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Archive for December, 2010

Why Catching Flies With Honey Is Not Evangelism

Posted by Job on December 31, 2010

For a better exposition of this issue, please refer to this post, and play audio track 1.

Legitimate Christian evangelism means a lot of hard sayings. It requires convicting people of their personal sins so that they will turn from them in true repentance. It requires informing people of their total depravity and true helpless condition before God so that they will know that they need to rely totally grace based on what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross and not on works, values, morals, culture, creeds or church affiliation. And it requires telling people what will happen if they do not respond with fear and trembling before the Holy God who is not only Saviour but Lord, Judge and a consuming fire with submission and faith, which is a grotesque eternal punishment.

Now it is no surprise that at this the world stumbles and rejects, for the world is dead to spiritual things, and moreover hates and rejects Jesus Christ, and will continue in their rebellion against Him until all things are fulfilled and they will come before Him not to be redeemed but to be judged for their crimes of wickedness.

Instead, the surprise is that so many people in the church reject this. It is not modern. Market driven. Poll tested. Focus group approved. It is not made to order by folks who want to have it their way. So, they say, we need to find a way to win converts that is more in tune with the times. Don’t change the message, however. No, that would be a different gospel! Instead, alter the packaging. Make it nicer, more sunny and warm, and prettier to look at. Who wants to look at a bloody, gnarled wooden cross, a gruesome method of execution by torture used by the Roman Empire, whose victims often lingered painfully for days before succumbing to dehydration, exhaustion or asphyxiation? Instead, give us a nice shiny pretty golden cross, an icon or idol that kind of represents or points to the real thing, only better!

So, let’s not focus on the negative. Let’s accentuate the positive! Don’t talk about what we are against! Tell them what we are for! Don’t tell them what they are! Tell them what they can be! And once we get them to agree to raise a hand, walk the aisle, sign the card or say a prayer, THEN we can deal with the information that brings down the presentation! We can talk about sin and repentance and eternal punishment and the cross and grace while we rush them through (get them to say) the salvation prayer. Or we can do it when we have them (rote and ritualistically) repeat the apostle’s creed at the start of each church service. Or we can instruct them in it during the new member orientation (that most people don’t attend and the rest daydream through, and that is a good thing because they are often led by people who while well meaning and sincere are incapable of answering any serious doctrinal or scriptural questions anyway).

But have the preacher declare it oft from the pulpit at church? Do that and nobody would come! Train the evangelists to go out declaring it door to door? Do that and nobody would go! Go out and declare it in the streets, in the prisons, in the hospitals, in the homeless shelters, in the highways and byways? Nobody would respond! Or at least … not enough.

So, we have to sweeten the deal a little bit. Talk about family values and strengthening families in the church, not about how Jesus Christ said that we’d often have to forsake our families for the sake of the gospel, not that He came to bring peace but a sword, and that our true brothers and sisters are those who believe in Him and do His word. Talk about Christian money management and wealth accumulation techniques, not about the Jesus Christ who told us not to seek and lay up treasure that rust and moth corrupts and thieves steal. Talk about national renewal and revival and how we can lead our Christian nation back to God, and not how all nations will be judged for their wickedness when Jesus Christ returns. Talk about social action, environmentalism, closing the gap between the rich and the poor and not about the Jesus Christ who said that His kingdom is not of this world, and that our hearts should be on the world that is to come. Talk about our need to stand with Israel and help defend her from her enemies, instead of our need to stand before God and examine ourselves to see if we truly be in the faith, and if we are growing in the faith and bearing fruit the way that Jesus Christ told us to lest our unfruitful branch be pruned off and tossed into the unquenchable fire where the worm never dies and whose smoke from the horrible torment will rise up forever. Talk about the Jesus Christ who is the romantic lover and carousing partying best buddy friend, and not the one who is the Holy God who has existed for eternity, will exist for eternity, performed creation, sustains creation, and one day will judge creation. Talk about the Jesus Christ who said “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone” and “judge not”, and not the Jesus Christ who said “Go and sin no more” and “Woe woe woe” and the Jesus Christ who gave us the most detailed, vivid, graphic and horrifying descriptions of hell and the judgment of sinners that exists in the Bible! Talk about anything, everything but what the Bible actually says!

Why? Because you don’t want to drive the people, the paying customers, away, do you? What’s the matter with you? Are you crazy or something? How are we going to pay the mortgages and utilities on these buildings? How are we going to fund our parachurch organizations? How are we going to pay our salaries?

And if the faith of our believers is challenged because the churches aren’t continually growing and getting bigger, if we aren’t always baptizing more people this year than last year, what will happen to that faith? What will happen if our believers are forced to stop relying on things that they can see and measure, and start trusting in things that they can’t see? And what will happen to our faith? If we have to start living by faith, the faith of Abraham, what will happen to us? What will happen to me? And it is not like we are doing something WRONG. After all, haven’t you heard that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?

Well, yes, that is true. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The issue, however, is that Christians are not supposed to be out there trying to catch flies! When Jesus Christ restored Peter after Simon denied Him thrice, Jesus Christ didn’t say “catch my flies.” No, Jesus Christ said “feed my sheep!” Those who are predestined to be born again in Jesus Christ, those that Jesus Christ has been Lord of since the foundation of the world, are not flies! They are sheep! SHEEP! Jesus Christ is the good shepherd, the one who came, loves, died for, resurrected for, and protects the sheep! Jesus Christ was given the sheep by God the Father, was obedient and submissive perfectly to God the Father, and for this reason was glorified by God the Father, and therefore is Lord of the sheep because of God the Father!

So then, what of the flies? Well, they have their lord also. And who is the lord of the flies? Satan! Beelzebub! The word Beelzebub literally means “lord of the flies!” And why? Because flies CORRUPT. They carry GERMS. They lay eggs in food, which hatches into maggots and SPOILS IT! Flies go to things that are pure and good and spoil it, making it loathsome, contemptible, refuse, good for nothing except to be thrown out and burned or used as fertilizer or compost! Put a pile of garbage or excrement on the ground and the flies will head right towards it! To the Jews, flies represented corruption (similar to leaven), corruption represented sin, and Satan, the serpent of old was the ruler of it! So those who are out there attempting to attract flies, as Jesus Christ said as recorded in His gospel, God is not their Father!

Instead, Satan is their father, Satan was a murderer from the beginning, and his children – the ones seeking flies – are deceivers, liars, corruptors and murderers just as is he! They are these things because they withhold the truth, the love, the beauty of God’s Word from people and instead give them things to please the flesh! Things to tickle the ears! Things that sound good to deaf ears, that look good to dull eyes, and feel good to hard, cold dead hearts! You give dogs, swine or flies flesh, rotten corrupt stinking flesh, and they’ll eat it! But God’s children, God’s beloved, precious beautiful children, the ones so precious that God sent His Own Son for, will not eat flesh. They need Spirit! They need the Word of Life! If it is flesh, it is not corrupt, fallen flesh that flies want, but it is the Bread of Life that is Jesus Christ! Those children right now are going hungry, malnourished, wanting for true, good holy spiritual food because oh so many pastors, preachers and teachers are withholding it from them. They are withholding it from them because they are captive to the thinking of this world, and this world esteems a huge towering building full of flies – counting it for success – while despising two or three sheep gathered together in the Name of Jesus Christ, calling it a failed dead church that isn’t growing because what the pastor is preaching is irrelevant!

Irrelevant.  Relevant. Did you know that there is actually a “Christian” magazine called “Relevant.” Isn’t that something? Go check it out to see what I am talking about. It’s a magazine for flies. They’re far from the only ones. Charisma? Flies. Christianity Today? Flies. Focus On The Family? Flies. Christian Coalition? Moral Majority? Traditional Values Coalition? Family Research Council? Flies. Civil rights movement? Flies. Sojourners? Flies. All who are after the things of this world, who are after the leaven and not the bread … flies.

You know what is real good at getting after flies. Venus flytraps. But do you know what happens? THE FLY DIES! And why are we surprised? The same lord of the flies is the one whose only mission is to steal, kill and destroy. Do not be satisfied with ministries and works that are of the lord of the flies. Instead, seek Jesus Christ’s true ministry. Go, and do it quickly.

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Predestination Is In The Bible. Predestined Foreknowledge Is Not!

Posted by Job on December 31, 2010

Many Christians acknowledge the clear Biblical evidence concerning predestination. However, in order to preserve their belief that God must humble Himself, bow before, and submit to man’s free will decisions, they have incorporated this Biblical evidence into a doctrine called “predestined foreknowledge.” It basically allows free will to coexist with the rest of Calvinism (as opposed to pure Wesleyanism, which rejects Calvinism completely) and is largely the position of most evangelical and fundamentalist churches. However, this position still falls short of making the best use of the Bible’s evidence.

The “predestined foreknowledge” doctrine is based on Romans 8:29, which reads “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Unfortunately the piece below, which otherwise addresses all the other issues adequately, does not properly deal with this verse, instead choosing to deal with other verses that more explicitly teach the predestination doctrine.

Instead, the problem is a translation issue. The word translated “foreknow”, proginōskō, should actually be translated as foreordain. As a matter of fact, proginōskō is translated as foreordain in 1 Peter 1:20. And of course, this text, by the Palestinian Jew Peter as opposed to the more Hellenized diaspora Jew Paul,  says “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you”. So, Romans 8:29 should read “”For whom he did foreordain, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” And that allows Romans 8:29 to be interpreted with 1 Peter  1:13-25. Not surprisingly, if you do that, they confirm each other in one coherent, unified doctrinal statement which relates election, predestination and salvation to sanctification, perfection and glorification in Christ Jesus.

The bottom line: Romans 8:29, especially when it is interpreted with 1 Peter 1:13-25 and being consistent with the translation of the same word (totally appropriate as they are used in the same context), clearly declares that God predestinates based on His choice, and not on His foreknowledge of our choice. Before you say “no fair, why can’t I just interpret proginōskō to be “foreknew” in 1 Peter 1:20″? Simple, because saying that God foreknew about the blood of Jesus Christ from the foundation of the world makes no sense whatsoever. God the Father didn’t just know that Jesus Christ would die for our sins. God PLANNED for Jesus Christ to die for our sins. How do we know this? The words of Jesus Christ Himself. John 3:16 – a favorite of free will Christians – does not say that for God so loved the world that He knew in advance that His only Son would come. Instead, John 3:16 says that for God so loved the world that He gave, He sent, His only Son. Jesus Christ bore witness in the gospels that it was God the Father’s plan, that it was God the Father who sent Him, and that He was being obedient to what God the Father ordained in advanced, not to what God knew would happen in advance and adjusted or adapted to. That is why even though “foreknew” is the preferred translation of proginosko (which is why the translators chose it for Romans 8:29), they had to use foreordain in 1 Peter 1:20 because there was no other viable option. For instance, the New Living Translation gives 1 Peter 1:20 to be “God chose Him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days”, meaning that they translated proginosko in that passage to mean “God chose Jesus Christ by foreordaining Him.” And that fits John 15:16, where Jesus Christ says to the church (through His apostles): “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”

Now that Romans 8:29 has been dealt with

Please read:

How are predestination and election connected with foreknowledge?


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Intercession For The Church In The High Priestly Prayer Of Jesus Christ By Iain Campbell

Posted by Job on December 31, 2010

Original sermon here.

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Our Death to Sin in Christ By Pastor Jim Casey

Posted by Job on December 30, 2010

Original sermon may be accessed here
Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Why Christians Must Pray For The Salvation Of The Jews

Posted by Job on December 26, 2010

Upon leaving the dispensationalism that I was reared in, the question of precisely what position that I as a Christian should take towards the Jewish people and the Jewish state vexed me. Should I take the hostile position towards both that has been exhibited by many Christians throughout history, a position that cannot be reconciled with either the New Testament text or the wise words of Augustine? Should I continue the dispensational practice of preferring Judaism and Israel over other false religions and nation-states established around them? (What, for instance, justifies the Christian’s being any more supportive of Jews and Israel than of Muslims and Saudi Arabia or Hindus and India?) I resolved this theological, intellectual and emotional internal conflict by choosing the path of Sweden, which is neutrality. I attempted to wash my hands of all things concerning Israel and Jewry and began to try to concern myself only with Christians as part of an attempt to remain more faithful to the Bible.

That is, until, I recently encountered a snippet of knowledge, the source of which I have since forgotten. It appears that in some setting at some time, some Christian was challenged to justify his faith in God by providing evidence or proof. This fellow responded to the effect that the best physical, tangible evidence of the existence of God and the truth of the Bible was the continued existence of the Jewish people. And it should be mentioned that the person who provided this bit of wisdom was no premillennial dispensationalist.

And the wisdom of this cannot be denied. Of all the people groups that have existed and passed into history, of all the languages, cultures, religions and traditions, what accounts for the dogged perseverance of the Jews? And has there been a more uniquely persecuted, hated, marginalized, discriminated against, and despised group of people throughout recorded history than the Jews? The attempts by the ungodly to destroy the Jews date back to the stated desire of Esau to murder Jacob and climaxed with Hitler’s final solution, which nearly succeeded because no one, no nation stood up in their defense. And yet the Jews still exist while people groups have perished. Indeed, they have existed despite not controlling a sovereign homeland since 586 B.C. Why? It is not because of their strength, nor because it is of their great numbers. The only logical, rational, reasonable answer to the conundrum that is the continued existence of the Jewish people is that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob still lives, and is still protecting them.

But why is this? The mission of Israel has been completed. Though national Israel failed to accomplish the task, the Son of Israel, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, did so, and the result of Jesus Christ’s fulfilling the law of Moses and dying on the cross for our sins is the church, composed of both Jew and Gentile. The law was a schoolmaster to point us to Jesus Christ, who has come from the Father, walked this earth in perfect obedience to the Father, returned to the Father, and now is in His high priestly role as intercessor between God and man, awaiting His second coming. So then, why is the continued existence of the Jewish people necessary?

The answer is found in Romans 11:25-27, which reads “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this [is] my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”

We cannot be naive as touching this prophecy. Satan and the other enemies of God know this prophecy. They do not want this prophecy to be fulfilled. So, the enemies of God have been hard at work trying to prevent it from being fulfilled by attempting to destroy the ones who will be heirs to this prophesy and its promise from the face of the earth. Their attempts can be described by Psalm 2:1-3 “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, [saying], Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”

And who can deny that these attempts are ongoing? The attacks against Israel and the Jews are increasing in their vehemence and frequency. And what is being done about it? Nothing. Now, I have toned down my “new world order” talk in recent months, but who can deny that this “new world order” of secularists, socialists, nationalists, Muslims and Catholics is very bad for both Jews and Bible-believing Christians? Look at what is going on in the world … Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, the European Union, and even a coalition of Latin American countries led by Venezuela constantly saber-rattles against Israel. Most other nations, including the United States, China and Russia, are openly collaborating with Iran and Israel’s other enemies. The same is true of the United Nations and the other leading NGOs.  Now I do not subscribe to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” thinking, but simply looking at the geopolitical currents is enough to challenge the “neutral towards Israel and the Jews” thinking. We cannot deny that these evil people and groups are bent on destroying Jews from the face of the earth as an act of defiance and rebellion against God and His Word.

So what, then, are Christians to do? There are a lot of things that are currently being done, and many of them I used to support. However, beware: so many of them rely on human methods – the arm of the flesh – in support of a religion and a nation state that honestly does explicitly reject Jesus Christ. We cannot and should not use those methods. Similarly, we are also not to succumb to the temptation of becoming anti-Israel or anti-Jew, nor can we fall into the trap of apathy, or as I called it for myself , “neutrality”, as the Bible commands us to study the scriptures and discern the times.

What is the answer, the solution, then? Prayer. We must pray that the prophesy of Romans 11:25-27 come to pass, that all Israel be saved! After the manner of the prayer that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gave to us, we must pray that this thing be done on earth just as it is God’s Will in heaven. This is something that all Bible-believing Christians regardless of background, political beliefs or theological/eschatological system must do: pray for the salvation of the Jews. That is the answer – the only answer – that resolves all the issues involved.

Yes, we are to bring the gospel to all nations as commanded to the Great Commission, and yes, God has no respect of persons. Yes, Galatians 3:28 and Colossians 3:11 are still true … in Christ there is neither Jew or Gentile, male or female, free or slave, rich or poor etc. However, we cannot be ignorant of the fact that Romans 11:25-27 (and the entire context of Romans 11 for that matter, which begins with “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid.”) is not universal in scope but instead applies only to Jews. So, it is for the salvation of the Jewish people that we must pray. And yes, this does mean we must pray that the Jewish people continue to exist and have God’s protection during the times of the Gentiles, so that at the consummation of the times of the Gentiles, this prophecy will be completed. This thing is God’s will, as Bible-believing obedient and submissive Christians it should be our wills as well, and God’s will shall be done to the glory of God alone. So, then, in this fact, let all of God’s people, Jew and Gentile alike, rejoice!

And whether you are Jew or Gentile, if you are not one of God’s people, I urge that you become one today. Turn away from your sins, flee the judgment of death and destruction that God will inflict on His enemies, and

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Limited Atonement And Matthew 1:21

Posted by Job on December 25, 2010

The most controversial doctrine of Calvinism, more controversial than predestination, is that of limited atonement. I hold this position because most Christians opposed to predestination are simply unaware of limited atonement, and further most Calvinists – including many prominent evangelical leaders like John Stott, Mark Driscoll and Bill Bright – are actually “four pointers”  because of their rejection of limited atonement.

However, the doctrine of limited atonement is very Biblical. One of its supporting texts is Matthew 1:21. This is somewhat striking because it appears in the address of the angel of the Lord (often presumed to be Gabriel) to Joseph upon his pondering what to about what he rather understandably presumed to be a pregnancy caused by his fiancee’s infidelity. In this address, the angel tells Joseph that Mary’s child would be named Jesus (Yeshua), translated “God saves” or “Jehovah is salvation” because “He shall save his people from their sins.”

Yes, the address of the angel in Luke 2 did pronounce this to be good news, tidings of great joy to all people, pronouncing God’s peace on earth and good will towards men.  Now I do adhere to the text used by the King James Version in Luke 2:14 (“good will towards men”), and not the texts used by other versions that are more Calvinistic (i.e. the NIV’s “peace to men on whom his favor rests”), but that does not introduce a contradiction, for those who reject limited atonement also do not use the statement of the angels to the shepherds in a way that would imply universalism (universal salvation). Instead, that passage should be viewed in the same manner of Philippians 2:8-11 … every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, but certainly not everyone will be saved as a result of this confession. So, just as the universal confession of Jesus Christ’s Lordship in Philippians 2:8-11 is not related to salvation, the universal proclamation of good news and good will to the shepherds is not also.

Instead, the statement of the angel to Joseph, Jesus Christ’s earthly adopted father and descendant of  King David, DID deal with salvation, in contrast to the angelic statements to the shepherds and to Mary. While Mary and the shepherds were both told that Jesus would be Messiah and Savior (and keep in mind, at the time most Jews were expecting their Messiah to be a political-military leader and ruler, and to them salvation meant liberation from Roman rule) Joseph alone received an angelic message stating that through Jesus Christ, God would save people from their sins.

As a result, in contrast with the universal message delivered to the shepherds and the somewhat narrower but still wide message delivered to Mary, only Joseph, a legitimate heir to David, received the true message of how Jesus Christ would fulfill the purpose of the Davidic kingdom, and by extension of Israel itself with “He shall save his people from their sins.” This makes the elevation of and emphasis on (to the point of worship!) Mary and neglect of Joseph rather unjustified, doesn’t it? It also makes those who try to contort the message and role of Jesus Christ into being some false gospel of social or political liberation very foolish. So, small wonder that Joseph and his significance has been marginalized by history, for at this time Joseph alone received the truth in its fullness, and few people indeed have legitimate interest in the truth that Jesus Christ brought and is.

And make no mistake: the angel did not tell people that Jesus Christ would save everyone from their sins, or would save everyone who would come and accept or receive Him from their sins. Instead, the angel informed Joseph that Jesus Christ would save HIS PEOPLE from their sins. And we know from elsewhere in the Bible that the identity of HIS PEOPLE has been established from the foundation of the world. God knows His sheep, and God’s sheep respond to the call of God’s voice! And how did Jesus Christ save HIS PEOPLE from their sins in the manner that was foretold to Joseph by the angel? By dying on the cross. Based on the statement of the angel to Joseph, which limited Jesus Christ’s saving role to a certain set of people, to HIS PEOPLE, Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was for HIS PEOPLE, the elect. It WAS NOT universal after the manner of the angelic declaration to the shepherds, because that declaration was not soteriological in nature, but rather had to do with joy and praise, and again Philippians 2:8-11 reveals that there will be a universal confession of Jesus Christ’s Lordship by creation that will fulfill the message to the shepherds. And the message to the angel to Mary to do with Jesus Christ’s rule, which also indeed will be universal. But only the message to Joseph had to do with salvation, and that was the only message limited to a certain, specific set of people. And make no mistake, it was for these people that atonement is limited.

Now one of the common ways to get around what Matthew 1:21 states is the common argument that “Matthew is the gospel that was written for a Jewish audience; its intent was to evangelize Jews, so Matthew 1:21 has the purpose of revealing Jesus Christ as the Jewish Messiah.” The problem is that there isn’t a bit of internal evidence to justify this position. Quite the contrary, Matthew 12:21 states that Gentiles will trust in the Name of Jesus Christ. Also, the Great Commission, the mandate to evangelize and disciple members of all nations in the Name of Jesus Christ (and not just Jews) is contained within Matthew 28:29-30, and it is clearer and more explicit in the supposed “Jewish gospel” than in the others (including the Gospel of Luke, which was written by a Gentile). That interpretation also sets Matthew 1:21 at odds with the many other texts in the New Testament (in Romans, Galatians and other places) which stated that the atonement was efficacious not for national Israel, but rather spiritual Israel. Therefore, atonement was not universal, but limited to the elect, the church.

This is important because one of the main arguments used against Calvinism is that it is a man-made system, a product of systematic theology, of intermingling the Bible with the deterministic Greek philosophy of Augustine and Calvin, and superimposing pre-existing ideas and doctrines on the Biblical text and interpreting it through that framework. Well, the truth is that possessing this view requires ignoring not only  Matthew 1:21 but also  the significance that the message in Matthew 1:21 was given by angelic revelation to the heir of David! (King David was Mary’s ancestor also, but where Mary descended from David’s son Nathan, Joseph descended from Solomon and as a result was eligible for the throne by heredity.)

Now the so-called “Biblicist” view ignores Matthew 1:21 in favor of claims that John 3:16 declares a universal atonement. Even were this true, it would only mean that limited atonement and universal atonement are equally valid, Bible-based doctrines. The truth is, however, that Matthew 1:21 is in no way in variance with John 3:16. The universal atonement interpretation of “for God so loved the world” requires taking “the world” to be “all the people living on planet earth.” Granted, that is a possible meaning of “kosmos”, but it is a rarely used one. Instead, “kosmos” most often means “order” or “arrangement”, and in this context means “universe as it is currently arranged.” In other words, that phrase should read “For God so loved this creation …” and the verse in context provides the interpretation “God loved this current creation of His enough to send His Son to preserve some of it.”

Though this present creation of God fell into sin, God did not want to totally destroy it, eradicate all of it from existence. Instead, God loved His creation to preserve some of it for eternity. Jesus Christ’s death was only for the portion of creation, the kosmos, that God wished to save.

The irony: even “universal atonement” is limited because those who assert “universal atonement” limit the “kosmos” in John 3:16 to mean the people in the universe only. It is not as if they have a choice, for the book of Revelation tells us that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. “Universal atonement” limits John 3:16 from all the universe to all people, and “limited atonement” merely limits John 3:16 further from all people to some people.

Ultimately, universal atonement based on John 3:16 requires a forced reading of translations of that text. First, it requires you to translate “kosmos” to be “world” as opposed to “created order” (which is the first and the second definition given by Strong) or “universe” (which is the third definition), which is a translation preference for a far lesser usage of the word (and when much better words for “all men” or “all mankind”, such as anthrōpinos, were available for use). Second, it requires for “world” to mean “humankind” as opposed to “planet Earth” or even “all living things on planet Earth.” Now consider that God did indeed destroy all living things on planet Earth during the flood of Noah. (This ark, which was a type of Jesus Christ, only provided salvation for the few that God saved.) So, rather than limited atonement being a man-made doctrine that one arrives at by superimposing human ideas on the text, this instead should be said of universal atonement, which one needs to both contrive a very creative reading of John 3:16 and ignore Matthew 1:21 to arrive at.

I should mention that I grew up in a Wesleyan religious tradition, one that rejected TULIP (including perseverance of the saints). I adopted so-called Calvinism (for these were not Calvin’s doctrines, as Calvin himself was a second-generation reformer) because they they best represent the Biblical evidence. Just as a score of Bible texts confirm total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints, Matthew 1:21 most definitely supports limited atonement.

How do we know for whom Jesus Christ’s death on the cross provides atonement for? When those who hear the message of His death and resurrection repent of their sins and respond in faith. If you have not already, I sincerely urge you to do so now.

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Genesis 4:16-24 Is Clear Evidence That The Culture Is Not Worth Fighting For

Posted by Job on December 25, 2010

In Bible-based Christianity today, there are two major camps. The largest camp by far is evangelical Christianity, and then there is fundamentalist Christianity. In terms of doctrine, it is fair to say that Bible-based evangelicals and Bible-based fundamentalists are indistinguishable. Instead, the core difference between is their approach to “the world”, or the larger culture. Fundamentalists believe in remaining separate from the larger culture however and whenever possible. Evangelicals believe in fully engaging the larger culture however and whenever possible. Evangelicals fear what happens to the larger culture when the influence of the church is removed. Fundamentalists fear what happens to the church when the influence of the culture is present.

Both groups have a large body of Bible verses on their side. For instance, in the Old Testament, fundamentalists point to how Israel was called to be separate from the other nations, and how they fell into apostasy when they refused to do so and wound up adopting the evil practices and false religions of the pagans. Evangelicals mention how Israel was called to be a light to the other nations (and some even claim that Israel erred in failing to try to convert the other nations) and of course speak of how the priests and prophets were integral to Israel’s government and culture. In the New Testament, evangelicals speak of the mandate to be salt and light to the nations, and of Jesus Christ’s prayer that the church not be taken out of the world. Fundamentalists counter with the Biblical admonitions of how we should not love the world or be conformed to it.

It comes down to fundamentalists and evangelicals’ having different views on how to interpret and live out the “in the world but not of it” not only for the individual Christian’s daily life, but for the mission of the church in the world as a whole. Is our role of the church to preserve itself as Christ’s spotless bride (and to ward against apostasy) or to restrain evil in – and possibly even help reform – the world?

Now the New Testament appears to provide more evidence to the evangelicals, if one uses the number of Bible verses as a gauge. However, when one understands that many of the Bible verses that appear to endorse “taking on the culture” were actually in the context of liberating Christians from dead Jewish practices (i.e. the words of Jesus Christ to the Pharisees and the writings of Paul to Gentiles), and still more were meant to warn Christians against becoming monastics (which was a common practice of both certain Jewish sects and of zealous Gentile pagans). Also, consider the judgments of Jesus Christ of the church in Revelation 2 and 3 – and especially to the Laodicean church – was over their failure to keep themselves pure, and not over their failure to take on, influence and change the world.

Now the evangelical arguments for engaging the culture are many, and most of them are supported with very sound theological foundations that have excellent Biblical support. The problem is that the witness of both the Bible and of church history is consistent: whenever the church takes on the culture, the culture wins. And whenever the church engages the culture, the result is never the culture becoming more like the church, but the church becoming more like the culture. It has been this way ever since Lot pitched his tent towards Sodom (and the disastrous consequences that resulted).

The reason is that when we take on the culture, we move outside of what we are called to do. We go from God’s mission, God’s mandate, God’s territory and into our own. So, we do not have God’s resources at our disposal for the “culture-changing” mission. Instead, we have our own resources. Now these resources may be considerable, especially in wealthy, powerful cultures where a large percentage of the population adheres to or respects some of Christianity. For instance, lots of money can be raised, lots of manpower can be marshaled, and things ranging from moving oratorical skills, inspiring artistic talents, and cunning organizational or strategic abilities can be dedicated.

And it is because of all this great human ability united towards a common purpose, it is possible to win a few battles. And when those battles are won, it does honestly appear as if God is on their side, especially if one’s approach to Christianity is numbers-driven, results-driven, outcome-driven etc. … anything that allows you to evaluate your success based on something that comes to fruition relatively quickly and is easy to measure.

But the truth is that it is all illusory. Gains made are turned back; battles may be won but the war is lost. The reason: Christians are not the only ones with great human abilities at their disposal. Non-Christians have the same. Not only that, they have superior numbers and resources, plus the god of this world, Satan, on their side.

With these “facts on the ground”, to employ a military term, the only way for a Christian to be able to claim victory in culture wars is to become so compromised and worldly, to become so dispirited by a series of defeats, surrenders and capitulations that a lesser defeat seems like a victory. It is like a sports team who goes winless for 10 straight years, then posts a season where they win a single game (or maybe 2), lose the rest, and celebrate it as progress. Or the situation of a school where 95% of its students are performing under grade level, and when “only” 75% of the students are performing under grade level, the principal and teachers are rewarded with promotions and bonuses, and a party is thrown for the parents. Or when a military goes into war with great aspirations i.e. to force a complete surrender and a peace treaty according to the terms of the invading army, but instead finds itself beaten, driven back and humbled, and winds up having to “declare victory” based on a much more modest set of “goals” that do not come close to justifying the invasion in the first place, and withdrawing while leaving the enemy regime and military in an even stronger position than they were before. So, evangelical theology – doctrine and practice – must contort itself in ways to contrive failures as successes so that both past endeavors that did fail and future efforts that will fail can be justified.

Now this should not be viewed in terms of fundamentalists’ possessing any sort of virtue for refusing to involve themselves in this folly. Quite the contrary, fundamentalists have a different set of problems of their own. Instead, all virtue and wisdom – all credit – belongs to the God who inspired the very Bible that is to be our guide on this matter and all others. And it is to this Bible that we can turn to for clear evidence that the church is not to fight for the culture, because the culture is not worth fighting for.

The Bible text in question: Genesis 4:16-24. Why? Because this text deals with man’s increasing in number and a culture forming as a result. It is true: God did create and give to mankind certain foundations or building blocks of culture. For instance, God created the institutions of marriage and family by joining together Adam and Eve and telling them to procreate. God also created occupations (work or labor) by making Adam the keeper of the garden of Eden, and by commanding Adam to till the ground to support himself and his family after the fall. So, it is safe to proceed from there with the position that marriage, family and labor were given by God to man through special, divine revelation and that they therefore are to be promoted and nurtured by the church among Christians in order to have marriages, families and labor that glorifies God. (Working to somehow sanctify the marriage/family/work habits of non-Christians is not part of our Biblical mandate.)

But in Genesis 4:16-24, we see other cultural developments taking place wholly outside of God’s involvement. We know this because this passage deals with the lineage of Cain, who was driven from God’s presence for murdering righteous Abel, and not with the Godly line of Seth. Now the Bible doesn’t deal much with Cain’s seed (or with people outside of God’s covenant in general except when they interact with or take actions that effect God’s covenant people) so we can take the position that this information was included for a reason, so that we can draw lessons from it. And what do we learn?

First, we learn that Cain built a city. So, civilization, or a more advanced and orderly structured human society, was a development that came from human invention and not as a result of divine command or revelation. Second, we learn that one of Cain’s progeny, Lamech, corrupted the institution of marriage by taking two wives. Further, this same Lamech created the beginnings of false religion by making authoritative claims – based on himself as the sole authority and source of power – and compelling other humans to hear and heed his claims. Also, Lamech’s claims – that if Cain would be avenged sevenfold, that he would be avenged seventy sevenfold – were designed specifically to emulate, challenge, magnify himself against, and rise above God’s power and revelation. This has been the purpose and goal of all false religions and ideologies ever since. Further, Lamech’s involving his wives in his religious pronouncements gave an organization to it, so Lamech then was not the originator of some self-styled individualized spirituality system internal to himself, but false organized religion observed and shared by other people.

Then there was Lamech’s own children. One began the practice of living in tents and also of cattle ranching, which was higher, more advanced and organized socioeconomic based lifestyle, a key cultural component of civilized societies. Another, Jubal, created music, and another still, Tubalcain, created metallurgy. Both of these are vital to both the arts and commerce, and necessary elements to the formation of higher culture and of civilization.

Add it all up, and you have cities, God-dishonoring marriages (marriage quickly became merely arrangements for economic and tribal purposes), false religion, advanced economics (and a lifestyle centered around it), the creative arts and advancing technology. What do you have? Civilization. Culture. And with all the norms, morals and values that go with it. Again, while God did give basic, lower forms or building blocks of culture as part of divine command and revelation, the higher forms, the cultural advancements, came from the line of Cain. They did not come from the Godly line of Seth, or of any of God’s covenant people.

Now this does not mean that culture is wholly, inherently evil. Quite the contrary, the Bible is filled with examples of God using culture and guiding or establishing cultural norms when dealing with His covenant people, including the fact that God organized Old Testament Israel along tribal lines. And Jesus Christ Himself was born in a Jewish culture that He loved, adhered to and respected. It is clear from Romans 13 and other places that Christians are not to be anarchists, subversives or other elements that debase and marginalize culture, because God uses some elements of culture to restrain evil. Amazingly, this actually does include false religion: consider that murder, adultery, theft etc. are considered sinful by Islam. These things are evidence of common grace, of God’s general revelation to all people. We have a merciful God who causes it to rain for the just and the unjust so that both can have water to drink and food to eat, and for that we rejoice!

However, the unjust are the unjust still. The Biblical record is clear: culture  – or at least higher culture beyond marriage, family and work – was an innovation of the seed of Cain acting apart from God’s special revelation or direct command. And Revelation tells us that Babylon, the result of Cain’s work (human civilization), will be judged for its wickedness, which include acts defiance against God and of persecution of God’s people throughout all of human history beginning with Cain’s murder of righteous Abel.

So, human culture is not to be engaged and reformed by the church. Instead, human culture’s fate is to be judged and destroyed by God, and replaced by New Jerusalem. New Jerusalem is not a human city built by fallen human efforts (which describes Cain’s city and all since) but a city built by God.  A city or civilization built by humans will have a fallen human culture that is not worth fighting for. But New Jerusalem will have a redeemed Godly culture that we will not have to fight for, and that is what the church should set its eyes in anticipation for. Instead of loving and fighting for that which is corrupt, fallen and will be destroyed (this world), we should love and fight for that which is redeemed and will last forever (the world to come).

Christians have no part in Cain’s city, and should not even desire or aspire to, for the very idea of being a stakeholder in something that is wicked and will be destroyed is folly. It is worse than buying stock in a company that you know will go bankrupt and be shut down. It is worse because the money that you invest in that stock is temporary, but investing your heart and labor into Babylon will have eternal consequences. That is why instead of loving and laboring for what man has built, Christians should instead labor for and love what GOD is building.

Before you ask about Old Jerusalem – which is of special interests to dispensational Christians and many others – realize that while that city was given an exalted status in the Bible for old covenant Jews, please realize that Jerusalem was not built by Israelites. Instead, the first reference to Jerusalem in the Bible has the city being ruled by a wicked pagan king, and associated with the Jebusites. Similar is true of Bethlehem: it was not built by Israelites, but was a pre-existing village built by pagans that Israel assumed control of. Please note that God did not have Israel build a new nation from scratch, but rather had them take possession of a nation that already had cities, villages, economic infrastructure etc. in place.

From this, we can deduce that God wanted to build His own permanent city for His own people, and that Jerusalem and Israel were to be the temporary schoolmasters. And we see evidence of this even in the Old Testament scriptures from Old Testament Israel, as even with them, the emphasis began to shift from Old Testament Israel and its physical temple to the eschatological Zion. Let us recall that in Acts, Stephen bore witness of the fact that with the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this shift had in fact taken place. The result: Stephen became the first Christian martyr, murdered by Jews in love with the temple built by human hands (including the very evil Herod!) and the physical city built by pagans.

Make no mistake, Stephen, who rejected the world, was martyred at the hands of those who were unwilling to separate from the culture, from the world. In this manner, Christians are to be as Stephen, and not as those who stoned him.

Please keep in mind: all those born again in Christ Jesus will have their portion in New Jerusalem. Those who do not will spend eternity with the lost in the lake of fire. If you are not born again in Christ Jesus, you will have no part in New Jerusalem. To be in Christ Jesus and have a part in New Jerusalem:

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The Unforgivable Sin Part 2 by Richard Caldwell Jr.

Posted by Job on December 24, 2010

Original sermon accessed at here.
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The Unforgivable Sin Part 1 by Richard Caldwell Jr.

Posted by Job on December 24, 2010

Original sermon may be accessed here.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

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The Christophany In Genesis 3:8 And Its Stunning Meaning

Posted by Job on December 24, 2010

Genesis 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

This verse has always fascinated me. How can a voice walk? There are several ways to consider this curiosity. The first and the simplest: bad grammar. By inserting punctuation and a few words, one can arrive at the idea that Adam and Eve heard God’s voice while He was walking in the garden. The problem: such grammatical issues are nonexistent in the Bible. So, one would only mentally construct such a thing because of A) experience in dealing with and interpreting mangled grammar when encountered elsewhere and B) attempting to make this verse fit into some preconceived pattern or construct. However, I will point out that the New Living Translation and the God’s Word Translation do in fact translate Genesis 3:8 in this way.

An alternative: to suggest that the translators made a mistake in translating “qowl” to be voice, and that it should instead read “and they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” That is how many other translations do in fact render it, and it is also the opinion of many preachers, including John MacArthur, who states “You cannot hear a voice walking.” Two problems: “qowl” is almost always translated as “voice.” It is translated to be “sound” ten times fewer, and in those cases it is nearly always something that is generated by a non-living or impersonal object (i.e. the sound of a trumpet or the sound of rain). And there is another problem: what does God – who is a Spiritsound like when He walks that Adam and Eve would discern the sound?

So, consider that they actually did hear a voice walking. How is that possible? Well, consider the Gospel of John. Consider in that gospel when Jesus Christ says that when one sees Him, one sees the Father. Also, consider Jesus Christ when He stated in that gospel that He only spoke what God the Father told Him to speak. And consider where the Gospel of John declares Jesus Christ to be the Word of God. The Gospel of John also stated that the Word of God became a man. And upon becoming a man, the Word of God walked among us.

So, in light of that, how far are we from rendering Genesis 3:8 to be “And they heard Jesus Christ walking in the garden in the cool of the day and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Jesus Christ amongst the trees of the garden”? Now there is the issue that in His preincarnate state, the Name Jesus Christ had not yet been given to the Word of God and had not yet been exalted and glorified by God the Father. With that being the case – and also the fact that Genesis 3 is very early in progressive revelation – how else could Jesus Christ have been referred to but the voice of God? So, it is very possible, very likely that Adam and Eve encountered a Christophany in Genesis 3:8.

Please recall that the Holy Spirit was referred to in Genesis 1:2 as “the Spirit of God.” In Hebrew, it is rendered as “Ruach Elohim.” So, “the voice of the Lord God” in Genesis 3:8? Qowl Yahweh Elohim.” Genesis 1:2 = the Spirit of God = the Holy Spirit. Genesis 3:8 = the Voice of God = Jesus Christ. Is there a reason for coming to a different conclusion other than treating voice (qowl) differently from spirit (ruach) in passages that are otherwise constructed the same, and also both refer to God in action? Incidentally, that makes claiming that “qowl” should be translated as “sound” rather than “voice” the equivalent of claiming that “ruach” should be translated as “wind” or “breath” in Genesis 1:2.

Further, a few verses later, in Genesis 3:22, please recall this statement: “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us.” US. Plural. One God? Clearly. We saw how God the Holy Spirit referred to in Genesis 1:2. And it does appear that God the Son was referred to in Genesis 3:8. So, even in these early portions of God’s self-disclosure to mankind, we see unmistakable references to God’s Tri-Unity, the Triune Godhead commonly referred to as the Holy Trinity.

The significance? Well, the preincarnate Jesus Christ arrived on the scene in response to the sin of Adam and Eve. It is fascinating: even in His preincarnate state, Jesus Christ was yet dealing with sin and its consequences in mankind. With that in mind, Jesus Christ’s interactions with Adam and Eve after the fall prefigured or pointed to His later dealing with sin on the cross. Realize that Jesus Christ compassionately, gracefully dealt with the sin and resulting fallen state of Adam and Eve by giving them coats of animal skins to cover their shame (far superior to fig leaf aprons), pointing to His later ministry to mankind. This ministry was prophesied, foretold, in the messianic prophecy given by the preincarnate Christ in Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” So, the preincarnate Christ foretold His own incarnation and death on the cross as the result of the actions of Adam, and that this would result in the defeat of Satan!

But this dealing with sin does not stop there. Please recall that Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John does not only declare Himself to be Savior, but also judge. Indeed, Jesus Christ stated that God the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to God the Son! Well, we see this judgment upon Adam and Eve given by God the Son in Genesis 3:16-19 (the curses) and in Genesis 3:22-24 when He drove them from the Garden! And make no mistake, the judgment of Adam and Eve for sin in Genesis 3:16-19, 22-24 prefigures the judgment of Jesus Christ upon sinful humanity upon His return. The nature of this judgment is given in Revelation 20:13-15, which reads: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” More description of the punishment can be found in Revelation 14:11a, which reads “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night …”

Now in Genesis 3:22-24, the preincarnate Word of God barred Adam and Eve from the tree of life. But Revelation (verse 22:14 and similar) informs us that because of the work of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, the redeemed will have the right to the tree of life. So I ask you: are you redeemed? Make no mistake: just as it was with Adam and Eve in the garden, your sins will be called to account by God’s Voice. Regarding sin, God’s Voice serves as both minister and judge. So that your sins will be forgiven so that you will escape the terrible, eternal wrath of judgment, please

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The Absolute Sovereignty Of God In Salvation By Richard Warmack

Posted by Job on December 22, 2010

This sermon is VERY HARD to take!

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Pastor Andrew Webb – The Seeker Sensitive Problem And Empty Signs Don’t Save

Posted by Job on December 21, 2010

Courtesy of Providence PCA Church

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Christian Leaders: Know Your Responsibility!

Posted by Job on December 7, 2010

While driving around this morning, I listened to the Michael Youssef radio broadcast. It was primarily from the book of Jude, and was on the subject of how apathy on the part of Christians allow abominable heresies and sins to gain creeping acceptance first into the church and then in the culture. (Though he did not mention it explicitly, the subtext of Youssef’s presentation had to do with homosexuality.) However, something that Youssef stated as an illustrative point in his larger presentation captured my attention because it reminded me of the long string of ecclesiastical scandals that are occurring both locally and nationally.

Dr. Youssef recalled the story of the children of Israel’s first – and abortive – attempt to enter into Canaan, the land that God had promised to them. The pastor put an interesting spin on this narrative that highlighted the importance of leadership of God’s people, and the exceedingly negative consequences that are borne not only by the leaders themselves but also the flock, the ekklesia, those being led, when the leaders of God’s people fail to live up to their responsibilities. According to his exposition of events, Israel could have – and should have – marched right on in and possessed the land, but instead, according to his words “first they had a planning meeting, appointed a committee, and conducted a feasibility study.” Now I won’t get into the larger issues raised by his somewhat creative exposition, for instance whether Moses himself was at least partly to blame for this failure, or whether contemporary Christians should simply “go by faith” instead of relying on prudent human planning and such; instead I treated his remarks as being “self-contained” within the sermon with no further or wider application. But even in that limited scope of reference, one thing can be drawn from it that does have a wider application: that the twelve spies appointed by Moses (the pastor) were placed in positions of leadership (let us call them deacons) over Israel (the church).

And keep in mind, deacons and other spiritual leaders are supposed to be chosen because of their qualifications and fitness. They are supposed to have a knowledge of the word of God, faith in God, spiritual maturity, stable lives, good families, well-run households, and excellent reputations all maintained over a long period of time. Why? Because if someone is placed into spiritual leadership unqualified, that greatly increases the chance of their failure, and as the failure of the spies, or deacons, in this matter of the people of God standing at the crossroads between receiving fulfillment of the promise and reaping death because of their faithless forbearance in the desert, illustrates, the failure of such leaders has very negative consequences for the church, God’s elect.

How? Because TEN OF THE TWELVE SPIES FAILED. They rejected their knowledge of God that had been given to their people and handed down through the generations. They doubted the witness of this same God after He crushed Egypt and delivered them. They suppressed the belief in this God that gave them water and manna in the desert. They abrogated the covenant that God had made with them at Sinai, and they despised the very same God who showed them mercy and spared them at the intercession of Moses after their sin with the golden calf. These ten spies came back with a false, lying report that the promise of God was a lie, the word of God was to no effect, and that they should turn and go back from the promise of salvation and return the way that they had come back into sin lest they be destroyed by the obstacles and trials in their way! And that is the irony. Egypt and Babylon in the Bible are often used to represent sin. And the wilderness that they were wandering in? It was called the wilderness of Sin, named after the very same moon god that Muslims worship to this day. Israel appropriated the name of this false deity and made it into a generic term that applies to all acts of rebellion against God’s word, or “sin”. So, these ten deacons told Israel that the way to safety was to go back into sin! They came back with the common thinking of our time, which is to choose “the devil we know” to the unknown, to stick with the distorted sense of happiness in the past and the false sense of security in the present to pressing on to what God has promised us in the future!

So, these ten failed deacons, in a very real way, were among the first false teachers or false preachers dispensing spiritual error. Like worldly wise man in Pilgrim’s Progress, they were telling the faithful to depart from the path that God has commanded and to turn aside to another one, one that according to human thinking is preferable, more easy, more rational, more sensible. It is the path that allows us to reject the promise of a better eternity in favor of riches and other pleasures or desires now. Or maybe it is the path that encourages us to reject salvation by faith in a God that we cannot see or comprehend in favor of some system of false faith plus works that we can tangibly grasp, count and measure. Or perhaps it is a path that teaches us that we have to be part of the world so that we can influence it, change it for the better, and be more effective ministers and evangelists in it instead of accepting the consistent commandment of Scripture that we are to be holy, that is separate from the world and its evil and carnal things, as our God is holy. Or maybe it is yet another path that teaches us that the way to be holy is to be monastics and thereby reject Jesus Christ’s commandments that we are to be IN the world but not of it.

And what happened? The children of Israel LISTENED to the ten deacons. They rejected the two faithful deacons who gave the good report and urged them to believe God’s promise, to stay obedient to God’s word, and that though the way may be dangerous and difficult and require many sacrifices and much hard work, that ultimately their God would prevail on their behalf. Instead, they went after the bad deacons who gave them information that sounded logical, rational and sensible to their human thinking and conformed to their own experience of failure before sin, of failing to live up to God’s standard and pretending that there is saving virtue in compromising with “second best.” They convinced themselves that God’s way was too hard, and that God would understand. After all, “we tried.” We “gave it our best shot.” They were utterly convinced that either God would give them some sort of accommodation for their weakness, or that they would find a new, better “god” who would! And that is precisely what the false teachers and preachers are offering today: a more accommodating deity that is utterly false, the invention of man’s wicked hands and corrupt faithless hearts.

And you know the result of their listening to the ten deacons. Not only was the receipt of the promise given to God’s people delayed by 40 more years, but every single one of those people – or at least the adult people – who listened to those failed deacons perished in the desert of Sin. Realize this: in a true, explicit and real sense, not merely in a spiritualized metaphorical or allegorical one, THE PEOPLE WHO LISTENED TO THE BAD SPIRITUAL LEADERS DIED IN SIN! And as those who listened to false teachers died in sin in that time, so will happen to those who listen to false teachers today. But that is the warning to the followers. What about the responsibility of the leaders?

Now I do not wish to acquit the followers of their responsibility. They too had been handed down the oracles of God by their forefathers. They too had seen the might of God in Egypt and His provision in the desert, and they too had been made God’s covenant people at Sinai. And also, they too had heard the report of the two good spies, the two faithful deacons! So what of them? I suppose that the free will Christian will say that the assembly made a free will choice to disobey God. I suppose that the Calvinist will say that the assembly made such a choice because they did not receive the necessary faith from God that was required to obey His Word. Whichever option (or any other) that suits your theological system, it begs the question: WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED HAD THE BAD DEACONS INSTEAD BEEN GOOD SPIRITUAL LEADERS AND DELIVERED A GOOD REPORT AS DID THE OTHER TWO?

The answer: we really do not know. It is easy to presume that the children of Israel would have at least made a foray into Canaan (but even that is not definite) but who knows what would have happened when these faithless, stiff-necked people encountered the first bit of difficulty. It is possible, and indeed likely, that the national failure caused by these ten wicked leaders only delayed an inevitable later failure. (The Exodus narrative does hint at this, incidentally, as when the children of Israel first left Egypt, God was careful not to lead them into battle against other nations because He knew their hearts and didn’t want them to give up.)

But this is what we do know: if nothing more than on an external, superficial and surface level, the assembly stumbled because the failure of the ten deacons who gave the bad report. The ten deacons, appointed in their positions as they were, failed in their positions, and as a result caused people to stumble. And what does Jesus Christ say about those who cause people to stumble? “It would be better for them if a millstone were hung around their necks and they were thrown into the sea!” And keep in mind: Jesus Christ in His statement did not make any equivocations. There were no allowances for the Calvinist who says “well, that person who stumbled wasn’t predestined anyway.” There are no allowances for the Arminian who says “well, that person had a free will choice between right and wrong and chose to follow that false teacher.” Instead, regardless of the individual responsibility of the person who follows the Christian leader into error and falls, the Christian leader who fails is still responsible for his failure, and for leading others into failure!

And that should be a sobering thought, for we know the great punishments that the Bible declares for Christians who lead other Christians into error. (For those who know not of what I write, please first familiarize yourself with the dire judgments of Jesus Christ in the gospels against the Pharisees and scribes, and then please familiarize yourself with the pastoral epistles: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.) And because of this, Christians not yet in leadership should be careful and faithful. Do not offer yourself for positions of leadership  – or accept any leadership offer made – if you do not meet the requirements set forth in the Bible (said requirements can be found in the pastoral epistles). If you are already in a position of leadership but do not fit the requirements, resign immediately. Do not view it as a failure, but instead as a spiritual success: evidence that you love the commandments of God more than you love the power and privileges of your position. Instead of being satisfied with your rewards on earth for serving in a position for which you do not merit, you are setting your sights on your rewards in heaven for obeying God’s word, and will prosper in your way and works all the more!

And for those who are legitimately in leadership: stay vigilant. Resist temptation so that Satan will flee from you. You must both be faithful and true in exercising the duties of your leadership position so that you do not cause people to stumble AND remain vigilant so that you will continue to remain qualified to be a leader. The evil one attacks both and does not care whether he is able to undermine one or the other. By taking a discerning look at the Christian landscape today, it is self-evident that as much confusion and harm results from sound teaching and good works emanating from Christians occupying leadership positions that they are Biblically unqualified for as it does from Christians purveying false teachings. Also, it should be said that the unqualified Christian leader who initially adheres from the truth will – as a result of the combination of his lack of fitness for his office and the increased temptations that come as a result of his inhabiting the office – will at some point succumb to error.

Also, if you are a pastor or head pastor: be careful who you put into positions of leadership. Through prayer first and then with all other resources you have at your disposal, only fill offices for people that are fit for them. Also, do not hesitate to remove people from their positions once they prove unfit. Again, go back to Moses in this example. While being careful not to draw firm or deep conclusions – for instance something that would firmly or specifically accuse Moses with error in this matter when the Bible itself does not – what would have happened if Moses had appointed 12 good deacons in this matter? Or what if he had sent only the 2 good deacons and not elevated the other 10? (Yes, it is better to be “understaffed” with fit people only than it is to be “adequately staffed” with a mixture of fit and unfit church officers, as the narrative of Gideon, specifically when his tiny band defeated a large army of Midianites, demonstrates … compare Gideon’s victory in that matter to the defeat of Israel’s army due the sin of ONE MAN, Achan!) Please recall: as a result of the failure of the ten bad spies that Moses sent, that Moses had to spend 40 years in the desert with those wicked people. And as a result of the provocations of those wicked people, Moses himself sinned, and himself never entered the land of promise. Though his not being allowed to enter the Promised Land should not be viewed in the same context as those who perished in the wilderness, we can still take from the example of Moses that when Christian pastors appoint unfit people, or when they allow unfit people to remain in their positions, it is not without consequences!

Be not deceived: God holds His pastors accountable for the leadership that they provide. It is impossible for a pastor to try to distance himself from or “pass the buck” concerning an unfit leader that he either appointed or refused to remove from office: far be it from a pastor to attempt the same sort of “buck passing” that Adam attempted when confronted by God for Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden.

In conclusion, being in a position of leadership in the church is no light matter. One only needs to take a look at our Christian landscape, and then refer back to the warnings to several of the churches given by Jesus Christ in Revelation 2 and 3, to see what happens when the issue of church leadership is taken in such a trifling manner. Christian leaders – and followers – should take the corrective measures given by Jesus Christ in Revelation 2 and 3 and also given elsewhere in scripture to heart and also apply them in our own practice. In this matter, we are not to deceive ourselves in being hearers of the Word of God only and thinking that our hearing is suffice, but instead we must be doers of the Word of God, keepers of what the Word of God says. For God’s judgment begins not in the world but in the church, and in the awesome, terrible day of God’s judgment, who will be able to stand? Let us take heed of what God’s Word commands concerning what He requires of His leaders so that when the day of God’s judgment comes, we will not be found wanting with regards to this matter.

Prayer point 1:  Please pray that our pastors are called by God, that they execute their own offices and affairs wisely and Biblically, and that they appoint and retain deacons that are fit to serve.

Prayer point 2: Please pray that our brothers and sisters who receive offers to serve would pray, examine themselves according to the Bible, and only accept if they meet God’s standard. Please pray that those who are presently serving while unfit would obey God and cease serving. Please pray that those who are serving while fit will continue in their fitness and their faithful service, and that God would protect them from the snares and devices of the evil one.

Prayer point 3: Please pray that our brothers and sisters in Christ that are not leaders will – in a Godly, Biblically faithful manner – reject and refuse to follow leaders that are unfit, and pastors who knowingly appoint unfit leaders, and refuse to remove unfit leaders from their posts.

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