Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Eugene Peterson's Apostasy

EP: "I haven’t had a lot of experience with it [i.e., homosexuality and same-sex marriage]. But I have been in churches when I was an associate pastor where there were several women who were lesbians. They didn’t make a big deal about it. I’d go and visit them and it never came up for them. They just assumed that they were as Christian as everybody else in the church.
In my own congregation — when I left, we had about 500 people — I don’t think we ever really made a big deal out of it. When I left, the minister of music left. She’d been there ever since I had been there. There we were, looking for a new minister of music. One of the young people that had grown up under my pastorship, he was a high school teacher and a musician. When he found out about the opening, he showed up in church one day and stood up and said, “I’d like to apply for the job of music director here, and I’m gay.” We didn’t have any gay people in the whole congregation. Well, some of them weren’t openly gay. But I was so pleased with the congregation. Nobody made any questions about it. And he was a really good musician.
I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago, but now I know a lot of people who are gay and lesbian and they seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do. I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church. So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. I don’t think it’s something that you can parade, but it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned."
In other words, he, and the churches in which he resides, have been in open rebellion and unrepentant sin for years by not disciplining those who claim to be Christians and are in open rebellion and unrepentant sin. It is no wonder he, and they, are given over to deception and further lawlessness.
Can you imagine if someone said this of something we actually still consider sin? "I knew of a couple serial killers in our church, and would just visit them and not make a big deal about it." Um, then you're a broken minister and should not be teaching anyone anything, much less a highly idiosyncratic paraphrase of the Bible. 

RNS: "A follow-up: If you were pastoring today and a gay couple in your church who were Christians of good faith asked you to perform their same-sex wedding ceremony, is that something you would do?"

EP: "Yes."
We are all sinners, but we do not endorse sin, our own or that of others. If we do, we are not of God, but of the adversary who was a liar and a murderer from the beginning.
I never understood why Reformed folk would interview Peterson as though he was one of us (the White Horse Inn comes to mind) when it was always very clear to me, both from the Message paraphrase and his theological leanings toward postmodern/emerging religious tendencies that his spiritual and intellectual makeup was made more out of the zeitgeist than the Heilige Geist. 
"But he is a Presbyterian," some might say. To which I would respond, "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing." This man can believe anything he wants, but he is not a Christian minister.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Why the Sacraments Are Only Pictures: Evidence from the Gospel of John

Throughout the Gospel of John, John uses three sacraments (not two), as a substructure to the narrative, to represent the stages of the Christian life. I say “substructure” because John uses each to talk about what each represents: baptism = regeneration, communion = sanctification in receiving Jesus’ death as a sacrifice to cleanse from sin in the Christian life, and marriage = consummation at the second coming of Christ.

In 3:5, water is used to refer to the birth of an individual, and an analogy is made with the new birth by the Spirit. Water turns to wine in 2:1-11 (i.e., allegorically speaking, one’s rebirth, using the ceremonial water for ritual cleansing, turns into cleansing by the blood sacrifice of Christ in his daily life). In 4:7-15, there is a great deal of talk about water and its representation of Jesus giving an eternal water that causes one to never need a drink again. In 7:37-39, the text states:
On the last day of the feastthe greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirstylet him come to meand let the one who believes in me drink.  Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’” (Now he said this about the Spiritwhom those who believed in him were going to receivefor the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus was not yet glorified.)

The regeneration of the Spirit is represented by the water, but the water does not produce the regeneration of the Spirit. This is the point I want to make with all of this. These sacraments are pictures and nothing more. Jesus isn’t talking about the water at all. He’s using the water as a picture of what the Spirit does.
Jesus is predicted to be the one who baptizes not with water but by the Holy Spirit, the water being used again as an analogy to what the Spirit does, i.e., baptizes/cleanses in justification. Likewise, John contrasts the inability of the cleansing pool in Chapter 5 to heal the lame man with Jesus’ ability to heal him. The water again represents the cleansing, but is not the cleansing itself.

The Eucharist
In 2:1-11, Jesus is presented as the God of the Exodus account who turns water into blood, but the blood here is represented by wine. Likewise, in 19:34, both blood and water flow, and although this is often thought in modern medicine to refer to the piercing of the pericardium, it likely is stated by John as a picture of the communion that consists as wine mixed with water.
The eucharist is used in 6:53-58 to represent Jesus’ sacrifice.
Jesus said to them“I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal lifeand I will raise him up on the last day For my flesh is true foodand my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in meand I in him Just as the living Father sent meand I live because of the Fatherso the one who consumes me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heavenit is not like the bread your ancestors atebut then later died The one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Again, Jesus uses the eucharist to represent His death that must be accepted as the sacrifice for sins. His death, not the bread and wine that only represents it, produces life. Hence, it is presented as eating His flesh and drinking His blood that produces life in the believer, and is done as a picture of his abiding in Christ (a term used to refer to sanctification in John, e.g., 15:1-10).


The third, and lesser known and accepted, sacrament in John is marriage. It is somewhat remarkable that all of the sacraments are presented at the beginning of John in Christ’s first miracle: the water, the wine, and it is all done for the purpose of celebrating and establishing a marriage.

In 3:29, John the Baptist identifies Christ as the Bridegroom because He is the one who possesses the Bride.

In 14:1-3, Jesus states:

Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. OtherwiseI would have told youbecause I am going away to make ready a place for you. And if I go and make ready a place for youI will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too.

Here, Christ makes a wedding analogy, where the bridegroom goes to make a place ready in his father’s household to consummate the marriage. Marriage is the picture of the consummation at Christ’s return.


So there are three pictures/sacraments presented in John as representing the Christian life: baptism = justification, eucharist = sanctification, and marriage = glorification. What I want to say then is this. None of them produce what they represent, and the final sacrament, denied to be one by most protestants, would have told us that plainly, as marriage certainly does not produce glorification. It does not bring Christ again. It does not bring about resurrection. It does not produce eternal glory. The act isn’t even mandated for every Christian. It just represents glorification as a picture of it. It’s an analogy, as John has used all the sacraments as analogies throughout the book.

What this tells us is that the other two sacraments are just pictures as well. Like the third sacrament, they do not produce what they represent. They do not produce justication/initial cleansing from sin or sanctification/ongoing cleansing from sin. They’re just pictures of what the Spirit and the gospel do in the life of the Christian.

As marriage does not produce glorification when one does it, water baptism does not produce spiritual cleansing in justification and the communion does not produce God's favor and forgiveness in the continual cleansing of the Christian in sanctification. They all just represent a spiritual reality, but none of them produce that reality or have anything to do with it besides presenting a picture of it.

Hence, there is no magic water or magic bread and wine. That’s a medieval folk tradition that was adopted by the church due to its tendency to place mystical significance to anything religious, like relics, statues, corpses of martyrs, etc.

Like in the Old Testament, the rituals and sacrifices are pictures. They don’t actually cleanse or forgive for sins. They don’t actually produce the coming of the Messiah. They just represent all of these things. Likewise, the rituals in the New Testament do the same thing, and this would have been clearer if protestants had not removed marriage as a sacrament and Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox had noticed John’s own view of them.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Sermon on the Mount

1. Overview of the Argument of the Sermon Jeff Stackhouse

2. The Beatitudes and Its Contribution to Matthew's Argument Bryan Hodge

3. The Third Use of the Law in Matthew's Argument  Brent Foster

4. Righteousness of a Disciple: From the Root to the Fruit Bryan Hodge

5. The Source of True Religion in Matthew's Argument Jeff Stackhouse

6. The Treasure of a Disciple of Christ Bryan Hodge

7. The Disciple's Guide to Rebuking Sin Jeff Stackhouse

8. The Resources of the Disciple Jeff Stackhouse

9. You Will Know Them by Their Fruits Bryan Hodge

The Unmarked Meaning

Modern exegesis is plagued by word studies that have gone awry simply because the methodology employed by would-be lexicographers is seriously flawed. Yet, one's entire perception of what is being said by a particular bible passage is often directed by these faulty word studies. One of the consistently applied fallacies is to ignore the default of the unmarked meaning of a word for a contextual referent.

The unmarked meaning of a word is whatever the culture using the word thinks of when the word is spoken absent of context. For instance, if the word "dog" is used without any other context, inevitably one will think of the four-footed animal, even though species will vary until further context is provided.

Once contextual referents are provided, the word can be seen to refer to a particular species, a human being who is either in favor or disfavor, a Gentile, a popular reality show star, or even one's feet. It can be coupled in a collocation with fight to refer to an air battle between planes, or refer to a popular food by collocating it with the word hot.

Lexicons will often categorize the various uses of the word by the referents. This has often given the lay reader, as well as many a professor, the false idea that the word can actually mean the things to which it refers in various contexts. But the word does not mean any of these. It merely refers to them given the right context. The word actually just describes an animal in its unmarked meaning. The other uses are often etymologically derived from the unmarked meaning in some way, but the expanse of the semantic range is due to the contextual referents nuancing the meaning, not to something inherently present in the word itself.

This is, precisely, why referential nuances of a word cannot be carried over from one context to the other, as the word itself does not contain the referent within itself.

Take, for instance, the word sōma in Scripture. Many people will attempt to argue that the word can mean "the church." This, however, is based on a faulty understanding of how words actually work. Absent of any explicit referent, or obvious metaphor due to the impossibility of the unmarked meaning, that links the word to the church or another referent in the context, the word should retain its unmarked meaning of "form" or "body." The attempt to carry referents into texts where they do not appear will lead to a complete twisting of what the text is saying (e.g., attempting to argue that 1 Corinthians 15 or Romans 6-8 is about the "body of the church" or "body of the old covenant community" is rife with this fallacy).

In other words, the unmarked meaning should be assumed unless there is sufficient reason to believe that the contextual referents involved are expanding its semantic range to refer to something other than that originally described by its unmarked designation. The alternative interpretations of the word are not on equal par with the interpretation that follows this general rule. The interpreter who follows it has likely come to the right interpretation, whereas the interpeter who does not has likely misidentified the meaning of the word and has ignored the passage in the process.

Collocations function also as contextual referents that may provide new unmarked meanings when stated together, but the individual words themselves do not carry this unmarked meaning when spoken in isolation.

So when one comes to a passage, the assumption of the unmarked meaning as a default is extremely helpful in determining the meaning and not falling into the bottomless abyss of context replacement that inevitably occurs when one begins to change the meanings of the words by illegitimately transferring the referents from one context to another. In order to supply the text with these new referents, the actual referents in the context must be ignored or also distorted, and this is where we needlessly land on many different wild interpretations of biblical texts.

We see, then, that good exegesis can lead to unity in the church, but bad exegesis can lead to disunity and discord. This is probably nowhere truer than in the area of word studies, so I hope these posts on exegesis and lexicography will aid the church in its knowledge of the Lord and its unity of mind as we seek to serve Him.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Context Replacement

One of the biggest exegetical fallacies committed by those seeking to support their theological paradigms is that of context replacement. If one needs a word used in a particular text to refer to something other than what it refers to in its context, he must give it another context with new referents. The interpreter will construct a new context for a passage, verse, or word by piecing together other texts of scripture, speculative background material, and his or her own reasoning and then replace the existing context with the reconstructed one. What this practice does is allow the interpreter to make the passage appear to say what he wants it to say, whether supporting his paradigm or simply allowing a passage that contradicts his paradigm in its current context to be consistent with it. Since context determines the meaning of the words used, this has the power of completely changing the text to say something different, and even the exact opposite, of what it originally said.

For instance, if I were to take a simple statement from a reading book, “the cat sat on a hat,” and give it a different context, I can make it say anything I want. I can do this by saying something like, “the word ‘cat’ was often used at the time period this book was made to refer to Sammy Davis Jr. He was ‘the cat’, and often used the phrase in reference to others and himself. The phrase, likely therefore, refers to him. The phrase “to sit on something” often meant to conceal something, as in the phrase, ‘to sit on a story’. The word ‘hat’, of course, often referred to one who played many roles in life, as in the phrase ‘he wore many hats’. This context, then, tells us that this sentence should be understood as, ‘Sammy Davis Jr. concealed the fact that he had diverse talents in life’.

The context, however, existing in pictures in the book, tells us that this is referring to a literal cat sitting on a literal hat. What I must do is ignore that context and replace it with the reconstructed one above. This happens quite a bit with lay interpreters of the Bible. In fact, it is the very reason that massive books, and even series of books, articles, and Youtube videos must be created to convince others of a reconstructed interpretation of a single passage. Pages upon pages, volume upon volume, video after video, consisting of all sorts of “context” from other texts and the interpreter’s own surmising, are created before he ever touches the text at hand. This happens because the interpreter must construct the context he is using from somewhere other than the actual text in front of him if he is to change what the text seems clearly to say in its actual context. Authorial intent is bypassed and the interpreter can now make the text say anything he wants it to say. This is precisely why it is called eisegesis. The interpreter is pouring a context into the text in order to reinterpret it. What he is essentially doing is rewriting the text by supplying another context for it. 

This is why people often think the Bible can be used to justify any position. It's not that it actually can be interpreted to support any position from a linguistically responsible standpoint. It's just that, as any piece of literature or any type of speech whatsoever, its context can be ignored and twisted by context replacement. Force someone to stay on the text without reaching for a fabricated context, however, and the many interpretations one can get out of a single text reduce quite drastically. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Inclusivism and the Postmodern Church

I think the real reason the postmodern church so easily accepts things like inclusivism, i.e., the idea that people can be saved outside of receiving the explicit gospel, is because it is essentially made up of Christless Christianity.

What inclusivism essentially argues is that one can be allied to Christ, not by receiving Him as Lord and King, and thereby cognitively receiving His death and resurrection as punishment of their sins and reward of salvation, but by doing the things that Christ commanded ("love your neighbor" etc.).

The problem is that "neighbor" means fellow covenant member, and we are to love them because they represent Christ and we love Christ. Explicitly.

Another problem is that this is a works-based system, where I become united to Christ, not by faith/confessional allegiance to Him, but by my works. This has the cart before the horse. One is first transformed and united to Christ, THEN he obeys Christ by loving others who are in Christ who represent Him, etc.

Again, it's simply bad theology and ethics that stem from bad exegesis that leads to this sort of Christless Christianity, where I follow Jesus by being loving (according to my own definition of love), rather than I follow Jesus by faith working through love.

Essentially, all of these churches removing Christ as the center of morality and love are setting people up to adopt inclusivism, universalism, etc.

All Dogs Don't Go to Heaven

One of the symbols of an unbeliever in Scripture is that of a dog. The dog, throughout the Bible, is seen as a mangy creature that scavenges off of society, living to please itself rather than contribute anything worthwhile to the lives of others. It is an outcast animal because of this behavior. Hence, those outside the covenant of God, rejected by God, are described as dogs.

It's interesting to read that the "Christian" blogger, Glennon Melton, a Rob Bell protégé, who divorced her husband and took up an affair with another woman, has now married that other woman. Of course, the world loves this; but I went onto her blog in order to read her theology from years ago on up to today, and what fascinates me is the ability to claim that one is a Christian because she somehow incorporates the name "Jesus" into her theology. We really do live in the postmodern garbage dump of ideas today. Her Jesus has nothing to do with the Jesus of the Bible. Her theology and ethics are completely divorced from any understanding of the biblical witness. It's clear that she has the same decontextualized understanding of shalom as Rob Bell does. Shalom is an ordering of all things, including one's sexuality, which would exclude all disordered sexual activity, like homosexuality. Order and disorder in the Bible have to do with what creates and preserves covenant human life. Homosexuality does not create human life. It is disordered. It is the opposite of shalom. Ironic, isn't it?

Yet, this progressive secular humanism that continually wants to identify itself as "Christian" sees order in terms of gender equality and the acceptance of what the Bible considers sexual immorality. In other words, we have a conflict of theology and ethics between real Christianity and this counterfeit.

I read a recent blogpost where progressives try to argue that progressive Christianity is all about placing orthopraxis above orthodoxy, but this is as shallow and dimwitted as one can get. Liberal "Christianity" doesn't place orthopraxis above orthodoxy because Christian orthopraxis logically comes from orthodoxy. What is clear is that liberals are actually attempting to place their orthopraxy over that of Christianity's biblical and historic orthopraxis. What this ends up being is simply an attempt to slip in the theological assumptions of liberalism that reject the historic and biblical faith by presenting itself as the ultimate Christian ethic of love. Talk about wolves in sheep's clothing. How about hate in love's clothing? After all, why bother with all of that debate about what is true and good if you can just throw out anything in the Bible and historic Christianity that you don't like as unloving? With one big swoop of an accusation, you can ride out an entire life of rebellion by saying that you're really just loving. You can undermine the entire exclusivity of the faith by saying that you're really just coming into a deeper understanding of love. So, really, liberalism is just love. No need to examine that claim any further. If you do, you're not being loving.

I find it humorous actually that whenever someone wants to engage in sexual immorality, something that rejects the glory of God in the act (a hateful move toward Him), rejects the symbolism of Christ and the Church in the act (a hateful act toward Christ and the gospel), denies the creation of human life (a hateful move toward children), and corrupts the entire community in its thinking of sex as purely man-centered and pleasure-centered, whether in terms of sensory or romantic fulfillment (a hateful move toward all those involved), as loving. It's pretty much nothing but hate. Hey Everyone, didn't you know, my hedonism is actually just my expression of love. LOL. Yes, uh, self love. And not even love for the self in the long run, as the Scripture states, the one who partakes in sexual immorality destroys himself both now and in the judgment to come.

But what I really want to say is that the Bible indicates that this acceptance of sexual disorder is a result of rejecting God's FULL revelation of Himself in the Bible. Romans 1 seems very clear that this acceptance is the manifestation of the wrath of God upon the individual and culture right now. If one wants to know whether he is a Christian in right standing with God, who is in submission to His revelation, he only need look at whether he justifies or condemns sexual immorality. I say, "justifies or condemns" because I am not arguing that if you are a Christian you will not struggle with these things. I am saying that the acceptance and even unrepentant practice of these things, i.e., seeking to justify the practice of these things, is one of the primary indicators that the individual is worshiping a false god and is not in submission to the true God.

When I read her blog from years ago, I see a false god, a false Jesus, a false gospel, etc., and all the bad ethics that stem forth from false religion/paganism. There is no real Christ in her "Christianity." Why would one think there was any real Christian ethic of true love in it either? I'm just waiting for the day when the world will argue that pedophilia and bestiality are just expressions of love too. Hey, you don't like those things? Well, you're just a staunch fundamentalist. Love wins. It's the empty rhetoric of the show, "Sister Wives." "Love should be multiplied, not divided." Do you hear that women? All those men committing adultery on you are just spreading their love.

Now, what would give people the impression that God loved in some sort of unconditional, all accepting of our rebellion, manner? What seems to be the center of all of this is antinomianism. It's why I think it is the biggest heresy of our time. This idea that grace means that we get to live whatever way we want, say whatever we want, do whatever we want (wasn't that a Miley Cyrus song?), and God accepts us no matter what is the biggest lie the devil has ever perpetrated on the human race.

What about the God who orders the execution of everyone who practices such things in Leviticus 18? What about the God who kills everyone on the planet in the flood for practicing these very acts of "love"? What about the God who condemns it from Genesis to Revelation and states that those who practice such things do not belong to Him, are and will receive His wrath, and rightly receive the eternal penalty of their sins?

Oh, well, that's the inconvenient God of the Bible. The One that actually reveals Himself to us external from my incredibly biased opinions as a criminal. The problem is that the Bible is what reveals to us who Jesus is as well, and it says that He is the God of the Bible. He's YHWH who killed the Canaanites for their sexually immoral practices. He's the One who states that Sodom and Gomorrah should have repented, agreeing with its judgment. He's the one who states that sexual immorality defiles a person. He's the One who says He's going to return to cut His enemies to pieces, specifically speaking of so-called Christians who are supposedly saved by that unconditional love and grace. Uh Oh.

So what Jesus are we talking about and where did we get this information about him? How do we know he's so accommodating and accepting of us in our rebellion? Where are we getting our ideas of this person? Where does Bell and this woman get her information about him? It can't be from the Bible, as the Bible doesn't present this Jesus.

Clearly, he's made up. Much of this antichrist is made up from taking verses out of context about love. Since love trumps all else, we can ignore what God means when He says, "love," and just place in our own definition. I call it "contextual replacement." Bad exegesis begets bad theology and bad ethics. It then becomes circular. If I define love as unconditionally accepting, then I can do and say what I want and still be accepted by God. If I'm wrong about it all, then God is loving, and so He'll unconditionally accept me even in my wrong thinking and lifestyle.

This is where Bell and others get this idea that everyone, or most people (at least all the people who are good in their estimation), will be saved in the end. After all, God is love and love is unconditionally accepting. All dogs (i.e., unbelievers/false believers) go to heaven.

Yet, of course, if you're wrong about it all, then He isn't unconditionally accepting and He has and will reject you. And how would we know if you're wrong? Well, that's what revelation is for. That's why we don't need to wait to find out. We already know what God has revealed, and He isn't an antinomian.

The last judgment scene of the Book of Revelation tells us that all dogs don't go to heaven. Instead, none do. Unbelievers (including false believers in the book), those who reject the biblical witness of God in theology or practice, are cast out. Interesting that hell in the Synoptics is often described as a fiery garbage dump. Maybe it's to indicate that the people who are going there, in a way, already live there now. So, you see, there was no Christian blogger who married a lesbian today. Just two dogs mindlessly pleasuring themselves in the garbage dump. There is really nothing beautiful and loving about it. May God lead them into true Christianity and true love through faith and repentance.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Belle Is the Beast

At the beginning of the story, we see Belle singing about how all of the women around her are a bunch of losers for settling down in their small town and raising families. She sings a song that expresses her desire for adventure away from the horrid life of being a wife and mother. She longs for someone to "get her," so of course she wants a companion, but not the life that would naturally/biologically result from having a companion. Of course, she ends up with that very thing in the end and that's why everyone is satisfied with the movie as one that has a happy ending.

Hollywood tends to play in contradictory pools of thought quite often, and "Beauty and the Beast" is no different. But in the real world, the sentiment expressed by Belle at the beginning of the movie is one that is selfish, rejects the function of the imago Dei assigned to women according to the Bible and their biology, and is the type of brainwashing that only ditsy American women who never grow out of their teenage, romantic fantasies, which look at life as one big cheap thrill after another, would buy into.

Seeking for romance and adventure instead of a life of sacrifice to give oneself over to create and preserve human life by first giving oneself to a spouse and then over to children, creating a family that then strengthens human society in general and worships God, is nothing short of the original sin. It is Eve saying that she thinks the fruit of seeking her own desired goals, in contradiction to God's goals for her, are more desirable to the taste. It is the throwing off of the role of the image to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion through that creational chain in order to live in the delusion that happiness is found in pretending that we are the true objects of worship and should forge our own destinies regardless of our hardwired natures.

So the new postmodern dream for us is to live for the romantic thrill, regardless of who is harmed. I've seen married women trapped in the futility of their adolescent sentiments destroy their families because they were so preoccupied with finding romance and adventure that they were willing to destroy their families over it. In the end, the Satanic vision of Genesis 3, to direct our own paths as gods, devours human lives. A trade must take place. After all, cheap thrills aren't free. What do we call people who destroy other people for their own pleasure? Oh, right, "monsters," "beasts."

So, you see, Belle is the beast in the story. To be sure, the prince is a beast at the very beginning, but not so much when he meets Belle. Nor is he anything near as beastly as Belle is in the beginning.

The good news is that there is a happy ending. Belle settles down, gets married, and runs her legitimate household. She becomes beauty in the end. And then we see that it was all just a nod to our feminist culture, so that no one would get upset when what, down deep, everyone knows should happen for a happy ending to occur actually happens, and it isn't shunning the family to go on an adventure. It's participating in the beauty of God's creative work in the world by co-creating and preserving with Him human life. Such only happens by seeking joy in this "provincial life."

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Tale of Two Faiths: Genuine Faith Alone Versus a Faith That Is Alone

There are many who assume the nature of biblical faith is a mere belief in certain facts about Jesus and His work. This has led them to assume further that sanctification in a "faith working through love" is an optional lifestyle for the Christian. He should repent of evil and do what is right, but if he should choose to live in sin and do what is wrong, this says nothing as to whether he is saved.

The true nature of biblical faith, however, is that it is a transference of one's allegiance from a self lordship and pursuit to the Lordship and pursuit of Christ; and this kind of faith, then, produces further repentance and good works as its fruit. Since this type of faith, the faith that saves, produces repentance and good works, the absence of repentance and good works evidences the absence of the faith that saves. Hence, repentance from wrongdoing and turning to doing what is right is the evidence that one is saved. The lack thereof is the evidence that one is not.

What antinomians do in order to retain the almighty lord of self (because the real desire of man is not that he work toward his own salvation, but that he replace a life devoted to God as Lord with a life that is devoted to doing what he wants) the evidences of saving faith are replaced by things like whether he prayed a sinner's prayer, or his participation in the sacraments like baptism or the Lord's supper, or just a good feeling that he has about God and Christianity, etc. But none of these are the evidences of biblical faith according to the Bible. Assurance that one has truly given his life to Christ is found in his works of love toward God and his fellow Christian. 

Let's go through the NT and see just how solid the antinomian view of faith and the Christian life is. What I wish to show here is that those who do good or evil are judged based upon those good and evil works, not because they are justified by works, but because their works are evidence that they do not have biblical faith, i.e., they have not truly given themselves over/switched their allegiance to Christ as Lord.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [n]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matt 7:21-23)

Notice here that it does not say that if you do not do the will of the Father, you will merely suffer some loss of an extra reward. It says that the only the one who does the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven, which is Matthew's terminology for one who will be saved. The people here consider Christ as Lord, so we are dealing with Christians here, not professed unbelievers. It is also an eisegetical practice of antimonians to read John's comment concerning justification and the will of God ("to believe on Him whom He has sent") as though that were Matthew's context. However, Matthew's context is clear that the will of the Father is the filling up of the moral law as an expression of love of God and fellow Christians. Notice that what follows this passage is commentary about the salvation and destruction of those who all hear what Christ has taught, but may or may not actually act upon it.

This reading of Matthew by antinomians is ironic, since Matthew is actually arguing against two things: the need for Gentiles to become Jewish via participating in Jewish customs and ritual law and the idea that since Gentiles are saved by grace they have no need to obey the moral law that exists as an expression of loving God and loving one's fellow covenant member. Matthew argues that both of these ideas are false, and that one who truly belongs to Christ obeys the moral law.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours. (Matt 6:14-15)

The conditional here is clear. If one does not forgive, he will not be forgiven. Matthew is seeking to take away any idea that one can treat other Christians as enemies. Instead, one's forgiveness is contingent upon one's forgiving others. If one is not forgiven by God, what can this mean but that one is not saved? In fact, in the later episode in Chapter 18, Christ makes this even more clear when the one who was forgiven goes out and does not forgive his fellow servant. The unforgiving servant's initial proclamation of forgiveness is revoked and he is handed over to judgment to answer for all his debt. This is likely to mimic, not God forgiving and then revoking forgiveness, but the initial proclamation of forgiveness of the gospel that is given to an individual who does not have truth faith. The final verdict by God, then, is that he will not be forgiven either, as his lack of forgiveness displays his lack of true biblical faith that leads to doing good to God and fellow believers.

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matt 16:27)

Antinomians like to imagine two judgments, one for Christians, which is not based upon works, and one that is for everyone else. However, there is no hint of that in the Bible. Even the passage in Revelation, where the different books are opened, is often taken out of context, since that entire book concerns itself with showing that true Christians are the ones who overcome the world with their persevering faith and good works. Here, then, we see a phrase that will be applied to Christians, time and again, throughout the NT. God is going to judge everyone according to what each person has done. This is because works are evidence of one's legal claim that he belongs to Christ and therefore should be saved with Christ. If Christ is his Lord, as evidenced by his works, then his claim is valid. If Christ is only said to be his Lord, but in fact is not, evidenced by his works, then his claim is invalid.

Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:8-14)

Notice here that John is arguing that true repentance has a particular fruit to it. When asked what they should do to escape from God's wrath, he does not tell them to believe. Instead, he argues that they should do what is right as evidence that they have repented and believe. The label of being someone who belongs to the promise is worthless. It is one's fruit that stems from repentance that shows whether he belongs to the promise.

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My discipleAnd whoever does not carry his  cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)

Notice here that it does not say, "If anyone does not believe he cannot be My disciple." Instead, one must consider his family and very life as second place to Christ. He must die to himself and his family, or he cannot be Christ's disciple. Discipleship here begins with a transfer of allegiance from self to Christ. This allegiance bears fruit that causes the individual to choose to obey Christ over considerations for family and self.

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Rom 2:5-11)

Romans is often cited against the idea that works always stem from true faith, but Romans does nothing to negate this idea. Paul argues against being justified by works, not that works are not evidence of one's justification. In fact, notice here that the judgment is not only for those who do evil, but also for those who do good, and those who do good obtain eternal life. It is clear from the book that their obtaining eternal life is not of their own doing, but rather it is obtained by being unified with Christ through faith. Those who have true faith and are unified with Christ and those who do good works, however, are one and the same people. This is why the saved are those who do good works because those works evidence their genuine faith.

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.  (Rom 8:12-17)

Notice, again, here that those who are saved by faith are under obligation to live according to the Spirit and put to death the sinful deeds of the body. If one does not do this, but rather lives in the carnality of sin, he must die because he does not truly belong to the Spirit. The Spirit leads him into sanctification and suffering, and being glorified with Him is contingent upon our suffering with Him--again, something those with true faith do.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,  and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,  and all ate the same spiritual food,  and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written,  “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.  We must not put Christ to the test,  as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble,  as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Cor 10:1-12)

Paul here is making the argument that Christ's presence, as evidenced by the gifts of the Spirit, is not evidence that some of the Corinthians themselves are saved. Hence, he warns them that the judgments against Israel were written down to warn the church that relying on the sacraments, like baptism and the Supper, or on a feeling of God's presence, or anything else besides one's works as evidence of true faith is a serious error. 

So we aspire to please Him, whether we are here in this body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his due for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:9-10)

Here, Paul makes it even more explicit that the judgment according to works is for believers as well. "For we must all appear" makes it clear that he is talking about everyone, not just unbelievers. There is furthermore no evidence from Scripture that this judgment is merely over extra rewards. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 is often cited for this, but this passage says nothing to the issue. It is a passage dealing with whether one teaches things that are of his own opinion or of the Spirit of God. If mere human opinion, then his work will be burned up. If of the Spirit, God's instruction, it will be preserved. This has nothing to do with good works, but whether someone's building upon the gospel in his teaching is human wisdom or divine wisdom. Human wisdom does not condemn a man, but it does mean that what he builds in it may be burned up even though he is saved. The passage in 2 Corinthians, however, displays that everyone will be brought into the final judgment, which is a judgment according to one's works.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another . . . But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Gal 5:13-16; 6:7-9)

Here in Galatians we see that the faith that justifies is one that obeys the moral law, "You shall love your fellow believer as yourself," and that true faith leads to sowing to the Spirit in terms of what one does. Those who sow to the flesh, the sinful carnal life from which they were supposedly set free, evidence the absence of true faith, and hence, they will reap death, which is contrasted with the eternal life that those who sow to the Spirit in their works reap. 

This is because, as Paul argues in Galatians, that faith expressing itself in circumcision and becoming Jewish is worthless, but what really counts is "faith working through love."

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Gal 5:6)

But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; (Eph 5:3-7)

Paul continues here in Ephesians to argue that God has chosen us in eternity "to be holy and blameless before Him" (1:4). He accomplishes this by justifying one by grace through faith in distinction from any works, but as the means by which he sets us apart in our new creation in Jesus Christ "for the purpose of doing good works, which God prepared beforehand that we are to walk in them" (2:10). Hence, as he said in Romans 8, God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son, and everyone with genuine saving faith is set on that path and will pursue that goal. Those who do not evidence that they do not have saving faith, and therefore, they have no saving grace, and will not inherit the kingdom of Christ and God.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phil 2:12-13)

If the antinomians were right, why would anyone have fear and trembling in working out their salvation? As long as one just believes the facts about Jesus and His work why the need to desire God's good pleasure and work His good pleasure as the product of one's salvation? Obviously, Paul does not see the Christian life of repentance and good works as an optional lifestyle for those who take upon the name "Christian." Instead, having saving faith leads to a sanctification that is not an optional lifestyle, but the only lifestyle possible that rightly flows from genuine faith.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, (Col 1:9-10)

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Col 3:5-10)

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  (1 Thes 4:1-6)

God is the avenger in all these things? For those who are saved by grace? Yep. Because one who is saved by grace has genuine faith and will first seek to refrain from this evil and second seek to rectify any evil he has committed in repentance. One who is not saved, because he has not given his allegiance to Christ, will willingly engage in these crimes. Why would the Thessalonians need to be solemnly warned if worrying about one's works is merely legalism and not a matter of faith and grace?

 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father counted righteous by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is counted righteous by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute counted righteous by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:14-26)

Here we have what Luther, because of his sacramentalism and overreaction to Romanism, could not reconcile. Works show genuine faith. Lack of works show absence of genuine faith. God is not merely working to declare His people righteous, but justifies them for the purpose of making them righteous, conforming them to the image of His Son. Both faith and works work together to complete this salvation via sanctification. The problem with some who misread this text is that they read "save" as "justified" in the same sense that Paul uses the term in Romans, but James' work is concerned about day to day righteousness in practice, i.e., the outflow of what Paul would call justification. Here, James uses the same term the antinomians, who take Paul out of context, uses, but applies it to the works of sanctification as the evidence of true faith.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. (Heb 12:14-17)

 They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. (2 Peter 2:13-22)

Notice that these are people who have a profession of faith in Christ, but they are antinomians who think grace through their watered down faith that does not produce loving obedience to God, are said to be damned, not saved. 

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.  The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother . . . We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him,and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.  (1 John 4:4-10, 14-15, 21-24)

John clearly delineates that the fruit of each person displays their allegiances and to whom they, therefore, belong. The one who does righteousness is righteous. The one who does not belongs to the devil. 

Notice that the assurance of one's salvation is seen, not in some confidence in his sinner's prayer, baptism, or assurance itself, but in his giving his allegiance to the Son and loving fellow Christians (in word and deed). So what does John say? "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: anyone who does not do what is right is not God's child, nor is anyone who does not love his fellow Christian." Identification is by one's works.

 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)

It is clear that these people are not denying Christ verbally, as they hang out with Christians in their meetings. So they profess Christ, as they are the same group as those in 2 Peter. Instead, they deny Christ by their works. They deny that He is their Lord by their deeds. Their works evidence their absence of true faith, and they distort the meaning of biblical grace to justify the unrepentant sin in their lives as something God considers "passable" for a true Christian. Jude says that these people are damned, however, and that they're profession to have faith in Christ is like clouds without water, a claim with no evidence to back it up.

 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev 2:20-23)

 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev 19:7-8)

Here, again, in Revelation, we have the judgment according to each Christian's deeds promised to him. Revelation is all about the promise that Christians who overcome will enter into life. Their overcoming is not merely to keep their profession, but to not partake in sexual immorality, the idolatrous festivals, and any other ungodly practice in the world. Those who do are promised an eternity of being cast out, and the churches that sanction such evil are promised that they will be removed from among Christ's church/body/bride. Instead, Christ's people are described as having garments of bright fine linen, which represent their righteous works. 

It is important to note that all of these works are evidences of saving faith, not the basis upon which one is saved. The judgment is "according to works." This is an important distinction, as one is judged consistent with what one has done, but not upon the basis of what one has done. If one is truly saved by true faith in Christ, his works will be consistent with that. Hence, the judgment will render to him what is consistent with his works, i.e., that he truly belongs to Christ through faith. If his works are consistent with someone who does not have Christ as Lord, he is not considered Christ's through genuine faith, his profession is false, and he will receive the reward of one who does not belong to Christ, rather than receiving Christ's reward, as those who belong to Him will.

One of the best books that displays this is Titus. In 2:11-14 and 3:1-8, Paul states:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all classes of men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds . . .Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. 

This is the right order of things. One is justified, not by works that he has done, but by God's grace and mercy. This justification through faith produces in the individual a compelling desire to please God in doing good works that glorify Him. When one does not have this, his claim to have saving faith, and therefore, salvation itself, is called into question.

What this third use of the law does, then, is tell us the nature of true saving faith versus false versions of faith. True faith is an allegiance to Christ as Lord that has a disposition of submission to Him. If faith did not have this element, one would wonder why the lack of submission to Christ and obedience to His commands had anything to do with whether one had it. Instead, since faith is more than mere assent, as the Bible, the Church Fathers, the Reformers, the Puritans, etc. all agree that it is, it produces a genuine love for God and His people that is guided by the law, and expresses itself in the refraining from evil and the doing of good. 

As it has been said so well already, we are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. Indeed, faith that is alone has no hope, but true faith alone will always produce the fruit consistent with repentance.