A Comparison of the Hermeneutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part Two)

FeaturedA Comparison of the Hermeneutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part Two)

In a previous article, a common criticism raised from Covenant theologians brought forth from promoters of Dispensational thought is Covenant theology promotes what some would call “replacement theology.” An article, promoting Covenant theology, brought forth a counterargument that the term “replacement theology” is alien to Covenant theology arguing that Dispensationalism promotes an Israel-centered grid when reading the Scriptures. However, it was noted that the term “replacement theology” is used intentionally, and was shown that there were theologians throughout the centuries that promoted the idea that the church had either superseded or replaced Israel when it came to future promises. It was shown by the biblical text there are exclusive promises that are given to national Israel that have not yet been completed, and if God fails to give these promises to the people whom He had addressed, then God’s glory is nullified.

In this same article, the writer commented that Israel was only an instrument God used to bring about what God prophesied to the serpent in the Garden of Eden

[Dispensationalism] assumes that the temporary, national people was, in fact, intended to be the permanent arrangement. Such a way of thinking is contrary to the promise in Gen. 3:15. The promise was that there would be a Savior. The national people was only a means to that end, not an end in itself. According to Paul in Ephesians 2:11-22, in Christ the dividing wall has been destroyed. It cannot be rebuilt. 

The Hidelblog.com. Covenant theology is not replacement theology. Retrieved from: https://heidelblog.net/2013/08/covenant-theology-is-not-replacement-theology/

Does Ephesians 2:11-22 prove that Israel was only a “means to an end?” A brief exposition of the Ephesians 2:11-22 will be examined below.

In the broader context of Ephesians chapter two Paul summarizes the Ephesian saint’s life before Christ, and that by God’s mercy they have received forgiveness (vs. 1-6). Paul also told them that in the future they will be displays of God’s grace, and how all of these benefits that were given to them was not based on any merit of their own but was all a work of God (vs. 7-9).  Due to this reality, they were to complete the good works that God had laid out before them to complete (v. 10).  Paul, in the next verse, discusses how the Gentiles (i.e., non-Jews) were excluded from the “commonwealth” (this refers back to the back to the theocracy found in with Israel in the Old Testament, as the Law was specifically given to the Israelite people). Paul also wrote they were strangers (lit. “aliens”) to the covenants of promise (these are the promises that are associated with the commonwealth of Israel such as land, seed, blessing, king, and kingdom). Paul writes they were without hope and God in the world (as far as these personal promises to national Israel are concerned).

Paul then explained they had been brought (or “made near”) by the blood of Christ and continued the metaphor of this spiritual reality by bringing up the dividing wall that surrounded the Temple of God. The dividing wall was a physical structure that was around the temple of God and separated Jew and Gentile. The non-Jew could not cross past this wall as it resulted in death to the gentile who crossed over it. Paul wrote due to the work of Christ these two groups that were once separated would be unified. Paul then underscored this truth by quoting from the Old Testament and gave the result of the work of Christ for the non-Jew: They are strangers and aliens no longer, but fellow citizens with the saints in God’s personal household. Paul also spoke of the foundation of God’s household which was built on the apostles and those prophets that spoke in the early church, and that the Gentiles are being built up in the Lord.

There are several qualities to note about this epistle. Paul could have made it very clear that the church is spiritual Israel or the new Israel as some past theologians have written. However, Paul in verse 14 used the word εἷς (“one”). Paul then further specifies what this number signifies in verse 15 by using the Greek phrase εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον (“into one new man”). If Paul wanted to express the church were one new nation he would have written εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἔθνος (“into one new nation”) or εἰς ἕνα καινὸν Ἰσραὴλ (“into one new Israel”). In addition, Paul uses other terms in this particular passage to describe the unification of Jew and Gentile such as οἰκεῖος (“household”), οἰκοδομή (“building”), and naos (“temple”). In other epistles, he uses the word σῶμα (“body”) to describe the spiritual unity of the church (c.f., 1 Cor. chap 12). However, Paul when talking to the Gentiles in explaining the reality of the Church never uses the word nation, or Israel, to describe such people.

Paul outlined the blessings that the Gentiles have been given by God in chapter one of Ephesians. The Gentiles had been made holy and blameless before God (v. 4), they had been predestined to adoption to be sons and daughters of God the Father (v. 5, 11). Redemption through the blood of Christ to be reconciled to the Father (vs. 7-8). He had given them “the mystery of His will” through the apostles (v. 9). There is an inheritance that the Gentile saint would receive (v. 11), and the sealing of the Holy Spirit guaranteeing the inheritance we will receive (i.e., their glorification) (v. 14). These details outlined in chapter one are important because in none of these blessings that Paul mentioned in chapter one are the physical promises Israel is to receive (i.e, land, seed, blessing, king, and kingdom).

Furthermore, Paul used the temple as a metaphor to describe the reality of the spiritual unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ Jesus. However, this does not mean that Paul is making an argument national Israel is a means to an end. From the context, observing the words in their plain sense Paul is arguing that the ministry of Christ brings these two different people groups together and unifies them. The dividing wall, as Paul wrote metaphorically has been destroyed between the two groups, but to claim this passage is an argument that the promises directly given to national Israel are now obsolete when the words Paul uses in the text do not express this idea, is overstepping the bounds of the author’s intent.

The author in the article above seemed to imply that dispensational thinkers observe Israel as an end in itself. This writer would have to respectfully disagree with his analysis of dispensationalism. The end of all things according to the dispensationalist is the glory of God, not the nation of Israel. As stated previously the reason Israel figures prominently is that there are still promises that are given to Israel personally by God that He must fulfill. If God does not give these promises to the people He said He would give them to this will, in effect, minimize the glory of God.

Israel and the church are not juxtaposed beside each other.  As Scripture has revealed there are physical blessings that are personally given to Israel, and they are spiritual blessings that are given to the church. Ephesians 2:11-22 show that the Gentiles are unified with Jews (which was not seen in the economy of the Law). The Gentiles are fellow sharers of the spiritual blessings outlined in chapter one of Ephesians, and this is all a working of God’s multifaceted plan, for His own glory. Amen.

In Covenant theology, it is expressed that the body of Christ was seen through Israel, which served as a type and shadow that the church has always existed. In the next article, this author will contend that is not the case.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

A Comparison of the Hermeneutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part One)

A Comparison of the Hermeneutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part One)

In greater evangelical Christianity there are two major systems of theology: Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. Although there is a common thread between the systems (i.e., the glory of God), there is a major difference in how the glory of God is ultimately displayed. For the Covenant theological system, the glory of God is primarily redemptive. This redemptive plan according to Covenant theology is observed by God establishing two (or possibly three) covenants with mankind: The covenant of redemption, the covenant of works, and the covenant of grace. In Dispensationalism, there are three qualities that govern the system: the doxological purpose of God (which this author would argue governs the two other  qualities), consistently observing the words of Scripture in their plain and normal sense (i.e., the consistent normal historical-grammatical reading), and the distinction between Israel and the Church (in plan and purpose). From a dispensational view, the glory of God in all of His works is the focus and not only the salvation of mankind. 

One of the common criticism from those who adhere to Covenant theology is dispensational thinkers have an Israel-centered hermeneutic rather than Christocentric hermeneutic, as one such website notes

The very category of “replacement” is foreign to Reformed theology because it assumes a dispensational, Israeleo-centric way of thinking. It assumes that the temporary, national people was, in fact, intended to be the permanent arrangement.

The Hidelblog.com. Covenant theology is not replacement theology. Retrieved from: https://heidelblog.net/2013/08/covenant-theology-is-not-replacement-theology/

Even though the word “replacement” has not been used in the past, this particular use of the word has not been without reason. There have been theologians throughout history that have stated that Israel as a nation, in comparison with the church, is now irrelevant. Justin Martyr (130-202 A.D.) in Dialogue with Trypho wrote:

Then is it Jacob the patriarch in whom the Gentiles and yourselves shall trust? or is it not Christ? As, therefore, Christ is the Israel and the Jacob, even so we, who have been quarried out from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelitic race.

Justin Marytr. Dialogue with trypho. Retrived from https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.cxxxv.html.

Tertullian (160-220 A.D.), another early theologian in his work An Answer to The Jews made a similar comment about Israel, using the historical narrative of Jacob and Esau he commented:

Accordingly, since the people or nation of the Jews is anterior in time, and greater through the grace of primary favour in the Law, whereas ours is understood to be less in the age of times, as having in the last era of the world attained the knowledge of divine mercy: beyond doubt, through the edict of the divine utterance, the prior and greater people — that is, the Jewish — must necessarily serve the less; and the less people — that is, the Christian— overcome the greater.

Tertullian. New Advent. An answer to the Jews.  Retreived from http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0308.htm

Those who subscribe to Covenant theology connect their hermeneutic back to the early church fathers (e.g., Justin Martyr, Tertullian, etc.), as one author noted:

In the history of theology, the elements of what we know as covenant theology; the covenant of redemption before time between the persons of the Trinity, the covenant of works with Adam, and the covenant of grace after the fall; have existed since the early church…Indeed, Reformed readers who turn to the early church fathers (c. 100–500 AD) might be surprised to see how frequently they used language and thought patterns that we find very familiar.

Clark., S (2006). The history of covenant theology. Retrieved from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/history-covenant-theology/

However, when a person observes Scripture in its plain meaning there are promises that are explicitly given to national Israel. For example, God promised Abraham’s descendants physical land that stretches from Egypt to the River Euphrates (as far as Egypt to what is now modern day Iraq) (Gen. 15:18). 

future-map5
The future borders of Israel outlined in Gen. 15:18. Retrieved from http://www.ahavat-israel.com/eretz/future.

In addition, God promised David a physical King that would come from his line and rule Israel on his throne to usher in an everlasting righteousness (2 Sam. 7:8-14). Furthermore, the promise of the new covenant is given specifically “to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Ezek. 31:31). The future promises that are given to national Israel are associated with the consistency of creation itself described by the prophet Jeremiah!

Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar;
The Lord of hosts is His name: “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the Lord, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease. From being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says the Lord, “If the heavens above can be measured And the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,” declares the Lord

Jer. 31:35-37 NASB

How would a Covenant theologian explain the land promise found in Genesis 16:18? John Calvin in his works does not even comment on how much land Abraham’s descendants would receive but he comments the covenant in this specific text is essentially a shadow of the sacraments of the church. John Gill, another prominent theologian mentioned in his commentary that the River Euphrates was the boundary line during the rule of King David. However, there has never been a time in history where Abraham, nor Abraham’s descendants have received land by the Nile River in Egypt. The Covenant theologian, based upon a predominant “ecclesiastical” hermeneutic at the most replaces the promises given to Israel to the church, or at the least supersedes the promises of God that are given to Israel to the church.

By contrast, the dispensational view, consistently observing Israel in the plain normal sense, would recognize that these things mentioned above (land, king, and spiritual renewal) are given directly to this nation whom God has promised these things to. If God fails to give these things to those whom He has addressed, or if He exclusively transfers these promises to another group of people in effect this would diminish His very glory.  In short, the method a person uses to read the Bible (i.e., hermeneutic) is how one is going to explain the Scriptures.

The critique that dispensational thought employs an Israelological grid to explain the Scriptures is false. The system of dispensationalism has at its very core a doxological focus. It must be noted that Israel does figure prominently in the Old Testament and even the New Testament Scriptures. However, this is due to the promises God gave to them as a nation, and these promises are directly associated with His glory. 

There is no denying God’s redemptive work for mankind. Both Covenant and Dispensational systems acknowledge this. Both systems also recognize the glory of God as the ultimate end. How God’s glory is understood in relation to human history is determined on the method that is employed by each system. For the Covenant theologian due to the hermeneutic they use they observe the glory of God primarily in the salvific act of Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. For the dispensationalist, the glory of God is observed in all His works, and this includes not only the salvation of those who are part of the church but God fulfilling the future promises to the people who will receive them, which is Israel.

Yet there are those who subscribe to Covenant theology that believe dispensationalists juxtapose Israel and the church. In the next article, this author will demonstrate from the Book of Ephesians that this is not the case.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

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Hebrews 6:4: A Brief Exposition

Hebrews 6:4: A Brief Exposition

There are many verses in Sacred Scripture that bring various perspectives about the life and position of the believer. One such verse is Hebrews 6:4-6, which states the following:

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame (NASB).

There are those who make the case that if one who claims they are saved, and they who have fallen away were not really Christian. One such podcast, making a connection with the Book of Hebrews and connecting it with the Lord’s Supper mentions that the verbs (i.e., actions) of those who the author of Hebrews has addressed are in this past tense stating that “they tasted, but they did not eat.” The author then completes his thought by expressing the following statement

“…So church members who forsake the ministry of the word and the sacrament really fall away from something important, the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit united to these means. So, dangerous thing.”

Michael Horton (2018). Does Hebrews 6:4 Teach We Can Lose Our Salvation? Core Christianity. Retrieved from https://corechristianity.com/resource-library/episodes/losing-your-salvation-in-hebrews-6

In the notes concerning the show he also writes the following paragraph:

There is a difference between tasting and eating. When we come to worship and we hear Christ Himself say, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, I will give you rest,”when we’re baptized, when we come to the Lord’s Supper, Paul says “This bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? This cup that we bless is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” And so, [the question is], are you really participating by faith? Are you really receiving Christ with all of his benefits? Or are you just receiving the means, going through the motions but rejecting the reality offered to you? The real thing that should be encouraging to people is [Hebrews chapter 6] verse 9, “Though we speak in this way yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things, things that belong to salvation.”

Michael Horton (2018). Does Hebrews 6:4 Teach We Can Lose Our Salvation? Core Christianity. Retrieved from https://corechristianity.com/resource-library/episodes/losing-your-salvation-in-hebrews-6

In the general context of Hebrews the author, in the last part of chapter five, has just given the Jewish believers an admonishment stating that they ought to be teachers, but because they are “dull of hearing” they need a recap of the doctrines they were taught previously (Heb. 5:11-12). The author then explains they need milk, like an infant because they are still not accustomed to solid food (v. 13). The author then tells them what the solid food is, that they would have their senses constantly trained to discern truth from error (v. 14). It is on the heels of this thought that chapter six begins.

The author at the beginning of chapter six stated the Jewish believers needed to press on to maturity, not laying a foundation of repentance from dead works to serve a living God (the audience the author was addressing was already standing on this foundation of repentance) (Heb. 6:1). He then mentions some of the doctrines they discussed: The washings (more likely the washings refer to identification: being sanctified  by Christ and His Holy Spirit; c.f. 1 Cor. 6:7; Tit. 3:5), laying on of hands (perhaps an ability to manifest the Holy Spirit for the common good that came by this practice (c.f., 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6)), the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment (eschatological teaching) (v. 4). The author then expressed that they would continue to teach these things as God permitted them to do so (v. 5). 

Then the author of Hebrews then began to lay out an argument by telling the Jewish believers it is impossible (lit. “not possible”) to have been illumined by the truth of God’s word, namely the gospel of Jesus Christ,  have been indwelt with the Holy Spirit and made alive in Christ (i.e., the powers of the age to come) and fall away to renew them again to repentance (due to the fact they believed the message of the Messiah and His work for them) when they crucify themselves to the Son of God putting Him to open shame. The author then gives an example found in the culture with farming. When rain falls on soil that is tilled and cultivated, it brings forth vegetation that is useful to all, and this results in a blessing from God (v. 7). By contrast, the author brings up if the ground produces weeds and things that are not beneficial then they will be cut down and burned (v. 8).

The intent of the author of Hebrews is not making a case for saints forsaking the ministry of  Lord’s Supper in this text (matter of fact the term “Lord’s Supper” is not even mentioned here). He is making the case for effective works among God’s saints. The author of Hebrews is telling them to leave the elementary teachings of Christ and press on to maturity (this word in Greek is τελειότης (teleiotes), and this is associated with being full grown or complete). In addition, the author of Hebrews affirmed they are saved from God’s wrath. They know the elementary doctrines of Scripture, and now the deeds they were to do were to be fueled by the doctrines they were assured. The Jewish believers were to be effective in their serving others, and in the end, this would result in a reward from God at the proper time. However, those who are believers who do not labor well, end up giving a “black eye” to the message of the gospel, their works become ineffective to all who are around and ultimately will result in loss of rewards from God.

This point the author of Hebrews is making is underscored in the proceeding verses noted below:

9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Heb. 6:9-12 NASB emphasis mine).

The author of Hebrews says to the “beloved” (this word is only used for believers) concerning them and the things that accompany (or belong to) salvation that God will not forget their work as they have ministered to His saints. The author then expressed his desire: That they continue to be diligent due to the realization of their assurance, and not to be sluggish (the Greek word is νωθρός (nothros), which in this context lit. means “lazy”), not to fall away and thus be ineffective to the service of the Lord, but to imitate those saints who labored knowing they were destined to inherit these promises God made to them.

These verses, in context, are not discussing how a believer can lose their salvation nor is the author discussing dangerous territory if a believers do not take the Lord’s Supper (in fact from the text the author of Hebrews, in context, is making a case against this, nor is this verse discussing the consequence of denying the Lord’s Supper, which is not mentioned). This passage is meant to be an encouragement to the Jewish believers to continue to be effective in their labor for the Lord, not to slack, but to be diligent. In this work, the one who labors well honors the word of God and will be rewarded by God in the future.

Let us take the wisdom of God through the author of Hebrews to heart. Let us be effective for Him. In this, we serve our brothers and sisters in the faith and ultimately be rewarded for our service, for His glory. Amen.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

The Greatest Work God Has Ever Done

The Greatest Work God Has Ever Done

When it comes to the greatest work God has ever done there have been many theologians who have weighed in concerning what they believe is the greatest work God has ever done.  David Johnson, a minister of the Sellersberg Church of Christ, said the greatest work God has ever done is the crucifixion. The author writes:

Jesus’ greatest miracle was all that he had to say and do in order to finish the words, “Your sins are forgiven,” words, plus his work on the cross for you and me, unique, unlike any other miracle Jesus performed. And so Jesus Christ is to be ever praised. Amen and amen.

Wayne Grudem, a prominent theologian in Reformed circles, wrote in his book Systematic Theology that the incarnation is the greatest act our Lord has ever done. Wayne Grudem notes:

[The incarnation] is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire bible-far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join Himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain in eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound miracle in the entire universe (pg. 563)

I would like to weigh in on what I consider to be greatest work that God has ever done (not to say that all of God’s works are not great!). The perspective I presents runs afoul of Wayne Grudem, and David Johnson, in terms of what they believe is the greatest work of God. I consider the resurrection of Jesus Christ to be the greatest work God has ever done. Let me present three reasons why the resurrection is the greatest work of God.

  • Jesus points to the resurrection as a sign He has authority: Jesus Christ, in John’s account in chapter 2:13-18, was turning over tables due to the thievery of, the money changers in the temple of God, fulfilling the prophecy found in Psalm 69:9. It was here some of the Jewish leaders approached Jesus. and asked by what authority Jesus had to turn the money changers table’s over in the temple. Jesus responds in this manner:

 19 Jesus answered them,Destroy this temple , and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple , and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. (Jn. 2:18-20 NASB; emphasis mine).

The sign He gives the Jewish leaders at the time they confronted Him about turning the money changer’s table in the temple, was not the incarnation, was not His crucifixion, but the resurrection of His body.

  •  The resurrection shows the believer’s faith is not worthless: Paul, writing to the churches in Corinth tells about the resurrection of Christ and the faith of those who believe:

12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:12-19 NASB).

In this amazing passage Paul writes to the churches in Corinth about the consequences of what would have happened if Christ did not resurrect from the dead:

  1. The future resurrection (and glorification) of the saints would not exist (v. 13).
  2. Paul’s preaching and proclaiming the gospel would be worthless (v. 14).
  3. Paul essentially, would be a liar, and a false apostle, because he would be speaking against God’s word, saying God rose from the dead when He really did not (v. 15).
  4. The saint’s faith in Christ to appear, raise them from the dead, and glorify them would be worthless (v. 14, 17).
  5. The saint would still be in sins without the resurrection of Christ Jesus (v. 17b).
  6. Those saints who have gone before the believers have been destroyed in God’s wrath (v. 18).
  7. a saint’s hope would only be relegated to this life here, and not the life to come (v. 19a).
  8. The saint would be the most to be pitied because all those who gave their life, and everything they had, would have been given up for a lie (v. 19b).

Paul wrote this to the Corinthian church, not mentioning the incarnation, or even the crucifixion, but about the resurrection.  Paul tells the believer that without the resurrection, no Christian, on the face of this earth, would have hope and an eager expectation for their glorified body, and the life to come.

  • The resurrection accounts for all other facts of Christ and the Sacred Scriptures: Would the death of Christ mean anything without a resurrection? No, it would be just another death of another “spiritual guru.” Would the incarnation be anything in theology if there was no resurrection? No, He would just be another man. Would all of the works of Christ in His earthly ministry mean anything without the resurrection? No, He would be passed off as a magician, or a sorcerer (which by the way He was accused in the Babylonian Talmud for being).

The point is the only reason Wayne Grudem and David Johnson can write these things about the incarnation, or the crucifixion, is because of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus accounts for a number of theological truths: The veracity of the Old Testament Scriptures, the incarnation of God in human flesh in Jesus, the works and signs Jesus performed in His earthly ministry, the atonement of Christ on the cross for the believer’s sins, the authority of Christ given by His Father over the earth, the ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father in heaven, the sending of the Holy Spirit among the Jews and proselytes resulting in the conception of the Church in Acts chapter 2, the founding of the church among the Gentiles by the apostle Paul, the intercession of the saints before the father by Christ Himself, the future resurrection and glorification of the saints at His appearing, the great Millennial Kingdom, and the establishing of the new heavens and new earth. These things hinge on the fact that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead.

When believers in this age proclaim the forgiveness of sins in Jesus to those around them they do so with the reality that Jesus has rose from the dead. When believers talk about theology they do so knowing Christ resurrected from the dead. All of the activities concerning believers in Christ, such as prayer, fellowship, even church discipline are found in the resurrection of Christ. So although I respect the viewpoints of Wayne Grudem, and David Johnson, I will have to defer to our blessed Lord and Savior, and the apostle Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit, to make the case for the greatest work God has ever done-the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let all believers thank God, for this greatest and glorious work of God, given to those who believe. Amen.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

L.S.

 

 

Prayer As An Insignificant Work

Prayer As An Insignificant Work

I have heard with all of the turmoil that is happening in our world over the past several months, that we need to do more than just pray, or that praying is not enough. I understand the frustration and the anger when we observe all that is happening, especially when governing authorities that God has established fail to act against evil, and it looks as if nothing is happening. We become disillusioned about the current state of the world, and wonder if anyone is going to remedy the problems we observe around us.

Need I suggest, for the person who holds to a theological worldview, prayer may be one of the greatest things a believer in Christ can do.

Why is prayer most important to the believer? Let us observe several reasons why the act of prayer is important to the believer below:

  • Prayer is God’s will for us to do: Paul, speaking to the churches in Thessalonica writes:

 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:16-17 NASB).

God, desires us to pray to Him and offer various request to Him. God observes that prayer to Him is no small or insignificant labor that a Christian does, but it is a necessary work, that Paul tells us that we are to continually pray often.

  • The Creator of Heaven and Earth hears our prayers: This is the John’s confidence as he writes this:

14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. (1 John 5:14-15 NASB emphasis mine).

To come to the Lord and petition for our needs, in accordance with His will, and He hears us is the confidence we can have when we pray. When we pray for those who are dead in trespasses and sins that they would receive God’s mercy, when we pray for daily needs throughout our lives. When we pray repenting of our sin. When we ask Him to fill us with the Holy Spirit, and give us the power to resist sins, He lends His ear to our petition. When we seek His wisdom in various matters, we petition Him to guide us by His Sovereign hand. This is not an insignificant work, because the God, who created the universe, all creation that we see before us, lends His ear to our request and by His sovereign will, answers them as He deems best.

  • Prayers bring the peace of God to guard our hearts: Paul writing to the churches in Phillippi tells them one of the results of prayer when he writes:

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension , will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6 NASB, emphasis mine).

Paul makes it clear that for one to have their hearts guarded by anxiety by the peace of God they shoul pray. He gives the churches in Phillippi the command to pray, thanking the Lord for all He has done, and submit their request to God. The peace of God comes knowing that God has lend an ear to His Beloved saint, and will answer according to His sovereign will.

  • God makes the prayer of the righteous man effective: James, speaking to the believers in his letter says this about the nature of prayer:

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:13-16 NASB).

James wrote if there are those who are suffering from various afflictions, one must pray. If one is sick, they should called the elders to pray over them, and the one who faithfully prays will restore the one who is sick, and will even forgive sins because of the intercessory prayer of a believer. James stated we are to confess our sins to one another, and pray so that we may be forgiven and restored from the sins we have committed. These prayers a believer prays for the afflicted, and for the sick, and for the forgiven sinner, are effective as the believer petitions God in these matters.

There are many things that those who are believers in Christ can pray for. If a believer is afflicted and persecuted prayer is a comfort (Acts 16:25). Believers can pray for other believers to continually examine themselves in their sanctification (2 Cor. 13:5-9). Saints are to pray, and intercede for all men, especially the governing authorities (even those we do not like!) (1 Tim. 2:8). Believers can pray the saints would be enlightened to the truth of the word of God, and the believers destiny to be glorified (Eph. 1:18; Col. 1:9). Saints can pray for their elders/pastors to preach the gospel with courage (Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3). Christians can pray the saints have discernment (Phil. 1:9). Believers could pray the word of the Lord spread rapidly around the world (1 Thess. 3:1). Believers can pray that they behave in such a way that is honorable and holy (Philemon 1:6; Heb. 13:8). The body of Christ has been given the privilege to pray and seek petition from the Lord for all sorts of things under heaven. Praying is no insignificant work for the Christian.

Unless it is observed from the nature of the old Adam.

That old Adam, which is the sin nature that has came from our first parents and we have inherited, desires to keep us focused on this world, and its temporal effects instead of the world to come. Our sinful nature desires us to be convinced our prayers to God are not effective, or are unimportant.  By observing all that goes on around us, our crooked nature wants us to think about ways we can “fix” it, instead of submitting to our Master’s prescription. Instead of making our petitions known to the sovereign God of the universe, and being confident of the of divine promises that are found concerning prayer, that old Adam wants us to rack our brain with what we can do. This assumes in very puerile way God either will not do anything about this, or He cannot do anything about this. Prayer in many ways effaces this old Adam in us. Prayer is important in our sanctification because it points us to the eternal, rather than the now. Prayer causes us to depend on the divine Creator, our heavenly Father, and His work in the world rather than ourselves.

All while the world rages with destruction, God stills offers sinners, who do not deserve His grace and mercy, the forgiveness of sins, and this is assisted by the act of prayer among His people. While the world is in chaos, the God of heaven and earth has given us this gift, as sinners who don’t deserve His grace, His ear and attentiveness to His saints as they pray. While the world spins into darkness, the light of truth that is emanated from His church, and this is done by the loving labor of prayer among His beloved saints.   

Let us not be deceived by the old Adam that is still clinging to us. Let what we see around us strengthen our resolve to go before our Lord by His grace, and petition Him, sharing our discontent and anxiety. Let us be confident that when we offer up our prayers to Him, He lends His ear to us, and acts according to what He deems best for our sanctification. Let us be comforted by His sovereign will that one day (perhaps today!) our Savior will appear and gather all of those who believe and trusted in Christ. Believers in Christ do not pray to a genie that grants three wishes to those who have earned his favor. To see God as a genie, or “silent” as we pray is not to see Him rightly. God is the maker of Heaven and earth who has granted believers the privilege, and the gift, to kneel before Him and offer petitions and requests before Him, and trust He will answer them according to His will.

Let me end with a quote from Arthur Pink concerning the importance of prayer to the Christian:

Prayer is not so much an act as it is an attitude—an attitude of dependency, dependency upon God.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

L.S.

 

Eisegesis: The Theological Selfie Stick.

Eisegesis: The Theological Selfie Stick.

When it comes to Biblical interpretation and hermeneutics there are two ways one approaches the Biblical text when they read it and understand it. One of them is known as exegesis (the prefix comes from the Greek word ek meaning “out of,” and “gesis” derives from the Greek word hegeomai, which means “to lead”).  When one exegetes a Biblical text they are in essence “leading out” the explanation of what the author intended to communicate when he wrote the passage. This is how believers, who read God’s word, should always read the Bible: Striving to find the intent of what the author meant when he wrote the Sacred Scriptures.

The other method, known as eisegesis, should not be used at all, and yet in the Body of Christ it is all too commonly used.

Eisegesis (the prefix comes from the Greek word “eis” meaning “in” or “into” and the Greek word hegeomai, which once more means “to lead”) is when a person “leads into” or reads into the text what they think it meant, rather than what the text actually means.  Let us observe why eisegesis is a bad form of Bible reading, and interpretation.

  • Eisegesis does not consider the intent of the author: Allow me to establish a scenario for to highlight this point: Let us imagine I wrote an email to my friend and told him about my daughter’s dog (whose name is “Buddy Bear”), and how I was trying to train my dog to submit to me. My friend in laughing it off decided to use this as a “lesson for life” for a group that he met with later on in the week. That week he shared my story with the group and said something to the effect of, “See…this is a great example of the struggles that we all have in our life, and how we get our struggles to submit to us is we have to persevere through our struggles, and eventually we will get our problems to submit to us.”

Now although the metaphor may sound really interesting, was that my intent to communicate how training my daughter’s dog was an metaphor of how to persevere though my struggles in life? No. Essentially, he took my words, and the intent of what I was trying to tell him, and twisted my words to fit what he wanted to tell his group. Even though he was assisting his group out of a sincere heart, his explanation (or interpretation) of my email was incorrect, because he did not communicate the true intent of the email I sent to him.

The word of God tells us that the primary author of God’s Sacred word is God Himself. That God, through human authors, penned the text. Paul affirms this truth to Timothy when he writes,

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:14-17 NASB, emphasis mine)

To “read in” to the Bible is literally to take God’s word and twist it to fit your own explanation. A person who eisegetes the word of God, whether intentionally or unintentionally, is not considering the intent of the author, who primarily is God, that wrote through human authors so Christians will ultimately be equipped for every good work.  Which leads me to the next point.

  • Eisegesis is subjective: When ones “reads into” a Biblical text they are not reading the text for what it says. Instead, one places their own meaning (or explanation) on the text, and not telling us what the text actually says.  Thus, one can come up with three or four different interpretations of the Biblical text from three or four different people. For example, the most frequent misquoted verse in all of Scripture is Jeremiah 29:11, which says,

11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (NASB)

Some people will interpret this passage that God promises that their bad marriage will be restored, or that they will have an abundance of financial wealth, or will reach their “purpose” in life. However the verse, when grammar and context is considered, is not what it says at all. The “you” in verse 11 is plural not singular. God is not talking to one person, but many people.  This passage, in context, is discussing the promise God is affirming to the nation of Israel when He sent them into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon (v. 1).  This promise is to national Israel, whom God is encouraging that He has not left them. Even though they are in a foreign land, they will continue to be a nation and they have a future as a nation. This is what the text teaches. However when one begins to say, “what this verse means to me is…” or when one asks the question “what does this verse mean to you?” One is engaging in a subjective explanation of the text, which again does violence to the original intent of what the author was attempting to communicate.

  • Eisegesis exalts self, rather than God: When one wants to interpret, or explain, the Bible it is like one is taking a picture with their smartphone. The Sacred Scriptures are divinely inspired, and they communicate the revealed plan of God to mankind. When one exegetes the Sacred word of God it is like they are taking a picture of God, and showing those all around them who He truly is. However when one eisegetes the text, focusing on what they want it to say, rather than what the text actually says, it is like one places their smartphone on a selfie stick and takes pictures of themselves. Then they show their pictures  off to others claiming that God looks likes this, smiles like that, and poses like this. Is it not ironic, the God who you show off when you eisegete, at the end of your interpretation, looks just like you?

When you exegete, the anthem proclaimed is Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be the glory). However when you eisegete, the anthem one shouts out is Soli hominis gloria (To man alone be the glory).

This is why it is so important not to eisegete the Sacred Scriptures, because the person who receives the glory at the end of the day, whether you intended it or not, is you, rather than the Creator of heaven and earth.  Those who proclaim they are believers in the faith, must be discipled by those who take pictures of God by way of exegesis.  Those who are elders and shepherds in the universal church, it is important that you be trained to handle the Scriptures, revealing God, His awesome nature, and His glory on every page of the Bible.  This is why the Body of Christ, must sharply discipline those who, for the purposes of self gain, twist Scripture and make it about themselves, or you, rather than about Jesus Christ.

There are many great resources out there, and here is one located on this link to get you started.  Metaphorically speaking, if you have caught yourself doing this, by the grace of Christ I plead with you: Put the selfie stick of eisegesis down, and begin to start to take snapshots of God, as He has revealed Himself in His Sacred word, by way of exegesis, showing Him in all of His glory to those around you.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

L.S.

 

Back To Basics: The Antidote To A Meaningless Life (Soli Deo Gloria)

Back To Basics: The Antidote To A Meaningless Life (Soli Deo Gloria)

Last week we observed Sola Scriptura, and how the way the Lord reveals who He is and His will for mankind, which is not found in our ideas, thoughts, or feelings. The only place where we can be sure of who God is, and His will for mankind, is in His written, eternal word.

Now we come to the last “sola” of the reformation. Although the case was made that Solus Christus is the “sola” by which all other solas stand or fall, Soli Deo Gloria is what all of the other “solas” of the Reformation point to. Soli Deo Gloria, when translated into English from Latin, means “glory to God alone.”

Soli Deo Gloria, instructs that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob receives all of the credit and accolades for the redemptive work He has accomplished for man in history. Theopedia underscores this in their explanation of Soli Deo Gloria, when they comment,

Glory to God alone, also known as Soli Deo gloria, is one of the Five Solas of the Reformatiom meaning all the glory is due to God alone, since he did all the work — not only in the atonement of Christ, but even granting the faith which unites us to Christ and brings us into the salvation provided by his atonement.

To add to this definition, I am convinced that this definition of Soli Deo Gloria is insufficient, because it does not just include the salvation won for men by Christ due to His atoning work, but involves the entire course of human history.  In addition, Soli Deo Gloria is intimately tied to all of the other “solas”: It is by the will of God that one receives grace from God, therefore God is glorified (Sola Gratia). Faith is a gift that one receives from God, and since it is a work of God to give one faith, God is indeed glorified (Sola Fide). The work of Christ on the cross for mankind shows His immeasurable love towards mankind. Consequently since God approved and anointed Christ, and was pleased with Him, to trust Christ is to glorify God, because Christ was sent by Him (Solus Christus). Finally since God moved through His creation to reveal Himself, and His will for mankind,  in Sacred Scripture, God is also glorified for this awesome work (Sola Scriptura).

But how is the doctrine of Soli Deo Gloria the antidote to a meaningless life?  The Sacred Scriptures gives us the answer to this question:

  • When one teaches Scripture rightly, God is glorified: To be instructed in sound doctrine glorifies God. This is highlighted in Psalm 86:8-12:

8 There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, Nor are there any works like Yours.9 All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And they shall glorify Your name. 10 For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God. 11 Teach me Your way, O LordI will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. 12 I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Your name forever (NASB, emphasis mine).

Notice how the glory of God is tied to being thankful, and to the “fear”(i.e., honor) of the Lord, and this begins by  being “taught” in the ways of the Lord. This is why sound doctrine is extremely important. If we believe a false doctrine about God, essentially, this will minimize or complete impede the glory of God. Being taught rightly instructs the believer to honor (or “fear”) Him rightly, and thus will result in God being glorified properly.

  • When one avoids sexual immorality, God is glorified: Paul, addressing the Corinthians gives this command: 

 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God , and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:13-20 NASB).

Paul tells the saints in Corinth they should not lie down with prostitutes because they are one in spirit with Jesus Christ. Instead they are given the command to flee this behavior. Paul then tells them one that commits this sin, commits it against himself. Paul ends with reminding them they had been purchased with a price: The blood of Christ, shed for them. Because they had been forgiven of all of their sin (including sexual immorality) they should glorify God in their body by avoiding such conduct. Paul gives them right instruction, so that through their proper conduct, they may be able to glorify God in their proper function.

  • When saints provides for the needs of God’s people, God is glorified: This is seen where Paul praises the saints of Corinth when he writes,

 12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints , but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 13 Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all…(2 Cor. 9:12-13)

The churches of Corinth gave to the churches of Macedonians, and supplied for their needs (v.2). He goes on to write that God will provide for their churches needs because they performed the good work caring for the saints (vs. 3-11). Paul them explains their serving the saints, resulted in praise and thanksgiving to God. As a result of their gift, the Macedonians will glorify God for their contribution, which is centered around their confession of the good news of Christ. Once more the glory of God is focused on one of the “solas” (Solus Christus) and how the gospel of Christ was pivotal in their caring for the needs of the saints.

  • When saints suffer, and are persecuted, God is glorified: Peter, gives the Christian this encouragement when he, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes,

15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. (1 Peter 4:15-16 NASB)

Peter tells us when a Christian undergoes adversity, he is not to be ashamed of this, but the Christian is to give God glory because they have been found worthy to suffer for the sake of suffering for the name of Christ.

  • When saints do all things, God is glorified: Paul again gives us the reality of this truth when he writes

31Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31 NASB)

In the context of this passage Paul is discussing the Corinthians saints conduct of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Paul explains that the conduct of the believer should be done for the benefit and service to the neighbor (vs.32-33).  The point is when a believer in Christ, serves their neighbor, in whatever they do, the intent (or motive) is to glorify God. Again the reason a Christian does this is because they have been saved from the wrath of God, to glorify God with their deeds.

The glory of God is the objective for human history and creation. For one to ignore or reject this truth, is to ignore the very purpose for which mankind was created. It is the reason why the Christian studies, repents daily, prays, witnesses to their neighbors, raises their children in the ways of the Lord, labors, suffers, eats, drinks,  writes, etc. The Christian understands that all of their acts are tied directly to giving God glory in their lives.

I end this blog with a quote from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which touches at the very heart of this “sola”:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Until Next Time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

L.S.