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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Are We Preaching the Right Gospel?

Last month, we looked at an overview of the Plan of God. You can review that HERE

Today I want to focus in on one aspect of that idea: what gospel do we preach in this age

Did you know there is more than one true gospel? Hold your horses, I am not saying there are many paths to God. Faith in the true God and in his revelation apart from our works has always been the path to resurrection life. We are entirely dependent on his wonderful grace! But it should be obvious that the revelation we believe changes.

Obviously, Adam could not possibly have "the hope of Israel" nor could he be part of the "one new man." He lived before Abraham and Sinai. He also could not understand the Gospel of the Kingdom preached by John the Baptist, the Apostles, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself. We can take that a step further and say the same concerning the "gospel" of Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, or David.

What we can say of that last group is that each had faith in something different. Abel had faith in the God of Adam, that one day Paradise would be restored. Noah believed God would preserve him through his judgment of the earth. Abraham believed God in that he believed in his promise of an earthly land for him and his descendants. David believed God would one day put a descendant of his on the throne until the end of the age. None of these had faith in themselves, but only in the word of God. They all received grace through faith.

None of these would have heard or have preached, or have fully understood the specific "gospel of the Kingdom" preached by the Lord in his earthly ministry. It should not be shocking or necessarily heretical, then, for us to consider the same for us in the current age.

John the Baptist Sows the Gospel of the Kingdom

The gospel of the Kingdom itself changed from its introduction by John the Baptist (who sowed it along the path - Matt 13). When the Lord went about preaching it, it did not reflect what was later preached in the Acts Age. But all these preached "the kingdom" gospel. John's gospel was a modification of what Isaiah had spoken centuries before:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’ ”
-Matt 3:2-3

John was preaching preparation for the King who was coming on the scene. For Isaiah, this was yet future. But more importantly for us, there is no way we can preach this gospel in our age. All of Isaiah 40 should be read, but let's just pull out this from the voice crying out passage:

O Zion,
You who bring good tidings,
Get up into the high mountain;
O Jerusalem,
You who bring good tidings,
Lift up your voice with strength,
Lift it up, be not afraid;
Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand,
And His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him,

And His work before Him.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.
-Isaiah 40: 9-11

The passage states that this comes after a period of Israel's judgment (v.2) and at a time when the glory of the Lord is revealed (v.5). John does not preach the entire passage just as the Lord does not preach the entire passage in Isaiah 61 when he reads in the synagogue (Luke 4). The Lord "rightly divides" the blessings promised if Israel will repent with the vengeance he will one day meet out on his and her enemies.

Israel rejected her King, was put aside at the end of the Acts offer (the age in which we live), and will one day have her kingdom restored and the King present after her great day of atonement in the Great Tribulation. 

What also jumps out of the Isaiah 40 passage concerning the kingdom and the future is that when the Lord does show his "strong hand" we see "His reward is with Him." This should immediately take us to the Revelation and to the Lord's words in Matthew. These are two very Jewish, Kingdom-based books. The rewards in these passages are given out as the result of works. This has no part in our age. This is the King returning to set up his kingdom in a specific land and he brings rewards with him. He brings the "treasures in heaven" those believers have stored up (Matt 6).

The Lord  Sows the Gospel of the Kingdom

The Lord starts his public ministry in Matthew 4 after the arrest of John the Baptist (the sowing among the stones). Note the similarities to John's gospel (good news):

Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles:
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned.”
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." ... And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom...
-Matt 4:12-17, 23

Again, Isaiah is referenced and we see the Kingdom offer front and center in this gospel to Israel alone.  We know it was offered to Israel alone based on the passage in Isaiah and on the words of the Lord himself when he sends out his disciples to preach the gospel of the kingdom he had been preaching.

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. -Matt 9:35

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. -Matt 10:5-8

We stop here to note that this gospel, at that time, had nothing to do with understanding the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. The disciples had not had that part of "the Mystery of Christ" (Romans) revealed to them. It was known in scripture, but hidden from their understanding until his resurrection.

We also note that miracles followed this gospel of the kingdom. This is the commission in Mark 16. It is a preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom, to Israel, and miracles would follow.

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 
-Mark 16:15-18

The Apostles Sow the Gospel of the Kingdom

Peter, in the Acts, called on Israel to repent and promised the King and the Kingdom if they would (sowing among the thorns). This followed the 40 days being taught by the risen Lord concerning the Kingdom after which the disciples had but one question, "will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1).

Look at this thoroughly Jewish passage. It is so rich, yet so neglected.

“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. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”
-Acts 3:17-26
Can I come to your church and preach this message and its promises?

We know from scripture (and clearly stated in Ephesians) that Gentiles were strangers to the covenants and promises (even in the Acts Age apart from Israel). From Abraham on, a gentile could only find blessing through Israel. Even the Lord declared that entrance into the Kingdom was "of the Jews" (John 4).  You will not see a Gentile, from Nineveh to the Centurion who was blessed apart from Israel. In Romans we are told it was to Israel that the Oracles of God have been given to us. Even the gospel of this age was delivered through an Israelite (Paul).

At this point, I hope you can see that we do not preach the same gospel that John the Baptist or the Apostles in the Acts Age or the Lord himself preached. So what should we be preaching in this age?

The Two-Fold Gospel of the Current Age 

(The Dispensation of the Mystery)

We have a two-fold message today based on the 8 books which followed the plan of Israel and the Kingdom gospel (and Israel) being set aside at the end of the Acts Age. We have the gospel of "life through his name" preached in the gospel of John. This is the gospel of the Lamb of God, who is God incarnate, who takes away all the sin of the whole world. It is a gospel without a Passover. It is a gospel to "whosoever will" believe. It is the gospel of the free gift of resurrection life.

While we start there, we cannot finish there. We preach a message to these believers of another Mystery, the Mystery of the "one new man" found in Ephesians and in the 7 post-Acts epistles of Paul. This is a gentile gospel. It does not depend on Israel and claims none of Israel's promises or ordinances or hopes.

In our Acts 3 passage, Peter speaks of truths spoken "since the world began." In Galatians and Romans Paul opens up the scriptures revealing the plan that gentiles would be blessed through and with Abraham. This was not understood, but it was always in the plan of God. In Romans we see gentiles grafted into ISRAEL to make ISRAEL jealous.

None of that is part of the gospel of this age, the Mystery which was hidden from BEFORE the foundation of the world and unknown to the prophets. There is no longer a "middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile. In a sense, all are gentiles. This age has no Passover (Lord's Supper). It has no washings (water baptism). It has no feast days. It has no earthly hope.

The hope of this age is not an earthly kingdom, it is blessings in the "far above the heavens" (Eph).

The Final Sowing of the Gospel of the Kingdom by the 144,000

If you've followed the sowings above, you will notice I have not mentioned the fourth and final sowing of the gospel of the Kingdom from the first parable in Matthew 13 (the Kingdom gospel). As we have seen this is for Israel and Israel will one day soon again be at the center of the God's dealings. Attention will turn back to the earth, to the promised land, to the Kingdom, to David's throne, the twelve tribes.

12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel will be called out to again preach the promises of the Kingdom on earth (Revelation 7 & 14) along with the two witnesses of Rev 11.

In our most recent study we noted the coming Great Tribulation yet to come on Israel. In the passage we reviewed in that study from Matthew 24, we have this:
But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. -Matt 24:13-14
This is the fourth sowing of Matthew 13, and it will bear much fruit among the good soil, cleansed through the fiery trials of the tribulation. This has nothing to do with us in this age.

This is what will happen at "the last trump." This is where the fulfillment of the passages in Isaiah and the prophets will come to fruition. This concerns the earth and the promised land.

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,

And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
 -Rev 11:15-18
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality [resurrection]. 
-1 Cor 15:51-53

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first [resurrection].
-1 Thess 4:16

Note the other gospel proclaimed in the coming age. This one to the gentile nations:

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

-Rev 14:6-7

As we have seen, there are a number of proclamations of "good news" [gospels] throughout the ages. We need to be sure we are not preaching a false "good news" or only a partial "good news." It all starts with faith and God's free gift of life by grace, but from there, there are different hopes, rewards, and blessings.

There are many issues raised here. I hope you will search the entirety of the blog to see if we have covered these issues elsewhere. But the first step is to understand the current age. All the scripture is FOR you, but it is not all directed TO you. If you believe it is, good luck building that ark or visiting the temple to offer your sacrifice!

Once you grasp the basics to understanding the Bible, and you come with an open heart willing to be taught by the Holy Spirit, God will start to reveal greater and deeper truths to you. But if you sit back and rely on a pastor, or a church, or catechism, or a creed to be your arbiter of truth, you will miss out on all God has in store for you. You will be trying to live in another's blessings and may never come to experience the fullness of God's grace.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A Fresh Look at the Shortened Days of Matthew 24

And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. -Matt 24:22

This verse is part of the Lord's discourse on the coming Great Tribulation and the last days. It is often taught that this means that the terrible days only continue for so long, but the number of days is shortened to preserve life (that is, The Lord makes fewer days). In reading a number of commentaries on this verse, it is so assumed that this is the case that the writer either just uses "shortened" as obviously meaning "fewer" or the verse is skipped altogether. Here is just one example:
The elect's, God's people the Jews. So the tribulation will be so horrible, the war and all that will break out. The great battle of Armageddon, so fierce, so great, that unless God would shorten those days, no flesh would remain. And so for the elect"s sake, God will shorten those days. (Chuck Smith Bible Commentary, Matthew 24, excerpt)

Chuck Smith makes no attempt to address the word "shortened." It is just assumed to mean fewer. On Smith's Calvary Chapel network, HisChannel, hosts such as Mike Macintosh and Don Stewart regularly treat the word "shortened" this way. Of course, they are not alone in this. On first blush, that conclusion seems reasonable. And this understanding is certainly not limited to Classic Dispensationalists. All across the theological spectrum "shortened" is read as "fewer days than there could be." I am not saying conclusively that inference is wrong, that very well may be the case.

But since we already have the specific number of days for the Great Tribulation, how could the number of days be shortened? How can there be "fewer" days?

From the time the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. -Dan 12:11 (CJB)

 And let us look at the longer passage from Matthew 24 in light of this statement from Daniel:

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

The Lord is pointing us to Daniel.

So to what could the Lord be pointing us? Could it be the length of the days themselves? Let us look at the parallel book to Daniel which lays out the Great Tribulation, The Revelation:

And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound! -Rev 8:12-13

If a third part of the day and night are smitten, the 24-hour day would be "shortened" to a 16-hour day. And this would be true everywhere on earth. If you have one third of a 22-hour day and a one third of 2-hour night in northern Russia taken away, it would still come out to a 16-hour day as it would on the opposite end of the earth (with a 22-hour night, etc).

The Greek word translated "shortened" is "κολοβόω" which has the sense of being "docked" or "abridged" (Strong's #2856). Thayer's definition lists "mutilate" as the primary meaning. This does not necessarily rule out "fewer," but it leans more towards a truncating of the days themselves.

Some have proposed that before the Noahic flood, the length of a day and a night and of a year was shorter. Of course, I am not stating this is proven fact, but it does make for an intriguing possibility. This is certainly not a doctrine central to the faith, but it does allow us, once again, to realize that we should allow the scriptures to speak for themselves and no amount of tradition or commonality of belief should prevent us from "searching the scriptures whether these things are so."

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Theological Horror Shows

Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. -Acts 17:22-23
Man is incurably religious. Even among Christians there is a groaning desire of the old nature for ritual, ordinances, holy days, etc. We have seen Romanism creeping in in places we would never imagine it happening. I was active in a Southern Baptist church when Advent candles were added to the life of the assembly. They craved ritual.

As we've noted in earlier posts on the Reformed churches, they are already dripping with Catholic leftovers from their church buildings to the structure of their services to their doctrines. But now we are seeing it even among the most conservative, dispensational Evangelical groups. Many Christians now practice Lent, for example. This is all in addition the two ordinances of Israel which are almost universally practiced by Evangelicals: Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

At the center of this movement is a failure to rightly divide and a dissatisfaction with grace. Men, in the flesh, are eager to participate in either their own salvation or in their own sanctification. As they seek to "walk worthy of the calling to which you have been called" (Eph 4) they add rituals and ordinances and holy days to take the place of studying the scripture and resting in grace.

The problem leaps out from the verse quoted. Since they reject Paul's calling of grace and do not understand that Gentiles have never been under the law, they readily grab from wherever they like in the Bible and apply it to themselves. The parables in Matthew are misapplied everywhere. Worse than that, chucrhes print catechisms and creeds putting others in bondage to shadows never meant for them.

It's a vicious circle. Rejecting the Mystery revealed to and by Paul with its hopes and blessings "in heavenly places," they cling to Jewish rituals meant for an earthly people (this includes baptism and the Lord's Supper). And as they practice these rituals, it builds up pride in the flesh which will not allow itself to rest in this dispensation of grace.

In my many debates with Catholics, I often end up running in circles and concluding that no amount of information or contradiction will sway them because, simply put, the just like being Catholic. There is a comfort and a pride in rituals. But the Catholic is not alone in his pride. many Reformed just like being Reformed. Both groups worship their own histories to the detriment of Bible study. each have their own "authorities" outside of scripture (often they are the same authorities such as Aquinas and Augustine). They even claim the same creeds.

The failure to Rightly Divide the Word of Truth leads to grabbing whatever we read without context. Which leads us to our first horror show: Kate Hanch and her articles at Baptist News Global. Her most recent article is titled, "A case for making the sign of the cross — even for us Baptists (and other Protestants)." Ex-Catholics everywhere cringe.

Ms. Hench is hardly an outlier. As we have noted, other unbiblical practices (in addition to those which are biblical, but which are meant for another age and another people) have been embraced by Christendom: Ash Wednesday, Lent, Advent, Saints, worship of angels, holy water, etc.

Further adding to the confusion and empowering of the flesh is this model, championed by the Reformed churches and seminaries, but increasingly adopted by all wings of Christendom:

This chart is next in our theological horror hall of fame. Historically, the ones who get to write the creeds and confessions have tortured and killed the ones who wander outside of them. Imagine those who honor men like Luther, Hus, Tyndale, and  Wycliffe telling Christians it's dangerous to question the status quo! Well, it is surely dangerous in terms of this world, but if we truly want to "study to show [ourselves] approved unto God" we are necessarily going to have to discard creeds and confessions and catechisms.

"Our forefathers threw off the yoke of popery in religion: for you is reserved the honor of leveling the popery of politics. They opened the Bible to all, and maintained the capacity of every man to judge for himself religion." -Samuel Adams

If your belief system is a creed, you have no truth, you have merely adopted the belief system of another. The Holy Spirit is not your teacher, you have submitted both mind and will to a man or to men. This is the formal teaching of the Roman church. It seems no matter how far the Evangelical and Reformed churches believe they have wandered from Rome, we discover that all roads not built on a personal theology still lead to Rome.

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 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 2:16-23

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Double Heresy of Limited Atonement

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement (Greek: hilastḗrion), through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished... -Rom 3:25 (NIV)
And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement (Greekk: katallagḗ). -Rom 5:11 (KJV)

We need to be conscious and careful of the words we use. The KJV uses "atonement" only once (Romans 5), but Christ is not offering an "atonement." The better word would be "reconciliation" (translated this way in the three other instances of the Greek word in the KJV). The atonement was a covering of the sins of the redeemed nation of Israel. The work of Christ is complete. We do not have nor need atonement.

Other translations, such as the NIV, use "atonement" as well when better words are available. In the case of Romans 3:25, "reconciliation" fits the context better:

if, being enemies, we have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved in his life [resurrection]. And not only [so], but we are also boasting in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom now we did receive the reconciliation. -Rom 3:25 (Young'd Literal)

The Greek word "hilastḗrion" used here is only used one other place in the Greek scriptures: Hebrews 9:5 where it is translated "mercy seat." We see the argument Paul is making to Hebrews (Jews) in regard to the finished work of the Savior.

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go continually into the outer tent, performing their ritual duties; but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary is not yet opened as long as the outer tent s still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various ablutions, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. -Heb 9:6-14 (RSV)
The argument is that Christ is NOT simply an "atonement" (or covering) which has to be repeated. No, he is the great high priest who entered "once for all time" with a perfect sacrifice. This was not a "covering," it was a "completion. It was not an "atonement," it meant God was fully reconciled to man. This is why the veil was torn in two when the Lord died. It was opening the way for the great high priest to enter the Holy of Holies (Mark 15:38).

This whole argument is given to Israel. It is their law which demanded "atonement." No Gentile was ever asked to offer an atonement. This is simply because no Gentile was ever under the Law. The only restrictions put on Gentiles are those living among Israel. This is reflected in the four "necessary things" placed on Gentiles in Acts 15.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’ Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’ -Lev 17:11-12

Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. -Acts 15:19-20

Whereas "strangers" and "foreigners" living among Israel were welcome to participate in certain feasts, they could not participate in the Passover, except they identify with Israel through circumcision.

And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it. But every man’s servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then he may eat it... And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. -Ex 11:43-44; 12:48

We need to understand that Christ has already taken away the sin of the world, every sin, every person. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5). This does not mean that all have life. Life is granted by faith (John 20:31; etc.) as a free gift (Rom 6:23; etc.). We have a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-19).

God is no longer imputing sins to anyone. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation."

The world's sins are already paid . We call on people to be reconciled to God because he has already been reconciled to them. We moved from "God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day" (Ps 7:11) to God still being just but now that "He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom 3:26). 
The Reformed doctrine of "limited atonement" is a double error. When coupled with mythology of a God torturing people with fire for rejecting a free gift, we have horribly distorted both the loving character of God and the nature of what Christ fully accomplished.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

More Confusion Over the Reformed Love for Aquinas

I previously wrote about the confusing doctrine of Purgatory. In getting there, I quoted one of the recent heroes of the Reformed movement, Dr. R.C. Sproul:

I, for one, am persuaded that the Protestant Church owes a profound debt to Saint Thomas and the benefit of a second glance at his contributions.... We need an Aquinas. We need a titanic thinker who will not abandon truth for safety. We need men and women who are willing to compete with secularists in defense of Christ and of his truth.
In this regard, the dumb ox of Aquino was heroic.

-R.C. Sproul on Thomas Aquinas

I went on to note Aquinas' view of Purgatory in light of Sproul's ringing endorsement. It should be seen as horrible heresy by any true believer. This is the man we defer to on doctrine? The excerpt is from an article of Sproul's about Aquinas titled, "Was He The Most Brilliant of All the Theologians?" Well, maybe he was, if gross heresy and error fall under "brilliant." I'm not doubting his intelligence, but we understand that intelligence, not informed by scripture and the new nature is a dangerous thing. No one doubts Satan is briliant, but that hardly makes him an arbiter of truth.

I revisit this topic because I recently received a fundraising letter from the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. In my previous life as a devout Roman Catholic, I supported them financially along with other conservative Catholic organizations. I still receive requests from several of these organizations despite having left the CC over a quarter of a century ago. I'm pretty sure I've responded to all of them with a short testimony and a gospel tract at some point... but still the appeals come.

Out of boredom or curiosity, I decided to read the appeal before I tossed it in the scrap bucket. And wouldn't you know it, it closes (in part) with this:

Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary provides a formation founded upon the sound teachings, principles, and methods of St. Thomas Aquinas, The Angelic Doctor of the Church.

I'm not suggesting either Aquinas or Sproul is guilty by association. Surely the CC takes scripture out of context which is no fault of scripture. But in the case of Aquinas, some of his teachings are presented as interpretations of scripture which are wholly opposed to sound Christian doctrine.  These teachings are treated on the level of scripture itself.We noted this in our previous study on Purgatory. In an case, we should never build anything on the non-inspired word of any man alone.

And just as the CC carries the authority of Aquinas too far, so would some in the true church.

The problem is not directly with Aquinas, it is the odd reverence men like Aquinas, Augustine, Cyprian, etc. receive from the Reformed movement. They treat the writings and opinions of these men almost as though they are scripture. They are called "Church Fathers" and "Doctors of the Church," yet they are no more authoritative than I am (than you are).

The Reformed movement embraces heretics like Aquinas while scoffing at and black-balling men like E.W. Bullinger. The Reformed churches are the worst, but it's not just them. I was in the dispensational Plymouth Brethren for ten years and many there warned of "Bullingerism." Meanwhile, they would not bat an eye at someone quoting Aquinas or Augustine. That is not universally true among the PB, but true in enough places.

If you not aware, the Plymouth Brethren trace their roots to John Darby himself and have produced many (classical) dispensational scholars and teachers. But even there, in some quarters, a "Church Father" has more respect than the great dispensational teacher, E.W. Bullinger. Again, I want to be careful. There are PB who recommend some of Bulliger's works, etc. I only use the presence of some angst among some of them in regard to Bullinger as a contrast to the relative acceptance of the "Church Fathers" across a wide range of Christian theologies.

A teacher may quote Augustine and have no negative reaction, but quote Bullinger and he risks blow-back. This is certainly true among the Reformed.

One of the most scathing "anti-Bullingerism" pieces you can find was penned by well-known dispensationalist Harry A. Ironside. I read it when I was trying to refute Bullinger's teachings, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out who Ironside was attacking! The paper is a tilting at windmills. He was attacking a straw man of his own making.

So it's not just a Reformed love of Aquinas that this ex-Catholic finds confusing, it's the admiration of the "Church Fathers" (not named Paul) in general by anyone professing the true gospel that troubles me.

PS: the only encouraging thing in the group's annual appeal is in the opening line: "The Catholic priesthood is in crisis." May it be so.