[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Sermon on Jude

by Matthew

I preached this sermon today:

5 ¶ I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.

6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

7 Even as Sodom and Gomor'rah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

8 ¶ Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.

The epistle of Jude is such a short book of the New Testament that it often tends to get forgotten.

It is about false teachers and about how these men are going to get their comeuppance.

I am going to focus on verse 6:

“And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the great day.”

This must be a very important verse. Does anybody know why I say this must be an important verse?

Because Peter wrote an almost identical statement in an almost identical passage in his second epistle. Scholars fail to agree about whether Jude copied Peter or Peter copied Jude. It is not very important, as we know the Holy Spirit inspired both passages.

A few weeks ago, the United Nations criticised Britain. For some reason the UN likes to criticise our country all the time. They complained about how celebrities like Peter Doherty and Amy Winehouse get away with using drugs. They argued that these are dangerous role models for young people.

Just imagine if we read in the newspaper that Amy Winehouse had been convicted of possessing drugs. And she was going to be sentenced to prison.

You can just imagine what the Daily Mail would say. They would praise the courts. They would say this is an excellent move. It sends the message that nobody, no matter how rich or famous can get away with taking drugs.

Now, it may well be that it would not make any difference. Perhaps young people would take drugs anyway. But you can imagine the delight with which many people would greet such a conviction.

We see a similar thing here. The angels that kept not their first estate were condemned for their sin and bound up in chains. If God does not spare these angels, how much will He not spare those who teach falsehoods and heresies in His name?

There is the question of who these angels are. Some hold that they are Satan’s angels. Indeed, many angels rebelled with Satan.

However, this cannot be. For those angels are free. We read in Ephesians that we are at war against principalities and powers in heavenly places, against the rulers of darkness. Satan’s angels are not in hell, but in heaven, where they make war on God’s kingdom. The angels that kept not their estate are helpless. They are defeated.

In the next verse we read of the sexual immorality of Sodom. This gives strong support to the view that the angels here are those Sons of God that are referred to in Genesis 6. They did not keep their estate in heaven, but came to earth and committed sexual immorality with human women. From them the race of giants came. You are welcome to disagree with me about this and debate it with me afterwards, but it seems to me that there is good reason for making a connection between Jude and Genesis 6.

I would also suggest that these angels are the ‘Spirits in prison’ referred to in 1 Peter. Peter tells us that Christ preached unto the ‘Spirits in prison’ which were disobedient in the days of Noah. This would have taken place in between His death and resurrection.

Clearly, the angels in prison were not being given a second chance. The message our Lord preached to them was a message of victory and triumph.

Indeed, Christ’s triumph has been declared to the angelic world. All thrones and dominions in heaven were created for Him. And He is exalted over all of them. We read in Colossians that Christ has made a show of principalities and powers. They have been humiliated before Him. I think that would seem to be in view in Peter’s comment about the spirits in prison.

It is easy to forget that beyond this world, there is a vast world of angelic beings, thousands and thousands of them. They are witnesses of God’s dealings with man. Christ is exalted above them all and He is made ruler over them. Those who are in Christ, who have placed their trust in Him can share that position of rulership over the angelic world. The Christian is called to judge angels and to be lord over them.

This passage is a reminder of the awful reality of hell. Hell is real. There are many churches where there is never any preaching on hell. There are some theologians who deny the reality of hell.

If we believe what the Bible says, we cannot deny the reality of everlasting punishment. And we cannot hide it. Brethren, we must preach it and we must preach the good news that Jesus Christ has delivered us from this place.

The angels are special to God. He created them first. He gave them a place of privilege and glory. Yet these angels who sinned against Him were cast into hell.

If God sent angels to hell, how much more is He prepared to condemn forever those who reject Him and His way of salvation?

If you are here today and you are not a Christian I have a warning for you. If you continue to reject Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers, you will go to hell. There is everlasting torment for those who reject Christ. I don't like having to say that, but it is the truth. Yet if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you can be delivered from hell and receive everlasting life. You can know everlasting joy and everlasting peace.

The failure of these angels is an important warning about apostasy. These angels were great in power and glory, yet they fell into sin and rebellion. They fell from a great height.

Likewise much of Christianity has been removed from its original standing. Through the Church, the Gospel has been made known. The power of the Holy Spirit has been manifested in the Church. The New Testament has been entrusted to Christians.

Yet how far has Christianity fallen!

I need not remind you of the gross errors of the Roman Catholic church; of the idolatry of the mass, the worship of Mary and Saints, of the supposed infallibility of the Pope.

But we must not let Protestants get off lightly.

A Roman Catholic priest was once told by a Protestant that the Roman Church was the Whore of Babylon spoken of in Revelation chapter 17. He replied “Ah, but who are her daughters?”

We have seen bishops who deny the virgin birth and even the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you ask the average minister in any denomination whether he believes the Bible, you are unlikely to get a straight answer.

I need not remind you of the scandal of television evangelists who squander huge amounts of money. Or the tragedy of the thousands of Protestant denominations divided against each other.

Christianity is in a sorry state.

Yet God will judge apostate Christianity. The book of Revelation prophesies God’s judgement upon Mystery Babylon, which many commentators take to be a corrupted form of false Christianity, just like the false teachers that Jude speaks of. Judgment begins with the house of God.

However, all over the earth, the Holy Spirit is moving. Men and women are still being born-again and coming to new life in Christ.

We must also recognise the possibility of the failure of individual believers. The child of God can fail in His service. The believer can fall into sin and error.

David, that great man of the Old Testament, chosen to be king of Israel, committed adultery and murder. In the New Testament, Peter denied the Lord three times and later compromised the Gospel by his inconsistent conduct towards the Gentiles.

Yet praise be to the Lord, we are saved by grace. Our salvation does not depend upon our worthiness, but upon God’s grace.

The apostle Paul spoke about those who had made shipwreck their faith. The author of Hebrews gives us many warnings against falling away.

You might then ask: "Is it possible for a born again believer to go to hell?" The Lord forbid! No, the Christian has received everlasting life. Once you have drunk of the water of life, you shall never thirst again. Those who are in Christ shall be with Him forever. They belong to Him.

However, there are consequences for failure in the Christian life. We read in 1 Corinthians about believers who were sinning suffering from sickness as God’s judgment. That is not to say that all sickness is because of sin, but the Lord does use physical suffering as a means of disciplining His children.

If we continue in sin, there is the possibility that the Lord may take us home. You have read about Ananias and Saphirah in Acts. They lied to the Holy Ghost and were cut down dead. No doubt, they went to heaven, but what a tragedy that their lives were wasted. They lost the opportunity to spend their lives serving their saviour. We see no mention of their children, so perhaps they were a young couple, in which case their story is even more tragic.

There are consequences after death too. Paul wrote in Corinthians about the judgment seat of Christ. If any man's work is burned up he shall suffer loss. Not loss of salvation, of course, but loss of rewards. Sometimes you hear Christians say "I'm not worried about rewards, I just want to get to heaven." I tell you this is foolishness. Our Lord commanded us to seek treasures in heaven. You may not worry about rewards now, but you will be disappointed when you get to heaven and you missed out on them.

Paul speaks about reigning with Christ. "If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him." What a tragedy it would be to miss out on reigning with Christ. Let us labour for that inheritance in heaven.

Yet we must not be discouraged. If we are in Christ, we are a new creation. We are indwellt with the Holy Spirit. We have the power to overcome. Were we to depend on our own strength in the Christian life we should surely fail. But we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

At the end of this epistle, Jude reminds us that the Lord is able to keep us from falling. The Lord is able to keep us strong in the Christian walk if we keep our faith in Him, if we keep looking to Him.

Brethren, look to Christ day by day, moment by moment. Think on Him. That way you will be reminded of His power to keep you from falling. If we overcome this world we shall receive a glorious inheritance in the kingdom. We shall reign with Christ and become lords over the angels and all of creation. That is one great incentive for carrying on and never giving up in our Christian walk.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Just out of interest: Books by Watchman Nee

by Matthew

Have any of you read any books by Watchman Nee?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jesus' Saving Message is Void? It is Sacrilegious to Suggest So!

by Antonio da Rosa

It is interesting in such a scheme as both mid-Acts dispensationalism and fundamental checklist soteriology that Jesus' message of evangelism, the saving message He preached while on earth, contained in the only expressly evangelistic book in the Bible (which by the way, by most scholars view, was the second to the last in the canon written) only had a 3 1/2 year shelf life!

It would seem curious to me that John, having been informed of this now necessary information, as Art and the checklist evangelists are concerned, by the Apostle Paul (or anyone else for that matter), does not make any such new information explicitly necessary in His gospel, but everywhere shows that the saving message of Christ is just that, the saving message of Christ that sufficiently tells us how to have everlasting life. His whole treatise is constructed to show that those who received everlasting life in the text upon hearing the saving message of Christ is the same way that his readership is to appropriate that life: simple faith in Jesus and nothing else.

Wouldn't you think that John, writing with an expressly and intentional evangelistic purpose, would clearly state that Jesus' saving message when He was alive is now insufficient? Why even produce testimony after testimony about Jesus' saving message if it is now void? Why risk giving the false impression, years after Paul died, that Jesus' message was still sufficient today!?!?

It just does not pass the critical thinking test. Why give such elaborate testimony to the saving message of Christ (which I take it in Art and the fundamentalists' estimation only had a 3 1/2 year shelf life) and then fail to clearly state explicitly that there is new content that is required from the standpoint of God (if indeed more information is required!)?

The facts mitigate against Art (and also the fundamentalists') shaky arguments.

1) John's gospel is explicitly evangelistic and written much after Paul's epistles

2) John's gospel fails to state anywhere that eternal life is gained by anything more than simple faith in Jesus, simple reliance on Jesus, simply taking Jesus at His word in His promise that guarantees everlasting life to the believer in Him.

4) Since it is true that John did not make any explicit statement concerning new Pauline disclosed requirements for eternal life, we can either conclude that:

a) John was misinformed years after Paul died or
b) John's treatise fails to clearly and explicitly articulate for us precisely how one is born again

4) Art and the checklist evangelists have failed to convince that the gospel is a technical term denoting exactly what one must do and believe to be born again and nothing else. There is no such verse that says "believe the Pauline gospel and you have eternal life and/or justification and/or eternal salvation". Everywhere those things are conditioned on faith in Jesus.

The mystery of the gospel in Ephesians is clearly the new information that God would make one organic unity out of Jews and Gentiles who believed in Christ.

Is that something too that must be believed in this Mid-Acts dispensation?

If the saving message of Christ is insufficient, where must one go to get all the information? We will not know what it is! Nowhere is it stated that one must believe this loose and ambiguous term, the gospel, and one has everlasting life. Where is the gospel, in its supposed technical sense, clearly, and sufficiently defined? Anyone who claims there is such a thing has never done a word study on the pertinent Greek words, especially as used by Paul himself.

1 Cor 15:3-11 doesn't even contain the deity of Christ or the necessity of faith alone.

John never says that Jesus' message was changed!

Imagine Art and the checklist evangelists calling the saving message that I preach a false gospel! That would put me under an anathema according to Galatians 1:8. Imagine me being rebuked by Christ at the Bema for repeating His saving message!

Jesus knew that the 4th gospel would give His words and be constructed with the purpose of being the only evangelistic book in the canon. Jesus is the Prophet Par Excellence! Art will not tell you, but the logical conclusion of his system will tell you to throw out the gospels as specific instruction for the church age. But funny. They give the teachings for those who are disciples of Christ.

Quite frankly, it is sacrilegious to suggest that Jesus' saving message, that was taught in the only purposely evangelistic book in the canon, authored by the Apostle John (which by the way Paul stated that the church was in the present position of "having been built on the foundation of the apostles" (Eph 2:20), John being one of these apostles), years after supposedly being instructed by the Apostle Paul on this new gospel (wasn't John there at the cross and already see Jesus risen from the dead? Didn't Peter preach the death and resurrection of Christ much before mid-acts?!) is now void. Imagine that. Jesus' saving message given in the only book that was purposely constructed for evangelism is now void. Sacrilegious to suggest so!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How Many Times Does It Change?

by Rose

I read a really excellent book last fall called "Dispensationalism" by Charles C. Ryrie. I was really, at that time, looking for something from him that would help clarify, in my mind, some trouble I was having with a point of view that I called "dispensational confusion." Basically it was this: when I look at a passage in which Jesus tells someone during His earthly ministry that they have eternal life
  • They might not have understood His Deity and
  • They had no idea that the cross and resurrection was coming and that it would remove sins
The position kept asking me: "If those people could trust Christ for their eternal destiny in a saving way without those details, why can't someone today?"

Well, unfortunately, I found no clear guidance on this particular dilemma of mine in the pages of Ryrie's book. It was a great book and there was much that was very helpful; don't get me wrong!Check out this quote:

In examining salvation under the Mosaic Law, the principal question is simply, How much of what God was going to do in the future did the OT believer comprehend? According to both Old and New Testament revelation, it is impossible to say that he saw the same promise, the same Savior as we do today. Therefore, the dispensationalist's distinction between the content of his faith and the content of ours is valid. The basis of salvation is always the death of Christ; the means is always faith; the object is always God (though man's understanding of God before and after the Incarnation is obviously different); but the content of faith depends on the particular revelation God was pleased to give at a certain time.

(Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism, page 140)

After reading that I kept scratching my head wondering how often the content of saving faith changes then? I mean, the apostle Peter believed most of the revelation he was given, but as has been pointed out, he sometimes rejected that the cross would happen. Would we stipulate that he was a "believer"? Of course. Other people that ran into Jesus and had what seem to be saving encounters with Him during His earthly ministry, was their content of saving faith different from those who heard about Jesus after His death and ressurection? I am really wondering about this even more now because of yet another idea that has been brought out over at my personal blog inferring that the message Peter and Stephen are recorded as having preached is not the same as the message that folks are to believe nowadays to be saved, because Paul had not received the low-down on the doctrine of Christ's substitutionary atonement until mid-acts.

I suppose my over-arching quesion in all of these discussions would be this:

So how often since Christ came to earth and began His ministry would we say that the content of saving faith has changed? What say you?

Friday, March 07, 2008

We have a birthday in the house