Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"The Generation of the Upright Shall Be Blessed"

"Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in His commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon the earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed." - Psalm 112:1-2.

How wrong is Baptist theology? :|

I'm not sure I could put it in a nutshell for you, but let me try an illustration... Do you know exactly what the covenant is?

Even though the covenant of God is a theme which runs through all of Scripture, Baptist theology seriously misunderstands it. If I used the phrase "the church in the Old Testament", would you know what I mean, or consider it an incorrect term?

It is true that the Bible speaks of "covenants", but it also speaks of the covenant of God, which He calls "my covenant" and "the everlasting covenant". It consists most fundamentally in this: "I will be your God, and you will be my people." The church in its strictest sense is the people of God, that is, those and only those included in this covenant of God, who truly believe in the promised Messiah who came 2000 years ago. But of course, there is also the visible church in the world, and we all know that in any wheat field there are weeds which do not belong.

But the people of God existed in the world before Christ came too. And this is why Stephen calls the children of Israel (Acts 7), "the church in the wilderness". Because there is only one everlasting covenant of God, and only one promised Messiah (Greek: Christ) by which it is established, there can only be one people of God from the beginning of history to the end of the world. This is why for example, Paul speaks about a true Jew being one who is one inwardly, not outwardly (Rom. 2:28-29), and that they which are of faith are the children of Abraham (Gal. 3), and why he speaks of the Gentiles being made fellow-citizens who were once strangers (Eph. 2:11-3:6). And since there can only be one God, one Christ, one covenant, and one people of God, then all the promises of the covenant are one in Christ, as it also says in II Cor. 1:20, and likewise in Gal. 3 where it explains that the promises given to Abraham and his seed were to Christ, and all who are united to Him by a true faith (which we know is worked in us by Holy Spirit according the grace of God alone).

But what did the promise of God to Abraham consist of? Not a merely earthly land of Canaan (that was nothing but a picture), but that he and his descendents in their generations would inherit the world (Gen. 17:7; Rom. 4:13), and this is why, for example Eph. 1 and Col. 1 and many other places also speak about the inheritance of the saints. The point is, that everywhere in Scripture that we see a promise of God, we know that it is for those who are one in Christ. And the promise quoted in the Psalm above, just like the promise given to Abraham, is that the children of believers will be blessed, although obviously not every single one of the children (since there are children of the promise and children of the flesh as Romans 9 explains, and the example of Jacob and Esau illustrates - and I recommend you read and study Romans 9 very carefully because it is THE key chapter on this subject, and for various reasons, probably the most avoided chapter in the Bible today).

Since our children have always been included in the church and the people of God throughout all history (and this was signified by the sign of the covenant, circumcision given to the male children - which Rom. 4 says was a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith, even though many who were outwardly circumcised were not truly inwardly circumcised), and since there is nothing in the New Testament which would even hint that this has been changed (except that the sign of the covenant has been changed to baptism, for various important reasons because Christ has now come, which is administered to all those who are part of the church, whether they join from outside or are born inside), but rather, many re-iterations of it, such as the particular mention of children by Peter in Acts 2:39 and almost all baptisms recorded in the New Testament were entire households being baptised (except for, obviously Paul who was single, and the Ethiopian eunuch, who was in fact, a eunuch).

I could go on, but the issue that Reformed theology has against Baptist theology is that it Baptists think that a credible profession of faith is a necessary condition for baptism. They point to examples of converts in the book of Acts - but these are converts. Of course it is true for converts to the faith from outside the church, like Gentiles from heathendom, just as much as it was a requirement for them to be circumcised in the Old Testament too. But as regards children born in the church and the people of God, they cannot prove that this is a prerequisite, and it certainly was not in the Old Testament - rather Abraham (and by extension, all believers) was commanded to give the sign of the covenant to his household, because God saves His people in the line of generations. Because He ordinarily saves families as families, not as individuals. You can perhaps see this even in your own family. It is not that children brought up in a Christian home are "more likely to believe", because after all, we are all born equally depraved and at enmity with God, such that unless God changes our hearts by His grace we only reject Him with scorn.

Baptists will often say, "Give me one example of an infant being baptised in the New Testament!" But this is a backwards approach to Scripture. It has already been proven that the children of believers are included in the covenant of God, and the people of God (the church), and therefore must receive the sign of the covenant. The burden of proof is on the Baptist to show from the New Testament where it is taught that children are no longer included in the church of God, and ought not receive the sign of the covenant.

Of course, there is at least one undeniable example of infants being baptised recorded in the New Testament, I Cor. 10:1-2. All the children of Israel were "baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea". And who would dare claim that there were no infants present among the children of Israel when they passed through the Red Sea? And the point of the verse is this: many of those who were baptised were not saved, but became idolaters and were destroyed - therefore take heed lest you fall and flee idolatry (for there are always wicked weeds in the wheat field of God, as I said earlier). Trust in Christ alone, not in baptism or any other thing, and in Christ alone you have full confidence that you are righteous in the sight of God, and will be preserved to the end, and conformed to the image of Christ to the glory of God.

Sam W.

P.S. I should say that since the essence of the covenant is "I will be your God, and you will be my people", it is most fundamentally a loving relationship of fellowship and a bond of friendship with God. Marriage is also described as a covenant, and although we talk about "marriage vows", the vows themselves are not the marriage, the marriage is a bond of fellowship and love, and the joyous relationship within that bond. It is the same idea with the covenant of God, and that is why marriage is called the mystery of Christ and the church (Eph. 5).

And I should also refer you to a comprehensive supply of resources on the subject, because although it is not complicated, when coming from a Baptist background, with Baptist thinking, it can seem difficult to figure out. http://www.cprf.co.uk/covenantbaptismresources.htm

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Still the best after 400 years

As it happens to be the 400th anniversary of the KJV, I suppose it would be appropriate to explain some of my thoughts on what is perhaps going to be a controversial anniversary. I use the KJV, because it's the version I read and study, and that my church uses, and that English-speaking churches whose heritage is found in the Reformation have used for the last 400 years. There are certainly deeper underlying reasons, which are far more significant.

First of all, I'm not a "KJV-Only-ist" in the sense that I don't believe it is as good as it could be, or entirely perfect, or on par with the text in the original languages (I say this for theological reasons, and because I know a little, but enough generally about the grammatical differences between languages, not because I know anything specifically about Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic). Also because I'm not against other versions in principle if they are faithful translations of the true Scriptures, but the problem with almost all the recent versions which have been released in the number of years is:

1) The biblical and Reformed doctrine of the Preservation of Scripture. They are based upon a couple of manuscripts which differ vastly from the overwhelming majority of other manuscripts, (which the Reformers deliberately rejected as corrupt). One bunch was preserved in a library in the Vatican, and the other lost in a waste-basket in a city that was notorious for the propagation of heresy. If God's word is preserved for the sake of His people, then how could these manuscripts which dwelt in obscurity away from God's people for so long, really be God's word? Especially when they contradict the other manuscripts in so many places?

So, the text which has been preserved and received by God's people throughout the ages is what we should receive, just as Christ received the Scriptures of His day, trusting that God had preserved them. It is not insignificant that the modern-day Arian heretics, who inappropriately call themselves "Jehovah's Witnesses," are strong proponents of these deviant manuscripts.

2) The biblical and Reformed doctrine of the plenary (full) and verbal (each word) Inspiration of Scripture. The more recent translations are mostly based upon a "dynamic equivalence" philosophy of translation. This means that the translators interpret what they think the original meaning of the phrases and sentences were, and then they paraphrase this perceived meaning in a different language. So, then we are not reading God's words, but the words of the interpretation of the translators.

Now the translators of the KJV, were a very godly bunch of men, at the height of the strength of the Reformation, of the calibre (both intellectually, and in understanding of the original languages, and spiritually) that can hardly be found anywhere in these present dark days. But what of, for example, the translators of the NIV? At least one was a lesbian (Dr. Virginia Mollenkott). But also, the translation philosophy used by the KJV translators was "formal equivalence", which means that with as little interpretation as possible, and as little paraphrasing as possible (only enough to retain the original sense taking into account the differences in grammatical structure and word order in different languages), they translated the words of the Bible, and when they had to insert extra words to give the original sense, they put these extra words in italics to show that they were not present in the original (the more recent translations add words willy-nilly with no indications whatsoever). The result was "Biblical English".

It was a peculiar style even then, as much as it is now, being so similar in structure and style to the original Greek and Hebrew phraseology - yet it remains easily understood (if you doubt this, read it, and consider how many foreign mission fields have successfully used the KJV when English was not even the first language). Not only that but they compensated for certain deficiencies and ambiguities in the English language which were not problems in the original languages - such as the use of "thou" and "thee" for "you, singular" and "you" and "ye" for "you, plural". There has not yet been a translation anywhere near as good as the KJV for these reasons, in terms of its precision and accuracy. And it's all because the translators feared God, and took seriously His warnings not to add or take away from His word, and that every word of the Bible is God's word and may not be trifled with.

You may examine these two simple claims yourselves, and make your own judgments.

Sam W.

P.S. More reading materials on this subject can be found here:

The most significant issue (regarding which texts are valid), is not controversial for the Old Testament (the Masoretic text), but concerns the Greek New Testament. This article from the Trinitarian Bible Society deals with this subject comprehensively, and definitively: http://www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org/site/articles/grktxt.html

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: Contending for the Faith

No other book that I have read has been more helpful in my understanding the present condition of the church world today.

Each chapter of the book treats a separate heretic/heresy in church history, from the very early church all the way up to recent times. It is written in a very easy to read style, despite the complexity of some of the heresies discussed (since every heresy tends to be quite complicated in comparison to the simple truth). Reading it was like sitting with a father, being patiently told the long story of the family's history. Colourful stories and characters are painted in each chapter, which helps not with the flow and enjoyment of the reading, but also in understanding how the heretics, and their heresies developed.

Only the chapter on the Marrow men controversy became a little difficult to follow, but with good reason considering the difficulty of the issues involved. When men attempt the impossible in trying to find common ground between the truth and the lie, it always ends up with confusion. Simple overall principles like this, teaching about the character of heresies, and those who propagate them, were smoothly drawn out of the many examples.

Each chapter, a little story in itself, like every good story, contains important lessons to be learnt. Occasionally the lesson was longer than the story - but always very rewarding. The lessons contain enlightening analyses of the heresies, and bring the light of God's word to bear on each issue. Especially helpful was the distinctively Reformed protrayal of the issues involved. The truth was set very clearly in opposition to what was false or distorted, and the real character and root of the error became clear. Because of this, the book shows the reader where the same errors are found today, and how best to correct them and guard against their reccurance.

The wealth of the specific biblical subjects dealt with throughout this book is truly astounding. People in the confused church world today need to absorb the lessons in a book like this, to know the history of the church, and how God has led her and preserved her, and caused her to confess Him more and more clearly and fully throughout the ages. It is a terrible shame when we don't learn the lessons of history, and of incalculable help to us when we do.

I wish all the professing Christians that I know near where I live would read this book and see things as clearly as they are presented in it. It's available from our own Limerick Reformed Bookstore for the Republic of Ireland, and from the CPRC Bookstore for the UK and the rest of Europe, and from the RFPA  for America and the rest of the world.

Sam W.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Selling Out Scripture for Evolutionism

"It is something like a case of an honest, God-fearing grocery store owner being robbed at gunpoint by a murderous crook. Investigating the incident, the crook tells the police that the store owner gave him everything from the store, while the owner says that the criminal boldly threatened his life. The policeman, content to adopt the crook's version, tells the store owner that he must have been under the influence of a powerful narcotic when he gave all those things to the crook, or that his description of the robbery cannot be taken literally. The owner really meant that his gift to the robber can be construed as robbery because his conscience so smote him when he saw the poverty of the crook that it compelled him to give the store's contents to the crook. So theistic evolutionists are ready to sell out Scripture for evolutionism, and they do it by explaining that the scriptural narrative of creation cannot possibly be taken literally."

Such is the verdict of Prof. Herman Hanko in his section on evolutionism in his unique book on the history of heretics in the church over the last two thousand years, "Contending for the Faith" (http://www.rfpa.org/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=23&products_id=114). I'm amazed at how vivid and accurate this illustration is!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Wresting Scripture to Make "Free-Will" Seem Biblical

II Pet. 3:9 "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."

I Tim. 2:3-4 "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."

Those who attack salvation by grace alone, by the unbiblical doctrine of "free-will" often use verses like this in an attempt to deceive the unwary who do not read their Bibles as they ought and check the context in which verses are situated.

It ought to be said at the outset however, that it is the common practice of heretics to point to short verses here and there in which the main thrust of the context is not the subject at hand. When we come to the Bible with a specific question, we ought to first go to those parts of Scripture which clearly deal with the question head-on - not those which may touch on it briefly when dealing with a separate issue. Some parts of Scripture are more difficult to understand than others, and we must go to the most clear passages first, and interpret the less clear passages in their light, according to the rule, "Scripture interprets Scripture". Those who studiously avoid doing this are following the practice of heretics which the Holy Spirit describes in the same chapter as one of the verses above:

II Pet. 3:15-17 "And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness."

We'll return to this portion of Scripture later, but for now notice, "the unlearned and unstable wrest" Scripture - in particular "things hard to be understood", of which there are "some" in Scripture; so not all Scripture is hard to be understood, and even those difficult parts may be understood far more easily and clearly, when we follow the practice advised by the Apostle's warning here: interpret the more difficult in light of the more clear passages.

So then the first question we must ask in this controversy is which passages especially deal with the issue of salvation by grace alone, and the issue of "free-will"? This is what people refuse to do. Romans speaks at length about human depravity, and salvation by grace alone because it is in this letter that the subject which is dealt with most clearly and fully. No wonder then that Arminians studiously avoid chapters 8 and especially 9 of this letter (not to mention the rest of it to greater or lesser extents).

The letter begins by stating its intention to set forth a summary of the Gospel, and immediately declares God's wrath against all humanity who are presented as those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (not who have a "free-will" to accept or reject the truth). The second chapter continues to abase all humanity, explaining that in terms of wickedness there is no difference between the Jew and Gentile, religious or irreligious - all are condemned, even self-condemned with or without the Law, all are alike "under sin". Any supposed "free-will" to do moral good in any sense, is utterly destroyed by this emphatic statement that all are "alike under sin". There is therefore none who makes himself to differ in the righteous eyes of God with respect to His wickedness. In chapter three, the subject continues to be human total depravity, and the Holy Spirit unleashes a barrage of proofs from the Old Testament to throw mankind into the dust and annihilate his pride and supposed "free-will". "There is none that doeth good, no, not one". If it is a good thing to accept the truth, or accept a gift of salvation and grace from God (and it is), then man is utterly incapable of it - indeed the disposition of his entire being is wholly against any such choice or decision.

Only when man is put in his right place, does the Holy Spirit begin to explain the atonement of Christ, and the righteousness of God that is without the works of the law (which are the only works that "free-will" can do). Those whom Christ has died for are freely justified, by their faith in God who justifies the ungodly. God does not justify those with "free-will" to accept or reject Him, He only justifies the ungodly, that is, those who are actively opposed to Him. Length prevents us from examining everything in any detail, but suffice to say that the letter goes on to prove that this is how Abraham was justified, before the law even was revealed through Moses, and before even he was circumcised - and that salvation and grace are given by the promise of God (which Hebrews also speaks about at length), not by means of an offer which man may accept or reject by means of his "free-will" (because then, as Paul already proved, man would certainly only reject such an offer, being ungodly and under sin, ruled by Satan), and because if the promise of God relied upon man's "free-will" it could not be sure to all the seed (Rom. 4:16). Because the promise must be sure to all the recipients of it, it is granted by the necessary means faith, so that it is all by grace (not by anything man does, which would mean that man could merit with God, which is impossible and a blasphemy).

Since we know the certainty of the promise of God to us by faith, the letter goes on to explain the blessedness of those who are justified by means of this gift of faith, and of the certain results of Christ's atonement for us. It is an effectual atonement because Christ took the punishment for our sins (while we were His enemies - so far were we from making ourselves acceptable above others by means of "free-will"), so that "much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" and "when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." There is the effect of the atonement, all those for whom Christ died have been reconciled to God, and therefore much more then, are saved from wrath, and are saved by His life. This salvation of all for whom Christ died is completed, as Christ said "It is finished" on the cross. Because this is the unchangeable effect of the cross for all those for whom Christ died, it is impossible that Christ died for everyone, because not everyone is saved, and many are already in hell suffering for their sins, because Christ did not suffer in their place.

The letter moves on to compare and contrast Adam, explained that as all in Adam are imputed with Adam's sin and are condemned for it to death, so all who are in Christ are imputed with Christ's righteousness and are therefore justified by it, and saved to eternal life! And the imputation of Christ's merits as opposed to Adam's demerits, causes much more grace to abound, than the offences of sin, so that our blessedness is far greater than Adam's original state before the Fall. And it is clear that just as "free-will" did not give us a choice whether to be condemned in Adam or not (but God determined it alone), so "free-will" cannot give us a choice whether or not to be justified freely in Christ.

The obvious objection to such concrete exposition of salvation by grace alone, is that should we therefore sin, so that grace may abound all the more? And this is emphatically denied, and declared impossible, because all those for whom Christ died are united to Him in His death and resurrection by the Holy Spirit, so that all who are saved will certainly walk according to the new life which they have received by grace - in obedience to God, being freed from slavery to sin and Satan, but a servant of God. Finally the freedom of the will is spoken of! But it is not freedom to do anything whatsoever to accept or reject God, but rather freedom from the slavery of sin (in which there was certainly no "free-will"), to be a servant of the living God (it even removes the freedom to reject God which is no freedom at all!) - that is true freedom! Yet who has this freedom? Those who have been given eternal salvation by the promise of God and the death of Christ and who have been born again by the Spirit of God who applies this salvation to all the elect - and no-one else, because no-one else is saved.

The next chapter (seven) proves that the law can no longer condemn those who are united to Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God, since He died, and the law has no hold over those who have died (which is why a person who remarries is an adulterer if their previous spouse is still alive). The Holy Spirit explains the purpose of the law (which is not to tell people that they have "free-will" to accept or reject God's grace - which is not only not the purpose of the law, but not part of God's law at all anyway, which if broken in the slightest, condemns to hell), which is to give the knowledge of sin. The law does not give the knowledge of "free-will", it gives the knowledge of sin; so that when you read, "THOU SHALT BE PERFECT AS I AM PERFECT", you do not conclude that we therefore have the "free-will" to be perfect as God is perfect, but rather you conclude that we are wretchedly depraved and sinful, condemned by this law to hell, and emphatically do NOT have "free-will".

Why must we be condemned by the law? To seek our salvation only in Jesus Christ, and flee only to Him, and trust only in Him. To guard us from ever daring to trust in our own "free-will" which is totally depraved and can do nothing except condemn us further. This was the Apostle Paul's attitude to the law, because he had received the Holy Spirit (and therefore saved eternally), he sees that, even having been born again, having the new life of a Christian, he cannot keep the law, but fails miserably and has only a small beginning of obedience, the law therefore pushes him to Jesus Christ, and keeps him trusting only in Christ for salvation, and makes him more and more thankful for such great salvation, so that he never trusts in his "free-will" or his ability to keep any of God's law.

Paul goes on to contrast the flesh and the Spirit - nothing good proceeds from what we are naturally, even the carnal mind is enmity against God (i.e. "free-will" is only the enemy of God, not a friend), nor can it ever be subject to the law of God. To be spiritually minded however, is life and peace. And if anyone does not have the Spirit, they do not belong to Jesus Christ, but conversely, if anyone does, he belongs to Christ and has eternal life which cannot be taken from him. The letter continues to exalt the blessedness of all true Christians, teaching us that the faith which we have (by which we can call God our Father) is by the witness of the Spirit in us, and that since we are children (and know it by the Spirit of God), we are therefore heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. We cannot inherit hell, but only the new heavens and the new earth, with Christ. So, Paul begins to explain how the creation will certainly be renewed, as surely as we know that we are God's children, and that Christ has died for us.

And as if we didn't get the point already in all this so far, he goes on to speak of the intercession of the Spirit for us which cannot be uttered, because our prayers are feeble and ignorant, and how Christ who knows the hearts, and the mind of the Spirit prays for us according to the will of God (which we only know in a very small part). By this we are given us confidence that there is no greater intercession for us in heaven, nor must we dare seek any which would be a blasphemy against Christ whose intercession is greater than all because He purchased our eternal salvation with His blood, and is very God of very God.

Considering all this, we know (and this is not a sin of presumption, but the confidence of faith), that God works everything for our good, and that nothing whatsoever, not even our wicked and pernicious "free-will" which remains in us battling against the Spirit, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ. Again, Paul reminds us of the unchangeable effect of the atonement: if God is for us, who can be against us (because God alone is almighty)? Who can lay anything to the charge of us who are God's elect (which we know by faith)? God is the one who has justified us. Who is the one with the right to condemn? Christ is the Judge, who is also the one who died for us, and who rose again, and now is making intercession for us. So, all those for whom Christ died, must and will go to heaven, and cannot go to hell, as surely as God cannot deny Himself and is the only Almighty.

I haven't got to Romans 9 yet, but already "free-will" is obliterated by the Word of God, and condemned as a wicked enemy of salvation and of the Gospel of grace which is the Gospel of Christ alone, not of "free-will". Study the chapter yourself, and notice verse 16 which specifically denies that the will of man determines whom God saves. The chapter explains how God's promise has not failed with respect to the many Jews who do not believe in Christ, because His promise was never to every single one of the children of Abraham, but to the elect, who are chosen unconditionally, not on the basis of anything good or evil that they do, or their will or any other work, but by God's sovereign mercy whom He grants to some from eternity and withholds from others. And it answers the objection (an objection which is only raised because this unconditional sovereign election and reprobation in predestination is what the passage is exactly teaching) that it is unrighteous for God to elect without any respect to any form of merit whatsoever (whether "free-will" or anything else).

Much as I would like to continue at least to the end of chapter 11 (after this the subject deviates too far into a different though related area - gratitude for this salvation), We must return to what the verses first quoted mean:

I Tim. 2:4 speaks of God's will to save all men. First of all, it is abundantly clear from everywhere in Scripture that God's will is almighty (because He is almighty) and that whatsoever He wills certainly comes to pass. It is also clear throughout Romans which we have just discussed, that God elects some to salvation and not others. God wills to save some men and not others. But of course this verse can't contradict that because God cannot lie. And the explanation is simple. "All men" used in this context refers to "all kinds of men" just as it means in verse 1 of the same chapter. This is why context is so important in correctly understanding Scripture. "All men" in verse one cannot mean that we are expected to pray for those who are already in hell, for example, or for the Antichrist, for example. The context explains that it is speaking of men from all social strata, even kings, because God is not a respecter of persons (because He's the One who determines everything about us anyway), and Christ has redeemed people from every tongue, tribe, and nation (Rev. 5:9). That verse is simple to understand once the context is understood, and once it is considered that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture.

II Pet. 3:9 is perhaps even simpler. The passage is all about the second coming of Jesus Christ. The first part of the verse tells us that Christ is not slow to return, but rather He is longsuffering towards us and, so that before He returns all must be brought to repentance. It is obvious from the long clear passages discussed above that God will not bring every single person to repentance (as we know from history too, such as Judas, or the Canaanites, or the wicked before the flood, to name a few!), and we know that God's will is always almighty (Psalm 115:3, for example). It is also clear that if Christ were to wait for every single person to be brought to repentance, then He would never return! The purpose of the verse is to assure us that Christ is certainly coming, and will not delay! The obvious meaning is that "all" in this context refers to "all the elect". The elect are the only ones who are ever brought to repentance as we saw from Romans - so this verse really ought to be simply understood. The "us" in the same verse qualifies the "all"; so that the meaning is "all of us, the elect".

It has to be said that very often when heretics try to twist verses into their own false doctrines, the verses prove too much for them. There's a beautiful irony here, and a demonstration of the power of God's Word. Such verses lead them into impossible contradictions with the rest of Scripture. If that verse really meant that God willed for not a single person to perish, then first of all, that means He is not all-powerful (because many do perish), and secondly, what about the clear examples of where God did will for certain people to perish, such as Judas, the son of perdition. Or take for example, Pharaoh and his armies, God says very plainly that He raised them up in order to display His great power and salvation to the Israelites when He drowned them in the Red Sea. Or what about the Canaanites whom God sent Joshua to destroy? If God did not will for the antediluvians to perish, why did He send a Flood to kill them all? If Christ does not will for any to perish on the Last Day, then why does it describe Him treading the winepress of His fury? A terrifying quote from Nahum should help us to think rightly about how God views the wicked who are not in Christ:

"God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vegeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies. The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet." - Nah. 1:2-3.

We ought to remember that sometimes when Scripture speaks of the Lord being "slow to anger" it is speaking of His longsuffering towards His saints (which II Pet. 3 that we quoted earlier says, is salvation), and otherwise it is speaking of Him storing up wrath against the wicked for the Day of Judgment, when their cup of iniquity is full, and the wicked world is ripe for judgment. If God willed for no-one whatsoever to perish, there would never be a judgment.

People who stubbornly misinterpret Scripture by trying to use difficult passages to explain the clearer parts, end up tying themselves in knots and unable to understand the Scriptures at all, because one error leads to another. This is because the truth is simple and united and one - as God is. The reason we find it so hard to be corrected when we are plainly in error, is our pride. This is why we must have humility (which is the fruit of the Spirit, not of "free-will") when we come to Scripture, and come to it with other believers, knowing that in two thousand years of the church since Pentecost, there have no doubt been many much wiser saints than ourselves who have studied Scripture, and recorded the good fruit of their studies (even though we must test everything, because even the most spiritual Christian makes errors).

Monday, February 07, 2011

Pharisees think that Sabbath-keeping is legalistic

Perhaps there is no other thing which modern Evangelicals associate more with the Pharisees and their legalism, than Sabbath-keeping. But was it not the case that they distorted what true Sabbath-keeping was about? Listen to this compelling argument from Walter Chantry's "Call the Sabbath a Delight!"

"At this time in our Lord's earthly ministry [Matthew 12:1ff and Luke 6:1ff], Jesus was pledged to fulfill all righteousness even under the Mosaic judicial and ceremonial laws. It was He alone who perfectly lived by the system given under Moses. He and His disciples could not sweep away any Old Testament law as irrelevant if Jesus were to fulfill His mission as Messiah. Our Lord is not suggesting to the Pharisees that it is permissible to break the law because the law must be changed.
"To the contrary, Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of a fundamental misunderstanding of the Sabbath law. Their views were entirely mistaken and could not be defended from Old Testament Scriptures. They had blundered seriously in handling Biblical passages on the law. Our Prophet is defending His practice because it is in complete harmony with Old Testament standards. He had not in any way disregarded the Sabbath!
"This observation is of the highest significance in our day. It is important because some breathe the spirit of the Pharisees and would reintroduce their stern demands within the modern church. However, even more shocking than those who wish to reconstruct a Pharisaical attitude toward the Sabbath are those who wish to abolish the Sabbath in our day. These people suggest that the Pharisees were right, not Jesus. They try to persuade us that if one day in seven must be kept holy to the Lord, it is inevitable that we will take up the Pharisees' way of doing so! They imply or declare that the only possible way to keep the fourth commandment is in the way of Pharisaical strictness. Their opinion is that the only alternative to the rigidity of the Pharisees is total abolition of the day. Such a position leads to the conclusion that the Pharisees were correct in accusing our Lord and His disciples of Sabbath-breaking. This approach toward rescinding the fourth commandment is an intolerable sacrilege! Jesus' pattern of behaviour is in full compliance with the Sabbath law."

In this masterful book, Chantry also powerfully brings Scripture to bear against some of the most common, and superficially convincing arguments against keeping one day in seven holy to the Lord:

"Some of the Continental Reformers and Reformation creeds reason something like this. Christians have ceased from seeking God's favour by good works and have instead relied upon the works of Jesus Christ to save them. This rest of the Christian from a works way of salvation is akin to God's ceasing from his works at creation. The Old Testament weekly Sabbath prefigured this resting upon Christ. Now we have the reality and no longer need the shadow. However, Christians, too, need a day of worship; but the Lord's Day is not identical with the fourth commandment Sabbath.
"At best this is a jumble of poorly worked-through ideas. At worst some of the Reformers have misled us at this point. It appears that some Reformed thinkers could not escape the influence of one of their leading doctrines even when it did not apply to the subject which they were handling.
"Some who are newly come to the doctrines of grace find God's sovereignty in every Bible verse and feel compelled to expound that theme in every message. A few Reformers seemed to feel compelled to discuss justification by faith when defining the nature of Sabbath-keeping. To them ceasing from works could only mean to cease to rely on works religion to be saved. However, the parallel does not hold in Biblical passages on the subject.
"God ceased from glorious and righteous works when He entered His rest. He entered rest satisfied and delighted in the work He had done. When the Jews were called to work six days and rest on the seventh in imitation of their Creator, it was not being suggested that they try to earn salvation by their obedience to the law. Such a course was nowhere recommended by Moses! Galatians 3 explicitly denies such a position. All mankind was given six days to do all his own legitimate works. On the seventh he was to cease from these (good) works to worship and serve the Lord. Man is to share God's delight in divine works. He is to enter God's rest, which has nothing to do with a former miserable works religion."

Throughout this short, yet thorough book, the common New Testament passages misused to deny that the fourth commandment is applicable to Christians are explained. Romans 14:5-6, Col. 2:16-17, and Gal. 4:9-10, all speak against Christians keeping the ceremonial and judicial laws which were shadows and have been fulfilled with the coming of the reality which is Christ. He proves that the fourth commandment was not included in these ceremonial or judicial laws, and that these passages have in question the feast days and special sabbaths pertaining to them. Rather, the fourth commandment is a moral one, and was laid down, not by Moses, but by a creation ordinance as was marriage.

He also proves conclusively from various passages (and especially with a watertight exposition of Hebrews 3:1-4:11) that not only is the fourth commandment still applicable to Christians today (as with all the other moral commandments), but also that the day has been changed by the Lord of the Sabbath, Christ, to the first day of the week (which was the day Christ entered His rest), instead of the seventh (on which God entered His in the beginning). The book demonstrates the grievous error of antinomianism proving that the moral law of God was not abolished. It also traces much of the attitude against Sabbath-keeping to the Scripture-dividing heresy of dispensationalism which says that most of the Bible is not really applicable to the church in the New Testament. In connection with this, he proves that keeping the law was never a means of salvation; rather, salvation by grace through faith has always been the way (his simple clear arguments on this point are stunning). Positively, Chantry patiently explains the purpose of the law, both the moral law, and the ceremonial and judicial laws.

Besides this essential framework, he gives wonderful pastoral instructions regarding the motive of all law-keeping - not in order to merit or earn anything, but out of the overflow of sincere gratitude in love for God. He exposes in detail the error of the Pharisees and gives wise and pastoral warnings against it, using the clear examples given by Jesus Christ. These parts of the book make it especially a worthwhile read, and also very beneficial even for those who may already be convinced that "there remaineth therefore a Sabbath for the people of God." - Heb. 4:9. If you are not convinced of this doctrine yet, then read the book, and I doubt you will have an argument remaining - indeed if your authority is Scripture alone, you will most likely "Call the Sabbath a Delight". :)

The book is available on Amazon here. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Call-Sabbath-Delight-Walter-Chantry/dp/0851515886/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297080652&sr=8-1

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Victorious Word Conquers Violence

"I will preach, speak, write, but I will force no one; for faith must be voluntary. Take me as an example. I stood up against the Pope, indulgences, and all papists, but without violence or uproar. I only urged, preached, and declared God's Word, nothing else. And yet while I was asleep, or drinking Wittenberg beer with my Philip Melanchthon and Amsdorf, the Word inflicted greater injury on popery than prince or emperor ever did. I did nothing, the Word did every thing. Had I appealed to force, all Germany might have been deluged with blood; yea, I might have kindled a conflict at Worms, so that the Emperor would not have been safe. But what would have been the result? Ruin and desolation of body and soul. I therefore kept quiet, and gave the Word free course through the world. Do you know what the Devil thinks when he sees men use violence to propagate the gospel? He sits with folded arms behind the fire of hell, and says with malignant looks and frightful grin: 'Ah, how wise these madmen are to play my game! Let them go on; I shall reap the benefit. I delight in it.' But when he sees the Word running and contending alone on the battle-field, then he shudders and shakes for fear. The Word is almighty, and takes captive the hearts." - Martin Luther.

Of all the things I've read by Luther, this is my favourite. I quoted it from Prof. Hanko's "Contending for the Faith" which is an historical-biographical history of the rise of heresy and development of the truth. This book is available on the RFPA website. It's also available from the Limerick Reformed Bookstore too for people in √Čire.