Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, March 29, 2010

God’s Mercy Through The Deliverer To “All Israel:” Romans 11:23-32

Translation:

23 And even they, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be ingrafted; for God is powerful to ingraft them again. 24 For if you were cut off from a wild olive tree, which you were naturally from, and contrary to nature were ingrafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more than this shall those naturally belonging to it be ingrafted in their own olive tree? 25 For I do not desire you to ignore, brethren, this mystery– lest you be sensible in yourselves– that Israel has become partially hardened until the fullness of the ethnicities came in. 26 And thus all Israel will be saved, just as it has been written, “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn away impiety from Jacob. 27 And this [will be] the covenant from me to them, when I shall take away their sins.”

28 According to the gospel they are enemies for your sakes, but according to the election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God [are] without repentance. 30 For just as you formerly were disobedient to God, yet now you have been mercied in their disobedience. 31 Thus also these now disobeyed for the sake of your mercy, in order that they might also now be mercied. 32 For God confined all into disobedience, in order that he may mercy all. [Emphases added.]


God:

In Romans 11:23-32 God is presented as powerful, sovereign, and merciful.

(These truths about God’s character have been especially emphasized in Romans 9-11.)

God is powerful, and He is able to overcome unbelief in order to accomplish His plans.

God is sovereign; even human disobedience to His will ultimately serves His purposes.

God is merciful– He arranges history for the salvation of the unbelieving and disobedient.


God’s Mercy:

God’s mercy offers a second chance to those who have turned away from Him.

God’s mercy is supernatural and above human reason.

God’s mercy is always active, and extends to all kinds of people.


The Deliverer:

As in other parts of Rom 9-11, Paul closes his argument in Rom 11:11-27 with Scripture.

In Romans 11:26b-27, Paul quotes from Isa 59:20, Psa 14:7, Isa 27:9, and Jer 31:33.

The verses that Paul cites all indicate salvation from sin (and its effects) for Israel.

Salvation comes through the Deliverer and the establishment of the New Covenant.

The Deliverer was from Zion– the city of David, where God especially met with Israel.

The Deliverer turns away impiety (lack of true religion) and takes away sin (rebellion).

The Deliverer is Jesus Christ.


“All Israel:”

John Calvin notes:

Many understand this of the Jewish people, as though Paul had said, that religion would again be restored among them as before: but I extend the word Israel to all the people of God, according to this meaning, — “When the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews also shall return from their defection to the obedience of faith; and thus shall be completed the salvation of the whole Israel of God, which must be gathered from both; and yet in such a way that the Jews shall obtain the first place, being as it were the first-born in God’s family.” This interpretation seems to me the most suitable, because Paul intended here to set forth the completion of the kingdom of Christ, which is by no means to be confined to the Jews, but is to include the whole world. The same manner of speaking we find in Galatians 6:16.


Application;

In Romans 11:23-32, Israel is called unbelieving, disobedient, impious, and sinful.

In Romans 1-3, it has already been made clear that all people are in this same condition.

Our only hope is God’s mercy through the Deliverer– Jesus Christ.

Do you know this Deliverer?

Have you believed in Him?

Have you obeyed His gospel, turning away from sins, and trusting only in Him?



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Thursday, March 25, 2010

The 'Chain of Revelation' in Revelation 1:1-3. Part 6: "Those hearing"

[Continuing a review of some notes taken during my M.Div. Greek Syntax and Exegesis class over Revelation 1-3, and some thoughts I've had while meditating over the passage since then.]

The 'Chain of Revelation' in Revelation 1:1-3.

1. God-> 2. Jesus Christ-> 3. His angel-> 4. John-> 5. The one reading-> 6. Those hearing

5. Those hearing

Specifically, a blessing is pronounced upon those hearing in order to heed the revelation as it is proclaimed.

This brings up the subject of how we hear God's proclaimed revelation:
  • When we are gathered to hear God's Word, are we just passively letting the preacher's words wash over us?
  • Do we let the proclamation go 'in one ear and out the other"?
  • Do we leave church and never think again about what was said?
OR:
  • Do we hear God's Word with the intention of heeding it?
  • Do we pray for the Holy Spirit to teach us how to honor God better based on what we have heard?

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The 'Chain of Revelation' in Revelation 1:1-3. Part 5: "The one reading"

[Continuing a review of some notes taken during my M.Div. Greek Syntax and Exegesis class over Revelation 1-3, and some thoughts I've had while meditating over the passage since then.]

The 'Chain of Revelation' in Revelation 1:1-3.

1. God-> 2. Jesus Christ-> 3. His angel-> 4. John-> 5. The one reading-> 6. Those hearing

5. The one reading

Specifically, a blessing is pronounced upon "the one reading" the book of Revelation before a congregation of believers, as seen by the fact that there is a group referred to as "those hearing," who are also blessed by the reading.

This brings up the subject of the public reading of Scriptures, for similar blessings are- in the Psalms and elsewhere- pronounced upon those reading other portions of Scripture as well.

I am thankful that at my church, the elders are committed to the public reading of Scriptures: each Lord's Day a chapter or major section of God's Word is read aloud (we've just finished reading through the book of Isaiah in this way), but in all too many churches the pastors do not give due consideration to Paul's admonition to Timothy to, "devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture" (cf. 1 Tim 4:13). I've visited churches in which the only Scripture that was read was a single verse at the beginning of a sermon (and even consideration of this verse was quickly abandoned so that the preacher could make whatever point was on his mind).

We must remember that- although songs and preaching are commanded within the church and are helpful to believers- no praise song we sing (unless it is a direct quote from a Psalm, etc.) is perfect and no sermon perfect, but only God's Word is inerrant and infallible. We do not honor the written revelation from God rightly if we neglect the public reading of Scripture, and if we neglect this joyful duty we also miss out on a promised blessing from God.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Gospel opportunity: pray for your waiters and waitresses


This is a suggestion that I've both heard from my Evangelism professor, Dr. Timothy Beougher, and that I've seen lived out by my Dad last summer at Ruby Tuesday.

After kicking myself for forgetting to do this on a number of occasions, I've finally (by God's grace) begun implementing this simple practice.

At a 'sit-down' restaurant, your waiter or waitress will usually introduce himself or herself when he or she first takes your drink order. Most Christians reading this blog will pray over the meal before eating, so sometime before the meal arrives, we should:
  1. simply speak to the waiter/waitress by name;
  2. tell him/her that we will be praying, and;
  3. ask him/her if there is anything we can pray about for him/her.
In doing this, we:
  1. honor our waiter/waitress as a fellow eternal soul, made in the image of God, rather than simply viewing him/her as a nameless icon, present only to meet our needs/wants;
  2. honor the teaching of Jesus, who instructs us to extend our love outside of our circle of friends and family (see Matthew 5:46-47);
  3. provide an opportunity, either for ourselves if there is time, or for other Christians that God brings into the waiter's/waitress' life, to speak to him/her concerning the Good News of Jesus.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

"Let's just go ahead and burn the churches down ourselves."


The above quote is the advice given by an International Mission Board (IMB) leader who lives in an area where the pastors of the national churches consistently refuse to lead their congregations in evangelism due to fear- according to their own admission- that Muslims would burn down their church buildings.

Of course, the IMB leader was using a bit of hyperbole, but he seriously wanted to convince the pastors that the glory of Christ and the eternal welfare of the souls in their country is of infinitely greater value than any building.

When I heard the account of this quote I thought, "Now, that's the kind of missions leader I want to work with."

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Friday, March 19, 2010

The Sufficiency of Scripture in Church Planting Movements on the Mission Field

The International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is focusing on starting Church Planting Movements among the national churches formed by their work on the mission field.

Previously, when I have heard the IMB talk about "church planting," I must admit that I was somewhat suspicious because some of the "church planting" material I have seen from the SBC has seemed to be based more on secular business models and pragmatic philosophy than on the Word of God.

I was very encouraged this afternoon to hear someone from the IMB describe exactly what he teaches pastors on the mission field about "church planting." He basically does a biblical-theological study of Paul's activities as a missionary- as found in Acts and some references from the epistles- carefully seeking application of the Apostle's example to the international situation in which he works. This IMB representative is keenly aware that everything he teaches on this subject must come straight from the Holy Bible, and he is beginning to see fruit from his dependence on God.

This was, needless to say, an extremely exciting and encouraging conversation!

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

An appreciation of Calvinism from a non-Calvinist

Today while driving to a missions conference in North Carolina I heard a radio program by Dr. Michael Brown, who I had never heard before.

Dr. Brown, who described himself as a "charismatic" and a former Calvinist, spent the first part of the radio program describing three things that he appreciates about Calvinism, even though he disagrees with some Calvinistic doctrines; the three things mentioned by Brown were:
  1. Calvinism emphasizes that we should give all glory to God and none to Man.
  2. Calvinism emphasizes that God is King over all.
  3. Calvinism tends to protect those who embrace it from a wide array of doctrinal abnormalities.
My prayer is that everyone known as a "Calvinist" will truly exemplify these characteristics that are appreciated by Dr. Brown.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The 'Chain of Revelation' in Revelation 1:1-3. Part 4: "John"

[Continuing a review of some notes taken during my M.Div. Greek Syntax and Exegesis class over Revelation 1-3, and some thoughts I've had while meditating over the passage since then.]

The 'Chain of Revelation' in Revelation 1:1-3.

1. God-> 2. Jesus Christ-> 3. His angel-> 4. John-> 5. The one reading-> 6. Those hearing

4. John

John is simply called "His servant" in Revelation 1:1; "His" refers, I take it, to "Jesus Christ's" as in Jude 1, rather than to "God [the Father]'s"- in other words, this verse seems to be calling John the "servant of Jesus Christ" rather than the "servant of God." The term is rather ambiguous, however, and this is no surprise as:
  1. The revelation comes from God [the Father] through Jesus Christ;
  2. New Testament authors variously refer to themselves as "servant[s] of Jesus Christ" (as in Jude 1 or Romans 1:1) or "servant[s] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (as in James 1:1);
  3. The author of Revelation clearly understands Jesus Christ to be divine and, though a distinct Person, essentially One with the Father.
John is certainly an apostle (at least in the broad sense), for He is personally commissioned for a specific ministry by the risen Christ. John also specifically refers to the book of Revelation as "words of prophecy" in 1:3 and 22:7, thus signifying that he is a prophet.

Though John does not explicitly identify himself as one of the Twelve (i.e., John the brother of James, the son of Zebedee), there are reasons to believe that the author of Revelation is the same Apostle who authored the Gospel according to John and the three epistles of John:
  1. G.K. Beale notes several themes (such as Exodus-Moses motif, Jesus as Word, Lamb, and Son of man and as glorified even through death, etc.) and some words and phrases common to Revelation, the Gospel according to John, and the three epistles of John.
  2. The Apologetics Study Bible notes facts of the historical situation: that the writer of Revelation had personal relationships with the churches of Asia Minor, as the Apostle John was known to have; the circumstances of the author of Revelation match the known circumstances of the Apostle John.
  3. Furthermore, there is no "John" other than the Apostle John who is known to have had such prominence as to refer to himself simply as "John" and have his identity known to the churches.
  4. John MacArthur notes that several early Church witnesses, such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, identified the Apostle John as the author of Revelation.
John forms a vital link in the "chain of revelation." Without this man– this apostle and prophet– those on the other side of the equation– "the one reading" and "those hearing"– have nothing to read nor to hear, and thus no connection with what God has revealed. We in the Church– "God's household", which is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:19-20)– are in the same position as the original reader and hearers of the book of Revelation; we have access to what God has revealed only through the written record given to us through the prophets and apostles. In our hyper-egalitarian society this is hard to hear: we believe that we should all have equal access to every possible experience with God, but God has elevated the New Testament apostles to a special position, and we are dependent on their teachings if we are to know Him rightly. The reason that we have the New Testament is because the Christians in the first century honored the writings of the apostles– they did not expect that they would each be visited by the risen Jesus before His Second Coming and receive words directly from Him– they cherished, memorized, studied and preserved the words they were given. We, similarly, in seeking a personal relationship with God should not cut ourselves off from the means that God has given for establishing that relationship by neglecting the words of the prophets and apostles.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Postmillennialism, Part 4: Weakness

Weakness: The great weakness of the postmillennial view is that since it teaches Christ will not return until after an extended Golden Age of peace, prosperity, and gospel rejoicing throughout the Earth, this leads to the conclusion that we cannot expect the Second Coming of Jesus to occur at any moment. And yet the New Testament seems to indicate- in passages such as 1 Thessalonians 5:2 and 2 Peter 3:10- that Jesus can return and initiate the period of Final Judgment at any time.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Postmillennialism, Part 3: Strengths

Strengths: The Postmillennial position retains the strengths of the other "end times" views, while also accounting for some Bible passages that seem inadequately considered in the amillennial or premillennial perspective.

  1. Like the premillennial view, postmillennialism is able to explain the strong "binding" language of Revelation 20 in terms of a future age in which the power of Satan will be much more restricted than it is today. As postmillennialism understands the return of Christ to take place after the millennium, this view, like the amillennial view, is able to account for the biblical language which indicates that the second coming of Christ will bring a cataclysmic end to the heavens and earth.
  2. At the end of Daniel 2, Daniel is told that the kingdom of God will bring all other kingdoms to an end and will expand to fill the whole earth; as Jesus makes clear, the kingdom of God is the Church. Jesus, in the parable of the mustard seed (see, for example Matt 13:31-32), likewise speaks of the kingdom of heaven starting out small, but growing to tremendous proportions. Postmillennialism, in teaching the success of world evangelism by which the Church will fill the earth and bring in a millennial age prior to the second coming of Jesus, seems to best account for these kinds of passages.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Postmillennialism, Part 2: Clarification

Clarification: When discussing postmillennialism, two objections are immediately raised by many evangelicals; namely, postmillennialism is often identified with an unrealistic optimism and with the error of theonomy.

1. Optimism: Postmillennialism teaches that the millennium, as a distinct age of redemption history, will not be brought about by the sudden physical appearance of Christ (which they believe will occur after the millennium), but by the advance of the gospel in great multitudes around the globe coming to faith in Jesus. When Christians observe the state of world affairs, and when we engage in personal evangelism, it may seem implausible that we are moving toward a Christ-honoring millennial state: isn't society less Christian than it used to be, and don't hearts seem harder to reach with the gospel than in times past?

Two considerations must be observed in regards to the charge of unrealistic optimism on the part of postmillennialism:

a. Context: It may be the case that the United States is growing less Christian, both in the sense that biblical values are less formative in public policy decisions and in the sense that it may seem like people are harder to reach with the gospel, as even the most basic teachings from the Bible concerning right and wrong are called into question.

But the situation of our post-Christian society should not blind us to the movement of the Holy Spirit in other nations- we should rejoice in reports of great numbers of people finding hope in Christ in sub-Saharan Africa and through the underground church in China. Does this mean that the gospel is advancing in such a way as to usher in a millennial age such as that envisioned by the postmillennialists? Perhaps not, but the advance of the gospel in countries where the name of Jesus was virtually unheard of in previous decades may mean that the postmillennial position should not be simply dismissed as blind optimism.

b. Revival/Awakening power: The postmillennial position does not depend upon an ability to show steady growth in populations of believers to non-believers year after year. It may be the case that the power of the Holy Spirit will be poured out in a special way and that revivals and awakenings (such as the Great Awakenings in earlier American history) will sweep the entire Earth. If such events do occur (and regardless of our views on the "end times," all followers of Jesus should pray that they do occur), then they will make the postmillennial position much more plausible.

2. Theonomy: Some people object to postmillennialism because they equate postmillennialism with theonomy- the idea that God's Law (as found in the Mosaic Code) should be put into effect in modern governments. The most controversial aspect of theonomy is the extension of the death penalty to idolaters, blasphemers, etc. (I refer to this type of thinking as an "error" in the first paragraph of this post, because I believe that theonomy, in this sense, fails to properly discern how the moral, civil, and ceremonial laws function today in distinction from how they functioned under the Old Covenant.)

It must be noted, however, that while some postmillennialists are theonomists, one does not necessarily have to agree with theonomy in order to take a postmillennial position [listen, for example, to Chris Arnzen's interview with John Jefferson Davis, found HERE].

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Postmillennialism, Part 1: Definition

[Unlike my short posts on Amillennialism and Premillennialism, I want to give a bit of extended discussion to Postmillennialism, as I think that this is the most rare "end times" position among evangelicals, and it is thus the most misunderstood. I plan to give short blog articles on Postmillennialism throughout the week. Below is a simple definition of Postmillennialism.]

Definition: Postmillennialism teaches that the second coming of Christ will be immediately preceded by a 1000 year Golden Age of peace and prosperity that will take place on planet Earth; the second coming of Christ, according to this view, will initiate the eternal state.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Premillennialism

Description: Premillennialism teaches that the second coming of Christ will initiate a 1000 year Golden Age of peace and prosperity that will take place on planet Earth prior to the eternal state.

Strengths: Certain Bible passages (at least) seem to be most easily understood in accordance with the premillennial position. Dr. Tom Schreiner [in a sermon found HERE] has argued that Revelation 20 teaches the premillennial view in the following ways:

  1. The "binding and loosing" language in regards to Satan does not fit well with the idea that the millennium is happening now (as in the amillennial view), particularly in light of Revelation 12, which depicts Satan as thrown to the earth and currently making war against God's people;
  2. The coming to life and resurrection in Rev 20:4-6 appears to be physical, especially when the language in this passage is seen as a contrast to Revelation 6, in which the martyrs are not raised, but are told to "wait"– "resurrection" in the NT is not used of regeneration or 'spiritual resurrection,' but always of bodily resurrection, unless this is the lone exception;
  3. Rev 20:10 seems to indicate that the beast and false prophet are already in the lake of fire when the Devil is thrown there as well (placing the timing of Satan's defeat after the time when the beast and false prophet are defeated).
Weaknesses: Certain other Bible seem to present the second coming of Christ as the end of this present age, which must be followed only by the eternal state, beginning with God making a new heavens and new earth. For example, 2 Peter 3:10– "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up" (NASB). Furthermore, the Bible seems to draw a sharp distinction between "this age" and "the age to come," which distinction may be undermined by the idea of Jesus physically reigning upon the earth with resurrected people for 1000 years before the eternal state begins.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Amillennialism


Description: Amillennialism denies any idea of a Golden Age of peace and prosperity that will take place on planet Earth prior to the eternal state. Amillennialists believe that the book of Revelation is to be interpreted figuratively (they believe that the Author intended this particular book to be interpreted in a figurative manner, and would argue that everyone does interpret it figuratively, as indicated, for example, by the fact that no one believes that Revelation 12 refers to a literal dragon), and that the 1000 years mentioned in Revelation 20:1-6 is to be identified with the Church Age ("1000 years" meant to indicate a very long period of time, rather than only 1000 years). Amillennialists believe that the specific land promises, etc., made to national Israel in the Old Testament will be fulfilled to Jewish believers in Jesus, along with the rest of the Church, in the eternal state, after Jesus returns.

Strengths: The strong element of continuity between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church, present in passages such as Galatians 6:16 in which the church is referred to as the "Israel of God," is maintained by the amillennial view. Also, the typological hermeneutic established by the apostles in the New Testament– by which the promises made to Abraham's seed are fulfilled in reference to Christ and His body, the Church– is maintained.

Weaknesses: Some claims of amillennialism may be hard to square with the text of Revelation 20:1-6. In particular, it seems hard to reconcile the strong language involved in binding of Satan (as depicted in Rev 20:1-3) with admonitions to the church that we must be wary of Satan (such as in 1 Peter 5:8, in which the Devil is said to be prowling about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour). Also, the resurrection language in Rev 20:4-6 must be explained.

[Listen to Chris Arnzen's interview with Sam Waldron on the subject of amillennialism HERE.]

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Views on the Millennium

Recently I've been reviewing my notes on Revelation 1-3 from my Greek Syntax and Exegesis class and have been recording some thoughts about these chapters on this blog.

This week I plan to skip to Revelation 20 and post some thoughts about each of the major Christian views concerning the "thousand years" mentioned in Revelation 20:1-3.

In my posts this week, I plan to briefly describe amillennialism, premillennialism, and postmillennialism; I plan to describe what are, in my view, the strengths and weaknesses of each position in terms of specific Bible passages. I hope that these posts will help others think through issues concerning the End Times.

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