Thursday, April 26, 2007
Frequently I have found when speaking to, reading the writings of, or listening to an atheist speak, the most common objections against the idea of GOD is that there is so much evil in the world. Therefore, by their conclusion, there is no God. After all if there really were an omnipotent, omniscient, loving being, then that being would not allow such evil. This is from my experience the most common objection (to the God whom we as Christians worship) that atheist usually give. I'm not saying that they don't object on the basis of other things also. Many atheist claim that science and the Bible conflict in an irresolvable manner. (Of course many scientists find that the Bible and good science always agree.) Regardless of what other objections there are against the idea of GOD, evil is the most common problem in the minds of most who reject the idea of a supreme being.
The ironic thing about this ever common objection to God, is the fact that the very objection defeats itself. To say "There can be no God because there is so much evil" is a ridiculous statement. For if you throw out the idea of God, then by default, you also toss out any real definition of evil. What is evil? Who decides what is evil? Is not evil the opposite of good. Who decides what is good? Do you see the problem?
The Christian appeals to God as the ultimate standard of good. Good is whatever God calls good and evil whatever He calls evil. For God is the creator of all things and who but He could define good and evil. Good is whatever is in accordance to the expressed will of God and evil is anything that opposes it. Because God says "You shall not steal" I know that stealing is evil and not stealing is good. Because God said "You shall not lie" or "Murder" I know that those things are evil and not doing them is Good. Because God said "You shall have no other God's before me" I know to worship Him alone is good, and to worship anything else is bad.
But what right does an atheist have to call something good or evil? By what standard do they call something good or evil? Is it there own subjective opinion? For if I proclaim to be an atheist, and I say "this thing that you have done is pure evil" you should rightly say "according to what, you?" Personal opinions are subjective. My opinion is not any more authoritative then the next person, so if an atheist calls something good or evil, who cares? It's just good or evil from their perspective, that doesn't make it actually so.
Indeed this worldview promotes what I would call evil based on God's truth and His revealed will in the Scripture. For if an atheist sees fit to murder, who is to tell him he is wrong if there is no objective truth about good and evil?
This is where some atheists will object and say, "Well, society defines good and evil. There has to be laws given by society or it would be utter chaos." Fine then. So why is murder wrong by this standard? Because the majority of our society deems it as wrong. But what if the majority shifted? What if all of a sudden 60% of people thought murder was a reasonable action if someone made you angry enough? By the standard given by atheism, this would then have to be called "good."
The problem is obvious. Aside from an omnipotent law-giving God, it's all subjective. An atheist has no right to call the incident at Virginia Tech or 9/11 or anything else for that matter "evil." Because to call something objectively, positively evil, one would have to go to an authoritative source outside of himself. Otherwise it is nothing more than an opinion.
Christians have a God of truth, He is the standard for good and evil. It is because of this that even if the whole world but me believes that murder, homosexuality, stealing, etc., are OK I can say "NO! It is evil because God said so!" I can call mass murder evil (including abortion). I can call stealing evil. Not because of my objective opinion, but because of the revealed will of the creator.
Can an atheist call something evil? Only if they realize it is either just their own opinion and holds no objective truth to it, or if they admit that there is a law-giving God and therefore lose their atheistic status.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
For those who are not aware of the theological term, let me explain what is meant by a theologian when they say canon. The word "canon" literally means "standard." And when the church discusses issues related to the canon of Scripture they mean which books they consider to be authoritative Scripture. For instance the Protestant's hold that the canonical book of Scripture equal only 66 books in the Old and New Testaments. Roman Catholics add 7 to that list because they include books like 1&2 Macabees, Tobit and other's as part of Scripture. Then you have groups like the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) who take the protestant canon, but then claim the book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price are also Scripture.
So when you hear the word canon used in theological circles, understand that it refers to the books which are to be considered Scripture. As I mentioned before the word canon means standard. And a big question of the argument for what books are to be included in the list of Scripture is "by what standard does a writing become Scripture?"
I agree with James White in the way he explains what makes a writing part of the canon. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read the following:
"16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."
Our focal point for this discussion should center around "All Scripture is breathed out by God." Some translations of course read "All Scripture is inspired by God" but the "God breathed" would be a more literal and accurate translation of the Greek word "Theopneustos." So ultimately the answer to the question by what standard should books be judged to know if they are Scripture is "are they God breathed?" Did God "inspire" the books or not? That is the ultimate standard for the canon of Scripture.
What does this mean? Well obviously, for one, it means that the next logical question is "How do we know if a writing is God breathed?" Which is a great question. But also it means that there is indeed an infallible canon of Scripture. Not just any book can be included in the canon, only those that are God breathed have a place there. There is no room in the canon for any work, no matter how good it might be, even if it is historically accurate, theologically correct, and so on, if it is not God breathed. This is to say, a writing does not belong in the cannon merely because it is true, or merely because it is well liked and or received, but only if indeed God is the divine author.
There is only one true canon of Scripture and God infallibly knows that canon because He is the author. God (of course) knows what He did and did not "breathe out" or "inspire."
But then there is the canon that man has come up with, and obviously as I have already pointed out, different groups have serious disagreements about what belongs in the canon.
All of this to say that there is indeed a right answer, there are indeed books that belong in Scripture and there are those that do not. So who is right? Are the protestants right who claim only 66 books? Are the Roman Catholics right who add 7 more to that list? What about the LDS? Could all of us be wrong? Who first decided on this list of books or that? What does church history say about all of this? How did we get the Old Testament Canon? Was the New Testament canon formed in the same way? Do we have all the books that are God breathed?
The List of questions could go on for miles I'm sure. Hopefully this gets your wheel's turning. I hope to get a chance to start a study on this very issue sometime soon. After I finish the series on God's Sovereignty in Salvation I hope to make this our next adventure. We'll see what happens when I start school in August at Criswell, hopefully I'll find the time to continue to post regularly.
Eventually I'll begin to learn Greek, Hebrew and Latin, wont that add some fun to our talks here! Anyway, we know what the canon is, it is whatever that is God breathed, but how do we know that? I look forward to the study and I encourage you to go to www.aomin.org and download some of James Whites debates and lectures on things like Sola Scriptura and the sufficiency of Scripture. That will clue you in on how I will largely approach this topic.
In Him -Jacob
Anyway if you want to check it out go to: www.4hisword.blogspot.com
In Him -Jacob
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
This was of course a terrible thing to do. Placing the punishment and shame that one person deserved and placing it upon another. But nonetheless this was something that was often done. After all the crime had to be punished, it could not go left alone. Someone had to pay the price for this wrong doing.
Sounds kind of familiar doesn't it? Well if you are a Bible reading Christian, it should. Even though this is not itself a Bible story, though something that really did happen, Jesus Christ was indeed the whipping boy for sinful man. Yes, taking the punishment for sinners who rightfully deserved death, Jesus took their place, their punishment and their pain.
"23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
I love the word "Propitiation!" It's not exactly a word that we hear used in every day conversation, but what a word it is! The biblical understanding of the word propitiation means "an appeasement for, and turning away of the wrath of God." When Christ put Himself on the cross for sinners, He turned away the wrath of God's furry against sin for those whom He died. He literally took the place of, substituted for, sinners who deserved death and Hell. Jesus Christ is the "whipping boy" of sinful man.
The entire purpose of a whipping boy, or in Christ's case a propitiatory sacrifice, is to appease and turn away the wrath that one has earned for wrongdoing. When a noble boy stole something, the whipping boy took his place and punishment. After the whipping boy was whipped, the price was paid and the noble boy no longer owed anything because his debt was paid for him. This is the very same truth that is presented in Scripture when we think of the cross of Christ Jesus. Those whom Jesus died for are no longer held to their debt, it has been paid for them.
So what then would it be on the part of he who punishes to whip the whipping boy and the noble boy both? It would be unheard of, the price was already paid! It would be unjust! And yet so many Christians believe this to be true of God. By saying that Jesus died in the place of "ALL" meaning every person, every place, for all time, they assert that God punishes Christ for the sin that He is going to punish others for also. That is not justice.
If Christ is truly a propitiation, a whipping boy, then those whom He died for are free from the wrath of God because Christ paid their fine. God the Father would not be just to place His wrath against every person's sin upon Christ and then punish many of those same people for their sin that Christ already suffered for. Jesus Christ as we are told in Romans 3:25 was "put forward as a propitiation." Jesus died LITERALLY in the place of sinners. So if Jesus died for absolutely everyone, then no one is going to Hell. But we know by Scripture's account that people are going to Hell, and lots of them. So then, it only makes sense that Jesus died not for all people, but for those whom He chose to save. If Christ suffered truly "in the place of" sinners, then those whom He died for are free.
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
If you assert that Christ died in the place of all people, you assert that He failed to satisfactorily satisfy the Fathers wrath, or that God is unjust giving double punishment. But If you believe that Christ died actually in the place of sinners, then you must know that He accomplished His work and died not for all, but for the elect.
Monday, April 23, 2007
There are of course many things wrong with this doctrine. The one that stands out first to me is the idea of a place, not mentioned in Scripture, that is a place of eternal bliss apart from the presence of God. Being apart from God's presence is the biblical definition of Hell. I mean I understand that Hell is a place of weeping an gnashing of teeth and eternal burning, the Bible does not so shyly speak of these things as well. But the point is, God is not there, and that is the real punishment of Hell. So Limbo isn't such a good thing as far as Scripture is concerned, again never mind that Scripture never mentions Limbo (or purgatory for that matter).
Another issue is the assumption that an infant needs to be baptized. This of course is a fundamental difference between those who hold to believers baptism as I do and those who believe in infant baptism as Roman Catholics and various protestants do. But even the protestants (true protestants) who hold to infant baptism reject the notion that it is salvific or that it wipes away original sin. I feel quite confident in saying that infants who die are safe in the arms of God and do gain entrance into Heaven. Because whenever we see God's judgement against man it is against his lawless deeds, his actual sin, not the fact that man is born with a sin nature or in the flesh, but judged by his transgressions.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
"9Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? (Who are called unrighteous?) Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (Emphasis mine)
Point being, those who are unrighteous and will not inherit the kingdom are those who are sinners by their actions and transgression, not those merely born sinful. An infant cannot be sexually immoral, a thief, etc.
Now I will say that as to when a person becomes conscious of their ability to choose right from wrong is hard to decide, and it may be fairly young. Bur it is sinners who need saving, not just those inclined to sin from birth. This is a difficult issue because Scripture doesn't spell it out totally black and white, but the assertion that an infant could not be with God because they were not baptized is foolish, and has no scriptural support.
And finally the problem with this doctrine is the assumption that human being can merit for themselves God's grace through works (Ephesians 2:8-10). A fundamental difference between Roman Catholics and protestants.
All that said, I am happy to hear that recently the Roman Catholic Church has denounced the teaching of Limbo. As well they should since there is no scriptural support for it. In a report from Yahoo News written by Nicole Winfield we read:
"Benedict approved the findings of the International Theological Commission, a Vatican advisory panel, which said it was reassessing traditional teaching on limbo in light of "pressing" pastoral needs — primarily the growing number of abortions and infants born to non-believers who die without being baptized."
And the Rev. Luis Ladaria, a Jesuit who is the commission's secretary-general said:
"We can say we have many reasons to hope that there is salvation for these babies,' the Rev. Luis Ladaria, a Jesuit who is the commission's secretary-general"
I find this very interesting myself. This teaching is one that the Catholic Church taught very widely for a long time. And while it was never (I'm told) part of the churches official doctrine, there have been many who have taught it, and many who have believed it. But now, this commission has found that it is not to be taught, and that there is hope that infants might go to Heaven when they die, and the Pope has agreed with the finding of this commission. So by default the Roman Catholic church has just said that baptism may not be necessary for salvation, at least for infants.
Now obviously, I have stated my position on why infants don't have to place their faith in Christ to go to Heaven. Because they are unable to do, and they have not wilfully sinned against God and do not know right from wrong. And if the Roman Catholics want to agree with that, then that's fine. But I am trying to figure out what this does to their theology. Because my understanding has always been that from their perspective baptism must occur for original sin to be taken away. And if original sin isn't taken away then there is no chance for salvation period. What about the doctrine of purgatory? Do babies have to suffer purgatory if they die without baptism?
It seems to me that the Roman Catholic church keeps taking steps towards universalism. I know this isn't true across the board. I know Catholics who are certainly not universalists, and there are many who are not. But Rome's gospel seems to be ever widening to be more inclusive. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that the Roman Catholic Church is doing away with an unbiblical doctrine, but what is the motivation?
I would genuinely love some Roman Catholic feedback on this post. I truly am not trying to stuff words in the mouth of Roman Catholics or the Pope, or anyone else, but I'm sharing my thoughts and perspective on this matter. While I certainly disagree with many things that are taught in the Roman Catholic Church, I think any honest person can admit that this "ruling" if you will, has to have an effect on the way Catholics think about infants that die and salvation in general.
What are your thoughts?
Here are two links to news articles covering this topic:
Yahoo News: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070420/ap_on_re_eu/vatican_limbo
National Post: http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=367fb6df-eaff-46a2-897b-66eabe94b850&k=31248
Thursday, April 19, 2007
PRAISE THE LORD!!!
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
The honest truth is as weird as it may sound, this incident and others like it, affirms my faith In Christ and His word. The common questions when something like this occurs are, "Why?" and "What kind of evil is this?" "How could someone do that?" The ultimate answer is, "Because it fits into the ultimate purpose and plan of God."
Perhaps that answer makes you disgusted at me. "How could you say that! God is a God of Love!" Yes, God is a loving God. But God is a God completely in control of all things too. We are told that God ordained the death of Christ Himself. What was more evil than the murder of the Son of God?
Look at Acts 2:23.
"this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men."
Whose "definite plan" was it that Jesus be crucified? God's. Who receives the blame? Lawless men. Make no mistake, God did not force this young man to murder 32 people and then kill himself. But God did ordain it to be so. God is in control of all things in this world. He has a purpose.
After Jacob (or Israel) dies, in Genesis 50, Joseph's brothers are fearful of him because they are afraid that Joseph will retaliate against them for all the wrong they did him by selling him into slavery. But what is Joseph's response? Genesis 50:20.
"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today."
Who would have known that by the evil of Joseph's brothers that one day Joseph would be put in a place by God to save the lives of so many people? But God had a purpose in what Joseph's brothers did. God had a purpose in planning the death of His own Son, that He might save those whom He chooses to save.
I look at the Virginia Tech incident and I can say that God is working even in that. God is not impotent. God was not unable to stop that from happening. According to Ephesians 1:11 God "works all things according to the counsel of his will."
I remember listening to John Piper talk about the death of his mother. He described the incident. She was on a bus, I believe on a mission trip, and a truck in front of the bus was carrying lumber. A 2x4 fell from the truck and came through the window of the bus and struck and killed John's mother. John struggled with the grief of losing his mother, like all of us would, but at the end of it all he was able to say something like this: "I would rather serve a God that planned my mothers death like that, rather than God who couldn't stop a single 2x4 from coming through a window."
We do not see what God has planned. But we can know that He is in control and in the midst of this situation. Perhaps God will use this to bring about the salvation of some students seeking for answers. Perhaps it will resolve someones heart to reach out to lost and hurting people who might otherwise do more of the same kind of violence. The truth is, we will probably never know what all God is doing through this, but we can be sure He has it under control and is working it out for His glory, and the good of those who love Him.
I would be remiss if I failed to point out that this affirms may faith in the teaching of Scripture about sin as well. We as people are born inclined and enslaved to sin. If not for the grace of God, who knows what I would be today. I used to be a very angry and somewhat violent person. Romans 1:28-32 nails it on the head about what we as humans are capable of.
28"And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."
It is by God's grace that His Spirit restrains much of the evil, otherwise we would see how bad it could really get. And we must remember in many places in the world, it is worse.
Sinful man, needs a perfect savior. This incident affirms my faith in Christ and His word as being true. And it also serves as a reminder to preach the gospel to a lost and dying world and pray for God to save souls as only He can.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Pat shared a great message with us last night on the matter of theology being practical and important in the life of the believer. He used Psalm 139 as his text to make this point loud and clear.
Psalm 139 says:
1 "O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 5You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
7Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," 12even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
13For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.
17How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
19Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 20They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain! 21Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
23Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"
I wont sit here and plagiarize Pat's message, but as this text clearly teaches that God is all knowing, all present, and concerned with you and me, you can see the point. It is impossible to say either "I just want theology, but I don't want to apply it" or "I just want to live the way God wants, but don't bog me down with theology."
It's impossible to really believe that God is with us everywhere we go, and that He knows our innermost thoughts all of the time and have that not affect the way we live as believers. Furthermore when the passage tells us that God has every day that we are going to live written before one of them comes to pass, that it is incredible thought that should effect us in our thinking about things like missions.
God is with me always, God knows me personally, and God will decide how long I live and when and how I die. I can walk with God into Iraq and I am safe in His arms because I won't go one day before He wants me to. I can boldly preach the gospel and nothing can stop me until God does.
Theology changes people in a good way, and it is very practical. And as to the other person who wants a set of rules to follow but no theology, they will not please God because they do not know Him!
Anyway, it was a great message. Pat is an awesome speaker and I recommend you listening to him on their church website: www.omahabiblechurch.org. You can listen to Pat's sermons as well as some by Erik Raymond who authors www.Irishcalvinist.com, and there are some great podcast interviews with people like John MacArthur and James White and a sermon or two from D.A. Carson as well.
Theology and doctrine matter, and they are quite applicable to our lives as Christians.
In Him -Jacob
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I'm sure it will come as a shock to everyone, but I have decided to write on the topic of the gospel. It will include much of the material that I have used here dealing with God's sovereignty and His work of Salvation. I intend to expand upon some of the idea's that I have presented here through the various posts. I also plan to include a chapter on how we should view evangelism in the light of the doctrines of grace.
The book will be an apologetic defense of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and meant to challenge those who believe that we choose Christ and that salvation was made for all men rather than the elect. I hope the book will challenge evangelical Christians to rethink the gospel in the light of Scripture, and challenge unbelievers with who God is and how He saves.
The title of the book indicates the idea that I am not a Christian because I chose Jesus, but because Jesus chose me.
I appreciate your prayers as I undertake this endeavor.
In Him -Jacob
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Isn't that just exactly what Paul the apostle was talking about in Philippians 1:21 when He said "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." As Christians we should count it a privilege that we have some time here on earth. Short though it may be in comparison to eternity, life itself is a gift. Everyday we live it is an opportunity to give glory to God with our lives.
As Christians we have the privilege of getting to know God right now. We don't have to wait for Heaven to begin to grow in our relationship with our Savior. God has give us His precious word to study and to direct us in righteousness. God also chooses to use us sinful people to share with others about Him. Everyday we have opportunities, whether we take them or not, to declare the glory of God and His gospel. What a privilege to be the hands and feet of Christ, taking His truth into all the world.
To live is Christ. That means that the purpose of life is to exalt Christ. Life indeed is good when we seek to lift up Jesus in every area of our lives. In our marriages, in our work place, in our minds, Jesus is to be Lord. And when we make Christ number one, how good life gets. In fact one of the main themes of Philippians is joy. The person who lives a God exalting life is the person with great joy.
Exalting Christ isn't always easy, in fact it is often very hard. But As Dr. John Piper says, we must fight for joy! I know for me sometimes it is hard to just start the conversation with someone whom I want to share Christ with, but I also know that after I do that it gives me great joy to have glorified my God by proclaiming His truth.
Yes indeed life is good when we walk with the Lord, but nevertheless, eternal life is better. How wonderful is it to know that as a Christian we don't have to try and cram in all the fun we can have here on earth, because we know that when we die that the fun is just getting started.
I hope to echo Paul's sentiments by the way I live my life. "To live is Christ", and life is good when we do live for Christ, but "to die is gain" and I can't wait to be with the savior whenever He calls me home, because eternal life is better!
Monday, April 9, 2007
This is the doctrine that is usually the hardest for Christians to accept when they haven’t been challenged with it before. This was the doctrine that held me to an inconsistent 4 out of 5 point Calvinist until I just broke under the weight of Scripture’s teaching about this doctrine. First of all, let me say yet once again, you must have a biblical understanding of who God is in His Sovereignty before any of this will be acceptable to you. If you have not read the posts on the sovereignty of God, go back and read those first. Also this doctrine must be understood in the light of the first two doctrines presented in this series. The first doctrine is Total Depravity, the second is Unconditional Election, and now we have reached the third doctrine of the doctrines of grace Limited Atonement. Make sure you have read the first two before you read this part 3 of the series.
Let’s define Limited Atonement, sometimes also referred to as Particular Atonement/Redemption.
"Christ died, not for the sins of the whole world, but specifically for the elect. Christ’s substitutionary, atoning death was for those whom God sovereignly elected (chose) to save, and not all of mankind."
I’m certain that the objections are already flying through the minds of many of you, stick with me. I want to address first of all what this does not mean. This doctrine doesn’t teach that Christ "could not" have saved all of mankind by His death, only that He chose to die for a specific group of people. Should God have chosen to save everyone, Christ’s death would have been sufficient for everyone, but Christ as we have seen in this series does not choose to save everyone. So Christ’s atonement is limited, not in power, but merely in application to whom He chose.
As always, let’s go to the Scripture and see where this doctrine is taught. I will then follow that with some logical arguments for this doctrine that accompany the Scripture, and I will end with answering some common objections to this doctrine.
"1"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." 6This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."
Right before this passage Jesus has just chastised some of the pharisees for not recognizing Him for who He is. And then He goes on to talk about how He is the Good Shepherd and His sheep hear His voice and follow after Him. We must recognize by what Jesus is saying that He is clearly making a distinction between those who are His sheep and those who are not.
When Jesus spoke to a crowd, those whom He had called to be His own would recognize Him as the Messiah and follow after Him, those whom He had not called would not recognize Him and would not follow. You can imagine this illustration better if you realize that in Jesus’ day they would pen many sheep together in a pen with sheep all owned by different people. But the shepherd’s knew their sheep so well and vice-versa that he knew his sheep by name and they knew his voice. A shepherd would literally call to his sheep as the gatekeeper opened the gate and just the sheep who recognised the voice of their master would come to him and follow him.
So clearly Jesus is making a distinction that there are those who are His sheep and there are those who are not His sheep. Hopefully we can all agree on that. But look what Jesus says in connection with this distinction in verses 14 and 15.
"14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep."
Jesus knows His sheep, and He lays down His life for them. He doesn’t lay down His life for other people’s sheep, He lays down His life for the sheep he knows. And as we looked at last time in Part 2 of this series, Jesus knows intimately those whom He calls from the foundation of the world. That is the meaning of "foreknowledge."
Furthermore look what Jesus says just a little bit later again rebuking the Pharisees in verses 25-30.
"25Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30I and the Father are one."
Jesus specifically tells the Pharisees that the reason they don’t believe in Him is because they are not part of His flock. Think it through carefully now, Jesus doesn’t say "because you do not believe in me you are not part of my flock" He say because you are not part of my flock you do not believe in me! Sheep do not pick their shepherd, shepherds pick their sheep! Jesus says that He gives His sheep eternal life, Jesus says that He lays down His life for His sheep. And Jesus says that there are those that are not His sheep. This equals, people, that Jesus does not give His life for everyone, He gives His life for those who He has chosen.
This could make you angry or confused if this is not what you have been taught since becoming a Christian. The Pharisees wanted to stone Jesus for the thing He just said. But I urge you to set aside presuppositions that you have and just look at the text of Scripture. What does it say? Am I making this up? I am not.
Again, as I have said, it is crucial that you understand God’s sovereignty, if you do not you will surely reject this. It is also crucial that you have considered Total Depravity and Unconditional Election, but if you have considered those things and you agree that God is truly sovereign and in control of all things (even our decisions). And if you agree man is totally depraved and that God must choose (Elect) us because we cannot choose Him and not because of works that find favor in His sight because all of our works are evil (Romans 3:10-12) then you must accept this also!
Here are some things to consider about the beliefs that are commonly held by Christians who reject or have not been confronted with this doctrine.
Is Christ’s death on the cross truly substitutionary?
We often talk about the substitutionary atonement of Christ. That is to say that Christ Jesus died in the place of the sinner as a substitute. I believe indeed that this is biblical and true, however only for the elect, not for all people. Let’s think this through carefully.
"23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
We see that God made Jesus a "propitiation.... so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Propitiation isn’t exactly a commonly used word in the English vocabulary. I would assume that outside of a discussion on the atonement, it pretty much just isn’t used. What it basically means is a sacrificial turning away of the wrath of God for sin, an appeasement of God’s wrath for sin. Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of God for sin. But whom did He do this for? "The on who has faith in Jesus." Who has faith in Jesus? Only those whom God elects and sovereignly breaks them out of their depravity and gives them faith and repentance. Man does not seek for God on his own, so the one who has faith in Jesus is the one whom God calls and gives faith. Jesus died for the elect, not everyone.
If Jesus Christ died, literally in the place of all sinners, why do people go to Hell? Indeed to take it further, since Christ died not only for the atonement of sin for those who would come after Him but for those who came before such as Moses and David, if Jesus died for "all people" then Jesus died for the sin of people who were already in Hell. Before anyone shouts "heretic", step back from your presuppositions and think this through. "Christ died in my place" we say. And if you are a born again believer, that is true. But it cannot be true for the person that is going to or is already suffering for their sin in Hell. If Jesus bore the wrath of God’s anger against sin for everyone, all times, all places then God would be unjust to place anyone in Hell. But Scripture clearly testifies that He does. God would equally be unjust for pouring wrath upon His son for sin that someone else was going to or already is paying for in Hell. For the doctrine of substitutionary atonement to be true, it must be understood that God died, not in place of all people, all places, all times, rather God died to pay for the sin of those whom He had chosen to save.
If you have followed with me through God’s Sovereignty and seen that man is totally depraved and unable to turn his heart to God (nor does he want to). And if you have seen that because of mans depravity that God must actively turn the heart of the sinner to Himself, not on the basis of good works (because there are none), but on the basis of His free and sovereign will, then you must accept this doctrine also.
Why would God die for people whom He has not chosen to save?
It would be illogical. God did not merely make salvation possible, He made salvation actual. Evangelicalism loves to preach that God died for all mankind and wants everyone to know Him, "but He wont force anyone to come to Him." That is pathetically unscriptural. Let me ask you this, does God fail? Jesus defined His message in this way:
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." - Luke 19:10
Did Jesus fail in His mission? No. Jesus came to seek and save the lost and so He did, perfectly. Jesus saves all whom He intends to save. Or do you think that God is just going to be eternally unhappy? "Oh I wish John Smith would have given His heart to me, but I just couldn’t mess with his sovereign free will, now I have to know I failed to save John Smith for all eternity," says God. I don’t think so! But indeed this is just our problem, we think that our will is free and sovereign and that God "would not" and perhaps some think "could not" override our free will. But it is God who is sovereign and in control God is not sad that people go to Hell. He did not try to save them and fail. God justly puts them in Hell because they are rebellious sinners who have cursed the name and authority of God since birth. We all deserve Hell but God shows His love and mercy in choosing some of those same kind of sinners and making them His own, and God shows His justice and wrath by punishing the rest. Both the free exercise of God’s wrath and His free exercise of grace bring glory to God.
"14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?"
Scripture clearly teaches that:
1. God sovereignly controls all things, yes even you and me.
2. Man is totally depraved because of Sin, we do not seek for God.
3. God in His sovereignty chooses (elects) some of this sinful mankind to be saved, merely by His free grace and not by our works, because no one does good in His sight.
4. God sent the Son to die in the place of the elect. He saves all whom He intended to save.
The primary objection to this doctrine as well as the teaching of unconditional election, is that this makes God unloving. I think this is a finite mans viewpoint. After all, what is fair? Fair is that we would all go to Hell. We have all broke God’s law, and the penalty of that transgression is eternal death. So it is purely by God’s goodness and mercy that He saves anyone. I’m glad that God didn’t give me what I deserve. Instead Christ died in my place and He gave me, a depraved God hating sinner, faith and repentance and He has saved me to the full.
Other objections usually center around passages that have or use the word "all" in them when referring to Salvation. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve heard pastors and evangelists use texts such as these and then have the entire crowd repeat the word "all." As if "All" is some kind of word that trumps this doctrine that I am teaching right now. As if the word "All" laughs in the face of the rest of Scriptures teaching. For those who think the word "all" is so universal as to mean that everyone, all places, all times, no matter what, here is an illustration for you.
Let’s say on a Sunday morning I am preaching and I look out the window and see how nice it looks outside. It’s mid 80's with a nice breeze and I get the inclination to move this service outside. I then say to the congregation, "It’s such a beautiful day, let’s all go outside."
Now when I said "all," did I mean that everyone in the entire world should go outside? No. I meant my specific audience whom I was addressing should go outside. The problem with many people who try and interpret Scripture when the word "all" shows up is that they do not allow the context of Scripture to define who "all" is. Sometimes it is universal, sometimes it’s not.
An obvious example is Romans 8:32 which says:
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"
Isolate that verse and you could make it say whatever you want. But what does the next verse say?
"Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies."
Now we have some context, Paul is talking about the elect. Not everyone, all places, all times. And if you read the book of Romans as a whole, which is the best way to grasp the context of any verse, you will see that Paul is largely addressing people who are Christians. So who is "all?" Christians, the elect.
So let God be the one to decide what is fair. Read Scripture in its context. The doctrine of Limited Atonement is true.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Frankly, I don't care. If I was making dogmatic statements about things that Scripture is silent upon, then that would indeed be arrogant. If I talked about how wonderful I am, and said that I was the greatest Christian thinker since C.S. Lewis or Cornelius Van Til, that would be arrogant. But I don't think I really do that. Oh don't get me wrong, I'm a horrid sinner! I make many mistakes on a daily basis, but I don't claim infallibility or perfect knowledge. If I did, I would be horribly arrogant as would anyone apart from God Himself who would say such a thing.
But again, I don't think that this is why I am being called arrogant. I'm being called arrogant for echoing Scripture. I am being called arrogant for saying that Jesus Christ is Lord and God and no enters Heaven apart from faith in Him. And I go further to say that it is not by works but by God's grace, through faith which are all gifts of God not of our own selves.
Why do I tell my L.D.S. friend Pat that he is wrong in his beliefs? Because if I am right and I understand Scripture correctly, Pat will go to Hell for all eternity unless he repents and turns his heart to Jesus Christ, the one that the Bible teaches and not the book of Mormon.
Why do I tell my friend Gregory that he is wrong and in danger of Hell if He does not reject the Roman Catholic gospel, because I love him, and I love pat, and I love all of you who read this now and want you to have eternal life!
Why do I do apologetics? That is why do I defend the historic Christian faith? One, I do it for the Glory of God. It is my desire to know Him and make Him known as He reveals Himself in the pages of Scripture. Truth matters to God! Jesus made emphatic truth statements all the time, and He wasn't much liked for it either often times. But as God reveals His truth in His word (the Bible) I want to bring Him glory by proclaiming and defending that truth. As if He needs me, no not at all. God is more than sufficient to take care of Himself, He does not need me!!! But I love HIM! I want to speak for Him because He is my world and I am zealous and jealous for His glory! He doesn't need my defense but when people attack Him and His truth I can't help but stand for Him because He is my God who saved me, who loves me, and whom I will spend eternity with! I cannot help but shout "Glory to the one true God!!!" And I am obedient to Scripture when I fight false teaching and ideas that oppose the truth of God. As it says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." I love God and I defend Him because of it, not because He needs me.
Secondly, I do apologetics because I love you. When a person is blind and deaf and standing on a train track with a speeding train coming at them, what is the loving thing to do? Watch them get hit? Or do everything you can to push that person out of the way of that train? Anyone who believe that there is a way to heaven aside from God's grace through faith in the Jesus Christ presented in Scripture (Eternal God) is in danger. I do apologetics to attempt to show them the danger they are in, and then I show them the narrow road that is difficult, but leads to life.
Go ahead, call me arrogant. But I love God, and I love you. I know I'm far from perfect, but when it comes to the gospel, I know I have it right. So I will continue to shout "Glory to God" and proclaim Him as He proclaims Himself, and I will continue to try and push you out of the path of that eminent train. And if you are a Christian already and think I should just leave people alone, wake up. God saves people, but God uses us to proclaim. Romans 10:14-15 says, "14But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"
If you think you have the answer of how a man can have eternal life, you do not love me if you do not tell me.
May the Spirit of God convict you to know Him, and to make Him known.
In Him -Jacob
2. When the preaching of God's Word is substituted with relational anecdotal experience, personal happiness programs, and human potentiality makeovers.
3. When pastors no longer shepherd God's people and the pulpits have become playgrounds.
4. When psychology has replaced biblical discipleship.
5. When men of God are flattered to become "late night talk show guests" on cultural and spiritual issues, but never once open up the Bible to develop their answers; or call the nation, other guests, or the talk show host to repentance by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation; they've simply become culturally acceptable biblical motivational speakers thinking that access to mainstream media means they are making an impact.
6. When the vicar of Rome is acknowledged as the vicar of Christ.
7. When sin is called sickness; when disobedience is called disease; and when adultery is called addiction.
8. When money becomes a prerequisite for ministry by charging people for the gospel, worship, discipleship, counseling, evangelism, Christian music, etc.
9. When we are liked by all people; when the world is not offended by the message we represent and relates to us for being "nice".
10. When church becomes just another predictable program we do one hour a week, one day a week.
11. When prayer becomes passé and the seldom thing we do.
12. When brothers and sisters hold ought against each other in bitterness and unforgiveness.
13. When church discipline of sin ceases.
14. When irreconcilable differences becomes an acceptable reason to break the covenant of marriage.
15. When the goal of faith is no longer holiness, but happiness.
16. When the object of faith is no longer Christ, but self.
17. When the foundation of faith is no longer the Scriptures, but my personal experience.
18. When error is tolerated and finally accepted as truth.
19. When Christians partner with nonbelievers in the work of the ministry.
20. When ministries are enticed to give up their autonomy and become owned by the world for just a little more money and a little more personal promotion.
21. When the worship and glory of God is treated as entertainment.
22. When the church bowes the knee to the seminaries and surrenders her duty to train men for pastoral ministry; thinking that the academic schools of religious learning actually can make a pastor when all they can do is make students.
23. When men can personally profit from the sale of God's Word.
24. When repentance is no longer part of the gospel.
25. When salvation is no longer proclaimed as being by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, on the Word alone, to the glory of God alone.
26. When Romanism, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, Church of Christ (Bostonian), Seventh Day Adventists (and dare I say but to be consistent I must) Islamic moralists, Atheists, Agnostics, etc. are indirectly legitimized as being "morally sound and culturally chaste" by some naïve evangelical leaders who have forgotten their heritage, sold their spiritual birthright, and have laid down sound doctrine for the sole purpose of partnering with those same "religious" and individually politically-correct alliances to try and turn back the tide of social ills through cultural cobelligerence. In doing so, they have purposely divorced the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ from their burden for social change; this is foolish and the delight of hell.
27. When the offense of the cross is removed for cultural acceptance, media accessibility and endorsement
Distributed by www.ChristianWorldviewNetwork.com
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
I think from time to time we all feel that way. It seems like things both good and bad happen by mere chance. However, despite our limited view of life and the way the world is going, we see that Scripture presents a very different picture than what we are normally able to ascertain on our own.
I read a verse the other day on my friend Erik's site: http://www.irishcalvinist.com/ as well as post a post about this same topic. The verse really stuck with me and here it is.
"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD."
When I read that, I remember thinking to myself how awesome and weighty the meaning of that verse is. We cannot be sure exactly what "casting lots" was, but we know that it was basically the equivalent of rolling a dice, drawing straws or Rock, Paper, Scissors. A game of "chance" as it would seem to our human perspective. But what we are told is that what we view as chance is not chance at all. Rather the outcome of every cast is determined by the Lord.
Think about that the next time you are playing Monopoly. God does not merely know what will come of each cast, but God is sovereign over it and makes it what it is. If God concerns himself with things that are seemingly as trivial as the rolling of a die and indeed ordains the outcome of every such thing, there is nothing that God does not sovereignly control.
A great example of God's sovereignty over such things came my way as I was reading through 1 Samuel.
1 Samuel 10:17-24
"17Now Samuel called the people together to the LORD at Mizpah. 18And he said to the people of Israel, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.' 19But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, 'Set a king over us.' Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and by your thousands."
20Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot; and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. 22So they inquired again of the LORD, "Is there a man still to come?" and the LORD said, "Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage." 23Then they ran and took him from there. And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. 24And Samuel said to all the people, "Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen? There is none like him among all the people." And all the people shouted, "Long live the king!"
God had already told Samuel that He was going to make Saul the king of Israel, and Samuel had already made this known to Saul. However, nonetheless, the people of Israel were gathered together and lots were cast to see whom would be called to be king of Israel. As lots were cast by man, the lot fell to Saul's tribe, then his clan and then to Saul himself. All under the guidance of the Lord.
Never mind the fact the Saul was hiding from his calling. God made Him king, and God directed each casting of lots to lead to Saul. As verse 24 says "Do you see him who the LORD has chosen?"
Later in Scripture you see soldiers casting lots to see who would win Jesus' clothes (Luke 23:34). To the pagan mind everything happens by chance, but to the person who fears the LORD, the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, to the one who knows and love Jesus Christ, our mindset should be that God is in control of all things. Nothing is beyond the reach of God's sovereignty.
Even the apostle when choosing one to take the place of Judas narrowed it down to two whom would be a good replacement and then left it to God's Sovereignty to decide who would take Judas' place (Acts 1:26).
So when we look at the world, and see what looks like chaos, or when we see things happening in our own life, good or bad, that seem to happen by mere chance, we as Christians must trust that it is no mistake, not by chance, but God's sovereign hand working in the midst of this crazy world and our crazy lives. Indeed nothing is out of control, but in God's perfect control. One more reason to praise God, and take hope in His plan. One more reason to trust the Lord Jesus Christ.
Anyway now that I am back the fun can resume, and people can encourage, argue or slam me all they want, after all isn't that what apologists sign up for?