October 20, 2014

Dispensationalism (hereafter DT) has several primary tenants. Ryrie wrote that the sine qua non of DT are as follows:

1. Doxological view of history. This is the view that all of human history from creation to consummation is ultimately for God’s glory. With this, all Christians agree.

2. Literalistic hermeneutic. Most Christians would agree in principle with this concept, that scripture ought to be understood as it presents itself. DT maintains in particular that the Old Testament prophecies concerning the nation of Israel must be understood in a literal fashion, i.e., not spiritualized to mean something other than what they appear to say on the surface. By this they mean that they must be fulfilled by ethnic, national Israel.

3. Ongoing distinction between two peoples of God: Israel and the Church. It is this tenant that truly separates the system from the rest of Christianity. In order for the Old Testament prophecies concerning the nation of Israel to be fulfilled in a literal fashion (2.), there must be a clear distinction between Israel and the Church. This principle is actually what drove John Nelson Darby to conceptualize a Pre-Tribulational rapture for this reason: If the Church and Israel are both on the earth at the same time, God cannot fulfill promises to Israel without neglecting the Church and vice versa.

In contrast to Covenant Theology (hereafter CT), when the New Testament authors utilize an Old Testament prophecy and apply it to the Church, DT understands this to be secondary to the ultimate fulfillment, which must be literal.

Traditionally, DT maintains that the Church was a mystery in the Old Testament. By this, they mean that the Old Testament does not speak of the Church in any way and that no prophecy explicitly references the Church. The Church, in DT, obtains blessings because of God’s promise to Israel rather than (as CT holds) in fulfillment of them. So when a New Testament author utilizes an Old Testament prophecy and applies it to the Church, DT maintains that this cannot be the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy but rather a spiritual application of it. The true fulfillment must be found in future Israel, according to DT.

The third of the sine qua non (according to Ryrie) is an ongoing distinction between the two peoples of God: the Church and Israel. This is both a serious theological problem and an entirely anachronistic concept. Before Darby in 1830, no one conceptualized this distinction. It had always been understood throughout Church history (and especially among the apostolic fathers) that the Church IS Israel.

At this point, it’s necessary to address the common accusation by DT that every other system is a form of “Replacement Theology.” By this, they mean that non-DT systems wrongly believe that Israel has been replaced as God’s chosen people by the Church. This is first and foremost a confusion of the opposition. We do not suggest that the Church has replaced Israel but rather that the Church is the ultimate fulfillment of Israel. I will elaborate on that more below. Second, this accusation of “Replacement Theology” is somewhat ironic since it is DT that believes Israel has been “set aside” and, essentially, replaced by the Church during the Church Age.

Now, when I say that the Church is the ultimate fulfillment of Israel, we have to understand how the term is used in the NT as well as the OT. The Greek term for church is ἐκκλησία (ekklesia). It is derived from terms meaning, lit., “called out ones,” and means “assembly” or “congregation.” In fact, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (which was in use in the first century) called the Septuagint (LXX), the term ἐκκλησία is used to translate the Hebrew word which refers to the assembly of Israel. So the term “Church” is not even new to the New Testament, so it could not be a new concept either. What is strange about the New Testament Church is not that some other entity has become God’s chosen people but that God’s chosen people now includes Gentiles. Thus, Israel is not replaced but rather expanded from primarily those of Jewish descent to include people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people.

Now a problem arises at this point which is addressed thoroughly in scripture because the issue came up in the early church: How can Gentiles be God’s people if they are not becoming Jews? Of course, by “becoming Jews” they would mean becoming circumcised, following the dietary restrictions, partaking in the festivals, adhering to the dress-code, participating in ceremonial washings, and taking part in the temple worship and sacrifice system. All these things were what, to the mind of the first century Jew, separated them from everyone else. It was a dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile.

In Ephesians 1 through 2:10, Paul addresses the many blessings that were given to Israel—”the first to hope in Christ” (“Men of Israel” in Acts 2)—and then applies these blessings equally to the Gentiles—”you also when you heard the word of truth.” He continues this argument throughout the entire book, calling Jew and Gentile to be as one in Christ, explaining that this massive influx of Gentile believers was foretold long ago. The means by which this would occur was veiled until the cross. But see how Paul highlights that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile in Christ:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

(Ephesians 2:11-22)

Those things which separated Jew from Gentile were all types and shadows of Christ. Now that the substance had come, the shadow gave way to the Light. This dividing wall was removed by the blood of Christ, and so Jew and Gentile are one. Gentiles were once strangers and aliens (lit., foreigners) of Israel, her covenants and promised blessings, but now Gentiles have been made fellow citizens (of Israel) and members of the household of God, having been grafted into the single Olive Tree, the corporate assembly of Israel. He made the two into one new man: the Body of Christ, the Church.

Paul reiterates this same concept when discussing why there were so many apostate Jews. The implicit question was this: If God promised to save Israel, and many Israelites are not saved, has God’s promise failed? Paul’s answer is this:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

(Romans 9:6-8)

Ishmael was descended from Abraham, his seed according to the flesh, but Ishmael received none of the blessings promised to Abraham’s seed because he was not a child of the promise. Who now are children of Abraham? Paul’s argument explains:

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’

and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”

“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’

there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

(Romans 9:22-26)

This prophecy was originally made to Israel and concerning Israel, yet Paul here uses it as proof that both the called Jews and the called Gentiles are heirs of this promise. Who then are the children of Abraham? Who are the Jews?

For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

(Romans 2:28-29)

Israel of promise had always been a spiritual identity, not a physical one. For many Gentiles were included in the corporate body of Israel in the Old Testament, including Rahab the Cannanite, the prostitute who aided the spies in Jericho; Ruth the Moabitess, wife of Boaz and great-grandmother of King David; Caleb the Kenizzite, one of the two faithful spies sent into the land of Canaan; and Obed-edom the Gittite, the man who kept the Ark of the Covenant in his house for three months. These all became Jews not by changing their ethnicity but by changing their religion. It was always a spiritual people, but beforehand the nation was a geo-political entity; now it is a spiritual entity:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

(1 Peter 2:9-10)

Peter applies all these terms used explicitly of Israel and even quotes a prophecy pertaining specifically to Israel and applies this to the church. Just in case it was not clear enough:

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

(Galatians 3:29)

Christians are the seed of Abraham, not those who are biologically related to him.

 

come-to-me-all-who-labour A key scripture on ecclesiology is Acts 2:42. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” What is ecclesiology and is the Acts 2 model a viable model/blueprint for Spirit of Life Church in 21st century? In the bible we see 6 roles for a church:

Protect and provide for the congregation/assembly. Discipline and accountability. Encourage, equip, and train for mission. Teaching. Hospitality. Leading ordered lives following God’s ordinances: gathering, the Lord’s table, baptism.

Worship is deliberately omitted from the list as the Shemah of Deuteronomy 6:4, alongside 1 Corinthians, gives the foundational principle that all we do is worship:

  • “In eating and drinking, and in all we do, we should aim at the glory of God, at pleasing and honouring him. In other words all we do is an act of worship.” 1 Corinthians 12:31

    Here o Israel the Lord you God the Lord is one, you are to love the Lord your God with all you r heart, all your mind and all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4

    In teaching doctrine The authors of the New Testament needed a clear understanding of what church is. When referring to the gathering of those under the Old and New Testaments the authors of Scripture use the term ecclesia, translated into English as calling out, i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, especially religious congregation. A gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place. (136 OT, 114 NT) Ecclesia is a motif throughout scripture. Noah was called out from the sinful world before it was destroyed, Abraham left pagan Haran, and was promised a people more numerous than the stars. Under patriarchs, prophets, judges, and kings, the Jews were set apart as a nation under the true and living God (Jonah 1:9). This begs the question, why would translators from the original common greek and hebrew, adopt the term church in the new testament writings? After all, William Tyndale disputed the use of the term and was an advocate of the term congregation. The following information is from ACMTC Library and BenWilliamsLibrary.com: Let’s start by defining the word. “Church” comes from the Old English and German word pronounced “kirche.” In Scotland, it was “kirk.” The following entries are from the Oxford Universal English Dictionary: Church [Old English cirice, circe; Middle English chereche, chiriche, chirche; whence churche, cherche, etc.: -Greek Kuriakon…] Kirk The Northern English and Scottish form of church, in all its senses. In the earlier Greek It was pronounced “ku-ri-a-kos” or “ku-ri-a-kon.” As you can see, this word doesn’t even resemble the Greek word “ecclesia” whose place it has usurped. The meaning of “Ku-ri-a-kos” is understood by its root: “Ku- ri-os,” which means “lord.” Thus, “kuriakos” (i.e., “church”) means “pertaining to the lord.” It refers to something that pertains to, or belongs to, a lord. The Greek “kuriakos” eventually came to be used in Old English form as “cirice” (Kee-ree-ke), then “churche” (kerke), and eventually “church” in its traditional pronunciation. A church, then, is correctly something that “pertains to, or belongs to, a lord.” Therefore for the purpose of this essay I am submitting church is a vernacular term for what the Apostles would have understood as the congregation or assembly of believers. Remembering that the first converts had to wrestle with the question, ‘were gentiles even allowed to become Christians?’, Acts 10:28 and therefore be allowed into the congregation. Believers within the Spirit of Life Church are those who are descendants of Abraham beneficiaries of God’s Covenant Genesis 15:5, grafted into the line of David and members of a Royal Priesthood Romans 11:17. Our antecedents are the Israelites, we are within the kingdom (reign) of Christ, Matthew 12:28, and our primary mission remains; “to see all nations come to a knowledge of truth”

    “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.” Isaiah 2:2

    Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. Psalm 2:8

    This is a covenantal understanding of the role and position of the Christian, a position held throughout church history; most recently by the puritans and contemporary reformed believers. It is juxtaposed with the 19th century teachings of John Nelson Derby of the Plymouth Brethren, and the Texan Pastor Schofield, who wrote a popularized systematic theology. Their teaching is known as dispensational in which Christian history is divided into dispensations. God deals with different people under different dispensations. Our current dispensation is called the, ‘church age’. Israel is being dealt with under a different dispensation. It is a futurist view of eschatology. A dispensational conviction has a pessimistic view of history: The world is on a trajectory toward increasing oppression, persecution, and conflict. The popular phrase is, “the world is going to hell in a hand-basket.” (pessimillenialism) These fundamentally different eschatological positions have a significant impact on ecclesiology. If, as Matthew 24:14 teaches, the gospel has already been preached to all nations (oikoumene), that the old covenant system with its temple sacrifices came under judgement and was destroyed in AD70 and the kingdom or rule of Christ is growing, then Christ’s church is the means by which this is being achieved. Alternative, if persecution of the church is set to increase, and ultimately lose its battle for nations, our church’s roles and functions as salt and light to the culture is limited. However, I hold to the understanding that mustard seeds will grow to large trees, and that Psalm 110:1 teaches that Christ’s enemies are one by one being made His footstool. As a church under the Kingship of Christ we are marching forward to the beat of His drum, looking to serve Him as He takes the nations for Himself and he puts His enemies under his footstool. There are 100,000 Christians in China, a growing population in India, and biblical Christianity is standing in opposition to Catholicism, and synchronism in Africa and South America. Therefore when continuing in the Apostles doctrine we look to model our lives and community on that which we see across Scripture. Onward Christian Soldiers is a song of victory within history. Scripture’s Model for Church Accountability Acts 9:31 – The church is peaceful multiplied, built up, walking in fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Acts 9 context: Paul being brought into the church and preaching boldly, he is protected from the Hellenists by the church. So what? Paul is assessed before being allowed into the body. Therefore, assess those who join the congregation. Support and protect those who are preaching. Walk in the fear of the Lord that He might use the church for His purposes. For example: Romans 16:1,2. “…Phoebe,,,that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.” Teaching Romans 16:23 – “Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church”. Gaius is a Macedonian who accompanied Paul on his travels. Unknown Christian to whom John’s third epistle is written. So what? Be known to the church. Gaius lives out the Apostles’ teaching, therefore live out teachings of the Apostles. Ordinances Hebrews 10:19-39 – The passage gives the context and purpose of gathering. Giving acknowledgement and gratitude in worship for the sacrifice recorded in 10:1-18. Mission Matthew10:32,33 – So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but pwhoever denies me before men, qI also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Therefore,confess Christ, speaking boldly, with compassion, urgency and wisdom. Discipline Matthew 18:17 – If he refuses to listen to them tell it to the church. Function of the church – discipline, accountability. 2 Corinthians is a stern letter. Paul speaks of his concern for people’s salvation. 2 Corinthians 13:3 Disciplined threatened as a means to show that Christ is working through Paul. Therefore, a continued theme is for the need of church discipline to be exercised, for false converts to be identified ch13:5, and members to conduct themselves as ambassadors Ch 5. Protect and Provide Letter to the Corinthians corrects a church that has been compromised by the culture. Therefore don’t allow the culture to compromise the church. 1 Corinthians 4 – Timothy sent to remind of the way of Christ, as Paul teaches them everywhere in the church. Therefore in the church we reminded of the ways of Christ. Therefore invite a Timothy that we may be transparent and open to correction. Summary (Ephesians 1:22, 3:10, 3:21, 5:23, 5:24, 25, 27, 29, 32) The Ecclesia is the bride of Christ, His perfect and spotless bride, Ephesians 5:27. In this capacity Spirit of life has the authority, following the sovereign will of her groom, to invite whom she will to the wedding celebration. Our daily celebration is seen as we live repentant lives for Christ. We live and work separated by time and space but are united as the bride with one Lord and when we gather it is culmination, continuation and preparation for ongoing worship. The Bride may tell the guests the required garments, and the consequences for failing to dress appropriately. She stipulates the way of entering and warns of the penalty of finding other routes. She dictates behaviour, and exercises corrective measures for disobedience. The bride is the groom’s pride and joy, she is all He wants, and it is her joy to conform to His will because His love for her is immeasurable. She sets her affections for Him above any concerns of conformity, tradition and convention and fears the cost of contravening His ordinances. The fear of her Lord keeps her from harm and steers her to joy, trust and contentment despite toil, tempest and temptation.

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This has been a long hard week, the disciples are exhausted. We know from Matthew 26 and Luke 22:46 that when exhorted to stay away and be on guard against temptation they failed. Have you ever looked at the disciples and thought I wouldn’t have slept in those circumstances? How are you doing with your intentions? Your intentions to eat more healthily, spend more time loving neighbours, reading your bible?

You see it’s one matter to sit patiently under the preaching of God’s Word, to faithfully serve in the church, to give sacrificially, and participate in bible study. These are good signs for all when we examine the motives of our hearts. However, when you are in the world through the week how does your life look?

Do you deny yourself and pick up your cross? Do you march to the beat of a different drum, or is it that you conform to the conventions of society? How does your life look to onlookers? Do you stand out from the crowd, are your disciplines apparent to your neighbours, to your friends, and even to your spouse! Not the outward disciplines of the Pharisees, with their piety, majestic headgear and tassels but the inward disciplines that cause you to serve not to be served.

When you leave the gathering the world will immediately seek to embrace you. It will want you to seek the physical comforts it provides; the finest foods, a better car, entertaining theatre and cinema, central heating and hot and cold running water. The irony of course is that all these things are a gift from God. All pleasures in life are from God. The problem is that the world wants to steal good things from God, and take credit for the provision.

I will often hear the unbeliever say that they’ll be happy in hell because all their friends will be there. Here’s the problem. The pleasure you get from friends, that’s a gift from God. If you are having sex outside of marriage, the pleasures you’re experiencing? They’re stolen from God. The reason why there is no happiness in hell is because there are no pleasures, they’re taken away. The torment, the suffering, the anguish and heart wrenching regret, will be everlasting, and you’ll know, beyond any doubt, that your suffering is fair, reasonable, and deserved. Outside of the merciful embrace of the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, you will get what you have earned, an everlasting existence in the bowels of hell, where you will give glory to God, “for every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” If you haven’t read Jonathan Edwards sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, written in 1741 then I encourage you to do so.

So let’s go from here, not pursuing worldly comfort and entertainment that can only satisfy for a season, but instead, pursue Christ.

From verse 2 and 3. Judas knew the place having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns, torches and weapons.

Let me briefly offer you a soldier’s perspective. Jerusalem was a strategic city on the margins of the Roman Empire, garrisoned by an occupying force. Daniel 2:40 tells of Rome as the fourth kingdom as strong as iron. The duties of these soldiers would have included guarding the various gates into the city, guarding the civil magistrate buildings, their own HQs and barracks. They would have some policing and patrolling duties as a show of force to the rebellious locals and riot control to suppress insurrection if and when it looked likely.

The soldiers would have had routine duties. Their commanders would have had the challenge, as every military commander has had throughout history, of making a limited number of personnel cover an extensive range of responsibilities. The men in this account, are being sent out on an operation to arrest someone. This person is supported by a band of men and they do not know the weapons they have or how well equipped they are to defend themselves. The soldiers are outside the protection of the city walls at night and led by Jews, officers of the chief priests. Let me assure you this is not the sort of situation that will fill any soldier with confidence.

Given the clandestine nature of efforts to capture and kill Jesus Christ it is unlikely these soldiers have been given clear orders, or been given adequate time to prepare, rest eat, even rehearse. Militarily it is an entirely unsatisfactory situation. The soldiers are tired, frustrated by having their routine upset and probably apprehensive given the dangers of being outside the city walls.

With that in mind lets go to verse 4. Jesus knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “whom do you seek?”.

Jesus Christ stepped out from the shadows, He knew all that was to happen to him. Do you see that? “Knowing all”. Now take care before you answer this question: How did He know all?

Wouldn’t it be easy to say; well Jesus is God, God is omniscient, all knowing, Jesus therefore as the second person of the Trinitarian Godhead, knew all things? In His teaching, His interaction with the religious authorities, and in His prayer life, Jesus made His deity, His eternal and glorified relationship with His father in heaven clear.

However, the Bible doesn’t allow the liberty of simply saying Jesus was God therefore He knew all things. You see we know that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man. We know from Philippians 2:6,7 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. The writer of Hebrews tells us that therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Heb 4:15

James tells us in his letter; “let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt”. And yet we see that Jesus was tempted as we are. We see in these juxtapositions that Jesus Christ was fully man, facing all the temptations that we each face, but succumbing to none. (Correction: I said in my original text that Jesus set aside His deity, that is a serious error. Please accept my apology for making this statement. I did not study the hypostatic union in appropriate depth. I am sorry. Jesus at all times held His two natures, at no time was He not fully God. This is explained in a helpful, well written, scholarly, though easily understood article from Matt Slick: http://carm.org/communicatio-idiomatum. Here is a crucial paragraph from the article which I recommend as a valuable read for a fuller understanding of Jesus Christ:

“In the sacrifice of Jesus, we have Jesus dying. But, did the divine nature of Christ also die? No it did not, since God cannot die. If the divine “side” of Jesus didn’t die, then how is the sacrifice of Christ of infinite value? The answer is found in the communicatio idiomatum because in this teaching (as we have seen in the scriptures above), the quality and attributes of the divine nature were ascribed to the person of Christ. So, even though the divine side of Jesus didn’t die, the person of Christ did die; and the person of Christ was able to claim the divine attributes as His own. Therefore, the death of Christ was infinitely valuable and able to save us from our sins.”

The Bible shows us that Jesus Christ has two natures, He is fully God, and fully man, 100% God and 100 % man. This has an important theological term that I want you to note, the hypostatic union. We come here to learn that we might give a reason for the hope that lies within, that we may give a defence of our faith and give an account of the life and works of our Saviour.

This then begs a new question. How can Jesus, as fully man, turn water into wine, feed 5000 from loaves and bread, heal the demoniac, and here in the garden, know all things that were to happen? I do not believe we are at liberty to say, because he is God. While that is certainly true, he is fully God, it is not a helpful answer. While he remains God, He is functioning under this nature He has taken on, Philippians 2, fully man.

Clearly the best answer for this question is from the words of our Lord. “I and the Father are one, John 10:30” “I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me”, John 5:30. His perfect subordination to the will of the father and by His submission and intimate knowledge of His Father’s revealed will through the Scriptures. This is most noticeably summarised in Luke 4:17 when Jesus started His ministry having been in the wilderness, tempted by the Devil, when He came into the synagogue, opened the scroll at Isaiah 61:1, 2 and announced:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And this needs to be an encouragement to you. This should drive us into the Word of God, for it is here, seeking to mature and grow in likeness to our Saviour, seeking the will of our father in heaven, through the power of the Holy Spirit that we attain knowledge. For it is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom, that’s Proverbs 1:6 and we know from Colosians 2:3,”that in Him, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

So Christ knew all that was to happen, as He knew who He was, His purpose, and God’s plan of redemption for His people because He knew the Scriptures. So let’s go to the Scriptures and see briefly how we might also grow in trust, understanding and confidence of just who Christ is.

And I want to do this without the New Testament. It is always worth remembering that the early church did not have the New Testament and that the Apostles and to an extent, I imagine, the early church fathers, preached alone from the Jewish Scriptures; theTorah and Tonach, what we today call the Old Testament.

We know where he would be born Micah 5:2. We know that he would be born to a virgin Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14. We see when he would come Daniel 2:40, and the Kingdom He would inaugurate v44 and we see in Daniel 9:24, 25 that he would die, be cut off and put and end to the sacrificial system. God tells us history before it happens.

This is but a glimpse of the detailed and specific writings and prophecies that foreshadow and provide types of the coming Messiah, Meshiak. One of the Scriptures that has been conventionally retold during the Christmas season is Isaiah 9:6 – 7

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given; – (Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14)
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called`
Wonderful Counselor, (1 Tim 2;5) Mighty God, (El Gibor)
Everlasting Father (Psalm 90:2) , Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it (Matthew 12:28)
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore. (Daniel 2:44, 9:24)
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Was the zeal of the Lord of Hosts seen in Jesus Christ? Was He zealous for righteousness? To the point of having no regard for the worldly social conventions of the day. A friend of sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes! One who had no hesitation in taking whip to the backs of those who would turn His house of prayer into a den of thieves, who would take a stand against the hypocritical religious leaders of the day: Matthew 23:1-15 – Here we see the zeal of the Lord, fiercely and jealously standing for justice and righteousness.

We’ve have been here to show that while the Bible gives us an account of all human history, while it contains different genres, history, poetry, doctrine and prophecy, most importantly, it shows us Christ. The Old Testament testifies to the coming Messiah. If you imagine Christ, the light of the world stood here in the central pages of your bible, he is casting a shadow over the Old Testament.

In the remaining verses, 5-11, we witness Jesus’ mastery over events as they unfold.

V5. Judas is here. You’ll remember the last time we met him was in the upper room when Jesus sent him out, “what you are about to do, do quickly” John 13:27.

V6. The mob of soldiers unlikely to be well led and seem like a rabble as they fall to the ground in the presence of deity, where with their attention gripped, it can be made clear just who they are seeking as Jesus Christ repeats his question. Jesus is establishing his control and making sure His purpose is not thwarted. A helpful reminder, I would plea you never lose sight of. If you are in Christ, you have been drawn by the Father and belong to Jesus Christ He will not lose you.

And then in v10 Peter steps in, removes Malchus’ ear with a deft swing of his razor sharp sword; Did Malchus, who I presume was lying prostrate on the ground, have the potential to cause problems? I don’t know why Peter thought this would help. Risking a fight with a mob of armed soldiers is not a wise move, and we can only speculate his motives. Perhaps it was a moment of recklessness, to take one for the team while Jesus made good his escape, perhaps he thought they could go down fighting or even Jesus would command legions and chariots of angels, who knows, but either way Jesus Christ puts the brakes on Peter’s reversion to quayside fisherman fight mode.

Jesus tells him to lower his worldly weapons and look to follow Christ’s plan and purpose. Are you looking to Christ? Are you following His plan and purpose? There is a time to take up arms. We live in a fallen world that is groaning under the weight of sin. The gospel message of peace and reconciliation between all men is going out, Jesus Christ’s enemies are being made a footstool, that’s the promise of Psalm 110:1, but as God’s plan unfolds, we are still going to need soldiers and policemen. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever and I submit that includes protection as well provision of your family.

And here in v11 we see Christ’s plan, “shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

What is this cup that the Son is anticipating? What does it contain that caused the Jesus such anguish that blood appeared in his beads of sweat as he considered the terrors He was facing? It is the cup of God’s wrath: Psalm 75:8 tells us; For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs. God’s wrath is portrayed in Scripture as an unpleasant mix of intoxicating liquor with filthy dregs.

Consider the desperate plight of our youth as they leave the nightclubs of our city in the early hours. Young men vomiting, or violent, feeling lonely or angry. Women who’ve lost any semblance of dignity, who the following day are in a alcohol induced mental fog.

This collective societal madness is a gateway to poverty, ill-health, and ruin. Broken relationships, impoverished families and even homelessness. Who has not known the pitiful state of someone living on the street overcome by alcohol? The teeth rot, the skin sags and the insides malfunction. Alcohol poisons from the inside out, the abuser suffers and often the only way to suppress the suffering is to consume more, prolonging the suffering.

Why do we people choose this path of sin, inviting God’s wrath and just punishment? Well the bible tells us that in our natural state we hate God, love our sin, and are wretched hell deserving sons and daughters of Adam. But how should we respond? How does the Bible call Christians to respond? Well its right here in the 51st chapter of Isaiah starting at verse 17:

17Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem,
You who have drunk from the LORD’S hand the cup of His anger;
The chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs.

18There is none to guide her among all the sons she has borne,
Nor is there one to take her by the hand among all the sons she has reared.

19These two things have befallen you;
Who will mourn for you?
The devastation and destruction, famine and sword;
How shall I comfort you?

20Your sons have fainted,
They lie helpless at the head of every street,
Like an antelope in a net,
Full of the wrath of the LORD,
The rebuke of your God.

21Therefore, please hear this, you afflicted,
Who are drunk, but not with wine:

22Thus says your Lord, the LORD, even your God
Who contends for His people,
“Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of reeling,
The chalice of My anger;
You will never drink it again.

Do you see? If you are in Christ He has taken the cup you so justly deserved for you? This is the Gospel! Jesus Christ has taken your punishment! You must see this. Do you still have a rebellious heart? Don’t presume upon God’s grace. Do you suppose you are somehow saved from His wrath because at the age of eight you gave your heart to Jesus, when you have since abused His name, neglected His word, engaged in violence, disobedience, drunkenness and sexual immorality? If you are living like the Devil, 1 John tells us, you are of the Devil. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.

Why would you want to stay in your sin when the cure is on offered? What’s preventing you coming? Why procrastinate? Come now!

Congalton
No, belief in God is not a mental disorder despite what many of the liberals and atheists might assert. Though there are those with mental illness who believe in God, there are also those with mental illness who do not believe in God. Believing that there is a divine being who is the creator of all things and who orders our lives is very rational, especially when we consider the complexity and vastness of the universe, the intricate design of the human body, the diversity of life, the beauty of love, and the reality of the concept of information in DNA. Are we to conclude that these things occurred merely because of the physical laws of the universe? Is the super complex arrangement of the nucleotide bond pairs in DNA nothing more than the manifestation of materialistic laws and chemical reactions? Or, is the information contained therein evidence of a creator? Let me give an illustration.

Let’s say that you and I are walking along a path in a forest discussing the issue of believing in God. We come across a pile of 3 stones. Then, a few feet later there is a pile of 5 stones, then a few feet after that a pile of 7 stones, and so on up 101. These are prime number stacks of stones.1 Would it be more logical to conclude that the stones were arranged in this pattern by an intelligence or by random events in that forest? Obviously, we would assume that somebody was there before us and put the stones in the pattern.

The DNA molecule is incredibly more complex than a series of prime numbers arranged along a path. So, are we to conclude that it is the product of the self-arranged atoms? Or, is it more logical to say that it is a product of intelligence? After all, do we know of any place where randomness and physical laws produce information? I know of none. But, we do know that information is the product of intelligence. So, which is more rational to believe: that randomness or intelligence brought the information into existence? In fact, would it be a mental illness to say that super complex information structures, which require incredible ordered patterns of precise regularity, are the product of randomness?

Unfortunately, many who assume that belief in God is a mental disorder assume that their own position, atheism, is automatically the right position to hold. They commit the fallacy of begging the question. That is, they assume their position is true and then argue from it without any defense of their position. Atheism cannot be shown to be the right intellectual position to hold regarding whether or not God exists. Even when an atheist hides behind the intellectually vacuous “I lack belief in God” position, atheism, along with his materialistic worldview, cannot account for our existence, absolute morality, or information structures found in DNA.

Now, I ask you, which is closer to a mental disorder: believing there is a sovereign and divine creator or asserting that randomness and physical laws brought us the universe, beauty, love, moral absolutes, and super complex information structures?

by Matt Slick

This article is seeking to provide a faithful rendering of the Scriptures. I intend to define the doctrinal dispute and show that God does perform miracles today but not through ‘miracle workers’. A miracle being a supernatural event such as turning a heart of stone to a heart of flesh.

My assumption is that our omnipotent Living God, Yahweh, can do as He pleases. Scripture attests that His miraculous works continue today, at the very least, in saving unbelievers. However, for the purpose of this article I will define miracles such as those seen in three distinctive biblical eras: Moses, Elijah and Elisha, and Christ and the apostolic eras.

The doctrinal issue under question is continuism versus cessationism. A cessationist says that the Apostolic gifts of prophecy, tongues and healing (by nature all miraculous) ceased at the death of the Apostles. Those Apostles were appointed to establish the Church, Matthew 10:2,3, 16:18 and are defined as those personally appointed by Jesus Christ, 1 Timothy 1:1. Cessationists understand apostolic gifts passed away with the establishment of the Church , that being the spotless bride of Christ, Revelation 19:7,9, Ephesians 5:25,27. We are now desiring higher spiritual gifts and a more excellent way, 1 Corinthians 12:31 and 14:1, but what is this excellent way and these higher gifts?

The Continuist makes the case that these gifts are tongues, prophecy, signs and wonders, as seen in the apostolic era. Furthermore, they do not recognise that the Apostolic era has finished, 1 Corinthians 12:28. Today men and women assume the office of Prophet and Apostle; Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua (TB Joshua), Thomas Dexter popularly called T. D. Jakes, etc. The Latter Day Saints claim to have modern prophets that follow in the line of Joseph Smith. The Pope as one who can speak, Ex Cathedra, and can speak infallibly, is by inference a continuist.

Paul dedicated an extended portion of his letter to the Corinthians to gifts, particularly tongues. Important texts for the continuist includes 1 Corinthians 12: 4,10, 28, 1 Corinthians ch 14:1, 5, 18. When Paul wrote this letter the New Testament scriptures had not been completed. However, with the Canon closed and the Bible being a progressive revelation we may, by spirit guided exegeses of the bible ‘speak prophetically’. Does this direct us to understanding the meaning of seeking the higher gifts? Does this help us understand why such emphasis is placed on maintaining sound doctrine in the Pastoral Epistles, dividing the Word with care, and calling out false teaching, Romans 16:17? This would lead me to believe that the higher gifts are interpreting the word, 1 Cor 2:10, teaching 2 Tim 3:15,17, speaking prophetically through scripture, proclaiming the Gospel – sharing the love of christ.

Texts to support the continuists position include: Joel 2:28, Mark 16:18, Acts 2:17. Matt Slick of Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry is a continuist. He quotes Romans 14:5 to support his claim that this is a non-essential issue . And says: “Interestingly, 1 Cor. 1:7 may be consulted, It says, “so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek word here for “revealed” is apokalupsis. It means the apocalypse, the return of Jesus. In both this verse and 1 Cor. 13:8-13 the gifts, which aren’t differentiated as to kind, are connected to the return of Christ not the completion of the Bible. One more thing, the word gift in the Greek is charisma. This is where we get the word ‘charismatic.”

Miracles allow Prophets and Apostles to Authenticate their Appointments

Christ’s signs convinced Nicodemus, recorded in John 3:2, that Christ was from God. A contextual reading of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles helps us understand the purpose of miracles. In Acts 5 we see that it is by the hands of the Apostles that signs and wonders are regularly undertaken. We see that a multitude of men and women became believers at that time and people are brought for healing to the Apostles. There is no indication that as a result of their belief they too went home to continue with miraculous healing.

Given the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, John 14:17, and Christ’s promise that whatever you ask in my name it shall be given, Matthew 18:19, and 21:22 and Mark 11:24, surely can I not invoke the miraculous through the power of prayer? I too can take on the mantle of healer, speaking in the name of Jesus Christ.

First let’s consider the role of the person of the Holy Spirit, why was He sent? Christ says He is sending a helper. We are also explicitly told the Spirit’s role of convicting people of sin thereby showing them their need to be saved from their condemnation under the law John 16:8. This is reiterated in Acts 5 where we see the person of the Holy Spirit, as a witness to Christ’s exalted position at the right hand of the Father. We see how it is the indwelling gift from God the Father, who allows the believer to be a faithful witness to the saving work of God the Son.

So this power we see is not to undertake miracles it is in fact a power to go, a power to proclaim and a power to overcome the trials, anguish and persecution that comes from being a follower of Christ, Matthew 5:11. We must treat with determined caution those who would offer demonstrations of godly powers through miracles. When the Devil himself challenged Jesus Christ he used Scripture, Psalm 91 but went no further than verse 12, knowing that verse 13 echoed the protogilion, “..and the serpent you will crush under foot.” Christ rebuked him saying not to put the Lord your God to the test. The man who would claim to be working miracles on behalf of God is in a fearful place if he remains unrepentant when death seizes upon him.

Christ is inviting faithful prayers. He knows that the born again believer with a contrite heart is seeking unity with his Lord. He is providing disciplinary authority to those he has commissioned to go and make disciples. Moreover, He is offering assurance that prayers are answered. We only need see our Lord’s anguish and prayers at Gethsemane, Stephen’s prayers as he is being stoned or know the fate of any of the Apostles to realize that this is not an invite to summon up enough faith to work a miracle but to enjoy the faith that comes through belief. It was Jesus’ will to see the Father glorified, John 12:28 ,and that will be the will of the born again follower who believes his Lord.

Continuism is the bedfellow of limited assurance, offering experiences as evidence of trust in the promises of God. The Israelites moulded a golden calf, the Pharisees wanted signs and the fickle crowd hounded Christ. In the same way the continuist leads his narrative with anecdote, and experience as an outward sign of his inward spirituality. It is within the continuist community that I meet those whose assurance of salvation rests on little more than walking an aisle, signing a prayer card, getting baptized or groaning in the spirit. The primary difficulty for the continuist is discerning if the workers of great signs and wonders Jesus speaks of in Matthew 24:24 are wolves or shepherds. How do they identify the lawless one, 2 Thessalonians 2:9?

Continusists are fond of anecdote, making experience of God at work in people’s lives as a means of corroborating their position. However, if scripture is sufficient why bother? It is the Gospel that is the power unto salvation, Romans 1:16, not signs, 1 Corinthians 1:22,23. Jesus said they have Moses and the prophets, they’re not going to believe even if someone is raised from the dead, Luke 16:31. Moreover, their position has a profound difficulty, for if I as a cessation tell them I have a word from the Lord telling them that their position is wrong they have no basis for contention!

It is the Holy Spirit who keeps us orientated on Christ. For in addition to helper in time of persecution, the Holy Spirit helps us understand His written word. The Holy Spirit will be with us that we may never forget it is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom and that if we stray from our Father’s House our diet will be nothing but indigestible pigs’ fodder. In so doing He will point us to Christ and bring us to our knees in glad and penitent worship. The cessationist knows his Jeremiah 17:9 heart, and knows the Genesis 6:5 proclivities of man. God is no longer performing miracles through His prophets and Apostles but He is still performing the miracle of turning rebellious hearts of stone to repentant hearts of flesh .

PS. Finding myself in a different camp doctrinally to a theologian like Matt slick, who I respect and trust is interesting. However, as christians we learn to disagree, agreeably, and in issues that are non-essential be prepared to, dare I say it, change!

I dialogue with an enthusiastic and engaging biologist on Twitter. He has staked a truth claim that the Bible is replete with contradictions. Given that God’s Word is inerrant, 2 Timothy 3:16, “all scripture is God breathed”, this is a counter intuitive claim. However, there are reasons for this unbeliever reaching his understanding and primarily it is because he lacks the fruits of repentance. He has not put his trust and faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 2: “the spiritual things of God are not understood by natural man”.

I am offering here a rational which might even be apparent to the secularist, for Jesus made it clear in the Gospels why he spoke in parables, Matthew 13:13, “so that hearing people would not understand”. You see the Bible explains that it is “the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom”. In other words, “you do not reason to God, you reason from Him”, for apart from him you could not reason; Colossians 2:3, “in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”.

In this blog I aim to refute Ollie’s claim that Leviticus 9:6 is contradictory. I am using material gleaned from http://www.genesisnet.info Fundamentally we know that God’s Word is without error, so there cannot be contradictions. “While there may be many theories and ideas that contradict the biblical narrative, the facts never do”. Take for example the biblical flood. Most scientists deny that there was a global flood, preferring theories surrounding tectonic plate movements to explain why there are sea shell fossils in the upper reaches of the Himalayas. That’s true for we know that there was catastrophic movements in the earths surface when God flooded the world, however, if there had been a global flood you would expect to find millions of dead things buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth. Did you know that today we find, millions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth?

Theories and ideas my contradict the biblical account of world history, but the facts never do. Now let’s address the apparent contradiction of Leviticus 11:6 that says hares are ruminants:

The Bible truly isn´t a scientific textbook. The ruminating hare is mentioned in a different context: the command about unclean and clean beasts. Now in what way is the hare a ruminant? Let´s have a look in the encyclopaedia. Grzimek´s Animal life describes it in the twelfth volume:

“Morot published his observations concerning mucus-covered gastric pills of rabbits in a French veterinarian magazine in 1882. Besides a normal solid form of faeces these animals produce a second one – soft, moldable balls that are taken in and swallowed unchewed right after their deposition. They are collected in a certain region of the stomach (in the cardia region) and digested again. This way parts of the food pass the intestines twice and are macerated more effectively. In some way, this double digestion is similar to the rumination of most cloven-hoofed. The faeces (caecotrophe) is produced in the vermiform appendix and there strongly enriched with vitamin B1. Quoting studies of Scheunert and Zimmermann it contains four to five times more vitamins than normal faeces. For the lagomorphs the appendical or vitamin-faeces is essential, it probably also helps them to survive longer periods of fasting in suboptimal weathers.” (Italics not in the original.)

By the way, a friend of mine told me that his children watched the coprophagia of hares without knowing about this certain peculiarity. (I needn´t say, that they didn´t find it very appetizing.) What my friend´s children found out today has as well been noticed 3000 years ago. People didn´t “invent” the ruminating of hares – they just could observe it as well as modern zoologists.

What conclusion can we draw from this? The ruminating hare serves as an example that the Bible does have scientific relevance, certainly the remarks are not textbook-like, but do serve other purposes. The hare doesn´t belong to the bovidan ruminants, it belongs to another mammalian order than the other ruminants. Leviticus 11 doesn´t talk about zoological systematics. But whatever is described, is correctly presented in an illustrative, comprehensible way. For this, the coprophagous hare is a good example.

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