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!