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Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

4 short introductory video studies First recorded in 2007, posted to GodTube in 2010  These short videos were made nearly 14 years ago. ...

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Quick Reminder on the Use of Words in Scripture (Another "Yeshua" Reference)

Just because there are still people out there insisting that the only proper name to use for the Savior is the Anglicized name "Yeshua." The irony is not lost in me when they Anglicize the Hebrew, but I've covered that in previous entries. 

Today, I just want to remind us of how the Holy Spirit relies on us to use context and common sense. This is part of "rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2 Tim 2:15). Some people have been put in bnadage to fear of their use of certain words.


Context matters... a lot of people get hung up on certain words, but not so the Holy Spirit.


Hebrew Texts (Old Testament)

Yeshua (יְהוֹשׁוּעַ) is used over 200 times in scripture, yet never of the Savior. The Holy Spirit never refers to the Lord Jesus Christ as יְהוֹשׁוּעַ Yeshua. It is Ok to use the Hebrew, but it is in no way "superior" or required or necessarily biblical.


Greek Texts (New Testament)

  • The Holy Spirit refers to the Savior as well as "a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew" (Acts 13:6) as Jesus (Iēsoûs, Ἰησοῦς) , or Bar-Jesus. The name is also used of one of Paul's fellow worker in Col 4:11. One thing that is unique, is calling the Lord, "The Lord Jesus Christ" or "Christ Jesus" or "Jesus Christ." "Kyrios Iēsoûs Christos." This should be our practice in any language.

  • Judas (Ἰούδας) is the name of the one who betrayed the Lord, also the name of another apostle (Zealotes), and the Lord's brother (author of Jude). In the Greek, it is also used for Judah (son of Jacob).

  • The "ecclesia" (ekklēsía, ἐκκλησία, church, assembly) is used of the worshippers of Diana (Acts 19:32), of the called out assembly of the Lord, individual local assemblies, and of Israel under Moses. We must make a difference, even among its uses in the epistles.

  • Theos (θεός) is used of the true God, the false god of the Greeks, and of "the god of this world" (Satan).

There is also the issue of pronouns. Clearly, we must interpret pronouns in context. "He," for example, could refer to everyone from the true God to Satan. A favorite evangelistic verse is based on pronouns alone:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Hail, Believer, Full of Grace

 Those of us with a Catholic upbringing (or any familiar with the prayers of the Catholic Church) will be familiar with the "Hail Mary." Known officially as "The Hail Mary," it is one of the (if not the) most offered prayers in Catholicism. In the saying of the Five-Decade Rosary, the prayer is repeated over 50 times.




 The text of the prayer is made up a first half carved from scripture (Luke 1:28) and the second half was codified by the RCC in AD1568 as one of the responses of the RCC to the Reformation. It was informally used for several centuries before that, but as with the canonization of the Apocrypha, it found itself becoming "official" in the counter-reformation.


Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
-KJV

Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
-Douay-Rheims (1899)




The Greek word here is "charitóō." Strong's defines it thusly:
 
to grace, that is, indue with special honor: - make accepted, be highly favoured.

"Special Honor" and "be highly favored." Wonderful! But let us not miss "make accepted."


Mounce defines it this way:


to give graciously, to show acts of kindness by freely giving; (n.) one highly favored


We note that "freely giving." This explains why such a one is "highly favored." It is not internally true. It is a bestowed honor in this context.

Thayer defines it:

  1. to make graceful charming, lovely, agreeable
  2. to peruse with grace, compass with favour
  3. to honour with blessings

Note "to MAKE" and "to HONOR." 

This Greek word, "charitóō," is used by the Holy Spirit in one other instance in the Greek text of scripture.

Ephesians 1:6

To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
-KJV


Unto the praise of the glory of his grace, in which he hath graced us in his beloved son.
-DR 1899

As with Mary, we are graced from the outside. We are the recipients of honor we do not deserve. Note in Ephesians the praise is for "the glory of his grace." Incredible! His grace surely is glorious! How blessed are we? Blessed beyond measure. Those of us in the One Body are blessed with "unsearchable riches" in the far above the heavens!

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ...


The great apostle Paul takes his place as "less than the least of all the saints." He recognizes the grace given him, an undeserved grace. A grace we all need. A grace we are dependent upon for our hope of resurrection life in the ages to come.

We turn back to Mary and look at her example as well.


Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

The word translated "maidservant" here is the Greek word "doúlē." It was used to refer to a female slave or female servant. One who had no rights. Neither Mary nor Paul claimed anything before the Lord. Both understood they were highly graced, blessed beyond measure by a gracious and loving God!

That is the example we need to take from these saints of God. As saints ourselves, we should never forget all our blessings and our hope of life to come is purely by grace alone through faith alone in the death, burial, lack of decay, and resurrection of the Savior, the Holy One of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ!

As to the ending of the Catholic prayer ("pray for us now and at the hour of our death"), we must reject. It is a negation of the grace of God. These words are not found in scripture and surely Mary would have no thought of such a thing.

And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.


God, Mary's Savior. Yes, we call her blessed. Such an honor to bear her own Savior and the Savior of the world!  Mary took her place as God's servant, Paul was faithful to his calling to bring the truth of the Mystery of the current dispensation to us Gentiles. Let us be thankful for their faithfulness and, along with them, give all glory to our Savior and the author of Life eternal, the Lord Jesus Christ!



Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The Reference in Romans 2 to Gentiles Blaspheming God's Name

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

-Romans 2:24-25


Now therefore, what have I here, saith the Lord,
that my people is taken away for nought?
they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the Lord;
and my name continually every day is blasphemed.

-Isaiah 52:5

The question arises when comparing these passages, why does Paul's quotation differ from that which is found in Isaiah? It could be as simple as Paul referencing the Septuagint (which we shall review) or it could be that he was quoting Ezekiel, or combining the prophecies.

The NIV notes: 


And when it had come to the Gentiles, where they went, the Gentiles profaned my holy name, when they said to them, ‘These are the Lord's people, but they have come out of his land.’ Then I had pity on my holy name which the house of Israel had profaned among the Gentiles to whom they went. So say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what my Lord the Lord says: «I am not acting for your sake, O house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name which you have profaned among the nations to which you have gone. And I will sanctify my great name which has been profaned among the Gentiles, which you profaned among them, and the Gentiles will know that I am the Lord, says my Lord the Lord, when I am sanctified among them in their sight.

-Ezekiel 36:2-23 (Far Above All translation)


A noted, the Lord (as recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and the Apostles tended to quote from the Septuagint since they were speaking/writing in Greek.



Here is Isaiah 52:5 in the Septuagint:

καὶ νῦν τί ὧδέ ἐστε τάδε λέγει κύριος. ὅτι ἐλήμφθη ὁ λαός μου δωρεάν, θαυμάζετε καὶ ὀλολύζετε· τάδε λέγει κύριος. δι᾿ ὑμᾶς διὰ παντὸς τὸ ὄνομά μου βλασφημεῖται ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν [éthnos].


Using a couple of online translators:

and what is this, saith the Lord. for my people have been pitied, Ye Marvel, and Marvel· thus saith the Lord. for all my name is blasphemed in this world.

And now what are you, sir? for my people have been free of charge, you admire and solve; for you, for all my name is blasphemed in the nation.


What I am looking for is "éthnos" which is there (ἔθνεσιν, the last word) and why the KJV and others seem to blend it in instead of translating it. It almost always means "gentiles" (the other nations) as used in the OT. Brenton (Brenton Septuagint Translation, 1870) uses "gentiles" which makes it far more clear.

I don't want to open any can of worms, but the Masoretic text doesn't seem to have the reference to Gentiles.

ועתה מה לי פה נאם יהוה כי לקח עמי חנם משׁלו יהילילו נאם יהוה ותמיד כל היום

And now, what -- to Me here, An affirmation of Jehovah, That taken is My people for nought? Its rulers cause howling, -- an affirmation of Jehovah, And continually all the day My name is despised. 
(Young's Literal Translation)


No reference to the gentiles. Implied, maybe, but the word is missing (as far as I can tell, I'm no Hebrew scholar). So, if you stick with the Masoretic text, Ezekiel 36:23 makes more sense. I happen to like the Septuagint (minus the Apocrypha, which has value, it's just not inspired). I would again suggest combining both prophecies. 

Here is Ezek 36:23 in several translations:

And I have sanctified My great name, That is profaned among nations (YLT)

And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen (KJV)

And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the Gentiles (Jubilee)

Verse 22 has the same wording.

I would add that since Paul wrote Romans with the re-establishment of the Kingdom in Israel and the return of the Lord "at hand," his reference to Ezek 36 would be quite appropriate as it goes on to note Israel's future cleansing from sin and the establishment of the New Covenant (which was not yet in place).

Now I want to go back to the verse that follows in Romans 2 (quoted above) and the verse that precedes:

Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. (KJV)


You who tell people not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abominate idols, do you steal sacred items? You who boast in the law, do you through your transgression of the law dishonor God? “For the name of God is blasphemed because of you among the Gentiles”, as it stands written. For circumcision is indeed of benefit if you carry out the law, but if you are a transgressor of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. (Far Above All)


Clearly Paul is addressing the people of Israel who boated and trusted in the Law and God's covenant with them. As we have noted many times, during the Book of Acts age, the Kingdom was still "at hand," Israel was still be offered "the times of refreshing" (Acts 3) and the "restoration of the Kingdom in Israel" (Acts 1) as the Lord had offered in his earthly ministry "to none, but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Matt 15). This was an extension of the "gospel of the Kingdom" Matt 4) the Lord forbade his disciples to teach outside of Israel or to preach to Gentiles (Matt 10). 

Of course, by the writing of Romans, the Lord had grafted in Gentiles for the sake of making Israel jealous (thus exhibiting, again, that God was still dealing with Israel, the root, in the Acts Age). This is part of Paul's argument in the Book of Romans (as we have seen in other studies).

Allow me to turn to the Berean Expositor (Vol 44), not as an authority, but in words which express the teaching here quite well and ties it back to the Lord's teaching in Matthew:


Instead of God’s name being sanctified by the sanctified people serving the Lord and keeping the Law, rather was it being blasphemed through them. Obedience to the voice of the Lord and the keeping of His covenant with them, would have constituted them a “kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exod. xix. 5, 6), but this covenant they brake. Under the terms of the New Covenant there will yet be the fulfillment of this promise in Exodus, and during the Acts period it was anticipated:  
“Peter . . . . . to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus . . . . . ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people for a possession, that ye should shew forth the virtues of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Pet. i. 1; ii. 9).

 During the future Millennium the promise will find its fulfillment, and then will the Lord God be sanctified in His people, and the prayer, ‘sanctified be Thy Name’, answered in its fullness. 

“For in mine holy mountain . . . . . saith the Lord God, there shall all the house of Israel . . . . . serve me in the land . . . . . and I will be sanctified in you in the sight of the nations . . . . .” (Ezek. xx. 40, 41 R.V.). “When the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their way . . . . . and I scattered them among the nations . . . . . and when they came unto the nations . . . . . they profaned my holy name . . . . . I will sanctify My great name, which hath been profaned among the nations . . . . . and the nations shall know that I am the Lord . . . . . when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes . . . . .” (Ezek. xxxvi. 17-23 R.V. See also Ezek. xxxix. 25-27, etc.). 

The close connection of the clause ‘sanctified be Thy Name’ with ‘Thy kingdom come’ and ‘Thy will be done’, suggests when the answer to this part of the prayer will be fulfilled. The will or wishes of the Father being done on earth will be when this kingdom (the subject of the Lord’s Prayer) shall have come, and at that time will the Father’s Name be sanctified. 


Note the context here recalls the "Lord's Prayer" from Matthew 6:9-13. This is all "Kingdom" truth. Imagine the conditions in Israel during the Tribulation, then read The Lord's Prayer. It makes far more sense in that context than for me to pray it in this current age (while we also recognize the general truths in it, we are careful to place it in its correct context).

Paul is arguing that it is not in being under the Law that fulfilled the covenant of Sinai, but keeping the Law. To that end, no Jew was truly innocent of the Law. They had to trust in the finished work of the Savior on Calvary (in his death, lack of decay, and resurrection) to be eligible for the blessings of the New Covenant (which is not eternal life, but a restored people into a restored Kingdom with renewed hearts and minds, Jer 31, Heb 8, etc.).

As an application, we can bring the Lord's name into disrepute if we teach (or appear to teach) that believers have any hope in our own righteousness. Just Jews in the Acts age still kept the Law (in their daily lives, Acts 15, Acts 20, etc.) as part of an earthly hope, so do we seek to lead lives of purity, love, and kindness with a heavenly blessing before us (and the related judgment of our works for rewards). That is, neither the Jew then nor the believer now should point to his own "righteousness." We preach, teach, and present Christ in all his glory as our only hope.

We could say this to believers today, "do not boast in your supposed morality as your morality is not perfect, boast only in the Lord as you seek a moral life for His sake.'



For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

-Ephesians 3:8-10


And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

-1 Corinthians 2:1-2


To God alone be the Glory!



Thursday, May 26, 2022

Speaking Evil of Dignities

the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise dominions. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. 
(KJV)
the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a reviling judgment upon them before the Lord. 
(Revised Standard Version)
then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the Day of Judgment, especially those who walk after the flesh in pursuit of unclean desires, and despise authority. They are presumptuous and arrogant, and are not afraid to slander the angelic beings. Whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring slanderous accusations against them before the Lord. 
(Modern English Version)
-2 Peter 2:9-11


The key word in this passage is the word translated variously as "government," "authority," "dominions."  To help us see exactly to what authority we are addressing here, we need to compare a similar usage in another epistle given primarily for Jewish believers, the Book of Jude. But first let's look at a couple of other English translations of 2 Peter 2:10.


This is especially true for those who follow after the corrupt cravings of the sinful nature and defy the Lord’s authority
(Common English Bible)

These false teachers are bold and arrogant, and show no respect for the glorious beings above; instead, they insult them. 
(Good News Translation)


We start to see the problem.

We are working with the Greek word "kyriótēs." Strong gives us this definition in part, "rulers: - dominion, government." It appears only four times in the Greek New Testament. Peter and Jude (as noted) and twice by Paul in his post-Acts epistles of Colossians and Ephesians. 

for by him [the Son] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 
-Colossians 1:16-17
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. 
-Ephesians 1:15-23


So, Christ is the Creator and one who is superior to "all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named..." Christ is separate from his creation (superior), therefore, the "dominions" must be separate from Christ. We may be able to rule out the translation, "the Lord's authority" used in the Common English Bible and a few other translations. 

Of course, the same word can have multiple meanings, so we can't always be definitive on usage. However, when we turn to Jude, we get almost the same exact wording as we have in 2 Peter,  

 

Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.

Jude 1:7-9 


Peterthem that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise dominionsPresumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.

Judethese filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities


The "unclean" and "filthy dreamers" who function in the "flesh" are the subject of both passages. Peter mentions Sodom and Gomorrah in 2 Peter 2:6 as does Jude in Jude 1:7. We turn to the Lord's earthly ministry to Israel in Matthew to hopefully spread some more light concerning the people in view in Peter and Jude.


“Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily (great emphasis) I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city” 
-Matthew 10:14-15

We are looking at a future judgment for those who reject the truth. Peter speaks of the future judgement as well ("the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment..."). Sodom had no respect for the angels that were sent there to warn Lot and his family. They were so given to the flesh, they could understand nothing else.


And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground... But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: and they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, and said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.

-Genesis 19


Turning back to Peter's teaching, we see in verse 1 of 2 Peter 2:


But there were false prophets also among the people [in the past], even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.


"The people" here is Israel. The Lord "bought" Israel. It is his possession. The Old Covenant was conditional upon keeping the commandments.

Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine.

  Ex 19:5 (Revised Standard Version) 


In the sacrifice of the Messiah (the Christ), Israel was a purchased possession. The offer of the restoration of the Kingdom to "Ye Men of Israel" in Acts 3 (and the promise of the Lord to restore the Kingdom in Israel from Acts 1) is national, yet individual position is not. This is where we need to understand the different judgments seen in the gospels and Acts age. "Son" and "Servants" may be tossed out into darkness. They may lose reward. They may lose privilege. But the nation, in one form or another, will be restored according to the promises to her in the New Covenant (Jer 33; Heb 8; etc.).


False prophets come in and lead the people away from the truth; away from the true God of the Bible. Peter continues in verse 3 to describe how they work and the judgment that awaits.

And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.


These are greedy men who will use smooth and complimentary words to woo their listeners. They are clever speakers. Peter says they will bring in their errors "secretly." We think of Paul's warning in 2 Cor 11 of Satan and his ministers. Satan presents himself as an "angel of light" and his ministers are "the minsters of righteousness." They will appeal to a combination of the flesh and a false spirituality. We see much of this sort of thing in chapters 2 and 3 of the Revelation.

Those who follow these false apostles of the flesh into carnality in the name of righteousness are also those who, like those in Sodom, will despise even the angels sent to protect Israel. They speak evil of any form of restraint on their carnality, whether offered by men or angels. 

This passage does not teach that we should never criticize any level of leadership. The context itself is calling out and condemning "false apostles." That is, it is exposing those who have title and position. It is no sin to expose a pastor who embezzles or who preaches licentiousness. It is especially important to expose and call out those in leadership who call evil good and good evil.

Israel's prophet Isaiah warned the people:


Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes,
and prudent in their own sight!

-Isaiah 5:20-21


Isaiah is speaking to those who corrupt his people and to the people who are readily corrupted. It is both of these groups which "despise authority," They do not despise all authority, they despise the authority of God and of his Word

Whereas the warnings in Jude, Peter, and Isaiah are meant for Israel, we can glean a greater principle for our age. Paul warns us in 1 Timothy 6:20-21 and 2 Timothy 4:2-4,

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith.

 

preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

The false teachers and the opposition of false science to the faith may be called such. We do not seek to rebuke them as such, rather we want to rescue those open to the hearing. We turn back to Jude to see even how the Archangel Michael dealt with Satan himself (the embodiment of deception and self):

Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.

Michael did rebuke Satan. He didn't pretend he doesn't exist or that he isn't seeking to deceive and corrupt men (even believers). 

But these [filthy dreamers] speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withers, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;

 

These cannot see spiritual truths. That is, they cannot perceive things biblically (or refuse to do so). This failure is caused by their reliance on the flesh and on human reasoning. A form of them is among us as their counterparts were among Israel and among the Acts Age churches. Again, we note that we see these people in the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 in the coming Tribulation (time of Jacob's Trouble). 

We see them in this age as spoken of in the epistle to the Philippians. These are those who are "the enemies of the cross of Christ." They do not preach that the true life of the believer is the life of giving one wholly over to the Lord. It is not found in false humility. Not in outward displays of virtue. Not in earthly ordinances and rituals and the celebration of times and seasons. All these things are the marks of those who want to hold onto heaven in one hand and the flesh in the other.

The enemy of the true is the almost-true. False apostles look like apostles. Satan looks like an angel of light. False doctrine sounds right. Doctrines and practices for other ages for other purposes are secretly brought in to enslave believers to both ritual and pride. 

In this age, the answer is to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Tim 3:15). When we are walking according our calling, when we are walking in the Light, when we are walking in love, we will not "speak evil of dignities."  The mark of the carnal man is he who speaks evil of the truth. He may have all the outward marks of piousness, religiousness, humility, and gentleness, but inwardly he is a ravenous wolf. 

The carnal do not necessarily hate religion, they hate truth.

  • The one who is trusting that he can please God in rituals, hates the gospel of the free grace of God.
  • The one who likes outward acts of religious piety, hates the simplicity of private worship.
  • The one who adores systems, leaders, and public virtue, hates the idea of judgment of individuals.

The works of the flesh are many and varied. From pure wickedness and self-indulgence to prideful self-deprivation. All are rooted in self. All despise trusting in scripture alone. Both ends of the spectrum speak evil of the authority of scripture while not openly speaking evil of the Lord himself.

This passage from Acts chapter 8 shows us a man who had all the markings of a false apostle, but he could not fool Peter nor the Holy Spirit. The man became a believer, but he carried his greed into his faith. So, this Simon was controlled by his flesh before he had faith and controlled by his flesh after he had faith. 

But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.


This man was a believer. However, like another believer, Judas, he was controlled by the flesh. He was greedy for both wealth and fame. We see that we do not shed the old nature until resurrection. We each carry about the old nature. It is this nature which is prone to speak evil and pursue glory. 


 Such men are wiling either to speak evil of dignities, or to fawn upon them, as it suits their base interests. The Christian, on the other hand, should be able to “talk with crowds” and yet keep his virtue, and “walk with kings” without losing the common touch. We must also remember that, because we own no man as Lord, and all our service is rendered in the name of the Lord Jesus, this does not mean that we may demonstrate our liberty by being discourteous or uncouth. If we are to follow the teaching of Scripture, we must “render to all their dues”. 

-The Berean Expositor [excerpt], Vol. 29 


The Lord warned those who would not listen to the Apostles (who were commissioned to Israel alone).


These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.... Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily (great emphasis) I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city”

-Matthew 10:5-7,14-15


Note the reference again to Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom rejected the family of the great Patriarch, Abraham, and the angelic messengers of God. And here in Matthew 10 it is used as a comparative for those who hear the direct preaching of the Kingdom in Israel from the chosen Apostles of the Lamb. The judgment of that "house" or "city" will be worse somehow. 

Putting all this together, in context of the Lord's warnings to those receiving the message of the Kingdom and the calling of Peter and the Apostle's whose names shall be on the New Jerusalem along with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, we see a warning to, I believe, Israel. 

In light of the purchase of the nation by the blood of the Lamb, the offer of the Kingdom by the Messiah and his chosen Apostles, and the abundance witness of scripture, those speaking evil of God's messengers are those who walk according to the flesh despite all they know and are taught.

We close by posting a larger section of Jude in this context.


I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt [Israel], afterward destroyed them [of Israel] that believed not. 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.

10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. 11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. 12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withers, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13 raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever (for the age).


We cannot be blasé with these words from Jude. The references here are to Cain who betrayed his brother, Balaam who sold his office of prophet to Israel, Core (Korah) opposed the leadership of Moses and Aaron (the Law and the priesthood in Israel). As noted, Sodom sought to assault Lot's angelic guests. Peter refers to Lot as "righteous Lot" (2 Peter 2:7) despite his outward appearance.    

We see the warning of "darkness" and we think of the Lord's reference to the "outer darkness" in the gospels. There, He uses that warning to refer to "sons" and "servants." This is all part of Kingdom, Israel, Covenant truth. It involves a future age. 

While we are not the subject of these warnings, we can still glean truth in our calling. We should not speak ill of our messenger, Paul. And when dealing with Satan and/or Satan's ministers, we must not be flippant. We show them no honor, but we, as Michael, should simply rebuke them in the name of truth. 


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Examining the Regulative Principle

The "regulative principle" [RP] is most often heard in regard to worship in the "church." So, we will be focusing much on that application. However, there is a larger definition at work, but we will start with the idea of the "regulative principle of worship" to give us some context.

the regulative principle states that “the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself and so limited by his own revealed will” (WCF [Westminster Confession of Faith] 21.1). In other words, corporate worship should be comprised of those elements we can show to be appropriate from the Bible. The regulative principles says, “Let’s worship God as he wants to be worshiped.”

-The Gospel Coalition ("a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition")

I'd first like to note (as an aside, but I think relevant) is the reliance on the Westminster Confession of Faith. Reformed theologians reference it almost as though it were scripture; as though you can't question it. I'm sure they would bristle at that statement, but ask any of them if they feel free to depart from its wording. 

The opposite of the "regulative principle" of worship is the "normative principle" [NP] of worship. That is, whatever is not expressly prohibited in scripture is permitted. This principle is practiced by just about every believer on a variety of subjects. Many Reformed believers, in my experience, have never heard the phrase. It's very seminary. Note what Kevin DeYoung at TGC says about it:

Even though I grew up in a Reformed church, until seminary I was one of the multitude of Christians who had never heard of the regulative principle.

So, in regard to worship, they believe that only worship specifically outlined in scripture is acceptable. This obviously exonerates the very biblical pipe organs, choir robes, neckties, and 18th and 19th century hymns. Yes, I'm kidding, but you see the point (small as it may be). None of these are "limited by his own revealed will." Along these lines, how do we determine "hymns are good" and "contemporary is bad" apart from how we differentiate is anything is good or bad? That depends on how we interpret "limited by his own revealed will." In my world, that would mean "doctrinally."

Pipe organs, choir robes, neck ties, etc. are neither doctrinal nor biblical. Yet we have no compliant as they are neutral. They are neither expressly commanded nor forbidden. We can, and should, apply this to all things used in our worship. Doctrines should be judged, and that which is not clearly unbliblical should be treated as liberty. You don't have to like it, but that's another matter.

While worship is an area about which much of the RP is aimed and applied, the general idea of RP is broader.

A broader sense of the term "regulative principle" is occasionally cited on matters other than worship, for example, to constrain designs of church government to scriptural elements. [Wikipedia]
It’s not been at the core of my identity. But over the years I’ve come to appreciate the regulative principle more and more. [Kevin DeYoung]


We want to be clear that RP is not exactly Sola Scriptura (which we wholeheartedly support). Sola Scripture (the Scriptures alone) is the doctrine that the scriptures are the only infallible source of truth. RP teaches that things such as worship must reflect perfectly what is in scripture. It may not be a clear distinction, but there is a chasm between the two.

Let's turn back to Kevin DeYoung and TGC.


“What do we know they did in their Christian worship services in the Bible? We know they sang the Bible. We know that preached the Bible. We know they prayed the Bible. We know they read the Bible. We know they saw the Bible in the sacraments. We don’t see dramas or pet blessings or liturgical dance numbers. So why wouldn’t we want to focus on everything we know they did in their services? Why try to improve on the elements we know were pleasing to God and practiced in the early church?”

There are legitimate concerns here. But let's dig a little deeper. Am I opposed to "pet blessings" because it's not in the Bible or because it's biblically stupid? The greater question is "what is the blessing supposed to be for?" "How are the animals to be 'blessed'?" Let me take that back, I'm not really "opposed" to pet blessings, I just don't get it. It doesn't hurt anything, but I do think it's worth a discussion.

So, the core of my argument is that it serves no purpose and is connected to nothing in scripture. "Blessing" is a wide term. In liturgical settings, it often requires a "clergy." Is the idea of the "clergy" "his own revealed will?" Well, Israel had a priesthood. It's in the Bible. It's in the Old Testament like the Psalms. But is it for our day? 

I am not opposed to a "teacher" or a "pastor," but such things have no resemblance to the priests of the Temple. So, even if we limit ourselves to "his own revealed will," we still must "rightly divide the Word of Truth."

"Liturgical dance numbers" is a little different. I don't care for them much either. But the reason for that is that I don't care much for "liturgy" as it's commonly practiced. I'm not against "public worship," but "liturgy" lends itself a to "clergy/laity" distinction and leans towards ritualism. But I would fall short of calling any of it "Satanic." They may not like the use of "Satanic," but what else are we to say if what the (assumed) adherents to RP reason is true? Pushed, I believe they'd happily adopt the adjective.  

This last point is really the distinction between RP and NP understanding. If something isn't expressly practiced in scripture, is its practice therefore necessarily "anti-God?" The NP position is that it stands on its own. 

We can examine the elements of anything against Sola Scriptura (not against the Westminster Confession of Faith, FTR). Do the words of a hymn or a worship song exalt scriptural truth without necessarily being exactly expressed the same way in scripture? The NP position leans (or should lean) on Sola Scripture and not on RP. 

The RP view, theoretically, should dismiss all hymns with either words or music or instruments or structure not expressly stated in scripture. If that were applied uniformly, we'd have to mark the hymns as Satanic. The immediate objection to my conclusion is that RP would endorse hymns if they reflected direct biblical truth. We are now back to doctrine. We are now back to scripture. 

This is how ALL music should be discerned. Too often we have this general concept:

  • Hymns Good
  • Contemporary Bad

Again, there would objections to the simplicity of this dichotomy, but that is almost universally how I have experienced the argument. Yes, that's subjective, but essentially true in my over 30 years discussing the topic of Christian music.

It's simply lazy. Many hymns are lightweight or simply heretical. Not every contemporary song is Satanic. Pianos and acoustic guitars are no more biblically sound than keyboards or electric guitars.  

Applying these different arguments to scripture, was Paul "Satanic" when he quoted pagan poets to the Greeks in Acts 17 to make his point about the true God? Note that Paul does not refer directly to scripture in that passage.

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.

-Acts 17:24-29

Paul not only quotes the pagan poets in Acts 17, he uses their quote to make his point about the true God. He is not claiming their poets to be inspired of God. I agree that scripture should be part of all we express, but just as Paul has done here, we can appeal to different things in our quest to relate scripture (as long as the thing does not expressly oppose scripture). If a local assembly puts on a drama which speaks biblical truth, how is that forbidden?

Surely, we must get to scripture and to truth, but how can we conclude that hymns always do this and all contemporary music does not. Again, this is just lazy.

If I did an "interpretive dance" of the Book of John and quoted the many invitations to Christ in its pages, what difference does it make? Again, we see unfair examples used to make their point. Sure, an interpretive dance with no message adds up to nothing, but that's cherry-picking. What if a world class dancer offered a dance along with a reading of the Book of Ephesians? Not my kind of thing, but how is that "forbidden" or "Satanic?"   

The great error of the "regulative principle" (like its Romanist predecessor "ius divinum"), the "acceptable way of worshiping the true God," is the failure to "rightly divide the Word of Truth." As with all systems which do this, it tends to pick and choose what it believes is "biblical," "commanded," or "prohibited" and it chooses individuals in "authority" as arbiters of what is truly biblical. 

Look again at part of Kevin DeYoung's call for "true" worship, "We know they saw the Bible in the sacraments." But when we rightly divide the Word of Truth, we realize the sacraments are not for this current age. We also note that the Reformed feel free to refer to Old Testament practices and texts (such as the hymns) when convenient, but solely to Acts Age when convenient. By doing so, they unwittingly acknowledge that just because something is "in the Bible" does not make it for all people of all ages.

The following is part of DeYoung's argument under his point "Freedom of Conscience."

Reformed Christians said in effect, “We don’t want to ask our church members to do anything that would violate their consciences.” Maybe bowing here or a kiss there could be justified by some in their hearts, but what about those who found it idolatrous? Should they be asked to do something as an act of worship that Scripture never commands and their consciences won’t allow? This doesn’t mean Christians will like every song or appreciate every musical choice. But at least with the regulative principle we can come to worship knowing that nothing will be asked of us except that which can be shown to be true according to the Word of God.


As an ex-Catholic, I am in agreement, in part. That is, anything that is not expressly biblical should be optional. But being optional is not the same as being forbidden. 

I attended a service at Tenth Presbyterian Church while I was working in Philadelphia. James Montgomery Boice in the pulpit. Can't get much more Reformed than that! But the service was replete with Catholic leftovers. The processional, the robes, the reciting of "The Lord's Prayer" (not for today), and even statues. And they practice such things as infant baptism. They infer this scripture 

We must also take a quick look at what is called "The Lord's Supper." In the Catholic faith, it is salvific. The host is the actual, physical body of Christ. They teach that non-Catholics who partake are eating damnation unto themselves (attend a RC wedding or funeral mass and they'll ask non-Catholics to abstain). Of course such a doctrine is to be rejected. But I reject ALL uses of the The Lord's Supper today as it is part of the covenant with Israel. We've covered that elsewhere, but suffice it to say, just because something is "scriptural" does not necessarily mean it is "applicable" in this age.

The same Reformed teacher who limits himself to the Psalms (for instance) will not bind himself by all of the Book of Leviticus. They pick and choose what is in the gospel accounts and what is in the Book of Acts. So, this pretense to the idea of "bound to scripture" is really just being bound to (ironically) "The Westminster Confession of Faith." Sola Scriptura becomes the oxymoron Sola WCF and Catechisms which they give us to tell us what is Biblical. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura itself recognizes different ages and dispensations. It is our duty to study to discern these differences not to simply bow will and intellect to a system, a catechism, a board, etc.

Let us recall what The Gospel Coalition argues, “Let’s worship God as he wants to be worshiped.” That sounds good, but it fails to recognize God's dispensations. To worship God is to do his will. For Noah, that was building an ark. For Abraham, that was taking Isaac to Mount Moriah. For Moses, that was crossing the Red Sea. For the Hebrew priesthood, that was wearing certain items of clothing and sacrificing certain animals on certain days.  

We don't look to these for our practice in this age. The Reformed teacher picks and chooses what practices from the Bible he likes. He takes the hymns for Israel and gladly applies them to himself. I would suggest that applying scripture incorrectly is worse than practicing things not expressly forbidden in scripture.


If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. And they shall say to the elders of his city, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear.

-Deuteronomy 21:18-21


Do we do this with a rebellious child in this current age? If not, why not? Easy question for me to answer, we're not Israel, we're not coming into an inheritance, we don't have city elders. etc. There may be a principle here about discipline, but who is applying the specifics in his Reformed church today?

The Reformed tradition has many unbiblical practices based on a failure to rightly divide the Word of Truth. They fail to compare things that differ. And that is the irony here. A smarmy take on contemporary music as they hide behind some perceived notion that hymns are somehow what God has ordained all the while adopting a form of leftover Catholicism and an allegiance to catechism, confessions, church history, church fathers, and creeds.

I realize that this particular post is subjective and anecdotal, but it is a response to very a generic rejection of rejection (and condemnation) of all modern worship in way that I would argue is not only self-serving, but blinding.


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

A Fresh Look at Suicide


But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper-tree: and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, It is enough; now, O Jehovah, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

-1 Kings 19:4



Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.

-Ecclesiastes 2:17


The two men we are dealing with in these verse are two of the greatest men who have ever lived: Elijah and Solomon. Yet these men, at some point, find life to be not worth living. The first a prophet of the Living God and the second a king blessed and adorned by God as no other (Matt 6:29). We can find room in our hearts for Elijah's predicament and we can readily understand his desire to live no longer, but Solomon is another story.

Solomon had riches untold. In today's economy of value, he had sexual satisfaction at his disposal as well (700 wives and princesses plus 300 concubines).  Sexual satisfaction is something sought after by many in our world. Yet we find this man, who had his fill, writing one of the most despair-filled books (Ecclesiastes), not only in scripture, but in all of ancient literature. It is hard for many of us who struggle day to day with bills, emergencies, hunger, and loneliness to find pity for someone like Solomon. We cannot imagine how he could find life so vain in light of his circumstances.

This is a reasonable thought. I admit I envy those who do not worry about expenses. I envy those who don't live in fear that the car won't start or that the roof might spring a leak or that they might need a new prescription. These seemingly small issues can throw a balanced budget into turmoil. How can those who have no fear of the ordinary be in any darkness of mind? But my envy is my sin. I have no right to pretend to translate my envy into another's sin.

Likewise, anyone who has suffered a broken heart cannot fathom the love of a thousand at one's beck and call. Even more to the point, we feel the pain of a single spouse who discovers the unfaithfulness of one to whom he/she has pledged his/her heart. This is devastating. We understand the despair. We sympathize. We reach out in love. How could one so awash in physical satisfaction be depressed? One who had 700 spouses? How could one who had guards standing by making sure his wives were faithful find himself in despair?

One of the insights gleaned from Solomon's other inspired book, The Song of Solomon, which we should not miss, is how one woman in particular stole the heart of the King. He had a thousand women available to him, yet he longed to be held in the bosom of only one. Of all he could have, one stole his heart.


Like a lily among thorns,
So is my love among the daughters.


Solomon is fortunate in that his beloved returned his love. We have great sympathy for the one whose love is rejected, especially the one who is rejected after giving many years of self to another. How tragic it is to see a family broken by infidelity or selfishness. How we hate to witness the denying or breaking of vows. Yet it happens. And we acknowledge it can happen to anyone. We are fallen creatures, weak and carnal. Even the believer carries his old nature about with him. Even one who loves his/her spouse dearly is subject to falling to the flesh. 

Imagine the soldier, far from home in a war zone. This one may seek comfort in a moment of weakness. He may become overcome with guilt and his wife back home may be crushed by his infidelity. Despair may abound! 

There are countless scenarios whereby we can certainly understand despairing of life, even for those we deem "lucky" or "winners of life's lottery." Even if we are puzzled by certain circumstances we observe, we recognize pain when we see it. We find solace in "love" songs which are often "rejected love" songs. Pain of soul has many origins and plays out in many ways. 

Let us turn back to Elijah for a moment. Imagine in today's world a pastor who is depressed and finds himself in the darkness of despair. We are tempted to claim such an one lacks faith or that he must be hiding a secret sin. But as with Elijah, he may be carrying a great burden from the Lord for the Lord's people. He may be suffering attacks from the world or even from his own flock that we cannot fathom or see. 

My understanding of suicide and suicidal thoughts has evolved over the years. Growing up in the Roman Catholic faith, this is how suicide was officially seen by my church: 


That suicide is unlawful is the teaching of Holy Scripture and of the Church, which condemns the act as a most atrocious crime and, in hatred of the sin and to arouse the horror of its children, denies the suicide Christian burial. Moreover, suicide is directly opposed to the most powerful and invincible tendency of every creature and especially of man, the preservation of life. Finally, for a sane man deliberately to take his own life, he must, as a general rule, first have annihilated in himself all that he possessed of spiritual life, since suicide is in absolute contradiction to everything that the Christian religion teaches us as to the end and object of life and, except in cases of insanity, is usually the natural termination of a life of disorder, weakness, and cowardice.

-New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia 


Persons who willfully and knowingly commit such an act die in a state of mortal sin [no hope, eternal damnation] and are deprived of Christian burial.

-Baltimore Catechism


They have, in recent years, allowed for the idea of those suffering “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.” Of course, this is a very recent change (after I left the RCC) and the victim still has no access to "Christian burial" in the RCC.

I only note the teaching of the RCC because it has always clouded my thinking on the subject. Living in fear of dying in a state of "grave (mortal) sin" colored my view of suicide. It was considered an act of pure evil ("a most atrocious crime"), on the level of premeditated murder. The more recent "nuanced" (their description) only adds to the fallible nature of RC doctrines. But that's another matter. 

My liberty from that system, my reliance on scripture, and the illumination of scripture by the Holy Spirit have helped me better understand suicide. I do not deny that it can be a selfish act (to one degree or another), but it cannot be seen on the same level as murder. Only because it is irreversible we deem it worse than other sins. Here's an irony: if one survives a suicide attempt, he may receive absolution for that sin in the RCC while the one who succeeds cannot. It's an insane system.

But on this last point, we must point the finger at ourselves. Imagine a father is despair. He has lost his job. Because of this, he may find himself and his wife and kids homeless and hungry. He cannot bear the thought. He blames himself for their misery. If such a man attempts suicide and survives, we often pour out our love on him and his family. We rally to his side. But if he had succeeded, we may be tempted to call him "selfish" and cast aspersions upon him in our hearts. Our reasoning is just as insane as the religious system of absolution. 

The Lord's despair in Gethsemane was much different from anything we could experience, but it was despair nonetheless.

He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

-Mark 14:35-36

Gaebelein in his commentary interprets this moment this way:

What was the cup He dreaded? The Sinless One, who knew no sin, was now soon to be made sin for us. God’s face upon which He had ever looked was soon to be hid. And what was it when at last He was made sin for us on the cross? One sentence gives us the answer, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”


Again, we cannot enter into this moment of dread, but many have experienced a level of dreading to face another day. The Lord persevered out of love for the Father and out of love for us, but some cannot always find the same strength. I believe this moment is recorded in scripture to help us see the way out of crushing despair. But as with all guidance from the Lord, it is given to weak men. "The Lord knows our frame, that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:14). Even if one loses the battle to despair, the Lord still has pity on him and so should we.

Suicide can the be result of many things (guilt, fear, suffering, painful memories, etc.) and we cannot pretend to understand the mind of another. We leave that in God's hands. What we can do is make ourselves available for those contemplating the idea and comfort those left behind in this instances when, sadly, someone is moved to take his own life in despair. 

For the brother or sister in Christ, we can remind them of God's forgiveness and his promise of abiding love. We can help them put their faith in God's will again. The latter is not always easy. The man who has lost wife and children in a horrible accident will find it difficult to see "God's good will" behind the scenes, but somehow we must help him get to that point. 

For the unbeliever, there is an opportunity to practice the ministry of reconciliation to which we have been called (2 Cor 5:18-19). As Ambassadors of Christ, we have a message of hope in this life and in the life to come through His name. 

In all cases, looking to lover of our souls must be a priority and compassion for the hurting must be our commitment. Judgment has no place. 


As my bones break,
my persecutors deride me,
all the time saying “where is your God?.”
Why are you so sad, my soul,
and anxious within me?
Put your hope in the Lord, I will praise him still,
my savior and my God.

- Psalm 42

Monday, March 7, 2022

Checking on Westboro Baptist Church Doctrines


 Many of us are familiar with the protests by the members of Westboro Baptist Church. This tiny number of people were, for a time, a convenient reference point for media and others to bash Evangelical Christianity as a whole. The picture above is one of the few without offensive wording (well, those signs are offensive, but they don't have any words I'd have to blur out).

Let me start with this quote from Volume 23 of The Berean Expositor from 1933:

Practice can never precede doctrine. Practice is the fruit of doctrine. I must know, before I can do. I cannot walk worthy of a calling that I do not believe or understand. I cannot adorn a doctrine that I do not know or believe.

We also want to start by recognizing the temporal nature of things. All around us will cease to be as is. If the Lord does not appear in our lifetimes, we shall go the way of all flesh (back to dust). Our accomplishments in the eyes of men are not worthy to be compared to the fruit of our lives as seen by the Lord. Two passages come to mind here.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

-2 Peter 3:10-12 

 

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

-Romans 8:18-19


So, we turn from the overt, outward fruits of Westboro's hate on parade, to Westboro's underlying doctrines. Here we will find both a disconnect from their fruit and some direct growth from the seeds they sow. 

When we look at their Doctrine Page, we see an entry for "Why You Deserve to Go to Hell." Readers of this blog know my position on "Hell." That is, I try to stick with the biblical use of the words translated "hell" in English versions (Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus) and avoid personal feelings or Greek mythological understandings. WBC loves the manmade doctrine of fiery torture by God. They love it so much, they praise God for supposedly not choosing some people for redemption, just so he can mercilessly torture them (this would be mass of humanity).

When you combine their full embrace of Calvinistic predestination with their personal hared of Jews and their inability to understand that we all continue to sin even after we receive a new nature, you get very ugly fruits indeed.

Let the reader not conclude that I would ever excuse or make apology for sin (in myself or in anyone else). That is not what is to be taken from this acknowledgment of sin. I have been clear on matters of immorality. But I am careful to see sin in the believer and in the unbeliever in light of scripture (rightly divided) and in light of the biblical age in we live.

On their "Jesus Christ's References to Hell" chart, they include Matthew 8:12. To their credit, they quote the whole thing.


But the But the children [sons] of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer
darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


But like most hell-lovers, they fail to notice a glaring problem with their citation.  That is the subject of the punishment, "the sons of the kingdom." We've covered that elsewhere, but it is a prime example of what you want to read into a verse as opposed to what the verse actually teaches. This is eisegesis, not exegesis. They see what they want to see.


They want the Lord to randomly be talking about torturing people with fire in their mythical and unbiblical "hell." To do so they have to ignore the context and the actual words in the verse! Not only is the subject of the punishment "the sons of the Kingdom," the punishment is being "cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth." 

Again, we've covered this before, but just a simple thought here: if you re being tortured mercilessly by fire, will have the gumption to gnash your teeth in anger? This punishment is elsewhere said to be for servants. So, to make this fit the common understanding, we have to see the Lord calling those who reject his offer of grace, "sons of the Kingdom," "servants," and guests invited to the marriage of the King's son!

Now let's turn to the foundation upon which they build their doctrines, 5-point Calvinism.  





The "Doctrines of Grace" hold that God has created the mass of humanity so he could torture them with fire, without hope, without end, apparently. That's the dark side of the implications of TULIP. They scream at homosexuals, find joy in threatening them with their doctrine of God's torture chamber while as teaching they have no choice whether to avoid it or not.    

And note how they have exalted the 5-points of the Doctrines of Grace to be superior to the Gospel of Grace. It is not a rejection of the sacrifice of Christ that will doom you, it is apparently the rejection of any of the 5 points of Calvinism according to them. But they must do this. The Gospel of Grace is the offer of reconciliation. 


we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we implore you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.


God is "beseeching" (Greek: parakalountos), as we "implore" (Greek: deometha) people to be reconciled to God who is already reconciled to them through Christ's perfect work. This is insanity if they have no ability to respond.

Parakalountos: (a) I send for, summon, invite, (b) I beseech, entreat, beg, (c) I exhort, admonish, (d) I comfort, encourage, console. [Strong's Concordance]

When the Lord tell his on in John's gospel that he sill send the "comforter," he uses the word, "Paraklētos." This word has the same root idea of coming along side. God is coming along side the world and inviting them to accept the reconciliation offered which is wholly paid for by Christ. Both the WBC signs of awaiting torture and doctrines of inability are anathema to the true calling of grace and reconciliation. WBC hides all of this wickedness under a cloak of "Grace." They reject the ministry of reconciliation to which we've been called.  

 

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation...

-2 Corinthians 5:18-19


As we have noted from this passage in other studies, God is already reconciled to the world, not imputing their trespasses against them. God is more interested in the sins of his own rather than the sins of the world. Believers are to separate and correct/restore other believers who fall into destructive sin, however, our only message for the world is grace.

The many listings of sins in the epistles are most often in reference to sins of believers (who continue to walk in the old nature). The unbeliever has only an old nature. God is calling them, through us, to accept his free offer, then they can start to walk in the newness of life in his name.

 Let us be sure our walk is honoring to the Lord (and consistent with the calling of this current age, Eph 4:1) before we start our ministry of reconciliation. We must offer hope of liberty along with hope of a life to come. 

Three walks of the believer of this Current Age (Dispensation) in Ephesians:
  1. Walk in love. Eph 5:2 
  2. Walk as children of light. Eph. 5:8 3
  3. Walk circumspectly Eph. 5:15

Friday, March 4, 2022

Sell Everything That You Have, Then What?

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ”

-Luke 18:18-20 (NKJV)


This passage is one the most familiar passages in the New Testament. Primarily among professed believers (true or not), but even known among many outside Christendom. Our primary focus in this study is the Lord's admonitions and the ruler's response; specifically in the call to sell everything.

At the start of this passage, we see the rule asking about "inheriting eternal life." In the account in Matthew it is rendered, "that I may have eternal life?

In Luke, the word used which is translated "inherit" is klēronoméō. In Matthew, the word translated "have" is "échō." The word used in both passages translated "eternal" is the word "aiṓnios"[eons, ages, age-abiding, limited to time] and the word "life" comes from the Greek "zoe."  The Lord does not use the word "Psuche" which is translated as "soul" or "life" in many other passages. 

Putting these thoughts together, under the Law, to "inherit" and "have" (as a possession) "age-abiding life" in the Kingdom (as opposed to death, loss), one had to qualify under the Law. The Law was given "from the foundation of the ages" and is part of time. The Law is specific to Israel and to the Land (see: Exodus 19:3-7) as we have seen in many previous studies. 

We know that Paul will later write this well-known argument in the Book of Galatians:


knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.



But when we step back and look at the context, we see Paul is even more specific. 


We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ...

When we read the epistles of the Acts Age, we see Paul going back and forth between Jewish believers and Gentile believers as his audience. The differences are the most stark in the epistle to the Romans (as we have seen in previous studies). 

We've also noted that the earthly blessings of Israel is the root into which Gentile were temporarily grafted for the expressed purpose of making all Israel jealous. These Gentile believers had a different set of life instructions for purity (Acts 15:28; 21:24-25) and they could be "cut-off" from the blessings if they became haughty against Israel (Rom 11:15-23). We know no such division between Jewish and Gentile believers in the current age. This was unique and specific to the Acts Age when the Lord was still offering the Kingdom to Israel.

We've, again, noted how Paul reiterates the distinctions in lifestyle between the different groups of believers in Acts 21. There, he assures James he is continuing to teach Jewish believers to circumcise their boys and keep the Law. Paul himself maintained the Law (apart from the sacrifices which were completed in Christ).

On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; 21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. 23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.

This is in regard to Jewish believers living among Gentile believers. They still had to maintain their distinction. Paul himself testifies at his trial that he taught nothing that Moses and the Prophets did not teach (Acts 26:22; 28:23). Even the "necessary things" of Acts 15 and Acts 21 for Gentiles is in the Law (Lev 23). The so-called "compromise" of Acts 15 was no compromise at all, it was standard practice. 

James continues in Acts 21:

But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality [fornication].”

Paul does not dispute this. Paul goes on from this encounter to go "up to Jerusalem to worship." This is what a faithful Jew would do. As an aside, how many local churches today celebrate "Pentecost" as though it is given to Gentile believers and as though it is to be celebrated anywhere we like? Well, technically, it could be celebrated anywhere, but the call on the Jew was to be in Jerusalem.

For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost.

As with the Law, the Feasts were specific to Israel (Lev 23).

Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts..."


Now, back to the young man's case.

And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth. So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.

The Lord does not dispute the assertion that the ruler has "kept" the commandments listed (again, not all the Law is listed). We have two options before us (as I see it). Either the Lord was using his statement and his own response to expose the man, or the Lord accepted the statement, but added another element in regard to his question regarding his goal to "inherit eternal life."

As we have seen, with inheriting the life of the ages to come, the Lord combines these arguments. That is, it was a requirement under the Law to keep the letter of the Law for "life" unto the age of the promises to Israel and the fulfillment of God's covenants with her, his bride, ("[Israel] to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises." Romans 9:4).


And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Let's think through this. Did our Lord become sorrowful because now he has to torture him with fire for an immortal future without hope of relief? "I'm so sorry, but now I have to burn your flesh in horrible agony without relief." Unthinkable. We must be consistent in our theology. If you believe that the end for the "unsaved" is torture by God by fire, this is how you must read this. I beg you to reconsider.

He was sorrowful because the believer chose his life now over a greater life in the coming, promised Kingdom in Israel. We've noted in many studies that the Lord came preaching "the Gospel of the Kingdom" to Israel alone. There is application here to us in this age. We, as believers, are heirs of promises (not in the earthly kingdom) for which we must qualify through service and sacrifice. But we are not on trial so we can add to the all-sufficient work of our Savior. He took ALL sin on him on the cross. We must distinguish between gifts and rewards. 

And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?”

Again, we must understand "saved." 

Our Greek word here is "sṓzō." Let's look briefly at the depths of this word:

For it is by grace you are saved, by faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God.


If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
 
For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

We are rescued from sin by faith and grace alone. It is a gift. Our lives are preserved in Him. As Paul teaches us, our lives are hid in God in Christ, waiting to be revealed. All of our works may perish, but our life in Him is preserved. Even a believer who chooses to live in wickedness was to be turned over to Satan for the specific purpose of destroying his "flesh." Satan could not touch his life. [We note "the day of the Lord Jesus" in the last passage, but we'll have to leave that alone for this study.]

Here are a couple of studies with sections on the "Days" of scripture:


Judgment is done for the believer's life. All that remains is judgment of service. Paul was clear to tell us that we should tolerate the fornicator outside the faith because we have a message for him. But we do not tolerate the fornicator within.

I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

All these sins are possible for believers. But they are still "within" the household of faith. The believer is called "wicked" and yet still distinguished from the wicked without.

Back to Luke 18:

But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”

The Greek here for impossible is "adýnatos." The idea of the verse is "things not possible in human strength are possible with God's strength." That must be the case. It cannot mean "completely unattainable at all" or Peter would not interject and the Lord not recognize his point.

Remember, this is the answer to the question, "who then can be saved?" That is, everyone there doubted his worthiness (including the chosen disciples and future rulers of Israel in the Kingdom) for the Kingdom. Peter goes on to note that they had forsaken all earthly things (even Judas at this point).

Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.

If we put all these thoughts together here, we have the Lord stating that which would guarantee reward in the kingdom, his listeners fearing that they would fall short, the Lord noting that they would all fall short if not for God's intervention, and Peter offering what little he had (note, Peter does not address the matter of keeping the commandments listed). We cooperate with grace for our service, not for the gift of resurrection life. We are sealed.

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

-Romans 8:9-11

So, what does all this mean? It means that servants who seek God and rely on his working in them, although they will not achieve the impossible on their own, may still achieve reward in accordance with their calling (we must "walk according to calling to which we have been called," Eph 4:1). Luke must be understood in the context of the earthly blessings and rewards for servants. And as we have seen, there may be an application to resurrection life, but the context is always reward for service.

So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life [age life aionion].”
 

Note, again, the absence of the list of commandments and the focus on reward. Have the 12 received "many times more" yet? Will Judas receive his reward? No and no. These are conditional promises. Conditional upon Israel's repentance and the restoration of the Kingdom in Israel (Acts 1; Acts 3) and conditional upon being a "good and faithful servant."

Could this be resurrection life truth? We run into the same issue we run into in the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25. What if I visit one sick person, one person in prison, etc.? Is God my debtor for an immortal life beyond time? Of course not. As that passage deals with entrance into the kingdom for Gentile nations (see our studies on the parables of Matthew 25), so too does the passage in Luke before us deal with entrance into the Kingdom for Israel. 

Volume 6 of the Berean Expositor notes:


Many have felt how diametrically opposed to the way of justification and life these passages are to the doctrine revealed through Paul, and, failing to "discern the things that differ," [Phil 1:10] they have attempted to make the Lord teach the rich young ruler that aionion life was to be attained only by faith and not by works. In no other branch of study would such biased reading be tolerated. Nothing is clearer than that aionion life was connected with doing, keeping, forsaking, and following. Matthew, writing with the kingdom of the heavens before him, uses aionion life with special reference to that period. The Lord Himself links it with the kingdom and the regeneration, and the time when He shall sit upon the throne of His glory.


I want to close with a verse from a similar encounter recorded in Mark's Gospel and another verse from that very same chapter.


And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved [agapáō] him...


How often is this encounter told today with scorn heaped upon the young man? Scorn offered as though we are not guilty of the same failing ("went away grieved: for he had great possessions")? Yet the Lord loved him with agape (boundless) love nonetheless.

And finally.


Allow the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein...


This is Kingdom truth, but we see here how the Lord values the simple faith and trust of a child. The one who answers not back. The one who runs to him without hindrance or hesitation. In our own walk and calling, we should also have this attitude. Paul warns us against being "childish" in our understanding, but that is quite different than being "child-like" in our faith.

One last theological thought... we hear about "storing up treasure in heaven." We will look at this idea in our next study. That treasure is coming to earth.