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.