31 March 2010

Jesus began telling his disciples

by Frank Turk

When Jesus and his disciples were near the town of Caesarea Philippi, he asked them, "What do people say about the Son of Man?"

The disciples answered, "Some people say you are John the Baptist or maybe Elijah or Jeremiah or some other prophet." Then Jesus asked them, "But who do you say I am?"

Simon Peter spoke up, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

Jesus told him:

Simon, son of Jonah, you are blessed! You didn't discover this on your own. It was shown to you by my Father in heaven. So I will call you Peter, which means "a rock." On this rock I will build my church, and death itself will not have any power over it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and God in heaven will allow whatever you allow on earth. But he will not allow anything that you don't allow.

Jesus told his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. From then on, Jesus began telling his disciples what would happen to him. He said, "I must go to Jerusalem. There the nation's leaders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law of Moses will make me suffer terribly. I will be killed, but three days later I will rise to life."

Peter took Jesus aside and told him to stop talking like that. He said, "God would never let this happen to you, Lord!"

Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Satan, get away from me! You're in my way because you think like everyone else and not like God."

30 March 2010

Colossians studies 11: Greetings 3 (1:1-2) — holy, faithful, brothers

by Dan Phillips

Before we pick up speed, I think it worth a leisurely look at the recipients (1:2) — "to the holy  and faithful  brothers in Christ at Colosse: grace to you, and peace, from God our Father."

Note first what Paul called them (1:2a): holy, and faithful.

It is pretty remarkable that Paul would call this largely-Gentile church "holy...brothers in Christ." What is the root idea of holiness? The root idea of creaturely holiness is not primarily behavior. Rather, the root idea of creaturely holiness is being set apart to God's ownership and His service. To be holy is to belong to God, to be uniquely set apart to Him.

This is a pretty remarkable assertion. What had Adam made us? Unholy! Sinners, by nature and by choice. As Romans 5:12 says, "For this reason, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and thus death came through to all men, because all sinned──..."

But then see what God declares us: positionally holy, by virtue of the person and work of Christ. Hebrews 10:10 says, "And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." The Greek wording is hard to capture without an over-long paraphrase. The idea is something like "we are currently people who have been abidingly sanctified by means of the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all." The latter is a time-note: it was a final, definitive act, neither permitting nor requiring repetition.

So we believers have been set apart for God's ownership and service, not by virtue of one thing we have ever done, but by virtue of the one thing Jesus Christ did. In fact, it was quite in the face of everything we had done, in spite of our many crimes against God and man. The cure could not be found in us, for we were the source of the problem. The cure came from without, by the intervention of Christ.

And then, having declared us positionally holy, God makes us personally holy. We read it in Hebrews 12:10 — "For, on the one hand, [our earthly fathers] were disciplining us for a few days in accord with what seemed best to them; on the other hand, He disciplines us for our common good, that we might be sharing His holiness." This aspect of holiness is a matter of progressively becoming in practice what we already are in Christ.

The aspect Paul had in mind here is positional holiness. It is an assertion he can make about every genuine Christian there, regardless of how they're doing that particular day. All of the other five uses in Colossians are positional (1:4, 12, 22, 26; 3:12). So Paul is addressing them first by what they all are: holy brothers in Christ.

Now, it is doubtless true that some have only claimed faith and are not holy in Christ. But Paul makes the judgment of Christian charity, and addresses himself to them as a church of professed believers in Christ who have indeed shown signs of genuine faith.

We should think that, too, of ourselves. If we are in Christ by faith, we are set apart to God, and we are therefore a saint, a holy person. Therefore, regardless of what other relationships we might have ── marriage, relatives, jobs, organizations ── our deepest and most fundamental relationship is that with God. This is why we must allow no idol to break our relationship with God; and also why, specifically speaking, we should not accept false teaching over the true Gospel.

Then Paul calls them "Faithful brothers in Christ."  The word pistos means "reliable, trustworthy." It is used of good pastor Epaphras in 1:7. But how could Paul say this, when some were not being faithful?

First, Paul could say it because they were still showing good life-signs in important areas (cf. vv. 3-4). Second, he could say it because of tact. Although Paul is intending to correct them quite sharply, he shows wisdom (cf. Proverbs 15:2a──"The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable" [NASB]).

Paul is not saying that every individual Colossian church attender was flawlessly faithful. Rather, he is addressing them with tact and charity, giving them the benefit of a doubt, speaking with them in accord with the best view he can take of them: personally faithful individuals who are being troubled by false teaching. Until driven to conclude otherwise, it is wise to try to hold the best possible view of a person, giving him the most credit we can, giving him the benefit of a doubt.

In other words, Paul is calling them by what they have been, what they should be — and what they still can be, by repentance and doing the word of God!

So Paul starts out with tact and charity, calling them by what they all are, if they are Christians at all (holy). Then he calls them by what they should be, because of their relationship to Christ (faithful). In this way, he gives the real brothers encouragement and something to aim for...and tacitly shames the phony defectors.

Finally, Paul calls them "brothers." Again, think of it. This is a Jew calling Goys "brothers." In Paul's day, one common nick-name by Jews for Gentiles is found in Ephesians 2:11, where "uncircumcision" is literally foreskin. Crude, and far from nice. In fact, it was said that God created the Gentiles simply as fuel for Hell.

So, we shouldn't gloss too fast over this pure-bred pedal-to-the-metal Jew calling this church-full of Gentiles "brothers"; how can he? He can do it because they are "brothers in Christ." (Read 1:26-27, then read 3:11.) Although the Jews still have a distinct future in the plan of God, and still have a covenant with God, in Christ we are all on equal footing: all equally redeemed, forgiven, regenerate, and loved by God.

Having laid this foundation, I'll aim at picking up speed in future studies.

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Shameless call for a current Hebrew prof

by Dan Phillips

I finished the main draft of my book of studies in Proverbs, have sent it to one very able critic to read. I'd like one more specific kind of reader, if our broad audience contains such. I need a Christian, Bible-believing Hebrew pro, preferably a professor of Hebrew. Is one out there? If so, and if you're willing to proof my manuscript (for a thanks in the forward), drop me a line: filops@yahoo.com.

Yes yes, I'm sure one or maybe two of the general populace might like a sneak peek. But eating Hebrew National hot dogs, or owning a dog named Keleb — while laudable — aren't exactly what I'm looking for.

I'll bump myself in a bit, DV.

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29 March 2010

Man Up

by Phil Johnson

Series Guide
(This post is part of a series, taken from the transcript of a message on 1 Corinthians 16:13 given at the 2010 Shepherds' Conference.)

Intro: "The church militant?"
1. "Watch Out"
2. "Stand Firm"
3. "Man Up"
4. "Be Strong"

"Act like men" (1 Corinthians 16:13)

he expression literally means, "Be men," or "be manly." The TNIV, notorious for trying to sidestep masculine pronouns and male-oriented words, simply says, "Be courageous." That's an important aspect of what Paul is saying here. It's a start, but it's not really the full gist.

Paul uses the Greek verb andrizomai in the middle voice. It's another one-word imperative, though it's hard to make it one word in English. It means "play the man."

It's a word that speaks of masculinity as opposed to femininity. He's not saying be grownups rather than children; he's saying, "Act like men, not like girls." And frankly, that was a fitting charge to give to the church at Corinth. As a reminder and a rebuke, it is also well-suited for a large segment of evangelicals today.

Manly courage is certainly an aspect of what Paul means, but it's much bigger than that. He is commending all those characteristics that are associated with masculinity rather than femininity—even though it's not politically correct these days to say things like that. Paul is sweeping up and including in that command attributes like courage, and strength, and boldness—stout-heartedness, heroism, daring, gallantry—machismo. There is, of course, a rather pedestrian aspect to true machismo: the idea of work. When God created Adam, He made him to work—to tend the garden—even before the Fall. That's something to remember in this age of leisure. We need to be redeeming the time. You can't exclude that from this command.

But remember, the context is militant. This is first of a call to arms and a summons to battle. "Fight like men; defend the faith in a manly way." That is surely the cardinal idea here.

Now it's worth noting that this verse is written to the whole church—it's not addressed to men only—and much less does Paul single out only the elders and the church leaders. This apples to every Christian. There's a sense in which even the women in Corinth needed to cultivate the strength and fortitude of a warrior—like Deborah in the book of judges.

But while this applies to everyone in the church, it is nevertheless the particular duty of the elder and pastor to model the spirit of virile, vigorous, vigilant faith—steadfast and courageous. And I love it that Paul has no scruples about connecting those ideas with manliness. "Act like men!" Masculinity. That is certainly one of the missing qualities of churches today.

The King James Version of this verse says, "Quit you like men," and I fear that sometime in the late 20th century or so a lot of evangelical readers mistook the message and thought it meant "Quit being men."

Several books have been written analyzing the feminization of evangelical churches. I gave a lengthy message on this subject two years ago at a Grace Church Men's conference—that message is online if you want to download it. But be forewarned: some people got offended by what I had to say (which is a totally new experience for me.)

In my judgment, the typical evangelical church of this generation has become weak and womanly. Churchgoers demand that preachers be soft and dainty—especially when they are dealing with hard-edged truths. If you don't sufficiently tone down every severe text or hard-to-receive doctrine in the Bible, the tone police will write you up for an infraction before you can get from the pulpit to the front door. All the rough edges of every truth must be carefully sanded smooth and painted in pastel tones. We've traded up to cushy seats instead of hard-bench pews and we expect our preachers to fashion their message accordingly. None of this sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-God stuff.

Instead, today's evangelicals favor feminine themes: Let's talk about our emotional hurts, our personal relationships, our felt, needs. We're hurting. The church has begun to look weak, effeminate, frightened, sissified—like a society of fops and milksops instead of soldiers.

Rules for Figure SkatersWe're told relentlessly that we have to be always agreeable no matter what—seeker-sensitive, gender-neutral, effervescent, transparent, sentimental, and delicate in everything we say and do. Those sound like rules for figure-skaters, not warriors in the army of Christ.

These trends have received a lot of attention in recent years, and more and more people are recognizing the problem. The church is not reaching and ministering to men—we're actually driving them away. But those who see the problem more often than not have really bad solutions. You know: have the men's Bible studies over beer, cigars, and poker games. Get your men watching cage-fighting and encourage them to develop a taste for blood sport. Or go out in the woods, put on war paint, and perfect the art of the primal scream. Salt your vocabulary with a sailor's favorite expletives. Or (my favorite) Live Action Role Playing, or LARPing, where you dress up like a knight or a gladiator and assume that persona out in a vacant field somewhere with other people who are doing the same thing.

Right. Dress up and pretend. That's the way to be masculine.

None of those things even comes close to the essence of true, virile masculinity. In fact, those are all the kinds of things little boys do.

Paul has none of those things in mind when he tells the Corinthians to man up. He is telling them as simply and straightforwardly as possible to be bold, sober-minded, mature, and committed to their calling—like soldiers. Be valiant soldiers in the battle for truth. You don't have to take up smoking or swearing or get a tattoo on your arm to fulfill that command. Those are all external things. They have nothing to do with the kind of masculinity Paul is calling for here. He's talking about character and conduct, not the costume you wear.

In fact, notice the two imperatives on either side of this command to act like men. They explain the true gist of it: "Be steadfast." "Be strong." Those are character qualities. And sandwiched between them is this: "Act like men." The imperatives in that string of commands basically explain one another. Strength, steadfastness, courage, and even vigilance—these are all vital aspects of what Paul means when he says, "Act like men."

Pulpit Highlights - Phil Johnson from Grace Community Church on Vimeo.

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27 March 2010

Shall We Fraternize with Those Who Bury the Gospel under Wagon Loads of Trash?

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Under Constraint," a sermon preached Sunday morning 28 April 1878 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

have not much patience with a certain class of Christians nowadays who will hear anybody preach so long as they can say, "He is very clever, a fine preacher, a man of genius, a born orator." Is cleverness to make false doctrine palatable? Why, sirs, to me the ability of a man who preaches error is my sorrow rather than my admiration.

I cannot endure false doctrine, however neatly it may be put before me. Would you have me eat poisoned meat because the dish is of the choicest ware? It makes me indignant when I hear another gospel put before the people with enticing words, by men who would fain make merchandise of souls; and I marvel at those who have soft words for such deceivers.

"That is your bigotry," says one. Call it so if you like, but it is the bigotry of the loving John who wrote—"If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."

I would to God we had all more of such decision, for the lack of it is depriving our religious life of its backbone and substituting for honest manliness a mass of the tremulous jelly of mutual flattery.

He who does not hate the false does not love the true; and he to whom it is all the same whether it be God's word or man's, is himself unrenewed at heart.
. . . substituting for honest manliness a mass of the tremulous jelly of mutual flattery.

Oh, if some of you were like your fathers you would not have tolerated in this age the wagon loads of trash under which the gospel has been of late buried by ministers of your own choosing. You would have hurled out of your pulpits the men who are enemies to the fundamental doctrines of your churches, and yet are crafty enough to become your pastors and undermine the faith of a fickle and superficial generation.

These men steal the pulpits of once orthodox churches, because otherwise they would have none at all. Their powerless theology cannot of itself arouse sufficient enthusiasm to enable them to build a mousetrap at the expense of their admirers, and therefore they profane the houses which your sires have built for the preaching of the gospel, and turn aside the organisations of once orthodox communities to help their infidelity: I call it by that name in plain English, for "modern thought" is not one whit better, and of the two evils I give infidelity the palm, for it is less deceptive.

I beg the Lord to give back to the churches such a love to his truth that they may discern the spirits, and cast out those which are not of God. I feel sometimes like John, of whom it is said that, though the most loving of all spirits, yet he was the most decided of all men for the truth; and when he went to the bath and found that the heretic, Cerinthus, was there, he hurried out of the building, and would not tarry in the same place with him.

There are some with whom we should have no fellowship, nay, not so much as to eat bread; for though this conduct looks stern and hard, it is after the mind of Christ, for the apostle spake by inspiration when he said, "If we or an angel from heaven preach to you any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be accursed."

According to modern efficiency he ought to have said, "Let him be kindly spoken with in private, but pray make no stir. No doubt the thought was original, and we must not question his liberty. Doubtless, he believes the same as we do, only there is some little difference as to terms."

This is treason to Christ, treachery to truth, and cruelty to souls. If we love our Lord we shall keep his words, and stand fast in the faith, coming out from among the false teachers; nor is this inconsistent with charity, for the truest love to those who err is not to fraternise with them in their error, but to be faithful to Jesus in all things.

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26 March 2010

Stand Firm

by Phil Johnson

Series Guide
(This post is part of a series, taken from the transcript of a message on 1 Corinthians 16:13 given at the 2010 Shepherds' Conference.)

Intro: "The church militant?"
1. "Watch Out"
2. "Stand Firm"
3. "Man Up"
4. "Be Strong"

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

"Stand firm in the faith" (16:13).

et's face it: steadfast immovability is one of those virtues that has lost its luster in these postmodern times. "Epistemological humility" is the new supreme and cardinal virtue. We're supposed to refuse to be certain or dogmatic about anything.

Our culture thinks rank skepticism (or even spiritual nihilism) is humility, and hipster Christians have overcontextualized themselves to the point where they seem to think that's true. Strong convictions—the very thing Paul calls for here—are out. If you don't undergo some kind of major paradigm shift in your theology and your worldview every few years or so, you are not only hopelessly behind the times, you are incurably arrogant, too.

That's why, according to any postmodern way of thinking, dogmatism is to be avoided at all costs, diversity is to be cultivated no matter what, and tolerance means never having to say "You're wrong."

That's not "humility"; that's unbelief.

It's not arrogant to have firm, immovable biblical convictions. In fact, it is our duty to be precise and thorough in our doctrine, and to come to strong, mature, biblically-informed convictions. Paul even named this as one of the necessary evidences of authentic faith: "If indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard" (Colossians 1:23). We are not to be "children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14). Stability is a good and precious virtue—a necessary virtue for church leaders especially. Peter wrote, "Take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability" (2 Peter 3:17).

Watch out for those who undergo regular, major paradigm shifts in their thinking or revamp their whole theology every few years—avoid them. Double-minded men are unstable in all their ways.

Yeah, but isn't it wrong to be obstinate and inflexible?

Well, it certainly can be, but do you know what the Bible identifies as the very worst kind of stubbornness? It's the obstinacy of refusing to be steadfast in our conviction that the Word of the Lord is true. Scripture condemns such people as "a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast" (Psalm 78:8). How were they "stubborn" without being steadfast? "Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant" (v. 37). That's the very height of arrogance.

"Stand firm." That's a command. "Stand firm in the faith." The definite article is significant. There is only one true faith, and if your faith in Scripture isn't strong enough to affirm even that fact without equivocation, you really need to ponder very carefully what Paul is saying here. Because in all likelihood, that question will be put to you by an unbeliever ("Is conscious faith in Jesus really the only way to heaven?"), and you need to be ready to give an answer. I'm amazed and appalled at the parade of evangelical celebrities who have flubbed that question on Larry King Live or other national platforms.

If you are someone who undergoes regular worldview-sized shifts in your thinking; if your worldview changes every time a new fad or bestselling book comes along; if you are by nature fascinated with new perspectives and radical doctrines—don't become a blogger or use the Internet as a place to do your thinking out loud. Please. People like that only sow doubt and confusion. The Christian is supposed to be like a tree, planted by rivers of water—steadfast, immovable, growing in a steady, constant fashion rather than lurching wildly from one point of view to another all the time. He should be full of life and energy, but staunch and unwavering in his faith.

Of course I'm not suggesting that it's always inappropriate to change your mind—even on the big issues. You may have heard me making the case somewhere that if you're an Arminian, you ought to rethink your soteriology and adopt a more biblical view. I personally experienced precisely that kind of large-scale theological shift several years ago, and a few years before that, while reading Warfield's Studies in Perfectionism and comparing it with Scripture, my whole understanding of sanctification got an overhaul.

There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you don't become addicted to the idea of remodeling your doctrine just for the sake of having something new to play with. Bible doctrines are not Lego bricks—toys you can tear apart and put them back together in any shape you want whenever you tire of your most recent plaything. We're not supposed to be like the Athenian Philosophers in Acts 17:21, who "would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new." The goal of our study should not be the constant shifting of our beliefs—but Christlike steadfastness—solid, settled, mature convictions.

And let me add this: if you do abandon Arminianism and become a Calvinist; if you leave one eschatalogical position and take up another one; if you undergo any major doctrinal shift—don't suddenly act like that one point of doctrine is more important than all others. Don't blog or talk about it constantly to the exclusion of everything else. Spend some time settling into your new convictions before you pretend to have expertise you frankly haven't had time to develop.

I think the tendency of fresh Calvinists to become cocky and obsessive about the fine points of predestination is one of the things that makes Calvinism most odious to non-Calvinists. Don't do that. It's not a sign of maturity, and you're not truly steadfast in the faith unless you are truly mature.

That is what Paul is calling for here: maturity, groundedness, stability. That's the heart of legitimate Christian conviction.

In fact, let's be clear about this: What Paul wanted to see in the Corinthians was not the ability to argue with zeal and vigor in favor of a particular point of view. Immature college kids can do that better than anyone else. What Paul was calling for is firm belief, settled assurance, confidence in the truth of God's Word, and an unwavering heart. In short, spiritual maturity. And that's not an easy thing to come by in a culture like Corinth, where the fads and fashions of this world seem to have more appeal than the eternal word of God.

Listen to what Charles Hodge said about this command:
Do not consider every point of doctrine an open question. Matters of faith, doctrines for which you have a clear revelation of God, such for example as the doctrine of the resurrection, are to be considered settled, and, as among Christians, no longer matters of dispute. There are doctrines embraced in the creeds of all orthodox churches, so clearly taught in Scripture, that it is not only useless, but hurtful, to be always calling them into question.

"Stand firm in the faith," Paul says, and if you are tempted to tone that down, apologize for it, or explain it away because it conflicts so dramatically with the spirit of this age, then you need to repent of that attitude and ask God to give you more conviction and more courage.
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25 March 2010

Colossians studies 10: Greetings 2 (1:1-2)

by Dan Phillips

(Continued from heah.)

Last time we saw who primarily wrote Colossians: "Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God" (Colossians 1:1). We saw that the letter to the Colossians is not like this post. This is being written by a student of revelation; Colossians was written by a conduit of revelation. As an apostle, Paul spoke for Christ. For he is, as he says, an "apostle of Christ Jesus."

In whose name did Paul write? Perhaps I can assume that most of our readers value those words properly; I daresay many churchgoers don't. Many think that Jesus is the Lord's first name, and Christ His last. If so, this order must mess them up: Christ Jesus. So let's be sure we know what they mean.

CHRIST is yet another non-translation. It is instead a transliteration of the Greek word Χριστός (Christos), which simply means "anointed" (note: only two "n's"). It is from the verb χρίω (chriō), meaning to pour oil on something, to anoint it. A christos, then, is someone who has had oil poured on him.

So you see right off that it isn't a last name; in fact, it isn't a name at all. It's an adjective, used as a noun, a title.

Now here, perhaps some New Ager has stumbled by from a Religious Science or Christian Science site, and his eyes light up. "That's right!" he says. "It's the Christ, the principle of Sonship that is in us all!" You may recall that the Lord saved me out of the cult of Religious Science, founded by Ernest Holmes. The cult's textbook is called The Science of Mind, and it includes a glossary, which defines "Christ" thus:
The total manifestation of God, from the plant to an angel; from a peanut to the entire Universe of expression. Christ in Man means the idea of Sonship, the Perfect Man as He must be held in the Mind of God.
Uh, yeah; except no.

Words, like people, have histories and genealogies. You don't meet someone and instantly pop off with, "Okay, I'm going to say you're a circus clown, from an ancient family of circus clowns who entertained the crown princes of Europe, and...." The person is what he is, and you need to learn who he is and what he is and where he's been and what he's done.

So it is with words such as "Christ." They already have histories, when we meet them. We don't get to make them up. This word's history reaches back into the Old Testament, where the Hebrew equivalent is mâšîach — which means exactly the same thing ("anointed"), and is transliterated "Messiah." So "Christ" and "Messiah" mean exactly the same thing; and both transliterate Greek and Hebrew words (respectively) meaning anointed one.

In the OT, anointing was a sort of inauguration ceremony that identified special individuals. Which sorts? Three:
  1. Prophets (1 Kings 19:16; Psalm 105:15)
  2. Priests (Exodus 30:30; Leviticus 4:5)
  3. Kings (1 Samuel 9:16; 24:6 [Hebrew 7])
The Old Testament prophesies the Messiah, the anointed one (Daniel 9:25-26), who unites in Himself all three offices:
  1. Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)
  2. Priest (Psalm 110:4)
  3. King (Psalm 2:6, 9; Isaiah 9:6-7)
JESUS also transliterates the Greek name passably. It is indeed our Lord's personal name, a name given and interpreted by the angel in Matthew 1:21 — "she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins" (NAS). "Jesus" is the Greek version of the Hebrew name "Joshua," which means salvation, or Yahweh is salvation, in Hebrew.

Here again, Holmes just makes it up in how he defines "Jesus":
The name of a man. Distinguished from the Christ. The man Jesus became the embodiment of the Christ as the human gave way to the Divine Idea of Sonship.
In contrast, the apostle John (who actually knew Jesus Christ) said
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22)
So you see, New Agers can't just come along and pump any meaning they care to into words like "Christ." Paul did not make up the word. He took a word with a long, rich, distinct history, and he plopped it right down on...
...not a concept
...not an ideal
...but a particular historical Person.
Now, briefly: where was Paul? He was in prison (4:3, 18); to be exact, he was in prison in Rome (Acts 28:17-31). To be even more precise, he was in prison for preaching the Gospel to people just like the Colossians; for preaching to them that they could be accepted as righteous by God for Christ's sake, without having to become Jews in any sense. So he had a personal investment, and some very convinced cred, in opposing the false teacher.

Next: who was the secondary writer? "Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy the brother...."

Timothy was a child of mixed parentage (Acts 16:1). I often envied Timothy, raised in a home where his parents spoke Greek and Hebrew! No need for Machen and Weingreen!

Timothy was also a Christian believer who was nurtured up on Scripture (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15). He became Paul's beloved and trusted apprentice (Acts 16:1-3; Philippians 2:19-23).

What role Timothy had in the composition of the letter, we don't know. Perhaps he was Paul's secretary. But Paul presents his apprentice as joining with him in the letter's composition.

Next, I plan to go on to look at the recipients, and see the significance in how Paul greets them.

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24 March 2010

Busted Jalopy

by Frank Turk

There's this guy I used to work with.

He and I had a few conversations about the Christian faith because he says he's a Christian, but he doesn't go to church anymore -- and here's the irony: it's not because church is too judgmental. It's because, as he says, church is too full of pretty people.

That's his phrase: "pretty people". Now, if you ask him what that means, he'll tell you that he's a pretty messed-up guy with a lot of spiritual problems, and a church full of pretty people with no problems doesn't do anything for him but frustrate him. Their lives don't encourage him or make him a better person or turn him toward God: their lives actually discourage him because he knows, frankly, that he'll never get there.

Now, before we break out the big Calvinist "we're #1" fingers and start playing the Fight Song, that's not all of this guy's thoughts. He's also a guy who doesn't really like the idea of hell and wants to qualify it as separation only, and he's ultimately not into a church that is going to make demands on him.

But I bring this up for a couple of reasons. The first one is this -- we really have to answer the questions people have, and not the questions we wish they had. In one sense, those of us with the Gospel are driving along on the highway of life and we see a lot of cars on the side of the road -- all kinds of breakdowns -- and we are in the only bus that is going to get people to someplace other than the junkyard. And we're supposed to be stopping and picking people up, not just driving past and worrying about these people.

But if we stop the bus and get out wearing a tuxedo (or, for the ladies reading, a wedding dress) and tell these people we've come to help, they're probably not going to take our offer at face value -- because they don't really need a pretty person in nice clothes to help them with a busted jalopy: at the very least, they think they need a mechanic, or a cell phone to call a mechanic, or maybe a guy with a toolbox. They're not looking for someone in clothes so nice that they'd be afraid to mess them up.

The other reason to bring this up is that while they may recognize some part of the problem, the other half of the truth is that they don't really know what they need. They have "felt needs", right? They might be worried that they can't get to work because their car is busted, or they might be worried that they can't afford a new car so this old one has to keep running. But the real solution for anyone is that they have to get on the bus. They don't have to pay a fare, they don't have to sit in any particular seat: they just have to get on the bus and leave the old car behind.

That solution may not seem intuitive to them -- even though it seems really obvious to us. So as we try to get people on the bus, let me suggest that we not forget that the goal is to get people on the bus because the wrecker is coming. Their busted jalopy will get picked up by the wrecker, and they need to leave the busted jalopy or they are going to go where it is going.

We probably should be dressed in a way that they'll believe us when we tell them to get on the bus, but they have to get on the bus -- and the reason is not because the bus will take them where they think they want to go: it's because the jalopy is going someplace they definitely don't want to go, whether they believe it or not.

23 March 2010

Colossians studies 9: Greetings 1 — the main author (1:1-2)

by Dan Phillips

Now we begin studying the text of the epistle. If we were to do it verse-by-verse from my notes, it would take about 23,497 separate posts. So I'm thinking... no. It will be selective.

Like Ephesians, Colossians generally falls into two roughly equal parts: the first emphasizes doctrinal truths (chapters one and two), the second emphasizes practical application (chapters three and four).

First in Colossians we have the greetings (1:1-2). Ancient letters were unlike modern letters. They begin with the signature, and the addressee. So here:
Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy the brother, to the holy  and faithful  brothers in Christ at Colosse: grace to you, and peace, from God our Father. 
The primary sender is "Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God" (1:1a). Paul gives us his pedigree in Philippians 3:4-6, which may hint as to why he felt particularly moved to write this letter. I have suggested that the false teacher may have been a Jew. If so, he may have played the "race-card" on Ephaphras, who was a mere dog/Gentile. But not Paul; he came of the finest stock, racially and religiously.

But here Paul doesn't stress that (well-known) aspect. He calls himself an apostle. We should note that "apostle" is not a translation; it's merely a transliteration of the Greek apostolos. An actual translation might be  emissary, or commissioner, or even plenipotentiary. An apostle was the reality of which the Papacy/Magisterium is a warped imitation. We read of Paul's twofold pedagogy in Acts 22:3 and Galatians 1:13-14. Though steeped in Judaism, Paul's Gospel-knowledge was his by revelation from Christ.

Each apostle had at least three qualifications:
  1. He was hand-picked by Jesus (Luke 6:12, 13; the office could not be applied-for)
  2. He had to be an eyewitness of Christ's resurrection (Acts 1:21-22)
  3. There would be confirmatory miraculous signs (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4)
We see that Paul had these qualifications by comparing 1 Corinthians 9:1, 2 Corinthians 12:12, and  Galatians 1:1, 11-12. Thus Paul truly was an apostle "through the will of God" (Colossians 1:1). That phrase ("the will of God")) does not mean that Paul "felt led" to be an apostle. No, he knew he was called by direct, inerrant, special revelation — as direct as the Scripture we read to learn God's will for us (cf. Acts 9:5-6, 10-16; 26:12-19).

As an apostle, Paul was a conduit of ongoing revelation (John 14:26; 16:12-15), and as such laid the one foundation of the church  (Ephesians 2:20), which is the truth of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).

Can there be apostles today? Sure, I supposed, but they'd have to be about 2000 years old (cf. Acts 3:21), and would have to show unambiguous miraculous confirmation such has not even been suggested since the close of the first century.

In other words, no.

The foundation has been laid by the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). Our role is to build on it, not keep starting over again as if the apostles had not already laid it.

Next time, Lord willing, we'll look at the sender's Master.

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22 March 2010

Watch Out

Series Guide
(This post is part of a series, taken from the transcript of a message on 1 Corinthians 16:13 given at the 2010 Shepherds' Conference.)

Intro: "The church militant?"
1. "Watch Out"
2. "Stand Firm"
3. "Man Up"
4. "Be Strong"
"Be watchful" (1 Corinthians 16:13)

hat's a single word in the Greek text, γρηγορέω. It's is a common New Testament word with doctrinal, practical, and eschatalogical overtones, and Paul clearly has all those things in mind in his message to the Corinthians: Stay on guard. Enemies of the truth are already in your midst. You need to "strengthen what remains and is about to die." And the Lord is coming. (That's the exact meaning of Maranatha in verse 22.)

The mass of modern and postmodern evangelicals simply ignore this command. I'm tempted to say they rebel against it. Many are simply too arrogant to think they need an admonition like this. They carelessly think they are skilled enough and knowledgeable enough to recognize any and every error at its very first appearance, so they have let down their guard.

Mostly, though, evangelicals simply have no stomach for the duty—and they won't tolerate it if anyone else tries to interrupt the evangelical frat party with a shrill alarms—even while the frat house is engulfed in flames.

We don't mind reading about Spurgeon's courage and foresight in the Down-Grade Controversy; we just don't want anyone today to exercise to that kind of discernment. In fact, listen to what Spurgeon said about that very same phenomenon in his era:
It is very pretty, is it not, to read of Luther and his brave deeds? Of course, everybody admires Luther! Yes, yes; but you do not want any one else to do the same to-day. When you go to the [zoo] you all admire the bear; but how would you like a bear at home, or a bear wandering loose about the street? You tell me that it would be unbearable, and no doubt you are right.

    So, we admire a man who was firm in the faith, say four hundred years ago; the past ages are a sort of bear-pit or iron cage for him; but such a man to-day is a nuisance, and must be put down. Call him a narrow-minded bigot, or give him a worse name if you can think of one. Yet imagine [if] in those ages past, Luther, Zwingle, Calvin, and their compeers had said, "The world is out of order; but if we try to set it right we shall only make a great row, and get ourselves into disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night-caps, and sleep over the bad times, and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better." Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps, and the pestiferous bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on.

The need for vigilance today is greater, not less, than it has been in times past. Every biblical description of apostasy and spiritual danger fits our generation perfectly:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

When that is a precise description of the culture in which we live and minister—when before our very eyes we can see "evil people and impostors [going] from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived"—it is more important than ever to stay alert and on guard against false teaching and against personal temptations. And it's more important than ever to make ourselves ready for the return of the Savior.

That's what Paul was telling the Corinthians: "Be watchful"—first of all over yourselves—your hearts, your passions, your words, and your whole way of life. Be watchful over one another, lest you fall into sin and temptation. Be on guard against Satan, "so that we would not be outwitted by [him]; for we are not ignorant of his designs." Likewise, be on guard against false teachers, who lie in wait to deceive and who have already begun to sow their deception in your midst. Be on guard against the world, with all its snares and seductions. Also, watch unto prayer, and prepare yourselves for the Lord's return.

All of that is packed into this one-word admonition: "Watch."

Incidentally, with regard to the eschatalogical significance of this command, he's not saying "make dispensational charts or obsess over trying to match today's news headlines with Bible prophecy"; he's saying (simply) live as if you believe the Lord could return at any moment. And that includes all these other aspects of prayerful and polemical vigilance. Both the Lord and the enemy are at hand. Stay on the alert.

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20 March 2010

The Laodiceans

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "An Earnest Warning Against Lukewarmness," a sermon delivered Sunday morning, 26 July 1874, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London. Spurgeon is describing the kind of lukewarmness for which the Church at Laodicea was rebuked and warned by Christ in Revelation 3. All these things could well be said about some of today's best evangelical churches.

hey were not cold, but they were not hot; they were not infidels, yet they were not earnest believers; they did not oppose the gospel, neither did they defend it; they were not working mischief, neither were they doing any great good; they were not disreputable in moral character, but they were not distinguished for holiness; they were not irreligious, but they were not enthusiastic in piety nor eminent for zeal: they were what the world calls Moderates, they were of the Broad-church school, they were neither bigots nor Puritans, they were prudent and avoided fanaticism, respectable and averse to excitement.

Good things were maintained among them, but they did not make too much of them; they had prayer-meetings, but there were few present, for they liked quiet evenings home: when more attended the meetings they were still very dull, for they did their praying very deliberately and were afraid of being too excited. They were content to have all things done decently and in order, but vigor and zeal they considered to be vulgar.

Such churches have schools, Bible-classes, preaching rooms, and all sorts of agencies; but they might as well be without them, for no energy is displayed and no good comes of them. They have deacons and elders who are excellent pillars of the church, if the chief quality of pillars be to stand still, and exhibit no motion or emotion.

They have ministers who may be the angels of the churches, but if so they have their wings closely clipped, for they do not fly very far in preaching the everlasting gospel, and they certainly are not flames of fire: they may be shining lights of eloquence, but they certainly are not burning lights of grace, setting men's hearts on fire.

It makes one's flesh creep to see how sluggishly they move: I long for a knife to cut their red tape to pieces, and for a whip to lay about their shoulders to make them bestir themselves.
In such communities everything is done in a half-hearted, listless, dead-and-alive way, as if it did not matter much whether it was done or not. It makes one's flesh creep to see how sluggishly they move: I long for a knife to cut their red tape to pieces, and for a whip to lay about their shoulders to make them bestir themselves. Things are respectably done, the rich families are not offended, the sceptical party is conciliated, and the good people are not quite alienated: things are made pleasant all around. The right things are done, but as to doing them with all your might, and soul, and strength, a Laodicean church has no notion of what that means.

They are not so cold as to abandon their work, or to give up their meetings for prayer, or to reject the gospel. If they did so, then they could be convinced of their error and brought to repentance; but on the other hand they are neither hot for the truth, nor hot for conversions, nor hot for holiness, they are not fiery enough to burn the stubble of sin, nor zealous enough to make Satan angry, nor fervent enough to make a living sacrifice of themselves upon the altar of their God. They are neither cold nor hot.

This is a horrible state, because it is one which in a church wearing a good repute renders that reputation a lie. When other churches are saying, See how they prosper! See what they do for God! Jesus sees that the church is doing his work in a slovenly, make-believe manner, and he considers justly that it is deceiving its friends.

If the world recognizes such a people as being very distinctly an old-fashioned puritanic church, and yet there is unholy living among them, and careless walking, and a deficiency of real piety, prayer, liberality, and zeal, then the world itself is being deceived, and that too in the worst way, because it is led to judge falsely concerning Christianity, for it lays all these faults upon the back of religion, and cries out, It is all a farce! The thing is a mere presence! Christians are all hypocrites!

I fear there are churches of this sort. God grant we may not be numbered with them!

C. H. Spurgeon

19 March 2010

While you're waiting, a brief thought on preaching

by Dan Phillips

Remember: Scripture meant one thing before you were born, means the same now, and will mean the same, should you die.

Preach that meaning.

(I Tweeted this yesterday)

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18 March 2010

Colossians studies 8: one more specific error and response

by Dan Phillips

I have this nightmare that when my first book is about to go to press, and is out of my hands, uneditable, final version, goodbye, about to be seen by however-many friends and foes...

...and suddenly I realize some massive gaffe! Either a reference I meant to double-check, or a statement I meant to clarify or qualify ("Idiot! It was Van Leeuwen! Not vanGemeren!"), or what have you. But — and here we have the saddest two words in the English language — TOOOOOO LAAAAAAAATE.

Well, thank God it's not that way with blogging. And so, HSAT, I have one more late-inclusion I should have listed in the false teacher's teaching. This, however, is not so much a specific teaching as it is the upshot, the cumulative effect, of his teaching.

That effect: exclusivism.

This would have shown itself as an “us-them” mentality vis-a-vis other Christians. For instance, recall the issue of being judged and ruled out in chapter 2:16, 18 —
Therefore, stop letting someone judge you in eating and in drinking, and in respect to a festival or new moon or sabbath day.... Stop letting anyone rule you out, delighting in humiliation and worship of the angels, going into detail about things he has experienced, being inflated without cause by the mind of his flesh....
You see, this false doctrine created a sub-class (or perhaps I should say "hyper-class") of Christians. With that teaching, you have (A) the plain old, garden-variety, just-saved Christians, who just have Jesus and the Gospel and the word of Christ through His apostles; and then, above them, you have (B) this elite group of The Arrived. They have special knowledge, and live by special rules. They have access to special information granted through the special experiences that their leader had brought them exclusively, hot-off-the-presses from Heaven.

With that in mind, look afresh at 1:5-6 —

...of which you heard before in the word of the truth, the good news, which has come to you, just as also in all the world it is bearing fruit of itself and growing just as also among you, from the day in which you heard it and came to know fully the grace of God in truth.
Do the truths Paul subtly yet insistently emphasizes stand out now? Paul asserted boldly that the Colossians had already heard and believed the one and only saving Gospel. This was the same Gospel that had gone unaltered throughout the civilized world with equal saving and lifegiving effect. They had real, accurate knowledge of God's grace in that Gospel. There was neither place nor need for an update or improvement.

Another way Paul responded to this exclusivism was in his repeated use of the word translated "all" and "every":

  • 1:4 having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which you have for all the holy ones,
  • 1:28 whom we are proclaiming by confronting every man, and by teaching every man in all wisdom, in order that we might present every man mature in Christ;
  • 2:9-10  because in Him is permanently dwelling all the fullness of Deity bodily, and you stand filled full in Him, who is the Head over all rule and authority,
  • 2:19 and not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body being supported and knit together through the joints and ligaments is growing with the growth given by God.
Paul's stress is on what all Christians have in common. God has poured out all His riches for all His people in Christ. He told all the truth to every person with the goal of presenting every Christian mature in Christ. Any teaching that then comes and makes essential divisions among them violates that rich truth.
Now, note: I say
essential. By that I refer to basic vital equipment as Christians, not differing roles or ministries, such as distinguish man from woman, husband from wife, child from parent and so on. Nor do I have in mind varying stages of maturity or knowledge. To be as plain as I can, I am talking about teaching that creates "haves" and "have-nots" among people who are saved in Christ. Paul has no such vision. In common with all the apostles, all Christians without exception are the "haves," and all unbelievers are the "have-nots" (cf. John 3:36; 1 John 5:12).

Another way Paul combats this is by stressing the unity of the body in Christ, a unity vitiated by the exclusivism of the false teacher.

And on top of all these things put on love, which is the unifying bond that leads to maturity. And let the peace of Christ keep ruling in your hearts, unto which also you were called in one body; and become thankful people (Colossians 3:14-15)
The tendency of the Gospel is centripetal, that of this false teaching is centrifugal. Actually, though, it also would be centripetal... except that the center would be the false teacher, not Christ. After all, it was his thoughts, his revelations, his experiences, his rules, his special knowledge that they were being made to depend on.

Sound familiar?

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17 March 2010

I doubt it

by Frank Turk

Phil's post this week has apparently hit a nerve with a couple of atheist internet apologists, and I wanted to pull one of the branches of the thread on God's justice up front here for the sake of filling my quota at TeamPyro this week.

Dr. Ken Pulliam has made an appearance in the comments to give us his "agnostic" view of the problem that God can order things which, if a man ordered them, he might rightly be called a genocidal maniac. However, someone called Dr. Pulliam an "atheist" in the thread, and he wanted to make sure we all knew he was actually an "agnostic".

His last comment to me in that thread was this:
I don't claim to be agnostic about every proposition only those that involve ultimate realities. I mentioned the three ways of verifying the truth of various propositions.

For example, if my wife says: "It is raining outside." How do I verify it? I step outside and see. If what I see and feel corresponds (the correspondence theory) to the accepted definitions of what constitutes rain, then I accept her proposition as true. If she says: "The lawnmower needs to be brought inside or it will rust in the rain." How do I know if her proposition is true? I know from past knowledge that if metal gets wet it will rust. Her statement coheres (the coherence theory) with other accepted and verified beliefs. If she says: "If you put a tarp over the lawnmower, it won't get wet." How do I know if that is a true proposition? I put a tarp over the lawnmower and wait till it stops raining and then see if the lawnmower is wet. If putting the tarp over the mower works (the pragmatic theory), then I know that her proposition was true.

However, if she says: "God is sending the rain." How can I verify it? I can't. Thus, I am agnostic about that proposition.

Now, do I need to believe in a deity in order to verify any of the four propositions above? Yes, the 4th one but not the first three.

Let me put it to you (Dr. Pulliam in particular, but "you-all" readers of this here bit of bloggin') this way: "agnosticism" in any form is a statement about the epistemic value of truth claims. As late as Hume the agnostic claim really placed all statements which are definitive -- statements which make a pan-physical judgments about reality; statements which are correlative of common value or nature -- in a category which requires us to have some doubt about their validity. The basis for Hume saying this was the limits of human perception and reason.

Which, let me say, is a fine bit of humility on the part of Hume, given his disdain for the idea of divine revelation. But Hume's agnosticism was an honest one which didn't limit itself to just religious claims.

This appeal to some kind of "honest" epistemological stoicism in Dr. Pulliam's examples of whether (or how) he believes his wife or not is interesting -- but really, is that how he lives? He tests the quality of the gas at the pump before he puts it in his car to make sure it is of the proper octane and isn't full of water or grit? He validates the Health Department certification of every restaurant before sitting down? You personally audit your bank to make sure they aren't doing stupid things with your money? You stop even at Green Lights because you never know who’s coming the other way?

I think he can define agnosticism, and he can parrot the theories for agnostic epistemology, but he has never spent a day in his life living that way.

When an atheist finds a Christian who lives his life like this, the word "hypocrite" comes out as if it solves the problem or wins the argument. (in fact, Dr. Pulliam has said as much in another comment in that thread -- Christians don't live the way they say they ought) I think it only identifies the problem – which is either one of dishonesty or one of immaturity. In the former case, the hypocrisy is there because it benefits the hypocrite – somehow, he is gaining something he can’t get by honest means; in the latter case, it’s a matter of discipleship – the hypocrite doesn’t mean to live against his beliefs, but he’s not really trained up rightly so he doesn’t really understand the implications of his catechism.

It’s unkind to assume the former – because I suspect that you have never made a penny from your “agnosticism”. But to assume the latter means that someday you will, in fact, act as if you really are “agnostic about every proposition that involves ultimate realities” (like whether it’s raining outside or not, or whether the lawnmower can be protected from the rain by a tarp, [as in your examples] or for that matter whether you have actually put the right octane gas in your car [which is my example using the same definition of “ultimate”]). But he will never live that way – it’s grossly impractical at best.

But here’s what gets me: it seems to me that these “ultimate” realities (things which he says he knows via correspondence or practical/utilitarian means, but for which he doesn't actually do the due diligence) are far more critical to making sure his life is impacted for his personal benefit than this debate about whether or not Jesus Christ was promised to Israel, born to a virgin, and died and resurrected to prove He was who he said he was.

So what gives? Why duck behind the "agnostic" label for "ultimate reality" when really, one is just doubtful about the claims of people with religious beliefs only?

This should be interesting ...

16 March 2010

Colossians studies 7: Paul responds to the false teacher (2)

by Dan Phillips

Thus far, we have seen that the church in Colosse was a relatively young little church situated in a culture with diverse populace and influences. An associate of Paul's named Epaphras had founded the church by the pure preaching of the person and gospel of Jesus Christ. The church had gotten a good start, and was showing genuine life and vitality, as the gospel bore fruit in their lives.

However, an individual had come bearing a false teaching. This teaching had elements of paganism and mutated Judaism, and involved at least some degree of attempted syncretism with the edges of Christian faith. He and his teaching had apparently not yet begun to make serious inroads into the church, but Epaphras was concerned. He appealed to his mentor, the apostle Paul, for a word — and what a word he got!

Paul responded by affirming Epaphras and his message, as we saw last time.

More potently, Paul responded by preaching Christ in all His fullness. How do we see that, specifically, in Colossians? A study I did found that, out of the 95 verses in Colossians, Christ is mentioned in 53 of those verses. In fact, some verses mention Him two and three times.

To break it down a bit, this means that some 56% of the verses mention Christ at least once.

Or, put another way, every other thing Paul says is something about Jesus.

Why?  I hope to open this up more fully as we proceed, but very briefly:

First, in Christ God has come and solved our most fundamental problem (1:19-22)
...because in Him the Father was pleased for all the Fullness  to dwell permanently,  and through Him to reconcile all things back unto Himself, by making peace through the blood shed on  His cross, through Him — whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens.  And you, though being formerly abidingly alienated, and enemies in mental disposition, as shown by your wicked works, yet now He reconciled you back in the body of His flesh through His  death, to present you holy and unblemished and inculpable in His very presence,…
As has been often and well-said, we did not primarily need a teacher nor a philosopher; we had had both in Moses and Solomon, and they served to show the distance between us and God's holiness and wisdom. We did not primarily need an example. We had such a pattern in the Law, and it damned us, as does the "example" of Christ if we attempt to earn salvation by emulation.

Nor did we even solely need God to call us to come to Himself, to bid us and welcome us and throw His arms open to us. Why not? It would be a loving and lovely offer, but....  Try filling a baseball team in a graveyard. Try populating a party with ravenous wolves. We both could not have come, and would not have come, had the invitation been only external.

Nor did we need a Salvation-cosigner, merely achieving salvation, making salvation available, as if one were to lay down a goblet brimming with the elixir of life in a morgue, bidding "whosoever will" to come and drink, then standing back to watch.

No, we needed a Savior, one who came into the world not merely to teach, nor merely to guide, nor merely to offer salvation; but one who came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

We needed God Himself to deal once and for all with our sin-issue, root and branches. So He did in Christ (Romans 8:3). All the fullness of Deity dwelt bodily in Christ.
  • It was that body that made possible the shedding of His blood, without which there could be no atonement nor forgiveness (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). 
  • It was that Deity that imparted infinite value to the shed blood (Acts 20:28).
So He does not merely open the door for us, but He opens it, clothes us, and carries us through that door into the presence of God.

Second, in Christ we are filled full (2:9-10)
...because in Him is permanently dwelling all the fullness of Deity bodily, and you stand filled full in Him,  who is the Head over all rule and authority
He who is filled with God fills us with life and blessing. His filling is natural and native; ours is a covenantal boon. His is eternal; ours has a beginning. His is infinite; ours is finite — but sufficient.

This last point is worth further unpacking. I plan to take a half-step back next time, and revisit this fullness which all Christians know in Christ.

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15 March 2010

The church militant?

by Phil Johnson

Series Guide
(This post is part of a series, taken from the transcript of a message on 1 Corinthians 16:13 given at the 2010 Shepherds' Conference.)

Intro: "The church militant?"
1. "Watch Out"
2. "Stand Firm"
3. "Man Up"
4. "Be Strong"

ost evangelicals don't really think they are at war against false religion and spiritual lies. Just read the books and blogs of the people who talk most about being "missional" and "culturally relevant"—and you might get the impression that friendship with the world is the number one goal of the church. It's not. It is a grievous sin to be avoided. "Friendship with the world is enmity with God." The church is supposed to be an army waging war against worldly values—not Hollywood's Welcome Wagon.

Churchmen in these postmodern times seem absolutely terrified by the militant language in Scripture, frightened about the prospect of contending earnestly for the faith. After all, you can't earnestly contend for the faith in rationalistic and postmodern universities and keep any kind of academic respectability.

Christians today think they have a better idea: Why not serve high tea and buttered scones to our ideological adversaries and have a polite dialogue while we look for common ground so that we can affirm one another?

That seems so much more "civilized" and "charitable" doesn't it?

Why does the warfare metaphor have to be given so much emphasis?

The answer, of course, is that Scripture itself gives prominence to this truth. We really are in a war. It's not a literal struggle against flesh and blood. It's actually something much greater, far more dangerous, and infinitely more serious than that, because what's at stake in this war is eternal. Ephesians 6:12: "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

Souls are perishing in this conflict—passing into eternal judgment where there is no hope of redemption. It's a somber, profound reality. That truth is not at all consistent with the amusement-park atmosphere so many sc-century evangelical churches have tried to cultivate. It's not in any sense harmonious with the spirit of our age. But every faithful Christian must be a warrior.

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