Should a Christian Tithe?

Should a Christian Tithe?  Tithe

I.  The Command to Tithe

Deuteronomy 14:22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire–oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.

28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

  • the only commands to tithe are found in or during the Old Covenant

 

II. The Purpose of the Tithe

Numbers 18:21 “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, 22 so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. 23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the people of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.”

25 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, ‘When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. 27 And your contribution shall be counted to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. 28 So you shall also present a contribution to the Lord from all your tithes, which you receive from the people of Israel. And from it you shall give the Lord’s contribution to Aaron the priest.

  • purpose of the tithe was to fund a permanent priesthood in Israel

 

III. The Location and Spirit of the Tithe

Deuteronomy 12:17 You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, 18 but you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you undertake. 19 Take care that you do not neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land.

  • to be taken to Jerusalem only
  • portions of tithe to be eaten with family, servants and local Levites (basically as a feast)

 

IV. Special Added Tithing

Deuteronomy 26:12 “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled, 13 then you shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. 14 I have not eaten of the tithe while I was mourning, or removed any of it while I was unclean, or offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the Lord my God. I have done according to all that you have commanded me. 15 Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.’

  • there is some disagreement amongst the commentators whether this added tithe represented a second or third 10%
  • most scholars lean toward two tithes (an annual 10% of everything and a second 10% of everything on the third year)
  • there were other donations required of the Israelite and there was also an encouragement to contribute freewill gifts which totalled to a annual “taxation” of 20-30%

 

V. An Example of the Tithe’s Re-institution

 

VI. It’s Omission a Cause for Chastening

Malachi 3: 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.

  • obviously abandoned for pragmatic reasons
  • part of giving to God what He required was trusting that He would still supply all one’s needs

 

VII. Commanded in the NT to those Still Under the Old Covenant

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

  • remember that the New Covenant is not yet established so tithing was a genuine act of obedience to YHWH
  • by the time of Jesus the tithe had been so “midrashed” that it was an oppressive burden men tried to get out from under

 

VIII. Never Commanded for New Covenant Believers

  • there are no NT texts that command a Christian to give 10% of all he has to the Lord

 

IX. Why Do We Give Money to Church?

To Meet the Needs of Church Members

1 Timothy 6: 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

 

To Enable Pastors to Do the Work of Ministry

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The labourer deserves his wages.”

 

X.  How Much Do We Give to Church

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

  • the simple answer is… there is no set amount!
  • the NT pattern often links giving to need
  • we should give a lot (bountifully), thoughtfully (as made up mind), freely (not under compulsion), happily (God loves a cheerful giver) and trustingly (God will cause the bountiful giver to be a bountiful reaper)

Posted here.

Active Spirituality

Active Spirituality  Active-Spirituality

A review by Stuart Brogden

This is an uncommon book – the format is that of personal letters from the author, intended to provide pastoral guidance to the issue of sanctification. I was reminded of a couple of books I read in high school that were letters from a father, one to his son and the other to his daughter. I passed these along to my son and daughter as they grew into young adults. Brian Hedges’ belief is that this format will be more personal and effective – as our spiritual journey is not linear, but (as was the Exodus) “circuitous and roundabout, with lots of detours and obstacles, punctuated by backtracking, rest stops, and significant delays on the side of the road.” (page 14) I think the author succeeds in this regard, as each letter reads as a warm personal communication. I appreciated the author’s repeated reference to various works by John Bunyan, but was less enthused by his somewhat frequent use of quotes from C.S. Lewis and references to “the seven deadly sins” – a concept the Bible knows nothing about (sex outside of marriage and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit are more serious than other sins), taught by the Roman Catholic Church, based primarily on the list in Proverbs 6:16-19 but not taught therein as a special list of “deadly sins”. That being said, this book is a most excellent look at various aspects of everyone’s spiritual journey, with solid biblical counsel we can all benefit from.

Throughout this easy-to-read but thought provoking book, Hedges gives the reader biblical exhortations to walk in the light, to examine one’s self, to stay focused on Christ. He puts good works in their place (post-redemption works empowered by the Holy Spirit) and presses the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Late in the book (page 94), he gives us a word picture of a stool with four legs, each leg being an essential part of what God gives as assurance of our standing with Him.

  1. Faith in the gospel promises of salvation
  2. Evidences of God’s grace in the transformation of the heart and life
  3. The testimony of the Holy Spirit
  4. The fruit of love in relationship with other believers

He cites the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is accurate in the doctrine of salvation, for the first three of these legs; pointing us to 1 John 3:14 for the fourth. Our author provides a concise paragraph for each leg, demonstrating from Scripture each one and urging us to know the Word of God that we be not deceived by emotions or lies or, as the next chapter puts it – self-trust.

I will leave you with a short excerpt from the last letter in this book. Throughout, Hedges has given us solid biblical counsel, with many examples from Scripture and theological tomes. He contrasts grace and law, justification and sanctification, lawlessness and true trust in Christ. And in this last letter, we are given a solid comparison between the perseverance of the saints and the preservation of the saints. Often, reformed folk are accused of relying on works for salvation or for perseverance. This is a contentious issue, but is helpfully summed up by the phrase, “We are saved by faith alone, but by faith that is alone.” One who has been spiritually raised from the dead by the same power (the Holy Spirit) that raised Christ from the tomb will exhibit signs of life. He has no life before being made alive by God, so there’s no way his works can contribute to his redemption. Yet once made alive, the child of God will naturally grow in grace and the fruit of the Spirit as He works in us.

And this leads to the right understanding of the perseverance of the saints. Hedges tells us that perseverance and preservation are “really talking about the same doctrine, but from two different perspectives. If perseverance has to do with our responsibility to continue in faith and holiness, preservation highlights God’s work in strengthening and sustaining our faith.” Scripture tells us the Christ intercedes for us with the Father and the Holy Spirit prays for us when we know not how to pray. We will persevere because God is faithful! Our Lord declared He would lose none of the sheep given to Him by the Father. We are told that His Spirit is at work in us to will and to do His good pleasure. Our author points us to Hebrews 7 to see how the Lord Jesus provides for us in His sacrifice and His intercession.

In His sacrifice, Christ our High Priest offered himself for us once and for all (Hebrews 7:27. This is his finished and completed work. But now, he continues to apply this work to us through his ongoing intercessory prayer. And this guarantees complete salvation!” (See Hebrews 7:24-25)

Dear saints, know this: you have died with Christ and are seated in the heavenly realm with him. How we can we go on living for the flesh, knowing it will perish like the grass? Our Lord is the faithful witness who has gone to prepare a place for us – where Abraham lives, in the city whose builder is God. Jesus will return to gather His sheep to Himself. Have faith in Christ! This book is a great help in reminding us He is sufficient.

The Roman Catholic Eucharist

Why the Catholic (and Emerging Church) “Eucharist” Does Not Line Up With Scripture

By Roger Oakland    Pope

The Catholic Church teaches that once a Catholic priest has consecrated the wafer of bread during Communion, the wafer turns into the literal and real body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.1 Therefore, the Communion Host is no longer bread but Jesus, under the appearance of bread and is therefore worthy of adoration and worship. The Catholic Catechism states succinctly:

In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.”2

The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.3

 

What Does the Bible Teach About the Lord’s Supper?

We have documented [in Another Jesus] what the Catholic Church teaches concerning the Eucharist. But what does the Bible teach? The Bible encourages believers to study “all the counsel of God”(Acts 20:27) and to “[p]rove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). And as believers, we are admonished to:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15)

With these instructions in mind, let us search the Scriptures to determine what the Bible teaches concerning the Lord’s supper.

The Last Supper was celebrated by first century Christians in obedience to Jesus’ words “this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). This observance was established by the Lord at the Last Supper when He symbolically offered Himself as the Paschal Lamb of atonement. His actual death the next day fulfilled the prophecy. Only Paul uses the phrase “Lord’s supper” (I Corinthians 11:20), while the Church fathers began to call the occasion the Eucharist meaning thanksgiving from the blessing pronounced over the bread and wine after about A.D. 100. Christians have celebrated the Lord’s Supper regularly as a sign of the new covenant sealed by Christ’s death and resurrection.4 Today, the Eucharist means far more than simply thanksgiving.

 

This is My Body

To what exactly did Jesus ordain during the Last Supper? The Bible states:

[Jesus] took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22: 19-20)

Proponents of the Catholic Eucharist point to Jesus’ words recorded in John 6. Though this chapter does not deal with the Last Supper, Jesus’ words, which are taken to relate to the Communion meal, are as follows:

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. (John 6:51-55)

Just what do these Scriptures mean? The answer to that can be found in our examination of the Word of God itself.5

 

Metaphors and Similes

Throughout the Bible, context determines meaning. Bible-believing Christians know to take the Bible literally, unless the context demands a figurative or symbolic interpretation. Before exploring Jesus’ words in John chapter 6 and elsewhere, let’s review a few examples of symbolism in the Scriptures. All scholars would agree that the following verses are metaphorical. An explanation follows each verse:

O taste and see that the LORD is good. (Psalm 34:8; Try to experience God’s promises to find if they are true.)

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14; For those who receive the gift of salvation, Christ’s Spirit shall dwell in their souls assuring them of everlasting life.)

Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. (Ezekiel 3:1, 2; Receive into your heart, internalize, and obey God’s Word.)

And I could go on and on with one example after the next. At one point Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The Jews thought He spoke of the literal temple in Jerusalem, but if we keep reading, we find that Jesus was referring to His body (John 2:20-21). On another occasion, Jesus said, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1). Of course, we know that Jesus did not mean that He was a literal grape vine twisting around a post. When the Bible says God hides us under His wings (Psalm 91:4), we know that God is not a bird with feathers. God is the source of all life and our provider and protector, and these figures vividly illustrate this.

Throughout the Bible, figurative language is used to compare one thing to another so that the listeners can easily understand. In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus regularly used parables to figuratively describe one thing as something else (Matthew 13:34).Jesus Himself stated, “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs” (John 16:25). The Bible should always be interpreted literally unless the context demands a symbolic explanation. So what does the context of John’s Gospel and the other Gospels demand?

 

John Chapter 6: The Bread of Heaven

If we read the entire sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, we not only get the context, but also some startling insights into what Jesus meant when He said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. John 6 begins with the account of Jesus feeding five thousand, followed by the account of Jesus walking on water. On the following day, people were seeking Jesus for the wrong reasons, which we understand from Jesus’ words in verses 26 and 27:

Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.

These verses begin to frame the context of the verses that follow, specifically, that Jesus emphasized the need for them to seek eternal life. Jesus goes on to explain to them how to obtain eternal life. And in verse 28, when the people ask Jesus, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” Jesus replies, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (vs. 29).

Here Jesus specifies only one work that pleases God, namely, belief in Jesus. Jesus reemphasizes this in verse 35 when he states: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” Notice the imperative is to “cometh to me” and “believeth on me.” Jesus repeats the thrust of His message in verse 40 where He states:

And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Jesus could not be clearer—by coming to Him and trusting in Him, we will receive eternal life. At this point in the narrative, the Jews complained about Him because He said: “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (vs. 41). Jesus responds to their murmuring when He states that He is indeed the “living bread” and that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to obtain eternal life (vs. 42-58). However, let’s remember the context of this statement. First, Jesus contrasts Himself with the manna that rained down on their fathers and sustained them for their journey. But their fathers have since died. But Jesus now offers Himself as the living, heavenly bread, causing those who eat of Him to live forever.

Jesus is not the perishable manna that their descendants ate in the wilderness—He is the eternal bread of life that lives forever. Only by partaking in His everlasting life can we hope to live with Him forever. This contrast strengthens His main message, where Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (vs. 47). Notice, Jesus said that as soon as we believe in Him we have—present tense—eternal life. It is not something we aim at or hope we might attain in the future, but rather, something we receive immediately upon accepting Him by faith.

When Jesus said these words, He was in the synagogue in Capernaum, and He had neither bread nor wine. Therefore Jesus was either commanding cannibalism, or He was speaking figuratively. If He was speaking literally, then He would be directly contradicting God the Father: “But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat”(Genesis 9:4). Therefore, because Jesus Himself said, “[T]he scripture cannot be broken”(John 10:35), He must be speaking metaphorically. And that is exactly how He explains His own words in the subsequent verses.

 

The Flesh Profits Nothing

After this, in verse 60 (of John 6), we find that many of His disciples said: “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” Jesus was aware of their complaints and He responded saying:

Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. (vs. 61-64)

Wait a minute, the flesh profits nothing! I thought Jesus said we must eat His flesh? Yet, if the flesh profits nothing, Jesus must be speaking in spiritual terms. And that is what He says: “[T]he words that I speak unto you, they are spirit.

Jesus uses the exact same Greek word for flesh (sarx) as He did in the preceding verses. Therefore, He is emphatically stating that eating His literal flesh profits nothing! If the Lord Himself sets the context of the dialogue, we would do well to hear Him. He said that the words He speaks are spirit and that the flesh profits nothing. In other words, Jesus has just told us He has spoken in a metaphor, so we need not guess at it.

If that isn’t clear enough, Peter’s words add further clarity. Immediately following the dialogue with the Jews, in which some disciples left, Jesus said to the remaining twelve apostles, “Will ye also go away?” (vs. 67). Peter’s response is profound:

Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. (vs. 68-69)

Amazing! Peter did not say we have come to believe that we must eat Your flesh to live. He said that we know You are the Christ, and we have come to believe in You as the Christ. This is the confession of faith that leads to eternal life, not eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood. It also agrees with the totality of Scripture.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9)

[W]hat must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. (Acts 16:30, 31)

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. (John 3:36)

To understand more fully the Catholic Eucharist versus biblical communion and salvation, read Roger Oakland’s book, Another Jesus.

The Golden Rules of Biblical Interpretation

The Golden Rules of Biblical Interpretation Bible

14 Straightforward Rules to Help Keep New Students of the Bible On Course

 

1. Come to the Scriptures prayerfully. Most of the great Bible interpreters were guided by prayer in their studies. The necessity of the involvement of the Holy Spirit is vital!

2. In my own case, I read the Bible right through – cover to cover – 3 or 4 times right at the start of my Bible study life. Try to do this at least once. In doing so you will get a great overview of the Bible’s overall teaching. You will get a correct perspective.

3. Allow Scripture to interpret itself and refuse to be clouded by personal doctrinal presuppositions or preferences. This really sets the great Bible expositors apart from those who refuse to depart from their own denomination’s guidelines.

4. Begin with understanding what the passage actually says, and yet always ask, “What does the passage really mean?”

5. Pay as much attention to the original Hebrew and Greek as your learning will allow you. (For those without language training, an interlinear Bible can be very helpful as can be a Bible dictionary).

6. Never use one of the paraphrased (very loose) translations to establish doctrine! The NKJV and NIV are very sound primary study translations, but the more paraphrased versions, such as the NLT, have a place in more devotional reading.

7. Establish the Major Doctrines (teachings) of Christianity! Those who do this are less likely to ever fall away or fall into the hands of false teachers. The teaching on Justification (how we can be made ‘right’ with God), the deity of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness and resurrection; these are major areas of Christian teaching. On this topic, note the links which may be found lower on this page.

8. If you are an absolute novice (quite new in the Faith), don’t try to tackle deeper theology before you attain some basic knowledge; I find that many make this mistake and just become very confused, then they often accuse the article writer of being ‘confusing’ – but, so often, the problem is that they are just not used to the discipline of theology! Being a good, clear logical thinker is essential for the disciplines of apologetics and theology. But don’t attempt to run before you can walk!

9. Always take into account the full context of the passage. Read verses in the context of the whole passage, the chapter and even the book. And, of course, always keep in mind the larger context of the New Testament or Old Testament.

10. The Bible is progressive revelation. This means that, generally speaking, the New Testament specifically interprets the Old Testament. Don’t forget that the Old Testament can be called ‘The Book of the Old Covenant’, but Jesus inaugurated the ‘New Covenant’ – it doesn’t mean that the Old Testament can’t teach us anything – it has many lessons for us – but that one should never, ever, use a vague or cloudy verse in Leviticus to overthrow a clear statement of Jesus or Paul. This has been a major error of the cults and sects! This can be very well demonstrated in our attitude to the Sabbath. Various seventh day groups will ask, ‘Which day is the Christian Sabbath?’ – but even in asking that particular question they are revealing very flawed biblical exegesis; they are taking a topic of Old Testament importance (the Sabbath), and imposing an equal New Testament concern for the subject (which, truthfully, does not exist), by employing the word, ‘Christian’ – a far better question would be‘What did Jesus show us about the real meaning of the Sabbath?’ (Matthew 11:28-30, Mark 2:23-28).

11. Always consider all the passages dealing with any particular topic. For instance, don’t try to understand faith by only looking at a few more sensational ‘faith verses’ (as the Word-faith people like to do), but get a thorough grounding in what the whole Bible says about faith. A Bible concordance will prove essential here.

12. Always interpret the more difficult or unclear passages by the clear ones - never the other way around! A favourite device of the cults is to choose a difficult passage and build their unique doctrines upon it without ever considering the broader sweep of bibical teaching.

13. Always take into account the different genres of writing within the Bible – here again, the cults and sects have regularly stumbled! The Bible contains different forms of writing; there is history, proverb, parable, apocalyptic, letters (epistles), Old Testament prophecy, genealogies and other elements too. We must respect what these different forms of writing set out to achieve! Sometimes the cults could not find some detail they were looking for within prophecy, so went looking for it in other biblical genres which are unconcerned with prophecy! This would be somewhat similar to reading the main news in a newspaper, perhaps an article about President Bush or Tony Blair, finding a vital detail had been left out, so going looking for that detail in the newspaper’s ‘gardening section,’ or ‘sports section’ or ‘television programmes section’ – plainly quite daft!! The founders of the cults and sects were unabashed about abusing the Scriptures in this way, mainly because of their lack of knowledge, but we can learn from their shortcomings!

14. Beware of novel, new, or unusual interpretations, always check various conservative commentaries on the passage. There is really very little that is new under the sun, as the saying goes, ‘The gospel is the gospel is the gospel!’ Many of the heresies of the cults have been dealt with thoroughly in various well-authenticated works. It is also interesting to note that even though there are many Christian denominations, their opinions never differ very greatly on the essential doctrines! There is solid agreement on the pivotal doctrines of the Christian Faith. Don’t allow some new idea (such as the ‘health, wealth and prosperity gospel,’ which is a ‘new kid on the block’), to divert you from established Christian teaching.

Robin A. Brace,

The Defect of Preachers Reproved

 

“The Defects of Preachers Reproved”images
by Solomon Stoddard

“The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.”
Matthew 23:2–3

In these words is a direction given by Christ unto the people, where we have:

First, the foundation of the rule: “the Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.” Some take this as spoken of the Sanhedrim, who were the successors of Moses and the seventy elders of Israel. Possibly that may be a mistake, for several of the Sanhedrim were not Pharisees (Acts 23:3). For the chief priests belonged to that society (Acts 4:6), and they are said to be Sadducees; but by Scribes and Pharisees I understand the principal teachers among the Jews. The priests and Levites were more especially devoted to the study of the law. Deuteronomy 33:10: “They shall teach Jacob Thy judgments, and Israel Thy law.” Yet others who were learned in the law were made use of to instruct the people, and were chosen to be rulers of the Synagogues. The Pharisees were of any tribe. Paul, who was of the tribe of Benjamin, was a Pharisee by education, as he tells in Acts 23:6: “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.”

Second, here is the rule given: “what they bid you observe, that observe and do.” This must be understood with the limitation: when they teach according to the mind of God. Sometimes they taught for doctrines the commandments of men and then it was sinful and dangerous to observe their directions. “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14).


DOCTRINE: There may be a great deal of good preaching in a country, and yet a great want of good preaching.

It is a felicity to a people when there is good preaching in the land, yet there may in the same land be great want of good teaching. Some things that are very useful may be plainly and fully taught, and other things that might be as useful may be neglected. Many sound principles in religion may be taught, and other things that are of great concern unto souls may be omitted. Ministers don’t sufficiently do their duty if they preach many sound truths, and do it convincingly and with good affection, if they do it with great clearness and evidence, provided they neglect other things that are needful to salvation. And so it falls out sometimes that men who make many good sermons are very defective in preaching some other things that they ought to preach.

I shall clear this in three instances.

1. The Scribes and Pharisees in Israel taught the people that there was only one God, the Maker of all things, and were great enemies to the idolatry that their fathers were guilty of before the Babylonian captivity. As the Scribe said to Christ in Mark 12:32, “Well, Master, Thou hast said the truth: for there is one God, and there is none other but He.” They taught many moral duties: that men must love God and believe His Word, that they must be just and chaste and men of truth, and were very strict in the observation of the sabbath. They limited men how far they might go on the sabbath (Acts 1:12). We read of “a sabbath day’s journey.” They taught truly the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:7–8). The Pharisees dissented from the Sadducees. The Sadducees say there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees confessed both. They taught that the Messiah was to come; the Samaritans themselves received that doctrine (Job 4:25). They were very punctual in teaching circumcision and the ceremonies of the Law of Moses, about sacrifices, tithes, and legal uncleanness. But they were very faulty in preaching in other particulars. They were ignorant of the doctrine of regeneration, so Nicodemus (John 3:4) says, “How can a man be born when he is old?” They taught that the first motions of lust, if the will did not consent, were not sins. As we may gather from Romans 7:7, Paul says, “I had not known lust, except the law had said, ‘Thou shall not covet.’ ” And from Matthew 5:27–28, “It was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ But I say whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery in his heart.”


They taught also that dangerous doctrine of justification by works (Romans 10:3). They went about to establish their own righteousness (Romans 9:2–3), They sought it, as it were, by the works of the law. They taught the people that in case they devoted their estates to the temple, they need not relieve their fathers or mothers (Matthew 15:4–6). And above all they taught that Jesus of Nazareth was not the Messiah and brought many objections against Him. They said that He came out of Galilee, was a gluttonous man and a winebibber (Matthew 11:19), a friend of publicans and sinners. They reproached Him that by the devil He cast out devils, and they were very dull in their preaching (Matthew 7:29).


2. The papists they teach the doctrine of the trinity truly, and the attributes of God, so also the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ, and that He died for our redemption and is at the right hand of God. They teach the doctrine of the day of Judgment, of heaven and of hell, and many moral rules. But they preach a multitude of false doctrines with these doctrines that are pernicious to the souls of men. They teach men to seek the pardon of their sin by afflicting their bodies, by pilgrimage and paying a sum of money. They teach many horrible things with respect to their Pope, that he has power to forgive sin, to dispense with incestuous marriages; that he has power over all the churches and may dispense with the laws of God; that he is infallible. They teach the doctrine of image worship, abolishing the second commandment. They teach prayer to saints departed, the unlawfulness of priests’ marriages, the doctrine of purgatory, justification by works, a conditional election, the power of free will, falling from grace, and hundreds of other erroneous doctrines. They indeed subvert the faith of Christ.

3. Many Arminians preach very profitably about God and the person of Christ, about justification by faith and universal obedience, about the day of judgment and of eternal rewards and punishments. But there is a great deal of want of good preaching among them. They decry all absolute decrees of election and reprobation, making the decrees of God to depend on the foresight of repentance or impenitence. They assert universal redemption, as if Christ died to make all man saveable. They deny the propagation of sin, saying men become sinners by imitation. They hold a power in man to withstand the grace of God; that after God has done His work it is in the power of man to refuse to be converted. They don’t acknowledge the servitude of man to sin, but have power with that assistance that God affords to convert himself. They deny the doctrine of perseverance. These things draw a great train of errors after them.

The reason of the doctrine is because some preachers are men of learning and moral men, and they have drunk in some errors and lack experience. Learning and morality will qualify men to make many good and profitable sermons, much for the edification of the hearers. Learning qualifies men to clear up many principles of religion, and a moral disposition may fit men zealously to reprove vicious practices. But men may be learned men, yet drink in very corrupt doctrines.

Learning is no security against erroneous principles. The Pharisees and Sadducees were men of liberal education, yet leavened with many false principles. Matthew 16:6: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And verse 12: “Then understood they that He bid them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” Learning will not cure those distempers of the heart that expose men to false opinions. Learning will not cure the pride and conceitedness of men’s hearts. Men of learning may lean too much to their own understanding. Men of learning may be led aside by reading erroneous books. A learned education will not deliver men from carnal reason. Men of corrupt affections are very inclined to imbibe bad principles. Men of learning may be blind men. Christ says of the Pharisees, “They be blind, leaders of the blind” (Matthew 15:14).

Most of the errors in the world in matters of religion have been hatched by men of learning. Arius, Socinus, Arminius, and Pelagius were learned men. Errors in religion have been generally the offspring of great scholars, and have been propagated by them. And men may be moral men who have no experience of the work of God upon their hearts. Men may be zealous men against drunkenness and whoredom who have no saving knowledge of Christ. Many moral men have no communion with God, no experience of a saving change in their own souls. Men may be very moral and have no experience of a work of humiliation or being brought off from their own righteousness, or a work of faith; of the difference that is between the common and special work of the Spirit; of the difference between saving and common illumination; of the working of the heart under temptation; of the way wherein godly men are wont to find relief.

Every learned and moral man is not a sincere convert, and so not able to speak exactly and experimentally to such things as souls want to be instructed in. It is as with a man who has seen a map of a country, or has read a great deal about it: he can’t tell the way between town and town, and hundreds of particular circumstances, as a man who has traveled or lived there is able to do. Experience fits men to teach others. A man who has himself had only a common work of the Spirit, and judges it saving, is very unfit to judge the state of other men. Men would not put their lives into the hands of an unskillful physician, or trust their ship with an unskillful pilot, or an intricate case depending on the law with an unskillful lawyer.

USE 1. Of examination whether it is not thus in this country.

It is notoriously known by those who are acquainted with the state of the Christian world that though there are many eminent truths taught, yet there is a great want of good preaching. Whence it comes to pass that among professors a spirit of piety runs exceedingly low. But it is proper for us to take notice how it is among ourselves; and though it is very evident that there is a great deal of good preaching in the land, that the way of salvation is preached with a great deal of plainness and power, and many men are very faithful to declare all the counsel of God, yet there may be cause of lamentation that there is a great deal wanting in some places. Some may be very much to blame in preaching as they ought to do.

If any are taught that frequently men are ignorant of the time of their conversion, that is not good preaching. Some are of that opinion, and it is likely they may drink it in from their ministers. This is a delusion, and it may do them a great deal of hurt; it hardens men in their natural condition. Paul knew the time of his conversion: “At midday, O King, I saw a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 26:13).

Men are frequently at a loss whether their conversion was true or not; but surely men who are converted must take some notice of the time when God made a change in them. Conversion is a great change, from darkness to light, from death to life, from the borders of despair to a spirit of faith in Christ. As for the outward conversation, there is sometimes little difference. Men might carry very well before, but, as to the frame of men’s hearts, there is a very great difference. Formerly they were under the reigning power of objections against the gospel; when converted they receive it as a divine truth. Before they were converted they were under a sentence of condemnation; now they have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Men are generally a long time seeking conversion, laboring to get an interest in Christ; and it would be much if when God reveals Christ to them they should not take notice of it when the change is made. Ten to one but conscience will take notice of it.

When a seaman comes into the harbor, when a prisoner is pardoned, when a victory is obtained, when a disease is broken, it would be much if men should take no notice of them. Conversion is the greatest change that men undergo in this world; surely it falls under observation! The prodigal knew well enough the time of his return to his father’s house. The children of Israel knew the time of their passing over Jordan.

If any are taught that humiliation is not necessary before faith, that is not good preaching. Such doctrine has been taught privately and publicly, and is a means to make some men mistake their condition and think themselves happy when they are miserable. For men must be brought off from their own righteousness before they are brought to Christ. Men who think they have anything to appease the wrath of God and ingratiate themselves will not accept the calls of the gospel in sincerity. While people have a foundation to build upon, they will not build upon Christ. A self-righteous spirit is quite contrary to the gospel. If men are self-righteous men, they will not judge it fair for God to cast them off. Men who depend upon the justice of God will not depend upon the mere mercy of God. Men who lay claim to heaven from their own works will not depend on the plea that Christ has given His life a ransom for many, and has redeemed us from the curse, being made a curse for us.

Multitudes of men are ruined by building upon a sandy foundation. Men must see their malady before they see their remedy. Men must be led into understanding of the badness of their hearts and the strictness of the law before they will be convinced of the preciousness of Christ. Men who can heal their own consciences will not come to Christ for healing. Men must be driven by necessity indeed before they come to Christ. Though men feel great terrors and live a tormented life, yet they will not come to Christ until driven out of themselves. Men must feel themselves dead in sin in order to their believing. Romans 7:9: “Sin revived, and I died.” Men must see themselves poor and miserable, wretched and blind and naked, before they receive that counsel of buying of Christ gold tried in the fire, and white raiment (Revelation 3:17).

When men don’t preach much about the danger of damnation, there is a want of good preaching. Some ministers preach much about moral duties and the blessed estate of godly men, but don’t seek to awaken sinners and make them sensible of their danger; they cry for reformation. These things are very needful in their places to be spoken unto, but if sinners don’t hear often of judgment and damnation, few will be converted. Many men are in a deep sleep and flatter themselves as if there was no hell, or at least that God will not deal so harshly with them as to damn them. Psalm 36:2: “He flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.”

Men need to be told of the terrors of the Lord so that they may flee from wrath to come. A little matter will not scare men. Their hearts are as hard as a stone, as hard as a piece of nether millstone, and they will be ready to laugh at the shaking of the spear. Ministers must give them no rest in such a condition. They must pull themselves as brands out of the burnings. It is well if thunder and lightning will awaken them. They need to fear that they may work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Ministers are faulty when they speak to them with gentleness, as Eli rebuked his sons. Christ Jesus often warned them of the danger of damnation. Matthew 5:29–30: “It is better that one of thy members should perish, and not that the whole body should be cast into hell.” Matthew 7:13: “Broad is the gate and wide is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat.” Matthew 13:42: “The angels shall cast them into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (See also Matthew 22:13 and 25:41, 46) This is for our imitation.

Christ knew how to deal with souls, and Paul followed His example. Men need to be terrified and have the arrows of the Almighty in them that they may be converted. Ministers should be sons of thunder. Men need to have storms in their hearts before they will betake themselves to Christ for refuge. When they are pricked at the heart, then they will say, “What must we do to be saved?” Men must be fired out of their worldliness and sloth. Men must be driven as Lot was out of Sodom. Reason will govern men in other things, but it is fear that must make them diligently seek salvation. If they are but thoroughly convinced of their danger, that will make them go to God and take pains.

If they give a wrong account of the nature of justifying faith, that is not good preaching. Justifying faith is set forth in the Scripture by many figurative expressions: coming to Christ, opening to Him, fitting under His shadow, flying to Him for refuge, building on Him as on a foundation, feeding on Him. These expressions imply not only an act of the understanding, but also and act of the will, accepting Him, depending on Him. This doctrine is despised by some, and faith in Christ is said to be only a persuasion of the truth of the Christian religion. This is the way to make multitudes of carnal men secure, and to flatter themselves as if they were in a good condition. They say they are not heathens, Turks, Papists, or Jews. Since they believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, they hope they are believers; but multitudes of people have such a faith that will fall short of eternal life. John 2:23–24: “Many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles that He did; but Jesus did not commit Himself unto them.” John 14:42–43: “Among the chief rulers many believed on Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him.”

The faith of some men is only a persuasion from their education. As heathens receive the religion of their forefathers by tradition, so these receive the Christian religion from hearsay. But justifying faith is wrought in men by the mighty power of God.


2 Thessalonians 1:11: “That He would work in you the work of faith with power.” Ephesians 1:19–20: “And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power; which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.” By justifying faith, men answer the calls of God, relinquishing their own righteousness; they place their dependence only on the mediation of Christ (Hebrews 6:18). They flee for refuge, to lay hold on the hope that is set before them. Justifying faith is a living principle that sanctifies men. Acts 15:9: “Purifying their hearts by faith.” Many men have a common persuasion of the truth of the gospel who are utterly destitute of holiness. But true justifying faith is always accompanied with a holy life. Where there is faith, there is every other grace. Acts 26:18: “Sanctified by faith that is in me.”

If any give false signs of godliness, that is not good preaching. Signs of grace are of two sorts. Some are probable, and they must be spoken of only as probable; a score of them may make the thing more probable, but don’t make it certain. Probabilities make no demonstration. Probable signs are not conclusive. There are two errors in laying down signs. One is when those things that may flow from common principles—such as natural temper, natural conscience, fear of hell, or false imaginations—are given as sure signs of grace. But those things that may flow from common principles don’t truly distinguish between saints and hypocrites, things such as a good conversation savory discourse, zeal against sin, strong religious affections, sorrow for sin, quietness under afflictions, delight in ordinances, or suffering for religion. From such loose signs people are in danger of taking up a false persuasion of their godliness.

Such signs are full of delusion, and many men bless themselves who are in a miserable condition. Such probable signs may be where there are certain signs of the contrary. Men are apt to flatter themselves, and when they hear such signs they are strengthened in their carnal confidence. There is no infallible sign of grace but grace. Grace is known only by intuition; all the external effects of grace may flow from other causes. Another error is when men are too strict in their signs, as when they give that as a sign that there is a constant care to glorify God, a continual living upon Jesus Christ, and a constant watchfulness against the workings of corruption. There is no godly man but has at times ill frames of spirit. David and Jonah and Peter had such. When David committed adultery, he had not a due care to glorify God; nor Jonah when he was in a fret, nor the Psalmist when he was as a beast before God, nor Paul when he was led into captivity by the law of sin that was in his members. There is no godly man who can comfort himself with such signs as these. It is well if godly men see now and then the workings of a spirit of grace. Grace is many times under hatches and is invisible.

If any teach men to build their faith about the divine authority of the Scripture upon probable signs, that is not good preaching. There are many probable arguments for the authority of the sacred scriptures: the eminency of the penmen, and they have had a mighty efficacy to make a change in the hearts of men. It is said there were many miracles wrought for the confirmation of the doctrine of them; there has been an accomplishment of many of the predictions in them. These arguments are preponderating and outweigh all objections that are brought against the authority of them. These considerations may well strengthen the faith of the people of God, but these things cannot be the foundation of our faith. It is only the certain knowledge of their authority that can be the foundation of faith or any other grace. Men cannot believe them to be infallibly true upon probable arguments. Probable arguments must be looked on but as probable and not convincing. Men must have infallible arguments for loving God and believing His Word. The foundation of believing the divine authority of the Scripture is the manifestation of the divine glory in them. There is a self evidencing light in the works of God. The creation of the world shows God’s power and the Godhead (Romans 1:20). It is impossible that the world should be made by any but an infinite God. So there is a self-evidencing light in the word of God; there are such things revealed there as can be made known by none but God. 1 Corinthians 2:9: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Those eternal rewards that are spoken of in the Scripture , those perfect rules that are laid down there, those accounts that are given of the mercy of God and the justice of God, manifested in the way of our salvation, would never have entered into the heart of man to conceive if it had not been revealed by God. Men would never have thought of such a way of salvation if it had not been declared by God.

If men preach for such liberties as God does not allow, that is not good preaching. There are many licentious liberties that are taken by men in their apparel, in their drinking, in their dancing and other recreations, in their discourses upon the sabbath, and in their dealings with one another. And if ministers either vindicate or connive at them, they don’t preach as they ought to do. Some men are lax casuists, and they take too great a liberty themselves, as do their wives and children, and they are afraid to anger men by reproving some particular evils that men are addicted to who prevail in the land. The Pharisees were such casuists. Matthew 5:43: “Ye have heard it hath been said of old, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ ” Men should be solemnly warned against all evil carriages; and if this is omitted it gives great increase to sin in the land. God complains of ill against teachers for not reproving sinners. Isaiah 56:10: “They are ignorant and blind, dumb dogs that cannot bark.” If men were duly reproved for their extravagancies, that would be a means to reclaim them. Jeremiah 23:22: “If they had stood in My counsel and had caused My people to hear My words; then they should have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.”

Faithful preaching would be beneficial two ways: one way is it would cut off occasions of anger and prevent those sins that bring down the wrath of God on the land; we should then enjoy much more public prosperity. The other is, that it would deliver men from those vicious practices that are a great hindrance to conversion. As long as men live in ways of intemperance, injustice, and unsuitable carriages on the sabbath, it will be a great impediment to a thorough work of conversion. There may be conversion though men are not broken off from sins of ignorance, but as long as they tolerate themselves in immoralities that will be a mighty bar in the way of their conversion.

If men preach for such ceremonies in worship as God does not allow, that is not good preaching. There are those who plead for human inventions in worship, who would if they could defend the ceremonies of the church of England, who would retain some Jewish ceremonies that are abolished, and practice other human appointments. Jeroboam was condemned not only for worshipping the calves of Dan and Bethel, but for appointing a time of worship in his own heart (1 Kings 12:32–33). So it is noted as an imperfection in the reformation of Asa, Jehoshaphat and Manasseh that the high places were not taken away. This is spoken of as a great sign of hypocrisy. Isaiah 29:13: “This people draw near Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips; but have removed their heart far from Me: and their fear towards Me is taught by the precept of men.” When men impose such ceremonies, they usurp a power that God has not given them. It is God’s prerogative to appoint in what ways we shall worship Him; and men therein go quite beyond the bounds of their authority. Men therein impute imperfection and defect to the ordinances of God, as if they could teach him how it is fit that He should be worshipped, and they presume on a blessing without a promise. Matthew 15:9: “In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” This is a way to make men formal in their worship; the multiplying of ceremonies eats out the heart of religion and makes a people degenerate. Men who multiply ceremonies are apt to content themselves with the form without the life.

QUESTION. Is the late practice of some ministers in reading their sermons commendable?

ANSWER. There are some cases wherein it may be tolerable. Persons through age may loose the strength of their memories, and be under a necessity to make use of their notes—but ordinarily it is not to be allowed.

Consideration 1. It was not the manner of the prophets or apostles. Baruch read the roll that was written from the mouth of Jeremiah; but Jeremiah was not wont to read his prophesies. It was the manner of the Jews to read the scriptures in the synagogues; but after that it was their way to instruct and exhort men, not from any written copy. Acts 13:15: “After the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, ‘Men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.’ ” This was according to the example of Christ (Luke 4:17, 20). It was ordered in England in the days of King Edward the Sixth that ministers should read printed homilies in public. And there was great necessity of it, for there was not one in ten who were able to make sermons. But it has been the manner of worthy men both here and in other places to deliver their sermons without their notes.

Consideration 2. The reading of sermons is a dull way of preaching. Sermons when read are not delivered with authority and in an affecting way. It is prophesied of Christ (Micah 5:4): “He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.” When sermons are delivered without notes, the looks and gesture of the minister is a great means to command attention and stir up affection. Men are apt to be drowsy in hearing the Word, and the liveliness of the preacher is a means to stir up the attention of the hearers and beget suitable affection in them. Sermons that are read are not delivered with authority; they favor the sermons of the scribes, (Matthew 7:29). Experience shows that sermons read are not so profitable as others. It may be argued that it is harder to remember rhetorical sermons than mere rational discourses; but it may be answered that it is far more profitable to preach in the demonstrations of the Spirit than with the enticing words of man’s wisdom.

USE 2. See the reason why there is so little effect of preaching. There is much good preaching, and yet there is want of good preaching. There is very good preaching in old England, yet there is great want of good preaching, especially among the conformists. And there is very good preaching in New England, and yet there is some want of good preaching, especially in some places: and this is one reason that there is no more good done. There is a great fault in hearers: they are not studious of the mind of God; they are enemies to the gospel. And when Christ Himself preached among them many did not profit by it. Yet some preachers are much to blame, and though they preach profitably many times, yet they have great cause to be humbled for their defects.

For hence it is that there is so little conversion. There is great complaint in one country and in another that there are few converted. It is apparent by men’s unsanctified lives and their unsavory discourses. This is one reason, there is a great deal of preaching that does not much promote it, but is a hindrance to it. To tell men that they may be converted though they don’t know the time; to teach that there is no need of a work of humiliation to prepare them for Christ; and that faith is nothing else but a persuasion that the gospel is true, is the very way to make many carnal men hope that they are converted. It makes other preaching very ineffectual; it makes them think that it is needless to strive for conversion. Such preaching hardens men in their sins. The want of dealing plainly with men is the reason why there is seldom a noise among the dry bones.

In some towns there is no such thing to be observed for twenty years together. And men continue in a senseless condition, come to meetings and hear preaching, but are never the better for it. In some towns godly men are very thinly sown. Most of the people are in as bad a condition as if they had never heard the gospel. They go on in a still way, following their worldly designs, carry on somewhat of the form of godliness, but mind little but the world and the pleasures of this life. The scribes did not preach with authority. Matthew 7:29: “And they entered not into the kingdom of God themselves, and they that were entering in they hindered.” Such preaching is not mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Conversion work will fail very much where there is not sound preaching.

Hence many men who make a high profession lead unsanctified lives. They are not dealt plainly with; and so, though they profess high, they live very low. They are not dealt roundly with, and they believe they are in a good estate, and conscience suffers them to live after a corrupt manner. Some of them live a proud and voluptuous life, and they are not searched as they should be. If they were told their own, that would keep them from saying that they were rich and increased in goods, and had need of nothing. If they were rebuked sharply, that might be a means to make them sound in the faith (Titus 1:13). It might make them not only to reform, but lay a better foundation for eternal life than ever yet was laid. Paul was very thorough in his work, and wherever he came he had the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ, (Romans 15:29).me preachers are much to blame, and though they preach profitably many times, yet they have great cause to be humbled for their defects.

For hence it is that there is so little conversion. There is great complaint in one country and in another that there are few converted. It is apparent by men’s unsanctified lives and their unsavory discourses. This is one reason, there is a great deal of preaching that does not much promote it, but is a hindrance to it. To tell men that they may be converted though they don’t know the time; to teach that there is no need of a work of humiliation to prepare them for Christ; and that faith is nothing else but a persuasion that the gospel is true, is the very way to make many carnal men hope that they are converted. It makes other preaching very ineffectual; it makes them think that it is needless to strive for conversion. Such preaching hardens men in their sins. The want of dealing plainly with men is the reason why there is seldom a noise among the dry bones.

In some towns there is no such thing to be observed for twenty years together. And men continue in a senseless condition, come to meetings and hear preaching, but are never the better for it. In some towns godly men are very thinly sown. Most of the people are in as bad a condition as if they had never heard the gospel. They go on in a still way, following their worldly designs, carry on somewhat of the form of godliness, but mind little but the world and the pleasures of this life. The scribes did not preach with authority. Matthew 7:29: “And they entered not into the kingdom of God themselves, and they that were entering in they hindered.” Such preaching is not mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Conversion work will fail very much where there is not sound preaching.

Hence many men who make a high profession lead unsanctified lives. They are not dealt plainly with; and so, though they profess high, they live very low. They are not dealt roundly with, and they believe they are in a good estate, and conscience suffers them to live after a corrupt manner. Some of them live a proud and voluptuous life, and they are not searched as they should be. If they were told their own, that would keep them from saying that they were rich and increased in goods, and had need of nothing. If they were rebuked sharply, that might be a means to make them sound in the faith (Titus 1:13). It might make them not only to reform, but lay a better foundation for eternal life than ever yet was laid. Paul was very thorough in his work, and wherever he came he had the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ, (Romans 15:29).

 

 

The Decalogue

The Decaloguedecalogue_tablets_rembrandt_wiki_PD

Reformers see the Mosaic Law revealed in Scripture in three categories: civil, ceremonial, and moral. We see the moral law as eternal and universal, as shown in Romans 2: For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. The challenge for us is to rightly determine what within the Mosaic Law is moral and what is ceremonial or civil. We can see how diligent one must be in this regard by considering the book of Leviticus – the first half is a varied mixture of the two, often within the same verse.

While most reformers simply take the Decalogue as God’s moral law as a unit, there is a mixture of moral and ceremonial or civil law in the tablets. It appears to shine forth God’s moral law in addition to codifying Israel’s national identity. For example, nearly everyone agrees with the change in the day of the week wherein God’s people gather; not by command of Scripture, but by example therein based on the day in which Christ was raised from the dead. The command to meet on the 7th day must not be a moral command, having been changed without command; it must be ceremonial or civil. What else in the Decalogue is ceremonial or civil? Also, which version of the Decalogue is eternal and unchanging? The two versions recorded in Scripture have some variance (the substance of which is not easily dismissed as textual variants), further revealing the mixture of eternal moral commands and temporal ceremonial or civil commands. The problem for us is that God did not see fit to reveal to us or preserve for us the exact Ten Words written on the stone tablets. What Moses wrote in the Scripture has more words in some of the commandments than we think God specified on the tablets. Let us take a look at the Decalogue to see more truly what is moral and eternal. May the Lord God of Heaven and Earth be our wisdom in this and all matters, that He would be glorified and His people edified.

 

Exodus 20

Deuteronomy 5

[2] “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Introduction

[6] “‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

[3] “You shall have no other gods before me.

I

[7] “‘You shall have no other gods before me.

[4] “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. [5] You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, [6] but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

II

[8] “‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. [9] You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, [10] but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

[7] “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

III

[11] “‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

[8] “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. [9] Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, [10] but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. [11] For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

IV

[12] “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. [13] Six days you shall labor and do all your work, [14] but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. [15] You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

[12] “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

V

[16] “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

[13] “You shall not murder.

VI

[17] “‘You shall not murder.

[14] “You shall not commit adultery.

VII

[18] “‘And you shall not commit adultery.

[15] “You shall not steal.

VIII

[19] “‘And you shall not steal.

[16] “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

IX

[20] “‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

[17] “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

X

[21] “‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

Overview: A basic guide to proper hermeneutics is to recognize the context and audience of a given passage of Scripture. We cringe when folks take Jeremiah 29:11 out of context and claim it as a personal promise, even though we see biblical principles therein which can be rightly applied. I wonder why Sabbatarians fail to do this with the Decalogue. The biblical context for each mention of the Decalogue or the ark of the covenant shows the Decalogue to be an integral part of the Mosaic Covenant and the testimony or witness of that covenant (Ex 31:18, 32:15, 34:27 – 29). This key aspect of the Decalogue being a testimony of God’s covenant with Israel is further developed in Ex 25 and 26, with the ark being the “ark of the testimony” (see Ex 25:22 for emphasis). This is reminiscent of Ex 16:33 – 34 when Moses was commanded to put manna in a jar as a testimony God’s promise of provisions, seen in Ex 16:4 – 5. These are the most (only?) explicit statements in the Bible regarding the reason and purpose for the tablets and the ark – as a testimony of God’s covenant with Israel made on Mt. Sinai. Paedobaptists claim infant baptism as the sign and the seal of the New Covenant, equal to the sign and seal of the Old Covenant, circumcision. They also are the originators of making the testimony of the Old Covenant equal to God’s eternal moral law that binds all men. But where do we see the warrant in the text for appropriating the testimony of the Sinai Covenant as binding on those in the New Covenant? Romans 7:1 tells us Christians are not bound by the law because we have died to it.

As an aside, Exodus 34 does not provide a third version of the law, as some insist. This passage provides a narrative summary without the detailed, specific listing of all of the commandments. The focus of chapters 34 and following are the worship of God, as He instructed and required of the Hebrew people how they were to observe the Sabbath and build the tabernacle.

Let’s now take a look at a few examples of how ceremonial/civil law is mixed with moral law within the Decalogue.

2nd commandment: Does the Lord eternally visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Him? Or is this curse actually a reflection of the Hebrew federal headship of fathers and the penalty for idolatry? We see in Deuteronomy 24 and Ezekiel 18 that sons will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. Therefore, mustn’t we see that part of this commandment is not eternal and moral, and therefore, temporal and ceremonial or civil?

4th commandment: Many people argue for the perpetual and universal application of the 4th commandment by pointing out the word, “Remember”, in the version from Exodus 20; claiming this shows that the the Hebrews knew of this law from ancient times, despite no record of observance by man prior to being taught about the Sabbath in Exodus 16. Indeed, God’s Holy Scriptures (Neh 9:13-14) tell us the Sabbath was given by God to the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai, not from the garden. How is it a creation ordinance if not given to man until Sinai? The word, “remember” can also mean to “keep in mind”; thus this word does not prove the case of those who hold to alleged long-time practice of keeping the Sabbath. YHWH reminds the Hebrews of His resting on the first 7th day as the reason for this commandment. The same commandment in Deuteronomy begins with, “Observe”, reinforcing the idea that “remember” (in Exodus) means “to keep in mind”; and goes on to provide reasons why the Hebrews should keep His Sabbath: remember how the Lord brought them out of Egypt; that their exodus from Egypt, reminding them of God’s protection, etc., is the reason they, the people of Israel, are to keep the Sabbath. These are not directly applicable to New Covenant Christians, unless one flattens out the distinctives between the old and new covenants, as paedobaptists do. Again, does not this show us that some of what is recorded in the Decalogue is temporal and ceremonial or civil? Ezekiel 20:12 tells us the Sabbath is a sign between God and the Hebrews – marking their exodus from Egypt. It is not listed as a sign for the church, any more than water baptism is a sign and seal of that New Covenant.

We read in Colossians 2 not to let anyone judge us on questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath because these are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. This pattern of days refers to all of the holy days of the Jews, from yearly feasts to the weekly Sabbath, and comes from repeated descriptions of the Mosaic ritual, found in 1 Chron 23:30-31; 2 Chron 2:4, 8:12-13, 31:3; Neh 10:33; Isaiah 1:13-14; Ezek 45:17; and Hosea 2:11. This is another indication that the Mosaic code, of which the Decalogue is part, does not apply to Christian as a law – but as a type or shadow of the Christ to come. Our exodus is not from Egypt; that country is a type for sin and wickedness. The moral law, though it is revealed within the Mosaic code, is eternal and no more uniquely part of that Sinai covenant than the New Covenant is – though the covenant of grace was progressively revealed over time, even within the era of the Mosaic Covenant.

There is no record in Scripture of any mention or observance of a “Christian Sabbath.” History shows a creeping incrementalism towards that idea, being codified by the Roman Catholic Thomas Aquinas, who opined that the Decalogue was God’s moral law, binding for all people. Early reformers, including John Calvin, did not hold to a Christian Sabbath, although Sunday worship was normal since Apostolic times and embraced by these men. The moral law was clearly seen, the ceremonial or civil brought into the visible church by man. The New Testament shows Christians gathering for worship, teaching, fellowship, and much more on the first day of the week (“the day after the Sabbath” in the Greek; does this not make the use of the term “Christian Sabbath” all the more strange?) – but this does not reflect the keeping of the Jewish Sabbath on the next day as some claim. This argument is akin to the paedobaptists’ argument for infant baptism based on the several “household baptisms” found in Scripture – claiming a practice so common place that nobody mentioned it. The sabbath rest promised in Hebrews 4:8 – 11 refers to our resting in Christ, ceasing from our works as God ceased from His work of creation on His Sabbath; not keeping a pale imitation of the Jewish Sabbath on the day after the Sabbath.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us the ark of the covenant, which contained the tablets of testimony, is to be forgotten (Jr 3:15-16): “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, declares the LORD, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again.” Might these testimonies of the Mosaic Covenant be types and shadows that point us to something greater, as so much of what God gave Israel in that covenant is properly recognized as?

5th commandment: Most of us do not teach our children that they will live longer and inherit land promised to them if they obey us. We ought to teach our children to obey us parents because such is honorable in the eyes of God, because He has commanded them to do so. Does not this commandment also reveal a mixture of eternal and moral law with temporal and ceremonial or civil law? We know Paul quotes this command with the promise in Ephesians 6, yet in the new covenant this “promised land” is eternal life – that children might receive blessings from God; encouraging parents to faithful instruction and exhorting children to faithful learning. Again, language in the Decalogue that is shown in the New Testament to be a type – the temporal used to foreshadow the spiritual.

Written in Stone: There are those who claim that since God wrote the Decalogue on stone tablets with His own finger, the Ten Words are eternal and morally binding. Yet the first set of tablets was destroyed and the second set of tablets (which may or may not have been written on by God, see Exodus 34:27 – 28) has been lost (intentionally – recall Jer 3:15-16) to antiquity. We do not have a record in Scripture of what was written on these tablets; we have what Moses told Israel as part of the Sinai Covenant. Are the stone tablets sacred? We see in Scripture that temporal objects made of stone are not eternal – the hearts of stone are replaced with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26); the message of Christ is written on the hearts of His people, not on tablets of stone (2 Corinthians 3:3); the fine Jewish temple of noble stones would be torn down (never to be useful again) and replaced by a temple of Christ’s body (John 2:19 – 20). Why would the stone tablets of testimony of the covenant God made with national Israel be morally binding on all men, or on members of the New Covenant? Or are they merely the testimony of the Mosaic Covenant with Israel, reflecting God’s moral law as part of that covenant?

In the mid 17th century, English Baptist John Grantham was defending the doctrine of the credibility of then-modern Bibles as the Word of God. He saw the wisdom of God in allowing the autographs to be lost, as men would revere them as relics and be led astray as in the Roman Catholic Church. With numerous credible copies, he argued, all men would be more peaceable since God had given to all equal access to His word. Does the reverence some men give to the Decalogue approach relic worship? All things considered, it does not appear that the stone tablets of testimony are sacred to God. We remind ourselves that what He has revealed to us in Scripture is sufficient for life and godliness, so pointing to stone tablets He has not given us is not a proper argument for interpreting the written Word He has given us.

New Testament: The Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:17ff) is often described as exposition of the Decalogue, yet this address to Jews by the Lord Jesus does not cover all Ten Words. In fact, there is no clear New Testament teaching that encompasses the entire Decalogue as a unit or all Ten Words individually; no teaching that assigns them as binding on Christians, much less all men. Would not the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 been the perfect place for this topic to be addressed? Circumcision is often used as shorthand for the Law of Moses; this was the issue at this council. Sent to Gentile Christians were specific instructions on Christian love (not putting a stumbling block in the path of a brother), but nothing about law keeping, which is what Sabbath keeping is. Hebrews 9:1-5 calls the Decalogue, “tablets of the covenant”, the Mosaic Covenant.

Matthew 22:34 – 40 is said to be summation of the Decalogue. But that text says “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus tells us that the Law of Moses (the first five books of the Bible) and the Prophets (the balance of the Old Testament) hang on the two greatest commandments – not that they hang on the Decalogue. By claiming that these commandments (taken from Deut 6 and Lev 19 – not from Ex 20) only sum-up the Decalogue puts them in too low of a position. All of the then-known Scriptures depend upon them, in the same way that they point to Christ, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” The proper love of God and love of the brotherhood cannot be reduced to Ten Words on stone tablets. It must be written by God on tablets of flesh in the hearts of His people – it is a far, far greater thing than the type and the testimony given to Israel on Mt. Sinai. The Law of Moses serves its purpose – keeping sinners until faith in Christ comes (Gal 3:24 – 25) and it continues (Matt 5:17) for all born into the covenant of works that binds non-elect until Judgment Day. Short and to the point, 2 Cor 3 contrasts these two concepts better than I am able.

In Closing, it does make perfect sense for the Presbyterians to appropriate the covenants given specifically to the nation of Israel, because they see equivalence between the church and ancient Israel, both members of the same covenant with wheat and chaff therein. Baptist ought to see the nation of Israel mainly as a type, fulfilled in Christ in the New Covenant in His blood, wherein only the redeemed enjoy the far greater benefits of that covenant. The Decalogue reflects God’s moral law given to Adam and deployed it with terms that were types and shadows of Who was to come, marking His temporal people as distinctly His, as His Spirit marks His eternal people as His. The 1689 LB Confession, in chapter 1 paragraph 1, declares something not found in the Westminster document: “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” May we rightly see this as a call for us Baptists to be faithful to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, and not be misled by what men have built up as tradition.

If we are to walk humbly before men and God, we must not stand on what men have taught us, but seek wisdom from the Lord, as revealed in Scriptures. Sola Scriptura must be our foundation of knowing, serving and loving our God and His people; Sempre Reformanda to keep us from clinging wrongly to our beloved traditions.

An unworthy servant of the triumphant Lamb,

Stuart Brogden

Did the Lord’s Churches Baptize by Immersion Before the 17th Century?

Did the Lord’s Churches Baptize by Immersion Before the 17th Century?

By Thomas WilliamsonBaptism

http://thomaswilliamson.net/

All correspondence concerning this article should be directed to
Thomas Williamson, 3131 S. Archer Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60608.

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In most Protestant and denominational Baptist colleges and seminaries today, it is commonly taught in the Church History departments that there were no churches on earth that baptized by immersion prior to the 17th Century.

This is just another way of saying that there were no Baptist churches and no true New Testament churches prior to the 17th Century. Supposedly, at some point in the Middle Ages, all true churches vanished from the face of the earth. and the institution of the local church had to be restored later.

As BMA Baptists, we have never accepted such teaching. Point 17 of the 1950 BMA Doctrinal Statement affirmed belief in the “Perpetuity of Missionary Baptist Churches from Christ’s day on earth until His second coming.” This means that there have always been true churches on earth, baptizing by immersion, for the last 20 centuries.

Section 10. C. of the 1988 BMA Doctrinal Statement reads: “The Perpetuity of the Church Instituted by Jesus during His personal ministry on earth (Matt. 16:18, Mark 3:13-19; John 1:35-51), true churches have continued to the present and will continue until Jesus returns (Matt. 16:18, 28:20).”

However, in the last century, some church history scholars have come to the conclusion that the Anabaptists and other evangelical groups prior to the 17th Century baptized exclusively by pouring rather than by immersion, which would mean that those “churches” were not true churches. (Section 10. D. of our Doctrinal Statement requires baptism by immersion).

Some scholars have even pointed to the year 1641 as the date when Baptists recovered the apostolic practice of immersion, stating that Baptists and all other evangelical groups baptized only by pouring prior to that date.

If these scholars are correct, then our BMA Doctrinal Statement is mistaken, and our traditional belief in the perpetuity of the church is also mistaken.

So which is it?

To prove that no one, through the Middle Ages up to 1641, baptized by immersion, would be extremely difficult, requiring a degree of omniscience possessed only by God Himself. But if we can show that there were at least some evangelical groups that were immersing prior to 1641, then we will have successfully defended our conviction that there have always been true churches on earth, and that the gates of hell have not prevailed against the institution of the Lord’s Church.

The notion that there was no baptism by immersion before 1641 can be quickly disposed of. In 1614 (27 years earlier), Leonard Busher, a Baptist of London. in a petition to King James I, stated that Christ “commanded” those who “willingly and gladly” received “the word of salvation to be baptized in the water, that is, dipped for dead in the water.” (Armitage, History of the Baptists, p. 440).

In 1644. Dr. Featley, an opponent of the Baptists, complained that “They flock in great multitudes to their Jordans, and both sexes enter the river, and are dipt after their manner…. This venomous serpent … is the Anabaptist, who, in these latter times, first showed his shining head, and speckled skin, and thrust out his sting near the place of my residence, for more than 20 years.” (Armitage. p. 441), In other words. Baptists were immersing near Dr. Featley’s home prior to 1624. There is no hint that this was a totally new practice among Baptists, only that they started using a stream near Featley’s home around 1624.

In 1656, Henry Denne, a Baptist, defended the practice of immersion by reminding Anglicans that immersion was the ancient practice of their church: “Dipping of infants was not only commanded by the Church of England. but also generally practiced in the Church of England till the year 1606; yea, in some places it was practiced until the year 1641, until the fashion altered…” (Armitage, p. 443).

In the Roman Catholic Church, most baptisms were by immersion until the 14th Century: “Thomas Aquinas, the chief of the schoolmen, who flourished about the year 1250, says, in his theology, that while immersion is not essential to the validity of baptism, still, as the old and common usage, it is more commendable and safer than pouring.” (Everts, The Church in the Wilderness, p. 37).

The 19th Century German Catholic scholar Doellinger stated that “Baptism by immersion continued to be the prevailing practice of the Church as late as the 14th Century.” (Graves, John’s Baptism, p. 207). Baptism by pouring, while occasionally practiced, was not sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church until the Council of Ravenna in 1311. “Synods, as late as the synod of Tarragona, 1391, spoke of the submersion of children in baptism.” (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, v. 5, p. 712).

“It is equally clear that the form of baptism was immersion. This was at the time, the practice of the whole Christian world. The great Roman Catholic writers affirm that immersion was the proper form of baptism. Peter the Lombard, who died A.D. 1164, declared without qualification for it as the proper act of baptism.” (Christian, History of the Baptists, vol. 1, p. 81).

The Catholic Encyclopedia, in its article on “Baptism,” says, “The most ancient form usually employed was unquestionably immersion. This is. . . evident from the writings of the Fathers and the early rituals of both the Latin and Oriental churches…. In the Latin Church, immersion seems to have prevailed until the 12th Century. After that time it is found in some places even as late as the 16th Century.”

St. Jerome, early 5th Century, taught that “we are thrice dipped in the water” and Pope Leo the Great. in the 5th Century. wrote: “The trine immersion is an imitation of the 3 days’ burial” while Pope Gregory the Great in the following century stated that “The reason why we use 3 immersions at Rome is to signify the mystery of Christ’s 3 days’ burial.” (Cramp, Baptist History, p. 35).

Tertullian, in the 3rd Century. described the rite of baptism in detail, showing that it was done by immersion at that time. Martin Luther, 13 centuries later, taught that “baptism, in which the minister dips the child in the water, is a symbol of death and resurrection, and Luther therefore preferred total immersion.” (Latourette, History of Christianity, p. 713).

While Catholics, Episcopalians and other Protestants have, for the most part, abandoned the practice of immersion, the Eastern Orthodox Church has always baptized by immersion throughout its history, and still does so today.

St. John Chrysostom, Orthodox Bishop of Constantinople, baptized 3,000 new members by immersion on Easter Sunday, 404 AD. Chrysostom taught that “Baptism is an immersion, and then an emersion. When our heads enter the water as a tomb, the old man is buried, and plunging down is wholly concealed all at once.” (Graves. pp. 201. 203).

The 18th Century church historian Robert Robinson wrote about Baptists in the 5th Century. “At the beginning of the 5th Century, when infant baptism first came up, there were in Africa at least 400 hundred congregations of Anabaptists, called from Donatus, the name of 2 of their most eminent teachers, Donatists. . . . The Romans baptized by dipping on a profession of faith. The Donatists baptized by dipping on a proof of virtue accompanied with a general profession of Christianity; and as they thought the Romans had ceased to be Christian churches on account of their immorality, they did not hold their baptism valid, and they rebaptized every one that quitted the Roman communion to join theirs.” (Robinson, Ecclesiastical Researches, pp. 7-8). Note that according to Robinson, both the Donatists and the Roman Catholics were immersing at that time.

Through the Middle Ages, the Catholics and Orthodox were baptizing by immersion, yet we are expected to believe that there were no Baptists or evangelicals who baptized by immersion during this period! Where is the proof of this?

In 1590 the Italian Roman Catholic Cardinal and nephew of the Pope, Robert Bellarminc, wrote: “Ordinarily, baptism is performed by immersion, and that to represent the burial of Christ.” (Graves. p. 207). During the 16th Century, many Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican baptisms, and all Orthodox baptisms, were performed by immersion. It is very hard to believe that no Baptists or evangelicals were baptizing by immersion at that same time.

The Waldenses. who spread from their mountain strongholds of France and Italy into most regions of Europe, were Baptists who practiced immersion. “‘The Waldenses were Baptists in that they practiced only immersion. . . .,’ Mezeray says, ‘In the 12th Century they [Waldenses] plunged the candidate in the sacred font..'” (Jarrel, Baptist Perpetuity, pp. 162-163).

“The contemporary writers, Eberhard and Ermengard, in their work, ‘contra Waldenses’ written toward the close of the 12th Century, repeatedly refer to immersion as the form of baptism among the Waldenses.” (Christian, pp 81-82).

Concerning the 15th Century Bohemian Waldenses, Broadbent says. “One of the first things they (the Czech Brethren) did was to baptize those present, for the baptism of believers by immersion was common to the Waldenses and to most of the brethren in different parts, though it had been interrupted by pressure of persecution.” (Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church, p. 130).

“No historian has ever charged the ancient Waldenses with the practice of sprinkling and pouring for baptism. We may consider it a point generally admitted that the ancient Waldenses possessed the Baptist peculiarity of holding the burial in baptism of those who are dead to sin.” (Ray, The Baptist Succession, p.331).

Prior to the 17th Century, the Baptist practice of immersion was not brought up against them by their persecutors, because the Catholics and other denominations were also immersing at that time, so the mode of baptism was not a point of controversy.

An unbiased look at the historical evidence shows that our BMA confession of faith is correct in teaching Baptist perpetuity. The practice of baptism by immersion is certainly an essential element of Baptist perpetuity.

The purpose of citing the practices of other denominations is not to hint that they were the mother churches of the Baptists – they were not. Rather, it is to show how absurd it is to believe that there were no immersionist Baptists prior to the 17th Century, at a time when most other religious societies were baptizing by immersion.

 

 

Redemptive Historical Perspective

From Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow by Grover Gunn Scripture_cross

In Reformed interpretation, the unifying theme that is the key to understanding the development of redemptive history is the saving work of Jesus Christ. God created Adam and gave him the earth to rule and to subdue. Because of Adam’s fall into sin, the earth was cursed and man became a servant of sin and Satan. God immediately promised a coming Seed of woman who would overcome Satan and reverse the effects of the fall. The rest of redemptive history is the developing story of the restoration of fallen man’s earthly inheritance and authority through the work of the Seed Redeemer on behalf of His people. The theocracy of Old Testament Israel fits into this redemptive drama as a localized pledge and prefiguration of the coming perfect kingdom rule and everlasting earthly inheritance that the Christ will establish for His people and as the national means through which the Christ was brought into the world. Through the historical work of Jesus Christ, Satan was defeated and Jesus of Nazareth, who is fully man as well as fully God, was exalted to the place of all authority in heaven and on earth. In this age, Christ is exercising His authority, the nations are being discipled, and Christ’s universal rule over men is being extended to the uttermost parts of the earth. The drama of redemption will find its ultimate and final fulfillment in the glorified new earth of Revelation 21 after Christ returns.

Is the Mosaic law tripartite?


Is the Mosaic law tripartite?

By Maël

Introduction

During my last semester at SEBTS, I took a Christian Ethics class. It seems customary, when studying Christian ethics, to assume that the Mosaic law is tripartite, which means that the Old Testament law is assumed to be divided into three parts: moral, ceremonial, and civil/judicial. Following that assumption, the New Testament believer is to assume that the moral law is still valid in the believer’s life, while the last two parts have passed away with the coming of Christ.

The problem is that while ethicists often hold to this view, it seems that New Testament and Old Testament scholars do not agree with them. For example, R. T. France, in his commentary on Matthew, states:

It is sometimes suggested that Matt 5:17-20 is concerned only with the moral law, not with ceremonial and civil laws of the OT. But this convenient distinction of the law in three categories has no biblical basis, cannot be traced back earlier than the Middle Ages. Moreover, such a selective approach is difficult to square with Jesus’ insistence on the importance of the smallest details of the law (v. 18) and the ‘smallest commandments’ (v. 19).[1]

Hays states that the tripartite division of the law “suffers from three major weaknesses: It is arbitrary and without any textual support, it ignores the narrative context, and it fails to reflect the significant implications of the change from Old Covenant to New Covenant. This approach, therefore, is inadequate as a hermeneutic method for interpreting and applying the Law.”[2] Barrick bluntly states that “no one can justly separate the moral, civil, and ceremonial parts of the Law from each other: it is a unit.”[3] These are only a few of the objectors and of the objections to the tripartite division of the law.

In the next sets of posts, I will try to look at the validity of such a division of the law through a historical and theological approach. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Is a tripartite division of the law valid?

[1] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 180n. Unfortunately, France does not document this statement.

[2] J. Daniel Hays, “Applying the Old Testament Law Today,” Bibliotheca Sacra 158 (Jan-Mar 2001): 30.

[3] William D. Barrick, “The Mosaic Covenant,” TMSJ 10/2 (Fall 1999): 213.

 

Historical Overview

As was mentioned in the previous post, according to R. T. France, evidence for such a tripartite division of the law “cannot be traced back earlier than the Middle Ages.”[1] However, there might be some evidence that at least a dichotomy between ceremonial works and the works of the law existed at the time of Jerome. According to Luther, Jerome had introduced “notable error and ignorance” in the understanding of Rom 3:19-20 when he suggested that Paul was here calling ceremonial works, works of the law.[2] A possible bipartite understanding of the law also could have existed at the time of Augustine, for Luther claimed that Augustine resisted Jerome,[3] and Aquinas stated that in Contra Faust, Augustine held “that in the Old Law there are ‘precepts concerning the life we have to lead, and precepts regarding the life that is foreshadowed.'” Aquinas then related these precepts to moral, ceremonial, and judicial principles by arguing that both moral and judicial principles fall under the “life we have to lead” category. [4]

Fast forwarding to the Middle Ages, in Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas himself discussed the law (which he referred to as precepts) and its three parts (moral, ceremonial, and judicial) in his section entitled “Treatise on the Law” and more specifically in questions 99-105. Of interest is the fact that in his writings, Aquinas did not just assume this partition of the law, he actually developed an argument for the existence of these three parts. A future post will deal with Aquinas’ position in detail, but now let us continue our historical overview.

Jumping to the time of the reformers, Luther seemed to accept at least a dualism of the law when, in The Bondage of the Will, he referred to “the civil or moral law.”[5] Calvin, in book two of Institutes of the Christian Religion, presented a bipartite view when he discussed the law, emphasizing the moral and ceremonial aspects of it,[6] but later, in book four of the Institutes, when he discussed civil government, he presented a clearly tripartite view of the law when he stated: “the well known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law.”[7] While Calvin did not present a logical defense of the tripartite division of the law as Aquinas did, his use of this tripartite division to justify the abrogation of only part of the law and his interactions with and citations of a variety of Scriptures are also of interest to the question at hand.

After the reformation, the tripartite division of the law seemed to slowly solidify as an accepted concept. Some still held, as John Owen stated in his Two Short Catechisms, that “the whole law [was] moral and ceremonial,” pointing to a bipartite view of the law,[8] but ultimately, the tripartite view was propagated and popularized by the Westminster Confession (1646), which was the basis for a variety of other confessions of faith, including the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. In the 1689 Baptist Confession, the tripartite division of the law is clearly seen in the chapter on the law of God (Ch. 19), where it reads: “besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship” and that “to them also he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people.”[9] While the 1689 Baptist Confession did not provide an argument for its views, but simply stated the belief of its signatories, as is customary for confessions, it did however substantiate its articles with a variety of Scripture references which are also of interest to the quest at hand.

Looking at contemporary times, it is interesting to note that the Baptist tradition found in the 1689 confession has not survived in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, where no mention of the tripartite law is made. Some current thoughts and discussions on the issue of the law and the gospel are summarized in Five Views on Law and Gospel, first published by Zondervan in 1993. In this book, the reader is presented with the following five views: the reformed perspective, the theonomic reformed approach, the evangelical (holiness code) approach, the dispensational view, and the modified Lutheran view.[10] The first three have to maintain that the law is at least bipartite, if not tripartite for their approach. The last two do not have to hold to any division of the law.

As we continue this discussion, we will next tackle Aquina’s arguments for a tripartite division of the law. In the meantime, do you know of any other historical figures that might have convincingly argued this position?

[1] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 180n. Unfortunately, France does not document this statement. Based on the research done, it is assumed that France’s reference to the Middle Ages is a reference to the work of Thomas Aquinas.

[2] Martin Luther The Bondage of the Will CXLIII. References to classical, medieval, and renaissance works will be cited as per section 17.5.1 of the 7th edition of Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica FS.Q99.A4.

[5] Luther Bondage CXLVI.

[6] John Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion 2.7, 2.8.31.

[7] Ibid., 4.20.14.

[8] John Owen Two Short Catechisms XIV.Q2.

[9] Samuel E.Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 3rd ed. (Webster: Evangelical Press, 1999), 232-33.

[10]Greg L.Bahnsen et al., Five Views on Law and Gospels (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 5.

 

Analyzing Aquinas’ Arguments.

The question that now begs to be answered is: are the arguments given in favor of a tripartite law acceptable, after all, the mere fact that many have accepted this division as a fact since the Middle Ages does not justify its acceptance. Therefore, to understand if it is appropriate to divide the law into three parts, I will analyze the arguments offered by the proponents of such a perspective, starting with Aquinas.

In his six article approach to “Of the Precept of the Old Law” (Q99), Aquinas started by defending that the law is made up of many precepts and not of only one precept. He did so by pointing to the plural “ordinances” used by Paul in Eph 2:15 when he wrote about the law of commandments.[1] This point is well presented and defended. The only comment that can be made about this point is that he could be accused of using Eph 2:15 selectively to prove his point of multiple precepts while ignoring the implications of Eph 2:15 when it comes to the wholeness of the law. While the author would agree with Aquinas, that Scripture here refers to “ordinances” plural, the author would also agree with Hoehner, in his commentary on the book of Ephesians, when he points out that the “term o nomo” must refer to the whole Mosaic law and not just the ceremonial law as some suggest,” and as such, he argues that “it is a false dichotomy to distinguish between the moral and ceremonial laws, making only the ceremonial laws inoperative.”[2]

Aquinas then proceeded to point to the Decalogue to support his claim that the Old Law contains some moral precepts because moral precepts are necessary to make man become good, so that he can be in friendship with God who is supremely good. He thus argued that “it was necessary for the Old Law to include precepts about acts of virtue: and these are the moral precepts of the Law.” [3] As we saw in the previous post, some disagree with Aquinas about the statement that the Old Law contains only “some” moral precepts, but with that exception, one cannot fault his position just yet. Some discomfort is felt by the modern evangelical when Aquinas augmented his argument with a philosophical argument for the need of moral principles in the Old Law. To do so, he used the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus[4] to maintain that God cannot have a friendship with man “unless man become good.”[5] This latter argument can be seen as unnecessary, and its use of apocryphal literature makes it more suspicious to the modern evangelical. But, if one ignores this part of the argument, the claim that the Old Law contains moral precepts is a valid one.

Aquinas continued by seeking to prove that there are precepts which are not moral, but ceremonial. He did so by looking at Deut 4:13, 14, where Moses stated that God declared to Israel His covenant, that is the Ten Commandments, and that the LORD commanded Moses to teach the Israelites statutes and judgments, that they were to observe. Aquinas is translated here as using the phraseology “ceremonies and judgments,” instead of the NKJV’s terminology, “statutes and judgments,” and this is where he seems to get the term ceremonial law.[6] The Hebrew term used here is qx, which BDAG defines as “something prescribed, a statute or due,” or as an “enactment, decree, ordinance,” or a “law in general.”[7] This same term is used in the next chapter of Deuteronomy when the Decalogue is introduced with: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. … You shall have no other gods before Me ….” (Deut 5:1-7, NKJV, emphasis mine). Therefore Aquinas’ insistence on the use of qx as meaning ceremonies[8] is deemed not to be well founded since the Decalogue (the commands associated with the moral law according to Aquinas) are introduced with the same term that Aquinas wants to use to identify ceremonial laws. Frame, a proponent of the tripartite law, further furnishes a critique of Aquinas’ use of the ceremonial term when he writes,

It is misleading to define “ceremonial” etymologically as “laws pertaining to ceremonies.” Many of the laws commonly grouped under the “ceremonial” category, such as dietary laws [and] clothing laws, have nothing to do with “ceremonies.” And some laws having to do with ceremonies, such as the “regulative principle” and other doctrines concerning public worship, are commonly described as moral rather than ceremonial laws.[9]

It would therefore seem that Aquinas’ argument for the presence of ceremonial decrees is invalid on many fronts. In addition to this, when Aquinas replied to the objection[10] that “human actions are called moral, … therefore it seems that the Old Law given to men should not comprise other than moral precepts,” he simply answered that “human acts extend also to the Divine worship: and therefore the Old Law given to man contains precepts about these matters also.”[11] This is circular reasoning; instead of defending his statement that Divine worship is not a moral concept, he arbitrarily put it in a different category and then used its being in that category to justify the existence of that category. In this same section, Aquinas admitted in the reply to another objection that “to worship God, since it is an act of virtue, belongs to a moral precept,” but he then differentiated the worship of God from the precepts prescribing the worship of God, which are in themselves not moral, but ceremonial.[12] Here again, Aquinas seemed to change categories without substantial justification. He conveniently created a new category, but did not justify its existence.

Aquinas next proceeded to argue for judicial precepts by looking at Deut 6:1. Here he interpreted the words commandment, statutes, and judgments as referring to moral, ceremonial, and judicial law.[13] This is the same terminology used in Deut 4 and Deut 5 (as seen above) and Aquinas here used a similar weak reasoning with judicial precepts as he used above with moral precepts: he again conveniently created a new category, but did not justify its existence. In addition, he augmented his argument by pointing to Rom 7:12, “therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good,” as additional substantiation of his tri-partition. Here he related “just” with the judicial precepts, “holy” with the ceremonial precepts, and “good” with the moral precepts.[14] Moo, in his commentary on Romans, does not allow for such an interpretation, for he says that “Paul brings together as essentially parallel terms ‘law’ and ‘commandment'; both referring to the Mosaic law, the former as a body, the latter in terms of specific commandments that Paul has cited in v. 7 as representative of the whole.”[15] If Moo is correct, then the term “holy,” associated with the entire law in the first part of the verse, cannot in the next breath refer only to ceremonial laws, as Aquinas purported it does. Here again, Aquinas admitted that the “act of justice, in general, belongs to the moral precepts,” but then, in a similar manner as with ceremonial precepts, he differentiated between the determination of the acts and the acts themselves, concluding that the determination of the acts belongs to the category of judicial precepts.[16] Just as with ceremonial acts, it must be stated that this change of category is not substantiated. Ultimately, it is very interesting that Aquinas himself agreed that the ceremonial and judicial precepts have their basis in the moral law, and yet he worked very hard to separate them into different categories from the moral law.

Aquinas finished his defense of the tripartite law with his fifth article, in which he investigated the possibility of the presence of a fourth division of the law. His arguments against a fourth division are similar to the ones made above and do not add much to the discussion of this blog series. Some more discussion is found in questions 100-108 of the Summa. In these questions, Aquinas continued to develop his ideas about the tripartite law and specifically postulates arguments on the duration of each kind of precept. Aquinas believed that “the precepts of the Decalogue cannot be changed by dispensation,”[17] and yet he also believed that when Christ came, a change had to have happened in the law for, according to Aquinas: the New Testament law is different from the Old Testament law;[18] “the judicial precepts are no longer in force”;[19] and that “the Old Law is said to be ‘for ever’ simply and absolutely, as regards its moral precepts; but as regards the ceremonial precepts it lasts for ever in respect of the reality which those ceremonies foreshadowed.”[20]

In the next post, I will look at Calvin and his defense of a tripartite law. In the meantime, what do y’all think. Are Aquinas’ arguments valid? Am I being too severe with him? Did I miss something?

[1] Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A1.

[2] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians – An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 375-6.

[3] Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A2.

[4] Aquinas referred to Ecclesiasticus almost 250 times in his Summa, often using the introduction “it is written.”

[5] Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A2.

[6] Ibid., FS.Q99.A3.

[7] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The Brow-Drivers-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 349. The author takes this occasion to point out that he is not a Hebrew scholar, and therefore some of the nuances of the language might have escaped him as he makes arguments based on the Hebrew text.

[8] It should be noted that the insistence on the word ceremonial which transpires in the English translation, might, or might not be as strong in the original Latin, but no matter what term was used in the original, it is hoped that the translators represented Aquinas’ ideas correctly, as it is with these ideas that the author is interacting.

[9] John M. Frame, “Toward a Theology of the State,” Westminster Theological Journal 51 no 2 (Fall 1989): 204n.

[10] The format of the Summa starts with a series of objections to his article, followed by the defense of his article and answers to the objections aforementioned.

[11] Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A3.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., FS.Q99.A4.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 440.

[16] Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A4.

[17] Ibid., FS.Q100.A8.

[18] Ibid., FS.Q107.A1.

[19] Ibid., FS.Q104.A3.

[20] Ibid., FS.Q103.A3.

 

Analyzing Calvin’s Arguments.

As for Calvin, he stated that he gathered his tripartite view of the law from the “ancients who adopted this division, though they were not unaware that the two latter classes [judicial and ceremonial laws] had to do with morals.”[1] Therefore, like Aquinas, Calvin admitted that the laws which he called ceremonial and judicial had to do with morals, even so he, like Aquinas, adopted, defined, and used different categories for them. Unlike Aquinas, who tried to justify his reasoning through logic and some Scriptural exegesis, Calvin seemed to have relied on the wisdom of the ancients. It is of interest to note that Calvin did not say that the ancients justified this tripartite division of the law with solid Biblical arguments, but only that they “did not give them the name of moral, because they might be changed and abrogated without affecting morals.”[2] It is almost as if he assumed that the motivation of the ancients was derived by a need to fit their purpose, instead of being derived by the clear teaching of Scripture. Since this abrogation pattern is clear in Aquinas, could it be that Calvin suggested that this tension between the Decalogue’s not being changed and the changing work of Christ was the motivation for Aquinas’ arguments trying to justify a tripartite law? Possibly, but we have no proof of it.

In Calvin’s theology, the law ultimately was divided as follows:

The moral law, … is the true and eternal rule of righteousness prescribed to the men of all nations and of all times, who would frame their life agreeably to the will of God. … The ceremonial law of the Jews was a tutelage by which the Lord was pleased to exercise, as it were, the childhood of that people, until the fullness of the time should come when he was fully to manifest his wisdom to the world, and exhibit the reality of those things which were then adumbrated by figures (Gal. 3:24; 4:4). The judicial law, given them as a kind of polity, delivered certain forms of equity and justice, by which they might live together innocently and quietly. And as that exercise in ceremonies properly pertained to the doctrine of piety, inasmuch as it kept the Jewish Church in the worship and religion of God, yet was still distinguishable from piety itself, so the judicial form, though it looked only to the best method of preserving that charity which is enjoined by the eternal law of God, was still something distinct from the precept of love itself. Therefore, as ceremonies might be abrogated without at all interfering with piety, so, also, when these judicial arrangements are removed, the duties and precepts of charity can still remain perpetual.”[3]

Therefore the moral law found in the Decalogue is timeless, but the ceremonial law and the judicial law are not. In this description, Calvin quotes Gal 3:24 as a supporting Scripture for his treatment of the ceremonial law. This passage, which in the letter to the Galatians comes at the end of a section on the purpose of the law, states: “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24 NKJV). It is hard to envision that this passage, written to a predominantly gentile church, was referring only to the Jewish nation, as Calvin would have it seem.[4] Also, the context of the passage does not seem to allow for a purely ceremonial understanding of “the law,” but to a more holistic understanding of the law. Therefore it is hard to agree with Calvin’s definition of the ceremonial law based on this passage. As a matter of fact, if this passage is read in light of verse 25, where Paul writes: “But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Gal 3:25 NKJV), one could understand this section of Scripture as arguing for a view where we are no longer under a tutor for the “whole” law, and therefore one does not need to hold to a tripartite division of the law.

In the next post, I will look at some more modern uses of the tripartite law, and their justification, or lack there of, for using it. In the meantime, if you are better acquainted with Calvin and his writings, do you know of anywhere else where Calvin does a better job of defending the tripartite division of the law?

[1] Calvin Institutes 4.20.14.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 4.20.15 (emphasis mine).

[4] In all fairness, one must at least consider the possibility that Paul here could have been using the term “we” to refer to his Jewish heritage rather than to him and his audience. While this interpretation would be more in line with Calvin’s thought, it does not seem to square with the general sense of the passage and the specific use of “all” in verse 22.

 

Two More Historical Views.

To finish the historical analysis, I would like to look at two more instances: the 1689 Baptist Confession and a recent book on the topic.

Looking at the 1689 Baptist Confession, we see again that like Calvin and Aquinas, the authors of the confession related ceremonial laws with moral duties when they stated: “ceremonial laws [which] … also gave instructions about various moral duties.”[1] But, basing themselves most probably on the thoughts of Calvin, they also used these created categories. Since this is a confession of faith, as stated above, we should not expect to have a defense of the tripartite division of the law; instead we have Scripture references listed in support of their statement. In support of the ceremonial law, the following Scriptures are cited: Heb 10:1, Col 2:16-7, Eph 2:14-6. Yet again, the understanding of these Scripture hinges on the use of the terms for the law. As mentioned before by Moo and Hoehner, there is little to no indication that these are referring only to ceremonial laws, and therefore are deemed not to be sustentative proof for a tripartite division of such laws.

When reading modern theologians of the reform variety, the tripartite division of the law is also often assumed and rarely explained. In his presentation of the reformed perspective in the Five Views on Law and Gospel book, VanGemeren assumes the traditional tripartite division of the law when he states: “The laws of the Old Testament have also been commonly categorized as moral, ceremonial, and civil. Each one of the Ten Commandments expresses the moral law of God, whereas most laws in the Pentateuch regulate the rituals and ceremonies (ceremonial laws) and the civil life of Israel as a nation (civil laws).”[2] What VanGemeren fails to do, is to defend his view Biblically. Instead, he points to Calvin and the Westminster Confession, who themselves had accepted the tripartite view from earlier sources. This deserved Moo’s criticism that VanGemeren assumed his tripartite position “without arguing the case. [Even though] this distinction, vital to his whole argument, is nowhere clearly stated in the Bible.”[3]

In the next post I will start looking at generic arguments for flaws in the tripartite assumption. In the meantime, do you know of anybody else who tries to defend the tripartite division of the law?

[1] Samuel E.Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 3rd ed. (Webster: Evangelical Press, 1999), 232-3.

[2] Greg L.Bahnsen et al., Five Views on Law and Gospels (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 30.

[3] Ibid., 85. To be fair to VanGemeren, it seems very common for modern reformed theologians to rely on the formulations of Calvin and the Westminster Confession.

 

Generic Arguments for Flaws in the Tripartite Assumption.

Having interacted with some of the main proponents of the tripartite division of the law throughout history, and having interacted with some of their thoughts, we shall now entertain generic arguments for flaws in the tripartite assumption. As seen already, the tripartite approach is often accused of being arbitrary in its identification of the various categories of laws. This is because, by their own admission, the different precepts/law categories are not neatly divided, but intertwined. For example, reformed theologian Willem A. VanGemeren states,

The book of the Covenant (Ex. 20:22-23:33) – with its regulations for worship (20:22-26; 23:14-19) and its civil laws (21:1-23:13) – extends the Decalogue in three directions. First, there is the complex development of case law. … Second, the criminal laws specify the penalty for breaking the commandments. … Third, the book of the covenant reveals the complexity of Israelite law. The moral laws (i.e., those reflected in the Decalogue) are intertwined with the civil laws, penal code, and ceremonial laws.[1]

To demonstrate this, he then proceeds to use Ex 22:19-29 as an example. In this passage, he shows that the topics covered vary from moral precepts, to penal precepts, to casuistic/civil precepts, back to moral precepts, and finally to ceremonial precepts, all intertwined in one passage. Reformed Professor John M. Frame is even more candid in his admission that the division between the supposed three parts of the law is not cut and dry. He tells us,

The law does not, of course, come to us with the labels “moral,” “ceremonial” and “civil” attached to its provisions. What we call “moral” laws are mixed together in the texts (almost randomly, it seems) with “civil” and “ceremonial” laws, and we must sort them out by determining their meaning and current applicability. Those that apply most literally today we call “moral,” those which apply least literally we call “ceremonial.” “Civil” is a different kind of category, based not on applicability but upon function, and these would be divided between “ceremonial” and “moral” depending on their applicability. Remember too, that literal and non-literal applicability is a matter of degree, so we may expect some “gray areas,” some laws that do not fit neatly into either “ceremonial” or “moral” categories.[2]

His sorting process is quite different from the traditional assumption that only the Decalogue is the depository of moral laws, and after reading his decision making process, one is left to wonder if “applicability” is really a Biblical identification of morality. As can be seen, the lack of clear distinction between the three parts of the law does point to a lack of credibility for the tripartite division of the law.

Barrick picks up on this and stipulates that the,

Division into three categories of law is unmasked as a fallacy by the testimony of the Book of Deuteronomy alone. Moses’s second exposition (4:44—26:19) presented the Decalogue and then illustrated each of the Ten Commandments by means of various legal stipulations. Such an arrangement demonstrates that the so-called civil and ceremonial stipulations are inextricably interwoven with what are considered to be the moral laws. Violation of any of the stipulations is a breach of the Decalogue.[3]

Another Old Testament text that does not square with the tripartite division of the law is Jer 31:31-2. Here God states that “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD” (Jer 31:31-2 NKJV). If God has made a New Covenant which is not like the covenant at Sinai, is it acceptable for us to say that only parts of the Old Covenant have changed? There is nothing in this passage that allows the reader to accept that this is a renewal of the Old Covenant. After all, the term used here has a primary definition of “new,” not “renew,” and the text speaks of a New Covenant, not like the Old Covenant. It is hard to imagine that this would imply any kind of continuity with the Old Covenant. There is also nothing which substantiates the Calvinistic position that this is a reformatting of the Old Covenant, or even that it is a hyperbolic statement, for again, the promise is of a New Covenant, not just a new medium.[4] Adeyemi also points out that “since the Old Covenant will be abolished, so will its Torah which cannot be divorced from it. … This view accords with several statements in Isaiah about a Torah other than the Mosaic Law being given by Yahweh when Israel is in her land and Messiah is reigning.”[5]

Both Moo and Strickland also offer the Sabbath commandment as an exemplary test case of the abrogation of the Decalogue, and therefore as proof that if the Decalogue is the depository of God’s immutable moral law, then even the moral law has changed. The argument goes like this: reformed theologians claim that the Decalogue is the eternal moral law. If that is the case, then all of the Ten Commandments should still be valid for New Testament believers. But the fifth commandment states that rest should be pursued on the seventh day, and since it is in the Decalogue, the lack of observance of the Sabbath in this way is a moral matter. Believers, including ones in the reformed tradition, have been meeting on the first day of the week since New Testament times, because it is sanctioned in the New Testament. Does that then mean that the eternal moral precepts are subject to revision and that God’s nature has changed?[6] Aquinas would not agree that God’s nature has changed,[7] neither would Calvin,[8] and most probably, neither would modern reformed theologians.

Finally, looking at the use of the law in the New Testament, Moo argues that “Jesus and the New Testament authors treated the Mosaic law as a whole,” and that “Jewish theology refused to allow a ‘picking and choosing’ among the commandments of the law.” He also argues, by looking at Matt 23:23, that even though Jesus possibly followed a Jewish tradition of categorizing the law, he insisted that “even the ‘light’ commandments still must be done.” He further points to Gal 5:3 and James 2:8-1, and their message of keeping or breaking the whole law, to suggest that the same perspective was adopted by the New Testament community. [9] Barrick picks up this same theme when he states that “to be disobedient to any one of the stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant is to be guilty of disobedience to all of the stipulations of the covenant (Jas 2:10).”[10] Ultimately, Moo also analyzes Paul’s use of the terms for the law and the reformed tradition’s varied, and apparently arbitrary, interpretation of which laws Paul is referring to (moral or ceremonial law) and does not find any substantiation for their interpretations.[11]

If the historical arguments for the tripartite law are flawed and if Scripture does not seem to support this idea, why is it so popular?

[1] Ibid., 30-1.

[2] Frame, 203-4.

[3] Barrick, 229.

[4] Femi Adeyemi, “What is the New Covenant ‘Law’ in Jeremiah 31:33?” Biblioteca Sacra 163 (July-September 2006): 315-9.

[5] Ibid., 320-1.

[6] Bahnsen et al., 81-2, 88.

[7] Aquinas Summa FS.Q100. A8.

[8] Calvin Institutes 4.20.15.

[9] Bahnsen et al., 85.

[10] Barrick, 231.

[11] Bahnsen et al., 85-6.

 

HT: http://maelandcindy.blogspot.com/2008/06/is-mosaic-law-tripartite.html

Who is This Man Who says he is God?

Luke 4:31-44  the-gospel-of-luke

And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region. And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Click here for a sermon from the 4th chapter, examining the question – Who is this Man Who says He is God?

Noah’s Ark

NOAHS ARKlimited_atonement

By Edward Griffin
(1770—1837)

Edward Griffin AUDIO gems

With all the hoopla about the movie (which I recommend you don’t spent time or money on), this article could not be timed better.

“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” Hebrews 11:7

The ark is admitted by the apostle to have been a distinguished type of Christ.

“HE wiped out every living thing that was on the surface of the ground, from mankind to livestock, to creatures that crawl, to the birds of the sky, and they were wiped off the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark!” Genesis 7:23

In that period before the flood, when the age of man was more than 900 years, the temptation to put death out of view was great. A Church there was—but by intermarrying with the wicked world it had become corrupt, and at last almost extinct. This was the first illustration of the fatal consequence of too close a connection between the Church and the world. By these means the Spirit of God was provoked to depart, and general licentiousness ensued. The Church became reduced to a single family, and the rest of the world sunk into infidelity and vice. “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Genesis 6:5

Thus the universal and complete effect of the fall was publicly ascertained. This done, God determined to cast away the world as ruined, and to make a new beginning on the foundation of grace, commencing a new stock in the family which included the whole church. This rejection of the world is expressed in the following strong eastern figure, “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain! So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” Genesis 6:6-7

For a hundred and twenty years, “God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved.” The history leads us to suppose that the whole of this period was taken up in building the ark. In the infancy of the ‘building arts’ such a vessel must have cost immense labor, and it was so unpopular an undertaking, that few if any besides the family of Noah would be induced to engage in the the work. His sons were born about twenty years after the building commenced, and for a long time they could afford him no assistance. Cheered by the society and counsel of his venerable father and grandfather, he wore out the hundred and twenty years in patiently waiting for the fulfillment of the prediction. When the ark was finished, God brought all the creatures into it and shut Noah and his family inside.

The old world is devoted to destruction. The waters are to rise and rage above the highest mountains. No vessel had yet been invented to ride the waves. How can any escape? God only can find out the way. He causes an ark to be constructed, in which his friends find refuge, while the waves of wrath sweep away a wicked world. Who that turns his eye towards this frightful scene, is not reminded of that spiritual ark in which the friends of God are sheltered while the floods of vengeance sweep away an unbelieving world?

This prepares the way for us to meditate on the conduct of Noah while laboring for that refuge, and the conduct of that profligate generation who cast contempt on him. The things most worthy of notice in respect to Noah, are his faith, his obedience, his patience, his self-denial, and his fortitude.

(1.) Noah’s FAITH. While he sat at rest in his house, pursuing a life of devotion, and mourning over the abounding wickedness of the times, he heard a voice—a voice declaring that the end of all flesh was at hand—a voice which fixed the event and the manner, but concealed the time. The voice assured him that the wicked would be destroyed, and that the only safety for him was in an ark, which he must at once set about preparing. All this was strange, and different from anything he had experienced. Yet the patriarch believed God. He did not doubt because he had never seen such a thing before, nor because the events predicted might be at a considerable distance. He admitted a realizing belief that the wicked would be destroyed, and that his only safety was in an ark. His faith was sufficient to influence his conduct and to lead him to the labor of 120 years. Not knowing how near the deluge might be, and contemplating so vast a work before him, he saw that he had no time to lose. He felt the urgent call for haste, apprehending that if he delayed, the deluge might come before he was ready; at the same time trusting in God that if he was diligent, that the judgment would be deferred until he was prepared. Here were all the trials of faith which good men experience now. O that they could as fully believe the threats and promises of God; and while they feel the pressing need of haste, could trust in him to connect their diligence with the promised salvation. Let them not doubt because the events foretold differ from their past experience, nor because they are many years distant.

Noah believed God, because his mind was not blinded by sin; but his contemporaries were blinded. This was the difference between them. He believed God’s threatenings and promises, and they believed not. Hence he could consume the labor of 120 years in building an ark, and they could spend that solemn time in mocking at his sacred toil. They could not have acted thus, had they really believed that a flood was coming on the world. This is the difficulty with sinners now. Though God has foretold the destruction of the wicked—they do not really believe it. Did they truly believe that the destruction would come, and that there is no safety but in the spiritual ark—they could not thus reject a Savior, and sleep out life in worldliness and vain security!

(2.) Noah’s OBEDIENCE. God ordained him to provide for his safety by constructing an ark; he did not hesitate a moment—he entered on the work at once, and consumed 120 years in one unbroken course of obedience. And let us who are commanded to secure the spiritual ark, obey, and devote our whole lives to the attainment of this end.

(3.) Noah’s PATIENCE. Consider his patience under labors and sufferings, the length of which he could not foresee. There is no account of his impatience under the hardships of 120 years, nor of his complaining that the time was long, though it probably proved much longer than he had expected. Possibly at no time during the whole period did he look upon the flood as far distant; and yet deliverance continued to fly. But his patience never failed. O that Christians could now as patiently submit to the labors and trials of the spiritual warfare half as long, without complaining that their hardships have no end.

(4.) Noah’s SELF-DENIAL. He possessed great wealth, or he could not have built such an immense ark. Before this command came, he was probably engaged in extensive business, and found his wealth flowing in from every quarter. But at the command of God he gave up all other employments, and consumed his wealth upon that immense building, which could be of no other use than to save him and his family and the animal tribes from the threatened destruction. He forsook all, and was content to wait for his remuneration in the new world—in the world that followed the flood. This was as great a self-denial as for Christians now to abandon all their possessions for Christ, and to wait for the recompense of the eternal world.

(5.) Noah’s FORTITUDE. Except for his father and grandfather and the rest of his own family, he stood aloneagainst a frowning world. It is hard for Christians now, with millions on their side, to stem the torrent of angry opposition, especially in places where that opposition triumphs. How hard then for the patriarch, who had all the sensibilities of a man—to encounter, single-handed, a contending and ridiculing world. He submitted to the scoffs of his acquaintances, his superiors in rank and fortune, his inferiors, his relations, and his enemies! He heard, undismayed, their endless charges of bigotrysuperstitionintolerance, and the like. He was a preacher of righteousness; but he preached without success, and drew taunts instead of tears. He never seems to have made a single convert in 120 years! The uniform tenor of his address must have been that of warning and condemnation. The case admitted of no other.

His daily labor upon the ark carried also the strong language of reprobation, “By his faith he condemned the world.” He constantly proclaimed the approaching destruction of the world, for their wickedness.

Such an unheard of enterprise as the construction of an enormous vessel to ride the waves—the construction of it in the midst of the dry land—under the idea that a flood was coming upon the world—was an oddity abounding with apparent folly, and calculated to excite men’s scorn as well as their anger; and could not fail to call forth the highest contempt and indignation from the ungodly world. How often was he called a madman and a fool! Those who passed by, would insultingly wag their heads. Others would curse him. The children would mock at him as he walked the streets, and load him with the epithets which they had heard their parents use. All the wit and raillery of the age would be leveled against him! The news of his foolish undertaking would travel to remote nations—and from all quarters derision and reproaches would come in.

All this time he had no man beyond the bounds of his own family to whom he could impart his cares, or on whose bosom he could repose. He could ask no counsel. He could go no where, he could look no where, without meeting theblasting frown of the ungodly world. His character and reputation were totally ruined with every person on earth, except his own family. He was shut out from all society, except what he found at home. The question would often be asked, “Who made YOU wiser and better than all of us?” That question, had he not been supported by faith as well as fortitude, would have crushed him. Losing sight of the divine testimony and commission, and looking only at himself, he would shrink into nothing, and say, “Who am I—to be the reprover of the whole world?”

But faith joined to fortitude, supported him. His unconquered mind rose above the opinion of the united ungodly race. He would not think that sterling which all men approved, nor that vile which all men condemned. He rested on a higher decision.

The reproaches of the wicked would become more and more triumphant and insufferable, the longer the event wasdelayed! To see ‘the madman’, as they would call him, foretelling destruction year after year, without any prospect of a fulfillment; to see him laboring to build an enormous vessel for ten, twenty, forty, eighty, a hundred years, without any sign of a deluge, though he might have expected it long before, and might have intimated that expectation; how great must their contempt and triumph have arisen! How often would they load him with the titles of ‘false prophet’, ‘impostor’, and ‘liar’! How often would they tauntingly ask, “Where is the destruction which you have so long foretold? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created!” But this heroic saint, far from being conquered by reproaches, resolved to believe and obey God, rather than man. With astonishing fortitude, he held fast his integrity for 120 years.

At length, the long expected day arrived which was to show that his labors and hopes were not in vain—which was to put an eternal end to the scoffs and exultations of his enemies.

Finally, the frightful morning began! The heavens gathered blackness. Angry tempests conflicted in the skies. The lightnings flashed in the skies! Word was spread, that Noah and his family had entered into the ark. The ungodly then began to fear!

Before long, floods of water poured from the sky. Some now began to turn their eyes towards the ark; others stood doubting; others still dared to scoff!

The waters go on to increase. The rivers fill—and start to overflow. The waters begin to rise in the streets. Some flee into their houses; others, more intimidated, hasten to the hills! Others are now convinced, and with dreadful fright, are seen wading towards the ark!

The fountains of the great deep are now broken up. The waters rise more rapidly, and begin to rush with impetuous force. With difficulty they stand against the stream. They struggle for their lives to reach the ark! Thousands come—some wading, some swimming, some sinking, some hanging onto the ark with the grasp of death—all screaming for admission!

But it is too late! Time was, when the ark was open and they might have entered in—but that time is past! Where are now those tongues which derided the enormous vessel and the man who built it? Now what do you think of him—who for more than a century has borne the character of a fool and madman! They would give a thousand worlds—to be in his condition now!

Those nearest to the ark, cry and plead for admission, but in vain! The waters roar! The ark is lifted up! They sink and are seen no more!

By this time, every wretch on earth is thoroughly convinced. Hear their cries from the tops of the houses, which are answered by wails from those on the hills. See the multitudes who have fled to the mountains. How like frightened sheep they crowd together! Now the waters, roaring and foaming, have reached their feet! They flee up to the highest ridge—but the floods pursue them there! Some are able to climb the lofty oaks—and the waves overtake them there! They flee to the highest branches, and for a moment have time to reflect on their former madness: “How could I disbelieve the Lord’s prophet? Where is now the ark which I scorned? Where am I going? O eternity! eternity! What a dreadful God have I despised!” On the topmost bough, the impetuous torrent sweeps them. Their hold is broken—and they sink to rise no more!

The ark floats by—and sails over the heads of the revilers and persecutors! Only that blessed family in the ark, are safe!

The same terrors will seize an unbelieving world when Jesus comes again! “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and swept them all away! That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man!” Matthew 24:37-39

When we reflect on the wretched antediluvians, we perceive their folly in not believing God, and are ready to say with the Jews, “If we had lived in their days—we would not have done thus!” But sinners repeat the same folly now! God has told them that he will destroy the world—that shortly, all the wicked of the present generation shall be overwhelmed in a flood of wrath! To convince them that the destruction is coming, he has set forth a spiritual ark. He has sent out preachers of righteousness to warn them. Every circumstance is the same. The destruction is ascertain—it is as near—and there is no escape but in the ark! But sinners will not believe. They spend their time perhaps in scoffing at the serious apprehensions of Christians, and in despising the ark. Greater madness never existed before the flood!

The time is coming when Christians will not be deemed mad men for their concern to secure a saving interest in Christ; when it will appear that they did not believe and labor and bear reproaches in vain. The time is coming when those who are now as secure, as healthy, as those foolish wretches before the flood, would give ten thousand worlds—for the place of the lowest Christian whom they now despise. When the door of the kingdom shall be shut, and there is no more entering in; when they shall stand outside and say, “Lord, Lord, open to us!” and he shall answer, “I never knew you!” when the sluices of infinite vengeance shall be unstopped; when the heavens shall be on fire above their heads, and the earth shall rock beneath their feet; when the sea shall rage and rise and flood the distant land; when all the elements shall make war on man; when they shall flee from the waves—and the flames shall devour them; when they shall flee from the wonders in the heavens—and the opening earth shall engulf them; when they shall stretch out their hands to God—and find him only a consuming fire; when more piteous shrieks shall be heard from every quarter—than were heard in the days of the flood; when they shall see the Noahs whom they despised riding above their heads—and themselves sinking in an ocean of fire!

Ah, what will be their dread then!

O sinners—believe God’s Word! Now is your time to avoid the terrors of that dreadful day. Enter the ark—Jesus Christ! By all the solemnities of that coming scene—I entreat, I beseech you to hasten into the ark! Come, for the floods are rising! Come quickly, or the next hour may be too late!

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and swept them all away! That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man!” Matthew 24:37-39

Brought to you by Grace Gems

 

Declaration of the Faith and Practice of the Church of Christ

A Baptist perspective on how to do church, from the mid-1600s.Clipboard01

Declaration of the Faith and Practice of the Church of Christ,

in Carter-Lane, Southwark, under the Pastoral Care of Dr. John Gill, Read and assented to, at the Admission of Members.

HAVING been enabled, through divine grace, to give up ourselves to the Lord, and likewise to one another by the will of God, we account it a duty incumbent upon us, to make a declaration of our faith and practice, to the honour of Christ, and the glory of his name; knowing, that as with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, so with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; (Rom. 10:10) a which declaration is as follows, viz.,

I. We believe, That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, are (2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:21) the word of God, and the only (John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 2 Peter 1:19, 20) rule of faith and practice.

II. We believe, That there is but one (Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jer. 10:10) only living and true God: that there are (1 John 5:7; Matthew 28:19) three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, who are equal in nature, power, and glory; and that the Son ((John 10:30; Phil. 2:6; Rom. 9:5; 1 John 5:20) and the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3, 4; 1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 2 Cor. 3:17, 18) are as truly and properly God as the Father. These three divine persons are distinguished from each other, by peculiar relative properties: The distinguishing character and relative property of the first person is begetting; he has begotten a Son of the same nature with him, and who is the express image of his person; (Ps. 2:7; Heb. 1:3) and therefore is with great propriety called the Father: The distinguishing character and relative property of the second person is that he is begotten; and he is called the only begotten of the Father, and his own proper Son; (John 1:14; Rom. 8:3, 32) not a Son by creation, as angels and men are, nor by adoption, as saints are, nor by office, as civil magistrates; but by nature, by the Father’s eternal generation (Ps. 2:7) of him in the divine nature; and therefore he is truly called the Son: The distinguishing character and relative property of the third person is to be breathed by the Father and the Son, and to proceed from both, (Job 33:4; Ps. 33:6; John 15:26 and 20:26 and 20:22; Gal. 4:6) and is very Properly called the Spirit, or breath of both. These three distinct divine persons, we profess to reverence, serve, and worship as the one true God. (1 John 5:7; Matthew 4:10)

III. We believe, That before the world began God did elect (Eph. 1:4; 1 Thess. 1:4 and 5:9; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:5; 1 John 3:1; Gal. 4:4, 5; John 1:12) a certain number of men unto everlasting salvation whom he did predestinate to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ of his own free grace, and according to the good pleasure of his will; and that in pursuance of this gracious design, he did contrive and make a covenant (2 Sam. 23:5; Ps. 89:2, 28, 34; Isa. 42:6) of grace and peace with his son Jesus Christ, on the behalf of those persons; wherein a Saviour (Ps. 89:19; Isa. 49:6) was appointed, and all spiritual (2 Sam. 23:5; Isa. 55:3; Eph. 1:3) blessings provided for them; as also that their (Deut. 33:3; John 6:37, 39 and 10:28, 29; Jude 1) persons, with all their grace (2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:3; Col. 3:3, 4) and glory, were put into the hands of Christ, and made his care and charge.

IV. We believe, That God created the first man, Adam, after his image, and in his likeness, an upright, holy, and innocent creature, capable of serving and glorifying him: (Gen. 1:26, 27; Eccl. 7:29; Ps. 8:5) but he sinning, all his posterity sinned in him, and came short of the glory of God; (Rom. 5:12 and 3:23) the guilt of whose sin is imputed; (Rom. 5:12, 14, 18, 19; 1 Cor. 15:22; Eph. 2:3) and a corrupt nature derived to all his offspring descending from him by ordinary and natural generation: (Job 14:4; Ps. 51:5; John 3:6; Ezek. 16:4-6) that they are by their first birth carnal and unclean; averse to all that is good, incapable of doing any, and prone to every (Rom. 8:7, 8 and 3:10-12; Gem 6:5) sin: and are also by nature children of wrath, and under a sentence of condemnation; (Eph. 2:3; Rom. 5:12, 18) and so are subject, not only to a corporal death, (Gen. 2:7; Rom. 5:12, 14; Heb. 9:27) and involved in a moral one, commonly called spiritual; (Matthew 8:21; Luke 15:24, 32; John 5:25; Eph. 3:1) but are also liable to an eternal death, (Rom. 5:18 and 6:23; Eph. 2:3) as considered in the first Adam, fallen and sinners; from all which there is no deliverance, but by Christ, the second Adam. (Rom. 6:23 and 7:24, 25 and 8:2; 2 Tim. 1:10; 1 Cor. 15:45, 47)

V. We believe, That the Lord Jesus Christ, being set up from (Prov. 8:22, 23; Heb. 12:24) everlasting as the Mediator of the covenant, and he having engaged to be the (Ps. 49:6-8; Heb. 7:22) Surety of his people, did In al. 4:4; Heb. 2:14, 16, 17) human nature, and not before, neither in whole, nor in part; his human soul being a creature, existed not from eternity, but was created and formed in his body by him that forms the spirit of man within him, when that was conceived in the womb of the virgin; and so his human nature consists of a true body and a reasonable soul: both which, together and at once the Son of God assumed into union with his divine person, when made of a woman, and not before; in which nature he really suffered, and died (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:3; Eph. 5:2; 1 Peter 3:18) as the substitute of his people, in their room and stead; whereby he made all that satisfaction (Rom. 8:3, 4 and 10:4; Isa. 42:21; Rom. 8:1, 33, 34) for heir sins, which the law and justice of God could require; as well as made way for all those blessings (1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7) which are needful for them both for time and eternity.

VI. We believe, That eternal Redemption which Christ has obtained by the shedding of his blood (Matthew 20:28; John 10:11, 15; Rev. 5:9; Rom. 8:30) is special and particular: that is to say, that it was only intentionally designed for the elect of God, and sheep of Christ, who only share the special and peculiar blessings of it.

VII. We believe, That the justification of God’s elect, is only by the righteousness (Rom. 3:28 and 4:6 and 5:16-19) of Christ imputed to them, without the consideration of any works of righteousness done by them; and that the full and free pardon of all their sins and transgressions, past, present, and to come, is only through the blood of Christ, (Rom. 3:25; Eph. 1:7; Col. 2:13; 1 John 1:7, 9) according to the riches of his grace.

VIII. We believe, That the work of regeneration, conversion, sanctification, and faith, is not an act of (John 1:13; Rom. 9:16 and 8:7) man’s free will and power, but of the mighty, efficacious, and irresistible grace (Phil. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3; Eph. 1:19; Isa. 43:13) of God.

IX. We believe, that all those, who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sanctified by the Spirit, shall certainly and finally (Matthew 24:24; John 6:39, 40 and 10:28, 29; Matthew 16:18; Ps. 125:1, 2; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24; Heb. 2:13; Rom. 8:30) persevere; so that not one of them shall ever perish, but shall have everlasting life.

X. We believe, That there will be a resurrection of the dead; (Acts 24:15; John 528, 29; Dan. 12:2) both of the just and unjust; and that Christ will come a second time to judge (Heb. 9:28; Acts 17:31; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 1 Thess. 4:15-17) both quick and dead; when he will take vengeance on the wicked, and introduce his own people into his kingdom and glory, where they shall be for ever with him.

XI. We believe, That Baptism (Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26) and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of Christ, to be continued until his second coming; and that the former is absolutely requisite to the latter; that is to say, that those (Acts 2:41 and 9:18, 26) only are to be admitted into the communion of the church, and to participate of all ordinances in it, (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12, 36, 37 and 16:31-34 and 8:8) who upon profession of their faith, have been baptized, (Matthew 3:6, 16; John 3:23; Acts 8:38, 39; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12) by immersion, in the name of the Father, (Matthew 28:19) and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

XII. We also believe, That singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs vocally, (Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; 1 Cor. 14:15, 26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) is an ordinance of the Gospel, to be performed by believers; but that as to time, place, and manner, every one ought to be left to their (James 5:13) liberty in using it.

Now all and each of these doctrines and ordinances, we look upon ourselves under the greatest obligation to embrace, maintain,, and defend; believing it to be our duty (Phil. 1:27; Jude 3) to stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel.

And whereas we are very sensible, that our conversation, both in the world and in the church, ought to be as becometh the Gospel of Christ; (Phil. 1:27) we judge it our incumbent duty, to (Col. 4:5) walk in wisdom towards them that are without, to exercise a conscience (Acts 24:16) void of offence towards God and men, by living (Titus 2:12) soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.

And as to our regards to each other, in our church-communion; we esteem it our duty to (Eph. 4:1-3; Rom. 12:9, 10, 16; Phil. 2:2, 3) walk with, each other in all humility and brotherly love; to watch (Lev. 19:17; Phil. 2:4) over each other’s conversation; to stir up one (Heb. 10:24, 25) another to love and good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as we have opportunity, to worship God according to his revealed will; and, when the case requires, to warn, (1 Thess. 5:14; Rom. 15:14; Lev. 19:17; Matthew 18:15-17) rebuke, and admonish one another, according to the rules of the Gospel.

Moreover, we think ourselves obliged (Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26) to sympathize with each other, in all conditions, both inward and outward, which God, in his providence, may bring its into; as also to (Rom. 15:1; Eph. 4:12; Col. 3:13) bear with one another’s weaknesses, failings and infirmities; and particularly to pray for one another, (Eph. 6:18, 19; 2 Thess. 3:1) and that the Gospel, and the ordinances thereof, might be blessed to the edification and comfort of each others souls, and for the gathering in of others to Christ, besides those who are already gathered.

All which duties we desire to be found in the performance of, through the gracious assistance of the Holy Spirit whilst we both admire and adore the grace, which has given us a place, and a name in God’s house, better than that of sons and daughters. (Isa. 56:5)

Discussing Free Will – Part 4

In this four-part series (audio is about an hour long), Jim McClarty and his friend Alex Franzone images (1)discuss various aspects of free will. What is it and – most importantly – what does the Bible say about it?

Here’s the fourth and last part.

Listen and talk among yourselves.

I pray this short series has been edifying.

Discussing Free Will – Part 3

In this four-part series (audio is about an hour long), Jim McClarty and his friend Alex Franzone images (1)discuss various aspects of free will. What is it and – most importantly – what does the Bible say about it?

Here’s part three.

Part four in a few days.

Listen and talk among yourselves.

Discussing Free Will – Part 2

In this four-part series (audio is about an hour long), Jim McClarty and his friend Alex Franzone images (1)discuss various aspects of free will. What is it and – most importantly – what does the Bible say about it?

Here’s part two.

Part three in a few days.

Listen and talk among yourselves.

95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM – Final Post

This is the final part of the analysis of the 19th century theological invention known as dispensationalism. Part images9 can be found here: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/01/18/95-theses-agai…onalism-part-9/  Following are the final 15 theses from the NiceneCouncil.com’s concise but thorough examination of the critical errors with the theological system known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is, like most other systems, not comprised of a monolithic group who all believe alike. So please bear in mind this series in not an attack on any person, but an examination of a system. I pray to God that this series has been received as an effort in being honest and humbler Bereans, examining a system beloved by many, but resting on the imaginations of men.

81. Despite the dispensationalists’ attempt to re-interpret Ezekiel’s prophecies of a future sacrificial system by declaring that they are only “memorial” in character, and are therefore like the Lord’s Supper, the prophecies of that temple which they see as being physically “rebuilt” speak of sacrifices that effect “atonement” (Ezek. 43:20; 45:15, 17, 20); whereas the Lord’s Supper is a non-bloody memorial that recognizes Christ as the final blood-letting sacrifice.

82. Despite the dispensationalists’ commitment to the Jews as important for the fulfillment of prophecy and their charge of “anti-Semitism” against evangelicals who do not see an exalted future for Israel (Hal Lindsey), they are presently urging Jews to return to Israel even though their understanding of the prophecy of Zech 13:8 teaches that “two-thirds of the children of Israel will perish” (Walvoord) once their return is completed.

83. Contrary to dispensationalism’s populist argument for “unconditional support” for Israel, the Bible views it as a form of Judeaolotry in that only God can demand our unconditional obligation; for “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29); and God even expressly warns Israel of her destruction “if you do not obey the Lord your God” (Deut 28:15, 63).

84. Contrary to dispensationalism’s structuring of history based on a negative principle wherein each dispensation involves “the ideas of distinctive revelation, testing, failure, and judgment” (Charles Ryrie), so that each dispensation ends in failure and judgment, the Bible establishes a positive purpose in redemptive history, wherein “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:17) and “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” (2 Cor 5:19a).

85. Despite dispensationalism’s pessimism regarding the future, which expects that “the present age will end in apostasy and divine judgment” (Walvoord) and that “almost unbelievably hard times lie ahead” (Charles Ryrie), Christ declares that He has “all authority in heaven and on earth” and on that basis calls us actually to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matt 28:18-20).

86. Despite the tendency of some dispensationalist scholars to interpret the Kingdom Parables negatively, so that they view the movement from hundredfold to sixty to thirty in Matt 13:8 as marking “the course of the age,” and in Matt 13:31-33 “the mustard seed refers to the perversion of God’s purpose in this age, while the leaven refers to the corruption of the divine agency” (J. D. Pentecost), Christ presents these parables as signifying “the kingdom of heaven” which He came to establish and which in other parables he presents as a treasure.

87. Despite dispensationalism’s historic argument for cultural withdrawal by claiming that we should not “polish brass on a sinking ship” (J. V. McGee) and that “God sent us to be fishers of men, not to clean up the fish bowl” (Hal Lindsey), the New Testament calls Christians to full cultural engagement in “exposing the works of darkness” (Eph 5:11) and bringing “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:4-5).

88. Despite dispensationalism’s practical attempts to oppose social and moral evils, by its very nature it cannot develop a long-term view of social engagement nor articulate a coherent worldview because it removes God’s law from consideration which speaks to political and cultural issues.

89. Despite the dispensationalists’ charge that every non-dispensational system “lends itself to liberalism with only minor adjustments” (John Walvoord), it is dispensationalism itself which was considered modernism at the beginning of the twentieth century.

90. Despite the dispensationalists’ affirmation of the gospel as the means of salvation, their evangelistic method and their foundational theology, both, encourage a presumptive faith (which is no faith at all) that can lead people into a false assurance of salvation when they are not truly converted, not recognizing that Christ did not so quickly accept professions of faith (e.g., when even though “many believed in His name,” Jesus, on His part, “was not entrusting Himself to them.”—John 2:23b-24a).

91. Despite the dispensationalists’ declaration that “genuine and wholesome spirituality is the goal of all Christian living” (Charles Ryrie), their theology actually encourages unrighteous living by teaching that Christians can simply declare Christ as Savior and then live any way they desire. Similarly, dispensationalism teaches that “God’s love can embrace sinful people unconditionally, with no binding requirements attached at all” (Zane Hodges), even though the Gospel teaches that Jesus “was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine’” (John 8:31) and that he declared “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

92. Despite the early versions of dispensationalism and the more popular contemporary variety of dispensationalism today teaching that “it is clear that the New Testament does not impose repentance upon the unsaved as a condition of salvation” (L. S. Chafer and Zane Hodges), the Apostle Paul “solemnly testifies to both Jews and Greeks repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

93. Contrary to dispensationalism’s tendency to distinguish receiving Christ as Savior and receiving him as Lord as two separate actions, so that saving faith involves “no spiritual commitment whatsoever” (Zane Hodges), the Bible presents both realities as aspects of the one act of saving faith; for the New Testament calls men to “the obedience of faith” (Rom 16:26; James 2:14-20).

94. “Despite dispensationalism’s affirmation of “genuine and wholesome spirituality” (Charles Ryrie), it actually encourages antinomianism by denying the role of God’s law as the God-ordained standard of righteousness, deeming God’s law (including the Ten Commandments) to be only for the Jews in another dispensation. Dispensationalists reject the Ten Commandments because “the law was never given to Gentiles and is expressly done away for the Christian” (Charles Ryrie)—even though the New Testament teaches that all men “are under the Law” so “that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God” (Rom 3:19).”

95. Despite dispensationalism’s teaching regarding two kinds of Christians, one spiritual and one fleshly (resulting in a “great mass of carnal Christians,” Charles Ryrie), the Scripture makes no such class distinction, noting that Christians “are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you,” so that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom 8:9).

“Dispensationalism has thrown down the gauntlet: and it is high time that Covenant theologians take up the challenge and respond Biblically.” — Dr. Robert L. Reymond, author, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith

95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM – Part 9

This is part 9 of analysis of the 19th century theological invention known as dispensationalism. Part 8 can be imagesfound here: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/01/18/95-theses-agai…onalism-part-8/  Following are the next ten theses from the NiceneCouncil.com’s concise but thorough examination of the critical errors with the theological system known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is, like most other systems, not comprised of a monolithic group who all believe alike. So please bear in mind this series in not an attack on any person, but an examination of a system.

71. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that their so-called literalistic premillennialism is superior to the other evangelical millennial views because Revelation 20:1-6 is one text that clearly sets forth their system, this view imposes the literalistic system unjustifiably and inconsistently on the most symbolic book in all the Bible, a book containing references to scorpions with faces like men and teeth like lions (Rev 9:7), fire-breathing prophets (Rev 11:5), a seven-headed beast (Rev 13:1), and more.

72. Dispensationalism’s claim that Revelation 20:1-6 is a clear text that establishes literalistic premillennialism has an inconsistency that is overlooked: it also precludes Christians who live in the dispensation of the Church from taking part in the millennium, since Revelation 20:4 limits the millennium to those who are beheaded and who resist the Beast, which are actions that occur (on their view) during the Great Tribulation, after the Church is raptured out of the world.

73. Despite the dispensationalists’ view of the glory of the millennium for Christ and his people, they teach, contrary to Scripture, that regenerated Gentile believers will be subservient to the Jews, as we see, for instance, in Herman Hoyt’s statement that “the redeemed living nation of Israel, regenerated and regathered to the land, will be head over all the nations of the earth…. So he exalts them above the Gentile nations…. On the lowest level there are the saved, living, Gentile nations.”

74. Despite dispensationalism’s claim that the Jews will be dominant over all peoples in the eschatological future, the Scripture teaches that “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.’” (Isa. 19:23-25).

75. Despite dispensationalism’s “plain and simple” method that undergirds its millennial views, it leads to the bizarre teaching that for 1000 years the earth will be inhabited by a mixed population of resurrected saints who return from heaven with Jesus living side-by-side with non-resurrected people, who will consist of unbelievers who allegedly but unaccountably survive the Second Coming as well as those who enter the millennium from the Great Tribulation as “a new generation of believers” (Walvoord).

76. Despite dispensationalists’ claim to reasonableness for their views, they hold the bizarre teaching that after 1000 years of dwelling side-by-side with resurrected saints who never get ill or die, a vast multitude of unresurrected sinners whose number is “like the sand of the seashore,” will dare to revolt against the glorified Christ and His millions of glorified saints (Rev 20:7-9).

77. Despite the dispensationalists’ fundamental principle of God’s glory, they teach a second humiliation of Christ, wherein He returns to earth to set up His millennial kingdom, ruling it personally for 1000 years, only to have a multitude “like the sand of the seashore” revolt against His personal, beneficent rule toward the end (Rev 20:7-9).

78. Despite the dispensationalists’ production of many adherents who “are excited about the very real potential for the rebuilding of Israel’s Temple in Jerusalem” (Randall Price) and who give funds for it, they do not understand that the whole idea of the temple system was associated with the old covenant which was “growing old” and was “ready to disappear” in the first century (Heb 8:13).

79. Contrary to dispensationalists’ expectation of a future physical temple in the millennium, wherein will be offered literal animal blood sacrifices, the New Testament teaches that Christ fulfilled the Passover and the Old Testament sacrificial system, so that Christ’s sacrifice was final, being “once for all” (Heb 10:10b), and that the new covenant causes the old covenant with its sacrifices to be “obsolete” (Heb 8:13).

80. Contrary to dispensationalism’s teaching that a physical temple will be rebuilt, the New Testament speaks of the building of the temple as the building of the Church in Christ, so that “the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:21); the only temple seen in the book of Revelation is in Heaven, which is the real and eternal temple of which the earthly temporary temple was, according to the book of Hebrews, only a “shadow” or “copy” (Heb 8:5; 9:24).

Biblical Christianity vs. Roman Catholicism

There will always be, until the Lord returns with a triumphant shout and the sound of trumpets (1 Thess 4:16), people who confuse one false religion or another for the biblical faith Creator God revealed to us in His Scriptures and His Son. To help us keep in focus some of the essential differences between biblical Christianity and one of the largest, widely accepted false religions in the world, here is a handy chart comparing 9 facts of the faith as taught by the Bible and the Roman Catholic Church. An extract is below, to give you a preview.

I thought I would add to this a bit with a wonderful quote from a book I read last week:

“Now where the Scripture has not a Mouth to speak we must not have an Ear to hear.”
Thomas Patient, The Doctrine of Baptism and the Covenants. 1654 A.D.

Slide 1

95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM – Part 8

This is part 8 of analysis of the 19th century theological invention known as dispensationalism. Part 7 can be imagesfound here: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/01/18/95-theses-agai…onalism-part-7/  Following are the next ten theses from the NiceneCouncil.com’s concise but thorough examination of the critical errors with the theological system known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is, like most other systems, not comprised of a monolithic group who all believe alike. So please bear in mind this series in not an attack on any person, but an examination of a system.

61. Despite the dispensationalists’ teaching that “Jesus will come in the air secretly to rapture His Church” (Tim LaHaye), their key proof-text for this “secret” coming, 1 Thess 4:16, makes the event as publicly verifiable as can be, declaring that he will come “with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God.”

62. Contrary to dispensationalism’s doctrine of two resurrections, the first one being of believers at the Rapture and the second one of unbelievers at the end of the millennium 1007 years after the Rapture, the Bible presents the resurrection of believers as occurring on “the last day” (John 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24), not centuries before the last day.

63. Contrary to dispensationalism’s doctrine of two resurrections, the first one being of believers at the Rapture and the second one of unbelievers at the end of the millennium 1007 years after the Rapture, the Bible speaks of the resurrection of unbelievers as occurring before that of believers (though as a part of the same complex of events), when the angels “first gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up” at the end of the age (Matt 13:30b).

64. Despite dispensationalism’s commitment to the secret Rapture of the Church by which Christians are removed from the world to leave only non-Christians in the world, Jesus teaches that the wheat and the tares are to remain in the world to the end (Matt 13:), and he even prays that the Father not take his people out of the world (John 17:15).

65. Despite the dispensationalists’ emphasis on the “plain interpretation” of Scripture (Charles Ryrie) and the Great Tribulation in Matthew 24, admitting that Christ was pointing to the stones of the first century temple when He declared that “not one will be left upon another” (Matt 23:37-24:2), they also admit inconsistently that when the disciples asked “when shall these things be?” (Matt 24:3), Matthew records Christ’s answer in such a way that He presents matters that are totally unrelated to that event and that occur thousands of years after it (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

66. Despite the dispensationalists’ commitment to so-called literalism in prophecy and their strong emphasis on the Great Tribulation passage in Matthew 24, they perform a sleight of hand by claiming that when Jesus stated that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt 24:34), He did so in a way inconsistent with every other usage of “this generation” in Matthew’s Gospel (e.g., Matt 11:16; 12:41, 42) and even in the immediate context (Matt 23:36), so that “this generation” can somehow point thousands of years into the future “instead of referring this to the time in which Christ lived” (Walvoord).

67. Dispensationalism’s teaching of the rapid “national regeneration of Israel” during the latter part of the seven-year Tribulation period (Fruchtenbaum) is incomprehensible and unbiblical because the alleged regeneration occurs only after the Church and the Holy Spirit have been removed from the earth, even though they were the only agents who could cause that regeneration: the institution of evangelism on the one hand and the agent of conversion on the other.

68. Contrary to dispensationalists’ view of the mark of the beast, most of them seeing in the beast’s number a series of three sixes, the Bible presents it not as three numbers (6-6-6) but one singular number (666) with the total numerical value of “six hundred and sixty-six” (Rev 13:18b).

69. Contrary to many dispensationalists’ expectation that the mark of the beast is to be some sort of “microchip implant” (Timothy Demy), Revelation 13 states that it is a mark, not an instrument of some kind.

70. Contrary to dispensationalists’ belief in a still-future geo-political kingdom which shall be catastrophically imposed on the world by war at the Battle of Armageddon, the Scriptures teach that Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom that does not come with signs, and was already present in the first century, as when Jesus stated, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21).

The Road to Emmaus

The biblical passage in Luke 24 known as the Road to Emmaus is – like many passages – twisted and misused, Emmaussometimes innocently, many times intentionally. There is a mystical three-day retreat called The Walk to Emmaus (also known as Chrysalis) that was modeled after the Roman Catholic retreat known as Cursillo, which started in Spain in 1949. These two retreats are like identical twins – not the same, but very much alike. And both are embraced by a wide range of churches – including Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutherans, Presbyterian, and Baptist.

You can read about The Walk to Emmaus here: http://emmaus.upperroom.org/ Their FAQ are most informative, and all copyrighted. Here’s another web site where a Baptist who attended one of these retreats discusses the event and explains why evangelicals should not participate.

All that background to bring your this – a wonderful sermon from the text of Luke 24:13-35, wherein we are reminded that the Lord opens eyes to see truth, that seeing is not believing, and that those who are given sight and hearing will respond to the Savior. Pull up your chair and give a listen – you will be glad you did.

95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM – Part 7

This is part 7 of analysis of the 19th century theological invention known as dispensationalism. Part 6 can be imagesfound here: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/01/18/95-theses-agai…onalism-part-6/  Following are the next ten theses from the NiceneCouncil.com’s concise but thorough examination of the critical errors with the theological system known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is, like most other systems, not comprised of a monolithic group who all believe alike. So please bear in mind this series in not an attack on any person, but an examination of a system.

51. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ belief that Christ “withdrew the offer of the kingdom” and postponed it until He returns (J. D. Pentecost), Christ tells Israel, “I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it” (Matt 21:43) and “I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 8:11-12).

52. Despite dispensationalism’s commitment to Christ’s atoning sacrifice, their doctrine legally justifies the crucifixion by declaring that he really did offer a political kingdom that would compete with Rome and made him guilty of revolting against Rome, even though Christ specifically informed Pilate that his type of kingship simply was “to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37), leading this Roman-appointed procurator to declare “I find no guilt in Him” (John 18:38).

53. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ urging Christians to live their lives expecting Christ’s return at any moment, “like people who don’t expect to be around much longer” (Hal Lindsey), Christ characterizes those who expect his soon return as “foolish” (Matt 25:1-9), telling us to “occupy until He comes,” (Luke 19:13 ) and even discouraging his disciples’ hope in Israel’s conversion “now” by noting that they will have to experience “times or epochs” of waiting which “the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:6-7).

54. Contrary to dispensationalism’s doctrine that Christ’s return always has been “imminent” and could occur “at any moment” (J. D. Pentecost) since his ascension in the first century, the New Testament speaks of his coming as being after a period of “delaying” (Matt 25:5) and after a “long” time (Matt 24:48; 25:19; 2 Pet. 3:1-15).

55. Contrary to dispensationalists’ tendency to date-setting and excited predictions of the Rapture, as found in their books with titles like 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon and Planet Earth 2000: Will Mankind Survive, Scripture teaches that “the son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (Matt 24:44), “at an hour which you do not know” (Matt 24:50).

56. Despite the dispensationalists’ frequent warning of the signs of the times indicating the near coming of Christ (Lindsey), their doctrine of imminency holds that no intervening prophecies remain to be fulfilled. Consequently, there can be no possibility of signs (John Walvoord); and as “there was nothing that needed to take place during Paul’s life before the Rapture, so it is today for us” (Tim LaHaye). Christ himself warned us that “of that day and hour no one knows” (Matt 24:36a).

57. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that Christ could return at any minute because “there is no teaching of any intervening event” (John Walvoord), many of their leading spokesmen hold that the seven churches in Rev 2-3 “outline the present age in reference to the program in the church,” including “the Reformation” and our own age (J. D. Pentecost).

58. Despite the dispensationalists’ widespread belief that we have been living in the “last days” only since the founding of Israel as a nation in 1948, the New Testament clearly and repeatedly teach that the “last days” began in the first century and cover the whole period of the Christian Church (Acts 2:16-17; 1 Cor 10:11; Heb 1:1-2; 9:26)

59. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that the expectation of the imminent Rapture and other eschatological matters are important tools for godly living, dispensationalism’s founders were often at odds with each other and divisive regarding other believers, so that, for instance, of the Plymouth Brethren it could be said that “never has one body of Christians split so often, in such a short period of time, over such minute points” (John Gerstner) and that “this was but the first of several ruptures arising from [Darby’s] teachings” (Dictionary of Evangelical Biography).

60. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ creation of a unique double coming of Christ—the Rapture being separated from the Second Advent—which are so different that it makes “any harmony of these two events an impossibility” (Walvoord), the Bible mentions only one future coming of Christ, the parousia, or epiphany, or revelation (Matt. 24:3; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8; Jas. 5:7; 2 Pet. 3:4; 1 Jn. 2:28), and states that He “shall appear a second time” (Heb 9:28a), not that He shall appear “again and again” or for a third time.

95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM – Part 6

This is part 6 of analysis of the 19th century theological invention known as dispensationalism. Part 5 can be imagesfound here: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/01/18/95-theses-agai…onalism-part-5/  Following are the next ten theses from the NiceneCouncil.com’s concise but thorough examination of the critical errors with the theological system known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is, like most other systems, not comprised of a monolithic group who all believe alike. So please bear in mind this series in not an attack on any person, but an examination of a system.

41. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that the descendents of the patriarchs never inhabited all the land promised to them in the Abrahamic covenant and therefore, since God cannot lie, the possession of the land by the Jews is still in the future; on the contrary, Joshua wrote, “So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it… Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:43,45).

42. Despite the dispensationalists’ so-called literalism demanding that Jerusalem and Mt. Zion must once again become central to God’s work in history, in that “Jerusalem will be the center of the millennial government” (Walvoord), the new covenant sees these places as typological pointers to spiritual realities that come to pass in the new covenant Church, beginning in the first century, as when we read that “you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb 12:22; cp. Gal 4:22-31).

43. Despite the dispensationalists’ fundamental theological commitment to the radical distinction between “Israel and the Church” (Ryrie), the New Testament sees two “Israels” (Rom. 9:6-8)—one of the flesh, and one of the spirit—with the only true Israel being the spiritual one, which has come to mature fulfillment in the Church. (The Christian Church has not replaced Israel; rather, it is the New Testament expansion.) This is why the New Testament calls members of the Church “Abraham’s seed” (Gal 3:26-29) and the Church itself “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16).

44. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that Jews are to be eternally distinct from Gentiles in the plan of God, because “throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes” with “one related to the earth” while “the other is related to heaven” (Chafer and Ryrie), the New Testament speaks of the permanent union of Jew and Gentile into one body “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity” that “in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace” (Eph 2:15), Accordingly, with the finished work of Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” in the eyes of God (Gal 3:28).

45. Contrary to dispensationalism’s implication of race-based salvation for Jewish people (salvation by race instead of salvation by grace), Christ and the New Testament writers warn against assuming that genealogy or race insures salvation, saying to the Jews: “Do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Matt 3:9) because “children of God” are “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12b-13; 3:3).

46. Contrary to dispensationalism’s claim that “the Church is a mystery, unrevealed in the Old Testament” (J. D. Pentecost), the New Testament writers look to the Old Testament for its divine purpose and role in the history of redemption and declare only that the mystery was not known “to the sons of men” at large, and was not known to the same degree “as” it is now revealed to all men in the New Testament (Eph 3:4-6), even noting that it fulfills Old Testament prophecy (Hos 1:10 / Rom 9:22-26), including even the beginning of the new covenant phase of the Church (Joel 2:28-32 / Acts 2:16-19).

47. Despite dispensationalism’s presentation of the Church as a “parenthesis” (J. F. Walvoord) in the major plan of God in history (which focuses on racial Israel), the New Testament teaches that the Church is the God-ordained result of God’s Old Testament plan, so that the Church is not simply a temporary aside in God’s plan but is the institution over which Christ is the head so that He may “put all things in subjection under His feet” (Eph 1:22; 1 Cor. 15:24-28).

48. Contrary to dispensationalism’s teaching that Jeremiah’s “New Covenant was expressly for the house of Israel … and the house of Judah” (Bible Knowledge Commentary)—a teaching that is due to its man-made view of literalism as documented by former dispensationalist (Curtis Crenshaw) and the centrality of Israel in its theological system—the New Testament shows that the new covenant includes Gentiles and actually establishes the new covenant Church as the continuation of Israel (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6).

49. Contrary to dispensationalism’s claim that Christ sincerely offered “the covenanted kingdom to Israel” as a political reality in literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (J. D. Pentecost), the Gospels tell us that when his Jewish followers were “intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king” that he “withdrew” from them (John 6:15), and that he stated that “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36).

50. Despite the dispensationalists’ belief that Christ sincerely offered a political kingdom to Israel while he was on earth (J. D. Pentecost), Israel could not have accepted the offer, since God sent Christ to die for sin (John 12:27); and His death was prophesied so clearly that those who missed the point are called “foolish” (Luke 24:25-27). Christ frequently informed His hearers that He came to die, as when He said that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28;) and Scripture clearly teaches that His death was by the decree of God (Acts 2:23) before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Thus, dispensationalism’s claim about this offer implicitly involves God in duplicity and Christ in deception.

95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM – Part 5

This is part 5 of analysis of the 19th century theological invention known as dispensationalism. Part 4 can be imagesfound here: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/01/18/95-theses-agai…onalism-part-4/  Following are the next ten theses from the NiceneCouncil.com’s concise but thorough examination of the critical errors with the theological system known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is, like most other systems, not comprised of a monolithic group who all believe alike. So please bear in mind this series in not an attack on any person, but an examination of a system.

31. Despite the dispensationalists’ strong commitment to the “plain interpretation” of Scripture (Charles Ryrie) and its dependence on Daniel’s Seventy Weeks as “of major importance to premillennialism” (John Walvoord), they have to insert into the otherwise chronological progress of the singular period of “Seventy Weeks” (Dan 9:24) a gap in order to make their system work; and that gap is already four times longer than the whole Seventy Weeks (490 year) period.

32. Despite the dispensationalists’ commitment to the non-contradictory integrity of Scripture, their holding to both a convoluted form of literalism and separate and distinct dispensations produces a dialectical tension between the “last trumpet” of 1 Cor. 15:51-53, which is held to be the signal for the Rapture at the end of the Church Age, and the trumpet in Matt. 24:31, which gathers elect Jews out of the Tribulation at the Second Coming (Walvoord). Dispensationalists, who allegedly are ‘literalists,’ posit that this latter trumpet is seven years after the “last” trumpet.

33. Despite the dispensationalists’ desire to promote the historical-grammatical method of interpretation, their habit of calling it the “plain interpretation” (Charles Ryrie) leads the average reader not to look at ancient biblical texts in terms of their original setting, but in terms of their contemporary, Western setting and what they have been taught by others — since it is so “plain.”

34. Despite the dispensationalists’ confidence that they have a strong Bible-affirming hermeneutic in “plain interpretation” (Charles Ryrie), their so-called literalism is inconsistently employed, and their more scholarly writings lead lay dispensationalists and populist proponents simplistically to write off other evangelical interpretations of Scripture with a naive call for “literalism!”

35. Despite the dispensationalists’ attempts to defend their definition of literalism by claiming that it fits into “the received laws of language” (Ryrie), However, subsequent to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s studies in linguistic analysis, there is no general agreement among philosophers regarding the “laws” of language or the proper philosophy of language (Crenshaw).”

36. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim to interpret all of the Bible “literally”, Dr. O.T. Allis correctly observed, “While Dispensationalists are extreme literalists, they are very inconsistent ones. They are literalists in interpreting prophecy. But in the interpreting of history, they carry the principle of typical interpretation to an extreme which has rarely been exceeded even by the most ardent of allegorizers.”

37. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim regarding “the unconditional character of the [Abrahamic] covenant” (J. Dwight Pentecost), which claim is essential for maintaining separate programs for Israel and the Church, the Bible in Deuteronomy 30 and other passages presents it as conditional; consequently not all of Abraham’s descendants possess the land and the covenantal blessings but only those who, by having the same faith as Abraham, become heirs through Christ.

38. Despite the dispensationalists’ necessary claim that the Abrahamic covenant is unconditional, they inconsistently teach that Esau is not included in the inheritance of Canaan and Abraham’s blessings, even though he was as much the son of Isaac (Abraham’s son) as was Jacob, his twin (Gen 25:21-25), because he sold his birthright and thus was excluded from the allegedly “unconditional” term of the inheritance.

39. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that the Abrahamic covenant involved an unconditional land promise, which serves as one of the bases for the future hope of a millennium, the Bible teaches that Abraham “was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10), and that the city, the “new Jerusalem,” will “descend from God, out of Heaven” (Rev. 21:2).

95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM – Part 4

This is part 4 of analysis of the 19th century theological invention known as dispensationalism. Part 3 can be imagesfound here: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/01/18/95-theses-agai…onalism-part-3/  Following are the next ten theses from the NiceneCouncil.com’s concise but thorough examination of the critical errors with the theological system known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is, like most other systems, not comprised of a monolithic group who all believe alike. So please bear in mind this series in not an attack on any person, but an examination of a system.

21. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ central affirmation of the “plain interpretation” of Scripture (Charles Ryrie) employing (alleged) literalism, the depth of Scripture is such that it can perplex angels (1 Pet 1:12), the Apostle Peter (2 Pet 3:15-16), and potential converts (Acts 8:30-35); requires growth in grace to understand (Heb 5:11-14) and special teachers to explain (2 Tim 2:2); and is susceptible to false teachers distorting it (1 Tim 1:7).

22. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim to be following “the principle of grammatical-historical interpretation” (Charles Ryrie), they have redefined the method in a way that is rejected by the majority of non-dispensational evangelicals (and even “progressive dispensationalists”) who see that the Bible, while true in all its parts, often speaks in figures and types—e.g., most evangelicals interpret the prophecy in Isaiah and Micah of “the mountain of the house of the Lord being established as the chief of the mountains” (Isa 2:2b, Mic. 4:1b) to refer to the exaltation of God’s people; whereas dispensationalism claims this text is referring to actual geological, tectonic, and volcanic mountain-building whereby “the Temple mount would be lifted up and exalted over all the other mountains” (John Sailhammer) during the millennium.

23. Despite the dispensationalists’ conviction that their “plain interpretation” necessarily “gives to every word the same meaning it would have in normal usage” (Charles Ryrie) and is the only proper and defensible method for interpreting Scripture, by adopting this method they are denying the practice of Christ and the Apostles in the New Testament, as when the Lord points to John the Baptist as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Elijah’s return (Matt 10:13-14) and the Apostles apply the prophecy of the rebuilding of “the tabernacle of David” to the spiritual building of the Church (Acts 15:14-17), and many other such passages.

24. Despite the dispensationalists’ partial defense of their so-called literalism in pointing out that “the prevailing method of interpretation among the Jews at the time of Christ was certainly this same method” (J. D. Pentecost), they overlook the problem that this led those Jews to misunderstand Christ and to reject him as their Messiah because he did not come as the king which their method of interpretation predicted.

25. Despite the dispensationalists’ partial defense of their so-called literalism by appealing to the method of interpretation of the first century Jews, such “literalism” led those Jews to misunderstand Christ’s basic teaching by believing that he would rebuild the destroyed temple in three days (John 2:20-21); that converts must enter a second time into his mother’s womb (John 3:4); and that one must receive liquid water from Jesus rather than spiritual water (John 4:10-11), and must actually eat his flesh (John 6:51-52, 66).

26. Despite the dispensationalists’ interpretive methodology arguing that we must interpret the Old Testament on its own merit without reference to the New Testament, so that we must “interpret ‘the New Testament in the light of the Old’” (Elliot Johnson), the unified, organic nature of Scripture and its typological, unfolding character require that we consult the New Testament as the divinely-ordained interpreter of the Old Testament, noting that all the prophecies are “yea and amen in Christ” (2 Cor 1:20); that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10); and, in fact, that many Old Testament passages were written “for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:11) and were a “mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past” (Col. 1:26; Rev 10:7).

27. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ claim that “prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ … were all fulfilled ‘literally’” (Charles Ryrie), many such prophecies were not fulfilled in a “plain” (Ryrie) literal fashion, such as the famous Psalm 22 prophecy that speaks of bulls and dogs surrounding Christ at his crucifixion (Psa 22:12, 16), and the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy regarding the virgin, that “she will call His name Immanuel” (cp. Luke 2:21), and others.

28. Despite the dispensationalists’ argument that “prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ … were all fulfilled ‘literally’” (Charles Ryrie), they can defend their argument only by special pleading and circular reasoning in that they (1) put off to the Second Advent all those prophecies of his coming as a king, though most non-dispensational evangelicals apply these to Christ’s first coming in that He declared his kingdom “near” (Mark 1:15); and they (2) overlook the fact that his followers preached him as a king (Acts 17:7) and declared him to be the “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev 1:5) in the first century.

29. Despite the dispensationalists’ central affirmation of the “plain interpretation” of Scripture (Charles Ryrie) by which their so-called literalism provides “a coherent and consistent interpretation” (John Walvoord), it ends up with one of the most ornate and complex systems in all of evangelical theology, with differing peoples, principles, plans, programs, and destinies because interpreting Scripture is not so “plain” (despite Charles Ryrie).

30. Despite the dispensationalists’ argument for the “literal” fulfillment of prophecy, when confronted with obvious New Testament, non-literal fulfillments, they will either (1) declare that the original prophecy had “figures of speech” in them (Scofield), or (2) call these “applications” of the Old Testament rather than fulfillments (Paul Tan)—which means that they try to make it impossible to bring any contrary evidence against their system by re-interpreting any such evidence in one of these two directions.

95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM – Part 3

This is part 3 of analysis of the 19th century theological invention known as dispensationalism. Part 2 can be imagesfound here: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/01/11/95-theses-agai…onalism-part-2/  Following are the next ten theses from the NiceneCouncil.com’s concise but thorough examination of the critical errors with the theological system known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is, like most other systems, not comprised of a monolithic group who all believe alike. So please bear in mind this series in not an attack on any person, but an examination of a system.

11. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ structuring of redemptive history into several dispensations, the Bible establishes the basic divisions of redemptive history into the old covenant, and the new covenant (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 8:8; 9:15), even declaring that the “new covenant … has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete is ready to disappear” (Heb 8:13).

12. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ frequent citation of the King James Version translation of 2 Tim 2:15, “rightly dividing” the truth, as evidence for the need to divide the biblical record into discrete dispensations, all modern versions of Scripture and non-dispensational commentators translate this verse without any allusion to “dividing” Scripture into discrete historical divisions at all, but rather show that it means to “handle accurately” (NASB) or “correctly handle” (NIV) the word of God.

13. Because the dispensational structuring of history was unknown to the Church prior to 1830, the dispensationalists’ claim to be “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” by structuring history that way implies that no one until then had “rightly divided” God’s word.

14. Dispensationalism’s argument that “the understanding of God’s differing economies is essential to a proper interpretation of His revelation within those various economies” (Charles Ryrie) is an example of the circular fallacy in logic: for it requires understanding the distinctive character of a dispensation before one can understand the revelation in that dispensation, though one cannot know what that dispensation is without first understanding the unique nature of the revelation that gives that dispensation its distinctive character.

15. Despite the dispensationalists’ popular presentation of seven distinct dispensations as necessary for properly understanding Scripture, scholars within dispensationalism admit that “one could have four, five, seven, or eight dispensations and be a consistent dispensationalist” (Charles Ryrie) so that the proper structuring of the dispensations is inconsequential.

16. Despite the dispensationalists’ commitment to compartmentalizing history into distinct dispensations, wherein each “dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose” and includes a “distinctive revelation, testing, failure, and judgment” (Charles Ryrie), recent dispensational scholars, such as Darrell Bock and Craig Blaising, admit that the features of the dispensations merge from one dispensation into the next, so that the earlier dispensation carries the seeds of the following dispensation.

17. Despite the dispensationalists’ affirmation of God’s grace in the Church Age, early forms of dispensationalism (and many populist forms even today) deny that grace characterized the Mosaic dispensation of law, as when C. I. Scofield stated that with the coming of Christ “the point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation” (cf. John 1:17), even though the Ten Commandments themselves open with a statement of God’s grace to Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exo 20:1).

18. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ structuring of law and grace as “antithetical concepts” (Charles Ryrie) with the result that “the doctrines of grace are to be sought in the Epistles, not in the Gospels” (Scofield Reference Bible – SRB, p. 989), the Gospels do declare the doctrines of grace, as we read in John 1:17, “For the law was given by Moses; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” and in the Bible’s most famous verse: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

19. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ historic position that the Sermon on the Mount was designed for Israel alone, to define kingdom living, and “is law, not grace” (SRB, p. 989), historic evangelical orthodoxy sees this great Sermon as applicable to the Church in the present era, applying the Beatitudes (Matt 5:2-12), calling us to be the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13), urging us to build our house on a rock (Matt 7:21-27), directing us to pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-13), and more.

20. Despite the dispensationalists’ vigorous assertion that their system never has taught two ways of salvation (Couch), one by law-keeping and one by grace alone, the original Scofield Reference Bible, for instance, declared that the Abrahamic and new covenants differed from the Mosaic covenant regarding “salvation” in that “they impose but one condition, faith” (SRB, see note at Ex. 19:6).

95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM – Part 2

This is part 2, the first week of actual critique of the 19th century theological invention known as imagesdispensationalism. The introduction can be found here: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/01/03/95-theses-against-dispensationalism/ Following are the first ten theses from the NiceneCouncil.com’s concise but thorough examination of the critical errors with the theological system known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is, like most other systems, not comprised of a monolithic group who all believe alike. So please bear in mind this series in not an attack on any person, but an examination of a system.

1. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ claim that their system is the result of a “plain interpretation” (Charles Ryrie) of Scripture, it is a relatively new innovation in Church history, having emerged only around 1830, and was wholly unknown to Christian scholars for the first eighteen hundred years of the Christian era.

2. Contrary to the dispensationalist theologians’ frequent claim that “premillennialism is the historic faith of the Church” (Charles Ryrie), the early premillennialist Justin Martyr states that “many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise.” Premillennialist Irenaeus agreed. A primitive form of each of today’s three main eschatological views existed from the Second Century onward. (See premillennialist admissions by D. H. Kromminga, Millennium in the Church and Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology).

3. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ attempt to link its history to that of early premillennial Church Fathers, those ancient premillennialists held positions that are fundamentally out of accord with the very foundational principles of dispensationalism, foundations which Ryrie calls “the linchpin of dispensationalism”, such as (1) a distinction between the Church and Israel (i.e., the Church is true Israel, “the true Israelitic race” (Justin Martyr) and (2) that “Judaism … has now come to an end” (Justin Martyr).

4. Despite dispensationalism’s claim of antiquity through its association with historic premillennialism, it radically breaks with historic premillennialism by promoting a millennium that is fundamentally Judaic rather than Christian.

5. Contrary to many dispensationalists’ assertion that modern-day Jews are faithful to the Old Testament and worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Hagee), the New Testament teaches that there is no such thing as “orthodox Judaism.” Any modern-day Jew who claims to believe the Old Testament and yet rejects Christ Jesus as Lord and God rejects the Old Testament also.

6. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ assertion that the early Church was premillennial in its eschatology, “none of the major creeds of the church include premillennialism in their statements” (R.P. Lightner), even though the millennium is supposedly God’s plan for Israel and the very goal of history, which we should expect would make its way into our creeds.

7. Despite the dispensationalists’ general orthodoxy, the historic ecumenical creeds of the Christian Church affirm eschatological events that are contrary to fundamental tenets of premillennialism, such as: (1) only one return of Christ, rather than dispensationalism’s two returns, separating the “rapture” and “second coming” by seven years; (2) a single, general resurrection of all the dead, both saved and lost; and (3) a general judgment of all men rather than two distinct judgments separated by one thousand years.

8. Despite the dispensationalists’ general unconcern regarding the ecumenical Church creeds, we must understand that God gave the Bible to the Church, not to individuals, because “the church of the living God” is “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15).

9. Despite the dispensationalists’ proclamation that they have a high view of God’s Word in their “coherent and consistent interpretation” (John Walvoord), in fact they have fragmented the Bible into numerous dispensational parts with two redemptive programs—one for Israel and one for the Church—and have doubled new covenants, returns of Christ, physical resurrections, and final judgments, thereby destroying the unity and coherence of Scripture.

10. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ commitment to compartmentalizing each of the self-contained, distinct dispensations, the Bible presents an organic unfolding of history as the Bible traces out the flow of redemptive history, so that the New Testament speaks of “the covenants [plural] of the [singular] promise” (Eph 2:12) and uses metaphors that require the unity of redemptive history; accordingly, the New Testament people of God are one olive tree rooted in the Old Testament (Rom 11:17-24).

95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM

Each week, I will list a portion of the short paragraphs from the NiceneCouncil.com’s concise but thorough imagesexamination of the critical errors with the theological system known as dispensationalism. Of course, dispensationalism is, like most other systems, not comprised of a monolithic group who all believe alike. So please bear in mind this series in not an attack on any person, but an examination of a system. With that, here is the introduction.

Preface
What follows should not be interpreted to mean that NiceneCouncil.com nor the historic Bible believing church would place every dispensationalist outside of the Christian faith. We acknowledge that most are dedicated to the foundational orthodox doctrines of Christianity. Unlike the sixteenth century dispute over the doctrine of justification, this is an in-house discussion, a debate among evangelical Christians. We recognize and treasure all born again believers who operate within a dispensational framework as brothers and sisters in Christ.

However, we must remember that Paul loved his fellow apostle Peter and esteemed him the senior and more honored of the two of them. Nevertheless, when it came to a point of theology that had profound implications for the purity and health of the Church, Paul was constrained by his love for Christ and the Truth publicly to withstand Peter to his face. (Galatians 2:11)

Therefore, because we believe that dispensationalism has at least crippled the Church in her duty of proclaiming the gospel and discipling the nations, and out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed in a series of videos written and produced by NiceneCouncil.com under the title The Late Great Planet Church. And as iron sharpens iron we request that every Christian, congregation, and denomination discuss and debate these issues. By the grace of our great Sovereign let us engage in this debate with an open mind and an open Bible. Like the Bereans nearly two thousand years ago, let us “search the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things are so.”

Strange Fire

Strange Fire by John MacArthur  strange-fire-the-danger-of-offending-the-holy-spirit-with-counterfeit-worship

a review

One area many – dare I say most – current day evangelicals have gone astray from orthodox Christianity is the topic of MacArthur’s latest book. From Southern Baptists to contemporary “Christian” radio, slogans and anecdotes fill space and airways with the message that it’s normal to hear from God. This is not the biblical message of “hearing” from God as you read and study His Word – it’s the dangerous practice of believing inferences and confirmations from myriad sources are God’s way of “speaking to your heart”. It is this claim of extra-biblical revelation that MacArthur addresses in Strange Fire. If your blood isn’t stirred up by the thought of reading and entire book detailing the train wreck of uninhibited charismania, it’s important, maybe more so – that this book also provides the child of God very good counsel on the identity, mission, and work of the Holy Spirit.

MacArthur’s book is comprised of 12 chapters on topics covering new apostles and prophets, gifts of healing and tongues, the work of the Spirit in salvation, sanctification, and the Scripture; the last chapter is an open letter to his continuationist friends. And he provides a handy appendix with several pages of quotes from the past on the topic of the continuation of spiritual gifts, in support of his claim that the current craze is not part of historic, orthodox Christianity. I’ve heard from some who think MacArthur has lumped all continuationists into one bucket of heresy – drawing equivalence between some respected theologians and the likes of Benny Hinn. But MacArthur’s letter to his friends is very clear that he sees much good in the work of these friends, as well as much thin theological ice that their “open canon” represents. He considers them dear brothers who need to be awakened to the danger they pose by sharing some views with flaming heretics – sometimes endorsing and appearing with them.

I will leave it to you to read the chapters detailing the train wreck of the strange fire doctrines, and focus some attention on the last third of the book. Citing an observation from A.W. Tozer, MacArthur says our “view of God is the foundational reality in our thinking, and it encompasses all that we believe about the Holy Spirit.” He points out the truth that while many miracle seekers flock after Benny Hinn and Todd Bentley, a true miracle takes place every time a spiritually dead sinner is raised to new life in Christ. This is too mundane for experience-based Christians, but is glorious to behold by those who inhabit the heavens – and ought to be recognized as such by us. The Holy Spirit works in the birth of new saints by a.) convicting the unredeemed of their sins, b.) convicting unbelievers of righteousness, and c.) convicts sinners that divine judgments are real and necessary. The Spirit of the living God then regenerates the elect – removes the heart of stone and gives a heart of flesh by granting faith to believe the gospel. This is work man cannot do, any more than man can bring about his own natural birth. Salvation is of the Lord, as Jonah declared from the belly of the fish, and the triune God does not share His glory with anyone.

Still in this vein, the Holy Spirit also brings repentance to those He regenerates, liberating us from the power of sin and death and producing love for His righteousness. He enables fellowship with God and makes sweet the fellowship of the saints. We are heirs of the kingdom, free from the dread of God and drawn to Him as our Father, enabled to joyfully sing praises to Him. And here, then, is one biblical truth that cannot be reconciled with the “second baptism” doctrine: the Holy Spirit indwells every man, woman, and child He raises to new life in Christ. He is our Comforter and Helper; protecting, empowering, and encouraging us.

MacArthur delineates the difference between being filled with the Spirit of God and the heretical notion of being drunk on the Spirit. Drunkenness is irrational, out-of-control behavior, while filled with the Spirit is joyful, self-controlled submission to God. Being filled with the Spirit of God is an ongoing experience in the life of every Christian – not an occasional orgy with John Crowder. “Rather than being hopelessly distracted by charismatic counterfeits, believers need to rediscover the real ministry of the Holy Spirit, which is to activate His power in us through His Word, so that we can truly conquer sin for the glory of Christ, the blessing of His church, and the benefit of the lost.”

His last chapter on the true work of the Holy Spirit focuses on the Spirit’s role and identity in the Scriptures. MacArthur gives us a very quick run through history, highlighting a few of the faithful men used by God and several of those who fell or jumped into heresy and have misled countless simple folk. “By departing from the sole authority of Scripture, bot Roman Catholicism and theological liberalism became enemies of true Christianity, fraudulent versions of the very thing they claimed to represent. … Because He is the God of truth, His Word is infallible. Because He cannot lie, His Word is inerrant. Because He is the King of kings, His Word is absolute and supreme.” The Spirit inspired the writing of Scripture, provides illumination for the minds of Christians, and the Spirit gives power to the reading and preaching of Scripture. To reject the Scriptures is to reject the Spirit of God – and the entire trinity.

In his “open letter”, the last chapter, MacArthur observes that, “rather than confronting charismatic errors head-on, continuationists leaders find themselves flirting with aspects of a movement that is full of serious error and corrupt leadership.” These otherwise solid theologians allow the charismatics to set the vocabulary, changing the meaning of words and phrases from what the Bible and history show them to be, in order to justify the nonsensical babbling that passes for tongues in modern churches. “The continuationist position invites any personal impression or subjective feeling as a potential revelation from God. Moreover, it removes any authoritative, objective standard for questioning the legitimacy of someone’s supposed revelation from God.”

All in all, this should be a welcomed book in any Christian’s home. We do need to be provoked to think biblically – about gifts and the One Who gives them.

What’s the Significance of the Lord’s Supper?

As with baptism, there is much more meaning in this ordinance than what meets the eye. Every time weLords-Supper are given the blessed opportunity to be nourished spiritually with this ordinance, how it represents the broken body and shed blood of Christ, which cut the New Covenant and in which we have our adoption as sons of the Living God. This description is right and it is a main point we supposed to gain from observing this ordinance. We will examine these truths – but there is another aspect that I think will add a deeper appreciation and greater holy awe of our Lord and Savior. We read from 1 Cor 11 each week, but the establishment of this ordinance is also found in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22. This is an important means God has given us, we must diligently inquire of His Word what it means and how we are to practice it. 

Click here to listen to the message.