Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What does it mean for our speech to be seasoned with salt?

What does it mean to be “the salt of the earth”? Or, in the epistle to the Colossians, where Paul exhorts his readers to be “seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6)?

I never really understood what it means so I finally put some old-fashioned rules of hermeneutics to use.

In Leviticus 2:13 the LORD commands Israel saying: “and every offering of thine oblation shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thine oblation: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.”

The LORD commanded that every meal offering be seasoned with salt. The Israelites were not to allow any meal offering lack salt from which God made a covenant of salt with them.

In Numbers 18:19 gives details about this covenant of salt: “All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee.” Here, the LORD is speaking to Aaron about what he and his seed as high priests will be blessed with in ministering to Israel. They receive a healthy supply of all the heave offerings, which includes a hearty portion of all sacrifices. This the LORD did as a covenant of salt. Because it was highly valued in old testament times, if a person were to share their salt with someone, even their worst enemy, their enemy is bound to protect them. A salt covenant is in effect, a covenant of friendship and hospitality. The Lord requires us to share our salt with him (Lev. 2:13), and He reciprocates with giving His priests the heave offerings in the old testament, which is a picture of the Christian’s blessings per Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”.

In Ezra 4, adversaries of Judah sent a letter to the king of Persia making false accusations against Zerubbabel and his fellow-laborers. The false accusations included insurrection, rebellion, and sedition against the king (Ezra 4:12-15). What is noteworthy is how the accusers appealed to the king by saying that because they eat the salt of the palace, they are bound to protect the honor of the king, and therefore they inform him of Zerubbabel’s activity. Eating someone’s salt was a sign of partaking of their hospitality, derive subsistence from him; and hence he who did so was bound to look after his host’s interests. But Zerubbabel, and the body of Christ as well, have eaten the salt of a different kingdom, and therefore should be mindful to protect the interest of our host, the Lord Jehovah. Zerubbabel was careful to not partner up with the adversaries of Judah in rebuilding the temple, and we should be careful to not fellowship with workers of Belial in building the Church.

Now, what does this have to do with being seasoned with salt? It is lovely and devotional, but does not the title of this article ask that very question about being seasoned with salt?

Mark 9:49-50: “For everyone shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good; but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith shall ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and peace with one another.”

Earlier in this chapter, we would read about the disciples doing unsavory things such as disputing among one another about who would be the greatest, and forbidding a man from casting out demons in Christ’s name. The Lord reminds them that just as every person would be judged by fire, every sacrifice had to be seasoned with salt. If the salt had no flavor, what then would be the point of using it? Salt has always been a crucial key to seasoning any meal. Many meals would not be complete without a dash of salt. Just as people refuse a meal unless it has been properly seasoned, the Lord refuses a sacrifice that is not properly seasoned. Our lives ought to be a sacrifice (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:2). So, again, what does the salt refer to?

Salt might be considered the opposite of leaven, in that leaven corrupts, but salt preserves. Leaven speaks of pride, salt speaks of humility. As we have already pointed out, salt also gives flavor to a meal. These things are what made it a savor to God in the meal offerings.

The salt covenant referred to in Numbers 18:19 is called an everlasting one, and I think that although Israel has not been replaced by the Church, the Lord places His priests– whatever dispensation or age they may be in– under a covenant of salt, so to speak. We have an obligation as priests and representatives of the one true God to be a preservative, not so much in society, but to our fellow man.

Referring back to Colossians 4:6, our speech should be seasoned with grace and salt so that we may know how to answer every man. If our speech is seasoned with such things, our answers aid in putting us above reproach for they will be pleasant and filled with wisdom– flavorful and palatable. There is a parallel verse in Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” A similar thought stated differently: If our speech is seasoned with salt and grace, there will be no corrupt communication (remember what the symbol for corruption is? It isn’t salt) coming out of our mouths, but only that which edifies.

The disciples were not being the salt of the earth when they were arguing over who would be greatest. There was no humility there, or when they forbade the man who was not with them from casting out demons. They were lacking grace, and were not edifying those around them.

As disciples of Christ, we eat the salt of the kingdom of Heaven, so let us honor the King, our Lord by salting our lives with the salt of His word and His Spirit that it may be a savor unto Him.


Friday, October 4, 2013

The Use of the Word “us” in the Epistle to the Ephesians

The Use of the Word “us” in the Epistle to the Ephesians

The saints at Northwest Bible Fellowship have recently begun doing a study on Ephesians on the Wednesday night small groups. In response to this, I started reading a little bit of Ephesians here and there, and was curious to know how often the word “us” appears throughout this epistle. The theme of Ephesians could be considered to be the riches that the Church (universal) has in Christ and all that He has done for us.

There are seventeen times “us” is used, in a total of fifteen verses. I would like to consider each one briefly. Bold italics will all be mine for emphasis.

Eph. 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Here, God the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. The KJV translates the second part more specifically saying: “who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. It is in Christ that we receive every spiritual blessing.

Eph. 1:4 “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:”

The Father has chosen us in Christ from before the foundation of the world not who would have eternal life as some suppose, but that we should be holy and blameless before Him. Because Christ is holy and blameless, all who are chosen in Him will be as well.

Eph. 1:5 “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,”

It pleased God to mark out before hand believers to be adopted into the family of God. Here, the controversial doctrine of predestination is brought up. Some suppose that predestination is to eternal life, but I would disagree. Read the verse again, and you will see that in this verse predestination is to adoption, a legal term related to sonship. In the eleventh verse, the word comes up again in past tense form, but it is the same Greek word that is used. There we read about how we are predesinated to an inheritance in Christ. Now predestination literally means to “mark out beforehand”, so these are things for which believers have been marked out beforehand. The other passage where predestination occurs is in Romans 8:28-30 where we read that it is conformity to the image of Christ that to which we are predestined. I believe that adoption, conformity to the image of Christ, and the obtaining of an inheritance are all related, as only sons receive an inheritance, and we are adopted into the family of God making us sons, and as sons, our final goal is to be conformed to be made like the Son of God. Only believers have the blessing of predestination, it never applies to unbelievers, and it never applies to forgiveness of sins, so anyone can be predestined so long as they accept Christ as their savior. This verse details the great benevolence of God, all this was done because it was His will, and that it was for His pleasure. Christ wasn’t pleased to merely save us, but to bring us into the family of God.

Eph. 1:6 “To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
After explaining how Christ has marked out beforehand the adoption of sons for His pleasure and good will, and we praise him for His wonderful grace, which made us accepted in the one who is loved who is Christ.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Love Not the World

Song of Solomon 5:9-10
What is thy beloved more than another beloved most beautiful among women? What is thy beloved more than another beloved that thou dost so charge us? My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.”

Recently, I have been studying Song of Solomon and realized there were some inconsistencies with the way I interpreted the book. Like most believers, I looked at Solomon as a type of Christ and the Shulamite as a type of the Church. After reading Bill MacDonald's thoughts in his Believer's Bible Commentary, I looked at what he said about the identity of Solomon and who he is a type of and studied it out for myself. This is what I found.
Three questions to ask
1. How many main characters are there in SoS, two or three?
2. If there are three, what is the relation of the third to the other two?
3. Is Solomon a type of Christ in this book?

1. Many Bible teachers from the earliest days have seen only two characters in SoS. But in my recent studies, I have taken the rare view that there are three characters in this book: Solomon himself, the Shulamite, and the third, her beloved– a shepherd-lover.
2. The Shulamite uses the phrase “thou whom my soul loveth” five times in SoS, and the term “beloved” is used 33 times in SoS and almost all of them come from the mouth of the Shulamite. In SoS 1:7, uses the phrase “thou whom my soul loveth” for the first time and it is set in context to a pastoral scene. It is consistent throughout the book that Shulamite describes her “beloved” with rural, countryside, pastoral descriptions. So whoever Shulamite loves, he must be a shepherd, and hence the term shepherd-lover. The Shulamite describes her beloved with rural terminology, consistent with her and the shepherd-lover’s background but not with Solomon’s. When Solomon is in view on the other hand consistently uses terms associated with kingdoms and royalty. In 1:9 he calls Shulamite a steed in Pharoah’s chariots; In 3:7-11 Solomon’s bed is described as being so large that it takes sixty guards to encompass it. Verses 9&10 talk about Solomon building a chariot, out of wood from Lebanon (very nice wood) and pillars of silver and gold and overlaid with purple (royal color). Verse 11 records Solomon’s espousal, which implies that he was already married when this book was written (See also SoS 6:8). So based on these and other examples, there seems to be two distinct men pining for the affections of Shulamite. It is crucial to know who the Shulamite prefers for Solomon being a type of Christ depends on this. If the Shulamite does not choose Solomon, then it makes for a depressing story if Solomon is indeed a type of Christ in SoS.

3. Is Solomon a type of Christ in SoS? I would say no, he is not. SoS 3:11, 6:8 both allude to Solomon already being married and with several wives. This fact can not be overlooked or spiritualized when interpreting SoS. The theme of SoS being fidelity, and Solomon not being faithful from the beginning of the book, it is evident that in this aspect, he is not a type of Christ. In 8:7 somebody, I am not sure if it is Solomon or Shulamite, makes a statement about how love cannot be bought. Regardless of who makes the statement, it makes for a strong case that Solomon was using his wealth to woo Shulamite. None of this nullifies him from being a type in other passages such as the first ten or eleven chapters of 1 Kings, or in the Psalms. The interpretation of SoS at its simplest is that a humble maiden rejects the advances of the stately Solomon, out of faithfulness to the shepherd who she is most likely espoused to. That is the interpretation, but clearly, definitely, we can make application to Christ and the Church. In my humble opinion, and I do want to try to be humble about this, I think it is safer and more sensible to see the shepherd-lover as a type of Christ, and Solomon as a type of the world.

I would like to end on a devotional note, and encourage each of you to read through SoS and come to your own conclusions about this book. At the beginning of the message, I read from 5:9-10. Let us consider that section a little more carefully now. Recently, we have heard messages from Myles and Ali on sharing our faith and giving an answer for what we believe. Here The daughters of Jerusalem are asking the Shulamite why her beloved is more than another beloved, what makes him so special. Observe her response. Her beloved is white and ruddy. The beloved’s whiteness is a sharp contrast to the Shulamite’s own blackness which she describes herself as in the first chapter. She is black from too much time outside BTW, not a racial thing. White speaks of purity. So just we are black with sin, the Lord, our beloved, is white with purity. Next, her beloved is ruddy. The hebrew word used here for ruddy has its roots in the same word used for man, transliterated as aw-dawm, where we get the name “Adam”. It also reminds me of manliness and virility, as Esau and King David are described as ruddy and they are known for their masculinity. But in particular it reminds me of the first man, Adam. In type, it not only speaks of man, but also of vitality of life, for the Adam came from the dust of the earth, which was of a reddish color. The picture I am painting and I hope that you are beginning to see is that Christ, the second Adam, is the author of life, where the first Adam was a living soul, the second Adam is a life giving Spirit and all vitality of life rests in Him.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Theological Basis for Apologetics

Theology is not beyond anyone. An example, General Motors used to run an intstitute, which would train people to become automotive engineers. People could receive, bachelor's master's and doctorate degrees. They produce well trained people for the automotive industry. However, one does not need to attend GM institute to learn to drive a car, or even become a mechanic. One can learn these things, and learn these things well without attending a prestigous school. If you can attend such a school, great, but do not attend the school thinking that is the only way you can learn to drive and work on cars. It is every believer's birthright to study theology. You are required to pay attention when studying theology as your eternal destiny depends on your theology. The more you study theology, the easier it becomes and the more interesting it becomes. One cannot simply escape studying theology. Anyone who studies the Bible and formulates an opinion, whether objective or biased, will ultimately be grounded in some sort of theology. There are many christians that say "Let's not worry about words, let's just love Jesus." Every church has a tendency to focus on small matters and forget about the larger matters. This idea that we should not worry about words dismisses the Bible, and what Christ taught. All we are left with, is our own idea of what it means to love Jesus. We should love the Christ of the Bible, not the Christ of our own imaginations. Theology is not irrelevant even though people may dismiss it as such and any opinion if it has a theological basis.


The study of how we can know. Our system of thought must answer that question. There are two related questions that must be answered: How can we know, and the second, what is the basis for moral behavior? Presently, the public school system is expected to teach values rather than provide an education. There are many problems with expecting this from a school system. But we must ask, if they are going to teach values, what values are they going to teach? What values are essential? Many people will say that tolerance is one value that must be taught as it is the greatest virtue. But it is not the greatest virtue. G.K. Chesterton once said "tolerance is a virtue of a man without convictions." Tolerance of evil is not a virtue at all. Only when men are intolerant of evil, can we put evil behind us. So tolerance cannot be the ultimate virtue. Tolerance of good, is simply pointless. Nobody is going to go out of their way to declare that they are tolerant of universally good things. The only things we can be tolerant about morally neutral things like cultural differences, customs, languages etc. This brings us to another related question: How can we know what moral neutrality looks like if we are going to be tolerant of it? Christians can know what this may look like because we have the written word and the Spirit of God dwelling in us to guide us, but how can non-christians know what is morally neutral?

There are some systems of thought that non-christians hold to that we will look at. The first one is called Naturalism, or Materialism. This system says that matter is the ultimate reality, that all things are produced from some pre-existing material. According to this thought, matter can be predetermined by mathematics and science. It is also known as Ontological Reductionism, the idea that everything is predetermined by mathematics. However, the phenomona of information is an unpredictable factor that Materialism cannot account for and thus, the whole philosophy goes down the drain.

Barna research did a poll among Christian churches to see the varying differences groups of Christians have on a biblical world view. A biblical world view is defined as absolute truth existing and the standard of such truth is determined by the Bible, and a firm belief in six specific views.
They are: 1. Jesus lived a sinless life
2.God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe and still rules it today.
3.Salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned
4.Satan is real
5.A christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people
6. The Bible is accurate in all its teachings.
Southern Baptists, the largest evangelical denomination, only 29 percent of the pastors hold to a biblical world view. 51 percent of independent bible church pastors hold to a biblical world view. 13 percent of the average nondenominational church members hold to a biblical world view and 9 percent of born again believers hold to these teachings. Professing christians do not hold to sound views mainly because christians do not know how they can know the truth, due to a lack of proper understanding of scripture.

The first source of knowledge is observation. The second source of knowledge is instruction. The third source of knowledge is reason. However, each of these sources of knowledge is faulty. We can think we know something and be terribly wrong. Someone can be wrong in their instruction as well. Even reasoning is faulty; we think we have figured out the laws of physics, math, and chemistry, and we are still wrong more often than we are right. This becomes a huge problem in the area of religion. And so, if God exists, then He must give us a fourth source of knowledge. The fourth source is revelation, through the Bible. The first three sources are considered general revelation that all men have, and the fourth source is called special revealtion. General revelation is not sufficient to show the way of salvation- only special revelation through God's word can suffice that role. While general revelation is not as strong as special revelation, scripture itself points to proofs that general revelation is in itself, enough to believe in God. Consider Romans 1:18-20: "For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because the thing which may be known of God is clearly revealed unto them, for God revealed it to them. For the unseen things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being realized by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, for them to be without excuse." Let us look at one of the arguments for the existence of God based on general revelation.

The Cosmological Argument

The argument stated with motion as a variation: "It is certain . . . that . . . some things are in motion. Now whatever is moved is moved by another, for nothing can be moved except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is moved. . . . If that by which it is moved be itself moved, then this also must needs be moved by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover. . . . Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God." - Thomas Aquinas  
Two of the criticisms skeptics take to this line of argument is why there cannot be an infinite series of motion, and why must it stop with God? There are two possible types of series of motion one could be talking about. Aquinas himself would admit that an infinite series of motions would in theory, be possible. One person came from another person, and that person came from another person ad infinitum. This is considered a horizontal series of motion, and could theoretically go on forever. But there is a vertical series of motion that does not go on forever. Once a person is an adult and independent of their parents, they continue to be dependent on things that are essential to life such as water, air and other things. My existence is dependent on water for example. I can get water from my kitchen faucet and where did that water come from? A river, perhaps, or a resovoir. Where did it come from before there? The sky? And from there? Ultimately, it came from God, the creator.

Now, I said earlier that it would be theoretically possible for a horizontal series of motion to be infinite, but even in this scenario, it is not. An infinite series of numbers exists in the mind, but with humans and life in general, there had to be a first couple from which all other humans descended. Not only that, but atheists and skeptics make the error of assuming that all things must be created, which is not true. The Cosmological argument does not say that all things must have a designer behind it, but all created things must by necessity have a creator. The God of the Bible is not only the creator of all things, but is by definition, uncreated and self-existing.

1. The Christian Faith by Dallas Roark. (Broadman Press Edition, 1967)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hebrews 1:5-7

Hebrews 1:5-7
"For unto which of the angels said he at any time, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?' And again, 'I will be to him a Father and he shall be to me a Son?' And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, 'And let all the angels of God worship him.' Of the angels he saith, 'Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.'"

This series of verses in the first chapter of Hebrews references the Old testament several times. In order to understand these verses, it is best to look at each OT reference (in its own context) and see how the author of this epistle is using it here to uphold the deity and supremacy of Christ. The author starts out asking his reader the rhetorical question: "For unto which of the angels said He at any time 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?'" This is only the first part of verse five, the verse goes on as the author asks a second question, but we will pause here and look at the Old Testament reference he utilizes. The phrase "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee" appears in Psalm 2:7, the context is found in vv. 6-8: "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth." (Psalm 2:6-8 bold emphasis mine). This psalm is a messianic Psalm declaring the sovereign rule of the Lord in spite of the world's rejection of Him. Verses 6-8 show the Lord receiving all the earth for His inheritance, not just Israel, but the gentile nations too. Christ's sonship is on full display as God the Father Himself says "Thou art my Son..." So we return to Hebrews. The author quoting Psalm 2:7 asks which of the angels did God ever say that they were His Son. Not one of the angels could ever say that they were the Son of God. Jesus Christ is God's Son, not by adoption, but His begotten Son, the only begotten of the Father.

The second Old Testament verse that is referenced here in verse five is 2 Samuel 7:14: "I will be his Father and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men." The surrounding context of this verse is the foundation of the Davidic covenant. The Lord has promised King David that the throne of his kingdom would be established forever, that David's seed would be set up and there would always be someone from the line of David ruling from Jerusalem. The phrase that the apostle emphasizes here in Hebrews is the first part, "I will be his Father and he shall be my son." This is where the Lord is referring to both Solomon and Christ, the rest of the verse obviously does not apply to Christ.

In verse six, the apostle quotes a verse out of Deuteronomy 32:43 but not out of the original Hebrew manuscripts; the author of Hebrews quotes out of the Septuagint, which reads: "Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people." The original Hebrew is quite different but the apostle reckoned the LXX to be scripture and so he quoted it thus. It's interesting to compare the LXX translation of this verse with an Hebrew-based English version such as the KJV. The KJV translates Deut. 32:43 as: "Rejoice O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people." It's amazing how the Holy Spirit uses the Septuagint in the New Testament, and I am thankful that God used the LXX translation of Deut. 32:43 instead of the standard Hebrew.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Superiority of Christ to His Angels

The superiority of Christ to His heavenly & earthly servants.

Hebrews 1:1-14:

  God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

A couple of weeks ago, I was a part of an evangelistic Bible study where one of the participants whether out of ignorance, or out of emotional zeal, made a statement that Christ is the highest archangel. I and other leaders in the study were swift to correct the error of this thinking. I turned to this passage in the epistle to the Hebrews as a basis to refute the heretical teaching that Christ is merely an angel.

Hebrews 1:1-2

God at certain times and in different ways communicated to His covenant people through the prophets, but now we in the dispensation of grace have received a fuller revelation through His Son, Jesus Christ the appointed heir of all things. The rule of progressive revelation shows that while the revelation saints of this dispensation is not greater than that of the revelation received by Abraham, Moses, and David, it is a fuller revelation. In the Old Testament, it was not the spirit of man, but the Spirit of Christ that testified of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that would follow (1 Peter 1:10-12). But the prophets of whom the Spirit of Christ testified of these things in were not able to understand of all that they spoke of. The Son of God has spoken to us the fulfillment of the things the prophets spoke of and could not comprehend. As creator of both the superior and inferior worlds (Col. 1:16), the Son of God is heir of all things by right of creation. To this end, our Lord and Savior is greater than the prophets which did speak of Him. These verses also refute all notions that any false prophet (e.g. Muhammad, Joseph Smith, etc.) could be greater than Christ, or preach a greater gospel than Christ.

Hebrews 1:3-4

Matthew Henry writes: "The third verse here is a high description of the glorious Redeemer, an account of His personal excellency. The person of the Son is the glory of the Father, shining forth with a truly divine splendour. As the beams are effulgent emanations of the sun, the father and fountain of light, Jesus Christ in His person is God manifest in the flesh. He is light of light the true Shekinah."1 All things-- material and immaterial-- are held up by the word of His power, that is the power of Christ's word. What we know (or think we know) about the laws of physics would be changed drastically if we were to consider the truth of the power behind Christ's word. Having cleansed us of our sins, all by Himself, with no assistance from any man or angel, sat down at the right hand of God. As Son of God, Christ is eternally superior to all created angels and thus has always been "better" than the angels. As Son of Man, Christ received a more excellent name as a consequence of His humiliation, sufferings, and meritorious death. The author seems to implicate both aspects of the Sonship of Christ as to how He has received a superior name than the angels. Notice the construction of the third verse: it starts with a grand description of the glory of His deity and ends with the fact of His vicarious death and subsequent sitting down at the right hand of God. As Son of God, Jesus Christ is the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person. As Son of Man, Christ is our representative, bearing our sins in His body. As Son of God, the name belongs to Christ naturally and essentially; it is His divine inheritance. As Son of Man, He was made in our likeness and was obedient to the death of the cross for which cause God exalted Him and gave Him a new name which is above every name (Phil. 2:9-11).

Sources: 1. Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Notes on Heresy

        Notes on Heresy

The definitions of these two terms are often considered to be synonomous, but they are not. They are linked, but the truth is, as far back as the first century, heresies have subsisted amongst godly believers. Apostasy on the other hand, is more controversial as it pertains to eternal security and the possibility for a true believer to commit apostasy. These, and other issues will be taken up in this article and perhaps the next one as well.

Let us start by looking at heresy first. Heresy is a noun transliterated as "hairesis". It literally means "a choice, i.e., (specifically) a party [to associate oneself with], a sect. Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines heresy as: "a body of men following their own tenets, i.e. of the Sadducees, of the Pharisees, of the Christians etc., dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims." The term appears in 1 Corinthians 11:19 where Paul writes: "For there must also be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."  According to the definitions listed, Paul was clearly alluding to what he had written earlier in the same epistle: "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" (1 Cor. 3:3-4) If heresies literally means "divisions and parties, then Paul must have been referring back to his statement in chapter three where speaks about divisions. However, the word for divisions in the third chapter is not the same as the word for heresies in the eleventh chapter. The word for divisions in the third chapter is "dichostasia", and it literally means "disunion". So although "heresies" and "divisions" are not exactly the same thing, they are closely related. They are both listed in Galatians 5:20 as works of the flesh: "Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions [divisions], heresies. Acts 24:5, 14, and 28:22 all make reference to Christianity as being a heresy or sect. It is used once in Acts 24:5 when the orator Tertullus accuses Paul of being a "mover of sedition among... the Jews... and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:" In Acts 26:5 Paul uses the term sect in describing the Pharisees: "Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee." Notice that in all these verses "heresy" or "sect" is used in a negative context. Whether used by the Pharisees towards Christians, or by Paul towards the Pharisees, it was not a term of endearment to be called a heresy or sect.

What About Seditions?

Seditions is closely related to heresy as they both speak of divisions as pointed out in the last paragraph. The Greek word for seditions is found three times in the King James Version: Romans 16:17; 1 Cor. 3:3; and Galatians 5:20. Romans 16:17 contains one of the strongest and yet obscure warnings against those who are seditious in all of scripture. Here, Paul warns the Roman believers: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." We are to call out those who do these two things: cause divisions and offences opposite to the doctrine we have learned of God, then we are to avoid them. Seditious behaviour itself while associated with heresy, is also associated with offences contrary to the doctrine of scripture, which is by definition, heresy. I do not think this is referring to all doctrine, but the doctrine we have learned of Christ that convinced us of our sin and need of a Saviour and of which we learned to trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It is this doctrine that we must guard by marking and avoiding those who cause offences contrary to these essential doctrines. The word for offences in the seventeenth verse of Romans 16 is "skandalon" and is where we get the english word "scandal". It is translated as "stumblingblock" in Rev. 2:14 and "occasion of stumbling" in 1 John 2:10 among other verses. Rev. 2:14 reads: "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication." The stumblingblock then, was not only an offense to God, it was also scandalous behaviour that eventually brought a plague upon the congregation of Israel. (Num. 31:16)

Examples of heresy, seditions, or offenses contrary to sound doctrine which we have learned might be baptismal regeneration, or universal salvation of mankind because either of these false doctrines present a very real possibility of a person stumbling in their understanding of who Christ is, His work on the cross, and who they are as a sinner. The false doctrine of continuation of sign gifts in this generation should not be looked on as a heresy or sedition unless the person holding to it makes the doctrine a deciding factor in whether or not other believers are truly saved. Then, they would be guilty of causing division but the problem would not rest in their understanding of the use of tongues but in their understanding of salvation.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Notes on Repentance and Salvation of the Soul.

Notes on Repentance and Salvation of the Soul

In scripture, the word 'repent' and its various cognates appear a total of one hundred and six times in ninety nine verses. In the Old Testament, 'repent' appears forty-one times. Both biblical languages have two main words for 'repent'. In Hebrew, the words are transliterated as "naw-kham" and "shoob". "Naw-kham" is used in the majority of the verses in the Old Testament and it literally means "to be sorry, to pity, console oneself, rue; or, to avenge (oneself). The other, "shoob", means to turn back (hence, away) and it is translated as repent only three times in the Old testament.

In the New testament there are two words that are used for the verb form of repent and one for the noun form. The two verbs are "metanoeo" and "metamelomai". The first is very much like "shoob" of the OT. It also has to do with a change of mind and would be considered to be the intellectual aspect of repentance. The second word, "metamelomai", is used significantly less in the New Testament and implies feelings of guilt. It is the emotional aspect of repentance but does not necessarily mean one is truly repentant. It is used in Matthew 27:3 of Judas: "Then Judas which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented of himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,". Judas himself repented of his treachery but it was not true repentance as he did not seek forgiveness for his sin.

Often times believers and non-believers alike can get confused on the meaning of 'repentance for salvation'. People tend to think that that when the word 'repentance' is used in this way it means to turn away from a sinful lifestyle. This thinking leads some to believe in works-based salvation or lordship salvation. Of course, this is not how the Gospels and the New testament uses the term 'repentance' in reference to salvation and justification.

Because of the confusion, believers who are ignorant of how repentance is used in the New testament tend to go to one of two extremes. They will either preach a works-based gospel which states that a person must stop committing sin in order to be saved, or they will leave repentance out of the gospel altogether. The latter route is known as the "feel good gospel" because according to those who preach this "we just need to show the love of Jesus." By looking at how repentance is used in the gospels, we will see that neither option is scriptural.

In the New testament, the verb 'metaneo' is primarily used for 'repentance'. The first time it is used is in Matt. 3:2: "And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Luke uses 'metaneo' for repentance in recording the Lord's great commission to His disciples (Luke 24:47). It is also used in Revelation 2:5,16,21,22 and Rev. 3:3,19. Each of these six verses that 'repent' is used in the letters to the seven churches it means "to turn away from." Verse 5 makes use of 'metaneo' twice:"Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." Here, the Lord is commanding the saints at Ephesus to repent, or turn away from, of their having departed their first love, Himself.

Notice that in the gospels Christ never exhorted publicans and harlots to feel a sense of guilt for their sinful behavior and lifestyle. Of the five churches that were commanded to repent, none of them were commanded to feel a sense of guilt, neither. A sense of guilt is important yes, it has its place, but not in preaching the gospel, or in restoring a backslidden brother in Christ. Remorse, sorrowful feelings for sins committed must come from within an individual. You cannot force such feelings upon another person, you can only preach the awfulness of sin and the depravity of man. The Spirit will work in the person if they have not hardened their hearts and they will feel remorse in time.

If Christ, John the Baptist, and all the apostles commanded sinners everywhere to repentance, but did not pressure men and women into feeling remorseful for sins committed, what did they preach repentance from? Quite simply, they preached repentance from the sin of unbelief. It is unbelief that keeps a person from accepting Christ as their Savior, and it is this that everyone must turn away from.

All men and women are born with a flawed view of who Christ is and what He has done for us. Some of us are raised thinking that while Christ died for the whole world, He hasn't died for me personally. Others are raised with the belief that Christ was just a good man but not God. There are many other views that people of the world have about Christ. Views that separate one from receiving forgiveness and a relationship with God. Every one must turn away from and reject these misconceptions and false views, and every Christian must preach true repentance which can only result in a turning away from such views!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dealing with False Teachers in 2 John

2 John 1:5-11
“And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after His commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his deeds.”  

Here in John’s second epistle, he writes to a woman at an assembly of believers he is in contact with. He gives the lady and the assembly she is in fellowship at the same exhortation to do the commandments of the Lord. There was no new commandment to give this group of believers, nor are there any for today’s believers. It is the commandment you have heard from the beginning dear saint, from the time you believed on Christ and made the decision to follow Him. We are to love one another, all believers ought to have this affection towards each of his brothers and sisters in the Lord. But there are many who assume the name and appearance of a christian and yet deny Christ. If they were common enough in John’s time for him to write that ‘many deceivers are entered into the world’ then the deceivers have waxed in number over the millenia. John’s second epistle offers some great reminders not only to walk in the commandment to love one another as the Lord has commanded us, but also some much needed advice on how to deal with false teachers and apostates who take the name of Christ. 

It can be quite easy to forget this little epistle as so many of us have before, but without it, we who stand fast in the faith would be inclined to show hospitality as hospitality is a trait of love, to all believers– even the apostates. This is precisely the reason why John did not simply give this elect lady an exhortation to continue in the commandment of love but also issued this important warning of deceivers and antichrists who deny that Christ had come in the flesh. 

During this period of church history, the heresy of gnosticism was on the rise. A man named Cerinthus was one of the most well known teachers of gnosticism. He taught that Jesus of Nazareth was just a man who received the Christ at His baptism, and the Christ left Him in the garden of Gethsemane. Cerinthus did not believe in the pre-existence of Jesus Christ, or in His deity. He denied that Christ had come in the flesh and gained a wide following with his teachings. His teachings continue to abound to this day, with many famous Hollywood actors and actresses, Jane Fonda and Shirley Maclaine to name a few. 

If a person claims to be a christian but denies either explicitly or implicitly that Christ– the pre-existent Son of God– came in the flesh and dwelt among men, then that person is an antichrist. Other christians are not to welcome that person into their home, no matter how pleasant and friendly they may be. Believers are called to suffer many things; we are sometimes called to suffer shame, reproach, affliction, persecution, and more. But one thing we can not suffer in our homes or in the assembly at large is a false teacher who denies either the humanity of deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

If a professor of the faith transgresses the standard of the doctrine of Christ and departs from thence, they do not have the Spirit dwelling in them. It is not that they lose the Spirit, for that is impossible, but that they never had it to begin with. However, if a professor abides or, remains, in the doctrine of Christ, they have both the Father and the Son as well as the Spirit. This teaching is not to be confused with Perseverance of the Saints that is taught in Calvinist theology. Perseverance of the Saints is better known as Lordship salvation which is endorsed by the calvinist John MacArthur. Another teaching that deviates from 2 John 1:9 is the Arminian teaching known as Uncertainty of Perseverance. 

Ironically, the Calvinist teaching on eternal security is very similar to the Arminian teaching. Calvinists teach that if one is surely elect, they will persevere in the faith; Arminians teach that anyone– elect or non-elect– can get saved, but they can lose their salvation if they commit a horrible sin or a great number of sins. In short, Calvinism teaches that no one can be assured of their salvation, Arminianism teaches that anyone who is saved is not secure in their salvation. 

You must remain in the doctrine of Christ so that you may remain in the Father and the Son. It does not have to do with good works, or not sinning, but holding fast to strong doctrine. If we remain in the doctrine of Christ, which Paul calls the doctrine of godliness in his letters to Timothy, we will be exercised to produce good works and keep from habitual sin. So the doctrine of Christ or the doctrine of godliness, has many benefits, chief among them being kept in the hands of the Father and the Son. 

If there come any into our gatherings who do not bear this doctrine, we are not to welcome them into our homes as we would with other believers. We are not even to bid them God speed or some other courteous line of farewell. Letting them into our homes could affect our testimony in some way if our neighbors see us letting in some false teachers such as mormons or JW’s. If our neighbors see us extending hospitality to these false teachers, they may assume that these cults are as orthodox as we are. If on the other hand, they see us telling them to not come back to our house, or some other unwelcome statement, they should get the picture. 

Even wishing them well, these false teachers, is spoken against by the apostle John. While we may be sincere in our intentions to be polite by wishing them well, we must not, for that would cause us to enter into fellowship with them. It would be a loose sense of fellowship, nevertheless the word “partaker” used in verse 11 means to enter into fellowship with another. In the apostle’s day bidding someone God speed also carried along with it the sense of supporting someone financially if they were in need. Today, it is equally important to neither support false teachers or verbally assent to their teachings. In no way, shape or form do we want to make ourselves look like we are in concord with Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15).