One of the many challenges confronting complementarians today is trying to avoid sounding too much like a broken record. In the face of a veritable cottage industry of egalitarian publishing, which perennially puts out new arguments as to why the church should abandon her traditional position on men and women, complementarians are tasked with re-articulating…
The problem of animal suffering has been championed by atheists at least as far back as the time of Charles Darwin, and it is increasingly touted today. For example, Richard Dawkins claims, The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute it takes me to…
Jesus has a material resurrected body, a spiritual body. His followers will also have material and spiritual bodies forever. Our intermediate state, until we get our new body at Christ’s Return (1 Cor. 15.22-23), may resemble us being in Christ similar to the Holy Spirit indwelling us; that is, our spirits going to the resurrected Jesus where we indwell Him.
By Sinclair Ferguson
Imagine a father who loves his son and so loves his son, he hires the greatest portrait painter in the world to paint a portrait of his son. And suddenly, one night, he hears a sound in the house, the alarm bells are ringing. He puts on the lights, and he sees a man running out of his house with the great portrait under his arm. And he is desolate. He calls the police. The police come; they take fingerprints. The CSI people come; they do all the things that they do on television. And then, three weeks later, a policeman turns up at his house with a great smile on his face and says, “Sir, we have caught the thief.” Now, this father believes in justice, just like you believe in justice. It’s good they caught the thief. But you’re not so interested in the issue of whether they caught the thief. What do you say to the policeman if you’re the father? You say, “Did you get my portrait back?”
And in a way, that’s a parable of the gospel, isn’t it? God, of course, is wholly committed to justice, to judging sin, to overcoming the serpent, Satan, who has been engaged in the theft of God’s image. He just did not have a portrait painted. He Himself created a living portrait. And perhaps we can think about this, that the whole story of the Bible is the way in which God gives expression to the fact that He wants His portrait back. He wants the portrait of His Son that He painted, the living portraits of His Son that He painted. He wants that portrait back.
And the whole story of the Bible is how He prepared the way for that to happen and how it did happen. How did it happen? You know the story well. But the story has tremendous significance in this context, doesn’t it? The way in which He restored the portrait was by sending the original, by sending the original in such a way that the original Himself would be defaced.
For the past couple of weeks I have been laboring to write the third and final part of my review of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. The first two parts took an unusually long time to prepare, but in the end I was pleased with the results. In the first article my goal was to summarize…
This is a follow – up post to “Don’t Go to Church During a Pandemic”
I didn’t mean to sound as if I was against Christian Music. Music has its place but Evangelical Christians should rethink their worship service. I grew up in the 1950s and most non-Pentecostal Protestant Churches all had traditional services. In the mid-1970s churches were more and more adopting an entertaining format where the congregant was a spectator or induced to join into the powerful music effect. Is this legitimate Christian worship? I did it for a long time and lately have wanted more something resembling the biblical pattern.
Most types of music appeal to me. I’m an old rocker. I remember going to a Petra and other concerts 35 years ago. I had a small music collection at one time. This hosting of concerts in churches, could be done on Saturday night or any day of the week, but not Sunday morning. However, on Sunday, during the Lord’s Supper, soft instrumental could even be played. Psalms from the Psalter, with or without accompaniment, would be fine, but not a praise band. Praise bands can happen at other times, I have nothing against praise bands. It the timing of praise bands is what I’m addressing.
Church Service Additions
The observance of The Lord’s Supper should be held at least once each Sunday. Early Christians interpreted the words of Jesus, “As often as you do this, do it in remembrance of Me,” as a daily, if not twice daily observance. In fact, the Temple had a twice daily sacrifice, which Christ fulfilled by being crucified at the time of morning sacrifice and expiring at the evening sacrifice. Therefore, we read in Acts 2.46 that they broke bread in their homes and not in the Second Temple precincts, probably, as not to be offensive since they attended the Temple also.
This remembrance is the time when non-clerics can say something, to take a stand of sorts. What I mean is that when The Lord’s Supper is observed properly, Christ’s death is proclaimed by those who take the elements. This symbolism is witnessing that one has taken Christ inside themselves by the ritual act of taking symbolic blood and flesh. The wine represents the blood of the New Covenant which promised that everyone would “know” the Lord in an intimate and personal way. I include the ordinance in “additions” since most Evangelicals I’m addressing under – appreciate this observance. It’s a stand that one takes publicly, identifying themselves as trusting Christ’s finished work instead of anything else.
A church meal after the service was also the pattern of early Christians in their “Love Feasts.” This practice seems to have roots in Judaism’s Temple worship where the sin offering is eaten by the owner as a sign of peace between them and God. In Middle Eastern culture, sharing a meal with someone spoke of being at peace with them. In the same way, “love feasts,” a communal meal among Christians, can mend, or induce mending of relations between members, and foster understanding and koinonia. Soft music, at this time, to not disturb the diners would certainly seem appropriate.
An early Sunday morning coffee club could be a fellowship and outreach time when the mood would be lighter and informal. The time could eventually transition into the prayer and teaching segment. Contemporary Christian music would be ideal at this venue.
Christian music is appropriate in many other instances, but just as a school discourages outside music, opting instead for oral and written communication, so the Church Service should feature reading and teaching and application, if one wants to understand what the first Christians did.
Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison. (NIV)
This verse, I believe, has been mangled by many, including John Piper, over the years. I heard his take on this verse in the early 1990s somewhere and was disappointed in his exegesis then as well as now. He is still holding to his view as of 2018: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/an-impossible-covenant/excerpts/church-wont-save-you
Piper sees the exhortation as warning of the false security of belonging to a group. This idea is found in vs. 19: When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. The text seems fairly clear that “going my own way” equates with following other gods of vs. 18.
Piper’s idea, however, says that empty membership is the problem. While false confidence is offensive, it is the result, but not the underlying offense. The text is clear that the offense is idolatry and it is hidden (roots are buried and not seen – the person is living a double life). The root is poisonous – no life can spring from it. The other gods of the nations do not give life is what the text seems to be saying when it speaks of “poisonous.” The self – confidence is empty, yes, but, at the core, they are captivated by other gods, is the real problem.
Piper’s reading of Heb. 12.15, which quotes Dt. 29.18, is also problematic. How he attributes “holiness” of the previous verse as the solution to the quote is mystifying. A better connection would be Esau or the immoral person of the following verses. A case can also be made to see the “missing the grace of God” as someone who has returned to their former Jewish observances secretly perhaps, but also wants to worship Christ, possibly, to hedge their bets. Therefore, this person would need to live a double life.
Regardless, it seems the hidden root of Heb. 12.15 will be judged by God and will affect others related to it. This is what Dt. 29.19 seems to allude to as well with the reference to “the watered and dry” [land].
Folks today, generally speaking, do not adequately understand the primary aspects of the weekly gathering of Christians. The evidence of this is the almost universal adoption of The Willow Creek Model by Evangelicals. The service resembles a concert and people are encouraged to express themselves by singing and movement. This is a departure from the biblical practice. By employing entertainment methods to generate growth they fail to fulfill the discipleship mandate (Mt.28.19-20). They have admitted this themselves-https://www.christianexaminer.com/article/willow.creek.model.its.leaders.say.fails.at.discipleship/44056.htm
Its been 12 years since this was published but have most of the Evangelical Churches pulled back from the model? No. Pastor’s may feel if they reinstituted a tradition service people would not come. The best way to proceed is to first grasp the purpose of the weekly gathering which is to read the scriptures, teach and exhort as commanded by Paul to Timothy: Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1Tim. 4.13)
The Genesis of the Weekly Service
God rested (or enjoyed His creation) after 6 days of creating the universe. The need for rest and reflection seem inherent in humans, His creation in His image and likeness. God instituted this weekly rest for the Israelites when the Egyptians oppressed them with slave labor everyday of the week.
The tribe of Levi were scattered in Israel by the inheritance of cities in each of the other tribal portions. Thus they were strategically placed to help the people, weekly on the Sabbath, to understand the instructions given by God. Moses alludes to this in the blessing he gave to the tribes just before his death: They shall teach Jacob Your rules, and Israel Your Law. (Dt. 33.10)
The Temple and The Synagogue
The weekly service in the Synagogue was separate from the Temple worship and both operated independently. The Jewish Temple signified redemptive themes since animals were sacrificed for the sins and guilt of those who brought them. These redemptive acts reflected Heaven’s realities. Sacrifices and Temple observance have ceased since they were fulfilled by Christ and, in judgement, He has taken them away (see Heb. 8.13 as well as Dan. 9.26).
The early gathering in churches resembled the synagogue gathering with additions. The death of Christ is observed as redemptive in the Lord’s Supper, while Believers Baptism confesses Christ publicly. Neither in Synagogues or Churches did anyone perform music for the first centuries of this era. When music did creep in, it was a chant at first. Later huge organs dominated church buildings-all foreign to the principles of the church’s original mandate of scripture reading, exhortation and teaching (along with the breaking of bread in the Lord’s Supper, Koinonia, and prayers).
Therefore, churches do not need to gather in a pandemic. For now, everyone can study at home. When things return to normal, pastors should teach their flock in settings more akin to a school than a concert.
Yesterday was Tisha be’av, the Hebrew date on which the Jewish people remember the destruction of both the First and Second Temples. In honour of this occasion, Megalim, The City of David Institute for Jerusalem Studies, showed a dramatized recreation (2019) of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, called: A Temple in Flames…
The phrase Tisa B’av may be strange to Christians, but it means the Fast of the Ninth. The observance “is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people” (Judaism 101). According to this source, five terrible events took place on or near the ninth day of the month […]
Written by Dr. Thomas Howe
I was recently asked by a student about the book by Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm. I was not familiar with either the author or the book, so I got the Kindle edition.
It did not take very long to discover a critical problem at the foundation of his approach that undermines his whole system. He says,
Was my loyalty to the text or to Christian tradition? Did I really have to choose between the two? I wasn’t sure, but I knew that what I was reading in Psalm 82, taken at face value, simply didn’t fit the theological patterns I had always been taught.
Now, what does it mean when he says “face value”? Does “face value” mean what the text says apart from any interpretation? This cannot be the case for him since he says the “face value” did not “fit the theological patterns I had always been taught.” If he surmised that the face value did not fit, this can only be because he had understood the text in a certain way that caused this conflict in his mind. But, to take the text in a certain way is not “face value.” It is the meaning that he got from the text when he understood it, interpreted it, in a certain way. This already reveals a hermeneutic philosophy that predisposed him to arrive at a certain conclusion. Whether this initial interpretation was wrong or right is not at present the issue. What is at issue is that it reveals his latent hermeneutic philosophy.
He goes on to say,
Clarity eventually prevailed. Psalm 82 became a focal point of my doctoral dissertation, which also examined the nature of Israelite monotheism and how the biblical writers really thought about the unseen spiritual realm.
The question that this raises is, How does he come to know how the biblical writers would have understood the spiritual realm? The only access, if he in fact is loyal to the text, is the text itself. But, there is no place in the text that specifically instructs the reader on how the biblical writers would have understood the spiritual realm. So, to what sources would he have gone to discover these facts? If he goes to the Bible to discover how they would have understood the text, then his claim actually begs the question. He would have to have an always-already-present hermeneutic grid, that is a hermeneutic philosophy, in order to discover the hermeneutic grid in the text. To claim that he went to the text to discover how they would have understood the spiritual realm is therefore circular. I go to the text to discover how they would have understood the spiritual realm, I interpret the text in such a way that I grasp how they would have understood the spiritual realm, then I use these conclusions to show how they would have understood the spiritual realm. But, his conclusions about how they would have understood the spiritual realm are not from the text, but from his interpretation of the text, an interpretation which he then uses as the grid through which to interpret the text.
His hermeneutic philosophy is flawed; that is, it is self-referentially incoherent. Consequently any conclusions about what the text says derive from his flawed hermeneutic. How, then, does one know that one’s hermeneutic philosophy is good or bad? Is it then possible to have an objective understanding of the meaning of the text? Of course it is possible both to discover one’s own hermeneutic philosophy and to have an objective understanding of the meaning of the text. But that involves a philosophical and hermeneutical study into which we do not have the time to delve.
Heiser says that we need to understand the culture in which these statements are made, and I understand and agree with this fact, but one must also interpret what one reads about the culture. All we have are things and texts that remain, and all of these are subject to interpretation. If one’s interpretive methodology is flawed, then his interpretations of these other matters are as flawed. Additionally, there are no extra-biblical Hebrew documents to which we can appeal for clarification, at least not until you get to the writings of the Essenes. But these are much too late to help.
I completely disagree with the conclusion about the Divine Council. The word ‘Elohim’ is plural, and there are many times that it is used as the name for God and has associated plural and singular terms. It is similar to German, which always capitalizes nouns, so the fact that the German noun is capitalized does not justify concluding that it is some kind of proper name. Gott is capitalized because it is a noun, not because it necessarily refers to God.
Just because a word is plural does not mean that it is a reference to plurality. In Gen. 4:10 the text states, “The voice of your brother’s bloods [d emēy] is crying out from the ground.” The plural “bloods” is used here to indicate the severity of the blow. His blood was splattered around. Blood being splattered is not the same as different bloods. In John 1:13 the text says, “who were born, not of bloods . . .” The term here is plural (haimatōn). The use of the plural does not necessarily mean a plurality. So, basing his conclusions on plurality is faulty.
The term in Psalm 82 does not refer to other gods, nor to the elders of Israel. Every leader of every nation is put into power by God, and should be a representative of God to the ruler’s people. They are referred to as gods because they are supposed to be the representatives of God. God referred to the Judges of Israel as Elohim because they were put in Israel as representatives of God’s justice, not because they were gods. This is precisely the way Jesus presents this statement in Jn. 10:34: “Jesus answered them, ‘Has it not been written in your law, “I said you are gods”?’ If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”?’” Jesus is referring to at least two passages, one in the Law, Ex. 22:8, and one in Psalm 82.
In Ex. 22:8, the text states, “If a thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the gods (elohim, often translated ‘judges’) to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor’s property.” Why are the judges of Israel referred to as gods? Because they are supposed to be the representatives of God’s justice.
The other passage to which Jesus is referring is Ps. 82:6–8 “I said, ‘You are gods, and all of you are the sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes. Arise, O God, judge the earth. For it is You who possesses all the nations.” Will the gods of a divine council die? These are men, rulers of all nations, who were supposed to be the representatives of God in all nations. That is why the Psalmist says, “For it is You who possess all the nations.” Notice also that the text states, “Arise, O God, judge the earth.” It does not say, “judge the gods.” Are the gods of the divine council on the earth? These gods are men put in their various places of power who will be judged because they have not been the representatives of God as they were appointed to be. The same will happen to the judges of Israel.
In John 10 Jesus is saying, just like the judges of Israel are called gods if they executed God’s justice rightly, and just as the rulers of nations were recognized as representatives of God if they did God’s will and demonstrated His character by their actions and decisions, so why do the Pharisees say Jesus is blaspheming when He claims to be the Son of God if His works show forth the character of God. Just as the works of rulers of nations and the judges of Israel should be evaluated on the basis of their works, the Pharisees should have evaluated Jesus’ claims on the basis of His works. His works demonstrate that He is the Son of God.
There can be only one God. If there are two gods, they must differ by some difference. But they cannot differ by being qua being or by attributes because these are the very characteristics of God. But, two gods who do not differ are not two gods, but one God. So, if there cannot be more than one God, then what does the term elohim mean when used in Psalm 82? Are we to think there are some intermediate beings between God and angels? If they can’t be actual gods, and they cannot be the angels, who are never referred to by the word elohim, or some intermediate beings between angels and God, which was a view espoused by heretical groups in the time of the early Christian church, such as certain Agnostic groups and Marcionites (you also see the divine council in Enuma Elish, which refers to the assembly or council of gods), they must be men, who are in fact referred to by the words elohim OT and theoi NT.
I do not in any way want to imply nor do I believe that Heiser is not a committed Christian; as he says, committed to the orthodox Christian doctrines of the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, etc. He is without doubt a committed academic and scholar who is seeking to understand the meaning of the text. My issue is not with him as a person, a scholar, or a Christian. My issue is with his hermeneutic philosophy. His hermeneutic philosophy is self-referentially incoherent. It begs the question and it has led to conclusions that cannot be supported by his own interpretations. One cannot use one’s interpretations to prove that one’s interpretations are correct.
Why do biblical academics come to such bad conclusions? Because they don’t do philosophy. If they don’t do philosophy, they end up imbibing bad philosophy, which leads to bad methodologies, which lead to bad conclusions.
There is a statement, however, that set off additional alarm. Heiser says, “But in reality, even though I believe I was providentially prepared for the academic task I faced, there were times in the process when the best description I can give is that I was led to answers.” How was he “led”? Who was doing the leading? I am not saying that he believed he was being led by the Holy Spirit, but would the Holy Spirit lead someone on the basis of a flawed hermeneutic? This kind of statement should sound the alarm for anyone reading this book.
Heiser has a bad hermeneutical methodology because he has a bad hermeneutic philosophy. This bad philosophy has led him to bad conclusions. There have always been Christians who have tried to come up with some unique and revolutionary interpretations. Heiser is not the first to come up with this notion of a council of gods. You can see this in Gnosticism, and Marcionism, and in other adaptations of basic Christian doctrines. I’m sure he won’t be the last.
GUEST POST by Andy Naselli:
It is not much of a recommendation when all you can say is that this teaching may help you if you do not take its details too seriously. It is utterly damning to have to say, as in this case I think we must, that if you do take its details seriously, it will tend not to help you but to destroy you. [p. 159]
That’s what J. I. Packer wrote about Keswick theology, a teaching that has destroyed many people and continues to destroy more today. It frustrated the tender-hearted J. I. Packer as a young, recent convert in his pursuit to be holy:
It didn’t work and that was a deeply frustrating and depressing thing. It made me feel like a pariah, an outsider, and at the age of eighteen that was pretty burdensome. In fact, it was driving me crazy. [p. 169] The reality of its [i.e., Keswick theology’s] passivity program and its announced expectations, plus its insistence that any failure to find complete victory is entirely your fault, makes it very destructive. [p. 157]
Packer felt like a “poor drug addict” desperately, unsuccessfully, and painfully trying “to walk through a brick wall.” The explanation for his struggle, according to Keswick theology, was his “unwillingness to pay the entry fee,” that is, not fully consecrating himself. “So all he could do was repeatedly reconsecrate himself, scraping the inside of his psyche till it was bruised and sore in order to track down still unyielded things by which the blessing was perhaps being blocked.” His confusion, frustration, and pain grew as he kept “missing the bus.” The pursuit was as futile as chasing a “will-o’-the-wisp.” He felt like “a burned child” who “dreads the fire, and hatred of the cruel and tormenting unrealities of overheated holiness teaching remains in his heart to this day” (pp. 157–58). Packer concludes that Keswick’s message is depressing because it fails to eradicate any of the believer’s sin and that it’s delusive because
it offers a greater measure of deliverance from sin than Scripture anywhere promises or the apostles themselves ever attained. This cannot but lead either to self-deception, in the case of those who profess to have entered into this blessing, or to disillusionment and despair, in the case of those who seek it but fail to find it. [“Keswick and the Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification,” p. 166.]
The Puritans, says Packer, correct what he calls Keswick theology’s “pietistic goofiness” (p. 33). For further reading:
- J. I. Packer, “Keswick and the Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification,” Evangelical Quarterly 27 (July–Sept. 1955): 153–67
- J. I. Packer, preface to the centenary ed. of J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Welwyn: Evangelical, 1979), vii–viii.
- J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1984), 157–58; cf. 111.
- J. I. Packer, introduction to John Owen, Sin and Temptation: The Challenge of Personal Godliness (ed. James M. Houston; Minneapolis: Bethany, 1996), xvii–xxx, esp. xxv–xxix.
- Alister McGrath, J. I. Packer: A Biography (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), 22–26, 76–80.
- Wendy Murray Zoba, “Knowing Packer: The Lonely Journey of a Passionate Puritan,” Christianity Today 42:4 (April 6, 1998): 30–40, esp. 33.
- Jeffrey P. Greenman, “Packer, James Innell,” Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals (ed. Timothy T. Larsen, David W. Bebbington, and Mark A. Noll; Downers Grove: IVP, 2003), 497.
- John H. Armstrong, “A Reformation & Revival Journal Interview with James I. Packer,” Reformation & Revival 13:4 (Fall 2004): 163–96, esp. 166–69.
- Andrew David Naselli, Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010).
So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Eph. 3.10)
Growing up in Fundamentalism I was always instructed to view the Incarnation as merely (and it seemed imply exclusively) a necessity for Christ to redeem fallen humanity. The Incarnation was for much more than that narrow scope according to the bible however. While human redemption is a vital component, especially from our view, it pales when considering all God reveals in scripture.
According to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph. 1.9b-10)
Christians believe God created all things by Christ: yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1Cor. 8.6). Furthermore, all entities, good and evil, exist solely by Christ and for him: 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. 1.16-17).
God is Spirit
By virtue of creation and its continued maintenance , Jesus is the only legitimate Lord. He is the eternal King of the ages. However, by design, creation is fallen which opens up the need for restoration and expansion. Jesus’ famous words to the Samaritan woman indicate the spiritual reality: God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4.24). This speaks to the need of revelation and agency of the Spirit. Jesus was already king but not priest or sacrifice. The Incarnation provides Christ with control of the material universe, fallen as such to preserve it and not demolish it. How God extends control of matter is through redemptive love of His chosen creatures. John, viewing the vision on Patmos saw The Lamb as slain, therefore, Christ exhibits in His resurrected human body the wounds that redeemed us. The theme of eternity is love.
God is Not Only Good
So far this post has been a nice story with a happy ending. The bible has much more to say than a nice ending however. Some want to portray God as a cosmic Santa Claus giving out goodies. God is good, but he is more than just “good” He can also be severe as seen in the eternal judgments on the fallen angels and humans. Fallen angels have left their position (Jude 6) and therefore just as the disciples knew to replace Judas with another in Acts 1. 20-26, so it seems that the redeemed will fill their positions since: for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection (Lk. 20.36).
The Pool of Bethesda is mentioned only once in the New Testament. At this pool Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. (John 5:2 ESV) The pool consisted of two […]
Evangelicals have been debating manhood and womanhood for decades, and the conflict shows no signs of subsiding. No little bit of ink is spilled every year by both sides, and many works have trouble getting through all the noise. Such is not the case with Aimee Byrd’s new book Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood:…
In our next bioarchaeography, we’ll be exploring the life of Sennacherib, King of Assyria, using archaeological remains. Sennacherib is mentioned by name 16 times in Scripture, more than any other Assyrian ruler. From a biblical perspective, he is most famous for his invasion of Judah in 701 BC and his siege against King Hezekiah and […]
ABSTRACT: Are our current crises God’s judgment on the world? The answer to that question depends on the meaning of the word judgment. Crises such as the coronavirus may not be specific judgments against specific people for specific sins, but neither are they mere “natural disasters.” According to the book of Revelation, calamities like hurricanes,…
The King’s Business, the monthly magazine of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, published a strongly worded editorial in its September 1921 issue. With the arresting title, “Growing Like Hell,” managing editor Keith L. Brooks described the violence that had taken place in Tulsa, Oklahoma during the summer of ’21. Brooks’ editorial is short and…
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, ruled in a 6-3 decision that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Court’s opinion was written by Justice Gorsuch…
Heb. 11 is a passage that answers or defines what faith is and has been used by inquirers for centuries. Overall, the bible is the best source to illustrate faith and explain it.
The New Covenant
Jesus summarized what the New Covenant will look like in Jn. 6.45: It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him, comes to Me. This is a reference to Jer. 31. 31-34:
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Notice particularly v. 34 where it indicates an implicit teaching by God instead of the human teaching of the Old Covenant. This is the conceptual framework of what Jesus was talking about. Jesus, Paul, and the Book of Hebrews all acknowledge Jer. 31.31-34 as the definitive text promising a New Covenant. Many bibles with cross references will indicate Is. 54.13 as the verse that Jesus is quoting in Jn. 6.45; but this is not the case. While is seems the verse is an almost exact match, the bible is more concept oriented than word for word oriented. This is not to say that word correspondence is not operative, but, that concepts tend to feature more than quotes between the two Testaments.
Jesus goes on to explain further in Jn. 6.45 that the New Covenant involves the initiation of the Father and response of learning, and finally accepting Jesus the Messiah. One might ask: where does faith come into the discussion?
Aspects of Faith
Connected to the message of Christ.
Rom. 10.17: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. This indicates faith is wrapped up with hearing God’s message of Christ. The text in Rom. 10 goes on to seemingly include some measure of general revelation when quoting Psalm 19. Also, Rom. 1. 20-21 says that all humans have known and understood aspects of God since He personally revealed it to them. Therefore, the faith and knowledge about God are not mysterious entities needing profound theological explanations.
Faith is a Gift.
All humans on earth have a propensity for selfishness, pride, and a desire of independence from God. Even Christians were dead to God at one stage (Eph. 2.1-3). Humans need a new birth from God. During the early spread of the church, the Apostle Peter gave the mechanics, if you will, about becoming a Christian: By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see (Acts 3.16). Faith comes from a person, namely Jesus.
A favorite verse of many Christians to help them through adversity is Phil. 1.29: For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him. Both Christian suffering and initial faith are granted by God. Of course there is a fight of faith where a person knowing God will need to fight that internal battle to believe and not resort to shrinking back in fear.
2Peter 1.1 states that saving faith is something to be received: Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours. We were persuaded by God is why we believe so it was a gift.
Also, God teaches a person aspects of discernment indicating a prior relationship in Jn.7.17: Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.
Finally, though many other bible passages can be used to show the gracious nature of faith, perhaps an examination of the confession of Peter in Mt. 16.17-18 will illumine truths to inform us:
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock (Petra) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Jesus is creating an organism, The Church, which is comprised of those who know Him. I do not want to go into controversies about how these verses has been misinterpreted by The Roman Catholic Church or others, but simply state what this passage means based upon the totality of scripture. The Church is not a building or an organizational institution, rather, its the persons individually and collectively. This aspect is clearly seen since Christians are a temple individually and corporately (1 Cor.6.19 shows this individually while 1 Cor. 3.16 gives the corporate picture by use of the plural in the Greek text).
Back to Mt. 16. 17-18 which shows the work of revealing to Peter by God the Father of who Jesus was. This shows exactly what the foundational rock is (v. 18-Petra) that Jesus will build His church upon: God working in individuals to bring them to Himself (since it was not “flesh and blood”-the O.T. “brother” of Jer. 31.34 but God Himself who called them). This is God’s foundation which stands sure: Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (2Tim. 2.19).
I’m going to talk about two kinds of leaders in Mark 10:42-45, but the discussion will make fullest sense if I spend some time in the rest of Mark’s Gospel setting the stage for this. Jesus throughout Mark’s Gospel displays one kind of leadership. Some scholars like to play Jesus’s “Messianic secret” (his invoking silence…
N.T. Wright (some call him N.T. Wrong) claims that scholarly focus should be on the literature of Jesus’ time. I counter because Jesus appealed consistently to promises found in the text of scripture long ago written (at His time) and not to the faulty ideas circulating during His time. Jesus, instead, refuted many of the popular notions such as: 1. Wealth indicating divine favor. 2. Beneficence of Abraham extending to his descendants. There are more examples.
Also, Jesus had to correct His own disciples who were dedicated followers because of their misunderstanding of the fuller picture and attendant mystery (the need for the two offices-High Priest and King to be joined in one person). The best way, in my opinion, to understand Jesus and His incarnation is to more fully understand the Law, Prophets, and Psalms (Lk. 24.44).
In a succinct manner, Kevin DeYoung distills the bible’s account of the Ascension to make it relevant for Christians. He didn’t mention Christ’s Priesthood directly which is what He just accomplished in His death before he ascended.
Heb. 5.1-2 tells us the representative nature of a priest that he needs to mediate ignorant and straying people before God. A human High Priest knows this inherently since he is also somewhat ignorant and straying. Christ knows our nature exhaustively (since He is Creator) and can represent us to God. This is why He entered the material realm in a humble state instead of a warrior such as when He appeared to Joshua (Jos. 5.13-15).
In Is. 42 He is set forth as a servant, One who will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick. This is what humanity needed and received in the earthly ministry of Jesus before He ascended as a Priest on His throne (Zech. 6.11-13 cf. Zech. 3.8-9).
Jesus was King over Israel before they asked for a king like all the other nations (1 Sam. 8.7). Therefore, in His humanity, Jesus was born a king as his rightful position.
By Kevin DeYoung
Having triumphed over death and the devil in his resurrection, Christ ascended into heaven locally, visibly, and bodily—locally in that he spatially left earth below for heaven above, visibly in that the disciples saw with their own eyes (as a public event) that he departed from them, and bodily in that the physical flesh of the Son of God is no longer with us on earth.
We can think of Christ’s state of exaltation (as opposed to his state of humiliation) as consisting of four events, each part tracking with a phrase in the Apostles’ Creed: resurrection (he rose again from the dead), ascension (he ascended into heaven), session (and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty), and physical return (from there he will come to judge the living and the dead).
The ascension is more prominent in Scripture than we might realize. Luke describes the ascension in the most detail, first in his Gospel (Luke 24:50-53) and then in Acts (Acts 1:9-11). Peter’s Pentecost sermon on Pentecost is, in part, about the ascension and enthronement of Christ (Acts 2:32-36).
Likewise, John’s Gospel is full of references to the ascension of the Son of Man (John 3:13, 6:62) and the importance of Jesus returning to the Father (John 14:2-3; 16:5). The ascension is not simply how Jesus gets to heaven, it is a further fulfillment and vindication of the triumph of the resurrection (John 16:5; 20:17).
It’s no wonder that the ascension is highlighted throughout the New Testament, as a necessary precursor (1) to the giving of Messianic gifts (Eph. 4:8-10), (2) to the intercession of our High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16), and (3) to the subjection of all things under Christ’s feet (1 Peter 3:22).
What, then, does the oft-overlooked ascension mean for us?
Second, the ascension means God’s people are, in a manner of speaking, already in heaven. We set our minds on things that are above, because our lives are hidden with Christ who dwells above (Col. 3:2-3).
Third, the ascension means we can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Once ascended to heaven, Jesus sent another Helper (John 14:16; 16:7) to give us power from on high and to be with us forever.
Fourth, the ascension means human flesh sits enthroned in heaven. God has granted all power and authority to a man (Matt. 28:19; Eph. 1:21-22). Jesus Christ is exercising the dominion that human beings were made to have from the beginning (Gen. 1:28). The ruin of the first Adam is being undone by the reign of the second.
Because of Christ’s ascension we know that the resurrection is real, the incarnation continues, Christ’s humanity lives on in heaven, the Spirit of Jesus can live in our hearts, and a flesh-and-blood, divine human being rules the universe.
Earlier this week a friend asked where he should start in reading Calvin’s Institutes. I suggested, as I often do, beginning with Calvin’s A Little Book on the Christian Life which is an excerpt of the larger work, and one focused largely on Christian living. Here’s a wonderful and timely extract from the new edition…
In our series of bioarchaeographies, we’ve alternated between Old Testament people, such as Tiglath-Pileser III, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Shishak, King David, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Omri, and New Testament figures, like Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, Herod Agrippa I and II, Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate, Gallio, and Sergius Paulus. In this article, we’ll explore the life of one of […]
By Albert Mohler
This New York Times obituary celebrates the late Dr. Richard Friedman as having shown that sexual orientation was largely biological. I’m saying that’s not true. He did not show any such thing. He did raise patterns in research including biological factors that were used in the transformation of the American Medical Society, and by that I mean the society of doctors writ large and most importantly by the American Psychiatric Association. The research was used by those organizations in order to justify a complete 180 degree turn when it came to the understanding of homosexuality.
But in a process I’ve traced in my book, We Cannot Be Silent, published just a few years ago, it was an intensely political process and we know that because the people who were at the center of the story indicated just how political it was. Political pressure brought on groups of the American Psychiatric Association and along the same time the American Psychological Association, but you’ll notice how affected the propaganda is on this, so much so that it shows up in this obituary. If it is true that Dr. Friedman showed that sexual orientation was largely biological, then what is the biological explanation? The fact is there isn’t one and there’s no actual argument for one. It’s an argument from patterns, and by the way, no intelligent, intellectually honest Christian should deny those patterns. There are bigger issues here, but one of the things to note is that even in an obituary, the culture war goes on—an effort to try to remind Americans, oh, this is what we know. American Christians need to stop for a minute and think, wait a minute, do we really know that at all?
There’s another aspect in this obituary that’s absolutely fascinating. There are two alternative views about the origin and explanation of male homosexuality in this article. There is the so-called biological view presented by the psychiatrist, psychoanalyst Richard Friedman, and then there is the Freudian view. You’ll notice what’s completely absent from the entire perspective here and that would be say, an historic Christian view. Here you have just two plausible views presented, the Freudian and you might say the new one promoted by Richard Friedman. That’s the whole point of the obituary. This is where Christians have to pause for a moment and say, “Wait a minute. We never signed on to the Freudian understanding of homosexuality.”
Later in the obituary Severson writes, “Although the American Psychiatric Association, the dominant mental health organization in the United States, changed its diagnostic manual in 1973 and stopped classifying homosexuality as an illness, psychoanalysts continued to describe homosexuality as a perversion and many believed it could be cured.” The big issue here is as the article says that Friedman’s research and argument “led to a model in which analyst and patient simply assumed that homosexuality was intrinsic.” Well, they pretty much gave away the store with that argument. They gave their argument away. They are admitting here as is recorded in the New York Times that the analyst and the patient “simply assumed that homosexuality was intrinsic.”
Once again, what we see here is that it’s presented in the lede paragraph as biology and science, but when it comes down to it, it’s really more an act of the will when it comes to making the argument.