Tuesday, September 8, 2009

All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable!

Gal 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
I love this verse because it dashes to pieces many erroneous doctrines concerning the difference between the Old and New Testaments.
First we see that it does in fact call an Old Testament passage "scripture". Those who claim that the Old Testament is somehow inferior to the New, or less relevant than the New, do not recognize that they are cutting off the branch they are sitting on. Every New Testament writer consults the Old Testament, or calls it scripture, or uses it as a foundation for their arguments. The apostles would not have accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah except for the fact that starting in the Law and the Prophets he showed them how the scriptures foretold of him. Peter and Paul could not have convinced the Jews that Gentiles now stood on equal ground with them in the sight of God, except for the prophesies that a day would come when those who did not know God would be called the children of the Living God and the prophesy that there would come a day when a light would be shined on those who walked in darkness. Without the Old Testament the New Testament writers would not have had a leg to stand on, so to diminsh the role of the Old Testament is to diminish the foundation on which the New Testament stands.
Secondly, this verse claims that the heathen were saved by faith, and because of that, God spake to Abraham a Gospel of salvation by faith. Abraham, Adam, Isaiah, the thief on the cross and Paul the apostle were all saved the same way I was... by faith! There can be no argument that the law was the avenue of salvation for the Jews unless we cut Galations 3 out of the Bible. Paul makes a very strong argument, Abraham came before the law so how could the law have saved him? And if Abraham was saved by faith, were the Jews after the law saved differently than faithful father Abraham? (Gen. 15:6 says it was Abraham's belief in God that ws counted as his justification before God.) The law was never meant to save, but to show men that they are incapable of saving themselves and must cast themselves upon the Messiah for mercy.
Thirdly, it says the message spoken to Abraham was "the gospel". The gospel is not unique to the New Testament, the Old Testament saints had it as well. They did not know that His name would be Jesus, but they knew a Messiah would come that would be God incarnate and would save his people from their sins, they knew that He would be God with them, they knew He would be born of a virgin and that it would please God to bruise Him. Even Adam and Eve knew that there would be a seed of the woman whose heel would be bruised by the serpent, yet would ultimatly crush the head of that Old Serpent the Devil.
If ever a man or woman has been saved on this earth, it is only because they believed God and that was counted to them for righteousness. It is only through faith that a sinless Messiah would take their sins and pay their penalty. Thank God that you and I have the New Testament to show us that His name was Jesus, but in the words of our Lord, "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed".

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Was king Saul saved?

Alright here's another question recently asked me, eat the meat, spit out the bones, but don't spit them at me! :-)

Was King Saul saved? And if so what does I Sam. 16:14 mean when it says “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul,”?

The first thing that we must understand when dealing with this question is that we must be careful of attempting to say definitively whether someone was or wasn’t saved, when scripture is silent on the issue. While I say we must be careful in such a statement, I do not say that we cannot discern such issues based on what the scriptures do tell us.
When attempting to ascertain whether or not someone is converted, there are certain characteristics that the scripture tells us to look for. I will give you those traits and then we will lay them against Saul’s life and see how he measured up.
(1) A saved person trusts completely in God for his salvation, deliverance, and sustenance. (Gal. 2:16)
(2) Said faith will manifest itself in actions both personal and observable. (Jam. 2:14-18)
(3) A saved person loves God. (John 8:42, I Cor. 8:3, I John 5:2)
(4) A saved parson loves others, particularly his brothers and sisters in Christ. (I John 4:7-8, 20-21)

So then, let us now look at how King Saul matches up to the litmus test God has given us.

(1) Did Saul trust fully in God for his salvation, deliverance, and sustenance?
I could not find one place in scripture where it speaks of Saul’s faith and reliance on God, in a positive or negative way.

(2) Did Saul’s actions show faith in a personal and observable way?
While I could not find a place in the scriptures where it says that Saul believed in God, I did see two distinct events where he showed great reliance on self and no reliance on God. The first takes place in I Sam. 13, here the Israelites are planning to do battle (though greatly outmatched both numerically and technologically) with the Philistines. God has clearly commanded that there is to be no sacrifice offered but by the priest, in verse 9 Saul disobeys God’s command, bypasses the correct order of worship, and sacrifices himself. The second incident occurs in chapter 15, where God commands Israel to utterly destroy the Amalekites, yet Saul makes the executive decision to save alive the choicest animals and the king of the Amalekites himself. Now, I understand that great, godly, saved men often sin, sometimes in disbelief; but I found two elements that intrigued me concerning both incidents. The first is that both times when confronted with his sin he tried to pin the blame on someone else, in chapter 13 on the Philistines, the people and Samuel, in chapter 15 he again falsely accuses the people. The second correlation was that of no true repentance, the first time there was no repentance at all (I Sam. 13:15). The second time, while there was a show of sorrow, it was evidently to save face and not true repentance before God. (I Sam. 15:30)

(3) Did Saul love God?
Again the scriptures are silent on this issue, while I could find no place where the scriptures say Saul loved God not, I could neither find a reference that said he did love God. This becomes more troubling when we realize that the scriptures expressly say that the next two kings, David (Psa. 18:1) and Solomon (I Kings 3:3) loved God. Doubts then begin to creep into our mind as to why the scriptures say no such thing of Saul.

(4) Did Saul love others, particularly saved people?
This question has the clearest answer out of the four in my mind. Saul hated anyone that interfered with his plans. He attempted to kill David on multiple occasions, (I Sam. 19:10, I Sam. 24, I Sam. 26) he used his own daughter to further his agenda, (I Sam. 18:21) and even attempted to kill his own son for sticking up for David (I Sam. 20:33).
All of these facts along with the idea that God rejected Saul as a leader of His people, leads me to believe that Saul was in fact unregenerate. Like Pharaoh was set up as king so that God might be vindicated in His promise that Israel would repent that they had ever asked for a king.
As for the second part of the question, “What is meant by ‘the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul?’” All the commentators I could find agreed that this is not speaking of the Holy Spirit, which abides in a Christian for one’s entire life, but of the general graces which God had bestowed upon Saul previously. Clarke writes,

“The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul - He was thrown into such a state of mind by the judgments of God, as to be deprived of any regal qualities which he before possessed. God seems to have taken what gifts he had, and given them to David; and then the evil spirit came upon Saul; for what God fills not, the devil will.
An evil spirit from the Lord - The evil spirit was either immediately sent from the Lord, or permitted to come. Whether this was a diabolic possession, or a mere mental malady, the learned are not agreed; it seems to have partaken of both. That Saul had fallen into a deep melancholy, there is little doubt; that the devil might work more effectually on such a state of mind, there can be but little question. There is an old proverb, Satan delights to fish in troubled waters; and Saul’s situation of mind gave him many advantages.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Some difficult passages

I recently had a facebook friend ask me about some hard to understand passages in scripture, as my response was too long to put in comment form I decided to paste it here on my blog. So, enjoy and if you disagree with me about something that is fine, just please be cordial and christian in your comments.

The parables in Matt. 25 are dealing with the world and particularly the church being unprepared for the final coming of Christ. The first parable tells us that some of the virgins (many old commentators think that this is dealing with the professing church, as a virgin would denote professed purity and singularity of heart to a particular person) had slumbered and had not prepared themselves adequately to meet the bridegroom, while others had fully prepared themselves for his coming. The second has similar implications of some servants who had kept the return of their lord in the forefront of their thinking and resulting actions and others who had for all intents and purposes forgot that the lord would come and demand an answer for his actions. If you are asking how this relates to the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone, we must understand that those whom Christ as justified he will also ensure that they grow in grace and truth. (Gal. 3:3, Phi. 1:6, I Cor. 6:9-11, Jam. 2:17-18) when a person is truly converted God begins a sanctifying process in them, a spiritual washing (Eph. 5:26). Someone who claims to be saved and yet lives a life that shows no care for the things of God, that looks exactly like the rest of the world, that has not experienced victory over besetting sins over a period of time, such a person ought to examine himself to see whether he be in the faith. (II Cor. 13:5) Not to see if one has lost their salvation, but to see if they ever really had it at all.
Concerning Heb. 6:4-6, there is no denying that this as a hard passage of scripture to understand and has been debated by hundreds of theologians over thousands of years. My understanding through study is that it speaks of those who have "tried" Christianity out, never fully trusting in Christ but giving him a "trial period" of sorts, when such ones decide that Christianity is not for them, they are without hope. The venerable Dr. John Gill held to this position as well and gave Cain, Pharaoh, and Judas as examples of such. If they make a mockery of Christ's sacrifice for them and cast it off, how else will they be saved? There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved, so it is impossible for them to be renewed to repentance as they have already made up their mind they will not submit to Christ's finished work.
Hope this helps in some way, I highly recommend John Gill if you can find any of his commentaries, they are available for free on esword.

Is Matthew 24 talking about the end times?

A friend of mine recently raised the question, "If Matthew 24 isn't talking about a "rapture", what is it speaking of?" Here are a few of my humble thoughts.

Let me begin by saying that I agree with Matthew Henry who held that Matthew 24 was speaking directly of the fall of the Temple and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, yet was a shadow and type of the end of the entire world. Verses 1-2 are self-explanatory, vs. 3-26 also took place in very real fashion between 40-70 AD, as is well documented in many historical and religious writings. Between the fierce persecution of the Christians from both Jews and Romans, and the heresies that were running rampant as we see from the majority of the epistles, we cannot deny that there was both fierce tribulation and false christs occurring during this time.Of verse 27 where Jesus speaks of the coming of the Son of Man, John Gill writes
"which must be understood not of his last coming to judgment, though that will be sudden, visible, and universal; he will at once come to, and be seen by all, in the clouds of heaven, and not in deserts and secret chambers: nor of his spiritual coming in the more sudden, and clear, and powerful preaching of the Gospel all over the Gentile world; for this was to be done before the destruction of Jerusalem: but of his coming in his wrath and vengeance to destroy that people, their nation, city, and temple: so that after this to look for the Messiah in a desert, or secret chamber, must argue great stupidity and blindness; when his coming was as sudden, visible, powerful, and general, to the destruction of that nation, as the lightning that comes from the east, and, in a moment, shines to the west."
Verse 28 makes an obvious reference to the Roman army (whose symbol was the eagle) encamped around Jerusalem. History reports that the banners bearing the image of an eagle were carried by each band of soldiers and were dotted all around Jerusalem during the siege. Verse 29 is also interpreted by Gill in a very figurative sense, which would seem quite plausible since verse 30 refers to "the sign of the Son of Man".
Verse 31, is actually one of the easier verses to understand under this understanding or interpretation of this chapter. It is universally accepted that the angels mentioned in the beginning of Revelation are pastors or preachers. If we read the word angels here with the same interpretation, we already know that the fall of Jerusalem shot christians into every corner of the world preaching the gospel with the noise and clarity of a trumpeter. Vs. 34 is the hinge on which this thesis turns, Jesus said it would happen within that generation or roughly within that 40-50 years. Vs. 40-41 are then understood as speaking of the stories where there were many who escaped both through miraculous as well as "natural" means, even when everyone else in their city was massacred.
Let me close with this, I don't do intense studying on the "end times" (though I do believe the Lord will return one day to judge the quick and the dead) for the same reason the reformers and Puritans didn't. I have enough studying to do on all those things that relate to life and godliness, that I don't need to know how it will all end. Regardless of what happens, my responsibilities as a christian here on earth never change. So why spend my time trying to figure out something that teases the edges of my imaginations, but has no practical relevance, when I can be studying those things which sanctify, wash, and grow me to make me more like Christ. So when I do see my Redeemer face to face I will be presented as a pure and spotless bride, I may not know everything about the wedding day, but I want to know everything about the Groom!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

War for love.

I open this post with the disclaimer that this post is a summery of Dr. Paul Tripp's sermon on "The War of Love" that I heard him preach tonight and not an original work.
1Jo 4:7-11 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
A couple of words that we rarely if ever used in the same breath are "war" and "love", yet this scripture passage teaches that we are in fact fighting a war of love and there are four battlefronts where this war is seen.
I. The confrontation of definition.
There has been much damage done to the church of Jesus Christ in America because we have allowed the world to redefine what is meant by "love". It is more than respect, it is more that affection, it is more than an absence of dislike. Love is willingly and sacrificially giving of yourself regardless of whether the one being loved deserves it or not! Herein is love... [God] sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
II. The confrontation of motivation.
The motivation that is presented to us here has nothing to do with whether we feel like it or not, love is a duty. However, biblical love is always joyful because it is motivated by something greater than itself. Our motivation is to be that we have been loved when we were the least deserving, the vertical love from God to us should cause us to manifest horizontal love for everyone around us. All too often we are guilty of the sin of forgetfulness though, we go throughout the day without ever once thinking about the fact that God saved our souls from hell. We allow other's action or our feelings to be the motivation for our love, instead of remembering that the greatest love ever manifested was manifested towards us! Such a great love cannot be bottled up inside of us, we should not be able to help but love others because of that.
III. The confrontation of conflict.
It is our nature to be bent toward deceit, this is even (perhaps especially) true with self-deceit. We allow ourselves to believe that because we raise our hands in worship, or because we regularly attend church, or work hard, or tithe, that we really do love God. God has given us another test, he says that any man who claims to love God yet hates his brother is lying. It's not okay to argue with your spouse on the way to church, it's not okay to get angry at the slow driver in front of you, it's not okay to get fed up with the kid's bickering and just start smacking, IT'S NOT OKAY! God says "Quit lying to yourself, because you are proving that you don't really love me!" This war for love is being waged a very regular basis, since our sovereign God knew just what to give us as the ultimate litmus test to see whether we truly love him or not.
IV. The confrontation of calling.
There is an incredible truth given to us in one little word in this text, that is the word ought. When we read that word we often think of it as synonymous with should, such as "I ought to go to the grocery store today." We think it means a good idea or logical suggestion, while that is a good definition there is another connotation being carried here that we tend to overlook. That is the definition that means a natural course or literally designed for that purpose. Such as "Rain ought to be wet" or "The sun ought to be bright". When we apply this definition to this passage we find a radical concept, that is that as Christians a part of our new man that has been put on is an intrinsic design to love. That is what we are called to do, what we should do, and also the very thing we were designed to do; love is our purpose in life. When we fail to love our brother not only are we in disobedience, but we are also using our bodies and emotions in a way that they were never meant to be used, against their very nature.
Cool quote: "Love (God) rescued me from love (for self) so that I can love (others)!
I hope this short outline helped you in some small way, the way the sermon did for me in a large way. I was called to reexamine my view of brotherly love, love toward God, and my very purpose in life.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Couseling conference

I am writing today from Lafayette, IN where I'm attending Faith Baptist Church's annual counseling conference. On the superficial side of things the weather hasn't been too bad, we had some wind and rain today but overall not too cold, no ice or snow. As far as the real issues, the sessions have been incredible! They have done a good job of balancing the philosophical and practical sides of counseling. I. e. a sampling of some of the sessions from track one which I'm attending have been, Processing Data, Walking in the Light, Dealing with Depression, Growing in Holiness, The Biblical Principles of Sex. In other words, they have been very thorough in teaching the whole counsel of God concerning counseling. I now see that with the Scriptures as my guide, I am competent to counsel. I've learned in general that the main problem for every counselee is the heart, but I've also learned how to take an issue (Depression, Marriage Conflicts, Anorexia, Etc.) and use the scripture to diagnose what is causing them to act that way and use the scriptures to resolve the problems.
While Anna and I have been attending track 1 covering the basics of counseling, Pastor and Mrs. Michael have been going through track 5 which focuses on how to become NANC (National Association of Neuthetic Counselors) certified. He says there is a lot more paperwork and less lectures that are involved in track 5, but the information he is gathering will be invaluable when we go to get certified.
All the while Jason Wallace has been learning many of the more specific situations you will run across in counseling in track 2. Learning about issues like Miscarriage and Infertility, Eating Disorders and Provocative Parents.
The hope is that at the end of the week and in the coming weeks we can share notes, collaborate on issues and methodologies and ultimately have several certified and competent counselors of different age, gender and station in life. Be praying with us that none of this knowledge or these resources would go to waste, but that God would use us as able ministers to our church and our community.