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 Commandments, Election

God Commands Good for Those whom He Loves

Here’s a text that many Christians are familiar with and rightfully cherish:

  • “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…” (Rom 8.28a; italics added).

Unfortunately, this text is abused a bit either because of traditions or lazy reading.  For instance, when something tragic happens a person might conclude in reference to this verse, “Everything happens for a reason…God will bring some good out of it.”  While there is a hint of truth in the statement itself, all things do happen for a reason, God does not bring out of the situation good things.  Let alone bringing good for all people.  The text limits the “all things work[ing] together for good” for those 1) who love God and 2) are “called according to his purpose” (Rom 8.28b).  Those are specific individuals who are being “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8.29)—Jesus Christ.

Similarly, an error occurs when one suggests that God only commands that which is good for all people.  As you hopefully saw (learned perhaps?) in the last article I posted (Big Bad God or are We Looking at Past Events Wrong?; https://kristafal.wordpress.com/2019/04/25/auto-draft/) God does not always command for the good of all.  The reality that we want to skate by is that God chooses to whom He shall do good to.  I’m not sure why we are surprised to hear this, since we continually choose who we want to do “good” to in our daily lives.  I don’t buy other children gifts, but I buy my own children gifts.  Would it be a good thing for me to buy other kids gifts? I’m sure it would, but I choose not to because I share a special relationship with my own children that I do not share with another person’s child. (I am not speaking of charity here, as I do give those sorts of gifts when spiritually motivated.)

Whose benefit was the Command of God for?

Looking back at the Canaanites, we should be able to see that what God commanded regarding them was not for their benefit.  The benefit instead went to the people He had chosen to establish His Name in the earth, and the people through whom the Anointed One (Messiah/Christ) would come.  It was to the children of Israel (Jacob) that the “land of milk and honey” was to go.

  • “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on your and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut 7.7-8)
  • “Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Deut 9.5).

Ultimately, the reason God chose Abraham and Isaac and Jacob is His own.  He does not share the reason, but only shares what He has done.  Likewise, it is on the basis of God keeping His Word (promise) to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob that He chose to love and redeem their descendants from slavery; giving them a land that they did not work for, homes that they did not build, wells that they did not dig, fruit trees and vineyards that they did not plant (Deut 6.10-11).  What we ought to remember is that creation is God’s and He does with it—the whole of it—as He sees fit, and He answers to no one.  God specifically chose to love (to elect) the Israelite’s and to demonstrate His awesome power not only in Canaan, but in Egypt and any other rebel who raised their ugly heads.

God did not love those nations (i.e. groups of people or people groups) in the same fashion that He did Israel, and He did not have too.  Throughout biblical history we see that God drew to Himself any He chose, and sometimes it was not Israel that He chose to love (see the book of Jonah).  This is something Jesus pointed out early on in His ministry and the people attempted to murder Him for it (cf. Luke 4.24-30).

God specifically commanded Pharaoh (through Moses His prophet), “Let my people go…” (Exod 5.1); and yet, this command was not given for Pharaoh’s good, but for God’s own.  For God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and purposefully would not let Pharaoh obey the command of the Lord:

  • “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go” (Exod 4.21).
  • “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. Pharaoh will not listen to you” (Exod 7.3-4a).
  • “But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had spoken to Moses” (Exod 9.12; cf. 10.1, 20).

God prevented Pharaoh from obeying a command He had given.  How did He do that, if God does not sin?  I think we need to be reminded what sin actually is, how it is biblically defined.

To sin is act lawlessly, to act rebelliously, to miss the mark.  What law? Rebel against what? Miss whose mark? In a nutshell, to sin is to disregard the voice of God.  To go against what He has spoken.

God commanded Pharaoh to let His people go, but Pharaoh would not.  When we read that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, we should not assume that Pharaoh’s heart was soft beforehand.  To have a soft heart (a heart of flesh, rather than stone) means that one is malleable to God’s Law—what He has spoken—but that is not what Scripture says of those in Adam.

  • “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh…” (Rom 8.5a)

Question: Did Pharaoh have his mind set on fleshly things (carnal/sinful things) before God confronted him? What was Pharaoh’s state of being (his natural disposition) before God spoke to him?

Answer: Pharaoh’s mind was set on fleshly things.  He was carnal and self-serving, and the love of God was far from him.  He worship created things rather than his Creator, things made by the imaginations of mankind.  Moreover, Pharaoh saw himself as deity—a god/man king—as many pagan kings before and after him were fond of doing.

  • “For to set the mind on the flesh is death…For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8.6a, 7-8).

Question: Was Pharaoh hostile to God before or after God revealed himself? Was Pharaoh’s life pleasing to God before God spoke to Him through Moses?

Answer: Pharaoh’s mind was set on fleshly things.  He was a rebel before God came and spoke to Him through Moses.  His hostility was already existent, although the presentation of God’s commandment provoked his heart further (cf. Rom 7.7-9).

In other words, all that God had to do to harden Pharaoh’s heart was present Himself before Pharaoh.  By speaking to Pharaoh, the sinful disposition (bent/nature) reared its ugly head “seizing an opportunity through the commandment” (Rom 7.8) to show itself.  The more God spoke to Pharaoh, the more Pharaoh hardened his heart (i.e. rebelled; was obstinate).  God did not make Pharaoh sin, for Pharaoh did that all on His own.  Shine the light in the dark and all those who hate the light shield their eyes and run from it.  That is the natural reaction of mankind aside from grace.

Why would God do such a thing?

The answer is simple: 1) To glorify Himself, and 2) To save (deliver) His people.  This is seen immediately after God’s declaration of hardening Pharaoh’s heart.

  • “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn2 son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’ If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son’” (Exod 4.22-23; italics added).
  • “For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you [Pharaoh] up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exod 9-15-16; emphasis added; cf. Rom 9.17, 22).
  • “So Moses said, ‘Thus says the Lord: About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there never has been, nor ever will be again. But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either to man or beast, that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you.’ And after that I will go out.’ And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt’” (Exod 11.4-9; italics added).

God had predetermined His plan beforehand in the life of Pharaoh, in the land of Egypt (cf. Eph 1.11).  This was foretold to Abraham (Gen 15.14), revealed to Moses, and then demonstrated to all in and around Egypt. For the gods of Egypt could not deliver the Egyptians from the mighty hand of God (cf. Exod 12.12).

In the end, we find the following to be true:

God commands that which is good for His people, a people called according to His purpose and design.  He keeps His Word. He never breaks His promises, and to those in Christ those promises are fulfilled (cf. 2Cor 1.20; Gal 3.16).  There are several such examples in Scripture where we see that God commands, but the only ones intended to reap the benefit are Him and His people that He has chosen to love.  This choice is not dependent upon the people as we saw with Israel, and then find to be true in the writings of N.T. (e.g. 1Cor 1.18-31), but the glorious God, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

____________________________

ENDNOTES:

1 All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

2 Firstborn signifies preeminence here as it does in the N.T.  Christ Jesus is called the firstborn of creation, not because He was the first thing created—the Living Eternal Word was not created for He was in the beginning with God, was God, and all things were made through Him, by Him and for Him—but because He has preeminence over all things (superiority). Cf. John 1.1-3; Col 1.15-20.  God holds His elect in special favor as they will inherit the earth and eternal life (Psa 37.11; Matt 5.5; Luke 18.30).

**Image by <a href=”https://pixabay.com/users/Kapa65-61253/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1582670″>Karsten Paulick</a> from <a href=”https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1582670″>Pixabay</a&gt;

Posted in Attributes of God, Beliefs, Christian Perspective, Communication, dialogue, Knowing God, love, Personal Testimony, Theology, Witnessing

False Ideas and the Idols we make: Witnessing to a Witness

Opening Thoughts…

Historically one of the first major heretics to arise out of the Christian faith was a man by the name of Marcion (2nd century; taught 140-155 A.D.). He denied many of the writings of the New Testament (hereafter N.T.) that seemed to share too much affinity with the Jewish faith of old. He took issue with the God of the Old Testament (hereafter O.T.) because he did not like the wrathful version of God he saw there. He looked at Jesus as the exact opposite; a person who was kind, good and loving. A version of this man’s teachings, based upon the same faulty assumptions, is still existent today.

When people read the N. T. this false veneer is presented on their interpretation of Jesus of Nazareth. He is portrayed as non-offensive and non-combative; a kind, loving, beggarly individual that would never say anything mean (he’d never want to hurt a person’s feelings) or sarcastic (he’d never want to cause contention with people). For many, the version of Jesus many people hold to today (even professing believers) is not compatible with what we read in the O. T. description of Holy God. It is often said, “Jesus loved everybody unconditionally.” Did he now? Is that really how He is described in the N.T.?

Witnessing to a Witness?

Yesterday, I had a forty-minute dialogue with a Jehovah’s Witness. He was attempting to invite me to a meeting they were having—a memorial service to the Last Supper. As he explained to me their position I politely listened. After he was finished I asked if he understood what the true meaning of the Last Supper was. “Well, to remember Jesus’ life,” he said. “Why is that important,” I asked? “What purpose did the cross of Jesus serve? What necessity did the blood of Jesus meet? To whom is His sacrifice applied, and what does it accomplish?” Besides his immediate detour on a discussion of whether or not the “Roman cross” was really a cross or “a stake,” he struggled with answering the questions I posed.

He said, “if you would only come to our meeting, then you would know our position.” In response I asked, “If I come to your meeting, would I be permitted to speak?” He shook his head and said, “no…you couldn’t do that, but won’t you be open minded, and just listen?” “If you did,” he added “you’d see the similarities that we have in our thinking.” Again I inquired, “Would you go to a seminar that atheists were holding and listen to them with an open mind?” Immediately, he said, “No, of course not!” “Why,” I pressed “for you would find that there are some things that you share in common with the atheist. There are things that they hold to that are common to all people.” He said, “But, they do not believe in God.” “Ah,” I said, “and herein lay our dilemma. You would suggest to me that I ought to go to your meeting to listen to what you have to say with an open mind. I could listen to what you have to say, just as I can listen to what an atheist has to say, because I am confident that by the Holy Spirit I can discern the truth from error. However,” I stated “if I were to offer you a similar invitation to my church to listen to my sermon, to hear my teaching, would you do so? Would you and your friends here be able to be as open-minded as you insist I should?” “Of course not!” he said. “That’s a problem,” I explained “for I see that you are not being very consistent .”

Trying to steer the conversation back to the reason why he came to my home he inquired once again, “Will you not come? I admit that I am not being consistent, but if you came to our meeting you would learn what we believe about this (the Lord’s Supper, what he continually called a memorial service) and in time might learn the truth.” Laughing a bit at his persistence I countered, “Why do you take communion?” (Now, I already knew that only the “anointed” in their cult were allowed to participate in taking communion at their memorial service, and the higher ups keep a running count of who claims to be of the “anointed class;” the 144,000 of Revelation 7:14; 14:1, 3). However, I had my own agenda at the moment and I wanted to make a point to a man that started off the conversation with me pretending to believe the Bible is the authoritative word on the subject of his beliefs.

He did not miss a beat in explaining to me that only the “anointed” could participate in the elements. I told him that I found that peculiar on two accounts. One, the Bible teaches that the disciples of Christ were to “do this in remembrance of [Him]” (Luke 22.19), and what we ought to notice if we read the Scriptures is that this rite was participated in by all members of the Christian community as seen in Acts (cf. 2:42, 46) and specifically in 1Cor 11:20-32. Two, on what grounds do you attempt to limit participation in what Christ commanded? From where do you get the designation “anointed” only, as the only class of Christians that may participate in the Lord’s Supper? Surely, the Bible does not teach this. Neither the Christ nor His apostles taught this, so why do you?

At this point he tried to show me Rev 21:17 where the text speaks of measuring the wall of the temple and its measurement is “144 cubits.” He then said, “This coincides with the 144,000….” I interrupted at this point, “You mean the 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel spoken of earlier in the book?” “Yes,” he said “this coincides with…” Again, I interjected “what’s a cubit?” “What?” he said. “Oh, well a cubit coincides with….” “No,” I stopped him “what is a cubit?” When he attempted the same song and dance I said to him, “A cubit is a unit of measurement isn’t it, similar to a foot?” “Yes, but it coincides with….” “the 144,000?” I finished. “Right, that’s right,” he told me without any hesitation.

I pointed out “Nope, that’s wrong. Rev 21:17 is speaking about a unit of measurement not a grouping of people. You are taking that text out of context and adding your own meaning to it, just as you do with the Lord’s Supper. Jesus told his followers to do this ‘in remembrance of him’ because it is His blood that paid the ransom price for our sinful lives. Jesus became a curse (cf. Gal 3.13), he became sin even though He never sinned, so that we might become the righteousness of God (cf. 2Cor 5.21). Jesus died to save His people from their sins (Matt 1.21),” I explained.

I continued, “The problem is that we do not believe in the same Jesus, we do not believe in the same God of Scripture—who is Triune in nature—for my God did for me what I could not do for myself. My works, my choice is not what saved me, my Lord saved me and I cannot deny my Lord.” He then attempted to adopt the same language as I had used for a few moments, but I ended up stopping him. I explained, “You use the same language that I use, but you do not mean the same things. The Father sent the Son into the world to die for His people (people given to Him by the Father), and the Son laid down His life for His people, and the Holy Spirit raises Christ’s people up regenerating them.”

With a look of confusion on his face he proceeded to say, “Though much of what you say Kris is true; much of what you say is ignorant and it comes from your ignorance.” Laughing a bit, I told him “Since you called me ignorant, I must ask have you not read? ‘God chose the weak out of the world, the poor out of the world and the foolish out of the world…’ (1Cor 1.27-28; paraphrased) you call me an ignoramus and that’s fine; God called me, I am His, and I cannot deny Him. He saved me from hell…but you my friend, you do not have this.”

Closing Thoughts…

About this point, you may have wondered if I forgot what I opened up with at that beginning of this post, but I have not forgotten. After my last statement my dialogue with this J.W. grew a bit animated. His disdain for the doctrine of hell became apparent. He identified my God as one who is wrathful and cruel. He said, “What sort of awful God would condemn a person like us, who lives what? Seventy or Eighty years to an eternity in torment! A loving God would never do such a thing, that wouldn’t be fair…seventy years for forever!?! God destroys those who do not faith in Him, who do not freely choose Him…He wouldn’t do what you suggest.” In the remaining couple of minutes in our conversation I asked if he believed God was truly holy and tried to explain the depths of our sin and need for Jesus as a substitute, but he would have none of it.1 He left in a hurry and I prayed for the man and the people who were with him.

This reaction of disdain and disgust is the norm when a person reads the commands of God, and the penalties that follow for our sin against Him. People have made God into an idol. They have elevated one or a few of His attributes, like love or goodness, above all others. The moment that God does not fit the mold that people have formed in their hearts of who they believe the God of the Bible should be, they offhandedly reject Him.

God is more than the supposed defining mark of love and goodness. He is also holy and therefore hates sin. He is Just and therefore, as judge delves out justice in all cases. God is many things, for many attributes are given in Scripture that accurately define His perfect characteristics (i.e. character/nature), but to elevate one over and above another gives a disproportionate view of who He is; and, is therefore by definition an idol. To do that with the God of Scripture is to take His Name in vain and blaspheme Him. This, ironically or not, warrants a penalty of a death sentence; to which (no surprise here!) people complain about, as being much too harsh. And to that kind of thinking I will respond with the words of the late R.C. Sproul, “What is wrong with you people!”

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ENDNOTES:

1 I also spent some time with him in John 12:37-41 and Isaiah 6:1-10 proving that Jesus was the one whose glory Isaiah saw in the past as Yahweh (Jehovah), but no matter how clear the text was before him (even in his New Word Translation—NWT) he was confused by what he was reading and hearing (cf. Acts 9.22).