Does Biblical Ecclesiology Matter?

The word ecclesiology means theology as applied to the nature and structure of the Christian Church. There are many institutions calling themselves churches that look very different from each other. Some have a hierarchy of bishops and are headed by a Pope or a King. Others groups believe there is no institution higher than the local church. The question for us is: which, if any of these, are correct? Or does it not matter how Christians are organized together? I’d like to start a series investigating how the Church should be structured while on earth and what powers it has, but to begin we need to address where we can go to find out these things about the Church.

It is my contention that everything needed to be known about how the church should be organized is contained in the Bible, whether by command or example. Many in church history have disagreed with such a supposition. For example, the 19th century theologian John Tulloch writes:

The Christian Scriptures are a revelation of divine truth, and not a revelation of church polity. They not only do not lay down the outline of such a polity, but they do not even give the adequate and conclusive hints of one.

Leaders of the Reformation: Luther, Calvin, Latimer, Knox

Are we to believe that Jesus, who gave His life for the Church, has not left us with any idea of how we are to be ordered while on earth? Or even worse, does He not care particularly how we are ordered, and it is up to learned men to figure out for themselves the best way to do it? The classic passage on the sufficiency of scripture demonstrates that Jesus has left us with guidance:

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The New King James Version. (1982). (2 Ti 3:16–17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

The phrase, “man of God,” refers not merely to an ordinary believer, but someone in an official ministry position among God’s people.1 So, if those in the ministry are to be equipped by the Scriptures, surely it should teach them how the Church is to be organized. After all, is not the organization of the Church a good work, one that the man of God would need to be equipped for? God has left the knowledge of what the visible church should look like and how it should behave by giving us a series of commands and examples in His word, the Bible.2

A further (although more subtle) example of this is the fact that in two separate instances, 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, the qualifications for a local church office called “elder” or “presbyter” are laid out. Are we to say that God felt the need to preserve the qualifications for an office in not one, but two places in His word, but that this doesn’t apply, as we are able to decide how to organize ourselves any which way we want? I think that is an absurd idea, God’s word is always relevant (Romans 15:4, Isaiah 40:8).

Now, I do imagine some would like to posit an alternate place to find out how the Church should be structured: Church Tradition. After all, if the Church has faithfully transmitted the original instructions of the Apostles on how the Church should be organized, we don’t need to worry about what the Scriptures say. I think this is a bad idea for two reasons. First, as we know, the Pharisees developed ungodly traditions while claiming they were true doctrines, and Jesus used the word of God to demonstrate their falsity (Mark 7:1-13). Thus, we also should use the Scriptures to determine what is and isn’t true tradition. Secondly, what is more traditional than what the Apostles practiced? Would we say the way the Church was organized in the 1st century is not traditional? Surely, it would be more traditional then any other type of organization that comes after it.

So why study the ecclesiology of the Bible? If God has told us how He desires His Church to be set up and we ignore it, are we not saying that we are wiser than God? God has the ultimate right to establish how His Church should look. He has given it the authority that it has and we dare not step outside the prescribed limits of that authority. As we go through this series, I hope that you will see just how wise God is in how He has laid out His Church. We all have seen some of the scandals regarding gross sin committed by church leaders in America. A biblically set up church is a guard against error and sin, and effective for the propagation of the Gospel. I’ll close with this thought from Psalm 119:

Direct my steps by Your word,
And let no iniquity have dominion over me.

The New King James Version. (1982). (Ps 119:133). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[1] See A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith 5th edition page 57-58 for a discussion of the phrase man of God in 2 Tim 3:17

[2] For a proof of how the Bible is the word of God here is a previous blog article of mine: https://theparticularbaptist.net/2020/03/16/is-the-bible-the-word-of-god/

“Love Your Enemy” in Exodus and Leviticus

We’ve all heard someone espouse the idea that somehow “the God of the Old Testament” is different than “the God of the New Testament.” This is claimed because they say that in the New Testament God is so loving and caring while in the Old Testament God is wrathful and mean. This is extremely frustrating because it’s obviously not true to anyone who has any passing familiarity with the Gospels. Jesus talks about coming judgement and how terrible it will be (Matthew 25:31-46, for example). However, while I think it’s easy to demonstrate from the New Testament that God’s wrath is indeed still present, I’d like to do the converse today. I’d like to show that God, in the Old Testament, was commanding the exact same things that Jesus was in the New. There is no disharmony in the teachings at all.

One of the supposedly more radical teachings of Jesus is that we should love and do good to our enemies. Surely, this idea was never taught before! I think this short passage from Exodus will put that to rest:

4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again.  5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.

The New King James Version. (1982). (Ex 23:4–5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Here God is commanding the Israelites to do good to their enemy, even the “one who hates you.” Is this not the exact same sentiment that Jesus taught in the Gospels? God commands good to our enemies, regardless of what they’ve done to us. It is only out of ignorance that people can claim Jesus diverges from Old Testament moral teaching.

Another thing Jesus said was to “love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matthew 22:39). Surely, that teaching can’t be found in the Old Testament? Except, when Jesus says this, He is literally quoting from Leviticus 19:18

17 ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

The New King James Version. (1982). (Le 19:17–18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is an Old Testament teaching. There should have been nothing radical in Jesus teaching to His Jewish hearers. They should have already been exposed to the idea. Even in this passage the Israelites are commanded to not take vengeance, once again showing they were to love their enemies and not persecute them. In God’s law, wrongs were to be overlooked and people were not to be treated in accordance with their wicked deeds against you. It’s time to lay the slander against God to rest.

Application

Before closing out this article, I want to make some application for the Christian. We’ve heard the teachings of Jesus so many times we’re liable to not remember just how radical (from a worldly perspective) His statements are. Hopefully, looking at the same idea presented in the Old Testament has encouraged you to remember how we should live in this world. We should love our enemies and do good to them. It doesn’t matter if they’ve cheated, stolen from, oppressed, slandered, microaggressed, or even done actual violence to us. We are still to love them and do good to them. If you don’t want to do this, can you say you truly believe in Christ? If you don’t believe in Him, then you will see His wrathful side on the Day of Judgement. Repent and believe in Him, and you will find Him to be just as merciful as the New Testament portrays Him.

The Pope Is NOT A Christian

The Pope stands against Christ. He is in no way to be considered a Christian man. Why do I say this? Consider the following text of a tweet from him on May 11:

I would like to remind you that on 14 May, believers of every religion are invited to unite themselves spiritually in a day of prayer, fasting and works of charity, to implore God to help humanity overcome the coronavirus

-Pope Francis

As of the moment of the writing of this article, there has been no retraction or clarification of this tweet, so I will take it at face value that this is what the Pope meant to communicate. There are two major problems I see with this tweet:

  1. It makes people of other religions think they’re right with God.
  2. It gets the Gospel wrong.

1. It makes people of other religions think they’re right with God.

By inviting “believers of every religion” to pray that humanity would overcome COVID 19, it implies that God would would act on prayers by these people. This is furthered by the call to unite spiritually, after all you would not want to unite with someone who wouldn’t be heard by God, as it would put your prayers in jeopardy. There is no call for these people to repent and become Christians before praying, just to pray. Therefore, we must conclude the Pope is affirming those who do not know or acknowledge Christ to pray to God. But what does God tell us? In Isaiah 59:2 He tells us, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” I will note that, in context, this message is being delivered to Israel, so if God will not listen to His covenant people in their sin, why should we expect those of other religions to be heard? John 9:31 makes this more clear. One of the men whom Jesus healed defended Him by saying, “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” This is laid out plainly. If you are not a worshiper of God, dear reader, God will not hear you, there is a separation between you and Him because of your sins. And the result of this is far worse than a pandemic. God tells us that “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). So the Pope very much leads people astray by letting them think they are alright and can petition God, when really they are under the wrath of God.

2. It gets the Gospel wrong.

Pope Francis not only gets the state of unbelievers before God wrong, but he also misidentifies the solution. He lists prayer, fasting, and works of charity as the means that he believes will make God remove the pandemic from us. My question is: Will these things alone do this? We know that this virus is ultimately from God (Amos 3:6). If Pope Francis thinks this will take God’s curse away from the nations he is sorely mistaken. First, there is no mention of faith. We know from the Bible that “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Second, there is no mention of Christ. We’re told that there is only one mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5), and that’s Jesus Christ. Is the Pope trying tell unbelievers they can go before God without going through His appointed mediator? Jesus himself tells us that no one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). By coming to God by doing works of charity and fasting apart from Christ, they’re coming to Him without their sin being dealt with by God’s appointed means. They’re trying to bribe God by doing good things without having dealt with the fundamental problems in their relationship to Him. Doing good deeds cannot make you right with God (Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8-9).

And here is the most tragic thing of all. This pandemic may kill some physically, it’s true, but there is a death far worse than this. Jesus tells us, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28). The eternal death in hell is far more to be feared than just mere dying. By failing to warn those who are going to their eternal death, and by failing to proclaim the Good News that Jesus has made an atonement for sin for all who will believe in Him (Hebrews 2:17, John 3:16), he does not present the true Gospel. We’re told by the apostle Paul in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Pope Francis has a false Gospel, and thus is accursed by God. Would you say someone who is accursed is a Christian? This man claims to be the head of the universal Church of Christ (a blasphemy, as Christ Himself is the true head of the Church), can he not even warn the world of what they face apart from Christ?

Conclusion

I know there will be may who are angry at this post because they feel that I’m being mean. After all, isn’t the Pope trying to do a good thing in all of this? The answer is that, while he may think he’s doing something good, in reality he is harming those who listen to him, by giving them the wrong solution to the problem. Thus, it would actually be cruel to not call out the Pope for what he has said. There may be others who say it’s wrong to criticize the Pope for his religious beliefs. I would then ask that person: Are you not criticizing me for my religious beliefs, and would that not make you a hypocrite? I implore anyone who thinks I’m being mean to reconsider based on what God has said in the Scripture, your soul may indeed depend on it. God still holds out His hands to those who have sinned wickedly against Him. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will find Him to be the perfect savior.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Plea To The Mocking Atheist

There are many types of atheists out there, both in terms of beliefs and attitudes. I’ve run into some polite atheists during my time as a Christian. However, in this post I want to focus mainly on what I call the mocking atheist. This is the atheist that Christians encounter that doesn’t seem to actually be interested in discussing the issues, but just wants to mock Christians for beliefs they think are absurd. They get a sense of superiority, it seems, from mocking those they see as stupid. It may be foolish to make this plea, as it is an opportunity for them to attempt more mockery, but I will do it for the glory of God, and in hope of their eternal well being.

You who mock, do you not realize how foolish it is to rebel against the God you know exists? The Bible says in Romans chapter one that all men have perceived the existence of the true God:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20)

Therefore, you know God exists; He has left you with no excuse. I could go through the arguments about how it is that you’ve perceived God exists (as I’m sure many of you would want to), but in a sense I don’t need to, because you have perceived it. Now, I imagine this claim will invite mockery, as I’m relying on an ancient book written by a “magical sky fairy” to make my point about what you know. And if it is true that you have never perceived that God exists, then I can safely be ignored as a crazy person. But I have never met a professed atheist who was willing to do so. They’ve always felt the need to fight back as if I were truly a threat to their beliefs. So my next question is: what will the God that you know exists do to you for your mockery and other sins against Him?

Your mockery may entertain you for a while, but it will give way to shame. The Bible says also that every knee shall bow to God one day (Romans 14:10-11), and that includes you. One day you will explicitly have to recognize that Jesus is Lord, and you are not. You will not be able to stand by any mockery, as it will have been shown to be untrue. Even if you have encountered Christians or professed Christians that were your intellectual inferiors or were hypocrites, on that day you will find the One who made you and knows you better than yourself. The Bible also says that on the day of judgement there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:27-28) for those outside of Christ. Many say Hell will be a party, but Jesus says otherwise. Know, dear reader, that despite what you desire, you will have to deal with the truth one day.

So, my final question is: is your mockery worth it? Is it a worthwhile trade to get a few years in this earth of fun laughing, for an eternity of shame for what you’ve done, and the accordingly just punishment? No, only a fool would think so. So, to you I make a plea, even if it may invite more mockery towards me. God, the One whom you know exists, has provided a way of escape for your sins. I assume many of you have heard this before, but I plead with you to listen to it one more time. Jesus Christ, God the Son, became man and lived a perfect life. He then took the penalty for sin, the full wrath of God, when He died on the cross. Thus, God is able to forgive anyone because an atonement has been made for sin. By believing in Him, you have access to this forgiveness of sin and eternal life. And this belief is not a mere acknowledgement that He exists, but is putting your trust in Him, believing what He has said and therefore repenting of your ways. Do this, and you will find Him to be exactly what He is: the perfect Savior.

If this seems like an absurd message from your perspective, good; that’s what the Bible says it will sound like (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). So, it is no shock to me if you continue in your mockery and rebellion. But I do hope and pray that you will turn from your ways and find the true joy that comes from the God that you know exists.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

But the Scriptures do Produce Christianity, Mr. Stanley

Andy Stanley has produced another sermon that denigrates the Scriptures, in favor of the Resurrection, as the basis of Christianity. Although there’s a lot wrong with the sermon, I decided to focus on three major areas of discussion. I encourage the reader listen to the sermon to show that I have accurately represented Mr. Stanley in my response. All scripture references are taken from the NKJV.

1. There were no Christians/believers before the Resurrection

I’d love to know what Mr. Stanley classifies as a Christian/believer. We’re told in Romans chapter 4 that “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness”. In fact the chapter goes on to say that Abraham is the prototype of us, as we have the same faith he did. Can we really say there were no believers before Christ was raised from the dead? Abraham may not have known the specifics of Jesus’ life like we do, but when the Son of God appeared to Him in Genesis 15 (we know it was the son who appeared as John 1:18 says no one has seen the Father, only the son), he believed Him, and the promise He told him, and it was accounted to him as righteousness.

Ah, but one may argue, “Abraham may have been a believer, but you couldn’t have called him a Christian! He wouldn’t have even understood the word.” By that logic, no one was a Christian until the name was introduced in Acts 11, long after the Resurrection. However, let’s move on to another example, the thief on the cross. The thief on the cross professed faith in Christ, so Jesus told him “today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Are we to believe this means that he was only a believer after he found out about the Resurrection? He was already in paradise. And if this man believed in the Jesus who he saw in front of him unto salvation, can we really say he wasn’t a Christian?

Let’s look at one final example before moving on to the next subject. Ironically, it’s from the story that Mr. Stanley utilizes to prove there was no one still believing in Jesus: Mary (and the other women), going to the tomb that blessed Sunday morning to anoint Jesus’ body. If these women really thought that it was all over and that Jesus wasn’t who He said He was, would they have gone to the tomb to honor Him? If you followed a man who you thought was God’s chosen one for years only to find He was a fraud, would you be inclined to honor His death? But they go. Why? Because in some sense they still believed He was who He is. Perhaps they believed in Him and thought He was wrong about His death, I can’t say exactly what was going through their heads. However, I do know they had not become unbelievers. They still demonstrated they knew who He was by treating Him as such.

2. The Bible doesn’t produce Christianity, the Resurrection alone does

This is a common theme I’ve heard in Stanley’s teaching. He even attempts to address a common criticism of this teaching, that the only reason we know about the Resurrection is because of the Bible. Because the Bible was compiled until the 4th century, and there were obviously Christians before that, it was Mark, Matthew, and the rest of the New Testament writers that communicate to us about the Resurrection. This is a false distinction in my mind. Just because the scriptures weren’t necessarily compiled into one book until after Jesus death, doesn’t mean that they aren’t the reason I know about the Resurrection. I do know about the Resurrection because of the Bible, because it contains the scriptures. The Bible is God speaking to us (Matthew 22:31-32, 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21) and thus it is ultimately God who tells us about the Resurrection through the writers of the New Testament.

As to the idea that the Resurrection alone produces Christianity, I’d like to appeal to Paul for a second:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3–4)

It isn’t just that Jesus rose again that Paul thought was important, its also that He rose again “according to the scriptures”. A resurrection divorced from the Old Testament is meaningless to us. What’s the significance of a man being raised from the dead? Well, as the scriptures teach us, Jesus needed to die for our sins and be raised for our justification, so we are able to be with our God forever. This is even in the Old Testament (although less clear). Yes, it is indeed the writers of the Gospels that tell us Jesus rose from the dead, but their writings are scripture, so we cannot say that the scriptures didn’t make us Christian.

Let’s look at another example from Peter himself. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the believers and they begin to speak in foreign tongues. This causes the crowd to marvel, and Peter begins to preach his first sermon. So, does he appeal to his first hand account of the Resurrection to sway the crowds to Christianity? He does eventually, but only after appealing to Scripture first. He quotes from Psalm 16 and says of it:

“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the Resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. (Acts 2:29–31)

If the scriptures weren’t important to Peter’s case for the Resurrection (and thus Christianity), why bring them up? Because he was letting the crowds know that this was part of God’s plan (see also verse 23), and thus He truly was the Messiah. The Old Testament background is a necessary part of WHY the Resurrection happened. Other people (like Lazarus) had been raised from the dead, but we don’t think they were the Messiah. This Resurrection, however, was foretold in the Old Testament, and thus validates Jesus’ claim of who He was. Do we need Jesus to be raised from the dead in order to be saved? Yes. Is that the sole fact we need to know in order to be saved? No. Many cults believe Jesus was raised from the dead, but they don’t believe that Jesus was God or other important facts about Him (1 John 4:2-3), so their faith will not save them. The Resurrection alone is not what produces Christianity. God produced Christianity and uses the scriptures as a means to bring people into a saving knowledge of the truth.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room

3. The reason why Andy Stanley wants to downgrade the scripture is because he’s worried it drives people away from the faith

At least in some sense I can see why; many grow up in Christian churches only to leave when they grow up and find they can’t believe the miraculous elements of the Bible. However, by selling the Bible short, Stanley ultimately sells Jesus short. Jesus, when disputing with some of the Pharisees, says the following

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods” ’? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? (John 10:34–36)

For Jesus, the Scriptures couldn’t be broken. They had to be true in what they said. If you teach that it’s OK to not have to believe in all of the Bible, and you just need to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, you end up disagreeing with Jesus. And from that perspective, if Jesus could be wrong about the Scriptures, does it matter if He rose from the dead? How can you say you believe in Jesus, but don’t believe He was right in His teaching about the Scriptures? What kind of faith is that?

The message of Christianity is supposed to look foolish to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). It is a demonstration of God’s power to save using foolish looking means. We don’t need to dress it up and make it look like the most reasonable thing to choose from a worldly perspective. I will end with a quote from Jesus. Jesus, when telling the story of Lazarus and the rich man, tells us that Abraham said:

If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead. (Luke 16:31)

Do you think that people are any different than those of Jesus day, Mr. Stanley? If the people that you preach to are unwilling to believe what God said in Moses and the prophets, they won’t believe God when His son is risen from the dead. Please, I implore you (in love), stop minimizing the Bible. People need to believe in more than the Resurrection to be saved.

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

Sin Written on the Heart?

As a Particular Baptist, I’m very familiar with Jeremiah 31:31-34. Its a commonly used verse in polemics against Paedo-baptists (as it teaches members of the New Covenant must be regenerate). However, today’s article is not written against the views of our Paedo-baptist brethren, but instead those of the Pelegians and synergists. I was listening to a video recently and stumbled on upon something I don’t believe I’d ever noticed before that colors my view of Jeremiah 31:33. First the verse in context:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

The New King James Version. (1982). (Je 31:31–34). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Notice how God declares that He will write His law on their hearts. Now for a verse earlier on in Jeremiah, from chapter 17:

“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron;
With the point of a diamond it is engraved
On the tablet of their heart

The New King James Version. (1982). (Je 17:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

According to God, what is currently written on the heart of the people of Israel in Jeremiah’s day? Its their sin. Why this metaphor or the heart? The underlying Hebrew word (לֵב), means “inner man, mind, will, heart”. It is what drives a man; it is representative of his desires and his loves. So why is the sin of Judah written on their heart? Because that is what they love. That is what drivers their actions. In fact, it is core to their very being. Now back to Jeremiah 31. When God writes on the hearts of Israel, He is changing their desires. Sin was written on their hearts originally, but now He has written His law there. So now, those that are in this New Covenant will be caused to love the law of God. It is now their desire and it drives their actions.

The question to the Pelagians and synergists is, who is responsible for this change? The answer is of course, God. We didn’t cause ourselves to love God’s law. God did. Only God can change our hearts from that which is corrupt, that which is good. So much for the idea that God would never override our free will. If one would try to argue that its our decision that allows God to write on our heart, and thus we still have some sort of free will, this contradicts the purpose for which God is doing the writing. The whole point of Jeremiah 31:31-34 is introduce a New Covenant that has a better result than the old one. In the Old Covenant, the people fell away from God. In the New Covenant, God causes people to always remain. Otherwise, in the context of the passage, how would the New be any better than the Old? So if God keeps us in His covenant, does the person who “chose” to let God do this suddenly lose their free will to leave the Covenant? I don’t hear the opponents of Calvinism saying “we choose to let God undo our free will!”, but that is what their view would necessitate. Rather than looking at ourselves, let us look at what God has done. It is amazing that He took wicked sinners like myself, who loved their sin and turned them into lovers of His law. Let anyone who is in Christ praise Him for this.

Let this also be a warning. If you look at yourself and see that your heart still loves sin, and does not love God’s law, you are not in the New Covenant, and thus do not have the forgiveness of your sins as verse 34 tells us. You cannot be in the covenant and have forgiveness of sins, but not have the law written on your heart. But this is not the end for you. God has the ability to turn your heart to His ways, just as He did mine. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31), and you will be a partaker of His blood in the New Covenant. Do not merely believe that He exists, but believe who He said He was, and you will find Him to be the perfect savior.

SOLI DEO GLORIA?

In this trying time that has come upon the world due to the Coronavirus, I want to give a reminder (both to anyone reading, and to myself) of why we do the things we do in this world. What should guide our actions as we walk through this life? One of the 5 Solas of the Protestant Reformation was Soli Deo Gloria, which is a Latin phrase that literally means Glory to God Alone. The idea is that, ultimately, glory goes to God for everything, and man cannot take some of that glory for himself. I’d like to walk through some relevant verses to demonstrate this point, and make application to our daily lives. All scripture references will be from the New King James version of the Bible® (Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson).

The first question of course we’d have to ask ourselves is what makes God worthy of any glory at all, let alone exclusively worthy of glory? Let’s see what David said:

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable. (Psalm 145:3)

God is so great that His greatness is unsearchable. You will never know the fullness of His greatness, it is impossible for man to know it. Our brains cannot even remember all the things we’ve done or seen in this life. How can they know everything God has done, or even comprehend why and how He has done all these things? But now lets get a little more specific and look at one thing He has done, namely that He has created us:

“You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Here we see the true underlying reason why man cannot boast. As the first verse shows, God is due glory because He created everything. Everything good in this we must give thanks to God for, because He made it, and lets us use it. Even if you make something (whether you build a house, or make computer software, or whatever), you are using things made out materials that God made, and therefore owns. This leads into the second verse. Everything we have and are, we owe to God who gave it to us. Even if we think we got it because of our own work or intelligence, so the glory should go to us and not God, we are wrong. Are you prideful, because you think that you are smart? Where did that intelligence come from? It is a gift of God. He gave it to you, and He did not have to. Thus it is foolish for people to think they are more intelligent than God, who is their creator and knows everything about them. Are you strong? Your strength is a gift from God. So whatever great thing one does in their life that they think is worthy of the praise of men, ultimately it comes from their creator who gave them the ability to do such things, when He didn’t have too, and could have created someone else who could have just as easily done it.

Now before ending this article I must make an application of this idea that makes a lot of people (even believing Christians) uncomfortable. I’ve had one friend say that this makes God sound selfish, but it is true. For those that are saved, you were not saved for your own sake alone, but you were indeed saved for God’s glory.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

Why did God save us? Why did he bless us with every spiritual blessing, choose us to be holy and blameless, and predestine us to be adopted as sons? To the praise of the glory of His grace. Praise His wonderful name. This idea does not make God selfish. He was under no obligation to save us, so how can we complain if He saves us for His praise? This also does not negate the idea that God saved us because He set His love upon us. God did save us because He loved us (John 3:16). He saved us both because He loved us, and to the praise of His glory.

Dear reader, if you are saved, you were saved to the praise of God’s good glory. God is worthy of everything. He has saved us from an eternal torment we justly deserve. As you navigate the hard times ahead, remember your Maker and seek to honor Him in all you do. For my readers that have not been reconciled to God and their sins are still held against them, I implore you, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved (Acts 16:31). Repent and trust in Him, and you will find Him to be the perfect Savior, to the praise of His glory.

Is the Bible the word of God?

Recently, I’ve come across professing Christians claiming that scripture is not the word of God.  Whenever the Bible uses the phrase “word of God” it is never referring to scripture, it just refers to Jesus, or maybe the spoken word, they’ve argued.  While obviously I agree that sometimes the word of God refers to Jesus (John 1:1) or the spoken word (1 Thessalonians 2:13), I do think that often the word of God is reference to the written word, otherwise known as the scriptures.  The people I encountered making this claim were either Roman Catholic, or some form of Charismatic.  Both groups would have their own reasons for wanting to downplay the nature of scripture, which is what I suspect leads to this view.  Regardless, I wanted to take the time to go through several passages where scripture is indeed revealed to be the word of God and that it is very much to be held in as God’s word to us.  All scripture references will be taken from the New King James Version® (Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson).

The first example comes from a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees over their traditions:

He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mk 7:9–13)

So, Jesus’s main point in this passage is the Pharisees upheld a tradition that basically invalidates the commandments of God.  The Corban rule was a tradition that allowed someone to dedicate their wealth to the temple, but later receive it back.  Apparently, people were using this in Jesus’s day to dedicate their wealth to the temple instead of using it to take care of their parents, and then after their parents had died, receiving it back so that they could enjoy it.   He quotes two commandments they were overturning through this (Exodus 20:12 and Exodus 21:17).  He concludes by saying because of this, they are “making the word of God of no effect”.  The question is, what is this word of God that he’s referring to?  In context it must be the two commandments from Exodus that Jesus quoted.  They are the things that had been made of no effect through the Pharisees’’ tradition.  Jesus cannot be referring to himself here as its not that Pharisees were making him of no effect.   Because the commandments are contained in Exodus, we have to conclude that Jesus is teaching these portions of scripture are the word of God.

My second example comes from the Old Testament.  Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible and is a love letter from the Psalmist about God’s law.  In it, the following words/concepts are used interchangeably: law, commandments, precepts, statutes, word.  While the whole Psalm is too long to discuss here in its entirety (and I recommend the readers read the whole thing for themselves), I’ll quote from one section to show that the word of God is interchangeable with some the other words listed.

How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
Blessed are You, O LORD!
Teach me Your statutes.
With my lips I have declared
All the judgments of Your mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word. (Psalm 119:9-16)

Notice especially the last four lines. Precepts, ways, statutes and word are all parallel to each other at the end of their respective line, after a promise to in some way think about the thing being mentioned. Thus, the Psalmist believes these are in some way related. Now the important question is where could the Psalmist find where God’s precepts and statutes? He could find them in the Law, which had been written down since the time of Moses. Thus the Psalmist believes the word (of God) is equivalent to the written scriptures.

Now I can foresee someone trying to make an objection that just because some of the Scripture is called the word of God, doesn’t mean all of it is. After all, I’ve only shown that the commandments in the Old Testament are called the word of God. Now, while I cannot find a verse that describes all of scripture as the word of God, I would like to point out that ALL scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for the believer (2 Tim 3:16). The Bible doesn’t chop itself up into sections of things that are more or less inspired by God . For those that remain unconvinced, I’ll bring one final scripture to the table. Jesus, in confronting some of the Sadducees who sought to trap him, said the following:

But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Mt 22:31–32)

Notice the language here. Jesus says that what the Sadducees had read was “spoken” to them. The Greek word λέγοντος which underlies “spoken” here, comes from the root word λέγο, which means “I say” or “I speak”. Thus, here we have an example of something that God said to Moses, but Jesus is claiming that he also is saying it to the Sadducees more that 1000 years later after He had uttered the words. How can this be? It is because all scripture is God’s speech to men. Whenever you pick up and read your Bible you are seeing God’s words to you, just like Jesus told the Sadducees. Therefore, take heed of what you read, and do not disregard it lightly lest God find you guilty of having ignored His word to you on the Day of Judgement.

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