Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Directional Devo - Conviction vs. Guilt

John said in 1 John 2:1, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

We were told in the first chapter that the first reason why John wrote this letter was, that your joy may be full.  Now here in v.1 we see the second reason that John wrote this letter is that ye sin not.

In Matthew 5:48 Jesus said, Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. God requires perfection. Why? – Because He is perfect. Is it possible for us to be perfect? – Yes, but only through the finished work of Christ and not ourselves. 

We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: That means that the Lord Jesus is our advocate (intercessor) and one day he will present us spotless to the Father (Ephesians 5:25-27).

I’ve found that even though I know this, I still allow Satan to step in and accuse me. I've found that he usually attacks me the strongest after I've sinned. His attacks come in the form of feelings of shame and unworthiness. Why? - So that he can drive a wedge between me and God. He wants me to run away from God just like Jonah (Jonah 1:1-3) did.

I've also found that I can always tell when I am being attacked by Satan or being convicted by the Holy Spirit by my reaction to the situation. When I'm being tempted to run from God, the church, and my brothers and sisters in Christ, I know it's the devil that is behind it because he is trying to drive a wedge between me and God. However, it is the opposite with the conviction of the Holy Spirit, because He uses conviction to draw us to Himself, the church and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Directional Devo - Verbal Plenary Inspiration

Conservatives believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. That implies not only inspiration but also that it was verbal and plenary. What does that mean?

Verbal inspiration means that not only was the message of the Bible inspired but the very words that are contained in that message. Actually, the word verbal means “by means of words” or “word for word.” Now you know why I shy away from thought-for-thought translations in favor of word-for-word translations. Our said in Matthew 5:18, "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” The NKJV translates it “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” A “jot” is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet and a “tittle” is a small appendage that differentiates two similar letters. The best way that I could compare it to our English language would be the equivalent of a dotting of the “i ” and the crossing of a “t”. The dot and the crossing make a big difference. As such, verbal inspiration requires dictation which is the “act or manner of transcribing words uttered by another.” In other words, God gave the words, and the writers wrote what they heard.

Finally, the word plenary means “full” or “all”. So, we believe, or at least I believe, in plenary verbal inspiration which means “All Words God-Breathed”. Pretty simple in my opinion, but a very divisive issue in the church today.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

An Introduction to Dispensationalism, Part 1

With so much confusion in the church today about Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology, I wanted to just take a moment to define them both briefly and to present the latter as the one that I embrace and why. Yes, I am a dispensationalist. Just for clarification, neither of them are really a theology as much as they are a framework for interpreting the Scriptures. In other words, they are a lens through which the Scripture is viewed.
 
Covenant Theology is favored more so by those of a Reformed or Calvinistic persuasion. However, in the United States, especially among Evangelicals, Dispensationalism is far more popular and has been since the latter half of the 19th century. Please also understand that even among each, there are disagreements, but they are basically the same in their overall approach. I am only scratching the surface in this blog post.

At the risk of oversimplifying both, the difference between the two is that one interprets the Scriptures through the lens of covenants, i.e., Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and the New Covenant, while the other interprets the Scriptures through the lens of dispensations. A dispensation by this definition is the particular means by which God deals with man and creation during a given period in redemptive history. In the most popular view, there are seven dispensations which which include: Innocence (Genesis 1 -3) - Adam and Eve before they sinned, Conscience (Genesis 3-8) - First sin to the flood, Civil Government (Genesis 9-11) - After the flood, government, Promise (Genesis 12-Ex. 19) - Abraham to Moses, the Law is given, Law (Exodus 20 - Acts 2:4) - Moses to the cross, Grace (Acts 2:4 - Revelation 20:3) - Cross to the millennial kingdom Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 20:4-6) – The rule of Christ on earth in the millennial kingdom.

As I stated earlier, I am convinced that the dispensational view is the correct one because it requires a consistently literal interpretation of Scripture while the other does not. Covenant Theology uses a lot of allegorization. The earliest proponent was Augustine, the father of amillennialism, who used what is called a "dual hermeneutic" by bouncing between literal interpretation and allegorical interpretation to arrive at such doctrines as amillennialism. This approach must be utilized in order to arrive at many things that are embraced by those on that side of the aisle and is the main reason that I reject it. It is also how they arrive at such teachings as the Church is spiritual Israel (Replacement Theology), therefore, God has no special purpose for the people of Israel. I could go further, but time does not permit. Suffice it to say they do not interpret the Scriptures literally. For straightforward compare and contrast, I would recommend an article by Dr. Richard P. Belcher, Jr., Academic Dean at Reformed Theological Seminary. Click HERE.

In regards to Dispensational Theology, there are basically six things that are essential and this is where I will spend the bulk of my time. In the meantime, I would encourage you to compare and contrast the two on your own to be able to determine where you stand on the issue because the bottom line is that one of them is wrong and the other is right. There is no way for them both to work in harmony with each other. You will lean to the one or to the other in your approach to the interpretation of the Bible or you will be terribly confused. Just make sure that you are informed and not just regurgitating something you heard someplace which is the norm in our society today. It is just laziness. Our faith is worth more than that.

The first essential belief to Dispensationalism is that the primary meaning of any passage in the Bible is found in that passage of the Bible. The New Testament does not reinterpret or transcend the passages in the Old Testament in any way that would override or cancel the original intent of the author. This is called a high view of Scripture and it simply means that the author said what he meant and meant what he said when he said it and who he said it to. That does not mean that other passages can not shed new light on what the author meant, but that they simply can not altar what the author originally meant. This approach is at total odds with Covenant Theology.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Fundamentals of Interpretation, Part 3

Another problem that I see in the church today is that we do not seem to acknowledge that the gospel that Christ and the Apostles taught is not the same gospel that we teach today. As I mentioned in my last blog post, the mystery of the church was not revealed to the Apostle Paul until sometime after Acts 9 and his conversion (Galatians 1:6-12). The bottom line is that those in the Gospels, Christ and the Apostles, and those in the first several chapters of Acts, where teaching a Kingdom Gospel that required repentance and baptism, while the Apostle Paul only taught belief as the sole requirement for salvation.

When I speak to people about this issue, they are pretty quick in acknowledging that there are some differences between the two gospels I just mentioned, but when it comes to the book of Acts, this is where they normally start resisting and digging their heels in because they have been incorrectly taught for so long. That is when I challenge them to show me how the message of the Apostles changed after the death and resurrection of Christ in the first several chapters of the book. It is obvious that it did not. They were still preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. It is also obvious that there is some type of transition taking place in this book. For example, after Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2, the people asked him, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37), and his response was repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:28). Did you see that? He didn’t say anything about just believing in the death, burial, and resurrection at all. Instead, he said repent and be baptized: still the Kingdom Gospel. Later on in the same book, after the conversion of Paul, he was asked the same question when the keeper of the prison asked, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30), and Paul simply said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31). Their responses were totally different. Why? – The Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Grace are different. You and I do not teach the Gospel of the Kingdom, but it will be preached again during the Tribulation or what is also called Daniels’ Seventieth Week by the 144,000 (Daniel 9:27; Matt 24:14; Revelation 7). There is no way to harmonize the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Grace. One did not just "become" the other.

The book of Acts should be seen for what it is; a book of transition. There is no doctrine for the church in it. You can’t take the things that happened during that period in which the Kingdom offer was still on the table, preceded by signs and wonders according to Joel 2:28-29, and apply it to the church. If you do, and most of the church tries to, it will only lead to confusion at best and heresy at worst.

In conclusion, notice the transition throughout the book. In Acts 2:45 it says that they sold all of their possessions, and in Acts 11:29, a collection has to be taken from the church at Antioch, where they were first called Christians (Acts 11:26), (by the way, the church today has far more to do with Antioch than Jerusalem) for the Jews in Jerusalem’s very survival. In Acts 12:11, we see Peter being delivered by an angel, and in Acts 26:32, we see Paul still under arrest and being sent to Caesar. Obviously, something had changed. In Acts 1:14, 2:1, 2:26, 4:24, and 5:12, they were all in accord, and yet when we reach Acts 28:25, they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word. There is no way around it. A transition had taken place.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Fundamentals of Interpretation, Part 2

Another thing in regards to interpreting the Bible to remember is the distinctiveness of Paul’s revelation about the hidden mystery or the Church. As such, his thirteen epistles, Romans through Philemon, are of supreme importance during this dispensation of the Church or grace. Some would include Hebrews in that number assuming that Paul wrote that letter also.

We must understand that Jesus and his apostles ministered to the House of Israel with a message of an offered kingdom if the nation would collectively repent. It was not contingent upon individual repentance, but national. There were at least five thousand Jews, maybe eight thousand, depending how you interpret the response to Peter’s second sermon, that we know of that repented in the book of Acts (Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4), but the nation itself never did repent, and thus, rejected their Messiah and his kingdom offer. The kingdom was postponed, not be offered again until the Tribulation Period or what is called Daniel’s Seventieth Week (Daniel 9:27). As such, God raised up the Apostle Paul with a new message to take to the Gentiles.

Another thing that many fail to see is that the New Testament does not start in Matthew, chapter 1, in spite of the fact that all of our Bibles have a page marked New Testament between Malachi and Matthew. As a matter of fact, it could not have started until after the crucifixion, and I would contend, the resurrection of Christ. Hebrews 9:16-17 makes this clear when it says, For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. In other words, there can be no testament without the death of the one making it, i.e., Jesus. (Remember, that our Last Will and Testaments are not enforced until after we die.) That means that all of the Gospels are Old Testament. The New Testament could not have begun until at least Matthew 27:51 when Christ died. To rightly interpret the Bible is to understand this. Do not be tempted to pull the teachings in the Gospels into the Church! If you do, you will end up with confusion as I discussed in the last blog.

With that said, the epistles of Paul are of supreme importance to you and me today. They are where the Church gets its doctrine. Also, they shed tremendous amounts of light on the Old Testament by revealing things that we never would have or could have known without them.

This also means that the gospel that Paul received from God himself was different than the gospel which Jesus and the apostles taught in the Gospels and even well into the book of Acts. Now, before you become a bit unhinged, remember that the apostles had no clue that Jesus was going to be crucified; even when he told them directly because the Bible says that it was hidden from them (Luke 18:31-34). Bear in mind, this was right after he had commissioned them to go out and preach the kingdom of God (we call this the Gospel of the Kingdom) and they had already returned (Luke 9:1-10). The apostles were not preaching the Gospel of Grace that Paul preached.

Paul’s gospel was different in that it included the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It also required only belief as compared to the Kingdom Gospel that required repentance and baptism. (That is another blog for another day). All throughout Paul’s epistles, he refers to this gospel that was exclusively delivered to him. He said in Galatians 1:11-12, But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. Also, in Ephesians 3:2-4, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ). Paul even stated in Romans 2:16 that God will judge the secrets of men…according to my gospel. Other verses that speak to this gospel can be found in Galatians 1:15-17; Galatians 2:2; Romans 16:25. The bottom line is that the gospel that Paul preached was different from the gospel that the other apostles taught.

The conclusion is that when interpreting the Bible, we must remember that Paul’s gospel is unique to the Church. Only he received the revelation of the mystery (Romans 16:25) that had been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints (Colossians 1:26) as revealed to the Apostle Paul.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Fundamentals of Interpretation, Part 1

The Bible says in 2 Peter 1:19-20 that we have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. Notice, that last part of these verses where it says, "no prophecy of scripture is subject to private interpretation."

Many today struggle, especially in a culture that denies absolute truth, that the Bible says what it means and means what it says, period. Not a very popular idea for sure. However, when it comes to biblical interpretation, we can both be wrong, but we can't both be right. I suggest to you today that the main reason for incorrect Bible interpretation, other than just sheer ignorance and a desire to twist the scriptures to mean something they do not agree with, is inconsistency and a failure to adhere to the fundamentals of biblical interpretation.

The Bible must be rightly divided in order for it to make sense and never contradict. Paul told young Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 to Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. The very fact that Paul said this indicates that there are divisions in the Bible and they must be rightly divided or it will not make sense or there will be apparent contradictions in the text.

One example of many comes to mind: the Law of the Kingdom as given by our Lord in Matthew 5. It was obviously not part of the Mosaic Law, but a kingdom that Christ came to offer to the nation of Israel. Remember that the first words out of both John the Baptist and our Lord's mouths were, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." This is the message that they and the apostles proclaimed throughout their earthly ministries. However, in the end, that kingdom was rejected by the Jewish nation, therefore postponed, and the church that was the hidden mystery was born as revealed through the Apostle Paul. Therein lies the confusion which leads to all kinds of wild interpretations and various heretical doctrines.

You and I are not under the Law of Moses, never have been. Neither was the rejected and postponed kingdom ever offered to the church. At this point at least, we have no part of the kingdom they spoke of. We are not in it and we are not building it, and yet, how many times do we hear things like, "we are a kingdom church, we are building the kingdom, we are enlarging the kingdom, we are bringing in the kingdom, we are doing kingdom work", etc. Why? - A failure to understand that the kingdom was not offered to the church. As a matter of fact, little, if anything, that was spoken in the gospels in their entirety has anything to do with you and me today.

Think about the things that are taught today in regards to losing one's salvation, the need to stay faithful until the end, baptism as a requirement for salvation (baptismal regeneration), the church is now Israel (replacement theology), and amillennialism. Where do these come from? The gospels. See the problem? No, I have not always understood these things so clearly, and many around me may disagree. However, I believe that a failure to understand leads only to misinterpretation and contradiction.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Extent of Our Faith

In today's study from Matthew 17:3-27, we take a longer look at the Transfiguration, the healing of the demon-possessed young man, and the apostles continued inability to see the impending crucifixion.

You may hear the audio study on SoundCloud or see the video study on YouTube.

Moses and Elijah
v.3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Why Moses and Elijah? Most would contend that they represent those who go to heaven (Jude 1:9; 2Ki 2:11). Some, like Moses, will die to get there; while others, like Elijah, will go without dying, i.e., the rapture in 1Th 4:13-18. Another might be because they represent the fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). This is why they are considered to be the two witnesses of Rev 11:3-13.

The Supremacy of Christ
vv.4-5 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. In effect, Peters statement about building three shrines was putting Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah, which drew a strong rebuke from the Father. Why did Peter make this suggestion? Apparently, he didn't even know why! Mark tells us in Mark 9:5-6 "Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"-- (6)  because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid."

The Apostles Reaction
vv.6-8 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. The apostles react in abject fear. Getting rebuked by God is not exactly on anyone's list for the day. However, I am sure that the Transfiguration served as a reassurance for the apostles as to Jesus' identity.

The Question about Elijah
vv.9-13 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. Again, he reassures them that Elijah will come before the Second Coming, and he will in Revelation 11 as one of the two witnesses. He again, reiterates that had they accepted John, he could have been Elijah.

Too Tough to Handle
vv.14-16 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. This boy was might have had epilepsy. The symptoms are certainly the same. However, it was apparently demon possessed as well. Of course, that is not to imply that everyone today who has epilepsy is demonized. Notice that the disciples were unable to cast this demon out. 

Jesus Rebuked the Demon
vv.17-21 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Now Jesus does what his disciples could not. He furthermore tells them that their unbelief hindered their ability to cast the demon out. Apparently, in this case, they did not even have the faith of a mustard seed. 

He also says that "this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." Most likely the Devil merely knew the extent of their faith and succeeded it. Makes you wonder if the Devil knows the extent of our faith?  I am going to go with, yes, he does. 

Somber Announcement
vv.22-23 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry. This is another somber announcement for the disciples.

Notice that the Lord offered them the bad news but with the good news as well. Of course, they still did not totally understand what he was truly saying to them.

Jesus and Taxes
vv.24-26 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. The questioning goes along these lines…of who do the kings of this earth take taxes?  Do they take them from their own children?  No!  They take them from strangers.  Conclusion: if the king does not tax his own family, then the Father would not tax the son since it is His temple.

Lest we Offend
v.27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee. However, Jesus saw no reason to offend them (they were already all over him and he apparently saw no reason to provoke them further) and told Peter to go and cast in his hook and look in the mouth of the first fish he catches to find the tribute money for him and Peter. It's just a little curious to me that Jesus would be concerned about offending them now.