Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Examining A Parallel Between Gnosticism And Word Of Faith Theology

The most obvious gnostic idea taught by the Faith theology is its dualistic definition of Revelation Knowledge as entirely spiritual in origin. Because it is spiritual, the physical senses are of no value in understanding it or using it. The Faith theology teaches the gnostic view that "man is a spirit being" who just happens to have a body. Only the "spirit man" has the capacity to receive revelation directly from the Holy Spirit. Because man's five bodily senses are physical, they are of no value in knowing God or his revelation. This view of revelation reflects the gnostic spirit-matter dualism that Kenyon learned from the metaphysical cults.

The Bible in no way justifies a dualistic view of revelation. Biblical revelation and salvation are physical as well as spiritual. The best proof of this is Jesus Christ himself, who is "the Word made flesh" (Jn. 1:14). In Jesus "all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9). We are saved "through the blood of His cross" (Col. 1:20) and are reconciled to God "in His fleshly blood through death" (Col. 1:22). In our treatment of the Faith theology's doctrine of redemption, known as "Identification," its gnostic spiritualization of the gospel will become further evident. Suffice it to say at this point, the Bible allows for no such spiritualization. The incarnation and death of Christ are the highest forms of revelation, and both are decidedly physical in nature.

Moreover, biblical revelation was not only physical in nature, it was perceived and understood through physical means. The apostles used their physical senses to understand the incarnation of the Word: "And we beheld His glory" (Jn. 1:14), wrote John. "We were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Pet. 1:16), wrote Peter. "And we ourselves heard [God's] utterance...when we were with Him on the holy mountain" (2 Pet. 1:18). The apostles bore witness to what they had "seen and heard" and their "hands handled, concerning the Word of Life" (1 Jn. 1:1). The ultimate form of the Word of God-the incarnation and death of Jesus-was physical in nature and was perceived by physical means. This fact alone powerfully repudiates the gnostic spirit-matter dualism of Kenyon's Revelation Knowledge.

D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, p. 108

Thursday, July 29, 2021

On The Meaning Of The Word Psalms

The English word “psalms” is a transliteration of the Greek title of the book. That is, this is the Greek word simply spelled in English or Roman letters. The Greek word psalmoi was first translated into Latin as Psalmi, and then into English as “Psalms.” The Greek word originally meant a striking or twitching of the fingers on a string. The related verb was used by classical writers for the “pulling of a bowstring.” From that came the idea of “pulling or playing a stringed musical instrument.” When the word took ons the extended meaning of a song, there was always the latent background of the stringed instrumental accompaniment tied to the singing. So the meaning of the Greek title of the book is “sacred songs sung to musical accompaniment.
 
Ronald B. Allen, And I Will Praise Him: A Guide to Worship in the Psalms, p. 21

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Does The Roman Catholic Apocrypha Contain Historical And Theological Errors?

  • 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 it being historically and theologically unsound. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "Protestant apologist James McCarthy says the claim that these books are inspired must be rejected because “the author of 2 Maccabees says that his work is the abridgement of another man’s work (2 Macc. 2:23). He concludes the book by saying, ‘If it is well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that is the best I could do’ (2 Macc. 15:38, NAB).”- But by McCarthy’s standard the Gospel of Luke would not be inspired, because it admits to being an adaptation of earlier sources (Lk 1:1-3). First Corinthians would likewise be uninspired, because Paul says he can’t remember whom he baptized (1:15). These passages only demonstrate the humility of the Bible’s human authors—not any lack of divine inspiration in their writings."

          Nowhere do the authors of the biblical books write concerning the quality of their writing, "I have done my best in writing this and hope you do not find it to be lacking." That language is not the product of somebody being moved by the Holy Spirit. It cannot simply be explained away as being human characteristics of Scripture. Furthermore, the words in the Book of Maccabees can readily be contrasted with passages of Scripture that pertain to divine inspiration of revelation (Matthew 10:19-20; 1 Corinthians 2:1; 12-13; 14:37).

          "Moreover, the alleged errors in the deuterocanonical books, such as Judith identifying Nebuchadnezzar as the king of Assyria instead of as the king of Babylon (Jud 1:1), Tobit being described as having lived for more than 150 years (Tob 14:11), can be explained. Specifically, these statements are only errors if the author was asserting a literal description of history, but even Protestant scholars agree that the authors of Judith and Tobit were not writing in the genre of literal history."

          The problem with this argument is that the church fathers considered these kind of writings to not be mythical but historical. If the authors of the apocryphal books intended them to be understood in the same way, then that means they are in error and disqualify themselves from the Old Testament canon. 

          "Claims that the deuterocanonical books contradict theological truths in the protocanonical books also fall flat. One example is the claim that the teaching that honoring one’s father and almsgiving can atone for sin (Sir 3:3; Tob 4:11) contradicts the New Testament’s teaching that only Christ can atone for our sins. But the book of Proverbs teaches that “by loyalty and faithfulness [or what many Protestants would call ‘works’] iniquity is atoned for” (16:6). First Peter says that “love covers a multitude of sin” (4:8), and Acts records an angel saying to the Gentile Cornelius, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (10:4)."

          The text from Proverbs speaks of us being merciful to others and faithfully serving God. The text from Acts speaks of God not passing over Cornelius because of his charity and prayer. He was searching for God with an earnest heart. The text from 1 Peter speaks of love covering sins in the sense of not holding wrongdoings against other people. We ought to forgive because we have been forgiven by God. These passages of Scripture have nothing to do with people performing good deeds in order that atonement be made for their own sins.

          "Other claims of theological contradiction are circular, such as the claim that Second Maccabees is not inspired because it records the “unbiblical practice” of praying for the dead. But Protestants only say the practice is “unbiblical” because they do not regard Second Maccabees as part of the Bible. If Second Maccabees is inspired, however, then praying for the dead is a biblical practice even if it is only described in one book of the Bible. To make a comparison, the Gospel of Matthew is the only book in the Bible that records a Trinitarian baptismal command (28:19), but that doesn’t make such a command unbiblical."

          The accusation is not circular reasoning if it can be shown that the practice of praying to the dead is inconsistent with biblical witness on the matter. Does the Roman Catholic Church accept the inspiration of 2 Maccabees in order to justify its dogmas? That is a legitimate question which merits consideration. 2 Esdras 7:105 is an apocryphal text that expressly contradicts the idea of prayers for the dead. Why did that reference not end up being included in the Roman Catholic canon?

          "Finally, some Protestant apologists say the deuterocanonical books are not inspired because they are inferior in style to the protocanonical books of Scripture. Raymond Surburg writes, “When a comparison is instituted of the style of the Apocrypha with the style of the Biblical Hebrew Old Testament writings, there is a considerable inferiority, shown by the stiffness, lack of originality and artificiality of expression characterizing the apocryphal books.”— But this is a wholly subjective criterion that, if taken seriously, would put Shakespeare in the Bible and take books like Numbers or Philemon out of it."

          Do we need an infallible earthly organization in order to recognize that the Quran, publications of the Watchtower Society, and Book of Mormon are not inspired by God? Trent Horn's position collapses on itself because the responsibility of interpretation is always going to land ultimately on the individual. In other words, a man cannot come to conclusions about anything without subjectively using his powers of reason to weigh evidence in ruling out various possibilities. If we deem an ancient literary text to be of inferior quality than canonical texts of the Bible, then it does not logically follow that we must add Shakespeare or remove any text. That is a non-sequitur.

          There is no infallible human ruler to settle conflicts among nations or even amongst peoples of a nation. There is no infallible human arbitrator to resolve contradictory interpretations of data by scientists. No one demands infallible certainty in those affairs. If one's own fallible reasoning is good enough to reach a verdict that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church, then there should be no objection to independently interpreting Scripture. It would be a most bizarre line of reasoning to assert on the one hand that we should not use our own fallible reasoning to pronounce judgements as to the meaning of Scripture while on the other saying we must read through church fathers and church documents in order to discover divine truth.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Are Christians To Be Giving Tithes?

        Many pastors, one of which is Charles Stanley, believe that Christians are supposed to be giving weekly tithes to their churches. Some, including the aforementioned individual, go as far as to claim that believers ought to give ten percent of their income and that God will bless people who obey. However, there is rationale against Christians tithing, namely, that it was an aspect of the Mosaic Law which does not have pertinence under the New Covenant. It does not apply to us for the same reason that Sabbath observance does not apply to us. Such things have been rendered obsolete at the Cross and so will fade away (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 8:13).

        Why did the Jewish people provide tithes? It was dedicated to the care of Levitical priests as they performed animal sacrifices in the presence of God (Numbers 18:21-26). They were used for feasts and also given to assist the poor. People made pilgrimages to Jerusalem every couple of years to honor those tithes. The Jews gave crops and livestock for tithes (Leviticus 27:30; 2 Chronicles 31:5). It is ironic that we do not really see pastors imposing these kinds of requirements on their audiences. If these people are going to be consistent, then they might as well throw away the New Testament and convert to Judaism.

        What are Christians supposed to give? The Apostle Paul answered that question in terms of "according to the desire of their hearts" and "not under compulsion" (2 Corinthians 9:7). He makes no mention of a fixed amount of a person's income. The rest of the New Testament epistles are silent concerning tithing. God loves a cheerful giver because he or she is giving from the heart. That kind of giving finds its root in love. 

         One must act in a manner that is financially responsible when it comes to making these kinds of sacrifices. For example, a man may have a family that he is obligated to provide for. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." It would be arrogant of us to presume that God would "catch" us every time we make foolish choices. If a pastor says to tithe, then do not listen. He is guided, not by Scripture itself, but by church tradition which distorts the meaning of Scripture. The tithe was something specifically tied in with the land of Israel.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Answering Proof Texts Cited In Defense Of Baptismal Regeneration

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to rebut a number of proof texts cited for baptismal regeneration, which is the belief that baptism is necessary for salvation. Following are a handful of excerpts from a source alongside a critique:

          "Mark 16:16 – Jesus said “He who believes AND is baptized will be saved.” Jesus says believing is not enough. Baptism is also required. This is because baptism is salvific, not just symbolic. The Greek text also does not mandate any specific order for belief and baptism, so the verse proves nothing about a “believer’s baptism.”

          The act of baptism is associated with justification before God, but does not constitute that instance itself. Consider this reasoning from analogy: people can have experience driving a vehicle, but it does not follow that they acquire knowledge regarding its assembly. In the same vein, Mark 16:16 nowhere indicates that unbaptized Christians will be condemned by God. Baptism cannot be a condition for salvation because it is a work (Ephesians 2:8-9). As to the order of faith and baptism in Scripture, the latter always follows the former. For example, Matthew 28:19 says, "teach...and baptize..." Acts 2:38 says, "repent...and be baptized..."

          "John 3:3,5 – unless we are “born again” of water and Spirit in baptism, we cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The Greek word for the phrase “born again” is “anothen” which literally means “begotten from above.” See, for example, John 3:31 where “anothen” is so used. Baptism brings about salvation, not just a symbolism of our salvation."

          Andreas J. Kostenberger, in the book titled Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament, page 435, notes that the phrase "born again" is rooted in Old Testament symbolism:

          "...Most likely this passage constitutes an allusion to Ezek. 36:25-27, which presages God's cleansing of human hearts with water and their inner transformation by his Spirit (cf. also Isa. 44:3-5; Jub. 1:23-25; see Schlatter 1948: 89; Carson 1991: 191-96, esp. 194-95; McCabe 1999; Cotterell 1985: 241; Kynes 1992, esp. 575). The notion of a new beginning and a decisive inner transformation of a person's life is found in other OT prophetic passages (e.g., Jer. 31:33-34; Ezek. 11:19-20). It is this spiritual reality of which Nicodemus, Israel's teacher, ought to have been aware but which he and, one may assume, his fellow Sanhedrin members-the personal pronouns in Jesus' statements "You must be born again" (3:7] and "You (people) do not accept our testimony" (3:11] are plural in the Greek) personally lacked."

          The motif of being washed spiritually was something known to the Qumran Community. Consider the following excerpt cited by Alex Deasley, The Shape of Qumran Theology, p. 232:

          "By the spirit of holiness which links him with his truth he is cleansed of all his sins. And by the spirit of uprightness and humility his sin is atoned. And by the compliance of his soul with all the laws of God his flesh is cleansed by being sprinkled with cleansing waters and being made holy with the waters of repentance. May he, then, steady his steps in order to walk with perfection on all the paths of God." (IQS III 7b-10a)

          David W. Pao, in the New International Version Zondervan Study Bible, says the following:

          "3:5 born of water and the Spirit. Parallel with "born again" (vv. 3,7) and "born of the Spirit" (v. 8), emphasizing a (single) Spirit-produced birth. This makes several interpretations unlikely: (1) that "born of water" refers to natural birth (no ancient sources picture natural birth as "from water," where "water" is the amniotic fluid that breaks before childbirth); (2) that "born of water” refers to Christian baptism (these words would have had no relevance to Nicodemus at the time): (3) that "born of water" refers to John's baptism (also, vv. 9-12 then do not logically follow); (4) that "the Spirit” refers to the Word of God (John's other metaphoric uses of "water" in this Gospel refer to Spirit-produced life [4:14; 7:3839], not to God's Word). The most plausible interpretation of "born of water and the Spirit" is the purifying and transforming new birth. Since Jesus expects Nicodemus to understand what he means (vv. 7, 10), the background to the concept is previous Scripture. Water in the OT often refers to renewal or cleansing, and the most significant OT connection bringing together water and spirit is Ezek 36:25-27, where water cleanses from impurity and the Spirit transforms hearts. So "born of water and the Spirit" signals a new birth that cleanses and transforms."

          "Acts 2:38 – Peter commands them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ in order to be actually forgiven of sin, not just to partake of a symbolic ritual."

          In Acts 2:38, the Apostle Peter was calling upon his audience to identify themselves with Jesus Christ. In getting baptized, they identified themselves as being recipients of the grace and mercy of God. They aligned themselves with the cause of Christ. Baptism signifies His death and resurrection. It is a picture of an inner transformation of our hearts through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Another passage that has the same kind of imagery regarding baptism is 1 Corinthians 10:2. The Apostle Paul stated that the Israelites were baptized into Moses, meaning that they identified themselves with his mission and purpose. Baptism is not a condition for salvation, but an expression that one has been forgiven by God and granted citizenship into His kingdom. 

          "1 Cor. 6:11 – Paul says they were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, in reference to baptism. The “washing” of baptism gives birth to sanctification and justification, which proves baptism is not just symbolic."

          The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:11 does not refer to the ritual act of baptism, but to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:26 is another text that uses visually descriptive and figurative language regarding washing. Following is an excerpt from the Wycliffe Bible Commentary that provides further insight as to the meaning of being washed, sanctified, and justified:

          "The positive appeal is here. And such were some of you points to the depths from which the grace of God in Christ had rescued them. Ye are washed. Literally, ye allowed yourselves to be washed (a permissive middle voice), or, ye washed yourselves (a direct middle, stressing the active side of faith; cf. Acts 22:16; Gal 5:24). Washed, sanctified, and justified reflect the new position of the Corinthians. The mention of sanctification before justification is no problem, since Paul has in mind positional truth (see I Cor 1:2, 30). The verbs refer to the same thing with differing emphases, the one stressing the believer’s cleansing, the next the believer’s new calling, and the final one the believer’s new standing. Justified stands last, as a fitting climax to the argument about seeking justice before the unjust (vv. 1-8)."

          If Paul believed in baptismal regeneration, then it would have been illogical for him to have spoken the way he had at the beginning of his letter (1 Corinthians 1:14-17). He clearly separated the events of baptism and justification and did not believe doing such diminished the importance of that ritual. One author expounds on this text as follows:

          "...Granted, in this passage Paul is arguing against the divisions that plagued the Corinthian church. However, how could Paul possibly say, “I am thankful that I did not baptize…” or “For Christ did not send me to baptize…” if baptism were necessary for salvation? If baptism is necessary for salvation, Paul would literally be saying, “I am thankful that you were not saved…” and “For Christ did not send me to save…” That would be an unbelievably ridiculous statement for Paul to make. Further, when Paul gives a detailed outline of what he considers the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), why does he neglect to mention baptism? If baptism is a requirement for salvation, how could any presentation of the gospel lack a mention of baptism?"

          "1 Peter 3:21 – Peter expressly writes that “baptism, corresponding to Noah’s ark, now saves you; not as a removal of dirt from the body, but for a clear conscience. “ Hence, the verse demonstrates that baptism is salvific (it saves us), and deals with the interior life of the person (purifying the conscience, like Heb. 10:22), and not the external life (removing dirt from the body)."

          The key to answering this argument lies in the phrase "...which corresponds to this" (or "The like figure...," Authorized Version). Just as Noah and his family had entered the ark to escape judgement from God on this world through floodwater, those who place their trust in Jesus Christ will be saved from eternal condemnation at the Final Judgement. He is the ark of our salvation. Baptism is a picture of the newness of life that we experience in Him. 1 Peter 3:21 says that it is not the ritual which purifies our consciences ("not as a removal of dirt from the body..."), but that which baptism represents, namely, our changed identity and union in Christ. "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:14)

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Titus 3:5 And Justification By Faith Alone

Not by--Greek, "Out of"; "not as a result springing from works," &c. of righteousness--Greek, "in righteousness," that is, wrought "in a state of righteousness": as "deeds. . . wrought in God." There was an utter absence in us of the element ("righteousness") in which alone righteous works could be done, and so necessarily an absence of the works. "We neither did works of righteousness, nor were saved in consequence of them; but His goodness did the whole" [THEOPHYLACT].

we--emphatically opposed to "His."

mercy--the prompting cause of our salvation individually: "In pursuance of His mercy." His kindness and love to man were manifested in redemption once for all wrought by Him for mankind generally; His mercy is the prompting cause for our individual realization of it. Faith is presupposed as the instrument of our being "saved"; our being so, then, is spoken of as an accomplished fact. Faith is not mentioned, but only God's part. as Paul's object here is not to describe man's new state, but the saving agency of God in bringing about that state, independent of all merit on the man's part.

Excerpts taken from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary

Friday, May 7, 2021

Early Church Evidence Against Transubstantiation

"Now let us speak briefly concerning sacrifice itself. “Ivory,” says Plato, “is not a pure offering to God.” What then? Are embroidered and costly textures? Nay, rather nothing is a pure offering to God which can be corrupted or taken away secretly. But as he saw this, that nothing which was taken from a dead body ought to be offered to a living being, why did he not see that a corporeal offering ought not to be presented to an incorporeal being?...There are two things which ought to be offered, the gift and the sacrifice; the gift as a perpetual offering, the sacrifice for a time. But with those who by no means understand the nature of the Divine Being, a gift is anything which is wrought of gold or silver; likewise anything which is woven of purple and silk: a sacrifice is a victim, and as many things as are burnt upon the altar. But God does not make use either of the one or the other, because He is free from corruption, and that is altogether corruptible. Therefore, in each case, that which is incorporeal must be offered to God, for He accepts this. His offering is innocency of soul; His sacrifice praise and a hymn. For if God is not seen, He ought therefore to be worshipped with things which are not seen."

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book VI, Chap. XXV

Monday, May 3, 2021

Answering Karlo Broussard's Typological Arguments For The Roman Catholic Eucharist

  • Discussion:
          -Karlo Broussard wrote an article listing two reasons as to why he believes that we should accept the Roman Catholic view of the Lord's Supper as true. Following are a handful of excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "If the Eucharist were just ordinary bread and wine with no miraculous element to it, then the new manna would be inferior to the old. But that’s a no-go when it comes to Biblical typology. The New Testament fulfillment must always be greater than the Old Testament type."

          Jesus Christ, the new manna, is superior to the manna given in the desert because the nourishment that He provides is life everlasting. The manna given to the Israelites was designated to satisfy physical hunger and was thus temporal. Christ is to be spiritually consumed by faith and not by literally eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

          "...If real blood was used for the ratifying ceremony of the Old Covenant, then how much more need there be real blood for the ratifying ceremony of the New Covenant, which is the Last Supper?"

          The "real" and "substantial" blood of the New Covenant was shed on the cross. The wine at the Last Supper simply pointed to that reality.

          The language of eating and drinking in a metaphorical sense would not have been unknown to Jews who were alive during the first century. For example, Ben Sira spoke of being fed with the bread of understanding and given the water of wisdom (Sirach 15:3). The Book of Proverbs employs similar imagery in the context of receiving instruction (Proverbs 9:5).

          The words of Jesus Christ regarding eating His flesh and drinking His blood can indeed be understood in a non-literal fashion. He Himself set forth precedent for understanding His words spoken during the Bread of Life Discourse figuratively, since He elsewhere spoke of receiving salvation in terms of food and drink (Matthew 5:6; John 7:37-38).

Friday, April 30, 2021

An Argument For The Trustworthiness Of The New Testament

        One factor that supports the integrity of the New Testament is that its authors distinguished between the words of Christ and their own words. Examples to illustrate this point would include Acts 20:35, 1 Corinthians 7:10-12, and 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. It can reasonably be inferred that the earliest disciples of Jesus Christ reported history honestly and did not simply invent details to support their own agendas.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

A Commentary On John 8:56-59

[1.] Christ asserts Abraham's prospect of him, and respect to him: Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad, v. 56. And by this he proves that he was not at all out of the way when he made himself greater than Abraham. Two things he here speaks of as instances of that patriarch's respect to the promised Messiah:—

First, The ambition he had to see his day: He rejoiced, eµgalliasto—he leaped at it. The word, though it commonly signifies rejoicing, must here signify a transport of desire rather than of joy, for otherwise the latter part of the verse would be a tautology; he saw it, and was glad. He reached out, or stretched himself forth, that he might see my day; as Zaccheus, that ran before, and climbed the tree, to see Jesus. The notices he had received of the Messiah to come had raised in him an expectation of something great, which he earnestly longed to know more of. The dark intimation of that which is considerable puts men upon enquiry, and makes them earnestly ask Who? and What? and Where? and When? and How? And thus the prophets of the Old Testament, having a general idea of a grace that should come, searched diligently (1 Pt. 1:10), and Abraham was as industrious herein as any of them. God told him of a land that he would give his posterity, and of the wealth and honour he designed them (Gen. 15:14); but he never leaped thus to see that day, as he did to see the day of the Son of man. He could not look with so much indifferency upon the promised seed as he did upon the promised land; in that he was, but to the other he could not be, contentedly a stranger. Note, Those who rightly know any thing of Christ cannot but be earnestly desirous to know more of him. Those who discern the dawning of the light of the Sun of righteousness cannot but wish to see his rising. The mystery of redemption is that which angels desire to look into, much more should we, who are more immediately concerned in it. Abraham desired to see Christ's day, though it was at a great distance; but this degenerate seed of his discerned not his day, nor bade it welcome when it came. The appearing of Christ, which gracious souls love and long for, carnal hearts dread and loathe.

Secondly, The satisfaction he had in what he did see of it: He saw it, and was glad. Observe here,

a. How God gratified the pious desire of Abraham; he longed to see Christ's day, and he saw it. Though he saw it not so plainly, and fully, and distinctly as we now see it under the gospel, yet he saw something of it, more afterwards than he did at first. Note, To him that has, and to him that asks, shall be given; to him that uses and improves what he has, and that desires and prays for more of the knowledge of Christ, God will give more. But how did Abraham see Christ's day? (a.) Some understand it of the sight he had of it in the other world. The separate soul of Abraham, when the veil of flesh was rent, saw the mysteries of the kingdom of God in heaven. Calvin mentions this sense of it, and does not much disallow it. Note, The longings of gracious souls after Jesus Christ will be fully satisfied when they come to heaven, and not till then. But, (b.) It is more commonly understood of some sight he had of Christ's day in this world. They that received not the promises, yet saw them afar off, Heb. 11:13. Balaam saw Christ, but not now, not nigh. There is room to conjecture that Abraham had some vision of Christ and his day, for his own private satisfaction, which is not, nor must be, recorded in his story, like that of Daniel's, which must be shut up, and sealed unto the time of the end, Dan. 12:4. Christ knew what Abraham saw better than Moses did. But there are divers things recorded in which Abraham saw more of that which he longed to see than he did when the promise was first made to him. He saw in Melchizedek one made like unto the Son of God, and a priest for ever; he saw an appearance of Jehovah, attended with two angels, in the plains of Mamre. In the prevalency of his intercession for Sodom he saw a specimen of Christ's intercession; in the casting out of Ishmael, and the establishment of the covenant with Isaac, he saw a figure of the gospel day, which is Christ's day; for these things were an allegory. In offering Isaac, and the ram instead of Isaac, he saw a double type of the great sacrifice; and his calling the place Jehovah-jireh—It shall be seen, intimates that he saw something more in it than others did, which time would produce; and in making his servant put his hand under his thigh, when he swore, he had a regard to the Messiah.

b. How Abraham entertained these discoveries of Christ's day, and bade them welcome: He saw, and was glad. He was glad of what he saw of God's favour to himself, and glad of what he foresaw of the mercy God had in store for the world. Perhaps this refers to Abraham's laughing when God assured him of a son by Sarah (Gen. 17:16, 17), for that was not a laughter of distrust as Sarah's but of joy; in that promise he saw Christ's day, and it filled him with joy unspeakable. Thus he embraced the promises. Note, A believing sight of Christ and his day will put gladness into the heart. No joy like the joy of faith; we are never acquainted with true pleasure till we are acquainted with Christ.

[2.] The Jews cavil at this, and reproach him for it (v. 57): Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Here, First, They suppose that if Abraham saw him and his day he also had seen Abraham, which yet was not a necessary innuendo, but this turn of his words would best serve to expose him; yet it was true that Christ had seen Abraham, and had talked with him as a man talks with his friend. Secondly, They suppose it a very absurd thing for him to pretend to have seen Abraham, who was dead so many ages before he was born. The state of the dead is an invisible state; but here they ran upon the old mistake, understanding that corporally which Christ spoke spiritually. Now this gave them occasion to despise his youth, and to upbraid him with it, as if he were but of yesterday, and knew nothing: Thou art not yet fifty years old. They might as well have said, Thou art not forty; for he was now but thirty-two or thirty-three years old. As to this, Irenaeus, one of the first fathers, with this passage supports the tradition which he says he had from some that had conversed with St. John, that our Saviour lived to be fifty years old, which he contends for, Advers. Haeres. lib. 2, cap. 39, 40. See what little credit is to be given to tradition; and, as to this here, the Jews spoke at random; some year they would mention, and therefore pitched upon one that they thought he was far enough short of; he did not look to be forty, but they were sure he could not be fifty, much less contemporary with Abraham. Old age is reckoned to begin at fifty (Num. 4:47), so that they meant no more than this, "Thou art not to be reckoned an old man; many of us are much thy seniors, and yet pretend not to have seen Abraham." Some think that his countenance was so altered, with grief and watching, that, together with the gravity of his aspect, it made him look like a man of fifty years old: his visage was so marred, Isa. 52:14.

[3.] Our Saviour gives an effectual answer to this cavil, by a solemn assertion of his own seniority even to Abraham himself (v. 58): "Verily, verily, I say unto you; I do not only say it in private to my own disciples, who will be sure to say as I say, but to you my enemies and persecutors; I say it to your faces, take it how you will: Before Abraham was, I am;" prin Abraam genesthai, egoµ eimi, Before Abraham was made or born, I am. The change of the word is observable, and bespeaks Abraham a creature, and himself the Creator; well therefore might he make himself greater than Abraham. Before Abraham he was, First, As God. I am, is the name of God (Ex. 3:14); it denotes his self-existence; he does not say, I was, but I am, for he is the first and the last, immutably the same (Rev. 1:8); thus he was not only before Abraham, but before all worlds, ch. 1:1; Prov. 8:23. Secondly, As Mediator. He was the appointed Messiah, long before Abraham; the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), the channel of conveyance of light, life, and love from God to man. This supposes his divine nature, that he is the same in himself from eternity (Heb. 13:8), and that he is the same to man ever since the fall; he was made of God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, to Adam, and Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Shem, and all the patriarchs that lived and died by faith in him before Abraham was born. Abraham was the root of the Jewish nation, the rock out of which they were hewn. If Christ was before Abraham, his doctrine and religion were no novelty, but were, in the substance of them, prior to Judaism, and ought to take place of it.

[4.] This great word ended the dispute abruptly, and put a period to it: they could bear to hear no more from him, and he needed to say no more to them, having witnessed this good confession, which was sufficient to support all his claims. One would think that Christ's discourse, in which shone so much both of grace and glory, should have captivated them all; but their inveterate prejudice against the holy spiritual doctrine and law of Christ, which were so contrary to their pride and worldliness, baffled all the methods of conviction. Now was fulfilled that prophecy (Mal. 3:1, 2), that when the messenger of the covenant should come to his temple they would not abide the day of his coming, because he would be like a refiner's fire. Observe here,

First, How they were enraged at Christ for what he said: They took up stones to cast at him, v. 59. Perhaps they looked upon him as a blasphemer, and such were indeed to be stoned (Lev. 24:16); but they must be first legally tried and convicted. Farewell justice and order if every man pretend to execute a law at his pleasure. Besides, they had said but just now that he was a distracted crack-brained man, and if so it was against all reason and equity to punish him as a malefactor for what he said. They took up stones. Dr. Lightfoot will tell you how they came to have stones so ready in the temple; they had workmen at this time repairing the temple, or making some additions, and the pieces of stone which they hewed off served for this purpose. See here the desperate power of sin and Satan in and over the children of disobedience. Who would think that ever there should be such wickedness as this in men, such an open and daring rebellion against one that undeniably proved himself to be the Son of God? Thus every one has a stone to throw at his holy religion, Acts 28:22.

Secondly, How he made his escape out of their hands. 1. He absconded; Jesus hid himself; ekrybeµ—he was hid, either by the crowd of those that wished well to him, to shelter him (he that ought to have been upon a throne, high and lifted up, is content to be lost in a crowd); or perhaps he concealed himself behind some of the walls or pillars of the temple (in the secret of his tabernacle he shall hide me, Ps. 27:5); or by a divine power, casting a mist before their eyes, he made himself invisible to them. When the wicked rise a man is hidden, a wise and good man, Prov. 28:12, 28. Not that Christ was afraid or ashamed to stand by what he had said, but his hour was not yet come, and he would countenance the flight of his ministers and people in times of persecution, when they are called to it. The Lord hid Jeremiah and Baruch, Jer. 36:26. 2. He departed, he went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, undiscovered, and so passed by. This was not a cowardly inglorious flight, nor such as argued either guilt or fear. It was foretold concerning him that he should not fail nor be discouraged, Isa. 42:4. But, (1.) It was an instance of his power over his enemies, and that they could do no more against him than he gave them leave to do; by which it appears that when afterwards he was taken in their pits he offered himself, ch. 10:18. They now thought they had made sure of him and yet he passed through the midst of them, either their eyes being blinded or their hands tied, and thus he left them to fume, like a lion disappointed of his prey. (2.) It was an instance of his prudent provision for his own safety, when he knew that his work was not done, nor his testimony finished; thus he gave an example to his own rule, When they persecute you in one city flee to another; nay, if occasion be, to a wilderness, for so Elijah did (1 Ki. 19:3, 4), and the woman, the church, Rev. 12:6. When they took up loose stones to throw at Christ, he could have commanded the fixed stones, which did cry out of the wall against them, to avenge his cause, or the earth to open and swallow them up; but he chose to accommodate himself to the state he was in, to make the example imitable by the prudence of his followers, without a miracle. (3.) It was a righteous deserting of those who (worse than the Gadarenes, who prayed him to depart) stoned him from among them. Christ will not long stay with those who bid him be gone. Christ did again visit the temple after this; as one loth to depart, he bade oft farewell; but at last he abandoned it for ever, and left it desolate. Christ now went through the midst of the Jews, and none of them courted his stay, nor stirred up himself to take hold of him, but were even content to let him go. Note, God never forsakes any till they have first provoked him to withdraw, and will have none of him. Calvin observes that these chief priests, when they had driven Christ out of the temple, valued themselves on the possession they kept of it: "But," says he, "those deceive themselves who are proud of a church or temple which Christ has forsaken." Longe falluntur, cum templum se habere putant Deo vacuum. When Christ left them it is said that he passed by silently and unobserved; pareµgen houtoµs, so that they were not aware of him. Note, Christ's departures from a church, or a particular soul, are often secret, and not soon taken notice of. As the kingdom of God comes not, so it goes not, with observation. See Jdg. 16:20. Samson wist not that the Lord was departed from him. Thus it was with these forsaken Jews, God left them, and they never missed him.

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