Posted in Truth and Error

A Word Spoken to a World in Need and a Government Needing Repentance, Part II: The Issue and the Appropriate Response towards Civil Officials

“To be an effective warrior in the battle for truth today, several old-fashioned, Christlike virtues are absolutely essential: biblical discernment, wisdom, fortitude, determination, endurance, skill in handling Scripture, strong convictions, the ability to speak candidly without waffling, and a willingness to enter into conflict.”—John MacArthur, The Truth War1

“Individuals should disapprove of and oppose homosexuality as immoral. Churches should decline membership and office to unrepentant homosexuals. States should restrain homosexuality rather than making it a civil right. We must equally insist that individuals not take a holier-than-thou attitude toward homosexual sin, that churches faithfully proclaim the good news of deliverance to homosexuals, and that the state not persecute them by entrapment, invasion of privacy, or intentionally selective and uneven attention…[Moreover,] contrary to common retort, disagreeing with homosexuals about their rights and disapproving of their behavior does not automatically make someone a bigot…Viewing something as immoral is not the same thing as being bigoted.” Greg L. Bahnsen, Homosexuality2

God created mankind in His image to act as His vice-regents on this earth. Human beings were given dominion on this earth as the Lord’s stewards. Meaning we are to do two things: 1) work, tending God’s creation to its utmost potential, 2) work in guarding/protecting God’s creation from sin. To do this was to obey the voice of God and live. To do its opposite was to rebel against God’s Word and die. In this sense then, living and dying are ethical realities. Our parents in the Garden refused to listen to our Maker’s instruction, resulting in their eviction from His blessed sanctuary. (Only God’s grace made a further relationship—coming to Him in humility—possible).

Since that historical event, a visible struggle has been witnessed between those who seek to bear the mark of God in their lives and those who prefer the mark of the serpent. Previously, I pointed to how the Lord dealt with the rebellion of His creatures in the past. Using water, fire and sword to execute judgment against the nations (peoples) who refuse to submit to His Law-Word.

Today, I want to briefly explain why that is the case and what is going on that has so many Christian pastors (and Christians in general) concerned here in North America; specifically, in our sister nation Canada, although, such trouble is not far from our own borders. Furthermore, I want to challenge believers in their understanding of civil government and what our response ought to look like. In my final post (forthcoming soon) I will address how we are to deal with the sins of others in light of our gospel commitment.

A Warning and a Protection Enacted…

After the flood, God added a warning to the children of Man:

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen 9.6; ESV).

Life is precious and has dignity because God made us. We are not accidents. We are not products of a series of evolutionary events. Chance did not bring about man, God—the Creator of Heaven and Earth—did.

Genesis 9:6 lays out the groundwork for the death penalty. For to strike against a fellow image-bearer is to strike against the God who created them. Please understand that the death penalty is applied to more than physically slaying another individual. Do you not know that rape is considered the same sort of attack against a fellow image-bearer, against the God who gave them life (cf. Deut 22.26-27)?3 The depth of the commandment: “Thou shall not kill” (Exod 20.13) is greater than just not taking life, but also preserving life. We are to do all that we can to maintain the life and well-being of another individual.

What is sexual sin, if not a violation against the commandment of life? It is destructive to the life of an individual, a marriage, to the family, and in the end to society as a whole. Think about the ways that our current culture has twisted and perverted sex. Our technology makes it more prevalent, but we need to understand that what we are seeing in our culture is nothing new. Biblical revelation makes it quite clear that this has been done before.

This is why I cited various judgment passages from the Old Testament (Tanakh). I have no desire to jab my finger in the eye of another. Nor, do I want to cower in fear because my words, which are just a relaying of God’s Word to His image-bearing creatures, are offensive to some. However, speaking the truth in love means there will be times when others will not want to hear your message. Jesus Christ was crucified for nothing less; and yet, no one can deny that His words were spoken out of love. (That last comment alone is worthy of a lengthy discussion, but I must press forward).

Efforts of the Rainbow Coalition…

Recently you may have noticed that the alphabet soup “community” has gotten more brazen over the years. Initially, all they supposedly wanted was for us to tolerate their existence. To allow them to come out of the closet. But now they are gunning for our lives. They have attacked our places of business. They have invaded our educational institutions. They have attacked our concept of family, of marriage. Now they are gunning for our children. They demand that “sexual identity” reign supreme. Not just in their private lives, but in the public square. They are currently seeking political support in the hopes of drawing up legislation to further silence our voices and our freedoms. No longer do they seek toleration, but their true desire is to demonstrate their intolerance for our way of life.

They are driving home the narrative that male and female is a myth, a lie propagated to control the masses. It is argued that one can transition from the “gender” classification they were assigned at birth. Reason and rational thought have been replaced with feelings and intentions of the heart as if the truth of reality were determined by such things! For the human heart is “exceedingly wicked” (Jer 17.9), more so than an individual might know about themselves (Jer 17.10), and this “from our youth” (Gen 8.21)

The Overreach of the Canadian Government…

Now, this past December the Canadian government passed legislation at the national level that makes it illegal to speak against or attempt to correct the errors laden in these forms of sexual sin. No longer are you allowed to question or offer a gentle rebuke in the hopes of converting such an individual to Christ for that is now considered hateful, harmful, and worthy of getting your freedoms revoked. To offer counsel, to preach the gospel, to proclaim the truth about the reality of sexual sins, of previously unspoken perversions/abominations, may get you fined, jailed, or even worse…you may have your children taken from you.

What should we do?

We ought to do as we are commanded to do. Herein lies the issue of jurisdiction. Whose spoken law has legally binding authority on this issue? Who should Christians bow the knee to and whom should they oppose? Where is our allegiance supposed to be demonstrated and in what way?

Romans 13:1 says,

Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exists are established by God” (emphasis added).

I was listening to Dr. Joe Boot this week and he made a point I thought was worth repeating. (Bear in mind that this is a paraphrase of his words.) He pointed out that it is our duty as Christians to proclaim the truth. But he cautioned,

“We are not preaching against the government. For as we are taught in Scripture God has established government. He has sanctioned it to act as His ministers in the civil sphere. What we do is preach against the abusive tyrants that are besmirching the name of God…that are trampling on His Word…that are distorting the truth in government.”4

God ordained governing bodies because of mankind’s sinfulness. They serve as an authority above the person in society, in order, to curb bad (evil) behavior while upholding the good (lawful) citizens. Notice that the apostle Paul says “governing authorities” in Romans 13:1. Not one governmental body, but many; a plurality of governing institutions have been ordained (instituted) by God to help govern the affairs of men and execute His vengeance against those who take His laws lightly. This is why Paul also says that leaders in governmental bodies serve as His ministers (Grk. term for deacon) in the public sphere (Rom 13.4, 6).

The limitation is two-fold in Romans 13:1-7. First, the citizens of this earth are limited in their sphere of individual authority in that they are responsible to do good (honor the law), and if not justice will be executed against them accordingly (cf. Deut 19.21). Second, the individuals in positions of authority (governance) is given the use of the sword (retributive justice) but are limited in their use of it as the exercise of the sword must comport with God’s law. The governor (regardless of his/her station) is not a law unto themselves.

As Gary DeMar explains,

“Ultimately, only God has the authority to govern. He does so because He is God, and His infinite wisdom and majesty are beyond compare. He grants authority to others to govern: ‘By Me kings reign, and rulers decree justice’ (Proverbs 8:15)… [Therefore,] all who rule receive their authority for the administration of justice and equity from God, Lord (Governor) of all creation.”5

It is here that we find a voice for the Christian to speak. No one government is absolute, they are by divine decree derivative having delegated powers. They are not all-encompassing, and therefore do not have absolute autonomy. They have a jurisdictional boundary by which they are able and likewise limited, to operate.

God’s Truth…

Thus, they have no right to write nor authorize legislation that attempts to supplant the truth of God. Marriage was ordained by God, and so too was sex, which is a part of the covenantal bed (cf. Heb 13.4). God alone has the right to define human identity and this He did in the beginning:

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them” (Gen 1.27).
“…the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living person” (Gen 2.7).
“…the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘At last this is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man” (Gen 2.21-23).

Moreover, God defined marriage between a man and a woman and therefore, no other union is to be legally or lawfully recognized as marriage. And to those who claim that understanding marriage in this fashion is outdated or patriarchal, I respond it is based on the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords:

Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no person is to separate” (Matt 19.4-6; cf. Gen 2.24).

What teaching may we glean from this? What application(s) may be drawn from Jesus’ words? That God created only two “genders” from the beginning—male and female. That God made the woman for the man and by extension the man for the woman; thus sex is to be shared only between a man and a woman. In fact, the entire alphabet soup narrative is destroyed by this one teaching. For no governing authority is authorized to change the defining marks of what makes marriage, sex, or even the family—something that Christ also warns not to attempt to separate—are. God reserves that right.

And so, it is the duty of the Christian minister whether great or small to proclaim/preach this truth in opposition to the governing authorities above us that are attempting to pervert it. We are to warn them that God’s wrath was not silent in the past, and it will not be silent in our present state if they do not desist and repent from what they are doing right now!

ENDNOTES:

1John MacArthur, The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 146.

2Greg L. Bahnsen, Homosexuality: A Biblical View (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2011), Preface 1, 2. Using the term “homosexual” Bahnsen recognizes “…specific variations within sexual identity and orientation…” (p.1) and so it applies to a wider variety of practices within the LGBTQ? Community; something that continues to evolve over time at an increasingly rapid pace.

3The list of sins that struck the image of God in man are many. Either the sins were a direct assault on this image or indirect. This includes a long list of sexual sins (cf. Lev 18, 20), but others as well. For example, child sacrifice (Lev 20.1-5), kidnapping (Exod 21.16), chattel slavery (Deut 24.7), murder (Num 35.16-18), parental abuse (Exod 21.15; Deut 21.18-21), and in some cases the slanderous purger/malicious witness (Deut 19.19).

4When I say paraphrase I mean just that. This is the essence of what he said, but it is not a word-for-word transcription of his message to his listening audience. Therefore, if a person would like to hear Dr. Boot’s testimony I will provide the link to his website so that you may download his podcast and listen: https://www.ezrainstitute.ca/resource-library/podcast/biblical-sexuality-sermons/.

5Gary DeMar, God and Government (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2011), 56.

Posted in Christian Perspective

The Impossibility of Ethical Neutrality: An Analysis of Matthew 4:4

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have placed before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deut 30.19; NASB). 1
Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth…But if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served, which were beyond the Euphrates River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh 24.14a, 15).
And after He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4.2-4; cf. Deut 8.1-4).

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**NOTE TO READER: Read Matthew 3-4:4, along with Deuteronomy 8

Jesus was anointed for God’s purpose in the baptism performed by John the Baptist. John knew that he needed to be baptized by Jesus but the Lord responded,

Permit it at this time, for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3.15).

To what was the Lord speaking? In what way was righteousness fulfilled? What did His words to John even mean?

Righteous means “right living” (in its most basic sense). Holy living would also fall under this definition. The Lord’s concern then was for the holiness of God—the source/fountain of all that is holy and good and acceptable—to be made manifest.

Jesus was given flesh for a specific purpose—to glorify God. To make His glory known:

And the Word became flesh [a man], and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1.14; cf. Heb 1.1-3)

Jesus’ baptism—His anointing—was an act, an instance of this truth put on display. That God approved and in fact ordained what had been done that day in the Jordan River by John to Jesus is verified by the testimony of the witnesses:

After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he [John the Baptist]2 saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and setting on Him, and behold, a voice from the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matt 3.16-17).

Well pleased. That is what the Father said of the Son (the word made flesh) and this the Spirit testified about by “lighting” upon Him. In the Old Testament period oil was used in the anointing process for priests and kings (e.g., Lev 8.12; 1Sam 10.1; 16.13). This practice marked the said individual for God’s purpose.

Death to life…

Baptism signified “death to life.” Righteousness signifies a holy life being lived in devotion to God. Both terms identify the requirements to please God. When one’s object of faith is the Lord, then a “death to life” process has been assented to. And, the exercise of “right (holy) living” is demonstrated in that person’s day-to-day living.

Now Jesus was, as the Scriptures repeatedly testify, without sin (2Cor 5.21). He did no wrong (1Pet 2.22-24). He had been dedicated from birth as the Lord’s primary vessel in all creation. This is the justification for John the Baptist’s comment:

I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” (Matt 3.14).

Jesus understood a principle that many of His creatures fail to fully grasp—The only way to live, is to die to self. If anyone had a reason to say, “But I’ve done nothing wrong why must I suffer death?” it was Jesus. But, He did not argue in that way. Rather, the Lord demonstrated a principle that undergirds all of humanities purpose:

He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his in this world will keep it to life eternal” (John 12.25).

In the garden Adam was unwilling to risk his life for the Lord (or, for that matter, his wife). He’d been given careful instruction on how one ought to live, but he rejected it. In order to live, he needed to die to self. Instead, he chose to elevate self in the garden (i.e., to love his life); therefore, he lost it.3

Jesus also taught,

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12.24).

Do you see the principle being stressed? It was the same one that drove Jesus to be baptized in the Jordan—a symbolic death to life practice for the man who knew no sin. The same one verified with a loud cry “It is finished” (John 19.30) on the day of His crucifixion, and reiterated on the day He arose from the grave (cf. John 21.14).

Considering the test…

Let us consider—with these things presented to us—the 1st testing of our Lord’s faith after His anointing in the Jordan River. Remember that He was born a king4, one who promoted the truth of God and was willing to die for it.

After being led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, after 40 days and nights of fasting, the devil, also called the tempter (i.e., the one who tests), challenged Jesus with a series of questions. We shall only be looking at the first because it sets the tempo for the rest (regardless of what order they might be presented in):

  • Devil (aka., Satan):

…came and said to [Jesus], ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread’”

  • Jesus (aka., Son of God/Son of man):

But he answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’” (Matt 4.3-4).

What was the test about?

Jesus, we are told, “was hungry” (Matt 4.2), but what was the test about?

As a man Jesus experienced creaturely needs. He grew tired and needed to rest. He grew thirsty and needed to drink. He grew hungry, and therefore, needed to eat. So again, I reiterate, “What was the test really about?” We know that Jesus was hungry.

Before answering the question (though no doubt many of you have already tried, at least in your own heads), let us consider a follow-up question: “Was it wrong for Jesus to turn the stone into bread?” As you mull that one over, ponder something else: “Was it wrong for Jesus to turn water into wine?” (cf. John 2.1-11).


Category Distinctions…

Let me help you a bit: “Were there category distinctions between later signs and this particular testing of Jesus to turn the stone into bread?

In order to answer this question we need to do two things. First, we need to make a necessary category distinction between Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding festival in Cana. From there we may move to the second category of thought; man’s position before God. As I said last week, there are times when we read in the gospels that we need to make a distinction between the man who is Jesus, and the God who is called Jesus. He was both fully human and fully divine. In Him the fullness of God dwelt, but so too did His manliness (cf. Col 1.19; Heb 2.14; respectively).

So in answering the first question we find that the key is in seeing that difference between what transpired in the wilderness (Matt 4) versus Cana at the wedding festival (John 2). Notice first the different terms used in these accounts. In Matthew 4 it is the “tempting” (i.e., testing) of Jesus, but in John 2 it is the “sign” of Jesus. One is a test, but the other is a display. What, do you think, is the reason for this distinction? The answer is very simple. In Matthew 4, Jesus is being tested as a man; particularly, as mankind’s chief representative. Yet, in John 2, Jesus is displaying his divinity. Knowing this we can say without question his turning water into wine was in no way wrong, for it offered those in attendance a testimony that Jesus was in fact from God the Father. He was unique. The Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, and the glory of God was displayed in Him.

Neutrality Error…

Now we turn our attention back to the “stone into bread” scenario. Where we tend to err is when we make a false assumption of neutrality. It is easy to say, “All of life is ethical; therefore, all of life is religious.” It is easy to see the distinction of worship found in going to church on Sunday, singing hymns, praying and reading one’s Bible. It is perhaps easy for some to see that true worship is the exercise of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. It is even easy to at least give a hearty “Amen” to Paul’s comments to the Corinthians:

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God” (1Cor 10.31; emphasis added).

Or to the Romans:

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is the one who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But the one who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom 14.22-23; emphasis added).

However, it is often difficult for a person to see how this truth applies beyond those things. So we are back to the issue at hand. Is eating a neutral endeavor? If it is not, then Christ Jesus turning stone into bread would have been an ethical and therefore religious decision. Why do I say that? Well for starters that is how the text presents the issue to us. It was the tempting (testing) of Jesus that took place. This means that there is a right versus wrong answer regarding it. There is no getting around this.

We need to get accustomed to the idea that all issues of life are ethical and therefore religious. That is the argument that God presents to mankind. Either things are done for God’s glory or things are done for man’s (i.e., the creature’s). This indicates that the underlying motives for our decision making process needs to be evaluated. This too is taught in Scripture, we are to “examine everything [and] hold firmly to that which is good” in order to “abstain from every form of evil” (1Thess 5.21-22).

Jesus in Matthew 4 is being tested as a man—i.e., this is not a question of His divinity like the “signs” recorded in John’s gospel and elsewhere. Like Adam, our Lord is presented with a scenario of tests (cf. Gen 3). Even in the garden there were layers to the testing of Adam, but we do not see them because they are not stated in writing. Regardless, they are there. In Matthew 4 (also: Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13) the layers are presented individually, but the first one, the one we have been looking at, sets the stage. In other words, everything that occurs during this testing period in the wilderness is governed by our Lord’s first response to the devil:

It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God’” (Matt 4.4).

Ethical Implications…

Think about the implications of this powerful statement. Daily needs, of which bread (i.e., food), is one, is not actually what sustains the life of man. This statement by our Lord is a reiteration of what was spoken to the sons of Israel by the mouth of Moses, the Lord’s prophet:

All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, so that you may live…” (Deut 8.1).

This runs counter to the way man naturally thinks. Not surprising given our fallen status. We tend to think that life is maintained by what we do. Sin so binds the heart (the mind) of man that he (or she) fails to see the reality of this statement (Deut 8.1) until they have been taught humility (Deut 8.2). And humility before God comes through testing, through adversity, through struggle and suffering.5 God made the sons of Israel hunger before He fed them (Deut 8.3). He made them needy—to feel their neediness—before He clothed them. He made them dependent upon Him for their well-being; what we call good health (cf. Deut 8.4).

All three elements are present when the Lord was tested. He was hungry, His health depended on God meeting His needs, and the choice before Him determined what manner of clothing He would wear; whether, it be the righteous garments provided by holiness (Eccl 9.8; Rev 3.4-5) or the filthy garments of unrighteousness (Isa 64.6; cf. Gen 3.7).6 The issue of turning the “stone into bread” to meet a real need, a need that was in His power as the divine Word (cf. John 1.1-3), was not a neutral one, but an ethical one. Had the Father willed the Son to do what the devil requested, then it would not have been sinful. However, it was the very fact that the Father had not willed it to take place (turning a stone into bread) that it would have been sinful for Jesus to do what the devil suggested to Him.

Anorexic Word and Gospel…

American Christianity, by and large it would appear has so whittled down the Word and the Gospel that they lack the ability to discern between issues properly. How can you discern all things, as Jesus did in this scenario, if you refuse to look at the entirety of the issue? If you determine beforehand what is and what is not ethical or religious,7 without taking the time to discern through the issue in light of God’s Word, then you err. If you pretend that there are some aspects of life that are not religious or ethical, then you will stumble into various practices that do not glorify God as such, but rather man (i.e., the creature).

In the balance…

We must take the time to weigh things properly. We must be willing to look at both sides of the scale, and then decide what is good or evil, right or wrong in terms of revealed truth. We must avoid making decisions on matters due only to personal preference, tradition or feeling. I have encountered all three aspects of people’s decision making process, and I have encountered those that do not like to have their thoughts weighed in the balance, but if we are going to see and do things correctly we must be willing to do the hard work of analyzing our underlying motives.

Underlying motivations…

Look back and consider what drove Jesus to do what He did. Think about the possible underlying motives. Emotions and feelings are a key driving force for believed or perceived truth in our day and age, but they are shoddy ground to make rational (i.e., goodly reasoned) decisions on. Jesus “felt” hungry, but He refused to let His hunger drive His decision making process. He needed to eat, but that did not guide Him either. Consider this: “Who would He truly have been trusting in (God or man) had He used His own power to meet His needs? A key aspect of humility before God is learning to master our own desires. We must refrain from being like Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup (cf. Gen 25.33).

Moreover, we must look at issues, at decisions that we are faced with in light of God’s purpose for our life. We were born to glorify and enjoy Him, and so our choices in this life ought to reflect that. Had Jesus turned the stone into bread, He would have violated one of the two key purposes for His coming. He came to be king; for this reason He was born. He came to proclaim truth; for this reason He lived and died. He came to serve God above and man below; for this reason He loved. Consider then, if these things be true (and they are), “Who would Jesus have served and loved in that moment, had He obliged the devil’s request?” Moreover, “Whose word would have been proved true, and who would have been recognized as the true king, had he failed this testing?”

And, when you are presented with various choices, tests or temptations in this life, “Who do you recognize as the true king? Whom do you prove your love for? By what standard are you showing that your life is built upon?” In short, do you practice living in such a way where the bread on the table (the perceived necessities for life) is more or less important that what God has said in His Word?

Finally, let us look at a few aspects of our lives and see how they are not neutral issues, but ethical/religious ones. Here are a few subjects that we can cover: Weddings/funerals; employer/employment; education; sports. My goal is for you to see each area as an area of worship, not a neutral issue to be decided however you see fit, but one consciously weighed by God’s Word. All of life is ethical, therefore all of life is religious, and in our religious practices we are worshiping something. Worship is not relegated to one day of the week where people get together sings songs, reading/exhortation and prayer. Anymore than the Word and Gospel of God is limited to the New Testament or four books called gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Nor is the Gospel just the story of Jesus, his life, death, burial and resurrection. That is the pinnacle of the gospel of God to be sure, but the good-news of God covers much more than just that.

ENDNOTES:

1Unless otherwise noted the New American Standard Bible, 2020 Update (NASB) shall be used throughout this document.

2John would soon testify about this when he declared Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” See: John 1:31-34.

3This “lose of life” is often misunderstood because we see Adam still living after the sin in the garden; even though, God promised that in the day he rebelled he would “surely die” (Gen 2.17). The “lose of life” was a judicial sentence against Adam. It was an ethical judgment. Physical death would come, but the Lord God had other plans for Adam and his offspring after him, before he would be laid to rest (cf. Gen 5.5)

4There are several passages that attest to this. At His birth (Matt 2.1-2), on the day of His death (cf. John 18.33-38; 19.10-18), and after He had arisen to the Father’s right hand (1Tim 6.13-16).

5This seems to me to be an aspect of the curse of sweat as described in Genesis 3, “Cursed is the ground [i.e., earth] because of you; with hard labor you shall eat from it all the days of your life…By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…” (vv., 17, 19). The hard labor and sweating brow is a reminder of our lowly estate. God in the cursing of mankind has brought them (us) low in order for us to be reminded that we are finite creatures that will return to the ground from which we come (v. 19b). Humility is a recognition of our true estate, and then a crying out to our Maker in desperate need to alleviate our suffering. Something He eagerly does when we turn to Him in humility (cf. Matt 11.28-30).

6Adam and Eve’s realization that they were naked was ethical. They sought to cover their nakedness just a little while before they were unashamed of (Gen 2.24). This clues the reader to the idea that they were at least symbolically clothed with God’s righteousness, for it was the entrance of rebellion (sin) that opened their eyes to their nakedness before their Maker. Thus, being ashamed they sought to make coverings for themselves, and realizing that this was insufficient they hid from Him when they heard His approach in the garden (Gen 3.8).

7I use the two terms synonymously in this work. My justification for doing so is rather simple. Ethics deals with right and wrong; good and evil. They deal with choices based upon teachings that determine whether or not a particular practice (word, thought or deed) is right or wrong, good or evil. Religion is the upholding of a particular set of beliefs that are deemed good and right, contrary to what is wrong and evil. And so, in this sense I see the two as one.

Posted in Worldview Analysis

Government Makes Tracing App Mandatory, Churches Required to Deny Entry to Noncompliant · Caldron Pool

Government Makes Tracing App Mandatory, Churches Required to Deny Entry to Noncompliant · Caldron Pool
— Read on caldronpool.com/government-makes-tracing-app-mandatory-churches-required-to-deny-entry-to-noncompliant/

Currently, I am on vacation in the south. This has given me a much needed break, which I am using to catch up on some necessary reading. I just finished Theonomy An Informed Response by Gary North (editor) and a list of other well known Christian Reconstructionists; Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry Jr., and the late Greg Bahnsen, to name just a few.

The article cited above (which I hope you click the link and read) illustrates why a theonomic ethic is so important for not just personal, family and ecclesiastical government, but the civil sector as well. The Canadian government is attempting to play God. They are not omniscient nor are they omnipresent but in an effort to control their citizens they are wanting elders to report to them the activities of those who attend their churches; as if they are gods.

The response of the godly elders in this article demonstrates a clearer understanding of the jurisdictional separation of powers between two different governing agencies (church vs state) than many professing Christians. The civil government bears a sword but we in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ have the keys. Both are institutions or ordained powers established by God above (cf. Rom 13.1-2), but they are separated powers limited to a specific sphere of influence. The gate keepers of the Church (elders at the gate) are right in refusing to obey or even recognize the gate keepers of the state, for the state is overreaching beyond the powers dictated to them.

Pray for these men, for these churches, for these…the children of God; the body of Christ. Learn from their example.

Posted in theonomy

That Dirty Word Called Theonomy

Theonomy is a dirty word. For the uninitiated the term is the combination of two Greek terms: Theos (God) and nomos (law). “So then,” you might be wondering, “how is it a dirty word?” How indeed!

Sometimes I’m a bit naive and I make assumptions of others that I learn later were in error. Over a decade ago I did this in two different settings. The first was in a secular setting on a job I was running in Columbus, OH. The second was in a local church where I served as pastor. My subject matter was different in each situation, but I assumed too much on a commonality that I believed was sufficient grounds for civil conversation.

Let me share with you what happened in the secular setting first and then move onto the ecclesiastical one. Afterwards I will tie in the subject of Theonomy. I believe you’ll understand the connection without much effort.

Secular setting…

As I mentioned earlier I was running a job in Columbus, OH. It was on a new construction project, a rather large L-shaped building, that was to be an assisted living facility. My position was the HVAC foreman, and I was responsible for ordering, installing, and managing my team in the process. This type of job required that I become acquainted with all the other trades (e.g., electricians, plumbers, pipe-fitters, painters, etc.) as we were all expected to work together in a somewhat coordinated effort; so that, all steps of the building/finishing of the project were according to the schedule laid out for us by the general contractor.

The project was about two-thirds of the way done when my encounter with a window caulker occurred. I had returned from lunch and was heading from the rear parking lot towards one of the main entrances when I heard the man on his step ladder humming the melody of a well-known hymn. I thought, “Here is a kindred spirit that shares my faith,” and so, I attempted to start a conversation with him.

Now the day was warm and sunny, therefore my attire matched the elements. I had some worn jeans on and a sleeveless black shirt. About the age of 26 I began to enter into that stage of life that some men experience (male pattern baldness), and so, having been gifted with a nice dome from my Lord I began the ritual of cleanly shaving my head. My arms are tatted and my ears are pierced. So, I suppose outwardly I look anything but a Christian, least of all a pastor, nevertheless, I am both. Unfortunately, the man I struck up a conversation with. That fellow humming a familiar hymn. As soon as I spoke he looked me up and down arriving at the conclusion that the person speaking to hymn was a wolf pretending to be a sheep. He was anything but polite. Judgmental would be a better word. A very unpleasant encounter to say the least.

Ecclesiastical Setting…

My second encounter around the same time period happened after a lesson I’d given during a service. It was an election year and I used another dirty word (unknown to me): politics. What I had proclaimed from the pulpit is the universal nature of God’s Word. How it is intended to shape our thinking and acting in every area of life. No subject was forbidden. No matter is off limits as far as God is concerned, and this included politics. In particular, the way we ought to vote for a candidate. If the candidate is firmly planted on a platform that calls for the execution of the newly conceived, then any Christian worth his or her weight should not cast a vote for that individual. How could they in good conscience?

The individual in question, as soon as I was finished speaking, stood up with a Bible firmly gripped in one hand and a pointing finger on the other. On the verge of shouting, he explained to me that I was dead wrong. You would have thought I’d just finished blaspheming from the pulpit. His frustration was pouring from every facet of his being. His face was contorted with what I do not doubt was a righteous indignation on his part. Trying to reason with him went no where. Eventually, he stormed out of the sanctuary. His wife apologized for the spectacle. She told me that she doubted that he’d return. I kept my composure until after they left and then I hit my knees before the Lord praying for the man.

(Sidenote: Later that evening I received a call from the individual who attacked me, apologizing for his behavior. The following week he apologized to the church. The man is a solid believer. I believed this when he attacked me, and so I prayed for him. I told his wife as much when she left that service embarrassed. The Lord heard my prayer, and the believer repented. He became one of my strongest supporters before I resigned from the Nazarene denomination for issues pertaining to doctrine. I plan on seeing him and his wife in heaven one day.)

The Dirty Word called Theonomy

We have now come full circle. My point in sharing those experiences was illustrative. We sometimes make assumptions about people or teachings that are in error. Presuppositions are strong deterrents. This can be a good thing, if the presuppositions that we hold are correct. The first individual I spoke about made a judgment call about me because of how I appeared to him outwardly. He couldn’t reconcile what he believed a Christian should look like, with what actually makes one a Christian (the atoning life of Christ put upon those that trust in Him). The second individual struggled with seeing how his voting was an extension of His faith in Christ. The first individual never spoke to me again, even though I saw him for the a few more months before the job was finished. The second person did, and through consistent biblical teaching eventually laid aside his former convictions, adopting new ones.

I first encountered the word “Theonomy” in the writings of Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen. I had found a paperback copy of his book, By This Standard, while working on my Master of Divinity degree (2011-2015). After reading through it, I was convinced by the biblically based cogent arguments provided by Bahnsen that saturate every page. Here is the general synopsis that Bahnsen proves in this work:

“Fundamental to the position taken herein is the conviction that God’s special revelation—His written word—is necessary as the objective standard of morality for God’s people. Over against the autonomous ethical philosophies of men, where good and evil are defined by sinful speculation, the Christian ethic gains its character and direction from the revealed word of God, a revelation which harmonizes with the general revelation made of God’s standards through the created order and man’s conscience…

by this standard, 2

“Indeed, the Bible teaches that we should presume continuity between ethical standards of New Testament and those of the Old, rather than abbreviating the validity of God’s law according to some preconceived artificial limit…

by this standard, 2

“The methodological point, then, is that we presume our obligation to obey any Old Testament commandment unless the New Testament indicates otherwise. We must assume continuity with the Old Testament rather than discontinuity.”1

by this standard, 3

In other words, God has revealed to His people and through them to the world, the manner in which He intends for His creatures to live righteous lives. This ethic applies to all, including even the civil government over us, who are in reality, according to the testimony of the apostle Paul, God’s ordained ministers for good (Rom 13.1-5). A little later, Bahnsen continues,

“Christ said that the attitude which is genuinely godly recognizes the moral authority of God alone, does not question the wisdom of His dictates, and observes every last detail of his word. This is man’s proper path to God-likeness…[Moreover,] those who are not striving to become rivals to God by replacing His commands according to their own wisdom will rather endeavor to reflect His moral perfection by obeying all of His commands.”

By This standard, 47, 48

To be an image bearer means to reflect the One in whose image you’ve been created to mirror. According to Christ, says Bahnsen, God is concerned that our mode of operation is to submit to His divine word as an ethical standard that cannot be deviated from. So far so good?

One would think that all Christians would find commonality in this standard of ethics revealed in Scripture and proclaimed by Bahnsen (among others of his ilk). Yet, that is not the case. In fact, much to my own astonishment (initially at least) there are many who, bearing the name of Christ, kick at every jot and tittle laid before them from God’s Law-Word. Much of the angst seems to be based on misunderstandings as to what has changed between the Old and New covenants. A direct equivalency is not what Bahnsen or other theonomists (like Gary North, David Chilton, or Gary DeMar) argue for.2 Bahnsen even notes this in the beginning of his work:

“The aim of those studies is to set forth a case in favor of the continuing validity of the Old Testament law, including its sociopolitical standards of justice. It is advocated that we should presume the abiding authority of any Old Testament commandment until and unless the New Testament reveals otherwise, and this presumption holds just as much for laws pertaining to the state as for laws pertaining to the individual. As already noted, such a presumption does not deny the reality of some discontinuities with the Old Testament today; it simply insists that such changes be warranted by Biblical teaching, not untrustworthy personal feeling or opinion.”3

By This Standard, 7

That being said “Theonomy” is still a dirty word in many Christian circles. Bahnsen had his critics. He wrote an entire book answering them in the follow up to this work entitled, No Other Standard. I have encountered the same sort of criticism since adopting this theological branch of study into my own Christian worldview. Regardless, I have found that when investigated at a foundational level the critics are the one’s standing on shifting sand. Not the other way around.

As of yet, I have hardly begun to answer the question, “Why is Theonomy viewed in such a negative light?” This will be a topic returned to at some future date. Until then….

For those interested I would recommend the following works:4

Bahnsen, Greg L. By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 1985.

_____________. No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 1991.

North, Gary, ed. Theonomy An Informed Response. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 1991.

____________. Was Calvin a Theonomist? Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 1990.

ENDNOTES:

1Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), PDF e-book. All emphasis in these quotes (throughout) are what Bahnsen stressed, not the particular whims of the current writer.

2An easy example for the reader to consider is found in Deuteronomy 22:8, which reads, “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it” (ESV).

A couple of things may be said about this verse. First, taking it as stated and trying to apply it exactly as written is not what a good theonomist would do. The reader would need to consider what a parapet is (a boundary marker or “fence” or “rail”) and what the historical setting entailed (flat-roofed homes were commonplace in the Middle East [and still are], first before attempting to apply it. The concern is to discern the direction and purpose of God’s Law-Word here. The Law-Word of God is meant to demonstrate the love of the image bearer; primarily for the Creator, secondarily for the neighbor (i.e., fellow image bearer). Secondly, the underlying principle would need to then be applied to the current cultural setting. An example today would entail building a rail around one’s deck. This would be set as a guard for the guests life. Notice that the law does not say that the railing or fence needs to be impassible, for it invites the conclusion that one might still fall and die, but it does state that if the individual in question does this kindness in submission to what God has revealed, then, if something undesirable does happen (like injury or death) the individual in question is innocent before the eyes of the Lord.

3The emphasis in this section is of my own doing.

4Anyone may get these books free of charge in their PDF version here: https://www.garynorth.com/public/2649.cfm

Posted in Biblical Questions, Musings

Time to Kill a Snake: How Adam Should have dealt with the Serpent

A Little Dialogue Regarding a Nasty Snake

One of my favorite portions of the Bible surrounds creation week (Gen 1-3). Even when that is not a primary text that I have been studying, I will find my thoughts drifting back to the beginning of all things. I suppose I must give some credit to Answers in Genesis’ Ken Ham for the way his ministry has helped shape my own since the summer of 2005. I should also add that the work of Cornelius Van Til and his excellent pupil Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen has also added to my understanding of just how important the phrase “in the image of God” (Gen 1.26, 28) truly is.

God made mankind (male and female; a biological state that cannot be altered or maligned post conception) as the primary recipients of His grace. Yes, this was before the fall and all the nasty consequences of that event (Gen 3); things that we see evidence of all around us, as well as, what we must wrestle with in our inner being (post-salvation in Jesus Christ; cf. Rom 7.21-25) as we seek to live by the Spirit of God (Gal 5.16-17).

It is along this particular vein of thought that I would like to share—in writing—some of my musings over the past couple of weeks. No, no I’m not speaking about election results, questions of fraud, and the great push we are experiencing by the Media, Tech Companies, and those other elites that plague our society (well, not directly anyway). What I want to talk about is the Serpent in the garden and Adam’s lackluster response to it.

Where was Adam?…

Often I have encountered the curious student asking, “Where was Adam at when the Serpent was questioning his wife? Why wasn’t he near her? If he was near her why didn’t he speak up?” Well, the thing is Adam was with his wife when the Serpent questioned her as may be seen in Gen 3:6.

“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her and he ate” (NASB; emphasis added).

The dialogue…

Adam and Eve were in the garden minding their own business when a Serpent came over for a conversation. Acting, oh so innocent, the Serpent seemingly starts up a conversation with the woman. He says to her, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” (Gen 3.1b). The woman replies ever so politely to this “beast of the field” (Gen 3.1a) “No, no that’s not quite right. You see the Lord only applied a restriction to one tree; the tree in the middle of the garden.” That’s a paraphrase of the text. The verse more accurately reads like so,

“From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die” (Gen 3.2-3).

Some make a big deal about how she depicts her husband Adam’s words here, but since we weren’t there for the conversation it is likely that is how they understood God’s prohibition. For there is no question that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was off limits to our foreparents (cf. Gen 2.16-17). To not “touch it” seems a foregone conclusion. Why play with something you can’t have?

The Serpent quickly replies to Eve, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3.4-5). What is the Serpent saying here? (Understanding this will aid the reader in understanding my position about to be given).

First, the Serpent is saying, “God is lying.” Ironic really when you think about it for it is the Serpent who is sharing misinformation here, not the Lord God. But here we are reading about the Serpent saying that what God said was not right at all.

Second, the Serpent promises that the opposite will happen. To eat that fruit is not death but life. Moreover, if the fruit is eaten, then the eater will become like the Creator knowing (i.e., determining) good and evil.

And so, in verse 6 we are introduced to the thought process of the woman. In an attempt to ascertain the truth for herself she investigates more closely the fruit on the tree in the middle of the garden. She sees that like the other trees in the garden (which she is allowed to eat; see Gen 2.16) this tree is “pleasing to the sight and good for food” (Gen 3.6a; compare with Gen 2.9), and as an added bonus this one carries the possibility of “mak[ing] one wise.”

At this point we are told that she and her husband (with her) ate from the forbidden tree. The question is “Why?” Not why did they eat from that which God said, “NO!” But, why did Adam stand around playing with a blade of grass as his wife carried this conversation on with the Serpent? Why did he allow her to entertain the possibility that what their Creator had spoken was inaccurate, but what the Serpent was saying might have a kernel of truth?

“Well, what else could he have done,” you ask? I don’t know…KILL IT! He could have torn a branch off a nearby tree and started beating it to death! “But…but killing is wrong,” you say. “Taking the life of another one of God’s creatures is never permissible!” you incredulously exclaim.

A Brief Word Study…

Why was Adam in the garden? What was his purpose for being there? What are we told earlier in the text that helps shed light on this issue?

“The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed…Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (Gen 2.8, 15).

Adam’s purpose in the garden was 1) “to cultivate it,” and 2) “[to] keep it.” Okay, what does that mean? John H. Sailhamer points out some of the faults with English Versions of the Bible when translating from the original Hebrew is that the text reads this way, rather than “to worship and to obey.”1 He notes that given the context following v. 15, in vv.16-17, this prohibition regarding the Tree of Knowledge’s fruit makes more sense, while also removing some of the exegetical difficulties that some readers face.2

Looking a little closer at the original Hebrew we find that “cultivate” (abad) shares “several Semitic roots, e.g. the old Aramaic root which means ‘to do or make,’ and Arabic root meaning ‘to worship, obey’ (God) and its intensive stem meaning ‘to enslave, reduce to servitude.’ This service may be directed toward things, people, or God.”3 When we get to the Hebrew term for “keep” (shamar) we find that it carries various connotations that stress: to keep, to guard, keep watch and ward, protect, to act as a watchman, or to save one’s life.4

Adam’s Purpose…

So, what do we learn after this brief word study? That God had placed the man in the garden for a specific purpose and it wasn’t picking weeds. He was expected to exercise godly dominion (Gen 1.26, 28) by serving the Lord in his day to day activity and this means Adam was required to listen (obey) God’s word. He was responsible not only for his own personal self-government, but also in leading his wife in the way of truth. Keeping guard over what the Lord had given him.

Did he do that? No. Rather than listen to God’s voice, His creator, he listened to the creatures voice (Gen 3.17); which, was by extension the voice of the Serpent.

Time to Kill a Snake: Why?

“Okay, but why do you say he should have killed the Serpent. I get what your saying up to that point, but killing anything seems to be a violation of God’s Holy Word.”

Here’s my response: As the writer of Ecclesiastes pointed out,

“There is an appointed time for everything, and there is a time for every event under heaven…a time to kill and a time to heal…a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace” (Eccl 3.1, 3a, 8).

Do you not know that God praised the action of running an Israelite man and Midianite woman through with a javelin in the middle of their copulating (cf. Numb 25.1-8)?

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Phineas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My Jealousy” (Numb 25.10-11).

Quick history lesson…

Phineas was blessed by the Lord for his faithfulness, and his family inherited that blessing (Numb 25.12-13). What blessing might Adam and his offspring have experienced if he had walked in a similar fashion to Phineas? What might the Lord God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, said to His creature if he had been as jealous for the Lord’s glory?

Adam should have run the Serpent through in the garden. He should have stood for the Lord, for his wife and his children. Either way death was going to enter in through the test in the garden. Unfortunately, for us the death that entered was the curse of sin (separation from a right relationship with our Creator), rather than its destruction (i.e., killing of the Serpent).

A Reminder for us all…

Thankfully, that was not the end of the story. Christ Jesus the one who refused to compromise (think in the wilderness, Matt 4.1-11; in the garden, Luke 23.39-46; before the cross (John 19. ). We are called to do the same. There is no room for compromise. That is where Adam and Eve failed. She compromised with the Serpent over the knowledge that she had received from God via her husband (helpmate). He compromised with his wife over the truth he had been told by God. And we are guilty of how many more in our lives?

Let us put to death sin in our lives. Let us put to death false notions of goodness and righteousness that have an appearance of holiness, of goodness, of love, but are false standards established by wrongheaded people. Let us put to death compromising our faith in favor of false peace. That last one is ripe with meaning in our day and age, but if we know our history this is not the first time when we have been promised false peace, safety and security at the hands of sinful people. Better to trust in the Word of the Lord, than the word of men (perhaps a not so indirect reference to our current sociopolitical climate here in the United States).

ENDNOTES:

1John H. Sailhamer, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Vol. 2, Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1990), 45.

2Compare the reading of Gen 2:16-17 with the later promise given in Deut 30:15-16:

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.”

And Deut 30:19-20:

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live….”

3James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995), sv. Abad (cultivate or serve), Logos 8 Bible software. Stephen D. Renn writes “abad is a common verb found about three hundred times with the predominant sense of ‘serve,’ but it occasionally indicates the associated meaning ‘worship.’” Stephen D. Renn, ed., Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005), 1066-1067.

4F. Brown, S. Driver and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Reprint 1906 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 1036, sv. Shamar (keep). Stephen D. Renn writes, “This common verb form occurs around five hundred times and is translated ‘keep,’ ‘guard,’ ‘protect,’ as well as a number of related meanings. In about twenty places, however, shamar is used nominally to indicate a ‘keeper,’ ‘guard,’ or ‘protector.”” Notably, Renn adds that this Hebrew verb “also has the sense of ‘obey,’ primarily with reference to keeping God’s law and statutes.” Renn, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, 553, 549 respectively.