Monday, May 14, 2018

The Self-Sufficiency Of Scripture Entails That Sign Gifts Have Ceased

           There is much heated debate among professing Christians and their respective denominations regarding whether or not certain gifts of the Holy Spirit have come to an end. The brimming controversy centers around the specific areas of speaking in tongues, prophecy, and miraculous powers to heal. The question that has aroused much fascination is whether or not the ability to exercise these spiritual gifts was terminated by the end of the apostolic age. In fact, there are folks on both sides (cessationism vs continuationism) who uphold rather extreme positions. While there are people who accuse those who claim to speak in tongues as being demon possessed, there are others who argue that those who have never encountered such moments have not really been born again. But we need not be up in arms on this matter, for it is not an issue directly related to the gospel. Nevertheless, both sides cannot be correct at the same time because that would constitute embracing a logical contradiction. Moreover, a study on the sufficiency of written revelation and purposes of the spiritual gifts in question should spell out quite plainly that they were meant to cease after the apostolic era.

           First and foremost, the Scriptures reveal to us that they are to be the final, sufficient standard of spiritual authority for the Christian church. They are to serve as our guide in our walk with God. They are to function as the measuring stick in the process of discernment. Scripture contains the instructions necessary for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Scripture enables the one who serves God to be "adequate" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Note that Paul goes on to define that thought as, "equipped for every good work." It addresses everything, at least in principle, that we need to know pertaining to faith and morals. Jesus Christ promised the twelve apostles that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things God intended to make known (John 14:26; 16:13). The faith has been delivered once for all to the saints (Jude 3). Therefore, there can be no new revelations. He has communicated all that we need to know concerning the will of God through written revelation. God has given us (in the past tense) everything pertaining to a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). Not everything is about the individual. We are not to rely on our emotions and personal experiences in discerning truth from error, but rather are to read Scripture with a humble and prayerful heart. The testimonial of the apostles and prophets is a part of the church's foundation (Ephesians 2:19-20), which logically suggests cessation.

           Anything that contradicts the commandments of God should be rejected immediately at all costs. If a so-called revelatory experience confirms completely to the message of the Bible, then it becomes redundant. One should be adhering incessantly to the voice of Christ as proclaimed throughout its pages. Scripture is the only known, safe road map for traveling the route of Christianity. Once a person departs from the formal sufficiency of written revelation, opportunities for propagating heresy arise, which is a springboard for another objection to continuationism. False Christs and teachers can arise that perform counterfeit miracles (Ezekiel 13:9; Matthew 24:24; Acts 20:28-30; 1 John 4:1-4). How then can we distinguish truth from error? What standard exists to judge the validity of wolves in sheep's clothing? Tongues were needed to preach the gospel in other languages. Prophets uttered prophecies to give us a fuller picture of God's plan of redemption. He has now spoken fully in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-3). People can now "prophecy" only in the sense of edifying other people in the faith. We have the more sure word of prophecy recorded in Scripture (2 Peter 1:16-21). The apostles originally worked miracles for the purpose of establishing the Christian church (2 Corinthians 12:12). Scripture speaks of the performance of miracles in the past tense (Hebrews 2:3-4).

           Now, none of the materials presented within this article is meant to suggest that God does not work miracles or cannot work today. The Holy Spirit is still at work in our midst. God still intervenes with His creation. Spiritual gifts need not be communicated through human instruments today because they have fulfilled their designated purposes and we now possess Scripture. The objective of this paper is not to imply that all charismatic types are unsaved, but rather that that they have taken matters too far. In other words, continuationist beliefs are misguided. The grace of God is sufficient for all Christians. His strength is made perfect during the times of our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). God uses times of suffering to conform us to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Does Ephesians 2:8-9 Say That Faith Is A Gift Of God?

          Following are excerpts from a pamphlet published by Middletown (Connecticut) Bible Church:

          "If faith in Christ itself is God’s gift, then how do I receive this faith? Instead of asking, “What must I do to be saved?”, I must now focus on the question “What must I do to believe?” If faith is God’s gift, then how do I get this gift? Do I pray to God and ask for the gift of faith? Do I sit back and do nothing and hope that I am one of the chosen ones who will be given this gift? How do I get the gift of saving faith? It is all confusing and it takes away from where the focus of the sinner ought to be, which is upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

          "Some might argue that “faith is the nearest antecedent: For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves.” It is certainly true that “faith is the nearest antecedent, but since there are a great number of cases in the New Testament where the nearest antecedent is not the correct one, we should be very careful before applying this “rule.” There are other far more important considerations.


          This rule argues forcefully against the identification of “faith” as the antecedent does not agree with the pronoun in gender. The pronoun “that” (verse 8) is NEUTER, and the word “faith” (verse 8) is FEMININE. IF Paul wanted his readers to understand the pronoun as referring to “faith,” then there is no reason why he could not have used the feminine form of the pronoun [here the author gives the Greek, but I don’t have that font]. This would have settled it. If Paul had used the feminine pronoun then it would be very clear and obvious that FAITH is the gift of God. Paul did not use the feminine pronoun.

          Why then did Paul used the neuter pronoun? What is the antecedent? If Paul had wanted to refer to the idea contained in the main verb (the idea of being SAVED), then it would have been perfectly normal and appropriate for him to use the neuter gender. It would have been very natural for Paul to say, “For by grace ARE YE SAVED through faith and this thing that I’m talking about, namely salvation, is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…” If Paul had wanted the pronoun to refer to the idea contained in the verb, the neuter form would be the one to use.

          We need to carefully think through Ephesians 2:8-9 in order to correctly identify the antecedent. We must ask, “What is Paul talking about in Ephesians 2:8-9? What is his main point?” It is obvious that Paul is talking about HOW A PERSON IS SAVED. The main idea of the sentence is found in the verb “ARE YE SAVED” [or “YE ARE SAVED”]. How is a person saved? Ephesians 2:8-9 answers this key question. Salvation is by grace. Salvation through faith. Salvation is not of yourselves. Salvation is the GIFT OF GOD.Salvation is not of works. Paul is not giving a dissertation on faith, but he is giving a brief dissertation on salvation. SALVATION is his main subject. Faith is mentioned because you cannot answer the question “HOW IS A PERSON SAVED?” without mentioning faith. A person is saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31). God’s gracious gift of salvation must be personally received, and it is received by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."

          "The question the Philippian jailer asked was this: “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Some would answer in this way: “Nothing! You can’t do anything! You are dead and totally unable to respond to God until you are regenerated. You have no part in salvation. God must do it all. You cannot exercise saving faith.” This answer might harmonize with one’s theological system, but there is only one problem. This is not how Paul and Silas answered the question! Paul and Silas told the jailer that there was something that he could do and was responsible to do: “BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ!” (Acts 16:31 and compare how Peter answered a similar question in Acts 13:37-38)."

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Dietary Restrictions In The New Testament?

  • Defining The Issues:
           -Professing Christian groups such as the Seventh-Day Adventists and Hebrew Roots Movement maintain that the New Testament does not abolish the Mosaic distinction of eating clean meats verses eating unclean meats. Those are discussed thoroughly in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. What needs to be understood, however, is that these dietary laws were strictly applicable to Israel. They were not meant for anyone else. These dietary restrictions served as a means to make the Jews a different people from neighboring countries.

           Notice especially the language found in Scripture passages discussing Jesus Christ's fulfillment of the Old Covenant such as Romans 10:4, Galatians 3:24-26, Ephesians 2:14-15, and Colossians 2:13-16. He very clearly terminated mandatory observance of Mosaic customs by His crucifixion at Calvary, which eliminates any possibility of us being under compulsion of adhering to dietary regulations. Moreover, the gospels record Christ declaring all foods clean:

           "because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man." (Mark 7:19-20)

           That would logically include meat as a category. Christ's point is that corruption stems not from outside us, but from within. 

          No man has the authority to deem unclean anything that God has declared to be clean. If the Mosaic dietary restrictions were still in effect, then He would never have commanded Peter to kill four-footed animals and eat their flesh. The apostle's reaction was one of shock, given his Jewish background:

           "But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy. This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.” (Acts 10:10-16, emphasis added)

          The Apostle Paul would condemn groups who speak out dogmatically against others in the church who eat meat. One may individually choose to forgo eating animal flesh for the sake of conscience, but cannot legitimately impose such convictions on others. God has given us liberty to choose on this matter. Those who persist in condemning the consumption of meats are doing so not on the basis of divine commandment, but human tradition:

         "Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him." (Romans 14:1-3)

          "I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died." (Romans 14:14-15)
          "Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense." (Romans 14:20)

          "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin." (Romans 14:22-23)

           "But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat." (1 Corinthians 8:8)

           In fact, the New Testament calls doctrines such as commanding that others abstain from eating meats is heresy. Why is this so? It is because everything created by God is good. The proper response on our part should be one of thanksgiving. Any other reaction to this is inappropriate and offensive to God:

           "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer." (1 Timothy 4:1-5)

           Moreover, those who wish to reinstate customs of the Old Testament are failing to consider that they are threatening to undermine the gospel. If we are going to adhere to dietary laws, then why not also revert to performing animal sacrifices, as well? After all, the Law demands perfect obedience (Deuteronomy 27:26; 32:45-47; Galatians 3:10-11), which is why it condemns us in the first place. If Mosaic dietary restrictions are still in effect, then why do the New Testament epistles never warn us against eating certain kinds of food?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Identifying The Underlying Causes Of Emotional Pain Is Important

"Rather than seeking to deaden, ignore, or elevate the importance of our emotions, we should allow them to speak to us about our hearts. Because God gave us the ability to experience emotions, we want to be very cautious about ignoring what they may be telling us. We want to carefully consider whether dampening the awareness of our feelings through the use of medication (or alcohol) is the best road for us to take to better health. Medicines or alcohol may make us feel better for a time, even if our "heart problem" is not addressed. For example, we know that morphine dulls the pain of a broken arm. It does not heal or reset the bone, and it does not fix the root cause of the pain. The same is true about medicines and emotional pain. In order to resolve such pain, we need to deal not with the symptoms, but the root cause of the pain."

Elyse Fitzpatrick and Laura Hendrickson, M.D., "Will Medicine Stop the Pain?," p. 32

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Facts About American Slavery

"Politically correct media and school textbooks give the impression that slavery has primarily been a sin committed by white people who enslaved blacks. The fact that only about 25 percent of the Americans in the South had slaves before the Civil War is commonly not mentioned, nor is the fact that (according to the United States census of 1830), for example, 407 black Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, alone owned black slaves."

Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, p. 273

Monday, May 7, 2018

Is It Possible For Christians To Be Possessed By Demons?

        We know from Scripture that it is impossible for genuine Christians to be possessed by demons because they are owned by God Himself (1 Corinthians 7:23). He is sovereign over creation. There is nothing which can snatch us from Him. Demons thus have no control or dominion over us. 

        God has redeemed us with the shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28). That is what it cost Him to make us beneficiaries of His kingdom. Demons therefore have no claim to us. We cannot be taken possession of by them.

        The God who indwells Himself in us is greater than the things of this world (1 John 4:4). He has conquered them. Demons are just as much a part of creation as we are. They do not have the power to control us. God has not authorized demons to take possession of believers.

        The Holy Spirit has no fellowship with demons (2 Corinthians 6:14-16), and therefore cannot be present in the body of a person who is possessed by them. There is no such thing as a Christian who has not been consecrated by the Holy Spirit to serve God.

          The only types of people that we see as being possessed by demons in Scripture are the unsaved. The New Testament epistles record no examples of or instructions as to how to even cast evil spirits out of Christians. It is reasonable to infer from this data that Christians cannot be demon possessed.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Does God Hate Sinners?

         "The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity." (Psalm 5:5)

"All their evil is at Gilgal; Indeed, I came to hate them there Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels." (Hosea 9:15)

         God's Law is perfect. It is a reflection of His character and nature. He cannot allow sin and rebellion into His kingdom. He absolutely despises iniquity. He judges sinners. He punishes sinners. Sin stems forth from the human heart. His wrath is a reality. God cannot simply leave sin unaccounted for. This biblical truth should induce sobriety to our souls. But, there is good news.

         God is loving. He is gracious. He is kind. He is merciful. He is compassionate. He is patient. He is slow to anger. At the same time, our Creator is holy and just. He is righteous. He can be provoked to wrath. God's love and hatred are perfect. He hates without sinful intent. To be hated of God means to be under His wrath and judgement. Those whom He loves are those who have found favor in His sight. It was out of His unfathomable love for us that He sent His only begotten Son into this world to make atonement for our sins:

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." (Romans 5:8-10)

"Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:8-10)

         Therefore, those who desire to have fellowship with God must be reconciled to Him through faith in Jesus Christ. We must have our sins forgiven. We must have our sins taken away from us. One may ask, "How can a God of love hate at the same time?" The answer to that question is that there are many aspects of His character. His love is more than simply warm feelings.

          His provisional love for sinners is not incompatible with His righteous judgement. If we are Christians, then God is not only our King but also our Father. We cannot simply water down His character. We must consider His character in its entirety, lest we create for ourselves an idol because of a defective view of God.

         God does indeed have love for us. He has provided a means for us to escape divine condemnation. The richness of His mercy is unsearchable. He does desire reconciliation, especially with those who believe on Him for salvation. Nevertheless, we should not take these truths lightly. We should abhor sin. We should reject it at all costs. The command for us to love our enemies is rooted in God's provisional love for sinners.

         We are justified by God's grace through our faith in the work of His Son Jesus Christ. We cannot merit our salvation. God desires that all men come to salvation (Acts 17:26-31). He wants all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). He has no desire in punishing the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:10-11). It is not God who sends people to hell. People end up there because that is the eternal destiny they chose. There is a day coming in which every man will give account of himself to God.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

How Miracles Illustrate The Foolishness Of Atheism

        Atheists quickly rule out the possibility of miracles because a consistent naturalistic worldview does not allow them to embrace the validity of supernatural realities. In other words, these people automatically deem false anything that is not observable to the five human senses. This is done by atheists in their attempts to eliminate God from the equation of life. Following is a handful of basic talking points to keep in mind within the context of atheism and the miraculous.

        There are indeed rare, extraordinary phenomena, whether they be recovery from near impossible medical emergencies or survival without injury from natural disasters. There has even been drastic character transformation in formally malicious people who converted to Christianity. Consider the example of the Apostle Paul who was a murderer prior to his conversion. It would be more reasonable to attribute such to supernatural intervention than to mere chance.

        We should not make the hasty generalization of dismissing authentic miracles alongside the counterfeits. The authentic experiences serve as evidences for God being very much alive throughout His creation. The real issue is that we lack faith in Him. That is a tendency of our fallen nature.

        Empirical evidence is not the only form of available evidence. There is also eyewitness testimony. One need not assume without proof that the New Testament writings are historically fraudulent, especially when it has so much manuscript evidence favoring its veracity.

        Scientific experiments tell us how nature regularly operates under certain conditions, not that miracles are an impossibility. Thus, there are both natural and supernatural explanations. It is because of our scientific knowledge that we can discern whether an occurrence is a miracle. Miracles do not contradict natural laws, but rather transcend them.

        Furthermore, it is a highly unscientific to assume that God does not exist because such a colossal argument requires that one obtain infinite knowledge about everything. This cannot be done by beings who are finite by design. He is beyond the limited scope of nature. A test-tube will never be capable of coherently explaining the fullness of reality.

        If the God of the Bible does exist (which we maintain that He does), then the case is closed. He can indeed work miracles. Whether one believes in the possibility of miracles is ultimately a matter of underlying philosophical presuppositions about this world.

        Even if there were no supreme deity governing the universe, atheism would still have no reason to exist or proclaim itself to be true. The concept of moral truths would be no different than our personal appetites.

Human Love Can Become Corrupt

"We may give our human loves the unconditional allegiance which we owe only to God. Then they become gods: then they become demons. Then they will destroy us, and also destroy themselves. For natural loves that are allowed to become gods do not remain loves. They are still called so, but can become in fact complicated forms of hatred."

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 8

True Love Entails Self-Sacrifice

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell."

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 121