Posted in Revelation

A Little More Light…Keeps the Darkness at Bay

Biblical revelation is by its very nature progressive. Not progressive in a secular sense, but progressive in the sense that the knowledge revealed is given little by little. Then, that knowledge when properly applied is the essence of wisdom; the counter being folly. This process is gradual and is reinforced through repetition.

In the same way we train our children in life: learning to pray, to be thankful for their daily food, to tie their shoes, pick out an outfit appropriate for the activity and weather, how to sit at the dinner table and the correct manner to use utensils. All of these daily activities are not explained at once. The instruction on how to live is not dumped upon them in one great heap, but slowly over time. Learning is the acquirement of knowledge, and wisdom is correctly applying what has been learned. This process is gradual and is reinforced through repetition.

One of the difficulties that we face is the stagnation of this process for some. While, it is true that we all mature at a different rate, maturing is necessary for living life well. To use another analogy—this time from the animal kingdom—a bird that never learns to fly once pushed out of the nest is in for a mess of trouble when they meet the ground. A child that is not humble, refuses to submit, is too hardheaded to learn from the instruction of his/her betters is headed for a mess of trouble not too different than the bird. And a Christian that has difficulty moving past elementary things (the milk, rather than the meat) is in a similar mess (Heb 5.11-14).

What’s my point?

Earlier biblical revelation is foundational to believing faith. What came before, in the beginning, is the bedrock that the rest of the Christian faith rests upon. But I thought Paul said that Christ was the foundation, the only foundation, that we are to build upon (1Cor 3.11)? He did, Christ is. What ever Paul taught in the New Testament is built upon the Rock cut from no human hands (Dan 2.34-35, 44-45). He learned this not from men, but from Christ the Lord (Gal 1.11-12).

A consistent reading of the Holy Bible shows that Christ Jesus likewise understood that He and His Word—the two cannot truly be separated—was the only Rock that offered a sure foundation to humanity (Luke 6.46-49). And if we are familiar with what came before, we see that this testimony is consistent with Moses’ who made it a point of comparison between the two opposing “rocks” of faith. Only one Rock is a sure foundation that the wise may build upon, but fools have for themselves another rock that is truly no rock at all (Deut 32.18, 31).

Now I have purposefully worked backward through the biblical text (in a very rapid way) to make a vital point. Though the revelation provided in the past was sufficient for faith for those in the past, as time passed more light has been shed on the doings of God and the responsibilities of Mankind. And while, it is true that “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2Tim 3.16), it does not teach all things of an equal nature. That is to say, there were shadows and types in the past (O.T., Tanakh) that served as training wheels for the people of God, until the Father above decided to reveal His beloved Son as the anti-shadow/anti-type.

What’s “anti” mean?

This term is normally associated with that which is against or opposed to, but that is not an accurate way of understanding the prefix in biblical language. To be an “anti” in terms of Scripture means “instead of” or “in exchange for.” So instead of the blood of animals, we have the blood of Christ (Heb 9.18-10.7). In exchange for a lesser covenant, we have a greater covenant affirmed by something more precious—Christ (Heb 7.22; 8.6-13). Instead of an earthly king and kingdom, we are given a heavenly king and kingdom—as found in the God-Man Christ Jesus (Acts 2.25-36). In exchange of an earthly high-priest who were by nature sinners, we have a High-Priest who knew no sin—Christ (Heb 2.17; 4.15; 7.26). In stead of purification by water or by separation through earthly attainments, we have purification through His sacrifice applied by the Holy Spirit (Heb 9.13-14; Heb 10.10).

Again, the point being made is that though there is much value in learning that which was revealed in past revelation, a mature understanding sees Christ as the complete picture. The danger always lurking around the corner is reading into the biblical text an understanding of its revelation that is foreign to the revelation in question.

Which means what?

I have heard it argued that the sacrifice of Christ seems defunct in some way, when we look at the brevity of His earthly life. How can his torture at the hands of Jews and Romans, account for the complete purification of sin for those who believe? How can His death on the cross and burial in a grave for three days (less though, than 72 hours) satisfy the wrath of God, when sinners who refuse to believe are said to face an eternity in hell-fire? Did Jesus really suffer the wrath of God in an equitable fashion in terms of eternity?

“I think not!” says the scoffer. “That doesn’t sound like justice to me!” cries the skeptic. “If that is the reality of the case, that people suffer eternal torment for a short life of sin, then I fail to see how that does not malign the benevolence of God if He truly would torture people in that way!” declares the philosopher dressed in Christian garb.

What’s the problem?

When Job complained about his suffering, God gave him a response. When the Sadducees dared question Jesus to entrap Him, He too gave a quick rebuttal. Listen and see if you can discern what is being said to both parties:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38.2).[1]

“Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mark 12.24).

Job was a righteous man, but the Sadducees were not. Job believed in the Word of God, but the Sadducees did not. However, the rebuke from the Lord was strangely similar. Why?

And, the Reason for the Error?

The reason is both attempted to understand the situations presented to them in terms of human knowledge and wisdom. From Job’s vantage point, his suffering did not make sense. He’d done nothing wrong—at least in a blatantly overt sense—and so he failed to see why he suffered so. His suffering did not seem commensurate with his behavior. Similarly, the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection from the dead in earthly bodies. They shared more in common with the Greeks, than with Job (see Job 19.25-27). Philosophically, they thought they had Jesus because if the teaching of the resurrection of the dead to newness of life was true, then what would the woman who’d been married several times do with all of her husbands?

The error present in both situations is that Mankind is capable of knowledge and wisdom apart from God. This is the faulty assumption ingrained in the children of Adam since the episode in the garden. This is why you have such confusion over whether or not Christ Jesus sacrifice was sufficient on the cross to atone for all the sins of His people (past, present and future). It is also why there is such a lack of understanding on how His short suffering and time in the grave could account for an eternity in hell-fire for the rebel that refuses to acknowledge Him as Lord.

What is?

God is the author of all life. He is the Maker of all things. He is the definer of what is just, what is righteous, what is holy, what is love, what is goodness, what is adequate retribution, what satisfies His wrath, what the final state of all creatures are. In Him alone are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (cf. Prov 1.7; 9.10; Col 2.3). If you would deign to have these things, it will not rest in your own skull. If you think yourself wise and crafty and say in your heart, “Yes, but I must read these things, I must discern these things, that is how I come to understanding” then all you prove is that you’re a blathering blind guide (Matt 15.14; 23.24; cf. Jer 17.5). It is not flesh and blood that teach these things, but your Maker in Heaven (Matt 16.17; Luke 10.22).

Therefore, if God’s Word attests that Jesus is the Christ, then He is. If God’s Word says that He and the Father are one in equality, but not in personhood, then He is. If God’s Word says that Jesus is the lamb—the true sacrifice—that takes away (atones for) the sin of the world, and that salvation (deliverance from sin, from death to life) is found in no other name, then He is. If God’s Word says that His life, not just a few hours of torture and death on a Roman cross buried in a tomb for three days, but His entire/complete life satisfies the full requirement of Holy Law and Divine Wrath, then He is.

God determines what is, not Mankind. If you fail to see that, if you fail to believe that, if you fail to submit to that—despite your limited intellect and reasoning abilities—then you step in the path of Adam in the garden and do not walk with the Lord of light. At least not consistently.

Praise be to the Lord of Hosts, that it is grace that saves and not our works, especially the works of our own hearts in regards to what we claim as acceptable teaching, as if we are judge; for not a one would enter in. But likewise give heed to these words:

“Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, ‘That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged’” (Rom 3.4; cf. Deut 32.4; Psa 119.160; 51.4).

Back to the Beginning…

As I said at the beginning of this post biblical revelation is progressive in nature. What was given in the past was sufficient for that generation in terms of faith, knowledge and understanding. However, as we progress through Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, more light is added to that former light so that we might see more clearly (Psa 36.9; John 8.12) the plan and intention of God, and the purpose and condition of mankind.

We shall return to this theme in a specific way in a future post…


ENDNOTES:

[1] All Scripture is of the English Standard Version (ESV).

<a href=”http://Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay“>Image by Colin Behrens

Posted in politics

Limitations, Authority and Politics: Q3

Question 3:

Is it right to preach politics from the pulpit?

Answer:

If we were to take a public consensus on this subject, what do you think we would find? More than likely the world (i.e., society and current culture) will say “NO,” because that would be bringing “religion into the public sphere…and we just can’t have that.” Peel a few layers off of that onion and what you would really find lurking underneath is an “off-limits” sign placed against religious interference. “we don’t want your judgments influencing our behavior.” Religion, in particular Christianity, is often viewed as way too judgmental.

Ironically, if we interviewed those who profess to be Christians, we would find that their answer regarding the above question does not stray too far afield from public opinion (As Seen in a Recent Polling Example at Pew Research). Interesting, since Christians are those who should be influencing the surrounding culture/society, not the other way around…but…I get ahead of myself. Perhaps, at this juncture we would be better served by defining what “politics” are before we address the question as presented.

Defining our Terms…

According to the American Heritage Dictionary the term “politics” (noun) speaks about “the art or science of government or governing.”[i] Sounds like your basic boring definition that does little in shedding light on the subject at hand. At best, all we see is a reference to governing and/or government but the adjectival use of the word does help enlightening our understanding a bit. Used as an adjective “politics” is defined as, ““shrewd, artful, prudent, judicious.”[ii] Now if you take the time to look up those four words you will find that they speak of being wise/cunning in acting and/or judging matters (cf. Matt 10.16) affecting life.

Therefore, Politics is concerned about policies in the public sphere. Politics deal with matters of morality. It speaks of a governing body that rules in terms of justice in the public sphere; derived from ethical norms (i.e., laws, statutes, principles, etc.). The people that represent the civil government are therefore identified as politicians.[iii] Politicians and/or civil magistrates, consequently, are meant to be protectors of the people not enslavers.

A Dose of Reality…

Not too long ago, during breakfast at Frisch’s Big Boy, a family member made the following indirect question “why is there so much evil in the world?” This volley ball serve of an inquiry was in response to some of the criminal activity being witnessed in the world through various media outlets. The answer is rather simple, “We live in a fallen world.”

Like the .25$ slime you could buy at a vending machine on the way out of a grocery store, that answer sticks. However, because it is uncomely to sensible thought, it is constantly being wiped at to remove it. The thing is people are sinners, and while that fact might be troublesome to some of you, if we are honest and unafraid to own up to it, we can admit that there are many things that we have done in our lives we know to be wrong. Yet, we chose to do them in spite of the knowledge that said we shouldn’t.

Now if this is true of you and me, and it is, then what of those who serve in public office? What about those who deal in the sphere of public affairs? Those ruling members of our society that eagerly seek to (and most of the time do) invent policy to govern the people.  Wickedness begets wickedness. Sinful hearts produce sinful activity. What is true of the common individual is likewise true of those in political leadership. I’m sure you’ve heard or at least thought that politics is dirty business. But what do you do when something is dirty? The short answer is you clean it up.

Where Should We Go…

Now the question of the day is should we see Christian preachers speaking on various political issues? Should we see Christian ministers proclaiming certain truths pertaining to the affairs of public life? Is it right to preach politics from the pulpit?

There are a few rabbit trails that we could travel down in discussing this question. I know because I’ve written and rewritten this material more than once, and my mind races in several directions all at once. Truly there are several branches of thought that we could deal with specifically in addressing politics and religion, and whether or not one should use their religious viewpoints to influence the ebb and flow of societal governance—i.e., the exercise of cultural mores. Perhaps, in the future we can get down to specifics, but for the time being let’s just deal with the overarching truth.

All political thought is driven by religious zeal. Not every political thought is driven by the Christian religion. However, here in the United States our governing bodies were established upon biblical precepts and statutes. Revisionists might cry until their eyes are puffy and their faces have broken vessels all about, but the truth of our early American roots is thoroughly influenced by the Christian worldview.

(This is not to say that every act, every policy, or every political maneuver has been consistently driven by this worldview. An honest review of history sheds some embarrassing light on this. But this does not remove the driving force behind our past leaders.)

Keep in Mind who I’m Speaking to…

Primarily, this message that I am about to give is for the Christian. Those who profess to be faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. The key word in that phrase is the title “Lord.”

Already we have seen that necessary limitations have been set since the beginning. The Proverbs declare that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov 14.12). If we learn nothing else from our fore-parents (Adam and Eve), then it ought to be this truth.

For the Christian we know that in order to be able to set limitations, authority must be had by the limiter. Christ Jesus demonstrated His authority over all by laying down His life and taking it up again. No one took it from Him, He gave it freely for His people. His holiness and righteous life paid the penalty for our sin. Therefore, He has revealed Himself as our Head, and the Husband of the Bride; which is the Church. Remember the true Church of Jesus Christ is not a building, not a denomination, nor truly divided by a branch of theology…it is the people who are called by His Name that are the Church.

Zone of Authority…

When we think of government, we tend to think of it in the civil sphere—i.e. civil government (here in America we see it at the local, state and federal levels).  But there are other governing bodies that God has created. We have the government of the Family, the government of the Church, included with the government of the State. And we must not forget that there is also self-imposed governing. We are told to govern our lives, to stop sinning, choosing instead the paths of holy righteousness. Doing right and refraining from doing wrong. Being humble and not puffed up with pride. Loving rather than hating.

What then is Jesus’ zone of authority? Is it limited to the Church? If you buy into the “two-kingdoms theory” popular in many Christian circles, then you will see a necessary divide between the secular (public/political) and ecclesiastical (church/private) spheres. This is an example of a false dichotomy. No such divide exists, except in the minds of mankind. God’s Word contains no boundaries in relation to Christ Jesus.

One of the things that got the apostles in trouble in the Roman world was that they professed “another king, Jesus” over and above “the decrees of Caesar” (Acts 17.7). This was not limited to a private faith, but included the public sphere. For the Christian faith “advocate[s] customs” that are contrary to pagan culture (Acts 16.21). In short, contrary to public opinion within today’s Christian community, the apostles did address political issues of their day. They advocated a way of life that was counter-cultural. And while it might be appropriately argued that it started with individual hearts (personal governance), this naturally seeps into the other governing bodies established by God—i.e., family, church, and state.

Source of the Teaching…

Though Christ Jesus is said to have been made lower than the angels for a time (Heb 2.7, 9), He was still equal with God the Father (John 5.18; 10.30). While the incarnation—Jesus, the Living Word putting on flesh (John 1.14)—was an act of humility by taking on the form of a slave (Phil 2.7), His status remained in the form of God (Phil 2.6).

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1.15-17; emphasis added).

Please notice the authority Jesus has over all things. That phrase is repeated several times. What do you suppose all things means? ALL THINGS.

Jesus declared,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28.18b).

All authority, means all things, which is why we see the phrase “in heaven and on earth.” There is no limitation on the sphere of Christ’s authority. No realm of human existence that is beyond His authority. He is Lord over all…drum roll, including POLITICS. For the civil sphere of governance was created (established) by Him. So that the civil ruler might serve as His minister (deacon) to punish evil and uphold the good (cf. Rom 13.1-7).

So, the answer to the question of whether or not it is right to preach politics from the pulpit is YES.[iv] In fact, you would be hard pressed to proclaim the Word of God at all if you did not do so. The Bible speaks on many subjects, but one of particular interest to the Lord God is in righteous living. Makes sense when you consider mankind’s image bearing status.

I will close with a couple sobering thoughts:

“Too often Christians limit the effects of the saving work of Jesus Christ. We are willing to turn to Jesus Christ and entrust Him with our eternal destiny but we are often unwilling to submit to His instructions concerning the affairs of this world.”[v]

“Men may be induced to abandon their old religion and to adopt a new one; but they can never remain long free from all religion. Take away one object of worship and they will soon attach themselves to another. If unhappily they lose the knowledge of the true God, they will set up gods of their own invention or receive them from others’ (Archibald Alexander…p. 18).”[vi]

If the Christian will not speak authoritatively in the public sphere (politically), either out of fear or obstinate refusal, then nothing less than tyranny should be expected.


ENDNOTES:

[i] “politic,” s.v., The American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edition (New York, NY: Bantam Dell, 2007), 651.

[ii] Ibid., 651.

[iii] Ibid., 651. An accurate definition is “1) One actively involved in politics. 2) One who holds or seeks a political office.”

[iv] “The Bible never condemns political involvement…The desire to retreat from political concerns is mostly a recent phenomenon.” Gary DeMar, Myths, Lies & Half Truths: How Misreading the Bible Neutralizes Christians (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2004), 132, 133. Respectively

[v] Gary DeMar, God and Government: Issues in Biblical Perspective, Vol 2 (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2001), x.

[vi] “From an engraving in ‘Evidences of the Authenticity, Inspiration and Canonical Authority of the Holy Scriptures’” (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1836), quoted in DeMar, God and Government, vol 2, 4; Cf. 243.

Posted in Headship

Limitations, Authority and Politics: Q2

Question 2:

Who has the authority to place the limitations?

Answer:

Rather than build up to the obvious answer I’ll just give it to you at the forefront. If the Church is Christ’s workmanship, if it was His righteous and holy life that purchased us and set us apart, then it makes perfect sense that He has the authority and power to set the limits of His Church’s activity.

To explain this the Bible appeals to a couple different analogies to draw this truth out. The first is in reference to Christ being the head. The second speaks of the Church as His beloved bride. Both references are uniquely tied to one another.

The Head…

From a practical standpoint the body is controlled by (ruled by) the Head. This is true of voluntary and non-voluntary responses. In our human bodies the head (brain/central nervous system) keeps life sustainable from breathing (lungs), blood flow (heart), temperature regulation, metabolism, and protective reflexes like attempting to stop a fall by putting out a hand or batting an eyelash closed when debris is incoming. Our ability to move (hands and fingers, feet and toes, etc.)  seeing and hearing to process information, feel with touch and emotion, tasting the goodness of life while also drawing in pleasing fragrances are all controlled aspects of the body by the head. Each part of the body is vitally important (although some to lesser degrees of honor than others—i.e., fingernail versus eyeball), but without the head are utterly useless. Life is sustained by the head. Life is preserved by the head. Life is made meaningful by the head.

Jesus Christ is called the Head of His body, the Church:

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ…” (1Cor 11.3a).

“And [God the Father] put all things under his feet and gave him [Jesus Christ] as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1.22-23).

“Rather, speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph 4.15-16).

“…Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Eph 5.23b).

Therefore, the Head has authority to set the limits on the body to which it is attached.

The Husband…

In a similar way, Christ is identified as the Husband of the Bride—His Church. This analogous union between Christ and His people (the saints/children of God) is called a mystery (Eph 5.32) that has been revealed in this time at the advent and ascension of Him (Rom 16.25; Eph 1.9; Col 1.26-27) who sits at the Father’s right hand (Acts 2.33; Heb 10.12). Given our current feminist driven culture the meaning of Christ as the Husband of the Bride—His Church—will be somewhat skewed.

For Scripture reveals that just as the bride is under the husband, Jesus Christ shares this unique relationship with His people (Eph 5.23). Am I then saying that the husband has authority over his wife? Yes, for that is what the Scriptures teach. Though man and woman are equal before God in status as image bearers (Gen 1.27), the man is called the head of his wife:

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1Cor 11.3; italics added).

This a functional headship where the role of the husband in the home is leadership. The husband has authority because it is God-given not because he lords over his wife. Which is stressed in another place:

“For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (1Cor 11.8-9).

Again, this an issue of function and not status. As Paul explains a little later “…all things are from God” (1Cor 11.12). Both men and women share equality in this sense as image bearers, but are not equal in authority, roles, and responsibility. Like I said, not a particularly easy concept to convey in our feminist driven society. For such teaching will be taken as highly offensive. However, the reason “…why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head…” (the covering is symbolic of her husband) is “because of the angels [messengers]” (1Cor 11.10). The Greek term translated angels here is actually messengers, thus the bracketed section. A messenger from God conveys God’s will, His Word.

This, in light of the reference to the creation of the woman in vv. 8-9 (cf. Gen 2.21-25), signifies the responsibility that Adam had towards Eve in giving her God’s instruction (ff. Gen 2.16-17), which he failed to do. Instead of protecting his wife by standing firm upon God’s Word, the Lord indicts Adam for listening to his wife’s word instead (ff. Gen 2.17). Something that should not have been done for he had been given the role of authority as her head and was responsible for not keeping it.

What Jesus Christ did for His bride—the Church—was what Adam ought to have done. For the trustworthy Husband lays down (sacrifices) Himself for His bride:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by washing her of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy without blemish” (Eph 5.25-27).

By so honoring His wife Jesus demonstrates how greatly He loves, how much he desires to nourish and cherish her (see 5.28-29). And the wife or the Bride of Christ displays her love for the Lord by submitting to her husband (Eph 5.24). What is true of the human marriage out to be true in a greater sense with this supernatural union between Christ and His people. The bond of love, of deepest intimacy is meant here not some perverted notion that fools have been known to utter.

Therefore, the Husband has authority to set the limits of His bride’s (the Church’s) activity.

Response to question 3 forthcoming…


Image by <a href=”http://Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay“>Pete Linforth

Posted in Musings

Limitations, Authority and Politics: Q1

Question 1:

What limitations does the Church of Jesus Christ have on it?

Answer 1a:

Think for a moment about what a limitation is. It is a restriction. It is a no trespassing sign. Since our creation God has placed “limits” on what we are to do as creatures. The first examples we are given is found in the beginning.

  • God taught the man what was good. He taught that we are communal creatures. He placed specific restrictions on the type of lifelong intimate relationships we are to have. Identifying that it was not good for man to be alone, God crafted from the man that He created a woman comparable to him. The woman, who becomes the man’s wife is to be his helpmate. The woman is a gift given to men to complement them. They are both created equal in their status as God’s image bearers. This sacred union was joined together to produce children, something God has likewise given as a blessing. Which means that parents are always mom and dad, nothing else.
  • God taught the man (and his wife through him) what their responsibility was as image bearers. They were to rule in God’s stead (i.e., exercise dominion) over the earth, and over its creatures. They were to tend the earth and keep (protect) what God had given as an inheritance.
  • God taught the man (and his wife through him) what was good for food. They were given every green plant, herb and fruit from trees, bushes and vines for their food. In the beginning there was no death, and so all creatures that had the breath of life in them were vegetarian. All that the earth produced, either naturally or through cultivation was given to feed the man, the woman and their offspring.
  • God taught the man (and his wife through him) the way of life and death. Here is the evidence of a verbal restriction; a no trespassing sign. Faithful obedience was the measure of continued relationship between God and mankind, mankind and the creatures under him/her, and the earth itself. Blessing following humility; whereas, cursing followed pride. (cf. Gen 1-3).

And so, we see that from the very beginning God has placed necessary limitations on His creatures. We are created free within the bonds of our Maker. We are restricted to go beyond the boundaries He has imposed.

Now look back at the question: “What limitations does the Church of Jesus Christ have on it?”

Answer 1b:

The second thing we ought to notice about this question is the word “of.” The Church is “of” Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It means that the Church (the saints and not the building, or the denomination, or the theological strain) is the possession of Jesus Christ. That is what the word “of” denotes, possessive power. That power and authority belongs to Christ Jesus alone. Thus, He is rightly identified as the “head” of the Church. Which is also why the Church is called His body.

Jesus Christ is the sole owner of the Church (again, we are talking about people here not structures), for we are His creation, His workmanship (Eph 2.10).  His life purchased us (Psa 74.2; Acts 20.28; Rev 5.9). His righteousness made us (2Cor 5.21). His holiness set us apart (2Tim 1.9; Rev 20.6).

Of course, I haven’t answered the question yet. But I would imagine that you already know the answer. The limitations that the Church of Jesus Christ has on it are what He has determined as necessary. The Church of Jesus Christ is being conformed into the image of the One and Only Son of God (Rom 8.29). The Church of Jesus Christ, therefore, is to think Christ’s thoughts after Him (1Cor 2.16). So, in order to answer the question regarding limitations we must ask ourselves: “How did we learn Christ” (Eph 4.20)?

Don’t worry you don’t have to think hard over this, if you haven’t figured it out yet. If we are to know our limitations. If we are to understand our restrictions. If we are to properly define our freedoms in this life, then we must learn to not go beyond what is written (1Cor 4.6). We must “abide in [His] word” (John 8.31) in order to “know the truth” (John 8.32). For it is His Word that sets us apart from the world’s way of thinking and acting (John 17.17).

“All that God does He does through His executive, who is His agent [Heb 1.1-3]. God does what He does by speaking the Word, and the Word is with Him and the Word is God [John 1.1-3]. The divine action cannot therefore be silent, cannot be wordless.

Christians are therefore, of necessity, people of the Word. They are people of the Word in the first instance because they are followers of Jesus, and Jesus is the Spoken Word. They are people of the Word in the second place because God has been pleased, in every age, to give verbal expression of His will to His prophets, with clear instructions to write it down [see Exod 17.14; 34.27; Jer 36.2, 28]. And in the third instance, God speaks to us daily in ever blade of grass, every breeze, every driveway pebble, and every crab nebula. Day after day pours forth speech, and night after night the knowledge increases. God speaks [cf. Rom 1.19-20; Psa 19.1-6].”[i]

The question we need to answer is do we listen to what God says? If so, then we will not only know the necessary limitations He has placed on us as His creatures, as members of Christ’s Church, but we will listen (i.e., faithfully seek to obey).

Question 2’s response forthcoming…


ENDNOTES:

[i] Doug Wilson, Mere Fundamentalism: The Apostles’ Creed and the Romance of Orthodoxy (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2018), loc 815-821, Kindle Edition. Note to reader: the bold, bracketed sections were examples found in the Scriptures that validate the point that Wilson is making in his comments. They are not meant to be exhaustive, but are given so that the reader might begin a search into such things.

Posted in Worldview Analysis

Peanut Butter Sandwich: Swallowing a Hard Truth

Have you ever eaten a peanut butter sandwich without a drop to drink? If your throat is well lubricated you make it through the most part easily enough, but eventually, if you continue, you will run into a bit of a problem. The food will begin to get stuck in your throat. Depending on how dry the peanut butter has made the way to your stomach, the process can begin to be a bit painful.

So can the following sentiment:

“In this way only we attain to what is not to say difficult but altogether against nature, to love those that hate us, render good for evil, and blessing for cursing, remembering that we are not to reflect on the wickedness of men, but look to the image of God in them, an image which, covering and obliterating their faults, should by its beauty and dignity allure us to love and embrace them.”[i]

It is easy to love those who do good to us, but another thing altogether to truly love those who have done evil to us. When we are wronged, we immediately sense within us a desire to strike back against the offender. Even after the initial act our yearning is not to let go, but to cling to that which has laid us low. Thus, the reason for the peanut butter sandwich illustration a moment ago.

Jesus tells us that we are to, “love our enemies.” Our response to the wicked person who is persecuting us is to pray for them (Matt 5.44b). We are commanded to “do good to those who hate [us]” (Luke 6.27), and to give of ourselves “expecting nothing in return” from them (Luke 6.35).

Real Life Example…

As I was chewing on these words yesterday, I thought of the recent Amber Guyger case. Here a female police officer (Amber Guyger) entered the home of another ending their life. She had come off a 13-hour shift, and wrongly assumed that the unlocked door that easily pushed open was her own apartment. Firing two shots at an apparent intruder, she killed Botham Jean with a trained shot to the chest.

Though she was found guilty of murder, the brother of the man she killed asked if he might be allowed to hug the lady having forgiven her for what she had done. Brandt Jean is a professing Christian and in spite of losing his own flesh and blood at the hands of another he offered a tender heart.[ii] So too, did the judge offer similar kindness (charity/love) when she presented the offender with her own personal Bible from her chamber. She pointed the woman to John 3:16 and told her that was her job during her sentence to focus on what was written there.

Of course, this act of love was seen as vile by a certain sect of our society. Writers at the Washington Post called it “an unusual display of public forgiveness.”[iii]The Freedom from Religion foundation began convulsing almost immediately over what they viewed as a violation[iv] of human dignity; similar to a recent judge’s ruling in the U.K. against the Bible.[v] If that was not enough, another sector of hate garbed in false love called the act of the young man who hugged and forgave and prayed for his brother’s assailant as a sign of “Black” forgiveness.[vi] To that malarkey I say, “No, sir you are wrong! In such comments you betray a bitterness in your own heart. What we witnessed at the trial was not “Black” forgiveness, but Christian forgiveness. A demonstration of Christ’s love for sinners; enemies who have harmed us.” Nor will I call the sharing of the gospel a “violation” of human rights or human dignity, but an act of selfless charity.

Lessons learned from Scripture…

One of my favorite verses that I memorized long ago is found in Ephesians 4:32. It reads,

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

For all the harping we hear today, the one who has truly been done wrong…truly, the only innocent person who was grossly violated due to hate is Jesus of Nazareth. And yet, he laid down His life seeing the horror that lay before Him in the crucifixion as a joy, because out of love He laid down His life for sinners (the sheep of His pasture). Are we better than He? Are we more loving? Are more righteous?

If we are not, then we need to learn to forgive as He has forgiven. Yes, this includes even our enemies. Yes, this means we need to be willing to hold no ill will towards them. Yes, this means we need to be willing to let go.

“Why? Why should I ever want to do that?” you ask.

There several reasons, but I will lay down a few.

  • We have been harmed, have we not also harmed others?
  • We have been spoken ill of, have we not also spoken ill of others?
  • We have been robbed, have we not also stolen from others?
  • We have been hated, have we not also hated others?
  • We have been coveted, have we not also coveted what others possess?

In all of these things, we have done likewise. And in some cases, we might even be worse than our neighbors who have harmed us. But what makes us different? Why should we response differently? What is the proper response? You already know what you ought to do.

Do you know the reason why?

People of all shapes and sizes, of all ages, of all colors and backgrounds, are intrinsically valuable because they too bear the image of God. Yes, in our fallen state the image of God is tarnished in sinners, but it has not been removed. Though the function of being an image bearer might be corrupted, the status as an image bearer has not.

If Christ died so that we might have life, do we know that He did not die for others as well? “But they are evil!” So, are we! But in Christ, because of Christ work, because the Father sent Him, because the Holy Spirit moves in this world, we have been “reconciled to God” (2Cor 5.20) so that “we might become the righteousness of God” (2Cor 5.21).

Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. And allow God to be God, for He will judge between us all (Rom 12.19). Our responsibility is to view fellow image bearers with a charitable love reminiscent of 1 Corinthians 13 in the hope that we honor God with our lives, and some might come to know Him as He truly is.

What helps us swallow hard truths is drinking from the fount of living water (John 7.38), the Word of God (Eph 5.26). Why don’t you take a drink.


ENDNOTES:

[i] John Calvin, Institutes for the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, reprint (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993), 3.7.6.

[ii] Michelle Mark, “Botham Jean’s brother gave Amber Guyger a hug after the former cop was sentenced for his brother’s murder in a powerful courtroom moment,” Business Insider, October 2, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/botham-jeans-brother-forgives-embraces-amber-guyger-2019-10.

[iii] Michael Brice-Saddler, Mark Berman and Wesley Lowery, “The Amber Guyger case has sparked emotional fallout across Dallas,” The Washington Post, October 10, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/amber-guygers-conviction-has-triggered-emotional-fallout-across-dallas/2019/10/10/7f12dafc-e9f8-11e9-9306-47cb0324fd44_story.html.

[iv] Carol Kuruvilla, “Secular Groups Claim Judge Crossed a Line by Giving Amber Guyger Her Bible,” HuffPost, October 4, 2019, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/tammy-kemp-amber-guyger-bible_n_5d975c9fe4b0f5bf7973da1d.

[v] Jeffrey Cimmino, “UK tribunal declares Christian doctor’s beliefs about gender ‘incompatible with human dignity,’” Washington Examiner, October 2, 2019, https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/uk-tribunal-declares-christian-doctors-beliefs-about-gender-incompatible-with-human-dignity.

[vi] Jemar Tisby, “White Christians, do not cheapen the hug and message of forgiveness from Botham Jean’s brother,” the Washington Post, October 3, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2019/10/03/white-christians-do-not-cheapen-hug-message-forgiveness-botham-jeans-brother/.

Personal Thoughts:

On this last citation I was particularly perturbed. The article is filled with racist sentiments that cause a mixture of emotions from sadness, anger, and nausea. My only response is where in the world do we have a right to label Christianity “white vs. Black?” Tisby writes towards the end of the article, “If white people expect all black people to extend forgiveness as quickly as Brandt Jean did, then they understand neither black people or black pain. Black grief is a community project…everyone is entitled to their own process.” NOT if Jesus is truly Lord, they are not. The belief that everyone can do what is right in their own eyes is a denial of Christ’s kingship (Judg 21.25), and an unearthing of the lies of the serpent in the garden “Did God actually say…” (Gen 3.1). Where is Scripture sir are you given permission to harbor resentment, bitterness and hate because of the wrongs that others have done. You are mingling cultural assumptions into biblical revelation.

Image by <a href=”http://Image by Robert-Owen-Wahl from Pixabay“>Robert Owen Wahl