Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hypocrisy and True Spiritual Peace

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus told a deep parable, that of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. In it, we see strikingly different attitudes in their approaches to God, representative of those of people everywhere. The Pharisee prays (verses 11-12), "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust,
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get." Then He turns to the tax collector, who prays (verse 13), "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" Then the Lord ends the parable with His own inspired synopsis (verse 14): "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Notice how much longer the prayer of the Pharisee is (see Matthew 6:1-4). He uses thirty-three words in this English version, all of them extolling his virtues. In contrast, the tax collector uses just seven words, begging for God's mercy on his sins. What a contrast! Thirty-three words to stand condemned, but only seven to be justified!

The Pharisee in the story exemplifies something that the Puritan Thomas Watson said: "The wicked may have something which looks like peace, but is not. They may be fearless and stupid, but there is a great difference between a stupified conscience and a pacified conscience. 'When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace.' Luke 11:21. This is the devil's peace. He rocks men in the cradle of security. He cries, 'Peace, peace,' when men are on the precipice of hell. The seeming peace that a sinner has is not from the knowledge of his happiness but from the ignorance of his danger."

This same false, self-deceived spiritual peace is spoken of by the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer.  3:3-5): "The showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come; yet you have the forehead of a whore; you refuse to be ashamed. Have you not just now called to Me, 'My father, you are the friend of my youth— will He be angry forever, will He be indignant to the end?' Behold, you have spoken, but you have done all the evil that you could." In a time of apostasy, the Jews spoke loving words to God, yet devoted themselves to their wicked deeds and idolatries, as if God could be deceived. Yet, He wasn't. And the Prophet Isaiah is even more blunt (Is. 57:21): "'There is no peace,' says my God, 'for the wicked.'"

Watson explains what is necessary for true peace between the sinner and his God: "The graft must first be inoculated into the tree before it can receive sap or nourishment from it; so we must first be
A tree prepared for grafting in a new branch.
ingrafted into Christ before we can receive peace from Him." It is only as the believer is connected to Christ by faith that he can experience true peace of conscience. Isaiah also teaches this (Is. 32:17): "The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever." See also Isaiah 9:6-7 and John 16:33. In contrast, the one who depends on his own worthiness is described in Deuteronomy 29:19-20: "The one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, 'I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart,' the Lord will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and His jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven." That is the fate of the Pharisee in the parable with which I began.

What is righteousness? It is a standard of action and motivation purely consistent with the commands and nature of God. Who meets that standard? No one but Jesus, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). That's why it is His righteousness, not our own, that we need, when we seek to approach God: "[They] who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works" (Romans 9:31-32). What righteousness? "The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe" (Romans 3:22).

Anyone who follows the example of the Pharisee, satisfied with his own goodness to qualify him for eternal life, condemns himself. The one who, like the tax collector, recognizes his own unrighteousness, but looks to that of Christ alone, is justified, and receives both peace with God and peace of conscience.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Pre-Incarnate Sonship of Christ: A Message for Oneness Believers

According to Oneness Pentecostals, the baby in the Bethlehem manger was the revelation of God the Father in the flesh as Son. That is, there is no separate Person of the Son. The Son is the flesh, while the Father is the deity. They challenge orthodox Christians to show where Scripture reveals a pre-existent Son. That is the question I wish to address.

In the Old Testament, I would refer first to Psalm 2:7-9: "The Lord said to Me, 'You are My Son; today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your heritage, and the ends of the earth Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.'" This passage is applied to Christ in Hebrews 1:5. And secondly, II Samuel 7:14: "I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son." This text is also referred to Christ in Hebrews 1:5, though it was originally spoken of Solomon, as a type of Christ.

In the New Testament, we can look at Galatians 4:4: "When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law." Notice that God sent His Son; He didn't come forth as His [own] Son! Thus, not only must the Son have already existed, but there is a distinction between the Father Who sends and the Son Who is sent.

Thus, we can see in just these three places, two in the Old Testament (but cited in the New) and one in the New Testament, that the Sonship of Christ didn't begin at His incarnation, but was an eternal aspect of His existence. This is not an exhaustive list, but suffices to demonstrate that the Oneness view misrepresents the teachings of Scripture.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Predestination: The Simple Contradiction in the Arminian Response

Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
In Romans 8:29, the Apostle Paul says, "Those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers." That seems straightforward to me. However, Arminians usually claim that Paul has the order confused, and that it is those who are conformed to Christ that have been foreknown by God, and then predestined. That is, their predestination results from their faith, as foreseen by God. Their faith is not, they insist, the result of His predestination.

I consider it sufficient refutation of that view that it is the opposite of what Paul actually says, a twisting of the Scripture. However, I think it also gets the Arminian into serious trouble elsewhere.

In Acts, chapter 4, the Apostles Peter and John have been summoned before the Sanhedrin. Contrary, perhaps, to common sense, the Apostles tell these Jewish leaders (Acts 4:10-11), "Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone." Afterward, the Apostles pray (Acts 4:27-28), "Truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place."

Now, the question raised by this passage is this: if predestination is simply God's declaration of what He has foreseen will happen, does the Arminian then suggest that the events described here happened by human will, were foreseen by God, and then predestined by Him? That makes complete nonsense out of the reactions of the Apostles! They express their security in the knowledge that the events, as frightening as they must have been, were in the predetermined will of God, so that there was no danger to them, outside the providence of God.

As a Calvinist, that is the security I derive from the doctrine of predestination for everything in my life. While I certainly have the same emotions as any other man, they are tempered by my foundational belief that everything, as scary as it may seem, is in the purposes of God, in which all things happen for my good (Romans 8:28). If there were events which are truly contingent on the will of men, that is, outside God's determining will, then would I be truly terrified.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"Progressive" Female Clergy Campaign for Sacrifices to Moloch

A Protest in Support of Planned Parenthood
I am horrified by the recent revelation of several of these stories. I have already written about Episcopal clergy and liberal Presbyterian and United Church of Christ clergy who are campaigning for the right to exterminate unborn children, as described in the Old Testament. Abortion is a modern version of Moloch worship, a prosperity rite, in which people sacrificed their own children by fire. Yet here is another such story, adding United Methodist clergy. These clergypersons are carrying signs claiming to be "pro-faith," and so they are, but not the Christian faith; they represent the lowest form of paganism, child sacrifice!

Note that the clergy mentioned here are female, using, not biblical justifications (because there can be none), but vague gushings of "love" and "reproductive rights," while calling abortion opponents "radical religious right" who "attack women." Perhaps no one has ever told them that the majority of aborted babies is female. Abortion is not just an attack on women, but a massacre of them. Where is the love in that?

Planned Parenthood was founded by the infamous Margaret Sanger, a well-known advocate of eugenics for the improving of the human race. How was abortion designed to improve the race? By exterminating blacks, Southerners, the poor, and Christians. This is the "love" that these clergy are promoting. And when they talk about "reproductive rights," they really mean privileges for rich, "progressive" whites, like themselves. The poor and minorities are the targets of Planned Parenthood, not the beneficiaries.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Prayer to Jesus is Prayer to God

Jesus says something very interesting about Himself in John 5:22-23: "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." In theological terms, He is referring to His equality with the Father in the ontological Trinity, much as Paul does in Philippians 2:6. "Ontological" means as they are by nature, as opposed to the "economic" Trinity, which describes the voluntary aspects of the relationship among the Persons of the Trinity. By nature, i. e., ontologically, the three Persons are equal in essence, power, and glory. In their relationship, i. e., economically, the Father rules, while the Son is voluntarily subordinate to Him, and the Spirit is voluntarily subordinate to both. That is why we use the terminology of "First Person," "Second Person," and "Third Person."

The significance of these verses is that Jesus claims the same glory from us, as creatures, that we give the Father. In the trinitarian system, this is both understandable and appropriate. However, consistent with their Arian view of Christ, Jehovah's Witnesses see Him as ontologically inferior to the Father, and, therefore, deny His right to worship. For example, they do not address Him in prayer, but rather address all prayers to "Jehovah God." 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with praying to Jehovah; that is, after all, the name by which He revealed Himself in the Old Testament. However, to claim that there is something wrong with praying to Jesus in antibiblical. In Acts 7:59, we see the Deacon Stephen, as he is being stoned by a Jewish mob, pray out loud, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Furthermore, the last prayer recorded in Scripture, that of the Apostle John in Revelation 22:20, is, "Come, Lord Jesus.

So, the view of the Jehovah's Witness conflicts with both the words He spoke of Himself in John 5:22-23, and with the recorded prayers of the New Testament saints in Acts 7:59 and Rev. 22:20. That is simply because their christology is contrary to Scripture and results in their unbiblical view of prayer.

Finally, I will refer you to Hebrews 1:6, in which the Father is quoted, "When He brings the firstborn into the world, He says, 'Let all God’s angels worship Him.'" It is the commandment of the Father that worship in Heaven be given to the Son. If the Father commands it, how can the Watchtower deny Him what is due?

This passage also undermines Sabellianism, because the Son doesn't say to honor Him instead of the Father, but rather with the Father. If there were no distinction of Persons within the Godhead, as Sabellians teach, then Jesus would be advocating nonsense here.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Do We Understand How Sinful Sin Really Is? The Puritans Did!

The Puritan Thomas Watson, in his Body of Divinity, lists ten ways in which sin is truly sinful:

     1) Incredulity: Our first parents did not believe that what God had spoken was truth (Gen. 2:16-17, 3:4). They believed not that they should die, because they could not be persuaded that such fair fruit had death at the door. Thus, by unbelief they made God a liar. In fact, what was worse was that they believed the devil rather than God.

     2) Unthankfulness: God had enriched Adam with a variety of mercies, stamped His own image on him, made him lord of the world, and given him the fruit of all the trees for food, with just one excepted. Thus, to take from that one tree was high ingratitude.

     3) Discontent: Adam differed little from the angels (Ps. 8:5), had native innocence, and enjoyed the glory of Paradise as his realm. Yet, he had to have more, because his heart could not be satisfied with all that he had.

     4) Pride: he loved the offer of Satan to become like God (Gen. 3:5)!

     5) Disobedience: God had given him his existence and all his subsistence, so it was right to expect his obedience.

     6) Curiosity: Adam sought to meddle with what was not his, though it was to cost him everything.

     7) Wantonness: With the choice of all other trees, Adam had all of his needs filled, but demanded the satisfaction of his lusts as well. Watson is expressing the same truth as in James 1:14-15: "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death."

     8) Sacrilege: God had reserved this one tree of the garden for Himself, yet Adam deigned to rob Him of what was His alone.

     9) Murder: as the federal head of all his posterity in the covenant of works, Adam represented us in his actions, and chose to bring the curse of death on all of humanity (Rom. 5:12).

     10) Presumption: Adam presumed, contrary to God's warning, that he would not die, regardless of his actions. "Surely," he decided, "God must relent if I choose to do as I wish."

And later in the same book, Watson makes this observation: "The sight of Christ's bleeding body should incense us against sin. Let us not parley with it; let that not be our joy, which made Christ a man of sorrow." This is, again, a precept from James 2:10: "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." Whatever sin any person holds onto, thinking it just isn't really so bad, he must think differently if he understands that any sin makes the sinner guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:11). This especially overthrows the Catholic distinction between "mortal" and "venial" sins. According to James (a book that they otherwise enjoy quoting), and, as repeated by Watson, every sin is mortal (Ezekiel 18:4, Rom. 6:23).

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Perseverance by Grace in the Ministry of Paul

We have all read of Paul's imprisonments. The first, house arrest in Rome for two years, is described at the end of Acts. The second ended with his martyrdom. It is during the first that he wrote what are commonly called his "prison epistles," Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Even before his second imprisonment, Paul was conscious of a time of martyrdom approaching (II Timothy 4:6-8): "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day."
Timothy as a child, learning the Scriptures.
Paul's attitude here is so contrary to the predominant theology of our day, which I label "neo-Pelagianism." According to that theology, there is no security for the believer; he can fall into unbelief at any time, if he ever stops having enough faith. My response is that such a belief turns the Christian life into the same terror against which Martin Luther revolted on October 31, 1517. And it certainly isn't an accurate portrayal of Paul's attitude in this passage.

According to the Arminian, Paul could fall from his faith before his death, and thus lose his salvation. Yet, Paul expresses his secure hope in a successfully-run race, for which he would soon receive the crown of righteousness in glory. Where is his insecurity? He shows none.

Further, a few verses later, Paul tells Reverend Timothy (II Tim. 4:18), "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom." Not "my strength," not "my faith," not "my holiness." In fact, not "my" anything! Rather, he looks to Jesus to carry him through, just as he described in Philippians 1:6: "I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." That is why I dislike even the phrase "once saved, always saved," because it gives the misimpression that it is the strength of the individual that brings him safely through this life. Rather, I use the historical phrase "perseverance of the saints," because it is God Who carries the believer by means of faith and sanctification until the day of his glorification (Romans 8:30). That is why Paul is secure as he sees death approaching, because he knows he can trust his divine redeemer, Jesus Christ (Deut. 33:27, Psalm 145:20, II Tim. 1:12 NASB, John 10:28).

Since the earliest days of my Christian life, thirty-three years ago, I have never understood why people hate this doctrine. Why do they prefer the terror of believing that they may be saved today, just to lose it tomorrow? Even if it were true - and I thank God that it isn't - such a doctrine would be too horrific for me to hold. What does such a doctrine say about the efficacy of Christ's blood and the ministry of the Holy Spirit?