Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Criteria For Canonicity of Scripture

Below is a list of stated facts that give to us confirmation that what we have in the Bible is indeed the inspired Word of God. The list could be expanded but these are just some preliminary points to consider.

1. The internal evidence. So many of the books of the Bible say something like "the Lord has spoken," or "the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel ..." (Ezek. 1:3).

2. The fulfillment of prophecy. Hundreds, if not thousands of prophecies are given to us in both the OT and the NT. They can be verified and confirmed in secular history. In fact, fulfillment of prophecy is a key factor in telling us that the Bible is the Word of God.

3. The authors claimed inspiration by the Lord through His Holy Spirit. The authors then were liars or they were telling us the truth. And, we can verify what they were saying by objective analysis.

4. Most who were living when the prophets or the apostles wrote, who read what they penned, confirmed the authority of the authors and their statements. I know of no occasions when they said with meaningful evidence, "These men are liars and are not telling the truth!"

5. The Lord over and over said that He was speaking through the authors, and dictating to them His message that He wanted us to receive. This is either true or false.

6. Even the statements of nonbelievers often tell us what was being written was indeed true and could be relied upon. For example, the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar: "I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, ..." (Dan. 4:37).

7. The confirmation of individuals, or of kings and priests, following several decades or more after a certain book had been written (such as Daniel). No one was recorded saying: "What was written X number of years ago is all a lie!"

8. The preservation and the handling of the biblical texts. They were kept with care (for the most part) and were meticulously copied and preserved.

9. Few, if any, claimed that what had been written some years earlier, had contradictions and mistakes. Instead, the manuscripts were held in high esteem, because of their accuracy and fidelity to truth.

10. The high views expressed in the Bible books in regard to the standards of morality, truthfulness, spirituality, and revelation of the nature and the works of God.

11. The consistency of doctrine in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. There are no contradictions that can stand up under honest scrutiny. The writings of the Bible hold up as to the nature of man, the nature of God, His character and all other doctrines that were given forth in the scriptural writings.

12. The contrast of what the Bible teaches in comparison with other religious writings. Other religions cannot come close to the fidelity and spiritual nature of the Bible—for example, in comparing the writings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. In other religious writings, God, or the gods, is degraded, fictionalized, presented as immoral in character, and not worthy of study!

13. Preservation of the biblical texts. No other ancient manuscripts have been preserved in such detail as the Word of God. While there are transmission issues to be studied, still what we have in the manuscripts cannot be matched by the writings of other religions. Secular or historical manuscripts are but patchwork in comparison to the Bible.

Preservation of the biblical manuscripts must be considered. There is a reason that the texts were kept with such care over the centuries, and that would be the fact that so many people realized that the Bible was not simply an ordinary collection of religious works. They stand out far beyond all other manuscripts of antiquity.

14. The attitude of Christ toward the Bible—it was given by inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it was to be accepted as His divine authority for truth.

15. The authors of the Bible were said to be the holy prophets and holy apostles who set forth the inspired Word.

16. While there were a few throughout history who denied the inspiration of the Bible, most of the criticism came late—mainly during the last three hundred years. During the age of skepticism, critics denied the work of God in history. God has not revealed Himself in written revelation, they argue. The Bible is only a naturalistic book, full of errors and mistakes, they claim, though without provable, objective factual evidence.

Critics must objectively and convincingly refute these points in order to debunk the Bible and substantiate their claim that it is not the Word of God. Skepticism cares not for truth, its presuppositions found in its own reasoning is sufficient to make its claim.

A complete study of history, and a thorough examination of the internal claims and evidence within Scripture, flies in the face of critical objections!

-- Dr. Mal Couch

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


54 struggling African nations have had a quick negative response to President Obama's equal rights policy toward homosexuality. These backward nations are more moral than America! They understand the sinfulness of this practice and outlaw homosexual activity. They say "Homosexuality here is taboo, it's something anathema to Africans, and we see it as abhorrent in every country on the continent that we can identify."

Secretary Clinton and Obama are pushing legally to make it a universal acceptance of this practice worldwide in order to placate the homosexual crown. What an irony! These poor nations see morally more than our own President does! Destruction is certain to come upon this nation! --Dr. Mal Couch

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Catholics and England

King Phillip of Spain wanted to do his missionary work and return England to the Catholic Church, destroying the work of the Reformation in that country. He prayed continually for God to help him defeat Sir Francis Drake's little fleet whereby he could then invade that nation. He assembled the Armada with a fleet of very large ships that would face off Drake's limited and small battle wagons.

There is no question that God in His sovereignty destroyed the Spanish Armada and spared England. His providence brought about a miracle that is one-of-a-kind in history. Here are some specific things that the Lord did to defeat the ships of Spain:

Before the conflict began Drake was able (1) to destroy the material by which the Spanish built the staves and casks for storing water and food for their fleet. The casks were inferior and leaked, pouring forth the needed water and spoiling the food supply. (2) Drake's fleet was made up of smaller ships that could maneuver and turn more quickly with the wind. The Spanish galleons were larger and more cumbersome and less able to turn when in combat with Drake's swift, little ships. Drake could move in and out among the Spanish fleet thus more easily destroying them while on the run with the wind.

The sailors of the Spanish fleet were (3) multi-national and thus were not able to communicate with each other very well, whereas the English navy was made up of all Englishmen who could speak more distinctly with each other while in combat. The British navy was more professional and had trained well together. They (4) could load and reload their weapons rapidly. It took about four minutes for the Spanish to load their canons while the English could do so in about one minute's time. The English ships (5) rode low on the water-line and therefore were much harder to see in order to hit them with canon balls where the water would pour in. The Spanish ships rode higher on the water and were easy targets for the English gunners.

The Spanish ships were (6) crowded and therefore had a lot of diseases running rampant throughout the crew. The Spanish sailors (7) had no beds or hammocks to sleep in. They had to "sleep by the guns" with the deck wet. Most of the Spanish sailors had no blankets. They lived miserably on board their ships! The English sailors slept high and dry in warm hammocks.

When the Spanish Armada moved north to Calais and put into port, (8) they were trapped when Drake attacked with eight fire ships that moved in and out of the fleet, causing havoc among the sailors and their vessels. The Spanish fleet (9) was not supplied with enough ammunition, gun powder and canon balls, to fight the English. This caused many Spanish ships to sail limited in their attempt to attack the English fleet.

When the Spanish fleet moved into the English Channel, heading for England, (10) God sent a terrible storm that scattered the ships and sunk many. The English considered, rightly so, this as the miracle of miracles that really destroyed the Spanish fleet along with their plans for invading Britain. (11) Out of 128 Spanish ships, only half were saved when the battle was over.

To escape the English, the Spanish fleet circled England and passed by the shores of Ireland and Scotland. Many of the Spanish galleons (12) were wrecked on the coast with thousands of the sailors killed by the people living on the coast. Only a handful of Spanish sailors ever returned back to Spain.

Since God is the God of all of history, His providence brought on this victory for the people of the Reformation who lived in Reformation England. Many of the people of England brought their faith to our American shores. America became Reformation and Protestant and not Catholic! We are indebted to the Lord for stopping the intentions of the Catholics who wished to return the English people back to the Mother Church! —Dr. Mal Couch

The Natural Proofs of God's Existence

Philosophy of Religion

For generations rational philosophers have attempted to give certain natural arguments for the existence of God. This was a humanistic effort to arm-wrestle objectors into accepting a kind of logical proof of the truth about God's being. But the heart and mind of the lost is so tenacious that such arguments fall on deaf ears.

However many Christians have felt the rational proofs were worthy of consideration. The problem is that such so-called evidence may well speak to the mind of a believer in Christ, but it makes no headway with those who are rebellious sinners. These standard "proofs" are as follows:

The Ontological Argument. Anselm, along with Descartes, argues "man has the idea of an absolutely perfect being; that existence is an attribute of perfection; and that therefore an absolutely perfect being must exist."1 The idea is that God exists in the human mind, and since He does, this must be a logical demonstration that He is! This view can be summed up, "I have an idea that there is a God, therefore I have an experience of God."
The ontological argument in theism consists in a course of reasoning from God as the absolute First Cause of all things to the things He has caused-specifically, the inherent idea that God exists. God is recognized as the Creator of the human mind in which this conception of Himself is found. The fact of the existence of God is involved in this congenital idea.2

The weakness of this view seems obvious. The evil mind of man can conjure up all kinds of views about the nature of God, thus the idea of God (or gods) is but an invention of man's imagination.

The Cosmological Argument. This view would say that all existing things in the world should have an adequate cause; and if so, the universe must have an adequate cause too, a cause that is indefinitely greater. However, the evolutionists argue against such a view and say that all things come into being by natural-chance forces. To them, the cosmological argument means nothing can be ruled out and rejected. "The argument does not necessitate the assumption that the cosmos had a single cause, a personal and absolute cause, -- and therefore falls short of proving the existence of God."3

It is true, however, that the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1-6). This creation should be a convincing revelation. The wonder of creation is seen everywhere. Such a revelation should raise questions in the minds of human beings. But because of sin such "facts" are rejected, distorted, or ascribed to some other cause rather than the handiwork of an all-powerful personal God.

The Teleological Argument. Berkhof explains, "The world everywhere reveals intelligence, order, harmony, and purpose, and thus implies the existence of an intelligent and purposeful being, adequate to the production of such a world. ... It is superior to the cosmological argument in that it makes explicit what is not stated in the latter, namely, that the world contains evidences of intelligence and purpose, and thus leads on to the existence of a conscious, and intelligent and purposeful being."4 Some argue that this only suggests a Mind that is in control of the world processes. The skeptics would simply call this the Force!

The apostle Peter does not hesitate in telling us of the First Cause of creation: "By the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, ... But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (2 Pet. 3:5, 7). Peter not only described the first cause of creation, but he makes the issue relevant to the issues of the existence and the judgment of human beings.

The Moral Argument. Liberal theology is attracted to this view because it recognizes "a Highest Good and [man's] quest for a moral ideal demand and necessitate the existence of a God to give reality to that ideal."5 The Holocaust and the killing of millions of Jews during World War II has a blunting effect on this positive argument. One could use the same logic to argue that God is evil because one sees continually in this world the Lowest Evil! From a natural, observational viewpoint, this argument only brings confusion, and is easily shot down by the critic and skeptic. "While this argument does point to the existence of a holy and just being, it does not compel belief in a God, a Creator, or a being of infinite perfections."6

The Historical Argument. Also known as the Ethnological Argument, this view holds all peoples of the earth have some sense of the divine, a spark of truth that indicates God exists. So the argument goes, if the nature of people leads to religious worship, that is only explained by a "higher Being who has constituted man a religious being."7 The evolutionist would not agree with this view. He would simply point to the superstition of human beings for wanting a Higher Power to give answers to existence.

It is true the apostle Paul argues that nature gives a universal witness to God. In fact, he says "that which is known about God is evident within" men, "for God made it evident to them" (Rom. 1:19). He adds that God's invisible attributes and eternal power, and divine nature, "have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (v. 20).

However, such knowledge does not drive men to God.


Berkhof notes:
In evaluating these arguments it should be pointed out first of all that believers do not need them. Their conviction respecting the existence of God does not depend on them, but on a believing acceptance of God's self-revelation in Scripture. If many in our day are willing to stake their faith in the existence of God on such rational arguments, it is to a great extent due to the fact that they refuse to accept the testimony of the Word of God. Moreover, in using these arguments in an attempt to convince unbelievers, it will be well to bear in mind that none of them can be said to carry absolute conviction. ... They are important as interpretations of God's general revelation and as exhibiting the reasonableness of belief in a divine Being.8

Ryrie adds:
We must not forget that the majority of people who have ever lived have rejected the revelation of God through nature, and that rejection has come with scorn and deliberate substitution of their own gods. They have condemned themselves, and when God rejects them, He does so justly.9

Chafer well summarizes:
The natural man who does not receive or know the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14), has in all ages sought to answer the problem of a visible universe and by his efforts has unceasingly proved this divine estimation of his limitations to be true. It may be difficult for the spiritually enlightened mind to comprehend the fog of confusion in which the often sincere but unregenerate men are plunged. ... However, they have formulated certain general lines of philosophy, and these, like the false religions of the earth, bespeak the spiritual limitations of fallen man.10 -- Dr. Mal Couch


  1. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 26.
  2. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 Vols. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1976), 1:158.
  3. Louis Berkhof, 27.
  4. Ibid., 26-27.
  5. Ibid., 27.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., 27-28.
  9. Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1999), 38.
  10. Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1:162.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Napoleon and the Jews

Napoleon was changing the face of Europe. He was for the common man the hero of the western world, supposedly bent on removing or tempering the monarchies of various countries and bringing in a form of Republicanism. But he certainly was not a purest and illustrated that fact when he proclaimed himself as the Emperor of France. Many lost faith in this supposed benevolent dictator and conqueror!

But the relationship Napoleon had with the Jews is fascinating. In 1806 he summoned a grand Sanhedrin to meet in Paris. He called for the chief Rabbis from across Europe (mainly from France, Germany, and Italy), to assemble to hear his desire to bring them liberation. He was confident that he could surmount all obstructions against this people and bring them into the light of liberation. But actually, he planned to bend Judaism to fit his purposes.

At the meeting he asked the Rabbis to ponder twelve questions and bring back the answers. If they answered his questions in a positive way, Napoleon thought he could change the way Europe dealt with the isolated Jews. The next year the great Sanhedrin re-assembled and gave him his answers. Part of what he wanted to hear was that the Jewish people were willing to abide by the laws of the countries they lived in, though they would retain their Rabbinic courts for religious purposes. They would also have to agree that this great Sanhedrin would be the one and only legal tribunal for their religious decisions.

This Sanhedrin would be the central controlling body over Jewish affairs. It would appoint Rabbis, urge obedience to national laws, urge Jewish military service, order prayer for the welfare of the kings of various nations, control the lending practices of the Jewish bankers, and promote a kind of public education for the various Jewish communities.

But Napoleon’s plans backfired. The Jews across Europe sensed a trap. The mass of Israelites were by no means inclined to merge their hopes in the destinies of the French Empire and the nations it controlled. The Jews would not exchange "Zion and Jerusalem for Paris," so the saying went!

But as some of the Rabbis said, there would be "infidel Jews" who would succumb to this impious flattery. They were Jews who ignored their own Bible and traditions and desired to be part of the modern new world order. On the 15th of August, the Emperor’s birthday, these "secular" Jews blended the image of Napoleon and his wife Josephine with the name of Jehovah and elevated the imperial eagle above the representation of the Ark of the Covenant in the synagogues.

Most of the Jews were still hoping for the coming of the Messiah and the liberation from the hatred of the Gentile world. To return to the Promise Land was also the hope that filled the hearts of most Jews at that time. As rightly they should, they looked for the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of His worldwide earthly reign from Jerusalem. They, as dispensationalists do today, held to a premillennial coming of the Son of David from heaven!

But there were the compromisers and the disbelievers!

The orthodox said, "No Jew, who really adhered to the faith of his fathers, could for a moment tolerate such audacious adulation to the world, which in effect placed the Creator and the creature (i.e. Napoleon) on the same level."

Napoleon’s plan for uniting the Jews and bringing them into acceptance by the Gentile world failed. It was said that many of the Jews clung to a word of prophecy from Numbers 23:9 which read: "Behold, [we are] a people who dwells apart, and shall not be reckoned among the nations."

But there were the compromisers and the disbelievers!

For about this time, many of the Jews were rushing toward modernity and the inclusion of themselves with the Gentile cultures. Many changed their dress, changed their names, and wanted professions that made them a part of the society. This assimilation increased in momentum and continued right on up until the time of Hitler. But the Jews could not escape. Their assimilation and love of the world could not save them. The worst persecution would fall upon them when 6 million died during World War II. -- Dr. Mal Couch

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Blessings of the Battle of Omdurman

Not knowing history, many today do not realize it but in 1898 Africa was temporarily saved from radical Islam by the Nile battle of Omdurman. This city was on the banks of the Nile River some distance from the sixth cataract inland on that great body of water.

In 1884 General Cyrus Gordon, the great Christian and Bible reading British General, was slain on the steps of his headquarters at Khartoum. Thousands of frenzied Muslim dervishes stormed his building. He stood before the Muslims defiant knowing that as a believer in Christ he would die a martyr's death at their hands. This revived fanatical group of Muslims wanted to conquer Africa and the entire world for Allah.

The leader of the dervishes was the Mahdi, the Muslim "messiah" who was a charismatic prophet that would conquer the world either by submission or by the sword. Everyone must submit to him and Allah. But Christian England stood in the way. (Many orthodox Muslims today are looking for the "savior," the Mahdi who will be the conqueror of the world for Allah!)

In 1898 by cool and calculated planning the English began to assemble a large army to avenge the blood of General Gordon. General Horatio Herbert Kitchener knew that the Muslim army had its headquarters on the bank of the Nile in the city of Omdurman just across from Khartoum. His army would be large and well equipped with Sudanese and Egyptian soldiers and other Africans who agreed with the British that this may be one of the final opportunities to stop the Muslims from slaughtering so many Africans and placing so many others under the sword blade of forced conversion. Conversion by the sword was their practice! (It is true however, that the Muslims let many survive if they made no disparaging remarks about Islam. But if they converted to Islam, or were born into the faith, and then left it, they could die!)

This large army set out from Cairo. A railroad was constructed southward as far as possible to take up troops and supplies. And five new river gunboats were sailed or "dragged" up the Nile to lay siege against Omdurman when the time was right and the attack begun. The Grenadier Guards, kilted Highlanders, and the 21st Lancers made the journey up river. The new Muslim leader, the Khalifa, was waiting with thousands of dervish troops in the city.

The British opened up the battle by a bombardment of canon fire from the gunboats. 5,000 African troops of the elite Camel Corps charged the dervishes. The battle was a clash of modern British weapons, but also of spears and swords. Towards the climax came the last great cavalry charge in history. The 21st Lancers charged into the dervish troops five men deep to bring about a terrible slaughter that would be used providentially to stop the inroads being made by fanatical Islam. A future world leader survived that terrible cavalry charge. A young office by the name of Winston Churchill, weighed in on his horse with pistol blazing. Many of the enemy fell in front of him.

As all oriental potentates, the Khalifa, rode on a donkey among his troops before the attack telling them that the Mahdi and the Prophet Mohammed came to him during the night promising them victory and a quick rise to paradise if they died. He added that the legions of hell would tear to shreds the spirits of the defeated Christian infidels. But victory would be theirs, paradise would be theirs, their fame would live forever. Though the masses of Muslim dervishes had heard this before they lurched forward onto the field of battle to defeat Christianity.

Thousands and thousands of the dervish forces perished in about two days time. Only a small number of the British and their allies died. At least for awhile, Islam would be blunted, at least the fanatical branch that was bent on making converts by the sword. And for some years afterward English missionaries would be free and continue to work in Africa with some semblance of safety. -- Dr. Mal Couch

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Jews and the Civil War

The largest ethnic group fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War was the Jews. It is estimated that 10,000 fought for the South. This included first through the third generations, and many old Jewish families from both the Sephardic and the Ashkenazic branches of Judaism. Jews had lived in Charleston, South Carolina since 1695. By 1800 the largest Jewish community was here. The oldest synagogue in America was in that city—Beth Elohim. By 1861, a third of all Jews in America lived in Louisiana.

It was stated by one Rabbi that only in the South were the Jews afforded such an opportunity to be completely equal. To show respect, General Robert E. Lee allowed Jewish soldiers when possible to celebrate all holy days. Unfortunately, Generals Grant and Sherman issued anti-Jewish orders.

One of the most respected officers for the South was General Abraham Myers, an 1832 West Point graduate and classmate of Lee. The city of Fort Myers was named after him. Another Jew, Major Adolph Proskauer of Mobile, Alabama, was wounded several times. One officer said of him: "I can see him now as he nobly carried himself at Gettysburg, standing coolly and calmly at the head of the 12th Alabama amid a perfect rain of bullets, shot, and shell. He was the personification of intrepid gallantry and imperturbable courage."

From North Carolina, six brothers from the Cohen family fought in the 40th Infantry. The first Confederate Jew killed in the war was Albert Lurie Moses of Charlotte. All-Jewish companies were formed from about six Confederate cities.

Many Jews became renowned after the war. Moses Jacob Ezekiel became a world famous sculptor. Judah Benjamin was the first Jewish senator and later declined a seat on the Supreme Court. He was educated at Yale. During the conflict he became the Confederacy attorney general. Physician Simon Baruch from Germany, became the surgeon general of the South. He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia. If a band struck up "Dixie," Dr. Baruch would jump up and give the Rebel yell! He let loose the yell even in the Metropolitan Opera House! His son Bernard became one of the most successful financiers of the twentieth century. He became an adviser to presidents from World War I to World War II and became a confidant of President Franklin Roosevelt.

Today there is very little left of the "Jewish South." Most do not know of the contribution that large community played during those troubled times. -- Dr. Mal Couch

Thursday, December 8, 2011

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.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

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!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

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!

Monday, December 5, 2011

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.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

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!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

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.

Friday, December 2, 2011

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).