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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

On Debating Catholics - Part 2

I'd like to reiterate that this is obviously not an exhaustive study of this topic, it's an overview on a blog. Therefore, I am not laying out every argument against Catholic doctrine and dogma.

With that in mind, I start with a recent exchange I had with a Catholic in regard to a comment I made concerning Pope Francis' condemnation of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. In my comment, I listed (close to verbatim, in English) the decrees of the Papal Bull "Cum nimis absurdum" from Pope Paul IV (July 14, 1555). In that decree, the Pope condemned Jews to "eternal slavery" (and he declared it absurd to believe otherwise).

In response, a Catholic scolded me for not knowing history and pasted a link about Pius XII helping Jews during the Holocaust. Well, everything I posted in that discussion was directly pulled from Paul IV's Papal Bull.

This is an example of what I've encountered countless times: quoting Popes and Councils is somehow tantamount to "Catholic bashing," apparently.

You will encounter argument flows along the following lines.
  • A. Catholic argues that they have the Popes to gather around; state there are 220,000 different "Protestant" denominations because we have no central authority [Note: very few, if any, of them, understand what the Evangelical gospel teaches about "the church" which adds to their confusion].  
  • B. You are told that Jesus founded the only true church on Pope Peter and they have 2000 years of tradition and the "early church fathers." The Seat of Peter has "the keys of the kingdom" and he may "bind and loose" on all matters of faith and morals.  The RCC is thus superior because of this single, unifying, infallible source. 

At this point, you may start quoting contradictory or vile or crazy things from Popes and Councils.

You may be called a "Catholic basher" at this point (I was banned from a Catholic forum for quoting popes and councils) or you will encounter one of two responses:
  • A. Catholics don't really have to listen to the Popes. It's only when they speak "ex cathedra" that they are infallible. Push them and it comes down to only two doctrines. They then feel free to disagree on just about everything else. What they don't realize is that the popes and councils have a very different view of their obedience and what MUST be obeyed. They are charged with "submitting both mind and will" to the Pope on all matters of faith and morals, whether spoken ex cathedra or not. Ecumenical Councils are also said to be "infallible."
  • B. Another popular response to quoting a pope from the 12th, 16th, 19th centuries (etc.) goes  something like this, "how about quoting something since the invention of the light bulb!" The inference, of course, is that somehow popes long removed from the "early church fathers" are better equipped to interpret doctrines in the present (ignoring those 2000 years of tradition in the process).
Can you see what happens? While arguing a unifying source and 2000 years of tradition, they feel free to tell us that they essentially are allowed to disagree with Popes, even on the matter of salvation itself. 

If you follow conservative political sites, you see a lot of "I'm Catholic, but this Pope has to go!" comments or similar. Well, that's not just a denial of the papacy, it argues against the Magisterium which elected him (are they not Holy Spirit led?). They also have to ignore their own list of "anti-popes" and the period when there were two papacies (Rome and Avignon), each condemning the other. Failing to note that all of the dual-papacy are popes listed in the official list of succession. And we can't even mention the downright wicked popes (rapists, adulterers, etc.) without backlash.

If one pope can be wrong, ALL popes can be wrong. 

Of course, as with most of these arguments, their worst witnesses are the popes and councils themselves. In this latter case, the idea that a clearly stated decree from Pope or council can be "better understood" over time is itself condemned by Popes (Leo XIII, etc.).

So, before long, you have Catholics who just touted the  "2000 years of tradition" and "Apostolic succession" and "unity under the popes" denying popes and councils and arguing they don't have to listen to some old pope.

Now, Catholic apologists have their own list of stupid "Protestant" arguments or some list of atrocities, etc. But there is a stark difference, I don't care what anybody else taught. Luther being an Anti-Semite means nothing to me. But if you tell me Paul IV is infallible on all matters of faith and morals, and that he may bind and loose... and he declares that Catholics must refuse to eat with Jews (etc.) as a matter of faith and morals... you have the problem, not me. Often the phrase, "we declare, affirm and pronounce" is used in regard to a doctrine held by "the universal church."

Another tactic is to put arguments into your mouth. "You Protestants believe" or "You think Catholics believe" are convenient ways to set up red herrings and straw men. Beware and don't allow them to caricature biblical truths. And, again, if I say "You Catholics believe X because Pope Y and Council Z decreed it so," they must defend. I only have to defend my own beliefs, not those of any other Christian.

I am careful not to put arguments in their mouths and I try to use only Catholic sources (the Vatican web site when possible).What I will do, however, is put Papal arguments in their mouths. I defend the popes as knowing what the CC teaches! I've been accused of being a Sedevacantist on more than one occasion, to which I reply, "No, but I admire their knowledge of CC history and their fidelity to what the popes have taught."

The Bible

In regard to the Bible, they'll claim the CC gave us the Bible, then tell us why it is inferior to their "sacred tradition" (or simply subject to it).  They will soon be explaining away or dismissing it as "old." They also deny its infallibility. Be careful here. They will speak in glowing terms about scripture, then undermine it.

And, as noted, they will readily dismiss "Sacred Tradition" too when it becomes uncomfortable.

I taught Religious Education in the CC. I still have my textbook on this subject. I have other books (with imprimatur) denying inerrancy. They will attack these textbooks and authors (nuns and priests and archbishops, etc.), but you will not find them demanding these things be removed from CC classrooms or textbooks. How can they if the material has an imprimatur of a "prince of the Church?"

I'll stop here. As noted, I don't engage much these days as it has grown tiresome over two decades to deal with such arguments.
But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.
-Titus 3:9
When someone starts to contradict one of his own core premises in order to salvage a pronounced conclusion, such a one probably has no interest in truth, only in argument. 

From such, turn away. 
Having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
-2 Tim 3:5

Remember, many lay Catholics just like being Catholic. I saw a bumper sticker recently which read "I love being Catholic!" I bet they do... but I bet they'd quickly deny Popes, Councils and more in a heartbeat if confronted with certain quotes and declarations.

That's all I'm going to say on this topic. If you know a Catholic who is truly seeking truth, trust the scripture. Preach grace. Invite them to read the Book of John.

Part 1 can be read HERE

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

On Debating Catholics - Part 1

A number of years ago, on a now defunct blog, I posted an entry on the topic of debating Catholics. It was born out of numerous frustrating conversations with Catholics in regard to their faith. If it is not known, I am a former Catholic. I was very devout. I was educated in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under the auspices of John Cardinal Krol. I went on to be be active in high school, college and eventually serving as an acolyte and Religious Education teacher and youth conference speaker.

I do not list these things to present myself as an expert, but rather to show that my knowledge of both the doctrines and culture of the Catholic Church (CC) come, in part, from inside. I also readily note that my experiences in the CC were almost universally positive. I have very fond memories of my years in a CC school: serving as an altar boy, being active in the youth group and as part of the Newman Center in college. Certainly, personal relationships with Catholic family and friends was overwhelmingly positive.

But positive doesn’t make something true nor does it negate the realities of Catholic doctrine.

Remember, something isn't true merely because it is old; or because it is held by many people; or because it is declared by some ecclesiastical body.

Obviously, on a blog, I will not be dissecting 1500 years of Catholic dogmas, decrees and declarations (only as appropriate in context of my topic). To be sure, although educated as a Catholic in a conservative Catholic parish and after serving as an altar boy, acolyte and Religious Education teacher and youth leader, I can safely say I have learned more about the bulls, encyclicals and catechisms (etc.) of the Catholic Church after leaving her. (In my debates I use only Catholic sources when possible.) It is my experience that most Catholics are wholly unfamiliar with their own history or with the teachings of their own church..

I have found over the last quarter century that most of my efforts among Catholics have been mostly fruitless, although not completely so (and who knows what the Lord may have done with any seed sewn?). I turned my attention to teaching the individual responsibility of all men to seek truth for themselves, with a prayerful and honest heart. And that applies to those within and without Christendom.

But lately it has been impressed upon me that I need to renew my warning to those who may want to engage Catholics in discussion or debate. This will serve as simply a warning as to what you are up against (and what the strategy of the greater CC is). It is a gigantic (monstrous?) entity which appears unknowable, mysterious and complex. However, many of its doctrines were so clearly declared by Popes and Councils that we need not get caught up in the purposefully complex debate in which many Catholics want to engage. Trying the explain the clear with the complex is a fool’s errand.

Before moving on, I would suggest to those who feel insufficient either in their grasp of the totality of scripture or the vastness of the dogmas of Rome, that you teach and live grace. The centrality of the cross and the resurrection is the starting point of all true faith. From there, one can only add or subtract from the accomplished work of God himself. And, when understood, all “adding” is merely “subtracting” from his glorious gift and his all-sufficient work. In short, it is prideful blasphemy.

We rest on the only foundation which can be laid, because there is only one sacrifice for sin (complete and eternal).
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
-1 Cor 3:11
Then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
-Hebrews 10:9-14

In Part 2 I will briefly list the type of arguments you will probably see. Again, I will not be exhaustively refuting them, rather I will be alerting you to the methodology of most of the Catholics you will encounter. As with all witnessing, if you can see only argument and no seeking, prepare to  shake the dust from your feet and move on.
But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.
-Titus 3:9
When someone starts to contradict one of his own core premises in order to salvage a pronounced conclusion, such a one probably has no interest in truth, only in argument. 

From such, turn away. 
Having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
-2 Tim 3:5
Part 2 can be read HERE

Friday, November 10, 2017

Sermon on the Mount (Lord's Prayer) - Part 2

This is part 2 of our look at the Sermon on the Mount. 

In part 1 we saw that this section of scripture was:
1. concerned with "the gospel of the kingdom"
2. given to the disciples and not the multitudes
3. meant for Israel and her future kingdom
The most-oft quoted section of the sermon is the so-called "Lord's Prayer" in Chapter 6:9-12
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
We've included it here in the context of the parables of the kingdom and the parables on the Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24-25 (the last part of the series).

On the Lord's calendar for Israel is "the great and dreadful day of the Lord." This is seen in the OT prophets and connected to the events and expectation in the Acts Age (such as Peter referencing Joel at Pentecost). We see it most clearly in the Revelation.
"On [the Day of the Lord] I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet."
-Rev 1:10

This will be a terrible time for Israel and it will flavor the Olivet Discourse and parables of Matt 24-25 ("the end of the age").

The Lord's Prayer is the disciples and true Israel looking forward to the kingdom of the promised millennium for Israel (1000 years, Rev 20) to come to earth. But there will be terrible times during the Great Tribulation preceding that age. Hence, the plea for "daily bread."

The section on forgiving is expanded by the Lord in the two verses following the prayer:

"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
-Matt 6:13-14

As we will see in regard to the question of the end of the age and the coming of the Lord in Matthew 24-25, faithfulness during that time will be judged. Part of the judgment will be the judgment of the nations on how they treat Jews and Jews how they treat each other. This is forerunner of the Magna Carta of the millennium where righteousness will be strictly enforced, with mercy.

If you read the Sermon on the Mount carefully, you will find a very high standard. That is another study for another time. For now, we will leave it in its place.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) - Part 1

We have finished with the eight parables of Matthew 13 and will be moving on to the ten remaining parables in Matthew. But for a moment I'd like to take what we've seen in Matthew 13 and apply these things to the setting of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 (which includes what we call "the Lord's Prayer").

Here is how Matthew 4 ends:
And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And GREAT CROWDS followed him from Galilee and the Decap′olis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
-Matthew 4:23-25
We see the setting: preaching "the gospel of the kingdom" which we know does not mention the Lord's death, burial and resurrection (when he announces His death in Matthew 16, the disciples are shocked and angry). This is for Israel. This preaching, and the miracles, are for Israel. Remember, in Matthew 10 the Lord forbids "the gospel of the kingdom" to be preached to anyone but Jews only.

So, we go from this outward ministry to all of Israel to this in Matthew 5:

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them...
-Matthew 5:1-2
As we saw in Matthew 13, he separated his disciples in Matthew 5 from the multitudes. He was giving them, NOT the Magna Carta for the present age church, but the rules of the promised kingdom in Israel. These men (plus Mathias) will "sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28). Obviously, that is yet future.

We will see again this future kingdom as the setting for the parables yet to be examined.

Israel will have a kingdom (Acts 1:6), and the Apostles to the circumcision, preaching "the gospel for the circumcised" (Gal 2:7), will one day sit on those twelve thrones in that kingdom.

This gives us the context for the whole Sermon. Next time we will look more closely at "The Lord's Prayer." This will help us set the context for the parables yet to come.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Parable of the Scribe

We have finally come to the last parable of "the kingdom of heaven" in Matthew 13. Now, your bible probably only lists seven, but the wording in verse 52 is clearly parabolic (there's a 50 cent word!).

Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”
-Matthew 13:52

This is the balance to the Parable of the Sower.

- B Wheat and Tares
-- C Mustard Seed
--- D Leaven
--- D Treasure
-- C Pearl
- B Drag Net

This is at the end, in the house. The treasure is brought out by the householder (Gk: oikodespótēs, "master of the House"). This final note is Israel finally taking to her calling in the "great commission" to the Gentile nations. The good seed is bearing fruit.

We know that the "whole world" was promised to be blessed through Abraham (Gen 18:17-18; Gal 3:8-9; etc). That is via two ways: Jesus as the Christ and Israel as the conduit of God's earthly blessings. Remember, Abraham was blessed and justified BEFORE he was circumcised. He was of the uncircumcised (Rom 4).

When we look at the parables given "in the house," we see this structure:

The nation of Israel as distinct from the nations
The remnant of Israel as distinct from the nation
The Gentile nations as distinct from Israel
Israel, viewed as a missionary nation sent to the nations.
(Charles Welch, Parables - An Alphabetical Analysis)

The "mystery" of the one new man of Ephesians was never Gentile faith. Scripture has shown us gentile faith from the beginning (as we saw with Abraham). We see all of Nineveh come to faith in the Book of Jonah, for example. And in Matthew itself we see this being said of the Roman Centurion by the Lord, "I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!" (Matt 8:10)

Peter heard this as well. So, we should cease with accusing him of ignorance when he is sent to Cornelius in Acts 10. The Lord never entered the Centurion's home in Matt 8 and never sees nor touches the Gentile servant he heals. Peter was right to say he had not been in the home of Gentile. The Lord was changing conditions, and Peter (as the one with the keys to the kingdom, Matt 16:19) was being instructed.

We discover the Spirit and the gifts falling on Gentiles was granted by the Lord to make Israel jealous (Rom 10:19-20; 11:11). This was also prophesied. It is not something hidden revealed. Romans 10:19 is a quote from Deuteronomy 32:21.

The prophets knew of this (Gal 3; Rom 15; etc.). But the body (Eph 2:14-16) Paul speaks of in Ephesians was hidden from the prophets (Eph 3:9). We know from his trial in Acts 26 that Paul spoke "no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come" (v.22). In the last chapter of Acts, Paul went to the Jews in Rome "persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets" (Acts 28:23).

Paul was in chains in the Acts "for the hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20). In Ephesians he reveals he is now "the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles" (Eph 3:1).

As we have noted before, it was not until the end of the Acts age that God reveals his "hidden" plan for the present age. That which was "at hand" for Israel in Matthew and in the Acts age, was put on hold. These parables, and the Book of Acts, will soon come alive again as Israel is once again restored.

That is the teaching of the parables of Matthew 13. As we move on to the other parables in Matthew, we must keep this context in mind.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Parable of the Drag Net

We have now come to the seventh parable (often considered the last by many), The Parable of the Drag Net. Note the specifics attached to this parable which will help us connect it to other things in the Book of Matthew.
“This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."-Matthew 13:49 
  • end of the age
  • blazing furnace
  • angels
  • separating wicked and righteous
  • weeping and gnashing of teeth

We see this language in The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares:
The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The tares are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. “As the tares are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.-Matt 13:38-43
A The Sower
-- C Mustard Seed
--- D Leaven
--- D Treasure
-- C Pearl
A The Scribe

So why the redundancy? Again, we note the audience and setting of the parables. The Wheat and the Tares is given to the multitudes, outside the house, by the sea. The Drag Net is given inside the house to the Lord’s inner circle. So, as we noted the similarities, we now note the differences.

In the former we have “wheat” and “tares” sewn. In the latter, we have a great harvest of fish from the sea. The former is a warning to Israel that their land may be filled with the multitudes, but who is truly a son of the kingdom may only be obvious at the end of the age. The seed picture individuals.

Gentiles nations are pictured as the raging sea in scripture. In the latter we see the “righteous” gentiles harvested. But what does this have to do with the House of Israel? Much in every way! As we will see in Matthew 25, much of their judgment will have to do with how they treat “the least of [His] brethren [Jews]” during the tribulation.

[Aside: we looked at the harvest of fish in John 21 as the resurrected Lord presented Himself to seven of the twelve disciples. We saw the "12 baskets full" of the what was left of the loaves (wheat) and the fish at the feeding of the 5000 in Matt 14, etc.]

As these judgments are “at the end of the age,” we must not apply them as universal to all men of all ages. They will be at the end of the next age (when Israel is back at the center of God’s plan and the Acts age is finally consummated). The blazing fire we have covered elsewhere, but I note again it is the “Gehenna” fire. We know of this from Isaiah 66 where Israel is back in the land and “corpses” (dead bodies) are thrown into that real, earthly conflagration.

Note the differences in rewards, hopes and judgments in scripture which we have looked at over time. (Our next thought will be a brief review.)

KJV NOTICE: The KJV reads “end of the world” in these passages. That does some violence to the context as we have noted previously. The Greek word is “aiṓn” which speaks of an “age,” not necessarily the end of the physical earth.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Parable of the Hidden Treasure

I realized I didn't have an official post on The Parable of the Treasure. I did cover it, in contrast form, in the posts on the Peal and the Leaven. Here is a quick review from those posts:

Whereas the Treasure is set against the Leaven, the Pearl is set against the Mustard Seed. The Treasure is found in the land, the pearl is found in the sea. The treasure is whole, the pearl is found in the shell. The man buys the whole field to gain the hidden treasure, the pearl alone is worth all.

To the multitudes by the sea, Israel is a confusing mass of religious tradition, but the Lord sees a hidden treasure which we shall see in the next and corresponding Parable of the Hidden Treasure. The Lord always has his remnant, even if man cannot see it.

A The Sower
- B Wheat and tares
-- C Mustard Seed
-- C Pearl
- B Drag Net
A The Scribe

The Parable of the Treasure is the first given inside the house. This is not meant for the multitudes. It is a message of hope for Israel in the land.

The Greek word translated "field" here is the word "agrós." The idea is a specific hamlet. This is a remnant within a village. But while the whole field is purchased, the treasure is hidden by the owner.

In 1 Kings 19 we hear the Lord saying this to a despondent prophet Elijah:

It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, [King] Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, [the prophet] Elisha will kill. Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”-1 Kings 19:18-19

God is showing himself strong on behalf of Israel. He has chosen a new king (to replace wicked Ahab) and a new prophet (who will perform twice the miracles of Elijah).

Elijah speaks to the Lord:
“I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
1 Kings 19:10

Elijah had been hiding in a cave, thinking that Israel was in full apostasy, and that the Lord was abandoning him and it. But knows those who are His.

It is not by accident that John the Baptist was said to be a type of Elijah; that the Lord was said by some to be Elijah; that Elijah appeared with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration and that Elijah will come to Israel before the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord (Mal 4:5); the period known as the Great Tribulation and seen by John in the Revelation (Rev 1:10).

Paul clarifies in the Acts Age epistle of Romans that God is not done with Israel by appealing to Elijah's experience in 1 Kings 19:

I say then, has God cast away His people? CERTAINLY NOT! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Even so then, at this present time there is a REMNANT according to the election of grace.
-Rom 11:1-5


At the end of the Acts Age she was temporarily set aside as God revealed a new Body which was hidden from BEFORE the foundation of the world. But when this present age ends, Israel will again be at the center of God's plan.

The field will be purchased and the hidden treasure revealed.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Parable of the Pearl of Great Price

We come now to the parable of the Pearl of Great Price. At first glance this parable might seem the same as the Parable of the Treasure. The do have this in common: they are both worth all the finder has. However, the Lord wants us to "compare the things that differ" in His word (Phil 1:10 YLT).

Whereas the Treasure is set against the Leaven, the Pearl is set against the Mustard Seed. The Treasure is found in the land, the pearl is found in the sea. The treasure is whole, the pearl is found in the shell. The man buys the whole field to gain the hidden treasure, the pearl alone is worth all.

A pearl is created through suffering. It is molded over time as an unwanted irritant. This is perfect picture of the scattered Jew among the nations (the sea). Through suffering, protected in the shell (clams are not kosher), the pearl is formed. The pearl is taken out of the shell and out of the sea.

Jews were scattered among the nations, but God has never forgotten his promises to them. It was to confirm these promises that the Lord came (Rom 9:4; 15:8) and what the Apostles preached in the Acts.

"And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them."-Ezekiel 36:18

This verse in Ezekiel preceded the wonderful last section of the prophecy which speaks of the resurrection of Israel as a nation, her restoration to the land and the rebuilding of the millennial temple. The Promises of God are yes and amen!

This is central to the New Covenant as spelled out in Jeremiah 31:

Thus says the Lord,
Who gives the sun for a light by day,
The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,
Who disturbs the sea,
And its waves roar
(The Lord of hosts is His name):
“If those ordinances depart
From before Me, says the Lord,
Then the seed of Israel shall also cease
From being a nation before Me forever.”
-Jer 31:35-36

Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah... the prophets speak clearly of the full restoration of Israel and her place as a royal priesthood, a kingdom of priests for the nations.

"Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you"
-Zech 8:23

A Sower
- B Wheat and tares
--- D Leaven
--- D Treasure
- B Drag Net
A The Scribe

Outward Israel has grown into a large tree from a small seed, wherein the fowls of the air have found rest. In this sprawling nation there is a hidden treasure and further, a small, suffering, valuable pearl of great price.

Israel will fulfill the promise of Abraham, to be a blessing to all nations! She will be restored. She will be a blessing to Gentiles! Yet some "sons of the kingdom" will be cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 8). This is not traditional "hell" (beware the traditions of men!), these are those who will initially refuse to acknowledge the Messiah. In their place, some grafted-in gentiles will sit with Abraham in the kingdom.

“Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. But THE SONS OF THE KINGDOM will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
-Matt 8:10-12

Remember from the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, the SONS OF THE KINGDOM are not "the church" but the seed sown by the Son of Man.

“He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom..."-Matt 13:37-38

This is the "good seed." These are the true children of Israel. Yet we know, that is not enough. One must also have faith.

‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’
-Isaiah 49:6

God will restore the Kingdom to Israel, yet entrance into the full blessing is for those who will repent and acknowledge their Messiah.They will look on him whom they have pierced. They will morn for a son of Israel, a brother according to the flesh. Jews are his "brethren" (this will be vital to understanding the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats of Matt 25).

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.
-Zech 12:10-11

A Note on the Context of Matthew and Acts

As we start on the final four parables of Matthew 13, I want to pause and add a note about the context of Matthew and the Acts age. We've covered this in previous posts, but it bears repeating.

Peter in Acts 5 teaching of the Lord's ministry and his purpose:

"God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins."

The Lord's ministry was to "confirm the promises made to the [Hebrew] fathers" (Rom 15:8). The Acts age was a continuation of the call for Israel to repent (as Peter preaches post-Pentecost in Acts 3 and 5). If she had, the kingdom of heaven would have come in then (it was "at hand").

"Now, fellow Israelites... Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets." (Acts 3)

This was not an empty promise. The "times of refreshing" for Israel would have come had national Israel repented.

Remember, the one question they had after enlightenment by the Holy Spirit and after 40 days of the resurrected Lord personally instructing them:

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

This is the context that will help us understand not only the parables of Matthew, but also the Book of Acts and its epistles as well.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Parable of the Leaven

We come to the fourth of the eight parables in Matthew 13, and the last given outside the house; the Parable of the Leaven.

Leaven in scripture is always presented as a polluting agent; that is, as a picture of sin. The sacrifices picturing the Lord Jesus are always without leaven. No offering by fire was to contain leaven (Lev 2:11; 6:17; 10:12).

E.W. Bullinger writes in Appendix 38 of The Companion Bible: 
"In Lev. 23:17 [leaven] is used in that which symbolizes mankind, and in a proper sense of being corrupted. The sin-offering associated with the leaven in the two wave-loaves corresponds with this. In Amos 4:4,5 it is either the language or Figure of Irony; or, it shows that the 'thanksgiving with leaven' is symbolical of the sin which is ever present even in the worshipers of God. Thus in every instance it is associated with, and symbolical of, only that which is evil."

The Lord warns of "the leaven of the pharisees," indicating doctrine added to the pure teaching of the Word of God.

In this last parable of judgment, the Lord is warning of the kingdom of heaven (Israel) being permeated with extraneous, burdensome, and false doctrine. Elsewhere he calls this "the traditions of men."

Most pointedly, he condemns the "traditions of men" which "make the word of God of none effect." This has been true of every age. We see this today in the present age.

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
-Col 2:20-23

In the coming age (as in this age), the purity of the word of God will have become so polluted and diluted by the traditions and ordinances of men, it will be pervasive. This parable sets up the next. Remember the structure of the chapter:

A Sower
- B Wheat and tares
-- C Mustard Seed
-- C Pearl
- B Drag Net
A The Scribe

This parable, given as judgment to the multitude, will be balanced by the parable of the hidden treasure given within the house. We end this section reminding us:

All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.”
-Matt 13:34-35

He then enters the house to give explanation and to teach the final four parables:

"Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went INTO THE HOUSE. And His disciples came to Him, saying, 'Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.'”
-Matt 13:36

To the multitudes by the sea, Israel is a confusing mass of religious tradition, but the Lord sees a hidden treasure which we shall see in the next and corresponding Parable of the Hidden Treasure. The Lord always has his remnant, even if man cannot see it.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Parable of the Mustard Seed

We now come to the third kingdom parable of Matthew 13; the Parable of the Mustard Seed. We are still outside the house. We continue to have Israel's promises in sight.

The smallest of all agricultural seeds is planted in the field and grows into an unnatural, enormous tree; birds come and nest in it.

To better understand all the parables (the four outside the house and the four within) we must see the structure.

A Sower
- B Wheat and tares
--- D Leaven
--- D Treasure
- B Drag Net
A The Scribe

Israel was the smallest of all the nations and this is the state in which God chose to use them.

"The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples."
-Deut 7:7

The plan for Israel was, and is, that she will be a kingdom of priests for the nations (Ex 19; Zech 8; 1 Peter; etc.). True Israel (the Israel of God), believing Israel, will be small. But she grew into an unnatural tree. Birds represent the evil which came to live comfortable among her.

Israel was scattered throughout the world, like a tree spreading its branches. But the plan was always for her to function in the promised land. As we noted in the previous parable, there is a confusion in our day as to whom is true child of Jacob and who is not.

Daniel 4 should be read. There we see Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the tree. We see his kingdom growing and becoming the habitation of the fowls of the air. It is cut down. Israel was taken into that kingdom. Daniel is God's prophetic vision for Israel. Jews were scattered among the nations, but she will return to her land just as she returned from Babylon. But not all the children of Israel returned. Some remained in Babylon and many others never returned from the previous dispersion into Assyria.

Out of all the nations, God will bring home the children of Israel. Only He knows the true from the false.

This is not as easy to see in our day as we see an Israel in the Middle East. We may think Israel has been again confined to the land. However, there are still millions of Jews (open and hidden) scattered among the nations. I believe 1947-48 was the beginning of a prophetic fulfillment, but the fulfillment itself.

I believe the Lord is creating the conditions wherein the clock will once again begin on Israel as the promises of the Acts age will again be "at hand." True Israel will be separated from the "synagogue of Satan," "those who say they are Jews and are not." (Revelation 2-3)

Parenthetically, I would warn any who believe God replaced Israel with the "church." God's promises are yes and amen. He will fulfill The New Covenant with Israel.

Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure,’“...
Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted,
Who are far from righteousness:
I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off;
My salvation shall not linger.
And I will place salvation in Zion,
For Israel My glory.
-Isaiah 46:10, 12-13

We will see in the Parable of the Peal, which is the Lord's corresponding parable, given inside the house, God's perfecting of true Israel and how much he values her in her suffering.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

We now move to The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. We note again that this parable was given to the multitudes, outside the house, as a judgment for unbelief, as prophesied in the Psalms (v.34).

When the Lord pulls his disciples aside to explain the parable, he notes that "the kingdom of heaven" seed represents "the sons of the kingdom." The good seed is scattered throughout the world, but the enemy sows tares ("sons of the wicked one") among the wheat.

In the epistles written in the Acts age by the "apostles to the circumcision," we have Peter writing to "the dispersion" and James writing to "the twelve tribes scattered abroad." As this parable deals with the "end" of the age ("so it will be at the end of this age" v.40), we look to a time ahead for its fulfillment.

As the Lord begins to gather his people from out of the world and back into the promised land, we see a mix of genuine sons of the kingdom mixed with sons of the wicked one.

There are two legs of this dichotomy. First, there will be a difference between believing Israel (the Israel of God) and unbelieving Israel (who will be cast out of the land because of unbelief, Matt 8). Secondly, we see "those who say they are Jews and are not" (cp. Rev 2:9; 3:9).

In the Revelation (future, for Israel in the Tribulation, Day of the Lord, the Lord's Day), those who say they are Jews and are not are said to be of "the synagogue of the Adversary," or "the synagogue of the wicked one." Here we see the parallel to the tares.

  • End of the age
  • Context of the Kingdom
  • In the land
  • Hard to distinguish from the true
  • Say they are Jews and are not

During the Acts age, we regularly see the disciples expecting bad times and the coming of the Lord just around the corner. That plan was put on hold at the end of the Acts as the "present age" was revealed by Paul (Eph 3). But when this age ends, the clock will again resume upon Israel.

As just one comparative, in 1 Cor 7, Paul instructs widows to not marry as persecution and the prophetic events of the end were "at hand." However, in 1 Timothy, Paul instructs young widows to marry.

***But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am [unmarried] (1 Cor 7) 

***Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry (1 Tim 5)

I believe we are seeing the prophetic scenario being set up in our generation. Jews are flocking back to the land of Israel, yet there is no real way for any to know who is a true son of the kingdom and who is not. That is not for us to decide.

"The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

[And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the SONS OF THE KINGDOM will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” - Matt 8]

The temporal application is to understand that since the beginning, there are have always been the sons of the wicked one sewn among the sons of God. In the present age, we live in grace in light of the finished work of the Savior.

We have no land. For those who understand this age, our blessings are in the "far above the heavens" where Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians). Other believers are invited guests to the wedding feast in the future kingdom. In either case, these tremendous blessings are offered without cost, by simple faith in the death and resurrection of the Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!


Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”-Rom 10:11-13 

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.-John 5:24

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Parable of the Sower (Matt 13)

We've expanded on our 2017 study of this parable here:

After laying some groundwork, we can finally move on to the first parable in Matt 13:1-23: The Parable of the Sower.

First we note that he goes out of the house and sat by the sea. There he addresses the multitudes. This is a judgment of Israel's unbelief from Matthew 12 (covered previously). In the Sermon on the Mount, he withdraws from the multitudes and speaks only to his disciples. he will speak to both groups in parables, but he will help his disciples to understand.

We know the seed is the word of God from later in the chapter. Specifically, "the word of the kingdom" (v.19) here. This is for Israel.

We see four sowings. There is a surface meaning which can apply in any age. There will always be those who reject scripture, those who accept gladly, but shrink away because of persecution or love of the world; and some who are radically changed.But here the meaning is deeper.

As we noted, the gospel of the kingdom is for Israel alone. In this parable we see the great prophetic sowings of the gospel of the kingdom offer to Israel (the land):

  1. John the Baptist: Israel unaffected. Birds representing the evil one. We will see this picture in later parables.
  2. The Lord Jesus: we see great swelling crowds cheering the Lord. But their faith is short-lived. Within days of hailing Him as the King of Israel, they are calling for his crucifixion.
  3. The Apostles in the Acts: the 12 "went to Jews only" and ministered to the circumcision. They wrote epistles to the Jewish dispersion. But while there was a great move of faith in the early days, when pressure and persecution came, many returned to the slavery of the law. We also see the future persecution during the tribulation in Israel. Many considered the message, but rejected it in the end.
[The present age, hidden from the prophets, wherein Jew and Greek believers are in One Body, is not seen in the parables.]  
       4. Finally, when Israel sees her king, whom she has pierced, they weep for the                       ultimate son of Abraham. This is the message that goes out in the Revelation


“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn..."
-Zech 12:10

Related Detail: Are We Preaching the Right Gospel?

The Parable Revisited: Revisiting the Parable of the Sower

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Intro to Parables in Matthew

Why Use Parables?

Time to dip our toes into the parables in Matthew. Before we get to the text, a few things need to be considered.

First, we must understand that parables were not given as a blessing, but as a judgment. They are not children's fare, but only for those willing to do the hard work of study.

“Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given... Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
-Matt 13:10-11,14

In Matthew 12, the leaders of Israel (to whom the Lord was sent) exposed their disdain for his message of the kingdom. The Lord condemns their rejection of his wisdom:

The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.
-Matt 12:42

The Lord and his disciples had been preaching the gospel of the kingdom (Matt 4:23; 9:35). This gospel was for ISRAEL ALONE (Matt 10). Note, the Lord revealed nothing about his death and resurrection until Matthew 16:21 (and they wouldn't believe him).

So, the parables of Matthew must be considered in this context. The Lord's ministry here is to Israel and the kingdom he speaks of reflects the "gospel of the kingdom" to Israel and Judah.

The Gospel of the Kingdom

The reference to "the gospel of the kingdom" in Matthew 24 teaches us that the age spoken of there (in response to questions from his disciples) are also for Israel. As we've seen in previous thoughts, the Lord was sent to Israel, Peter and Paul spoke of Israel's kingdom promises in the Acts, and Paul writes the the Lord came "to confirm the promises made to the fathers." (Rom 15:8)

We see the gospel of the kingdom of the kingdom being preached in that coming day "as a witness to all the nations" (v.14). The time frame, "and then the end will come."

"Then" should be understood as "at that time." This is very helpful as we read Matthew.

Looking back at John for a second, in the Lord's prayer for his disciples, he speaks plainly (not in difficult parables).

See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! (Greek: paroimía; Strong, "specifically an enigmatical or fictitious illustration: - parable, proverb").
-John 16:29

Parables are used to (a) hide things from those who have closed ears and (b) reveal things to those who do the work of seeking with a pure heart. Parables have a surface meaning and application and a deeper, often prophetic, message.

Final thought: We no more preach the "gospel of the kingdom" from Matthew than we preach the "everlasting gospel" of Rev 14. In this age, we speak plainly of the "sacred secret gospel" of Ephesians. As we look at the parables in Matthew we need to grasp this concept. Without the context, we can be deceived. I've noticed that most false schisms and cults make a great deal of the parables. A coincidence? I think not.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Giving Titles to Men in the Present Age

Within Christian circles we like to confer titles for some reason.

I think the clergy/laity system has led to some people shirking their personal responsibility to study and interpret scripture for themselves. I've heard more than once over the years statements like, "I'm not the Pastor" or "I didn't go to seminary" when discussing a passage of scripture.

In one Sunday night study I attended, I asked a few questions of a "professor" who was teaching the Revelation as allegorical. It was a pleasant and respectful exchange, but he ended it by saying "oh you're one of those" after I offered a literal interpretation of a passage.

After the class I was approached by several older men who chastised me for questioning the professor, "have YOU been to seminary?" "Don't you know he has a ThD?" Things along those lines. [Irony alert, I was defending the stated position of that local church: literalism.]

There may be some who "pastor" a local body, but I have never liked the title "Pastor." I get it. I'm not angry about it. I just can't bring myself to give a man a title. Even if we hold it to be a Spiritual gift, we don't give other gifts "titles."

"Hello, I'm Discernment John and this is my wife, Administrations Rachel."

I don't hold to any special Spiritual gifts in this age, but I do recognize that some teach and some lead based on maturity in the Lord and in understanding Scripture (and I respect them as such). But I don't confer titles.

The one that puzzles me most is the title "Rabbi" used by Messianic Jews and repeated by some Christians. I'm a Zionist (I have a daughter named Moriah and another named after John Darby). I believe Israel still has a unique calling and is central in the ages to come. But even in the context of Israel alone, the Lord was very clear:

"They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren."

DO NOT BE CALLED 'RABBI' is pretty clear.

That was said in a Jewish context to those sent to Jews in Matthew 23. The title is even less relevant in this present age.

That's part of the irony. Most of these ministries hold Matthew as binding on the One Body of this age, yet they ignore a number of things in that gospel. I hold that Matthew is on Jewish ground, but that just makes "Rabbi" even more remote.

If you hold to Matthew as binding, it clearly states "do not be called Rabbi." If you don't, there is no way you can justify the title in a Christian context.

Again, not going to the mat over it. It's just a curiosity... even though I do believe we should abandon titles for men. In other ages, Christ is the "Chief Shepherd" to his Messianic flock. Under-shepherds should be content to serve him and skip titles.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Christians Calling God a Racist

This scripture has been abused much in recent days:

"For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation" -Eph 2:14

Trying to avoid any landmines here, but suffice it say, the "middle wall of separation" spoken of by Paul in Ephesians two is not racism. It is discrimination... God-ordained discrimination.

As Charles Welch framed it, under the Old Covenant, the best gentile was farther from God than the worst Israelite.

God wasn't "tearing down prejudice" he was creating something new after the Acts age (which was "to the Jew first"). He was creating the "one new man" (2:15), "fellow members of one body" (3:6; Gk: sussomos - only time used in scripture). He broke down the wall HE erected.

This poor epistle is being trampled on for political purposes. Ephesians is the Magna Carta of this age. Again, the wall of separation was God-ordained and had nothing to do with racism, hatred, or prejudice (in its negative connotation).

Ephesians: The Great Epistle of Our Hope

Ephesians is the glorious revealer of the new hope "far above the heavens;" a greater hope than inheriting the earth or living in the New Jerusalem. It takes Gentiles, those who were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world," and gave us a special hope which was hidden from the prophets from before the foundation of the world!

"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."
-Eph 3:8-9
"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."
-Eph 2:19-22

Amidst all the self-flagellation, I will not stand for God being named as the author of hatred. The wall of separation preserved a people through whom God would send a savior for the world. To charge God with racism is bad exegesis at best and blasphemy at worst.

Beat yourself if you feel you must, just don't drag God's chosen into your guilt.

Leave Ephesians 2 alone. Let us look to our own hearts and stop charging God and his chosen apostles with crimes against humanity. If we've erected walls for our own purposes, don't blame it on God or on those hand-picked to bring his message of salvation to ALL who believe.

A little miffed today, but Christians need to understand the implications of condemning the middle wall.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Israel Will Turn to Their God

Nehemiah 9 is an incredible chapter. It recounts the history of the blessing and rebellion of the people of Israel, yet the LORD always heard their cries of repentance... and will again. They involved themselves in every kind of immorality, idolatry and pride, yet he heard their cries.

"Yet for many years You had patience with them,
And testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets.Yet they would not listen;Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.Nevertheless in Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; For You are God, gracious and merciful."

Israel will once again turn to their God.

The great Apostle to the Circumcision, Peter, says to the nation of Israel in Acts 3 (post-cross, post Pentecost):

“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began."

This is a specific call for Israel to repent, which must precede the return of Christ (in Acts 1 the twelve looked for the restoration of Israel and Lord says that while it is coming, they did not need to know when).
In Acts 3 is Peter accusing the Body of Christ of crucifying the Lord? Is he promising The Body that if we repent the Lord will return? Did God speak of a time of refreshing through his prophets to the Body? Were we spoken of by the prophets SINCE the world began?
Those things were spoken to an earthly people with an early earthly purpose and an earthly promise. The Body is an heavenly people with an heavenly purpose and an heavenly promise. We were hidden from the prophets. We are a company from BEFORE the world began (Eph 3).
We must make distinctions where scripture makes distinctions. There are "promises made to the fathers [of Israel]" which are not ours and promises to the Body which are not theirs. Rightly divide the Word of Truth.

Our hope in the far above the heavens, Israel's hope and promises are connected to the promised land the New Jerusalem which comes down from heaven.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

David Hocking, Gentiles, and Acts 15 Council at Jerusalem

The Acts 15 Mini-Law and the Present Age

I have been thoroughly enjoying David Hocking's series (July and August 2017) in Genesis 1 (I highly recommend). He's pulled out some things I had not seen or considered before. That's not to say I agree with everything. The Berean spirit (Acts 17:11) reminds me that I am responsible for my own theology.
David didn't make a big point of it, but while going over dietary guidelines in scripture separating what man is to eat and what animals can eat, he referenced the four commands given to Gentile believers in Acts 15. To his credit, staying consistent with the "today's church started at Acts 2" position, he holds that those laws are still binding... on gentiles.
I admire David for not doing what many do and dismiss the Holy Spirit-approved mini-law for Gentiles by claiming that everybody was so prejudiced that God had to add to grace just to placate the racists. That's an unfair accusation and it unwittingly opens the door to all kinds of doctrinal compromise and nicolaitanism.

You Can't Have It Both Ways

So how do we reconcile the mini-law, given to gentile believers only, with the Acts 2 position that "the middle wall of partition" between Jews and Gentiles came down at Pentecost? Putting it simply, you can't. Well, not without assuming things in scripture which are not there.
If Pentecost is the beginning of the age we are in, Acts 15 (repeated in Acts 21) is binding on gentiles to this day (and Jews and gentiles are still separate).
The answer goes back to what we've looked at in previous blog entries: the Body of Christ of this age did not begin at Pentecost. The removal of the middle wall of partition was taught in Ephesians and Paul tells us that this was a truth never before revealed to the prophets.
All through the Acts age (in Acts and in the Acts epistles), Paul tells us that he never teaches anything that was not spoken by Moses and the prophets (See: Acts 26; Gal 3; Rom 15; etc.). So, Jews keeping the laws of cleansing and Gentiles being given a mini-law of purity, is consistent with the Acts age (and its hope), but not applicable to this current age (or to our hope).

Jewish and Gentiles Believers Acts and Post-Acts

The Book of Romans clearly recognizes two groups of believers: Jewish and Gentile believers. There is no difference in the gift of eternal life (because that has been the same since Adam), but in function, the two groups are distinct in the Acts church.
"It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality."
-Acts 15:28-29
These are given to gentile believers only. But what of Jewish believers in that age (note the distinction still evident)?
In Acts 21, James tells Paul of an accusation against him, that he is teaching Jews to forsake Moses and not to circumcise. Paul was not guilty! It was a false accusation. Paul himself circumcised Timothy (Acts 16). I've covered that elsewhere, but suffice it to say, in the Acts age and in the Acts epistles of Paul, God still recognizes a distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers. It is in Acts 21 that the mini-law for gentile believers is repeated.
The middle wall of partition coming down and the mystery of the "one new man" which was kept secret from "BEFORE the foundation of the world, unknown by the prophets... was not revealed unto the Book of Ephesians, after the end of the Acts age (Acts 28:28-31, Paul turns to the Gentles, and no man can forbid him).

Acts Age (7)
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Thessalonioans
2 Thessalonians
Post-Acts (7)
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Apostles to the Jews/Dispersion (7)
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John
We must remember to "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Tim)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Book of John: No Repentance Required

John tells us the purpose of his book:

" And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."
-John 20:31

Now, in Matthew, Mark, Luke and the Acts we have the cry for the people [Israel] to "repent." But that word is absent from John. Why the difference? Matthew, Mark, Luke and the Acts have as the primary purpose the announcing of the Kingdom to Israel. Jews were "first" in this plan. John's gospel is sent out through Israel, to the world.

Between the great announcement of the free gift of salvation to the world in John 3 and John 5 is the Lord's pronouncement to the Samaritan woman that "Salvation is of the Jews." When John wrote his book, Israel was still center stage, but he said, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father."

The Lord Jesus came to his people Israel to confirm the promises made to Israel (Matt 15:24; Acts 26:22; Rom 15:8; etc.). He offered them the kingdom which God will restore to Israel (Acts 1:6) and the condition for restoration was proclaimed by Christ and by an Apostle to the Circumcision, Peter. at Pentecost (a Jewish feast), Acts 2:22-39; Acts 3:18-20.

"But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent [Ye men of Israel, brethren, etc.] therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ..." -Acts 3

The Kingdom was offered by John the Baptist (to rocky ground), by the Lord Jesus (to stony ground), by the apostles in Acts (to thorny ground). It was rejected at each stage. That kingdom offer is in abeyance for now, but the offer of eternal life is independent and goes out to the whole world. It asks not repentance.

"Repent" is to return. Israel was called to return to their God through Christ. Gentiles are "strangers to the promises" and have no covenant with God. We cannot "repent." We must simply believe.

You don't have to "clean up" to come to Christ, come to Christ and he will clean you up! You won't come for forgiveness, unless you know you need forgiveness. You must first be convicted of your sin by the Spirit (16:8).

Again, John wrote for the world (John 3:16) during his ministry to Israel. It is the FREE offer of eternal life. Through the seed (singular/Christ) of Abraham was ALL the world to be blessed (Gen 22:18). From Abraham to Christ to the World.

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me HAS everlasting life, and SHALL NOT come into judgment, but HAS passed from death into life." -John 5:24


WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN? [click for the answer] 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

We Need More Apologists and Fewer Apologizers

Naughty Us Syndrome

I don’t know how I managed to become a Christian. Listening to a lot of Christians these days, we’re apparently a horrifying group of people who have a need to constantly apologize (while self-flagellating). Often that takes the form of apologizing on behalf of other Christians. I was also a member of a group that was a focus of some of the apologizing.

In fact, my delay in finally succumbing to the glorious truth of the gospel of the free grace of God was, in part, delayed by one of the most popular apologizers. While attending a Christian festival, I was affirmed in my errors by this big-name “Christian leader” (another phrase I can’t stand). And he poured on the angry apologizing, much to the joy of the crowd. I call this tendency “Naughty Us!” Syndrome. It feels good, but we’re not called to do it. We’re called to be witnesses to the truth.

That speaker did owe me an apology; an apology for not telling me the truth... for affirming me in my error... but, worst of all, for making me think that obedient Christians who spoke the truth in love to me owed me an apology too. I’m thankful God had mercy on me and allowed the seed planted by his faithful servants to come to fruition.

You’re Not Brave, You Know

These apologizers are often called “brave.” They’re not brave at all. They’ll get accolades from every corner and those who disagree with their approach are in no position to cause these people any discomfort. Want the media to love you? Want the world to love you? You want to be praised by non-Christians from every corner? Start angrily apologizing on behalf of other Christians or a generic “church.” You’ll be the world’s hero. But you’re not brave.

The church of this present age is the Lord’s. We are his ambassadors. We endeavor to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). How we perform on both ends is for the Lord to judge and for us to evaluate in ourselves. Being angry at other Christians as you affirm people in their lifestyle or error addresses neither speaking the truth nor loving others. If we love others, we will speak the truth, and that truth involves sin, justice, sacrifice, sound doctrine, scripture, faith and grace.
Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls.
To be sure, part of being a Christian is the ability to apologize, but that never involves apologizing for the truth. Humility? Yes. Patience? Absolutely. But I have no calling to apologize for anyone else who is not under my charge.

We Need More Apologists

I see a lot of apologizers, but what we need today are more apologists. We need faithful men (2 Tim 2:2). We need those who will earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3). We need those who will search the scriptures (Acts 17:11), test all things (1 Thess 5:21), compare scripture with scripture and study to show themselves approve unto God (2 Tim 2:15).

Kindness, compassion, charity, patience, long-suffering and gentleness are not mutually exclusive to faithfulness. Carrying a sign, self-flagellating and apologizing on behalf of a caricature of true Christianity is not an act of love, it is an act of selfishness.
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

This can be a rather large topic, but for my purpose here, I leave us with this... people need to hear the truth. If someone has been wronged by a false Christianity (someone telling another the truth is not a “wrong”), we don’t need to apologize for that false Christianity, we need to correct it. We speak the truth in love.

I’m thankful for those who spoke the truth in love with me. Those who challenged my beliefs. Those who spoke scripture into my life. They made me uncomfortable. They made me look honestly at my life and my beliefs. I knew some apologizers too. They made me feel good. They helped assuage my conviction. In other words, they only managed to drive me away from the only message that holds the answer the hurting and lost need, the answer I needed.

He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward Than he who flatters with the tongue.

I promise you this, if you affirm people in their sin and/or false doctrines, you will not drive them to the gospel, but you may inoculate them against it. We all need the scripture, for in it is the only hope to know salvation from sin and death (2 Tim 3:15). If you are ashamed of the gospel (cp Rom 1:16), apologize for yourself. But don’t apologize to me, apologize to the one who has commissioned us to be his witnesses unto the truth.

Sheep are not usually lauded by wolves. If wolves are calling you brave and giving you glory, one of two things is most likely true: you’re either going to end up a meal if you ever do tell them the truth or you’re a wolf yourself. Let us all examine ourselves to see that we are truly of the faith (2 Cor 13:5).

It’s easy to speak boldly when you know you will be praised for it. It’s quite another thing to speak boldly when you know they will hate you, beat you, and cast you out.

[Pray] for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Two Great Dichotomies

Basic to our understanding of scripture.

I did not call this short study “THE Two Great Dichotomies,” as there are a number of important dichotomies in scripture. We must understand the difference between law and grace; grace and works for example. But I believe the two dichotomies I write of are necessary for better understanding the others (big picture ideas). In these finite, decaying minds, we can only understand so much, but to even touch the hem of the garment on greater truths, I believe we must start here.

“ And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed...” Gen 3:15a

“ The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Gen 2:9b

Departing from my usual tack, I’m going to refer to short videos on these topics for your 

The Seed War

From the moment of the fall, when Adam and Eve ceded authority to the Enemy who became “the god of this world/age,” the human race has been engaged in a war. This war has two aspects: one in the heavenly places, the other among men. The Apostle Paul warns of “principalities... powers... rulers of darkness in this age... and spiritual hosts” (Eph 6:12); and warns of those among men who are “the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil 3:18). The Lord speaks of those who are “of your father, the devil” (John 8:44).

As with most references I make, I may or may not agree with every aspect of the information in this video. Nor do I believe this video exhaustively covers the issue. I offer it as an introduction to the topic.

The Two Trees in the Garden

The enemy offered Eve the lie. The lie is twofold: You will never die and you will be as God [Elohim]. We still live with that lie today. The promised “Seed of the woman” is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. We are born in the flesh after Adam, but to achieve life (escape from death in resurrection) we must be born again.

“Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that theywere naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. (Gen 3:4-7)
There are choices for all of us (life/death, blessing/cursing, resurrection/destruction, joy/sorrow, sin/liberty, etc.). Those choices are better understood if we understand the Two Trees and if we understand the Two Seeds.

If you have any interest in finding out more about living life in The Tree of Life versus the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, I invite you to get plugged in with a Daystar Church LIFE small group.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

25 Years Under Grace... What Plagues the Body of Christ

October 5, 2016, marked the 25th anniversary of the night I surrendered my life to the gospel of the free grace of God in Christ Jesus... I’d like to share, in my humble opinion, some of the movements and doctrines within Evangelical Christianity which, I believe, have been anywhere from dingy to detrimental to dangerous.

I am imperfect and perfectly capable of error. Since I laid the foundation of Christ alone (for there is no foundation which can be laid - 1 Cor 3:11), I have dabbled in and examined these movements and doctrines. Some I held in whole, some in part, some I just studied as to their veracity. So I don’t write this as a purist, incapable or error. I write as someone who continues to examine his own failings and studies to show himself approved unto God (2 Tim 2:15).

Coming out of a system which declared itself infallible apart and beyond scripture, and having come to the gospel of the free grace of God kicking against the goads, I stepped lightly into no doctrine. I took Luther’s words at Worms to heart, "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason... my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen." So it is with an understanding that I claim no infallibility, only that I hold no doctrine for which I have not the harshest judge. I hold to a Theology of One for I am responsible for and will answer for only my own conclusions.

I often credit my Philosophy class at UNCG as being an integral part of my conversion to Christianity and as one of the foundations of my approach to Bible study. Surely not because the professor intended that end, but because it required I study logical thought and argument. I learned not only about the process of logic, but about logical fallacies too. Bible study must be intensely individual, and with that in mind, I force myself to hold no position about which I have not, to one degree or another, reasoned as best as my flawed mind can.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow...

This list will not be exhaustive. I will try to focus on the more ubiquitous examples.

I will list them with only limited commentary. I have covered some of these issue in other writings. The ones touched on in my Facebook notes will have links. I will not list any names unless necessary...

  • SELF ESTEEM MOVEMENT - As one who had to overcome 25 years of ritualistic and self-righteous pursuits to find myself a lost sinner deserving of judgment, this movement baffles me beyond comprehension. If there any plague that corrupts this planet, inside and outside the Body, it is selfishness. How the answer any Christian can offer anyone being “self-love” is troubling. “You are loved” is our message, not “love yourself.”

  • DOG BARKING CHARISMANIA - I came to the gospel on my own. When I finally sought fellowship, I was directed to a charismatic church. This was a precious time in my early Christian life and the people at that church will always hold a special place in my heart... but I didn’t just adopt their doctrines simply because that’s where I fellowshipped. In the end, I could not find the mania I started to see there (and its many manifestations) in scripture. This is not an indictment of all charismatic churches (I respect those who embrace all the gifts above the partial cessationists, even as I disagree with both). A number of teachers I still follow are charismatic. The founder of the charismatic Calvary movement (and a teacher I greatly admire), the late Chuck Smith, penned “Charisma Versus Charismania.” It’s an indictment of the mania of which I refer by a key Charismatic teacher.

  • ONENESS PENTECOSTALISM - Holding to a doctrine so easily refuted by scripture makes this a movement that I only briefly examined. I never had any inclination to embrace it in any way.

  • PRETERISM, REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY, ETC. - There are a number of Reformed teachers from whose teaching I have profited. There may be many valuable things found in some of their teachings. But as a group which purports to be the antithesis to my former religion, they have adopted quite a lot of its theology. I came into Christ with Replacement Theology (that is, believing the “church” has replaced Israel) and it was a doctrine examined quite a bit before disposing of it with prejudice. Israel’s place in this age is a subject of debate, but surely national Israel has a future, a blessed future.

  • AMILLENNIALISM, KINGDOM NOW - sister doctrines to Preterism. 

  • CALVINISM, SOVEREIGNTY, ETC. - Three, four, five points. At one point or another I dabbled in or embraced some grouping of the five points of Calvinism. The more I study the more I am convinced that I am a zero-point Calvinist. For folks who usually deem themselves the intellectuals of Christendom, they hold to some blatantly illogical positions... which often leads to claims that one must go to seminary to study why the insane is really sane. Harsh words, perhaps, unfair too... but I’ve never gotten anywhere discussing these issues with them, and without a seminary degree, they are often unwilling to consider my thoughts seriously.

  • ECUMENISM - This one needs little comment. I’ve probably written on the philosophical and logical madness in this movement. I didn’t just buy a new hat. I had to reject the religion to which I gave 25 years’ service, risking damnation (according to her), in embracing the gospel of grace. It’s even more maddening when the movement embraces groups which do not even claim to be Christian. “Interfaith” is a the first clue that some movement is political and not spiritual. 

  • THEISTIC EVOLUTION - When I was 14, I was glued to the Cosmos series on PBS. I was taught evolution in my science classes in my religious school and my church-approved bible notes spelled out the doctrine of Theistic Evolution. Later, as a Religious Education Teacher, the textbook I used spelled it out even more clearly as did my church-approved “Bible Handbook.” But of all the doctrines I once held, this is the most insipid. It takes a weak, middle position which not only strikes at the base of the salvific work of Christ, it doesn’t really understand what naturalistic evolution is built on. So, when I finally studied the issue in greater detail (as I had been doing with all other assumptions), I discarded the illogical and contradictory teachings on evolution as I discarded with even greater prejudice the nonsensical doctrine of Theistic Evolution.

The following are some common topics within Evangelicalism (and beyond) which, I believe are misunderstood to one degree or another. The failure to rightly understand them and associated doctrines stunts growth, leads to confusion, hinders evangelism and clouds the great Work of Christ (some to a greater degree than others).

The linked notes are in the form of very short introductions to certain topics and often cross doctrinal areas. In the coming months, I hope to have a little something on all these topics and I hope to finally finish compiling and publishing my book, A Theology of One. 

All Bible study must in the end be individual... Each one must look out the reference for himself. He must trace the words through all their occurrences where these are given; he must consider their usages; he must read the contexts; he must make his lists and tables, and do his countings for himself: for so only can he feed upon the Word and the words, and be nourished, and be strengthened himself, and grow thereby: so only will he be able to say with Jeremiah: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; And thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." 
-Dr. E.W. Bullinger (How To Enjoy The Bible)