Saturday, December 31, 2016

In What Way Is Jesus Present in the Lord's Supper?

I think that it is quite apropos that my four-hundredth post falls on the last day of the year!

One of the last actions by Jesus recorded in Scripture before His crucifixion was His Last Supper with the Apostles. It is the basis of what is variously called the Lord's Supper (cf. I Corinthians 11:20), communion, or the eucharist. It is recorded in several places. the version in Matthew 26:26-29 says, "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body.' And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.'"

This passage was a contentious focus during the Reformation. On one side, the Lutherans and Catholics agreed together that "this is My body" was to be taken literally. That is, the Church of Rome believes that the bread and wine are literally transformed into the physical flesh and blood of Jesus. The Lutherans teach that the bread and wine remain bread and wine, but the flesh and blood of Jesus are received under the form of the bread and wine. Both teach that the recipient of the elements receives the corporeal, physical, flesh and blood of Jesus.

In opposition to that corporeal view, other Protestants have divided between those who follow Huldrych Zwingli, that the Supper is a memorial, and that Jesus is not present in any literal sense, and those who follow John Calvin, who taught that Jesus is spiritually present in the sacrament, when it is received in faith. 

The views may be described as those who hold that "this is My body" means ":this becomes my body," and those who hold "this is My body" means "this represents My body." I am of the latter group.

Here I want to argue against the corporeal view.

First is just a logical issue. If "this is MY body" must be literal, what about "I am the vine" (John 15:5). Must that also be taken literally? Was Jesus telling us that He is actually a grapevine under the "accidents" of skin, teeth, and hair? If not, then why must "My body" be taken literally?They are grammatically-equivalent sentences.

Second, consider another portion where Jesus talks about our being sustained by His flesh, John 6:52-59, 63: "The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.' Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. [And He said,] 'It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.'" Jesus uses the same image of feeding on His flesh and blood, and His Pharisaic audience takes Him literally. But what is His reaction? Wouldn't He commend them if they were correct? But no, He corrects them, instead, telling them that it isn't His flesh which sustains the believer, but the Spirit! He repudiates a corporeal, literalist interpretation exactly equivalent to what is taught by Catholics and Lutherans, even to this day.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Perseverance of the Saints in a Song of King David

I have noticed a parallel - one that I find mystifying - among the cults, that they all hate the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Whether Rome, or the Mormons, or the Watchtower, or the Oneness
Pentecostals, they are all purple-faced in their defense of a right to fall away into their respective versions of perdition. Actually, I do understand it: by hiding the preserving power of Christ (John 10:27-30), they make their victims dependent upon the organization for eternal felicity.

The doctrine of perseverance is taught all though Scripture, in both testaments. I give a New Testament example above. In the Old Testament we have, for example, this example from the words of David (Psalm 145:20): "The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy." 

One thing I immediately notice that distinguished David from the cultists is that he puts his trust in God for perseverance. There is no priest, pope, governing body, or juvenile elder, standing between him and God. His trust is neither in a man, or trusting in a man's assistance or words, but only in the promise of God. God alone.

One of the slanders that Arminians use against Calvinists is that we depend on the doctrines of a man instead of the Bible. However, while Calvin was certainly a man, it is in the Bible alone that Calvinists look for truth. Would it be fair for me to point out that the Arminian also bears the name of a man, Jacobus Arminius, and claim that they, therefore, find their doctrines in the words of a man? Of course not. Nor would I point to the doctrine that they have in common with pseudo-Christian cults and claim that they, therefore, are cultists.

Rather, let us look to what the Bible teaches. I think that a dispassionate consideration can only conclude that it is the Calvinist who is consistent with Scripture.

And I am very happy with that conclusion!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Mormon "Celestial Marriage": Can We Be Married Forever?

In Matthew 22:23-33, the scriptures report a confrontation between Jesus and the Sadducees, the theological liberals of that day. They were trying to trick Him, so they described a woman who had married a succession of brothers, each of whom died without issue. In the resurrection, they asked, whose wife would she be, since she had married all of them? His answer, in part was (verse 30), "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."

As most of my readers will know, the Mormons hold  to a type of marriage that they call "celestial marriage," a doctrine that they seem to have adopted from the Swedenborgians. This doctrine holds that a couple
married in this way will spend eternity as a married couple. They believe that our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother [sic] are married in this way.

But I would suggest that the Scriptures teach that there is no marriage after this life. First, we have Jesus's words to the Sadducees quoted above. Second, we have Romans 7:3, where Paul tells women, "if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress." He repeats that thought in I Corinthians 7:39: "A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord."

In addition to the words of Jesus that there is no marriage in the eternal state, we also have Paul, twice, telling us that death cancels the marriage commitment. Those three verses give a convincing case for believing that the Mormons hold to a manmade doctrine which is contrary to Scripture. They have bound their members contrary to the teachings of Christ, and, therefore, their doctrine must be held to be false.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Jesus versus the Religion of Humanism

There is a myth that claims that the American government is, and is supposed to be, neutral regarding religion. The reason that is a myth is that the government doesn't play hands-off in religious matters. Rather, it actively promotes the religion of humanism. That is, government is actively hostile to religious people and their beliefs. "Hate speech" is the legal name for blasphemy against the doctrines of humanism.

Most people in America are somewhat familiar with the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, described in the second chapter of Daniel. It is described by the prophet in Daniel 2:31-35. It is a figure of a man, with a head of gold, torso and arms of silver, thighs of bronze, shins of iron, and feet of blended iron and clay. Then a stone smashes into the feet of the man, shattering the figure. Then the stone grows into a mountain that fills the entire earth. The dream is then interpreted in Daniel 2:36-45. That interpretation tells us that the head is Nebuchadnezzar himself, the king of Babylon. The other kingdoms have been variously identified, but I think that the probable succession is that the Medo-Persian empire is the kingdom of silver, the Alexandrian empire the kingdom of bronze, and the Romans were the kingdom of iron. Notice that the kingdoms descend in value, from gold to iron, while ascending in power, from hard iron to soft gold.

The stone that smashes the figure is identified as the kingdom of God in verse 44.

The statue is identified as an "image." What is the significance of that term? The Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-5) says, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or serve them." That is to say, an "image" is not a piece of art, but rather an object of devotion. This particular image is of a man, thus representing the religious devotion to man as the standard of sovereignty. that is, the image represents, not a deity, but the religion of humanism.

What happens to the image? It is destroyed by a great stone, an asteroid, if you will, which is identified as the kingdom of God. And then the stone grows into a huge mountain which fills the whole world. Such a mountain is often used as an image of the kingdom of God, beginning with Mount Sinai and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. it is also used as the image of the triumphant kingdom of God in the other prophets, such as Isaiah 2:2-3, 25:6, Micah 4:1-2, and Zechariah 8:3.

This vision is a prophecy of the coming of the kingdom in Jesus Christ during the time of the Roman Empire. Though all of the humanist power of Rome, with the cooperation of the apostate Jews, was devoted to destroying the kingdom, it was Rome, instead, that was destroyed. And, ever since, the kingdom of God has been growing around the world, literally filling the earth. This is a prophecy of the victory of Jesus Christ over the humanist idol of sovereign Man.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

No, Virginia, There is No Purgatory

In Hebrews 1:3, that writer tells us, "He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." I am especially focusing on the first clause of the second sentence: "After making purification for sins..."

Most people have heard of Purgatory. In the Catholic Catechism, it is defined as "purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," which is experienced by those "who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified." That is, when a regular Christian (regular, as opposed to a "saint"), he has sins of which to be purged after death. Thus, it is actually a condition, though we usually think of it as a place.

Let's compare that doctrine to the verse cited above. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus made purification for sins. Who was that? The Catholic Church says the Christian makes purification. Hebrews says Jesus made purification. When is that? The Catholic Church says that the Christian will do so, future tense, after death. Hebrews says that Jesus did so, past tense, before the writing of that epistle, almost two thousand years ago.

To my mind the contrast produces a very easy conclusion that the Catholic doctrine is not only unscriptural, but antiscriptural. But what is worse is that the Catholic doctrine implies that the redemptive work of Jesus was a failure, insufficient. "Yes," Rome says, "Jesus intended to purge the sins of His people, but He didn't quite make the curve. We, the pope and his assistants, figured that out, and came up with a way to finish what Jesus failed to do."

Can that be considered anything less than blasphemous? And further, just by itself, is it not sufficient grounds for saying that no born-again Christian has no place in the Catholic Church? I certainly say so, and so does Scripture: "Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD" (Isaiah 52:11), "Go out of the midst of her, my people! Let every one save his life from the fierce anger of the LORD" (Jeremiah 51:45), "Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you" (II Corinthians 6:17), and "Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, 'Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues'" (Revelation 18:4).

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Prophecy of the Calling of Israel

"In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea."
- Isaiah 11:10-11 

I often get caught between the dispensationalists on one side, who talk breathlessly of the founding of the modern State of Israel as a fulfillment of prophecy, and so-called "replacement theologians" on the other, who claim that God has no further plan for ethnic Israel, because the only Israel under the New Covenant is, they claim, the church. Each end wrongly puts lumps me with the other.

Let me start by saying that I do consider the church to be the true, spiritual Israel, both in the Old and in the New Testaments, consisting of all elect Jews and Gentiles. I deny that there are two peoples of God. That alone excludes me from the dispensationalist camp. However, I also deny that God has finished with His purposes for ethnic Israel, as a group, so that excludes me from the "replacement theology" camp.

These verses are part of why. They begin with a reference to "the root of Jesse." That phrase sounds odd, but it is merely a poetic reference to Jesus Christ. Notice that Paul applies the phrase exactly in the same way in Romans 15:8-12. Thus, these verses are a prophecy of something that will happen in Christ. That excludes the dispensationalist, literalist use of the following verse, verse, 12, which tells us that "[God] will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." This cannot be a reference to the 1948 gathering of the Jews in the modern State of Israel, because that is not, emphatically not, in Christ. Rather, it must be a reference to the gathering of the Jews into the church, as they repent of their rebellion and turn to Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah.

We see this described beautifully in Zechariah 12:10: "I [God] will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on Me, on Him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over Him, as one weeps over a firstborn." And also by Paul in Romans 11:25-28: "'The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob'; 'and this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins.' Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: 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, as it is written, 'As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.'"

God certainly has a plan for the remnant of ethnic Israel. Though they have been hardened, as a group, for their rejection of Christ two thousand years ago, a day will come when they will repent of that rejection, and be received again as God's people, not separately from the church, or from the Gentiles in the church, but as one people of God, the church!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Levitical Sabbath Pointed Forward to the Christian Sabbath

There are two errors that I seek to refute in this post. The first is that of dispensationalists who claim that the Sabbath was only a Jewish ceremony, and is thus done away in the Christian dispensation. The opposite error is that of the Seventh-Day Adventists, who claim, not only that the Saturday Sabbath of the Jews is still in force, but also that it is is the only legitimate expression of the Sabbath. They describe the Sunday Sabbath as a sign of the Whore of Babylon (refer to Revelation 17).

Against the dispensationalists, not only do I direct the argument below, but also Hebrews 4:9: "There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." They also make an error in claiming that the Sabbath is merely a part of the Mosaic ceremonies, which were, indeed, types and shadows that have no place, now that Christ has come and done His work of redemption. The Sabbath, in contrast, was a creation mandate
(Genesis 2:2-3), together with marriage and the command to work. All three are Old Testament, but not Mosaic. Thus, if the one is abrogated, then so must be the other two.

Against the Saturday Sabbatarians, I insist that the Sabbath was indeed transferred to the first day, i. e., Sunday, after the resurrection of Christ on that day. And I will show from the Levitical prescriptions that the transfer was always the intention of God.

I want to consider three verses in Leviticus. First, Lev. 22:27, about the animals that were brought to the tabernacle for sacrifice: "When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a food offering to the Lord." The sacrifices were types that pointed forward to the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. The newborn animal was to remain with its mother for a week, and then sacrificed on the eighth day. What is the eighth day? It is the first day of the next week!

Next, turn over a page to Lev. 23:11, describing offerings for the Feast of Firstfruits: "On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it." When was the offering to be made? Not on the seventh day, but on the next day, that is, the first day of the next week.

Third, Lev. 23:36, regarding the Feast of Booths: "For seven days you shall present food offerings to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the Lord." For this feast, too, the focus is transferred to the eighth day, not the seventh. And, again, keep in mind that the eighth day is the first day of the next week. Also note that this is not an exhaustive list of such references.

Finally, I want to consider the Feast of Pentecost, which is also found in Leviticus 23. I deliberately passed over it to give it more consideration. The name "pentecost" is derived from the Greek word for "fifty," because it was to be held fifty days after Passover (Lev. 23:15-16): "You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days, to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord." That number is important, because fifty is seven Sabbaths plus one day, the day after the seventh Sabbath. What is the next day after the Jewish Sabbath? It is the first day of the week! The Feast of Pentecost was itself a prophecy of the Christian Sabbath! That is why we see the disciples gathered on that day (Acts 2:1). And what happened? The Holy Spirit was poured out on them, just as Jesus had promised (Acts 1:8). Just as Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week (John 20:1, 19), so also the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first day of the week (Acts 2:3). That is why the Apostolic church recognized the first day of the week as the day for the church to assemble (Acts 20:7, I Corinthians 16:2). 

The practice of the Sabbath is not only binding on Christians, but is a blessing to us! And the change of the Sabbath was predicted in the Mosaic ceremonies. The ceremonial aspect was done away in the finished work of Christ, but its blessing continues on the first day of the week. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was at the end of the week, because believers were looking forward to their redemption. Now it is on the first day because believers look back on the fulfillment of their redemption. And that is a need that cannot end, on this side of our glorification.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Elect Before the Foundation of the World

It is true, and commonly agreed, at least among orthodox Protestants, that the atonement occurred in history, in the acts of Christ in His crucifixion and resurrection. We individually are justified, that is, have that atonement applied to us, also in history, at the time we believe.

However, there is an additional element in Scripture: the planning of that atonement, not in history, but before the world was even created.

This is described in several places in Scripture. Look especially at Ephesians 1:4: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him." Who chose? Us? No, God the Father chose. When? When I raised my hand? When I went up at the altar call? No, but before the foundation of the world. Not just before I decided, and not just before I was born, but before any material thing existed. Chosen because I am holy and blameless? Definitely not! But rather that I could become holy and blameless.

The same concept appears in the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:34: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." What is the promised blessing? A kingdom! One that started at the cross, or the resurrection, or when I believed? No! Rather, it is a kingdom that was prepared for me before the world was even created. The kingdom existed before the world did!

And again in the words of Jesus in John 17:24: "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory that You have given Me because you loved Me before the foundation of the world." This is a more-explicit description of the intra-Trinitarian covenant, that decision by the Persons of the Trinity that the Father decreed to give a people, i. e., the Church (Ephesians 5:25), to the Son, before the creation. That means that the sovereign election of Ephesians 1 is not about us, but about Christ. Not for our glory, but for His! Notice the "in Him" in Ephesians 1:4 above. While we are certainly not worthy, He just as surely is! Revelation 5:9: "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."

Lastly, look at Revelation 17:8: "The dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast." This verse refers to a separate group of people, those who have not been chosen to be holy and blameless. This is the other side of the coin, the doctrine of reprobation. Just as God was glorified in hardening the heart of Pharaoh, He is glorified also in the hardening of all those who refuse to believe. Paul warned unbelieving Israel of this truth in Romans 9:18: "He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills."

Friday, November 25, 2016

Abortion and Its Eternal Consequences

I have written before about abortion as a modern revival of Molech worship, and of its promotion by apostate clergy, but now I want to speak of its eternal consequences, both by the women who have an abortion and for those, clergy or otherwise, who justify it.

In Leviticus 20:2-5, God gave this warning through Moses: "Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. I Myself will set
Molech Receiving a Sacrificed Child
My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make My sanctuary unclean and to profane My holy name. And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech

God makes a serious declaration here. Anyone who gives a child to be aborted is to be put to death. And that isn't just mothers. Notice that he says "that man." God doesn't recognize absentee fatherhood. Fathers are responsible for what happens to their children. Why? Because they make the church unclean and profane the name of God. God takes it personally when we kill one of our children, because our children are His children (Ezekiel 16:20, I Corinthians 7:14).

Moses also gave a warning beyond that to a baby's parents. He says also, that, "if the people close their eyes when he gives his children to Molech," what will God do? He will set His face "against that man and his clan." "Clan" refers to the extended family. If the kin of this couple ignore their plight, abandon them, or simply overlook their sinful attitudes, then God's judgment will fall on them, as well. If a woman is in a situation where she feels so hopeless that she has no other options, that says that her family is failing to step up to its responsibilities of blood and before God. They will suffer the consequences, too.

It is true that this part of the Mosaic code is not part of our modern legal code. However, notice that God's warning does not rest on civil government for enforcement. Rather, He says that He will set His face against all involved. They will not be allowed to enjoy benefits in life from their wicked hatred of God, His word, and the lives of their preborn children.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

No, Children Are Sinners, Too

I have written before on the doctrine of some, asserting an "age of accountability," but it is bears addressing again. It seems to be so commonplace as to be taken for granted, even in the face of Scriptures to the contrary.

In Isaiah 48:6-8, that prophet tells us, "From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’ You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened. For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel." In this passage, God is speaking. He has just rebuked unbelieving Israel, because she had ignored the warnings of judgment given them down through their history (see, for example, Deuteronomy 28:15-68). He tells them, If what I have told you before hasn't affected you, well, here's some new stuff to scare you straight.

The part on which I want to focus is the final clause of verse 8: "From before birth you were called a rebel." I don't if it shocked Israel, but I know it will be news to many American Christians. i have heard it said many times that a child cannot commit sin, because he doesn't have an understanding of right and wrong. But what does God say? That even the preborn child is waving his fist in the face of God! 

This is not the only place where Scripture says this. In Psalm 51:5, King David said of himself, "in sin did my mother conceive me." Not just from birth, but from conception! And in Psalm 58:3, the same writer says, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies." There is no concept here of innocent children! rather, both Isaiah and David tell us that the smallest child, apart from regeneration in Jesus Christ, is a spitting viper of sin (Psalm 58:4)!

By this truth, I am not suggesting the opposite extreme, that the child is without hope of eternal life. After all, John the Baptist was regenerate in the womb (Luke 1:44). This is why the writers of the Westminster Confession of Faith X:3 wrote, "Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleases: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word." They were concerned for parents of children who died, or were somehow incapacitated from hearing the Gospel? Were those children lost to perdition? No, the divines answered, not out of their imaginations, but because of the promises of God's word!

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Will of Men Versus the Will of God

"How great are Your works, O Lord!
     Your thoughts are very deep!
The stupid man cannot know;
     the fool cannot understand this:
that though the wicked sprout like grass
     and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
     but You, O Lord, are on high forever.
For behold, Your enemies, O Lord,
     for behold, Your enemies shall perish;

all evildoers shall be scattered."
- Psalm 92: 5-9 

An attitude has become dominant that holds that the free will of men trumps the will of God. According to this attitude, we are supposed to believe that God issues a command, but man can refuse, leaving God to shake His head and say, "Oh, pooh! Well, if that's the way you feel, there's nothing I can do about it." 

Anyone who can imagine a god like that has no understanding of the God of the Bible, as we can see in the verses above. God is God, and we are not. That means that, if it serves His purpose, He can change the will in the believer (Philippians 2:13), or glorify Himself by smashing the rebellion of the unbeliever. We see this in His actions regarding the Pharaoh of Egypt, leading up to the Exodus. He says to Moses (Exodus 14:4), "I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD." Notice, too, Exodus 4:21, 7:13, 14:17, Ezekiel 28:22, and Romans 9:17-18.

The god of the popular conception is a wuss, eager to forgive, but otherwise passive, at the beck and call of mere men. In contrast, the God of the Bible is all-powerful and expects men to be at His beck and call!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Trinitarian Baptism in the Apostolic Church

The church continued writing its experience of God after the death of the Apostles. I certainly admit and teach that that post-apostolic literature is not Scripture. It is not inspired. The writers were not infallible, and, therefore, their writings were not inerrant. They were, however, helpful in establishing the understanding that they had of the teachings of the Apostles.

One of those texts is an anonymous epistle called the Didache, or "The Teachings of the Twelve." It was written approximately in 97AD, so, soon after the death of John, the last surviving Apostle. We find this in 7:1-3: "Concerning Baptism. And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit."

 My point in bringing this up is that it addresses the claims of Oneness Pentecostals that Trinitarian baptism was invented by the Council of Nicea, and did not exist before that time. In addition to denying the authenticity of the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19, they claim that their view is supported by the baptisms in Acts, which are in some variation of "in the name of Jesus."

The above passage demonstrates two important things: first, the doctrine of the Trinity was taught from the beginning, not created later; and second, that the church used the Trinitarian baptismal formula from the beginning, as well. It proves that the Oneness historical claims are false, inventions for the sake of defending their doctrine, not supported by any evidence. Even their claim regarding Matthew 28:19 has zero textual support, since all of the manuscripts (at least, so far discovered) contain the traditional text: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The Oneness doctrine is the invention of men, not of the Holy Spirit. When I have brought this passage to the attention of Oneness believers, their only response was, "It's a lie!" That is a convenient response to evidence against a pet doctrine.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Evangelical Assurance: The True Believer Can Have It!

One of the most horrible teachings, to my mind, of the cults is that a person cannot know for sure that he has eternal life. The Roman Catholic Church says that it is presumptuous to be assured of heaven. The Church of Christ says that a person can be a believer today, and then be an unbeliever tomorrow. For them, one can be confident if one dies right now, but there can be no assurance for tomorrow. Most Arminians aren't that extreme. They claim that one can have assurance right now, but the future holds no certainty.

Those views turn the Christian walk into a terror! The person has come to understand the eternal consequences of sin, but is not set free of that fear of death.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (XVIII:1) says something wonderful on this topic: "Although hypocrites, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions: of being in the favor of God and estate of salvation; which hope of theirs shall perish: yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God: which hope shall never make them ashamed."

On what basis did the divines assert this wonderful truth? It is all over Scripture, the word of God! Here are just a few examples.

In Job 19:25-27, we read, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another." That patriarch, even after all of the horrible things that have happened to him, looks with confidence to the day when he will stand before his redeemer in the resurrection.

In a better-known passage, Psalm 23:4-6, King David wrote, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Like Job, David was in a dark period in his life, but his confidence is in the knowledge that he would "dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Not "I might"; not "I hope so." But "I shall."

In Isaiah 26:1, that Prophet proclaims, "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." And in Isaiah 32:17, he adds, "The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever." Notice the use of "peace" in both verses. The believer has no reason to fear for his eternal security, but rather can have have peace.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul adds his testimony in Romans 8:38-39: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Isn't that wonderful? Isn't it liberating? There is nothing in creation, even our own weakness, that can cause us to lose God's love.

The same Apostle also said, in II Timothy 4:6-8, "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." He is contemplating the approach of the end of his life. Is he shivering in fear? Is there trepidation in his words to his apprentice? No! Rather, he expresses absolute confidence in his eternal reward.

The next time some priest or preacher claims that the believer cannot be certain of heaven until he gets there, remember these verses. And this is not an exhaustive list. That man is a false teacher. He wants you to depend on him for your confidence, rather than on Jesus. Flee that place!That is the surest mark of a cult.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Irresistible Grace: Can a Mere Man Say No to God's Electing Grace?

I have never understood the resistance of Arminians to the doctrine of irresistible grace. I know that, sometimes, it is a matter of misdefinition, a caricature of the doctrine as teaching that God tackles an unbeliever, and forces him to believe in Jesus, like force-feeding a hunger-striking prisoner. And that is not, at all, what it means. Rather, the doctrine teaches that God's love and grace are effectual in the salvation of the elect.

First, let us consider what that grace does. In the process of effectual calling, God deals with a man who is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). He replaces that man's dead spiritual heart with a new living heart (Ezekiel 36:26), with new desires and a new will to seek Him (Philippians 2:13). Thus, this man has become a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17), and has been born again (John 3:3). God doesn't jump on the unbeliever, like a farmer chasing a chicken for his dinner. Rather, He changes a dead man into a living man who desires to know and to serve Him. This is no different from a parent who uses discipline to change a disobedient, misbehaving child into a responsible adult, a bending process. It is different in one way, however: where a human parent can end up disappointed as his grown child makes bad or destructive choices, God is never disappointed in His efforts, because He cannot fail.

That last phrase is what I will address now.

I often wonder if Arminians have forgotten that God is God, and we are not. Is a puny human able to tell God "no," like a naughty two-year-old? Yeah, I guess he can say it, but God is hardly blocked by it. Rather, God tells us that He always achieves what He intends. Consider Isaiah 46:10, where He says, "My counsel will stand, and I will accomplish My purpose." And even more direct is Daniel 4:35: "All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will... among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'" "None can stay His hand?" Really? No one can demand, "What have You done?" Amazing! Who does He think He is? God or something? Well, yeah, He does, actually, and rightly so, which is My point. God acts in a godlike manner, not as a man can.

Saint Augustine said, "Lord, command what you will, and give what You command." And that statement is biblical, a paraphrase of Isaiah 26:12: "O Lord, You will ordain peace for us, for You have indeed done for us all our works." This is what irresistible grace means. God takes a sinful, condemned man, and changes him, from the inside out. He makes that man what He demands that he be. And that is a merciful act, reader, for it is something that no one can do for himself (Isaiah 64:6): "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." I thank God for His irresistible grace, because I know that I would have been headed for Hell, without hope, without it.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Cults: You Can't Get Good Fruit from a Bad Tree

Jesus said something very interesting in Matthew 7:18: "A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit." He says it in the context of recognizing false teachers. How can we recognize them? "You will recognize them by their fruits," He tells us.

I find that an interesting choice. He doesn't give us a doctrinal checklist (though there is such in other portions of Scripture). Rather, He tells us to watch what happens as a result of their teachings. And I don't think that is limited to the teacher's actions specifically, but also the fruits it produces in the lives of the those who follow him. I have been having this experience recently with members of a certain cult group. It doesn't matter which one. They deal with opponents, not with Scriptural or logical arguments, but with ridicule, including mocking and name-calling. They make extravagant claims about having the Holy Spirit. However, what do I see from them? "Enmity, strife, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions" (from the "works of the flesh," Galatians 5:20). What do I not see from them? "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (from the list of "fruits of the Spirit," Galatians 5:22). While they are claiming glorious gifts of the Spirit, such as speaking in tongues and revelation of Scriptural truths, I see their fruits. And, according to the description of Paul in Galatians 5, those fruits are not what are credited to the Spirit, but rather those attributed to the flesh. I have referred to these exact verses and told the folks that, based on their fruits, it is not the Holy Spirit they have but rather a deceiving spirit (compare I Kings 22:20-23). Of course, that rebuke only stirred them to greater expressions of the same rage, as I anticipated.

Of the things that marks a cult is that its leaders will sweep uncomfortable truths under the rug. That is, they try to keep their moral or personal failings out of the public eye. However, if the godly person watches for them, eventually the evil will be revealed, because that is its nature.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Baptismal Regeneration: The Papal Foot in Luther's Wittenberg Door

In the earliest days of the Reformation, Martin Luther based his stand on justification by faith alone. And with good reason, as history has show. it continues to be the point of confrontation between Evangelicals and the Church of Rome. However, on lesser doctrines, he struggled to break free from his own popish upbringing and training, particularly regarding the sacraments. While he properly jettisoned the additional but unbiblical Catholic sacraments, holding only to baptism and the Lord's Supper, he held essentially-popish views of those two.

In the Lord's Supper, Luther continued to hold to the corporeal Real Presence, that is, that Christ is literally and physically present in the bread and wine. Like Rome, Luther taught that the human nature of Christ was included in the ubiquity of His divine nature. The Reformed, however, reject such a view because it mixes the human and divine natures, as did the heretic Eutyches, contrary to the orthodox formulation of the Creed of Chalcedon, which said, in part, "acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved." Note that this is the official doctrine of both Lutherans and of Rome, yet they do not see a conflict between it and their sacramental view. I do, as have the Reformed through history. in fact, it was the issue at the colloquy of Marburg that led Luther to declare the Reformed worse than papists or heathen.

In baptism, Luther retained the popish doctrine of baptismal regeneration. That is, both held that baptism effectually applied the merits of Christ, such that the person was truly regenerated and joined with Christ. While Zwingli agreed, Calvin and the Reformed since him have rejected the doctrine as unscriptural.

As the Westminster Confession XXVII:3 says of both sacraments, "The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments, rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them..." And of baptism, XXVIII:6 says, "The efficacy of baptism... is not only offered but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost to such as the grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time." Of the Lord's Supper, XXIX:5 says, "The outward elements in this sacrament... remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before." Further, in section 7, it adds, "Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death..." Thus, the Reformed view is spiritual. Whether the water of baptism or the bread and wine of the Supper, the benefits are received, not from the elements, but from Christ, received, not in the flesh, but in the spirit, not automatically or mechanically, but only by faith. Also, the Reformed view maintains the true humanity of Christ, instead of swallowing it up in a divine-human hybrid, who isn't truly either one.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Moses and the Pride of Men

We all know Moses, especially as he relates to Israel's exodus from slavery in Egypt. He was also the human conduit for God's giving of the Old Testament rituals to the nation of Israel in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. However, we lose track of the one other portion of Scripture that he wrote, the ninetieth Psalm.

In Psalm 90:12 that wise man was inspired to write, "Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." Such a simple concept: Oh, Lord, cause to understand how fleeting this mortal life is, so that we can attend to the most important thing, knowing You. For, according to Proverbs 9:10, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." That man,
who lived to be one-hundred-twenty years old (Deuteronomy 34:7), thought that his life had been so short that he had to hurry and learn about God, while he could.

What strikes me about this is the contrast to our modern attitude. Today, our expected life span is a little shy of eighty years, a third less than Moses experienced. And in those years, we contemplate things such as the distance to the nearest stars, a distance which even light requires years to traverse. Yet, it isn't enough time for so many to contemplate that eternity is approaching, and it is their relationship with Jesus Christ, or lack thereof, which will determine what kind of eternity they will have.

Some people give us the knowledge of amazing things - of supernovas, of tyrannosaurs, of particles of matter so small that they pass through us continuously without any awareness on our part. Yet, there is no distance so far, or predator so fierce, or neutrino so small, that it can stir in so many hearts an awareness of the God who made them all, and before whom, someday, we will stand to be judged.

Truly, Lord, make us conscious of the fleeting nature of life, and the length of eternity that follows, that we may make our hearts right with You.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

There is No Escape for the Wicked by Annihilation

As is commonly known, the Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists both deny the doctrine of a conscious, eternal punishment in Hell. Rather, they advocate a doctrine commonly known as "annihilationism," the belief that the wicked will be destroyed at the judgment. Thus, the punishment would be instantaneous, rather than eternal. There are other groups that also teach this doctrine, but the Witnesses and the Adventists are the best known.

The proper question is, Is their claim biblical? They would agree with me that this is the proper issue. They would say "yes," but I would definitely say "no." Why do I hold my opinion? One reason is Isaiah 48:22: "'There is no peace,' says the Lord, 'for the wicked.'" This isn't my only reason; for more, use the "annihilationism" tag at the bottom of the this article.

"There is no peace," say the prophet. They will have no respite from their judgment. And this isn't what some people claim, an eternal punishment for a limited time of sin. I agree, that would be unjust. Rather, those in Hell have all their restraints of culture and upbringing removed, and give free vent to their hatred of God. Just as they continue to curse Him for eternity, they continue to suffer the consequences for eternity. "There is no peace." Is that not the moral of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)? notice that the Rich Man never asks to be released from Hell. Rather, he asks for a modicum of relief, just a drop of cooling water (verse 24). And even that he doesn't want from Jesus - because he despises Him - but rather from Lazarus! Yet, he is denied even this minuscule respite, for "there is no peace for the wicked."

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Is a Literal Hermeneutic Appropriate to Biblical Prophecy?

There is an interesting verse in Hosea, that is, written by a prophet, which gives direction on how prophecy is to be interpreted:

"I [God] spoke to the prophets;
It was I who multiplied visions,
And, through the prophets, gave parables."
- Hosea 12:10

It is on that last line that I wish to focus: "Through the prophets, I gave parables." What is a parable? we have all heard that popular definition: "A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning." A more-technical definition might be, "short stories that teach a moral or spiritual lesson by analogy or similarity." I think the point is the same either way. They are stories told to make a point, not as a narrative of a (necessarily) historical person or event.

In this verse, the Holy Spirit, speaking through the Prophet Hosea (II Peter 1:21), tells us that the prophecies of the Bible, at least in part, are parables. Just as one cannot take the parables of Jesus as literal, neither can you approach the parables of the prophets as literal.Of course, this is a generalization, and some discernment is necessary. Sometimes prophecies are literal, such as the prophecy of the coming of Cyrus, God's means of delivering Israel from her captivity in Babylon (Isaiah 44:28). But this verse from Hosea cuts down the date-setting and charts that are so popular among certain types of evangelical Christians. How does one discern which prophecies are, and which are not to be taken literally? Not by searching the newspaper for some obscure, incidental parallels, but by the analogy of faith, that is, by comparing scripture to scripture. Is the passage quoted in the New Testament? If so, how did Jesus and/or the Apostles interpret it? Is the image in it used in other Scriptures? How was it used? These latter two questions are especially important is understanding the Revelation of John. And, please, don't pull out the old canard of "double fulfillments" That dodge is never used by the Apostles! Rather, it is a fallback claim by someone who understands that a text doesn't teach his "system," but he wants to use it anyway. It is not a legitimate principle of hermeneutics.

Monday, October 3, 2016

What the Bible Says About Its Own Inspiration: Old Testament

I understand that an atheist, for example, won't be convinced by the Bible's description of itself as the Word of God. However, I'm not addressing that question here. Rather, I am presenting the Bible's testimony about itself as a first step. After all, if the Bible makes no claims of inspiration and inerrancy, then there is nothing to defend.

I want to look at three Old Testament passages.

First, Numbers 1:1: "The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt." This is a very simple profession. The Bible says of itself that it is a record, not of men's words about God, but of God's words to men about Himself. That is the essential starting point, and what separates the Bible from traditional myths of, for example, Greece and Rome. Those myths come from plays or poems written by professionals, and make no claim or pretense of supernatural origin. They are men's stories about their ideas of the spiritual reality, not even claiming to be from that reality. In contrast, the Bible sets forth an unequivocal claim to be the words of God, though recorded by men.

Second, turn to Deuteronomy 18:18-19: "I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put My words in his mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And whoever will not listen to My words that He shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him." This is a prophecy to Moses, predicting the coming of Christ, in His prophetic office (applied to Him in Acts 3:22). But that isn't my point in mentioning it here. the reason I cite it is because of its description of the inspirational process. What is the source of Moses's words (as he is the prophet to whom the words are given)? They are from the mouth of God. That is, as in Numbers 1:1 above, they do not have their origin in the mind of the prophet, but are rather given him by God to be recorded. So, again, the Bible claims for itself to have a divine origin (compare II Peter 1:21).

And third, turn to II Samuel 23:2-3: "The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; His word is on my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me." So we see for a third time that an Old Testament figure, in this case King David, claims that the words that are recorded are not from his mind, or his imagination, but rather are from God.

This is far from an exhaustive list. Rather, I chose three examples to represent the consistent testimony of the Old Testament. The testimony to what? To its own divine inspiration. The implication of that is, first, that the professing Christian who denies the inerrancy of Scripture is denying the basis of the faith that he professes. It is a self-refuting profession, and proof that he is either ignorant of his faith, or that he is irrational. Furthermore, it puts the professing unbeliever on notice. There is no such thing as agnosticism, some vague profession that one is noncommittal. We must be flexible, our culture says! But Scripture says, "This is what God says. Believe it, or accept the consequences." There is no in-between, neutral position (Matthew 12:30). To the professing unbeliever, the Bible doesn't congratulate you on your sophisticated scepticism. Rather, it says that you are commanded to believe (Acts 17:30). If you refuse, then you are saying that you accept the consequences. Don't deceive yourself: unbelief is not a form of immunity, as if refusing makes you free of the requirements of God.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Sola Scriptura: Did God Give Us Secret Instructions through the Pope?

One of the claims of the Roman Catholic Church is the the Bible is not sufficient for the conversion and sanctification of the Christian. Rather, she says, the Apostles left a Sacred Tradition which has been passed from bishop to bishop, down through history, a process called "apostolic succession." As the Catholic apologetics site linked here says, "Isn't the Bible Alone [sic] sufficient for us without all of the 'Tradition' that pollutes the Word of God with man-made stuff?  The answer is absolutely not."

Against this teaching, the Reformers taught one of the five solas, "sola scriptura," Latin for "Scripture alone."

In support of the Protestant view, I want to look at one of the things that Scripture says about itself in II Peter 1:3-4 (emphasis mine): "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and
godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire."

First, I want to point out that these verses are from the Apostle Peter, the supposed first pope and founder of the apostolic succession of one pope to another. Second, I want the reader to notice the pronouns that Peter uses: "us" three times, and "you"  once. While he refers to "He" or "Him" several times, he never once says "I" or "me." "He," that is, God, has granted "us" "all things that pertain to [eternal] life and godliness." We whom? Peter and his readers, the same ones he addresses as "you"! His emphasis is on the sufficiency of the truth that he share already with his fellow Christians, not a secret that will be kept by the pope until some time that serves his purpose.

Peter, the very man claimed by Rome as the beginning of their apostolic superiority, says that all Christians have what we need for eternal life and sanctification. There is no secret tradition, whether sacred or otherwise, of information for which we are accountable.

If the claims of Rome are contrary to the words of the man they claim as their founder, why do they make them? To my mind the answer is obvious: if the hierarchy of Rome has information that is essential for our salvation, and that we can get in no other way, then she has an absolute control over our salvation. And that is the exact spiritual bondage against which John Hus, John Wyclif, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Cramner, John Knox, and all of the other Reformers rebelled in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, and against which biblical Christian must battle even in our present day.

Monday, September 26, 2016

What About Those Who Have Never Heard of Jesus?

This question gets asked by all sorts of people: atheists, universalists (both the liberal and the supposedly-evangelical varieties), annihilationists. Anyone who opposes the justice of God eventually pops out this question as a final trump card. It really isn't so much.

Consider the Psalms.

In Psalm 19:1-4, David wrote:
"The heavens declare the glory of God,
     and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
     and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
     whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,

     and their words to the end of the world."

In a poetic fashion, David here describes God's revelation of Himself in the creation. The inanimate creation doesn't use literal speech, obviously. However, the beauty, order, and balance of the universe tells us that it came from the hands of a God who provides both beauty and sustenance for His creatures. This is also described in Psalm 104:10-16, where various creatures are described looking to the hand of God to provide for their daily needs. Poetry, true, but does it not eloquently reveal that dumb animals have more spiritual sense that do most people?

An anonymous Psalmist made a similar point in Psalm 98:2: "The Lord has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations." This time it isn't physical sustenance that is the topic, but rather the holy nature of God and the salvation that He has provided His people. That is, if dumb animals can depend on God for their daily bread, then men should know to look to Him, not just for bread, but for our spiritual welfare, too.

It is this latter revelation that the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 1:18: "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." But Paul looks at the other side of the equation. Where the Psalmists had described God's providential benefits to animals and to His people, Paul focuses on God's revelation of His wrath against unbelief. That is to say that there is no such thing as someone who has is ignorant of God, righteousness, and salvation or wrath. Rather, every man, woman, and child in the world has that information in every sensation coming to him from the world around him. However, the unbeliever hates that knowledge and suppresses it, puts it out of his consciousness, thinking thereby to avoid accountability for it.

So, in response to the question asked in the headline above, I ask a different question: should ignoring the truth exempt a person from accountability for that truth?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Our Need for a Mediator with God: the Gospel According to Job

"For He is not a man, as I am, that I might answer Him,
that we should come to trial together.
There is no arbiter between us,
who might lay his hand on us both.
Let Him take his rod away from me,
and let not dread of Him terrify me.
Then I would speak without fear of Him,

for I am not so in myself."
- Job 9:32-35 

Scripture tells us that all men are sinners (Romans 3:23): "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." That is a condition with eternal consequences, because sin kills us spiritually (Romans 6:23): "The wages of sin is death," and "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20). Our sinful condition separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2): "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear." Why is that? Because He is a holy God, and sin is rebellion against Him, and insults Him (Habakkuk 1:13): "You [God] are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong."

This is the spiritual situation addressed by Job in the verses above. He saw the condition of his heart and the affront this was to God. He despaired, because he could see no solution to his separation from God. "How can I be reconciled to my God?" was the cry of his heart. "Who will arbitrate between a guilty sinner and an offended God?" Who will bridge the separation between them?

Did he cry out without hope? No, for he gives the answer a little later (Job 19:25-27): "I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another." This is one of the earliest expressions of the Gospel in the Bible. Job expressed his hope without knowing that Redeemer by name. But we know Him, because He is revealed in the New Testament (I Timothy 2:5-6): "There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time." That mediator, the arbitrator between sinful men and an offended God is the only God-man, Jesus Christ! "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved" (Romans 10:9-10).

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Psalmic Prophecy of the Calling of the Gentiles

In Psalm 66:1-4, we find these wonderful words: "Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name; give to Him glorious praise! Say to God, 'How awesome are Your deeds! So great is Your power that Your enemies come cringing to You. All the earth worships You and sings praises to You; they sing praises to Your name.'" The anonymous Psalmist makes a joyful call to the nations of the world to praise the God of Israel, the only true and living God. Then he makes a call equally joyous to God to take the Gentiles into His favor.

Let's consider, first, what it is not saying. Classical dispensationalism taught that the church was unknown in the Old Testament. Folks holding that system of doctrine claim that Jesus intended to create a political kingdom at His first coming, but was prevented by the unbelief of the Jews. As a result, He was forced to turn to the Gentiles, to build an unplanned church, until He returns to his plan for Israel during the millennium.

However, in this Psalm, we see that God had had a plan for bringing the Gentiles into His church long before Jesus's earthly ministry, and His Old Testament people knew about that plan (even if they lost sight of it by New Testament times). 

It is prophecies such as this one that are the basis of Paul's joyous hope for the Gentiles. That prospect was so valuable to him that he named himself the Apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13)! He understood the Hebrew prophecies to describe a turning of the Gentiles to the Jewish God, as those who "who were not My people" and "not loved" were instead to be called "sons of the living God" (Hosea 1:6, 8, 10; Romans 9:24-27). This is not "replacement theology" (as meaningless as that phrase is). While the Gentiles have benefited from the hardening of Israel, "Through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous" (Romans 11:11), and there is greater benefit yet to come, "if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean?" (verse 12), the benefit will also pass the other way, "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" (verses 25-26). When the number of Gentiles is complete, then ethnic Israel will again be revived, and the joining of the two groups will be so joyous as to be as if they had risen from the dead!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Jesus Saves: Effectual and Irresistible Grace in the Old Testament

One assertion made by Arminians is that God gives every person, without exception, enough grace to believe. They then claim that He leaves it to our free will whether to accept the offer of salvation.

Calvinists, in contrast, hold that every person, without exception, is a sinner (Romans 3:23), spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), and, therefore, incapable of any spiritual good (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:10-12). It is only when God gives a man a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) that he becomes able to believe. And, in that person, God's grace is effectual. That is, we believe that Jesus does not merely make salvation available, but that He actually saves those for whom He died (Matthew 1:21, Ephesians 5:25).

It is that idea of effectual grace that I want to address.

Consider first Isaiah 53:11: "Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities." This verse is part of the well-known Suffering Servant chapter of Isaiah. It points to the then-future redemptive work of Christ, the "anguish of His soul." The prophet tells us that He would be satisfied, not by offering salvation, but by "mak[ing] many to be accounted righteous." To be accounted righteous is a straightforward definition of justification. This verse tells us that Jesus was satisfied with His sufferings because they would be effectual in the justification of many. Could He have been satisfied with a mere offer of justification which fails in many?

Next, look at Job 42:2: "[Job said,] I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." This is Job speaking to God, acknowledging his subordination, on the grounds that God is omnipotent, able to achieve all that He intends. In fact, since Job is the far older book, it is his principle which is the basis for Isaiah's prophecy above.

Lastly, look at Psalm 135:6: "Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps." Like Job, the Psalmist acknowledges his subordination, because God is not restrained by anything outside Himself.

There is a sense in which Calvinists believe in "free will," that the will is free from coercion. However, we deny that it is free in the sense that a person can will anything contrary to his own nature. All men have a sinful nature, so our wills can only will sin, but freely, without external compulsion. In those whom he intends to save, God changes the will (Philippians 2:13), and effectually enables that person to believe. There is no other way.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Government Takeover of the Church?

I admit that I don't have much sympathy for the Jehovah's Witnesses, but the court case referenced here is a threat to orthodox churches, too.

In the Canadian province of Alberta, a provincial court has ruled that civil courts have the authority to intervene in ecclesiastical discipline cases. That completely undermines the self-government of the church, and revives the Erastianism of the European state-church system.

I hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith XXV:6: "There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ." There is no government Pope!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Why Do Some People Refuse to Believe in God?

In Psalm 52:3, ancient King David wrote, "You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right." Of whom is he speaking? The "mighty man" and "worker of deceit." The former word describes the atheist's view of himself: "I don't need a religious crutch." The latter is God's view of that same man. 

Why does the atheist not believe in God? Or, maybe I should say, why does he say that he doesn't believe in God? He will often give plenty of logical-sounding reasons, such as evolution, or evil in the world, etc. But those are a cover. God, who always knows our heart of hearts, diagnoses unbelief, not as a logical problem, but rather as a love of sin. To admit that the God of the Bible is real, and is the kind of God He says He is, is to admit that, first, the atheist is not God, and second, that he must choose between his secret knowledge of God and his love for rebellion against that God.

David describes it here in this Psalm: "You love evil." Notice that God doesn't offer to stage a debate with the atheist. At no time does He plead for a chance to prove Himself. After all, He is God, and you, I, the atheist on the street, or any conglomeration among humans, can demand no accounting of God's acting in His deity.

David's language here is a poetic version of Paul's words in Romans 1:18: "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." It would be funny if it weren't so horrific! All the time that the atheist is making his excuses for not believing in God, God is saying that He doesn't believe in atheists!

However, thanks to God, David also gives the solution. He continues in Psalm 52:8: "I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever." While the atheist is confident in the false presuppositions that form his illogic, the godly man depends on God's mercy, because that man of God is fully conscious of his wicked heart, of the judgment of God, and of his need for forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Reprobation: A Sorrowful Truth

"You are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us,
and Israel does not acknowledge us; 

You, O Lord, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is Your name.
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.
Your holy people held possession for a little while;f
our adversaries have trampled down Your sanctuary.
We have become like those over whom You have never ruled,
like those who are not called by Your name."

- Isaiah 63:16-19 

These are very sad words, near the end of the prophecies of Isaiah. Much of the Book of Isaiah is God's declarations of the apostasies of Israel, and her coming judgment at the hands of the Babylonians. And, as a member of the society, Isaiah has natural feelings of sorrow over the spiritual condition of his nation. In these verses, he gives vent to that sorrow. However, we don't see what we often see people say in the face of impending tragedy. At no point is he mystified about why things are happening. He never wonders why God can't seem to do anything. His reaction is very different.

Look at the questions he asks: "O Lord, why do You make us wander from Your ways and harden our heart?" His gut reaction is to attribute all to the sovereignty of God. This is the doctrine of reprobation. In our modern society, even among professing evangelicals, we have a serious problem with this doctrine. After all, aren't we the masters of our own fate? Of course, that very reaction is proof of how far bald-faced humanism has come to dominate both society and professing church. The goal of every man is self-actualization, happiness, self-fulfillment. And, of course, religion is supposed to serve those goals.

However, the Bible-believer must reject that worldview. What does the Bible say? "So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31). Ah, that is quite the reverse, isn't it? Life isn't for our fulfillment but for God's! That's why my own Presbyterian forefathers started both of our catechisms with that precept: "What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." The cite as proof both this verse from First Corinthians and Romans 11:36.
Notice that the principle of both Scripture and the Catechisms is God-centered, while society is man-centered. Not only are those contrary principles, they are hostile principles, necessarily in conflict with each other. Thus, I understand the hatred that people, whether professing Christians or otherwise, have for this doctrine. It is because it is a declaration of war on their comfortable self-love.