Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Justification Part II

Against the contemporary concept of non-sacrificial Christianity comes the harsh and most often times difficult to embrace words of our Lord from Matthew's tenth chapter, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

These words are spoken from the very authority of very God, and carry with them powerful consequences to becoming a follower of Christ. Following Christ could very well land one in the most despairing situation of broken relationships with family and close friends. Christ must take preeminence over all earthly relationships to such an extreme that earthly relationships must be forsaken for the cause of His Lordship and Kingdom if necessary. Whoever loves his Father or Mother more than Christ is not worthy of Him! This in no wise makes null and void all the Biblical texts speaking to the responsibility we have within the family unit. Christ is stressing the reality of the high cost of being his disciple.

Contained at the closing of the quote comes an even more powerful statement, this one pertaining not to our relationships with others. This statement from our Lord strikes directly against the hardened heart of hedonism that resides within all fallen mankind, "Whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me." Self-crucifixion. Death to self. The giving up of one's life, for the cause and purpose of the Kingdom of our Redeemer.

This self-sacrificial, high cost life that Christ is speaking of must be taken in a couple different perspectives. First, the cost of following Christ might truly lead to literally death. Oh how many have fallen due to the sword of opposition to the Kingdom. For preservation of truth, and loyalty to our Triune God, many have made their stand and tasted the martyrs death. Yet with so great an entrance into our Father's Kingdom were they ushered! What a blessing indeed to have suffered together with Christ, and what great a reward to sit down in the Abode of heavenly bliss.

Most often it is our experience in our Western Culture that literal death by martyr's sword is not the closing chapter of this temporal life. We rarely hear of persecution unto death. We scarcely are faced with any form of threatening because we are followers of Jesus. We do however carry a responsibility of self-crucifixion. Our responsibility insists upon a daily sacrifice of self. Not of literal self-sacrifice to the taking of this mortal life, but a purging and putting away of the deeds of the flesh. Those vile things which have brought enmity between God and man. A mortification of those things which separate us from living and walking by faith. Paul captures these thoughts with the following words, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" Notice this powerful statement of Paul's to the Church at Rome, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." These words command our putting away the deeds of the flesh, dying daily in Christ, crucifying self so that Christ may live through us, and living our life by faith in the Son of God.

You could sum up the sacrificial Christian life by appealing to the doctrine of sanctification. To be "sanctified" in it's simplest understanding is to be set apart unto God. The very moment we enter salvation we have been set apart unto God, a vessel now prepared for his glory. This is called most often "immediate sanctification." Yet, this is not the only Biblical understanding of sanctification. It is also a continuing process by which the Person of the Holy Spirit works within us that the deeds of the flesh might be put to death, and thus the fruit of the Holy Spirit is manifest in our lives. This is called "progressive sanctification." Scripture is abundantly clear in it's assertion that those who have been justified will enter the process of progressive sanctification. There will never be any argument from me, or any other orthodox theologian about the validity of the doctrine of universal progressive sanctification.

Now, with that being said, I must at this point return the reader's thoughts to the very doctrine that I originally set forth to discuss... Justification. Let me now urge the reader to carefully consider the following statement: Justification is not Sanctification. Let me repeat, justification is not sanctification. Once more, justification is not sanctification!

Justification is by faith alone in the Person and work of Jesus Christ alone, and justification is not contingent upon any act or action that follows converting faith. It is the most grave error of any individual to appeal to progressive sanctification as the means of declaring one just. This is why the thief on the cross remains the scripture's most beautiful example of justification by faith alone. The thief was indeed sanctified and set apart unto the Lord, and he did indeed confess our Lord, but as far as a long life experiencing the battle between flesh and spirit, he never experienced it. He did however believe on Christ and his faith was counted as righteousness.

James makes it clear that genuine faith will be accompanied by progressive sanctification as our life in Christ is "worked out." No one should ever argue against this point. Yet, it must be fervently argued with every bit of our being that justification is by faith alone! For this very cause I can state today with great authority that everyone believing on the Lord Jesus Christ will have eternal life (John 3:16).

The Christian life is capsuled in the concept of self-sacrifice. The Christian life includes good deeds that God before ordained that we should walk in them. The Christian life includes progressive sanctification. Any genuine Christian life will include these attributes as it is lived out. However, the Christian life is not entered into by these things! It is entered into by regeneration which produces faith which is counted as righteousness. Should another moment of this temporal life never be granted after that moment of faith by which we are alone justified, we will forever be with our Lord in eternity. Justification is by faith alone.

Again, let me reiterate that last statement: Should another moment of this temporal life never be granted after that moment of faith by which we are alone justified, we will forever be with our Lord in eternity.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Increasingly Alarmed: Justification by faith under attack.

I can't help but find myself increasingly alarmed at the discontent of professing believers with the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. As a matter of fact, I find the preceding statement quite alarming! Should it ever be conceived in the mind of a believer that justification by faith alone would be questioned in any manner? This entire conversation is quite frightening.

Recently in conversations with professing believers I have found myself defending the doctrine of justification by faith alone. I have also recently been preaching through the book of Romans, and I have become ever more aware of subtle attacks against the doctrine. Paul's argument for justification by faith has been pressed into my conscience with such effect that I'm very sensitive to any conversation pertaining to justification.

Paul's entire argument to the Church at Rome is demonstrated with no greater clarity than in the words, "And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness." Paul makes it clear that...

A. He is making it clear that justification is for the "one who does not work," and that justification is not the result of any form of work on behalf of any individual. If it is then that individual would have just cause to boast before God.

B. He is making it clear that justification is realized for the "ungodly," and is not granted when the ungodly find faith and then improve their ungodly condition. We come by to Christ by faith while in the most miserable condition! Any other view is in direct opposition to the historic doctrine of total depravity.

C. He makes a most powerful assertion that for the ungodly man who does not work to merit justification "his faith is counted as righteousness."

Let me now state a couple things for clarity sake, even though they may seem at first of no importance to the present writing. First, faith and repentance (two sides of the same coin, so to speak) come as a result of regeneration. We are granted the gifts of faith and repentance by God. Second, along with faith and repentance, God the Holy Spirit empowers and indwells the believer in order that they might then be conformed to Christ, and manifest the fruit of the Spirit. Just as Abraham himself showed forth his genuine faith from God as he offered up his son Isaac. Finally, all of salvation, whether regeneration, conversion, sanctification, or glorification, are all the result of God's grace. For we are made alive by grace! Faith and repentance are gifts of His grace! It is God's grace that works within us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure! We will be raised by the same power with which Christ was raised from the dead! Soli Deo Gloria! (I'm working on a few thoughts for a future post about the believer's obedience to the commands of scripture, so don't leap to an attack thinking I'm denying Christians should be obedient to the commands of scripture.)

Now, I hope the reader does recognize that I do not seek to invalidate the claim that states "genuine faith will result in genuine fruit." I do however hope the reader will understand that justification is not by fruit. Justification is not by turning one's life from repulsive ungodliness to accepted moral excellence. Justification is not by religious activity. Justification is not by the outworking of gracious gifts granted us by God. Justification is by faith! Will that faith result in good works that God before ordained that we should walk in them? Sure! However, justification remains by faith alone.

The thief on the cross manifested no great amount of "fruit" as it would be assessed by today's fundamentalist standards. He was never immersed in water. He was never involved actively in ministry local or worldwide. He never contributed financially to the work of missions. He never contributed to the ministry of a local assembly of believers. However, as an ungodly man with nothing in and of himself that he might present before God as acceptable, he was granted the marvelous gift of faith to which Christ responded, "Today you will be in paradise with me."

With that said, had that thief lived past that very dark hour he was immersed in, would he have been baptized? Would he have joined himself to other believers for fellowship? Would he have then found himself searching the scriptures that he might grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ? I certainly believe he would have! Genuine salvation according to scripture is accompanied by a manifestation of work of the holy Spirit within the believer. However, all that aside, he was justified when he believed! When he came clothed in self-abasement and totally dependent upon the Lord who hang beside him, his faith was counted as righteousness. According to many modern Evangelicals the thief should have went to torment because there was nothing to validate his conversion experience.

I have been told not to take obscure passages like that and build a doctrine upon it, because it's not the norm. I've been told the actual norm we find in scripture is the opposite of this. I've been told that opinions like mine are nothing more than silly excuses to preach people into heaven who make death bed confessions. I will now attempt to deal with each of these accusations.

1. Don't take an obscure passage and build a doctrine upon it, because it's not the norm.
I haven't. I have taken the entirety of scripture that teaches justification by faith alone, and simply set forth one of the most beautiful examples ever given to prove the veracity of the doctrine. It is actually far more dangerous to insinuate that in some obscure way this thief was justified in some manner not found elsewhere in scripture. This opens the door to a floodgate of religious philosophies that all claim various ways of justification. This thief was justified exactly like every other individual in Holy Writ. He believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness.

2. The actual norm in scripture is the opposite of the thief's account.
Such a statement tosses away the Biblical doctrine of God not being a respecter of persons. Such a statement concludes that the thousands saved on the day of Pentecost were all fitted into the same mold. Such a statement concludes that any mention of entire households believing was merely speaking of households with certain age groups, life spans, etc. On the Day of Pentecost we are told that Jews from all walks of life were present. Did God limit His saving grace to those who still had long days and much life ahead of them? The scripture actually does not give us a "norm" for the recipient of saving grace. Rather, it expresses God's saving goodness toward people from all walks of life, which definitely includes those with little life left to live(say that five times real fast). Perhaps it is our experience that most conversions we are familiar with include people who have much life left to live. Our experience does not dictate doctrine. The account given us in Holy Scripture must dictate our doctrine. The account given in scripture is that of justification by faith alone.

3. Opinions like these are silly excuses to preach people into heaven who have made death bed confessions.
I once knew of a gentleman who would visit hospitals and nursing homes religiously. He was a Free Will Baptist, and relentlessly pursued "professions of faith" from those he felt were facing death. He used scare tactics, empty philosophy, and other un-scriptural methods. He would then go on to preach some of their funerals, and would pronounce the individual heavenly bound as a result of their "death bed confession." This is wrong on so many levels that it would take a series of posts to deal with it. But to assume the position that I would desire such a practice for myself simply because I claim justification by faith alone apart from any human effort, is totally unfounded. It is honestly an attack on my character, and an attack on my ability to perform my duties as a minister in a Biblical manner. I have never addressed the eternal destination of an individual at their funeral. I always proclaim the Gospel with clarity and simplicity, and make sure those in attendance know that our church is ever ready to assist in any way possible. Even so, just because some have a twisted view of Biblical salvation, and they desire to offer false security to hurting families and friends, it does not negate the fact that justification is by faith alone apart from any work.

There is a part II coming very soon. I have also heard that such view of justification by faith alone stands in contrast to Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount(Matthew 7), and that my view presented an easy Gospel, and that I was like so many who are ashamed to get tough and really tell the truth. I will deal with those things in a future post. For now, I pray these words find you well, and that your heart be ready to search the scriptures and see if these things be of God.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

It's not what you say, it's how you say it?

I honestly believe miscommunication to be the cause of much discord among friends, family, co-workers, church members, etc. because we have become a careless people with our speech. We rarely clarify ourselves, we say much more than we need to, and we've become a people who praise the loudest tongue in the group for being "bold, assertive, and telling it just like it is." I wander at what point did being rude, obnoxious, and hurtful became a quality that we admire? Indeed there are times to be bold and assertive, and there are times "to tell it like it is." But, when we are damaging lives, alienating others, hurting the public testimony of the church, and representing our God and Savior in the most horrible of ways, we need to re-examine our speech.

I think most will be familiar with the multitude of Proverbs written in regard to the dangers of a loose tongue, gossip, slander, etc. Most can recite James' Epistle in which he likened the tongue unto a small flame that sets ablaze a large fire that destroys everything in it's path. Most will inform you that you should "speak the truth in love." I'm constantly hearing sermons on 1st Corinthians 13, and hearing about the need to love in word and deed. If we as Christians are so familiar with these texts, why are we saying the things we are saying that seem to exemplify the opposite of love?

Here is something I hear quite often, "Just read Matthew 23, and you'll see the example Jesus gave of how to witness when he nailed the Scribes and Pharisees to the wall! He sure wasn't all lovey dovey with them!" Then it's always followed with either "...and Peter flat called the Jews a bunch of murderers in Acts 2" or the old "Paul called false teachers like Hymenaeus and Philetus gangrene, just go read 2nd Timothy!" These scripture passages are often used as excuses to call people such vile things as morons, devils, idiots, and a few other things I wont repeat, all in the name of "not compromising Biblical truth."

Let me clarify there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a deep running passion for the truth of God's word. I would pray that all men everywhere would diligently search the scriptures, and be passionate in presenting it's salvation message to others. We should be ever ready to give an answer to the unbelieving world when we are put on trial for our faith, and should it happen we should earnestly contend for the faith! We should make known heresies as gangrene, and if needed to protect the flock of God we should name those who are teaching such damnable doctrines. HOWEVER, our passionate proclamation of truth must always be coupled together with meekness, love, compassion, and fear!

Meekness carries the idea of control. Nothing rages out of control any faster than our tongue. It is a slippery serpent which reveals our sinful heart at every given opportunity. Perhaps the admonition to speak less and listen more would save us all much heartache and woe. How often have we allowed a few moments of unbridled spewing by our "little member" ruin our entire day? How often has the poison of our tongue driven someone farther away from any interest in the things of God, rather than being used of God to proclaim Him? I dare to say we are all guilty of not controlling our tongue. Our very nature is revealed in our speech for from the abundance of our heart, the mouth speaks. Paul stated in Titus 2:8 that his speech should be of such soundness that he never be condemned because of it. He told Titus in the conclusion of that verse that sound Godly speech puts his opposition to shame in a manner that no one could speak evil of it. When we finish "contending for the faith" and even the unbelievers around us are condemning the way we speak, we've failed in this imperative.

Love must saturate all we do. Love for God, and love for others. All the law and prophets hang upon these two commands. Love does not compromise, is not coated in sentimental hypocrisy, and does not rejoice in evil. Love also does not belittle, aimlessly rant, and express itself in a vile and heartless manner. Love seeks to express the truth in such a manner that the wicked are warned, the righteous are encouraged, and the world is compelled and commanded to repent and believe, and it does so without wrath, vengeance, malice, and bitterness intervening.

Compassion for those in error, and compassion for the lost should not even be discussed. When we consider the mire from which we were raised from death to walk in newness of life, we should be overwhelmed with compassion for others. But for the grace of God, there goeth I.

Fear must govern our speech. Rather, let me interpret my use of the term fear to mean reverence. We should so revere the Holy Scripture that we treat it and express it in a most careful manner. As we speak God's truth we should be reminded of the Supreme Judge which shall hold each man accountable who speaks on His behalf. While Paul rightly asserted in Galatians 1 that his example was not that of preaching to please men, but rather he preached to pleaset God, and that he even withstood Peter over a dispute about Gentiles and Jews, Paul never stooped to screaming slurs toward Peter or anyone else. Paul understood the weight of bearing upon our shoulders the message of God. Therefore he governed his speech, and chose his words wisely.

We can and should proclaim what we believe, and we should be ready to earnestly contend for the faith. We should be passionate in doing so, and eager to do so in a manner that glorifies God, edifies the church, and proclaims the Gospel to the lost. Yet, as we do so I pray we keep the following statements in mind...

1Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

Titus 2:7-8 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

1 Peter 3:8-11 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hermeneutics Part III

Finally, the opportunity to sit down and post a few thoughts on point 5 from the original post on hermeneutics!

5. Perspicuity of scripture, in that it can be understood (and should be read and studied) by the layman.

First it should be noted that the ten rules of Biblical interpretation that I set forth were given in simplicity, and hopefully in clarity to the reader. Yet, as rightly pointed out, this point should be clarified further for the advanced reader.

In the 1689 Confession in Chapter 1 Of the Holy Scriptures, we find the following statement in paragraph 7, "All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.( 2 Peter 3:16; Psalms 19:7; Psalms 119:130)" I believe this statement perfectly captures the thought I intended to relay. Scripture is knowable! What a marvelous truth this is indeed! The layman may delve into Holy Writ and see clearly those magnificent truths so beautifully articulated by the most learned theologian. Those great and marvelous truths pertaining to justification by faith alone, the security of salvation in Christ alone, the sufficiency of scripture alone, and so forth. Not only can these great truths be known, but they should be regularly read with a prayerful heart, and meditated upon as the Holy Spirit effectually applies these things to the readers heart so as to produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

The concern made known in an earlier comment was well noted. Perhaps we could marry that concern to the following statement, "Truth can be known to every believer, and indeed is. The Holy Spirit is the true Teacher of truth, and apart from Him truth can not be known. Therefore, I need no earthly institution such as the church, nor earthly teacher such as a Pastor, nor earthly witness such as a fellow Christian mentor." To much of this statement we can say "Amen!" Yet the statement carries with it certain untruths that hopefully we can address.

"Truth can be known to every believer, and indeed is." And all God's people said "Amen!" The Holy Spirit is the true teacher of Truth, and apart from Him truth can not be known. And all God's people said "Amen!" Therefore, I need no earthly institution, teacher, guide, helper, Pastor, etc. And all God's people said "Ummmm, wrong conclusion dear friend."

Note the following statements, prayerfully consider them, and then re-examine the above question...

In writing to Timothy to encourage and edify, Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:14-15 "I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth." Notice the church is the pillar and buttress of the truth. It is the church which God has chosen to be His earthly institution by which He preserves, proclaims, and professes His truths. We need the church of the Living God! Some of the greatest error found in our Culture could be corrected if the rebellious would abandon their private interpretation tainted by hedonism, and turn itself to the historic Christian faith still proclaimed by the Lord's faithful church.

The wisdom writer rightly asserts in Proverbs 11:14, "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." Also we might note Proverbs 24:6, "for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory." Here is perhaps the most convincing statement speaking of the value of wise counsel found in Proverbs 8:33, "Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it." Even the novice understands the value placed upon truth and wisdom by the Author of the Proverbs. Statements such as these, statements exalting the benefits of listening to wise teachers, and growing wise yourself from their instruction are showered throughout the wisdom literature. Oh that we might heed Proverbs 13:14, "The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death."

The New Testament scriptures are no different. God has placed within His church Pastors/Teachers for the edification of the body of Christ. Our building up, our edification, is accomplished through the God chosen means of Pastoral care, and their feeding sound doctrine to the flock. We are warned not to make their labor difficult, lest they become of no benefit to you. The polar opposite is that of encouraging your Pastor that he might be of benefit to you! It's true, your Pastor is not there to be your personal lawn care provider, your plumber, electrician, mechanic, and psychologist. He is to be given to prayer and the scriptures that he might instruct you in sound Biblical doctrine. Paul reminds young Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-2, "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." There were great and precious truths taught to young Timothy from Paul, and Paul expected young Timothy to then entrust those things unto others, and so forth. This was accomplished through the fellowship, and teaching ministry of the church local.

My prayer is two-fold. I pray that we all as God's children would hunger and thirst for a prayerful personal study of His great truths contained in Holy Writ. Yet, I also pray that we be given over in prayerful excitement for the ministry of the Word as it is taught by His servants whom He has chosen.

Too often we as Pastors are met with such bitter scrutiny that our every syllable is examined with such microscopic accuracy that the slightest miss pronunciation of "Jesuit" will lead to a theological lynching following the service. One such conversation followed a sermon I once preached on the subject of the Perseverance of the Saints. I was informed afterward by a visitor that such dribble is why they never attend churches. I was a mere follower of men, and God had told them through their study of scripture that if they didn't "live it" they would never "make it." They had no desire to be fed, no desire to hear instruction, no desire to grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. They wanted someone who would agree with their private interpretation, or the rope would swing from the gallows. I asked him why he came at all if he needed no earthly teacher, and his response was that he, "thinks the Preacher is just there to confirm what God has already shown me, and not to teach some kind of new stuff I can't get on my own." Heart breaking. This man never understood the blessing of accountability. We need not only accountability as far as morality and church discipline is concerned, but we need accountability theologically.

A wise man rejoices in correction, and this I truly believe. I have personally rejoiced in times past as I have been corrected by scripture, as well as wise counsel. I have learned to enjoy, and appreciate the great teaching ministries of others. I've also come to understand that wise counselors and gifted teachers are a blessing from the Almighty. So may we each experience the joy which comes from helpful teaching ministry! God bless, and grace to you.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hermeneutics Part II

In response to questions/comments pertaining to yesterday's post, I've decided (pun intended, some will get that joke) to expound upon on point 4 today, and Lord willing point 5 in the near future.

4. Scripture interprets scripture, never tradition.

First, just let me say that I used the term "tradition" in it's historic theological context. By that I mean both the Roman Catholic view of "sacred tradition" in which their sacred traditional doctrines and practices, though unfounded in scripture, are viewed as being on the same hermeneutic pillar as scripture itself. I include as well the view in which tradition represents beliefs and practices not found in the historic Biblical Christian faith and practice.

Now, in this post I intend to open the scope of the term tradition, and hopefully do so in a manner that keeps the conversation coupled together with simplicity and clarity. Complexity can lead to confusion if we're not careful, so may the Lord grant patience to me in formulating these thoughts.

The church is called in Holy Writ the "pillar and buttress of the truth." The church of the Lord Jesus Christ as an institution has offered to the believing world confessional statements declaring what Christians believe and why they believe it. Here is what I believe to be an excellent example from the 1689 Confession of Faith Chapter 1 Statement 10, "The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved." Scripture is declared in this statement as the supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice. This is an orthodox view of the Holy Scriptures. This was confessed and proclaimed by the messengers and churches representing the church as an institution in their time. The church has been the means chosen of God to uphold, confess, and proclaim His truth. Therefore, private interpretation which contradicts the historic traditional theological stance of the church is actually un-Biblical. Even so, in various times through various personalities, confessional statements pertaining to Christian thought, worldviews, and theological concepts which are un-Biblical have been set forth. In these situations the Lord has always brought forth His true church to speak against them, and confess and uphold the true Christian faith as founded in God's word. Though it has often cost the most heavy price of blood through faithful martyrs, God has chosen to preserve His truth through His church. In this sense, the tradition of the historic Biblical understanding of orthodox Christianity is not to be avoided, but rather to be embraced with thankful hearts and attending ears. Again, for clarity purposes let me state, this does not mean extra-Biblical statements are always correct and to be upheld. As the confession itself states, any confessional statement of man is subject to correction by the sacred text of scripture.

What about those who claim they approach scripture with no traditional presuppositions? In that they mean they approach the scripture without the influence of man or culture. I would say they are simply unaware of the impact of man and culture on their worldview. I would go on to say the most difficult thing for us to do as individuals is to admit the traditional values and opinions placed within us by our community, family, friends, educational systems, entertainment venues, etc. For myself, coming from an upbringing in which we were not in a local church regularly hearing Christian doctrine, I thought I had an advantage when coming to the scripture. I was wrong. I had so many un-Biblical presupposed ideas of God that it was pitiful. Looking back, most were instilled in my thought process through statements by family members, dear friends, co-workers, and others whom I thought had a better understanding matters of religion and theology. As I read scripture I found myself actually looking for proof texts at times! I would actually focus upon statements or phrases I believed would support my radical presuppositions. I was engulfed in tradition, and would commonly state in the same smug tone as the Pharisee staring over the Publican in the temple, "I'm so glad I'm not battered with tradition like so many others are who can't see clear Biblical truth." All the while I was corrupted from years and years of un-Biblical influence which was imposing itself upon my study of scripture.

Moving on, here are a couple questions for the reader... If you found out today that your view of the work of the Holy Spirit in the church was never held to by anyone in the church's history, and that it has been condemned by orthodox Christianity for let's say 300 years when someone outside the church first proposed it, would you continue to hold to your position? Would you shout as many do that others are followers of traditions of men, and your view comes from you and the Holy Spirit teaching you? Or, would you re-examine your view in light of the historic Christian interpretation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the church? These are important questions to ponder. Are you actually going to claim that 2000+ years of faithful Christian interpretation of scripture is wrong, and you are the first to get it right? Sadly, many do.

"It's just me and my Bible and the Holy Spirit!" "I don't follow dead men!" "I follow THE BOOK, not some book written by know-it-all theologians!" "I don't need some church to tell me what to believe, it's just me and Jesus!" Ever heard or made those statements? Here are some questions to ponder in light of those statements... If it's just you and your Bible and the Holy Spirit, why did God place Pastors/Teaching Elders in his churches? If you don't follow other men, why do you impose your own presupposed ideas into the text you read? If it's not important to be a MEMBER of a local church, why does God command the church to be over the matters of discipline in a believer's life? How can you be disciplined and held accountable if you refuse to be a part of His church? If the Holy Spirit is teaching you all things in scripture, why doesn't He teach you Hebrews 10:25(I admit, some sarcasm in that question)? Why does scripture mention Pastors(who I might remind you hold the primary responsibility of teaching Biblical doctrine to the church) as being those who have watch over your souls if they are not needed in your life? Just some questions to ponder.

Finally, let me say that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit no one will ever know truth. The Holy Spirit must effectually work in our heart as truth is presented to us in whatever format. Yet, therein lies the key to this post... the format. We are all to meditate upon the word, and that's a given. However, that is not the ONLY means by which truth is presented to us. God has given to us pastors, teachers, Godly parents, etc., as means of proclaiming His truth to us. God has again chosen to uphold, protect, and proclaim His truth through His church and not apart from His church. It is not that we mindlessly follow the teachings of men when we hold to the historic orthodox Christian faith. Rather, we are being Biblical and we are holding fast the things handed to us from faithful men, and are now going to faithfully teach others.

As the Ethiopian Eunuch rode in his chariot he responded to Philip by explaining his understanding of Isaiah's text with the question, "How can I understand these things unless someone explains them to me?" God had sent Philip, a missionary of His church, to explain the truth as the Holy Spirit illuminated the message in the heart of the Ethiopian. We should thank God for His servants who faithfully present His truth, for this is the very means by which God has chosen to save those who will believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Hermeneutics - The rules and principles by which we study a text.
Classic Hermeneutics - The rules and principles by which we study classic literature.
Sacred Hermeneutics - The rules and principles by which we study the sacred text of Holy Writ.

Ten Basic Principles of Biblical Interpretation Agreed Upon By Most if Not All Historic Baptists

1. The Bible as we know it, 66 books, contains the infallible inherent word of God.

2. The New Testament is the final revelation of God, and the final interpreter of the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

3. Apply the literal, grammatical, historical method of interpretation.
A. Literal - We take scripture literally, as God's actual word.
B. Grammatical - God has communicated through human authors, to human audiences.
C. Historical - There is a historic context that we must apply to the text.

4. Scripture interprets scripture, never tradition.

5. Perspicuity of scripture, in that it can be understood (and should be read and studied) by the layman.

6. Unity of scripture. The Old Testament and New Testament are complimentary of each other, not contradictory.

7. Diversity of scripture. Scripture is written by various authors, in various historical contexts, and each should be considered in interpretation.

8. The New Testament clarifies and explains the types and shadows in the Old Testament.

9. Typology of scripture. Old Testament scripture is filled with types and pictures of the coming Christ. Again, these are explained in the New Testament.

10. Near context is related more than far context. In other words, if Paul uses an illustration of a vine, we should look at the immediate context for the understanding. If he quotes an Old Testament passage we might find it's meaning there. But to go to Peter who perhaps could be speaking of a vine as an analogy of sin growing, and apply to Paul's analogy which is actually speaking of the kingdom growing, we greatly abuse scripture.

Finally, a didactic or systematic study of a subject is more significant than a historical or descriptive narrative. In other words we derive our doctrine of public corporate worship by studying the New Testament Epistles which command various elements be found in worship. For example, this is more profitable than reading the book of the Acts of the Apostles, and then determining our worship based upon what we see happening in various situations found in that historic narrative which chronicles many happenings in an infant New Testament Church.

I posted this because I genuinely believe that developing a proper hermeneutic is a key factor in Baptists rediscovering their historic faith. These easy to understand principles are expounded upon by Fred Malone at the 2005 Southern Baptist Founders Conference, and can be heard here. May the Lord bless your study in the wonderful words of life!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Words so desperately needed

Jerry Watson was my friend. We pursued the fun and freedoms of childhood together, and explored the world through youthful eyes as young teens. His brothers were my brothers. His family treated me as their own. In our teens his family moved away. It was a heartbreaking experience for me, because their family treated me so well. Recently I felt compelled to find my friend, and so my search on the internet began. I was finally able to trace down an address and I sent a letter hoping it would find my friend doing well. It found his wife, now a widow. I was shocked, hurt, angered, and devastated by her phone call.

At a few minutes after 10:00 a.m. on a bitterly cold morning earlier this week, my sibling Doug was unhooked from life support and pronounced dead. Last night Steven and I were at the funeral home with family, and I couldn't help but feel heartbroken for Doug's wife and children.

Today it all really hit me hard, and at no greater moment could the following devotion of Charles Spurgeon have arrived, and I pray it uplift and comfort you as it has me...

"I will never leave thee."—Hebrews 13:5.

NO promise is of private interpretation. Whatever God has said to any one saint, He has said to all. When He opens a well for one, it is that all may drink. When He openeth a granary-door to give out food, there may be some one starving man who is the occasion of its being opened, but all hungry saints may come and feed too. Whether He gave the word to Abraham or to Moses, matters not, O believer; He has given it to thee as one of the covenanted seed.
There is not a high blessing too lofty for thee, nor a wide mercy too extensive for thee. Lift up now thine eyes to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west, for all this is thine. Climb to Pisgah's top, and view the utmost limit of the divine promise, for the land is all thine own. There is not a brook of living water of which thou mayst not drink. If the land floweth with milk and honey, eat the honey and drink the milk, for both are thine.
Be thou bold to believe, for He hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."In this promise, God gives to His people everything. "I will never leave thee." Then no attribute of God can cease to be engaged for us. Is He mighty? He will show Himself strong on the behalf of them that trust Him. Is He love? Then with lovingkindness will He have mercy upon us. Whatever attributes may compose the character of Deity, every one of them to its fullest extent shall be engaged on our side.
To put everything in one, there is nothing you can want, there is nothing you can ask for, there is nothing you can need in time or in eternity, there is nothing living, nothing dying, there is nothing in this world, nothing in the next world, there is nothing now, nothing at the resurrection-morning, nothing in heaven which is not contained in this text—"I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Coming face to face with scripture alone...

First of all let’s take a look at the tenants of Dispensational Eschatology that I was taught, and most evangelicals are taught in North America. There are three major components to understanding this system:

1. Dispensationalists insist that God has two redemptive plans, one for national Israel, and one for Gentiles during the "church age." This presupposition forms the basis for the dispensational hermeneutic. As John Walvoord states regarding the dispensational hermeneutic, "Pretribulationism distinguishes clearly between Israel and the church and their respective programs."
2. The visible and physical second coming of Christ occurs after the great tribulation(there are three views regarding the catching away of believers, pre-trib, post-trib, and mid-trib). Those who are converted to Christ during the tribulation, including Jews (the 144,000) who turn to Christ, go on into the millennium to re-populate the earth. Glorified believers rule with Christ during his future reign.
3. The millennium is marked by a return to Old Testament temple worship and sacrifice to commemorate the sacrifice of Christ. At the end of the millennium, the "great white throne" judgment occurs, and Satan and all unbelievers are cast into the lake of fire. There is the creation of a new heaven and earth.

Dispensational theologians believe there will be a rapture of living believers which occurs along with the raising of the believing dead when Christ returns prior to the millennial reign. The second resurrection takes place after the millennial reign. They interpret the Old Testament scriptures in light of National Israel. Again, this is what most American evangelicals are taught in their local assemblies. In many circles it has become a litmus test of genuine regeneration.


While reading Peter’s Second Epistle I found myself face to face one evening with a passage dealing with Christ’s second coming that caused my Dispensational Theology to collapse around me…

2 Peter 3:10-13 ESV (10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (11) Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, (12) waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! (13) But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

This can’t be true, can it? When Christ returns He will establish a new heaven and a new earth where only righteousness dwells? But wait, how can the believers who repopulate the earth after Christ returns evangelize the generations coming after them? They can't.

You can’t have unregenerate unsaved people being taught the things of God, tempted by Satan into sin at the end of a thousand years, and some saved and some not, because there will be NO UNRIGHTEOUSNESS AFTER CHRIST RETURNS. Again, there will be no unrighteousness remaining after His return.

I tried every way possible to fix the conundrum I found myself in. My first thought was to appeal to the dual resurrection theory. Perhaps this reference in 2nd Peter speaks of the second resurrection at the end of the millennial dispensation. Then, like a the anvil on the Coyote’s head the Spirit of truth brought to mind two profound passages…

John 5:24-25 ESV (24) Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (25) "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, (5) even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved—

Those who have been born again have partaken of the first resurrection! They have been raised from death and walk in newness of life, thus they shall never taste death at the 2nd or final resurrection. My system was falling apart completely in light of clear scripture.

Long story short I dug deep and found three key things when scripture is abundantly clear about when speaking of Christ’s return…

1. Jesus will raise the dead and gather all His elect at His return, and they will all be glorified. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1st Corinthians 15:50-57
2. Judgment of all men will take place at His return. Matthew 25:31-34, 41
3. A new heaven and earth will be made where there will dwell ONLY RIGHTEOUSNESS forever (which again makes it impossible for unrighteous generations to be born in and be taught the law and observe temple worship, etc.). 2 Peter 3:3-13

Let’s now quickly look at the controversial Revelation 20. It tells us Satan is bound. He is! The Nations are no longer deceived, the Gospel is going to be preached in every Nation, and the gates of hell will not prevail over the Gospel! Though many will face tribulations and persecutions, and perhaps lose their lives for the Gospel, it can not be hindered by Satan.

Note verse 5, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” Those who had given their lives for the Gospel as a testimony, who had partaken of the first resurrection (they were born of God), would never taste death at the 2nd resurrection (the raising of all the dead for judgment). At the end Satan is released for a brief period. There is indeed coming a period of apostasy as spoken of by Paul the Apostle in his letters to the Thessalonians. But that is NOT in some future literal thousand year earthly reign.

Some will argue that Revelation 19 and 20 are chronological and the above interpretation can not stand. In Revelation 19:15 the nations are judged. In Revelation 20 the Nations are there again. How’d they come back? I challenge each reader to carefully compare Revelation 12:7-11 with Revelation 20. There is a heavenly battle. Satan is cast down. Satan expresses great wrath because he has but a little time. Saints are faithful and the Gospel goes forth even though they must face death. The book of the Revelation deals with the ultimate victory of Christ over Satan and his emissaries, and looks at that victory through various different angles. Revelation 12 and 20 are depicting the same scene. There have been many anti-christs who were worshipped, established idols of themselves, and refused to let their people buy or sell without accepting them as a god. One example: Hitler. Another example: Nero in the First Century. Modern Example: Saddam Hussien.

God has one plan of redemption for all mankind: Salvation by grace through faith alone in the Person and work of Christ Jesus alone. When He returns He will judge the nations, forever abolish all unrighteousness in the lake of fire, and establish a new heaven and earth where there dwells only righteousness.

Promises made to Israel were fulfilled in Christ! He was and is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, seated upon the throne of David, ruling TODAY from a throne of righteousness! We interpret the scripture in light of Christ Jesus, not a nation of people.

After discovering these rich truths and embracing them, I found out I indeed had a proper theological title. I am amillennial in eschatology. I also found a very dear Brother which came to these same conclusions, and has actually written extensively on the above, and offers countless audio resources for free which can be viewed here…

Our dear Brother says it best…
1. Promises made to National Israel are fulfilled perfectly by Christ, and realized by the church today!
2. There are one people of God, called Israel in the Old Testament scriptures and called the church in the New Testament scriptures.
3. The New Testament scriptures view the Old Testament scriptures through the lenses of Christ’s Person and work, as we should. We are Christians not Jews. The scriptures are about CHRIST not the Jews.

John 5:39 ESV You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness

Monday, February 2, 2009


Chapter 12 of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith properly sets forth the Doctrine of Adoption...
"All those that are justified, God vouchsafed, in and for the sake of his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have his name put upon them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him as by a Father, yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation."

Some years ago a vile young lad on the school yard looked into the eyes of a precious young lady and spouted the most hurtful words, "You live with your Uncle! I live with my real Mom and Dad!"

That night when she came home, with her heart still aching from the dreadful pierce of the young foes tongue, she poured out her heart to her Uncle. His answer would heal her wounds, heal her spirit, and lift her from despair...

"You return to school tomorrow and tell that young lad the following... His Father by law is required to take care of him. If he refuses, he'll be imprisoned. When his Father dies the law demands that he receive a portion of his Father's inheritance." He continued with gentleness, and a compassionate smile, "Now consider this: I was not obligated by the law to care for you when your parents passed. There were others who could have taken you in and provided for you. Yet, even though it was not my obligation nor moral duty, I chose you. I chose to adopt you and bring you into my home. I chose to make you my own. I chose to leave to you all my inheritance, and cast upon you all of my love. You are my beloved, chosen, special child."

Does this story sound familiar? It should...
Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV (3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Finding Peace With God

Romans 5:1 ESV Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Of these words the Reformer writes in his commentary on Romans, "We have peace with God; and this is the peculiar fruit of the righteousness of faith. When any one strives to seek tranquillity of conscience by works, (which is the case with profane and ignorant men,) he labors for it in vain; for either his heart is asleep through his disregard or forgetfulness of God's judgment, or else it is full of trembling and dread, until it reposes on Christ, who is alone our peace."

Only when the Supreme Judge of Creation has rapped His eternal gavel and declared a man just, can that man then experience "peace with God." Yet, as the reformer rightly asserts, man can never bear witness to the falling gavel of our Most Holy Judge as long as his plea remains the working of his own hands. Whether it be by sincere religious activity, community service, or acts of charity unmatched by even the most devout, a man remains at enmity with God.

How then is peace attained? Upon what basis is the wretch declared righteous and given the gift of "peace with God?" As the Apostle rightly asserts, "we have been justified by faith!" Confident assurance, steadfast hope, complete surrender! Genuine faith which relinquishes all hold, and surrenders all to another in unshaken confidence.

What is this faith to be in, or Whom? Shall we trust in the church? With her devotion to God, and evident love of His truth? I say no. Shall we trust in the Saints, that their perseverance shall endure for us as well? I say no. Shall we place faith in the most pious of our family or friends? I say no. Shall our faith reside in the Pastor who so gently encouraged us in trying times? I dare say never! We shall find the object of justifying faith stated with clarity in our text, "our Lord Jesus Christ." For no other has born such a burden as our Most Holy Lord endured on the cross. For He knew no sin, yet was made to be sin for us that we could be made the righteousness of God in Him! Oh what a substitutionary atonement!

May we forever be "looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith!" May we forever trust our eternal being to the resurrected Son of God who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the One who is, and was, and is to come!

Not the labor of my hands, could fulfill the law's demands.
There's no price in my hands I bring, Tis simply to the cross I cling.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me! Let me hide myself in Thee!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What is the Gospel?

Finally, I have a blog!

With a couple of inches of snow, covered by an inch of ice, which is now covered my another inch of snow... I finally have time to start a blog!

I can think of nothing better to include in this first entry than the following from Charles Spurgeon. I hope you enjoy.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. (Revelation 21:4)

Yes, we shall come to this if we are believers. Sorrow shalt cease, and tears shall be wiped away. This is the world of weeping, but it passes away. There shall be a new heaven and a new earth, so says the first verse of this chapter; and therefore there will be nothing to weep over concerning the Fall and its consequent miseries. Read the second verse and note how it speaks of the bride and her marriage. The Lamb's wedding is a time for boundless pleasure, and tears would be out of place. The third verse says that God Himself will dwell among men; and surely at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore, and tears can no longer flow.

What will our state be when there will be no more sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain? This will be more glorious than we can as yet imagine. O eyes that are red with weeping, cease your scalding flow, for in a little while ye shall know no more tears! None can wipe tears away like the God of love, but He is coming to do it. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Come, Lord, and tarry not; for now both men and women must weep!