Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Coming of Christ Part 5

This is the final post in my series on Matthew 2. I pray just as the magi found what they were looking for and rejoice that you too will find joy in this season where we celebrate the birth of Christ.


There is nothing in the universe that will satisfy the human heart like Jesus. People try to find the ultimate pleasure in success, money, physical relationships, power, possessions, and many other things. However, the only way to truly enjoy life to the fullest and find true, lasting satisfaction is in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only when we humble ourselves and worship Him as our God will we ever truly feel lasting joy. In our scripture passage today, the wise men from the east find just that kind of joy when they find and worship the Lord Jesus.

As we read the scripture, we find that after they conversed with Herod the Great as to how long the star had been appearing, they left immediately. Verse 9 records that when they had heard the king, they departed. These guys were on a mission. They were focused and persistent. They had made a long, probably dangerous, journey and they were very close to their goal. As we read earlier in this chapter, these men had come on this journey to worship God. As impressive as Herod’s court likely was to these foreign dignitaries, it was not enough to delay them from their ultimate goal,

We also note in that verse that these men searched persistently. The verse records that the star which they had seen in the east went before them till it came and stood over where the young Child was. These wise men had followed this star all the way from the east and knew it to be a supernatural sign from God that pointed to the birthplace of the Messiah. They persistently followed this sign. This sign was available to all the citizens of Jerusalem and certainly to the religious leaders. However, these Jews were not the ones to go and greet the Messiah. Instead, these Gentile astrologers were the ones followed this star to the King of kings.

Because they had found the One they were looking for, they were overcome with happiness and rejoiced with exceedingly great joy as Matthew records in verse 10. They weren’t just happy to have found Him. They had joy on top of joy. They were ecstatic. We can imagine these men having spent their whole life pursuing meaningless, empty truth. At some point, they must have been able to read and learn the Hebrew Scriptures because they knew the prophecies concerning the Messiah. At some point, they felt a desire to search for the Truth and find the God who would come as Messiah. While we do not have recorded the particulars of how or why they began their search, they must have gone in response to the Word of God. They found the fulfillment of the prophecies they had read and were overjoyed.

Their joy is ultimately expressed in their worship. Worship should be a natural expression of our love for God. These men, upon seeing God in human flesh, fell down and worshipped Him. We see in verse 11 as much as anywhere the true motivation behind the journey of these men. Yes, we had heard them say they were here to worship, but here we see them express their feelings by their actions. I know in churches sometimes people will stand with the congregation during the hymns and not sing. Perhaps they feel that singing is reserved for those who have beautiful voices. I submit to you that after what God has done for us by choosing us and sending His Son to be a sacrifice for our sins, we should sing no matter how we sound. We should worship through our giving, through our service, and through out attention as His Word is preached to us. Praise God for the example of these Gentile men who fell prostrate before our Lord and worshipped Him as God Almighty. We also observe that they gave Him gifts that recognized His Kingship, His Priesthood, and His role as sacrifice by giving him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We should reflect on their sacrificial giving and recognize that worship is only truly worship when it is performed out of love from a heart that is thankful. When we remember the grace of God and how He drew us to Himself, our hearts should rejoice as these men’s hearts did and that joy should overflow into love and praise for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Coming of Christ part 4

I will be posting the exposition I did a few years ago of Matthew 2. I felt it particularly appropriate for this time of year. I pray that you are encouraged.


In Genesis Chapter 3, we read about the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. When God pronounced His curse on the serpent, He said that the Seed of the woman would crush his (Satan’s) head while Satan would bruise the Seed’s heel. This conflict between Satan and God is carried on throughout Scripture. Time and time again, we find Satan attempting to thwart the plan of God to bring salvation to the world. Time and time again, we find Satan used the same means in his attempt to do so. Through various means, he tried to kill the Jewish people since the promised Messiah would be Jewish. We see in the book of Exodus, the wicked Pharaoh was motivated to kill all the Jewish males in an attempt to exterminate the Jewish race. In the book of Esther, we see Haman try to have the Jewish race killed by the King of the Medeo-Persian Empire. Although we know Satan has no way to be able to defeat the plans of God, we see examples in scripture of him trying to do just that. In Matthew chapter 2, we see this all too familiar strategy attempted again by this wicked Roman ruler.

We can see how carefully Herod the Great laid his evil plan out. We see in verse 7 of chapter 2 that he secretly called the wise men. Most of the time, if someone is trying to do something secretly, it’s usually not something good. Oh, sure, someone could be trying to set up a surprise party or hide a Christmas gift for someone special. However, most of the time, if someone wants something hidden it is because it is something they are ashamed for people to see. We know the end of this story and what Herod wanted to do to our Lord Jesus. Even if we didn’t already know that, however, the facts we know in history and what we have read so far in chapter 2 would cause us to be suspicious at his secret consultation with these wise men. We also observe the manner in which he questioned them about the star. The verse records that he determined from them what time the star appeared. In the Greek, the way determined is used indicates that he thoroughly questioned them to find out precisely how long the star had been appearing in the sky. This same word is translated carefully in the next verse. Herod wanted to make sure he knew not only where his target was but how long he had been alive. We see him methodically planning and plotting with a sinister precision that would even impress Lex Luthor.
I bet Herod didn't have an evil plan laugh--"Bwahaha"
In fact, his method of planning his crime is not the only way he resembles a comic book villain. He even employs henchmen. I imagine once he found out where the Child was born, he thought it would be too obvious or cause too much of a scene if he went there himself. Perhaps he was afraid the people would revolt against him in favor of this new King. Whatever his motivations, he did not travel to Jerusalem himself. Instead, verse 8 records that Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem with instructions to search carefully for the young Child and when they found Him he wanted them to bring back word to him. Again, he wanted no stone left unturned. His instructions were for them to make a thorough, accurate, exhaustive search to find exactly where this new King was living. This agent of Satan did not want to miss his intended target. In the ultimate act of hypocrisy, he tells them that he, too, wants to worship the Christ. We should remember that not every person who claims to be a Christian is truly a Christian. People use the name of Christ and the church sometimes to try to hide their less than pure motives. The epistles are replete with examples of false teachers who try to use their ministry for their own greedy purposes. I know that sort of thing still happens today. What we see in Herod, then, is just another example of a lost person trying to use religion as a cloak for his own sinful desires.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Coming of Christ Part 3

I will be posting my exposition of Matthew 2 over the new few weeks in anticipation of the celebration of our Lord's birth this season. I pray that you are encouraged.


We observed in the last study of Matthew 2 how the birth of our Lord Jesus caused uneasiness in the heart of Herod the Great and the people in Jerusalem. The advent of the Prince of Peace caused them to panic for different reasons. Herod was afraid of a political rival and the people were afraid of Herod. However, one would expect the religious leaders, who were fervently anticipating the arrival of the Messiah, to have a proper response. Surely, they would praise God for finally sending the “Consolation of Israel” and fall down to worship Christ. We will see, as we study God’s word that, sadly, this is not the case.

We read in verse 4 of the text that Herod gathered all the chief priest and scribes of the people together and he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. This was a fairly startling move for this man and it reveals something of his motivations. We know that the news that One had been born King of the Jews troubled him. We also know that he was not Jewish and from things we can read in history he was not a person of faith. We know, therefore, that the reason for his inquiry was not godly nor were his motives pure. In fact, being a Roman official and an outsider to Jewish life, he actually condescended himself in asking this information from the chief priests and scribes. Josephus records that when Herod was named the Roman provincial governor of Jerusalem, he killed many of the scribes that were in Jerusalem. He, like most Romans, felt these people in Jerusalem were beneath him. Therefore, it must have humbled him to have had to ask these people for this information. He appears willing to humble himself somewhat if it means that he can thwart the Messiah’s rise to power.

He certainly looked for the information in the right place. We observe that he inquired of the chief priests. There was only one chief priest ordained at a time so, in reality, this could have included not only the current chief priest but also so of his predecessors. The priesthood had become something of a political office and sometimes they were disposed of at the whim of the local governor. These men were responsible for the service and maintenance of the temple. As such, they were important figures in Jewish life and could actually only come from one family. The scribes were the lawyers. They were professionals who devoted their time to the study of the law. In short, Herod called together the religious and judicial leaders of the nation in his haste to find out where his rival was born.

The fact that he was able to find any of these men should come as a surprise to us. They had just heard the news that the star announcing the birth of the Messiah had been seen by the magi. They knew the scriptures. If anyone in the city of Jerusalem should have been running to greet the Lord, it should have been these men. Instead, we find them having been assembled by this godless, evil man to assist him in his attempt to find the Messiah. They were able to do this with no trouble at all. Quite simply, scripture records that they said to him “In Bethlehem of Judea” and they noted that it was written by the prophet. They quoted the substance of the prophecy. Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. They also recognized the source of the prophecy was the revelation of God through His prophet. These guys could have made 100 on a Bible pop quiz. If they were on Jeopardy and the category was “Old Testament” and they hit the daily double, they could confidently say “I’ll bet all of it, Alex.” They knew, in a head knowledge kind of way, everything that a person needed to know to understand the significance of the birth of Christ. Instead of seeking Him our, they were indifferent. They were content to be called as consultants to this Gentile king who they hated rather than welcome their one, true King.

They even go so far as to quote from the Old Testament to substantiate their claim. In my day job, I’m an auditor. That is an accountant that has specialized in the task of telling other accountants how to do their jobs. Basically, when an auditee presents me with information, I never take their word for it. I always look for corroborating evidence. In a sense, that is what these men do here. They quote from Micah 5:2. We see in their quotation that is recorded in Matthew 2:6 that they knew the humble beginnings of the Messiah (You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah.) They also know from Scripture the character of the Messiah. They quote that the Messiah shall be a Ruler. The word ruler translates the Greek word hegeomai which means leader and has the sense of royalty. However, even though He would be the Messiah and would rule with a rod of iron, as noted in Revelation 19:15, He would be tender and compassionate with his subjects. These men further quoted that this Ruler would shepherd My people, Israel. We know that in the book of John, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd in chapter 10 and David proudly proclaimed that the Lord was his Shepherd in the 23rd Psalm. There is no more selfless, tireless kind of caretaker than a shepherd and that is exactly the kind of Messiah that was revealed in this prophecy.

These men knew all these things. They knew where He was to be born and, after the visit of the magi, they knew when He was born. Instead of going to look for Him, they remained in their lofty positions of power and influence in Jerusalem. Friends, let us pay careful attention to this. A person can know a lot about Jesus and the Bible and be lost as a goose. I would dare say there may well be some very well educated theologians that go straight into Hell and not all of them may be liberals. It isn’t head knowledge that saves a man or a woman but a real relationship with Jesus Christ. These men, by their indifference to the Messiah, prove their lack of a true faith in God.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--The Fallacies of Higher Criticism Part VI

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

The Psalms are usually dated by the higher critics after the exile. The great majority of the higher critics are agreed here, and tell us that these varied and .touching and magnificent lyrics of religious experience all come to us from a period later than 450 B. C. A few of the critics admit an earlier origin of three or four of them, but they do this waveringly, grudgingly, and against the general consensus of opinion among their fellows. In the Bible a very large number of the Psalms are ascribed to David, and these, with a few insignificant and doubtful exceptions, are denied to him and brought down, like the rest, to the age of the second temple. This leads me to the following observations:

1. Who wrote the Psalms? Here the higher critics have no answer. Of the period from 400 to 175 B. C, we are in almost total ignorance. Josephus knows almost nothing about it, nor has any other writer told us more. Yet, according to the theory, it was precisely in these centuries of silence: when the Jews had no great writers, that they produced this magnificent outburst of sacred song.

2. This is the more remarkable when we consider the well known men to whom the theory denies the authorship of any of the Psalms. The list includes such names as Moses, David, Samuel, Nathan, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the long list of preexilic prophets. We are asked to believe that these men composed no Psalms, and that the entire collection was contributed by men so obscure that they have left no single name by which we can identify them with their work.

3. This will appear still more extraordinary if we consider the times in which, it is said, no Psalms were produced, and contrast them with the times in which all of them were produced. The times in which none were produced were the great times, the times of growth, of mental ferment, of conquest, of imperial expansion, of disaster, and of recovery. The times in which none were produced were the times of the splendid temple of Solomon, with its splendid worship. The times in which none were produced were the heroic times of Elijah and Elisha, when the people of Jehovah struggled for their existence against the abominations of the pagan gods. On the other hand, the times which actually produced them were the times of growing legalism, of obscurity, and of inferior abilities. All this is incredible.
4. Very many of the Psalms plainly appear to be ancient. They sing of early events, and have no trace of allusion to the age which is said to have produced them.

5. The large number of Psalms attributed to David have attracted the special attention of the higher critics. They are denied to him on various grounds. He was a wicked man, and hence incapable of writing these praises to the God of righteousness. He was an iron warrior and statesman, and hence not gifted with the emotions found in these productions. He was so busy with the cares of conquest and administration that he had no leisure for literary work. Finally, his conception of God was utterly different from that which moved the psalmists.

The larger part of this catalogue of inabilities is manifestly erroneous. David, with some glaring faults, and with a single enormous crime, for which he was profoundly penitent, was one of the noblest of men. He was indeed an iron warrior and statesman, but also one of the most emotional of all great historic characters. He was busy, but busy men nest seldom find relief in literary occupations, as Washington, during the Revolutionary War, poured forth a continual tide of letters, and as Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, and Gladstone, while burdened with the cares of empire, composed immortal books. The conception of God with which David began his career was indeed narrow (1 Sam. 26:19) . But did he learn nothing in all his later experiences, and his associations with holy priests and prophets? He was certainly teachable: did God fail to make use of him in further revealing Himself to His people? To deny these Psalms to David on the ground of his limited views of God in his early life, is this not to deny that God made successive revelations of Himself wherever He found suitable channels? If, further, we consider the unquestioned skill of David in the music of his nation and his age (1 Sam. 16:14-23), this will constitute a presupposition in favor of his interest in sacred song. If, finally, we consider his personal career of danger and deliverance, this will appear as the natural means of awakening in him the spirit of varied religious poetry. His times were much like the Elizabethan period, which ministered unexampled stimulus to the English mind.

From all this we may turn to the singular verdict of Professor Jordan: "If a man says he cannot see why David could not have written Psalms 51 and 139, you are compelled to reply as politely as possible that if he did write them then any man can write anything." So also we may say, "as politely as possible," that if Shakespeare, with his "small Latin and less Greek," did write his incomparable dramas, "then any man can write anything'"; that if Dickens, with his mere elementary education, did write his great novels, "then any man can write anything"; and that if Lincoln, who had no early schooling, did write his Gettysburg address, "then any man can write anything."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Coming of Christ part 2

The celebration of the birth of our Lord is just around the corner. I will be reposting over the new few weeks exposition that I did a few years ago of Matthew Chapter 2. I hope you are encouraged.


Matthew records that when Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled. The word, translated troubled is the Greek word tarasso and it means to agitate, disturb, or stir up. It is used to describe the emotional condition of the disciples when Jesus walked on the water to meet them in the boat during a storm. It is also used in John chapter 5 to describe water being stirred. One might say that the things he heard from the questioning magi caused him to fret. We should ask ourselves “Why?” Why would news of this sort cause this man to be agitated?

The answer lies in history. The Jews had been under foreign rule since about 500 years before Christ’s birth when the Babylonians invaded Judah and conquered the people, Rule passed from Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece and, finally, to Rome. The Jewish people hated being under the control of a foreign ruler and, as such, were somewhat difficult to control. Occasional revolts against their rulers were not uncommon. So Herod was in a tense political environment, to say the least. He was a descendent of Esau and, therefore, a foreigner. Therefore, the Jews hated him and he knew that.

In addition to the tense political situation, we have to remember that Herod was a ruthless, power mad despot. He killed two of his sons and their mother because he feared they were a threat to his power. Upon being promoted to king in Jerusalem by the Romans one of his first official actions was to kill many religious leaders in Jerusalem. The Jews knew him to be ruthless. He was also wildly ambitious and jealous. Therefore, when he heard the magi were asking about the one who had been born King of the Jews, he was thrown into a jealous fit. He couldn’t stand the thought of someone else bearing his title and he feared the people of Jerusalem would support the usurper.

We see, however, the people did not have the reaction he feared that they would. In fact, Matthew records that all Jerusalem was troubled with him. Of course, we know that they were aware of the evil this man who had been set over them as king was capable of because of his ruthlessness and cruelty. However, all Jewish people were expectantly hoping for the arrival of the Messiah. They knew His arrival was imminent because of the prophecy in Daniel 9:25. Their hearts longed for what they expected to be a political emancipation from foreign rule. Instead of rushing out to find where this Messiah was born, we see that they are troubled. In contrast to Gentile philosopher kings who brought word that the promised Messiah had been born and traveled many hundreds of miles to do so, God’s chosen people, the Jews, wouldn’t so much as travel less than 20 miles to their south to find their true King. Their fear of this Gentile king led them to ignore their Messiah who was God in human flesh. Instead of turning in faith to God, they kept their eyes on their circumstances and robbed themselves of the joy of greeting their Messiah.

Which side do you and I fall on? Are we like the Jews who were so worried about their circumstances to seek after God? Or do we have the faith of the wise men who followed a star on a treacherous journey because they were desperate to find God. Do we allow worldly concerns to become more important than seeking God and His Truth, no matter how hard the voyage.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--The Fallacies of Higher Criticism Part V

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

The limitation of the field of research as far as possible to the biblical books as literary productions has rendered many of the higher critics reluctant to admit the new light derived from archaeology. This is granted by Cheyne. ["Bible Problems," page 142.] "I have no wish to deny," he says, "that the so-called `higher critics' in the past were as a rule suspicious of Assyriology as a young, and, as they thought, too self-assertive science, and that many of those who now recognize its contributions to knowledge are somewhat too mechanical in the use of it, and too skeptical as to the influence of Babylonian culture in relatively early times in Syria, Palestine and even Arabia." This grudging recognition of the testimony of archaeology may be observed in several details.

1. It was said that the Hexateuch must have been formed chiefly by the gathering up of oral traditions, because it is not to be supposed that the early Hebrews possessed the art of writing and of keeping records. But the entire progress of archaeological study refutes this. In particular the discovery of the Tel el-Amarna tablets has shown that writing in cuneiform characters and in the Assyrio-Babylonian language was common to the entire biblical world long before the exodus. Other finds have added their testimony to the fact that writing and the preservation of records were the peculiar passions of the ancient civilized world.

2. It was easy to treat Abraham as a mythical figure when the early records of Babylonia were but little known. The entire coloring of those chapters of Genesis which refer to Mesopotamia could be regarded as the product of the imagination. This is no longer the case. Thus Clay, writing of Genesis 14, says: "The theory of the late origin of all the Hebrew Scriptures prompted the critics to declare this narrative to be a pure invention of a later Hebrew writer. The patriarchs were relegated to the region of myth and legend. Abraham was made a fictitious father of the Hebrews. Even the political situation was declared to be inconsistent with fact. Weighing carefully the position taken by the critics in the light of what has been revealed through the decipherment of the cuneiform inscriptions, we find that the very foundations upon which their theories rest, with reference to the points that could be tested, totally disappear. The truth is, that wherever any light has been thrown upon the subject through excavations, their hypotheses have invariably been found wanting.

3. The books of Joshua and judges have been regarded by the higher critics as unhistorical on the ground that their portraiture of the political, religious, and social condition of Palestine in the thirteenth century B. C. is incredible. This cannot be said any longer, for the recent excavations in Palestine have shown us a land exactly like that of these books. The portraiture is so precise that it cannot be the product of oral tradition floating down through a thousand years.

4. It was held by the higher critics that the legislation which we call Mosaic could not have been produced by Moses, since his age was too early for such codes. This reasoning was completely negatived by the discovery of the code of Hammurabi, the Amraphelt [0n this matter see any dictionary of the Bible, art. "Amraphel."] of Genesis 14. This code is very different from that of Moses; it is more systematic; and it is at least seven hundred years earlier than the Mosaic legislation.

In short, from the origin of the higher criticism till this present time the discoveries in the field of archaeology have given it a succession of serious blows. The higher critics were shocked when the passion of the ancient world for writing and the preservation of documents was discovered. They were shocked. when primitive Babylonia appeared as the land of Abraham. They were shocked when early Palestine appeared as the and of Joshua and the Judges. They were shocked when Amraphel came back from the grave as a real historical character, bearing his code of laws. They were shocked when the stele of the Pharaoh of the exodus was read, and it was proved that he knew a people called Israel, that they had no settled place of abode, that they were "without grain" for food, and that in these particulars they were quite as they are represented by the Scriptures to have been when they had fled from Egypt into the wilderness. The embarrassment created by these discoveries is manifest in many of the recent writings of the higher critics, in which, however, they still cling heroically to their analysis and their late dating of the Pentateuch and their confidence in the hypothesis of evolution as the key of all history.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

II Peter 3:14 Four Imperatives of a Forward Looking Faith Part 1

As Peter comes to close out his marvelous epistle, he gives his readers four imperatives, directions to follow, to help them as they endure the false teachers that he has told them will be coming their way (2:1). In short, because Peter knows he won’t be around forever, he wants to make sure these people, his spiritual children, know how to defend themselves against the destructive heresies of false teachers. You and I, even 2,000 years later, need to be doing the same thing. False doctrine is being sold in the church today and being bought at an alarming rate. We must be prepared just as Peter’s audience was told to be prepared to resist this theological poison.

First of all, Peter bases these commands on the proclamations of the preceding verses. Since we are looking to a future deliverance from a corrupted world of sin to a perfect, sinless, eternal home in heaven, we should live differently. Peter says, “since you look for these things”. In other words, the truth that this world is temporary and will be judged but our future home in heaven is eternal and will be undefiled should affect us. If we’re truly born again, we can’t read that truth, understand it, and remain as we are where we are. Because the Holy Spirit indwells born again believers, our whole perspective and nature is radically different from the rest of the world. The truth we know will affect the way we live.

What effect should it have on our lives? Quite frankly, we should be eagerly seeking to become more like Christ and looking for opportunities to spread the gospel. Peter here uses the same phrase he used in chapter 1 verse 10 commanding his readers to “be diligent”. Certainly we are saved by grace through faith alone and not by works (Romans 3:28). However, true faith will demonstrate itself in works (James 2:17). We are also called to study scripture with diligence (II Timothy 2:15). In short, the life of a Christian is one of exerting maximum effort like a running back straining for those last few yards. We are called to expend this effort here by Peter as we progress in our sanctification.

To what end do we expend this effort—why does Peter command his readers, and by extension us, to diligence in our walk? First of all, this diligence leads to our assurance of true salvation, as he also noted in 1:10. We are called to be found “by Him”, that is, in Christ. Just as the author of Hebrews warned his readers about falling away and abandoning their profession of faith, we would be wise to remind ourselves that salvation is not only a point but a process. In other words, it is those who remain true to their faith in Jesus Christ who are saved. If someone makes a profession of faith and turns away from the faith they are not proving that someone can lose their salvation but rather they show they were never saved to begin with. We shouldn’t confidently rest on a prayer that we prayed as a child as proof that we’re saved. Rather, we should be diligent to be found in Christ so as to realize our full salvation.

The only way to pursue that is to live a life by faith that is pleasing to God. Peter says his readers need to strive to be found by Christ in “peace, spotless and blameless”. I would say that “spotless and blameless” are descriptions of how one is found at peace by the Lord. The only way to have peace with God is to have your sins forgiven, thereby being declared spotless and blameless. The only way to have your sins forgiven is by faith in the finished work of Christ. Obviously, if someone is living with this kind of faith and seeking diligently to lead a life pleasing to God, they will repent of sins in their life. They will devote themselves to seeking the Holy Spirit’s power in defeating sin and seek to walk in a God honoring manner.

As we read this exhortation by Peter, we should remind ourselves that our faith is a forward looking faith. We should seek, as Peter says, to be found by Christ having a saving faith that is attested to by our life. In the end, that is the only true was to have assurance of salvation.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Coming of the Christ part 1

The celebration of the birth of our Lord is just around the corner. I will be reposting over the new few weeks exposition that I did a few years ago of Matthew Chapter 2. I hope you are encouraged.


Matthew records events that occurred after Christ’s birth to give us a clear picture of the kinds of responses people had to His birth. In chapter 2, we see Christ sought after, feared, ignored, and worshipped. We ever see innocent people murdered in an attempt to kill Him due to jealousy.

In verse 1, Matthew records that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was south and slightly east of Jerusalem. It was a small town but it was important for several reasons. First of all, it was the birthplace of King David. Secondly, the town had prophetic importance. As noted in Micah 5:2, the Messiah would be born in this town. Therefore, the location of Jesus’ birth was significant.

Additionally, Matthew records the ruler who reigned at the time. Herod the king was the man assigned to govern this area by Rome. Essentially then, he was a governor. The Jews hated this man. First of all, he was not Jewish but a descendent of Esau and, therefore, a foreigner. Secondly, he was known for ruthlessness and cruelty. Because the horrible man was set over them as king and he represented Roman rule, he was a constant reminder that Israel was under the political rule of another country.

Into this tense political climate came wise men from the east. The word wise men is magios in the Greek. It referred to men who were devoted to the study of the sciences of that day as well as philosophy and religion. Since these men came as the result of seeing a star, it is reasonable to assume that they spent at least some of their time studying astronomy or astrology. We also know the general location these men came from because Matthew records that they came from the east. Many Bible scholars believe these men were Persian. In any case, it was fairly obvious that these wise men “weren’t from around these parts.” These men left their homes and went on an arduous, possibly even dangerous, journey to follow this phenomenon. Very likely, it had taken them a long time to reach their destination. They were obviously motivated by some intense driving force. As our Lord noted in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” The faith and persistence of these men is an example to us.

We find further evidence that these men were people of faith as we examine the inquiry they made when they arrived in Jerusalem. They went around to people saying “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” Again, we see these men were persistent in the manner in which they asked. As John MacArthur observes in his study Bible, the word saying is a present participle in the Greek text. This indicates that they were probably asking everyone they met this same question. They were also fully cognizant of Whom they were asking about. They identified Him as the king of the Jews. Evidently, they were aware of the position of royalty this baby boy was born into. They also must have read and been familiar with the Hebrew prophecies and knew the Messiah would be born under a sign; a star. While this star looked like it might have just been a heavenly body, it was probably supernatural since it led these men here and would eventually settle over the house where Jesus was living. They knew the Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah 60:3 and Numbers 24:17 that the sign of the birth of the Messiah would be a star. Finally, we see their faith further evidenced by the purpose of their visit. They came not as political envoys or curious men, but as people who were in fact seeking God. They were Gentiles and, therefore, outsiders to the Jewish community. They were not seeking religion nor were they Jewish proselytes. Instead, these men went on this long journey to find God in order that they might worship Him. Let us pray for God to draw us even closer to Himself as He drew these wise men. Let us also pray that he would give us a heart to seek the truth as persistently as these men did.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Who Are You Trying To Fool??

If you read verse 6 of chapter 5 in Matthew, you will see a glorious picture of people coming to repentance as a result of the call of the Holy Spirit working through the preaching of John the Baptist. The true repentance of these people was evidenced by the public and specific confession of their sins. However, while their motives were pure, there were people who would come to the Jordan whose motives were not so godly. As we see John’s reaction, we are reminded that religious hypocrites still exist and we must be on guard for them even today.

Matthew records that while John was baptizing the truly repentant, “…he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism…” We should mention something about these two groups. As John MacArthur notes in his study bible “The Pharisees were traditionalists, the Sadducees were liberals. The Pharisees were separatists, the Sadducees were compromising opportunists.” Also, as noted elsewhere in scripture, the Sadducees rejected all scripture other than the 5 books of Moses and totally rejected anything supernatural. Furthermore, they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Basically, they lived life for the “now” and were probably what we would think of as theologically liberal. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were conservative to the point of being legalistic. They viewed law and tradition as a means to attain righteousness and strived to live a life separated from sin. However, as we will see over the coming months of studying this wonderful gospel, their blindness to the truth of God’s purpose in the law led them to the greatest sin off all-the rejection of Jesus Christ. Needless to say, it was highly unlikely that these men came to the baptism of John with truly repentant hearts.

John was able to recognize their true motivations. I love John’s address to them here. We have a man in John who was willing to call an ace an ace and a spade a spade. Sometimes, tact and diplomacy is required in dealing with a situation. Dealing with a false teacher or religious leader is not one of those times. John begins his rebuke of them by calling them a “Brood of vipers”. Certainly, this was not the kind of response these men were used to. Because John lived in the wilderness, he was probably used to seeing broods of snakes that lived their in the desert. He knew that, while they may look small and harmless, that they are full of deadly poison. By addressing them as such, John insulted them and rebuked them for their religious hypocrisy. The people respected these leaders and it would probably have been somewhat shocking to hear them rebuked so strongly.

However, John didn’t stop there with his rebuke. The main point of his proclamation was to reveal the hypocritical motivations behind their arrival. He asked them “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” The answer, of course, was “No one.” They were not out there because they wanted to prepare themselves for the arrival of the Messiah. To them, it was a show. Perhaps they came because they were curious. Perhaps they came because they wanted the people to see them take part in the baptism so that they would still be seen as the head religious leaders. Whatever their reason, they did not come with right motivations. To them, it was just another religious activity-something to add to their resume. Very likely, John’s rebuke was quite stinging.

As you can see if you read on in the chapter, John did not baptize them. I think sometimes in churches, we are too ready to accept someone into our local congregation without making sure they realize the seriousness of the commitment or making sure they are actually saved. Of course, you can’t be 100% sure because anyone can fool people. However, the church is not a social club for networking opportunities, but a holy congregation of saints who worship and serve the Lord together. People can come, just as the Pharisees and Sadducees did, for selfish purposes. Like John, we should not accept those kinds of people in our congregation but we should faithfully proclaim the word of the Lord to them and everyone who has not professed saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Matthew 8:30-34 “Great. You can command demons. Get out.”

I used to like Rodney Dangerfield. Well, “like” is probably a little too strong of a word, but I always thought he was pretty funny. Of course, his signature line was “I don’t get no respect.” You might apply that to this situation here as well. Christ performs a mighty miracle and instead of being worshipped and praised, He is treated rudely and told to leave.

Remember, He has come to this area known as the Gedarenes (or Gerasenes) and met these two demon possessed men. These men have been driven from society, living among the tombs, and are violent. The demons inside these poor, tormented individuals know who Christ is, probably even better than His disciples do. So the stage is set—it’s like a spiritual gun fight at the OK Corral. All that’s left is for someone to yell “Draw!”

Of course, these demons know that in a fight with the Holy One of God they’re going to lose. He has the power over heaven and earth and they know it. Therefore, they try to negotiate—“If You are going to cast us out, send us into the heard of swine”—the swine that were feeding near a cliff not too far from Jesus and these men. They just wanted to destroy something, most likely, and if they couldn’t continue to torment these poor fellows, since Jesus was there to deliver them, they might as well cause some kind of destruction and the pigs looked like as good an opportunity as any.

Now, notice that it was the demons who asked to enter the pigs—not Christ who commanded that they leave the men and go to the pigs. Christ, being the Sovereign Lord of creation, could have destroyed them right there. He could have commanded that they leave the area. In His providence, however, He permitted them to enter, and then destroy, these pigs. The most interesting part of this scene, however, is not the death of all these pigs (which would have been SO tasty after having been cooked over an open flame with some good barbeque sauce—sorry) but rather the reaction of the townspeople.

The Greek word translated "rushed" can also be traslated "danced".  Ok, that's not really true.

The owners of the livestock ran off to tell everyone what had happened. Notice, as we see in verse 33, they didn’t just tell them what happened to all that lovely pork, err, I mean those poor pigs, they also reported “what had happened to the demoniancs”. So, the people now knew that Jesus had the power to free people who were possessed with demons and had authority over those demons. Instead of a reaction of praise for One who had such power and reverence for His authority, the people asked Him to leave. Here is a Man Who can command demons to leave, demonstrating supernatural authority that must come from God and instead of falling on their face and calling Him “Lord” they show Him the door.

Are we any different though? Do we refuse to obey God and serve Him whole-heartedly when He calls? There are times where we most certainly do. The same Man who healed these two demoniacs is alive today, seated at the throne of God on the right hand. Let us not demonstrate the same disobedient lack of faith we see in these towns people, but let us demonstrate true, saving faith by our obedience to the Lord who saved us from our sins.

Monday, November 15, 2010

II Peter 3:11-13 Judgment is coming. Now what?

I read at some point before the elections about President Obama making visits to people’s backyards to talk to them about the economy and the general state of the country. Of course, these visits were all scheduled in advance, probably weeks in advance. I can only imagine the preparation a family would put into getting their yard ready for such a visit. I can see them busily getting the yard cut, trimming hedges, maybe even repainting the lawn furniture. As we read this verse in II Peter, our hearts should be stirred with similar anticipation. We’re waiting not for the arrival of an earthly ruler of a temporary government; we anxiously await the arrival of our Savior and the King of Kings.

Peter grounds his argument here, his call for a proper response on the part of his audience, in the truths of the preceding section. The judgment of God is coming despite the mocking of those who laugh at the thought of God’s judgment (v 3-7). This judgment will be cataclysmic with violent, devastating effects to the earth and the universe (v 10—take that tree huggers). Therefore, when Peter asks the rhetorical question “What sort of people ought you to be” he bases it on the revealed truth that “all these things (the earth and the universe) are to be destroyed in this way (a fiery, universe-wide destruction)”. His call, then, is for his readers, and us, to take into serious consideration the fact that the God who created this universe which became tainted by sin is going to destroy that universe as judgment on that sin. If God is going to do that, how should that affect us and how we live?

I believe Peter tells us it should affect us outwardly. He says we should be people of “holy conduct”. Now, as we look at how we spend out time, how we treat people, how we talk, what we read, and what we watch, can you and I honestly look in the mirror and say our conduct is “holy” (i.e. set apart for God)? I am ashamed to say that I would have to answer “No” because there are times I’m rude to people in the store or that I’m unkind to my children and wife—not to mention a veritable host of other things. When consider, as Peter instructs to here, the judgment of God which is the result of sin, we should confess our sins and repent. In fact, that seems to be the point Peter is making here as well.

Observe that Peter says not only should the judgment of God affect our conduct, but we should also be people of “godliness”. In other words, meditating on God’s judgment of sin should not just affect us outwardly, but also inwardly. We should grow in Christlikeness. As Paul says in Romans 7:18 “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh”. Therefore, we know that any “goodness” that is in us would be there because we are becoming more like Christ through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. This spiritual transformation would then lead us to more holy conduct. It’s not a matter, then, of right “doing” but rather of right “being” that Peter calls us to here.

Further, notice that Peter says that meditating upon the day of the Lord should be central to our affections. He says in verse 12 that we should be “looking for and hastening the day of the Lord”. Now, I’m not entirely sure what he has in mind here. I mean, the Greek word translated “looking for” means “to await, expect” which makes sense and I understand that. However, “hastening” is a bit trickier to figure out. It is used in the NT to describe someone doing something in a hurry or calling for someone to do something quickly (i.e. Luke 19:5-6). That doesn’t really help me much because as I read Peter’s admonition here, my question is “How do I hasten the day of the Lord?”

Perhaps Peter had in mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:14 that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the whole world “and then the end will come”. I think another and perhaps better way to understand what Peter says here is to imagine a kid at Christmastime. As a child, you remember feeling like the old Chipmunk’s song “Hurry Christmas, hurry fast”. You had this sense that you would just burst if Christmas didn’t hurry up and get here. Perhaps, rather than actually doing something since the day of the Lord will come when God wills it not when we act, the idea Peter is expressing here is that we should be eagerly anticipating this day of the Lord. We should be excited about the prospect of God putting an end to sin on the day when “the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!” We know on that day, as Peter describes in verse 13, we will have ended for good our struggle with sin because we will come to dwell in a “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” Amen, brothers and sisters.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--The Fallacies of Higher Criticism Part IV

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

Yet another fallacy of the higher critics is found in their teachings concerning the biblical miracles. If the hypothesis of evolution is applied to the Scriptures consistently, it will lead us to deny all the miracles which they record. But if applied timidly and waveringly, as it is by some of the English and American higher critics, it will lead us to deny a large part of the miracles, and to inject as much of the natural as is any way possible into the rest. We shall strain out as much of the gnat of the supernatural as we can, and swallow,as much of the camel of evolution as we can. We shall probably reject all the miracles of the Old Testament, explaining some of them as popular legends, and others as coincidences. In the New Testament we shall pick and choose, and no two of us will agree concerning those to be rejected and those to be accepted. If the higher criticism shall be adopted as the doctrine of the church, believers will be left in a distressing state of doubt and uncertainty concerning the narratives of the four Gospels-, and unbelievers will scoff and mock. A theory which leads to such wanderings of thought regarding the supernatural in the Scriptures must be fallacious. God is not a God of confusion.

Among the higher critics who accept some of the miracles there is a notable desire to discredit the virgin birth of our Lord, and their treatment of this event presents a good example of the fallacies of reasoning by means of which they would abolish many of the other miracles. One feature of their argument may suffice as an exhibition of all. It is the search for parallels in the pagan mythologies. There are many instances in the pagan stories of the birth of men from human mothers and divine fathers, and the higher critics. would create the impression that the writers who record the birth of Christ were influenced by these fables to emulate them, and thus to secure for Him the honor of a celestial paternity. It turns out, however, that these pagan fables do not in any case present to us a virgin mother; the child is always the product of commerce with a god who assumes a human form for the purpose. The despair of the higher critics in this hunt for events of the same kind is well illustrated by Cheyne (Bible Problems, page 86), who cites the record of the Babylonian king Sargon, about 3,800 B. C.. This monarch represents himself as having "been born of a poor mother in secret, and as not knowing his father." There have been many millions of such instances, but we do not think of the mothers as virgins. Nor does the Babylonian story affirm that the mother of Sargon was a virgin, or even that his father was a god. It is plain that Sargon did not intend to claim a supernatural origin, for, after saying that he "did not know his father," he adds that "the brother of his father lived in the mountains." It was a case like multitudes of others in which children, early orphaned, have not known their fathers, but have known the relations of their fathers. This statement of Sargon I quote from a translation of it made by Cheyne himself in the "Encyclopedia Biblica." He continues, "There is reason to suspect that something similar was originally said by the Israelites of Moses." To substantiate this he adds, "See Encyclopedia Biblica, `Moses,' section 3 with note 4." On turning to this reference the reader finds that the article was written by Cheyne himself, and that it contains no evidence whatever.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Roman Catholics and Biblical Inspiration

The Roman Catholic view of scripture is unorthodox and insufficient for several key reasons.  First of all, the Catholic Church believes that Christ gave His authority to Peter and that Peter passed that authority on to the next pope (Bishop of Rome) who in turn passed on this authority in something called apostolic succession.  In addition, the Catholic Church teaches that these popes and the apostles knew more than they wrote down and that they passed this unwritten tradition, called the Mageisterium, down through the church.  This collected body of teaching has the same authority as scripture in their minds.  Further, the church exercised apostolic authority in selecting the books that would be placed in the canon of scripture.  However, a serious student of scripture will observe several theological problems with this view. 
First of all, instead of the Bible being the word of God and being the final authority of truth, the church itself is the final authority.  Secondly, church teaching on certain topics (how a person obtains grace) is flatly contradicted by the clear teaching of scripture.  Further, church teaching has evolved over time.  Therefore, it is difficult to see how what is taught in Vatican II, for instance, could possibly be the same thing the apostles taught.  Finally, the process of canonization appears to have been one of recognition rather than selection and cannot be identified with any one particular church.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Inerrancy--Definitions and Qualifications

In examining the definition of inerrancy as published in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, it is important to consider certain important qualifiers to that statement.  As defined by that statement, inerrancy means “Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.” 
However, while this definition is adequate, it is important to remember certain key concepts.  First of all, all facts (scientific, historical, etc) are not yet known to the reader of scripture.  Also, while scripture is inerrant, our interpretation is not.  In addition, if someone makes a claim that scripture in fact contains errors, they must demonstrate that those errors they point out are errors and in doing so provide the correct interpretation. 
A reader must also remember that while we have near perfect copies of the autographs of scripture, we do not have the original autographs.  Likewise, a student of scripture must be able to distinguish between texts which are descriptive (describing an event) and normative (describing an even that should be considered normal or routine).  Finally, the reader must bear in mind that a claim of inerrancy does not include a claim of scientific precision, perfect spelling or grammar, historical or technical precision, exhaustive comprehensiveness, exclusion of figures of speech (i.e. poetry), exact quotation, or infallible sources. 
The need to bear these facts in mind is important in any discussion of inerrancy since, while the Bible claims to be inerrant, the Bible does not assert any claims of mechanical, scientific, or historical exactitude as would be expected of a modern writer.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dangers Of Rejecting Inerrancy

The likely consequences of abandoning the doctrine of biblical inerrancy are serious and worth examining.  First of all, if a person assumes that the Bible is not inerrant then one would also have to assume that either God has lied or God has allowed those who were the human authors of scripture to speak falsely in His name.  If God can and did lie, how could we ever assume that He has told the truth about anything—He would have violated his own character as a God who tells the truth (Numbers 23:19) and therefore the Bible would have no real authority. 
Secondly, a person who rejects inerrancy would have a difficult time maintaining a faithful hermeneutic.  There would be no basis for consistently interpreting scripture throughout the Bible if some parts are true and some are not true.  In addition, a person would have no need to develop any sort of systematic or biblical theology if they reject inerrancy.  Rather than being forced to explain how seemingly discordant texts actually fit together, the reader could simply dismiss both as the author’s opinion or decide that one is true and the other is false rather than having to reconcile them so that the reader understands how they both fit into the context of what is revealed in the Bible. 
Finally, because the Bible is the source of divine truth (John 17:17) and is our source of spiritual nourishment (Hebrews 5:13-14), a person who rejects inerrancy will hamper their spiritual growth.  A likely outcome of viewing the Bible as not inerrant is that the person would see the Bible as not authoritative and important.  Therefore, they would neglect to study them.  Failing to study the scripture would certainly impair a person’s spiritual growth. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Reformation Day!!!

On October 31, 1517, a Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther knocked on an old wooden door, but he wasn't looking for Halloween candy.  However, he scared the snot out of quite a few people, particularly the leadership of the church, with his 95 thesis that he tacked on the door of the church in Whittenburg, Germany.

You see, what was scary to them was Luther's rediscovery of the truth of the word of God, particularly the doctrine of justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  To Catholic ears, this sounded (and still sounds) like so much nonsense.  To the ears of a Christian, it sounds like freedom.

Let's all pray for the courage to stand up for the truth of God's word like Martin Luther.  Praise God for the Reformation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Final Authority--Scripture or Something Else?

The Bible asserts in several key scriptures that because the Bible is the word of God it carries the authority of God. Therefore, to disbelieve or disobey the scriptures is to disobey or disbelieve God. For instance, in John 17:17, Jesus declares in His prayer to God that “Your word is truth”. In doing so, He uses the Greek word “alethia” (225) which is translated “truth” and is a noun. In other words, the scriptures are not true (measured by another standard) but are themselves truth (the standard). This is further evidenced by the character of God as always telling the truth. For example, Balaam declares in Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Also, because God’s word is truth, resulting from the fact that God speaks truth, His word carries authority because it is effectual—it accomplishes the purposes God intends for it to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11).

In contrast, people who reject the authority of scripture use various substitutes as their basis for final authority. For example, some people, particularly Catholics, substitute the traditions of the church for the authority of scripture. However, because church tradition is not inspired it is not adequate as a source of final authority. Also, some people use human experience and observation as the measure of final authority. However, there are limits to what people are able to perceive and understand and therefore human experience and observation are unreliable as sources of truth. Further, some people use science and philosophy as their final authority. However, because humans are not able to know all facts their conclusions cannot be 100% accurate. Finally, some people declare that, based on personal autonomy, they can decide absolute truth for themselves. However, no person is truly autonomous to the extent that they can decide what is true for themselves in a vacuum.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Insufficient Concepts of Biblical Inspiration

The liberal, neo-orthodox, neo-evangelical, and ultra-fundamentalist concepts of biblical inspiration fall short of the biblical concept.  For instance, according to the liberal model, scripture is an entirely human product.  In other words, the words of scripture are man’s words and are subject to the limitations of men.  However, scripture repeatedly affirms that it is the word of God that has come through human beings (2 Peter 1:20-21). 

The neo-orthodox model suggests that the words of scripture are inspired in the sense that they point to Christ but because they came through men they could not have been God’s words.  However, as noted in the passage from 2 Peter referenced above, the Holy Spirit superintended the process and carried the writers along (“men moved by the Holy Spirit”).  Further, in John 17:17 Jesus doesn’t describe scripture as being true, but rather as “truth”. 

The Neo-Evangelical model insists that either God inspired the concepts but the author put those concepts in his own words or that parts of the Bible are inspired (related to faith and practice) while others (science, history, etc) are not.  In contrast, Jesus and the apostles appeared to have the attitude that both historical (i.e. Jonah and the great fish) and scientific (i.e. God’s creation of Adam and Eve) were as true as anything else in the Bible and they therefore made no distinction between them and texts related to “faith and practice”. 

Finally, the ultra-fundamentalist concept of inspiration would be best described “mechanical dictation”, where the authors of scripture were no more than secretary’s taking a memo.  However, scripture indicates in numerous places that various authors used various means including their life experience (Hosea), methodical research (Luke, Acts), and supernatural revelations (Revelation).  These would not appear to be consistent with any sort of dictation theory.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--The Fallacies of Higher Criticism Part III

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

A third fallacy of the higher critics is the doctrine concerning the Scriptures which they teach: If a consistent hypothesis of evolution is made the basis of our religious thinking, the Bible will be regarded as only a product of human nature working in the field of religious literature. It will be merely a natural book. If there are higher critics who recoil from this application of the hypothesis of evolution and who seek to modify it by recognizing some special evidences of the divine in the Bible, the inspiration of which they speak rises but little higher than the providential guidance of the writers. The church doctrine of the full inspiration of the Bible is almost never held by the higher critics of any class, even of the more believing. Here and there we may discover one and another who try to save some fragments of the church doctrine, but they are few and far between, and the sal-age to which they cling is so small and poor that it is scarcely worth while. Throughout their ranks the storm of opposition to the supernatural in all its forms is so fierce as to leave little place for the faith of the church that the Bible is the very Word of God to man. But the fallacy of this denial is evident to every believer who reads the Bible with an open mind. He knows by an immediate consciousness that it is the product of the Holy Spirit. As the sheep know the voice of the shepherd, so the mature Christian knows that the Bible speaks with a divine voice. On this ground every Christian can test the value of the higher criticism for himself. The Bible manifests itself to the spiritual perception of the Christian as in the fullest sense human, and in the fullest sense divine. This is true of the Old Testament, as well as of the New.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Asking Questions--Can Satan see the future?

I am a volunteer writer for the website GotQuestions. People who come to that website can browse a huge data base of already asked and answered questions or they can submit a question which is assigned to a writer to answer. I thought as I had opportunity to answer some of these questions, I would share them in a series of posts under the label "Asking Questions". Just as an FYI, I present the questions in the form they are asked without correction of spelling or grammar. I pray that you are encouraged.

Q--I have a friend that told me that satan has the ability to see the future as God. I don`t believe it and the Saul story is always brought up and how he contacted a medium if he was going to win the battle. I don`t know any scriptures to disprove this so is there any or is this true, that satan can see into the future?

A--I believe the passage you're talking about is I Samuel 28.  Yes, Saul does consult a medium but you should observe that he asks her to call up the prophet Samuel (vs. 11).  So he wasn't inquiring of Satan.  Now, it is true that demons and presumably Satan know some things about the future such as the fact that there will a future judgment (Matthew 8:29).  However, there is nothing in scripture that indicates that Satan or demons have a comprehensive knowledge about the future that is equal to God's omniscience.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--The Fallacies of Higher Criticism part II

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

A second fundamental fallacy of the higher criticism (the study of the origin of the biblical texts) is its dependence on the theory of evolution as the explanation of the history of literature and of religion. The progress of the higher criticism towards its present sate has been rapid and assured since Vatke (Die Biblische Theologie Wissenschaftlich Dargestellt) discovered in the Hegelian philosophy of evolution a means of biblical criticism. The Spencerian philosophy of evolution, aided and reinforced by Darwinism, has added greatly to the confidence of the higher critics. As Vatke, one of the earlier members of the school, made the hypothesis of evolution the guiding presupposition of his critical work, so today does Professor Jordan (Biblical Criticism and Modern Thought," T. and T. Clark, 1909) the very latest representative of the higher criticism. "The nineteenth century," he declares, "has applied to the history of the documents of the Hebrew people its own magic word, evolution. The thought represented by that popular word has been found to have a real meaning in our investigations regarding the religious life and the theological beliefs of Israel." Thus, were there no hypothesis of evolution, there would be no higher criticism. The "assured results" of the higher criticism have been gained, after all, not by an inductive study of the biblical books to ascertain if they present a great variety of styles and vocabularies and religious points of view. They have been attained by assuming that the hypothesis of evolution is true, and that the religion of Israel must have unfolded itself by a process of natural evolution. They have been attained by an interested cross-examination of the biblical books to constrain them to admit the hypothesis of evolution. The imagination has played a large part in the process, and the so-called evidences upon which the "assured results" rest are largely imaginary.

But the hypothesis of evolution, when applied to the history of literature, is a fallacy, leaving us utterly unable to account for Homer, or Dante, or Shakespeare, the greatest poets of the world, yet all of them writing in the dawn of the great literatures of the world. It is a fallacy when applied to the history of religion, leaving us utterly unable to account for Abraham and Moses and Christ, and requiring us to deny that they could have been such men as the Bible declares them to have been. The hypothesis is a fallacy when applied to- the history of the human race in general. Our race has made progress under the influence of supernatural revelation; but progress under the influence of supernatural revelation is one thing, and evolution is another. Buckle ["History of Civilization in England."] undertook to account for history by a thorough-going application of the hypothesis of evolution to its problems; but no historian today believes that he succeeded in his effort, and his work is universally regarded as a brilliant curiosity. The types of evolution advocated by different higher critics are widely different from one another, varying from the pure naturalism of Wellhausen to the recognition of some feeble rays of supernatural revelation; but the hypothesis of evolution in any form, when applied to human history, blinds us and renders us incapable of beholding the glory of God in its more signal manifestations.The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What does "double honor" in I Timothy mean?

I’m a self professed geek. I ask questions that would cause most people to think “Why are you bothering to wonder about that?” I remember things that most people would find completely trivial (J.S. Bach was born in 1685 and died in 1750. Now you know.). I was reading something the other day by John MacArthur related to I Timothy 5:17 where he seemed to be making the point that “double honor” means double salary. There are Christians who believe that this means to literally pay an elder who rules well twice as much as other pastor’s make. I decided I wanted to investigate for myself and see if I could determine what the word honor meant in the verse in question.

First of all, the English word “honor” translates a Greek word “time” (5092). Strong’s dictionary defines it as follows: a value, that is, money paid, or (concretely and collectively) valuables; by analogy esteem (especially of the highest degree), or the dignity itself. This word and its related word “timao” (5091) are used 58 times in the New Testament. Of those 58 times, forty-two times (72.41 % Oh, what do you expect, I am an accountant.) are about giving respect or reverence and have nothing to do with money. The remaining sixteen times (27.59%) the words are used in a way related to money or other material possessions. However, in the uses outside of I Timothy 5:17 there is no instance where these words are used to indicate that there was an ongoing payment of some sort being made. For instance, in Acts 4:34, the word is used to describe the money that is brought in by people after they sold possessions so that that money could be distributed among the poor. It’s pretty sure that they didn’t sell the possessions on some sort of payment plan and brought the monthly payment they received in and gave it to the apostles but rather they brought the lump sum proceeds from the sale. Therefore, it is not reasonable to conclude that the use of “honor” in the verse in I Timothy 5:17 means a salary.

Furthermore, the context of the verse seems to indicate otherwise. In verse 18 of this chapter, Paul makes two statements which are in scripture. He writes “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing” (Deu 25:4) and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (see Luke 10:7 for a similar statement by our Lord). Since Paul uses these two statements to support his claim that elders who rule well are worthy of double honor we should assume they are intended to be parallel. People read the second statement about a worker and say “See, that proves Paul is talking about paying elders double salary.” However, let’s think through the first example Paul uses. An ox was given a regular meal. That ox did not depend on what he ate while he was working in the field as his primary source of food. So, as a friend of mine over at The Assembling of the Church writes, the point Paul is likely making is this: We wouldn’t prevent an ox from eating while it worked and we wouldn’t withhold wages from someone who has earned them. In the same way, we should not withhold double honor from an elder who is ruling well.

Is the honor Paul speaking of monetary? I would say probably although it does not have to be exclusively monetary. However, it does not appear, based on the evidence in the Bible, to mean that Paul is saying that their salary should be doubled. However, as believers we should show love to those elders who do work hard to teach the Bible and we should show that love in any ways that they Lord give us the opportunities. One of the most affirming folks at the church I was privileged to pastor would occasionally give me a $20 after the service during the season where he would sell his crops and tell me to treat myself and my wife to lunch. His kindness encouraged me. I exhort you to find ways to do the same to those who teach you the word.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Clarity of Scripture--A Review of Chapter 6 of Grudem's Systematic Theology

In chapter 6 of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Dr. Grudem puts forth the case for the clarity of scripture. For instance, he notes that the God instructs parents to teach the Bible to their children. Further, he notes that the epistles of Paul were written to be read to the entire congregation. However, while the bible is accessible to even children, this accessibility is not a result of a person’s intellectual aptitude but rather is a result of the illumination of the Holy Spirit. In fact, Grudem notes that there are many people with high IQ’s who completely missed the point of scripture during Jesus’ ministry on earth (Paul and other Pharisees). In addition, there was confusion in applying the biblical truth to the inclusion of Gentiles in the church and how that related to the Old Testament law. Grudem then points out that we can take practical encouragement from this doctrine. First of all, he states that this doctrine should help Christians focus on doctrinal disputes that really matter. If the bible is silent on a topic we can be encouraged to seek unity while allowing for differences of opinion on a matter. Secondly, we should be encouraged by the fact that the bible is not accessible only for people with advanced theological education. Rather, any Christian who is willing to prayerfully apply themselves to study can be sure that they can come to understand the bible and grow in their faith. Finally, while the bible may be simple enough that any Christian can study it and understand it, it is also filled with enough intellectual challenges that even the brightest biblical scholar will never exhaust themselves of things they can learn from God’s word.

I took particular encouragement from Grudem’s statement on page 110, that we should never assume that only professional theologians with advanced technical knowledge of biblical languages can read and understand the Bible. I used to regularly point this out to my congregation when I would preach that any insights or knowledge I had were not the result of my IQ but that they too could hear God speak to them through the Bible if they were willing to put in the study and work to understand the scriptures prayerfully. I believe helping Christians realize this and encouraging them to investigate the scriptures themselves is very important.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--The Fallacies of Higher Criticism

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

I. The first fallacy [of Higher Criticism (the study of how the text of the Bible was produced)] that I shall bring forward is its analysis of the Pentateuch.

1. We cannot fail to observe that these various documents and their various authors and editors are only imagined. As Green has said, "There is no evidence of the existence of these documents and redactors, and no pretense of any, apart from the critical tests which have determined the analysis. All tradition and all historical testimony as to the origin of the Pentateuch are against them. The burden of proof is wholly upon the critics. And this proof should be clear and convincing in proportion to the gravity and the revolutionary character of the consequences which it is proposed to base upon it."

2. Moreover, we know what can be done, or rather what cannot be done, in the analysis of composite literary productions. Some of the plays of Shakespeare are called his "mixed plays," because it is known that he collaborated with another author in their production. The very keenest critics have sought to separate his part in these plays from the rest, but they confess that the result is uncertainty and dissatisfaction. Coleridge professed to distinguish the passages contributed by Shakespeare by a process of feeling, but Macaulay pronounced this claim to be nonsense, and the entire effort, whether made by the analysis of phraseology and style, or by esthetic perceptions, is an admitted failure. And this in spite of the fact that the style of Shakespeare is one of the most peculiar and inimitable. The Anglican Prayer Book is another composite production which the higher critics have often been invited to analyze and distribute to its various sources. Some of the authors of these sources lived centuries apart. They are now well known from the studies of historians. But the Prayer Book itself does not reveal one of them, though its various vocabularies and styles have been carefully interrogated. Now if the analysis of the Pentateuch can lead to such certainties, why should not the analysis of Shakespeare and the Prayer Book do as much? How can men accomplish in a foreign language what they cannot accomplish in their own? How can they accomplish in a dead language what they cannot accomplish in a living language? How can they distinguish ten or eighteen or twenty-two collaborators in a small literary production, when they cannot distinguish two? These questions have been asked many times, but the higher critics have given no answer whatever, preferring the safety of a learned silence;

"The oracles are dumb."

3. Much has been made of differences of vocabulary in the Pentateuch, and elaborate lists of words have been assigned to each of the supposed authors. But these distinctions fade away when subjected to careful scrutiny, and Driver admits that "the phraseological criteria * * * are slight." Orr, [The Problem of the Old Testament," page 230] who quotes this testimony, adds, "They are slight, in fact, to a degree of tenuity that often makes the recital of them appear like trifling."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Asking Questions--Sanctification

I am a volunteer writer for the website GotQuestions. People who come to that website can browse a huge data base of already asked and answered questions or they can submit a question which is assigned to a writer to answer. I thought as I had opportunity to answer some of these questions, I would share them in a series of posts under the label "Asking Questions". Just as an FYI, I present the questions in the form they are asked without correction of spelling or grammar. I pray that you are encouraged.

Q-Is there a different in being saved and living a saved life? Please send verses. Thank you and God Bless

A-Well, if you mean do truly saved people continue to grow in their Christian faith, I would say that if someone is truly saved that they will certainly grow and mature as they live their faith out. In II Peter 1:5-7, Peter lists some qualities of a truly saved person, similar to the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5. Observe what he says in verses 8 and 9.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. (NASB)

In other words, a person who is saved ("these qualities are yours") will be "living the saved life" as you said ("are increasing"). Someone who does not exhibit these qualities is either not really saved ("blind") or they have forgotten the true value of their redemption on the cross ("short sighted").

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hebrews Chapter 8: A Better Covenant

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to sub for my Sunday School teacher teaching the book of Hebrews.  I taught Hebrews Chapter 8 and quite frankly, I got in the middle of the lesson and goofed up.  You can get the audio from the lesson by clicking here.

See, here's what happened, I was making the point that the Old Covenant of Moses did not do what the New Covenant did--transform a person spiritually.  However, as you can hear, some of the people (well, one guy) got the idea that I was saying that you were not saved the same way under the Old Covenant (by grace, through faith) as you are under the New Covenant (by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ). 

So, since I wasn't clear, I goofed up.  Now, why would I post something where I goofed up.  Because, it shows that not everyone hits a home run everytime they take an at bat.  Further, I believe that God's word has the power to change lives regardless of how bad I goof stuff up.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--Evidence for Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

The Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is supported by the following, among other weighty considerations:

1. The Mosaic era was a literary epoch in the world's history when such Codes were common. It would have been strange if such a leader had not produced a code of laws. The Tel-el-Amarna tablets and the Code of Hammurabi testify to the literary habits of the time.

2. The Pentateuch so perfectly reflects the conditions in Egypt at the period assigned to it that it is difficult to believe that it was a literary product of a later age.

3. Its representation of life in the wilderness is so perfect and so many of its laws are adapted only to that life that it is incredible that literary men a thousand years later should have imagined it.

4. The laws themselves bear indubitable marks of adaptation to the stage of national development to which they are ascribed. It was the study of Maine's works on ancient law that set Mr. Wiener out upon his re-investigation of the subject.

5. The little use that is made of the sanctions of a future life is, as Bishop Warburton ably argued, evidence of an early date and of a peculiar Divine effort to guard the Israelites against the contamination of Egyptian ideas upon the subject.

6. The omission of the hen from the lists of clean and unclean birds is incredible if these lists were made late in the nation's history after that domestic fowl had been introduced from India.

7. As A. C. Robinson showed in Volume VII of this series it is incredible that there should have been no intimation in the Pentateuch of the existence of Jerusalem, or of the use of music in the liturgy, nor any use of the phrase, "Lord Of Hosts," unless the compilation had been completed before the time of David.

8. The subordination of the miraculous elements in the Pentateuch to the critical junctures in the nation's development is such as could be obtained only in genuine history.

9. The whole representation conforms to the true law of historical development. Nations do not rise by virtue of inherent resident forces, but through the struggles of great leaders enlightened directly from on high or by contact with others who have already been enlightened.

The defender of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch has no occasion to quail in presence of the critics who deny that authorship and discredit its history. He may boldly challenge their scholarship, deny their conclusions, resent their arrogance, and hold on to his confidence in the well authenticated historical evidence which sufficed for those who first accepted it. Those who now at second hand are popularizing in periodicals, Sunday School lessons, and volumes of greater or less pretensions the errors of these critics must answer to their consciences as best they can, but they should be made to feel that they assume a heavy responsibility in putting themselves forward as leaders of the blind when they themselves are not able to see.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ancient Words, Changing Worlds--Overview of Chapter 3

A few months ago, I posted a book review of a book published by Crossway titled Ancient Words, Changing Worlds by Stephen J. Nichols and Eric T. Brandt.  I wanted to share with you some observations I've made after having read the book again.

In chapter 3 of the book Ancient Words, Changing Worlds, the author gives an overview of the doctrine of inerrancy in the 20th century. He begins by looking at the development of controversies surrounding inerrancy in various Protestant denominations in America: the SBC, the PCUSA, and the Lutheran Church. He further discusses the reaction against the concept such teaching by Daniel Fuller, Jr, that some scripture was revelational (the texts dealing with how a person can be saved) and that some scripture was non-revelational (texts that assert matters of science and history). According to Fuller, revelational scripture was inerrant whereas nonrevelational scripture was not. In response to this and other challenges to the doctrine of inerrancy, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy was formed in 1978 and in that same year the ICBI held a conference in which a document called the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was written which defined biblical inerrancy. Prominent leaders from various evangelical denominations signed the document demonstrating that though they disagreed on various points of doctrine they all recognized that the source of divine truth was the Bible and that the Bible was inerrant. The author discussed some objections to inerrancy and proposed possible solutions such as observing that while the term “inerrancy” might not be found in the writings of church fathers in historical documents, the concept appeared to be recognized as valid. The author further asserts that while there are issues within the biblical text that do not have an immediately obvious solution that “…a life of faith means trusting in God…” (p. 81). In other words, just because we don’t know the answer that does not mean that there is no answer.

As I read this chapter, I began to think about the objections that are proposed against biblical inerrancy. It appears that many of those arguments boil down to the idea that “It’s just too hard to maintain that the bible is inerrant”. In other words, they deny inerrancy because it solves certain problems for them. I was reminded as I read the chapter, however, that to deny inerrancy creates many more theological problems that it solves. I affirm inerrancy based on my conviction that God speaks truth and therefore, since the bible was inspired, whatever is in the bible must be true, regardless of my inability to reconcile some textual, scientific, or historical difficulty.