Sunday, May 25, 2014

A RECIPE FOR DISCERNMENT - PART 3

by John MacArthur
True biblical discernment isn’t developed by osmosis. It’s cultivated over time, as a believer matures in faith. The last few days, we’ve been considering the essential ingredients for discernment, including consistent prayer, the pursuit of godly wisdom, moral integrity, and the necessity of faithful Bible teaching and teachers. But none of those elements can function properly apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Depend on the Holy Spirit
The Spirit of God is ultimately the true Discerner. It is His role to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). First Corinthians 2:11 says, “The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” Paul goes on to write:
We have received . . . the Spirit who is from God, so that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. (1 Corinthians 2:12–15)
Discernment ultimately depends on the Holy Spirit. As we are filled with and controlled by the Spirit of God, He makes us discerning.
Study the Scriptures
It cannot be overemphasized: True discernment requires diligent study of the Scriptures. None of the other previously stated steps is sufficient apart from this. No one can be truly discerning apart from mastery of the Word of God. All the desire in the world cannot make you discerning if you don’t study Scripture. Prayer for discernment is not enough. Obedience alone will not suffice. Good role models won’t do it either. Even the Holy Spirit will not give you discernment apart from His Word. If you really want to be discerning, you must diligently study the Word of God.
God’s Word is where you will learn the principles for discernment. It is there you will learn the truth. Only there can you follow the path of maturity.
Discernment flourishes only in an environment of faithful Bible study and teaching. Note that in Acts 20, when Paul was leaving the Ephesian elders, he warned them about the deadly influences that would threaten them in his absence (Acts 20:28–31). He urged them to be on guard, on the alert. How? What safeguard could he leave to help protect them from Satan’s onslaughts? Only the Word of God: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).
Let’s look once more, closely, at 2 Timothy 2:15: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Notice what this mandate to Timothy implies. First, it suggests that the discerning person must be able to distinguish between the Word of Truth and the “worldly and empty chatter” mentioned in verse 16. That may seem rather obvious. But it cannot be taken for granted. The task of separating God’s Word from human foolishness actually poses a formidable challenge for many today. One look at some of the nonsense that proliferates in churches and Christian media will confirm that this is so. Or note the burgeoning stacks of “Christian” books touting weird views. We must shun such folly and devote ourselves to the Word of God. We have to be able to distinguish between the truth and error.
How? “Be diligent.” Being diligent pictures a worker giving maximum effort in his or her work. It describes someone driven by a commitment to excellence. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God.” The Greek phrase literally speaks of standing alongside God as a colaborer worthy of identifying with Him.
Furthermore, Paul says this approved workman “does not need to be ashamed.” The word “ashamed” is very important to Paul’s whole point. Any sloppy workman should be ashamed of low-quality work. But a servant of the Lord, handling the Word of Truth carelessly, has infinitely more to be ashamed of.
What Paul suggests in this passage is that we will be ashamed before God Himself if we fail to handle the Word of Truth with discernment. If we can’t distinguish the truth from worldly and empty chatter, if we can’t identify and refute false teachers, or if we can’t handle God’s truth with skill and understanding, we ought to be ashamed.
And if we are to divide the Word of Truth rightly, then we must be very diligent about studying it. There is no shortcut. Only as we master the Word of God are we made “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). That is the essence and goal of discernment.
(Adapted from Reckless Faith.)

A RECIPE FOR DISCERNMENT - PART 2

by John MacArthur
Discernment is not automatically built in to the lives of Christians. The ability to wisely divide truth from error is something that must be pursued and developed as a part of the sanctification process. As we saw last time [link], the biblical recipe for discernment starts with fervent prayer and earnest desire. Both of those are foundational, but not enough on their own. A third vital ingredient in developing biblical discernment is obedience to the truth.
Obey the Truth
Someone will point out that with all his abundance of wisdom, Solomon was nevertheless a dismal failure at the end of his life (1 Kings 11:4–11). “His heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Kings 11:4). Scripture records this sad assessment of the wisest man who ever lived:
King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon held fast to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods. . . . For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord. (1 Kings 11:1–9)
But Solomon did not suddenly fail at the end of his life. The seeds of his demise were sown at the very beginning. First Kings 3, the same chapter that records Solomon’s request for discernment, also reveals that Solomon “formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt” (1 Kings 3:1). Verse three tells us, “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.”
From the very beginning his obedience was deficient. Surely with all his wisdom he knew better, but he tolerated compromise and idolatry among the people of God (1 Kings 3:2)—and even participated in some of the idolatry himself!
Knowing the truth without obedience is worthless. What good is it to know the truth if we fail to act accordingly? That is why James wrote, “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). Failure to obey is self-delusion; it is not true discernment, no matter how much intellectual knowledge we may possess. Solomon is biblical proof that even true discernment can give way to a destructive self-delusion. Disobedience inevitably undermines discernment. The only way to guard against that is to be doers of the Word and not hearers only.
Follow Discerning Leaders
Another key ingredient in biblical discernment is this: Emulate those who demonstrate good discernment. Do not follow the leadership of people who are themselves “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). Find and follow leaders who display an ability to discern, to analyze and refute error, to teach the Scriptures clearly and accurately. Read from authors who prove themselves careful handlers of divine truth. Listen to preachers who rightly divide the Word of Truth. Expose yourself to the teaching of people who think critically, analytically, and carefully. Learn from people who understand where error has attacked the church historically. Place yourself under the tutelage of those who serve as watchmen of the church.
I do this myself. There are certain authors who have demonstrated skill in handling the Word and whose judgment I have come to trust. When I encounter a difficult issue—whether it is a theological problem, an area of controversy, a new teaching I have never heard before, or whatever—I turn to these authors first to see what they have to say. I wouldn’t seek help from an unreliable source or a marginal theologian. I want to know what those who are skilled in exposing error and gifted in presenting truth have to say.
There have been outstanding men of discernment in virtually every era of church history. Their writings remain as an invaluable resource for anyone who wishes to cultivate discernment. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and J. Gresham Machen are just two of many from the last hundred years who have distinguished themselves in the battle for truth. Charles Spurgeon, Charles Hodge, and scores of other writers from the nineteenth century have left a rich legacy of written material to help us discern between truth and error. In the century before that, Thomas Boston, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield battled for truth, as did many others like them. The preceding era was the Puritan age—the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which gave us what is undoubtedly the richest catalog of resources for discernment. And before that the Reformers fought valiantly for the truth of God’s Word against the traditions of men.
Virtually every era before the Reformation also had godly men of discernment who stood against error and defended the truth of God’s Word. Augustine, for example, preceded John Calvin by more than a thousand years, but he fought exactly the same theological battles and proclaimed precisely the same doctrines. Calvin and the Reformers drew heavily on Augustine’s writings as they framed their own arguments against error. In the year 325, a contemporary of Augustine, Athanasius, took a decisive stand against Arianism, the very same error that is perpetuated by modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses. His writings stand today as the definitive response to that error.
Much of the written legacy these spiritual giants left behind is still available today. We can all learn from these men of discernment—and we would do well to emulate the clarity with which they spoke the truth against error.
Those who can expose and answer the errors of false teachers are set in the body of Christ to assist us all to think critically and clearly. Learn from them.
(Adapted from Reckless Faith.)

Monday, May 12, 2014

THE CASE FOR CESSATIONISM STILL STANDS


by Tom PenningtonPastor-Teacher, Countryside Bible Church, Southlake, Texas
When Grace to You asked me to present the biblical case for cessationism at the Strange Fire conference last October, I was excited about the opportunity.  Although I am a convinced cessationist and had addressed this issue with my own congregation, I spent several months studying the Scripture and reading the relevant literature on both sides of this contentious issue.  But it wasn’t long before my initial euphoria turned to discouragement.
The problem was not (as some continuationists argue) because there is insufficient biblical evidence for cessationism to preach on for an hour.  My problem was the sheer extravagance of biblical material.  I was faced with a difficult decision between equally tempting choices:  to spend the hour I was given developing one argument or to present a brief summary of the primary arguments.  Both choices were fraught with slippery slopes and gaping chasms.  If I concentrated on one argument, the uninformed on both sides of the issue would race to the conclusion that cessationism is a tune with only one string and one note.  But if I tried to cover all the main arguments, I would have to leave crucial points and counterpoints on the cutting-room floor, appearing to leave holes in an argument that has none.  If you listened to my message at Strange Fire, you know that I eventually opted for the lesser of two evils—the second.  
In light of the difficulty of that decision, I have been fascinated by the responses to the biblical case I presented.  Cessationists have written to say that the conference strengthened their confidence in the Scripture.  I have heard from practicing charismatics who had been told there are no biblical arguments for cessationism but who were troubled by what they saw in their churches.  In God’s providence they listened to Strange Fire, the truth they heard resonated with their hearts, and they have since left the charismatic movement for good.
Frankly, much of the online opposition has been all heat and no light.  Some critiques have been so apparently self-defeating that they neither require nor deserve a reasoned response.  Among the mostly gracious and careful responses to the case for cessationism, Andrew Wilson’s critique stands out.  Several on both sides of the issue have suggested I respond to the issues he raised.  So that is what I will do here.
Surprisingly, Wilson devotes the first half of his critique to defending the common arguments for continuationism that I mentioned in passing in my introduction.  First, he quotes the arguments as Tim Challies summarized them, and then he defends them.  So I will quote Challies’s summaries and the key portions of Wilson’s critique.
(1) The New Testament doesn’t say they [miraculous gifts] have ceased. But then again, it doesn’t say that they won’t either.
Wilson responds:
The burden of proof is firmly on the shoulders of the one who would place a break at the end of the New Testament period, for the simple reason that, throughout Scripture, substantial changes in the way God communicates with people—and cessationism posits a substantial change… —are clearly communicated.
But there were, in fact, two huge changes at the end of the New Testament period—changes that even most charismatics (including Wilson) admit can be discerned from the New Testament but that are not clearly announced in one clarion passage.  Those two changes are (1) the end of the unique apostolate and (2) the end of canonical revelation.  When charismatics state their case against cessationism as Wilson does, they unintentionally also surrender the field to apostolic succession and ongoing canonical revelation.
(2) 1 Corinthians 13:10 - they [continuationists] say this means that only when Christ returns will the partial gifts of tongues and prophecies cease. This implies that the gifts continue. But this is an uncertain interpretation.
To this argument Wilson responds:
The charismatic case here [1 Corinthians 13:10] is immensely strong (and the overwhelming scholarly consensus in the commentaries would confirm this). For Paul, the imperfect (prophecy, tongues, knowledge) will cease at the arrival of the perfect (the return of Christ, when we shall see him face to face). Not much uncertainty there.
That is a case of both overstatement and misdirection.  It is overstatement because a survey of commentaries will reveal as many as ten possible interpretations of what “the perfect” is.  It is misdirection in that charismatics ignore that for most of church history this text was used primarily to argue against the continuation of the miraculous gifts.  I freely admit that some cessationists have tried to make this text bear too much weight.  But it is equally true that many charismatics, including Wilson in the quote above, try to make it bear too much weight in their defense.
(3) The New Testament speaks only of the church age, and so, [continuationists] argue, the gifts that began the church age should continue throughout it. They say we artificially divide it between apostolic and post-apostolic eras. But they do this, too, by not believing that the apostolic office still continues.
Wilson writes:
Actually, a huge number of charismatics don’t believe this at all. Many believe, for reasons outlined in my recent article in JETS, that even in the New Testament period there were eyewitness apostles (the twelve, Paul, James) and people who never witnessed the resurrection but were referred to as apostles anyway (Apollos, very likely Barnabas, Silas, possibly Timothy, and so on), and that while the eyewitness category ceased with Paul, the other category didn’t.
Here, I confess, I was personally disappointed in Wilson.  His comments reveal either that he just read the paraphrased version of my message on Tim Challies’s site or that he was careless—either of which is troubling in a person of his intelligence and education.
If he had listened to my complete message or read the transcript, he would have known that I acknowledged that most charismatics don’t believe there are eyewitness apostles today.  That was my point.  I specifically said that unless charismatics believe that there are apostles today at the same level as Peter and Paul—and most charismatics don’t—they also divide the church age.  And they relegate at least apostleship solely to the apostolic era.  They have become de facto cessationists—at least in part.
Positing a second tier of apostles as some do (which ignores any nontechnical, nontitular sense of the word apostolos in the New Testament) doesn’t change the point.  In fact, their protest proves the point.  There was a marked difference between the apostolic and postapostolic eras.  And by agreeing that the most significant mark of the age of the apostles—the men Jesus Himself appointed and called to be His official proxies—ceased, charismatics tacitly accept one of the key tenets of cessationism.
(4) 500 million professing Christians who claim charismatic experiences can’t all be wrong.  But if we accept this, then logically we should accept the miracles attested to by one billion Catholics in the world.  The truth is that 500 million-plus people can be wrong.
Wilson responds:
This is not really a fair representation of any responsible charismatic argument. Of course billions of people can be wrong: billions of people do not believe the gospel, and virtually no charismatic would contest that. A fairer representation would be to say that, in order to explain the enormous number of miraculous experiences testified to by charismatics . . . a cessationist has to resort to an awful lot of accusations of fraud, deliberate deceit and delusion amongst some extremely level-headed, critical and theologically informed individuals.
My statement is not only a fair representation of responsible charismatic argument, it is a very common—albeit informal—argument of reputable charismatic authors and scholars, as well as laymen.  To appeal as Wilson does to what he calls the “enormous number of miraculous experiences testified to by charismatics” only reinforces my point.  We have to accuse more than a billion Roman Catholics of “fraud, deliberate deceit and delusion” to reject their “miracles,” yet that is exactly what the church has always done—and what I suspect Wilson himself does.  If charismatics want to argue that sheer numbers lend credibility to their “miracles,” they have to own the weakness that comes with this argument.
After spending half of his critique on the arguments continuationists use to defend their position, to which I devoted less than five minutes, Wilson comes to the primary arguments I presented.
I began by defining cessationism.  Cessationists believe it is neither the Spirit’s plan nor His normal pattern to distribute miraculous spiritual gifts to Christians and churches today as He did in the time of the apostles.  Those gifts ceased being normative with the apostles.  In Scripture we find at least seven arguments that the miraculous gifts have ceased.  Again, since Wilson quotes Challies’s summary of my points, I will as well.
(1) The unique role of miracles.  There were only three primary periods in which God worked miracles through unique men. The first was with Moses; the second was during the ministries of Elijah and Elisha; the third was with Christ and his apostles.  The primary purpose of miracles has always been to establish the credibility of one who speaks the word of God—not just any teacher, but those who had been given direct words by God.
Wilson writes:
The crucial word here, which appears twice and is somewhat mysterious on both occasions, is “primary.”  Where in the Bible does it say that the miracles of Moses, Elijah or Elisha are more “primary” than those of Joshua (opening the Jordan and stopping the sun in its tracks isn’t bad), or Samuel (who had the odd prophecy), or David or Solomon, or Isaiah, or Daniel, or for that matter any of the canonical prophets (who, by Pennington’s definition, are exercising miraculous gifts)?
First of all, the point is not about God’s working miracles directly—something He did as He chose in both Old and New Testament history.  Instead, the focus was on those epochs in redemptive history when God chose to give men the capacity to work miracles.  There is a difference between God’s giving Moses the capacity to perform miracles and God’s directly giving Samson superhuman strength.  Samson used the strength God gave him, but he never performed a miracle.  And prophecy is a miraculous gift because God miraculously reveals His truth to a man.  But the prophet is not performing a miracle.
When you examine the biblical record, it is clear that there were three main time periods when there were miracle-working men.  Again, Wilson apparently didn’t listen to my message or read the transcript, because the first period I mentioned was not that of Moses but that of “Moses and Joshua.”  And although God performed miracles directly during the ministries of Samuel, David, Isaiah, and Daniel, where is the biblical evidence that they were given miracle-working power in the way Moses and Joshua or Elijah and Elisha were?  Create a comprehensive list of miracles performed by men in Scripture—not those performed by God directly—and the resulting list will support the point.  In thousands of years of human history, there were only about two hundred years in which God empowered men to work miracles.  And even during those years, miracles were not common, everyday events.
Wilson adds:
Where does it say that the “primary” purpose of a miracle is always to establish the credibility of the one who speaks the word of God?  One might have thought the primary purpose of the exodus was to lead Israel out of slavery, and the primary purpose of the fall of Jericho was to defeat God’s enemies, and the primary purpose of the destruction of the Assyrians was to preserve Jerusalem, and so on. And even if the “primary” purpose of all miracles was authenticating a preacher, which cannot be shown, it would by no means indicate that this was the only purpose.
When God granted Moses—the first human miracle worker—the power to work miracles, He gave Moses only one reason:  “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you” (Exodus 4:5).  I provided a number of other examples throughout the Scripture to demonstrate that God’s primary purpose in giving men power to work miracles was to validate them as His messengers.  Of course, God used Moses’ miracles to free Israel from Egyptian bondage.  But why did God give miracle-working capacity to Moses, rather than simply free the Israelites Himself?  According to God’s own statement, it was to validate His messenger.  At Sinai, no one doubted that Moses spoke for God.  Look up the other references I cited and you will find exactly the same pattern.
(2) The end of the gift of apostleship. In two places in the New Testament Paul refers to the apostles as one of the gifts Christ gave his church (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4).
Most Christians, including most evangelical charismatics, agree that there are no more apostles like the twelve or like Paul.  So at least one New Testament gift—the gift of apostleship—has ceased.  That means there is a significant difference in the work of the Spirit between the time of the apostles and today, because one of the most miraculous displays of the Spirit disappeared with the passing of the apostolic age. Once you agree that there are no apostles today at the same level with Peter and Paul, you have admitted there was a major change in the gifting of the Spirit between the Apostolic Age and the post-apostolic age.  The one New Testament gift most frequently associated with miracles—the gift of apostleship—ceased.
Wilson responds:
This argument takes us nowhere: all agree that the eyewitness apostles have ceased, and all agree that (say) pastors and teachers have not ceased.  Only if we can show that all New Testament miracles, prophecies, tongues and healings came via apostles—which is patently not the case—would this hold any water at all.
Here, Wilson’s argument isn’t clear, but he seems to be relying on an article he wrote for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS) in which he argues for a two-tier approach to apostleship.  He maintains that the Twelve, Paul, and several others were “eyewitness apostles,” and those have ceased.  But there are lower level apostles who are the Spirit’s ongoing gift to the church.
Wilson concludes his JETS article with this:
Within conservative evangelicalism, it has become commonplace to divide the apostolate into two, neat types.  There are the Apostles (capital “A”) of Jesus Christ, comprising the twelve, James, Barnabas, possibly Silas, and then finally Paul: eyewitnesses of the resurrection, officers of the church, personally commissioned by Jesus, and with the capacity to write or authorise the scriptures, pioneer into new areas, lay foundations in churches, and exercise authority over them.  Then there are the apostles (lower case “a”) of the churches, including Andronicus, Junia, Epaphroditus, the brothers of 2 Cor 8:23, and possibly Timothy: messengers that were sent out among the churches, but with no eyewitness appearances or commission from Jesus, and without the capacity to write Scripture, pioneer, lay foundations or exercise authority over churches.  On this view, although there is occasional debate (as to which category, say, Eph 4:11 should correspond to), it is theoretically possible to dig up every occurrence of the word apostolos and put it squarely into one of these two categories.
The view that Wilson rejects above is not merely the common view of “conservative evangelicalism.”  It is the understanding of historic Christianity and even of many charismatic theologians.  Wilson finishes his JETS article by saying that a possible reference to Apollos as an apostle in 1 Corinthians 4:9 (which the entire article argues for but never proves) “may . . . suggest that, according to Paul, although the appearances of the risen Jesus ceased with Paul’s encounter on the Damascus road, the apostoloi did not” (emphasis added).  In other words, maybe there is another office in the church—Apostle, Second-Class—that continued after the death of the Paul and the twelve.
The weight of proving this novel idea falls on charismatics.  Wilson’s conclusion that the best evidence he can muster “may suggest” a two-tiered apostolate is hardly enough to overturn two millennia of Spirit-enabled interpretation.  The argument for cessationism based on the end of the gift of apostleship stands.
(3) The foundational nature of the New Testament apostles and prophets.  The New Testament identifies the apostles and prophets as the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20-22). In the context, it is clear that Paul is referring here not to Old Testament prophets but to New Testament prophets.  Once the apostles and prophets finished their role in laying the foundation of the church, their gifts were completed.
Wilson:
This [argument] runs aground on the sandbanks of Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-14 in particular, in which it is assumed that local churches experience prophecy in their meetings, yet without such prophecy serving as foundational for the church for all time, or being written down in the canon.  Clearly, there is a foundational role for the apostles and prophets of whom Paul speaks in Ephesians (2:20; 3:6), but this in no way implies either that all prophecy has now ceased, or (obviously) that tongues or healings have now ceased.
Most charismatics admit that the New Testament “prophets of whom Paul speaks in Ephesians (2:20; 3:6)” play “a foundational role.”  But then without any clear scriptural support, they assume that the prophecy mentioned in Romans and 1 Corinthians must be lower level prophecies.  However, if there are not two levels of prophecy—which remains unproven—then Ephesians 2 is definitive.  Both the apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church, and their roles were never intended to last.
(4) The nature of the New Testament miraculous gifts. If the Spirit was still moving as he was in the first century, then you would expect that the gifts would be of the same type. Consider the speaking of tongues. At Pentecost, the languages spoken were already existing, understandable languages. The New Testament gift was speaking in a known language and dialect, not an ecstatic language like you see people speaking in today. Prophecies (which were then infallible) and healings are also different in character today from the NT period.
Wilson writes:
Again, this hits serious problems when it comes to 1 Corinthians 12-14, which scholars widely agree refers to ecstatic speech rather than known earthly languages, and to prophetic revelation which needs to be weighed or judged, rather than instantly being added to the infallible canon of scripture.
Contrary to what Wilson implies, there are many scholarly works and commentaries that do not support the view that 1 Corinthians 14 refers to ecstatic speech.  But even more important is the analogy of Scripture.  When Luke wrote the book of Acts, he knew what Paul had written six or seven years earlier in 1 Corinthians 14.  Moreover, Luke knew what was actually happening in the church in Corinth.  Yet without any caveat, Luke defines speaking in tongues as “we hear them speak in our own language” or our own dialect (Acts 2:7-8).
Wilson:
To say, further, that healings are different in character is to beg the question: there are numerous testimonies out there (I have heard many personally) of blind eyes seeing, deaf ears opening, the lame walking and even the dead being raised, unless one prejudges the veracity of such testimonies by assuming cessationism (or, of course, naturalism).
It is important to remember that all Christians believe God can cause blind eyes to see, open deaf ears, and even cause the lame to walk again.  But the key issue is whether God still distributes to people the miraculous ability to heal others.  When it comes to the supposed modern miraculous gift of healing, there are always “testimonies out there” and those who believe them “have heard many personally.”  But there are rarely firsthand accounts, and there is never verifiable evidence of the miraculous gift of healing—much less of the ability to raise the dead!
(5) The testimony of church history. The practice of apostolic gifts declines even during the lifetimes of the apostles. Even in the written books of the New Testament, the miraculous gifts are mentioned less as the date of their writing gets later. After the New Testament era, we see the miraculous gifts cease. John Chrysostom and Augustine speak of their ceasing.
Wilson:
There are two errors here. The first is that miracles are mentioned less in New Testament books that are written later; the book of Acts is certainly written after the books of 1 Thessalonians and James, and very probably after the other Paulines and Petrines, yet contains far more miracles (and John, among the latest books, has one or two miracles in it as well!).
I was not speaking of the working of miracles by the apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12) as Wilson seems to imply, but rather of the miraculous gifts given to individual Christians other than the apostles. When you trace the practice of the miraculous gifts by those other than the apostles against a time line of New Testament history and its letters, you will find that the miraculous gifts decline in their mention and use even during the apostolic period.
Wilson continues:
The second [error] is that we see the miraculous gifts cease after the New Testament; again, this begs the question by assuming that subsequent accounts of and responses to miraculous or prophetic activity, from the Didache and the Montanists onwards, are inaccurate or exaggerated. . . .  In any case, this sort of argument—that, since something gradually disappeared from the church over the course of the first two or three centuries, it must therefore be invalid—should strike any five sola Protestant as providing several hostages to fortune.”
Many scholars believe the original version of the Didache was probably written during the apostolic age, so it proves nothing about the continuation of the miraculous gifts after the time of the apostles.  There are scattered reports of the miraculous throughout church history, but many of them are connected to groups and leaders whose doctrine was seriously aberrant in some way.  And in spite of Tertullian’s connection to the Montanists, the church eventually spoke with one voice against them.
The consistent testimony of the church’s key leaders is that the miraculous and revelatory spiritual gifts ended with the Apostolic Age—they didn’t “gradually disappear” over several centuries.  I provided a sampling of quotes from across church history as proof.  John MacArthur cites many others in his book Strange Fire.  The consistent testimony of the Christian church’s key leaders across church history poses a huge problem for our continuationist friends.  As Sinclair Ferguson expressed it, continuationism provides no convincing theological explanation for the disappearance of certain gifts during most of church history.
(6) The sufficiency of Scripture. The Spirit speaks only in and through the inspired Word. He doesn’t call and direct his people through subjective messages and modern day bestsellers. His word is external to us and objective.
Wilson responds:
This is not so much an argument for cessationism as a restatement of it. Suffice it to say that James and Paul, to mention just two apostles, envisage Christians being given wisdom by God, experiencing the Spirit crying out “Abba!” in their hearts, and being given spontaneous revelation during church meetings, none of which conflict with their high view of the scriptures.”
I intentionally did not develop this point, because I knew Steve Lawson planned to address this issue in his message on sola Scriptura.  You can listen to or read Steve’s excellent defense here.
 (7) The New Testament governed the miraculous gifts. Whenever the New Testament gift of tongues was to be practiced, there were specific rules that were to be followed. There was to be order and structure, as well as an interpreter. Paul also lays down rules for prophets and prophecy. Tragically most charismatic practice today clearly disregards these commands. The result is not a work of the spirit but of the flesh.
Wilson writes:
I’m not qualified to comment on whether this is true of “most” charismatics, rather than “some,” but to the extent that this is true, I wholeheartedly agree with Pennington that miraculous gifts need to be governed and practiced wisely, in line with the New Testament.  Clearly, however, this is not an argument against using charismatic gifts—it is an argument against using charismatic gifts badly.
To his credit, Wilson decries the unbiblical practice of the charismatic gifts.  And I would agree that there are a few charismatic churches making valiant efforts at following Paul’s directives.  But he is too well read and informed not to know that charismatics claim to be 500 million strong.  Of that number, more than 125 million are Roman Catholics who have embraced a false gospel.  And of the remaining number, even charismatic writers estimate that close to 40 percent of the 500 million are involved with the prosperity gospel (other estimates have the percentage as high as 90 percent).  Add in the huge audiences watching charismatic television programs and services where the biblical directives are not followed, and far more than 50 percent of a movement that claims to be a work of the Spirit is either preaching a damning gospel or completely disregarding the Spirit’s clear New Testament commands regarding practice of the gifts.  That is more than a few charismatics behaving badly.  Instead, it demonstrates that the movement as a whole can claim neither the Scripture nor the Spirit.
Wilson concludes his critique:  “I think that the cessationist position is biblically distorted, theologically confused and historically exaggerated.” Sadly, it is the charismatic position that is out of step with the Scripture, with historic theology, and with the key figures of evangelical church history.  The biblical case for cessationism still stands.
If you want to read more on charismatic issues, see the brief bibliography below.
A Brief Bibliography of Books Arguing for Cessationism
  • John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos.
  • John MacArthur, Strange Fire.
  • Samuel Waldron, To Be Continued?.
    [Best brief work on the issue for laymen]
  • Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit.
    [Best work on the role of the Holy Spirit, and a helpful defense of cessationism]
  • Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.  Perspectives on Pentecost.
    [Recommended]
  • B.B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles.
    [Classic historical defense of the end of the miraculous but not a biblical defense; recommended]
  • Robert Reymond, What About Continuing Revelations and Miracles in the Presbyterian Church Today?[Recommended; deals primarily with the gift of tongues but also addresses the issue of cessation; out of print]
  • Larry Pettigrew, The New Covenant Ministry of the Holy Spirit.[Helpful work on the roles of the Spirit in the Old Testament & New Testament; section on cessation and tongues is helpful]
  • Walter Chantry, Signs of the Apostles.
    [Helpful but a bit dated]
  • Robert Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts.
    [Great exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14]
  • Robert Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement.
  • R.C. Sproul, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit.
  • Arthur Johnson, Faith Misguided: Exposing the Dangers of Mysticism.
  • Graham Cole, He Who Gives Life: the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

A RECIPE FOR DISCERNMENT


by John MacArthur
We cannot simply flow with the current of our age. We cannot elevate love while downplaying truth. We cannot promote unity by repressing sound doctrine. We cannot learn to be discerning by making an idol out of tolerance. By adopting those attitudes, the church has opened her gates to all of Satan’s Trojan horses.
God gives us the truth of His Word, and He commands us to guard it and pass it on to the next generation. Frankly, the current generation is failing miserably in this task. Our failure to discern has all but erased the line between biblical Christianity and reckless faith. The church is filled with doctrinal chaos, confusion, and spiritual anarchy. Few seem to notice, because Christians have been conditioned by years of shallow teaching to be broad minded, superficial, and noncritical. Unless there is a radical change in the way we view truth, the church will continue to wane in influence, become increasingly worldly, and move further and further into all sorts of error.
How can we cultivate discernment? What needs to happen if the church is going to reverse the trends and recover a biblical perspective?
Desire Wisdom
Step one is desire. Proverbs 2:3–6 says, “Cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
If we have no desire to be discerning, we won’t be discerning. If we are driven by a yearning to be happy, healthy, affluent, prosperous, comfortable, and self-satisfied, we will never be discerning people. If our feelings determine what we believe, we cannot be discerning. If we subjugate our minds to some earthly ecclesiastical authority and blindly believe what we are told, we undermine discernment. Unless we are willing to examine all things carefully, we cannot hope to have any defense against reckless faith.
The desire for discernment is a desire born out of humility. It is a humility that acknowledges our own potential for self-deception (“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” [Jeremiah 17:9]). It is a humility that distrusts personal feelings and casts scorn on self-sufficiency (“On my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses” [2 Corinthians 12:5]). It is a humility that turns to the Word of God as the final arbiter of all things (“. . . examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things [are] so” [Acts 17:11]).
No one has a monopoly on truth. I certainly do not. I don’t have reliable answers within myself. My heart is as susceptible to self-deception as anyone’s. My feelings are as undependable as everyone else’s. I am not immune to Satan’s deception. That is true for all of us. Our only defense against false doctrine is to be discerning, to distrust our own emotions, to hold our own senses suspect, to examine all things, to test every truth-claim with the yardstick of Scripture, and to handle the Word of God with great care.
The desire to be discerning therefore entails a high view of Scripture linked with an enthusiasm for understanding it correctly. God requires that very attitude (2 Timothy 2:15)—so the heart that truly loves Him will naturally burn with a passion for discernment.
Pray for Discernment
Step two is prayer. Prayer, of course, naturally follows desire; prayer is the expression of the heart’s desire to God.
When Solomon became king after the death of David, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask what you wish me to give you” (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon could have requested anything. He could have asked for material riches, power, victory over his enemies, or whatever he liked. But Solomon asked for discernment: “Give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9). Scripture says, “It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing” (1 Kings 3:10).
Moreover, the Lord told Solomon:
Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. And if you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days. (1 Kings 3:11–14)
Notice that God commended Solomon because his request was completely unselfish: “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself.” Selfishness is incompatible with true discernment. People who desire to be discerning must be willing to step outside themselves.
Modern evangelicalism, enamored with psychology and self-esteem, has produced a generation of believers so self-absorbed that they cannot be discerning. People aren’t even interested in discernment. All their interest in spiritual things is focused on self. They are interested only in getting their own felt needs met.
Solomon did not do that. Although he had an opportunity to ask for long life, personal prosperity, and health and wealth, he bypassed all of that and asked for discernment instead. Therefore God also gave him riches, honor, and long life for as long as he walked in the ways of the Lord.
James 1:5 promises that God will grant the prayer for discernment generously: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
Desire and prayer are the first two key ingredients in the recipe for true biblical discernment. Next time we’ll look at two more.

(Adapted from Reckless Faith.)

Monday, May 5, 2014

THE KENYAN YEAR OF JUBILEE: DID GOD LIE????

Perhaps, one of the most uttered Biblical word/term in our country since the beginning of year 2012 until now is none other than the word Jubilee. Many pastors, especially those of the Charismatic/Pentecostal churches were the ones in the forefront of popularizing this word to the point whereby even the current government which God foreordained (Rom 13:1, Dan 2:21, Dan 4:17, etc.) derived its name from it. However; for now, let’s move politics aside since my main aim isn’t about the Jubilee government but the true Biblical Jubilee.
The questions we must ask ourselves first of all is what is Jubilee? We as believers, especially Church elders are commanded by God to study diligently His Word of Truth (The Bible) and rightly divide it. If we do this, we shall be approved by God and not be ashamed, and if not, we will be ashamed of ourselves (2 Tim 2:15). Therefore; in order to answer this critical question about what is Jubilee, let us go back to The Bible since His Word is sufficient. In Leviticus 25, we can see that the year of Jubilee was instituted by God as a feast year that was to be celebrated each 50th year. Let’s not expound deeper this early about how it was celebrated but let me show you historical significance.
Historically; studying from various Jewish rabbinical texts such as the Talmud and also Christian ones, we do know that the Theocratic Israelites never ever at any one time kept the feast of Jubilee as commanded by God(…..)! Therefore, they’ve forever been anticipating for a Jubilee as this was a law that was given unto the Jews to keep and failure to obey it had some consequences. Any Christian believer who has ever read the Scriptures assuredly knows that there is not even one person who has ever kept the law and breaking one point of it is akin to breaking the entire law of God (James 2:10). The law served as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Gal 3:24) and in Colossians 2:16-17; the slave of Jesus Christ, apostle Paul vilifies those who try to justify themselves with the keeping of the Sabbath feasts but instead tells us that those were a shadow of things to come.
Jubilee was a Sabbath feast, and to us Christians, we clearly know that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5). These feasts pictured various events of the life and work of Christ, e.g. Pentecost/Feast of Weeks – Birth of Church, Feast of Trumpets – Rapture, Feast of Tabernacles – Millennium, etc. Jubilee was the culmination of the Sabbath feasts and it signified the rest of believers. When our Lord Jesus Christ began His ministry, (Luke 4:16-21) we can see that He read Isaiah 61 which is a Messianic prophecy concerning the rest that His elect will get when He comes, (see also Luke 1:46-55 and Matt 11:28-30). In the same vein, according to both Jewish and Christian scholars, the year that Jesus began His ministry was supposed to be a Jubilee year but as you know, He came to give us spiritual blessings and rest, not physical ones like the Jews anticipated (Eph 1:3).
Some might argue that what I’ve said so far doesn’t prove that we as Christians shouldn’t celebrate Jubilee year in Kenya, but maybe they should consider the message of prophet Hosea in chapter 3 verse 4 where we learn that the children of Israel without a king, epoch, sacrifices, etc. It is this verse from which we will systematically decipher about how the year Jubilee was conducted.

WHAT AND HOW WAS THE YEAR OF JUBILEE CONDUCTED

In short, Jubilee was a feast constituted by God (Lev 25) and it was to be celebrated on every 50th year. They did this by numbering seven Sabbath years which was the 49th year (v. 8). The trumpet of Jubilee was sounded on the 10th day of the 7th month during the Day of Atonement (v. 9).
During that 50th year, as a Theocracy, the Israelites were told to hallow it and proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants and every man was to return unto his own possession and family (v. 10). They were not supposed to sow, reap or gather that which growth by itself (v. 11). They were not supposed to oppress one another but instead fear God (v. 17) and by keeping the commandments of the Lord, they’ll dwell in the land (v. 18) and hence the land will yield its fruit and God was to command His blessing in the 6th year (the 48th year from the previous Jubilee) and it was to bring forth fruit for 3 years (v. 12) which they’ll eat till the 9th year (v. 22). These were basically the promises which God gave concerning Jubilee.

LINKAGE OF JUBILEE AND ATONEMENT

In Leviticus 25:9, I’ve shown that the trumpet call of proclaiming the year of Jubilee was sounded during the 10th day of the 7th month during the Day of Atonement on the 7th year, (49th) hence from it we can see a relationship between the Day of Atonement and Jubilee, therefore, in order to clearly understand Jubilee, we have to learn what was the Day of Atonement.
The Day of Atonement was the holiest of all days to the Jews which was celebrated on the 10th day of every 7th month in a year (Lev 16:29). It was a yearly sin offering so that people may be may be cleansed from their sins and it was to be an everlasting statute to the children of Israel in order for their sins to be atoned for once a year (v. 34). The high priest could only enter into the Holy of Holies before the mercy seat of the Lord once a year on the Day of Atonement to offer this sacrifice first for himself and then for the people (Heb 9:7) and in Heb 9:8, we learn that God was signifying that the way unto the holiest was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing and thus their offering of blood of animals to atone for people’s sins which couldn’t make them perfect (v. 9) and that it was only to be observed until the times of reformation, i.e. when Christ comes and offers this pure sacrifice once and for all as He was the High Priest of good things to come (V. 10-28) and thus He was able to purify believers forever!
The law (including Jubilee) was just a shadow of good things to come and not the very image of the things, can never with these sacrifices that were offered every year make people perfect (Heb 10:1), but the people were still conscious of their sins because the blood of animals could not perfect the people (v. 4-8) and that is why God took away the first (law of sacrifices) and brought the second (Christ’s sacrifice) (v.10) and as a result we are sanctified through the offering of Christ once and for all and that’s why Christ sat down on the right side of God because He has completed His work (Heb 10:12, John 19:28-30 and Luke 23:44-46) and by His one offering, He has sanctified us forever (Heb 10:14) and thus God remembers no more our sins (v. 17) and also no more offering is needed (v. 18). Because of all these things, we therefore have boldness to enter into the Holiest, i.e. the mercy seat (v 19-22, 4:16 and Luke 44-46).

WHY BRING ALL THESE STORY OF ATONEMENT?

Someone might ask, why did you have to say all these things about the atonement yet the topic we were discussing is on the Jubilee? In Proverbs 19:2, God tells us that it is not a good thing to have zeal without knowledge and that the person who acts hastily sins. Compare that verse with Romans 10:2-4 whereby Paul tells us that the Jews were having a zeal for God which is without knowledge and because they were ignorant of God’s righteousness, they were thus in effect establishing their own righteousness and have not submitted to the righteousness of God since Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. Therefore, we can say that the people (Charismatic churches) who were propagating the “Jubilee Year” to Kenya and giving them its associated promises and others which they invented were in effect misquoting and huckstering God’s Word just like the false prophets of yore and as a result they’ve failed to see and understand core Christian doctrines such as law, grace, Christology, atonement, justification and redemption; consequently, just like the Jews of Paul’s day – that were known as Judaizers who were saying that the way to be saved was through grace coupled with the keeping of the law and thus were coming up with their own way of righteousness that is not God’s way ‘but indeed they’ve fallen away from the grace of God and Christ therefore shall profit them nothing (See Gal 5:1-10).

THE PROMISES AND ‘PROPHECIES’ GIVEN

For now, let me not expound further on other things but instead let’s turn our attention to see the various promises and ‘prophecies’ (kindly note that in quotes since the Bible teaches that we have no modern day prophets) that were given to Kenya regarding the year of Jubilee by various local and foreign Charismatic/Pentecostal church leaders. Amongst those were;
1.       Cancellation of all debts.
2.       Peace and tranquility both within and without the borders.
3.       ‘Revival’ and ‘restoration in the land.
4.       Restitution of the people.
5.       Exceeding and abundant wealth and prosperity.
6.       Reconciliation in families, communities and international community.
7.       Restoration of exceedingly great health.
8.       Zero corruption in the land.
9.       Dismantling of refugee camps.
10.   Transformation of cities and towns to be like those of 1st world countries.
11.   No more accidents in our roads, air, rail, etc.
12.   Reduction in robbery and terrorism activities.
13.   Et cetera.
As you can clearly see, all these promises was nothing new apart from the vile ‘health-wealth,’ ‘name-it and claim-it,’ ’blab-it and grab-it,’ or ‘prosperity gospel.’ The 50th year of Independence was an opportune time for these false teachers who worship not our Lord Jesus Christ but their bellies (Phil 3:19) and mind earthly things which they ought not to preach for filthy lucre’s sake (Tit 1:11) as they don’t rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15) and no wonder their followers were able to made merchandise by their fake leaders (2 Pet 2:1-3).

DID THE PROMISES COME TO PASS?

When this message of Jubilee was preached, I used to tell people that it won’t come to pass and people used to call me a prophet of doom like Jeremiah and I graciously acted just like him by cheekily telling them Jeremiah 28:6 “amen! May The Lord do so and bring your prophecies to pass.” It’s therefore critical for us to prove all things (1 Thes 5:21) and as Kenyans, we should ask ourselves if the ‘prophecies’ and promises that were given us in keeping the Jubilee if they did come to pass. The short answer is a big NO since these people are false teachers and were speaking presumptuously (Deut 18:22). Just look at these stats and judge for yourselves;
1.       Our country’s national debt has increased to more than 2 Trillion shillings!!! Where is the cancellation of debts? Let’s not even count our individual debts.
2.       Insecurity has been the Achilles’ heel in our country beginning the past year including the terrible crime of terrorism which has shot up to unimaginable heights and as a result both men and animals are living in fear!‼ Surely, where is the promised peace and tranquility? See Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11,15,
3.       There has not been a spiritual ‘revival’ in the land; instead, what we see are false expressions of Christianity and also atheism is on the increase and last year it was reported that at least 40% of the youth in technically atheists.
4.       Morality is on the decline in the land and we see more and more perverts more so in the ‘church,’ if anyone doubts, I bet s/he has not been reading the scandals that are published in papers such as The Nairobian and other blogs. I feel ashamed to even say that bestiality and childhood defilement is also on the up.
5.       Underemployment, unemployment and poverty is on the rise and in April of this year, The World Bank in one of its report listed Kenya as among the 10 countries where the poorest of the poor live! Was this the promised milk and honey we were given for celebrating Jubilee?
6.       Hatred, separation, divorce and other divisions within the family unit is on a sharp rise. We should also not forget that tribal suspicions and hostilities between communities, social and religious groups is fast rising not forgetting also that between Kenya and our International partners.
7.       Corruption is not dying in Kenya but behaving like a cancerous cell that now affects all the fabrics of the society not forgetting that it has now been devolved.
8.       Accidents are on the increase in our roads no matter what the government plans to do.
9.       Sickness has continued to afflict us just like before and we see no change even after we celebrated Jubilee. See Jeremiah 8:15 and 14:9
10.   We looked for great harvest but instead hunger (Hag 1:9a and Jer 8:20) has come and it appears it will so in the next few months considering the little amount of rains we’ve received in the long rain season.
There is clearly no need of I continuing about the failure of occurrence of the so called Jubilee promises as it was a total lie from the part of these church leaders and thus making the name of God to be blasphemed among the unbelievers. Because of these lies, the righteousness have been made sad while strengthening the hands of the wicked as Ezekiel says in chapter 13 verse 22.

DID GOD LIE?

In a recent tweet, @BurkParsons, who is a Conservative Reformed Presbyterian theologian affiliated with PCA denomination (please don’t confuse it with the liberal PCUSA) said, “We are certainly entitled to our own opinions but not to our own version of truth.” He was absolutely right and that’s why as Christians, before we utter anything, we must ask ourselves “what saith the Scriptures” (Gal 4:30) and that’s why we are commanded not to go beyond what’s written (1 Cor 4:6b). Therefore, since we’ve seen a total failure of these promises concerning the Jubilee, we must ask ourselves a very important question which is; “Did God lie??? To give the answer, I’ll use Scriptures to prove that God is innocent and didn’t lie but the liars are the church leaders who took God’s Word out of context. After all, doesn’t Isaiah 8:20say “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
Fundamentally, there is no question that all believers believe that God cannot lie (Tit 1:2, Heb 6:18, Rom 3:4, Num 23:15, 1 Sam 15:24, 2 Tim 2:13), and that as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall do that which I please, and it shall accomplish that for which I send it (Is 55:10-11), therefore, His promises are yea and amen (2 Cor 1:20) because He is the Sovereign Lord of all and whatever He wills will surely come to pass and fail not (Prov 19:21, Ps 33:8-11, Ps 47:6-7, Ps 115:5, Ps 135:6, Is 14:24, Is 45:7, Is 46:9-10, Eph 1:11, Job 9:2, Job 12:6-10, Deut 32:39, 1 Sam 2:6-8, etc).
Therefore, since all these promises about Jubilee failed, why was these messages preached to churches? The answer I can give is that perhaps these are the false teachers whom we were warmed that would come in the last days who with crafty speeches will lead many who have itchy ears astray (2 Tim 4:3-4, Acts 20:29-32, 2 Tim 3:1-6, 1 Tim 4:1-5, 2 Pet 2, Jude, etc)? And since they do not stand in the counsel of the Lord (Jer 23:22a), they would not have prophesied lies by saying that they’ve had dreams from the Lord (Jer 23:25-26), and since their word failed to come to pass (Jer 28:6a, 9, 6:13-15), it’s no wonder that their words did not profit their hearers (Jer 23:32).
In writing this article, most assuredly I’ve made some people to be very cross and angry with me; at after all, doesn’t Ecclesiastes 1:18 say that with much wisdom is much grief and that he that increaseth knowledge increaseth knowledge? And with that I rejoice for I’ve achieved one of my purposes, since it is very bad to see the people who refer to themselves as God’s people being destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos 4:6). Most assuredly, it is a noble thing to have faith, but at the same time, it can be ignoble sometimes since faith without reason is irrational! Consider these words of Pastor John Macarthur from his book Reckless Faith;
“Did you know that faith can be seriously harmful? Some varieties of faith actually lead away from the true God—they substitute superstition, falsehood, or faith itself in place of truth. Such faith inevitably leads to spiritual disaster. It is reckless faith.
Reckless faith seeks spiritual truth apart from Scripture—and that is the very point at which it becomes reckless. Both kinds of reckless faith also have this in common: they are irrational and anti-intellectual. “Anti-intellectual” doesn’t mean they oppose intellectual snobbery. Itmeans they spurn the intellect and encourage blind, uncritical trust. Anti-intellectuals often set faithagainst reason, as if the two were opposites. That kind of faith is gullibility. It is foolishness, and not biblical faith. Biblical faith is never irrational.
Authentic faith, in contrast, can never bypass the mind. It cannot be irrational. Faith, after all, deals with truth. Truth is objective data to be known, studied, contemplated, and understood. All those are activities that engage the intellect.
That means genuine Christianity cannot be anti-intellectual. The body of truth on which our faith is based has depths that are mysterious—unfathomable to the merely human mind, or inscrutable—but truth is never irrational. The difference is all-important. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Therefore what God says is true—and the antithesis of what He says must be false. Truth cannot be self-contradictory. Truth makes sense; nonsense cannot be true.”
Moreover, the doctrine on which we base our faith must be sound—which is to say it must be biblical (1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 4:2–3; Titus 1:9; 2:1). “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3–4, emphasis added). Sound, biblical doctrine therefore underlies all true wisdom and authentic faith. The attitude that scorns doctrine while elevating feelings or blind trust cannot legitimately be called faith, even if it masquerades as Christianity. It is actually an irrational form of unbelief.
God holds us accountable for what we believe as well as how we think about the truth He has revealed. All Scripture testifies to the fact that God wants us to know and understand the truth. He wants us to be wise. His will is that we use our minds. We are supposed to think, to meditate—to be discerning. And that is what we will continue to pursue as this series unfolds over the coming weeks.
Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:2–6)
In finishing, dear church leaders (I’m also speaking to laymen), kindly do not be like the Pharisees who hid the key of knowledge from the people (Luke 11:52), humbly accept that you’ve darkened the Lord’s counsel by words without just like Job (Job 38:2) and then repent like he did (Job 42:1-6). After all; God has promised us that for all manner of sin He is ready to forgive us (Matt 12:31) if only we confess them (1 John 1:8-10) as He is gracious and merciful (Jonah 4:2, Ex 34:6, Joel 2:13, Jer 3:10-13, etc.) If anyone despises the Scriptures, just ponder what Jesus tells us in Luke 19:22a and remember that is a fearful thing to fall into the living hands of the Lord (Heb 10:31). Kindly therefore before preaching and commenting on anything, just read, read, read, ……. and read again and again and understand what the Bible says in a particular text in order to clearly teach the correct Biblical doctrines as presented in the Bible, without forgetting to judge yourselves so as to determine where your faith is, whether it be in Christ or anything else.
Maranatha.

Monday, April 28, 2014

DOES CALVINISM BELIEVE PEOPLE WERE CREATED UNEQUALLY?

By: John Hendryx. Original post here

Visitor: It seems that Calvinism believes that all were not created equally but that some were preordained to eternal life and some to eternal damnation. Aren't there some moral problems with this view point?
Response: First I think it is important to note that the Bible teaches that ALL men are EQUALLY guilty of sin so it would be just if God saved no one. If anyone is saved it is pure unconditional mercy. If anyone is damned it is justice. God is not a respecter of persons so He does not choose people based on ANY advantage, merit, good will or virtue He sees in them. And he did not damn them apart from the fact that they were sinners.
In what may seem ironic to some, it is actually the non-Augustinian/non-Calvinist who believes NOT ALL were created EQUALLY .. since in such views they must ascribe their repenting and believing to their own wisdom, humility, sound judgement or good sense (at least partly) and not to Christ alone. In other words, synergists have to concede that they believe in Jesus and their neighbor doesn't because of some native wisdom they have that their neighbor doesn't. This means that skeptics of 'grace alone' believe God's love is CONDITIONAL... we must meet a condition if we are to trigger God's love toward us so that He will save us. But the Bible does not teach grace is a reward for faith but the cause of it.
In Calvinism God's love for his people is unconditional. He determines to save a people for Himself (which he has predestined in love Eph. 1:4-5) out of the mass of ill-deserving sinners in spite of our rebellion and hardened will. In Christ he does for us what we were unwilling to do for ourselves and He gives us everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe (Deut 29:4, 30:6; John 6:63-65). We believe BECAUSE of grace, not in order to obtain grace.
In this view no one is chosen because they are better but because of His sovereign good pleasure. There is no better reason in the universe than that. Can you think of any?

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