Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Who Are The Seven Angels Of The Seven Churches?

          "As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches." (Revelation 1:20)

          The Book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature, which means that it contains many highly symbolic elements. This is distinct from historical narrative in that most of the details are to be taken literally. The author expresses himself in a way similar to Old Testament writers such as Daniel and Ezekiel. John wrote to the people of Asia Minor in regard to how God was at work in their day and also how He will work to bring things to a glorious end. Chapters two and three of Revelation contain words of Jesus commending the good deeds of the seven churches as well as Him reproving their error, calling them to repentance.

          The passage is unclear as to who precisely the seven “angels” of the seven churches are. Some believe them to be angels appointed by God to act on behalf of the churches. This view would be comparable to what we see in Daniel in which angels represent nations (Daniel 10:13-21). Another point of view in regard to the seven angels is that they are messengers who delivered John's scroll to the churches to be read. That pattern of behavior is not without precedent in Jewish history (1 Maccabees 1:44). A third interpretation as to the identity of the seven angels is that they are bishops, but it would not be wise to put much weight on a debatable text like this one in the context of episcopal development.

          The first view outlined in the previous paragraph seems to more reasonably fit the context of Revelation 1:20 than others. In Revelation, the term "angel" is always a reference to heavenly beings rather than human messengers. That term has the same meaning elsewhere in apocalyptic literature. Angels were portrayed as stars (Isaiah 24:21; 2 Baruch 51:7-11). This may mean that God has given the responsibility of churches to angels, although we cannot speak dogmatically. We know that there is a time in which believers will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). The church has been commissioned by God to provide witness for Jesus.

          Even if the seven angels in Revelation 1:20 were a reference to bishops, the New Testament does not demand a specific structure of leadership in the church. In other words, while churches are seen to be governed by pluralities of elders (Acts 14:23), this idea is not applied in a strict or exhaustive manner. Consequently, there are acceptable differences in how church government can be arranged. A church could temporarily assign a role of first among equals to one elder for the sake of convenience in resolving matters. That in and of itself is not a problem.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Has The Church Always Had An Ordained Ministerial Priesthood?

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to interact with a number of assertions made by Nicholas Senz about the origin of the Roman Catholic priesthood. His approach is not one that deals with exegetical questions but works backward in history to the first century. Following are quotations from the author followed by a critique of such claims:

          "The Didache invites us to “break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one.”

          Nothing in this excerpt from the Didache requires us to understand the eucharist as being a sacrifice in a propitiatory sense. In fact, it can be understood in the sense of offering sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. That theme is not unknown to the New Testament (Hebrews 13:15). The Didache speaks of us consuming Jesus Christ spiritually, not in the cannibalistic manner required in order for it to show belief in transubstantiation.

          "St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote of the Eucharist, “For there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice.”

          Ignatius uses that terminology because he echoes the words of Christ spoken during the Last Supper as well as the Old Testament sacrificial system. It is not because he believed in transubstantiation. It is not enough to demonstrate that a particular church father believed in some mystical presence of Christ in the eucharist or that He is identified with the communion elements in a transcendent way. The real presence is not synonymous with transubstantiation.

          "St. Justin Martyr wrote that Christians “in every place offer sacrifices to [God], that is, the bread of the Eucharist and also the cup of the Eucharist.”

          Note how there is no literal transformation process specified in Justin Martyr. Christ is merely identified with bread and wine in a mysterious way. One does not have to physically consume the literal flesh and blood of Jesus Christ in order to describe the communion elements as being more than common bread and common wine.

           Offerings included the giving of alms, bread, and wine. These were spiritual sacrifices rooted in the realities to which the communion elements themselves pointed. The alms were given to support the poor. Participation in the communion meal with a rightful state of heart reflects our inward gratitude for Christ's propitiatory work on the cross. Eusebius of Caesarea spoke of sacrifices of remembrance. 

          "Likewise, the Fathers were clear that it is only priests and bishops who offer the Mass."

          The Encyclopedia Britannica has these excerpts on the origin of the Roman Catholic priesthood:

          “A priesthood developed gradually in the early Christian church as first bishops and then elders, or ‘presbyters,’ began to exercise certain priestly functions, mainly in connection with the celebration of the Eucharist. By the end of the 2nd century, the church’s bishops were called priests (Latin: sacerdos)… The development of eucharistic theology resulted in a further emphasis of the priest’s supernatural powers and qualities…” (https://www.britannica.com/topic/priest-Christianity)

          “Although the term ‘priest’ (Greek hiereus) refers to the entire Christian people, it is given to no church office in the New Testament. First appearing in the 2nd century, the office is associated with the establishment of the eucharistic sacrifice, over which the priest was called to preside. No doubt the development of the monarchical episcopate also contributed to the emergence of the priesthood…” (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Roman-Catholicism/Structure-of-the-church)

          Cambridge Theologian William Perkins contended that offerings were made by all the faithful, not exclusively priests or bishops: 

          "...the fathers’ sacrifice was offered by the whole church, being the oblation of all the faithful. “We all,” says Justin, in dialogo cum Triphone, “how many soever we be that are called after the name of Jesus Christ, are made truly the priests of God, as He Himself testifies, saying that everywhere He would have pure and acceptable sacrifices offered Him.” And this is also proveable out of Augustine, Contra Faustum, lib. 20, cap. 18."

          There are certainly statements in regard to the communion elements being connected to or associated with the body and blood of Jesus Christ. However, there is no straightforward, clear-cut explanation of how the symbols of bread and wine and the realities that they represent correlate. There were different degrees of realism present throughout the church father's writings. While it would be incorrect to say that all of the church fathers held to the elements of the Lord's Supper as being "mere" symbols, it took several hundred years for Roman Catholic eucharistic theology to reach a full stage of development. Paschasius Radberts (785-865) explicitly articulated the doctrine of transubstantiation (without using that specific word) in his book titled On the Body and Blood of the Lord.

          "But if the Mass is a sacrifice, then those offering it clearly are priests. And if the Church from its earliest days has understood the Mass to be sacrificial, then likewise it has understood presbyters and bishops to be exercising priesthood."

          Is it not lovely how these people do not have to prove their doctrine from Scripture because if it comes from the Roman Catholic hierarchy, it cannot be argued? It can be said that this author is just whistling past the graveyard because he does not try to offer even a shred of evidence from the New Testament that there was an ordained ministerial priesthood. Further, church "fathers" were capable of superstition and re-imagining what Scripture actually said. At most, patristic statements amount to evidence that men believed certain ideas to be apostolic teaching, not that they actually are.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Illustration And Confirmation Of Biblical History From The Assyrian Monuments

 As the narrative proceeds on the supposition of close relations between Israel and Syria — not otherwise mentioned in the Bible — and involves, at least indirectly, certain points of general interest, this seems a fitting opportunity for a brief summary of what recent discoveries of ancient monuments has taught us, not only confirmatory, but illustrative and explanatory of this period of Biblical history. But in so doing we must keep some considerations in view by way of caution. For first, our knowledge of what may be called monumental history is as yet initial and fragmentary. Secondly, in any seeming discrepancy or slight divergence in details between the inscriptions on the monuments and the records of Jewish history, it seems neither reasonable nor safe to give absolute preference to the former. Jewish writers must have known their own history best, while, in their slight differences from the records on the monuments, we fail to discover any adequate motives on the part of the Jewish historians that could account for their falsifying facts. And, we need scarcely add, the same facts will assume different aspects when viewed from opposite sides. Again, it is admitted on all hands that there are manifest errors on the Assyrian monuments, and this on points where error is difficult, to account for. Thus, to mention one instance — on the Assyrian monuments, Jehu is designated as “the son of Omri,” and that by the very monarch to whom he is both represented and described as bringing tribute. Further, we have to bear in mind that our knowledge of Jewish history is also fragmentary. The Old Testament does not profess to be a handbook of Jewish history. It furnishes prophetic or sacred history, which does not recount all events as they happened, nor yet always in their exact succession of time, but presents them in their bearing on the kingdom of God, of which it tells the history. Hence it records or emphasizes only that which is of importance in connection with it. Lastly, we must remember that the chronology of the Bible is in some parts involved in considerable diffculties, partly for the reasons just stated, partly from the different modes of calculating time, and partly also from errors of transcription which would easily creep into the copying of Hebrew numerals, which are marked by letters. Keeping in view these cautions, the neglect of which has led to many false inferences, we have no hesitation in saying, that hitherto all modern historical discoveries have only tended to confirm the Scripture narrative. 

Turning to these extraneous sources for information on the earlier history of Judah and Israel under the Kings, we have here, first, the Egyptian monuments, especially those on the walls of the Temple of Karnak, which record the invasion of Judah and Jerusalem by Shishak, described in 1 Kings 14:25, 26, and 2 Chronicles 12. Pictorial representations of this campaign are accompanied by mention of the very names of the conquered Jewish cities. But with the death of Shishak, the power of Egypt for a time decayed. In its stead that of Assyria reasserted itself. From that time onwards its monuments more or less continuously cast light on the history of Israel. Just as in the Biblical narrative, so in the Assyrian records of that time, Syria occupies a most important place. It will be remembered that that country had recovered its independence in the reign of Solomon, having been wrested by Rezon from the sovereignty of Judah (1 Kings 11:23-25). Thus far we perceive a general parallelism in the outlines of this history. But the Assyrian record leaves a strange impression on the mind, as we recall the importance of Omri, as having been the second if not the real founder of the Israelitish kingdom, the builder of its capital, and the monarch who gave its permanent direction alike to the political and the religious history of Israel. For the common designation for the land of Israel is “the land of Omri,” “the land Omri,” or “the land of the house of Omri.” We regard it as a further indication of the political importance attached to that king when Jehu is designated as “the son of Omri.” This could not have been from ignorance of the actual history, since the name of Ahab occurs on the monuments of Assyria, although (if correctly read) in a connection which does not quite agree with our ordinary chronology. Further illustration comes to us from the Assyrian monuments, both of certain phases in the Biblical history of Ahab, and of the explanatory words with which the account of Naaman’s healing is introduced: 

“Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him Jehovah had given deliverance unto Syria” (2 Kings 5:1). 

Each of these statements requires some further explanation. As regards the history of Ahab, we note incidentally that the name Ethbaal (1 Kings 16:31) as that of a Sidonian king, occurs also on the Assyrian monuments, just as does Sarepta (1 Kings 17:9, 10), as being a Phoenician town, situate between Tyre and Sidon. But of greatest interest is it to learn from these monuments the political motives which prompted the strange and sudden alliance proposed by Ahab to Ben-hadad (a name amply confirmed by the monuments), after the battle of Aphek (1 Kings 20:26-34). In passing we may notice that in a fragmentary inscription of Asarhaddon, this Aphek, situated east of the lake of Galilee, and a little aside from the great road between Damascus and Samaria, is named as the border-city of Samaria. Similarly, the mention of thirty-two kings allied with Benhadad in his campaign against Israel (1 Kings 20:1), is so far borne out by the Assyrian monuments, that in the campaigns of Assyria against Syria Benhadad is always described as fighting in conjunction with a number of allied Syrian princes. From these inscriptions we also learn that the growing power of Assyria threatened to overwhelm — as it afterwards did — both Syria and the smaller principalities connected with it. A politician like Ahab must have felt the danger threatening his kingdom of Samaria from the advancing power of Assyria. If Ben-hadad had endeavored to strengthen himself by the subjugation of Samaria, Ahab, in the hour of his triumph, desired, by an alliance with the now humbled Benhadad, to place Syria as a kind of bulwark between himself and the king of Assyria. This explains the motive of Ahab, who had no real trust in the might and deliverance of Jehovah, but looked to political combinations for safety, in allowing to go out of his hand the man whom Jehovah “appointed to utter destruction” (1 Kings 20:42). 

Another circumstance connected with the treaty of Aphek, not recorded in the Bible, and only known from the Assyrian monuments, casts light on this prophetic announcement of judgment to Ahab: “Therefore thy life shall be for his life, and thy people for his people.” From the monuments we learn, in illustration of the alliance between Ben-hadad and Ahab, and of the punishment threatened upon it, that in the battle of Karkar, or Aroer, in which the Assyrian monarch Shalmaneser II. so completely defeated Syria, the forces of Ahab, to the number of not fewer than 2000 chariots and 10,000 men, had fought on the side of Ben-hadad. As we read of 14,000 or, in another inscription, of 20,500 of the allies as having been slain in this battle, we perceive the fulfillment of the Divine threatening upon that alliance (1 Kings 20:42). At the same time we may also learn that many things mentioned in Scripture which, with our present means of knowledge, seem strange and inexplicable, may become plain, and be fully confirmed, by further information derived from independent sources. 

The battle of Karkar was not the only engagement in which the forces of Syria met, and were defeated by, those of Assyria. It was fought in the sixth year of the reign of Shalmaneser. Another successful campaign is chronicled as having been undertaken in the eleventh year of the same reign, when Shalmaneser records that for the ninth time he crossed the Euphrates; and yet another, in the fourteenth year of his reign, when at the head of 120,000 men he crossed the river at its high food. Two inferences may, for our present purpose, be made from these notices. The defeat of Ahab’s forces, when fghting in conjunction with Ben-hadad, will account for the cessation of the alliance entered into after the battle of Aphek. Again, the repeated defeat of Ben-hadad by Assyria will explain how Ahab took heart of grace, and in company with Jehoshaphat undertook that fatal expedition against Ramoth-Gilead (1 Kings 22), in which literally the “life” of Ahab went for that of him whom, from short-sighted political motives, he had spared (1 Kings 20:42). Lastly, these repeated wars between Assyria and Syria, of which the Assyrian monarch would naturally only record the successful engagements, help us to understand the phrase by which Naaman, captain of the host of Syria, is introduced as he “by whom the LORD had given deliverance [perhaps “victory”] unto Syria” (2 Kings 5:1). 

The expression just quoted seems to forbid the application of the words to the victory of Ben-hadad over Ahab, although the Rabbis imagine that the fatal arrow by which Ahab was smitten came from the bow of Naaman. Accordingly we cannot (as most commentators do) mark this antithesis: that the conqueror of Israel had to come to Israel for healing. But the fact is in itself sufficiently remarkable, especially when we think of it in connection with his disease, which would have placed even an Israelite, so to speak, outside the pale of Israel. In striking contrast to the mention of the strength and bravery of Naaman, and of his exalted position, Scripture abruptly, without pause or copula of conjunction, records the fact: “a leper.” We need not pause to consider the moral of this contrast, with all of teaching which it should convey to us. Quite another lesson comes to us from an opposite direction. For we also learn from this history how, when our need is greatest, help may be nearest, and that, in proportion as we feel the hopelessness of our case, God may prepare a way for our deliverance. It was certainly so in this instance. Once more we mark the wonder-working Providence of God, Who, without any abrupt or even visibly direct interference, brings about results which, if viewed by themselves, must seem absolutely miraculous. And this, by means which at the time may have appeared most unpromising.

Alfred Edersheim, Bible History Old Testament, Vol. VI, Chap. XI

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Did Jephthah Offer His Daughter As A Sacrifice To God?

 We are now approaching what to many will appear the most difficult part in the history of Jephthah — perhaps among the most difficult narratives in the Bible. It appears that, before actually going to war, Jephthah solemnly registered this vow: “If thou indeed givest the children of Ammon into mine hand — and it shall be, the outcoming (one), that shall come out from the door of my house to meet me on my returning in peace from the children of Ammon, shall be to Jehovah, and I will offer that a burnt offering.” We know that the vow was paid. The defeat of the Ammonites was thorough and crushing. But on Jephthah’s return to his house the first to welcome him was his only daughter — his only child — who at the head of the maidens came to greet the victor. There is a terrible irony about those “timbrels and dances,” with which Jephthah’s daughter went, as it were, to celebrate her own funeral obsequies, while the fond father’s heart was well-nigh breaking. But the noble maiden was the first to urge his observance of the vow unto Jehovah. Only two months did she ask to bewail her maidenhood with her companions upon the mountains. But ever after was it a custom for the maidens in Israel to go out every year for four days, “to praise of the daughter of Jephthah.” 

Such is the story; but what is its meaning? What did Jephthah really intend by the language of his vow; and did he feel himself bound by it in the literal sense to offer up his daughter as a burnt sacrifice? Assuredly, we shall make no attempt either to explain away the facts of the case, or to disguise the importance of the questions at issue. At the outset we are here met by these two facts: that up to that period Jephthah had both acted and spoken as a true worshiper of Jehovah, and that his name stands emblazoned in that roll of the heroes of the faith which is handed down to us in the Epistle to the Hebrews (11:32). But it is well-nigh impossible to believe that a true worshiper of Jehovah could have either vowed or actually offered a human sacrificed — not to speak of the sacrifice being that of his own and only child. Such sacrifices were the most abhorrent and opposed to the whole spirit and letter of the Law of God (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10), nor do we find any mention of them till the reigns of the wicked Ahaz and Manasseh. Not even Jezebel had ventured to introduce them; and we know what thrill of horror ran through the onlookers, when the heathen king of Moab offered his son an expiatory sacrifice on the walls of his capital (2 Kings 3:26, etc.). But the difficulty becomes well-nigh insuperable, when we find the name of Jephthah recorded in the New Testament among the heroes of the faith. Surely, no one guilty of such a crime could have found a place there! Still, these are considerations which, though most important, are outside the narrative itself, and in any truthful investigation the latter should, in the first place, be studied by itself. 

In so doing we must dismiss, as irrelevant and untruthful, such pleas as the roughness of those times, the imperfectness of religious development, or that of religious ignorance on the part of the outlaw Jephthah, who had spent most of his life far from Israel. The Scripture sketch of Jephthah leaves, indeed, on the mind the impression of a genuine, wild, and daring Gilead mountaineer — a sort of warrior-Elijah. But, on the other hand, he acts and speaks throughout as a true worshiper of Jehovah. And his vow, which in the Old Testament always expresses the highest religious feeling (Genesis 28:20; 1 Samuel 1:11; Psalm 116:14; Isaiah 19:21), is so sacred because it is made to Jehovah. Again, in his embassy to the king of Ammon, Jephthah displays the most intimate acquaintance with the Pentateuch, his language being repeatedly almost a literal quotation from Numbers 20. He who knew so well the details of Scripture history could not have been ignorant of its fundamental principles. Having thus cleared the way, we observe: 

1. That the language of Jephthah’s vow implied, from the first, at least the possibility of some human being coming out from the door of his house, to meet him on his return. The original conveys this, and the evident probabilities of the case were strongly in favor of such an eventuality. Indeed, Jephthah’s language seems to have been designedly chosen in such general terms as to cover all cases. But it is impossible to suppose that Jephthah would have deliberately made a vow in which he contemplated human sacrifice; still more so, that Jehovah would have connected victory and deliverance with such a horrible crime. 

2. In another particular, also, the language of Jephthah’s vow is remarkable. It is, that “the outcoming (whether man or beast) shall be to Jehovah, and I will offer that a burnt-offering.” The great Jewish commentators of the Middle Ages have, in opposition to the Talmud, pointed out that these two last clauses are not identical. It is never said of an animal burnt-offering, that it “shall be to Jehovah” — for the simple reason that, as a burnt-offering, it is such. But where human beings are offered to Jehovah, there the expression is used, as in the case of the firstborn among Israel and of Levi (Numbers 3:12, 13). But in these cases it has never been suggested that there was actual human sacrifice. 

3. It was a principle of the Mosaic law, that burnt sacrifices were to be exclusively males (Leviticus 1:3). 

4. If the loving daughter had devoted herself to death, it is next to incredible that she should have wished to spend the two months of life conceded to her, not with her broken-hearted father, but in the mountains with her companions. 

5. She bewails not her “maiden age,” but her “maidenhood” — not that she dies so young, but that she is to die unmarried. The Hebrew expression for the former would have been quite different from that used in Scripture, which only signifies the latter. But for an only child to die unmarried, and so to leave a light and name extinguished in Israel, was indeed a bitter and heavy judgment, viewed in the light of pre-Messianic times. Compare in this respect especially such passages as Leviticus 20:20 and Psalm 78:63. The trial appears all the more withering when we realize, how it must have come upon Jephthah and his only child in the hour of their highest glory, when all earthly prosperity seemed at their command. The greatest and happiest man in Israel becomes in a moment the poorest and the most stricken. Surely, in this vow and sacrifice was the lesson of vows and sacrifices taught to victorious Israel in a manner the most solemn. 

6. It is very significant that in 11:39 it is only said, that Jephthah “did with her according to his vow” — not that he actually offered her in sacrifice, while in the latter case the added clause, “and she knew no man,” would be utterly needless and unmeaning. Lastly, we may ask, Who would have been the priest by whom, and where the altar on which, such a sacrifice could have been offered unto Jehovah? 

On all these grounds — its utter contrariety to the whole Old Testament, the known piety of Jephthah, the blessing following upon his vow, his mention in the Epistle to the Hebrews, but especially the language of the narrative itself — we feel bound to reject the idea of any human sacrifice. In what special manner, besides remaining unmarried, the vow of her dedication to God was carried out, we do not feel bound to suggest. Here the principle, long ago expressed by Clericus, holds true: “We are not to imagine that, in so small a volume as the Old Testament, all the customs of the Hebrews are recorded, or the full history of all that had taken place among them. Hence there are necessarily allusions to many things which cannot be fully followed out, because there is no mention of them elsewhere."

Alfred Edersheim, Bible History Old Testament, Vol. III, Chap. XVIII

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Paul's Use Of Psalm 32 In Romans 4

          The Epistle to the Romans is Paul's literary masterpiece on the doctrine of salvation. It is the most elegant of his extant writings. Paul begins his piece by presenting the issue of human depravity and righteousness of God. The apostle goes on to show that both Jew and Gentile have broken God's Law and are deserving of His judgement. Everyone stands guilty before Him but He has presented a means of reconciliation through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

          Paul makes an argument by example when he mentions Abraham who lived prior to the Law being given to the people of God. He does this with the intent of showing that his teaching is compatible with the Old Testament. A system of works righteousness would result in boasting. Romans 4:4 says that if someone earns wages, then it is not a gift. But justification is precisely that. Romans 4:5 says that God declares righteous the ungodly and counts them as such by faith. 

         The Law required that two or three witnesses be present to establish the validity of a charge (Deuteronomy 19:15; Numbers 35:30). Thus, we see the Apostle Paul follow this custom in arguing for justification by faith as opposed to works of the Law when he brings up Abraham and King David. The latter person is of special interest here as we consider how Paul ties in Psalm 32 with his argument. The Psalm in question is one of a penitential nature.

         The Psalm used by Paul concerns the feeling of blessedness that comes about as a result of being forgiven of sin by God. The sins King David had repented of were sending Uriah the Hittite into battle to be killed with the intent of covering up his affair with Bathsheba. One sin led him to committing another. David used three words to describe his iniquity: guilt, wrongdoing, and sin. He also used three terms to describe God's mercy: forgiven, covered, and not being taken into account.

          It is noteworthy that David did not mention any good deeds done to merit God's favor. In fact, he only brought up his sin. He came to God with nothing and was pardoned for what he had done. Therefore, God justifies people who are ungodly. Forgiveness is a matter of grace. It is not something which we earn. Since David's sin was not imputed to him, that means he had a righteous standing before God. 

         To be "forgiven" of our sins means that God has taken them away from us. To have our sins "covered" means that their penalty has been met. That leads up to the forgiveness of our sins by God. Romans 4:7 is the only instance in which this word occurs in the New Testament. To have our sins not taken into account means we do not receive condemnation for them in Jesus Christ. We do not merit for ourselves God's eschatological wrath. We are not destined for eternal punishment like unbelievers.

         The Apostle Paul uses King David as an example of being justified in spite of his transgressions against God. Both he and Abraham can speak to the reality of justification apart from works. Their experiences are spoken of as equivalent to each other. Romans 4:7 and Romans 4:8 emphasize our pardon from sin. The overall point from these parallel phrases is that we are not justified by works. David speaks of the "blessed man" who receives full pardon from sin, which means he believed others could experience the same.

          "...In contrast with many of the rabbinic references to Ps. 32, Paul makes no mention of the confession of sins, which is a central theme of the psalms (cf. Ps. 32:5; see Str-B 3:202-3). Confession is implicitly taken up in faith for Paul, in which sin that has overpowered our person is overcome: in faith "we give glory to God" (4:20; cf. 1:23; 3:26). As was the case with the story of Abraham, the broader context of the psalm makes clear that the "reckoning of righteousness" is no mere declaration, but rather an effective word." (Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, p. 624)

Sunday, June 18, 2023

What To Expect In A Fallen 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

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Does The Book Of Hebrews Contradict The Roman Catholic Eucharist?

  • Introduction:

          -Roman Catholics are taught that priests transform bread and wine into the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ to be consumed during the Mass service. This dogma is known as transubstantiation. It is maintained that this alleged miracle is atonement for sin, that His propitiatory work is ongoing, and that His sacrifice is re-presented at each worship service. However, the Book of Hebrews contains a number of ideas which are in conflict with this theology.
          -The sacrifice of the Mass is said to be a continuation of Jesus Christ's work on the cross. In Roman Catholic theology, He is offered up as a sacrifice by priests throughout the world to make atonement for our sins. It is maintained that Christ's sacrifice is perpetual since it exists beyond time. Roman Catholic Priest Bryan Babick says that, "The one Sacrifice of Christ is continually offered because its merits can continue to be experienced until He chooses to return in glory."

  • Does Hebrews 7:26-27 Contradict The Sacrifice Of The Mass?:
          -The priestly ministry of Christ is one in which He need not make additional sacrifices. His work has been brought about to the fullest extent possible. The Book of Hebrews presents His atonement as being accomplished one time forever, without further sacrifices. For the author of Hebrews, that which is unchangeable entails perfection. That is the very nature of Christ's position as High Priest. No one else can legitimately lay claim to it.
          -The description of His atonement being made "once for all" emphasizes its perfection. It easily contrasts with the animal sacrifices performed under the Levitical priesthood. Those needed to be done on a daily basis. Those needed to be done on an annual basis. There was simply no end to them. This is not the case with Christ's work on the cross. His work had such an effect that animal victims are no longer necessary to be given for offerings.
          -The Penny Catechism has this excerpt explaining the sacrifice of the Roman Catholic Mass as being, "...one and the same Sacrifice with that of the Cross, inasmuch as Christ, who offered himself, a bleeding victim, on the Cross to his heavenly Father, continues to offer himself in an unbloody manner on the altar, through the ministry of his priests."
          -If the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at Calvary and the sacrifice of the Mass are one and the same event, then why does it have to be continually offered? Why so many sacrifices? If His atoning sacrifice is ongoing, then the implication is that it did not get finished. The Mass causes the atonement of Jesus Christ to be just like the repetitive Old Testament sacrifices, which cannot bring about the perfection of our souls. The Mass is not consistent with the presentation of His work in Hebrews as to why it is superior to the animal sacrifices.
  • Does Hebrews 9:24-28 Contradict The Sacrifice Of The Mass?:
          -The first problem that this text presents for Roman Catholic eucharistic theology is that it says Christ entered into a sanctuary not made with human hands. Thus, He cannot be present in His human nature in the golden tabernacles of Roman Catholic churches. Christ has ascended into heaven. This point serves to illustrate the ontological problems that accompany this type of theology. The Catholic Mass is in conflict with Christ's incarnation.
          -This passage speaks of Jesus Christ having completed His atonement sacrifice once in the last days. His sacrifice is not being performed again and again in the manner of the Old Testament priests who slaughtered animals. By the way, the Book of Hebrews does not even hint at the existence of a new order of priests who offer sacrifices during the Mass. This would have been an ideal place to do so because the context of the entire letter points to Christ being superior to the old order of worship.
          -This passage speaks of Christ returning physically for a second time to administer judgement on mankind and restoring a righteous order. It does not speak of Him coming down during this age at the command of an ordained priest to be consumed by parishioners. Hebrews presents us with there being only one sacrifice for sin. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Mass is a sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood, which is exactly what Hebrews addresses. 
          -The problem with Roman Catholic teaching is that Christ's sacrifice is believed to be a one time event and occurring on a daily basis. The author of Hebrews does not present His atonement in that way. According to Hebrews, Christ's sacrifice is not happening daily as did the sacrifices of the Old Covenant. It says Christ's sacrifice was “once for all,” meaning that it was a one-time event. The problem with the Mass begins with it being a sacrifice that happens repeatedly.
  • Does Hebrews 10:10-18 Contradict The Sacrifice Of The Mass?:
          -We have been sanctified by means of Jesus Christ's sacrifice "once for all" (Hebrews 10:10). That entails His work being fully complete at Calvary. His sacrifice is not continuing on in worship services across the world because that historical event has already come to pass. There is no sense in which His atonement is still in progress. His work on the cross alone covers us perfectly and completely.
          -Priests repeatedly offer the same sacrifices in vain as a result of Christ's expiatory work on the cross (Hebrews 10:11). They are powerless to accomplish anything to a person's benefit. Offerings cannot take away sin. No offerings are to be made since Christ's single sacrifice. This point is articulated more forcibly and explicitly in verse 18. It calls attention to the New Covenant being greater than the Old Covenant. 
          -Jesus Christ has ascended into the full presence of God (Hebrews 10:12-13). Never again will He descend to this earth to make another offering for sin. He is not returning from heaven at the command of a parish priest to be eaten by laypeople. Nor can Christ's physical body be located at thousands of different churches across the world at the same time. It is evident that Roman Catholic eucharist theology suffers from ontological problems.
          -People who place their trust in Christ do not need any of the sacrifices performed during the Mass because they have been eternally perfected by His one sacrifice (Hebrews 10:14). Hebrews 10:18 is the climax of this argument in that it says no other offerings exist for the purification of our souls from sin. Christ has already offered Himself as a ransom to God. Ritual sacrifices are a thing of the past. They have no merit. There is a reversal in Roman Catholic theology because the writer of Hebrews states that the priests offer sacrifices year after year, but this terminates with the coming of Christ's once and for all time sacrifice.
          -The idea that Jesus Christ is in some way still offering Himself up for our sins runs contrary to the reasoning employed in Hebrews 10:10-18 as to the nature and effects of His atonement. The work of Christ on the cross is not constantly happening throughout the ages until His return. Atonement is not being made for sin today. His body and blood are not being physically consumed each time Christians celebrate the Lord's Supper.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Problems With Modern Sexual Education

"And common sense observation tells us that the introduction of widespread public sex education has done nothing to check the increase of unwanted pregnancies, promiscuity, and venereal disease. There is evidence, rather, that such programs encourage premature sexuality with its attendant problems."

William Kirk Kilpatrick, Psychological Seduction: The Failure of Modern Psychology, p. 33

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Problems In Modern Psychology

Despite the creation of a virtual army of psychiatrists, psychologists, psychometrists, counselors, and social workers, there has been no letup in the rate of mental illness, suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, child abuse, divorce, murder, and general mayhem. Contrary to what one might expect in a society so carefully analyzed and attended to by mental health experts, there has been an increase in all these categories. It sometimes seems there is a direct ratio between the increasing number of helpers and the increasing number of those who need help. The more psychologist we have, the more mental illness we get; the more social workers and probation officers, the more crime; the more teachers, the more ignorance.

One has to wonder at it all. In plain language, it is suspicious. We are forced to entertain the possibility that psychology and related professions are proposing to solve problems that they themselves have helped to create. We find psychologists making a virtue our of self-preoccupation, and then we find them surprised at the increased supply of narcissists. We Find psychologists advising the courts that there is not such thing as a bad boy or even a bad adult, and then we find them formulating theories to explain the rise in crime. We find psychologists severing the bonds of family life, and then we find them conducting therapy for broken families.

William Kirk Kilpatrick, Psychological Seduction: The Failure of Modern Psychology, p. 31

Thursday, April 6, 2023

The Correlation Between Dignity And Responsibility

"Half of popular psychology is devoted to praising human dignity and the other half to excusing us from responsibility. But what kind of dignity is that? It’s no good to tell a man he’s fully human in one breath, and then with the next suggest he’s no more accountable than a vegetable. These contradictions in theory eventually do show up in practice...The reluctance to convict, the backlog of court cases, and the increase in criminal behavior are due at least in part to the new notion that right and wrong are to be measured by psychological rather than legal and moral criteria, and to the equally dubious notion that judges and juries should play the role of therapists."

William Kirk Kilpatrick, Psychological Seduction: The Failure of Modern Psychology, p. 84