[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)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Do You Agree With This Quotation XXV

by Antonio da Rosa
I must make a correction to this post. I am adding the word "necessarily". Faith (and saving faith) can produce works. They just don't 'necessarily' produce them.

I have two quotes from the esteemed Professor Zane C. Hodges and one by Dr. Bob Wilkin. There have been many false charges brought up against Consistent Free Grace Theology, one being that we believe that a man can live for years and never bear any fruit. Theologically speaking, there is no biblical basis for the argument that saving faith necessarily produces good works. Yet pragmatically speaking, it is impossible that a believer never bear any signs of his new life.

Caution: Be careful not to read in these quotations what is not there. Never, in any circumstance, must one look to his works as a basis for assurance of the possession of eternal life! The authors of these quotes are adamantly opposed to introspection for assurance.

Of course, there is every reason to believe that there will be good works in the life of the believer in Christ. The idea that one may believe in Him and live for years totally unaffected by the amazing miracle of regeneration, or by the instruction and/or discipline of God his heavenly Father, is a fantastic notion -- even bizarre. We reject it categorically. [Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Autumn 1990 - Vol. 3:2]

... there is no need to quarrel with the Reformers' view that where there is justifying faith, works will undoubtedly exist too. This is a reasonable assumption for any Christian unless he has been converted on his death bed. [Absolutely Free! p 215]

I would say that it is hypothetically possible for a believer never to produce even one good work. However, I don't think that ever has or will occur... [Are Good Works Inevitable? http://faithalone.org/news/y1990/90feb1.html]

J.D. Faust on Arminianism

by Matthew

Joe D Faust is the pastor of Kingdom Baptist church. He holds to Millennial Exclusion, a minority position within Free Grace. Faust maintains the radical view, held by such men as GH Pember and Watchman Nee, that unfaithful Christians will be exluded from the Millennial Kingdom and will spend the thousand years in hell, before being restored in eternity.

Faust's views are controversial, yet he articulates his position well and with a degree of graciousness that is surpising in one who holds extrem KJV-Only views.

I would recommend reading Faust's critique of the Arminian views of Dan Corner:






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Monday, July 28, 2008

The miserable comfort of Arminian assurance

by Matthew

Armianians such as Wesley have often, surprisingly, had much to say about assurance.

Sometimes, Arminians (who reject eternal security) will boast that they can offer more assurance than the consistent Calvinist. Though the Calvinist will be saved in the end if he is among the elect, he may turn out to be merely a false professor and fall away. It is possible that the Arminian is right and he can have more assurance that at the present time she is truly a child of God (not that she necessarilly is).

However, this is surely the most miserable comfort of all. What good is it to me now to know I am a child of God this moment if I may yet spend the vastness of eternity in the lake of fire?

Supposing a man were on trial for some crime. Imagine if I said to him:

You should rejoice! You are a free man! You are innocent in the eyes of the law until you are found guilty!

What a comfort to him to know that he was under no condemnation until the court should find him guilty and send him to prison for the rest of his life!

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Do you agree with this Quotation XXIV

by Matthew

Some years ago, I read about a black teenager who was tired of racist abuse and so wrote on his bedroom wall:

I'm me and I'm fine, cos God don't make junk.

Is this true? And if it is true that God don't make junk, are there any implications for the doctrine of election?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

God at War, by Gregory Boyd (part 6)

by Matthew

In the fifth chapter, Gregory Boyd presents the Old Testament portrait of Satan (the word is Hebrew for adversary). Boyd holds that amongst the cosmic opponents of Yahweh, presented variously as raging waters, sea monsters and rebellious gods, there is one particular adversary, Satan, who is the ultimate foe of the Lord.

Boyd fundamentally rejects the view held by many Old Testament critics, that Yahweh has an evil side and is the originator of both good and evil.

Boyd begins with the book of Job. He dismisses the view that Satan in Job is a member of God's heavenly council. This makes evil effectively an agency of God. Ironicaly, conservative Christians who talk about Satan being 'God's devil' are joining hands with these liberal critics. Boyd raises a number of arguments against the view of Satan as a divine agent. He points out the Old Testament presentation of Yahweh as holy and righteous and opposed to evil. Most importantly, he argues that the text of Job does not support the notion of Satan as being a member in good standing amongst the heavenly council. God seems to be surpised when Satan shows up amongst the sons of God in chapter 1 (verse 7). Further, Satan does not appear to be engaged in simply making accusations against Job, his accusation seems to be against the Lord Himself. He is casting doubt on God's order. Finally, the conclusion of Job through the Lord's discourse demomstrates the reality of Yahweh's ongoing struggle against evil. The Lord never admits to causing harm against Job. Boyd goes on to address a number of texts that are used to support the 'Demonic-in-Yahweh' theory. Interestingly, many of these are the same texts that are used by Calvinists to support the idea that God ordained evil events.

Boyd writes of Satan in Job:

The adversary in the prologue of Job, then, is not to be taken as just one of the many servants in Yahweh's council or as an (evil) extension of Yahweh himself. While at this stage of revelation he has not yet acquired the proper name "Satan," the uncontrolled dimension of his being (roaming about), his arrogance toward God and his zealous malice toward Job reveal him to be a being who is not on God's side. While the main forces God is explicitly against in Job (and elsewhere) are the common cosmic forces of the Near Eastern warfare myths (Leviathan, Behemoth), the later Jewish and Christian traditions were certainly justified in eventually relating these forces with Satan: Satan was himself Leviathan.
God at War, p.152

Boyd then deals with Zecharaiah 3:1-10, in which Satan accuses the high priest Joshua in the presence of the angel of the Lord. Boyd argues that while the notion of the accuser being a member of the heavenly court is a possible interpretation of this text, it is not demanded by it. That Joshua is vindicated and Satan is rebuked indicates that Satan is not on the Lord's side.

Boyd also considers the only place in the Old Testament where Satan is used as a proper name, 1 Chronicles 21:1. He argues that it is most likely that on this occasion, the plans of the Lord and the plans of Satan came into coincidental allignment; the Lord seeking to judge David and Satan seeking to incite David to sin. Boyd acknowledges that God can use demons and fallen angels to serve His pruposes, but he qualifies this:

This by no means entails that there is a divine will behind every activity of an evil spirit- for usually we find that God and evil spirits (whether called angels, gods or demons) are in real conflict with each other. It certainly does not entail, as the "demonic-in-Yahweh" theorists (and ironically, conservative Calvinists) hold, that the evil spirits are nothing more than extensions of Yahweh's own will. But it does entail that Yahweh is the sovereign Lord of all history and can therefore at times employ evil divine beings in his service- even Satan himself.
God at war, p.154

Boyd then looks at those texts that have traditionally been applied to Satan, but whose identification is disputed by critics. The first of these is the serpent in Genesis 3. Boyd asserts that as an Evangelical who believes in the inspiration of Scripture, it is enough that the New Testament identifies the serpent with Satan. However, he also argues that elements in mythology ought to suggest that the serpent is a creature of chaos and evil. Boyd points out that whole the serpent is compared by the narrator to animals, it does not appear to be a natural animal. He argues that even the curse of 'eating dust' and 'crawling on the belly' does not necessarilly indicate that a real serpent is in view. This was a common way of referring to defeat and humiliation in Near Eastern literature (for instance in Micah 7:17). Boyd argues that the author is simply comparing the cursed position of the demonic-serpent being to the detested position of real snakes.

Boyd moves on to the famous Lucifer text, Isaiah 14:1-23. Critics have largely dismissed this as a reference to Satan. Boyd agrees with them that the traditional Satanic interpreation is not demanded by the text; it is on the surface comparing the king of Babylon to the planet Venus, which rises at dawn and then is extinguished by the light of the sun. However, he finds a number of parellels to this text in mythology that support the notion that a deity is involved. These mythological variations potentially give the text a cosmic scope. Thus, the traditional interpretation appears to be hinted at in the text.

Another traditional Satanic text is Ezekiel chapter 28 (I preached on this one!). Boyd agrees with the traditional view that there is a very strong suggestion of a cosmic context to this passage. As with Isaiah 14, he believes that a Caananite or Mesopotamian myth has been borrowed. By way of comparison, Boyd points out that Ezekiel also portrays the Pharoah of Egypt as a sea monster (chapter 29), which in his view indicates a connection to the cosmic conflict between Yahweh and the forces of evil. Boyd concludes on this text:

It seems, then, that the throughout this section, Ezekiel portrays historical events as illustrating and intersecting with cosmic events. More specifically, he envisages Yahweh's overthrow of his present historical enemies as examples of his overthrowing his cosmic enemies. In this light, the Christian understanding, derived from later revelation that clearly depicts Satan as God's archenemy, can be considered justified in sensing that the fall of Satan himself is intimated in the fall of the king of Tyre (and we might add, the pharoah of Egypt) as portrayed in this book.
God at War, p.162

Boyd concludes the chapter by summarising the Old Testament evidence for the Warfare Theodicy. Boyd makes clear that the various opponents of Yahweh portrayed in the Old Testament are depicted as posessing a genuine power to resist God:

Indeed, so authentic is the ongoing spiritual battle that in a few instances Old Testament authors suggest that these forces successfully resisted God's will in opposing nations or individual persons. For three weeks the "prince of Persia" successfully blocks God's answer to Daniel's prayer (Dan 10); the demonlike Chemosh, feeding on a king's sacrificed son, successfully routs Israel (2 Kings 3:26-27); and Yamm at times successfully mocks God by engulfing Israel as he earlier (Gen 1:2?) engulfed the earth (Ps 74:10-13). Hence, as Levenson notes, the psalmist has to contnually remind himself- in the face of evidence to the contrary- of Yahweh's primordial victory.
God at War, p.163

Boyd also points out that considerable authority has been given to the cosmic powers or gods. They exercise authority over the nations and seem to be associated with natural phenomena (Deut 4:19-20, Judg 5:20, Is 14:13, Hab 3:11). They have the power to do good by carrying out Yahweh's will, but they can also oppose the Lord and cause immense harm. Boyd argues that while the Old Testament does not provide an explicit Free-Will Defence, it gives no indication that evil is a fundamental part of cosmos, nor that it originates in the will or nature of Yahweh. It can rather be traced back to Yahweh's enemies. Where the problem of evil is brought up, in the book of Job, both Job, who blames God for evil, and his friends, who blame sinners are shown to be wrong. Evil is viewed as arising from hostile cosmic forces. Boyd writes:

One of the primary reasons why the problem of evil is so intellectually intractable for us is precisely that we have not learned the lesson of Job, or of other primordial peoples. We have not moved beyond the fslse dichotomy of Job and his friends: evil in our culture is still generally seen as being the either our fault or God's will, or both. We are yet caught in an Augustinian, classical-philosophical model of God's providence and an Enlightenment model of our aloneness in the cosmos.

Thus, there is in Boyd's mind a need to re-capture the concept of the "world-in-between." This is something I am attempting to do myself with my endless posts about angels. They are real and they are important for many reasons. Boyd also stresses that we need to move away from the idea that God's will cannot be resisted. He sees this as utterly contrary to the view of God presented in the Old Testament.

In the next chapters, he examines the New Testament evidence for a Warfare worldview and Warfare theodicy. I hope to go on to post about these.

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A Sermon on Exodus 25:17-22

by Matthew

I preached this today.

Exodus 25:17-22

17 And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.

18 And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.

19 And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubim on the two ends thereof.

20 And the cherubim shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.

21 And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.

22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.

When we think of Exodus, we tend to think of the story of Moses leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. This story is certainly one of the highlights of the Bible. However, unfortunately it means that we often forget some of the later chapters on Exodus. These give meticulous details about the tabernacle and how it should be furnished.

You might wonder what is so important about all these details. The reason is that the tabernacle was to be the most holy place on planet earth. The very presence of God was to be manifested in the tabernacle.

The things of the tabernacle were to be patterned after the things of heaven. I did some missionary work in Japan. While I was there, I visited an Anglican church. It looked exactly like an Anglican church in England, except that you had to take your shoes off when you went in. This church in Japan had been modelled on an English church. Likewise, the tabernacle on earth was to be modelled after the much greater temple that was in heaven. Did you know that God has a temple in heaven? At the edge of the universe there is that place where God's presence is manifested in a way unknown anywhere else in the cosmos.

Not only was the tabernacle modelled after the temple in heaven in its appearance, but if we look carefully at the details of its furnishings, we can find hidden references to some of the deeper spiritual truths of Scripture. I cannot go through all of these today, but I would like to talk about the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. By the way, if you want to explore some of the symbols and types of Exodus, I highly recommend reading AW Pink's commentary, Gleanings in Exodus. I do not agree with everything he says, but it is a very thorough commentary.

Most people know the Ark of the Covenant from the Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. I saw it when I was a four years old and was terrified by the bit at the end where the baddies melt after the ark is openned. It made me cry. Defintely too scary for a four-year old.

What is the Mercy Seat? If you are from a Salvation Army background like my mother here, you will know all about mercy seats, they have one in all their citadels. They are based on the idea we find in Exodus 25. Nobody knows exactly what it looked like, but it was placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant. It was not a seat in which anybody was allowed to sit, not even the high priest. It was Yahweh’s own throne. Just as God had His throne in heaven, He also had His throne on earth in the Tabernacle.

God entered into human history. He had condescended to man and entered into a relationship with the people of Israel. A relationship of government, but also a relationship of grace.

The nation of Israel was made the special object of God’s protection and blessing. God had chosen them to be the centre of His workings on earth. And some of us believe that at in their restoration after Christ’s return they shall be restord to blessing and privilege. However, they were a nation under law. Inside the Ark of the Covenant was placed the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. The Mercy Seat was placed over them. Thus, law was the principle of God’s rule over Israel. When they were faithful they knew of God’s protection, but when they neglected the law they had been given, they were disciplined and fell prey to their enemies. In Deutoronomy, the last book of Moses we have a list of blessings that Israel would enjoy if she kept the law and a list of curses that would fall on them if they neglected it. And neglect it they did, with the result that they were scattered amongst the nations.

The Mercy Seat was made of pure gold. This reflected the purity of God’s holiness. God is utterly pure and righteous. He can have nothing to do with that which is defiled. That ought to be a sobering thought to us. Yet Christ was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ. Thus in Him we are also made holy.

The Mercy Seat was decorated by images of Cherubim. What are Cherubim? They are heavenly beings. Ezekiel and the book of Revelation describe them as having the characteristics of a man, an ox, a lion and an eagle. Whether the Cherubim on the Mercy Seat looked like that, we do not know. A lot of the artistic depictions of the Ark show them as the more human-like conventional winged angels.

The Cherubim represent God’s judicial dealings towards mankind. They represent God’s government.

The visions of Ezekiel and the apostle John both included Cherubim. Both these men prophesied of God’s judgment.

When our ancestors, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God sent Cherubim to guard Eden. They were a sign that judgment had been exercised.

Just imagine in the Victorian era, a ragged child gazing into the windows of a toyshop, looking at all the wonderful toys inside. And imagine that child being pushed away by a burly doorman saying “These ent for the likes of you, son. These are for the nice children.” That must have been how Adam and Eve felt as they gazed at the home they had lost in Eden, forever barred by those Cherubim. Yet they had brought that loss upon themselves by disobeying God.

Thus, there were Cherubim on the Mercy Seat in the most Holy of Holies. They were there as a sign that Israel was subject to God’s government. Their sins had to be dealt with.

Therefore only one person could go into that place to intercede for them, the high priest. Once a year on the Day of Atonement. An animal had to be sacrificed before he could do so. Blood needed to be shed first. Without shedding of blood is no remission for sins. Thus, after having made sacrifice for the people, the high priest would come before the Mercy Seat as a representative of the people so that their sins could be pardoned.

The entrance of the high priest to the holy of holies was a type or a shadow of Christ.

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered death as a sacrifice for our sins. The blood of animals could never free anyone from sin. Yet Christ permanently dealt with the problem of sin by His death. He gave Himself for sinners.

After He rose from the dead, Christ ascended into heaven, into that heavenly tabernacle. He is present there as our great High Priest. He is there in heaven as our representative.

Just as there were Cherubim in the tabernacle on the Mercy Seat, there are real live Cherubim in heaven.

Adam and Eve were shut out of the Garden of Eden by Cherubim. Now there is a man, a human being, who dwells amongst the Cherubim. The apostle John saw Christ in heaven in the midst of the Cherubim and the angels.

In Christ, redeemed humanity is lifted up to the heights of heaven. In Christ, the believer is given access to God and given the right to enter into heaven. Through Christ redeemed humanity is united to God.

Maybe you are here today and you are not a Christian. Maybe you have no fellowship with God. To you God is a remote figure. You can be reconciled to God through Christ. Through Christ you can enter fellowship with God. You can receive the very life of God, eternal life through Jesus Christ. If you will believe on the Lord Jesus you shall be saved forever. I would urge you to turn to the Lord Jesus.

That Christ has entered into heaven means that we can have confidence in our prayers. As the high priest, Christ is our representative. By entering the heavenly sanctuary, He has obtained for us the right to bring our prayers to God. So we can ask anything of our heavenly Father in the name of His Son Jesus Christ. We can have confidence that our prayers will be heard in heaven.

In the old Tabernacle, the high priest of Israel never got to sit down in the mercy seat. It was the throne of Yahweh. However, Christ, our high priest is sat down in the throne of His Father. Christ has been given all authority in heaven and earth. He has not yet exercised that authority, for not all things are yet put under Him. However, when He comes in glory He shall rule over all creation.

But the Lord Jesus Christ shall not rule alone. He shall reign with His saints. The apostle Paul said “If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him.” Those who are in Christ have the opportunity to share in ruling over the universe with Christ. The Lord is establishing a new heavenly humanity in His Church who will be Lords over the universe. A kind of celestial aristocracy.

The Cherubim were a sign of God’s judgment over mankind. However, as Paul says, “Do ye not know that we shall judge angels.” In the coming kingdom, the saints are going to be in charge of the angels.

Knowing this is very important to us. How are we to conduct our affairs knowing that we shall judge angels? Now is the time to prove that we are ready for this responsibility. How can Christ put us in charge of His Father’s business when we are neglectful of our daily obedience? If we would reign with Christ, we must be attentive daily to our calling to serve the Lord.

Yet through the Holy Spirit, we have the power to overcome and to win that crown. Let us therefore look to our Saviour in His heavenly sanctuary and be diligent in His service.


Friday, July 11, 2008

A Great Comment on Heretic Hunting

by Rose

Someone emailed me a long comment that a blogger named Michelle (who goes by the ID "sanctification") made. She said this on a blog that is really centered on labeling those who differ on doctrine as "heretics." (I won't go to that blog's link anymore). The blog leader continually quotes passages on how to deal with heretics, so she said this in response:

May I ask by what process you applied these scriptures to those groups? Where are any passages teaching anything specifically about how much the gospel must contain, and if not satisfied then apply the mark and avoid consequence? We're not so blessed, right? What you have are passages depicting the gospel. Then there are passages warning change of the gospel. And then you have passages that teach how to handle individuals who promote heresy or distraction. So... don't you have to make a conclusion first that these groups are heresy... before using passages on heresy? Heresy passages are not proof of heresy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

This is a Cult: Angels as elemental nature spirits

This is a Cult: Angels as elemental nature spirits


Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Schooley Files: Reasons to remain a Calvinist

The Schooley Files: Reasons to remain a Calvinist

Thanks for directing me to this one, Dawn.