Daily Archives: January 5, 2014

Muslim Questions: What Are Some Reasons for the Animosity between Christians and Muslims? Can Christians Reconcile with Muslims?

 

On September 11, 2001, the world entered the age of terror. The terrorists wage cruel atrocities in the name of Islam. Christians wonder how to respond to the threat. To their reproach, some fearfully spurn all Muslims as terrorists. Others compromise truth to show acceptance. Both approaches dishonor God.

Christians must understand their differences with Muslims so they can respond with truth and love. First, let’s prayerfully examine how to overcome some of the initial barriers between Muslims and Christians.

1. Muslims are offended by Western secularism
As global technology shrinks the world, Muslims feel threatened by Western culture: immoral movies, pornography, immodest dress, vile music, and rebellious teens. Western culture threatens the Islamic faith, worldview, and lifestyle. Muslims equate this Western culture with Christianity.

Christian response: Befriend Muslims and explain how Western culture is no longer Christian but secular. Further, not all who claim to be Christians are true followers of Christ. Show by word and action an example of a true Christian: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

2. Muslims are resentful of Western dominance
Some countries of the West have a history of colonialism and interference, which Muslims resent. While some approve of the war on terror, other Muslims bitterly object. Many also feel betrayed by the West’s “favoritism” of Israel, a nation whose formation displaced thousands of Palestinians.

Christian response: Demonstrate genuine love and humility by prayer and service. Focus on Christ—not political controversies. God will one day restore justice. In the meantime, He provides government leaders to protect the good and punish the wrongdoer (Romans 13:1–7).

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:16–21).

“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:23–26).

3. Militant Muslims act on war verses in the Qur’an
While many Muslims are peace-loving, others interpret the Qur’an as giving them divine permission to convert or kill non-Muslims.

Christian response: Sadly, some Christians fearfully despise Muslims. But the Lord gives the perfect neutralizer to fear and hatred: His love.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a).

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27).

Jesus didn’t promise His followers a life free of suffering. Instead, He assured, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me” (John 15:18–21).

While some misunderstandings can be cleared with Muslims, the main offense is Jesus Christ (see 1 Peter 2:4–8). The truth about the Lord and Savior must not be compromised. Muslims reject God the Father who sent His Son to die for sinners. Most deny both the necessity and historicity of Christ’s death. While Muslims honor Jesus as a noble prophet, they depend on Islamic faith and works—submission to one Allah, belief in Muhammad’s revelation of Allah, obedience to the Qur’an and the Five Pillars—for entrance to paradise. Many Muslims believe that Christians worship three gods, deify a man, and have corrupted the Bible.

Christians and Muslims should discuss doctrinal misunderstandings. Christians must understand biblical theology so they can …

•     explain the Trinity: God is one in essence, three in Person.

•     give evidence of the Bible’s trustworthiness.

•     show how God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness require Christ’s atoning death.

•     clarify beliefs about Jesus: “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:14–15).

With love, humility, and patience, Christians must present Jesus as Lord and Savior. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ ” (John 14:6).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

The Bondage of the Will (Romans 3:11)

 

Romans 3:11

“… there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.”

Early in my study of Paul’s letter to the Romans, I had an opportunity to teach this book to two separate groups of people for a week at a time. I covered a large number of Bible doctrines, touching on everything from election to glorification. But in both of those settings the point the listeners kept coming back to in question periods was the matter of the human will and its freedom or bondage.

I had said that if we are as desperately lost in sin as Romans 1:18–3:20 says we are, then, unaided by the Spirit of God, no one can come to God, choose God, or even believe on Jesus Christ and be saved—unless God first makes that person alive in Christ and draws him or her. But this is what troubled many. It did not seem consistent with what they knew of their ability to choose what they wanted to choose or reject what they wanted to reject. What is more, it seemed inconsistent with the many free offers of the gospel found throughout Scripture. What does the Bible mean when it says that we are “dead in [our] transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2:1)? Does that mean that we are really unable to respond to God in any way, even when the gospel is proclaimed to us? Or do we still have at least that ability? If we can respond, what did Jesus mean when he said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44a), or “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (John 6:65)? On the other hand, if we cannot respond, what is the meaning of those passages in which the gospel is offered to fallen men and women? For example, the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” (Isa. 55:1). What about such invitations? Furthermore, how can a person be held responsible for failing to believe in Jesus if he or she is unable to do so?

These questions come to us from Romans 3:10–11 because of the words with which Paul sums up man’s spiritual condition. He has said that we are all unrighteous: “ ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.’ ” Now he adds: “ ‘There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.’ ” The way we interpret this verse has a lot to do with how we regard man’s rock-bottom inability (or ability) where spiritual things are concerned.

The Debate in Church History

We might suspect, even if we knew nothing of the past, that a question as important as this must have been discussed often in church history, and this is indeed the case. In fact, the very best way of approaching the subject is through the debates that took place between the theological giants of past days.

The first important debate was between Pelagius and Saint Augustine toward the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth century. Pelagius argued for free will. He did not want to deny the universality of sin, at least at the beginning. He knew that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23a), and in this he wanted to remain orthodox. But Pelagius could not see how we can be responsible for something if we do not have free will in that matter. If there is an obligation to do something, there must be an ability to do it, he argued. Pelagius believed that the will, rather than being bound by sin, is actually neutral—so that at any moment or in any given situation it is free to choose either good or evil.

This worked itself out in several ways. For one thing, it led to a view of sin as only those deliberate and unrelated acts in which the will actually chooses to do evil. Thus any necessary connection between sins or any hereditary principle of sin within the race was forgotten. Pelagius argued further that:

1.   The sin of Adam affected no one but himself, and

2.   Those born since Adam have been born into the same condition Adam was in before his fall, that is, into a position of neutrality so far as sin is concerned, and

3.   Today human beings are able to live free from sin if they want to.

This is probably the root view of most people today, including many Christians. But it is faulty, because it limits the nature and scope of sin and because it leads to a denial of the necessity for the unmerited grace of God in salvation. Moreover, even when the gospel is preached to a fallen sinner (according to this view), what ultimately determines whether he or she will be saved is not the supernatural working of God through the Holy Spirit, but rather the person’s will, which either receives or rejects the Savior—and this gives human beings glory that ought to go to God.

In his early life Augustine had thought along the same lines. But when he became a Christian and as he studied the Bible, Augustine came to see that Pelagianism does not do justice to either the biblical doctrine of sin or the grace of God in salvation.

Augustine saw that the Bible always speaks of sin as more than mere isolated and individual acts. It speaks of an inherited depravity as a result of which it is simply not possible for the individual to stop sinning. Augustine had a phrase for this fundamental human inability: non posse non peccare. It means “not able not to sin.” That is, unaided by God, a person is just not able to stop sinning and choose God. Augustine said that man, having used his free will badly in the fall, lost both himself and his will. He said that the will is free of righteousness, but it is enslaved to sin. It is free to turn from God, but not to come to him.

As far as grace is concerned, Augustine saw that apart from grace no one can be saved. Moreover, it is a matter of grace from beginning to end, not just of “prevenient” grace or partial grace to which the sinner adds his or her efforts. Otherwise, salvation would not be entirely of God, God’s honor would be diminished, and human beings would be able to boast in heaven. Any view that leads to such consequences must be wrong, for God has declared: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).

In defending his views, Augustine won the day, and the church supported him. But Christianity gradually drifted back in the direction of Pelagianism during the Middle Ages.

At the time of the Reformation the battle erupted again, first between Martin Luther and a Dutch humanist, Erasmus of Rotterdam, and then between Jacob Arminius and the followers of John Calvin.

The most interesting debate was between Luther and Erasmus. The latter had been sympathetic to the Reformation in its early stages because, like most wise people of the time, he saw that the church badly needed to be reformed. But Erasmus did not have Luther’s spiritual undergirdings, and at last he was prevailed upon to challenge the reformer. Erasmus chose to write on the freedom of the will. He said that the will must be free—for reasons very much like those given by Pelagius. Still, the subject did not mean a great deal to Erasmus, and he counseled moderation, no doubt hoping that Luther would do likewise.

It was no small matter to Luther, however, and he did not approach the subject with detached moderation. Luther approached the matter zealously, viewing it as an issue upon which the very truth of God depended. In one place, in the midst of demolishing the Dutch humanist’s views, Luther wrote: “I give you hearty praise and commendation on this … account—that you alone, in contrast with all others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the central issue.”

In this work, The Bondage of the Will, which Luther considered his greatest theological writing, the reformer did not deny the psychological fact that men and women do make choices. This is so obvious that no one can really deny it. What Luther affirmed was that in the specific area of an individual’s choice of God or failure to choose God, the will is impotent. In this area Luther was as determined to deny the will’s freedom as Erasmus was determined to affirm it. We are wholly given over to sin, said Luther. Therefore, our only proper role is humbly to acknowledge our sin, confess our blindness, and admit that we can no more choose God by our enslaved wills than we can please him by our sullied moral acts. All we can do is call on God for mercy, knowing even as we seek to do so that we cannot even call for mercy unless God is first active to convict us of sin and lead us to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.

In trying to convey Luther’s thought, I used to say that although we have free will in many areas, we do not have free will in all areas. That is, we can choose what we want in some things—little things like what we will select from a menu, what color tie we will put on, what job we will take. But we do not have free will in the important areas. If I have an intelligence quotient of 120, I cannot make it 140 just by the exercise of my free will. Unless I am an Olympic-class athlete, I cannot choose to run a mile in four minutes or the hundred-yard dash in nine seconds. I used to say that in exactly the same way, none of us can choose God by the mere exercise of our will.

Edwards’s “Freedom of the Will”

I do not present the matter that way anymore, however, and the reason I do not is that in the meantime I have read Jonathan Edwards’s treatise on the freedom of the will and now think differently. Not on the basic issue or in my conclusions—but in the way I define the will.

Let me explain.

It can hardly escape anyone who looks at Edwards’s treatise that at least on the surface Edwards seemed to be saying the exact opposite of what Saint Augustine and Martin Luther had said. Luther titled his study The Bondage of the Will, in opposition to Erasmus’s Freedom of the Will, whereas Jonathan Edwards’s treatise is titled “A Careful and Strict Inquiry into the Prevailing Notions of the Freedom of the Will.” The title does not specifically state that Edwards was asserting the will’s “freedom,” only that he was going to investigate the prevailing ideas about it, but, it is not by chance that Edwards used words opposite to Luther’s. In the end, Edwards came out on the same side as Luther and of all the great biblical theologians before him. But along the way he made a unique contribution to the subject for which the idea of the “freedom” of the will was appropriate.

In this important work the first thing Edwards did was to define the will. Strangely, no one had done this previously. Everyone had operated on the assumption that we all know what the will is. We call the will that mechanism in us that makes choices. Edwards saw that this was not accurate and instead defined the will as “that by which the mind chooses anything.” That may not seem to be much of a difference, but it is a major one. It means, according to Edwards, that what we choose is not determined by the will itself (as if it were an entity to itself) but by the mind, which means that our choices are determined by what we think is the most desirable course of action.

Edwards’s second
important contribution was in the treatment of what he termed “motives.” He asked, “Why is it that the mind chooses one thing rather than another?” His answer: The mind chooses as it does because of motives. That is, the mind is not neutral. It thinks some things are better than other things, and because it thinks that way it always chooses the “better” things. If a person thought one course of action was better than another and yet chose the less desirable alternative, the person would be acting irrationally or, to use other language, he would be insane.

Does this mean that the will is bound, then? Quite the contrary. It means that the will is free. It is always free. That is, it is free to choose (and always will choose) what the mind thinks is best.

But what does the mind think is best? Here we get to the heart of the problem as it involves choosing God. When confronted with God, the mind of a sinner never thinks that the way of God is a good course. The will is free to choose God; nothing is stopping it. But the mind does not regard submission to God and serving God as being desirable. Therefore, it turns from God, even when the gospel is most winsomely presented. It turns from God because of what we saw in Romans 1. The mind does not want God to be sovereign. It does not consider the righteousness of God to be the way to personal fulfillment or happiness. It does not want its true sinful nature exposed. The mind is wrong in its judgments, of course. The way it chooses is actually the way of alienation and misery, the end of which is death. But human beings think sin to be the best way. Therefore, unless God changes the way we think—which he does in some by the miracle of the new birth—our minds always tell us to turn from God. And so we do turn from him.

Moral Inability

The third great contribution Edwards made to understanding why the will never chooses God, although it is free, concerns responsibility, the matter that had troubled Pelagius so profoundly. Here Edwards wisely distinguished between what he called “natural” inability and what he termed “moral” inability. Let me give a simple illustration.

In the natural world there are animals that eat nothing but meat. They are called carnivores from caro, carnis, which means “meat.” There are other animals that eat nothing but grass or plants. They are called herbivores from herba, which means vegetation. Imagine that we have captured a lion, a carnivore, and that we place a bundle of hay or a trough of oats before him. He will not eat the hay or oats. Why not? Is it because he is physically, or naturally, unable to eat them? No. Physically he could munch on the oats and swallow them. But he does not and will not, because it is not in his nature to eat this kind of food. Moreover, if we could ask why he will not eat the herbivore’s meal and the lion could answer, he would say, “I cannot eat this food, because I hate it. I will only eat meat.”

Now think of the verse that says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8a) or of Jesus’ saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If a man eats of this bread, he will live forever …” (John 6:51). Why will a sinful man or woman not “taste and see that the Lord is good” or feed upon Jesus as “the living bread”? To use the lion’s words, it is because that person “hates” such food. The sinner will not come to Christ—because he does not want to. It is not because he cannot come physically.

Someone who does not hold to this teaching (there are many today) might say, “But surely the Bible says that anyone who will come to Christ may come to him. Didn’t Jesus invite us to come? Didn’t he say, ‘Whoever comes to me I will never drive away’ ” (John 6:37b)? The answer is yes, that is exactly what Jesus said. But it is beside the point. Certainly anyone who wants to come to Christ may come to him. That is why Jonathan Edwards insisted that the will is not bound. The fact that we may come is what makes our refusal to seek God so unreasonable and increases our guilt. But who is it who wills to come? The answer is: No one, except those in whom the Holy Spirit has already performed the entirely irresistible work of the new birth so that, as a result of this miracle, the spiritually blind eyes of the natural man are opened to see God’s truth, and the totally depraved mind of the sinner, which in itself has no spiritual understanding, is renewed to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

Old and Practical Doctrine

This is not new teaching, of course, although it seems new to many who hear it in our own quite superficial age. It is merely the purest and most basic form of the doctrine of man embraced by most Protestants and even (privately) by many Catholics. The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England say: “The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith, and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us [that is, being present beforehand to motivate us], that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that will” (Article 10).

In the same way the Westminster Larger Catechism states, “The sinfulness of that state whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually” (Answer to Question 25).

I suppose that at this point there are people who are willing to agree, somewhat reluctantly, that the inability of the will to choose God or believe on Christ is the prevailing doctrine of the church and perhaps even the teaching of the Bible. But they are still not certain of this teaching’s value and may even consider it harmful. They ask, “If we teach that men and women cannot choose God (even if this is true), don’t we destroy the main impetus to evangelism and undercut the missionary enterprise? Isn’t it better just to keep quiet about it?”

It should be a sufficient answer to this worry to say that the very person who gave us the Great Commission said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

But let me answer instead by saying that, contrary to this doctrine being a hindrance to evangelism, it is actually the greatest possible motivation for spreading the gospel. If it is true that the sinner, left alone, never naturally seeks out God, how is that individual ever going to find God unless other people, sent by God, carry the gospel to him (or her). “Ah, but even then the person cannot respond,” says the objector. True enough. Not by himself. But it is through the preaching and teaching of the gospel that God chooses to call people to faith, and anyone who obeys God and takes the gospel to the lost can be encouraged to know that God will work through this means. Moreover, the evangelist will pray for the sinner, since nothing but the work of God—certainly not the eloquence or charm of man—can save him.

“But surely you must not tell the sinner that he cannot respond unless God first does a work of regeneration in him?” argues a skeptic. On the contrary, that is exactly what the sinner needs to know. For it is only in such understanding that sinful human beings learn how desperate their situation is and how absolutely essential is God’s grace. If we are hanging on to some confidence in our own spiritual ability, no matter how small, we will never seriously worry about our condition. There will be no sense of urgency. “Life is long. There will be time to believe later,” we say, as if we can bring ourselves to believe when we want to, perhaps on our deathbed after we have done what we wish with our lives. At least we are ready to take a chance on it. But if we are truly dead in sin, as Paul says we are, and if that involves our will as well as all other parts of our psychological and spiritual makeup, we will find ourselves in near despair. We will see our state as hopeless apart from the supernatural and totally unmerited workings of the grace of God.

And that is what God wants! He will not have us boasting of even the smallest human contribution to salvation. It is only as we renounce all such vain possibilities that he will show us the way of salvation through Christ and lead us to him.[1]


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 297–304). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Theology: GOD IS HOLY

GOD IS GOOD

Goodness is often equated with the benevolence of God. Goodness is “…..the quality or state of being good…..” (By permission. From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary copyright 1991 by Merriam- Webster Inc., publisher of the Merriam-Webster (registered) Dictionaries.) Benevolence is the “…..disposition to do good…..an act of kindness…..” (By permission. From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary copyright 1991 by Merriam-Webster Inc., publisher of the Merriam- Webster (registered) Dictionaries.)

Again the definition is limited, because in God there is not a state of being good (which holds forth the possibility of not being good), He is good by nature and is never anything else. He is incapable of anything else. Within the definition of Benevolence there is also a problem if applied to God. Disposition gives the idea of maybe good, maybe not good. He is GOOD.

The use of benevolence, if it is to be understood in light of the Dictionary definition, is not appropriate for God. God is “GOOD,” and there is no possibility of disposition, because with Him there is no maybe. Psalm 25:8, “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore will he teach sinners in the way.” (Read also the following texts: Psalm 33:5, Psalm 52:1, Psalm 103, Mark 10:18, Romans 2:4, Romans 11:22.)

Goodness covers two areas, what God is in and of Himself, and what God is to His creatures. In other words goodness covers His character and the expression of His character.

His Character: Holy, True, Love

His Relation To Others: Righteous, Faithful, Merciful, mercy, tender mercy, kind, kindness, loving kindness, pity, pitiful, good, goodness, compassion, grace, gracious, and longsuffering.

There is no opposite for this side of God. He is Good, and He cannot be bad.

Some might question this concept in relation to the fact that He will judge and condemn the lost to hell. There is no divine attribute of wrath. Wrath is the logical and needed result of the attributes of holiness, truth, love and justice. The violators of His ways will feel this wrath. Within all of this is the fact that He is doing good. He is preparing the creation for eternity. This includes the removal of all evil.

Does this study bring new meaning to the idea that all things work together for good? He is in the process of doing good in your life, no matter how bad things seem to get. His work in you can only result in good.

God Is Holy

Before moving on, please read Leviticus 10:1-7 and Acts 5:1-11. He IS to be reverenced. Sin is not allowable.

Oehler observed of God, “Holiness is glory concealed; glory is holiness revealed.” (Quoted in Pardington. Pardington, Revelation George P. Ph.D.; “Outline Studies In Christian Doctrine”; Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1926, p 79)

 

The term holy originally comes from the idea of “whole” or complete. Thus holy is, wholly given to a purpose.

 

The Hebrew term is “kadesh” which means separateness. The term really had nothing to do with holiness at first. The term harlot in Genesis 38:21 is “kadesh” — set apart for a purpose.

 

The Greek term is “hagios” which means set apart. Strong mentions, “Holiness is self-affirming purity. In virtue of this attribute of His nature, God eternally wills and maintains His own moral excellence. This definition contains three elements: first, purity: secondly, purity willing: thirdly, purity willing itself.” (Strong, Augustus H.. “Systematic Theology”; Valley Forge, PA: The Judson Press, 1907. This same quote is found on p 77 of Bancroft’s Christian Theology.)

 

There Are Several Areas Which Relate To God And Holy:

 

God’s people are to be holy. Leviticus 11:41-45; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:15,16. Not sometimes holy, as many believers live today, but all the time holy. Unholiness is unacceptable. It is easy to talk about the little sins we allow, but term it as it is, UNHOLY, and it sounds a bit worse.

 

 

Things dedicated to Him are holy. Leviticus 27:28 If we have given ourselves to Him, then we should also be holy. That is the standard, whether or not we like it, accept it, or live by it.

 

His habitation is holy. Deuteronomy 26:15; Psalm 99:9; Isaiah 57:15. Think of it, we will one day share that habitation with Him. A holy habitation with no evil.

 

His throne is holy. Psalm 47:8 Is it any wonder Isaiah said when viewing the throne that he was undone and of unclean lips?

 

The Spirit of God is holy. Psalm 51:11 He is resident in you. He is another reason for us to remain sinless. Our “little sins” offend Him greatly.

 

Let me just list some other areas of His holiness: God swears by His holiness Psalm 89: 34-36; His arm is holy Psalm 98:1; God is holy and His name is holy Psalm 99:1-9; His promise to Abraham was holy Psalm 105:42; His name is holy Isaiah 57:15.

 

IN WHAT WAY IS GOD SET APART?

 

God is absolutely separate from all that is earthly or human. (Psalm 99:1- 3, Isaiah 57:15) This is seen often in the Old Testament.

 

God is absolutely separate from all that is unclean. This would be deemed His moral holiness. (Psalm 99:4-9, Psalm 24:3,4) This thought seems to be the prevalent thought of the New Testament. Both ideas are found in Isaiah 6:1-5. He is lifted up and pure.

 

Is Love, or Holiness more prominent in His listing of attributes? The social gospel people seem to hold love as the prime attribute. Fundamentalists tend to hold holiness as the prime attribute. It has been said that Scripture states “Holy, holy, holy” not “Love, love, love.” Dwell on that thought for a time.

 

One final point. The thought of God being holy and objects being holy may be difficult for some to understand. Holy has the idea of set apart, and in this sense anything can be holy.

 

 

APPLICATION

 

1. We will naturally see our own unholiness as we view His holiness. Isaiah 6:1ff is a prime example of this concept. Isaiah realized his uncleanness. Cambron states, “When we think not of god’s holiness, we think light of sin.” (Cambron, Mark G. D.D.; “Bible Doctrines”; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954, pp 48-49)

 

2. The basis of his covenants is His holiness; they WILL come to pass. Psalm 89:34-36 (David); Psalm 105:42 (Abraham); John 17:11.

 

3. The holiness of God demands a similar holiness in the lives of His people. 1 Peter 1:15-16, “But, as he who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of life, Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am Holy.” (see Psalm 99; Hebrews 12:10 which tells us that we can partake in HIS holiness — contemplate that for awhile.)

 

4. His holiness is always in the background of all of His judgments. The following texts picture the scene of God’s throne that Isaiah beheld. (Revelation 4, Revelation 20)

 

5. Our works, or life style can profane God’s holy name. Amos 2:6,7 6. Our salvation is provided by a Holy God. If we remember our previous destination we will think more highly of His holiness and from what He has saved us. His holiness demanded that we be separated from Him thus Christ’s righteousness allows us to approach Him.

 

6. His holiness is the only standard for our life and lifestyle. If we wonder if something is right, all we need to do is ask if it is holy.[1]

 


[1] Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. B.A. (n.d.). DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY: A STUDY BOOK IN THEOLOGY.

Questions about Jesus Christ: Was Jesus Sinless?

 

Yes, Jesus was sinless and it is because Jesus was sinless that we have hope of an eternity in heaven. If Jesus were not sinless, there would be no sacrific for sin. Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden ushered sin into this world (Genesis 3:6). And with this sin came death, just as God had warned (Genesis 2:17). As a result, mankind is now born with a sin nature (Romans 5:12–19), and it is with us from the time we are conceived (Psalm 51:5). The Bible makes it clear, however, that Jesus Christ, though tempted in every way just as we are (Hebrews 4:15), never committed a sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5). The apostle Peter stated it clearly: “He committed no sin and no deceit was found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). Indeed, as Jesus Christ is God, He has no capacity to sin.

In addition to putting a barrier between us and our Creator, our inherited sinful nature subjected all of us to physical and eternal death because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Now, to be reconciled with God there needed to be forgiveness, and “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). And after Adam and Eve sinned, God clothed them with “garments of skin” (Genesis 3:21) by shedding the blood of an animal. However, the many subsequent animal sacrifices, although perfectly illustrating that sin requires death, provided only a temporary covering of sins, as the blood of those animals could never completely take away sin (Hebrews 10:4, 11).

These sacrifices, however, were a foreshadowing of the perfect “once for all” sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:27, 10:10). The only way we could have been reconciled to a holy and perfect God was with a holy and perfect offering which we would not have had if Jesus Christ was not without sin. As Peter declared: “for you know that it is not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed … but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18–19). Indeed, it was the sinless blood of Christ alone that was able to bring peace between God and mankind (Colossians 1:20). And with this reconciliation, we can be “holy in [God’s] sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22).

Sinless Christ’s death on the cross at Calvary paid the full penalty for the sin of all who believe in Him. Thus, what was lost at the fall was given back at the cross. Just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), God was able to redeem the world through one man—the sinless Jesus Christ.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Humanity: What Is the Conscience?

 

The conscience is defined as that part of the human psyche that induces mental anguish and feelings of guilt when we violate it and feelings of pleasure and well-being when our actions, thoughts and words are in conformity to our value systems. The Greek word translated “conscience” in all New Testament references is suneidēsis, meaning “moral awareness” or “moral consciousness.” The conscience reacts when one’s actions, thoughts, and words conform to, or are contrary to, a standard of right and wrong.

There is no Hebrew term in the Old Testament equivalent to suneidēsis in the New Testament. The lack of a Hebrew word for “conscience” may be due to the Jewish worldview, which was communal rather than individual. The Hebrew considered himself as a member of a covenant community which related corporately to God and His laws, rather than as an individual. In other words, the Hebrew was confident in his own position before God if the Hebrew nation as a whole was in good fellowship with Him.

The New Testament concept of conscience is more individual in nature and involves three major truths. First, conscience is a God-given capacity for human beings to exercise self-evaluation. Paul refers several times to his own conscience being “good” or “clear” (Acts 23:1; 24:16; 1 Corinthians 4:4). Paul examined his own words and deeds and found them to be in accordance with his morals and value system, which were, of course, based on God’s standards. His conscience verified the integrity of his heart.

Second, the New Testament portrays the conscience as a witness to something. Paul says the Gentiles have consciences that bear witness to the presence of the law of God written on their hearts, even though they did not have the Mosaic Law (Romans 2:14–15). He also appeals to his own conscience as a witness that he speaks the truth (Romans 9:1) and that he has conducted himself in holiness and sincerity in his dealings with men (2 Corinthians 1:12). He also says that his conscience tells him his actions are apparent to both God and the witness of other men’s consciences (2 Corinthians 5:11).

Third, the conscience is a servant of the individual’s value system. An immature or weak value system produces a weak conscience, while a fully informed value system produces a strong sense of right and wrong. In the Christian life, one’s conscience can be driven by an inadequate understanding of scriptural truths and can produce feelings of guilt and shame disproportionate to the issues at hand. Maturing in the faith strengthens the conscience.

This last function of the conscience is what Paul addresses in his instructions regarding eating food sacrificed to idols. He makes the case that, since idols are not real gods, it makes no difference if food has been sacrificed to them or not. But some in the Corinthian church were weak in their understanding and believed that such gods really existed. These immature believers were horrified at the thought of eating food sacrificed to the gods, because their consciences were informed by erroneous prejudices and superstitious views. Therefore, Paul encourages those more mature in their understanding not to exercise their freedom to eat if it would cause the consciences of their weaker brothers to condemn their actions. The lesson here is that, if our consciences are clear because of mature faith and understanding, we are not to cause those with weaker consciences to stumble by exercising the freedom that comes with a stronger conscience.

Another reference to conscience in the New Testament is to a conscience that is “seared” or rendered insensitive as though it had been cauterized with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:1–2). Such a conscience is hardened and calloused, no longer feeling anything. A person with a seared conscience no longer listen to its promptings, and he can sin with abandon, delude himself into thinking all is well with his soul, and treat others insensitively and without compassion.

As Christians, we are to keep our consciences clear by obeying God and keeping our relationship with Him in good standing. We do this by the application of His Word, renewing and softening our hearts continually. We consider those whose consciences are weak, treating them with Christian love and compassion.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

What Does It Mean To Rightly Handle The Word Of Truth?

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:14-15 ESV)

In our post What Does It Mean to Walk In The Light, we looked at what true worship is and what is isn’t. Sadly, the prevalence of false worship and “churchianity” has taken over the “visible church” in our time. However, God has not abandoned the True Church and there are those God is calling to take up the slack left by “Christian” leaders who have left their proper calling of genuine ministry and “Rightly Handling the Word of Truth” to pursue a form of “Church” that is more of a…

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