DANGER AHEAD: Proceed with Caution

Earlier this year, I wrote two articles (Roman Catholics: Mission Field or Family? and Roman Catholicism: Doctrines of Error) outlining some of the major differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. We covered much of the teachings of the Catholic Church by using their own writings and then compared them to Scripture. The undeniable conclusion is that there are many irreconcilable differences and that the Catholic Church is to be viewed as the mission field in desperate need of the gospel and teaching of the doctrines of grace. Now we are going to move away from this area in particular and cover a much broader subject. That subject is the danger of false teaching and the importance of sound biblical doctrine.

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16, NASB)
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, (1 Timothy 4:1, NASB)

Our faith is based on Christ and the Word of God alone. Despite this, there are many out there who deny it. Not only are there other religions, but there are also those who claim the title of Christianity while teaching something that Scripture refers to as “doctrines of demons.” To get a better idea as to what these doctrines of demons are, we are going to see what Paul had to say to Timothy on the matter.

...by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, (1 Timothy 4:2, NASB)

Those who teach doctrines of demons do so without conviction. They believe their own lies. They have given in to the demonic influence and lies of Satan to the point where they no longer see the line between truth and heresy. It was my intent to vividly paint this picture the previously mentioned articles. We covered the irreconcilable differences between Catholics and Protestants such as works versus grace, the priesthood, the Mass, the continual re-sacrificing of Christ, penance and indulgences, as well as others. These are all false doctrines that fly in the face of Scripture while relying on the Traditions of the Roman Catholic Church to support themselves. I was kind in calling them false doctrines. Scripture is not so kind.

...men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:3, NASB)

Both of these are doctrines that the Catholic Church holds near and dear. Priests are not allowed to marry. Of course, this was not always the case. The Roman Catholic priesthood was once allowed to marry without issue. Unfortunately, this wonderful blessing and covenant with God was not to last. At the First Lateran Council of 1123, rules were imposed barring unmarried priests from marrying but allowing already married priests to remain married. Of course, it didn’t take long for that to change. Another rule was imposed, in the Second Lateran Council of 1139, forcing married priests to leave their wives which caused many of them to be cast out and become street walking prostitutes just so they could survive. For those who chose to continue having sexual relations with their wife, they were viewed as fornicators and were not privy to receive any of the benefits of the Church. As if this wasn’t bad enough, even the children were to suffer as they were declared illegitimate. This resulted in their being ineligible to enter the clergy or, for many of them, to even be married themselves once they reached adulthood. This is all the grim history surrounding the Roman Catholic Church. Why would they forbid marriage? Even Peter was married (Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:30; Luke 4:38) and he is the one they claim to be their first Pope.

Along the same lines, the Roman Catholic Church also teaches that you cannot eat meat on Fridays. Granted, this is most commonly enforced only during Lent, there are still many Catholic Churches that have extended this practice to include every Friday of the year. According to Catholic teaching, eating meat on a Friday during Lent is considered to be a mortal sin.

So, I state it again:

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,...men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:1&3, NASB)

As I said, Scripture is not so kind. It specifically calls these Roman Catholic teachings doctrines of demons. They are lies straight from the pits of hell as are the other doctrines we covered in the other articles. Again, this is not an attack on Catholics but it is indeed a brutal attack on the religion that has perverted the gospel and doctrines of grace in favor of a doctrine of legalism and tradition of men. Some say I am too harsh. I say I am not harsh enough. There is a very real danger in false teaching (1 Timothy 4:1). We are called to draw people to Christ, not to draw them away from Him (Matthew 24:4-5). False teachers present a very real danger to the Church body and are compared to a pack of savage wolves that tear apart the Church body and spare nobody (Acts 20:29).

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, NASB)

That one sounds a lot like the Pope doesn’t it? Sitting high on the throne, making people kiss his ring, taking on the title “Vicar of Christ” which literally means one who acts as a substitute. The Pope has taken on the title of a substitute Christ. One can’t display himself as God any more than this even if he tried. And for those who say the Pope is only sitting in the place of Christ on earth, he must first answer why he believes Christ to have no power or dominion at present time.

To be clear, I’m not saying the Pope is the Antichrist (in the singular sense as some eschatogical positions hold). There are many false teachers and antichrists in the world (1 John 2:18) who seek to prevent others from receiving the love of truth so as to be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10). The fact that false teaching is such a danger makes the need for Godly teachers all the greater. Teachers have a very high calling and an even higher responsibility to teach the truth with accuracy (James 3:1). True teachers are always feeding on the Word of God (1 Timothy 4:6) and should be diving head first into Scripture in order to gain a better understanding of the Truth. They are to act as the Bereans who sought to prove what they heard by examining the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11).

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB)

Scripture is the only true litmus test. If it is not found there, it is to be rejected. If something contrary or in addition to Scripture is taught, the teacher is to be rejected and shunned. Scripture is what equips us for every good work. It is what makes us adequate. Its purpose is for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Sola Scriptura! Scripture Alone!

Scripture is plain that, while not everyone is to desire to be a teacher in the official sense, all are called to teach truth as fellow believers in Christ (Hebrews 5:12-14). We are all called to search the Scriptures daily. In fact, this is what John tells us all to do in order to know the Truth.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3, NASB)

The first place we should start in testing the spirits is to see what their basic teaching is regarding Jesus. Do they teach of him being 100% man while also being 100% God or do they teach something contrary. Peter says if they confess Christ is God in the flesh, that teacher is from God. However, we must realize that there are many other perversions. One can easily claim Jesus was man and God yet then detract from who He really is by diminishing His role. Again, the Catholic Church does this repeatedly by diminishing the doctrines of grace and, through their continual re-sacrifice during the Mass, refusing to accept that Christ died once for all. This only reinforces the importance of knowing Scripture and being able to recall it during those crucial moments. This can only be done by daily examination and study.

They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:5-6, NASB)

The spirit of Truth will teach from the Word of God and the spirit of error will reject it (1 John 4:5-6) The latter will be accomplished either by adding to, detracting from, or perverting the Word. Scripture tells us what will become of this man:

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19, NASB)

Teachers are held to a very high standard and should do their best to ensure the accuracy of what is taught. As you sit under various teachers, beware to not place them on a pedestal as a substitute Christ. Trust in your teachers can be a beautiful thing, but never forget to search the Scriptures to prove what is being taught. Any teacher worth his weight in salt will readily encourage such action. Use biblical discernment and pray that God will preserve you from error. Proceed with caution!

Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:16, NASB)

~ Travis W. Rogers

On the Sufficiency and Inerrancy of Scripture

One would be remiss to write on the important matters of the faith while failing to mention the supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture in the Christian life. In all the ways God has spoken through the ages, the written Word has been the farthest reaching and most used method. Even in Scripture, we see positive affirmation of this. We see it in the way Paul praised the Bereans for searching the Scriptures to verify the words they had heard preached (Acts 17:11). In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul even refers to Scripture not as the word of men but as the Word of God. And this is barely scratching the surface!

One would think, with such clear descriptions and characteristics being used to define the written Word of God, it would be at the pinnacle of our faith and defended to the death. Yet, throughout the ages, there has been an assault on God’s written Word. No, not only from those who openly mock Christianity but also from those who claim to be a part of Christ’s flock. Some are vehemently opposed to such ideas as the inerrancy of Scripture while others are subtler in their tactics.

Over the years, I’ve heard challenges to accepted authorship, date origins, translations, and inerrancy. While all of these are common and can be easily noticed, some attacks are more difficult to identify. For instance, I hold to the position that the Roman Catholic Church, while accepting the inerrancy of Scripture, denies the sufficiency in the way they hold sacred tradition to be on equal ground.

Consequently, it is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore, both sacred tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of devotion and reverence.

Vatican II, Chapter 2, Para.9

Simply put, if any form of divine revelation or tradition, in addition to Scripture, is said to be required to have certainty of the object of our faith, of necessity, it denies the absolute sufficiency of the Scriptures. It declares a need for something more in order to fully understand that which God has already revealed in His completed Word.

For those who have debated with Mormons, you know that they will openly embrace multiple “sacred” works to include the Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrines and Covenants. Once again, we see an assault on the sufficiency of Scripture. However, if you were to accuse a Latter-Day Saint (LDS) of such a charge, he or she would openly deny it. Technically, they’d be right. The reason why they can say they believe in the sufficiency of Scripture is because all the above works are included in “their” Scriptures. While Protestants adhere to the Bible as the sole Scriptural text, the LDS add to their foundation via claims of additionally inspired text. Never will they claim to replace the Bible with these added texts, yet never will they claim to place the Bible over them. In fact, they also stand behind the claim, as found in their eighth article of faith, that the Bible is, “the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” while also admitting to the continuation of divine revelation through the office of the prophet. Therefore, it’s vitally important for us to be able to distinguish both the subtle and the obvious and know how to defend the truth.

While we could go on for days touching on the multitude of ways we might encounter contrary claims to the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture, it would be of little use if we didn’t also turn to the Scriptures to see what God has to say on this matter. As you’ve seen, some oppose the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture while adhering to their sufficiency (an oxymoron) while others adhere to their inerrancy while opposing their sole sufficiency. My hope is that, if you don’t already hold the position, by the end of this article, you’ll see the importance of adhering to both, while recognizing that the Bible alone is the sole source of holy writ.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB)

The rest of this article will revolve around the great theological and practical truths embodied within these two verses of Paul’s second letter to Timothy. In them, we see the source of Scripture, four clear and distinct benefits (though not an all-inclusive list) of said Scripture, and the powerful outcome.

The man who lives in such a way as to encompass all four uses in his daily life is said to be adequate and equipped for every good work. The word ἄρτιος (artios) gives reference to the idea of being specially and thoroughly equipped for the four preceding special uses. The NASB translates the above word as “adequate” while the KJV translates it as perfect, which Paul reinforces by describing such a man as equipped and furnished for every good work. There’s nothing left regarding matters of faith and practice in the life of the Christian that isn’t perfected through his use and daily application of the Scriptures.

The reason for this, while maintaining a certain amount of eternal mystery, has been made known to us. It’s because Scripture is inspired. Some have argued that this verse only refers to the Old Testament, but I’m convinced that, while he may not have fully understood the reach (i.e. a final 66 book canon in the drawer of every hotel nightstand), Paul was aware his letters were to be considered as Scripture. For those who may not yet be convinced, let’s go back to a verse we already alluded to at the beginning of this article.

For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13, NASB)

Paul readily acknowledges the words they previously taught to be the word of God and not merely the word of men. Many have argued that he was merely referencing the oral teachings of the Old Testament and was not including his own letters. However, this won’t stand to scrutiny.

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. (2 Thessalonians 2:15, NASB)

In case there was any confusion left, Paul sorts it out in his second letter to the church of Thessalonica when he states that the words of God pertain not only to the word of mouth but also to the words in his letters. Paul further emphasizes this point in 1 Corinthians 14:37 when he explicitly states that his own writings are the Lord’s commandments. Therefore, when Paul speaks of “all Scripture” being inspired, he’s referring to both the Old and New Testaments, which would include all remaining letters that God had yet to write through godly men.

The word translated as “inspired” paints a far more beautiful picture in the Greek. The word is θεόπνευστος (theopneustos) which literally means “breathed out by God” and carefully points to God as the true author through godly men moved by the Holy Spirit. This isn’t to say God controlled them robotically as they wrote, nor is it to say God merely gave them good ideas which they decided to write down. In infinite wisdom and power, God saw to it that each author retained his own personality and style of writing while also dictating each word to be jotted down and ensuring the promise that His Word would endure and none would pass away (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33). It’s the last part, along with many other affirmations found in Scripture, that guarantees we can know Scripture to be not only divinely inspired but also inerrant.

With this profound promise in mind, what are some of the ways in which we can, and should, apply this to our own lives?

TEACHING

The first point of Paul’s is that Scripture is profitable for teaching. Sound doctrine is of the utmost importance in the life of the believer and the state of the Church. Without sound doctrine, one can never know Christ as He is. Instead, He becomes a product of men’s own imaginations and carries the traits that best suit their own fancies. As I’ve grown in my marriage throughout the years, I’ve sought to continually know my wife better. Similarly, to grow in one’s relationship with Christ, one needs to know Him better. While prayer is critical in the life of the believer, we can’t forget that God has already revealed Himself to us in the written Word.

It’s only through the study of Scripture that we can be properly equipped to know our Savior, combat heresy, evangelize to the lost, and grow in sanctification. This has far reaching implications, not only in our own lives, but also in the world. While the purpose of the Church isn’t to change cultures or society, there will undoubtedly be some impact within the community whether it be through prosperity and revival or through persecution and mocking. We need to stand is united in truth, standing for the proclamation of the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Christ. We evangelize the lost unashamedly and trust that God will call those He intends to save. This only comes from knowing the truth. After all, the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses also evangelize. In fact, some may say they put Protestants to shame on that front. With such heresies as false gods, counterfeit Christs, and works-based salvation, we can’t afford to stand on the sidelines singing, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so.” It’s high time we study Scripture seriously, then take to the streets. After all, “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7).

However, teaching isn’t only for our own personal growth or to be used in evangelism. While one will only ever come to salvation by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:14), Scripture is primarily for those in the Church with the ultimate purpose being worship and glorification of God. It should be the pinnacle of the worship service with the culmination being the Lord’s Supper. If done correctly, all singing should point to the sermon, while the sermon points to the Supper, with the focus being Christ’s sacrifice. Unless a church is built upon and relies on the accurate interpretation and exposition of Scripture, it will surely become a congregation of sinners in the hands of an angry God rather than a communion of saints.

Scripture is the divine plumb line by which every thought, principle, act, and belief is to be measured.

John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on 2 Timothy

Only with this in mind can we begin to move into the other three remaining benefits.

REPROOF

In a “judge not” world, how can we possibly think of reproving another? After all, it seems that any time someone is corrected or admonished, countless “Christians” come out of hiding to admonish the original admonisher. The only wrong that can be committed is in telling another they have committed a wrong. So, who should be the subject of reproof and how does one do it biblically?

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy a good debate. One of the challenges I face in discussing or debating with unbelievers is that I need to remember I have no ground or reason to rebuke them for their lack of belief in the Word of God. It’s to be expected that unbelievers are going to live their lives contrary to biblical standards. This isn’t to say all unbelieving households are the epitome of immorality as much as it is to say that every unbelieving household will lack a reverence for God. While there is a place for rebuking unbelievers when it comes to matters of faith, this isn’t what Paul had in mind.

I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. (1 Corinthians 4:14, NASB)

The case that Paul is making in 2 Timothy 3:16 is for those within the church. This is the consistent theme of good order and discipline within the church. The world may love to take Matthew 7:1 out of context and declare that Christians should never judge. But that simply isn’t the case. Matthew 18 lays out a format for church discipline, which may lead to expulsion from the church. 1 Corinthians 5:12 tells us not to worry about judging those outside of the church as that judgment belongs to God. Yet, simultaneously, we are commanded to judge those within the church. John 7:24 makes the case that, when we do judge, we’re to judge righteously. Again, none of this should be for the purpose of making others feel small or unloved. Nor should it be for the purpose of shaming someone into submission. In all acts of judgment, it’s for the purpose of promoting good order and discipline within the church body. It’s to ensure righteous living and doctrinal truth. In extreme cases, it’s to purge the body of unrepentant sin. Even in such cases, the person being disciplined is typically given three prior chances (Matthew 18) to repent of their sin and heed the rebuke of the church. Without Scripture, there is no ground to rebuke anyone and the church falls into calamity.

CORRECTION

So, if reproof is meant to correct error in the life of an unbeliever, does that mean correction is for the unbeliever? While it would be easy to come to jump to such a conclusion, we’d be better suited to go to the Greek for clarification. The original word is ἐπανόρθωσις (epanorthōsis) which describes restoring something to an upright state. When we think of correction, we tend to think of admonishment. However, when we relate it to the depths of parenting, the proper purpose becomes clear. When our child misbehaves, he or she receives our discipline. Yet, the end goal is never discipline alone, but rather correction. It’s with the hope of correcting some deficiency so that the child will learn to obey. It’s in this sense that Paul is using the word. While reproof is the way in which the believer is chastised or disciplined, correction is the believer’s restoration to righteous living before God. In this way, Scripture is quite powerful. It not only points out our wrongs and convicts us of them, but it also builds us back up and tells us how to walk in the way of the Lord (Psalm 128:1).

INSTRUCTION

As we enter the last point made regarding the profitability of Scripture, you may have noticed how they build upon one another. First, there was doctrine or sound teaching. Next, we saw reproof and conviction. Thirdly, we see correction and restoration to an upright position. Lastly, we see Paul speaking of “instruction in righteousness.” The Greek word used here carries with it a sense of virtue, morals, and overall instruction. The root of the word would be used when speaking of training children in the way they should grow up. It refers to the whole of a man or woman.

So, how does one know what he ought to do unless someone teaches him? Paul rounds out his very short (not all-inclusive) list with an unfathomable concept. From our infancy, we’re constantly learning and being taught. As we stand today, we are each the culmination of our experience and learning. Hence why there’s such an emphasis placed on instruction. The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins by declaring that man’s chief end is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” This is backed by Scriptures such as Psalm 86:9, Isaiah 60:21, 1 Corinthians 6:20, and many others. It’s a theme that resounds throughout the Bible. Thus, we must ask ourselves the question of how do we learn Godly living? If such a lifestyle is expected of us, where do we turn for answers. The answer is obvious: Holy Scripture! God hasn’t left us alone in the world to wonder what He expects of us. As outlined in the beginning of this article, He spoke through men and preserved His words for us.

When it comes to righteous living, the only infallible source of authority is sacred Scripture. While we may learn from many resources, including family, books, articles, and blogs, all of these must fall in line with Scripture and, even then, they’re secondary to the Bible. While your pastor has been given the serious charge of tending to the flock and feeding his sheep, he also has the fearsome responsibility of accurately dividing the Word and expositing the Scriptures from the pulpit for the purpose of providing the nourishment of sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6).

While reproof may have carried with it a harsher or more negative connotation, instruction brings about the gentler side of things. The Greek refers to teaching a child the ways of education, morality, and care of their body. It’s the fundamental teaching for children. That said, it also leaves room for chastisement when the child fails to obey their teaching. In the context of this passage we can see how Paul comes full circle. Scripture is profitable for teaching sound doctrine to include the depths of God. When the believer fails to adhere to this teaching, it calls for reproof. After being reproved, the corrected believer is restored. At all times, there is a continued instruction in righteousness as he walks the path of sanctification. Once restored, and instruction is given, he should desire to return to a deeper study of sound doctrine for the purpose of Godly obedience and devotion.

Many children in this world are sadly neglected. Be it in a lack of discipline, a missing parent, or parents who don’t care, there’s no shortage of ones in this tragic state. For those seeking to do something about their misfortune, it’s become increasingly common to see self-help books on the shelves of most retailers, some of which may even label themselves as Christian. It’s unfortunate that people in despair tend to turn everywhere other than the very tool given to us by God. Scripture is more than mere words in a book. It’s more than a history lesson. It’s more than an antiquated lesson on morality. It’s the very breath of God in written form and is sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). It contains spiritual guidance and points us to our only hope: Jesus Christ. If we submit to the Scriptures through prayer, the Spirit will reveal to us, through our reading and meditation, how to properly uphold God’s righteous statutes and, when we fail, how to rest in His comfort, joyfully accept reproof or correction, and dive even further into sound doctrine.

All the above has its culmination in our daily living. If we fully submit to the Scriptures, we have the promise that we’ll be equipped for every good work. While this may sound cliché, it’s important to understand what that words “adequate” and “good” really mean. To break it down, I’d like us to look at them in the reverse order.

What does it mean to be capable of doing good? One of the first uses of the term that comes to mind is in Genesis during the Creation account. Everything God made was good in His eyes. This only makes sense since God alone is good. In fact, in Mark 10:18, Jesus says only God is good. So how does this account for man being equipped for good? For that answer, we can look to the very Scripture we say makes us capable.

All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.” (Romans 3:12, NASB)
Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 53:3, NASB)

According to the Scriptural account, mankind is incapable of doing good. By God’s own standard, there’s not a single person who does good, not even one. This is because, in his natural state, man rejects the things of the Spirit of God. He doesn’t understand them, nor is he capable of understanding (1 Corinthians 2:14). Yet, in God’s infinite wisdom, He has chosen to call His elect out of the domain of darkness and into His kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7, NASB)

It’s through this act of regeneration that we’re given a new nature. Instead of being broken and sinful creatures, we’re now justified saints of God who are capable of doing that which is good because we’re so empowered by the Spirit of God. Yes, we still sin but it no longer defines us. We are defined by Christ alone. We’re now equipped to do every good work in the name of Christ and for the sake of His glorious gospel.

Not only are we capable of doing good, but we’re adequately equipped to do so. Don’t be fooled by a cursory reading of this. When we hear the term ‘adequate’, we tend to think of just barely meeting the mark. However, Paul’s use of the word conveys so much more. In Greek, it means to be perfect and complete. It means to be thoroughly furnished and completely competent. Quite simply, Paul taught that such a person requires nothing more in life in order to be equipped for sound teaching, reproof of wrongs, correction and rebuilding, and training in fully righteous living. All of this is found in Scripture and equips the believer to do every good work unto God. While certain self-help books may have their place, nothing will ever supersede Scripture, nor is it be capable of equipping you with anything you can’t already receive within its pages. Christian books should always be used in conjunction with Scripture, and should be checked by it, but they should never take its place. The same goes for the article you’re currently reading. If you’ve found yourself learning more from this writing than Scripture itself, I urge you to close this one out and come back to it later after you’ve had time to meditate upon the Word in prayer. However, if this article is helping clarify points of confusion and has kindled a desire to study Scripture, it’s fulfilling its purpose.

The Reformers had it right when they said, “Sola Scriptura.” Scripture alone equips and fulfills. Embrace this fact and give thanks to the Lord for revealing within its pages all we need to know this side of Heaven.

~ Travis W. Rogers

Where Does Faith Come From?

This may sound like a rather obvious question but you would be surprised how many people get it all wrong. The dictionary defines faith as belief that is not based on proof. Where does this faith come from? Is it a product of a decision we make or is it something more? Thankfully, the bible is not silent on this.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB)

How do we normally receive gifts? We either ask for them or they are given without any influence from us. The latter half of the passage in Ephesians tells us it was given to us without any influence on our part. There was no work done by us (praying, asking, doing good, etc). It was given as a gift out of God’s own heart. He chose to give the gift of faith without any work on our part whatsoever.

You have seen the dictionary’s definition of faith, but what is the biblical definition? According to Hebrews, “faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). This, combined with Ephesians 2:8-9, should be enough to prove faith is not something we earn or reach out for. It is something God gives us of His own will. Faith may be something we have but it certainly is not something we create. Faith is not a result of anything on our part. To further drive home the origin of faith, God has given us an abundance of verses that speak to it. For instance, we know that that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6), the flesh is hostile toward God, does not subject itself to Him, and unable to please Him (Romans 8:7-8), the natural man is unable to accept or understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14), and that one who is not with God is against Him (Luke 11:23).

We are all born into flesh. As natural man, not only is it impossible to understand the things of God (spiritually appraised), but it is also impossible to please God. It is impossible to submit to Him because we are naturally hostile towards God. We are not for God, therefore we are against God. How then can one believe we make the choice to follow God of our own free will when it is impossible to understand and we are in a state of hostility?

In reality, prior to being regenerated by the Spirit and given a heart of repentance, our desires are to do the will of another one we called father: the devil (John 8:44). The only way to escape this snare of the devil is if God grants us repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth so that we may come to our senses (2 Timothy 2:25-26). As natural man, we desire to do the devil’s work. In the 2 Timothy passage where it speaks of correcting those in opposition, it is not speaking of rebuking fellow believers. It is referring to correcting non-believers. It says we are to witness to non-Christians in case God decides to grant them repentance. Notice they do not come to their senses before God grants them repentance. The gift is given first. Only then will their desires change, not first. God makes the first move, yet we are told He will often do so through the preaching of the gospel.

In case there are still any doubts as to the efficacy of our will in changing our nature, Scripture also tells us the unregenerate man is incapable of making himself clean (Job 14:4), doing good (Jeremiah 13:23), or bearing good fruit (Matthew 7:18). It is only when the Father draws him (John 6:44) that he is granted to come (John 6:65). Upon this act of God, he is given a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27) and is considered adequate (2 Corinthians 3:5). A leopard cannot change its spots (Job 14:4) but God can.

Before we move on, let’s review what was just said:

1) We cannot clean ourselves any more than a leopard can change his spots.

2) One who does evil cannot also do good.

3) A bad tree will only produce bad fruit. There will be no good fruit produced by one who is unsaved.

4) The Father draws and grants. Without these, nobody can enter the kingdom of God.

5) Our adequacy is from God alone and not from our own choices.

6) God gives us a new heart. He gives us the Holy Spirit to walk in His ways. Before this, we were nothing but bad fruit incapable of doing good.

We cannot change our desires. We cannot change our hostility toward God. We are the way we are and we cannot change ourselves. Only God can make the change. Only God can initiate the change. Furthermore, the desire to change ourselves will not be present apart from the Spirit of God in His regenerating work.

We cannot think clearly about or desire Christ by our own unaided decision. Why not? We cannot respond to the good news of the gospel until we want Christ, and we cannot want Christ simply by a decision we can take at any moment we choose. We cannot say to our will, “Will, will to belong to the Lord!” It is beyond our powers to do that. No one can will the will to will what it will not will!

Sinclair B. Ferguson “By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me” p.4

Everything is from God. He draws us to Himself. He changes us. He grants repentance and an understanding of truth. He removes hostility. He causes us to die to flesh and to be born to Spirit. He is Almighty God and it is all in His hands.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, (2 Corinthians 5:17-18, NASB)

Faith may be a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9) but that is an incomplete statement regarding non-Christians. It is not just faith that God gives us but faith in Him. The Bible tells us that nobody seeks God (Psalm 14:2-3) and that without His gift of faith, it is impossible to understand the things of God (2 Corinthians 2:14). People can still have faith (i.e. belief in something) but that faith will always be misplaced unless God allows them to open their eyes and have faith in Him.

I certainly do believe it is possible to have more faith than another person even if that faith is misplaced. The great news is that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains if it is placed in God. Faith placed in anything else will be empty regardless how big it is. Be encouraged! Have faith!

~ Travis W. Rogers

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Defense of Single-Fulfillment Christ-Centered Prophecy

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

Luke 24:44

            The entirety of Scripture centers on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is its Author and Scope, and plainly testifies that He has been revealed in the Old Testament thousands of years before His incarnation. Yet, the precise way He is revealed there has become a contentious issue in modern scholarship. Many scholars struggle to see Him in the texts that Christ and His Apostles declare to prophecy Him, and those scholars have come up with various ways of explaining how those texts may be messianic. Michael Rydelnik compiled a list of their various theories, which include sensus plenior (or dual fulfillment), typical fulfillment, epigenetic fulfillment, relecture fulfillment, and midrash fulfillment. All of these have advocates today in the evangelical academy.[1]

            Fortunately, we have not been left to ourselves to develop the best method of preaching Christ from the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit has testified, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tm. 3:16-17). As Sam Waldron shows, the phrase, “man of God,” is used in the Bible to designate a minister or spokesman of God, so these verses are especially stressing the sufficiency of Scripture to equip God’s under-shepherds for all their duties.[2] Therefore, we can trust that Scripture shows us how to preach Christ from itself, because rightly handling the word of truth to minister the Lord Jesus is one of the primary duties of the man of God. If Scripture did not equip the pastor to preach Christ from the largest part of the Bible – the only Bible Christ’s original disciples had to preach from – then its claims of sufficiency for the man of God would be moot.

            We, therefore, must reject out of hand those approaches that deny we should follow the hermeneutical method used by Christ and His Apostles in favor of methods grounded only in human reason. Graeme Goldsworthy rightly asks, “If we cannot determine our hermeneutics of the Old Testament from the way Jesus, the apostles and the inspired authors of the New Testament interpreted it, have we any firm basis at all on which to proceed?”[3] We must embrace the method that our risen Lord gave to His disciples that they subsequently carried out (Lk. 24:44).  This method is not fully consistent with either the grammatical-historical approach (as most commonly applied) or even sensus plenior, but rather is best identified with what is sometimes known as the pre-critical, direct fulfillment approach. This approach is not only what appears in the pages of the New Testament, but also is the consensus of Christian commentaries before the modern era and – in my experience – it still dominates the pews.

            The topic of Old Testament prophecy regarding New Testament realities is often prejudiced as a conundrum, as if the majority of God’s people struggle to find Jesus in the texts the New Testament finds Him in.[4] But a survey of church history suggests that it was not the norm to have such a difficulty, and even today, my own experience has found that laymen receive the Old Testament prophecies with joy. The difficulties, I believe, largely stem from certain unbiblical presuppositions that have crept into modern scholarship rather than any true difficulty in seeing Christ in the Old Testament. As such, this paper requires us to first approach those presuppositions, including a brief exploration of the nature of inspiration and prophecy. Next, a few examples of the New Testament interpreting the Old Testament using biblical presuppositions will be provided, demonstrating the precedent the Bible establishes for the direct fulfillment view. Finally, an example of what it looks like to rightly interpret messianic prophecy will be given and contrasted with other approaches.

Scripture as true revelation

            Today, the prophetic writings are often treated as if they were little more than theological reflections by the prophet under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In other words, while not denying the role of the Divine, many evangelical interpreters nevertheless imply that the prophetic writings have a real genesis in the minds of the prophets, who have a personal intention in their prophecies with an eye to having a specific effect on their immediate audience. Some evangelicals, like Francis Foulkes, will even say that their predictive capability often largely depends “on the warnings, the promises of the covenant, and on the fact that prophets were convinced that, as God had done in the past, so He would do in the future.”[5] This heavy emphasis on the role of the human author is quite contrary to treatments of inspiration by earlier men like John Owen, who says,

“The doctrines they [the human writers of Scripture] delivered, the instructions they gave, the stories they recorded, the promises of Christ, the prophecies of gospel times they gave out and revealed, were not their own, not conceived in their minds, not formed by their reasonings, not retained in their memories from what they heard, not by any means beforehand comprehended by them, (1 Pet. 1:10, 11,) but were all of them immediately from God … Their tongue in what they said, or their hand in what they wrote, was עֵט סוֹפֵר, no more at their own disposal than the pen is in the hand of an expert writer.”[6]

To modern ears, Owen’s heavy emphasis on the primacy of the Divine author may be so jarring that it sounds like mechanical dictation theory. But it cannot be rightly classified as such, because Owen’s view does not include a suspension of the writer’s faculties in the process of inscripturation – he says in the same spot that the process included “a passive concurrence of their rational faculties in their reception.”[7] Rather than suspending their faculties, Owen confesses that God “acted their faculties, making use of them to express his words, not their own conceptions.”[8] In fact, while he denies Scripture is ever truly a product of the writers’ memories, he does not even deny that the Spirit would use their memories in their writings on occasion (cf. Lk. 1:1-4).[9] Owen’s point is simply that Scripture is not a result of men plumbing their own memories and thoughts to get across their own message. Rather, Scripture is a result of God speaking immediately in His human authors to get across His ideas and His words, which may have sometimes involved the confirmation of their memories and the use of vocabulary suitable to His instruments.

Scripture’s own attestation to its origin confirms Owen’s view. Not every book or genre of books in the Bible is equally clear in how the Divine author crafted it, but the prophets – which we will mostly concern ourselves with here – are quite explicit. Suffice it to say for the other books, they are equally described as the product of the supernatural breath of God (2 Tm. 3:16).

 When we take the words of the prophets at their face value, they do not at all suggest that their message is their own theological musings meant to accomplish their own agenda. Rather, they repeatably say, “a vision appeared unto me” and “the word of the LORD came unto me,” emphasizing that their message came to them externally. It was no vague internal impression of being led to say something; it was so tangible that, for Jonah, the word of the LORD was like a physical location that he thought he could flee from (Jon. 1:1-3). This has led many to understand that the phrase, “the word of the LORD came unto me,” is actually a reference to the pre-incarnate Word speaking to the prophets. This interpretation is strengthened by the New Testament witness, which states that the prophets were communicated to by the Spirit of Christ Himself (1 Pet. 1:11).

Far from getting across their own thoughts, the prophets sometimes would express bewilderment over their message and their ministry. Daniel often did not understand his visions, and when he asked for understanding at the end of his prophecies he was denied, “for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Dan. 12:9). Jeremiah had no motivation to speak himself, but God said, “whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak” (Jer. 1:6-7). The very structure of Jeremiah (and several other prophets) reflects what one would expect if he was simply faithfully recording the messages delivered to him rather than presenting his own work; scholars have had a notoriously difficult time constructing an outline for that book, with some giving up on the idea of making an outline at all.[10]  Ezekiel was forbidden to say anything on his own and would only be allowed to speak when God supernaturally opened his mouth and gave him words to say (Ezek. 3:27). He also clearly did not choose the way he would be used to express God’s message symbolically, which is proven by his petition to God to change what he was instructed to do (Ezek.4:13-15). That the prophets were not expressing their own minds is likewise confirmed by the New Testament, which says, “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Pet. 1:20-21). The Bible denies that prophecy came in any way that would make it come by the will of man. Rather, the God of Scripture suddenly and powerfully makes Himself known to His prophets in various ways, instructing them what to write and what to speak through the influence of His Holy Spirit in them.

If the message neither came from the prophet’s mind nor was necessarily understood by them, it follows that the message was not necessarily given to be understood by the immediate audience either. This is rather explicit in Isaiah, where God tells Isaiah, “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not” (Is. 6:9). The message was not given to be understood by its hearers, but served as a testimony against them, revealing their hardened hearts and blind eyes until the coming judgement (Is. 6:10-12). Ezekiel’s audience likewise did not understand him and said of him, “Doth he not speak parables?” (Ezek. 20:49). Again, Daniel was told that his visions were sealed up until the end, and this was certainly no less true for his immediate audience than for himself. Aside from Moses and the One who would be a prophet like Moses, God said that some obscurity would be a trademark of prophecy (Num. 12:6-8). There is nothing indicating that it was normative for prophecy to be fully understood in the context it was given in.

The New Testament is unambiguous that the Old Testament prophecies did not fully reveal the subject matter they addressed. Scripture says it was revealed to the prophets, “that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven” (1 Pet. 1:12). It further testifies that, without the light of Jesus Christ, the Old Testament was read with a veil on, and still is by those who do not read through the lens of His revelation (2 Cor. 3:14-15). It describes the revelation of Jesus Christ as a “mystery…which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:3,5). As the Expositor’s Greek New Testament notes, the “as” (ὡς) of Ephesians 3:5 has a comparative force,[11] indicating that while the mystery was given to the Old Testament saints, it was not revealed to them with the clarity of the New Testament era – it was a mystery.  These passages teach us both that the prophets were prophesying of New Testament realities and that those realities were not fully revealed to them. Each of their writings will be somewhat cryptic if viewed alone.

It has been necessary to defend these conclusions because they contradict what is taken for granted by much of contemporary scholarship: namely, the conclusions contradict the presupposition that Old Testament prophecies were given to be plainly understood by the original audience and that therefore an exegesis considering only the immediate, human context of each text is sufficient to determine its meaning. It is understandable that scholars who hold to this have difficulty finding Christ in the Old Testament, because that presupposition comes close to ruling out the possibility of Him being there in the first place, especially when it is combined with a tendency to almost reduce inspiration to a bare providential phenomenon. Scripture, however, presents its composition as a miraculous intrusion of the Primary Cause into the normal workings of the secondary causes to form a self-sufficient Book. Accordingly, we are free to give up the task of reconstructing what we think the prophet may have intended in his local context through the use of scant secondary material, because the rest of Scripture provides sufficient interpretive light. The Bible claims God – not the human instrument – supplies the meaning of the text, and that His concern is not for the immediate audience alone, but also for His Church in all ages, especially His New Testament saints reading in light of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. When we do this, we will begin reading the Old Testament like the Apostolic Church did.

Scripture’s interpretation of Scripture

            Having established that Scripture is fundamentally God’s words with a prophetic bent towards the revelation of Jesus Christ, we will see that Scripture indeed exercises those hermeneutics. Naturally, the New Testament provides us with the best and clearest examples of how to preach Christ out of the Old Testament, but even in the Old Testament we see the hermeneutical principles established, which we will first explore. We see, for instance that the typological events accompanying the message of prophecy were not seen as the fulfillment of the prophecy. Scripture teaches that the destruction and abandonment coming on God’s people because of the curse of the Law would be followed by Him bringing them out of all nations, circumcising their hearts, pouring out His Spirit on them, and causing them to obey His commandments under His peace and perpetual blessing (e.g., Dt. 30:1-6, Ezek. 36:24-27, Jer. 31:31-34). Given the emphasis on this message by the prophets prior and during the Babylonian exile, one may make the mistake of thinking that the exile and the return from it are the fulfillment of those prophecies. However, one can see in the post-exile prophecy of Malachi, for example, that these things have yet to be fulfilled. Far from having circumcised hearts, the prophecy bashes the corruptions of the Levitical priests, and the prophet hangs the threat of the curse over them and Judah (Mal. 3:4-5, 11-12, 4:6). The promise of the perpetual blessing still awaited fulfillment. Thus, when we see events near the time of the prophecies that in some ways resemble their fulfillment (but in other ways fall short), we should conclude that they are not true fulfillments of those prophecies, but rather types pointing to their real fulfillment.

While Scripture never acknowledges dual fulfillments when interpreting previous revelation, it does acknowledge types, which is another area where the Old Testament sanctions forward-looking, messianic hermeneutics. Like the New Testament, the Old Testament treats the events of B.C. history as absolutely historical, but nevertheless understands those events as foreshadowing the future. Psalm 78, for example, traces the working of God in redemptive history and shows how His previous works point to and culminate in the establishment of the throne of David (ultimately, the throne of the Messiah) and that at that throne we finally find blessing. In Jeremiah, likewise, God marks the redemption out of Egypt as pointing to the greater deliverance He will accomplish by the hand of the Messiah, and that only then would the prophesied deliverance of God’s people from all nations truly occur (Jer. 23:5-8). Thus, the Old Testament itself is sufficient to provide the Christological hermeneutics exercised in the New Testament.

            Turning now to the New Testament, the Old Testament prophecies likewise are never depicted as having multiple fulfillments – a near and a far one – but only one, centered on Jesus and His inauguration of the last days. This highly Christological hermeneutic follows from an understanding that the Old Testament is first and foremost God’s words. Since God is not chiefly concerned with isolated, historical events for their own sakes, but rather is chiefly concerned with magnifying His Son for whom all of history was created (cf. Jn. 5:20-23, Col. 1:16), it follows that all Old Testaments Scripture ultimately ties back to Him who is the true Apple of God’s eye. Thus, in the New Testament, even the precise choice of words is demonstrated to have predictive, Christological significance and Christ is shown to be the key to understanding otherwise obscure passages in previous revelation. An example of each of these will suffice.

            In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek is one of the many Old Testament events cited as prophesying Christ and His priestly work. The original passage in Genesis makes no explicit reference to the Messiah (Gen. 14:17-24), but Hebrews follows the already scriptural pattern of Psalm 110 in identifying the episode as Messianic. This follows because the Bible is about Christ, and so Scripture gives us the example that it is not so much a matter of proving whether a given passage relates to Him, but understanding how it relates to Him. In the case of Hebrews, there is an insistence that it is not only the subject matter of a passage that is important, but also the manner in which it is presented. Hebrews tells us, “[Melchizedek is] without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (Heb. 7:3). The author is not saying that Melchizedek literally had no father or mother, but simply that the way narrative frames him makes him “like unto the Son of God.” God here tells us, then, that it is significant that He did not introduce Melchizedek as “the son of [X]” in Genesis 14. He crafted the narratives of His people’s history in a precise way to point ahead to the fulfillment of everything in Jesus Christ.

            Acts 2 gives us the principle that when the words of the Old Testament do not fit a local referent, we should look to Christ as our hermeneutical key. Peter references Psalm 16, where the writer is said to have been delivered from Hades with his flesh saved from corruption. Rather than having a sensus plenior perspective, Peter bluntly points out that David “is both dead and buried,” and so it could not have been about David; it is a prophecy of Christ, who spoke through David (Acts 2:29-30). Many other psalms and several places in the prophets share that feature of no local referent sharing the characteristics of the subject speaking, with the characteristics only perfectly matching Christ. In such cases, the Bible uses prosopological exegesis.[12] This method was embraced even by pre-Christian Jewish commentators to recognize messianic texts.[13]

Case study: Accurately interpreting 2 Samuel 7:4-17

            Lastly, we will examine what it looks like to freshly apply the principles we have defended to an Old Testament passage, noting dissimilarities with other methods along the way. 2 Samuel 7:4-17 is a classic go-to text for establishing the Davidic covenant. In it, David is promised that he would have an heir to establish his throne forever and build God a house. But who is that heir? One perspective would say that Solomon alone is in view and that he simply typifies the Messiah, another would say that both Solomon and Christ are in view (the human author seeing an immediate fulfillment in Solomon with God intending a greater fulfillment in Christ), whereas the view defended here contends that Christ alone is the referent of this prophecy, and that Solomon only typifies the fulfillment. I take this perspective because it is aligned with the biblical hermeneutics already discussed and because Solomon frankly could not be said to fulfil several aspects of this prophecy. Most glaringly, Solomon did not establish David’s throne forever, as the Son in question is promised to do (2 Sam. 7:13,16). Some argue that “forever” (עוֹלָֽם) sometimes does not literally mean without end, but just like the English word, “forever,” circumstances reveal when this is the case. When we say something will last “forever,” there is an implicit exception if it subsists in a greater, perishable organism. This can be seen in the case of practices part of the perishable Mosaic Covenant and also in the case of the voluntary Hebrew slave, who is said to be his master’s “for ever” (Dt. 15:17). For the slave, an unspoken terminating condition of this “for ever” would be the perishing of a greater organism that the master-slave relationship exists in – e.g., the life of the master or slave. This unspoken condition is understood in Hebrew and English and should not lead us to assume that “forever” may merely mean “a long time” apart from the clear presence of similar unspoken conditions. Far from having contingency in a perishable organism, this promise for an everlasting throne was the latest step in God’s eternal, unconditional, and trans-covenantal promise to provide a Seed to permanently redeem mankind from the forces of evil, even using the same word as found in Genesis 3:15 for “seed” (2 Sam. 7:12). This promise was previously narrowed down to a Seed from the line of Abraham (Gen. 17:7), then the line of Judah (Gen. 49:10), and now it is further narrowed down to the line of David. But Solomon did nothing to establish this everlasting throne, but merely received his throne from David and passed it on to a son that he so ill-equipped for leadership that the kingdom was almost immediately divided afterwards, perishing altogether within a few hundred years. Hence, the prophecy advises us to look to someone in the future, to One who would only be set on the throne after David had died and gone to “sleep with [his] fathers” (2 Sam. 7:12). This is in contrast to Solomon, of whom David remarks, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which hath given one to sit on my throne this day, mine eyes even seeing it” (1 Kings 1:48). For these reasons and several others, Augustine remarks, “He who thinks this grand promise was fulfilled in Solomon greatly errs.”[14]

Conclusion

            The biblical presentation of inspiration helps to make sense of a passage like 2 Samuel 7:4-17. When we understand that the prophet Nathan was not expressing thoughts he had formulated beforehand, but rather was being a faithful ambassador of the Lord, it is understandable how the prophecy did not fit anyone in their lifetime but rather fits only the One the Father is committed to exalting in Scripture. These biblical presuppositions allow us to straight-forwardly preach Christ from the Old Testament alongside the Apostles and Christ Himself.

Note: the above essay was originally written by me for a class at CBTS.


[1] Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 28-32.

[2] Sam Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. 5th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: EP Books, 2016), 57-58.

[3] Graeme Goldsworthy, Christ-Centered Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 106.

[4] For example, see Jonathan Lunde, “An Introduction to Central Questions in the New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. Kenneth Berding and Jonathan Lunde (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 7.

[5] Francis Foulkes, “The Acts of God: A Study of the Basis of Typology in the Old Testament” The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New, ed. G. K. Beale (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994), 15-16.

[6] John Owen, Of the Divine Original of the Scriptures, in The works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 16 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1862), 298. Logos.

[7] Ibid.

[8] John Owen, Book III, in The works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 3 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1862), 133. Logos.

[9] Ibid, 132.

[10] Peter Y. Lee, “Jeremiah” A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised, ed. M. V. Van Pelt, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 280. Logos.

[11] W. Robertson Nicoll, “Commentary on Ephesians 3” The Expositor’s Greek Testament. (New York, NY: George H. Doran Company, 1897), accessed August 31, 2021. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/ephesians-3.html.

[12] Craig A. Carter, Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018). 192-201.

[13] For example, see the messianic citation of Isaiah 61:1-3 in 11QMelch: Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “Further Light on Melchizedek from Qumran Cave 11” Journal of Biblical Literature 86:1 (1967), 28, accessed August 31, 2021. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3263241?seq=4#metadata_info_tab_contents.

[14] Augustine, City of God, ed. Philip Schaff and trans. Marcus Dods, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol 2. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. XVII.8, accessed August 31, 2021. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1201.htm.

Could Jesus Sin?

This is a topic that has been brought up many times over the years. There are always two sides with two totally different views. One side believes that since Jesus was a man, He could sin but chose not to. The other side believes that since Jesus was God, He could not sin at all. On which side do you stand at this very moment? Maybe you have never thought about it before now. My goal is that you will have formed your opinion by the end of this article.

First, let’s start with the basics. Jesus was fully man. Man can sin (Romans 3:23). Jesus is also fully God. God and sin are not compatible. It is impossible for God to sin (Psalm 11:7). This almost seems like a paradox. Stay with me for a minute. 

Jesus was 100% man just as He is also 100% God. Scripture refers to God as being Light and says there is no darkness found in Him (1 John 1:5). This only makes sense. You turn on a light switch and the darkness flees. In much the same way, God does not dwell in sin. Where God is, sin is not. Obviously, God is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10) so I am not referring to His physical location as much as I am His relationship with the person being tempted to sin. We know Jesus did not sin but I believe it is just as accurate to say He could not sin either. In the Old Testament, a man was required to sacrifice his best animal to God. He would select an animal without any blemishes at all and sacrifice its flesh. In the same way, Christ was used as sinless flesh to be a sacrifice for mankind. His whole purpose for life was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and bring glory to the Father (John 17:1-5). The method in which He would accomplish this was by dying on the cross. He was the ultimate sacrifice. He was the flesh that beat the world. He was the flesh that Satan had no control over. Satan tried and failed miserably because he had no hold (John 14:30). This was one piece of flesh that could not sin because it also belonged to the One who is 100% God.

Despite this, some will say He could have sinned because He was fully man but that He merely did not because He was fully God. But that ends up being the same as claiming God can sin but He merely chooses not to. That would be an extremely dangerous and low view of God. It’s not that He chooses not to sin. It’s that He cannot sin because it is against the very nature of who He is. That means if God cannot sin, Jesus did not merely choose not to sin either. It means He was incapable of sinning. Most people would consider it blasphemy to claim that God could sin so why don’t they say the same about Christ? Jesus either is God or He isn’t. If Jesus had been capable of sinning and, in his capability, did sin, would He stop being God? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ as God cannot sin. As He is God, He did not sin. Just as He could never stop being God, not only would He have never sinned, but He would have been incapable of sinning. Yes, he was a man. Man can sin. Man also is not God. Jesus was both. Sorry, but God wins out over the flesh in every instance including this one. Jesus was flesh-natured in the sense that He was a human but He was lacking sin because He was also God. When I say flesh-natured, do not confuse this with a sinful nature. Human nature and sin nature are not always glued together. Where Adam was prone to failure, Jesus was not. He was in full communion with God as the perfect man because He is also our perfect God.

To understand this doctrine, one must understand what defines a man. Is it the ability to sin which defines him? Is it a fallen nature? I would say it’s neither. It is our flesh which defines us. Can one claim a stillborn is less human than a healthy baby? Certainly not! Just because one does not sin does not make him an alien. Jesus could not sin but this did not make him any less of a man. He was flesh through and through (Luke 24:39) who experienced the same things as His fellow man (Hebrews 4:15).

One argument that always comes up is the issue of temptation. Some will ask why Satan bothered to tempt Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) if He could not have sinned. Satan had to have known he could not beat God yet he (and a third of the angels) attempted anyway. I believe history was repeating itself and Satan was trying to get Jesus to fall but because sin is so far removed from God, it was an effort in futility. It is a prime example of flesh stomping Satan at his own game. He knows he can’t win but he is going to try to cause as much of a disruption as possible. While Satan is not omniscient, he was initially created by God to be an angel in heaven. As a result, it is safe to assume he knew of God’s might as he was around when the heavens and earth were created. He was a firsthand witness to God’s omnipotence.

We are to follow Jesus and strive to be like Him, but that does not mean Jesus had to have been able to sin like us. It also doesn’t mean we will ever achieve sinless perfection this side of heaven. In the Old Testament, people were to follow God’s commands and remain pure (Leviticus 11:44). They did not have Jesus to follow. They only had their faith in God. God could not sin yet they were to follow Him anyway. The same goes for Jesus. Jesus could not have sinned (because he is also fully God) but we are still to follow Him. Following Jesus is the same as following God’s commands. It just takes it a step further by allowing us a way to be reconciled to God.

Let’s go back to the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. As I went over, some say if Jesus could have been tempted, He must have at least had the ability to sin. On the other hand, I have said that since Jesus is God, there was no way He could have sinned. To this some might ask how He was able to be tempted in the wilderness (Mark 1:13) if He was incapable of sinning or succumbing to the temptation. Even the Old Testament speaks of the temptation of God in the wilderness (Psalm 106:14). I think it’s important to look at the original Hebrew and Greek words that we see translated as ‘tempted’ in both verses.

Psalm 106:14 Usage
nāsâנָסָה
1) to test, try, prove, tempt, assay, put to the proof or test

Mark 1:13 Usage
peirazōπειράζω
1) to try whether a thing can be done
a) to attempt, endeavor
2) to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quantity, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself

Temptation does not affect one unless his heart is outside of God’s commands and only has a hold on one with a sinful nature. In my youth, I used to think Jesus would have had this sinful nature being born of man. What I failed to realize is that Jesus was not born with a spirit of man. He was conceived and born from the Spirit of God (Matthew 1:18-20). This would not carry with it the same sinful nature that mankind possesses but it does not make Jesus any less of a man. If temptation held no power over Jesus, while being true temptation in the sense of testing, it was not a vicious struggle in the way we think of it. This is because Christ’s desires were pure and righteous. It was more of an attempt to get Him to fall, but His heart was always in the right place so temptation could never have been any more than weak attempts to Him.

As a man, Jesus should have had the ability to sin but since He was born from the Spirit of God (and actually is God), He could not have sinned because temptation was so far removed from Him that it made it impossible. Satan put him to the test. Jesus passed with flying colors just as God did when the nation of Israel tempted Him (Number 14:22, Psalm 106:14). This does not mean either could have fallen into sin. It simply means they did not. Gee, I wonder why!

~ Travis W. Rogers

Jesus in Hell? Where Did He Go?

How many of you clicked this because of the title? It’s okay. You can admit it. Yes, you read it right. While it may sound blasphemous to one without understanding, by the end of this article, it may actually sound like solid doctrine. This subject was brought up in a recent episode of The Particular Baptist podcast and I wanted to flesh it out a bit more for the blog.

We always say that God loved us so much that he gave His son to die on the cross but how many of us really stop to think about it? We all know Jesus died and rose again three days later, but most people don’t really think about the time in between.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sinsa;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

The Apostles Creed

Before going any further, I will admit there have been varied interpretations of this over the years. Among Particular Baptists, Hercules Collins’ An Orthodox Catechism is a favored work. Question 23 of the catechism recognizes the Apostle’s Creed as one of our articles of faith. Question 44 attempts to answer the question of what “He descended into hell” actually means. While being a helpful work, I do believe Collins got this one wrong. In response to why the Creed has that line, Answer 44 says,

“To assure me in times of personal crisis and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.”

Hercules Collins, An Orthodox Catechism

According to Collins, the “hell” being spoken of was nothing more than the “anguish, pain, and terror of soul” that Christ went through both on the cross and in the events leading up to it. By Him experiencing hellish torment and anguish, He has saved us from actual hell with eternal torment. I just don’t feel this adds up and I can’t help but think this is just one of the many ways Christians try to avoid the difficult-to-grasp truth of what I believe to be plainly taught in Scripture.

Not only did God send His Son to die on the cross, but He also sent His Son to hell for three days. Now, I want to clarify when I say hell. I’m not referring to a place of torment that we know it as. In English, we are very limited in our wording (for instance, our one word for love versus the four words in ancient Greek). When I say hell, I am actually referring to Hades, the Greek abode of the dead. I’m merely referring to it as “hell” for familiarity’s sake, as this is what the vast majority know it as. Please keep this in mind as you see the many references to hell in this article. As a whole, Hades did not refer to a place of suffering nor did it refer to a place of peace. It was simply the storage location, or abode, of the dead. The Hebrews believed in the same place, only they called it Sheol.

At this point, no human was in heaven since the only way in is through the Son (John 14:6). The only other place for Him to have gone during those three days was Hades. It was simply where all human souls went after they died. Imagine how happy Satan must’ve felt when he thought he had triumphed only to be proven wrong a few days later. Ever wonder what Jesus went through during those three days? Really stop to think about it. God loves us beyond our comprehension!

Some may ask why God would send His only begotten Son to hell for even one day let alone three. I’m not one to guess why God set up the timeline the way He did but I am willing to bet the three days wasn’t meant to “work off” any sin as if he were in some form of purgatory.

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:27-28, NASB)

Jesus bore the sins of the entire world. He was condemned as guilty and unsanctified despite having committed no crime. Though never becoming a sinner, His righteousness was imputed to us while, at the same time, our guilt and shame was imputed to Him. Sin must be punished. Due to God being just, He issues no waivers. Sin will, and must, be dealt with according to His standard set forth from eternity. Our debt could not be brushed to the side. Jesus did more than declare us innocent. He transferred His innocence upon us while, simultaneously, transferring our guilt upon Himself. Because of this, He died and went to Hades. God’s timeline said three days later He would rise. I don’t know why He picked three days but He did and that’s that. Jesus’ judgment was hell just as any others would have been. God had His plan for Jesus to rise. After He had risen, He was in a glorified state, free of any filth of imputed sin. He had already died and received judgment. Now, He was alive for the second time. It was an entirely new life. It was a life that would never again see the sting of death.

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:27, NASB)

As it is appointed unto man once to die. Jesus had defeated death, risen from the grave, and visited his disciples one last time before rejoining his Father in Heaven. I say rejoined because He was there since the beginning (Genesis 1:26).

To understand why Jesus went to hell, we must understand the reasons people go there:

  • They do not trust in Christ as their Savior. They do not believe that He was the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day.
  • They cannot enter heaven blemished with sin.
  • They have not repented of their sins and turned in faith to Christ as be the ultimate sacrifice.

A friend once attempted to prove this wrong by saying it was the blood of Christ that washes away our sins. In and of itself, this is correct theology. The point he was trying to make was that since Christ had already shed His blood, He no longer had a need to go to hell because His blood covered it all while He was still on the cross. The same argument was used for the thief on the cross. The problem with this is that the new covenant wasn’t established until Jesus had risen from the dead. The thief on the cross died under the old covenant as did anybody else that died within those three days. We can believe Jesus was who He said he was all we want but unless we also believe that He conquered death by rising from the grave on the third day, one is not truly saved. That is a vital part to our salvation!

Jesus did not have to deny God or Himself as He is God (John 10:30). The reasons I gave previously were all reasons why men go to hell. Points one and three above cover point two now that He is raised but since that had not happened yet, Jesus was still bound by number two. Yes, He had already died but He had not yet risen. He died just as any other man under the old covenant. It was once He had risen that the new covenant began and He was brought up into Heaven.

Now that we have a biblical understanding of what the requirements of entry into heaven are, we can focus on the biblical support for Jesus in Hades. 

Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things. (Ephesians 4:9-10, NASB)
for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40, NASB)
“Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s Bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’” (Luke 16:22-24)

While many respected theologians throughout the years have interpreted “the lower parts of the earth” to be Jesus’ condescension through the incarnation coupled with the suffering he underwent in the crucifixion, I don’t believe this is sound for a number of reasons. During the times of Jesus, it was a normal belief that Hades was located deep within the Earth. Hades was broken into two parts. There was a place of torment and a place where there was peace. Before the death and resurrection of Christ, the faithful went to a temporary holding place of peace. The unfaithful went to a place where there was torment and suffering. This temporary holding place was not purgatory. It was not meant to work off the sins of the flesh. We also know Heaven is a place of eternity and not merely temporary. This place was meant to act as a holding area for those Old Testament saints awaiting the death and resurrection of Christ so that they might gain access to Heaven. This place was known as Paradise, or Abraham’s Bosom. Those with faith were in Paradise and those without faith were in a place of tormenting flames; a precursor to the Lake of Fire called Gehenna.

To further elaborate, picture the afterlife as four separate chambers. These chambers consist of:

  • Heaven
  • Hades (non-tormenting side)
  • Hades (tormenting side)
  • Gehenna (the actual fiery Hell)

Prior to the cross, both heaven and Gehenna were devoid of humans. No man had been granted entrance into heaven yet the final condemnation to the flames of Gehenna had not been carried out either. Upon the resurrection of Christ, both Gehenna and the non-tormenting side of Hades were empty. While Christ redeemed those in Abraham’s Bosom, those in the tormenting side of Hades remained. Their final condemnation to Gehenna still awaits. Only upon the second coming of Christ will both sides of Hades finally be empty and everyone in their eternal residence. Those with faith in Christ will continue to be in the presence of the Lord. However, those who rejected the Savior will finally see weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 22:13) in the fires of Gehenna for all eternity.

Looking back at Matthew 12:40, some have tried to say it was likely speaking of a cave or a tomb in which Jesus’ body was kept. I would like to take a moment to explain why this was not the case. The tomb of Jesus would have been more of a cave. The heart of the earth is hardly a hole in a mountain. The word used for” heart” is the Greek word kardia. It was used in the sense of being the center of the earth and to say the entire earth comes from it. Kardia is certainly not being used to speak of a tomb. It speaks of the center of the earth. The kardia of the earth is referencing Hades, the location that was once believed to be in the center of the earth.

We all remember the story of the thief on the cross. Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” The thief went with Jesus, as well as all the rest of the Old Testament saints, to Hades. Yes, they went to Hades. No, they did not go to be tormented. As Jesus said, they went to Paradise; the non-tormenting part of Hades, the abode of the dead.

What do we know as of now?

1) Jesus was in the grave for three days.

2) Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth.

3) Jesus was going to be in Paradise the day of His death.

4) Jesus was in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

Based on this information, we can see Jesus spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Since this was the exact same amount of time His body was in the grave, we can conclude that if He was in Paradise on one of those days, Paradise would have to be in the heart of the earth. The only way to heaven is through the Son. It is not simply a belief in the Son that grants us access. It is belief in who the Son is as well as belief in what took place in the death and resurrection. Before this process was complete, man had no way into heaven. It was not until the resurrection that Paradise was relocated into heaven and all the saints from that day forth could share in the Glory of God in heaven. For those who may want to argue that Paradise has not been relocated to heaven and that it still resides in Hades, they must first explain how believers who die will be absent from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). After all, He’s no longer in Hades. Additionally, I believe this is what the dead saints rising in Matthew 27:53 after his resurrection is evidence that the Old Testament saints are no longer in Hades. When Christ ascended, so did they (Ephesians 4:8). While it is true that we will still go to Paradise upon death, Paradise is now located in heaven with the Lord.

In which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, (1 Peter 3:19-20a, NASB)

What exactly did Jesus do during His three days in Hades? 1 Peter makes mention of Jesus proclaiming the truth to the spirits in prison. These spirits were characterized as being disobedient. The Old Testament saints that went to Abraham’s Bosom certainly were not characterized by disobedience. Their obedience and faithfulness was the thing that saved them. They just had to wait for Christ before they could enter the kingdom of heaven. Verse 19 also says the spirits were in prison. Prison is a place where you go as a result of wrongdoing. You break the law and you go to prison. The demons and disobedient people of the world both broke the law of God. As a result, they would have been imprisoned in Hades awaiting the final judgment of God when all of Hades is cast into the lake of fire: Gehenna (Mark 9:43, Revelation 20:14).

For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; (2 Peter 2:4, NASB)

The fallen angels are in prison. The NASB uses the word “pits” but, if you look, the KJV uses the word “chains” in their translation. The Greek word for this was σειρά (seira). It literally meant a line, rope, or chain. The fallen angels, as well as disobedient people, are in chains in prison.

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man And He placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18, NASB)

Jesus conquered death. Death no longer has any hold over a Christian. Sure, we will all die. The difference is that we will live in heaven because we have been reconciled to God through Christ. Christ is the only way to heaven. What of the people from the Old Testament? Did they go to heaven? I would have to say no. They performed sacrifices but this was a continued action. Christ cannot be compared to an animal. He is called the Lamb of God but He was so much more than that. No mere animal could cleanse the way Christ did. I fully believe the Old Testament saints went to Paradise as a place of storage awaiting the death of Christ. Even more, I believe they stayed there until the resurrection. While they were saved through the same faith as New Testament believers, it was not until Jesus rose from the grave that He truly defeated death.

Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" (John 20:17, NIV)

This has commonly been misinterpreted to mean Jesus had to remain pure and did not want anyone to touch him. The problem with that interpretation is that it is in direct contradiction with John 20:27 when Jesus told Thomas to touch his wounds. In truth, Jesus was telling Mary not to cling to him. He was telling her to not expect His presence to continue for much longer for He had not yet returned to the Father but would soon be doing so. This brings me to my point. Jesus rose on the third day. Up until this point, He had not yet returned to His Father. He had not rejoined God in Heaven as of yet. Well, where was He then? He was in Paradise during this time. After the third day, He rose from the dead, saw His apostles along with hundreds of others, and joined God in Heaven.

Looking back, we see a few things:

1) The kardia of the earth is Hades and not a hole in a mountain.

2) Jesus preached to the spirits in prison.

3) The spirits in prison are the fallen angels and those who rejected God.

4) Jesus had not yet returned to the Father.

The very basis of the disbelief in Jesus going to Hell for three days is:

1) People do not want to believe Paradise was a section of Hades.

2) People refuse to believe Jesus (being God) could go to Hades.

There is no biblical evidence stating that Jesus did not go to Hades. On the other hand, the biblical evidence is stacked saying He did. Ask yourself these questions: If He had not yet returned to the Father, where was He those three days? What spirits in prison was He preaching to? Why would Scripture speak of the center of the earth?

If He was in a tomb that whole time, He would not have been able to preach to anyone. This is another sign that the kardia of the earth is not speaking of the tomb of Jesus. Jesus was preaching to the spirits in prison. He was in the kardia of the earth while doing it. He had not yet returned to the Father. That only leaves one place and it makes perfect sense biblically.

The doctrine of Jesus in hell (Hades) is both a very biblical and accurate teaching. I do not believe He went there to suffer in pain. I believe He went there as a result of the sin of the world being on Him. It was the same reason any of the other Old Testament saints went there. They placed their faith in God but they still owed the penalty of sin. Jesus was spotless up until the point that He became the ultimate sacrifice and took the sin of the world upon Himself as our substitutionary atonement (2 Corinthians 5:21). He then went to Paradise and rose three days later, defeating death once for all.

~ Travis W. Rogers

THREE SIMPLE WORDS: Grace, Faith, Regeneration

I want to start out by asking a question. I’m just going to mention three simple words and I want you to put them in chronological order. While contemplating the order in which you believe these words should be placed, I ask you to truly question what the words actually mean. The words are:

1) Grace

2) Faith

3) Regeneration 

If you had to place a chronological order on those three words, what order would you put them in? In my personal experience, most people place them in the order of grace, faith, and then regeneration. The reasoning is that God must first give us grace but then we choose whether to accept His gift before any regeneration can occur. This is a false doctrine that has infiltrated the Church and confused many well intentioned believers; many of whom are not even aware they are confused. While I would never advocate for rejecting your fellow brother or sister in Christ over this, one should still be aware of the depth of this doctrine and how it lays the foundation for the understanding of who God is and what He has done for you. It is my hope that by the end of this article, you will be able to fully (or at least begin to) understand the proper order of these three words.

Grace is completely God’s doing. It is His unmerited favor toward His own and it is the backbone of our salvation. We are saved through grace (Acts 15:11), believe through grace (Acts 18:27), and are justified by grace (Romans 3:24). What a gracious God we serve (Psalm 86:15, Jonah 4:2)! Ephesians 2:8 tells us that we are saved through faith by grace. Grace has to take place before any faith can occur.

And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

Romans 9:23. NASB

God showered His grace upon us before the foundation of the world. Before anything ever was, He had a plan. Part of that plan was to call the vessels of mercy to Himself. Even while we were still enemies of God, He showed His love for us and lavished us with grace (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 1:8). The fact that grace comes first is not usually the part that confuses people. It is the proper order of faith and regeneration that gets sticky. As I have already stated, this is not the correct order at all.

God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God. Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.

Psalm 53:2-3, NASB

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

Luke 9:23, NASB

While some claim a conditional statement implies a necessary choice, this is not always so. Oftentimes, as is the case here, it only necessitates a requirement. However, a requirement does not always necessitate an ability to fulfill it.

First of all, it is impossible for one to choose God. Before salvation, we serve the dominion of Satan (Acts 26:18). We are at war with God and hate Him (John 3:20a). Nobody chooses the enemy. Even the most infamous traitors in American history were not serving the enemy. They may have been OUR enemy, but they were not THEIR enemy. Whether it was money, allegiance, or some other common bond, our enemy had become their ally. In the same way, nobody who chooses God is an enemy of God at the time. In order for one to choose God, a change must first occur. There must be a common bond.

Scripture not only tells us we are at war with God, hate God, and belong to Satan, but it also takes it a step further by telling us we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5, Colossians 2:13). Opponents of pre-faith regeneration are forced to take verses such as these and manipulate them to say what they want. Even some of the staunchest literalists have changed these passages to say we are almost dead or are currently in a state of dying. This might sound nice except for one simple fact. It says we are already dead! The dead man does not choose to come back to life. Even Lazarus had no control over when he would be raised from the dead. In fact, Jesus left him there to rot for four days before raising him! Those who are spiritually dead can control when they are raised no more than Lazarus could.

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

1 Corinthians 2:14, NASB

We see this verse speaking of the natural man. The natural man is a man of his own desires. He is a man at war with God. He is the unregenerate man bound by the chains of sin who still serves the dominion of Satan. Scripture tells us plainly that this man cannot understand the things of the Spirit. However, the Christian is a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is the regenerate man who has been set from the chains of sin. He has turned his eyes to the Light (Acts 26:18). He has been renewed, not on the basis of any righteous deeds we may have done but by the Holy Spirit through the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5).

The Holy Spirit does not reside in the natural, unregenerate man. The Holy Spirit resides only in the regenerate. Our bodies are the very dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Having the Holy Spirit is synonymous with being saved. It is utterly impossible for a man to be saved without the Holy Spirit. It is equally as impossible for a man’s body to be the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit if he has not been regenerated. As a result, there is no way faith can come before regeneration. 

First, the grace of God is poured out to us. This occurred before the foundation of the world. Next, in God’s timing, we are washed anew and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. At this time, we become a new creature in Christ. We now possess the ability to understand the things of the Spirit because the Spirit resides within us. Lastly, faith occurs. It is only after grace and regeneration that one can truly have faith in God. That said, please don’t view this as a mechanical process of “if this, then that,” as that’s not what I’m implying. I am merely reviewing the logical order of salvation. In the practical sense, faith comes at the very moment of regeneration. There are no regenerate unbelievers. This is important to point out as it has been the victim of many a strawman. While we should all be pleading with unbelievers to choose this day whom they will serve (Joshua 24:15), this means the “choice” we made was not of some act of Libertarian Free Will but an irresistible calling of God Almighty, as He had already changed our very nature and desires. I am thankful for this because if it were up to me and my own works/choices, I would be left with nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and a lack of Christ. Soli Deo Gloria!

~ Travis W. Rogers

THEONOMY: A Doctrine of Ignorance and Error

About a year ago, I wrote an article called Theonomy No More. In it, I addressed certain points such as why a theocracy is an unbiblical (and horrible) idea, how it inconsistently applies the threefold division of Law, and how it minimizes the completed work of Christ. Since writing that article, I’ve received multiple comments (some good, some bad) and have observed what appears to be a rising tide of those promoting the position. As a brief follow-up, I want to focus on why theonomy is a doctrine of ignorance and error.

6Some people have strayed from these things and have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

1 Timothy 1:6-7, NASB

When Paul was writing to Timothy, he instructed Timothy to teach sound doctrine and to be careful of those who had turned aside to teach things they knew nothing of. While it may sound harsh, I believe theonomists are committing a similar error. I want to be clear that I do not automatically count a theonomist as a false teacher or heretic. There are many who are dear brothers in our risen Lord. However, the underlying concept and method being employed does share a common vein. They continually make proclamations of Law while understanding nothing of it. In fact, while promoting error, they typically do not even do it with any form of consistency, which I will briefly highlight. While this won’t be an exhaustive refutation of theonomy, my hope is that it will be enough to cause the reader to question it.

Undoubtedly, anyone who has ever encountered a theonomist has likely heard the person employ Matthew 5:17 as the definitive prooftext.

17Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. 18For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished!

Matthew 5:17-18, NASB

I guess that settles it. If not even the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until heaven and earth pass away, the argument must certainly be over! After all, I’m still here typing this article instead of enjoying eternity with our Lord. Then again, maybe there might be more to the story.

by abolishing in His flesh the hostility, which is the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances,

Ephesians 2:15a, NASB

In this, we are explicitly told Jesus abolished “the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances.” This is just another way of saying the Ceremonial Law has been abolished. The word used for “abolished” is καταργέω (G2673). It carries with it the idea of an external force putting a stop to something. For all my cessationist brethren out there, it’s the same word used in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, where Paul speaks of prophecy and knowledge being done away at the coming of the perfect. This poses quite the dilemma for the theonomist who desires to use Matthew 5:17 in an all-encompassing manner. Clearly, Christ has abrogated, at a minimum, a part of the Law. Therefore, the verse can’t possibly be saying no part of the entirety of the Law (Moral, Civil, and Ceremonial) will be abolished before heaven and earth pass away, as the Ceremonial Law was abrogated in His death, burial, and resurrection. It necessitates and “all or nothing” approach be deemed inadequate and incorrect.

With the Ceremonial Law being out of the picture, that leaves the Moral and Civil Law. While it could very well be that Christ was only referring to those two, with the Ceremonial Law being explicitly removed from the topic at hand, it does open the door to the possibility that another one may be on the chopping block as well. In fact, I will make the assertion that the Civil Law no longer applies either and that we are only bound to the Moral Law. While I believe the the “commandments expressed in ordinances” refers to both the Ceremonial and Civil Law, a case can still be made to one who disagrees.

One thing that must be kept in mind is that the Civil Law was only given to ethnic Israel. It was given for the purpose of preserving a people for the coming Messiah. Even before the Law was given to mankind, God’s Moral Law still existed and sin was still in the world (Romans 5:13). This is because it’s universal law that applies to all of humanity. Unlike the Moral Law, the Civil Law was only given to a specific people for a specific purpose. Not once do we see the early Church calling believers to uphold the Mosaic Civil Law. You can search until your eyes bleed but you won’t be able to find a single verse advocating for it. This is because they were not bound to it. Conversely, we do see Jesus making proclamation that the entirety of the Law rests on God’s Moral Law (Matthew 22:37-39).

At this point, we can see the Moral Law is the foundation of all binding law. We’ve also seen how the Ceremonial Law has been abolished. While there is no single verse that speaks to the abolition of the Civil Law, there is a clear example of who was and was not bound to it. Yet, we are all bound to the Moral Law. Of course, this isn’t to say the Civil Law doesn’t have any virtue to it. As I made clear in last year’s article, I’m not promoting antinomianism. Even the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith recognizes the Civil Law has a certain moral use to it through its general equity. But this does not mean believers are bound to observe it. This is because Christ fulfilled it in His active obedience. Believers are grafted into Him and His fulfilling of the Civil Law. There is only one aspect of the Law that we are now bound to: Moral Law.

Even among those who uphold this position, there tends to be uncertainty. Of course, we’re finite creatures living before an infinite God. Questions are certainly going to pop up. As stated, certain aspects of the Civil Law are helpful when held to the Moral Law. We are to strive for obedience in our duty to God (Commandments 1-4) and our duty to fellow man (Commandments 5-10). In our duty to man, we are not to murder, steal, covet, etc. These are all helpful and beneficial to society. But it does not mean we are to implement abolished Law in order to achieve it. While I may not agree with implementing the Civil Law, I also contend that applying morality to legislation is not synonymous with legislating morality. We can never make the unbeliever righteous by forcing him to obey the Civil Law. In fact, even if he were to follow it perfectly, he would still be unrighteous because it would not be with the motivation of obedience to God. In this case, even his perfectly kept legal standing would be as filthy menstrual rags (Isaiah 64:6). The only way to achieve righteousness is to be in Christ. Nobody in Christ should ever seek to bring back that which He has fulfilled. What we should be doing is seeking to demonstrate our love for Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15).

We should strive to obey the Moral Law, not out of selfish ambition but out of a love for God. Because we love God and seek to obey His commandments, we apply the second table of the Law to legislation out of a desire to obey the first table, but the first table should not be legislated itself. While the Law does serve as a mirror, the first table should be proclaimed, not legislated. For instance, some may say we should outlaw working on the Sabbath in order to help prevent someone from reaping God’s wrath for practicing a Fourth Commandment violation (Exodus 20:8-10). But this would be no different from outlawing non-Christian places of worship in order to prevent a First Commandment violation (Exodus 20:3). It simply is not what we see prescribed in Scripture. To make an argument to the contrary is to make an argument from silence, while defending error born in ignorance of the Law and what it teaches.

~ Travis W. Rogers

THE WRATH OF GOD: Eternal or Temporary?

WEEPING AND GNASHING. If you’re a Christian, this phrase should mean more to you than merely what happens when your team loses the Super Bowl. The idea of weeping and gnashing of teeth is meant to fill one with dread over the terrors of hell. By the grace of God, He chose to save me from such a final destination so that I love Him and glorify Him forever in worship. Just as a recognition of our depravity should wake us up to the need of a Savior, the knowledge of hell should drive our praises of His lovingkindness and mercy. So what does that make of those who deny the eternal torment of unbelievers? For starters, it minimizes what they have to be thankful for. Instead of being thankful for salvation from eternal misery, they can only be thankful that they get to partake in eternal worship. But will those who end up having their souls destroyed really care in the end? Obviously not.

I recently had a very short discussion with someone who was promoting the idea of the total annihilation of the soul. He felt like eternal torment was outside of God’s character. After all, how could a God of love be willing to torment anyone for all of eternity? Such a perspective is severely lacking in the understanding of the very thing they seek to question: God’s character. While God is indeed a God of love, He is also a just God who has repeatedly stated that He will pour out His wrath in judgment. The person just couldn’t wrap his mind around God tormenting people for eternity. He felt such a view was unbiblical and an affront to God. To justify his position, he used Matthew 10:28 which says:

And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 20:28, NASB

While I was able to see why that verse, if isolated from the rest of Scripture, could be interpreted in that way, to do so requires a very low view of Scripture and is lazy. Aside from lazy study habits, such an interpretation places the emphasis on the wrong word. Instead of emphasizing DESTROY, it should emphasize COULD. The verse in Matthew isn’t saying God will destroy the souls of unbelievers. The context is about the power of God. But just because God CAN do something, doesn’t mean He WILL do it.

There are plenty of places in Scripture that speak of eternal torment in Hell. The common theme is that there is eternal destruction (1 Thessalonians 1:9) in an eternal fire (Matthew 25:41) that cannot be quenched (Matthew 3:12). While believers will enjoy everlasting life, unbelievers will face everlasting contempt (Daniel 2:12) through eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46). The smoke of their torment shall go up (Revelation 14:11) and they shall be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).

Or we can just believe God is lying to us and that He’ll actually just annihilate the souls of unbelievers and let them find their peace. After all, that’s exactly what it would amount to. Upon final judgment, those who reject Christ would now find their peace in annihilation. While believers get to glorify God forever, it’s not like unbelievers are really missing anything. Going back to the Super Bowl analogy used above, it would be like me not caring who wins after I die. I’m dead. I’ll have absolutely nothing to care about at that point. If I’m going to be annihilated with zero cognizance or existence, why do I care what happens after that? The eternal bliss of the unbeliever would essentially match the eternal bliss of the believer in Christ. Such a view only minimizes the importance of repentance and faith in Christ. There’s a reason Scripture is so clear on the matter. It’s not only a valid scare tactic, but it is also an exposition of righteous judgment from a just God.

Reader, I care deeply for your soul and want nothing more than to worship God in eternity as we bow before a mighty King (Psalm 93:1) and merciful Father (Luke 6:36). Just as eternal life means eternal life, eternal fire means eternal fire. It’s not merely reserved for the devil and his demons. If this were so, there would be no reason for dire warning. If you do not know Christ as Lord and Savior, take heed of this warning as it is from no less than God Himself. Time will come for us all.

~ Travis W. Rogers

Roman Catholicism: Doctrines of Error

Last week (CLICK HERE), I wrote on some of the differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. We learned that Roman Catholicism is not part of orthodox Christianity. We reviewed their own declarations from the Council of Trent as well as the Catechism. Today, we are going to focus on what Scripture has to say regarding some of the other doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic Church. As was the case with last week, this is not meant to belittle anyone simply because they have a different faith from ours. It is merely meant to point out the differences from a Scriptural perspective to further your understanding of the Truth. I agree with the below statements by the great theologian:

I neither hate you nor despise you; nor do I wish to persecute you; but I would be as hard as iron when I behold you insulting sound doctrine with so great audacity.

John Calvin (to Michael Servetus)

A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.

John Calvin

As always, my goal is to proclaim the truth of Scripture in light of Scripture alone. Sola Scriptura! Our first area we are going to touch on is the doctrine of purgatory. This is one I feel most have heard of but few properly understand.

All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation, but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1030

If you die in the love of God but possess any stains of sin, such stains are cleansed away in a purifying process called Purgatory. These stains of sin are primarily the temporal punishment due to venial or mortal sins already forgiven but for which sufficient penance was not done during your lifetime.

Handbook for Today’s Catholic, page 47

According to Roman Catholicism, all men die with a stain of sin. The only exceptions to this are infant babies who have been baptized and the saints who were deemed exceptionally holy. All others are blemished with sin even until the point of death. As a result of this, one cannot enter into the joy of heaven until he has been purified. This purification is as by fire. Catholicism does not rely primarily on Scripture for this doctrine. It is a doctrine that stems from their own teaching which they refer to as Sacred Tradition. It is also a doctrine that comes from the Apocrypha, which is included in the Catholic bible, but it is not found in the Protestant Bible. These deuterocanonical books can be used as history lessons but they were written by fallible men and are not to be included among the inspired Word of God. However, they have attempted to fit it to Scripture by referencing various passages. One passage in particular is from 1 Corinthians.

If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15, NASB)

In essence, the doctrine of purgatory teaches that one is to live a good and holy life, but that he will eventually end in a state of sin with the need to be purified by fire and cleansed from the stain. It’s ironic that false teaching would stem from a verse that is actually referring to the danger of falsehoods by teachers and hollow teachings that contain zero eternal value. Before I get into the doctrine of purgatory as a whole, I’d like to touch on a couple other areas: penance and indulgences.

Like all the sacraments, Penance is a liturgical action. The elements of the celebration are ordinarily these: a greeting and blessing from the priest, reading the word of God to illuminate the conscience and elicit contrition, and an exhortation to repentance; the confession, which acknowledges sins and makes them known to the priest; the imposition and acceptance of a penance; the priest’s absolution; a prayer of thanksgiving and praise and dismissal with the blessing of the priest.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1480

The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.” Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1468

In other words, penance is a part of the process of reconciliation. We become reconciled to God through a string of actions on our part. We earn the grace of God by the works that we complete on this earth. According to Catholicism, the proper way to be reconciled to God is by being greeted and blessed by a priest, reading Scripture in public, and confessing our sins to a priest. It is by this method that one can attempt to achieve a state of holiness so as to reduce the amount of time they have to spend in purgatory. After all, isn’t the goal to get to heaven as soon as possible?

All of this ties into indulgences. While penance is the active process of sanctification and obtaining holiness and the good grace of God, indulgences are the method of obtaining forgiveness for sins already committed. It is not actually a way of obtaining forgiveness of the sin itself, but rather a method of spiritual stain removal. Penance is preventative whereas indulgences are corrective. Like penance, indulgences are meant to reduce the amount of time one has to spend in purgatory. This is done by drawing from what is known as the Treasury of the Church, also known as the Treasury of Merit. Just as the Roman Catholic faith is based, in part, upon works, these same works are stockpiled in a heavenly storehouse where merit can be drawn on by members of the Church. However, all drawings of indulgences are given through the Church by its priests through official sacraments.

Penance and indulgences are both a form of works based salvation. They deny the efficacious atonement of Christ and places it in the hands of the priests. Regarding penance, the Catholic Church tells us we can perform works to earn justification and be considered righteous. However, Scripture tells us nothing of the sort. Scripture is very clear when it says we are not saved by our works (Galatians 2:16) nor is there anything we can do to justify ourselves. It is faith alone (Romans 5:1) through the blood of Christ (Romans 5:9) that makes us righteous (Romans 4:3). We are not justified by penance and indulgences. We are justified by His blood. The doctrine of penance and indulgences clearly detracts from the atonement provided in the blood of Christ. It removes the sufficiency of Christ and amounts it to nothing more than a fraction of plan of salvation. Interestingly enough, a certain apostle battled a type of people similar to this.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13, NASB)

John was combating a particular type of crowd in his day. That crowd was the Gnostic movement. They taught a secret knowledge that was pertinent to salvation that only they could reveal. John speaks boldly and bluntly in his use of the word “know.” He wanted the readers to understand that there was no hidden knowledge regarding salvation. It was cut & dry. They could KNOW whether or not they were saved. They could be confident! The Roman Catholic Church functions in much the same way as the Gnostics. They say, outside of the Catholic Church, there is no preservation from error. They say, outside the Catholic Church, one cannot be saved. Sure, this is not the spoken word taught today but it is to be understood so long as they affirm the declarations of the Council of Trent that we went over last week. They teach that they have a hidden knowledge that is preserved within their organization (which they claim to be Christ’s only Church). It is only through the priests that this knowledge and revelation can be shared and experienced. It is modern Gnosticism in more ways than one.

Not only are indulgences unbiblical, they were also created as a money making scandal. In the early Church, indulgences were often sold to the people. The people would bring the priests money and the priests would then offer up indulgences on their behalf. These indulgences would often be purchased for the dead in a hope to speed up their time in purgatory so they could enjoy the peace of heaven. Indulgences were sold in the form of time periods. There were basic indulgences sold during the Mass that would shave time off of purgatory for basic sins. Additionally, there were more expensive indulgences offered by bishops. These would only be available to certain people in higher financial standing. Of course, if it meant getting to heaven faster, isn’t it worth it to give some money? You can’t take it with you, after all, right? On top of this, the quality of the pardon varied based on the motives of the priests. If they didn’t have the proper attitude while performing the sacrament, the quality was reduced. Of course, they were collecting money from people so the sacrament was not considered null and void. It was just reduced in effectiveness. An undisclosed amount of time would still be shaved off purgatory just for going through with the hollow ritual. Because a man’s heart is only known by God, it made sense to keep repeating it over and over just in case. On top of that, nobody knew how long a man would spend in purgatory. Again, it only made sense to keep paying for indulgences in hopes that you would free your dead loved ones from the fires of purgatory as well as avoid having to go there yourself. As long as you pay, you can enjoy the riches of heaven in an expedient manner. So long as you perform works in the Church, purgatory will go by much faster for some than for others. However, if you really care about the others, you can help them out by paying some more. This is the grim reality of how it all started. Things may have changed over the years but the roots still remain.

All of this leads to the concept of purgatory and how it completely assaults the concept of grace and forgiveness in Christ. Since we already covered the basics of what purgatory is all about, I now want to go over the Scriptural response. As Christians, we have no fear of going anywhere but heaven, as there is no condemnation awaiting us (Romans 8:1). Paul had no fear of death. He knew the moment he left his body, he would be at home with the Lord experiencing the joy of heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (John 19:30, NASB)

The Greek word used here is teleo, and it refers to something coming to an end. Regarding monetary matters, the word was used to refer to a payment of debt. Christ was saying that all debt was considered paid in full. Through his blood, there is no more debt. Why is it that the Catholic Church teaches otherwise?

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:27, NASB)

This verse looks like it could almost be used to justify purgatory. Isn’t it saying there is judgment after death? Can’t it support the notion of God judging us to an intermediate place of purgatory to be cleansed of the stain of our sins? Most certainly not! That is what the blood of Christ perfected! Let’s revisit that ever-popular fire from 1 Corinthians 3:15.

If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15, NASB)

Upon death, there will indeed be judgment from God. For the unsaved, this judgment will end in eternal death and suffering of hell. For the saved, this judgment will result in eternal life with the Father. However, our works will be judged as well. They may not play a part in our timeline from death to heaven but they most certainly affect our rewards in heaven. Instead of attempting to find out the meaning of 1 Corinthians 3:15, the Roman Catholic Church invents a meaning in order to make it fit their pre-existing doctrine of purgatory. It is dangerous practice to invent doctrine and then make Scripture fit. If it is not explicitly in Scripture, it is to be excluded. This is the very essence of the Regulative Principle of Worship, as well as the intent of Sola Scriptura.

Again, Paul is not saying one must be purified in purgatory. In those days, fire was the method of removing the dross. Dross is all the waste product of metals being purified in fire. Let’s look at the entire passage.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, NASB)

Notice it is not saying that a man must perform works or else be saved through the fires of purgatory. As I alluded to earlier, it’s speaking of the hollow teachings of men. The foundation of Christ had already been laid, yet some were building on the foundation with materials that were of zero reward. Perhaps it was their charm or a flashy stage, or maybe it was of some other valueless substance. The point is that, one day, the judgment of God will come to all. The atoning blood of Christ is the only thing that can save. This will be the first step. Among Christians, however, there is yet another judgment. This judgment will determine the eternal rewards in Heaven. While specifically referring to teachers, there is a certain universal application that can be extracted. We must always remain focused on Christ and things of eternal value. Outside of Christ, even our greatest works are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). In the Hebrew, this literally meant the rags used to catch the bloody flow of a menstruating woman. However, when we have Christ as our foundation, those works take on a whole new meaning. They may not purify us, speed up entrance to heaven, or work off past sins of others, but they do indeed build up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). In the Day of Judgment, all of our works will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10). The only ones to remain will be the eternal works in Christ. These works are described as being of even higher quality than gold (1 Peter 1:7). Gold and empty works will burn away, but our works in Christ will remain forever.

We are justified by faith alone (Romans 5:1, 8). The Roman Catholic Church teaches we must work for justification, work for heaven, and experience suffering by fire in order to reach heaven. Not only is this unbiblical, but it is also anti-biblical.

According to Romish theology, all past sins both as respects their eternal and temporal punishments are blotted out in baptism and also the eternal punishment of the future sins of the faithful. But for the temporal punishment of the post-baptismal sins the faithful must make satisfaction either in this life or in purgatory. In opposition to every such notion of human satisfaction Protestants rightly contend that the satisfaction of Christ is the only satisfaction for sin and is so perfect and final that it leaves no penal liability for any sin of the believer.

John Murray (Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, p.49)

Christ said it himself. It is finished (John 19:30)! Roman Catholic teaching does not believe this and, in turn, adds to the gospel. Anything added to the Gospel is a false gospel. Anything that adds to the finished work of Christ is a false gospel, and a false gospel is to be condemned (Galatians 1:8-9). To close with another excellent and highly relevant quote by John Murray:

This polemic against Romish blasphemy is just as necessary today as it was in the Reformation period. The atonement is a completed work, never repeated and unrepeatable.

John Murray (Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, p.51)

~ Travis W. Rogers

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