Saturday, April 30, 2016

Each Day the Unbeliever Builds Up the Wrath of God Against Himself

While the unbeliever justifies himself every day, with his professions that "there is no proof for God," each breath he draws, each draft of water he drinks, and every crumb of food he consumes comes as a gift from God.

In Romans 2:4-5, the Apostle Paul asks us, "Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed."

That is a stark warning! God gives each of His creatures the gifts of life (Matthew 5:45). Yet the unbeliever not only refuses to thank Him for His gifts but even denies Him who has provided these gifts. How can God not be offended by such abuse? Or that of the idol-worshiper who attributes God's gifts to some demon, whether he calls it Mary or Ganesh or Allah? If a human father were to give a gift to his son, and that son were to respond by spitting in his face and running to thank some passing stranger, would that father not feel abused?

In Psalm 103:10, David tells us, "He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities." Centuries later, the priest Ezra repeated those words (Ezra 9:13): "You, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved." They pointed to a simple truth: our sins deserve eternity in Hell because they are acts of rebellion against our eternal Creator and Lord. Therefore, every moment we spend outside Hell is a gift from God.

These are the gifts of God: our existence (Acts 17:28), our daily sustenance (Matthew 5:45), and our daily experience of His mercy (Psalm 103:10). Why does He grant them to us? That they may inspire us to turn to him in repentance. It is much like when a man waves a bit of food to entice a wild animal to approach and eat from his hand. But unbelief is like such an animal biting, not the gift, but the hand of the giver. In an unthinking animal, such a reaction can be understood, but in a rational human being it is an act of evil.

However, as long as a man draws breath, repentance is available to him. To every person who acknowledges his rebellion and turns to his King for pardon, that King, God, extends this invitation (Isaiah 55:1-3):

"Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to Me;
hear, that your soul may live."

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Bride of Christ as Proof of His Deity

In Isaiah 54:5, we read, "Your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is His name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth He is called." This verse comes right after the Prophet's beautiful description of the suffering and humiliation of Christ as the basis for our justification. This verse appears right after it because it is the Father, in the intra-Trinitarian covenant, who decreed that this would be that the church would be saved from the judgment earned by our sins.

Yet we read of the marriage supper in Revelation 19:7-8: "Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was
granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure' — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints." Here is the Bride of Christ, explicitly identified with the "saints," that is, believers.

And, again, consider Revelation 21:2, 9-11, "I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, 'Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal." The church is again identified, this time by the epithet "the New Jerusalem" (compare Hebrews 12:22), as the Bride.

As most people are aware, one of the distinguishing doctrines of the Jehovah's Witnesses is their Arianism, that is, the belief that Christ is not to be identified with God, but is, rather, a lesser, created being. These verses directly counter that error. In Isaiah, it is Jehovah (the LORD) who is the husband of the church. In Revelation it is the Lamb, i. e., Jesus Christ (see, for example, John 1:29). Since no bride can have two husbands, then the transitive principle tells us that these two Grooms must be the same being: Jesus is Jehovah in the flesh!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Proper Mode of Baptism: Sprinkling

The Westminster Confession of Faith (the primary doctrinal formulation of Presbyterian Churches), says in XXVIII:3, "Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person." This is in opposition to Baptists and other Christians who insist that immersion (called "dipping" here) is the only legitimate mode of baptism. They claim that the word "baptism" means "immersion." I have addressed that particular claim here. By this statement, the divines were not saying that one cannot be baptized by immersion. In fact, I was baptized by immersion. Rather, their statement was intended to discuss the relative worth of the modes.

While not intending this as a complete dealing with the subject (see my post linked above), I want here to bring up two bible verses that I believe support the statement of the divines.

The first text in Isaiah 52:15: "So shall He sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of Him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand." This is part of the Suffering Servant passage (Isaiah 52:10-53:12), one of the
most-striking Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, and applied to Christ in several places in the New Testament, such as Mark 15:28 and I Peter 2:22. Some Bibles will have a footnote for "sprinkle," saying something like "or startle." There is no "or" about it: the Hebrew unequivocally reads "sprinkle"; the alternative, "startle," is found only in the Septuagint.

The other verse is Ezekiel 36:25: "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you." This verse is in the midst of an amazing passage on God's work of regeneration of His elect, culminating in verse 33: "On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities!"

The use of "sprinkle" is adopted from the atonement ceremonies in the tabernacle and Temple, e. g., Leviticus 16:14: "[The priest] shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times." Just as those sacrifices pointed to the work of Christ in His suffering and death on the cross, so does the sprinkling with water in the new covenant sacrament of baptism. Note Hebrews 9:13 "the blood of bulls and goats" leading, in verse 14, to "the blood of Christ." This is the author's proof that the blood of Christ is superior to the "washings" (Greek, "baptisms") of the Old Covenant!

Consider also Mark 7:4: "They do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches." The word "wash" is a Greek word which would be literally translated as "sprinkle." And the word "washing" is literally "baptizing." If "baptism" means "immersion," then what are we expecting that the Pharisees did? To immerse their couches under water? The juxtaposition of "sprinkle" and "baptism" makes sense from the Presbyterian point of view. It does not from a Baptist point of view.

My conclusion here is that a proper understanding of Old Testament typology and the application of our atonement in Christ must lead to the conclusion that the biblical mode of baptism is by sprinkling.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Jesus Christ, Savior of the World!

"We have our hope set on the Living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially those who
- I Timothy 4:10

I come to this verse today because it is one of those trump verses claimed by Arminians. By "trump verse," I mean, not anything to do with Donald Trump, but as in cards, where a trump beats any other card played in the game. This is a trump verse because Arminians believe that citing it overcomes anything in Scripture that a Calvinist can cite regarding the particularity of the atonement.

If you have followed this blog (or by clicking on the "limited atonement" tag at the bottom of this post), then you know that I hold, along with my fellow orthodox Calvinists, that Jesus died effectually for the church, the elect of all ages (see, e. g., Eph. 5:25, Rev. 13:8). I emphatically deny that there will be or can be anyone in Hell for whom Christ died (by which I do not endorse universal salvation).

In contrast, Arminians hold to a universal intent for the atonement, i. e., that Jesus died on the cross for every human being equally. However, they deny that the atonement is necessarily effectual for anyone. In other words, they hold that it was hypothetically possible that not a single person would ever have been redeemed by the death of Christ. In addition, everyone in Hell was also equally included in the intention of the atonement. How can that be understood in any way other than as an assertion that the atonement, at least in the case of some, was insufficient and failed? Or that salvation is by Jesus plus something else? That is a denial of the Reformation principle of solus christus. Such a concept is repugnant to me.

The verse above is often cited in support of the Arminian view, because Paul describes Jesus as "the Savior of all people." However, I deny that it means "of all people in the same sense." To interpret it that way is an unwarranted and unbiblical leap of logic.

I have discussed this before, though not regarding this particular verse. Jesus is not here said to save all people, but rather to be the Savior of all people. That is, Jesus is the only savior to whom men can look to save us from sin and death. In other words, Paul is asserting nothing more than Peter did in Acts 4:12: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under given among men by which we must be saved." Or as the Prophet said in Isaiah 45:22: "Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other." Jesus alone holds the office of Savior, whether one is in China, the United States, or anywhere else on the earth, or in any period of time!

When the application of the atonement is described in Scripture, it is by the verb "to save." For example, Matthew 1:21: "You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Notice that Matthew doesn't say "might save" or "will offer salvation." That's because His atonement is effectual; it actually saves everyone for whom it was made. As I said above, there is not and never can be anyone in Hell for whom Christ died. That's why we have the last portion of Paul's assertion in the verse above: "especially those who believe." Why "especially"? Because for us, and for us alone, He holds, not just the office of Savior, but is the One who saves us!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Simple Question regarding the Primacy of Peter and of the Pope

The Church of Rome makes an interesting use of some of the remarks of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. In Matt. 16:18-19, He said, "I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." This was in response to Peter's profession that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God" in verse 16. In Greek, the name Peter means "a rock," so Rome has long held that Jesus was naming Peter the foundation of the church, and the Pope as Peter's successor.

I have addressed this question before, but I am going to take a different tack here.

One thing to note is that these particular words of Christ don't appear in the parallel passages in Mark 8:27-30 and Luke 9:18-22. Both of those gospel writers stopped after Peter's profession, leaving out the response of Jesus. If Jesus had been making such a fundamental declaration, wouldn't it have been included in the parallel accounts?

Moreover, in all three Synoptics, an account is given shortly after this one, in which the apostles were arguing over leadership. See Matthew 18:1-4, Mark 9:33-37, and Luke 9:46-48. Notice especially the words of Jesus recorded in Mark 9:35: "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."

These three passages tell us two important things regarding the matter at issue here between Rome and Protestants (and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, as well). The first is that the other apostles didn't see the words of Jesus as appointing Peter to supremacy within their group. And second, they tell us that leadership in the church is not a matter of Jesus's call to supremacy, but rather His call to service. The palaces, gold trappings, and expensive art of the Vatican speak much of the former, but nothing of the latter.

There is, however, an account in Scripture regarding someone's claiming supremacy in the Church (III John 1:9-11): "I have written something to the church, but Diotrophes, who likes to place himself first, does not acknowledge our authority." The person who claims supremacy is an enemy of the church, not her head.