Showing posts from 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 screamed at me for not knowing history and pasted a link about Pius XII helping Jews during the Holocaust. Well, everything I posted was, as noted, directly pulled from Paul IV's Papal Bull.

This is an example of what I've encountered countless times: quoting Popes and Councils is someh…

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 ove…

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 …

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 annou…

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…

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 13:49end of the ageblazing furnaceangelsseparating wicked and righteousweeping 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 e…

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 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 f…

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.…

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 e…

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 p…

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 not 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 …

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 has begin to gather his people from out of the world and back into the promised land, we see a mix of genuine sons of the kin…

Parable of the Sower (Matt 13)

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 proph…

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 Solom…

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 som…

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, h…

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 …

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 op…

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…

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…

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  consideration.
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 i…

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 to…