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Posts Tagged ‘reformed’

Putting John 3:16 In Its Place: The Meaning And Purpose Of This Text

Posted by Job on March 19, 2013

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Some use passages like these to assert that those who believe in limited atonement (or particular redemption) instead of universal atonement deny that God loves everyone. The argument goes that if God loves everyone, then it means that Jesus Christ died for everyone and that those texts “prove” it and accuse men of twisting scripture in order to claim otherwise.. Well C.S. Lewis and other believers of religious pluralism and universalism use 1 Timothy 4:10 –“For to this end we labour and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe “ – and many other scriptures to justify it. Is it similarly twisting scripture to say that they are wrong also?

Of course not. Why? Because we know that 1 Timothy 4:10 is not the only thing that the Bible says about salvation. So, it is because that we put 1 Timothy 4:10 in the context of all the other things that the Bible says about how God saves – including John 14:6’s “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” – in order to deny that this text teaches that men above the age of accountability can be saved outside of personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Thus, the same is true of John 3:16. While that text is extremely popular, very well known and much beloved, that is no reason to make it the primary text on the issue of salvation through which all other texts must be judged, held subject to and viewed in light of. That is interpreting scripture according to human opinion and emotion – our tendency to grab hold upon and emphasize the things that please and comfort us while putting less emphasis on the things that disturb and challenge us – instead of letting scripture speak for itself.

It is all well and good to love John 3:16. But we cannot use John 3:16 to pretend that Proverb 16:4 “The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil ” isn’t in the Bible, especially since Romans 9:13-23 clearly uses Proverb 16:4 in order to explain the nature and purpose of God’s election as it applies to the Jews and the Gentiles? Now that is what requires the twisting of the Bible scriptures. Accepting those texts and putting them into the proper contexts is why the so-called 5 point Calvinists exist. The only alternative is to deny the meaning and application of those texts, which is what most theologians and other Bible students do … precisely what they accuse the believers of limited atonement of. Perhaps the best example of this is the common explanation of deniers of limited atonement that predestinate in Romans 8:29-30 doesn’t mean, well, predestinate, or the many others who claim that it really means “foreknowledge.” Similar explaining away is done with and who do the same with Ephesians 1:3-12 and also with the many “Calvinistic” texts that appear in the Gospel of John just as does John 3:16.

So, for example, using John 6:65’s “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” and John 10:26-29’s “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand.” to interpret John 3:16 is not imposing an artificial human framework on the Bible. Instead, claiming that John 6:37 is based on God’s foreknowledge – and doing so in the complete absence of textual evidence to support it and when so many texts like Romans 9:13-23 contradict it – is when the denying the plain meaning of scripture from its literal, contextual interpretation is being done.

Does this mean that God does not love the world — all people and not just the elect — with an unconditional love? That begs the question of whether unconditional love as our modern humanistic Enlightenment-driven society defines it is a Biblical concept to begin with. If it were, then that would necessarily mean universalism. You may ask whether “world” really mean world or does it mean only the elect and whether world can be both, meaning all people in general, but only or especially the elect in particular?

Many do precisely those types of interpretative gymnastics, but they are not necessary. The “world” of John 3:16 does mean the world. But understand this: God is perfectly capable of loving the world and saving only the elect. Again, making the case that God’s loving everyone obligates Him to save everyone can only lead to universalism. The non-Calvinist viewpoint deals with this problem by saying that God TRIED to save everyone but failed. Now if you limit this “failure” to those who made a free will decision to reject Jesus Christ then that “solves” the failure issue after a fashion. The problem is that “God tried to save everyone but His efforts were thwarted by the free will that He gave us to accept or reject Him” theology simply cannot be a sufficient answer for the fact that the overwhelming supermajority of humanity has never heard the name Jesus Christ, and moreover before His advent had never encountered Judaism or the pre-Judaic Yahwism.

Truthfully, the pluralism of types like C.S. Lewis and the Roman Catholics (purgatory) and contemporary religious moderates do a much better job of explaining this problem, which is so real and vast that it has been a source of great heartache for missionaries like Hudson Taylor, who knew that he could not possibly reach every person in the vastness of China with the gospel of Jesus Christ and fell victim to the slough of despond and the giant despair (see Pilgrim’s Progress) as a result. God rescued him from that fate with the instructions for Taylor to be satisfied with going to the people that that God sent Taylor to. (And incidentally Taylor was not a Calvinist).

And here is the real irony for those who reject the Biblical doctrine of limited atonement. Even if you do not believe in limited atonement, the requirement of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation serves as a practical limitation anyway. Again, the only way to avoid that practical limitation is to be a universalist or pluralist. How “general” is the atonement to the person who lives his entire life as a sincere, upstanding, devoted, honest moral adherent to the Hindu religion because he spent his entire life in India in the 1500s and Hinduism is all he ever knew? The only relevance of general atonement to that person is that even though that person had absolutely no possibility of ever being saved, Jesus Christ still died for him so that “proves” that God loved him. Christ’s death on the cross made this person’s salvation hypothetically, theoretically possible in the spiritual realm even though it was still impossible in the natural one. Which means that the true purpose of general atonement that it provides a comfortable, reassuring view of God to the people who hold it. The doctrine is of no use to the sinner whatsoever. Whether you hear the gospel and do not respond with faith and repentance or never hear the gospel at all, from the sinner’s perspective the extent of the atonement doesn’t matter because the fate of the sinner is still the same. The issue is all about whether serving a God who limits the atonement or serving a God who doesn’t IN THEORY but does IN PRACTICE “feels better.”

Still can’t look at John 3:16 and “see” limited atonement? Well, you may not see religious pluralism in 1 Timothy 4:10 either. But that is what C. S. Lewis saw when he looked at it … justification for the religious pluralism doctrines taught by the Roman Catholic Church – and Lewis fellowshipped with a lot of Catholics, including his friend J.R.R. Tolkien – and embraced by virtually all moderate (meaning neither evangelical or liberal) Christians and an increasing number of evangelicals like Rob Bell. So often we see what we want to see instead of what the Bible says, and that has to change.

Does limited atonement mean that God takes pleasure in the destruction of the wicked? Ezekiel 18:23 would tend to say otherwise with “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: [and] not that he should return from his ways, and live?.” But just as we being in the image of God often have to do things that give us no pleasure but are necessary, God’s justice requires that His wrath must be poured out on the wicked. The key to remember that merely because destroying the wicked does not give God pleasure does not require God to act in order to avoid displeasure. Claiming that it does is judging God by arbitrary standards created by our own emotionalism; our refusal to accept things that appear to us to be unjust. But why do they appear to be unjust to us? Because we feel that God owes us something. The truth of what the Bible says, which is that we are the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3) to do with as He pleases is denied because of our unwilling to countenance the idea that God is the measure of all things and not man; that the universe is God-centered and not man-centered.

It is curious: no Bible-based Christian (as opposed to the idolatrous animal rights activist) takes offense at the notion that man, a mere creature made in God’s image, has the right to breed sheep for the purpose of eating them even while they are juveniles (lamb chops, leg of lamb, rack of lamb etc.) Yet we are offended at the idea that God, who is worth more than the entirety of creation (meaning that the distance between man’s worth and a lamb’s worth is much smaller than the distance between man’s worth and God’s worth) has the right to do with us as He pleases or else be judged as unloving and unrighteous, so we stumble at Yes, the Bible does not say that God takes pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, but texts like “The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” and “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” as a result.To do this we must make God out to be worth less than He is or we make ourselves out to be worth more than we are at God’s expense. Either way it is man-centered heresy.

So if you are struggling with the question “how can I say that God loves you without knowing whether you are elect or not”, I emphasize again that this goes back to the fundamental question of whether God can love someone without electing them to salvation. This answer – yes – is most clearly given in Matthew 5:45 … “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Also, an excellent teaching on this topic can be found here: http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/a294/the-love-of-god-and-the-nonelect

This brings about the inevitable question: how will this affect my evangelism? Well you can certainly everyone that God loves them, and use this truth clearly taught in the Bible as the basis for your evangelism. The Bible does not say to use the fact that God did not elect everyone to hinder evangelism, because quite the contrary God said that many are called (in that they hear the gospel … note that it does not say that ALL are called because all do not hear the gospel) but few are chosen (meaning that of those who hear the gospel, few will be saved). And this truth was illustrated by several of Christ’s parables, such as the parable of the sower of Matthew 13:1-23 and the wedding parable of Matthew 22:1-14.

So John 3:16 does not have to be abandoned by the Christian who believes in limited atonement. It means that when sharing the gospel we can tell sinners that everyone who believes – whosoever believeth – will be saved.The key is to stop right there and not add anything to it. Don’t say “Jesus Christ died for all of you so that means all of you can be saved if all of you believe.” Why not? Because the Bible doesn’t say so. General atonement is nowhere in the Bible. If it were, I would believe it and so would you. So whether in mixed company, hostile company (all unbelievers like Paul at Mars Hill) or all believers like Jesus Christ at His high priestly prayer or the disciples in the upper room awaiting Pentecost, limiting yourself to what the Bible actually says is all that is necessary, sufficient and justifiable.

So evangelist, just say “Christ died so that all who believe will be saved” and you will be true to the Bible. And that is the true meaning of the John 3:16. Before it was written, there was no promise, assurance or guarantee that everyone who believed would be saved. Now we contemporary Christians presuppose that and take it for granted because we have always known it. But keep in mind that the apostle John was originally writing that gospel not to people with 2000 years of Christian tradition behind them like us. Rather, the first audience who received his gospel was made up of pagans with a very different view of salvation than we have, and also to Jews who believed in justification by the works of the law in addition to faith.

So for both the Gentile pagans and even the Jews, it was very possible to believe in God (or the gods for polytheistic pagans) and still not be saved. For the Jew, one could believe and still be condemned if you did not keep the law. As for the pagans, their gods were arbitrary, unpredictable, conferring – and withdrawing – their favor on whims. So the true purpose of John 3:16 is not to talk about the extent of the atonement, but to teach the doctrine of justification by faith alone, sola fide, to the Jews first and then the pagan Gentiles.

This is evident if you stop taking John 3:16 in isolation and instead look at the entire chapter of John 3. This chapter begins with the rabbi going to Jesus Christ to seek instruction on spiritual things because He recognized that as God was obviously with Christ due to Christ’s miracles, Christ would know such things to teach. Christ in response taught the rabbi about the need for, meaning and nature of regeneration, being born again. The context of Christ’s discussion with the rabbi was never who could be saved, but how people are saved.

John 3:3 – by being born again. John 3:5-8 – by a work of the Holy Spirit, not of man. John 3:11-17 – Christ stating that it is by and through Him that this salvation will be achieved because of His divine sonship. And John 3:18-21 – the fate of those who do not believe, with 3:18 being the inverse of 3:16. In that context, the true context and meaning – it is crystal clear that the text never intends to claim that God gave Christ so that all can theoretically be saved! Instead, it states that God gave Christ so that all who believed would be saved, and that all who did not believe would not be saved! This fact that we today take for granted today was in complete opposition to the religious mindset of Jews and pagans of the time and place of John’s gospel. It was a truly radical, revolutionary groundbreaking idea that was foolishness to the Gentiles and an offense to the Jews.

So as this is all the scripture ever meant and was intended for, why claim that it says or was intended to proclaim more? Anything more is adding to scripture, which should not be done, chiefly because it is a sin, but also because there is no reason to. The sinner needs no more information than that, and the only reason to add more information than that is for the benefit of the evangelist sharing the message. It reassures the evangelist and makes his job superficially (by that I mean according to the flesh) easier, but the Bible makes it clear that our jobs in service to the God of the Bible are not going to be easy or flesh-driven to begin with.

John 3:16 is 100% true and very powerful. But the Christian should not and cannot impose meanings on it that do not exist because it makes us feel better. We Christians should cast aside such works of the flesh and acknowledge to ourselves that the Bible says what it means. God gives the evangelist the responsibility to share the gospel with all. God gives the sinner the responsibility to respond to the gospel with repentance. But the only ones who will be saved are those that God supplies with faith. Everyone who receives faith from God will be saved. No one who does not receive faith from God will be. It is this way because with our salvation as with everything else, God alone shall be glorified. That is the point of John 3:16, the point of the entire canon of scripture, and the point of all of creation in the first place. And when viewed next to the glory of the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent perfect God, such notions that God only wants to be worshiped by those who choose to do so out of their free will – as if it is illegitimate for God to compel the sheep of His pasture to worship Him, and to train and condition us into doing so by conforming us into the image of His Son and providing His Spirit to live in us – must be rejected for the plain betrayals of the Bible and the picture of God that is revealed to us through His creation that they are.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

“I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:6-7

If you are saved, walk in this truth. If you are unsaved, you are without excuse. Repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ today.

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Graceworx: Is Salvation Forever?

Posted by Job on February 1, 2012


http://www.graceworx.com/podcast/video

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Graceworx: The Anatomy of a True Salvation

Posted by Job on February 1, 2012


http://www.graceworx.com/podcast/video

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John MacArthur To The Young, Restless And Reformed: Grow Up!

Posted by Job on July 25, 2011

Granted, that is not all that he said. Quite the contrary, he gave a (surprisingly!) gentle rebuke mixed with a lot of praise and encouragement. The best part was MacArthur’s contrasting the Young, Restless and Reformed with the emergent church. MacArthur promises more to come. I hope that he talks more about – and takes a harder stand on – the fact that a great deal of the “young, restless and Reformed” posture is simply liberal counterculture imported to an evangelical Christian context. It is just the same “stick it to the man” and “down with the establishment” and “fight the power!” and “don’t trust anyone over 30!” and “the older generation is out of touch and their institutions are ineffective” stuff from the 1960s and ever since that we have encountered in government, education, media, entertainment and liberal apostate Christianity. This means that it is conforming to the ways of this world rather than renewing our minds and being transformed from it.

The difference is that where subversion and counterculture will have a lasting (negative, sinful) impact on the larger culture – even when the rebels become “the establishment” themselves – because it is merely evil taking its place in a fallen world ruled by Satan and sin, in a church context things erected on false doctrines, practices and attitudes are built on sand and will ultimately fall. MacArthur was very restrained in his comments – which are very much worth their reading below – but the way for the Young, Restless and Reformed to endure the race until the end (or at the very least to become spiritually mature while in the race) is to drop the “Young” and “Restless” parts as soon as possible.

As a matter of fact, allow me to say this: where with the “Reformed” part you can keep it or leave it, the “Young” and “Restless” parts are non-negotiable: both absolutely, unconditionally have to go. Though I am a 5 Point Calvinist to the core, I would choose fellowship with a stable, mature non-Calvinist over a young, restless and Reformed without a hint of a second thought. I am citing this Bible text very much out of context, but being “young and restless” embraces being “unstable as water” in Genesis 49:4. And what does Genesis 49:4 say regarding those who are unstable as water, young restless and reformed? “Thou shalt not excel …”

Again, John MacArthur was much more positive in his comments than I am being. And considering that MacArthur most certainly is not one to mince words or pull punches, that is most significant! Please read and enjoy:

Grow Up. Settle Down. Keep Reforming. Advice for the Young, Restless, Reformed

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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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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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Nice Reformed Reading List

Posted by Job on September 21, 2009

Original link here.

Acceptable Sacrifice, by John Bunyan
All Loves Excelling, by John Bunyan
All Things for Good, by Thomas Watson
Apostasy from the Gospel, by John Owen
Art of Prophesying, by William Perkins
Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes
Christian Love, by Hugh Binning
Christian’s Great Interest, by William Guthrie
Come & Welcome to Jesus Christ, by John Bunyan
Communion With God, by John Owen
Doctrine of Repentance, by Thomas Watson
Dying Thoughts, by Richard Baxter
Glorious Freedom, by Richard Sibbes
Glory of Christ, by John Owen
Godly Man’s Picture, by Thomas Watson
Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations, by I.D.E. Thomas
Great Gain of Godliness, by Thomas Watson
Heaven on Earth, by Thomas Brooks
Holy Spirit, by John Owen
Jerusalem Sinner Saved, by John Bunyan
Justification Vindicated, by Robert Traill
Learning in Christ’s School, by Ralph Benning
Letters of Samuel Rutherford, by Samuel Rutherford
Lifting Up For The Downcast, by William Bridge
Lord’s Supper, by Thomas Watson
Mortification of Sin, by John Owen
Mystery of Providence, by John Flavel
Prayer, by John Bunyan
Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, by Thomas Brooks
Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs
Reformed Pastor, by Richard Baxter
Secret Key to Heaven: The Vital Importance of Private Prayer, by Thomas Brooks
Shorter Catechism Explained, by Thomas Vincent
Sinfulness of Sin, by Ralph Venning
Spirit (The) and the Church, by John Owen
Spiritual-Mindedness, by John Owen
Sure Guide to Heaven, by Joseph Alleine
Temptation: Resisted & Repulsed, by John Owen
True Bounds of Christian Freedom, by Samuel Bolton

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Three Views On Jesus Christ

Posted by Job on August 29, 2009

Lordship view:

Popular with Reformed and Calvinist churches. Jesus Christ is presented primarily as ruling sovereign king. Transcendence of Jesus Christ is emphasized. A main view of the effects of His incarnation was to sanctify creation with His presence, and the emphasis of His work on the cross is that of being the giver and head of the new covenant and to transfer dominion from Israel to the church. This emphasis on Jesus Christ – as Lord and King and head of the covenant – correlates to the aim of such bodies to view themselves as extensions and agents – the Body – of Jesus Christ’s kingship and rule on earth. Because Jesus Christ sanctified the earth with His presence, that increases the prominence of natural theology and general revelation as ways of knowing, understanding and having a relationship with God. Further, it makes it fitting and appropriate for Christians to seek to subdue and rule the earth by political, economic, cultural and military means as a way of worshiping and glorifying God. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is mediated through western culture and institutions which God through His providence used and created to improve worldly conditions, spread the gospel, and prepare the world for His coming. Jesus Christ’s Lordship, kingdom and influence are spread primarily through cultural, political and military means, and such things largely take the role of personal evangelism and missionary work in infant baptism cultures. Thus, attacks on western culture and institutions are seen as direct attacks on God’s kingdom, God’s plan to redeem the world, and ultimately on Jesus Christ Himself. Due to Jesus Christ’s being depicted as Lord and King and thus viewed in the context of European and other Gentile kings (remote, detached, very difficult or impossible to directly or personally know or relate to) worship is liturgical, sacramental, even mystical with preaching de-emphasized to the point where often reading the pastor’s sermon notes is a more productive activity than being present for the sermon’s oral delivery. Very little practical attention is given to God the Father or the Holy Spirit or Jesus Christ’s humanity. Eschatology: often amillennial or postmillennial.

Savior view:

Popular in free will evangelical and fundamentalist churches. Jesus Christ is presented primarily as Savior. Heavy emphasis on Jesus Christ’s humanity, particularly the very safe approachable nonthreatening imagery of a baby in a manger and other views emphasizing Jesus Christ’s immanence. Primary role of incarnation is to make Jesus Christ human in order to facilitate a personal relationship with Him: Jesus Christ as friend, buddy, confidante, parent (particularly as it relates to parents’ giving their children gifts, reassurance, and nurturing), “sounding board/venting object”, or even lover. Please note: the ability to accept or reject friendship and personal relationship with another human is always by personal discretion, and both humans have equal rights to set the relationship’s terms, including the depth and intensity of the relationship. Jesus Christ’s deity is depicted in context of His ability to work miracles and teach during His earthly ministry and His being an effective in His role in dying for sins, and His ability to live a sinless life. Jesus Christ’s role as Lord and King is practically limited to His headship of the Body of Christ and is only stated factually or doctrinally as the justification for congregational church polity. In practice, Jesus Christ’s actual rule or dominion is deferred until judgment day, the millennium, and in heaven. The role of the Holy Spirit is to comfort Christians, give Christians friendly but non-coercive and not truly binding moral advice, and to help Christians deepen their friendship and bond with Jesus Christ; to make a relationship that is in many respects little different from a one-sided self-serving relationship with another natural human into a spiritual relationship. Ultimately, friendship with Jesus Christ meets the need of the Christian, first to escape eternal damnation, and second to meet or fulfill personal or emotional needs during challenging, difficult and uncertain lives. Note: a high percentage of people adhering to this form of Christianity are children of divorced parents, people who were abused or neglected as children, low income people, and women. God the Father is depicted in terms of an ideal human father and His relationship with Jesus Christ depicted as the ideal relationship between a parent and son, which is a source of reassurance and comfort (and also a goal) of people whose lives have been affected by family dysfunction and failure to live up to the western middle class ideal family image, with the Body of Christ offering the promise of a true, real stable family that meets true and idealized emotional needs that will finally be fulfilled in heaven. Result is an outsized emphasis on good families as the solution to personal and spiritual needs, with some going so far as to claim that the family is a type of the Holy Trinity or that the Holy Trinity is the model for the family (see Wayne Grudem and James Dobson). Thus, a major goal is the creation and preservation of not only a church system but also a worldly culture (i.e. government, politics, economics, values) that is “family-friendly.” The role of worship is to meet human emotional needs, often meaning entertainment and cathartic release for lower income people and intellectual stimulation for higher income and more educated people. The goal is to relate to Jesus Christ on a personal or human level, often using the relationship with Jesus Christ  as a substitute for flawed human relationships with spouses, parents, children, friends etc. Heavy emphasis on personal evangelism and missionary work, but the driving force is often eschatological beliefs or a desire to “grow the Christian family” (meaning creating more people to enjoy relationships with) and generally rely on human initiative and methodology. Growing integration of psychology and psychiatry with Christianity to meet the emotional needs of church members. Also increasing emphasis on “personal spirituality”, to “worship God my own way” and an increasing conviction that God’s grace accommodates the desire to satisfy or fulfill personal and emotional needs, including giving license to engage in conduct forbidden by scripture. This trend includes – but is not limited to – the emergent church. Preaching  is often exhortary, entertaining or emotionally charged, with an emphasis on narratives that relate to the personal experiences and needs of the listeners that causes them to recognize their own traits – or the traits of loved ones – in the sermons. Eschatology: often dispensational.

Lord and Savior view:

Begins with the Trinity, as God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and God the Son work together to create, redeem and sustain a community of believers as the ultimate goal of accomplishing creation, and such things are done for the pleasure and glory of the Godhead as opposed to the benefit of believers, though believers do certainly benefit and are exceedingly grateful. Jesus Christ is Lord of all for times past, future and present and graciously took upon the role of Savior.  Jesus Christ’s present dominion is not extended to the political, economic, military or cultural systems of the world, but instead is limited to the church over which He is Head and whose dominion all members of the church must continually submit to. The goal of worship and praise is to glorify and honor Jesus Christ, and Christ rewards those who glorify and honor Him by using the Holy Spirit to give them joy and other gifts and fruits. Evangelism is a worship activity done to glorify Jesus Christ, to fulfill the mandates of scripture, to provide Jesus Christ with more servants, to act as God’s servants in carrying out His plan of salvation, and to give more people the benefits of salvation. Christians can appreciate general revelation and natural theology as part of their praise and worship of God, but can only know God through special revelation, which includes the Holy Scriptures and Holy Spirit illumination which reveals the Son who in turn reveals God the Father. A very personal relationship with Jesus Christ is possible, but only on Jesus Christ’s terms which cause the believer to respect Jesus Christ’s holiness and sovereignty. Thus the rules of engagement between Jesus Christ and the believer are not as equals with the focus on Jesus Christ’s meeting the believer’s needs as the believer asks (which is the believer taking the initiative) but rather a relationship where Jesus Christ takes the initiative and it is the responsibility of the believer to obediently respond. In this way, Jesus Christ is Lord and King, but not after the detached manner of human kings, but a King that one can truly know and relate with, a King who allows us to continually eat bread at His table not because He is deficient in any way and needs our company but because it is to His pleasure and glory that we accompany Him. Attacks on culture, governments and institutions are regrettable for such things are servants of God and act to restrain evil, but ultimately are not attacks on Jesus Christ Himself, whose current dominion is now spiritual over the church and whose realized dominion over the earth – one that He will exert with a rod of iron – is yet to come. Presently only attacks against believers are attacks against Jesus Christ. Relationships with other believers are based on shared beliefs, common membership in Jesus Christ’s Body, and exercise of spiritual gifts as opposed to values, family or culture. Emphasis of preaching is to inform people about God’s nature; to reveal God to hearers so that the hearers will respond to the revelation of God. Churches and pastors with this view of God are present within virtually any legitimate Protestant Christian denomination or movement, however such churches and pastors always represent a decided minority in whatever denomination or movement they are in. Eschatology: can be amillennial, postmillennial, dispensational or chiliast. Practically, eschatology is de-emphasized in favor of an emphasis on God’s eternal plan and nature.

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Wayne Grudem: A Prominent Calvinist Charismatic Theologian

Posted by Job on July 29, 2009

At least according to Wikipedia he is. Investigating this fellow, he seems to be a bit too much of an “avant garde” personality to suit my conservative tastes, reminding me of Mark Driscoll and some other members of the popular Reformed scene. He is also a bit of a “Protestant” ecumenist, working for unity among charismatic/Pentecostal, Reformed, and evangelical churches (where people like me acknowledge that such groups are apart for real and important doctrinal reasons that should not be glossed over).

Still, I wonder if his very popular systematic theology treatment is worth checking out …

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New Covenant Theology: An Alternative For Reformed Christians Who Oppose Infant Baptism

Posted by Job on July 29, 2009

Please read article:

What is the Difference Between Covenant Theology, and New Covenant Theology?

by Tony Warren

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My Questions On Many Contemporary Practices Of Spiritual Warfare And Deliverance

Posted by Job on May 15, 2009

When I first began this site – as well as its now defunct predecessor – it was primarily one devoted to spiritual warfare and deliverance based on what I had learned from reading works by such people as Frank Hammond, John Eckhart, and to a lesser degree Rebecca Brown, Frank Peretti and Derek Prince. (Now where this field is considered to be dominated by Pentecostals and charismatics, please know that Frank Hammond, considered to be one of the most influential teachers in this area, had a Baptist background, having been trained at Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

Now when doing research – inasmuch as web searches can be considered research! – for teachings and material to include, quite naturally I would encounter many statements by Christians opposed to spiritual warfare and deliverance ministries and ignored them, chalking it up to faithlessness and false doctrines. However, one of them did capture my attention. It did not dismiss the possibility of Christians conducting legitimate deliverance ministries out of hand, which forced me to pay attention to it.

However, this article stated that the methods  to cast out demons popularized by Hammond and fellow travelers not New Testament doctrine and did not conform to the example by which Jesus Christ and Paul cast out demons. Instead, the “Pigs In The Parlor” and “He Came To Set The Captives Free” spiritual deliverance techniques far more closely resembled accounts of how rabbis used to cast out demons as recorded in the Talmud and other rabbinical writings. This document further stated that there was a line of Messianic prophecies among the rabbis that when the Messiah came, He would not have to rely on the laborious techniques of the old covenant rabbis, but instead would be able to cast out demons with power and authority, the spoken command. See, for example, Luke 4:33-37. Also note that Paul’s example of casting out a demon was much more after the manner of Jesus Christ in Acts 16:18. And the clincher, as far as I was concerned, was the assertion that the Frank Hammond method was also very similar to Roman Catholic exorcisms! (How ironic that J.P. Moreland, upset over a friend of his having to leave a prominent evangelical post upon this friend of his converting to Roman Catholicism, stated that evangelical Christians should abandon sola scriptura, calling it “Bible idolatry“, and suggested that among other things Roman Catholic traditions on exorcisms was an area where evangelicals should learn from Catholics!)

Now having rejected all of the other arguments against contemporary spiritual warfare and deliverance ministries, this one – that it did  not conform to the example of scripture and that it was an imitation of practices of intertestamental Judaism and of Roman Catholicism – I did not have an adequate answer for. So, I decided that while I would leave the existing spiritual warfare material on the site – reasoning that they are, at the very least, better than nothing and certainly preferable to the modern evangelical trend of relying more and more on psychology and psychotherapy, fields that were largely invented by New Agers, occultists, atheists, and sexual perverts (do a little research, it’s true!) – while refraining from adding new ones until I came across more Bible based doctrines of conducting spiritual warfare and deliverance.

Sadly, I have not encountered such doctrines as of yet, and in the past year or so have focused less on this area and more on “Christianity 101”, things having to do with the basics of the Christian faith and Christian living. Perhaps when I am done with grounding myself in the basics of the faith – matters of which I was very presumptuous and prideful while being wholly ignorant and immature – it will be a good time to investigate the doctrines of casting devils out of people anew.

Still, I have continued to discover more things about the teachings of Frank Hammond in particular that trouble me. First, Hammond takes a vast array of sinful habits and behaviors and attributes them to demons. (I actually had the goal of reproducing Hammond’s “demon groupings” chart on this site and never completed it because it was so large, now I am rather glad that I failed in that undertaking.) But the more that I ponder his teachings in this area, I perceive this as not considering Romans 7. This is not to say that Frank Hammond rejects Romans 7, but I have not seen him incorporate Romans 7 in his doctrines or applications in any careful way. This is very serious, because a study of Romans 7 is vital in discerning whether activity is demonic or simply due to what Romans 7 calls “the body of sin.” Instead, Frank Hammond advocates relying on a Holy Spirit gift for discerning demons. Now how does the Holy Spirit gift for discerning demons operate, and how are we to use it in a church or ministry context? The Bible does not say, so we have to rely on the teachings of Frank Hammond to tell us. Also, where Romans 7 makes it clear that there are some battles with our old natures that Christians are going to have to deal with until we get to heaven, Hammond’s teachings claim that such merely represents failed or incomplete spiritual deliverances, so we have to return to the deliverance ministers to do still more confessions of past sins in counseling sessions and then have still more nested interlocking demon groups buried and hiding deep inside of us, demons and demon groupings that the Holy Spirit gift of discernment failed to identify in previous sessions, out. That does appear to contradict this passage of Romans 7.

Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

Claiming that this passage does not refer to the striving of Christians against the flesh and the need of grace to overcome ignores scriptures that can be used to interpret this scripture such as Galatians 5:24-25 and 1 Peter 2:11. This doctrine makes it appear that Christian living should, save an intermittent battle or three with a demon or temptation, basically be strife and trouble free, and that any Christian who is not experiencing Hammond’s definition of “life more abundantly” is either demonized or still engaged in sin habits that need to be broken, is living under some “generational curse”, has some “demon of inheritance” or that needs to be discerned and broken, and so on.

These doctrines deny the fact that Christian life is supposed to be inherently trying and difficult … one of persecution, chastening and affliction, dying to self daily, carrying the cross or cross-life. It makes me wonder if Hammond or any of the others in his school has ever read Pilgrim’s Progress or anything similar. It also, in a style that anticipated the current Oprahesque style of modern Christianity, which allows a person to reject accountability. Where today a professed Christian who follows the New Agey Dr. Phil psychobabbleanalytical doctrines can simply blame parents, teachers, classmates, spouses, pastors, or any number of emotional or mental problems for their unBiblical behavior, the Hammond school allows a person to simply say “the devil made me do it” and profess a need for spiritual deliverance. Either way, you get to blame someone else rather than yourself, and in this way you deny your need for a Savior and for grace, because you avoid coming to grips with your true nature. Rather than seeing yourself as a wretched sinner badly in need of grace and the work of the cross to impute righteousness to you that you do not deserve and never will, you see yourself as this basically good and decent person against whom there is this grand conspiracy of evil spirits and rotten circumstances to keep the real you, an inherently good and virtuous person, from coming out.  

Either way, it encourages you to hold onto an unBiblically inflated image of yourself and blame other entities – whether human, spiritual or institutional (as Hammond does speak of “prince demons” that control institutions, and claim that Christians should go into directed warfare against them to reclaim these institutions … there goes dominionism gospel of Eusebius and Constantine again!) – for your inability to live up to your own self image, which is an unBiblical delusion to begin with. Legitimate spiritual warfare and deliverance, indeed legitimate Christianity, is concerned with casting off this self – image delusion, which is part and parcel of the old man that needs to be cast off so that we may put on the new man (Colossians 3:10Ephesians 4:24). These doctrines make it appear that the difficult process of discipleship and Christian growth and maturity, as well as coming to grips with the nature of sin and meaning of grace, are unnecessary and unproductive, as it is far better to simply declare yourself and everyone else to be demonized. 

Most seriously, the Hammond doctrines seem to reject or distort the doctrines of original sin, the effects of the fall. They seem to create a picture where man is basically good, and all he needs to do to recover his inherent goodness and virtue is choose Jesus Christ as his Savior. Having done that, any problems or defects are not due to the exceedingly true and vile cosmic and metaphysical nature of the fall and original sin, but instead an evil spirit that is soiling what should by nature be perfect. At the very least, it in effect claims that the result of Jesus Christ’s work on the cross should have been to make us practically sinless with no need to battle and struggle in this life. Either way, Hammond’s doctrines distort or misunderstand either what the Bible says about original sin or the workings of the grace. Thus, Frank Hammond would claim that Paul was a liar when he stated in scripture that God told Paul that His grace was sufficient for Paul to deal with his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:6-9). Instead, Hammond’s doctrine would have us believe that Paul was simply demonized and that confessing his sins and being rid of the root of bitterness due to issues from his childhood that left all these doors open was the solution, nothing about this “for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” doctrine that does not fit into Hammond’s view of victorious abundant Christian living!

Another thing: it is amazing how legalistic and guilt inducing the Hammond method is. It would have you believing that your mind, spiritual makeup, etc. contains this innumerable vortex of labyrinths and doors. The labyrinths are these hidden chambers that can contain a demon or three that must be entered into – with the guide of the Holy Spirit gift of discernment and aided by detailed confessions in counseling sessions – to draw the demons out. The doors are sinful thoughts and actions by which a born again Blood of Jesus Christ washed Holy Spirit indwelt believer can allow a demon or demons in at any time. So, the pruning and chastening process, the battles and temptations with sin, and the need to overcome that the Bible states that all Christians must endure are attributed to some sin (often in the past) that a Christian failed to confess, someone that the Christian failed to forgive, some “spiritual door” that is allowing demons in that needs to be closed, etc.

And this is probably the worst practical part of it. The most powerful weapon that Christians have in overcoming temptation and battling the flesh is prayer. Well, Hammond explicitly tells us not to use it, and does so in the very opening pages of Pigs In The Parlor. Hammond states that spiritual warfare and deliverance is not prayer, that praying for God to help us and to overcome in our lives issues that Hammond alleges is due to demons is at best redundant and possibly ineffective. Hammond counsels us that when we pray for things, it is our asking God to grant us something that we do not have already. But, according to Hammond, as authority over evil spirits is something that we have already through Jesus Christ, why pray regarding these matters? Praying when confronted with these issues is a way of ignoring, rejecting, even DENYING the power and authority that Jesus Christ has given you! So … when dealing with what Hammond asserts is demonic activity – which again is either discerned with the appropriate Holy Spirit gifts, or discerned through other means by those lacking this gift using methods that Hammond provides – BY ALL MEANS DO NOT PRAY! (Unless, that is, a prayer for forgiveness of sin,  a prayer to forgive someone that you are holding a grudge against, a prayer to close a spiritual door that allowed the demon in, etc.) Instead, immediately go into spiritual warfare, start binding, loosing, rebuking, and casting out! (By the way, the actual meaning of “binding and loosing” given in the Matthew 16:19 and  Matthew 18:18 that spiritual deliverance ministers often refer to should be investigated … a great many Bible interpreters state that when looking at the context of the passages in which those verses appear, they refer to doctrines, particularly the authority of apostles to establish doctrines for the church, spiritual warfare and deliverance techniques.) 

This I recall, for I was personally practicing it myself for several years. I related in  My Thorn In The Flesh how my mind is frequently assaulted by many manners of evil thoughts. I presumed this to be the work of evil spirits within and without myself, and for years applied the Hammond doctrines. I now realize that these are merely things that I have allowed to enter into my MIND as a result of all of the “entertainment” (movies, TV, music, novels etc.) in my life. Also, for years I refused to do precisely what I needed to about the problem – take it before throne of grace and cast it there in prayer – because these teachings told me not to! After all, praying, according to these doctrines, was weak, defeated Christian living … stuff for babies. (Well, maybe it is according to Matthew 18:3!) If I was to be a bold, strong, powerful spiritual warrior, a world changer on the front lines making a difference for Jesus Christ, I needed to just step out on faith and take dominion and authority over these evil spirits!

And so I did. It reached the point where it was practically automatic. Evil thought enters mind. Say “demon in the Name and by the power and Blood of Jesus Christ I bind and rebuke you and command me to leave and never return.” And so on, so on, so on … if you want to talk about “vain repetitions” then boy I was doing it. Also, so long as I was “binding, rebuking, and casting out” I had no need to humble myself, feel contrition or repentance, and beg God for help. Why? I was a spirit warrior world changer taking dominion, a spiritual He – man!

Now upon trying to discover and build “Christianity 101” these past months, I decided that just maybe I wasn’t as spiritually strong or powerful as I thought. So, I would leave the taking authority warfare to the stronger brothers and sisters, and I would resort to the milk of the weak babes, which was to PRAY. So, I battled and stopped the very many months – years in fact – of automatic “I rebuke and bind you in the …” conditioning … I really had gotten to the point where I did it on autopilot without thinking! … I would refrain myself from the “self – spiritual warfare and deliverance” and simply began to tell God that I was sorry for having or entertaining those evil thoughts and asked Him to forgive me and to shield me from those thoughts in the future. Now even before I received the response that I detailed in My Thorn In The Flesh, the results were much better … cleansing, strengthening, love, joy and PEACE where the “warfare” left me with guilt and conflict.

Now is this to say that I have never benefitted from spiritual warfare and deliverance? No. That is the main reason why I have not removed the materials from the site … my testimony is my testimony and it stands. However, though my testimony is part of my faith, it is the substance or entirety of my faith. My faith is Biblical, not experiental, and it is based on God, not on what happens to me. Had I never existed, God would still exist and His Word would still be true. So, when the time is right, I pray that God will lead me to doctrines on spiritual warfare and deliverance that are faithful to His Word and thereby honor and glorify Him

Sola Scriptura. Soli Deo Gloria. Solo Christo. Sola Gratia. Sola Fide. Any spiritual warfare and deliverance that does not conform to those is but doctrines of devils! Even so, come Lord Jesus!

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Will The Holy Spirit Be Taken From The Earth During The Great Tribulation?

Posted by Job on May 2, 2009

Many premillennial dispensational pastors teach that during the time of the great tribulation, the Holy Spirit leaves earth along with the church. Now consider this. As God is a spirit (John 4:24), the Holy Spirit is the presence of God. For God’s presence to be removed from the earth during the great tribulation or at any other times causes real problems, because God sustains and directs creation, which cannot operate without God’s presence and involvement. (The idea that God accomplished creation and left it to itself without His needing to operate, sustain, or otherwise be involved in it is theological liberalism at best and deism at worst.)

But apart from the larger question of precisely how creation will be sustained and operated for seven long years with God’s presence absent from it, there is the issue of salvation. Can anyone name a premillennial dispensationalist who denies that people will be saved during the tribulation? That would be very difficult, because Revelation does make reference to Christians that will be martyred after the time that according to this doctrine the church will have been raptured, and this is so for both the pre-tribulation and mid-tribulation rapture believers. First off, for this to even happen will mean that Jesus Christ’s promise concerning the Holy Spirit of John 14:16-18, that He will not leave us comfortless (meaning that the presence of God will never leave the church) would be broken. So … if John 14:16-18 can be violated, even for a time, then what secures John 3:16 and the other promises of God to the church? 

But again, back to salvation. The Bible explicitly teaches that the Holy Spirit is what accomplishes salvation. The Holy Spirit not only draws the sinner and convicts the sinner of unrighteousness, but the Holy Spirit actually accomplishes rebirth. This must be the case, for salvation is quite literally a miracle, and all miracles are the work of the Holy Spirit. No miracles cannot occur without the presence, moving and working of God. But if the Holy Spirit is removed from the earth, how can salvation occur? Who will draw sinners? Who will convict sinners of unrighteousness? Most important: who will perform the miraculous work of regeneration, of new birth? 

Recall what Jesus Christ told Nicodemus in John 3:5-8, which is that salvation, new birth, is impossible unless someone is born again, and born again can only occur by water and spirit, which is the Holy Spirit. But to repeat, if the Holy Spirit has been taken from the earth, how can the rebirth, the salvation that can only occur by the Holy Spirit occur?

There is only one explanation. It is the doctrine that salvation is not the work of the Holy Spirit, but rather of human decision, of free will. Now claiming that it is totally or completely free will is Pelagianism, or shall we say hyperArminianism. The mainstream orthodox free will doctrine is that the work of the Holy Spirit empowers a free will decision to accept or reject Jesus Christ. An extension of this is foreknowledge, which states that God from His timeless perspective knows in advance who will accept and reject Him, so He elects those who will – or in truth have already – elected Him, and places them in human history in situations where they will hear the gospel. (In other words, God loves us because we first loved Him.)

Now the free will doctrine which states that the job of the Holy Spirit is to empower human decision is necessary to reconcile decision soteriology with what the Bible actually says. However, we see that this really is merely a cover, an exterior. At the heart of this doctrine is that salvation is completely the work of human decision, and that the Holy Spirit is not necessary at all. That is why it is so easy for the very same free will Christians to declare that salvation is made possible by the Holy Spirit’s overcoming the effects of the fall long enough to empower man to make a free will choice to immediately turn around and assert that during the tribulation, the Holy Spirit is gone and yet people will still be saved!

This makes the work of the Holy Spirit to draw, convict, and actually accomplish new birth a mere technicality to free will salvation, an accessory if you will, that while very useful can be discarded if need be, such as during a crisis. And during the great crisis for humanity and creation that is the great tribulation, the presence of the Holy Spirit for those being saved is no more necessary than is the presence of a second lung or kidney. It is nice to have, but ultimately you can get along without it. After all, you still have the other lung or kidney, right? Well, it appears that with free will doctrine, one lung or kidney is God (the Holy Spirit) and the other lung or kidney is human initiative, human decision, human righteousness and self – worth, human works. It is interesting that in a crisis, God is the one which is declared to be superfluous, not truly necessary for life, and therefore sacrificed, while our human freedom, what is truly valued and important above all else, are the horns of the altar to which we hold fast to (see 1 Kings 2:27-34). Perhaps, then, life as a slave or in an authoritarian culture (please recall that Christianity was birthed in the authoritarian, fascist Roman Empire which had no respect for individual rights or freedoms except for that of a privileged few, and most early converts to the religion were noncitizens and slaves!) is better suited to creating a mindset conducive to Christianity than previously thought. After all, the Declaration of Independence was written by a deist, not a Christ.

According to all Biblical evidence including the words of Jesus Christ Himself, the idea that salvation can occur without the Holy Spirit is severe error, a rejection of a truth plainly taught in scripture, and also attributing the work of the Holy Spirit (salvation) to another, giving another credit for what God does. (However, it is not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the unforgivable sin, which Jesus Christ states is attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan. Giving the glory for the work of the Holy Spirit to man is a sin, but quite different than attributing salvation to being the work of Beelzebub.) So is the idea that the church will be left without its Comforter, the Holy Spirit. So, what does that mean for this doctrine? 

I suppose that the rapture doctrine itself can be salvaged for those who choose to adhere to it. However, one simply cannot claim that there will be no Christians afterwards, as the Bible clearly contradicts it … saints will be martyred during the tribulation according to Revelation and the Olivet discourses.  One also cannot claim that the “tribulation church” or the “tribulation saints” will be there without the Holy Spirit, as Jesus Christ said that such a thing would never happen. And one cannot claim that the “tribulation saints” will consist of a single person born again while the Holy Spirit is removed. 

So, the only way to salvage the rapture doctrine is to abandon the claim that the Holy Spirit will be taken from the Earth during the great tribulation, or at any other time that the church will be on the earth or that people will be added to the church. While this is certainly possible, the question must be asked  A) where this “the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth during the tribulation” doctrine came from and B) why it was embraced. Why did not these people, these great pastors, theologians, and eminent Bible scholars, simply ask: without the Holy Spirit how can anyone be saved and “how can any Christian endure daily life, let alone tribulation and martyrdom, without the ministry of the Comforter?”

Now the doctrines of God are supposed to be the head of all doctrines of Christianity and the focus of our faith. We are supposed to look at every doctrine and ask “How is God working in this? How does this glorify God? How does this accomplish God’s purposes? Where is God in this story”? That this “the Holy Spirit will be removed from the tribulation church” doctrine has been able to gain such unqualified support in huge swaths of evangelical Christianity shows that this is not the case. In it, God and His workings are not necessary to bring about conversion, to seal believers, to preserve them in the faith. Man is able to accomplish these things, to save himself, minister to himself, and persevere in the faith himself, without God’s help. Oh what a great, glorious, marvelous, fantastic, mighty to contemplate and behold, inherently virtuous thing this man must be! But if this was the case, then why did Adam, who knew not original sin, fall?

Instead, this shows that for so many premillennial dispensational Christians, the head of their doctrines are not the doctrines of God, but rather the doctrine of the rapture and the doctrine of human decision. Now the Gospel of John depicts the sin sacrifice of God’s own Word on the cross as the climaxing event of human history, the ultimate act of revelation and self – disclosure to creation. Premillennial dispensationalism, on the other hand, places the rapture of the church as the climax of human history, and the cross as merely being an event that leads to it. Why? Because the cross was about God, Jesus Christ. The rapture, meanwhile, us about the church. The cross is about people. Saved people, yes, but still people. The rapture is about US.

Which means, of course, that Christianity basically becomes about the desire to be raptured. Being raptured becomes our hope, our motivation, the main priority. And that explains so many of the strange actions in these last days. For example: our relationship with the Jews and Israel. The ingathering of Jews to Israel and the rebuilding of the temple is the main priority because of its importance to the rapture. So, Christians are required to deny the fact that Jesus Christ replaced Israel and fulfilled Israel’s mission in salvation and world events within Himself. Even further, Christians are required to pretend that modern Judaism is just another godless religion, no different from Islam, and pretend that there is any precious difference between a government and society  based around modern Judaism – a theocracy – and a similar Hindu or Muslim nation like India or Turkey. It has even reached the point where leading pastors can openly advocate dual covenant theology, that there a superior path to salvation for Christians and an inferior, harder, but still attainable and valid path of salvation for Jews, without causing a ripple of controversy. And it has reached the point where investing an incredible amount of resources to lending political and financial support to a theocracy who denies Christ and works to continue and further the denial of Christ by as many people as possible has taken priority over actually doing what Jesus Christ told us to do, which was the Great Commission. Again, where not one scripture can be honestly interpreted in a way that would command Christians to support the modern political state of Israel, the primary thing that Jesus Christ told us to do, evangelize, gets neglected. Why? Because evangelizing the world – the one thing that Jesus Christ actually said would bring about His return – is not as important as ingathering and protecting Jews in Israel, because obeying the commands of Jesus Christ has to take a backseat to getting raptured as soon as possible. So, given the choice between giving money to Israeli causes knowing full well that the Israeli charities forbid evangelizing Jews and also helping to rebuild the temple takes priority over obeying the commands of Jesus Christ by, say, making a concerted effort to evangelize the Palestinians. Why? Because though obeying God by evangelizing the Palestinians is nice and all, I would rather support the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (which adamantly opposes converting Jews to Christianity) and help breed heifers for the new temple (never mind that Hebrews stated that burnt offerings went away with Jesus Christ). Why? Because while obeying God is a good thing and all, supporting anti-missionary organizations and building a temple that rejects the work of Jesus Christ helps me by speeding up the rapture and getting me out of here faster, and pursuing my own interests takes priority over the commandments of God!

So, it is apparent: doctrines of man, and particularly of man’s inherent righteousness and ability to do good works apart from God, including pursue his own interests, and of the rapture,  which provides a doctrinal construct to pursue these things, are at the head of this particular strand of premillennial dispensationalism, and not the doctrines of God. So the question is: does this go as far as being another gospel? Is it another gospel?

This is a question that we must ask Reformed pastors who believe in the rapture as do Albert Pendarvis and John MacArthur. Such people state that salvation and perseverance of the saints are impossible without the Holy Spirit, that free will, human initiative, is impossible in these matters. If that is the case now, how can it be the case after the rapture? Reformed evangelical pastors emphasize grace. But how can the grace of God by which salvation and perseverance is only possible through the ministry of the Holy Spirit no longer be necessary after the rapture? Reformed evangelicals also assert sola scriptura. Well, can any sola scriptura Reformed evangelical who believes that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth and the tribulation church following the rapture show where it states or even implies in scripture where it is so? I dare say that the scriptures that Reformed evangelicals use to support cessationism, a doctrine about which I am very doubtful, make a much stronger case. 

Now my position is that the position that the church will be raptured, whether pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation (before the final bowl judgments) by itself is not. However, the position that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth during the great tribulation is another gospel, because it teaches that man can save himself and can persevere in the faith by himself without needing God to perform – or so much as even aid – either. That is a strong delusion, and from such a false gospel, I urgently beg, entreat, plead, and in the Name of Jesus Christ pray that you will turn away.

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The Gift Nobody Wants By Paul Washer

Posted by Job on February 1, 2009

Posted in Christianity | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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