God or Satan? Choose Responsibly.

CHOICE. It’s such an enticing word. For most, it implies a sense of freedom. Yet, at the same time, it can be one of the most burdensome words to ever exist, as it can also imply responsibility and accountability. The primary theme of this article is going to be the sovereignty of God. In particular, we are going to go over man’s role in regard to the sovereignty of God. There are three basic positions on the subject:

1) If man has free will, God cannot truly be sovereign

2) If God is sovereign, man cannot be held accountable for his actions, as he has no free will

3) God is sovereign, yet man is still accountable for his actions

I adhere to the third option (I know, quite the shocker!). It’s my hope that, by the end of the post, all who read this will feel the same way. Before we get into man, we must begin with God. We know God is sovereign because the Scriptures tell us so. Before we go into the Scriptural backing, let’s define sovereign. Dictionary.com defines sovereign as “having supreme rank, power, or authority.” Scripture fully supports this idea when it says God sovereignly rules over all (Psalm 103:19) and works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). He rules over all the kingdoms of the nations (2 Chronicles 20:6) and no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2). We can clearly see that God is in control at all times. He is sovereign!

It is not merely that God has the power and right to govern all things but that He does so always and without exception.

John Piper

This sovereignty flows into all areas. Nothing escapes it. As Psalm 103:19 said, “His sovereignty rules over all.” In this case, all means all. This isn’t about all types of things or all of a certain category. This is about all of creation. Every facet of creation is intricately controlled by God. From the casting of lots (Proverbs 16:33), to the sparrow that falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29), to the vapors of the earth and weather conditions (Psalm 135:6-7), He controls all. Even Paul writes of being set apart from his mother’s womb and called to preach among the Gentiles (Galatians 1:15-16).

Most people don’t take issue with the teaching of God’s sovereignty so long as it is spoken of in these terms. Up until now, all the verses have been describing God and leaving man out of the picture. Man naturally likes to live a guilt free life. Nobody likes a buzz kill. It is unfortunate that, even by many in the Church, God is viewed as sovereign so long He doesn’t interfere with our own free will. Such a concept is entirely unbiblical and is to be rejected. Not only does heaven and earth fall under the sovereignty of God but so do we as people. The Lord rules over all things; even mankind. This becomes no clearer than in the predetermined plan of the cross.

this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (Acts 2:23, NASB)

Even the crucifixion was ordained by God. Notice what is taking place in the verse above. It says that godless men will put him to death. Godless men will nail him to a cross. Both of these things imply man will make the choice to perform a wicked act. However, take note that it only takes place because of the predetermined plan of God. It also speaks of His foreknowledge. Don’t be confused. God didn’t ordain His plan based on choices He knew man would make. Rather, He knew the choices man would make because He foreordained it to be so.

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. (Acts 4:27-28, NASB)

This just drives home the previous point. Both Herod and Pontius Pilate had gathered together to go against Christ. In fact, they were not alone. Scripture says the Gentiles and people of Israel had gathered as well. There were countless people rising up against Christ. This was of their own doing and their own choices. They had made the decision to put Jesus to death for his claims. Again, however, notice that it says they were only doing whatever God’s hand and purpose had predestined to occur. While they were making their own choices in life, there was only one way it would play out. God had decreed it to be so and that was the end of it.

Another example in Scripture of God’s sovereignty mixing with man’s choices is in the story of Joseph, in Genesis 37:18-22. I’m sure most of us are familiar with the passage. It’s the part where Joseph’s brothers are conspiring to kill him. This was a free and open dialogue between siblings. Their discussion wasn’t being coerced or pushed in any direction. It wasn’t being moderated. They were freely coming up with a plan to murder Joseph. At the same time, Reuben took it upon himself to talk them into sparing his life and throwing him into a ditch, or pit of some sort, instead. On the surface, it appears they are free to do as they wished with nothing else to lean on other than their own desires. While it’s true that they were coming up with this plan on their own, there is more to the story.

Joseph was rescued, sold into slavery, and eventually took on a prestigious position under the pharaoh. None of this was by accident. Scripture is clear that God had a plan and that plan was good (Genesis 50:20). After all, we’ve been given the promise that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

While Joseph’s brothers were free in the choices they made and the actions they took, they only made these choices because God had decreed it to be so. God is always in charge. Sometimes He actively takes part in an event such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah whereas most times, He allows man to freely make decisions and choices. However, even when left to freely make decisions, they are always within the constraints of God’s sovereign plan and purpose. Why then do so many cling to the false premise that God is limited in His sovereignty when it comes to matters of salvation?

To argue that God is “trying His best” to save all mankind, but that the vast majority of men will not let Him save them, is to imply that the will of the Creator is impotent, and that the will of the creature is omnipotent.

A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God

While I firmly believe salvation falls under the sovereign decrees of God, and I believe Scripture when it says all who are appointed to eternal life will believe (Acts 13:48), I don’t intend on getting into a lesson on God’s Election. While it is true that only those whom God has called unto Himself will respond to the call of Christ, I want to focus on those whom He does not call unto Himself. Are these men condemned because of God? Should they be given a free pass? Can they possibly be guilty if they were never given a fair chance or opportunity? No, no, and yes!

While they are indeed condemned, it is certainly not because of God. These men will never choose Christ because God has ordained that they will not but this does not mean God is responsible. Each man is still held accountable for his actions, as we saw earlier in the cases of the crucifixion, as well as in the example of Joseph’s brothers. There is no free pass to be given because each man is guilty to begin with. Compatibilism is the term used to describe man’s responsibility as it meshes with God’s sovereignty.

One would be remiss to think man has no responsibility for his actions. God has made very clear that the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, as is the wickedness of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:20). Just as our words justify, so do they condemn (Matthew 12:37). Throughout the totality of Scripture, there is a clear distinction being taught between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. While there is no doubt that God is sovereign, and all things only come to pass because He ordained it to be so, it is equally as true that man makes his own choices without being forced or coerced. Man’s choice will always be the outcome that God decreed, but man will gladly make it. This is because man is bound by his nature and that nature is wretched and fallen. Our hearts are evil from our youth (Genesis 8:21) and are more deceitful than all else (Jeremiah 17:9). The unregenerate love darkness (John 3:19) and hate the Light (John 3:20).

If it sounds totally depraved, that’s because it is. That’s the state of the unregenerate natural man. We simply follow our nature. Before salvation, we were slaves to sin (Romans 6:17). We had no choice but to give our all to sin. However, this was not done in a begrudging manner, as we did it with pleasure. Our hearts were evil. Our hearts were deceitful. Our deeds were evil and we hated the Light. We hid from the Light lest our evil deeds should be exposed (John 3:20). Our natural inclination was to sin. We were in bondage to sin but we enjoyed every minute of it. This is why we are still found guilty for our sins despite following God’s sovereignly decreed plan.

While once enslaved to sin, we are now enslaved to God (Romans 6:22-23). The unregenerate man, despite being in full accord with God’s sovereign decrees, is still found guilty and deserves death. He works as a slave to sin and, as a result, he will be paid death for wages. It is what we all deserved as we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Thankfully, God chose us and called us unto Himself. This does not make us perfect but it does make us His own. When we sin, we are covered by the blood of Christ. It’s the blood that justifies and saves (Romans 5:9) in accordance with God’s calling and election (Romans 8:30).

We still sin daily in our battle with the flesh but we will not see Hell for it. We have been justified by the blood of Christ. His blood alone has fully atoned for our sins. There is no more debt. The blood was not merely hypothetical, but actual. In Christ’s sacrifice, there was a substitutionary atonement taking place on behalf of all who would put their faith in the death, burial, and resurrection. However, just because we are covered by the blood does not mean we are to abuse our justification. Paul makes it very clear that we are not to sin so that the grace we fall under may increase (Romans 6:1-2). We are now free of the chains of the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). This is where we differ from the unregenerate man. We have a new nature in Christ whereas he does not.

Reader, do you love God? If so, do you feel as if you are being forced to love Him against your will? Just as we love God and desire to serve Him with all we have, so does the unregenerate man hate God and desires to hide from the Light. Even if an unsaved individual says he is not at war with anyone, his refusal to submit to the authority of God proves otherwise. A man cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). He is either for God or he is against God (Matthew 12:30). Both sides serve their masters willingly yet both sides do so only because God has declared and ordained it to be so. God is sovereign yet we are responsible.

…we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.

John Calvin, Bondage and Liberation of the Will

~ Travis W. Rogers

Train Like You Fight, Fight Like You Train: Are You Ready for War?

WARFARE. It’s an ugly thing with very real consequences. Far too many soldiers have been brought home under the cover of the flag. Some never made it home at all. Having spent 20 years in the military, and four deployments to the Persian Gulf, I understand what goes into preparing for war. A service member isn’t just given a weapon and told to go to work. There’s months, sometimes years, of training involved. My first two years in the military were spent in training. As with all service members, I started off in boot camp. Over a period of eight weeks, we were broken down and rebuilt in a military culture. For the remainder of these two years, I was dedicated to learning the intricacies of the AEGIS weapon system, including the capabilities, limitations, and technical details of how to operate and repair it. Even after reporting to my first ship, there was still more training. There’s safety, basic seamanship, damage control, etc.

I’m reminded of my first deployment in 2003. We were still in the recent aftermath of 9/11. President Bush had just given an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein saying he could either leave Iraq, or that his refusal, “will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing.” That time came in the middle of the night as my ship was ordered to send several Tomahawk Cruise Missiles into Iraq. The remainder of that deployment was spent with a heightened awareness that we were living in a time of war. We were required to carry our gas mask kit everywhere we went. Each kit contained atropine and 2-PAM chloride in case we encountered a Chemical/Biological/Radiation (CBR) environmental attack. I vividly remember waking up in the middle of the night hearing the alarm for General Quarters (a condition that is set when the ship is either under attack or is in need of all hands to man their stations to save the ship). I went from being sound asleep in my rack to hearing everyone yelling to ensure nobody was still sleeping. Sailors were flipping on lights and running through passageways, boots still in hand and only being halfway dressed, in an effort to get to their GQ station. We went from most Sailors being asleep in their racks while the night watch held things down, to being fully manned and the ship’s material condition being set for watertight integrity, in what I seem to recall being roughly seven minutes. Thankfully, it was all just a drill set in motion by our Commanding Officer. We had been routinely taking over 15 minutes during our previous drills and he wanted to see what we would do when we thought we were truly under attack.

By now, you might be wondering what all of this has to do with Christianity. Why am I taking us all on a trip down memory lane? It’s because, all too often, Christians live their lives as if it’s all just a drill. Far too many have the approach of “let go and let God” instead of having a spirit of diligence (2 Peter 1:10), on the alert (1 Peter 5:8), standing firm against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11). I remember being told I study things to death and that I should just love Jesus. While there is certainly a danger in treating God as an academic topic, searching the Scriptures is commendable (Acts 17:11) and is our primary way of coming to know Him, while also equipping us to identify and flee from error.

If you were told you were going to be dropped into the Middle East as part of a convoy, I think it would be safe to assume you would want to know everything you possibly could. You would suddenly be an expert on geographical topography, statistics of attacks in the region, proper body armor, convoy movements, weapon familiarization, etc. Any knowledge which might increase your chances of making it home alive would be welcomed and valued. Why, then, do we not treat our daily lives the same way? Scripture is very clear that we’re in a very real warfare environment (2 Corinthians 10:4). Instead of fighting against earthly forces, we’re fighting against the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and the spiritual forces of wickedness (Ephesians 6:12).

Just as with military preparation, we need to prepare ourselves for the spiritual battle that we will be waging our entire lives. It’s an ongoing battle that would lead any to the point of fatigue and failure if left to their own devices. But God has not left us ill-equipped. In the military, the responsibility of leadership is to man, train, and equip. To apply that analogy to our Christian walk really isn’t that far of a stretch. In fact, there are many similarities. I’d like to take a moment to review each point.

MANNED: No Christian is called to walk alone. God has given us His Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail over it (Matthew 16:18). We are a band of brothers and sisters in arms who are called to sharpen one another (Proverbs 27:17). It’s through the encouragement of fellow saints (Hebrews 10:25) and holding one another accountable (Matthew 18:15-19) that we can count ourselves as properly manned in this fight.

TRAINED: It’s this point that I’ve been harping on since the beginning of this article. No service member gets dropped into war without being thoroughly trained beforehand. However, just because one is trained doesn’t mean there is no longer a need for continual training. Toward the end of my career, while I was the one training my Sailors, I was continually learning as well. The same goes for our combat readiness when it comes to spiritual warfare. Just because we may consider ourselves to already know about something doesn’t mean we can’t use the reminder (1 Peter 1:12-13). On a practical level, how often have you found yourself tuning out of a sermon that’s on a passage you’ve been over a thousand times? This is absolute arrogance and serves as evidence as to why we need to continually be in the Word. If the threat were bullets flying into your chest, you would never approach training in such a way. Yet, when the threat becomes eternity in hell, there seems to be an attitude of complacency. Perhaps this is because hell seems like an academic topic and the actual threat is taken lightly. Then again, maybe it’s because we have security in Christ and feel it’s not that important. If even the apostles refused to hold such a position, I highly encourage anyone who may be entertaining it to rethink where they stand on such matters. Do you know better than Peter or Paul? Our manual is the bible and we’ve been called to study it with diligence while accurately handling it as the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Submit to your church elders and be involved in the body of Christ. Through this, you will not be relegated to training in isolation. You’ll be afforded the joyful privilege of training as a cohesive unit, joined together in the power of our risen Lord!

EQUIPPED: Just as a military leader can hold the knowledge and training experience, if he neglects to properly equip his Sailors, he has failed them. God has taken care of everything from start to finish. He has given us His Church to be manned. He has given us His inspired Word that we may be trained. He has also given us his Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16) that we may be properly equipped. It’s only through the Spirit that we can truly understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14) and be guided in all truth (John 16:13). By the Spirit revealing the truth to us in accordance with Scripture, we are thoroughly equipped (2 Timothy 3:17) to perform every good work that is pleasing to God (Colossians 1:10).

Throughout my career, we had a saying: Train Like You Fight, Fight Like You Train. Through the continual drilling of ourselves, we can be ever ready for the real battle. Paul ran the race in such a way that he would win (1 Corinthians 9:24). He fought, not as if he were shadow boxing (1 Corinthians 9:26), but as if he were truly fighting the enemy. How do we prepare and train? It’s through the reading, memorization, and meditating on the Word that we can prepare ourselves for battle. This is exactly how Jesus overcame Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Each time, Satan tried to tempt Jesus that he may lure Him into sin. Yet, in each desperate attempt of the evil one, it was the authoritative proclamation of the rightly divided Word (2 Timothy 2:15) that he was defeated.

May we continually press on and fight the good fight of faith and take hold of eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12). If you feel you may be neglecting your spiritual training, I hope you’ve found encouragement in this reading. I exhort us all to take seriously the charge to assemble with fellow believers (Hebrews 10:25), that we may remain steadfast in times of trial (James 1:12), and persevere until the end (Matthew 24:13) that we may one day be with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4) and know Him fully as we are fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

~ Travis W. Rogers

How Shall We Live? Reminders for Life!

In last week’s article, we went over Jude 1-13. While we learned that Jude was the brother of Jesus, we also learned this was not a point that Jude felt he should brag about. In fact, he doesn’t even mention it in his letter. Jude felt his calling was to be a bondservant of Christ. He felt it necessary to teach of a certain group of men within the Church. These men were apostates and false teachers who, though appearing to belong in the Church, actually acted as nothing more than weeds dragging everybody else down.

For this article, I’d like to continue with Jude and dive into the remainder of his message. He wasn’t content telling us what to beware of. His message wasn’t wouldn’t be complete until he also told us how we are to live for Christ. He tells us what to watch out for and then goes on to tell us what to become. Just as with last week, I’ll refrain from posting all of Jude 14-25, for the sake of brevity. Again, I invite you to open your bible and follow along as we venture down this trail.

Jude 17
But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Note how Jude refers to us. He calls us beloved. This wasn’t merely an impersonal message to church members. It wasn’t a memo to be passed around. It was a deeply personal message written to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no stronger bond than that of Christ. In calling us “beloved” we can feel the sense of love and concern that he was putting forth. He stresses the importance of remembering the words spoken by the apostles. In Jude’s day, this was done through verbal traditions. These words would have been passed on by word of mouth and held on to dearly. If anything, we are in a much better position because we have the Word of God. Jude didn’t have a New Testament to turn to whenever he felt the need to recall something. He was helping create the New Testament through inspired and authoritative writing.

Many people say Scripture memorization is only for intellectuals with great memories. This is completely untrue. If this were the case, it wouldn’t be commanded by God in His Word. This isn’t to say we need to know all of Scripture verbatim. It just means we are to be able to recall the teachings of Scripture as a whole. The only way to do this is to habitually be in the Word. the more we’re in the Word, the more comfortable we’ll become in our quest to know what it says. It’s by treasuring the Word in our hearts that we can remain pure and blameless (Psalm 119:9,11).

Jude tells us to remember the words spoken before us by the apostles. Psalm 119 tells us by keeping the Word of God in our hearts, we can avoid sinning against God. This is because it is by His Word that we are to live. Many years ago, I heard the quip that BIBLE stands for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, but it’s so much more. It’s our only true and unchanging guideline and standard by which everything else must be judged.

Jude 18-19
that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts. These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

As we covered last week, these men are in the Church but they are not true believers. They are not followers of Christ. They follow after whatever doctrine fancies them at the time. They blow about with the wind. They crash like wild waves. They are dead both inside and out. However, we also have to remember that they were appointed by God for this condemnation long beforehand as Jude 4 tells us. Last week, we learned how to spot them. This week, we are learning how to not become like them.

Jude 20a
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith,

We are called to build ourselves up. Simply residing on a foundation is not enough. Imagine buying a piece of property. You seek out the absolute best contractors to get a perfect foundation laid. You ride them day and night to the point where they are exhausted. You refuse to give them water when they are thirsty and you beat them when they show signs of weakness. In the end, the contractors achieve what they set out to do: create the perfect foundation. There isn’t a crack or imperfection to be found. It has been finished. Would you be content with this foundation by itself? Would you set up a tent and then call it a day knowing that you had the perfect foundation and needed nothing else? The purpose of a foundation is to prepare for a building. The better the foundation, the stronger the building will be able to hold up to the ground beneath it.

Jesus is our perfect foundation (Ephesians 2:20). We beat Him to the point of exhaustion and, when we appeared to be on top, nailed Him to the cross. We may not have been there in person but we still shout, “Crucify Him!” on a daily basis in our actions. We murder our Savior day in and day out when we are called to build upon him as our perfect foundation. While false teachers and apostates have no root, we are to be firmly rooted in Christ, being built up and established in our faith (Colossians 2:7).

Not only are we called to build up ourselves but also to build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11). We are to encourage one another and care for one another. This is the exact opposite of what the apostates were doing. They cared only for themselves. This is because they lacked the one thing needed to truly care for someone other than oneself. They lacked love.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29, NASB)

Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. (1 Corinthians 8:1b, NASB)

In the above verse, the Greek word used for “edifies” is oikodomē. It literally means to build up. We are to constantly be in a state of building. We are to build ourselves but we are also to build our neighbor. It is through love that edification can occur and it is only in Christ that we can truly love as it is meant to be.

Jude 20b
praying in the Holy Spirit,

The idea of praying in the Spirit has taken on many interpretations. Some feel it’s a supernatural prayer language. Others feel it’s the gift of tongues. However, neither of these are accurate, and they completely miss the point of what Jude was trying to say. Praying in the Spirit is simply having the Spirit pray through us. The Spirit is not some foreign deity that we have to seek out. He literally dwells within us (1 Corinthians 6:19) and guides us in our sanctification. God is a Holy God. There are many times when we may feel like we fall short and don’t deserve to go before such a Holy God. The great news is that though Romans 3:23 confirms this truth, God wants us to come before Him regardless. When we have absolutely no idea what to pray for, we are to pray that the Spirit will show us what to pray about (Romans 8:26). He will intercede on our behalf as the Helper (John 14:16). Even if there are no words to be expressed, God knows our hearts. The Spirit will move us to be holy, set apart for God. Again, to pray in the Spirit is simply to have the Spirit pray in us.

Jude 21a
keep yourselves in the love of God

Note the change in instruction here. Building ourselves up in faith and praying in the Spirit are things we are to do, but this is not the end point that Jude is making. Everything he urges us to do points to the end goal of keeping the faith. He doesn’t simply say, “Keep the faith,” while leaving us in the dark. How do we keep the faith? We keep the faith by building ourselves up and praying in the Spirit. We keep the faith by keeping our focus on God at all times and growing in Him.

While keeping in the love of God, know that it isn’t a system of legalism that does it. We can’t work our way into God’s favor. It’s by the grace of God alone that we can enjoy being in His love. While we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), that doesn’t imply works will earn us salvation. It means we are to live for God each and every day under His grace (Acts 13:43).

While we are to keep ourselves in the faith, it’s God who keeps His children. He has promised to never let any of His children go (John 6:37, 10:28). He has promised eternal life. Not only is it a promise to His children but it is a promise that has already been fulfilled. Those who are His have eternal life. However, there are many who supposedly fall away from the faith, not just for a short time, but for real. The fact of the matter is that these men never had real faith, were never children of God, and were only deceiving themselves. This is why we are called to not only build ourselves up but to also build up one another. Edify one another.

Jude 21b
waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

While living each day for God, we have a greater hope of the future in the return of Christ (Titus 2:13). We are made in the image of God and there will be a day when we will be glorified as Christ was also glorified following his resurrection. John says the one who anxiously looks forward to the Second Coming purifies himself to the same degree in which Christ is pure (1 John 3:2-3). Keeping our sight on God with anxious expectation is a sure fire way to sanctify oneself, edify the Church, and keep ourselves for God.

Jude 22-23
And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

Jude tells us we are to have mercy on some. The “some” that he refers to appear to be broken down into three different groups of severity. While we’re to show mercy to those in each group, each requires it for a different reason. Additionally, each group necessitates we take different precautions when interacting with them.

Jude 22
And have mercy on some, who are doubting;

These people appear to be your typical lost person. They have their doubts and aren’t quite ready to take the leap of faith just yet. Just as God was merciful on us, we are to be merciful on them. As Christians, we are called to be fishers of men. By showing mercy and compassion, we are showing them the love of Christ. These men would fall under your basic evangelism and witnessing.

Jude 23a
save others, snatching them out of the fire;

These men are also doubters but to a much severer degree. They are on the fast track for Hell as we all once were. These men need emergency intervention. They need a bit more focus and dedication to be swayed to truth. At one point in time, we were all bound for Hell. All mankind has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The wages of this sin is death (Romans 6:23). However, God saved us from the flames to spend eternity worshiping Him in His court. Shouldn’t we turn around and do the same for others by spreading the Gospel and preaching Christ crucified at every opportunity?

Jude 23b
and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

This third group would be the false teachers and apostates that we spoke of last week as well as the beginning of this article. These men are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Instead of building others up, they tear them down. We’re still to have mercy on them in that we preach the Gospel to them but we are to do so with a certain sense of fear. When handling these types, be careful not to be dragged down in the process. How many relationships have you heard of where the girlfriend dated an unbeliever hoping to convert him only to be dragged away from the faith as a result of being unequally yoked? Take an instance such as that and multiply the dangers. We should hate everything that these doubly dead men stand for but we should not let that get in the way of our mission of being fishers of men. Personally, I do not recommend a new believer speak with these people. Should a new believer come across one of these types, I would urge him or her to be loving but get away and refer him to a more mature believer in the faith.

Jude 24-25
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

After everything that Jude had to say to us, he finishes it out with praise to God. All of these are reasons for us to worship the Living God.

God has promised to keep us for Himself. In fact, even verse 1 tells us we are kept for Christ. We may face temptation but this does not mean we have to stumble. When God is our foundation, we can stand firm in Him. When we stand firm in Him, we will follow His ways and His commands which will result in standing blameless before Him. Think of the joy of Christ telling us, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest.” It is only through Christ that we are reconciled to the Father. To God, through Christ, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority. In Christ, it is finished and eternity awaits us.

~ Travis W. Rogers

Doubly Dead: Danger Ahead!

DANGER. It’s a term not to be used lightly. While we, as Christians, look forward to eternal peace with the Father, in the Son, our present environment comes with no shortage of danger. In particular, I’d like to focus on the spiritual danger imposed by false teachers and apostates. To set the stage, we’ll primarily be in Jude. Jude is a small epistle consisting of only a single chapter. However, in that one chapter is a very important lesson that we all need to learn. As hinted at, it is the subject of apostates and false teachers within the Church. For the purposes of this article, our focus will be on Jude 1-13. We’ll simply address each verse individually as we paint the scene.

Jude 1
Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:

First of all, we see that it was Jude who wrote this epistle. As it is written in verse 1, we can see that Jude is the brother of James. However, James was not his only brother. He was also the brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55). Some doubt Jude’s family ties by saying he would have mentioned Jesus instead of James in this verse, but it is commonly held that James was simply practicing humility. He could have clearly bragged about his relations with Christ. Instead, he lowered himself to nothing more than a bond servant. If we look at James 1:1, we can see James describes himself in the exact same way.

Knowing who it was written by is equally as important as knowing who it was written to. Verse 1 tells us it was written to believers. This was not a message for anybody who had ears. It had an intended audience. Jude had a word for believers, and by God’s grace it has been preserved for us. Notice how it describes believers. It doesn’t simply give an Arminian tag such as “one who chose Christ,” or “one who sticks around.” It goes much deeper than that. Anybody who has ever had the chance to speak with me knows that I am a Five-Point Calvinist through and through. This is because I firmly believe this to be the conclusive truth of Scripture. In fact, even Jude 1 appears to stand in favor. It says he is writing to those who are called and those who are kept for Jesus Christ. What exactly is meant by these words?

Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, (1 Corinthians 1:1a, NASB)

To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (John 10:3, NASB)

“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14, NASB)

and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:30, NASB)

We can see those who are called are much more than just publicly invited to something. As per Revelation, they are also chosen. As per Romans, they are predestined. Jesus is the Shepherd. He knows His sheep by name. He chose us before the foundation of the world to be His. We have been called by God.

Not only are all believers called by God before they come to Him, once called, they are also kept by God in Christ (John 17:11). No one can snatch us out of God’s hand (John 10:28). It’s His will that, if we are given to Christ by the Father, we will also be raised up on the last day (John 6:37,39; 1 Peter 1:5). Our salvation begins and ends with God. In the opening statement, Jude professes more truth than we’ll hear in an entire Leighton Flowers lecture.

Jude 2
May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.

This is a very common opening that we see in many of the other epistles. However, it’s not merely an introduction. Mercy, grace, peace, and love are all promises of God. It’s only by His mercy and grace that we, as wretched sinners who were bound for Hell, are saved at all. Scripture calls God our peace (Ephesians 2:13-14a). We’re called to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6). If we have any concerns at all, we’re to cast them on God (1 Peter 5:7). He loves us so much that He died for us (Romans 5:8), and He desires to take every bit of anxiety away from us so that He can be our complete peace.

Jude 3
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Here, we can see Jude is urging his fellow believers to contend earnestly for their faith. Paul used similar wording in his epistles when he tells us to fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12), and to run the race in such a way that we win (1 Corinthians 9:24). Though we’re contending for our faith, it’s not something that we’re striving to obtain. The following verses demonstrate the nature of this.

By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10, NASB)

and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:30, NASB)

Notice that it speaks of sanctification, justification, and glorification in the past tense. Saving faith is something that has already been completed in us through Christ, once and for all. The faith for which we are contending is simply our walk with God. Paul urges us in 1 Corinthians to not continue in sin for the sake of abounding in grace. We are to increase in our love for God, walk with God, and knowledge of God. This is only accomplished by continually staying in the Word as well as being in fellowship with other mature believers. We’re to continually fight the good fight. It’s in fighting this good fight that we will find ourselves equipped to recognize false teaching and steer clear of lurking danger that attempts to sweep people away (Mark 13:22).

Jude 4
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

False teachers were all over the place. In fact, they’re still all over the place. We see numerous places in Scripture where they are spoken of as having infiltrated the Church in a silent manner (Galatians 2:4; 2 Peter 2:1). Their goal was to learn about our ways so that they could pretend to be like us while pulling others astray. They introduce destructive heresies and teach things that take glory away from God and place it elsewhere (CLICK HERE FOR MORE). These people were getting to know their enemy, so to speak, even if they may not have thought about it in that way. Certainly, some false teachers are obvious to even the casual believer. Some of these include heretics such as Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, etc. However, there are others who are in error while drawing in masses of ignorant (and I use the term in the most loving way possible) believers. Some of these teachers include Steven Furtick and Beth Moore. Even with what seems to be an unending mine field of false teaching, and we need sound teachers and pastors to assist us in navigating through it, we shouldn’t be deceived into thinking they are there by accident.

A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. (1 Peter 2:8, NASB)

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (Romans 9:22, NASB)

While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. (John 17:12, NASB)

No, these men are not here by accident. Similarly, those Jude had in mind weren’t there by accident either. They were appointed by God’s sovereign will to be the foul apostates that they were. Even Judas Iscariot is described as the son of perdition. His whole purpose was to be destroyed. The Greek for “of perdition” is apōleia. It literally means annihilation. He was created to betray Jesus and then be completely and thoroughly destroyed. It goes so far as to say he was a child of utter annihilation. He was born to it. In all of this, God’s glory is made known through his power and wrath.

Jude 5
Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.

Jude speaks of the future of unbelievers. This ties into the beautiful companionship of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Though all things are set in motion and held in place by God, the unbeliever destroys himself in his rejection of God and constant state of sin. We don’t hear about Hell very often in the Church today. Jonathan Edwards gave a sermon in 1741 called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Over the years, while being acknowledged as one of the most powerful sermons of all times, it has been the subject of backlash among bitter Christians who desire a feel-good Gospel. Even if we think we are familiar with sound doctrine, it needs repeating (2 Peter 1:12). A pattern you might notice in my articles is that I quote many verses over and over again over a period of time. I also touch on many core doctrines repeatedly. There is nothing wrong with this. Both Peter and Jude were under the impression that, despite already knowing certain teachings, it’s important to repeat them and remind fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This is how we remain sharp as we fight the good fight before us.

Jude 6
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day,

Here, Jude refers to another group who rebelled against God and will one day be destroyed for it. It’s the fallen angels who followed after Satan.

Most of us know the story of the fall of the angels. Lucifer was an angel who rebelled against God, and, in fact, wanted to be God. As a result of his disobedience and rebellion, he was cast out of heaven and one-third of the angels were cast out with him because they chose to follow Satan instead of God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Revelation 12:4a). The result was being cast into pits of darkness, reserved for judgment (2 Peter 2:4). This is no minor event as it set the stage for the very fight we’re told to keep up.

Jude 7
just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

Jude continues with his theme of the relationship of rebellion and destruction. Just as God will destroy the fallen angels, He also destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah by fire for their perverted lusts, homosexuality, etc. We will be held accountable for our actions. While sin can be satisfying to the flesh at the time, we will reap nothing but death from it. Danger abounds!

Jude 8
Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.

The “these men” that Jude speaks of are the same men he spoke of in verse 4. They are the apostates who are in the Church posing as brothers and sisters in Christ. Jude just finished speaking poorly of the fallen angels as well as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Note that he now refers to these men as performing many of the same acts. Yet somehow these men are within the Church! It may seem hard to believe that someone like this could possibly blend in among us but it happens all the time. Refer to the above examples if there is any doubt. This is why we need to know how to spot them. We need to stay grounded in the Word so that we can know how to properly discern truth from error.

Jude 10
But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.

Verse 8 says these men speak harshly of angelic majesties and of God. Verse 10 goes on to say that, despite being in the Church and acting like a Christian, these men do not understand the ways of the Church. If they truly understood, they wouldn’t have been acting the way they were. Though this is to be expected from the natural man in his unregenerate state. It’s simply not possible to understand the things of God unless you first have the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). All these men know is the evil of their unregenerate nature and that is the very thing that destroys them. In the end, they will be held accountable. They sin abundantly so that grace may abound. Paul tells us this is the exact opposite of how a Christian is to live his life.

Jude 12-13
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

There is a lot to be said in these two verses. On the surface, a lot of it can be confusing due to all the metaphors. Because of this, I want to break it down piece by piece.

Jude 12a
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves;

These men care only for themselves. They are as the shepherds of Israel who were feeding themselves while forsaking the flock (Ezekiel 34:2). They don’t care about the Christians within the Church, nor do they help them when in a time of need. They blend in with us but only take for themselves. They look out for #1.

Jude 12b
clouds without water,

Just like clouds without rain, these men are empty on the inside and serve no purpose (Proverbs 25:14). They revile the things of God yet often claim to be “holier than thou” in their quest for preeminance and glory.

Jude 12c
carried along by winds;

They are not rooted in the Word but go with many new doctrines and blow every which way. I’m reminded of the tragic downward spiral of Francis Chan as he seems to continually be carried about by every wind of doctrine and by the trickery of men (Ephesians 4:14). Look out at the overgrown grass in a field on a windy day. The grass will sway in one direction for a little while but, before you know it, it begins swaying in a different direction. As the wind changes direction, so the grass changes with it. The same is said of the men Jude is referring to. There is no absolute truth to these men. There is only what tickles their fancy at the time. There is no root. We are not to be like these men. We are to be rooted in the Word. A helpful tool that can greatly assist those who may be struggling as they seek to systematize their doctrinal position is an orthodox confession or creed. I highly recommend the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689).

Jude 12d
autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted;

Now picture the trees toward the end of autumn. The leaves begin to fall off. In fact, most trees can even look as if they are dead. If you didn’t know any better, you would guess it was never going to be green again. However, in time, leaves begin to sprout and flowers begin to blossom. It’s not so with these men. Not only do they appear to be dead on the outside, they are truly dead on the inside. They have no root in Christ at all. This shouldn’t come as any surprise. Jesus said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted” (Matthew 15:13).

If we remember earlier, Scripture plainly told us that these men are not here by accident. They may be responsible for their current status but they were appointed by God long beforehand to bring God glory through His wrath. They may be silently wreaking havoc within the Church for now, but there will come a day when God will uproot every one of them and destroy them. Though they may not yet be physically uprooted, spiritually speaking, they are already dead. In fact, Scripture refers to them as doubly dead; dead on the outside and dead on the inside. There is no fruit on a plant that has no root. These men are the ones Christ refers to when He speaks of the unforgivable sin in Matthew 12. They have no hope. They have seen the grace of God in the Church. They have broken bread with Christians. They have enjoyed the blessings of the Church. Despite all of this, they do not understand the things of the Spirit, do not have faith in Christ, and revile the things of God. There is no hope whatsoever of them ever coming to repentance and there is no other way to deal with them but to cast them out of the Church as one would pull a weed from a garden. The problem is in spotting them.

I’m reminded of the garden my wife was trying to grow. She had planted a few different types of seeds and flowers. Over time, the seeds sprouted and things began to grow. She was particularly proud of one that seemed to grow more than the rest. She didn’t remember planting it, but she thought it was a wild plant that happened to land there somehow. She briefly looked it up in a book and came to the conclusion that it was a certain type of wild flower. This thing grew to be as tall as our children. One day we had a neighbor over. He asked us why on earth we had a weed that was as tall as that one. My wife was shocked and slightly embarrassed. Neither of us knew what it was. In fact, we thought it was something it wasn’t. Yet, somehow, this friend was able spot it for what it really was: a weed. Sometimes, something is able to blend in and seem like the real deal while, in reality, it’s doing nothing more than killing what is around it while thriving on its own.

Jude 13a
wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam;

These men are not at peace. Jude calls them wild waves of the sea. Isaiah uses the same descriptive terms when speaking of the wicked (Isaiah 57:20-21). They have no control or order to them. They crash about randomly on their own with no guidance.

They boast in their own folly (Proverbs 15:21). They profess to be wise as if it will make them look prominent. However, it is this same “wisdom” that brings them shame and destroys them (Romans 1:22). If you look carefully at false teachers, the common thread is that they seek glory, have showmanship, and take their follower’s eyes off of sound doctrine. Their end state will certainly be destruction (Philippians 3:19).

Jude 13b
wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

As we reviewed above:

A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. (1 Peter 2:8, NASB)

“While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. (John 17:12, NASB)

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (Romans 9:22, NASB)

Not only are these false teachers/apostates bound for Hell but, in God’s sovereignty, it is actually reserved for them! Do not be like these men. We’re called to live for God and serve Him with everything we have. If we say we love God, we are to truly act it out in our every day lives. Be careful in the things you teach to another and always check yourself to make sure that you are God-oriented and not self-oriented. Learn to spot those whom Jude was speaking of so that you can accomplish what he so strongly urges.

Jude 3
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

~ Travis W. Rogers

I Am the True Vine

Let’s be real: Jesus was no stranger when it came to speaking in parables and confusing language. In fact, we’re even told the purpose of much of it was to prevent some from hearing and believing the truth (Mark 4:10-12). But what was Jesus getting at when He said He was the true vine? Was this just another riddle meant to confuse the self-righteous, or was there a deeper meaning behind it? For this post, I’d like to focus on the seventh “I AM” statement made by Jesus in John 15:1-6 and break down exactly what Jesus was talking about.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

John 15:1-6, NASB

Verse 1
Using the analogy of the vine and vineyard was nothing new. John’s use of it is actually a play on the Old Testament.

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel.” (Isaiah 5:7a, NASB)
“Israel is a luxuriant vine;
(Hosea 10:1, NASB)

In John’s gospel, we see Jesus going above and beyond by calling Himself the true vine. There is far more to this than a mere analogy. Through careful wording, He is proving that He is the fulfillment of the promises given to Israel.

14 O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You;

Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine,

15 Even the shoot which Your right hand has planted,

And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself.

16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down;

They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.

17 Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand,

Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.

18 Then we shall not turn back from You;

Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.

19 O Lord God of hosts, restore us;

Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

Psalm 80:14-19, NASB

In verse 14, the psalmist describes Israel as the vine. Verse 15 says that it was God Himself who planted the vine. Though Israel was meant for great things, we see verse 16 says they were perishing. In verse 17, he pleads with God to show His mercy and grace. In fact, he pleads that it would be done through the Son of Man. When Jesus says He is the true vine, He is saying He is the fulfillment of the promise made to Israel. Christ’s church is Israel fulfilled. The nation of Israel was a foreshadowing of the vine to come: Jesus! He is the true, authentic vine and it is the Father who is the caretaker.

Verse 2
This is often used by people to make a case for losing salvation. However, when taken in context with the rest of Scripture, it falls short. The phrase “takes away” comes from the Greek word airo (ī’-rō). The word translated into prunes is kathairo (kä-thī’-rō). Kathairo has multiple meanings. While it does mean to prune, it also means to cleanse of impurity. Jesus is not telling us we are to live a works based faith lest we be cut off. He is actually telling us how we will know one another and is giving us a hope that we will grow in Him. Those who are cut off are those who we are warned of throughout Hebrews as well as in Jude. They are those who appear to be Christian within the visible church but have never truly become members of the invisible Church through faith. They are the apostates and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Jesus promises to cut them out completely lest they sap the strength from the rest of the fruit in the vine. For the true believers who will produce fruit, He will also cleanse and prune them so that they will be even more fruitful. The analogy would have hit home back then because the major fruit grown were grapes in the vineyard and this was exactly how it was done, and for the same reasons. We see a similar warning in Matthew 15:13 where it says, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted.” Those planted by God WILL bear fruit.

Verse 3
Here, Christ is telling us how we are to be cleansed. In fact, we see him using the word katharos. This is the root of the word kathairo used in verse 2. He tells us we will be cleansed by the Word (John 17:17, Ephesians 5:26).

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17, NASB)
“so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” (Ephesians 5:26, NASB)

Verses 4-6
By now, you should be seeing the simple fact that we have a complete and utter dependence upon Christ. We may act in obedience, but it’s always in complete reliance upon unity in Christ or else it is of no value. Scripture gives plenty of examples of our unity in Christ and the relationship that follows.

Foundation & Building
“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11, NASB)
“having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:20-22, NASB)

Head and Body
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 6:15a, NASB)
“And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,” (Ephesians 1:22, NASB)

Husband & Wife
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7, NASB)

The union between the vine and the branches is one in which no branch can produce fruit apart from the vine. Unless the nutrients are flowing freely, a branch will wither and die. The use of the word “abide” goes to show that salvation has already taken place in the individual. It is not something that he is working toward. Apart from Christ, we cannot produce any good fruit. As a result, we can rest assured the fruit is not our own but is of the Spirit working in us. We have nothing of ourselves to boast about (1 Corinthians 1:31; Ephesians 2:9). If it were so, we would continue to produce good works apart from the vine and Scripture would be a lie. The Spirit alone produces the fruit in the believer and keeps the believer abiding in Christ until the end. For those who were never a part of the true vine but only appeared to be for a time, they will have their day of judgment. Verse 6 is quite clear they are cut off, thrown away as a branch, dry up, and are burned in the fire. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”

May we continually trust in the true vine and the vinedresser. Let us continue to stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24) while remaining steadfast in the faith of a risen Savior (1 Corinthians 16:13), letting the word of Christ richly dwell within us (Colossians 3:16)!

~ Travis W. Rogers

EPIC CHARGE: Duties of the Church Body

SUNDAY. It is a day nearly everyone has grown fond of. Whether it be the unbeliever who gets to enjoy a day off work, or the Christian who is looking forward to fellowshipping with other believers, it truly is a day to be recognized. Unfortunately, for too many believers, it tends to be the only day that is recognized. We go to church, sing some songs, listen to a sermon, give the pastor accolades if you felt moved, possibly partake in some lunch with friends, and then go back to the grind of daily life. Seven days later, the cycle repeats itself. Is it any wonder so many professing believers are falling away from the faith with claims of boredom and the like? Sadly, too many view church as a building where like-minded people gather to worship God. However, that could not be further from the truth.

The bible has much to say regarding the church, and not once do we see it speak of a building or 501(c)3 organization. The church is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). As such, we have duties and responsibilities to the rest of the body. If one part of the human body fails, it is no longer operating at full potential, and is handicapped. This can be seen in the plethora of churches that have disbanded over the years due to disputes, dwindling numbers, etc. It truly is a sad reality. Like the human body, as members of the body of Christ, the Christian is endowed with responsibility and obligation to assist in ensuring the body functions at peak capacity. After all, God deserves nothing less.

In the execution of this power wherewith he is so entrusted, the Lord Jesus calls out of the world unto himself, through the ministry of his word, by his Spirit, those that are given unto him by his Father, that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribes to them in his word. Those thus called, he commands to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which he requires of them in the world.

Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, Chap 26, Para 5

At the very core of the Church, there is a distinct implication of acting and doing. It’s not a matter of get saved and go to church. It’s a matter of obedience and joyful responsibility as we rest in the completed work of Christ, stirring up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Indeed, it’s far more than what we see being practiced in modern evangelical churches across the nation. Perhaps there is no greater and concise list of the responsibilities of believers in the Church body than that found in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-27. It reads as follows:

12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterance. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. 25 Brethren, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 27 I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-27, NASB)

The remainder of this post will simply be for the purpose of bringing some of these to light. According to the very Scriptures breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16), Christians are bound to the following:

  1. Respect and appreciate your pastors/elders (v.12)
  2. Esteem highly your pastors/elders (v.13)
  3. Live in peace with one another (v.13)
  4. Admonish the idle and unruly (v.14)
  5. Encourage the fainthearted (v.14)
  6. Help the weak (v.14)
  7. Be patient with everyone (v.14)
  8. Do not repay evil for evil (v.15)
  9. Seek good for others (v.15)
  10. Rejoice always (v.16)
  11. Pray without ceasing (v.17)
  12. Give thanks in all things (v.18)
  13. Do not quench the Spirit (v.19)
  14. Do not despise prophetic utterances (i.e. preaching) (v.20)
  15. Examine all things carefully (v.21)
  16. Hold fast to good (v.21)
  17. Abstain from evil (v.21)
  18. Pray for others and leaders (v.25)
  19. Greet brethren in love (v.26)
  20. Read the Scripture together as brethren (v.27)

I encourage us all to take an introspective look and evaluate whether we are functioning in accord with our high calling and purpose. If not, begin to ask why that might be the case. Maybe your church simply does not have a high enough view of the glory of God. Perhaps, it does not know how to function as Christ demands. If this is the case, I encourage you to speak with your elders and pray that a fire would be ignited that would lead to a desire to worship Christ aright by functioning as we ought. Then again, perhaps your church is doing all these things. In that case, I highly encourage you to continue doing so but to do so in love, lest you become like the church at Ephesus who had lost their first love (Revelation 2:4).

One thing is for certain: it’s not possible to function as a cohesive body, meeting at the requirements above as a labor of love and obedience, if Sunday is the only day we choose to even give it a passing thought. The duty of the Christian is a high calling indeed, but it is also the greatest of privileges we will ever know. The very idea that Christ would entrust us with this most important duty should humble all of us and spur us on to give him thanks. Brothers and sisters, especially in light of current events, heed the voice of the author of Hebrews as you meet, pray, love, support, and encourage one another.

not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:25, NASB

~ Travis W. Rogers

In the Face of Judgment

JUDGMENT. It is a word we see thrown around quite a bit. Whether it be from casual sinners telling other Christians to “Judge not,” or the hardened heart declaring, “Only God can judge me,” it has become all too common of a word. My fear, however, is that the commonality of the word may be causing us to lose our fear of it. I have even heard judgment being mocked by atheists as they laugh about the party they’re planning on throwing in Hell.

Of course, all of this is to be expected to some degree. After all, how can one care of judgment if they first care even less of God? We live in a fallen world where, of ourselves, there is not one righteous among us (Romans 3:10). In our natural state, we simply lack the ability to understand the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14) and, instead, desire the will of our father, the devil (John 8:44). In such a state, is it any wonder we reject the things of God and choose to mock His authority?

judgment-001

Ultimately, mocking holds no value or authority. Nor does the power and authority of God wane because of it. No, such scoffers will indeed be held accountable. They will be judged with a righteous judgment that should be feared. But what of the Christian? Does this mean our fear should subside and be replaced with apathy? Certainly not! If anything, we should have an even greater fear because our eyes have been opened. By Scripture, we know what judgment entails and the very thought should shake us to our core. It should move us in such a way that we give thanks to God with no less gratitude than that of a man would thank someone for saving his life. In fact, even that level of gratitude would be insufficient as God chose to sacrifice His own Son in order that our lives would be saved. If that doesn’t move you, nothing will.

With the plethora of movies out there that aim to depict the horrors of Hell, they all pale in comparison to the reality of what the lost will one day find. Scripture describes judgment as a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28), a furnace (Matthew 13:42), melting (Psalm 112:10), outer darkness (Matthew 8:12), and unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43). Through fire and brimstone, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their perversion and rejection of righteousness. Yet, when Jesus spoke to the people of Capernaum, he said even the judgment of Sodom would be more tolerable than what awaited them (Matthew 11:24).

What does this mean exactly? It means no amount of earthly disaster could ever compare to the eternal misery and death that awaits those who will be held accountable for their sin. In Luke 16:19-31, the rich man pled that he might warn his five brothers in order to prevent them from joining him in his place of torment, and that wasn’t even Hell (NOTE: perhaps a topic for another time). We have the luxury of still being here to warn others. On top of this, as I stated earlier, we should be so moved with emotion to do so that it flows from us like a broken tap. We don’t need to wait until it’s too late. The time is now!

Hell is not reserved for the worst of the worst. One need not commit genocide in order to receive final judgment. It merely takes a denial of the Son. Scripture is clear that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and all have done so (Romans 3:23). The Reformer, John Calvin, did not mince words in his distinguishing between mortal and venial sins. He took the heretical teaching of Catholicism and turned it on its head in a way we should all hold dear.

Here they take refuge in the absurd distinction that some sins are venial and others mortal; …. Thus they insult and trifle with God. And yet, though they have the terms venial and mortal sin continually in their mouth, they have not yet been able to distinguish the one from the other, except by making impiety and impurity of heart to be venial sin. We, on the contrary, taught by the Scripture standard of righteousness and unrighteousness, declare that “the wages of sin is death;” and that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die,” (Rom. 6:23; Ezek. 18:20). The sins of believers are venial, not because they do not merit death, but because by the mercy of God there is “now no condemnation to those which are in Christ Jesus” their sin being not imputed, but effaced by pardon.

John Calvin, (Institutes, III.4.28)

The only refuge for one moving toward judgment is that which is found in Christ. While it is true that believers and unbelievers alike will be judged, the believer has been justified through faith and is pardoned as he rests in Christ’s active obedience. On the other hand, the unbeliever will face judgment with no advocate to come to his defense. As he rejects the Son, so the Son will reject him and judge him (John 5:22). My plea is that you won’t skip your next opportunity to warn your loved ones of the judgment they will face apart from Christ. When you see a stranger mocking judgment, pray that God will give you a spirit of boldness (Acts 4:31) and gentle correction, that he might turn from his wicked ways and seek Christ. Scripture is clear there is only one way to escape judgment. Don’t let it be your hidden secret!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

John 5:24, NASB

~ Travis W. Rogers

How Much Devil Should You Study?

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil

Romans 16:17-19

The above passage is one of many that deals with the topic of biblical separation. The doctrine of separation is unpopular enough as it is, but the verses of Romans 16:17-19 should be more unpopular still, because they take the doctrine a step further than places like 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, the Bible only applies the doctrine of separation to fellowship, but Romans 16:17-19 extends it to all the way to knowledge, so that we are instructed to be “wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” In an age driven by information, it may seem foolish and even offensive to suggest that sometimes ignorance really can be bliss, yet this appears to be what the Apostle is saying here. However, the title of this post, “How Much Devil Should You Study?”, is also not completely rhetorical. While Paul is admonishing us to avoid familiarizing ourselves with error to some degree, we will see that this prohibition is not so sweeping that it forbids knowledge of any kind concerning false worldviews. But this concession in no way vindicates those who rush headlong into the other pit; this text indeed rebukes those who make an idol out of learning. To discern the narrow path between the two pits, we will examine this passage in more depth and then compare Scripture with Scripture to uncover the full meaning behind the Apostle’s words.

The Text

The most pertinent part of this passage for our purposes is verse 19b, which reads, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” We must discuss this verse in a little depth, because its rendering by several popular translations obscures its meaning. What the KJV, NKJV, Geneva, and others translate as “simple,” many others translate as “innocent.” This doesn’t necessarily change the meaning of the text (which can be thoroughly established by the context in either case) but it makes it somewhat less clear, and opens the door for people to try to interpret it like the NLT’s paraphrase of a “translation” does, which renders 19b as, “I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong.” That is not what the text says, which reads identically in the Greek regardless of what underlying Greek text you use. The Greek word in question is “akeraious” (ακεραιους). The “a” in akeraious serves the same function as the “a” in ahistorical or atheist (both words have Greek origins) – i.e., the “a” is a negative prefix, and would be like placing a “not-” before the word. Keraious is believed to be a derivative of kerannymi, which means “mix” or “mingled.” According to its etymology, then, the literal meaning of akeraious would be “not-mixed,” which is indeed its primary definition given by Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. In secular works, it was often used to describe things such as pure metals – things that were not mixed with other substances. But beyond this primary meaning, however, it also has a strong moral connotation. The word behaves in precisely the same way as the English words “pure” and “simple” do, both of which – in their literal sense – suggest something that’s “undiluted,” “uncompounded,” or “unmixed.” But, just like akeraious, they have moral connotations that often extend beyond their literal meanings, so that something can be described as “pure” that may in other respects be quite complex.

Given this information, is “innocent” an inaccurate translation of akeraious? Well, it’s not so much inaccurate as it is incomplete, or – at the very least – somewhat presumptuous. There may be contexts where it’s clear that only the moral connotation of the word is in view (Matthew 10:16 would be an example), but that’s not the case in Romans 16:19. On the contrary, the preceding verses are precisely about avoiding evil deceivers (i.e., not mixing with them), and as a consequence we are unmixed concerning evil. No doubt the moral connotation is also there, but it’s there on account of – not at the expense of – the literal, primary meaning. In other words, Paul indeed is saying that he wants the Romans to be innocent concerning evil, but they would be innocent by virtue of being simple concerning evil. Since “simple” already possesses both an analogous literal meaning and an analogous moral connotation to akeraious, it’s a perfect translation of the word in this context. This understanding is further supported by the fact that Paul is clearly juxtaposing akeraious with the word translated as “wise” (sophous [σοφους]) for the purpose of contrasting them and advising a contrary course of action. Rather than having the Romans to be wise concerning the evil (as he would have them be concerning the good), Paul wants them to be the opposite of that, because the opposite of good demands an opposite approach. But “simple” – and not “innocent” – is the opposite of wise, and so the contrast Paul makes would make little sense if we understood akeraious to only mean innocent.

The context might be even more decisive than the meaning of akeraious. In the 21st Century, it may be easy to imagine how we could mark and avoid those who cause divisions, and yet remain well-educated concerning their doctrine. However, in Paul’s immediate context (and the context of the vast majority of Church history for that matter), this would be an impossibility for nearly all of the Church. Most people in Paul’s days were illiterate, and couldn’t exactly Google the arguments of nearby heretics if they avoided them. In those days, to avoid a group of people would be to virtually guarantee that you would never hear their perspective except as reframed by those on your side. With this in mind, it almost doesn’t matter how one tries to bend verse 19, because the logical result of Paul’s instruction to avoid the Church’s enemies is that the people of God would be simple concerning false doctrine.

What he’s NOT saying

Paul is not saying that we should stick our heads in the sand and ignore the evil around us. He is not saying that we should be so intent on avoiding a confrontation with error that we retreat to our own bubbles that never interact with the world we sojourn in. On the contrary, Paul expressly denounces such hermit-like behavior in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, where he says, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.” As far as physical separation goes, Paul only instructs us to practice this when it comes to “any man that is called a brother” who is engaged in the above behavior (v. 11), but he does not encourage us to practice this in regards to those not numbered among us. We would need to leave the world altogether to do that. Accordingly, Romans 16:17-19 is likewise primarily directed at avoiding those who are falsely called brothers as well as their perversions of the Scriptures, even if the admonition to be simple concerning evil doesn’t seem to be entirely limited to that.

Paul is most definitely not advocating a total ignorance of the errors of this world. In regards to the Devil, the Apostle says plainly that “we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). There are many sections of Scripture that refer broadly to the pagan practices around the people of God, as well as to the workings of the enemy himself. God, in His wisdom, has seen it fit that His people should be aware of these things, so that we might be able to anticipate the operations of the one who opposes us. We are warned expressly about certain heresies which beset the early Church, such as the proto-gnostics that denied Jesus’ humanity (2 John 7, 1 John 4:2, etc.). We also see the Apostle Paul himself quoting a pagan philosopher to prove a point in Acts 17:28. All this would be impossible if we were forbidden to know anything about the systems of unbelief around us. How could we even avoid those like the proto-gnostics if we refuse to investigate them enough to know that they deny Jesus’ humanity? The same could be said of all other groups that deny the central tenets of the Christian faith. We can’t know that they’re in opposition to us without learning something about what they believe.

What he IS saying

He IS saying that we should be “simple concerning evil.” To be simple about something doesn’t mean that you know nothing, but it does mean that you don’t overly familiarize yourself with it. You should have a general sense of what people around you believe, and you should understand where the unbelievers diverge from the Faith and why what they believe is damnable error. You should understand the risk they pose to you, especially if there is any chance that their deceptions might creep into believing circles. But you can do all this and still be simple concerning their errors, because none of this should necessitate a deep dive into their teachings. Concerning the intricacies of their doctrine, you have learned enough when you have learned that they do not preach Christ crucified, and that they deny the simple Gospel that salvation is by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, according to the merits of Christ Alone. You have learned enough when you learn that they deny the central truths about who God is, who Jesus is, and what the biblical way of salvation is. You have learned enough when it becomes clear that people in this group need the Good News of Jesus Christ preached to them, and at that point this is what you should be concerting your efforts to do. If this is your approach, you can very easily learn what the Bible tells us is necessary to learn about systems of unbelief while also following the apostolic admonition to be simple.

The best way to learn what it means to be biblically simple is to look at the examples the Bible gives us to follow. If we confess that Scripture is indeed sufficient, and that it is capable of making us “perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:17), and also confess that apologetics is a good work, then we can expect to find the principles directing us how to engage in it within the Word of God. And find it we do, with confrontations between believers and unbelievers appearing throughout the Scriptures. Yet, in none of these cases do we find evidence of the saints doing intense research into the positions of the children of darkness. When Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal, there is no hint of him studying the details of Baalic worship, their preferred “sacred” texts, or their favorite festival days. On the contrary, he lets the power of God speak for itself (1 Kings 18:36-38). In the New Testament, whenever we see Christians give an answer for the hope that is within them (1 Peter 3:15), the reason they give is always through the authority of God’s Word and grounded in the reality of the Lord’s Resurrection. The closest we see to familiarity of unbelieving thought is the already alluded to verse of Acts 17:28, but this doesn’t fall into the primary category that Paul is concerned with in Romans 16:19; Paul, in Acts, is referencing a nugget of truth contained in the pagan poet’s writings, and not to the heretical distortions of Scripture that would be made by those he is instructing us to avoid. Chiefly, it is the depths of those Satanic distortions that Paul wants us to be simple of – he is not telling us to be simple concerning anything that just isn’t explicitly Christian.

The biblical precedent is clear; the best defense is a good offense. Rather than exhorting us to study evil, Scripture exhorts us to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We are told that the way “to stand against the wiles of the devil” is to “Put on the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:11), which is composed of the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the preparation of the Gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17). All of these things – which the Bible proclaims are effective against the Devil – are obtained from God through studying, applying, and receiving His truth into our lives. None of them stem from the study of evil.

Potential Objections

I anticipate that the greatest source of pushback against this post would stem from practical concerns. Perhaps one might ask, “How can we effectively persuade others to leave their errors without thorough research?” Or else they might say, “Will we not lose intellectual respectability with unbelievers? How will we be taken seriously if we timidly avoid those who disagree with us?” Neither of these objections are well-founded. The first one fails to understand the true means of converting sinners, which is the supernatural, self-authenticating authority of the Word of God, and not an exchange of ideas. To be sure, God often uses other means in the process and some of those means are legitimate. However, not all the means that God may work through in saving sinners are authorized for us to practice. As the saying goes, God is perfectly able to draw a straight line using a crooked stick, and sometimes those crooked sticks include seeker-sensitive worship services, charismatic revivals, and even “Christian” tarot cards in some bizarre cases. None of those are the least bit justifiable from Scripture. If you’re convinced that it “works” to thoroughly study evil when witnessing to the lost, you must show why this conviction legitimizes the practice anymore than Andy Stanley’s conviction would legitimize his unhitching of the Old Testament when he evangelizes, when both approaches are unauthorized. We must preach the Gospel after the pattern given us in the New Testament, which assures us that it is itself the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

The second hypothetical objection fails partly by misunderstanding the position advocated here, and also by striving for something the Bible repudiates as sinful. We do not avoid those who disagree with us, nor does the Apostle’s instruction demand that we run and duck for cover anytime we find ourselves in a situation where we begin to hear more about an aberrant view. Far from being timid, this position requires great boldness. It requires us to be confident that any detailed knowledge of the evil we face is unnecessary to overcome it, because our sword – God’s Word – is guaranteed to be more than sufficient to deal with any obstacle in our path. We are to be so confident in our General that there is no need to scout out the land of our enemies, for the battle is already ours. Whatever nuance, novelty, or sophistry the devil throws at us, we know that none of his adherents have an answer to one of the most simple questions: How will you stand before a Thrice-Holy God when you lie dead in your sins? The righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross for our sins remains the only means of abiding in the presence of the God who is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).

However, the objector would be right in saying that – if you follow this example – you will be looked down on by the world and lose intellectual respectability. But this is guaranteed for any man who simply believes the Gospel, let alone any other biblical doctrines: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). You can never obtain intellectual respectability with the world, and we are never instructed to pursue it. If we were to neglect the commands of the Bible for the sake of appearing intelligent, we would ultimately have to abandon the core truths of Scripture altogether. We should be more concerned with what God thinks of us than what man thinks of us.

Practical Motivations for the Doctrine

Why does the Apostle want us to be simple? As someone who has spent much of my time in the past absorbed in false worldviews, it isn’t difficult for me to understand potential motivations for the doctrine. Ultimately, I believe we shouldn’t fill our heads with too much error for the same reason we shouldn’t fill our heads with too much crass TV; it pollutes the mind. Even when you know the content you’re absorbing is wicked and false, that doesn’t stop it from seeping into your mind and popping up over and over again without your permission. The more you expose yourself to heretical perspectives, the more you ingrain them as permanent “voices” in your head, accompanying you as you read every passage, enter into every argument, and face every trial in your life, hoping to prey on your weaknesses. Sure, all error can be refuted and shown to not be built on the foundation of Truth, but that doesn’t stop it from sticking with you and constantly reasserting itself, even when you’re trying to do nothing else but reflect on the Truth you seek to defend. Little can be so corrosive to personal piety than when you are ceaselessly engaged in combating error at the very moment you are seeking peace and respite – in the regular reading of God’s sacred Word. Yet, this is precisely what the obsession with error can lead to, and it can seriously impede your ability to rest in the peace of Christ on this side of glory.

My purpose in writing this is not to encourage intellectual laziness, but to encourage intellectual rigor in the area that is much more profitable – in the study of the Truth. Who reading this will say that they have mastered the faith and are now ready to move on to mastering unbelief? The Bible is a well without a bottom and its depths can never be sounded out. We find more than enough armory to withstand whatever the devil may throw at us in it, and unlike the evils that beset us, we are always spiritually edified by anything we learn from Scripture. Why not seek to be wise unto the good?

I’m Not Simple Minded!

The book of Proverbs is full of pithy sayings that apply to the everyday, practical life of man. There are verses on taking bribes (Proverbs 15:27) or on being lazy (Proverbs 13:4). The book is meant to show its readers what it means to truly be wise in the sight of God. Being wise doesn’t mean that you have multiple college degrees or that you are able to explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but rather it is concerned with our relationship to God. It has to do with our moral disposition rather than an intellectual one. We see this in the first chapter of the book of Proverbs:

For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;

Proverbs 1:32 (NIV)

In this section of Proverbs, we see the foundation being laid for the purpose of the book. Everything that comes after this is based on these principles. Here Wisdom is calling for those to turn from their ways of foolishness in repentance that they may live. However, those who reject the way of Wisdom will die. Essentially, the contrast is being made between the believer and unbeliever. The believer follows Wisdom, while the unbeliever continues in their foolishness and perishes. This is the hermeneutical context we find ourselves in as we progress through the book of Proverbs.

Lacking Discernment

The book of Proverbs has sayings for aspects of our lives that we probably would not think would be included in God’s Word. One of those is in relation to critical thinking. We see this in Proverbs 14:

The simple believe anything,
but the prudent give thought to their steps.

Proverbs 14:15 (NIV)

Here we see Solomon addressing how we use our minds. There are two people that are mentioned here: the one who is simple and the one who is prudent or wise. Charles Bridges notes on this passage:

To believe every word of God is faith. To believe every word of man is credulity. Faith is a principle of infinite moment. Eternal life and death hang upon it…But it must be grounded upon evidence, and it can only be exercised according to the character and measure of the evidence. An indiscriminate faith is therefore fraught with mischief…Cautious consideration should mark our general conduct; trying before we trust; never trusting an uncertain profession.

Charles Bridges, Proverbs Geneva Series of Commentaries

This seems straight forward, right? Why would we not use critical thinking in our lives? Why would we trust everything we hear? The truth is, we are prone to do so. In our immaturity, there can be times where our minds wander to things that just are not true. This can be in the political arena where people fall into the traps of having an overconfidence is certain political leaders while ignoring clear problems that arise in their worldviews and lives. More importantly, this can happen in the church. There are those who lack discernment and are led by different doctrines without stopping to think about the implications of the teaching they are following after. This is where false teachers thrive. They prey on those who lack discernment. They feast on the simplicity of others. This mindset is dangerous. It is not only dangerous because of what it can lead to, but the very act of lacking discernment is sin. Remember, to be “simple” or “foolish” in the book of Proverbs is not an IQ assessment. It is a moral disposition. This means that to fall into the category of a fool or a simpleton is to live in sin and therefore like an unbeliever. God gave us our minds to use them, not throw them to the wind for some teaching, worldview, or political candidate we might fancy. We are to carefully think about how we live, ultimately doing so in light of the Word of God. And how can we do that? By doing what the Psalmist does:

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.

Psalm 119:9-10 (NIV)

Abortion: An Illogical and Unethical Conclusion

STOP! Before you read any further, please understand this post will be very different from most of my others. In fact, for being a Christian blog, you won’t find any mention of Christ whatsoever. However, I felt this was important enough of a topic to be worth sharing. The following is a thesis paper I wrote several years ago for a college class. The reason for the lack of Scripture references is because I believe, as writers, we need to write to our target audience. Unfortunately, mine was a secular audience. Though you won’t find direct biblical references, I’d also like you to understand that all logic comes from God. He is the one who has bestowed us with reasoning. Even more so, apart from God, there is no logic. As you read on, I challenge each and every one of you to see the Christian worldview lurking beneath the surface.

Abortion. It’s one of the few subjects that stir up controversy just by name alone. Rarely does a discussion on the matter end peacefully. Emotions run high and, before long, the discussion morphs into a debate which devolves into a heated argument. While unfortunate, it’s to be expected on some level. In fact, many refuse to entertain such discussions in an attempt to avoid the inevitable argument. Is this a reasonable solution? Should we just ignore the cases being presented and pretend nothing is wrong? Do we agree to disagree and let bygones be bygones? Is there really a way to settle a debate that has been going on for decades?

Before one can truly form an educated opinion on the topic, I believe a proper understanding of the history and background is essential. Regardless of personal belief or conviction, where there is a lack of understanding, foolishness is almost certain to ensue. This is the birthplace of ill-informed decisions and misconstrued opinions based on faulty knowledge. Out of respect for the issue, I would like to take a few moments to review some of the history. Though I wish we could journey through the intricacies of the past together, due to space restrictions, we’ll have to settle for a brief yet intriguing summary.

To begin, we first need to travel back in time to March 1970. There, we will meet a young woman who appears to be a relatively normal person upon first glace. Nothing seems to be out of the ordinary. However, what we don’t know is that she is a single pregnant woman who is seeking to terminate her pregnancy in a state that has strict abortion laws. This “ordinary” woman, Norma McCorvey, is about to be known across the nation as Jane Roe (Rose, 2008, p. 93).

Roe had just filed a lawsuit against the District Attorney of Dallas County, Texas “on behalf of herself and all other women” claiming that her right to privacy was violated when held against the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution (Rose, 2008, p. 93) and that the existing abortion laws were preventing women from receiving adequate medical advice (Hitchcock, 2007, p.49). After an arduous three year battle, on January 22, 1973 (Davis, 2004, p. 141), the court ruled that, “For the stage prior to approximately the end of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician.” and “For the stage subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.” (Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 163, 1973). Thus, abortion was now a private matter between the physician and the patient. Unless the patient was beyond the first trimester, there was little to nothing the state could do about it. Though the decision to terminate pregnancy ultimately rested within the hands of the physician, the power to choose was, for all intents and purposes, placed within the hands of the mother. Indeed, the future was about the change and, depending on your stance on abortion, it was either for the better or the worse.

So, here we stand today. It’s been forty-one years since the court’s decision and women have been free to obtain abortion-on-demand ever since. Likewise, the abortion debate has been waging equally as long, if not longer. As with all controversial topics, over the years, each opposing side has rallied with their peers to make their points, defend their positions, and stand their ground. In the beginning, I asked if this was a debate that could ever be solved. I dare say there is a plethora of ways to make the case that abortion is simply an illogical and inconsistent practice for anyone of sound mind. All we have to do is have the courage to peel back the curtain.

The reason it’s such a heated topic isn’t because of the nature of those discussing it. It’s because of the nature of the discussion itself. It’s more than trying to agree on fashion or debating which cereal tastes the best. Indeed, far more is at stake in this debate. We’re dealing with human life. Whether or not one wants to admit it, regardless of the outcome, the very basis of the discussion is the topic of human life and all that goes with it. Even further, it is a discussion on the sanctity of human life. The focus may drift from time to time but, in the end, it always comes back to this point. While I admit this may be a bold assertion, I also truly believe objective logic and reasoning will show it to be both the central and essential point of the debate. Interestingly enough, of all the “friendly” discussions I’ve had over the years, the topic of doctor/patient confidentiality has yet to come up. It seems privacy was just the force required to get the snowball rolling downhill. For the sake of moving forward, I feel it’s high time we review some of the arguments put forth by the pro-choice movement.

One common argument is that our country is already filled with neglected children and that we, as responsible adults, shouldn’t be contributing to the problem. Part of the support for this stance is the claim that children born of unwanted pregnancies are prone to social and interpersonal difficulties (Faúndes & Barzelatto, 2006, p. 39). This is just absurd when you really think about it. What do acceptance and ease have to do with life? Should we now be authorized to execute those whom we deem undesirable? Many have said it isn’t fair for a child to be brought into the world only to be rejected. Life isn’t fair but that doesn’t mean it ceases to be life. It is indeed a sad scenario when there is a young child who is neglected. We see countless stories of small children being taken away from their parents due to deplorable living conditions. Many of them even have disorders from years of psychological scarring. If one were to suggest we execute each one of these children as they’re discovered, he would be viewed as an even worse monster than the deadbeat parents. Why, then, do we see this as such an honorable option? How can one possibly suggest it’s nobler to destroy an unborn infant in an effort to prevent him from being born into an atrocious situation than it is to destroy a five year old who has been suffering in it for years? Why not end the misery of one and prevent the misery of the other? Where do we draw the line? Can it even be drawn clearly and distinctly? Of course, this may be a moot point if you aren’t of the persuasion that the fetus is a human life. Thankfully, this will be addressed shortly so I ask you to patiently read on.

Second, many have taken the stance that abortion is an adequate, though controversial, solution to overpopulation in our society (McKinney & Schoch, 1998, p. 133). Some have even gone so far as to take this approach and claim, much like hunting is the answer to overpopulation of a given species in the wilderness, abortion is the answer to overpopulation in society. Are we now comparing ourselves to animal control? Are we once again choosing who needs to go? Are we now playing judge, jury, and executioner based solely off our own personal and private desires? The opinion of mankind changes with every breeze. Some may say gang wars should be a legal form of murder so long as no innocent bystanders get injured. Is it possible others may feel we should allow people older than a certain cutoff age to be murdered? After all, they’ve lived their prime and are of limited usefulness in most cases so far as a productive standpoint is concerned. Of course, I don’t actually believe either of these and am only using them to make the point that killing other human beings isn’t the answer. That being said, I’ve heard some claim support of the latter option and that, in my personal opinion, is no better than the pro-choice camp as both are suggesting a certain group is less deserving of life than another particular group of people. Even Margaret Sanger, who was instrumental in the founding of Planned Parenthood of America, believed birth control, a term she coined, was instrumental in controlling the birth rate of those whom she deemed inferior (Axelrod, 1999, p. 128). Is this where we stand today?

Third, and perhaps one of the most common arguments, we’ve undoubtedly all heard the claim that a woman has the right to do as she pleases with her own body. While this sounds like a very solid point, it’s full of many holes. First and foremost, it isn’t her body we’re discussing. It’s the body of the child inside her womb. Nobody is trying to tell her how she is to cut her hair. Nobody is trying to tell her she can’t get a tattoo, sleep with as many partners as she pleases, or reserve herself for only one person. No, all of these are her rights and nobody can strip her of them. The pro-life camp isn’t oppressing her in any of these ways. She isn’t limited in the slightest when it comes to her rights. Yet, despite all this, she continually claims she is being oppressed. I suppose this all depends on how one defines oppression. If you define it as someone limiting your free actions in any way whatsoever, I would agree in full. Police officers are oppressing her. Lawmakers are oppressing her. In this case, any removal of choice without consequence would be defined as oppression. However, most would agree this is a necessary oppression to prevent us, as a society, from slipping into chaos and anarchy. Because of this differentiation, we must limit the definition of oppression to simply the limiting of one’s rights. Does one have the right to take the life of another? Countless court verdicts shout a resounding no. How can a woman possibly imply her rights are being violated if the only limitation is her ability to destroy the unborn child within her womb? This is not a violation of rights. This is not oppression. If anything, each person is guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence (US 1776). A similar assertion can be found in the Bill of Rights (U.S. Const. amend. V). Notice the key word: life. Before continuing, it’s only fair to point out that developing fetuses are not currently protected under the aforementioned constitutional amendment simply because they are not deemed to be people until the point of viability. This is the direct result of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade (Sproul, 2010, p. 41). However, while the court may have ruled that the fetus isn’t protected, does this ruling mean it shouldn’t be? Rights are imbued to us all as human beings regardless of our age. As for the right to life, there is zero justification for taking it away without due process in a court of law. Since the infant has committed no crime, any charges against it should be instantly dismissed. There simply is no case. In the end, it isn’t about a woman’s ability to do as she pleases with her own body. It’s about a woman’s inability to do as she pleases to the body of another. Once she becomes pregnant, it’s no longer about her body. This is just one of many red herrings meant to draw the attention away from the actual issue. Though, under our current laws, she may have the right to an abortion, we must always ask ourselves if simply having a right is synonymous with doing what is right. Furthermore, do we have the moral right to do that which is morally wrong (Sproul, 2010, p. 115)?

Fourth, there are those who simply do not believe the fetus to be a human life. Does this undo the pro-life stance? Is there any ground to stand on if the opposing side simply doesn’t believe the same? After all, we can’t force religion upon anybody. Is an atheist wrong if he doesn’t believe in God and, as a result, chooses to not implement certain practices into his life? This appears to be the case many within this mindset are making. Thankfully, it is just another hollow argument. The evidence is mounted against them as are their inconsistencies. I’ve heard the fetus compared to cancer. They say it’s nothing more than a clump of cells that are replicating into a mass. Since we have no problem removing these living cells during chemotherapy or surgery, it shouldn’t matter if one chooses to have an abortion early on while the cells are still developing and replicating. It doesn’t take much more than a glance to see the flaw in this logic. Cancer, while indeed growing, will always remain cancer. A surgeon will never remove cancerous cells only to find them crying on the surgical table and desiring to be comforted. Those particular cells, while being from a human, will never become a human. The same cannot be said of a fetus. By two weeks, the fetus has a discernable heartbeat. It has a unique blood type that is separate from the mother’s. By six weeks the child has fingers at the end of each delicate hand, brain waves pulsing through a mind that is full of potential, and movement within the womb. By nine weeks, gender can be distinguished, a unique set of fingerprints have been created, and the baby has a fully functioning set of kidneys (Bosgra, 1987, p. 7-8). A heartbeat and brainwaves alone demonstrate life within an adult. Why is there such hesitation to apply the same determination to a developing embryo? Would this not simply be prenatal life (Sproul, 2010, p. 55)? Every last adult on earth began as this cluster of replicating cells and look at what we’ve become! From this perspective, the fetus is only at another stage of development in its life. A fetus is not an infant. An infant is not a toddler. A toddler is not a teenager. A teenager is not a middle-aged adult. A middle-aged adult is not a senior citizen. However, just because a toddler is not a senior citizen does not mean the toddler is not a human life. The same can be said of the fetus. It’s a human being that is simply at an earlier stage of development in the life cycle. Despite this, many will say this isn’t enough to prove anything. This has only opened the door for early term abortions vs. late term abortions using terms such as “point of viability” to justify it. Because of this, we must resort to logic and consistency. While I may not be able to prove beyond all shadow of a doubt, though all signs point to the affirmative, that the fetus is a human life, the pro-choice crowd is also unable to prove otherwise. Therefore, it boils down to responsibility. At the risk of overusing an analogy, I’d like us to once again refer to the hunters mentioned earlier. Imagine two hunters in the woods that are hunting for deer. Hunter A sees movement behind a shrub but isn’t certain what’s behind it. He’s fairly certain it’s a deer and the law states that he’s able to shoot it. Hunter B says he thinks it’s another hunter but he can’t be sure either. It moves like a person and seems to be exhibiting human tendencies but, due to limited vision, neither one is absolutely certain. Now, imagine Hunter A says he doesn’t agree with Hunter B and wants to take the shot. Hunter B says he’s fairly certain it’s another person and that Hunter A shouldn’t do it. Does Hunter A have the right to take the shot? Absolutely! However, it may not be without severe consequences. If it does turn out to be a human, he is now facing murder charges as well as recklessness with a deadly weapon. Ignorance won’t be enough to overturn the guilty sentence. Furthermore, he wouldn’t even be able to claim ignorance as he was warned numerous times by Hunter B. Sure, there is always a chance the “Hunter B’s” of the world could be wrong wrong but is the gamble really worth it when it comes to human life? Would you be willing to take the shot if you weren’t absolutely certain whether or not it was a person you were taking out? Basic human responsibility should answer that one.

Finally, we can lay aside all the arguments and take a look at the emotional inconsistencies. There tend to be several categories of emotions. There are those who don’t believe it to be human life and don’t even feel the slightest tinge of guilt or remorse when they have an abortion performed. On the other side of the spectrum, there are those who do believe it to be human life and they feel extreme guilt and remorse post-abortion. These, I’m convinced, are the only two consistent categories. The inconsistent categories would be those who do not believe it to be human life yet deliberate based on emotion as well as those who do believe it to be human life yet feel nothing. With the latter, this is simply no different than any other murderers out there as their own consciences have been seared. They fully believe the fetus to be life yet have justified the removal of life (killing) for reasons unknown. In the end, there is no justification for such a person as he would openly admit to “legal” murder. As for the former group, why do they feel emotionally torn if it isn’t a human life? If they truly believe the fetus is just a clump of cells, there should be no remorse. There should be no deliberation. It should be a decision as simple as taking out the trash or mowing the lawn. Deciding whether or not to discard your beloved pair of pants should be more painstaking than whether or not to have an abortion. After all, you spent time breaking those pants in just right and you’ve had them for years. The fetus just got into your body recently. Either get rid of it and move on or decide to keep it, water it, and see what it grows into. Your emotions should only enter the picture after the baby is born for, prior to this, it’s not a life so there is no reason to be emotionally attached. To be honest, this emotional turmoil in the life of one who is pondering an abortion is a sign that she truly does believe the fetus to be a human life regardless what she may claim when asked in public. Her conscience has already betrayed her. At this point, we once again enter the realm of moral and ethical responsibility as made in the previous point.

So, where do we go from here? Do we continue to stand by idly as we hear of neglected children having no place in this world? Do we declare open season on those we deem inferior? Do we continue to allow the right to privacy to trample a child’s basic right to life? Is it time to hold people accountable for their irresponsible and reckless actions? Sadly, these are questions each of you must answer for yourself. As I stated in the beginning, abortion is a highly emotional topic. Perhaps you’ve gone through with an abortion of your own. If you felt no remorse, my hope is this commentary has given you something to chew on. However, if you felt even the smallest tinge of guilt, my hope is that you will be convinced, now more than ever, that a fetus is an intricately crafted human being that is fighting against all odds for survival. Let us be a voice for the voiceless and stand against abortion. Any other option just doesn’t make sense.

~ Travis W. Rogers

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