Tuesday, September 13, 2022

An Exegetical Study Of Habakkuk 2:4 As It Relates To Justification By Faith Alone

  • Discussion:
          -The Book of Habakkuk is a classic example of what we would call a theodicy. It serves as a defense of the goodness of God in the midst of evil. A theodicy aims to solve the paradox of His general providence in a world of pain and misery. How could an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God allow people to go through bad things? Why do evil people seem to prosper while the righteous suffer, being continually trampled on? Why is perfect justice not always inflicted on evildoers in this world? Questions of this nature plagued Habakkuk's mind in the situation of his day and countless other people throughout the course of human history.

          Habakkuk was troubled deeply by the corrupt society in which he lived. The laws of the prophet's own nation were not being enforced. Justice was not a thing to be found in that land. Faithlessness toward God abounded. Habakkuk wondered how a righteous God could be silent and allow these things to come to pass. Why does He stand by and do nothing? The prophet raised such questions not in a state of doubt, but faith. While God did not specifically answer the why behind that man's questions, the response given aroused a greater sense of perplexity than he originally had. How could a righteous God use Babylon, a nation more wicked than Judah itself, as an instrument of divine judgement?

          The underlying theme of the Book of Habakkuk is that we can place our trust in God because of His sovereignty. He is working things out for the good of those who love Him. Whether things seem impossible to us is irrelevant to God. He will right the wrongs of evildoers in His own perfect timing. His plan will prove satisfactory to us in the grand scheme or complete picture of all events when they are brought to a close. The Book of Habakkuk contains a passage that is quoted twice by the Apostle Paul in the context of our justification before God, particularly in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. The text being discussed is cited in its entirety as follows:

          "Behold, as for the impudent one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous one will live by his faith." (Habakkuk 2:4)

          Paul sees in this passage the foundation of the message of the gospel in which man is declared righteous by God apart from the merit of good deeds. The prophet's words are certainly broad enough to fit with Paul's application of them. The apostle's message could be paraphrased in this manner: "the one justified by faith shall live." Habakkuk 2:4 is the only text besides Genesis 15:6 that brings together faith and righteousness in the Old Testament. Thus, we see the reason for Paul appealing to them in his argumentation against Law observance for justification in Romans and Galatians. A righteousness that comes by faith is antithetical to a Law righteousness.

          The Apostle Paul's point of emphasis in Romans 1:17 is that the person who has been justified by faith is to live a life of faith. We receive a righteousness from God that does not belong to us and is based on Christ's propitiatory work on the Cross. Paul interpreted the Prophet Habakkuk's words which were originally delivered to a faithful remnant that appeared to be on the brink of utter destruction as being words of hope for lost humanity. The condition for Jews to receive blessings and protection from God under the Old Covenant is the same for Christians under the New Covenant: faith. A man cannot obtain a just standing before Him without faith. Faith, righteousness, and life are things that are intimately connected to each other. God is our source of comfort and security, whether we live or die.

          Paul in Galatians 3:11 gives weight to Habakkuk 2:4 with the intent of making the point that one is justified in the sight of God on the basis of faith and that alone. He uses something other than the Law to make us right with Him, faith. It is this kind of a life that glorifies God. It is that kind of a life that brings honor to Him. The statements made about Paul's citation of Habakkuk in Galatians are equally true about the similar instance found in Romans. The Apostle Paul's teaching of living by faith is to be contrasted with the Law's requirement of "doing" in order to have life (Deuteronomy 27:26; Leviticus 18:5). The latter way brings about death and is therefore of no avail to us in getting a righteous standing before God.

          Some translations of the Bible use the word "faith" in Habakkuk 2:4 (New King James Version, English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, etc.), while others have "faithfulness" (New International Version, New English Translation, Young's Literal Translation, etc.). The LXX Septuagint translation says, "the just shall live by my faith," as if God's faithfulness is in view. But that reading of the text is not taken here. A man who has faith is one who trusts in God. Such a man's character is honorable and reliable. His ways are morally upright. A man who has faith in God will also believe His promises. They are loyal to His covenant. The Apostle Paul would have derived his understanding of faith from the Old Testament Scriptures. It would prove beneficial to us if we did the same. David W. Kerr, in the Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 876, writes:

          "...In most places in the OT where it [faith] is used it has the second meaning [faithfulness rather than faith], for example, in II Kgs 12:15; Jer 5:1. It is, however, worth noticing that the root of this word [Hebrew emunah] has already been used in Hab 1:5 in the sense of giving credence to God's word or promise. Moreover, faithfulness, even as an aspect of a man's character, does not occur in the void. Faithfulness must be exercised in relation to someone or something. In this case the individual is to be faithful to God, to God's word and covenant. He must rely firmly upon, or have a deep-rooted trust in God himself. The NT use is in complete agreement with this."

          The same author cited before comments further on the text of Habakkuk 2:4, p. 877:

          "...Paul, in comparison with Habakkuk, enlarges infinitely the scope of the word "live," for he applies it to life to come, to the sphere of salvation or eternal well-being in distinction from merely temporal well-being. That the apostle is justified in doing so will readily be granted by Christians, since the NT writers employ many forms and figures of the OT with a fullness of meaning far transcending that which they had for believers under the older dispensation. Finally, the antithesis between the principle of active faith and that of meritorious law-works as a means of salvation is, of course, a part of the apostle's own argument. It is a logical development from the nature of faith itself."

          The Concordia Self-Study Commentary, by Martin Franzmann and Walter H. Roehrs, p. 639, has the following note on the meaning of the word faith in Habakkuk 2:4:

          "The word faith occurs only once in Habakkuk (2:4); but his whole prophecy is a word of faith, faith agonized, questioning, seeking, finding repose in God, and jubilant, finally, in assurance of God's love, and all this in the face of the obstacle to faith posed by God's scandalously mysterious governance of history. When Paul quotes 2:4 in his thematic statement of justification by faith in Ro 1:17, it is only fair to assume that he is quoting with a consciousness of this original context of faith in Habakkuk. For Paul, as for Habakkuk, faith is confronted by an action of God which is offensively enigmatic, namely, the weakness and foolishness of the Cross; for both Paul and Habakkuk faith is faith without works, for both it is "quietly waiting" for God to do His saving work. For both, faith is not one aspect of man's existence before God but the whole of his relationship to Him."

          Elmer A. Martens, in the New International Version Zondervan Study Bible, p. 1834-1835, writes:

          "2:4 the enemy. Babylon (either collectively or its king) or anyone who is arrogant and follows evil desires (elaborated in vv. 6-19). puffed up. A person who is haughty, arrogant, self-sufficient, and presumptuous (Num 14:44). desires are not upright. Examples are listed in v. 5 (see note). the righteous person. The one whose faithfulness (see NIV text note) is anchored in the God who triumphs over evil (3:3–15, especially v. 13; cf. Gen 15:6; Isa 26, especially vv. 1-8; Ezek 18:9). The righteous person trusts God in the darkest of times, holding fast to the conviction that God's promises will be fulfilled (2 Cor 1:20). The teaching that people are saved by grace through faith (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Eph 2:8) includes the call to live by faith (Heb 10:38–39; 11:17; Jas 2:22-23)."

          The New King James Version Study Bible, edited by Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen, and H. Wayne House, has this footnote on Habakkuk 2:4:

          "2:4 The proud refers to the Babylonians, who exalted themselves and boasted of their conquests and power. His soul is not upright in him: The Babylonians had no regard for God, His commandments, or His people. the just shall live by his faith: True righteousness before God is linked to genuine faith in God. A proud person relies on self, power, position, and accomplishment; a righteous person relies on the Lord."

Sunday, September 11, 2022

How Come God Does Not Stop Evil Right Now?

"While nearly everyone asks why God doesn’t stop evil, few people ask why God doesn’t stop pleasure. Stopping pleasure would be an effective way of stopping evil while maintaining human freedom. That’s because no one does evil for evil’s sake. We do evil to get good things, such as money, sex, and power. Take away pleasure and the incentive to do evil would vanish. But if God were to stop evil by ending pleasure, would the human race continue? If it did, would anyone like the pleasureless world that remains?"

Frank Turek, Stealing From God, p. 142

Sunday, August 14, 2022

An Observation On Descriptions Of Heaven: They Are Figurative

"There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of “Heaven” ridiculous by saying they do not want “to spend eternity playing harps.” The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it. People who take the symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs."

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, book 3, chapter 10 (on “Hope”)

Thursday, August 4, 2022

A Discussion On Using The Bible To Legitimize Homosexuality

  • Discussion:
          -Following are a series of excerpts with responses to them from a debate that veered far from the original topic of the article in which they were published. A number of points may prove to be useful in discussing the issue of whether the Bible endorses homosexuality:

          "What if some christians think that oppressing gay people is a great evil and others do not even see their harsh treatment of homosexuals as oppression?"

          That would be a matter of semantics in this culture. If by "oppressing gay people" you are referring to something genocidal in nature, then that would be a heinous crime.

          "What if, in these cases, all concerned are genuinely striving to follow God and they've just reached different conclusions?"

          If God has delineated something to be good or evil, then there is no other conclusion to reach than that which He told us.

          "Are those in sincere confusion and mistake going to be damned for their lack of understanding?"

          I suspect the problem is more willful than accidental for a lot of people.

          "As to 1 Cor 6, as I'm sure you know, Paul was writing to a specific place with some specific circumstances and throughout Corinthians, he is addressing some specific concerns they had, offering his advice."

          Paul also gave moral imperatives for us to adhere to at all places and at all times. Morality pertains to that which is timeless and transcendent.

          "God has not delineated gay folks getting married as good or bad. Literally, that never has happened. Not in the Bible and not to you or me."

          Go read of the Apostle Paul's condemnation of homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. He says outright that people who practice such a lifestyle will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Paul would have drawn this teaching from the Book of Leviticus which is in the Old Testament.

          "But the word that is sometimes translated as "homosexual" (and the word translated as "soft" or "effeminate" sometimes) are not at all clear in the text or context. But in context, sometimes in that day and time, men would have young male prostitutes - boys who were forced to be the "soft" ones and abused by the men who were prostituting them. That's the reality of Greco-Roman life at the time."

          The text of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 refers to both the active and passive partners of a homosexual relationship. The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, edited by Spiros Zodhiates, contains Strong's Greek Dictionary of the New Testament which has this entry on the phrase "abusers of themselves with mankind": 

           "733 arsenokoites ar-sen-ok-oy'-tace from 730 and 2845; a sodomite:--abuser of (that defile) self with mankind."

           The section of this Study Bible titled Lexical Aids to the Old Testament has this entry on the meaning of the term sodomite:

          "6945 Qadesh; this adj. is derived from 6942. It means a consecrated one, a devoted one, a sacred person; a devotee to licentious idolatry, a cultic prostitute or priest of Astarte (1 Kgs. 22:46). It is ironic that such a "holy" word could be applied to abominable practices of male homosexuals dedicating themselves to the honor of a false god (Deut. 23:17; 1 Kgs. 14:24; 15:12; 2 Kgs. 23:7; Job 36:14)!"

          Consider also this excerpt from a Dictionary of the Bible: Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, by William Smith:

          "Sodomites. This word does not denote the inhabitants of Sodom (except only in 2 Esd. vii. 36) or their descendants; but it is employed in the A.V. of the Old Testament for those who practised as a religious rite the abominable and unnatural vice from which the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah have derived their lasting infamy. It occurs in Deut. xxiii. 17; 1 K. xiv. 24; xv. 12; xxii. 46; 2 K. xxiii. 46; 2 K. xxiii. 7; and Job xxxvi. 14 (margin). The Hebrew word kadesh is said to be derived from a root kadash, which (strange as it may appear) means "pure," and thence "holy." "This dreadful 'consecration,' or rather desecration, was spread in different forms over Phoenicia, Syria, Phrygia, Assyria, Babylonia."

           Consider this excerpt from the Archaeological Study Bible, Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Duane Garrett general editors:

           "Evidence exists that even the Greeks may have been aware that this behavior was deviant. Aristophanes, the Greek comic poet, mocked homosexual behavior (even as he employed it as a comic device). For example, in Women at the Thesmophoria he ruthlessly ridiculed the notorious homosexuality of the poet Agathon. It would be an overstatement to claim that Aristophanes opposed homosexual practice, but his comedy betrayed an uneasy conscience about such behavior within the culture he inhabited. Plato, on the other hand, in his earlier dialogues spoke approvingly of homosexual behavior. Yet near the end of his career he observed in his Laws that homosexual intercourse was widely recognized to be unnatural." (p. 1836)

           It should be clear to anyone that the Apostle Paul condemned homosexual relationships as such. He would have expressed disdain toward the idea of a same-sex wedding. That would have been totally repulsive to him. Paul would have viewed homosexuality as sinful and something practiced only by people who are heathenish. 

          "Why do those religious traditions get to speak for God what God hasn't said? Isn't that blasphemous? Why not?"

          Are you serious in taking up this kind of a sweeping skepticism toward the moral dimension of the Mosaic Law? What sort of textual critical evidence do you have to support this branding of moral imperatives from God as being nothing other than man-made oral tradition?

          "So, if there SEEMS to be some disagreement with Jesus and the OT or Jesus and Paul, we look FIRST to what Jesus said to help us understand the other, not the other way around."

          This reasoning would be utterly inexcusable given that both Jesus and Paul held to Old Testament ethics. Jesus Christ upheld traditional marriage as defined by God since the timing of creation: "And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?" (Matthew 19:4-5)

          "We have Saved by God's Grace gay and lesbian and transgender members, beloved by God. The Bible does not say otherwise. Anywhere. It's just not there."

          The consistent pattern of marriage in the Bible from beginning to end is between a man and a woman. It presupposes that kind of a relationship. Never once are two partners of the same gender even hinted at. Never once are more than two genders spoken of.

          "But those all appear, on the face of them, to not be any kind of universal condemnation of gay guys getting married..."

          But God describes homosexual behavior in Leviticus 18:22 as being an "abomination" and "worthy of death" in Leviticus 20:13. That is indeed a universal condemnation of the practice. Consider this excerpt from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, edited by R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, on the Hebrew term toeba:

          "...the abomination may be of a physical, ritual or ethical nature and may be abhorred by God or man. Sharing a meal with a Hebrew was ritually offensive to an Egyptian (Gen 43:32), as was offering certain kinds of sacrifices (Ex 8:22). homosexuality and other perversions are repugnant to God and fall under his judgment (Lev 18:22–30; 20:13). Idolatry (Deut 7:25), human sacrifice (Deut 12:31), eating ritually unclean animals (Deut 14:3–8), sacrificing defective animals (Deut 17:1), conducting one’s business dishonestly (Deut 25:13–16), practicing ritual prostitution (I Kgs 14:23f.), and similar acts of disobedience (for seven more abominations, see the list in Prov 6:16–19) were sure to bring God’s wrath on those who perpetrated them. Twelve times the book of Proverbs uses the phrase, “is an abomination to the Lord.” In Ps 88, a prayer for help written by a man close to death, the physically repulsive appearance of a tôʿēbâ is stressed; the man’s former friends avoid him because they consider him to be a thing of horror (Ps 88:8 [H 9])."

          The Jewish Study Bible has this excerpt on Leviticus 18:22:

          "Biblical and ancient Near Eastern culture was not familiar with homosexuality in the sense of a defined sexual orientation of lifestyle (the Bible gives no indication that David and Jonathon had a sexual relationship). It acknowledges only the occasional act of male anal intercourse, usually as an act of force associated with humiliation, revenge, or subjugation (for the biblical examples see Gen. 19.4-5; Judg. 19.22). Of the biblical collections only H mentions it (here and in 20.13), declaring it to be an abominable act and a capital offense. One possible explanation might be that H views certain sexual acts that are not potentially procreative as aberrant."

          "(heck, lesbians aren't mentioned at all in the OT, so presumably, it's okay for THEM to get married, right?)"

          You take liberties by attempting to follow the strict letter of the text in a manner that is favorable toward your own theology. Your efforts to manipulate what it says is disingenuous and proves that you do not really care what Scripture says. How could you possibly be a Christian?

          The original audience to whom the Law was given would have understood Leviticus 18:22 to apply to lesbianism in principle. Furthermore, Paul expressly casts such relationships in a negative light in Romans 1:26-27. There is something especially unnatural about two women being together given that they have a motherly instinct. 

          "I know there are a handful of passages that SEEM to touch on perhaps gay issues, but they are nothing like clear or definitive condemnations of gay folks getting married."

          Even if there was only one passage in the entire Bible that implicitly showed God's disapproval of homosexual marriage, that would be enough for a real Christian. That would still count as evidence, but there are multiple lines of evidence showing that homosexuality is incompatible with a biblical theology of marriage.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

An Discussion On Culture And "Gay Rights"

  • Discussion:
          -Following are a series of excerpts with responses to them from a debate that veered far from the original topic of the article in which they were published. Some points may prove to be useful in discussing the normalization of homosexual behaviors with other people:

          "Ah, but WHO is it that is plotting even now to deny the right to marry and other basic rights to LGBTQ people?"

          That is not happening anywhere except in the Middle East. No reasonable person has any plans whatsoever to deprive the group of people that you mention of any basic human rights. They are being treated just like everybody else.

          "It's conservatives and the religious right. LGBTQ folks are NOT trying to tell straight people who they can and can't marry."

          We do not really see heterosexual people parading around the streets of cities in ridiculous and ugly attire exclaiming what they do behind closed doors. We do not see heterosexual people putting symbols of their sexuality on children's cereal boxes during a specific month of each year. Have a sense of decency and honor.

          "Who is it who's telling transgender folks which bathrooms they must use? It's conservatives. LGBTQ folks aren't telling conservatives which bathrooms to use."

          There are only two genders which are determined by genetics. That people want to be called by something other than what they really are, is no one else's problem but their own. There is no obligation on my part to affirm a man to be a woman or visa versa when all of human history up to this point did not do so.

          If this matter is really all that important, then businesses should create unisex, single person restrooms. Problem solved.

          "Who is it who's telling gay or lesbian couples that they can't adopt children? It's conservatives. LGBTQ people aren't trying to say that "Southern Baptists can't adopt children!"

          Adoption is not a gay rights issue. It is a children's issue.

          "LGBTQ people HAVE been oppressed for centuries/throughout history in nations around the world and in the US."

          Even if that is true, they are not being persecuted in the West right now. This leads up to a bigger point, namely, the utter futility of trying to negotiate with people who have a victim mentality. They are never happy no matter what you do for them, always demanding more.

          "They just want to live their lives in peace and without oppression."

          Dissidents only wish to be left alone and be able to live out normal lives without fear of their children being sexualized by predators.

          "Would you return to the days of criminalized homosexuality if you could?"

          This question is a meaningless hypothetical. I could not return to the days of criminalized homosexuality even if I wanted to.

          "Would you deny the right of gay guys/lesbian women to marry who they want?"

          Let those people be with whoever they want in secret, but I would deny that homosexual "marriage" is a natural human right from the very beginning.

          "The Supreme Court conservatives may do so."

          The only thing that a Supreme Court with the kind of composition that it currently has would do is to relegate the matter to the states. If an overwhelming majority of people in one state wants abortion to be illegal, then they should be able to have it that way. That is the way in which our particular system of government works. It is not perfect, but still works better than any other. If you do not like how a particular state is ran, then you can move to a different state in the country that better fits your standards of living. You could also run for office to change laws and publicly debate people to change minds.

          "Look, you are free to think what you want about LGBTQ people, but conservative Christians (and extremist Muslims) have lost this argument, at least in the free world."

          If "conservative" ideas have really been defeated, then why are they the only ones that have withstood the test of time? Why are progressive ideas always so irrational and destructive to a society? Bad ideas do not become better just because more people embrace them. Wrong is still wrong even if everyone believes it.

          "That's illegal discrimination and rightfully so. So, too, for gay customers. You don't have to like it, but discrimination based on gender, race and sexual orientation is illegal in our nation."

          You are making an invalid comparison. Skin color and gender is not changeable like sexual orientation. They are not behavioral characteristics as is homosexuality and lesbianism. They have nothing to do with each other. Gay customers should be served on the condition that employees are not required to compromise their faith. It is ironic that homosexuals demand acceptance and toleration while at the same time not extending that same attitude toward those who do not share their worldview. 

          "And for many of us, we thank God that these human rights have been accomplished because we're fighting for justice and morality, as best we understand it."

          Homosexuality is a sin against God. Such "marriages" are not recognized as valid before Him. However, LGBTQ people should not be shut out of society. They should not be denied access to basic needs. These people should not be demonized and dehumanized. We live in a fallen world which cannot possibly live up to God's perfect holiness.

          "That's one way that's one way that bigots use to demonize the other, make them monstrous, people who target children! It is an unsupported false claim."

          It is not an unsupported false claim when children's libraries contain books with sexually explicit content and there are parents who are outraged about it. It is not an unsupported false claim when there are reports of teachers telling students not to disclose the subject-matter of their classes to parents.

          "Are you saying that people who take the time to teach children are "targeting them" for propaganda?"

          Not exactly. It depends on the content of the instruction.

          "Or, when conservatives do it, they're just being helpful, but when liberals do it they're targeting and grooming children?? You see the problem with that, don't you?"

          The problem is that children are basically being taught how to have sex. They should be being taught things like math, grammar, and science. Children should not be being sexualized. They have no real understanding of how the world works. Moreover, people have grown up to have sex for thousands of years without any instruction as to how it is done. They just procreated.

          "And if you find my positions weird And tomorrow, perhaps you can understand how I also find your positions weird and immoral. As well as unbiblical, ungodly and irrational."

          I am not a radical. You are. You exposed yourself by talking. I know that you are okay with the destruction and corruption of innocence. Why else would you make an effort to defend exposing children to drag queen story hour?

          "After all I'm not trying to be objective, I'm saying that gay folks committing to one another in a loving respectful marriage is obviously, on the face of it, a good thing. How's that bad?"

          That is not how God designed things to be. There does not have to be some other reason than that He has given us a moral standard to abide by.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

An Exegetical Study On The Sin Lists Of Paul's Epistles

  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
          -The Apostle Paul says twice in the same passage that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God. He also specifies who these kinds of people are. Compare with 1 Corinthians 5:9-11. The repeated emphasis demands consideration on our behalf. Paul does not want readers of his epistle to misunderstand or minimize the seriousness of his message.
          -Homosexuality is mentioned in this passage as being one of many damnable sins. Paul elsewhere says that lesbianism is condemned by God as such behavior on a widespread scale is an indicator of divine judgement (Romans 1:26-27).
          -Paul echoes the teaching of Jesus Christ to Nicodemus about the necessity of being born again in order to see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-5). The expression "Kingdom of God" refers to His reign existing in a state having been brought to full fruition. Evil has no presence there. His kingdom is designed specifically for people who are morally upright.
  • Ephesians 5:4-7:
          -Paul again expects his audience to live lives that correspond with their profession of faith. His message to those who have a newfound identity in Christ is this: "Be what you are." Morally impure behaviors are "not fitting" (Ephesians 5:4) in the Christian life. By that, it is meant they are not worthy to be practiced among those who have been set apart for a holy life.
          -This "inheritance" is spoken of as a future possession that cannot be enjoyed by those who are not in Christ. They do not know Him. They have not been forgiven by God. Compare with Ephesians 1:14 and Colossians 1:14.
          -Greed is isolated from a broader list of sins and called a form of idolatry. Compare with Colossians 3:5. Covetousness corrupts how a person conducts business.
          -The kingdom of heaven belongs to both Christ and God, since the latter has put everything under the dominion of the former (1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22).
  • Galatians 5:19-21:
          -The first three sins mentioned in this list are of sexual nature. They are spoken of in all-encompassing terms. Sexual sins were common in Greco-Roman society.
          -The next two terms relate to worship. Idolatry is giving anything reverence that belongs to God alone. It is a more common problem than we realize. It is easier to get caught up in than we think. Asia Minor had problems with witchcraft (Acts 19:18-19).
          -The rest of the sins mentioned in this text relate to human temperament; the overall ugliness of sinful man's reactions to things and the rate at which he does so. 
          -Unbelievers are excluded from the Kingdom of God because that is the place in which His will is done. Selfish people are not qualified to partake in the eternal blessings that God bestows on those who love Him. Their perspective is utterly incompatible with His. 
  • Noting The Type Of Culture In Which Paul Wrote His Epistles:
          -"It has been rightly said, that the idea of conscience, as we understand it, was unknown to heathenism. Absolute right did not exist. Might was right. The social relations exhibited, if possible, even deeper corruption. The sanctity of marriage had ceased. Female dissipation and the general dissoluteness led at last to an almost entire cessation of marriage. Abortion, and the exposure and murder of newly-born children, were common and tolerated; unnatural vices, which even the greatest philosophers practiced, if not advocated, attained proportions which defy description." (Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. 1) 
  • The Source Of Holiness In The Writings Of The Apostle Paul:
          -"The source of Paul's emphasis on holiness was his Jewish religion, yet this tradition too was revalued in light of his messianism. Like the Pharisaism he was partial to, the Diaspora Judaism that nurtured him in his youth, and the apocalyptic Judaism that marked him for life, Paul viewed God as the source of holiness (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2). Now present in Spirit, this God was the author of the consecration (áyiáoat) of believers and their advocate in the final judgment, keeping their souls, spirits, and bodies "blameless" (åpéutw) at Jesus' parousia (1 Thess. 5:23). God's eschatological presence and power were Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19; 3:17; 12:3; 2 Cor. 13:13; Rom. 5:5; 8:27; 9:1; 14:17; 15:13, 16, 19; 1 Thess. 1:5; 4:8), making believers holy at baptism (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11), inspiring believers (1 Cor. 6:19), interceding with their spirit "with sighs too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26), and bearing fruit in them (e.g., Gal. 5:22) for holiness." (Calvin Roetzel, Paul: The Man and the Myth, p. 34)

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Faith And Endurance

III. The apostle tells us what these believers endured by faith. 1. They were tortured, not accepting deliverance, [Hebrews 11] v. 35. They were put upon the rack, to make them renounce their God, their Saviour, and their religion. They bore the torture, and would not accept of deliverance upon such vile terms; and that which animated them thus to suffer was the hope they had of obtaining a better resurrection, and deliverance upon more honourable terms. This is thought to refer to that memorable story, 2 Macc. ch. vii., etc. 2. They endured trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, and bonds and imprisonment, v. 36. They were persecuted in their reputation by mockings, which are cruel to an ingenuous mind; in their persons by scourging, the punishment of slaves; in their liberty by bonds and imprisonment. Observe how inveterate is the malice that wicked men have towards the righteous, how far it will go, and what a variety of cruelties it will invent and exercise upon those against whom they have no cause of quarrel, except in the matters of their God. 3. They were put to death in the most cruel manner; some were stoned, as Zechariah (2 Chron 24 21), sawn asunder, as Isaiah by Manasseh. They were tempted; some read it, burnt, 2 Macc 7 5. They were slain with the sword. All sorts of deaths were prepared for them; their enemies clothed death in all the array of cruelty and terror, and yet they boldly met it and endured it. 4. Those who escaped death were used so ill that death might seem more eligible than such a life. Their enemies spared them, only to prolong their misery, and wear out all their patience; for they were forced to wander about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, and tormented; they wandered about in deserts, and on mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth, v. 37, 38. They were stripped of the conveniences of life, and turned out of house and harbour. They had not raiment to put on, but were forced to cover themselves with the skins of slain beasts. They were driven out of all human society, and forced to converse with the beasts of the field, to hide themselves in dens and caves, and make their complaint to rocks and rivers, not more obdurate than their enemies. Such sufferings as these they endured then for their faith; and such they endured through the power of the grace of faith: and which shall we most admire, the wickedness of human nature, that is capable of perpetrating such cruelties on fellow creatures, or the excellency of divine grace, that is able to bear up the faithful under such cruelties, and to carry them safely through all?

IV. What they obtained by their faith. 1. A most honourable character and commendation from God, the true Judge and fountain of honour—that the world was not worthy of such men; the world did not deserve such blessings; they did not know how to value them, nor how to use them. Wicked men! The righteous are not worthy to live in the world, and God declares the world is not worthy of them; and, though they widely differ in their judgment, they agree in this, that it is not fit that good men should have their rest in this world; and therefore God receives them out of it, to that world that is suitable to them, and yet far beyond the merit of all their services and sufferings. 2. They obtained a good report (v. 39) of all good men, and of the truth itself, and have the honour to be enrolled in this sacred calendar of the Old-Testament worthies, God's witnesses; yea, they had a witness for them in the consciences of their enemies, who, while they thus abused them, were condemned by their own consciences, as persecuting those who were more righteous than themselves. 3. They obtained an interest in the promises, though not the full possession of them. They had a title to the promises, though they received not the great things promised. This is not meant of the felicity of the heavenly state, for this they did receive, when they died, in the measure of a part, in one constituent part of their persons, and the much better part; but it is meant of the felicity of the gospel-state: they had types, but not the antitype; they had shadows, but had not seen the substance; and yet, under this imperfect dispensation, they discovered this precious faith. This the apostle insists upon to render the faith more illustrious, and to provoke Christians to a holy jealousy and emulation; that they should not suffer themselves to be outdone in the exercise of faith by those who came so short of them in all the helps and advantages for believing. He tells the Hebrews that God had provided some better things for them (v. 40), and therefore they might be assured that he expected at least as good things from them; and that since the gospel is the end and perfection of the Old Testament, which had no excellency but in its reference to Christ and the gospel, it was expected that their faith should be as much more perfect than the faith of the Old-Testament saints; for their state and dispensation were more perfect than the former, and were indeed the perfection and completion of the former, for without the gospel-church the Jewish church must have remained in an incomplete and imperfect state. This reasoning is strong, and should be effectually prevalent with us all.

Excerpts taken from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Things Will Never Get Better In This World

Some people today think that it is ignorant to believe in Satan. Well, if you feel like that, I just ask you to look at the world and at yourself and try to explain some of the things that happen, both within you and in the world, apart from the biblical teaching about Satan and the hosts and powers of evil, these malevolent influences that are unseen in the spiritual realm.

The next step in the argument is that the world, as it is in sin and under the control of Satan, cannot be improved. Indeed, I defy anyone to show that Scripture teaches that it can. The Bible teaches, quite categorically, that sin is such a radical problem that the world cannot now and never will improve itself; there is no hope for it in that way. So we begin to see why the man or woman who is truly Christian, who bases all opinions on scriptural teaching, is not a bit surprised at what is happening in the world today.

Our Lord and Savior himself said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. . . . Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot. . . ." (Luke 17:26, 28). He spans the centuries; he lays down the proposition that because of sin and the Fall, mankind as mankind is going to be no different at the end of history than what it was at the beginning. Therefore, nothing is such an utter travesty of the Christian gospel as the suggestion that because it is preached, each generation will be better than the previous one, and the world will reform and improve, until everything that is evil and wrong will have been banished and ultimately all will be perfect.

The gospel never teaches that; it asserts the exact opposite. I do not apologize for saying that the Bible's view of history is profoundly pessimistic. Of course, that is why the Bible is not popular and has not been so during the last hundred years. Evolutionary theories and hypotheses are very optimistic; they all tell us that the world is going to be better and better and that mankind is evolving and advancing. Philosophers always want to be optimistic if they can be, and thus they paint this picture of improvement. And, of course, if you believe them, you cannot like the Bible because its realism contrasts sharply with these optimistic ideas.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, p. 95-96

Friday, May 20, 2022

A Commentary On Psalm 73:25-26

IV. He was hereby quickened to cleave the more closely to God, and very much confirmed and comforted in the choice he had made of him, v. 25, 26. His thoughts here dwell with delight upon his own happiness in God, as much greater then the happiness of the ungodly that prospered in the world. He saw little reason to envy them what they had in the creature when he found how much more and better, surer and sweeter, comforts he had in the Creator, and what cause he had to congratulate himself on this account. He had complained of his afflictions (v. 14); but this makes them very light and easy, All is well if God be mine. We have here the breathings of a sanctified soul towards God, and its repose in him, as that to a godly man really which the prosperity of a worldly man is to him in conceit and imagination: Whom have I in heaven but thee? There is scarcely a verse in all the psalms more expressive than this of the pious and devout affections of a soul to God; here it soars up towards him, follows hard after him, and yet, at the same time, has an entire satisfaction and complacency in him.

1. It is here supposed that God alone is the felicity and chief good of man. He, and he only, that made the soul, can make it happy; there is none in heaven, none in earth, that can pretend to do it besides.

2. Here are expressed the workings and breathings of a soul towards God accordingly. If God be our felicity,

(1.) Then we must have him (Whom have I but thee?), we must choose him, and make sure to ourselves an interest in him. What will it avail us that he is the felicity of souls if he be not the felicity of our souls, and if we do not by a lively faith make him ours, by joining ourselves to him in an everlasting covenant?

(2.) Then our desire must be towards him and our delight in him (the word signifies both); we must delight in what we have of God and desire what we yet further hope for. Our desires must not only be offered up to God, but they must all terminate in him, desiring nothing more than God, but still more and more of him. This includes all our prayers, Lord, give us thyself; as that includes all the promises, I will be to them a God. The desire of our souls is to thy name.

(3.) We must prefer him in our choice and desire before any other. [1.] "There is none in heaven but thee, none to seek to or trust in, none to court or covet acquaintance with, but thee." God is in himself more glorious than any celestial being (Ps 89 6), and must be, in our eyes, infinitely more desirable. Excellent beings there are in heaven, but God alone can make us happy. His favour is infinitely more to us than the refreshment of the dews of heaven or the benign influence of the stars of heaven, more than the friendship of the saints in heaven or the good offices of the angels there. [2.] I desire none on earth besides thee; not only none in heaven, a place at a distance, which we have but little acquaintance with, but none on earth neither, where we have many friends and where much of our present interest and concern lie. "Earth carries away the desires of most men, and yet I have none on earth, no persons, no things, no possessions, no delights, that I desire besides thee or with thee, in comparison or competition with thee." We must desire nothing besides God but what we desire for him (nil præter te nisi propter te—nothing besides thee except for thy sake), nothing but what we desire from him, and can be content without so that it be made up in him. We must desire nothing besides God as needful to be a partner with him in making us happy.

(4.) Then we must repose ourselves in God with an entire satisfaction, v. 26. Observe here, [1.] Great distress and trouble supposed: My flesh and my heart fail. Note, Others have experienced and we must expect, the failing both of flesh and heart. The body will fail by sickness, age, and death; and that which touches the bone and the flesh touches us in a tender part, that part of ourselves which we have been but too fond of; when the flesh fails the heart is ready to fail too; the conduct, courage, and comfort fail. [2.] Sovereign relief provided in this distress: But God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. Note, Gracious souls, in their greatest distresses, rest upon God as their spiritual strength and their eternal portion. First, "He is the strength of my heart, the rock of my heart, a firm foundation, which will bear my weight and not sink under it. God is the strength of my heart; I have found him so; I do so still, and hope ever to find him so." In the distress supposed, he had put the case of a double failure, both flesh and heart fail; but, in the relief, he fastens on a single support: he leaves out the flesh and the consideration of that, it is enough that God is the strength of his heart. He speaks as one careless of the body (let that fail, there is no remedy), but as one concerned about the soul, to be strengthened in the inner man. Secondly, "He is my portion for ever; he will not only support me while I am here, but make me happy when I go hence." The saints choose God for their portion, they have him for their portion, and it is their happiness that he will be their portion, a portion that will last as long as the immortal soul lasts.

Excerpts taken from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Did The Jews And Church Fathers Accept The Apocrypha As Canonical?

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to rebut a handful of claims made by Roman Catholic apologist Trent Horn in defense of the apocrypha against charges of its canonicity being rejected by the Jews and certain church fathers. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "Melito’s list of the Old Testament books lacks the deuterocanonicals, but this is not surprising given that many second-century Jews rejected the deuterocanonical books. The Protestant citation of Melito only helps their case if Melito was listing the Christian canon of the Old Testament. But because Melito was composing a defense of Christ from sources Jews would accept, we would expect Melito’s canon in his Extracts to reflect what Jews in his time accepted. In Hebrew Scripture in Patristic Biblical Theory, Edmon Gallagher says, “Most scholars have been willing to attribute [Melito’s] list ultimately to Jewish Sources.”

          This argument made by Trent Horn that these canon lists were Jewish rather than Christian backfires, since Christians accepted the Jewish canon. The Jews were entrusted with the "oracles of God" (Romans 3:1-2). Those writings are quoted as Scripture in the New Testament writings. Jesus Christ and the apostles appealed to the Old Testament in debating Jewish opponents. The very first Christians were Jews who worshiped in the synagogues. 

          "The fact that Melito went all the way to Israel (or the “eastern place”) instead of asking the Jews in Sardis about the Old Testament canon shows, as we noted earlier, that there was not a consensus among second-century Jews about the canon of the Hebrew Bible. McDonald says, “Not all Josephus scholars agree with Josephus’s account that all Jews everywhere both know and would die for these twenty-two sacred books. . . Why did [Melito] not go across the street and talk to the nearest Jew to find out, if the matter was well known long before his time?”

          Tensions existed between Christians and Jews during the second century, even though that did not prevent debate. It is possible that a situation required Melito of Sardis to travel that we know not of. Why doubt his integrity? Did the apocrypha ever have widespread acceptance as canonical amongst the Jews? These people were not fundamentally at odds with each other about the nature and extant of the Old Testament canon. Josephus said that a sacred collection of only twenty-two books existed in his day which was laid up in the temple. He was not alone in holding to a threefold division of the Jewish canon. It was also attested to by Philo of Alexandria and the Babylonian Talmud. A Dead Sea Scrolls text (4QMMT) "speaks of the Book of Moses and the words of the prophets and of David. Here "David" serves as a title for the third division, since it began with his Psalms" (Archaeological Study Bible, Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Duane Garrett general editors). The Apostle Paul alluded to a body of writings that were accorded a special status in his own day when he made statements such as "according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:1-6) and "the Holy Scriptures" (2 Timothy 3:15). 

          "Another point to mention is that if being present in either Melito’s or Origen’s lists were necessary for canonicity, then Esther and Lamentations would be disqualified since they are absent from both lists."

          If that proves anything at all, then it would only mean some books of the Old Testament have stronger attestation than others. Even if we did remove a book from the Protestant Old Testament canon, that is not going to somehow justify adding the apocrypha. Further, an individual does not have to provide a complete list of books of the Old Testament canon in order to have relevant information about its structure. That certain canon lists fail to include books like Esther is not the only criterion that we have for canonicity.

          One reason that the authenticity of the Book of Esther has been challenged is that it nowhere mentions the word God. However, a few points of consideration can be made to mitigate this problem: 1.) We have evidence of divine providence in this narrative as God works through circumstance to reverse certain destruction on the Jewish people., 2.) The writer may have left out the name of God to convey his own belief that the Jews who did not return to Israel from Persia were severed from covenant blessings. It would be a way of saying that God was not present amongst the exiles., and 3.) The author may have written in such a way to help foreigners in Persia understand the reasoning behind the Jews observing Purim. He would narrow in on details of the king and write about the Jews without any tone of emotional involvement or interest. That could account for the Book of Esther not explicitly mentioning God.

          "Regarding Cyril, he divided the Old Testament Scripture into three groups: the protocanonical works that catechumens should read, books of “secondary rank” that catechumens should avoid, and books “not read in Churches”— that catechumens should also avoid. The fact that Cyril wanted those who were new to the faith to avoid the deutero-canonical books does not prove they were noncanonical. According to Gallagher, “Cyril himself uses and cites Wisdom and Sirach. Cyril’s canon list was written for catechumens, and so he may have intended his prohibition to apply to them alone, as those who are unable to properly separate the wheat from the chaff.

          Even though Cyril of Jerusalem did not consider the deuterocanonical books to be apocryphal, he clearly thought they had a secondary degree of authority and importance in comparison to the Old Testament Scriptures. His position on the canonicity of the apocrypha is not identical with the modern-day Roman Catholic position, which makes no such distinction between them.

          "Athanasius uses the same division in his festal letter and even places Baruch alongside protocanonical books like Jeremiah. He did not reject the inspiration of the deuterocanonical books, because, as we’ve seen, he called them “Scripture” and used the book of Wisdom in his defense of orthodox Christology. Athanasius recognized that these books were disputed by the Jews of his time but still said those who seek further catechesis should read them."

          Athanasius rejected the books of Tobit, Judith, and Maccabees as inspired. Baruch was viewed as being a part of the Book of Jeremiah. 

          "Since Jerome was mistaken about the reliability and textual tradition of the Septuagint, this refutes his claim that the true Hebrew canon could be found only in manuscripts that lacked the deuterocanonical books. It also refutes Protestant apologists who cite later medieval theologians, along with biblical commentaries, that rejected the deuterocanonical books simply because they followed Jerome’s erroneous argument about the Hebrew text."

          That claim is based on Roman Catholic tradition so as to keep those non-canonical books. Jerome was correct in following the original Hebrew canon which excluded the apocrypha. He grudgingly added the apocryphal books to his Latin Vulgate translation after he was pressured to do so.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

The Ridiculousness Of The Roman Catholic Eucharist

"But seeing, for the frequency of pretending the change of nature in their consecrations, it cannot be esteemed a work extraordinary, it is no other than a conjuration or incantation, whereby they would have men to believe an alteration of nature that is not, contrary to the testimony of man’s sight and of all the rest of his senses. As for example, when the priest, instead of consecrating bread and wine to God’s peculiar service in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (which is but a separation of it from the common use to signify, that is, to put men in mind of, their redemption by the Passion of Christ, whose body was broken and blood shed upon the cross for our transgressions), pretends that by saying of the words of our Saviour, “This is my body,” and “This is my blood,” the nature of bread is no more there, but his very body; notwithstanding there appeareth not to the sight or other sense of the receiver anything that appeared not before the consecration. The Egyptian conjurers, that are said to have turned their rods to serpents, and the water into blood, are thought but to have deluded the senses of the spectators by a false show of things, yet are esteemed enchanters. But what should we have thought of them if there had appeared in their rods nothing like a serpent, and in the water enchanted nothing like blood, nor like anything else but water, but that they had faced down the king, that they were serpents that looked like rods, and that it was blood that seemed water? That had been both enchantment and lying. And yet in this daily act of the priest, they do the very same, by turning the holy words into the manner of a charm, which produceth nothing new to the sense; but they face us down, that it hath turned the bread into a man; nay, more, into a God; and require men to worship it as if it were our Saviour himself present, God and Man, and thereby to commit most gross idolatry. For if it be enough to excuse it of idolatry to say it is no more bread, but God; why should not the same excuse serve the Egyptians, in case they had the faces to say the leeks and onions they worshipped were not very leeks and onions, but a divinity under their species or likeness? The words, “This is my body,” are equivalent to these, “This signifies, or represents, my body”; and it is an ordinary figure of speech: but to take it literally is an abuse; nor, though so taken, can it extend any further than to the bread which Christ himself with his own hands consecrated. For he never said that of what bread soever any priest whatsoever should say, “This is my body,” or “This is Christ’s body,” the same should presently be transubstantiated."

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Of the Kingdom of Darkness (Chap. XLVI)

Monday, April 18, 2022

Men Of Faith Who Were Also Men Of Science

 "We, the undersigned students of the Natural Sciences, desire to express our sincere regret that researchers into scientific truth are prevented by some in our own times into occasions for casting doubt into occasions for casting doubt upon the truth and authenticity of the Holy Scriptures.

We conceive that it is impossible for the Word of God, as written in the book of nature, and God’s Word written in Holy Scripture, to contradict one another, however much they may appear to differ.

We are not forgetful that physical science is not complete, but is only in a condition of progress, and that at present our finite reason enables us only to see as through a glass darkly, and we confidently believe, that a time will come when the two records will be seen to agree in every particular.

We cannot but deplore that Natural Science should be looked upon with suspicion by many who do not make a study of it, merely on account of the unadvised manner in which some are placing it in opposition to Holy Writ.

We believe that it is the duty of every scientific student to investigate nature simply for the purpose of elucidating truth, and that if he finds that some of his results appear to be in contradiction to the Written Word, or rather to his own interpretations of it, which may be erroneous, he should not presumptuously affirm that his own conclusions must be right, and the statements of Scripture wrong.

Rather, leave the two side by side till it shall please God to allow us to see the manner in which they may be reconciled; and, instead of insisting upon the seeming differences between Science and the Scriptures, it would be as well to rest in faith upon the points in which they agree."

A manifesto signed by 617 men of science at the British Association of Scientists in 1865; cited by Alfred M. Rehwinkel in The Flood, p. XVIII-XIX

Friday, April 15, 2022

Exegetical Analysis Of Ephesians 2:4-7

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us." (Ephesians 2:4)

Man has broken the laws of God and has come under His righteous judgement. Our sentence of eternal condemnation in the divine court is duly deserved. However, there is another dimension to be considered in which there is a remedy for our situation. Man has no merit on his own account, but God does. The Apostle Paul defines the means by which our salvation has been brought about: "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7). What is the extent to which God loves us? It is very great, meaning a depth beyond our comprehension. His love is infinitely wide in scope. He reached out to us with His graceful offer of eternal life even though we were not seeking after Him.

"even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)." (Ephesians 2:5)

Our disobedience toward God made us spiritually dead and destined for His wrath. It meant certain doom for us apart from the intervention of God Himself. Paul elsewhere specifies a number of ways that a person can violate God's Law: "...the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor those habitually drunk, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers..." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The point to be made is that no one on earth can live up to God's perfect moral standard. So, how can we be made alive with Jesus Christ? We are made alive together in Christ through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. We were once dead to evil ways. Now we live a new life of holiness. Our old ways have passed away. Paul expounds further on the phrase about grace in parenthesis in Ephesians 2:8. We have been purchased by the blood of Christ to be vessels of honor to God. He initiates this transformative process of sanctification and brings it to completion.

"and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:6)

We have been raised together to newness of life in union with Christ. That is the greatest benefit of having been reconciled to a holy God. We have a new identity in Christ as children of God. We have a new purpose in this life which is to bring glory to God. We become partakers of His kingdom, which is a kingdom of righteousness: "for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). There is a radical change of heart which happens in the lives of those who place their faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul's former lifestyle was that of a murderer, since he persecuted the church of God. He went from zealously chasing after Christians to becoming a member of that very group he had once despised. His transformed life was one of service to God in preaching the gospel. Paul now enjoys the fullness of fellowship with Christ in heaven. He has seen Him face to face in glory, and so can we.

"so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:7)

Christ's sacrifice for our redemption is the greatest expression of love made by God to us. It serves as a testimony to His generosity for eternity. The greatest demonstration of love took place when Jesus Christ made atonement for our sins on the cross. He laid down His life for us. God ought to be praised forever for this wondrous deed. This act was not done because we were righteous and deserved His favor. It was solely because of God's benevolence.

There Will Always Be Inequality

"Human beings are obviously unequal in numberless ways, including: health, opportunities, abilities, energy, moral character, and contribution to society. It is essential, therefore, in asserting the equality of all men to delineate the nature and the source of that equality. In Christian ethics the nature of equality is that all men are equally to be loved — not equally admired, or emulated, or praised; but equally loved."

Calvin D. Linton, Wycliffe Dictionary of Christian Ethics, Carl F.H. Henry editor, p. 213-214

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Early Church Evidence Against Transubstantiation

"It is not we who eat human flesh — they among you who assert such a thing have been suborned as false witnesses; it is among you that Pelops is made a supper for the gods, although beloved by Poseidon, and Kronos devours his children, and Zeus swallows Metis."

Tatian's Address to the Greeks, Chapter XXV

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Was First Century Judaism Legalistic?

  • Defining the Issues:

          -Advocates of the New Perspective on Paul argue that first century Jewish people did not actually believe that righteousness is obtained through the keeping of the Law, but rather subscribed to a religion of grace or covenantal nomism. Theopedia expounds on that term as follows:

          "This term is essential to the NPP view, as Sanders argues that this is the "pattern of religion" found in Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism...as long as a Jew kept their covenant with God, he remained part of God's people. How does one keep the covenant? Sander's tells us "the covenant requires as the proper response of man his obedience to its commandments." All of Judaism's talk about "obedience" is thus in the context of "covenantal nomism" and not legalism. As a result, Judaism is then not concerned with "how to have a right relationship with God" but with "how to remain his covenant people...Advocates of the NPP say that it was not their works that helped them attain salvation, but it was their "nationalistic boundary markers" (i.e. circumcision, food laws, sabbath, etc.) that kept them within the people of God. Thus, the works, along with the boundary markers were used to keep themselves within the boundary of God's people. Paul was not fighting legalism, but was instead fighting the works and national pride that separated the Jews from the Gentiles."

          Even assuming for the sake of argument that the necessity of grace was upheld in Second Temple Judaism, that does not prove no system of one becoming accepted before God on the basis of faith plus meritorious works existed. In fact, there is evidence suggesting that precisely such a viewpoint was common amongst Jews in the first century.

          Evidence from the Intertestamental Period:

          "Not merely in 4 Ezra but also 2 Enoch it seems clear enough that we have what could be called a works righteousness based on law-keeping such that there is a post-mortem judgment based on the deeds done in this life—resulting in rewards and punishments. Interestingly in Jubilees while ‘getting in’ may well be on the basis of election, staying in and final salvation is said to be on the basis of obedience to the Law.[5] In 2 Baruch God bestows mercy on those who keep the Law, the ones called the righteous. In these same sources when God’s righteousness is discussed it is not a cipher for God’s covenantal faithfulness, but rather has to do with his just judging or ruling." (Ben Witherington, The "New Perspective" on Paul and the Law)

          Evidence from the Four Gospels:

          Jesus Christ repeatedly rebuked the Jews for them looking down at other people whom they perceived as being less faithful to the Law. For example, the Pharisees had inquired as to why Christ ate with people of lower stature (Matthew 9:11). He scolded them for seeking after an outward righteousness (Luke 11:38-39). Jesus even said, "unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees..." (Matthew 5:20). He said to the chief priests and elders, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." (Matthew 21:1). Jesus addressed a rich young man who wanted to enter heaven on the basis of his faithfulness to the Law (Matthew 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30). Consider also the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 18:9-14.

          Evidence from the Epistles of Paul:

          The Apostle Paul wrote extensively to combat the error of works-righteousness (Romans 9:30-10:4). He, being a former Pharisee, testified to his own efforts of obtaining righteousness through the Law (Philippians 3:4-9).

          Arguments Based on Liberal Scholarship:

          "...For instances of a similar, general use of the language of "works" in Paul's epistles, see 2 Cor. 11:5; Col. 1:21; Gal. 5:19. For instances of this usage in passages that are not universally acknowledged as authentically Pauline, see Eph. 2:9-10; 5:11; 1 Tim. 2:10; 5:10, 25; 6:18; 2 Tim. 1:9; 4:14; Titus 1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:5, 8, 14. Even if we were to grant the view that these texts are not Pauline (which we do not), they minimally suggest that an author influenced by Paul took him to exclude all boasting in any works whatever in the matter of salvation (Eph. 2:9)." (By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification, contributor Cornelis P. Venema, p. 53, note 50)

God Intended Sex To Be Sacred And Treated As Such

"Reducing troth to physical sex is to reduce human sexual intercourse to animal copulation. Physical intercourse is a good gift of the Lord which ought to stay in the marriage-room of the creation. If sex in principle can be had with anyone—so-called free love—without exception elements of selfishness, exploitation and insecurity enter in."

James H. Olthus, Wycliffe Dictionary of Christian Ethics, Carl F.H. Henry editor, p. 408

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Showing Mercy To Those Who Offend

“Let mercy keep company with courage. Follow my advice in this: if in battle you win a man’s surrender, then unless he has done you such grievance as amounts to heart’s sorrow, accept his oath, and let him live.”

Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Exegetical Notes On 2 Timothy

CHAPTER 1:

Verses one through three constitute a prologue in which Paul wishes divine favor to be showered on Timothy. He desires that his pupil receive grace, mercy, and peace from God. The phrase '...according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus...' may be indicative of the apostle knowing that he was soon to face martyrdom.

In verses four through seven, we read of Paul wanting to visit Timothy in order that he himself be filled with joy and to encourage his younger companion to remain strong in the face of intimidating circumstances. It is also worth noting that Timothy had a godly upbringing. He had exposure to the Old Testament Scriptures since childhood (2 Timothy 3:15).

Verse nine is theologically rich content. The Phillips New Testament in Modern English accurately captures the thrust of this passage: "Before time began he planned to give us in Christ the grace to achieve this purpose, but it is only since our saviour Jesus Christ has been revealed that the method has become apparent." God has made known to us the way to a holy life through Christ. That was His plan from eternity past. It is by the grace of God that we are able to bring glory to His name.

In verses twelve through fourteen, the Apostle Paul says that Christ appointed him to preach the gospel to a lost and dying world. He endures suffering for the cause of Christ, yet remains bold in doing this work. Paul urges Timothy to carry on the ministry that he handed on to him, to follow his life example. He expresses full confidence in the power of Christ.

CHAPTER 2:

In verses one and two, Paul tells Timothy to pass on what he had been taught to others who were faithful so that the work of ministry could make further progress. The latter was to labor in preaching the Word of God just as the former had done. 

The apostle uses a soldier on active duty, athletic competitors, and a farmer as illustrations to make the point that our loyalty to God gets His approval. That is what truly matters. It is very much worth being persecuted in this life to be rewarded by Him in eternity. Being imprisoned as was the case with Paul cannot stop the seeds of the gospel from growing. We strive against sin in order that we bring glory to God.

The New English Translation has this footnote: "sn If we are unfaithful…he cannot deny himself. This could be (1) a word of warning (The Lord will exact punishment; he cannot deny his holiness) or (2) a word of hope (Because of who he is, he remains faithful to us despite our lapses). The latter is more likely, since Paul consistently cites God’s faithfulness as a reassurance, not as a warning (cf. especially Rom 3:3; also 1 Cor 1:9; 10:13; 2 Cor 1:18; 1 Thess 5:24; 2 Thess 3:3)."

Paul calls on Timothy to be a man of integrity (2 Timothy 2:15). He must be a man of virtue. He must avoid profane arguments that distract from godly living (2 Timothy 2:16). Verse 17 tells us that this corrupt form of conversation spreads "like gangrene" (New American Standard Bible and most other translations follow this rendering) or "like cancer" (New King James Version and few others take this rendering). The idea to be gathered from this is that such arguments are spiritually deadly and contaminating.

Timothy must pursue purity of heart. He must flee from fleshly lusts (2 Timothy 2:22). He must pursue '...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy..." (Philippians 4:8). Timothy had to put whatever he saw in and heard from the Apostle Paul into practice. We must be holy if we desire to be a vessel of honor for God (2 Timothy 2:21).

CHAPTER 3:

Verses one through five offer a general description of fallen humanity in terms which are self-explanatory: "...lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God..." That is the spirit of the age which we ought to steer clear from.

Verse thirteen describes the judicial hardening of the heart that God pronounces on those who are impenitent. These are people who continually blaspheme God. They reject His offer of grace and so they 'wax themselves worse' in each passing generation. These godless people deceive themselves and others around them. This process does not take place immediately but slowly over time. Compare with Romans 1:24-26.

Is all Scripture a better reading of 2 Timothy 3:16 than is every Scripture? Henry Clarence Thiessen writes, "...The translation, "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable," etc., is open to several criticisms: its rendering of pasa graphe and of kai, and its disposition of the verbal adjective theopneustos. Robertson says, with abstract substantives, proper names, and single objects pasa is tantamount to "all"; and "since graphe is sometimes regarded as definite pasa graphe (2 Tim. 3:16) can be "all Scripture" or "every Scripture'." Lock so translates it. Other considerations make this the preferable reading. There is no copula in the Greek text, but we have to insert one in the translation. The rendering we are criticizing treats theopneustos as an attributive and so inserts the copula after "God." This requires that the particle kai be rendered as "also," an adjunctive participle. Now "also" implies that we are adding one co-ordinate idea to another; but the words "is also profitable" are not an addition to anything that goes before, It is better, therefore, to treat theopneustos as a predicate and to insert the copula after "Scripture." The statement will then read as it is in the Authorized Version: "All Scripture is inspired of God and is profitable," etc. In other words, the correct rendering of this verse makes Paul teach the full inspiration of the entire Old Testament." (Introduction to the New Testament, p. 87-88)

CHAPTER 4:

Paul begins the final chapter of his epistle by exhorting Timothy to uphold the truth of the gospel. He must have a sense of solemnity at all times. The situation is dire because there are people who want to 'have their ears tickled' and 'listen to myths' (2 Timothy 4:3-4). There were already individuals who turned away from the truth such as Hymenaeus (2 Timothy 2:17), Philetus (2 Timothy 2:18), and Alexander the Coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14). Apostasy was already taking place in Paul's day. It is not a new thing by any means.

The New King James Version Study Bible, edited by Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen, and H. Wayne House, has this footnote on 2 Timothy 4:6, "Paul is aware that the time of his death is near. A drink offering was an offering performed by pouring wine out on the ground or altar (Num. 28:11-31). Paul's life was already being poured out to Jesus Christ, the Lamb (Rev. 5:4-6). my departure is at hand: Paul was confident that no one could touch him until the Heavenly Father ushered him into his eternal home with a victory celebration."

The Apostle Paul says that he has finished his assigned duties by God and looks forward to receiving praise from Him upon leaving this world (2 Timothy 4:8). He has finished the course, awaiting to receive a crown of righteousness. Now the work of ministry has been entrusted to other people so that more souls can be saved. "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

Paul requests that Timothy bring an overcoat along with the books and parchments (2 Timothy 4:13). The written material could possibly have been the Old Testament. The apostle kept his mind at work even on the verge of his physical life ending. That would be an example for us all to follow.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Emphasizing the Importance of Courage

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky."

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter 29