Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Essentials of the Gospel, Part 7

Throughout the ages the gospel has been attacked over and over again by satanic forces that want to water down the truth of salvation found only in Christ. That attack will continue all the way through the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. The cults always distort and twist the truth of salvation by grace but lately, the attack and distortion is coming from within our own evangelical circles.
Some are promoting a cross-less salvation, or a works salvation. Whatever the changes are that depart from what the Bible teaches bends the truth and weakens the marvelous fact of what God did to save lost humanity. 

While many more points can be listed, below are seven essentials that are necessary pillars of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. 
(7) What it means to believe in Christ
The gospel is "good news," but it is personal good news. Christ did something specific on the cross for the individual. Unless the offer of redemption is personalized, one does not become a child of God.

The Bible describes two kinds of faith or belief. (1) The intellectual brand that truly may know certain facts but those facts are not appropriated to the individual personally. The apostle James writes that the satanic forces of the underworld have this kind of belief. "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder" (James 2:19). (2) Then there is saving faith that appropriates and takes personally the fact of Christ’s sacrifice for one’s personal sins. The writer of Hebrews goes to the heart of the matter:
           For indeed we have had good news (the gospel) preached to us, just
           as they (the Jews in the wilderness) also; but the word they heard did not
           profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we
           who have believed enter that rest, …" (Heb. 4:2-3)
There is always the temptation to add something to the offer of salvation. Salvation offered by Christ is not cheap. It cost Jesus a terrible death on the cross because of my sins. But all we can do as human beings is trust that sacrifice, the transaction, which has a very personal component to it. God made the good news simple and basic for me personally. I must trust what the Lord did through His Son.
Unfortunately, Roman Catholics believe that Christ died for the Church. There is rarely the statement of personal acceptance of what He did at the cross. Catholics believe they must add good works to His beginning of justification, and even with all the personal efforts in trying to complete salvation, they never really know if they are saved. This is not "good news." The Catholic system plants doubts and fear and adds self-effort in striving to "become" saved by human engineering!

But there are some Protestant groups who do the same. They add to salvation and to the gospel message: good works, water baptism, and sometimes even church membership in their group. This puts the gospel into a framework of exclusivity. You must do this or that to please God or you are not saved!

The rejection of the simple offer of salvation generally can be described as "the evil of an unbelieving heart" (Heb. 3:12). Heart usually implies emotions. But there is more. In other words when one trusts Christ, the emotions are involved (not emotionalism) but also a conscious acceptance of the Lord’s work on the cross. The mind and the soul are responding to what He’s done for us!
That belief for a human being is the major issue (the only issue) for salvation and for becoming a child of God. This is found in so many passages of Scripture. Of course there is John 3:16:
"So thus, definitely loved (Aorist Tense) The God the world, for this reason the Son, the unique born One, [God] gave in order that everyone (pas), the one who is believing into Him, should not himself be destroyed (apolumi, Aorist, Middle, Subjunctive), but (in contrast) should be having (echo, Present, Active, Subjunctive) life eternal."
You cannot squeeze any other requirement into this passage for becoming saved. The verse makes it clear that salvation is (1) by believing, (2) plus nothing else! Belief equals eternal life.
Salvation then is by grace through faith, not through works. "We maintain then a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law" (Rom. 3:28). And, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (4:3; Gen. 15:6).

Do not make the gospel complicated. Do not require more for becoming a child of God than the Lord does. God does not have a check list in heaven to test that one has said everything exactly perfect when coming to Christ for salvation. The Lord understands! However the main concern is that there are those who repudiate some facet of the gospel, making that fact trivial or unnecessary as to what constitutes salvation.

In working with many people who have been born again, I have never seen them deny, malign, or make light of all of the factors we have discussed in these essentials. As new born babes they embraced enthusiastically the essentials that make up the gospel message when those essentials were explained to them. 

But be careful of the wolves. There are always those who would destroy the simplicity of the salvation message. May these essentials on what constitutes the gospel be a meaningful and helpful reminder to you of God’s graciousness in the plan of salvation.

The Essentials of the Gospel, Part 6

Throughout the ages the gospel has been attacked over and over again by satanic forces that want to water down the truth of salvation found only in Christ. That attack will continue all the way through the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. The cults always distort and twist the truth of salvation by grace but lately, the attack and distortion is coming from within our own evangelical circles. 

Some are promoting a cross-less salvation, or a works salvation. Whatever the changes are that depart from what the Bible teaches bends the truth and weakens the marvelous fact of what God did to save lost humanity. 

While many more points can be listed, below are seven essentials that are necessary pillars of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. 
(6) Complete Justification by Faith
There is no gospel without the truth of justification by faith. Some have problems getting their hands around this subject. Many do not fully understand what the doctrine is all about. Justification (dikaioo) carries the idea of being completely acquitted of sin before the bar of God. The Lord imputes (puts to our account) the very righteousness of Christ. Therefore God sees us clothed in His righteousness not our own. Paul saw the things he had accomplished as dung "in order that (as he said) I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law" (Phil. 3:8b-9). Salvation he adds, "is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" (v. 9b). 

The words justification and righteousness are really one word. "Justification" is generally the word as a verb; "righteousness" is the noun. We do not earn this justification, it is imputed, imparted to us as a free gift based on our trust in Christ.
The Roman Catholics teach that by faith one starts the justification process or that it is but the first stage towards salvation. A person then must complete justification by works, by self efforts. But the Scriptures teach that it is a completed work in that only God could accomplish such acquittal because of the work of Christ on the cross. 

To be legally acquitted, or justified, is an Old Testament concept. The key verse has to do with Abraham in Genesis 15:6. Abraham believed what God had promised and God in turn then saw him as one legally acquitted in His sight. "Abraham believed God and He counted it to him for righteousness." Even Abraham and all the Old Testament saints would be justified only by the forward coming work of Christ on their behalf on the cross. In prophecy Isaiah 53:11-12 says, "My Servant (the coming Messiah) will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. … Yet He Himself will bear the sin of many, and intercede for the transgressors." 

Christ illustrated this justification in His story about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:10-14. The self-righteous Pharisee thought he deserved the favor of God by his good deeds but then reasoned that the Lord would look down with disfavor on the Tax Collector. But it was the Tax Collector who confessed his sins. Christ said the Tax Collector "went down to his house justified rather than the (Pharisee)." When the Tax Collector cried out "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" he was claiming the grace of God as exemplified in the Mercy Seat in the temple. 

In my Luke Commentary I write,
"Paul says that God ‘justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 3:24). Now in the church age, this happens by direct trust in Jesus, the object of faith, because of His finished work at the cross. Paul says that we receive ‘the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ [meant] for all those who believe’ (Rom. 3:22)." (p. 178)
It may be said that justification is the cornerstone of salvation and the gospel. This is certainly indeed "good news." God through His Son has done it all for lost sinners.
This justification is complete and whole. We are seen as righteous as the Son of God by the fact that this righteousness has been put to our account. Whom God saves and justifies cannot be "un-justified". As with the Pharisee in the Luke 18 story, we have a choice to "be trusting in ourselves" or trusting in the finished work of Christ! Trusting Him gives eternal life and this truly is good news—the gospel!

The Essentials of the Gospel, Part 5

Throughout the ages the gospel has been attacked over and over again by satanic forces that want to water down the truth of salvation found only in Christ. That attack will continue all the way through the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. The cults always distort and twist the truth of salvation by grace but lately, the attack and distortion is coming from within our own evangelical circles. 

Some are promoting a cross-less salvation, or a works salvation. Whatever the changes are that depart from what the Bible teaches bends the truth and weakens the marvelous fact of what God did to save lost humanity. 

While many more points can be listed, below are seven essentials that are necessary pillars of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.

(5) The Resurrection of Christ
There is no gospel without the truth about the resurrection. This is a cardinal doctrine of Scripture. It will be the Lord Jesus who will give new life not only to the church saints but those who have died as believers in other generations of the past.

The believers in the Old Testament and the saints in the New Testament knew well that there would be a resurrection of those who trusted in God. Great passages such as Job 19:25-27 give strong confirmation as to the resurrection. The verses read: "Though my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; … my eyes shall see and not another." Daniel adds to this: "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt" (12:2). To make certain that Daniel understood that he too would come forth from the grave, the angel Michael who was speaking to him added: "You will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age" (v. 13).

At the death of her brother Lazarus, Martha said to Christ, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day" (John 11:23). Jesus then made it clear that He Himself would be the One who would give the power to the resurrection, for both the Old Testament saints and the believers in the coming church age. He said: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die" (v. 25). 

There are two main Greek words used for the concept of the resurrection. One is anastasis. ana=up, and stasis=to stand. Or, "to stand up." Another word is exanastasis. It comes from three words: ex=out, ana=up, and stasis=to stand. Or, "To come forth and stand up." It is found only in Philippians 3:11: Paul says, I am "being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the ‘coming forth and standing up’ from the dead."
The word "resurrection" is used fifteen times in the Gospels. The Gospels were still part of the Old Testament dispensation. This tells us the doctrine was well believed and taught among the Old Testament believers. 

In the New Testament doctrine of the resurrection as it relates to church saints, Paul makes it clear we in this economy have a connection with Christ that grants us new life in Him. He says, "We have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom. 6:5). In Paul’s definition of the gospel he said: "I delivered to you (in this gospel I preached) as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4). There can be no gospel without these three main components! Because of His resurrection, and because we are now in Him, we have the guarantee of the same new eternal life.

The apostle Peter makes a direct connection between the idea of being born again, with the necessity of the resurrection. He writes, "According to His great mercy [He] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3). By this, and through the resurrection, we are given "an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (v. 4). Our imperishable inheritance is because we are now related to the Holy One and now receive eternal life and an eternal new body because of His work on the cross!
It must be remembered that there is also a resurrection for judgment of the lost and the wicked. Daniel mentioned this (Dan. 12:2) and so did Christ in John 5:29.

While I do not agree with everything Dr. Norman Geisler publishes, I think he has written the defining volume on the resurrection entitled: The Battle for the Resurrection published by Thomas Nelson. I believe the book is presently out of print but I urge those interested to try to obtain a copy.

Concerning the resurrection mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, Dr. Dan Mitchell writes in his commentary: "The third truth of the gospel is ‘He was raised’ (v.4). Paul uses the aorist tense to speak of Christ’s death and burial as singular events. Now he uses the perfect passive tense to stress abiding results. Elsewhere Paul uses similar language to speak of God’s miraculous power in the performance of the resurrection (Acts 13:22, 30-37; Rom. 4:24-25)." Mitchell lists fifteen points that are highlighted about the doctrine of the resurrection in his textbook. Mitchell’s discussion on 1 Corinthians 15 is outstanding! The book is: (Mal Couch, Ed Hindson, gen. eds., The Book of First Corinthians [AMG Publications, 2004])

To tamper with the doctrine of the resurrection is to destroy the full definition of the gospel. Without the resurrection there is no gospel!

The Essentials of the Gospel, Part 4

Throughout the ages the gospel has been attacked over and over again by satanic forces that want to water down the truth of salvation found only in Christ. That attack will continue all the way through the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. The cults always distort and twist the truth of salvation by grace but lately, the attack and distortion is coming from within our own evangelical circles. 

Some are promoting a cross-less salvation, or a works salvation. Whatever the changes are that depart from what the Bible teaches bends the truth and weakens the marvelous fact of what God did to save lost humanity.

While many more points can be listed, below are seven essentials that are necessary pillars of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.

(4) The Cross of Christ The cross is central to the message of the gospel. There are some who are now teaching a "cross-less" salvation. I need to make this clear. They believe Christ’s death on the cross is essential but that one can be saved without a reference to His work on the cross. The cross is not something magical but it was the instrument used to crucify the Son of God by which He died for sinners. If the human mind can defuse the idea of the cross, it will do so. One wonders why someone would want to downgrade or make little of the idea of the cross.

One cannot speak of the death of the Lord for sin without referring to the cross. But there must be something going on in the mind of those who may make it somewhat insignificance. I sense there is an agenda that could lead to a distortion of Jesus’ sacrifice for sinners.

The empty cross became the most important logo for Christianity. This is because of the teachings of Paul about it. He writes "For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18). It was an offense that was supposed to discredit the early church (Gal. 5:11) and some tried to escape the fact that they would be persecuted for it (6:12). Paul said that he could only boast in the cross of Christ (v. 14). Christ has reconciled both Jew and Gentile together "in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity [between the two]" (Eph. 2:16). Christ did not humble Himself to just any form of death, but He became "obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:8).
In Paul’s day there were many who claimed Christ as Savior but the apostle wept at the fact "that they are enemies of the cross of Christ" (3:18). The Lord’s blood spelt down the cross and by this, Paul says, we have "peace through the blood of His cross" (Col. 1:20). The cross was used to inflict the most terrible of deaths, but the Lord "endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2). The cross is the central thought of the apostle when he thinks of the death of Christ. Paul wrote "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).

The death of Christ on the cross is central to our message of salvation. It is not a rabbit’s foot or something magical or mystical. But the Lord’s death was destined to be on a cross and that cannot be left out in the message of the gospel.

The Essentials of the Gospel, Part 3

Throughout the ages the gospel has been attacked over and over again by satanic forces that want to water down the truth of salvation found only in Christ. That attack will continue all the way through the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. The cults always distort and twist the truth of salvation by grace but lately, the attack and distortion is coming from within our own evangelical circles. 

Some are promoting a cross-less salvation, or a works salvation. Whatever the changes are that depart from what the Bible teaches bends the truth and weakens the marvelous fact of what God did to save lost humanity.

While many more points can be listed, below are seven essentials that are necessary pillars of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.

(3) Christ – A Substitute for Sinners
There is no gospel without the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. He took the place of sinners under the wrath of God. This was predicted by the fact that an innocent animal had to die to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve following their disobedience to the Lord’s command to not eat of the forbidden fruit. The Lord slew an animal and "made garments of skin FOR Adam and his wife, and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21). The FOR implies clearly a covering. Their nakedness somehow exacerbated the issue of sin.
The doctrine of substitution is graphically explained in Isaiah 53 and pictorialized in all the sacrifices proscribed throughout the Old Testament. The Messiah, the Servant of God, "will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. … He will pour out Himself to death. … He will [bear] the sin of many, and intercede for the transgressors" (Isa. 53:11-12).

In the Old Testament the word most used to describe the work of the animal sacrifices is the word atonement. The idea comes from the Hebrew word kapher meaning "to cover." The animal sacrifices only covered sins for one year then had to be repeated the next. In actuality these animal sacrifices were but signs, pictures, projected pictures of what Christ would someday do in the future on the cross. They really were not efficacious. God was not really interested in the blood of bulls and goats (Heb. 10:4-6; Psa. 40:6-8). God was looking forward to the death of His Son for sinners! But with Christ’s sacrifice there would be no atonement but a final, complete and finished work, by Him, Israel’s Messiah, that once for all settled the issue of sin.

Unfortunately, there are various bogus or half-true theories of Christ’s sacrifice. There is the (1) "Ethical atonement" view that just kind of "solved" the problem of sin; the (2) "Payment-to-Satan view that would cancel out any claim the devil may have on human beings, the (3) "Recapitulation theory" which states that Christ simply did what Adam could not do and so satisfied God, the (4) "Commercial theory" that says God’s honor had been injured by sin and now Christ simply restored that honor by living a perfect life, the (5) "Moral Influence view" that states Christ primarily demonstrated the love of the Lord in such a way as to win sinners to Himself, the (6) "Duns Scotus view" that says the heavenly Father could have used anyone, even an angel, to die for sins. There are many other theories but they are all lacking in what the Bible says about the sacrifice of Christ for sinners.

Paul states the work of Christ plainly when he writes, "Christ [is] our Passover [who] has been sacrifice" (1 Cor. 5:7). Peter puts it succinctly when he writes, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" (1 Pet. 3:18). Sinners who trust in Christ are "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). And, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3b).

Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross is absolutely essential for the gospel. Without this there is no salvation!

Essentials of the Gospel, Part 2

Throughout the ages the gospel has been attacked over and over again by satanic forces that want to water down the truth of salvation found only in Christ. That attack will continue all the way through the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. The cults always distort and twist the truth of salvation by grace but lately, the attack and distortion is coming from within our own evangelical circles. 

Some are promoting a cross-less salvation, or a works salvation. Whatever the changes are that depart from what the Bible teaches bends the truth and weakens the marvelous fact of what God did to save lost humanity.

While many more points can be listed, below are seven essentials that are necessary pillars of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.

(2) The Son of God – God Incarnate
There would be no gospel if our Savior was not the impeccable righteous Son of God.
Jesus Christ could not save us if He were just another human being. He would be part of the sinful race, and if He tried to die in my place under the wrath of God on the cross, He would simply be dying for His own sins! The wonder of wonders—Jesus Chris is fully man (without sin) and fully God. He is the God/Man! He, the second person of the Trinity, took upon Himself flesh in order to participate in the human race. The proof of His uniqueness is His virgin birth. The sin nature was not passed down to Him because He had no human father. Mary gave Christ His humanity; but He was mysteriously birth by the work of the Spirit of God. He was conceived in the womb of Mary but the active agent in that conception was the Holy Spirit. The angel told Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

Recently, a Bible church pastor made the comment that Christ did not sin but that He could have! In my opinion this is almost heresy and it certainly does not reflect an understanding that Christ is actually God, the second person of the Trinity—and God cannot sin! This pastor’s statement tells me volumes about the theological training he did or did not receive!

The Scripture tells us: "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). Note that He was tempted many times, in many ways ("in all things") yet He was without sin (in the singular), meaning He did not have the sin propensity, as in the imputed sin transmitted through Adam.

Hebrews further tells us, Christ was a high priest who was "holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners" (7:26). Paul adds that God made Christ "who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). And, Christ in His very nature is "the Holy and Righteous One" (Acts 3:14). He is the One "who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth" (1 Pet. 2:22; Isa. 53:9).
Jesus Christ then is not simply a "way-shower," a good prophet, a great philosopher and teacher. He did not die simply a martyr’s death, the death of a contrary political leader, or one who was just misunderstood by His people. He was perfect in His nature and perfect then in His activities while on earth. No one else could substitute for sinners under the wrath of God. By His death, and by the faith of the recipient of His work on the cross, sinners are declared justified and exonerated from sin.
Paul Enns well writes:
Christ’s divine nature was impeccable. Although Christ had two natures, He was nonetheless one Person and could not divorce Himself of His deity. Wherever He went, the divine nature was present. If the two natures could be separated then it could be said that He could sin in His humanity, but because the human and divine natures cannot be separated from the Person of Christ, and since the divine nature cannot sin, it must be affirmed that Christ could not have sinned. (Moody Handbook of Theology, p. 237) Only God, God the Son, because of His holiness, could save His own creatures. He bore the wrath for sin. This is an extremely important component of the gospel! Anything less is not the gospel.

Essentials of the Gospel, Part 1

Throughout the ages the gospel has been attacked over and over again by satanic forces that want to water down the truth of salvation found only in Christ. That attack will continue all the way through the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. The cults always distort and twist the truth of salvation by grace but lately, the attack and distortion is coming from within our own evangelical circles. 

Some are promoting a cross-less salvation, or a works salvation. Whatever the changes are that depart from what the Bible teaches bends the truth and weakens the marvelous fact of what God did to save lost humanity.

While many more points can be listed, below are seven essentials that are necessary pillars of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.

(1) The Issue of Sin
The gospel is the good news (uangelion) that God has saved, spared, delivered, rescued us from sin that has entrapped and snared us. Salvation is distinctly a rescue operation from the power and the penalty of sin. And sin is "the missing the mark" (hamartia) with the results that men have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). This implies that human beings can no longer measure up to who God is. Sin then will keep a person from the presence of the Lord, and even more, that person must die because God cannot tolerate sin in His universe!

Any presentation of a gospel message that ignores the problem of sin, is not the gospel of Scripture. "What are people being saved from?" must be part of the mix. It is a key component of what the gospel is all about. Just as there can be no "Christ-less" gospel, there can be no removal of the problem of sin from the presentation of the gospel. There are those who want to proclaim a "positive" gospel that paints over the subject of sin. It is an effort to avoiding something unpleasant and negative. But this is a modern secular psychological ploy to simply use a salvation vocabulary with SIN, one of the key ingredients removed from the formula and from the definition.

John the Baptist made it clear that Christ came to "take away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). John alludes to Isaiah 53 that tells us why the Messiah must die. Isaiah says the Suffering Servant must die "for our transgressions" (53:5a) and be "crushed for our iniquities" (53:5b). The lost require a "healing" (53:5c) because like sheep they have "gone astray" (v. 6). "But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (v. 6b). Notice that the Messiah will be dying for iniquities (plural) and for the principle of sin in the singular, iniquity (v. 6b). The penalty of sin must fall upon the Messiah. He will bear the iniquities of sinners, but in doing so, as God’s Servant, He "will justify the many" (v. 11). In doing this He will have to die (v. 12) and intercede for the transgressors (v. 12b).
One cannot understand the full implications of the story of the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, without understanding the consequences of sin. Sin entered into the world through Adam’s transgression which then brought on death (Rom. 5:12). The wages of sin is death (6:23), Christ died for sins (1 Cor. 15:3), and gave Himself for our sins (Gal. 1:4). By His blood shed on the cross, we now have forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14). And finally the last book of the Bible tells us that Christ’s blood "washed us from our sin" (Rev. 1:5).
Though there is much more that can be said about sin and its relation to the gospel in defining it, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 gives many of the required components. On the issue of sin these verses tell us "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (v. 3). There can be no understanding about the gospel without fully understanding why Christ died—to save us from our sins! Secular psychology has put a coat of paint over the subject of sin. It has almost been removed from the language of evangelism. And it has been removed as part of the problem of how and why the believer struggles today.
The gospel is about Christ saving us from both the penalty and the power of sin. The substitutionary work of Christ upon the cross is infinitely perfect in its sufficiency. Therefore the sinner who trusts in Christ not only is forgiven, but he is even justified forever (Rom. 3:24). God has never treated sin lightly. Forgiveness may impose no burden on the sinner, but he is forgiven and justified only because the undiminished divine penalty has been borne by Christ (1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18).

Monday, October 8, 2007

Great Bible Scholar - Fedor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)

Though he was certainly not a Bible teacher, Dostoesvsky stands out as a most interesting personality in Russian history. He is best known for his book The Brothers Karamazov. Certain hints and indications in the book are that he was a true believer in Christ as his Savior. There are many such signs of his deep spirituality in this long and classic work that few can put down once they begin to read it!

In his early life Dostoevsky was very immature. As the years passed he became more wise and ended up the most outstanding author probably in all of Russian history! When the book The Brothers was published, Dostoevsky became instantly well-known and even wealthy. He was contemplating a new book when on the night of January 25, 1881, his favorite writing pen rolled under his bookcase. When he bent down to retrieve it the pulmonary artery burst and blood poured from his mouth. The next day a doctor was called though his hemorrhaging continued.

The next few days passed quietly. But on the 28th the hemorrhaging resumed. Dostoevsky called for his wife Anya to get a pastor and have communion brought to him. He predicted that he would die that day and asked his wife to give him a New Testament. Turing to Matthew 3 where John the Baptist said “Lord, I need to be baptized by You, and You are coming to me?” Jesus answered, “Suffer it to be so!”

When Dostoevsky read this he said calmly to his wife: “Do you hear—‘suffer it to be so’—That means I will die today.” This would certainly be seen as a certain mystical belief today, but Dostoevsky needs to be forgiven since he was a faithful member of the very mystical Russian Orthodox Church!

All the morning of the 28th, he called his daughter and his six year old son Fedya, and handing them his New Testament, he said after asking his daughter to read the story of the prodigal son:

Children, never forget what you just heard here. Keep your trust in God and
never despair of His forgiveness. Though I love you I do not love you as much
as God does. My love is nothing compared to the endless love of God for all
people He has created. Remember if you sin, do not lose your hope in God.
You are His children, be humble before Him as your heavenly Father, and
thank Him for His forgiveness. He will rejoice at your contrition and
repentance, as He rejoiced over the return of the prodigal son.

A few hours later the death agony began. Blood continued to pour from his mouth. Looking out his window he could see the church he belonged to. He went unconscious and it was over by 8:36 PM.

His funeral was unprecedented in Russian history. Some thirty thousand people attended his funeral. There were seventy carriages needed to carry the flower wreaths given in his honor. Some fifteen choirs sang at the church.

When Dostoevsky died, Russia was on the verge of revolution in an attempt to throw off the rule of Tsar Alexander II. Terrorist bombings were common, but he never joined in the revolt and upheavals that were about to destroy the nation. “He had gone against the current of his day and he never tired of fighting the liberals in the country.” He said that he “only served Christ.”

Monday, October 1, 2007

Dr. Robert Thomas

There are great living dispensational scholars today who understand that the Bible has various programs for different times in divine history. There is also a large company of such godly scholars in the past who made outstanding contributions to our grasp of the full message of the Word of God. What they have written is still with us today in terms of how we should interpret the Scriptures. Below are some thoughts that any interpreter of the Bible should be aware of.


Dr. Robert Thomas
    Since the 1970s, evangelicalism and evangelical hermeneutics have undergone radical changes, changes that have affected interpretation of the Bible’s prophetic teachings. Iain Murray specifies the general time period of evangelicalism’s slippage: “We have seen that the new evangelicalism, launched with such promise, had lost its way in the United States by the late 1960s.” Later he notes regarding evangelicalism’s attempt to attain academic respectability.
The academic approach to Scripture treats the divine element – for all practical
purposes – as non-existent. History shows that when evangelicals allow that
approach their teaching will sooner or later begin to look little different from
that of liberals.
    Probably the single most devastating change in hermeneutics has been a widespread endorsement of the step of preunderstanding at the beginning of the exegetical process. It has dispensed with the goal of a traditional grammatical-historical approach for achieving objectivity in letting the text speak for itself. 

    The flippant way many evangelicals have forsaken the traditional principle of single meaning illustrates the impact of incorporating preunderstanding into the exegetical process. ... The moment we neglect this principle we drift out upon a sea of uncertainty and conjecture. 

    One of the areas in which PD (Progressive Dispensationalism) has departed from traditional grammatical-historical principles lies in its notoriety for violating the traditional hermeneutical principle of single meaning. The [PD’s] purpose that not only national Israel of the future will fulfill her Old Testament prophecies, but also the church is currently fulfilling those same prophecies. What PD calls “complementary hermeneutics” clearly violates traditional principles of literal interpretation. 

    New evangelical hermeneutics have opened wide doors for PD in implementing its preunderstanding and its quest to find a midpoint between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. … By thus ignoring the way the original historical setting “freezes” the meaning of a text, D. L. Bock concludes that textual meaning is dynamic, not static—ever changing through the addition of new meanings. [Bock] tries to justify this change by calling it revelatory progress, but revelatory progress speaks of new passages with new meanings, not new passages that change meanings of older passages. 

    If the current direction of evangelicalism continues, the movement will eventually reach the status of postmodernist and deconstructionist approaches to the Bible. The only remedy for this sickness will be a return to traditional grammatical-historical principles of interpretation. 

    Adapted from: The Gathering Storm, gen. ed. Mal Couch

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Apostle Peter Answers Hank Hanegraaff- Acts 3:18-21

Context of Acts 3:18-21. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 2:1-36, the dispensation of the church age had begun. A multitude of Jews put their faith in Christ with the Lord "adding to their number day by day those who were being saved" (v. 47). 

The miraculous healing, Acts 3:1-11. To substantiate the work of the Spirit with Peter and John a lame man was healed just outside the temple. The Jewish people began praising the Lord (v. 9). The crowds ran to the two disciples and were "full of amazement" (v. 11).
The reprimand of Peter, Acts 3:11-17. The apostle now gets rather bold and even a bit nasty in pointing out that, from a human standpoint, the nation of Israel was culpable in the death of Christ. Still, in God’s mysterious providence, the Jewish people were used of Him to crucify the Lord in order to bring salvation to Israel. They "disowned" (v. 13) Him, and "put Him to death, the Prince of life" (v. 15a), yet the Lord "raised (Him) from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses" (v. 15b). But still, His kingship is still going to take place! 

Christ is in heaven until the restoration, Acts 3:18-21. Peter alludes to Psalm 110:1-2 when he says "heaven has received UNTIL the period of restoration" (Acts 3:21). Notice that Peter mentions the TWO comings of Christ: He suffered as announced "by the mouth of all the prophets" (v. 18), and He will return to earth for the period of restoration which God spoke "by the mouth of all the prophets" (v. 21). 

Now a bit of intellectual and spiritual dishonesty! In their books on preterism, neither Sproul nor Hanegraaff mention or refer to Acts 3:18-21! (The Last Days According to Jesus, R. C. Sproul [Baker, 1998]; The Apocalypse Code, Hank Hanegraaff [Thomas Nelson, 2007]). 

The reason Acts 3:18-21 is not mentioned is that the apostle Peter destroys any silly view that the period of restoration is but a spiritualized phase of the second coming of Christ, and, that it took place somehow in a mystical way in 70 AD! This passage of Scripture cries out to point to the coming physical earthly rule (the millennial kingdom) of Christ with the Jews, with His reign in the city of Jerusalem. 

Maybe this restoration is about the church age which now, according to these men, is the "new" fabricated kingdom of God! This cannot be because the church has already begun in Acts 2 while this restoration is still something to take place in the future!
A detailed exegesis of Acts 3:18-21 will make it clear that the future messianic kingdom is in view.
But the things the God before announced by means of the mouth of all the prophets, to suffer the Christ (of Him), fulfilled likewise, (3:18) (Couch, personal translation) Before announced is a compound of three Greek words: pro=before, kata=accordingly, angelo=to announce. Or, "before specifically announced." The word is a technical term used only four times in the New Testament. It should be translated: "foretold," "which showed before," "previously notified." Christ is Christos and is the Greek of the Hebrew HaMaschioch (the Anointed) of Psalm 2:2. The Anointed is always a reference to the King, the One sent by the Lord to rule from "Zion, My holy mountain" (v. 6). Israel’s King must first suffer and die before He comes back and physically, actually, historically reigns over the world from the Promised Holy Land! 

The verb to suffer is the Greek word pascho and implies more than physical pain. It refers to the suffering of the soul, and in this context, further points to the suffering inflicted with evil intent. (Thayer) 

The death of Christ was fulfilled (plaroo) literally and historically not in some allegorical, spiritualized, and mushy way! So His return will take place the same way—not in a preterist spooky sense as fashioned from the limited mind of those who want to deny His coming earthly reign!

You (all) repent then, turn around (all of you), concerning the sins of you to be wiped away that the seasons of soul-refreshing might arrive from the face of the Lord (3:19) (Couch, personal translation) Now the disbelieving Jews are urged "to repent" (metanoeo). This word is a compound: meta=with, change; noeo=the mind. "To repent" then is to "change the mind" about a specific issue. In this case the Jews are to change their minds in regard to their rejection of Christ. With the Aorist Tense Peter is saying, "I want you to specifically mentally act in reversing your opinion about Jesus!" If you do this," he adds, "your sins will be wiped out." This Greek word is in an Aorist Passive Infinitive form. Peter is implying: "Your sins will definitely be acted upon from the outside (Passive Voice), by God, and will be done away with." This will be like bringing forth wonderful seasons (kairoi) of spring and summer that will revive the soul!
Wiped away. Instead of remission, we have here the stronger figure of … obliteration. The Greek verb (exaleipho) is applied by Xenophon to the erasure of a name from a catalogue or role. It may here denote the canceling of charges against any one, and thus amounts to the same thing with the remission of [sins] 2:38. The metaphor of blotting out occurs several times elsewhere (e.g. Psa. 51:9; 109:14; Isa. 43:25; Jer. 18:23; Col. 2:14) (Couch, Handbook of Acts, p. 218)
The English "times of refreshing" is really limited in meaning. The Greek word soul-refreshing is anapsuxis and is a compound: ana=up; psuxis= related to the word soul. "When your sins are forgiven, your soul is uplifted, then the Messiah will return to rule over the nation of Israel!" Thayer notes that the word can mean "a cooling off, with the Vulgate using the Latin word Refrigerium. Thayer further notes on this word and on this verse: "Of the Messianic blessedness to be ushered in by the return of Christ from heaven." "The word appears in the Jewish apocalypse 4 Ezra 11:46, where it refers to the final messianic times of Israel’s redemption." (Polhill, p. 134) 

The larger point of the passage is that when Israel as a whole repents (which they did not here in the early chapters of Acts) then the Messiah will come from heaven to rule and to reign! This is exactly what the orthodox Rabbis have always taught! The Messiah’s coming is tied to Israel’s repentance. 

The Jewish writing Beit Sanhedrin says: "All the calculated ends have already expired and the matter of the coming of the Messiah now depends only on the repentance of Israel. If Israel repents, it will be redeemed." THIS IS WHAT PETER WAS SAYING!
The result of Jewish repentance is the return of Jesus, the second coming. The return of Jesus firmly establishes the identity of "times of refreshing" with the messianic kingdom, because the "times of refreshing" and the return of the Messiah are grammatically connected by the kai, "and" of Acts 3:20, making them simultaneous events. (Ger, p. 65)
From the face of the Lord. The Greek word here is prosopon and its first meaning is "the face." Why some translations make this "from the presence of …" escapes me! Remember that Christ is presently seated at the right hand of God the Father (Psa. 110:1-2) and is waiting for the fulfillment of history to take place. He will return and reign in Zion as the psalmist says!
"Corporate repentance will lead to the coming of the Messiah in the future." (Barrett, p. 203)

and that He might send forth the One who has been before appointed to you, Christ Jesus. (3:20) (Couch, personal translation) When Israel as a nation, as a whole entity repents then the Lord will send forth Christ from heaven to reign on earth. Anyone with any sense would take this as an actual coming, not some kind of allegorical and spiritualized happening that takes place in 70 AD! Might send is a compound Greek word: apo=from, forth; stello=to send. God the Father is thrusting Him out from heaven in order to return to earth and bring in the promised messianic age. The verb is an Aorist Subjunctive that gives a certain contingency to the action based on Israel’s repentance. When Israel repents then the Lord will send Him forth from glory to reign on the throne of David. 

There are two prepositions that work together in this verse and the one above. Israel will find soul-refreshing FROM (apo) the face of the Lord, and the Lord will send FORTH (apo) the Son to reign! 

Before appointed is a compound verb: pro=before; cheir=hand, with the idea of raising the hand "to appoint, select." It is a Perfect Passive Participle and is to be translated as "to before choose, before destine, before appoint." As a Participle the idea is that Christ exists as the One destined for this coming and no one else is! The Passive Voice means that the action upon Him comes from the outside, i.e. it is the Father who is doing the sending forth! The Perfect Tense means that He was so appointed in the past and that appointment is now waiting to come about and be fulfilled! 

Christ appointed refers not only to the fact that Jesus was the appointed Christ,
inasmuch as the covenant with Abraham was fulfilled in Him, ver. 25, but also to the return of Jesus as the Christ, the Messianic King, at His Parousia, in accordance with the voices of the prophets. (Nicoll, p. 115)
whom it is necessary for [the] heavens to receive until [the] times again stand in order, of all things which the God spoke through the mouth of the holy prophets (of Him) from ancient [time]. (3:21) (Couch, personal translation)
The Greek word dei carries the idea "it is necessary, imperative." This is the way it is to take place. Christ will remain in glory until God declares the "times" (plural, kronon) for the restoration that is to take place. This would certainly not be the foolish preterist idea of Christ coming back in some Casper the Ghost spiritualized way with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD! When the times arrive the Lord God will give the instructions to His Son to return to earth. The Lord God will say to Him "Stretch forth Thy strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Thine enemies’" (Psa. 110:2).
Stand in order is normally translated as restoration. It is a compound of three Greek words: apo=on account of; kata=with reference; stasis=to stand. The idea can refer to returning something to its rightful owner. In this case it has to do with giving back to the Messiah what belongs to Him, i.e. His promised kingdom. Thayer says, "The restoration of the true theocracy." Restoration is used by John the Baptist in reference to the establishment of the messianic earthly rule. Elijah will herald Christ’s coming back to earth to reign. The idea is found in Matthew 17:11; Mark 9:12 and it is used by the disciples in Acts 1:6. Josephus uses the word to describe the return from the Babylonian captivity. As a technical medical term it means complete restoration to health. (A. T. Robertson, p. 47)
  1. God announced by the mouth of His prophets the suffering of the Messiah (v. 18).
  2. God spoke of the restoration of all things by the mouth of His holy prophets (v. 21).
Even amillennialist Martin Luther had to write about this verse: "In the mean time, i.e. until God shall send Christ and the times of refreshing from his presence, [Christ] is committed to the heavens as a sacred trust to be delivered up [at some point] hereafter." (Alexander, p. 116) 

Blasting preterism Johnson says, "The ‘receiving’ of Jesus into heaven obviously refers to the ascension (1:9-11), which promises his return ‘in the same manner.’" (p. 69) That is, He will come back in a very literal manner to be King over the Jews in Israel.
Finally, repentance for the Jews will bring about Christ’s glorious return, and the fulfillment of all prophecies concerning the final restoration of the earthly Messianic kingdom. (Lenski, p. 144)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Paul Answers Hank: Romans 11:33-36

Romans 11:33-36
Paul’s Anthem to God’s Grace 
On all that he has written in chapters 9-11 Paul now stops to give God the glory for His "unsearchable ways"! No one can counsel God as He unfolds world history. He is its author and does as He pleases. But what He does will be perfect, good, and right! The apostle had a similar hymn of praise in 8:35-39. That hymn had to do with His plans for personal salvation. The hymn in 11:33-36 is about His world encompassing plans for the Gentiles and the restoration of Israel.

Oh, depth of plentitude and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable [are] His degrees (judgments) and incomprehensible His ways! (11:33) (Couch, Greek Translation) 11:33 Depth is the Greek word bathos from which we get the word bathysphere—a submarine-like vessel that dives to the bottom of the ocean. You cannot fathom the depth of God’s plans and purposes! Plentitude is ploutos and means the fullness, completeness, or the totality. You cannot get to the bottom of the depth of what God is doing with the nations and with His earthly people, the Jews! You cannot get to the bottom of His wisdom and knowledge! His degrees are unsearchable (anexereunata). This word is used only here by the apostle Paul. It is found nowhere else in the New Testament. It is a compound word: an=a negative, ex=out, ereunoo=to search. No one can dig out or explore all that God is doing.

Decrees is from the normal word for judgments (krimata), but here it seems it is best to translate the word differently. God is not judging His works; they are pronounced by Him and they form the tapestry of His many actions and plans in world history.

Incomprehensible is used only twice in the New Testament, both by Paul, here in Romans 11:33 and in Ephesians 3:8. The meaning is that God cannot be "traced out." One cannot follow His paths. We cannot figure Him out in His dealings with the nations and with Israel!

Ways is the Greek word hodos and means "paths, roads." What the Lord has shown us is what He has shown us! No more and no less! He is in charge and knows exactly what He is doing. We have to trust that He is all wise and is carrying out a perfect plan! Vine adds: "The verse emphases all His providential dispensations, His decisions, and decrees." (p. 412)
For who knew [the] mind of the Lord; or who became His Counselor? (11:34) (Couch, Greek Translation) 11:34 This verse simply reinforces the verse above. He is all sovereign and does not need out advice or counsel. Vine concludes: "This is a quotation from Isaiah 40:13. Cp. Jeremiah 23:18. The verbs are in the aorist tense with no specific time period in view." (p. 412) In other words, it is just plain impossible at any time to understand the Lord’s mind. And no time, past, present, or future, can anyone advise God as to what He ought to do!
Or who gave to Him that it might be returned to Him? (11:35) (Couch, Greek Translation) 11:35 And in like manner, God owes nothing back to anyone at anytime. He is not beholding to any human being. He has to answer to no one.
Because from Him and through Him and to Him [are] all things. To Him the glory into the ages! Amen. (11:36) (Couch, Greek Translation) 11:36 All pathways and all conclusions end with God. He is the final cause and the ultimate Author of all things. He does as He pleases. He is not trying to satisfy us; we are to be following Him! God’s glory will carry right on into the ages of eternity. All of earth’s history will end, as we now know of it. But what He has done in time will be glorified and honored for ages (aionas) to come. Vine well concludes this verse and well states the final thought of these three chapters. He writes:
He is the ultimate object, and all things are for His glory. In Colossians 1:15, the same facts are expressed in regard to Christ. There, however, the first of the three prepositions is en, in (an instrument use). In Him as the architect, by Him as the Creator, and for His glory, were all things created. (p. 413)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Paul Answers Hank: Romans 11:26-32

Romans 11:26-32
The Jews will be Restored and all the Messianic Promises of an Earthly Kingdom will be Fulfilled 
These could be the most important verses in this Romans 9-11 section. Here Paul comes to his most important point—God is not through with the Jews! He will return to bless them as a nation, as a theocracy, as a whole people, planted again in the Holy Land. He will keep His promises to them which are seen as unconditional and irrevocable in nature. The Gentiles will forfeit the blessing giving to them as an international group, and the Lord will again touch the hearts and souls of the Jewish people. 

In verses 29, 31 we are told that "God is not sorry for his gifts to and calling of the Jews." (A. T. Robertson, p. 399) And, "God’s purpose is for the Jews to receive a blessing yet." (Ibid) It is impossible to read these verses and misunderstand the apostle’s meaning. The Jews will be restored and all the messianic promises of an earthly Kingdom will be fulfilled.

And thus, all Israel will be saved, as it has been written: The Rescuing One will in the future come out of Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. (11:26) (Couch, Greek Translation) 11:26 "And all Israel shall be saved". "That is, national; not all Israelites in the past but the nation as such at the time of Christ’s Second Advent, and the inauguration of the Millennial reign." (Vine, p. 410) On this phrase Kroll adds: "This does not mean every Jew will come to Christ, there will be a large evangelistic movement among the Jews in the future. Still, only elect Jews will come to faith during that evangelistic movement. … It is then, at the coming of Jesus Christ to reign in power and glory, when He delivers the earth from the Antichrist’s rule, that Messiah will restore Israel to be the apple of God’s eye. Massive numbers of elect Jews will fall at the feet of Jesus, not only as King of Kings and Lord of lords, but as their Messiah as well. … Paul seals the restoration of Israel with a prophecy from Isaiah 59:20, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion’ (v. 26). This reference is to a manifestation to Israel of her Redeemer and Messiah. When He comes, Israel will be restored to the Root of God." (Kroll, p. 184)

Nicoll concurs and writes: "Israel as a nation, is a key part of the Messianic kingdom, is the content of Paul’s thoughts. … Israel, or to the elect, is to miss the mark: it foretells a ‘conversion of the Jews’ so universal that the separation into an elect remnant and the rest who were hardened shall disappear." (p. 683)

Everyone agrees the "all Israel" means the whole of Israel, not every specific Jew. A remnant will survive the tribulation and be saved. Some will be taken before their Savior, their King, and be judged. That is what Matthew 25 is all about.

The One Rescuing is a Present Participle of the verb ruomai. It means "to rescue, deliver." Christ then in the verbal sense is known as the Rescuer of the Jewish people, and of course also the world (but that is not the point here). The Future Tense comes from the verbs "shall be saved" and "will come" (ako). Ako means "to arrive, to be present," and has the force of the Pluperfect. "He will have arrived." (Thayer) "He will remove" also is a Future Tense of apotrepo. Thus, "He will remove, turn away" ungodliness from Jacob, or Israel. Jacob was the father of the twelve tribes, not the founder of the Church of the Inner Springs in Horseshoe, Texas! The name Jacob is a representation of the Jews. Jacob and Zion means the Jewish people, not the church! Zion was the hill in Jerusalem that was the site of the residence of the kings of Israel. The word became a catch-all term for describing Jerusalem, Israel as a whole, or the Jewish people.

Only someone not thinking, or who has a pre-set agenda, would miss the fact that the verse is telling us that the Jews will be restored and receive the benefits (and fulfill) the application of the New Covenant, which has to do with personal blessings, i.e. personal salvation!
And to them, this concerning the covenant of Me, when I should Myself remove the sins from them! (11:27) (Couch, Greek Translation) Paul here quotes the prophecy of the New Covenant first given in Jeremiah 31:31-on.
When in the future the Messiah comes to save the Jews the New Covenant will be fulfilled with the nation. The New Covenant was ratified by the death of Christ and His shed blood on the cross (Luke 22:20). The Covenant was launched at Pentecost (Acts 2), with the Gentiles presently receiving the benefits of it in salvation, but not in a prophetic sense fulfilling it. But Israel will embrace the New Covenant as they enter the blessings of the Kingdom and trust Christ as their personal Savior. When the Jews rejected Christ, they rejected the provision for salvation that comes by the New Covenant but in the future that Covenant will bring them salvation from their sins.
God is not through with the nation of Israel!
On the one hand, concerning the gospel, they are enemies because of you (Gentiles), on the other hand, according to the calling out (election), (they are) beloved because of the fathers, (11:28) (Couch, Greek Translation) This is a profound passage of Scripture because it tells us, that though the Jews presently reject Christ, they are still beloved (loved) in God’s sight because He made promises to the patriarchs, the Jewish fathers—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Twelve Tribes! When Paul wrote the Romans letter, the Jews were at war with the Christian Gentiles. They were angry because these "pagans" were accepting Christ as the Jewish Savior and King!
God’s relationship with the Jews is based on His election. And though they are now in unbelief He is not through with them. That national election stands. It defines His future work with them. God chose Israel to be His people; they are the object of His love even presently—on account of the fact that He is a Covenant-keeping God!
for irrevocable are the gifts and the calling from God. (11:29) (Couch, Greek Translation) Irrevocable (ametamelata) means that it can not be repented of. God cannot change His mind about the nation of Israel. He will fulfill all His promises to them. "God’s gifts of grace, and His calling, are things upon which there is no going back." (Nicoll, p. 684) His Spirit will bring a great remnant back to life and, following the terrible seven year tribulation, they will be restored to their Holy Land by faith, with Christ their King ruling over them. The "calling (kalasis) from God" here Nicoll says has to do with their place in God’s earthly plan. "It is His authoritative invitation to a part in the Messianic kingdom. From Israel these things can never be withdrawn." (Ibid)
For just as you then were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience. (11:30) (Couch, Greek Translation) A perfect example of how God is dealing with the Jews is how He dealt with the Gentiles. He can show mercy even when there is gross unbelief.
Also likewise they now were disobedient in order to show mercy to you, they also may now be shown mercy. (11:31) (Couch, Greek Translation) In a classic statement Nicoll writes:
The past unbelief of the Gentiles and the mercy they presently enjoy, the present unbelief of the Jews and the mercy they are destined to enjoy in the future—these things not only correspond to each other, but they are interwoven with each other; they are parts of a system which God controls, and in which every element conditions and is conditioned by all the rest; there is a Divine necessity pervading and controlling all the [so called] freedom of men—a Divine purpose mastering all the random activity of human wills." (Ibid) For the God has closed up the all into disobedience in order that the all might be shown mercy (by Him). (11:32) (Couch, Greek Translation) Paul has spelled out the distinction between God’s dealings with the nations and His work with the Jews. Presently, both groups are placed together in the body of   Christ, in this dispensation (PERIOD) of grace, and the church age. Presently, the majority in the church, the body of Christ, are Gentiles, but in the dispensation (PERIOD) of the Kingdom, the majority people, special people, will be the nation of Israel. The Lord has specific plans for both groups. Vine correctly concludes:
When Israel as a nation is restored to Divine favor and privilege in the earth, He will show His mercy to all nations, i.e., in the Millennium. The word "all," in reference to Israel, is to be viewed in the light of verse 26, and, as to the Gentiles, in the light of what is said in verses 12-25. In whatever way man enjoys salvation he will never be able to attribute it to anything but the pure mercy of God. (p. 412)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Paul Answers Hank: Romans 11:13-25

The Restoration of Israel as a Theocracy assured
Some of the greatest prophecies in Scripture are found in Ezekiel 36-37. They deal with the restoration of Israel, both spiritually and in regard to the Jewish return to the Promised Land! The apostle Paul was well familiar with these passages and one could almost say that he is paraphrasing their message here in chapter 11. 

Ezekiel 37:1-14 deals with the prophecy of the dry bones. Israel is like bones scattered in the desert, but by a miracle, God will bring them back to life and plant them in their one land. Humanly speaking these bones cannot come back alive. Ezekiel is shocked with the word that God is giving him about Israel and their future restoration. The Lord said, "I, Jehovah, have spoken it and will perform it." God will use means to accomplish His purposes. 

"What is the state of the nation in this vision of the dry bones? They are buried among the Gentiles (v. 21). They are a disunited, disjointed, formless mass of people living under the flags of many nations without a national awareness of their own. In the national and spiritual sense they are a mass of scattered, dry, i.e. dead bones. … The first phase in the work of the Restoration of Israel is of a physical nature. They develop a national consciousness and begin to leave the various countries of their dispersion. . . . The state of the Jewish people in the last 200 years is a remarkable fulfillment of this passage." (The Restoration of the State of Israel, Arthur Kac, pp. 44-45) 

This passage of Scripture, Romans 11, gives meaning to this restoration! The church is not Israel, and Israel is not the church. There is no such think as Replacement Theology. It is a heresy pushed upon the Christian public by the allegorical guys of the (falsely describe) Covenant Theology.
But to you the Gentiles I am speaking. Insomuch then I am an apostle of the Gentiles, I am glorifying my work. (11:13) (Couch, Greek Translation) Paul is making it clear that his argument which he will develop in the verses that follow is not based simply because he is "pro-Israel." He has been assigned by God to reach the Gentiles, yet the fact stands that God is not through with His earthly, theocratic people. The church will apostatize and turn away from the gospel. In fact that event is now happening. The church is dying. The apostasy of the church is upon us! Gentiles are rejecting Christ as Savior! Again, the apostle is using the Present Tense when he writes, "I am now speaking." What he has to say is current in its meaning and application to the argument.
If someway I might [come] alongside [and] anger the flesh [brothers] and shall save in the future some out from among them. (11:14) (Couch, Greek Translation) During this dispensation (PERIOD) of grace Paul has a task to perform, and that is, saving spiritually those of his own by the flesh. By his proclaiming of the gospel Paul wants to antagonize his fellow countrymen in order to cause them to deal with the issue of their King, who is now in this PERIOD their Savior, though His reign on the Davidic throne is not far off! He wants to force them to examine the claims of the son of David and see what God is presently doing with the past historic fact of His death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. By using the Future Tense of "shall save," Paul is saying he is planting seeds that may later sprout spiritually and bring many Jews to Christ at some latter time.

Again the verb paralaloo should not be translated "to make jealous." Paul’s point is that the gospel, which is blessing the Gentiles, is making the Jews mad, angry. They can sense that God has turned away from them, if only for a season! In a twist of the Lord’s providence, that anger will someday play a role in bringing Jews to Christ!
For if their throwing away (casting down of the truth) [became] a reconciliation of the world, what the receiving towards [them] if not life out from among the dead ones? (11:15) (Couch, Greek Translation) It would be impossible to read this verse without believing that Paul is telling us there will be a restoration, a reconciliation of Israel back to the Lord. A. T. Robertson gets the point but then turns away from the obvious meaning of the passage. He writes, "Many think that Paul means that the general resurrection and the end will come when the Jews are converted. Possibly so, but it is by no means certain. His language may be merely figurative." [Italics mine.] How in the world can Robertson come so close and then back off of the meaning of the passage? He shows that if one wants to deny the obvious he can easily do so. Robertson, with all his Greek skills, was locked into his Covenant, anti-premillennial way of thinking! He denied what he saw in his exegesis!
Alford gets the point and writes: "Life from the dead literally should follow on the restoration of the Jewish people." (p. 430)
For if the first (chunk of dough) be holy and the lump also, and if the root (is) holy, then the branches also. (11:16) (Couch, Greek Translation) Paul now makes a very important point. He shows that the starting point, of a loaf of bread (or of a branch coming out of a root), establishes the end product. From the chunk of dough the lump is broken off, and, from the root, the branch of the tree comes forth. So the nation of Israel. The chunk of dough, or the root, represents God’s blessing came down to Abraham and his descendants the Jewish people. This principle will establish what Paul says in the verses that come after.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive were engrafted in among them, and together-fellowshipping of the rich root of the olive tree, (11:17) (Couch, Greek Translation) The branches (some but not all) represent the Jewish people who originally were the recipients of God’s blessings. He reached down into ancient Babylon and Ur and called out Abraham in order to establish a people for His name. But because of their rejection of God’s blessings and their repudiation of Christ, they were broken off of the olive tree of blessing. Now the Gentiles have been engrafted into the root, that place of blessing. The elect Gentiles are now sharing of God’s goodness with elect Jews. This new body constitutes the church. The Gentiles are not being grafted into Israel but into the place of blessing. This new arrangement is temporary and it represents a postponement of God again working with the theocracy of Israel. This new arrangement is not Replacement Theology that would say God is through with the Jews and will not restore His work again with the regathered nation of Israel.
Do not triumph (as a winning gladiator) against the branches; but if you are to be triumphant, (remember) it is not you who bears the root, but the root (bears) you! (11:18) (Couch, Greek Translation) Gentile believers in Christ cannot gloat or become arrogant as if they are better than the disbelieving Jews. "Triumph" is in the Present Tense. Apparently some of the Gentiles at that time were arrogant about their faith and felt they were better than the Jews. But by God’s sovereignty His root of blessing is supporting the Gentiles and blessing them, not the other way around! This, and in all areas of Bible interpretation, is where we dispensationalists are correct. We understand that we now are living in a new dispensation (PERIOD) of grace. But the story is not over yet. Other chapters of the drama are to follow. God is not through with Israel!
You will in the future then be saying, branches were broken out in order that I might be engrafted. (11:19) (Couch, Greek Translation) At some point in the future the Gentiles will get it! They have to understand that the Lord ceased His time of blessing the Jews in order to turn to the Gentiles. While the church is made up of Jew and Gentile, the majority in this new body is Gentiles. Israel was set aside and the grace of God came upon the Gentile nations.
Rightly so! In unbelief they were broken out, but you in belief stand. Do not be conceited ones but fear! (11:20) (Couch, Greek Translation) "Conceited" means to be high and lofty, to be highly exalted. This is almost precisely what happened to the church as the decades passed from the founding of the early church. The church began to look down the nose on the rejecting Jews, and in time, began to kill and persecute them. But actually, this was done in the name of Christendom not true biblical Christianity! Fear is a Present Imperative. Gentile Christians are to be continually fearing, constantly watching and monitoring their attitude towards the Jews. Anti-Semitism can raise its ugly head at any time. Most in the arena of Covenant Theology have a tinge of Anti-Semitism overtly or at least by their silence toward the plight of the Jewish people in the Holy Land.
For if the God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. (11:21) (Couch, Greek Translation) God is not under obligation to continue to offer salvation to the hard-hearted Gentiles. A day is coming, and may be here already, when the Gentile world no longer responds to the gospel. God will be finished then with the world and the judgment of the tribulation will descend like a flood! He will again turn to the Jewish people and restore them to favor. I believe this is already beginning to take place. Israel is back in the land. Thousands of Jews in the Holy Land are now turning to Christ. Dozens of churches have been founded.
Behold then, kindness and unrelenting judgment from God, on the one hand on the ones who fell, unrelenting judgment, but on the other hand to you, kindness of God, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be in the future cut out! (11:22) (Couch, Greek Translation) The Greek word kindness (chrastotes) is related to the word grace. Unrelenting judgment is the Greek word apotomian. The word implies severity, sharpness, cutting. In judgment, God will slash away at the Gentiles who are rejecting the gospel. This certainly has overtones of the meaning behind the words tribulation, wrath.

The apostle had no idea of God’s timetable for the Gentiles, but this verse clearly implies that the age of grace for the world will someday end. The Gentiles will be judged and rejected by the Lord, though salvation is always available even during the time of the seven year tribulation. (God is always gracious though the dispensation [PERIOD] of grace itself will end.) Because of apostasy the church dispensation (PERIOD) will end with the rapture and God will bring about a cleansing work on Israel. At the close of the seven year tribulation, Israel will be fully restored in her glory and Christ will return to reign in Jerusalem for 1000 years!
And then, if they should not remain in unbelief, they will in the future be engrafted for the God is powerful to engraft them again. (11:23) (Couch, Greek Translation)  
The great Greek word specialist and dispensationalist Vine notes on this verse: "The point here is that the rejection of the Jews is not irrevocable." (p. 409) This is another verse that is virtually a guarantee of what the Lord will do in the future. The Jews will be engrafted again into the root of blessing from which, as a nation, they were removed. God is not through with the Jews! The engrafting will be a sovereign work of the Lord by His power (dunamis).
For if you were cut out from the natural wild olive (tree), and were engrafted against nature into a cultivated olive (tree), how much more shall these who are the natural (branches) be engrafted into their own olive (tree)? (11:24) (Couch, Greek Translation) On this verse Nicoll writes: "Paul believes in his logic, and has probably in view in the words now writes that actual restoration of the Jews of which he now proceeds to speak." (p. 682)

In our lifetime we have witnessed the restoration of the Jews, though in unbelief, back to their Promised Land. This is in preparation of their coming alive spiritually with the Holy Spirit placed within their hearts. They will embrace their own Savior and Messiah, the Lord Jesus! But before it all falls into place, the church will be removed from the earth, and the terrible seven year tribulation will act as a purge on the world and on the Jewish nation. Yet, without a doubt, these prophesied events are not far off. Kac in his great volume The Rebirth of the State of Israel writes:
If this present restoration (since 1948) is preparatory to Israel’s final and complete redemption—and all signs point in that direction—it will issue forth in the transformation of the kingdoms of the earth into the Kingdom of God. This is the teaching of the whole Bible—Old and New Testament. In the New Testament this even is associated with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20). (p. 375)