Tools
Search
Register Login

nightflare

The Brewers Official website

You are here: Home » Russ » Overcoming Sin » Part III - Understand What Sin Is » Displaying items by tag: theology
Displaying items by tag: theology
Friday, 23 May 2014 18:11

Slaves of Christ

Introduction

The concept of slavery always has and always will be one of the most repugnant social institutions humanity has ever seen. It violates every sensibility in us. The idea of one person “owning” another cuts to the very core of justice. While much can be said about slavery (and we will in a few minutes), the fact remains that the Bible says in numerous places we are slaves of God, righteousness and Christ.

Consider these following verses (all verses are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted):

· 1 Corinthians 7:22  "For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave."

· Romans 6:22  "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life."

· 1 Peter 2:16  "Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God."

· Acts 27:23  "For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me."

· Revelation 22:3  "There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him."

As we consider these verses and what they teach, we will address what it means to be a slave, what it means to be Christ’s slave, and the impact on our lives.

Slavery Defined

In the New Testament, each of the occurrences of the word “slave” is the Greek word “doulos” (or a variation of it). Doulos comes from the word “deo” meaning to bind (Strongs, 1401). It was the term for a slave (Liddel/Scott, 210). It referred to one who was completely controlled by someone else, or something else (Luow & Nida, 1:472). The ancient Greek writer, Xenophon, explained that “doulos” speaks of one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another (Trench, citing Xenophon, 30). Likewise, to be a slave means one person’s will is completely bound to the will of another. It requires complete dependence and undivided allegiance.  (Zodiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, 1401).

The word “doulos” occurs 182 times in the Greek New Testament. It’s the run of the mill term for slave. Actually, in most places in the New Testament where the word “servant” is used, it’s the word “doulos.” Thus, rather than being a rare word, it’s occurs throughout the New Testament.

Much confusion in the Christian life can be resolved by understanding the principle that we are slaves of Christ, rather than his servants. The word “servant” implies we have a will; we have a “say” in the matter; that we could tell the Lord we’d rather not obey Him right now. However, if we realize all those “servant” verses should be translated as “slave,” suddenly the scriptures come alive with what it means to live for Christ and follow Him.

To make this clearer, we need to understand the other Greek words that could have been used to describe our service. For instance, the standard Greek word for “servant” is the word “diakonos” from which we get the word “Deacon.” It’s from the root word “runner” and means someone who runs around serving others. If “diakanos” had been used those 182 times, we could easily make the case that we are servants of God as opposed to slaves. And while “diakanos” does occasionally speak of our service to Christ; usually it has the focus of serving other people.

There was the Greek word “therapone” from which we get the word ‘therapy.’ This was the idea of serving another person voluntarily.

Another word, “oiketes,” was a house slave. Although this person was a full slave too, their status was higher than the “doulos.” The “oiketes” lived in homes. They weren’t work animals to be used up and discarded.

Finally, there was one more word for slave called “uperetes.” This was a galley slave. They probably had an even lower status than “doulos”—and Paul even describes himself as an “uperetes” in 1 Corinthians 4:1, “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants (uperetes) of Christ.”

So, when the New Testament describes our relationship with Christ, it often uses the term “doulos.” For instance, one of our favorite verses is Matthew 25:23 which says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Yet the word there is “doulos” and the NAS even correctly translates this verse as, “Well done, good and faithful slave.”

Likewise, in Philippians 2:7, Paul speaks of Jesus and says, “but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.” The actual word there is “doulos” and thus Jesus Himself took the form of a slave.

Just as a person was a slave in their era, and required to fully obey the will of his master, Christ was a slave of His Father. In the same way, we are slaves of Christ and obligated to do his will.

To understand this point further, let’s talk about slavery in the New Testament times.

Slavery in the New Testament Times

The life of a slave in the ancient world was different than many of us might realize. On the one hand, it was an abusive and oppressive system. For instance, according to the Roman law of Patria Potestas, a slave owner essentially had life and death power over the life of his slave. During the ancient world slaves were so common they were often treated with disregard.

It has been estimated that at any given time, half of the empire were slaves—that’s 60,000,000 people (Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, 292). The entire economy ran on the system of slavery. In fact, a person who had no slaves was considered as poor as a homeless person. It has been said in those days, having only three or four slaves was considered poverty. Having ten slaves was scarcely sufficient. Having 200 slaves was a good amount. But someone who wanted to count in society needed to have 1,000 slaves working for him. Wealthy Romans might possess as many as 20,000 slaves (The NT Milieu, ed by Du Toit, Section 5.3.3-514).

Slavery was certainly an evil system. The church father Chrysostom said, “Slavery is the fruit of covetousness, or degradation, of savagery.” People were often forced into slavery against their will (though we’ll see in a moment many actually chose slavery because of its potential benefits). Likewise, it is true that in many situations, slaves had no rights. They could be crucified, sold, branded and emasculated against their will.

The entire Roman economy was based on slavery. In terms of market principles, the ancient Roman economy was somewhat similar to ours. No doubt, there are massive differences between our two economies, but generally speaking, Rome was based on market economics. There were elected leaders, there were taxes, and there was trading and shipping.

Thus, part of the reason for slavery was simply to drive the economy.

The Romans engaged in business ventures somewhat like we might today, except typically these businesses were run by households. Whole households would own farms, mines, ships, pottery works, etc. Obviously, these business ventures would produce goods to sell and the whole house would benefit.

Here’s where slavery was key. The Romans despised labor. They felt it was beneath them. So to get anything done, they used slaves. Often these slaves were imported from conquered nations. These slaves weren’t always cheap and they weren’t always unskilled. In fact, it was common to have slaves as the teachers. Slaves even taught medicine. Some of ancient history’s most well-known writers were once slaves—such as Dionysius and Eutychides. Some of our most beloved Bible characters were once slaves—heroes like Joseph and Daniel are inspirational examples to us.

Another reason for slaves is a way of handling masses of people. Their society did not have a safety net of welfare and food stamps. A person in dire straights had no way of receiving care. Working in the home of a slave owner granted them food, clothing and a roof over their heads. In an odd way, slavery actually helped to  extended the lives of many millions of people.

In many cases the slaves were living in better conditions than a free person. Often, a slave walking down the street was dressed as well as a freeman. If they came from wealthy homes, they were often dressed better than some freemen. Slaves and freemen were so much alike the Romans instituted a law that slaves needed to wear a designation so they could be distinguish from free citizens. Thus, many times individuals sold themselves into slavery.

This is not to gloss over the evils of slavery. By far the most common way a person entered slavery was to be the unfortunate citizen of a conquered nation. As the occupiers entered into a city they gave the residents two choices: slavery or death. Many chose death, but even more chose slavery. No doubt the conquering nation felt they were being merciful in granting life to these people. This is even more astounding when we understand many served in a family business and eventually earned their citizenship.

When we think of the American abuses of slavery; we think of permanent ownership. Roman slavery was not this way. Roman slaves were not without hope, and for diligent slaves, it was a path to Roman citizenship. The Romans learned early on that if a slave had no incentive of freedom, he also had no incentive to work hard. Slaves needed to work hard because an owner might have hundreds of slaves. Thus, he needed each one to justify his room and board. This was a motivation for slaves: they could eventually purchase their citizenship (Hopkins, Conquerors and Slaves, 126).

Slaves would receive 5 denarii a month. Because their living expenses were already paid for, 5 denarii a month would have been twice the discretionary spending of the average freeman. Thus, if they saved their allowance, they could soon purchase their freedom. Cicero wrote a diligent slave could earn his freedom in seven years (Cicero, Philippic, 8.32).

There was both a humanitarian and economic reason for the freeing of slaves. As slaves became older, their skill would increase and therefore they were “worth” more. But on the other hand, as they became older, the cost to keep them healthy also grew. Therefore, their owner could sell them their freedom at a high price because of their skill, and then with the profit buy a cheaper, younger slave and still have money left over (Hopkins, Conquerors and Slaves, 118). It was said most diligent slaves purchased their freedom by 30 years old.

When slaves of Roman citizens became free, they also became Roman citizens. Likewise, freed slaves were not permanently relegated to the lower classes. Slaves themselves could own property and even other slaves (Hopkins, Conquerors and Slaves, 126). Likewise, the potential wealth of ex-slaves was limitless—ancient Roman philosopher Pliny spoke of an ex-slave who had amassed a fortune of 4,000 slaves, 7,200 oxen, and a cash savings of 60 times the fortune of some senators (Pliny, Natural History, 33.135).

Finally, when a Roman slave owner died it was common to free all his slaves. This was so common that eventually the government began to regulate this practice to not flood the society with 500-1000 slaves in a day. The book Conquerors and Slaves by Keith Hopkins, has an section of a chapter titled, Why did the Romans free so many slaves? The freeing of slaves in the Roman empire was designed, among other reasons, to reduce the natural repugnance of such a system.

We must not gloss over the evils of slavery but we do need to understand the world of slavery in biblical times. It has been said that no other book has done more to free slaves than the Bible. At the same time, the Bible tells us we are Christ’s slaves. Likewise, Jesus says we are to love God and serve Him  as our Master (Matthew 6:24). Furthermore, He Himself became a “doulos” to show us how to fully obey our Heavenly Father. Thus, when Paul and the other biblical authors teach this principle; they do not envision a Master who cruelly beats his slaves, but rather a kind and gracious Lord who loves and cares for His servants. Now let’s discuss what it means to be slaves of God.

Our Slavery

As we began, the Bible teaches that all true believers are slaves of Christ. Sometimes you’ll hear a person say, “I’m not a slave of anyone!” One of the principles we have to understand is we are all slaves. It’s not as though we used to live as free people, but then became slaves of Christ. Instead, the Bible says we were always slaves, except that now our ownership has transferred from an evil master to a righteous Master.

The Bible is very direct in saying all people are slaves—we are either slaves of sin or slaves of Christ. Romans 6 makes this abundantly clear. Let’s quickly look at some key verses from Romans 6.

Romans 6:16 says, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” Paul’s point here is when we are captive to a certain behavior, we are enslaved to it. Keep in mind, all the words “slave” in Romans 6 are from the Greek word “doulos.”

So what were we slaves to? The next verse in Romans 6 makes this clearer. Verse 17 says, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed”. Likewise, Jesus said in John 8:34, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” If we sin, we are slaves of sin.

When Romans 6:16 says, “…you were slaves of sin…” this is the condition of every person outside of Christ. Ephesians 2:1–2 states this idea in slightly different words: "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." We all formerly walked according to the course of this world and Satan. Why? Because we were slaves. No one is free. We are all slaves.

Praise God we have been set free from this evil master by Jesus Christ. Romans 6:18 goes on to say, “and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Again, notice we have been “...freed from sin…” How were we set free? By Christ.

This is what the term “redemption” means. Redemption means to purchase something. It has the idea of us being on a slave block, under the evil master and ownership of sin and Christ comes up, pays our price and purchases our freedom from that old master of sin. Ephesians 1:7 explains this when it says, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace." Christ has redeemed us and wiped away the former deeds we engaged in while we obeyed our former master of sin.

Does this mean Christ has bought us, paid for our forgiveness and now we’re free to go off and wander the fields of life on our own? No. We were bought by Christ and now we have been taken to His home—our new home. Our old home was a vile dungeon where we were engaged in sin and being tortured and tormented. Now we are brought to a new home and treated as princes. We are not treated as galley slaves. We are not treated as field workers. We are treated as sons and we live as sons.

Here’s what we need to understand—even though we are sons, we still must obey our Heavenly Father. Ultimately, He is still our Master. Just because He is loving and gracious and good to us as adopted sons, does not mean we are free to disregard Him and disobey Him. He still calls the shots. We still must obey.

Going back to Romans 6, verse 18 says: “and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” We are still slaves, but we are slaves of righteousness. Verse 22 rounds out the thought by saying: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Again, we are slaves of God who now obey God.

You see, we are no longer bound to the master of sin, we no longer have to obey it. We’re set free. We’re liberated. However, we are still bound to obey God. Remember when we read Ephesians 1:7 which says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood…” A few verses later, in verse 14 it says we are “God’s own possession.” As God’s own possession, our will is now captive to our Father’s. He is still the Master. We are still His servant.

This means we must do what is right and pleases Him. Once we have been set free from sin, we are no longer slaves to it. We no longer are bound to do what is wrong. Now our default orientation is to do right. We seek what is right. We long for what is right. We are grieved when we do wrong. We sometimes still sin, but at the end of the day, our heart’s desire is to do the right thing.

And here’s what we need to understand about our new slavery. Since we are free from sin; that means we are now bound to do what is right—and the right thing is always to obey Jesus. There is no such thing as being freed from sin into a condition of doing whatever we want. If God is our Master, we will want to obey Him. If we still want to sin, then sin is still our master. It’s that simple. We can’t thirst for righteousness while at the same time thirst for something Jesus doesn’t want for us. We either obey sin or we obey God. Romans 6:16 gives us no other options.

Therefore, by definition, being set free from sin means we are finally free to pursue holiness and righteousness. We are finally able to obey the Lord. That’s why Romans 6:22 says, “now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness.” It leads to holiness because we can now actually pursue what pleases the Lord.

Practical Application:

The application of this principle is obvious—when Jesus is our Master, we will obey Him. We will seek to know His will through His Word. We will read it, study it, learn it, know it, and live it. It will become the guide for how we live life. Like a slave listening to his Master, His Word will mark and decide our actions, our decisions, our goals, and our objectives.

Our lives will begin to look different from before. For instance, there will be times when we may not “want” to have our daily devotions, but because Jesus is our Lord, we will. There will be times when we may not “want” to go to church, but because Jesus is our Lord, we will. There will be times when we won’t “want” to engage in the acts of righteousness God calls us to, but because He is our Lord, we will.

Yet, even in this new condition, there will be times when our old nature rises up against our new nature. Even the eminent apostle Paul struggled with sin. He said in Romans 7:14 “…I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.” The fact remains, even though we have been set free from sin, our flesh keeps going back to our old master. Like an old horse that continues to follow familiar paths, our flesh will always want to go back to our old habits. That’s why we need to keep reminding ourselves of these truths throughout all our days. If we have been set free, even though we may be riding a horse that wants to go the old way, we can control it and guide it to righteousness. And we can say with Paul a few verses later, “I joyfully concur with the Law of God… (Romans 7:22).” We will always struggle with our flesh, but if we are born-again, we have received the Spirit of God that crucifies our flesh (Romans 8:13) we might live and walk with Him.

Although we’ve stated it several different ways; in all of this, we need to understand our freedom from sin, and our freedom in Christ, does not mean we have the freedom to do whatever we want. Why not? Because that would be sin! If we just go off and live life any way we want; in complete disregard for Christ, then we are engaging in sin. Romans 14:23 says, “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” To live a life unconcerned with God would be to live a life without faith; and this would be sin. As we mentioned earlier, Jesus said in John 8:34, “…everyone who sins is a slave of sin.” Therefore, to engage in habitual disregard for Christ means to sin and to habitually sin means to be enslaved to sin. So, tying this back to Romans 8:13 if we live in sin; we will die. Why? Because we have demonstrated Christ is not our Lord and Master and we are still in bondage to sin.

Objections

Having said all of this, there are a couple of questions that might be asked.

For instance, “What kind of person enslaves their own children?” The heart of this question is rooted in the wrong perception of slavery. Remember in our discussion of slavery earlier, God graciously brings us into His home and His family. He lavishes His grace upon us (Ephesians 1:8) and treats us as adopted sons (Ephesians 1:5). He even extends to us an inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 1:11). In all these ways, He abundantly and graciously blesses us. Perhaps a similar question could also be asked—“What kind of person who has been bought out of a horrible enslavement would question the goodness of a Master who takes us from a dungeon of slime and puts us into a palace of blessings?”

Similarly, another question might be asked, “If I am set free from slavery, why do I have to now obey Jesus?” There are a couple of verses that seem to teach contradictory thoughts. For instance, in John 15:15 Jesus says, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.” Galatians 4:7 says, “Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” In light of everything we’ve discussed, what do these verses mean?

Well, for one thing—they do not mean we have to choose one principle and reject the other. We are not to approach the Word of God as a salad bar where we only agree with the things that we like.

As we’ve already demonstrated, the Bible clearly states our condition as slaves of God. But it also states our condition as sons of God. Both are true and neither is mutually exclusive. How do we understand this?

In the biblical world, children obeyed their parents. The Ten Commandments even say, “Honor your father and your mother.” This principle was so serious Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says rebellious children could even be stoned. The principle is clear—God took obedience seriously. If a child did not to obey his or her parents, they could be cut off. And while the New Testament does not reinstitute the death penalty for disobedient kids, it does not remove the command. Instead, passages like Ephesians 6:1-3 reiterate it. The principle continues: children, obey your parents.

Thus, when we are reconciled to God through Christ, He adopts us as children. We have the rights and privileges of children. We have a status as children. This does not remove our requirement to obey. We are still captive to do the will of the father. Even in John 15:15 where Christ calls us “friends,” the full thought begins in the preceding verse which says, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” We are friends, but we are required to obey. Likewise, we are sons, but we are required to obey.

Moreover, these passages (John 15:15 and Galatians 4:7) speak to the Father’s disposition to us. They are both given to demonstrate the heartbeat of God is not as a harsh, uncaring Master. God knows us as His children. Christ knows us as His friends. He knows us like sons. He knows us like family. So, when He commands us to obey Him in any situation He allows into our lives, He knows what we can bear. His disposition is not to mercilessly make us miserable, but to lovingly lead us to the place of our greatest fulfilment and joy in submission to Him.

Final Thoughts

At this point, we still may not be thrilled with this concept. The question is not to figure out if we agree with this doctrine. The question is, “Does the Bible teach this?” The undeniable answer is, “Yes, it does.” I may not have expressed these thoughts fully or the most eloquently, but we cannot deny the Bible teaches we are slaves to Christ. Like every other tenet of scripture, we need to let the Bible tell us what is true—and we need to likewise come humbly to these texts and submit to them. This is what it means to have Jesus as our Lord and Master.

So, now one final question remains: Is Jesus your Master? If not, it is time for you to surrender to Him. Romans 10:13 says, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” To call upon Jesus as Lord means to surrender to Him and obey Him as your Master. We should regularly acknowledge this to Christ. If you have not done this recently, I encourage you to begin today.

Thanks for reading, and may we together press on to love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ.

Together in Christ,

Russ Brewer

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 11 June 2013 11:10

Did God create evil?

Did God Create Evil? Often people wonder, “If God is omnipotent, did God create evil?” We are obviously uncomfortable answering “yes” to this question and often we start hunting for answers. Invariably, our hunt produces additional questions: What is evil? Where did evil come from? Why didn't God stop evil from starting? Here are some of my thoughts regarding these answers.

First, we need to properly understand what “evil” is. The Bible often compares evil to darkness (Ephesians 6:12, Luke 22:53, Col 1:13) and goodness to light (Matt 4:16, Luke 11:36, 1 John 1:5, etc.). When we study what light is, it is simply photon particles assembled together and traveling in wave form. But what is darkness? Darkness is just the absence of those photon particles. There is no particles of "dark”, there are just less particles of light. There’s a not a physical way to add darkness, it can’t be packaged up. It’s just the absence of light photons. In the same way, “evil” is just the absence of good.

So when God created the world, He created it perfectly good (Genesis 1:31). In being perfectly good, He also created it with the capacity to turn away from beholding His awesome goodness. He gave humanity the capacity for true moral choice. In doing so, He created an environment where humanity can disengage from His goodness and seek that which is less good. Seeking anything less than God’s total goodness is, in some measure, seeking evil.

This is the condition of the realm in which we live. All of us are in a state of variable goodness. Sometimes we seek God fully (or so we think). Sometimes we seek Him half-heartedly. In reality, when we seek anything less than God’s fullness of perfection, in some measure we’re saying that we’re content with a smidgen of evil in our lives. This is why all of us must daily seek to be fully surrendered to God so that we might have the fullness of His goodness and purity in our lives.

So, why did God allow this? In many ways, we are going to have to wait until we are with Him in glory for the answer to this question. I suspect that once we leave this cursed dimension, and we are with God in glory—we’ll understand completely what God has been doing. More than that, Isaiah 45 says that we’ll agree with everything that God has done.

But still, between now and that day, how do we understand why God allowed humanity to seek anything less that His perfection? The best explanation I know is to say that God seeks His ultimate glory. Along these lines, He has sovereignly ordained this route for greater glory as we both praise Him willingly and find our joy in Him as we turn from sin.

Let me illustrate it this way: We would all agree that it is more glorious to have love that is expressed, rather than merely to have love. For instance, it’s good that I love my wife. But if I never tell her I love her, that’s not as good as if I expressed my love. Even more so, it’s better for me to show my love through tangible actions. Thus, if I really love my wife, I show her the most honor by expressing my love and showing her my love.

Similarly, it brings God more glory if we offer Him praise willingly. You see, God could have created us to be robots that mechanically had to praise Him—and in some ways, this is what He has done in creation (Psalm 19:1). But when it came to us, God created us with the capacity for choice because it is better when we choose to worship God willingly. Now I believe that God is sovereign over our choices and none of us resist His will, however, each person who is in fellowship with God would acknowledge that we worship Him sincerely and willingly. We are not being forced to worship Him. Not only that, but we also find greater joy in Him as we turn from our sin and find the wisdom of His ways. This route has increased our love and gratitude for God and gives us the capacity to willingly express this love and gratitude towards Him.

To tie these pieces together, since God is all-knowing, and all-powerful, and all-wise--He always knows and chooses and does that is best. Thus, in some way that we won't fully understand until we're in glory, God has decided it is best to allow this condition where humanity can choose to worship God or choose to look away from Him. Since this is the best route God could have chosen, any other route would have been to do evil Himself, and that is impossible for Him.

There will be a day when all those who willingly praise God will enter into His Kingdom. Likewise, all those bent on seeking evil will go away from them into Hell. This is because seeks true worshipers (John 4:23-24). Those who do not desire to worship Him will not have to, but their immortal soul will go to a place where His goodness is totally absent—Hell.

So, those are my thoughts. Are they the full story? Obviously not. There is still much more that can be said. There are literally books on the topic that seek to plumb the depths of this difficult question. But these cursory thoughts get us started and they help me to rest assured that God is in control and have redemptive purposes in our lives.

Published in Blog

How do we know that the Bible is actually the Inspired Word of God?

Is the Bible actually God's message to us? When you think about it, this is one of the most important questions a person can ask. If the Bible is a message from God, we must listen to it and set our lives by it. If it is simply a religious text from antiquity, we might marvel by it, but we certainly won’t submit to it.

So IS the Bible inspired? Many people would say “yes” but not be able to give much support. Others would say “no” and might cite something they learned from a college professor or the DaVinci Code. Others would say “I’m not really sure and I don’t really care.” If you’re in any of these groups, I urge you to read closely what we’re about to cover.

If the Bible was inspired, what would expect from it? Pause right now and think about that. What would you expect from the Bible if it were truly a message from God?

I would imagine that you’d probably expect it to be deeply meaningful, deeply important, deeply inspiring. If you thought longer about it, you’d probably also think that when it spoke of things that were related to fact—such as geography, science, history, etc., it would be true. Lastly, if there were areas that it foretold events to come, you’d expect them to actually come about in the manner that was given to us. Well, let me encourage you that the Bible is all this and more!

Let’s start with some foundation concepts that we need to build upon.

For one thing, the Bible claims to be God’s message to us. Now before you start shouting “circular reasoning!” hear me out—in just a few moments, I’ll attempt to show you how we know the Bible is from God. But we need to know that it really presents itself this way. No one reads the ingredients on a box of Fruit Loops and wonders if it’s a message from God. Why would they? It never claims to be. Likewise, the book The Wizard of Oz doesn't claim to be a message from God so no one spends any time wondering about the truth-claims of its message.

But the Bible is different. In over 3000 separate instances, it claims to be a message from God. Over and over it says, “Thus says the Lord…” Over and over it says, “Grace to you and peace from God…” Over and over it says, “Hear the Word of the Lord…” So with 3000 statements like this, we need to sit down and consider the validity of statements such as these. Has the Lord really said these things? Is the Bible a clear and faithful copy of what God wants us to know?

As we dig deeper into this point, let’s think through some of the ways we’d expect God to show that He has indeed given us His message in the Bible.

For one thing, the Bible ought to be true in areas of history, right? Indeed! The Bible is the most consulted ancient text in existence. It is frequently used to explain the archaeological findings in the Middle East and often countries in those areas will have parks & monuments at places where biblical events took place. Modern archaeologists routinely use the Bible to triangulate their findings. The New Testament book of Luke is considered one of the most reliable sources to understanding the political conditions of ancient Rome.

So these days, the Bible is regularly acknowledged to be historically reliable, even by secular scholars. But this wasn't always the case. A couple centuries ago, scholars used to say that the Bible was filled with factual errors in relation to historical events. They’d cite a few examples of people/places that they assumed never existed. For instance, they use to say that the most famous king of Israel, known as David, never existed. He was just myth. And then they'd tease out the conclusion and say that since David never lived, massive sections of the Bible must be historically inaccurate. This "factoid" (a false fact presented as true) was often cited until the early 1990s. Then in 1993, archaeologists found steles (historical monuments of the ancient world) that referred to King David. Suddenly, one of the key examples of "biblical errors" came to an abrupt end. Wow, David really lived. 

The same is true for ancient people groups such as the Hittites, mentioned in the Bible. For much of modern scholarship, there had yet to be found any trace of the Hittites. The notion of Hittites really living was laughed at by scholars. But over time, not only has archaeology found proof of the Hittites, they now have the capital in along the Turkey/Syria border. Google “Hittite Capital” and you won’t find anyone saying “the Hittites were mythical people.” 

Well, we could go on and on with more examples, but the point has been made, the Bible IS historically accurate and these attempts to discredit it consistently end up being disproven.

How about geography? Did all those places really exist? When we read the book The Wizard of Oz, we hear about the Emerald City and the Yellow Brick Road. In some ancient myths we hear about mythical places like Atlantis. The Book of Mormon talks about a whole subcontinent located below North America called Nephi. Yet no true scientist recognizes that these places have ever existed.

On the other hand, when you look at the Bible, it’s amazingly current. You’ve probably heard of Jerusalem, Jericho, Gaza…these are all real places today and are on the evening news all the time. They are also mentioned throughout the Bible. They are real places. Sure, some cities have changed their names but that’s not a problem—if you look at the history of many towns in America, they often change their names (note Hagerstown, MD). But where the Bible is concerned, there are NO lost continents, no mysterious lands, nothing like that at all. It’s just straight fact—in fact, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Bible is actually used in archaeology to help determine what cities are being discovered when they’re dug up.

Let’s go on to science…

People often say that the Bible is full of scientific inaccuracy. What they’re talking about is really the first few chapters of Genesis, because (let's be honest) these chapters are a pretty jarring read if you’ve never read anything like them before. You’ve got God creating things in the blink of an eye and not in the order we'd expect. To our modern senses, it seems so contrary to what we learn in High School and College. If that's you, I can relate. I didn't grow up reading or believing the Bible. At first, these chapters threw me too. So, I was once there too, I know how it is.


But I gave the Bible an honest look. If God COULD do anything, He certainly could do everything Genesis 1-11 contains. Likewise, if the Bible is truly from God, than either it really happened as it is described (which I personally believe) or at least it’s something God wants us to understand because the theology of the first eleven chapters of Genesis is amazing. If you are interested in this topic, there are many books that seek to prove the reality of Genesis through REAL science. Don’t let the skeptics drown out the voices of these up and coming scientific discoveries. Increasingly, our ability to examine nature is proving (rather than disproving) these things. Studies in String Theory, Time-Dilation, DNA, and astronomy continue to verify rather than discredit the Bible. Likewise, Creationist theories such as Irreducible Complexity and Apparent Age answer many (perhaps even most) questions from skeptics. And while I don’t have the time or resources to go into this exciting branch of science, look into these links and consider for yourself if perhaps the Bible is saying things that are true after all.

Another important point to understand is that the Bible is a book written to all mankind from God. Not everyone in history had 145 IQs. Not everyone in history understood cause and effect, scientific theory, etc. Yet the Bible is written FOR the professor of Harvard just as much as for the Motilone Indian in Columbia--both need to be able to read it and understand it. The wording had to be accurate, but meaningful. Therefore, the wording God uses accurately explains His truths in a manner that actually makes sense to all people groups throughout history. When you consider this point, it's quite astounding that a Berkeley Professors and a NFL football player and a CEOs can all find out that indeed, God's Word is true.

So we need to understand, when the Bible talks about science, it’s accurate--it might not use the same terms as we do, and it might not be as precise as our modern science, but when it speaks to matters of life and nature, it is accurate. For instance, the Bible says that the Earth is round (Is 40:22) –that wasn't even the prevailing belief in science until a few centuries ago. Likewise, it describes a limitless expanse of the universe (Is 55:9). Likewise, it talks about the stars being innumerable (Jer 33:22) and while we have tried to map and count every star, thanks to Hubble we've found out that some “stars” we’re looking at are actually whole galaxies--definitely not numerable! Sometimes you'll hear people talk about the dimensions of a giant round bowl in 1 Kings 7--it's 30 cubits around and 10 cubits across. The quick math says that pi would have to be "3" rather than 3.14. This is one of the few "Bible inaccuracies" that some people throw out. But there's a backstory that they are missing. For one thing, 3 and 3.14 aren't so far off, when you think about it and not bad for people who didn't have modern mathematics. But more importantly, the full description of the text in 1 Kings 7 explains that the disk is shaped like a flower where the lip flairs outward so that the dimensions of the lip are different than the inner dimensions of the bowl. Thus the questions of "pi" are resolved when we understand the irregular shape of the sides of the bowl. So all this is to underscore, that while I'm not saying that the Bible is a science text book, I am saying that when it refers to things that can be examined scientifically, it is accurate.

So far we’ve talked about how the Bible is amazingly frank and candid when it discusses matters of history, geography, science, etc. But these don’t fully convince or satisfy us—a telephone book better be pretty accurate, but we don’t put our eternal soul in its hands. So let’s move on…

The Bible is more than just an accurate ancient book, indeed it has a voice and tone that sets it apart from all other literature. When you read scripture, there is a powerful message that is being bull-dozed into your soul. It’s a message of God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. It’s a message of God’s goodness and man’s rebellion. It’s a message of the measures God has done to reconcile us to Him, and it’s a message of the horrific reality that awaits those who refuse Him. This message is so complete, and so unified, we take it for granted. I doubt anyone reading what I just wrote blinked an eye because this is simply the message of scripture through and through. The fact that scripture has this message is something of a miracle in itself.

You see, the Bible is an old book. And not only was it old, it was written across a spectrum of cultures and regions. Some of it is a record of oral tradition that is so exact that it baffles modern scholars. Some of it is a force of unity that it amazes its students.

Here’s what I mean. The Bible was written by about 40 authors over 2000 years. Think about that for a minute. Have you ever heard JFK’s speeches? While they are beautiful, they clearly represent a perspective on life that is different from most of ours today. And yet, that was only 40-50 years ago! Look at the changes in America in the last century—from technology, to morality, to politics, to the family. Our nation has changed. And yet the Bible has an amazingly unchanging message from cover to cover.

And it wasn't just because they were all drinking the same Kool-Aid. Back then, generally is was just the rich who had access to education. Generally just the rich had access to the writing implements to record information. Generally just the rich had access to other copies of literature. Yet the Bible was written by the rich and the poor. It was written by kings and peasants; doctors and fisherman. It was written from Israel, Babylon and even a small island in the Mediterranean Sea. If Americans, can't agree with Americans from 40-50 years ago, how could the Bible be so unified when written over such a span of time and by such a spectrum of people?

And lest you think I’m talking about the obvious stuff—like “God is loving” I’m not. I wouldn’t be very impressed if the only unified thing the Bible could say about God is that He is loving. But there is so much more! There are subtle “rivers” of truth that flow throughout scripture that would be missed if it were not for the complete revelation. For instance, you may not know this but the classic phrase from Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” is nestled into a subtle statement of the doctrine of the Trinity. Genesis 1:2 talks about “God” (the Father). Genesis 1:2 talks about the Spirit. Genesis 1:3 talks about the “Word”—which is another term for Jesus. A few verses later, when God talks about creating people, He says in Genesis 1:26 “Let us make man in our image”—wow, it sounds like God is plural there. However, in the very next verse it says, “God created man in his own image”–now it’s back to singular. Even in these verses we can see the germinal idea of the plurality of the godhead united in one person (sorry for the fancy theological terms there). That’s an amazing and subtle message that is carried through the whole Bible.

I could go on and talk about the unified message the nature of sin and the need for faith instead of works, the coming Messiah, the nature of God’s wrath, the nature of prophecy, etc. These, and countless other themes, are quite astounding in their unity. They present God in a complex array of facets, each complementing and further highlighting the person and nature of God. When you really take the time to look at these, and consider them in light of how the Bible has 40 authors over 2000 years, it’s beyond possible.

No other religious work can say this. The Book of Morman claims to be from God along with the Bible, but its contradictions with the Bible are dizzying. The Quran has so many contradictions, they have a whole system of how to handle them. They solve the problem by saying that whatever was spoken last overrides whatever was said earlier! Wow! [Now, just in case you’re thinking Christians do that with the Old and New Testaments, there is a huge difference. For one thing, the Old Testament has large sections that are about ceremonial law of sacrifices. But the ceremonial law was fulfilled (and therefore finished) in Christ so now we don’t need to follow that specific code anymore. It was legitimately fulfilled and therefore its purpose and presence is complete.] Going on, let's pause to consider Hindu writings. Hinduism has so many "gods" that no one even tries to assemble Hindu teachings into a single source. Their teachings cover so many “gods” that their contradictions end up being something akin to brand loyalties--you choose a god much like choosing Pepsi over Snapple. You like the taste of this god over that one. Again, the Bible is nothing like this.

As we look at the Bible, we begin to develop the clear impression that this book is like none other. Sure lots of books claim to be from God, but none have the precision, form, power, and message of scripture. Indeed, the very theme of the Bible is unlike anything else: God is holy and pure. He created man without sin. Man rebelled against God and has been cast from His presence. God loved man despite this rebellion. God made the way for man to be reconciled to Him: He sent His perfect Son who would give His life as a ransom for their sins. Then God would even give people the faith necessary to believe this message. Finally, God would place His Holy Spirit into His people so that they could then live and walk with Him. It’s an amazing message without parallel in the rest of the world.

And this brings us to our final “proof” that the Bible is the Word of God—it truly changes people’s lives. I once heard a proverb from Winston Churchill that "the world is run by tired men." I don’t know if he really said it, but it makes sense that he would because he was known to function on just four hours of sleep during World War II. The thing is, if we were to take Winston’s words and apply them to every person’s life in every situation, we’d really bungle the whole world. Everyone would be exhausted and things would start falling apart. What was “wise” for one dude, doesn't apply to all men everywhere.

But the Bible is not like that. The Bible (when interpreted and applied correctly) is relevant for every person in every culture in every epoch of humanity. It’s power works in kings and aboriginals. It’s transforming nature cleanses movie stars and skid row bums. As a pastor, I have a front row seat in watching God change people’s lives all the time; it's what keeps me excited about the ministry. I’ve seen first-hand how the clear, simple message can being about the total new birth in a prostitute so that after she followed it’s teachings, she was transformed and was nothing like the person she once was. I knew her before and after and her life is a miracle of the handiwork of God. The Bible changes lives. If you set out to obey each line of scripture, you WILL be different. And that difference won’t come as the result of your own “boot strap” will power, it comes by the power of God, through His Spirit, working in you and through you. It’s truly amazing!

So having said all of this, now we’ve got to make a decision. What are we going to do with all of this? Can we simply walk away? Do we have that luxury? Is that even an option anymore? Indeed it is not. You must decide what you are going to do. At this point, you can either harden your heart to God, or you can surrender your heart to Him and commit—like the psalmist in Psalm 119:4—to obey God’s word diligently.

Lastly, keep in mind that the message of the Bible is clear: We need a savior to reconcile us to God. I've written another blog post article about how we can be saved by God when we surrender to Him.

Also, if you have time, here's my personal story about how God transformed my life. If you come to Him, He will work in your life too.

If you need help, drop me a line. I’d love to help you walk with God through the study of His word.

Thanks and God Bless!

Russ

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in Blog
Monday, 27 February 2012 10:54

Touched by a Holy God

Touched by A Holy God

In Exodus 29, the Lord gives Moses an intricate process of consecrating the priests and their equipment for use in the tabernacle. Verse 33 contains the non-politically correct teaching that no one except for priests can eat of the sacrifices, because these sacrifices are holy.

Now, on the one hand, we might simply accept this injunction and move on. Or we might think this makes sense and equally dismiss it. But this point begins to take on a special meaning for God’s children. You see, down in verse 37, God also states that anyone or anything that inadvertently touches these holy items become holy as well. Again, we might miss what is really being said here.

The key to two these statements, and their profound implications for our lives as Christians, is that whoever touches a holy, consecrated item is sanctified by that item. This means that it is forever enlisted into the use of God. A holy garment touching holy things must always be used only for God. It has been set apart, it is now defined by God, it can no longer be used for common uses. It is now God’s, and is now surrendered to Him to be used only for His desires and purposes.

If a knife was used in the tabernacle, since it was now holy, it could not be used to carve the Thanksgiving Turkey. If a bowl was used in the tabernacle, it could no longer be used for Fruit Loops. If a shirt was used in the tabernacle, it could no longer be worn to a Jets game.

Now let’s fast-forward to the New Testament and turn to 1 Peter chapter 2. Throughout this chapter, Peter argues that we are living stones being built into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood unto God (1 Peter 2:5). Later in verse 9, Peter states that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.

Peter weaves the teaching from Exodus on holiness into our identity as those who have called upon Christ as our Savior. We are now “living stones” in the holy temple of God. We are holy and thus not to be used for common purposes. We are a holy nation—a separate nation, and thus, we are a people “for God’s own possession.” Just like in the Old Testament when something touched the holy altar of God, we have been touched by the Holy One who laid Himself eternally upon the altar. And since we have been touched by Christ, we have been set apart. Our lives are no longer dedicated to the common purposes of everyday life.

And thus, Peter builds upon these ideas and tells us, therefore “as aliens and strangers abstain from fleshly lusts (vs 11)…keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles (vs 12)…submit yourselves to the Lord (vs 13).” His point is that we have been set apart by God for God’s work. We are no longer ourselves. We’re like that bowl used in the temple—once we’ve touched the holy things of God, we can no longer return to our previous lives. Things are different, things have changed. We are now surrendered to God and are bound in service to Him.

So have you been touched by God? Has His loving hand reached into your life and drawn you to Him? If so, consider yourself consecrated unto Him. Consider yourself placed in His temple. Surrender your entire life to Him. Every part must be holy and dedicated to Him. From now on, this will bring you your greatest joy and fulfillment.

If you have yet to surrender to God, realize that this calling is not toilsome drudgery, but rather the fulfillment of your highest purposes in life. Apart from God, we can do nothing that truly lasts or satisfies. God has designed it to be this way. He created us with a “God shaped” hole in our heart that nothing else can fill. But when we come to Him and surrender to Him, and consecrate ourselves to Him, we find the greatest strength, peace and joy we’ll ever know. Jesus Himself said, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11).” Life will still have trials, but when we go through them consecrated to God and His purposes, His grace and joy courses through us even in the midst of them.

How do you surrender to God? Understand that first, you have not been surrendered to Him until now. Confess to Him in prayer that you have lived for yourself and your purposes. Recognize that He is holy and that you cannot stand in His presence because of your sin (Habakkuk 1:13; Isaiah 59:2). Recognize that Jesus is God’s holy sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 9:23-28). Call out to Him for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Romans 10:9 tells us that “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” And with this salvation comes a whole new life (1 Corinthians 5:17), a life now dedicated to God and blessed by God. A new adventure living for Him and doing His will.

Well, these are my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours.

Thanks and God Bless,

Russ

Published in Blog
Thursday, 22 September 2011 09:54

The Trinity

Trinity

Isaiah 34:16 (NASB95) 16 Seek from the book of the Lord, and read: Not one of these will be missing; None will lack its mate. For His mouth has commanded, And His Spirit has gathered them.

Judges 13:3 (NASB95) 3 Then the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son….Judges 13:22 (NASB95) 22 So Manoah said to his wife, “We will surely die, for we have seen God.”… Judges 13:25 (NASB95) 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Isaiah 48:16 (NASB95) 16 “Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.”

John 10:30 (NASB95) 30 “I and the Father are one.”

Matthew 28:19 (NASB95) 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

John 5:18 (NASB95) 18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

John 14:9 (NASB95) 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Romans 8:9-10 (NASB95) 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

1 Corinthians 6:11 (NASB95) 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 5:18-20 (NASB95) 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;

Ephesians 4:4-6 (NASB95) 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Romans 8:2 (NASB95) 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death…Romans 8:7 (NASB95) 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,

2 Corinthians 13:14 (NASB95) 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

John 14:26 (NASB95) 26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

Romans 1:4 (NASB95) 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,

ohn 15:26 (NASB95) 26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,

Luke 1:35 (NASB95) 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

Matthew 3:16-17 (NASB95) 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Luke 3:22 (NASB95) 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

1 Peter 1:2 (NASB95) 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

Acts 10:36-38 (NASB95) 36 “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— 37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Acts 5:3-4 (NASB95) 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

1 John 5:6 (NASB95) 6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

Hebrews 9:14 (NASB95) 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

1 Timothy 3:16 (NASB95) 16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NASB95) 13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

Philippians 1:19 (NASB95) 19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Galatians 4:6 (NASB95) 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

1 Corinthians 6:19 (NASB95) 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

1 Corinthians 2:10 (NASB95) 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.

Romans 8:26-27 (NASB95) 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God

Matthew 3:16-17 (NASB95) 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Luke 3:22 (NASB95) 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

1 Peter 1:2 (NASB95) 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

Acts 10:36-38 (NASB95) 36 “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— 37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Acts 5:3-4 (NASB95) 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

1 John 5:6 (NASB95) 6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

Hebrews 9:14 (NASB95) 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

1 Timothy 3:16 (NASB95) 16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NASB95) 13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

Philippians 1:19 (NASB95) 19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Galatians 4:6 (NASB95) 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

1 Corinthians 6:19 (NASB95) 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

1 Corinthians 2:10 (NASB95) 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.

Romans 8:26-27 (NASB95) 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Published in Verse Lists
Friday, 01 July 2011 12:39

Paul's Example of Noble Thinking

47 Ways Paul Demonstrated Noble Thinking in the Book of Philippians

In Philippians 4:8, Paul lists several practical domains that are to govern the thought-life of God’s people. Among them is the word “Noble” or “Honorable”. Another way to translate the word would be “Dignified.” There’s not much available on this grand topic, but here are 47 observations that I made of how Paul exemplified noble thinking throughout the letter to the Philippians:

1. 1:3 Thankfulness towards God

2. 1:4 A life of prayer towards God

3. 1:9 A mind growing in knowledge

4. 1:9 A mind growing in discernment

5.  1:10 Approval of the things that are excellent

6.   1:12-13 An optimistic/silver-lining attitude

7.   1:14 Ability to see the redemptive value in a trial

8.   1:17 Extending grace towards others rather than unforgivness or a critical spirit

9.   1:18 Joy at the proclamation of the Gospel

10. 1:19-20 – Optimism in his situation

11. 1:21-22 A mindset of being sold-out for Christ

12. 1:28 Not easily being in fear over situations

13. 1:29 Trusting in Christ during conflict

14. 2:2 Being unified around spiritual truths

15. 2:3 A view that considers others as more important than yourselves

16. 2:4 A view that looks to the interests of others

17. 2:5-11 An attitude that seeks to be like Christ

18. 2:12 An attitude of fear and trembling as we are living out our salvation

19. 2:14 An attitude devoid of grumbling and disputing

20. 2:21 An attitude that seeks Christ’s interests rather than your own

21. 2:24 trust in the Lord

22. 2:26 A concern for the emotional condition of others

23. 2:30 Valuing the work of the Gospel even above one’s own life

24. 3:3 No confidence in fleshly religion

25. 3:7-8 Willingness to lose everything for Chris’s sake

26. 3:9 Seeking righteousness from God on the basis of faith

27. 3:10 A desire to know God

28. 3:10 A desire to know the power of the resurrection

29. 3:10 A desire to become like Christ, even in death

30. 3:12 A desire to press on to achieve the things Christ has called you to do

31. 3:13 Not dwelling on the past

32. 3:15 An attitude of submission and unity

33. 3:17 Noting and following the example of other mature believers

34. 3:18 A tender heart for the condition of the lost

35. 3:20 An attitude of waiting for Christ to return to bring us home

36. 4:1 Standing firm in the Lord, not being swayed from God’s truth or unity of Spirit

37. 4:2 Harmonious living with others

38. 4:3 A willingness to help others in spiritual need

39. 4:4 A heart of rejoicing, at all times

40. 4:5 A gentle spirit

41. 4:6 Peaceful, non-anxious living

42. 4:6 A sustained habit of bringing everything to the Lord in prayer

43. 4:7 Allowing the peace of God guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus

44. 4:8 Thinking upon that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute, excellence and being praise-worthy.

45. 4:11 Contentment at all times

46. 4:14 A heart to share with others

47. 4:23 God’s grace renewing and reviving our spirits

 

You can listen to my whole sermon on this topic here.

 

Published in Blog
Saturday, 21 May 2011 10:14

Ordo Salutis = Order of Salvation

Here's a quick chart on how God works in our salvation:

Order of Salvation Chart

The blue is all of the work of God.

The Green is where we are involved (though this is still the work of God).

The purple is the presence of the Lord.


a.            God predestined some for salvation (decree from eternity past)

(1)            Ephesians 1:4-5 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…

b.            God provided the atonement for those elected

(1)            1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”

c.            God called those who were predestined

(1)            John 6:65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

(2)            John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

d.            God regenerates those whom He called

(1)            John 3:6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

(2)            2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation”

e.            Those who are regenerated believe and repent

(1)            Acts 3:19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;”

f.            Those who believe and repent are justified

(1)            Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”

g.            Those who repent are reconciled to God

(1)            Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”

(2)            2 Corinthians 5:18 “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,”

h.            Those who are reconciled are adopted

(1)            John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,”

i.            Those who are adopted are transformed to be like Christ

(1)            2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”

j.            Those who are predestined will one day be glorified

 

(1)            Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified…”

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 10:46

The Problem of Evil

Here is a great "chain email" delineating the Christian's response to the problem of evil:
God vs. Evil

'Let me explain the problem science has with religion.' The atheist
professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his
new students to stand.

'You're a Christian, aren't you, son?'

'Yes sir,' the student says.

'So you believe in God?'

'Absolutely.’

'Is God good?'

'Sure! God's good.'

'Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?'

'Yes'

'Are you good or evil?'

'The Bible says I'm evil.'

The professor grins knowingly. 'Aha! The Bible!' He considers for a
moment. 'Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here
and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?'

'Yes sir, I would.'

'So you're good...!'

'I wouldn't say that.'

'But why not say that? You'd help a sick and maimed person if you could.
Most of us would if we could. But God doesn't.'

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. 'He doesn't,
does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he
prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you
answer that one?'

The student remains silent.

'No, you can't, can you?' the professor says. He takes a sip of water
from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

'Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?'

'Er..yes,' the student says.

"is Satan good?'

The student doesn't hesitate on this one. 'No.'

'Then where does Satan come from?'

The student falters. 'From God'

'That's right. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in
this world?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything correct??

'Yes'

'So who created evil?' The professor continued, 'If God created
everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to
the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.'

Again, the student has no answer. 'Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred?
Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?'

The student squirms on his feet. 'Yes.'

'So who created them?'

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question.
'Who created them?' There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer
breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized.
'Tell me,' he continues onto another student.

'Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?

The student's voice betrays him and cracks. 'Yes, professor, I do.'

The old man stops pacing. 'Science says you have five senses you use to
identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?'

'No sir. I've never seen Him.'

'Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?'

'No, sir, I have not.'

'Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelled your Jesus?
Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that
matter?'

'No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't.'

'Yet you still believe in him?'

'Yes'

'According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol,
science says your God doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?'

'Nothing,' the student replies. 'I only have my faith.'

'Yes, faith,' the professor repeats. 'And that is the problem science
has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.'

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of His
own. 'Professor, is there such thing as heat?'

'Yes.'

'And is there such a thing as cold?'

'Yes, son, there's cold too.'

'No sir, there isn't.'

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested.

The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain.

'You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat,
unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don't have
anything called 'cold'. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is
no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing
as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458
degrees.'

'Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits
energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or tran smit energy.
Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold
is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure
cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold
is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.'

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding
like a hammer.

'What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?'

'Yes,' the professor replies without hesitation. 'What is night if it
isn't darkness?'

'You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of
something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing
light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's
called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word.'


'In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make
darkness darker, wouldn't you?'

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will
be a good semester. 'So what point are you making, young man?

'Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to
start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.'

The professor's face cannot hide his surprise this time. 'Flawed? Can you
explain how?'

'You are working on the premise of duality,' the student explains.. 'You
argue that there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad
God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we
can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought.'

'It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully
understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be
ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing.
Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it. 'Now tell me,
professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?'

'If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man,
yes, of course I do.'

'Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?'

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes
where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

'Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and
cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not
teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?'

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion
has subsided.

'To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let
me give you an example of what I mean.'

The student looks around the room. 'Is there anyone in the class who has
ever seen the professor's brain?' The class breaks out into laughter.

'Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain, felt the
professor's brain, touched or smelled the professor's brain? No one
appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of
empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no
brain, with all due respect, sir.'

'So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures,
sir?'

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his
face unreadable.

Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. 'I guess
you'll have to take them on faith.'

'Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with
life,' the student continues. 'Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?'

Now uncertain, the professor responds, 'Of course, there is. We see it
everyday It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in
the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These
manifestations are nothing else but evil.'

To this the student replied, 'Evil does not exist sir, or at least it
does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just
like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the
absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what
happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like
the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when
there is no light.'

The professor sat down.
Published in Blog
Tuesday, 12 April 2011 22:55

Books Every Christian Should Read and Own

A major part of developing a strong, balanced walk with the Lord is having (and using) a good library. Solid Christian books  with the right tools to help you grow in Christ. Here's a list I posted a while back but have updated and annotated. It contains, IMHO, the most important books that every Christian should own and regularly use as they increasingly understand who God is and who He has called us to be.

Reference Books:

Unger's New Bible Dictionary. Moody, rev. 1988 ($25) - When you're studying the Bible, you need a tool that helps you understand what's even being talked about. A Bible Dictionary is like an encyclopedia, it's arranged by topic and covers nearly every topic and people group mentioned in the Bible. A decent Bible Dictionary is about 25 bucks and usually are just one volume, if you can afford a few extra dollars a much better alternative is the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia mentioned below.

Better: Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Zondervan, 5 Vol, 1976 ($100) - This is a classic tool that's not just for Bible scholars. It's five volumes of helpful information on thousands of topics. If you're any kind of student of the Bible, this resource will certainly help. One of the first tools I bought as a new believer and I still consistently use this.

The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, Moody Press, 1985. ($35) - While we all know what an atlas is, this tool is much more. It not only provides maps, it shows various routes that the biblical people followed. It makes sense of the myriads of people groups, cities, terrain, governments, etc.

An Exhaustive Concordance ($15-25) - There are various exhaustive concordances on the market--the classic is the Strongs Concordance. Perhaps the best is the NASB Concordance. Most people think of concordances as quick ways to find a verse that contains a specific word. While that's true, the power of this tool is not so much in finding verses, but how they index those words to the word in its original language with a succinct, helpful definition of that word.

Better: Bible Software such as Logos Library System ($50-100) - While an Exhaustive Concordance is good, computer software is usually better and faster. My favorite is Logos/Libronix. The thing to understand, however, is that if you're just looking for an electronic concordance, you can get pretty good free Bible software. I'd say save your money. However, if you want to build an electronic library of books, then Logos/Libronix is the way to go.

The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Various editions ($20) - Other than my Bible, this is probably the most powerful resource I have. It's a cross-reference tool that is on hyperdrive. When you're reading a verse, often you wish you knew other places in scripture that address the same topic. If you go to a concordance, there may be hundreds of references that would take too long to look up. But this tool provides the best relevant references that are not based solely on specific words, but on the topic/concept.

Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, rev. 1984 ($25) - Once you have learned to use a concordance, you'll find that you will probably want even more explanation on word meanings. This is basically a Greek dictionary for English readers--it will give you the Greek word, is keyed to the Strongs Concordance number system, and gives you a far fuller definition of a word meaning.

 

Theology

Packer, JI. Knowing God. Intervarsity Press, 1973 - While it sounds like this might be some kind of touchy-feely book, its actually a classic introductory systematic theology. It's not basic nor is it simplistic. It's a helpful, useful explanation of God.

Grudem, Wayne. Bible Doctrine. Zondervan, 1994 and 1998 ($30) - A systematic theology is a tool that seeks to "systematize" Bible teaching on various topics. There are loads of these on the market. Often they make things of God more confusing for the reader. Dr. Grudem's book does just the opposite. It's a great read. For those who sincerely want to understand what things of God is all about, this book will be an exciting and challenging read. They will have many "a ha" moments as Dr. Grudem unravels the complex lines of truth.

Better: Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology, Zondervan, 1994 - This is one of my all time favorite books. I use it all the time--even in the past couple of days. When I have a question about a specific doctrine, I consult Grudem's work first. This is just like his Bible Doctrine book above, just with far more depth. IMHO, it basically makes other one-volume systematic theologies (and I have many) unnecessary.

 

Commentaries

Walvoord and Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. 2 Vol. Chariot Victor Publishing, 1983 ($60) - A commentary is a book that helps explain the meaning of a Bible passage. Unfortunately, many commentaries aren't worth the paper they are written on. Years ago, before I had a decent library, I'd waste countless hours reading bad commentaries, not finding any real help, and ending up frustrated and discouraged. The great thing about this commentary is that it's extremely succinct; you can drop in, look up a verse, find helpful information and get on with your day.

 

Bible Versions (most precise to least precise)

Greek Interlinear

King James Version

English Standard Version

New American Standard Version

New King James Version

New International Version

The New Living Translation

Study Bibles

MacArthur Study Bible, Word Publishing, 1998 ($35).

The Life Application Study Bible. Tyndale Publishing

Zodhiates, Spiros. The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible. AMG, 1990 ($25).

 

Ancient Background Information

Freeman, James. Manners and Customs of the Bible. various editions ($15) - When you're reading a verse, often you'll read something that is clearly cultural. You'll be wondering what in the world is going on. This is the book for you. It identifies the key items that are better understood when laid against their cultural/historical backdrop. It's arranged by passages that follow the biblical order so it's very easy and quick to use.

 

Top Ten Books Every Christians Should Own and Read Besides the Bible, in order.

Pursuit of God, AW Tozer - My favorite book on walking with God.

Mere Christianity, CS Lewis - A great explanation for the reasons why our faith in Christ is sound. Dinesh D'Souza's book What's So Great About Christianity? is better, but it's longer.

Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis - A great way to get a sense for the spiritual battle we face when we leave Satan's lordship and surrender to Christ's.

The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges - A key part of growing in Christ is growing in Christlikeness. This book lays out with quick, succinct precision how to pursue a path of increasing holiness and purity.

The Gospel According to Jesus, John Macarthur - Ultimately, what's more important that a sound understanding of the Gospel? Macarthur's book lays out the Gospel in a way that is not only clear, not only powerful, but you'll end up with strong convictions that so much of our lives in Christ hang upon a proper understanding of the Gospel.

Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life, Donald Whitney - Few good things come to the growing Christian without personal discipline. This book lays out most of the primary disciplines that all Christians should master. It is not nearly as stuffy as it sounds, but rather is practical, helpful, inspiring and motivating.

Living By The Book, Howard Hendricks - Every Christian needs to be men or women of The Book. We need to know how to read, understand, interpret and apply God's Word. Not only does sound understanding give us strength and confidence in our walk with Christ, but it also becomes a more effective tool for the Holy Spirit as He takes what we know correctly and He applies and enables us to live by it. This book offers clear, easy methods that will help you carefully approach a passage and understand it as the author meant.

How to Give Away Your Faith, Paul Little - A major component of being in Christ is sharing the Good News with those God has placed in our lives. This book explains the need and method of sharing your faith. It's a quick, helpful read.

Knowing God, JI Packer - Mentioned above, this book helps the student of God to understand their Lord better.

The God Who Is There, Francis Schaffer - We live in a philosophically sophisticated age. Often the world looks at us smugly and treats believers like back woods hillbillies. Yet this book is a tour-de-force of the rationale for the reality of God. While it's a challenging read, it's still accessible and enjoyable for most people. It will give you the clear conviction that Christianity is the only worldview that truly makes sense of the world.

 

So these are some of my recommendations, what are some of yours?

Published in Blog

I remember back when I was in Bible college, we studied the matter of whether or not Jesus could have ever sinned. No one debates that indeed He never sinned, for that is settled in scripture by various passages such as 1 Peter 2:21-23:

1 Peter 2:21-23 21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously...

Likewise, there are many other passages that speaks to the absolute purity of Christ:

  • - Never did He cross God's purposes.
  • - Never did He seek His own will rather than God's (John 6:38).
  • - Never did He do something that was unlike God (Hebrews 7:26).
  • - Never did He do something that was impure, sinfully harsh/mean/critical.
  • - Never in His heart was there a doubt about God or a moment of bitterness (Isaiah 63:7). [Some other time, I'll discuss the reason for Christ's words on the cross: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" But I will say this, back then the ancient way to refer to a Psalm was to quote it's first line and I'm pretty sure that Christ was citing Psalm 22 (which prophetically spoke of that moment and what it would entail) to show the people that it was being fulfilled in their presence. So rather than being doubt in God, it was reminding people of one of the great passages that prophetically told what God's Messiah would endure].


So, back to the impeccability of Christ; all this is to say that Jesus was fully human and like us in all ways but one--He never sinned.

This underscores an important truth that we all need to understand: God's standard is perfection and since we are imperfect beings, our ability to enter heaven is only because of Christ's perfection and righteousness. Habakkuk 1:18 says that God is too pure to have any evil in His presence. 1 John 1:5 says that God's holiness is light a light where there is no shifting or shadows. Therefore, if I were to bring my unredeemed sinful soul into the presence of a perfectly pure God, I would be bringing their dark sin into a place where there has never been sin, rebellion, or selfishness. Thus, Christ has to be perfectly righteous because, according to 2 Corinthians 5:21, we need Christ's righteousness to cover our sins. 

Allow me to take a moment longer to explain this point: We are sinful beings. Yet, because Christ's righteousness covers us, we can enter into God's presence. The biblical word for this is "atonement" where Christ's righteousness (His life as manifest in His blood) covers our sins and blots them out. Atonement speaks of covering our sins so that we are no longer bringing our sinful selves before God. Instead, we have access to the Father through the righteousness of Jesus Christ His Son. This is why Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me." Thus, when the Father looks upon us, He sees the perfection and obedience of His beloved Son. This is why we need to be "IN CHRIST" to enter heaven (Romans 8:1, Ephesians 2:13). So hopefully it's clear that Christ had to be totally perfect and without sin for us to enter heaven. If there was ever a point where Christ had sinned, then not only would He be unfit for heaven, but His righteousness  would no longer be righteous  and He would be unable to make us pure before the Lord.

The reason why people hold so fervently to the impeccability of Christ is because of the reality that since Christ is in Heaven now, if He actually could sin before, then He could still sin now. If He could still sin now, then their may be a point where He might sin in the future. If that ever happened, then our atonement is always in jeopardy. But if Jesus cannot sin now, then it never could sin before.

I might respond that while all this may be true, it misses out on the eternal nature of the Son and the Father. Being that Jesus is eternal, His obedience is eternal. When Jesus says, “I always live to do the Father’s will” then He
always lives to do the Father’s will. If everything He says is true, then that statement is always true too!

Likewise, since the Father is omniscient (and so is the Son) then the Father will know if there ever would be a time when Jesus would sin in the future. God can look to the eternal future and knows that His Son has always and will always obey Him. Thus, for God to accept the infinite sacrifice of Jesus, it inherently includes the fact that God, with infinite understanding knows that His Son will completely obey Him forever. Thus, the sacrifice of Jesus is forever sufficient and acceptable. Praise God!

So all this brings us to the debate about Christ and sin: could He EVER SIN? Was it even possible? The fancy terms for this is the impeccability (inability to sin) or the peccability (ability to sin) of Christ.

Okay, so let's dive into this topic further. To keep the discussion going we also need to understand that sinfulness is not NECESSARY to be fully human. Often people say "To err is human..." but that's not
entirely true. Adam and Eve were created as total and complete humans, yet they did not have to sin. When they sinned, it was a willful introduction of rebellion into their lives. It was not already there. There was nothing corrupt in their DNA. It was not mandatory. So despite the fact that they did sin, we need to understand that they did not HAVE to sin. Sin was not an automatic component of humanity.

However, the sin nature has been passed down to us from Adam. The sin nature is the willful bent that we all have towards sin. We see this in the animal world all the time. I have a cute yellow lab at home. When I drop some food on the floor, he's very good about rushing over to eat it. But it always cracks me up. If I drop a piece of meat on the floor, he snarfs it up in a moment. But if it's a piece of lettuce or broccoli, he might pick it up, he might lick off the salad dressing, but he spits out the vegetable. It's not in his nature to eat and unless forced or tricked, he won't eat what goes against his nature.

It's the same with us. We have a sin nature. It's our bent. When given the opportunity, we will sin. I've seen this many times in life. One of the clearer examples was back when I was on a short-term missions trip in Croatia. The Bosnian War has recently ended and the people were struck with grief and guilt. You may recall that the Serbs and Bosnians were killing each other so systematically that it was called genocide. The reason, I was told, was because they were so filled with fear that the Serbs shot their Bosnian neighbors and visa-versa. It's not that they were monsters--but they were motivated by their nature for self-preservation, even at the expense of their neighbor's life. We might think that we're a sophisticated, moral society, in reality we're a couple of laws away from taking things into our own hands.

So why am I going into all this? To explain that we all have a sin nature except for two people--the First Adam and the Second Adam. The First Adam is Adam from creation. The Second Adam is a biblical term for Christ (e.g Romans 5:12-21). Jesus was fully human, but like Adam, He was not born with a sin nature. It was not passed on to Him. You might recall that in Luke 1:35 the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary in such a way that she conceives Jesus. Because the Holy Spirit was involved in Jesus’ conception, there was no transfer of the sin nature. Like Adam, He did not have to sin.

Okay, let’s get back to the peccability versus impeccability discussion. The question that has been debated for centuries is this: Could Christ have even sinned to begin with? Adam was without a sin nature, but sinned anyway. How about Jesus? Could He have sinned? Put another way, was Christ peccable (able to sin) or impeccable (unable to sin)?

Most scholars say that Christ was impeccable, that is He could not have sinned. I basically agree, but have lingering questions.

Now aside from debating for debating's sake, why discuss this question anyway? First, there is the practical matter of looking to Christ for encouragement when we're struggling. It’s nice to know that Christ understands what it feels like to be human. Second, any doctrine we hold must account for all of scripture, and there are a handful of verses that need to be addressed. One of the key verses is Hebrews 4:15 which says, “
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

I've often wondered, if Christ could not sin, in what way was he tempted? If He could not sin, was He truly tempted as we are? It would seem to me that this passage says the exact opposite: that Jesus DID undergo temptations. How can Jesus undergo temptations if He fundamentally could not sin?

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Jesus was tempted like we are. Nor am I saying that He felt any inclination to sin. But it seems that the debate over peccability/impeccability violates scripture.

Here’s one passage them helps me understand the Impeccabilty/Peccability question.  In John 6:15 Jesus had just fed the 5,000 and the crowds were intending to make Him king. At that moment, if Jesus agreed to their plans, He would have sinned because that would be contrary to the will of God. Knowing this, Jesus left them and went away to be alone in the mountains. We don’t know the exact reason why He left them. However, the net result was that He was praying to His Father and was fully removed from a course of action that would be sin.

Furthermore, in John 6:38, Jesus explained that He only does the Father’s will. He told them, "I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." It seems that He was referring back to that moment when the crowds wanted to make Him king the day before. He turned them down because it was not the Father's will.

In that moment when the crowds sought to make Him king, there were two ways to handle that situation: 1) Decline the crowds and go to the cross = God's Will. 2) Accept the crowds and go wherever the path led = Man's will. The fork in the road was set before Christ. And like always, He chose the right and perfect way, the way of submission and obedience to the Father. (For what it's worth, for most of us, we just chose our own way and wonder why life seems to get so scrambled). But the Impeccability Argument seems to imply that there was no real "fork in the road" for Christ. It seems that Jesus technically “could” have let Himself be commissioned as King. It wasn’t a magnetic force field that kept Him from sin, it was His purity and holiness.

At the same time, I don’t think there was ever a chance of Christ sinning. Christ was not in the throes of indecision at these moments. Yes, Christ who was God, who the day before made atoms rearrange in space/time to become fish and bread and a solid support to Him in water, this same God could do whatever He wanted. At the same time, however, Christ who was perfectly pure and holy, always WANTED to conform to His Father's nature and will. One who is pure, loves God's ways. One who is righteous wants to live out the law of God. One who is holy conforms to God's nature. This is true of us too--that the more we conform to God, the more we will love Him, His ways, His principles and our hearts/minds will increasingly pursue those things that God is pursing.

So while I stand with the Impeccability folks I wish that the position allowed for more flexibility with passages such as Hebrews 4:15. I never want to say that Christ sinned, nor would I want to say that there was ever a conflict in His heart about sin-- I just don't understand how the removal of even the possibility of sin fits Hebrews 4:15.

My conclusion is not on one side or the other (though I’d want to go on record and say that I’m with the Impeccabilty Group). It’s just that as I study scripture, I think that the question itself is ultimately not valid. Scripture doesn’t allow us to hold to a position that either Christ could have sinned and did not (because then our salvation would always be in jeopardy) or that He could not have sinned in the first place (because then passages such as Hebrews 4:15 and John 5 don’t make sense).

Ultimately, I rest with scripture. Scripture tells us that He faced the same situations and trials we faced, yet passed through them in complete obedience to the will and nature of God. Praise God for our righteous and Holy Redeemer!

So those are some of my thoughts, I'd like to hear yours...

Published in Blog