Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The remnant - remember this to avoid depression

I preached Sunday night at at Union Gospel Mission here in Sacramento.
Immediately afterward a Modalist came up to me and told me how foolish I was for talking about God as a Trinity, or Jesus as the Son of God. Needless to say I didn't tolerate this for a second and began to warn him about the coming judgment, and how if he believed this he would certainly be damned, pleading with him to accept Christ as the Son, pointing out that Christ is praying to the Father, so they can't be the same person. He just walked away.
Then a whole line of people passed by me looking away, they obviously didn't want to talk to me.
Then came a group of people who came to criticize me for attacking Joel Osteen. In my sermon on Acts 8 I pointed out that Simon Magus is not the father of Gnosticism like the commentators say, he is the author of Joel Osteenism, the notion that the gospel can be used by us. The ideas that God is our servant, He can be our tool, He can be twisted and shaped, that the Bible exist for us to get things we like, such as money and riches and health I declared to be sick, and I warned them of believing it. And after it was over they attacked me for heaping scorn on the notion of 'your best life now'.
And after all that, when I didn't think it could get worse, one man came up and said he really appreciated the sermon. He mentioned he was studying the ordo salutis because he wanted to grasp from scriptures a Biblical wordview. He wanted to transform his thinking.
How sweet were his words! The Lord will save His remnant. May the name of the Lord be praised.

Why Jews are Atheists

I had an interesting conversation with one of our interns yesterday, who is a Jew, but considers himself an athiest.
I asked him if he believed that the Scriptures were divinely handed down to mankind by God and he said no, that was a silly notion.
I then asked why he would think so, and his answer was more or less that there are things in the Bible that nobody takes seriously. Although he was not this articulate, his argument was thus:
There are instructions in the Scriptures that are impossible to obey (such as the Temple sacrifices).
Since it is impossible to follow them they are irrelevant and useless. All scripture then is useless and should be thrown out because God never intended us to keep them in the first place. And if God doesn't intend us to keep His laws then He is no God, He is irrelevant.
This is why all the Jews have left is their tradition, or they are atheists.
I find this sad but inexorable, and commendable. If Christ has not fulfilled the whole of the law then it's hopeless for the Jew, and he is therefore bound to conclude that this is all a bunch of nonsense.
Only in Christ is this veil of "Meaningless!" removed, only in Him do we understand.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hebrews 6 Explained

Chapter 6 exists almost as an after thought, a parenthetical inserted into the discussion of Jesus as a faithful high priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Chapters 5, 7).  Its as if the writer really wanted to cover the nature of a changing priesthood, but knowing his audience (Heb 5:11) he had to stop and point out the consequence of having such a priest in detail.  After showing that if Jesus is our High Priest, and God has promised Salvation, we can have trust and hope in the certainty of Christ.

Introduction to Chapter 6 - Everything I'm about to say is really easy stuff
1Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of
·         Enough ABC’s in other words. Thus it follows that whatever the writer is about to say is actually really easy to grasp and come to terms with.

repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
·         Faith and repentance from dead works are the very first things we learn, we cannot earn our salvation, our righteousness isn’t enough to merit the presence of God, but Christ has accomplished everything for us, if we accept Him by faith

2and of instruction about washings,
·         The ceremonial washings of the Old Covenant (such as Ex 30:18-21) foreshadowed the Holy Spirit cleansing our hearts by faith (Titus 3:5)

the laying on of hands,
·         I tend to agree with John MacArthur who thinks that given the context of the letter the Laying of hands has the idea of the man bringing a sacrifice forward, laying his hands on it, and in so doing identifying with the sin.  (See Lev 1:4). We identify with Christ by confessing our sins put Him up there. 

the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
·         Resurrection of the dead probably speaks to the fulfillment of God's OT promises with regard to eternal life. (See Ezekiel 34:22 for example)

3And this we will do if God permits.
Now for the moment you are all waiting for.

The Argument Proper - why believers will be saved 
4For it is impossible, in the case of those who have
1.      once been enlightened,
2.      who have tasted the heavenly gift,
3.      and have shared in the Holy Spirit,
4.      5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God
5.      and the powers of the age to come,
·         The word impossible doesn’t mean difficult, it really means impossible, and further, this list has every mark of a genuine Christian since these five things only a true Christian experiences: they have new minds, have felt for themselves the goodness of God, are partakers with the Spirit in regeneration and sealing, and have tasted both the joy of the word of God and the power of the age to come.
·         So it’s well and truly impossible for to genuine believers to: 
       
       6and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance,  
      But that’s a problem because true believers can’t fall away, Phil 1:6,
and they can be restored to salvation James 5:19-20
·         (As a side note: the structure of the argument helps us to determine these men are true believers: they cannot be restored to salvation. If they never truly repented it would say: convert them.)

since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
·        ∙ Thus concludes the argument which really has begun at Heb 5:9. So in summary it looks like this:
      Only the blood of Christ can cover sins
If a Christian could lose their salvation it would mean sin has overpowered the blood of Christ
The only remedy for sin is Christs blood, but since the first is no longer effective Christ must make a second atonement.
      Christ will not be crucified again.
Therefore nothing remains to save a true believer who falls away.

      An analogy might be helpful. Say I'm a convict chained to a federal marshal on a plane traveling from New York to London. If I was able to smash through the handcuffs, overpower my guards and jump out of the plane into the ocean could I then get back on that plane?

      The Second Argument - why believers will be saved  
7For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
·          This is essentially a reassurance point out his previous argument was merely a warning.  This brings to mind the Parable of the fig tree (Mat 23:32-33) and the Parable of the gardener (Luke 13:7)

9Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.
·         To reassure them the writer includes this. We aren’t worried about your salvation in reality, although it’s a dreadful thing to fall away, because God is faithful.
·         The writer will expand on this more.

10For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.
·         Firstly why we shall certainly be saved: God is not unjust. No one who has given even a cup of water will lose his reward (Mat 10:42).  If Christ were to promise a reward to us, and then fail to deliver it, He would be a liar, and He would not be just.

11And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
·        This could not be more explicit that eternal security is true, the writer has included all this so that they may know the full assurance of hope.It's only when you have been set free that you can run the race. Only with the supreme confidence of Christ can we really work or have hope.
·         
13For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you."
·         Second reason: God has made a promise. Going back to v10 the writer is now going to expand on the nature of Christ being faithful and just.
·         Salvation is a promise so it doesn’t depend on human effort or ability. This is what Paul argued in Romans 4.

15And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.
·         All Abraham did to obtain the promise and blessing was wait.
·         Heaven is acquired likewise. Not by good works, but by patience.(Gal 5:5)

  16For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath,
·         The heirs of the promise is us. We are the children of the promise, see Gal 3.
·         Our modern notion of signing a binding contract is equivalent to the notion of an oath.

18so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie,
·         God cannot change His mind, neither can He lie. Therefore we have a sure confidence in His two things: His oath, and His promise.

we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
·         If then we have a God who has guaranteed our salvation let us hold fast.
·         The ‘fled for refuge’ speaks to the idea of a murder or criminal fleeing to the city of refuge Josh 20:1-9

19We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
·         That is the Most Holy place, the place behind the temple curtain where the ark of the covenant was.
·         This marks the end of the parenthetical, the end of chapter 6, being a summary of it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Geisler on Bible basics

I'm currently reading through A General Introduction to the Bible by Geisler and Nix, these are my thoughts on the organization of the Bible inspired by that book.
Part 1 - Moses 
God Spoke to Prophets
Moses (the lawgiver)
The Prophets
The Pentateuch (Torah)
The Prophets (Nebhiim)
The Writings (Kethubhim)
Genesis
Joshua
Psalms
Exodus
Judges
Proverbs
Leviticus
Samuel
Job
Numbers
Kings
Song of Songs
Deuteronomy
Isaiah
Ruth

Jeremiah
Lamentations

Ezekiel
Esther

The twelve
Ecclesiastes

Divided into the early and later
Daniel


Ezra-Nehemiah


Chronicles
                                                                                                                Poetry / Five rolls / History

The Jews understood that Scripture is a revelation from God, faithfully passed on by men called prophets who communicated Gods commands Amos 3:8, 1 Kings 22:14, or written words Ex 34:27, Jer 36:28, Isa 8:1, 30:8, Hab 2:2. These men were chosen by God 1 Kings 12:22 to serve Him 1 Kings 14:18 by beholding, seeing, or hearing a message from Him Is 42:19, 30:9-10. They predicted the future as proof of their claim Is 41:23, and were never wrong Deut 18:20.
To the Jews then, the whole of the writings were together called Scripture, Matt22:29, 26:54, Luke 24:32, 44, John 2:22, 5:39, 10:35, Acts 17:2, 11, 18:28, 2 Peter 1:20-21 (that’s enough to make the point), and understood to be God's oracles Rom 3:2.
The Jewish ordering of these books are testified to when Jesus spoke of the guilt of the blood of prophets, from Abel to Zechariah, and you can see that this list begins in Gen 4:8 and ends 2 Chron 24:20-22. Our expression “from Genesis to Revelation” would be equivalent.
Under this banner of infallible prophetic writing there was a two-fold division: Moses and the prophets. 

Moses, being the first prophet Deut 18:18, 34:10 was far and away the greatest, for he gave the law as received from God face to face Ex 33:11, Num 12:8, and the first five books.  In fact, as the chart above shows, the Scriptures were understood by the Jews to be divided into two parts: Moses the great Law Giver and everybody else not Moses, Matt 5:17, 7:12, 22:40 Luke 16:31, 24:27, John 1:45, Acts 24:14, 26:22, 28:23, Rom 3:21.
It’s hard to understate this.  Moses stood unequaled among the other Bible figures Acts 15:21, warranting a whole division of sacred Scripture to himself. It’s not a wonder that people were so up in arms to defend him Acts 6:11. This is also why the writer of the Hebrews ascends from showing Jesus is greater than the angels to showing us He is greater than even Moses.
We may be tempted to read Deuteronomy 18:18 as one verse among many that point to the person and work of Christ, but this is a rather serious mistake, we should not think of Moses as a mere prophet, we should think of him as a person so pivotal and revolutionary that He warrants a whole new division in Scripture. Therefore, when this man came as Moses had prophesied Acts 3:22-23 He reshaped the fundamental way we understand God’s revelation.
And He did. Matt 11:13, Luke 16:16, John 1:17.

Within this two-fold division there was another twofold division: the Nebhiim and the Kethubhim, or things God said, and the things God did.  So there is in the larger picture a threefold division of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms Luke 24:44.

But that's for next post.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Church of Christ's Shorter Catechism

Okay, sure, it's not polite to call it a catechism, because that would bring up the notion of creeds and formal doctrine, but in reality if you go to just about any church of Christ this is what you will answer with.
(But first, I cannot resist recording a short anecdote of just how much they hate the notion of creeds while ascribing to them in practice.  My dad was an elder at one of the biggest CoC in California, perhaps the biggest, when the ministry staff put out a 'What we believe' on the internet. He pointed out that that is a creed, they panicked, and took it down.)
Where the answers are the same as the Reformed ones I have omitted them. 

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. To love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. 

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, but particularly the new, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. 

Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. What we should believe, and how we should live.

Q. 4. What is God?

A. God is a Spirit, powerful, eternal, loving.

Q. 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A. There are two persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, both are worthy of worship, although the Son is less than the Father.

Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?

A. The decrees of God are: creating and sustaining existence.  

Q. 8. How doth God execute his decrees?
A. He already did. 

Q. 11. What are God’s works of providence?
A. God’s works of providence are in empowering men to do as they please.

Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Failing to do the right thing, or doing something prohibited in the Bible or by church consensus. 

Q. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A. Yes and no. All men became condemned to die, but it wasn't as if Adam acted as a federal head, or there was a thing called original sin.

Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. In having a tendency to sin or slip.
 
Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. No, He sent His Son to redeem men, by having Him die on the cross. 

Q. 21. Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?
A. The word elect has no meaning. But Jesus is a redeemer for all.

Q. 24. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A. By revealing Himself in the Bible.  

Q. 25. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. In his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice.

Q. 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. In conquering all his and our enemies.

Q. 29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. He doesn't. The work of Christ is applied by us, when we believe.

Q. 31. What is effectual calling?
A. The calling of God that reaches out to everyone who hears the Gospel message. 

Q. 32. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A. The ability to hear which leads to the ability to believe. 

Q. 33. What is justification?
A. A weird word. It means 'to make just, or to imbue with righteousness' although it's not a very useful one. 

Q. 35. What is sanctification?
A. Another word we don't use. The Baptists mean it as 'holy living.' 

Q. 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A. Heaven awaits us in the next one.

Q. 37. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A. True Christians go to heaven. 

Q. 39. What is the duty which God requireth of man?
A. The duty which God requireth of man, is lifelong obedience, faithful church attendance, and baptism in an authorized Church of Christ baptistry.

Q. 60. How is the sabbath to be sanctified?
A. In the new covenant we are absolved of keeping the sabbath. 

Q. 61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A. Saying 'God' 'Jesus' in an unseemly manner. Saying 'Gosh' and "Jeez' fall into this. 

Q. 82. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. With the strength of God all things are possible. 

Q. 83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. No. Divorce is the worst of all sins. 

Q. 85. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse, due to us for sin?
A. To believe in Jesus, and to confess Him as God's Son before baptism, to faithfully attend church the remainder of your life. 

Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. An inward belief that is so powerful it changes our habits and actions. 

Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance is not a word that has meaning. 

Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The Bible, communion, baptism, and prayer.

Q. 89. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?
A. Reading the Bible, listening to sermons, and going to church camp.

Q. 91. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A. Faith alone in Christ is effective, the Catholic church's notion of sacraments to save is incorrect.

Q. 92. What is a sacrament?
A. A Catholic notion that is un-scriptural. 

Q. 93. Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?
A. Baptism for conversion and The Lord's supper taken weekly. Except stop calling it sacrament.

Q. 94. What is baptism?
A. Baptism is a total immersion in an authorized body of water, (typically back first) preferably in a church, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and become members into the one true church.

Q. 95. To whom is Baptism to be administered?

A. Children or teenagers old enough to understand that Christ is God's only Son. 

Q. 96. What is the Lord’s Supper?
A. The Lord’s Supper is an event wherein, by giving and receiving unleavened bread and grape juice, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.