Roman Catholicism: Many Fathers, No Relations

A common criticism of Roman Catholicism is that they inappropriately call their priests ‘Father’ in violation of Matthew 23:9.

And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.  (Matthew 23:9 KJV)

The typical Roman Catholic response is to say that Jesus is not denying all uses of calling men Father, but only those that do it in arrogance. They point to the context of Matthew 23 to support this. They also point to other parts of the Bible where men are called father because of physical relation (Acts 7:2). They also point to the numerous places where Paul addresses Timothy as son (1 Cor. 4:17, 1 Tim. 1:2, 2 Tim. 1:2, etc.) to show that there is a spiritual father-son relationship that can be talked about in Christianity. Finally there is 1 Corinthians 4:15 where Paul actually says he is a father of the Corinthian church. Thus, the conclusion we should draw, according to them, is that Jesus is not referring to calling priests father here. To quote from a Catholic Answers article: “He [Jesus] is warning people against inaccurately attributing fatherhood—or a particular kind or degree of fatherhood—to those who do not have it.” There is actually a lot of truth in the Roman Catholic counterargument. For example, the original context of Jesus’ statement is condemning the arrogance of the Pharisees.

But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:5-12 KJV)

So Jesus is saying the Pharisees liked to be called by their titles because they were seeking the glory of men, but that His disciples should not be that way — rather, they should be humble. However, does the way the Bible uses the word father, as used of men, support the way that Roman Catholics use ‘Father’ as a title for their Priests? I think actually looking at one of the New Testament examples of someone being referenced as a father will be helpful.

For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4:15 KJV)

Here, the spiritual relationship that allows Paul to be referred to as a father is shown. He begot the Corinthian church through the Gospel. He is their spiritual father in that sense. However, note that Paul also says that even though they have many instructors in Christ, they don’t have many fathers. That is because, though at the time of Paul’s writing the church may have had many teachers in it, Paul birthed them into the faith. This is why he could rightly be called a father. He laid the foundation for their faith (1 Corinthians 3:10). Thus, two points we should take away from this is that the spiritual fatherhood being talked about is through the gospel, and not every teacher in the faith is to be automatically considered a father. This is in stark contrast to Rome where every Priest, regardless whether they have ever proclaimed the Gospel to a person, is to be referred to as ‘Father’.

An example I think is worth bringing up in regard to this is something that happened to my friend, Stephen, while we were ministering at an abortion clinic. He was introduced to a Roman Catholic priest by a Roman Catholic acquaintance there and had a conversation* that went something like this:

Acquaintance: “Stephen, this is Father Frank”

Stephen: “Hi Frank”

Priest: “No no, it’s Father Frank”

Stephen: “Hi Frank”

At this point the priest probably figured out that my friend wasn’t a Roman Catholic and stopped asking him to refer to him as ‘Father.’ How is this not exactly what Jesus was telling us not to do? How is it that a man who has no idea who my friend is is insisting that he be called ‘Father?’ He knew so little about him that he didn’t even realize that my friend was a protestant. He didn’t bring my friend to faith, he has no relationship to him whatsoever. The term ‘Father’ was simply an empty title, yet he still wanted to be addressed as such. And this is Rome’s problem. Yes, I agree that Matthew 23:9 is not a blanket prohibition against ever referring to any man as a father in any sense. However, Rome is in violation of it because they make it a title that everyone is to call their priests, regardless of spiritual relationship. They seek the glory of men to be addressed as ‘Father,’ just like the Pharisees wanted to be addressed as Rabbi. The Bible never uses ‘Father’ as a title for any mere man outside of natural descent in the scriptures, and we should not either. If I wanted to say that the person who first preached the gospel to me when I believed was “my father in the faith,” that would not be wrong. Yet, if I went around calling him “Father Chris,” that would be wrong, and I suspect he would never want to be called that. And it is arrogant to insist people whom you’ve never even met before call you ‘Father’.

As a final point, I would like to point to the fact that Jesus’ statement about calling men ‘Father’ is found in the Bible — the Word of God meant to bless His church throughout the age (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Under the Roman Catholic assumption, why would there be a statement of condemnation about something no one really does today? If there really isn’t anyone today calling people ‘Father’ inappropriately, why is this in the Word? The reason it’s there is because God knew this would be an issue His people would face and adequately equipped them. In explaining away what Jesus meant, Rome nullifies the Word of God in order to promote her tradition.

*The man’s name may not have been Frank, at this point I don’t remember what it was.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

This is a guest post by our brother Matthew Lannes

Preface

I want to humbly submit this article. The only reason I have written this article is because of the concern I have for those reading it. In myself I have nothing to offer, I am not a just or mighty man and my only boast is in Jesus Christ. What I am writing about is not derived from me, but from God. This is from what I have read and heard preached from the Holy Scriptures, it is redemptive revelation from God. Please read my article and consider the truths that I have in my best efforts tried to layout.

The Meaning of The Gospel

Do you know what the gospel is? Perhaps you have heard of it before or might have an idea of what it is. The word gospel means good news. You might be thinking good news about what? Before I cover that, let’s lay down some important truths that are essential pieces to understanding why the good news is so good.

Who’s God?

First let’s start with who God is. God is the only true and living God, all other gods are idols, this is foundational to the Christian worldview (see Deuteronomy 6:4, Jeremiah 10:10, Isaiah 43:10-11 and Isaiah 44:6-8). God is the creator of all things (see Gen 1:1, John 1:1-3, 1 Corinthians 8:5-6). God is Love Himself and has given creation so many blessings like sunsets, family, friends, love and all kinds of other things we take for granted. All blessings in life flow from His Holy hands. However, God is Holy (1 Samuel 2:2, Habakkuk 1:13, and 1 John 1:5) and cannot sin. The Lord is perfection itself. God has many attributes and we cannot isolate him to the attributes we like in order to fit our earthly ideals. Who God is important, because if you aren’t worshipping the God as defined in the bible you have no God, but a mere idol. Idols cannot save you but are man-made condemnation machines. Question 8 of Benjamin Keach’s Catechism states, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. (John 4:24; Ps. 147:5; Ps. 90:2; James 1:17; Rev. 4:8; Ps. 89:14; Exod. 34:6,7; 1 Tim. 1:17)”

God’s Justice in Relation to Our Sin

Before we dive into God’s justice in relation to our sin, let’s define sin. Sin is the transgression or breaking of God’s Law. What law is being broken? The law referenced above is the moral law of God. You may be familiar with the title, “The Ten Commandments” (see Exodus 20). The moral law reveals to us what sin is and how we are to live. The law also lays out the various categories of sin. It is the standard as to what is right and wrong, or what is moral. The law of God requires perfect obedience. Galatians 3:10 says, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’” The problem is that we cannot abide in all the things written in the Book of the Law and we sin all the time. Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen anything regardless of it’s value? Have you ever used the Lord’s name in vain? Have you ever dishonored your parents? Have you ever committed adultery?  

Adam, mankind’s representative, sinned against God. This is a biblical doctrine called representative sin, which is the concept in which there was a union between Adam and all of his offspring. His sin plunged mankind into sin. Our natures were changed to being rebels who are bent away from God’s will and now we desire to do evil. All of our sins we commit outwardly flow from our wicked hearts. Sam Waldron said in his book, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, “Actual sins are not mistakes or accidents. They are the manifestations of our fundamentally evil hearts (Matthew 7:17-20; 12:33-35; 15:18-20).” Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We participate in sin daily. As Ray Comfort always says, “the Bible tells us what death is, ‘Death is our wages.’” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death…” It is what we have earned for our wickedness and it is something every single person will go through. As a modern society that has a higher average life expectancy than the past, we can get sucked into thinking that we are guaranteed to live till 80 or 90 years old. However, no one knows the day they will die and stand before God, few even have a general feeling as to when their time of departure might be. I’m afraid that we have lost the sense of how imminent death is. This uncertainty of death should impress upon you the serious nature of mortality approaching us. Breaking the moral law is in nature injustice towards God. Another crucial attribute to God is His justice. God being a just judge must punish sins and cannot let sin slide. Romans 3:10-12 says, “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’” At this point you might be thinking that you are not that bad of a person in comparison to others and do good things as well. The appropriate response to such a claim is, a just judge on earth would not let someone off for murder charges for those who are clearly guilty based on other “good things” they have done. If I broke the law and started to inform the judge that I volunteer on the weekends and pay my taxes, the judge wouldn’t clear my crimes based on “good” things that I have done in the past. How much more is God, who is the perfect Judge, going to hold you accountable for your sins?

What’s Our Hope? Is there Good News?

The question now is what can we do? How can we be made right with God, if our works can’t please God? Let’s revisit Romans 6:23 because we only hit the first half of that verse. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This encapsulates the gospel. We have all broken God’s law and deserve eternal death and separation from God. But, God in His love and mercy didn’t leave us to what we deserve. God sent His son into the world, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life and never sinned, even while being tempted. God being a just and merciful Savior sent His son to die for sinners. This is the gospel! Gospel means good news! This good news is exemplified in 1 Timothy 1:15-17. Christ didn’t come into the world with a new law, but brought to us the good news that there is forgiveness for sinners in Christ! He bore the wrath of God on the cross and took the punishment that should have been poured out upon His people for all eternity. He stood in the place of unrighteous men and took on the sin of all of His children and gave His elect people His righteousness. Now, we can stand before God on judgment day clothed with Christ’s righteousness. This is also known as the great exchange! Now, God can justly give Christ’s redeemed people eternal life because He executed His eternal wrath on Christ in our place. John 19:30 says, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” In that instant, Christ had paid for the debt of sin and trespasses of all who had and would believe in Him! What good news! Christ rose from the grave and defeated death! Now all who repent and believe in Jesus can have eternal life! R.C Sproul wrote in a blog post on Ligonier Ministries’ website entitled, “What is the Gospel?” “The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.”

What is Biblical Repentance?

Repentance means to have a change of mind. Biblically, it is the acknowledgment and confession that we have sinned against God and are guilty (See Psalm 51:3-4). Biblical repentance is turning from our sin to Jesus Christ. A real recognition of our sins should cause us to feel the guilt of our transgressions against God. This recognition should lead us to sorrow, remorse, hatred for our actions, and a zeal to walk in a new fashion. True repentance is not limited to just a sincere confession but is followed by turning away from your sins. Matthew 3:8,10 says “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance…  Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” I want you to see that repentance is linked to faith and that there is a major distinction between the fruits of repentance and repentance itself. Something you may be wondering about in Matthew 3, is what is this talk about fruit? The fruit being discussed are good works and are evidence of a changed heart in Christ. I need to be careful here and want to clarify that we are not justified or made right in the sight of God by our works as I’ve explained above, but our good works are evidence of a changed heart and a repentant individual. So while the fruit isn’t the repentance, repentance does produce the fruit.

Our Plea to the Reader

At this point I want to earnestly beg the reader to repent and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. I may not know you personally and don’t know what you have gone through in your life, but I can tell you that you have sinned against God and are in need of forgiveness. Psalm 130:3-4 says “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared..” You won’t satisfy God with your works (Romans 3:10) and are like everyone else, by way of falling short of the Glory of God. If you truly repent and believe in Jesus Christ, He will allow you to walk in newness of life, which means you will have new desires. You will hate your sin and seek God (2 Corinthians 5:17). Luke says in Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Please surrender your life to Christ! Bend the knee to Christ, because Philippians 2:10-11 expresses that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess one day that Jesus is Lord! You will either bend your knee in faith or humiliation, in joy or in shame.  I plead with you, surrender to Christ. The fact that you have read this is a mercy of God. The glory of the gospel has been laid out to you. Life is short, Psalm 144:4 says, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” Soon you will be judged and the question is: Will you trust in your works? Or will you trust in the works of Christ? If you trust in your works you will be condemned to Hell and I don’t want that for anyone. Repent and believe in Jesus Christ and you will have everlasting life! Search the scriptures to know God’s will and understand the Gospel more deeply. God bless you all.

Note from Sean: If you have any questions about the gospel of Jesus Christ or about Christianity, please do not hesitate to message us on our Facebook page! We would be happy to talk to you about this more in depth. Linked below are also some videos that Matt felt present the gospel clearly.

References:

[1] A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith By Samuel Waldron

[2] https://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-is-the-gospel/

Other Helpful Videos:

Sean Cheetham, co-host of the Particular Baptist podcast, made a great gospel presentation video.


Paul Washer Explains the gospel on the HeartCry Missionary YouTube Channel Society.

Is Gambling a Sin?

*This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of all of the contributors to the Particular Baptist

Recently, I had the privilege of appearing on the Why Theology podcast to talk about the Church and how it should be governed. While on it I was asked the question about how a church with a congregational form of government would make a decision about whether to support a casino moving into town. I had never really considered the question of how specifically to react to a casino moving in and what to do about it, although I had spent time thinking about the subject of gambling before. I thought it might be edifying if I placed some of those thoughts here and applied them to what Christians should think about casinos.

There is no Bible verse explicitly condemning gambling. And as Christians we do not want to add to God’s law and forbid things He has never forbidden (Deuteronomy 4:2). To do so would be to say we know better than God about what is right and wrong. However, there are some verses about how we should think about money that we should consider when thinking about this subject.

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

1 Timothy 6:9-10

We are not to love money. That’s not to say that money itself is evil, but that the love of money consumes and turns people into idolaters. Covetousness is sin. If someone is engaged in gambling because of a love of money then they need to examine themselves and repent of their idolatry of seeking money rather than God.

He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.

Proverbs 28:22

The Bible condemns trying to get rich quick and commends those who through diligence build wealth. So one who is involved in gambling goes against God’s wisdom. And as the verse says poverty is likely to come upon him.

The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

Psalm 24:1

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.

Psalm 50:10

Everything belongs to God. Even “our money” is not our own. Even if we earned it through work, God is the One who gave us our skills, material, and the opportunities to earn it. In the parable of the talents, we are commanded to be wise with what we are given (Matthew 25:14-30). Gambling large sums of our money is putting our ability to provide for ourselves, our families, and for the work of God’s kingdom into jeopardy.

 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

1 Corinthians 6:11

Gambling can lead to gambling addiction. If you’re the type of person that has an addictive personality type, you should stay away. If you are a gambling addict, you need to come out of it. And the Lord Jesus can deliver you from this sin (Matthew 1:21) if you put your trust in Him (Acts 16:31).

Is gambling inherently sinful? I don’t think so. The Bible doesn’t say this. I’ve had friends over to play a friendly game of cards with poker chips, and I see nothing in the Bible that would condemn this, as I wasn’t being unwise with my money. I’ve also been to a casino once since becoming a Christian (although much earlier in my walk). I went into it with the idea that I knew I would probably lose my money and I was not going to spend very much, but I was going to use it as a source of entertainment, just like I would by spending money to see a baseball game or something of that nature. To be honest, I didn’t end up having that much fun, as constantly pulling the levers on the slot machines and immediately seeing I lost made me feel like I was just throwing money away. But if someone went into it with this attitude, I would not think they were being unwise with their money. That being said casinos do destroy people’s lives, and a believer might want to consider whether it’s wise to spend their money and support an institution that encourages this. A believer might also want to consider how others might perceive them going to a casino. Even if its not inherently sinful, if we know it would cause a brother with a gambling problem to stumble, or if it would cause the unbelieving world to think that Christians are consumed by gambling, I would say you should not go. We should walk in a way as to not cause our brothers to stumble nor the world to think we are just like them.

The Ground is Not Uncreated: Responding to William Lane Craig

Recently, William Lane Craig and James White had a debate/discussion on Molinism vs Calvinism in regards to the problem of evil (which can be found here). Although there were many things said, one in particular piqued my interest: Craig’s response to the grounding objection, a standard Reformed critique of Molinism that White presented. Molinism teaches that God has what is called Middle Knowledge. Middle Knowledge is the idea that God knows what free creatures would do in a given circumstance. God had this knowledge before the foundation of the world and used it in order to bring about the world in which He felt was most optimal, and works in time to put creatures in the circumstances leading to the most optimal outcome. This is view is to preserve human free will, that God doesn’t determine how the creatures will act, but merely knows how they might act and creates circumstances to make them act how He desires. The facts of what creatures might do are called counterfactuals, as they may never be brought about by God and thus are counter to fact. The grounding objection to Middle Knowledge is the question of where do these counterfactuals come from? If they are not determined by God, is there something outside of God determining the creation? If so, what is that? What is the ground that counterfactuals and thus Middle Knowledge stands on? Here is Craig’s response to that objection. (As a note, I used the YouTube auto generated transcript of the debate for quotations. I fixed anything I saw was incorrectly generated, but I may not have seen everything.)

“That’s known as the grounding objection. It claims there needs to be some sort of ground of the truth of these counterfactuals of creaturely freedom and here, I frankly agree with Alvin Plantinga that it’s much clearer to me that at least some counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are true then that they must be grounded in this way.  This objection seems to presuppose a view of truth called truth maker theory, that in addition to propositions that are true, there are things truth makers that make them true, and I think that this doctrine is very implausible and that there are lots of counter examples to truth maker theory and a truth maker maximalism which says that every proposition has a truth maker.  Take just one example: the proposition that Baal does not exist. There’s nothing that makes that true. Baal just doesn’t exist so if there is a truth maker of that, it’s just the fact that there is no Baal. Similarly, if one wants to identify truth makers for these counter factuals of freedom it would just be the counter facts that are stated by them. If it were true that if I were rich, I would buy a Mercedes then the truth maker for that is just the state of affairs that if I were rich I would buy a Mercedes and I don’t think anything more needs to be said about it.”

Timestamp 23:26 – 24:58

I have some major problems with this. First of all, God is the determiner of all truth outside Himself. God created all things:

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

Colossians 1:16-17

Here the Apostle Paul lists exhaustively all categories of things to make sure the reader understands God created all things. Truth claims that restrict God may very well not be physical things, but they still exist and thus need to be either created by someone or be self-existent.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

John 1:3

I don’t think the Bible could be any clearer that God created all things and that there is nothing self-existent aside for God. This is where God’s name “I Am” comes from (Exodus 3:14). He is self-existent. He alone exists of itself. Nothing else does. There is nothing else we can say “it is” and leave it at that. And yet Craig would have us believe that there exists something outside of God that is uncreated. It has to also thus be self-existent. It merely is, and he feels no need to explain it. If they are self-existent, one wonders if they should be considered as some sort of impersonal deity, as they are just as eternal as God and restrict the Almighty in what He is able to do.

Craig also presents Baal’s non existence as an example of something that just “is” and needs no explanation for it. I have several problems with this. First, this again implies that something uncreated exists outside of God. Second, it’s wrong to compare something that doesn’t exist to something that does exist; the parallel is not quite the same. Third, the reason that Baal (or anything else) doesn’t exist is because God did not make him. If Baal were to exist, he would need to either be made by God or be self-existent, which he obviously is not. Thus, the truth of Baal’s existence is still determined by God, just like everything else. God is the source of all being for all things including supposed deities.

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”

Acts 17:28

To say anything exists apart from God means He is not the source of being, to which we then must ask: where does being itself come from?

Finally, Craig says the truth maker for a counter factual being true is the state of affairs itself. If Craig were rich, he would buy a Mercedes and the circumstances would have determined it. However, those circumstances themselves didn’t exist before time when God was supposedly considering how to create the world. So how can we say they determined anything if they don’t exist? God is truth (John 14:6-7). If any truth comes from outside of Him, He is no longer the truth, but perhaps part of the truth or the creator of some truth. Brute, uncreated facts do not exist apart from God, neither do we get any sense from the Scriptures that anything constrains God.

“And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.”

1 Samuel 14:6

Though this speaks of physical salvation, the same is true for spiritual salvation. God can save anyone. There are no facts that exist outside of Him to restrict Him. Let us avoid the idea that there exist uncreated things outside of God, and instead honor Him as the creator of ALL things.

I am a Homophobe

I am a homophobe. No, not in the sense that most people mean it. The “phobe” in homophobe comes from phobia which indicates an irrational or unsubstantiated fear. But I have no irrational or bigoted fear of homosexuals, and there are many others that get labeled that way who do not appear to be irrationally afraid either. So while people are inappropriately applying labels in an attempt to make it seem people like myself have something psychologically wrong with us, why not join in? I will take the label homophobe but apply a different meaning to it. I am a homophobe because I fear FOR homosexuals. The wrath of God is coming upon them and all that support and encourage them in their sin, and I fear for them and want them to avoid this. If you identify as gay or lesbian (or whatever else) or support those who do, I implore you to read this post to the end as it’s not all condemnation, but contains good news also.

Homosexual sex is sin. Homosexual desire is wicked.

To start off let’s examine some of what God has spoken in regard to homosexuality:

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Leviticus 18:22 (KJV)

And even though the moral law contained in the Old Testament is binding on humanity today, I know the inevitable complaint will come that I’ve quoted from the Old Testament, so here is a New Testament citation:

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. Romans 1:26-27 (KJV)

Homosexual relations are unnatural as the body clearly demonstrates, and it is wrong for those to desire to misuse the body. And verse 32 which is still discussing those referenced in verse 26-27:

Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.  Romans 1:32 (KJV)

This is a clear demonstration that people understand homosexuality is wrong. There is no excuse that people do not know, they just do it anyway or support those that do. A common response to the demonstration that homosexuality is sinful is “But I was born this way. It’s natural for me to be attracted to someone of the same sex.” Underlying this statement is the idea that if someone likes something, it must be good. But we all know people who desire to do things that are wrong. It does not matter if it is a ‘natural’ desire, it can still be wrong. Let’s look at this from the opposite perspective for a second.

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.  Matthew 5:28 (KJV)

Many heterosexual men desire to lust after woman. It is a ‘natural’ desire in that sense. And yet Jesus condemns expression of that desire. Elsewhere the apostle Paul writes:

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.  Colossians 3:5-7 (KJV)

The word concupiscence means desire and specifically sexual desire. Is the desire to lie with a member of the same sex the same evil? It is. Why? Because it is wrong to desire that which isn’t good. Men were not designed to be with men and women were not designed to be with women. Without getting into too much graphic detail, it is obvious from the mere biology of the matter that this true. Not to mention the additional avenues for disease that are opened up by engaging in sexual activity in ways that were never designed to support that.

And as for so called ‘gay marriage,’ when there are two men as parents, the child has no mother as God designed us to have. When there are two women there is no father. Men can never be mothers, and women can never be fathers. They weren’t designed to be that way. Despite what the culture says, men and woman are inherently different and that is a good thing. Jesus teaches that the foundation for marriage is God’s creation of them as male and female:

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Matthew 19:3-6 (KJV)

Nor is it good for men and woman to pretend to be one of the opposite sex.

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God. Deuteronomy 22:5 (KJV)

I know that there are those out there that claim the Bible is compatible with homosexuality. To them I would ask, where is the positive case from Scripture? Where is the teaching that men with men and women with women is a good thing? It is not there. God has never condoned this behavior or held up this desire as a good thing. Sex was meant by God to be a blessing in the marriage relationship and for the propagation of humankind. Homosexual relations can never fulfill the good design of God and only harm those involved whether they recognize this or not.

The Good News

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23 (KJV)

Despite these heavy Bible verses which condemn, there is still good news. I certainly have not lived up to the law, and if I wanted to be right with God I would have needed to keep the law perfectly (Galatians 3:10). However, in Christ my sin has been dealt with and I have gained the righteousness. And this goes for anyone who would call upon His name

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Acts 16:31 (KJV)
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Romans 4:5 (KJV)

So what does this saving faith look like? We all know those that profess that they are Christians but live lives of overt hypocrisy. It is not enough to just say you believe in Jesus? Believing that Jesus exists is not enough, for:

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. James 2:19 (KJV)

The kind of faith that saves is one that doesn’t merely believe Jesus exists but one that believes in who He is in His entirety and trusts in Him. It is a repentant faith, which is why the Bible tells us we must repent to be saved (Acts 3:19, 2 Corinthians 7:10). To repent is to change one’s mind about who God is and what sin is, to recognize He has the right to tell us what to do, that His commandments are good, and we should want to follow them. And if there is anyone that believes that homosexuality is too grave a sin to be forgiven, we have this wonderful statement from the Apostle Paul:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (KJV)

The language of “abusers of themselves with mankind” is how they referred to homosexuals at the time the KJV was translated. In this passage Paul is saying some in the Corinthian church were like this, but they had been washed and cleansed. And it can be the same for any of you who will trust in Christ. You will find Him to be exactly as He is – the Perfect Savior.

A word to the ‘allies’

For the rest of this post I would like to address the so-called ‘allies’ of the LGBTQ. You are not allies in the true sense of the word. An ally assists those whom they are allied to. A friend helps a friend even if the friend doesn’t appreciate what you are doing. Would we say that the person who gives their alcoholic friend more alcohol is a friend? Or would it be the person who attempts to get them rehabilitated? Some of you reading this may even consider yourselves Christians. But know that God, who has the right to determine the bounds of sexuality, has told us what is and isn’t good. And no one has the right to tell Him He was wrong to do it the way He has.

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Leviticus 19:17 (KJV)

To fail to warn our neighbors or to allow them to continue in sin is hatred. I know it doesn’t seem like hatred, as you don’t feel like you have contempt in your heart towards them, but hatred is objective, not subjective. It’s hatred to neglect to help a neighbor in need regardless of how you feel. So repent and trust in Christ. Be a homophobe, for the sake of your friends.

Loving our Neighbor as Ourselves Means Rebuking Them

The above picture is of two bumper stickers I have on my car. The “Hate Crime” sticker is one I had custom made. The idea for the wording isn’t mine; I got it from a sign that I saw a Facebook friend holding. On the surface it may seem a bit exploitive, using a charged term in our culture to make a spiritual point. Some might even deny that failing to warn sinners of the judgement to come is a hate crime. They might say it may be wrong, but it’s not necessarily hatred. However, I think the Bible would teach otherwise. Jesus famously tells us that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). What many don’t realize is that Jesus is actually quoting from the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18) when he uses those words. In the same chapter of Leviticus, the very verse before the quotation from Jesus, we read this:

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.

Leviticus 19:17 (KJV)

Here God declares we shall not hate our brother, and this is immediately followed by a command that contrasts hating our neighbor: rebuking them. To let our neighbor continue in sin without at least a warning is to show hate to them. This may seem strange to modern world. If anything, to tell someone else that what they’re doing is wrong would be seen as demonstrating hate. People don’t have negative feelings to those around them when they fail to tell them that they are wrong, they’re just “minding their own business.” However, just as love, biblically speaking, is an act, not a feeling, so hatred is also an act. Just because one doesn’t have negative feelings toward his neighbor doesn’t mean it isn’t still hatred when he fails to help his neighbor. The real roots of failing to help one’s neighbor is cowardice and laziness. Cowardice, because that person doesn’t want to come under pressure for having called out sin, and laziness because we’d rather tend to our own affairs than help out a neighbor. Both of these are ultimately rooted in a prioritization of oneself over others, and this is a mindset we cannot, as Christians, have:

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

So, we cannot hate our neighbors by failing to warn them. This includes our brothers in the church as well as unbelievers. If we truly are Christians, we should want to be told when we are sinning against the God whom we love. Surely, if our brothers are in Christ, they should want the same. If they are not in Christ, then they need to be warned that what they’re doing is sin and the Gospel needs to be proclaimed to them that they may be saved. Rebuking our neighbor also means rebuking them for the unpopular sins, not just the popular ones. Everyone wants to call someone out for the sins that are not socially acceptable, but are you willing to bring up sins that the culture finds acceptable or even sees as good? The command to rebuke our neighbor does not mean that we have to be harsh when we rebuke them. Sometimes kindly pointing out someone’s error is better. Other times, a more harsh tone is required (see Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthians for letting a man living in sin remain in their congregation in 1 Corinthians 5). This also doesn’t mean we need to be the sin police, constantly snooping in others’ live to make sure they’re not sinning. But if we see someone in sin and they don’t seem to be aware of what they’ve done, we have an obligation to warn them, if possible. I write this article as a rebuke to myself, as I have many times failed to warn others of their sin. So let us all remember to love our neighbors as ourselves and rebuke those in sin, for their sake. And if you are not a Christian, I implore you to repent for your sins which have put enmity between you and God. The wages of your sin is death (Romans 6:23), but in Jesus Christ there is forgiveness of sin. Turn to God and believe in Jesus and you will be saved.

Addendum

I wanted to add an addendum to my article as there was a little bit of confusion. I was not trying to suggest that in every single instance one must warn their neighbor of sin, or we would be in sin themselves. Sometimes it is not the appropriate time to bring something up because of other overriding priorities. If I needed to rush someone to the hospital, I shouldn’t stop outside the hospital door to have a two-hour conversation with someone leaving on why they shouldn’t take the Lord’s name in vain.  We are only able to warn our neighbor with the opportunities given to us, and sometimes those opportunities never come.  In general, however, we should have an attitude of warning our neighbors, rather than letting them continue in sin, as God’s righteous law tells us.

There was also the issue of whether not Leviticus 19:17 applies in a New Covenant context, as it was written to Jews living in the covenant land. It is clear to me that it bears all the markings of abiding moral law. Jesus, as mentioned earlier, quotes the very next verse. He also tells us that in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), that the definition of neighbor was not restricted to Jews, as the Samaritan neither lived in Judea, nor was ethnically fully Jewish.  In Leviticus 19 itself should have given us indication of this, as it says of the non-Jews living in the land “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself” (Leviticus 19:34).  Finally, James, clearly writing in a New Covenant context tells us that to love one’s neighbor as oneself is the Royal Law (James 2:8) and implies it is abiding law on the Christian. 

A Response to “Should You Dine Out on the Sabbath?”

This article is a defense of the idea that believers shouldn’t eat out or do other things that cause unbelievers to do work on that Sabbath based on the fact that we have both command and example to do so. It will also respond to Andrew’s article (found here) where he responds to my view and presents his own view of who needs to keep the Sabbath. Note that this is not a defense of the belief that believers in the New Covenant should be keeping the sabbath day. That understanding of the sabbath as moral law will be assumed.

Moral law

The sabbath commandment is part of the moral law. It is found in the Ten Commandments, the summation of the moral law:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Exodus 20:8–11 (KJV):

Note that the sabbath command is not merely for the individual to keep for himself, but also that he should not make those around him and in his employ work. The term stranger is especially interesting. The underlying Hebrew word is defined as:

גֵּיר a guest; by impl. a foreigner:—alien, sojourner, stranger.

Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 28). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

The same term (and Hebrew root) is used in Leviticus where the context clearly shows this is referring to a gentile.

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. 34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 19:33 (KJV)

Thus, the command would tell us that everyone whom we have the power to make not do work for us, we should do so, regardless of their status with God. It is in our power to make those who serve us at restaurants not do additional work. When you go out to eat on the sabbath day, you are making cooks cook for you, servers serve you and bus boys clean up after you, and this would thus be a violation of this command. Neither would the fact that they would be working anyways be a valid excuse. Even if they are working we should not add to their load, and also if it is sinful in its own right we should not participate in it. Just as we would recognize that a person who drives a pregnant mother to an abortion clinic has no excuse for their participation in the sin of the mother, even if the mother would have found another way to get there, we should be careful not to make excuses if indeed it is a sin for an unbeliever to work on the sabbath.

Responses

Getting into some interaction with Andrew’s article, I agree with Andrew (and the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith) that the sabbath is both positive and moral in its character. Positive here means that something is commanded but is not universally moral in nature. For example, the command to not commit adulatory is moral in nature, it is universally wrong for all time. The command to keep the feast days of the Mosaic Covenant are positive, as they are not binding on the conscience of believers today, but were only for the people of that time. It would have been wrong for the Jews to ignore the feast days, but it is not wrong for us not to keep them. The Sabbath is both moral in that it is a creation ordinance designed for the worship and remembrance of God, and positive in that it was initially enacted on the 7th day of the week, and now is enacted on the 1st day. However, just because something is positive in its character doesn’t inherently mean that all men aren’t obliged to follow it. God has given all creatures to eat as food (Genesis 9:3). This is a positive command as prior to the fall where there was no death, and thus humans would not have eaten animals. It would be wrong for someone today to insist meat couldn’t be eaten despite the fact that this is positive law, because that positive law is given for all men, and it lays on the foundation of moral law (it’s wrong to force someone to do what God has not commanded). So the question then becomes is the Sabbath for all or just believers? Paul reminds his gentile hearers in Galatians that:

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. 13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith

Galatians 3:10-14

Thus even the Gentiles were under the curse of the law, although they were not underneath that Covenant. How else would Christ be able to redeem them (us) from the curse of the law if they were not under that curse? The curse is for “all the things which are written in the book of the law,” which is a quotation that comes from Deuteronomy 27:26. Thus, by the Apostle Paul’s inspired interpretation, the Gentiles were cursed because they too did not keep the whole law as contained in Deuteronomy. If this would apply to the ceremonial laws, how much more the moral like the sabbath command?

Andrew also views the sabbath command as having a twofold purpose, for acknowledging God and His work of creation and proclaim by type the true rest that one has in Christ. To these, I’d like to add a third. The sabbath command has the purpose of giving physical rest to those who are weary. The version of the 4th commandnet in Deuteronomy reads as follows:

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. 15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

Deuteronomy 5:14-15

The sabbath is not merely for worship of God (although its more important aspect is about that). It is also about achieving physical rest for those who labor. The reason God gives here for the sabbath command is so that servants can rest physically. He even reminds the Jews of their time in Egypt, when they needed rest and were not given it out by Pharaoh (Exodus 5:5-23). Thus we should remember those around us and make sure they are able to rest physically. When we go out on God’s appointed day for rest, we are preventing those that serve us (at least in part) from having the rest that they need. Another example that the concept of sabbath is also about rest is the land sabbath that Israel was supposed to keep. Although not the same as the weekly sabbath (and not moral law), it is still useful for our understanding of the sabbath. God tells the Israelites if they don’t obey the land sabbath command he will remove them from the land with the the result that:

Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths. 35 As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.

Leviticus 26:34-35

God cares about even the land getting its rest. If he cares about the land getting its rest, surely he cares about those made in His image to get theirs.

Andrew’s main argument is that the command to keep the Sabbath can only be kept by the covenant community, and thus shouldn’t be applied to unbelievers working on the Sabbath today. In his view the sabbath is to be kept holy and the means of doing so is by resting so that the day can be devoted to God. Unbelievers aren’t resting for the purpose of keeping the day Holy unto God, so even if they were to rest, it wouldn’t be fulfilling the command. In talking with him, he also makes it clear that those on the covenant land were also supposed to keep the command to not do work as this foreshadows the rest all will have in Christ. Ultimately I think this is contradictory, if the sabbath is solely about the worship of God, how is it that the sojourner in Israel must not work when they don’t worship God? Why is that tied to the moral law in the ten commandments, if the part about having others rest can only be fulfilled in the Old Covenant, as there is no covenant land today? If they are to rest regardless of their status towards the covenant, then why would we in the New Covenant not care if those outside the covenant get their rest? Any stranger coming into the land would know God’s requirement to rest on the seventh day (assuming the Jews were actually keeping the practice at the time). It would have been hard for them not to:

In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. 16 There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? 18 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. 19 And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. 20 So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. 21 Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.

Nehemiah 13:15–21 (KJV)

Notice some important things about this passage. First it is explicitly mentioned that there were merchants from Tyre coming to Jerusalem. These men as gentiles would not have been part of the covenant community. Second it explicitly mentions that the traders from Tyre were bringing in their wares and selling them. This highlights what their sin was as they were both working and causing the children of Israel to sin by engaging in unneeded commerce. Third, Nehemiah puts guards around the city gates permitting no one to come in with a burden. The gentile traders weren’t excluded from this. Finally, Nehemiah says the traders still lodged outside the city walls and that he threatened them with violence because of this. These traders in context would have still included those from Tyre, so clearly those outside the covenant community can be condemned for violating the sabbath command. In all of this, Nehemiah in his writings didn’t need to include the details about the sellers of Tyre and what they were doing, but he did to make the point clear that they were also involved in sin. When the traders returned to Tyre, were they now no longer obliged to keep the sabbath, after having been exposed to the fact that God commands rest and worship on that day? How is this different from the person who knows the Church meets on Sunday, yet decides to work that day instead? If the Jews who were exiled from the land still would have had to keep the Sabbath, then the commandment is not about the land. If the gentiles were required to keep the law (even if we only have example doing so when on the land), then its not only about the covenant people keeping the Sabbath.

Andrew brings up the point that because the word “gates” in Exodus 20:10 is only ever used for gates of city and never private property, this was something to be exercised as part of the national covenant. While it is true, in the Old Testament (although not the New), the word “gate” only ever refers to city gates, I’m not sure that matters. We’re told the Sabbath is to take place in “all your dwellings” (Levitcus 23:3). Should we therefore conclude that when the Jews were exiled in Babylon, they could make any Babylonians work for them in their homes on the sabbath? The command surely would extend beyond the physical borders of the covenant community to any gentiles the Jews came in contact with. And if, as Andrew rightly points out, the application of the fifth commandment (honor your mother and father that it may go well with you in the land) changes from the “land”, to the “earth” (Ephesians 6:3) why would we not expect that the application of the “stranger that is within your gates” to apply more universally as well? To say otherwise would make this the only commandment that had a portion of text in no way apply today, which would be odd for something that’s supposed to be the summation of the categories of the moral law.

I would also be remiss if I did not bring up the New Testament commentary on the Sabbath. Jesus tells us:

And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath

Mark 2:27 (KJV)

The Sabbath was made for man in general. There’s nothing in the context that would make us conclude this was something for the Jews only. In its original purpose, all were to be blessed by it.

Application

Andrew does bring up a very important point and the end of his article that I want to highlight here:

Our message to unbelievers should be this: repent and believe, be baptized, and keep the Sabbath — in that order. We should no more want them to keep the Sabbath before joining the covenant than we should want them to be baptized before professing faith.

https://theparticularbaptist.net/2021/03/13/should-you-dine-out-on-the-sabbath/

Amen. To those reading that are not in Christ I implore you not to come away from this article with the idea that sabbath keeping will make you right with God. By works of the law no man will be justified in His sight (Romans 3:20). Even if you were to keep the sabbath command perfectly from now on, you still would not atone for your past Sabbath breaking, nor would you atone for your other sins (James 2:10-11). In order to have your sins atoned for and be in right relation to God, you must put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1, Romans 3:25-56). His death on the cross for sin and righteous life are applied to our account when we believe. The Scripture says any other path to God will lead in your condemnation. Neither will it be that only those who have my view of the sabbath will be in heaven. Perfect understanding of the moral law and its application is not a requirement for salvation.

However all that being said, just because we aren’t seeking people to follow the law apart from Christ, it doesn’t mean that we should participate in their sin. Just as we wouldn’t sell a gun to someone we know intends to commit murder with it, we also would not want to go and cause someone to sin by working on the sabbath, even if they don’t recognize it as sin. I would implore the reader to think through these issues carefully, as no believer should desire to cause a neighbor to live in sin.

All That the Prophets Have Spoken: Isaac on the Altar

Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?  And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:25-27 (KJV)

Though it may be hard to see at first glance, the entire Old Testament is a testimony to the Messiah to come. The above verses demonstrate this. Christ rebukes His disciples (who do not recognize that it is Him), for failing to realize that the Old Testament prophesies that the Messiah needed to suffer and enter into His glory. He reiterates this idea again later:

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Luke 24:44-47 (KJV)

Christians should be prepared to see Christ in all of scripture. In this post I’d like to go through one particular Old Testament story and how it, through the eyes of faith, prophesies of the coming Messiah and his sacrifice: the story of Abraham going to sacrificing Isaac on the altar in Genesis 22. This is a text that leaves many well-meaning Christians confused, as child sacrifice is very much against the character of God, but I think when seen rightly, it really should cause awe and wonder at the brilliance and love of our God. As we go through, we will see some striking parallels in the text, as well as one very important discordant element.

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.  And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

Genesis 22:1-2 (KJV)

In order to put Abraham to the test, God tells him to sacrifice his son. Already we see start the parallels between Isaac and Christ. God calls Isaac, Abraham’s “only son… whom thou lovest.” Although Abraham had another son (Ishmael), he was not the son of the promise, the son of his wife Sarah, nor did Ishmael live with Abraham any longer. Thus Isaac is called his only son. Despite God having many sons, (John 1:18), Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father (John 3:16, 18)1 as well as the Son whom the Father loves (Matthew 3:17). Additionally, we know from 2 Chronicles 3:1 that the Temple in Jerusalem was built on Mount Moriah. Thus the same place that Jesus was to be offered up (Jerusalem) was where Isaac was to be offered. We’ll pick the narrative back up where Abraham sees the place where he is to offer up Issac.

And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.  And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.  And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?  And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.  And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.  And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

Genesis 22:5-10 (KJV)

Isaac has to carry the wood for his own death instrument just as Christ had to carry His death instrument: the cross of wood (John 19:17). Isaac just like Christ was to be slain and sacrificed while laying against wood. Notice also what Abraham says to Isaac: God will provide a lamb. Abraham is lying to Isaac, but later will be proven to be true as God does indeed provide something for a sacrifice. We’ll pick that thought back up after the final portion of the narrative.

And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.  And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.  And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.  And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.  And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

Genesis 22:11-18 (KJV)

Again the text emphasizes that Isaac is Abraham’s only son. Notice even the detail about how the ram was caught. It was caught by its horns. Why this particular detail? If the ram was caught by its horns, that means the thorns were right next to its head, just as Christ had thorns upon his head (Matthew 27:29). There’s no good reason for this particular detail except as a foreshadowing of Christ. Isaac is not reported as saying anything or fighting his elderly father, just as Christ did not resist what was coming (John 19:8-11, Matthew 26:59-65). And as an interesting note, if one holds to the idea that the Angel of the Lord is the second person of the Trinity (which I do), this means that the Son is the one who speaks to Abraham, participating in the foreshadowing of His own death.

Despite all these parallels, the narrative now breaks away from paralleling Christ. Isaac is not actually sacrificed here, whereas Christ would be. Why is this? There are several reasons, but the one I want to bring out is that this points to the fact that a sacrifice is still needed. Abraham sacrificing his son would not have saved him. A better sacrifice was needed. Also, there’s the fact that Abraham said a lamb would be provided. When you read through the story, it feels wrong, that Abraham would say God would provide a lamb, but instead a ram is provided. One would expect literarily, that if an element in the story was set up, it would be fulfilled exactly. However, Abraham still spoke the truth. God would provide Jesus, the lamb of God (John 1:29), as a sacrifice, some hundreds of years later. The discordant element turns out to be perfectly harmonious when viewed in the light of Christ. The ram also speaks of the need for a substitute. God provided the ram so that Abraham was able to sacrifice it, instead of his son.

Abraham may have loved his only son, but God the Father loved His Son more. Yet He gave His Son up for a sacrifice. He put the crown of thorns on Him, and made Him carry in the instrument of His death. He then had Him slain; unlike with Abraham He could not spare Him. And here is the final parallel we’ll discuss. After Abraham goes to give up his son, he’s told that this act will lead to his seed and the nations being blessed. In Jesus, the true seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16), the nations are blessed because now they are able to be freed from their captivity to sin. Because Christ lived a righteous life (1 Peter 2:22), and died as a penalty for sin (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:25), all those that believe in Him by faith will be saved from the just wrath of the Father (Acts 16:31, John 3:36). What beautiful love that Father has for those who believe, that He gave His beloved Son on our behalf. If you are not a Christian, I urge you, repent and believe in the Son of God who gave Himself up as that simultaneously dreadful and wonderful sacrifice.

Photo by Geoffrey A Stemp from FreeImages

[1] The same Greek word used of Christ as only begotten (μονογενής), is also used of Isaac in Hebrews 11:17.

Does Genesis 6 Actually Prove Total Depravity?

In defending the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity, I’ve seen some pushback on a frequently used prooftext. Genesis 6:5, which describes the reasoning behind God’s decision to destroy the world, reads as follows:

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 6:5 (KJV)

The Calvinist point is obvious. The Bible declares that the thought of men are always evil, therefore Total Depravity. However, I’ve seen non-Calvinists point out multiple times that this took place before the flood. The world at that time was at its maximum evil, but you cannot say that this is the same post-flood. Obviously, the world isn’t that evil.

On the face of it they do have a point. Genesis 6:5 in of itself does not say whether men continue to be as evil as they were when God destroyed the world. It’s merely a description of what God saw at that time. However I’d like to point out that the Bible does indeed tell us that nothing has changed post-flood. After the flood has taken place, God’s word tells us:

And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Genesis 8:21 (KJV)

God says He will not destroy the world again even though man is still evil and nothing has changed. By using similar language (the imagination of man’s heart is evil), He harkens back to His original declaration of why He would destroy the world and declares that state of man to be a present reality. We don’t get any sense from the text that this state is time bound, but rather that this is a characteristic of man permanently. So if God doesn’t destroy the world again, it isn’t because man is now better than he was, but because God said He wouldn’t.

But how, you may ask, is this possible? “Surely, while there are some wicked men out there, not everyone has an imagination that is evil continuously? This interpretation has to be incorrect,” one might say. I think this response stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what good and evil are. Jesus declares to His followers in the Sermon on the Mount:

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Matthew 7:11 (KJV)

Jesus can call those listening to sermon (including his disciples) evil. This is contrasted with the fact that Jesus recognizes they are doing good by giving good gifts. How can people be both evil and do good at the same time? It is because they do not do the good for the right reasons. Doing a good act doesn’t make you good if you’ve done it for the wrong reasons. All acts must be done for the love of God and the love of neighbor.

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Matthew 22:36–39 (KJV)

Have you kept the greatest commandment? Have you loved the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind? You couldn’t have possibly loved Him any more than you have? You couldn’t have read your Bible more to guard against the attacks of the enemy, or served Him any more than you already have? You could not have treated your neighbors any better than you already have, or been a better witness to them? As to the thoughts of the heart, God tells us that lust counts as adultery (Matthew 5:27-28) and hatred as murder (Matthew 5:21-22). Impure thoughts are still evil even if they don’t result in the corresponding evil action. The rich young ruler thought he had kept the law but Christ showed him that he loved his money more than God (Matthew 19:16-22). Any thought or action that is not perfect in its love for God and neighbor is sin, and therefore is evil. We may not think of it as evil, because we’re so used to it, and no one else on the earth has perfect love for God, but other men are not the standard for what is evil. God is. God is worthy of every single ounce of love we can produce (and more than that), but we do not give it to Him. Thus, when the world does good without regard for the God who made them, they demonstrate that they are evil.

For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 (KJV)
The Good News

I’d be remiss if I left the blogpost there without offering the hope that is found after the condemnation. Despite the fact that we are evil and cannot measure up to God’s standard, God has mercy toward the wicked.

6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6–8 (KJV)

The wages of sin is the eternal death (Romans 6:23), but Christ died for the ungodly. He took the curse we deserved (Galatians 3:13) and by believing in Him we are credited as righteous (Romans 4:5). If anyone today reading this blogpost feels the weight of their sin toward God for the first time, I urge you, flee to Christ, and you will find Him to be the perfect Savior.

Acts 2 Teaches Credobaptism

Acts 2 (specifically part of verse 39) is a favorite of paedobaptists to bring up in support of their position. I think this is very ironic however, as the passage very clearly teaches credobaptism. In Acts 2 Peter preaches his first sermon after the Spirit is poured out on him (Acts 2:4-5). This causes some of the crowd to become convicted of their sins and repent. After this, the apostles begin baptizing the new converts:

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:41 (KJV)

Whatever our interpretation of the rest of Acts 2, it must be consistent with this fact, that all those who gladly received the word, that is they who believed in the Apostle’s message, are the ones who were baptized. It does not say all that believed with their children were baptized, even though there would indeed have been children there as Deuteronomy 16:11 commands sons and daughters to be brought to the feast. Nor does it say that all the Jews were baptized as if being a Jew automatically meant that they were to be given the sign of baptism. It is only those whom the apostles saw had received the word that were baptized. Now on to the contested verses:

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

Acts 2:37–40 (KJV)

As you’ll note verse 39 does indeed say the promise is “to your children”. Before we conclude that this means all believer’s children should be baptized, we should first ask what promise this is. Because Peter has been talking about the Holy Spirit, it is most likely the promise of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. So the promise of the Spirit is to “you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Now as we’ve already seen not all the Jews were baptized so clearly the “you” must be conditional in some way. Additionally, no one thinks that “all that are far off”, a reference to the Jews that were dispersed from Israel out into the world and to gentiles, were all going to receive the Holy Spirit. These groups are conditioned by the phrase at the end, “even as many as the Lord our God shall call”. This it those who are called by God who have this promise. Thus is not to everyone who has the word preached to them, but those who receive what is called the inward call of God (see Romans 8:28-30 and John 6:43-48). So if the “You” and the “those far off” are conditioned upon the call of God, should we expect that the “your children” is not also conditioned by this phrase? The promise of the Holy Spirit is to those who are called by God, not merely any children of believers. And this interpretation fits in perfectly with what we see in Acts 2:41, that only believers were baptized.

To attack the pedobaptist interpretation from another angle, why is it that the children of those far off are not explicitly included in the promise? Why is it only the children of the Jews that are mentioned? If we search the scripture there is a connection to what the crowd of Jews said when Pilate was attempting to get them to choose Jesus for release:

25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

Matthew 27:25 (KJV)

We know from verses 23 and 36 of Acts 2 that many people (if not all) to whom Peter was preaching were the same ones who shouted this on that day. Peter says they participated in the crucifixion of Jesus, and the only way that could be true is if they were part of the crowd that asked for Jesus’ execution. So in telling the Jews that their children were included in the promise, he gives them assurance that just because they invoked a curse upon their children, doesn’t mean they were doomed forever. (As a brief aside here, is our God not wonderful that despite such a rebellious act where they desired to be cursed, that God did not give them what they asked but pardoned their sins? What mercy He has.) If Peter’s statement about the children is to reassure the Jews, it explains why the children of those far of were not included in the statement, as they were not under any particular curse. Thus, this isn’t some universal promise to the children of believers anywhere, but rather a recognition that there is no category of person (Jew, Gentile, whatever), that the Lord is not willing to call to himself.

A final point I want to make is that repentance is a precondition for receiving the Holy Spirit (v38). Although it does not explicitly say that repentance must precede baptism, many pedobaptists (although not all), would say that baptism of infants mean they automatically receive the Holy Spirit at that time. This, however, runs contrary to Acts 2. Those who would receive the Holy Spirit must repent. Baptism alone will not do this, and to teach our children that they have received the Holy Spirit when they have not is a terrible thing that may lead to a false assurance. Our children should be urged to examine themselves and repent, not told immediately they are Christians when God has not promised any such thing.

Conclusion

So after looking at this passage in Acts 2, who is it that we are to baptize? Just like the apostles, we should baptize those that receive the word, that is those who repent and believe. This includes any of our children who are believers. We do this when we have reason to think that someone has received the word, not immediately upon birth when we don’t know if they have received the word. The hope that someday they might receive the word is not grounds to baptize them either. We need to follow the apostolic pattern for whom baptism is to be administered.

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