Roman doctrine of apostolic succession.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Lord Rewards Unbelievers for Their Unwitting Service to Him


"In the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: 'Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre. Every head was made bald, and every shoulder was rubbed bare, yet neither he nor his army got anything from Tyre to pay for the labor that he had performed against her. Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and he shall carry off its wealth and despoil it and plunder it; and it shall be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt as his payment for which he labored, because they worked for Me, declares the Lord God.'"
                                                     - Ezekiel 29:17-20

The background here is that God had declared His judgment against the pagan city of Tyre. In the execution of that judgment, He had called Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian King, an unbeliever, and his army to conquer and destroy Tyre (see Ezekiel 27).

Even though Nebuchadnezzar was unwitting in his God-given role, and would certainly have rebelled against it if he had been conscious of it, God acknowledges this role, and gives him suzerainty over Egypt as a reward.

I think that there is a part of every man's soul that recoils at the thought of God's giving a blessing to a rank unbeliever, even if it is far short of salvation. And even more so, the heart of natural man recoils at the thought of even an unbeliever's serving the purposes of God! The natural man loves to believe that he is self-sovereign, unless he chooses to submit to God. This view is shared by free-will versions of professing Christianity, as well. Yet, Ezekiel reveals the error of human self-sovereignty!

Psalm 74:2, the Eternal Intention of Redemption in Christ

"Remember your congregation, which You have purchased of old, which You have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where You have dwelt."

One of the many errors of Scofieldism, or classical Dispensationalism, is that history consists of a series of plans of salvation set up by God, failed in by men, to be replaced by a new plan. Dispensationalists hold that redemption in Christ was a new plan, unforeseen prior to the actual coming of Christ.

Yet, we see in this verse from Psalms that, not only is the Atonement foreseen, but it is actually seen as so certain as to have been already accomplished!

It is in this same sense that the Apostle John refers to Christ as the "lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).

In contrast, covenant theology holds that all of history, though under varying administrations, has always been directed toward the Atonement, the Old Testament looking forward in time, but with a faith in its certitude, and the New Testament looking back.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Amos 3:2, Election and God's Disciplining Love


"You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities."

Addressing His own chosen people, God declares that His discipline arises from His special love for us. The same principle appears across the Scriptures, in both testaments. For example, Moses writes in Deuteronomy 8:5, "Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you." That is quoted almost word-for-word by the author of Hebrews 12:7. Proverbs 3:12 in the Old Testament, and again, John in Revelation 3:19 in the New.

Paul gives the explanation for this discipline in I Corinthians 11:32, "When we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world." The discipline of the Lord is directed toward the effectual goal of separating those who are His from those who are not (Matthew 25:33).

When His discipline seems so hard, and it certainly can be, remember one other exhortation from Proverbs 3:11, "My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of His reproof." His discipline arises not from tyranny, but from the love of His fatherhood.