Posted in Uncategorized

Vacation: Rest, Relaxation and Reading

As the year begins to wind down, I have begun to look back on the various books, articles, and in some cases scholarly journals I have read from a variety of sources/genres. Like many of you I enjoy reading. At least, I imagine that many of you take some pleasure is this activity or work (depending on your reason for doing so). If not, what in the world are you doing here? LOL

As I was saying, I enjoy reading and the many benefits that come from it. As we read the works of others we are learning, being entertained, and sometimes necessarily challenged. Since I’m getting ready to go on vacation—holiday for some of you—I have been gathering materials for the flight(s) and my days of leisure around the pool. Yes, I’m a bit of a lazy vacationer.

Normally, the wife and I try to schedule two periods during the year where we take a break from the hustle and bustle of life. Sometimes, I hate the clock, but even in those periods of disdain I realize that it serves as a reminder that time is short. Moments slip through the “sands of time,” and therefore should not be wasted. Life is meaningful, but only when you live it with meaning.

Anyway, as I was saying the wife and I attempt to take two breaks during the year from work. One trip is spent with the kids. We pick a destination of their choosing and have some fun spending time together. The other trip we leave the chitlin’s[i] with family and head to a destination of our choosing.

And when I’m on vacation I like to read. I’ll read at the pool or in the morning with my coffee or in the evening before bed. Some people find reading a bit boring; for those individuals I feel a real sense of sorrow. There is something missed in life without the writings of others.

Now, I’ve never given a recommended reading list before. Most of the time when I recommend books to people, they’ll assume that they are boring. Or they’ll feign interest, but even if I give them a copy of a book excuses sprout up like weeds in the garden of their minds and they never get around to it.

Years ago, I lent a book to an old evangelist friend of mine. When his revival schedule landed him near my neck of the woods we met up for dinner after his preaching engagement. I asked if he enjoyed the book, and he said “Kris, you know…I haven’t got around to reading it.” The book was related to his subject of expertise, and it was one that I was particularly fond of, so I just let him have it and bought myself another through a used book store.

The following list shows some of the things that I’ve read so far this year. The list is by no means exhaustive. There are books that I started, but never finished. I may pick them up again in the future, but my attention was drawn elsewhere and so I left them. Thus, I left them off this list.

This is not a recommendation list, but a sampling of things I have found interesting, insightful, enjoyable or in some cases a downright drab.  Bear in mind, I am going primarily off my memory, which is sometimes better than at others. In any event, I find that I share the sentiments of Solomon: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Eccl 12.12). But what joyful weariness it can be.

Without further ado, here are some of the books that I’ve read to date this year:

The Holy Bible. ESV. Specifically, my focus has been on: Book of Luke, Acts, Esther, Hosea, Deuteronomy, Judges, Malachi, Micah, 1John, Titus, Jude, Galatians, Ephesians, Amos, Jeremiah. And excerpts from other writings.

Abbott, Jacob. Alexander the Great: Makers of History #3. Akron: 1910.

Clark, Haden. Why Does God Allow Evil: Five Responses to the Problem of Evil. 2019. Kindle Edition.

Cohen, Chapman. Determinism or Free-Will? Revised Edition. London, England: Pioneer Press. 1919. Public Domain.

DeMar, Gary. Wars and Rumors of Wars: What Jesus Really Said About the End of the Age, Earthquakes, A Great Tribulation, Signs in the Heavens, and His Coming. Powder Springs: American Vision Press. 2017.

__________. Myths, Lies, & Half Truths: How Misreading the Bible Neutralizes Christians. Powder Springs: American Vision. 2004.**[ii]

Franklin, Ben. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Edited by Charles W. Eliot. New York: P F Collier & Son Company. 1909. Kindle Edition.

Geisler, Norman. Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of Divine Election. 2nd Edition. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers. 2001.

Gunn, Grovers. Dispensationalism: Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow. N.C.: N.P. N.D. Kindle Edition.

Kerswill, William Deas. The Old Testament Doctrine of Salvation: How Men were Saved in Old Testament Times. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication. 1904. Kindle Edition.

Kinchlow, Ben. Black Yellow Dogs: The Most Dangerous Citizen is not Armed, but Uninformed. 2nd Edition. New York: WND Books. 2013.

Koestlin, Julius. Life of Luther: With Illustrations from Authentic Sources. Translated from German. Public Domain (1875). Kindle Edition.

Lawson, Steven J. The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon. Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing. 2012. Adobe Digital Edition.

Luther, Martin. Bondage of the Will. West Linn: Monergism Books. 2017. Kindle Edition.

____________. Concerning Christian Liberty. Public Domain. Kindle Edition.

Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults. Revised Edition. Edited by Ravi Zacharias. Minneapolis: Bethany House. 2003.[iii]

North, Gary. Was Calvin a Theonomist. Tyler: Institute for Christian Economics. 1990.

_____________. Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism. Tyler: Institute for Christian Economics. 1989.

Olson, Roger E. Olson. Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. 2006.**

Rupnarain, Richard. The Case for Typology. Brampton, Ontario: Evalis Publishing. 2003. Kindle Edition.

Rushdoony, R. J. Van Til & the Limits of Reason. Updated. Vallecito: Chalcedon/Ross House Books. 2013.

Taylor, Richard S. Biblical Authority and Christian Faith. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press. 1980.**

White, James R. The Potter’s Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free. Revised Edition. Calvary Press Publishing. 2009.

____________. The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief.

Wynkoop, Mildred Bangs. Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press. 1967.**

Van Til, Cornelius. Defending the Faith. Tigard: Monergism Books. 2011. Kindle Edition.

______________. Why I Believe in God. Fig Classic Series. 2012. Kindle Edition. ISBN 978-1-62154-757-0.**

Currently Reading:

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. 1993.

Lewis, C. S. God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Edited by Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. 1970.

________. The ScrewTape Letters. Reprint. New York. MacMillan Company. 1943.

McDurmon, Joel. Biblical Logic in Theory and Practice: Refuting Fallacies of Humanism, Darwinism, Atheism, and Just Plain Stupidity. Powder Springs: American Vision Press. 2011. Kindle Edition.

Owen, John. The Remainder of Indwelling Sin in Believers. Edited by William H. Gross. Modernized. 2015. Kindle Edition.

Recreational Reading:[iv]

Abercrombie, Joe. Half a King. New York: Ballantine Group. 2014.

______________. Half the World. New York: Ballantine Group. 2015.

______________. Half a War. New York: Ballantine Group. 2015.

Goodkind, Terry. Siege of Stone: The Nicci Chronicles. Volume 3. New York: TOR Books. 2018

_____________. The Scribbly Man: A Children of D’Hara Novella. London, England: Head of Zeus. 2019.

_____________. Hateful Things: A Children of D’Hara Novella, Episode 2. London, England: Head of Zeus. 2019.

Jordan, Robert. The Eye of the World. New York: TOR Books. 1990.**

So…what are you currently reading? Do you have any recommendations? Are you reading anything (besides this blog)? What have you not read that you are wanting to read? I’d be interested in hearing your feedback. God Bless.


ENDNOTES:

[i] From “chit” meaning kitten, cub. An archaic slang word in English for “child.” Therefore, “chitlin” is slang for children.

[ii] ** Denotes at least a second time I’ve read through this one.

[iii] Note: since this is primarily a reference work, I have not read through the entire book, but have focused on areas of study that are of particular importance for my context of ministry—i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses. I also have their NWT of the Bible and several of their writings downloaded, as well as any materials that they hand out in order to be prepared for interaction with them for Christ Jesus. As Christians we would do well to remember that these are fellow image bearers of God that are blinded by sin and the “god of this world.” Our duty then is not to viciously attack the individuals who have been deceived, but to be prepared to deal effectively with their own belief system in the light of Scripture with as a faithful representative of the Lord. While I have great disgust for the leadership of this organization that enslaves its people, and it is their writings that I am in conflict with, I want to be as loving as possible with the person, but at the same time firm and unmoving with my own convictions based on an accurate interpretation of God’s Word. Martin’s work is a secondary source to Scripture (the primary), but it is useful to help one mine through the similar terminology that this cult shares with the true Christian faith.

[iv] Yes, I am a bit of a fantasy nerd. I also like science fiction and historical fiction, but cannot remember such volumes being read this year.

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Gerhard Gellinger

Posted in Debate and Argumentation

Debate and Argumentation: Part III

This is the third and final installment of Debate and Argumentation (if you’d like to catch up here they are in order:  Debate and Argumentation for the Sake of Unity and LoveDebate and Argumentation: Part II ).

We live in a day and age that avoids all forms of debate like the Black Plague.  And yet, debate, argumentation even heated discussion is necessary and important when the truth is at stake. Our public square will shout you down, attack you personally, and attempt to censure you but that is only because they do not want what they propose as truth to be scrutinized and to be found wanting.  (Sometimes silence is attempted, but only insofar as you do not push the issue).

Back to Acts 15…

Last time, we were discussing Acts 15 and the heated debate that occurred in that day over “circumcision” and the “Law of Moses” (of God). The argument was over Scripture and flowed from two different interpretations of some very important key texts. I won’t rehash that here. If you’re really interested check out Part II linked above.

I do, however, need to address one issue that I left blank in the last post. Circumcision, although a vitally important element of the old covenantal system found its fulfillment in Christ Jesus (cf. Col 2.11-14; 3.11). The spiritual element is still mandatory, but the physical cutting of flesh has been done away with. That portion of ceremonial cleanliness is no longer necessary. Why? Because, the Lamb of God satisfied the purpose of those former shadows. Thus, the slaying of animals on an altar is no longer necessary. The separating of crops, of fabrics, even of various dietary restrictions have been met in the work of the Lord.

(NOTE TO READER: The book of Hebrews provides a wonderful explanation of why these former elements are no longer necessary, but the subject matter is too long to address in this relatively short article).

We are now going to turn our attention to the second major point of contention in Acts 15:5, “But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses” (emphasis added). How one responds to this statement will reveal a lot of what they know, what they’ve been told, and what they’ve come to believe (i.e. convictions).

The Law: Physical and Spiritual Elements

There is a general precept found in Scripture at three vital points. That a person should not presume to add or take away from God’s Holy Word. We find this warning twice in Deuteronomy (4.2; 12.32), once in the book of Proverbs (30.6), and once again in the book of Revelation (22.18-19).

Each statement should be considered contextually first. For example, the book of Revelation’s statement on this subject is limited to the writings of that book. That does not mean the principle is invalid or inapplicable outside of that text. However, if that was the only warning, we were given in that regard then we would be stretching the intent of the passage to attempt to apply it elsewhere. Which is why I believe God was adamant about repeating it.

This particular teaching also links itself to false prophets and false teachers (Deut 13.1-5; 18.20-22). Those who desire to speak for God, but deviate from His Word teaching false truths, false Christ’s, false gospels (cf. 2Cor 11.3-4; Gal 1.6-9; compare 1Thess 5.20-21; 1John 4.1). Thus, we read about the Bereans when they heard the gospel they “searched the Scriptures” to see if those things Paul taught were true; they tested his words (Acts 17.11).

The problem with the Law of God is not with the Law, but with our hearts (Rom 7.14; 8.7-8). The Law is described as good and holy (Rom 7.12; Neh 9.13; 1Tim 1.8). We on the other hand are not (Eccl 7.20). Two extremes spring forth from our lack of holiness and goodness. The first is legalism and the second is anti-law.

The Legalists…

These individuals look at God’s Law and find it insufficient in that they see the need to add extra guardrails to deter one from breaking them. This is an overreaction, and it is rooted in the false notion that we have within ourselves, the ability to live holy lives apart from the grace/power of God.  Some good example passages are found in Mark 7:6-13 and Isa 1.2-20.[i]

The Anti-Law Advocates…

These individuals look at God’s Law in an archaic fashion. They assume that grace has freed them from obligation to the Law of God. Often, they misappropriate the second half of Rom 6:14, “…you are not under law but under grace.” Paul is not saying in Rom 6:14 that Christians are free from obeying the law of God, but that we are free of the curse brought about by the law of God. The law of God does not save, it condemns. Sin is aggravated by the law, stirred up in our hearts and immediately seeks to rebel against God’s Holy standard (cf. Rom 7-8.8). Paul tells the Christians in Rome they need not fear for “sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace” (Rom 6:14; entire verse).

In other words, you, who are in Christ, have been set free from the bondage that sin once had on you. The chains of sin have been broken, for when you were baptized in Christ you were raised to new life; therefore, sin lost its hold, its power over you. You have been freed from the power of sin, which is grace. That’s what it means to be under grace. That’s exactly what Paul is saying.

To attempt to argue otherwise is vanity. First of all, it pits Paul against Christ Jesus. Second, it twists God’s Word through the addition and subtraction of what He has revealed.

Jesus said very clearly that “whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…” (Matt 5.19a). Jesus taught the smallest law is to be upheld (i.e. obeyed), and the person who taught another to not keep it will be called “least.” Before Jesus sent His disciples into the world, He said that they were to teach the nations “to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28.20a).

Some attempt to be wiser than they ought and say, “Well Jesus was only talking about the things He commanded during His ministry.” Really, where did He say that? Oh, he didn’t, you just assume it. Ah…so you’re in the habit of adding to the Word of God, are you?

There is no debate, Jesus settled it…

The fact of the matter is settled. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them [the Law or the Prophets] but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth passes away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt 5.17-18; emphasis added).  And before the person can argue (as some have done and others do) that Jesus’ fulfillment of the law is the end of the law reread his words: “Do not think…I have not.”

Fulfilling of the law is upholding the law, observing the law, obeying the law, living in accordance with the law; which is precisely what the apostle Paul says in the same epistle some run to in order to support their folly. And so, to those individuals we ought to say, “Have you not read[ii]…Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary we uphold the law” (Rom 3.31).

Returning to Acts 15:5…

So, on the surface the demand of some of the believers from the Pharisee party seem to be legitimate. It is right to teach new believers to obey the Law of God. Not because we are saved by the law, but because we desire to please God. That is where they are wrong, where they have erred from the truth, and it is the reason for the heated discussion in Jerusalem (Acts 15.7a).

To think that our activities save us is to fall into the fallacy of Cain. He brought to the Lord his very best, but his best was a stench in the nostrils of God. God wanted to vomit over Cain’s sacrifice, but Abel’s—his brother—well that was a different situation altogether. What made Abel’s sacrifice acceptable (pleasing) to God? His was offered in faith (Heb 11.4). Which is what precisely? Faith, true faith, is an act of obedience by the one who takes God at His Word and trusts (believes) He has spoken rightly.

James 2:14, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (italics added).

I realize that some get really confused on the meaning here of James, so please allow me to clarify. Notice James does not say that works save, which would ultimately pit him against God (cf. Rom 3.28). His point, however, is that faith without works (obedience towards God) is dead! Can faith without obedience be said to be genuine faith in God? No, that would be a false faith. Supposed belief without any fruit of righteous obedience to show for it, is the same sort of pseudo-faith that the devil has (James 2.19).

What the Argument was truly over…

This is the opposite of what the “circumcision party” believed. In their mind, the only way someone was saved was by what they did. In short, they were their own justifiers.  It is akin to the argument: “If God commands it, then I must be capable of doing it on my own. My own nature is essentially good, therefore, my works are good and ought to be honored by God: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get‘” (Luke 18.11-12).

What Peter, Paul, Barnabas and James were arguing is that not only did God never teach this (it is an incorrect interpretation of the Law), but history (both former and personal) proved that they could not bear the yoke they were attempting to prescribe to others (Acts 15.10). The Holy Spirit saved Cornelius’ household before they had done anything (see Acts 10). Just as God justified Abraham before he had done anything (see Rom 4:1-13).

The Closing Argument…

To put the matter to bed, let me point you to Christ. Did He obey the Law? Yes, on all points. Did His obedience save Him, or was His obedience evidence of having a heart that truly loved the Father? His love of the Father drove Him to obedience in all things: “not my will be done, but thine” (Luke 22.42). His faith was living not dead, therefore, He trusted and acted upon God’s Law-Word. And we who are called by His Name are likewise supposed to walk in the same steps that He has taken (1John 2.3-6; 3.22-24; 5.2-3; 2John 1:6).

This example, serves as a reminder of the benefit of argumentation and debate. We need to wrestle with the Scriptures, and not be afraid of discussing what they mean. Challenging some if needed, loving others when possible, so that we might prove our unity and love to our Lord first and foremost, and then as a necessary result…one another.


ENDNOTES:

[i] In both passages we find those that profess to love God, profess to uphold His Law, rules and statutes, and yet along the way they have added their own personal standards to the practice. They are more concerned with the letter (the outward action), than the Spirit (inward motivation of the heart/mind) of the Law. Such individuals find a way to add further extensions (amendments, if you will) to progress God’s Law in a fashion they find acceptable to the people. They think themselves holy. They believe themselves just, but inside they are white washed sepulchers (tombs).

[ii] The phrase “have you not read” was a favorite of our Lord’s to rebuke and correct his opponents. See: Matt 12.3, 5; 19.4; 21.16; 22.31; Mark 12.20, 26; Luke 6.3.  Sometimes he presents it as a rhetorical question that demands a negative answer as in Luke 10:26.

Posted in Witnessing

Who’s Really in the Dock?

C.S. Lewis on evangelizing:

“…the difficulties which a man must face in trying to present the Christian Faith to modern unbelievers…is too wide a subject for my capacity or even the scope of an article. The difficulties vary as the audience varies. The audience may be of this or that nation, may be children or adults, learned or ignorant.”[i]

Therefore, the first step in sharing the faith is KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE.

C.S. Lewis on the language barrier:

“…the difficulty occasioned by language. In all societies, no doubt, the speech of the vulgar differs from that of the learned…The man who wishes to speak…must learn their language. It is not enough that he should abstain from using what he regards as ‘hard words’. He must discover empirically what words exist in the language of his audience and what they mean in that language…Our problem is often simply one of translation.”[ii]

Therefore, the second step in sharing the faith is KNOWING THEIR LANGUAGE.

C.S. Lewis on the attitude of people:

“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God in the Dock.”[iii]

Therefore, the third step in sharing the faith is KNOWING THEIR CONDITION.

Offering Clarification…

This final observation by Lewis is an important one. He identifies that one of the key issues when sharing the faith is an underlying attitude prevalent in all people. What is it? They want to be judge. They want the final say of what is true vs. false. They want to the be the arbiter over God; whether He is real, whether He is legitimate, whether He is worthy, whether He has a right to be acknowledged, worshiped, adored, and served.

The idea that God is in the Dock is that before fallen persons God is on the witness stand. He stands trial before humanity, and humanity will determine whether or not He is to be acquitted. The individual sinner wants to be on the Bench. He wants the power of the gavel. He wants the final say in all things holy, loving, righteous, and good. He wants to be the definer of such things.

The finite desires to weigh in on the infinite. And the underlying assumption is not that God is innocent, but guilty. The unbeliever starts with the presupposition that God is wrong, and man is right.

Wrong Assumption…

The only critique that I would offer to Lewis’ thought is that he assumed that this was the condition of “modern man.” We make the same error when we assume that this is just the problem with “post-modern man” in a “post-Christian world.” The only thing post-Christian about this world is that ground we seemingly gained in the past appears to be lost; whereas, ground that we never had before (e.g. communist China or even Iran) is being gained by leaps and bounds. However, we fail to see that because we spend far too much time looking at the end of our noses, wallowing in self-pity. When we should be doing the hard work of breaking up fallow ground (i.e. removing the rocks and weeds that we’ve allowed to grow in our despondency).

A Needed Reminder…

Lewis was wrong that this is a “modern” problem. The entire movement of the Christian faith has been in facing those who would deem themselves worthy of judging God. Have we forgotten our history? Have we forgotten what they did to our Lord?

I’m not speaking of just Jews in the 1st century, but Gentiles (foreigners) in the 1st century as well. Did they not convene in secret? Did they not place themselves in the Bench, while Jesus stood in the Dock? Did not “the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed…” (Psa 2.2)?

Actually, we can go farther back in history. We can go back to the beginning (Gen 3), do we not see the same attitude prevalent in Adam? Do we not also find it in his son Cain (cf. Gen 4)?  Are you then surprised that when you present the gospel that you find opposition? Sometimes downright hostility?

Are you so arrogant to assume that you must present evidence, upon evidence, upon evidence in order to allow the sinner to judge their Creator? Are you wiser than the prophets? Are you more knowledgeable than the apostles? Have you not read? Have you not heard?

Isa 40:10 ​Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.

Isa 40:11 ​He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

Isa 40:12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

Isa 40:13 ​Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel?

Isa 40:14 Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?

Isa 40:15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.

Isa 40:16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.

Isa 40:17 ​All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

Isa 40:18 To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?

Isa 40:19 ​An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains.

Isa 40:20 ​He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move.

Isa 40:21 Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

Isa 40:22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;

Isa 40:23 ​who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

Isa 40:24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

Before you share your faith, think. No, don’t dwell on your own thoughts; dwell on the Lord’s. Before you share your faith, take time to know your audience, learn their language, but above all understand their hearts. Take care when sharing your faith to first and foremost consider the God who made you, who redeemed you in Christ, who raised you by the Spirit’s power. Realize that before God it is the world that is on trial: the creature, not the Creator. Sinners before the Holy One, and the only hope of our salvation is an acquittal that He alone can offer in the living work of Jesus Christ.


ENDNOTES:

[i] C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed., Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1970), 240.

[ii] Ibid., 242, 243. Lewis use of “hard words” is learned speech to uneducated ears. It is akin to a medical doctor giving you a diagnosis when you have not been trained in the use of medical language. The job of the speaker is to aid the listener in understanding the message being communicated to them. The error occurs in communication when you assume that your hearer is trained to pick up on various key terms that have meaning to you, but not necessarily to them. In order to be effective Christian witnesses we need to learn what our hearers understand about reality, how they convey that truth in their day-to-day speech, and then filter our words through that common tongue.

[iii] Ibid., 244.

Posted in Debate and Argumentation

Debate and Argumentation: Part II

This is a continuation of (Debate and Argumentation for the Sake of Unity and Love )

Debate, even lively, heated debate within the Church is not a bad thing. There are times when such discussion is necessary and good.

“When?” you ask.

When the truth is at stake:

  • “Sanctify them in truth. Your word is truth” (John 17.17).

We must also learn that not all dissension is bad, for there are times when that season blows in (cf. Eccl 3.5). Division is a necessary requirement when the truth of God is at stake….

Am I saying that we are to be contentious? No. Are we to argue for the sake of arguing, puffing out our chest here and there because our eggheads are three sizes too large? No. Debate, argument and at times (when necessary) heated discussion are obligatory when the truth is being weighed. Not our truth. Bear that in mind, that’s important. But God’s truth (cf. John 17.17).

One of the things that you learn shepherding God’s flock is that we do not always see eye-to-eye. There are times where that is allowable and good, and there are times when it is damaging to the gospel.

Today, all I want to do is a give a couple of examples where this sort of thing might spring up. The first maybe one you face in a local church setting. The second will be drawn from the Bible in the 1st century. Hopefully, from these two we will learn how to properly handle them.

What’s the Gospel?

I also think at this point, it is important to understand the different nuances in which the term gospel is used in Scripture.

The gospel of God is not limited to the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The gospel of Christ is not limited to the New Testament canon. The gospel of Paul is not limited to his writings (the epistles of the N. T.). The good news of God is interwoven through all of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. To be frank, you cannot truly understand the gospel in any of its senses (general or specific) apart from the foundation teachings laid down by Moses (1st five books: Gen-Deut), and the Prophets (which would include the sections of history, wisdom writings, and specific fore/forth-telling).

Specifically applied to…

That being said there is a specific fount from which the gospel springs from and focuses on: the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Heb 1.1-3).

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1Cor 15.1-8).

When to dissent and divide…

When a teaching infringes upon the gospel of God. When the doctrine being proclaimed leads Christ’s little ones away from the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).  The key to remember is that a person can be in error, but still be in Christ.

For example, …


a person who believes that God created by some other means in Genesis 1 than what is clearly taught in the text might still be a Christian—for it is belief in Christ that saves us—but they wouldn’t be qualified to hold a teaching position in the church.[i] That sort of divisive attitude is necessary for the sanctity of truth. Fellowship is granted, but the role of teaching is prohibited. Now if such a person took offense to that and broke fellowship with the body over it, then that too is a necessary act of division. You might run to that person and attempt to reason to them from God’s Word. However, if such an individual will not bow the knee to Christ, (not our, at times, faulty interpretations) then for the sake of peace and Christian unity it is better that they leave.

They may still be considered a Christian, just a slightly stiff-necked one. Give lead way to the Holy Spirit to deal with His own. I tend to look at such people like the apostle Paul describes in 1Cor 7:13-15 in regards to the spouse being married to an unbeliever. As long as the unbeliever is willing to stay and be taught, then I will continue to teach them and pray for them. Perhaps God will correct their hearts. But if they desire to go, then for the sake of peace I let them and hold no ill will towards them.


But what about an attack on the gospel? Not just error, but one that distorts the grace of God? How do we deal with that?

Acts 15: Debate and Dissent over the Gospel

There was a certain sect within the body of Christ that believed circumcision and obedience to the law of Moses were necessary to be saved. This sparked a lively and heated debate within the church(es) in Antioch, Syria and caused the 1st ecumenical council to take place in Jerusalem, with Paul and Barnabas being sent as representatives of the defense.

The charge was laid out as follows:

“But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15.1)

“It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15.5).

True or False? If only it were that easy, right?!? The problem with the above statements is that there are elements of truth mingled in with a lie. Both circumcision and the Law of Moses (actually, its God’s Law not Moses’ but I digress) are important teachings in Scripture. We need to remember that the source of the conflict which ensues (Acts 15.2, 6-7a) is the Word of God. The error arises, as it so often does when speaking of biblical doctrines, with faulty interpretations over what is written. When the meaning is skewed, then straying from the path to the right or to the left is often the result. This is why Jesus warned his disciples to be wary of the yeast of the Pharisees (Matt 16.6, 12), for a little leaven infects the whole lump (1Cor 5.6-8).

Is circumcision necessary to be saved?

Well that depends upon your understanding of circumcision doesn’t it? Is circumcision a physical act only? Or is there a spiritual element to it as well? The answer is, its both.

Is obedience to the Law of Moses necessary to be saved?

Again, that depends upon your understanding of the Law of God doesn’t it? Is obedience a physical act only? Or is there a spiritual element to it as well? The answer is both.

“Pretty bold claim. Can it be defended?” you say. Oh, I think so….

Ohhh, you mean right now? Okay…no problem. Are you ready? Let’s go.

Circumcision: Physical and Spiritual Elements

What is circumcision? The cutting off of flesh? Yes, it is that. A sign of being covenanted to God? Yes, it is that. God gave the sign of the covenant, people called by His Name to Abraham.  You could not, cannot be a member of the household of Abraham, the household of faith, and therefore the household of God apart from being circumcised.

“This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you…Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant” (Gen 17.10-11, 14; italics added).

Circumcision was also necessary in order to participate in the religious festivities, in particular the Passover. If you wanted to sup with God, to break bread if you will, then you needed to be circumcised. Just like above this was true for the natural born descendant of Abraham, as well as those grafted into his household (i.e., sojourners, foreigners).

If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it” (Exod 12.48; italics added).

Finally, circumcision was necessary if one want personal access to God—to worship Him. Again, this was applicable to what later became known as Jew and Gentile; natural worshipers and unnatural worshipers of the Lord God.

“Thus says the Lord God: No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the people of Israel, shall enter my sanctuary” (Ezek 44.9; italics added).

The Common Thread that is often missed…

There is a common thread that binds these instructions of God on the heart of his people. We see this more fully drawn out by the prophet Ezekiel who reveals that circumcision is not just an external act, but an internal one as well. Not just physical, but also spiritual. While the external act of circumcision signified a cutting off of allegiance to an old way of life (a life without God), this also provided possible evidence for an internal cutting having taken place (a heart for God).

According to the teaching of Moses true circumcision is both external and internal. The external the person could do. They swore with their mouth and professed to believe in their hearts that the Lord God is God, there is no other. The internal God had to do:

“And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deut 30.6; ref 10.16).

The internal work was necessary for a person to be capable of loving the Lord, and therefore obeying His Word. The sign of circumcision was given as a testimony before men (i.e., mankind). Here is a statement that I have prepared that I believe helps illustrate what I am saying in light of these biblical teachings:

If we do not have evidence of being cut off for God, we will be cut off from God.

So, when we look at the claims laid by some in Acts 15:1, 5 we find that there is truth to the claim. The error, however, is related to their interpretation and application of the truth revealed by God. They assumed that the letter of the law (Torah) is what saved, when it has always been the Spirit of the Law (2Cor 3.6). Despite the fact that God taught the only thing that could save them was His grace. He alone could atone for their sin. A life must be exchanged for a life, blood for blood (Lev 17.11) to which true circumcision most assuredly points (cf. Rom 2.28-29; Col 2.11-14).

We have addressed the one teaching that needed to be discussed, debated and refuted, next time we will look at the other: The Law of Moses…

“Wait a minute! You didn’t explain whether or not physical circumcision is still necessary!”

You’re right, we’ll discuss that in the next post as well as a bit of a precursor. Until then….thanks for you patience.

ENDNOTES:

[i] I am speaking about a local body where I am an overseer. However, I do believe that this ought to be a universal standard within the body of Christ. If you are incapable of understanding that what God spoke about the beginning is just as authoritative as what he has said about the middle and end, then you don’t need to be teaching. If you struggle with the clear meaning of the text, and want to bend the language to fit a preconceived idea that is foreign to the text (i.e., outside), then you don’t need to be teaching. If we are not willing to use Scripture as an interpretative grid for the rest of Scripture, then we don’t need to be teaching.

Posted in Jesus Christ

Offspring (Seed) of David: Part II, Matthew’s Genealogy

Jesus was (is) called the son of David on numerous occasions, and not once did he rebuke or correct the statement, but enjoyed the application to himself. As he made his “way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest’” (Luke 19.37-38).

At that moment, as the people were praising Jesus identifying him as David’s son “some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples’” (Luke 19.39). He refused. Rather he responded, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19.40). As I explained last time (Offspring (Seed) of David: Part 1), Jesus’ authority is derived from his sonship as He is the rightful heir of a great kingdom.

From this point we could choose to go in one of two directions. I will choose the earthly route before I double back to the heavenly one. Although, it should be said you cannot divide the earthly aspects of Jesus lineage from His heavenly one. But for the sake of explanation we shall try.

It was foretold by Nathan the prophet that David would have a member of his house (his seed) that would sit on the throne of an eternal kingdom (cf. 2Sam 7.12-14). Nathan is not the only prophet that spoke of this future son of David, there were others. (NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list).

  • Isaiah proclaimed, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his root shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isa 11.1-3a).
  • Jeremiah likewise said, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness…And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the Lord of hosts that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them’” (Jer 30.5-6).
  • Amos foretold, “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old” (Amos 9.11).
  • Hosea declared, “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days” (Hos 3.5).
  • Ezekiel explained, “I [the Lord God] will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken” (Ezek 34.22-24).

Each one of these passages point to the one rightly identified as the son of David. In a future post, we shall investigate some of the meaning behind these prophetic texts, and how we see their fulfillment in the New Testament canon of Scripture. For now, though we turn to the breaking of a 400-year period of silence between the time of Malachi and John the Baptist. We shall begin to look at the beginning of the Gospel According to Matthew, and Luke.

The Genealogical Significance: Part I

Both Matthew and Luke’s gospel’s have genealogies in them that trace the line of Jesus back in history to his forebearers (cf. Matt 1.1-17; Luke 3.23-38). Though these are the passages that put many professing believers to sleep, they are of paramount importance to the student of Scripture. Both gospels are written by two different authors to two different audiences. Matthew is writing primarily to Jews, whereas, Luke is writing primarily to Gentiles. Both gospels highlight Jesus’ claim to kingship through the Davidic line (cf. Luke 3.31-32). Matthew’s differs in that his focus is on Abraham and David (Matt 1.1). Luke’s on the other hand goes all the way back to Adam (Luke 3.38).

Why do these two gospel writers focus on different individuals? What is the significance?

Quick look at Matthew’s Genealogy…

Matthew starts his genealogical record with the following declaration: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt 1.1).  Matthew’s highlighting Abraham and David point the reader to Jesus as the true offspring (i.e., seed) of these men. Why is this important? Because of what God promised to/through them.

To father Abraham, God said:

“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Gen 22.17-18; emphasis added).

To David, I have already noted what God has spoken about his offspring above. So instead, lets listen to David’s own testimony regarding what God has promised (cf. 2Sam 7.12-14):

“Great salvation [God] brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever” (2Sam 22.51; emphasis added; cf. Psa 18.50).

God promised to both Abraham and David that they would have an heir (offspring; seed) that would be the heir to the promise, through whom the promise of God would flow. In Abraham’s case, his seed would be a blessing to all nations (people) of the earth. Likewise, David was promised that his heir (offspring; seed) would receive an everlasting kingdom. In both prophetic passages (Gen 22.17-18; 2Sam 7.12-14) the heir apparent would receive a kingdom.

This truth is clearer to the reader of 2Sam 7 passage, but perhaps not so much in Gen 22:17-18. The key to the reader of the Genesis 22 passage is found in the phrase “…possess the gate of his enemies….” To own the gate of one’s enemies means that even your enemies are subservient to you, as gate can be symbolic of the leadership of the people in question (e.g. Deut 21.9; 22.15; 25.7; Josh 20.4; Ruth 4.11). Only one with authority that supersedes the elders at the gate, could hope to own them.

Matthew in giving the genealogy of Jesus, ties these prophetic passages to the Lord. Jesus attributes passages like these (cf. Gen 22 & 2Sam 7), along with the many that I quoted earlier in this article to himself when being interrogated by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor at that time, in terms of his kingship and kingdom.[i]

Pontius Pilate: “Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18.33).

Jesus of Nazareth: “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” (John 18.34).

Pontius Pilate: “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” (John 18.35).

Jesus of Nazareth: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18.36).

Pontius Pilate: “So you are a king?” (John 18.37a)

Jesus of Nazareth: “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18.37b; emphasis added).

Thus, if we look to what was recorded earlier with the disciples and the people and the children crying out to Him; as “Hosanna to the son of David” (Matt 21.15; cf. Mark 11.9-10; Luke 19.37-38; John 12.13) we find the reason why Jesus refused to rebuke them, claiming that if such as these were silent the very stones would cry out (Luke 19.40).

**This looks as good as a place as any to hit the brakes. In this post we have looked at Matthew’s genealogical record that points Jesus of Nazareth to Abraham and David, as the rightful heir (inheritor) of God’s promise to/through them. We have focused primarily on the earthly aspects of the Lord’s lineage. Next time we shall look at Luke’s genealogical record of Jesus, the son of David (Luke 3.31), the son of Abraham (Luke 3.34), the son of Adam (Luke 3.38) joining together the earthly and heavenly lineage hinted at earlier in this article.

To be continued…

[i] This does not mean that Jesus quotes them to Pilate, but rather the truths that they reveal—the son of David, the son of Abraham is the rightful king of an eternal kingdom—are foundational to what he acknowledges before Pilate.