Daily Archives: May 19, 2014

Questions about Salvation: What Is the Doctrine of Substitution?

 

Substitution is one of the major themes of the Bible. God instituted the principle of substitution in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. By killing an animal to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:21), God began to paint a picture of what it would take to bring mankind back into proper relationship with Him. He continued that theme with His chosen people Israel. By giving them the Law, God showed them His holiness and demonstrated their inability to achieve that holiness. God then granted them a substitute to pay the price for their sin, in the form of blood sacrifices (Exodus 29:41–42; 34:19; Numbers 29:2). By sacrificing an innocent animal according to God’s specifications, man could have his sins forgiven and enter the presence of God. The animal died in the sinner’s place, thereby allowing the sinner to go free, vindicated. Leviticus 16 tells of the scapegoat, upon which the elders of Israel would place their hands, symbolically transferring the sins of the people onto the goat. The goat was then set free into the wilderness, bearing the sins of the people far away.

The theme of substitution is found throughout the Old Testament as a precursor to the coming of Jesus Christ. The Passover feast conspicuously featured a substitute. In Exodus 12, God gives instruction to His people to prepare for the coming Angel of the Lord who would strike down the firstborn male of every family as a judgment upon Egypt. The only way to escape this plague was to take a perfect male lamb, kill it, and put the blood on the lintels and doorposts of their houses. God told them, “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt” (Exodus 12:13). That Passover lamb was a substitute for every male firstborn who would accept it.

God carried that theme of substitution into the New Testament with the coming of Jesus. He had set the stage so that mankind would understand exactly what Jesus came to do. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” God’s perfect Lamb took the sins of the world upon Himself, laid down His life, and died in our place (John 1:19; 1 Peter 3:18). The only acceptable sacrifice for sin is a perfect offering. If we died for our own sins, it would not be sufficient payment. We are not perfect. Only Jesus, the perfect God-Man, fits the requirement, and He laid down His life for ours willingly (John 10:18). There was nothing we could do to save ourselves, so God did it for us. The Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53 makes the substitutionary death of Christ abundantly clear: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (verse 5).

Jesus’ substitution for us was perfect, unlike the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament. Hebrews 10:4 says, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Someone might say, “You mean, all those sacrifices the Jews made were for nothing?” The writer is clarifying that animal blood itself had no value. It was what that blood symbolized that made the difference. The value of the ancient sacrifices was that the animal was a substitute for a human being’s sin and that it pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:22).

Some people make the mistake of thinking that, since Jesus died for the sins of the world, everyone will go to heaven one day. This is incorrect. The substitutionary death of Christ must be personally applied to each heart, in much the same way that the blood of the Passover had to be personally applied to the door (John 1:12; 3:16–18; Acts 2:38). Before we can become “the righteousness of God in Him,” we must exchange our old sin nature for His holy one. God offers the Substitute, but we must receive that Substitute personally by accepting Christ in faith (Ephesians 2:8–9).[1]

 

 

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

Topical Bible Questions: What Is the Definition of Faith?

 

Thankfully, the Bible contains a clear definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Simply put, the biblical definition of faith is “trusting in something you cannot explicitly prove.”

This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair.

Understanding these two aspects of faith is crucial. Many people believe certain facts about Jesus Christ. Many people will intellectually agree with the facts the Bible declares about Jesus. But knowing those facts to be true is not what the Bible means by “faith.” The biblical definition of faith requires intellectual assent to the facts and trust in the facts.

Believing that Jesus is God incarnate who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and was resurrected is not enough. Even the demons believe in God and in those facts (cf. James 2:19). We must personally and fully rely on the death of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We must “sit in the chair” of the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided. This is saving faith. The faith God requires of us for salvation is belief in what the Bible says about who Jesus is and what He accomplished and fully trusting in Jesus for that salvation (Acts 16:31). Biblical faith is always accompanied by repentance of sin (Matthew 21:32; Mark 1:15).

The biblical definition of faith does not apply only to salvation. It is equally applicable to the rest of the Christian life. We are to believe what the Bible says, and we are to obey it. We are to believe the promises of God, and we are to live accordingly. We are to agree with the truth of God’s Word, and we are to allow ourselves to be transformed by it (Romans 12:2).

Why is this definition of faith so important? Why must trust accompany agreeing with facts? Because “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith, we cannot be saved (John 3:16). Without faith, the Christian life cannot be what God intends it to be (John 10:10).[1]

 

 

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

Bible Summary / Survey: Book of Ezra

 

Author: The Book of Ezra does not specifically name its author. The tradition is that the prophet Ezra wrote the Book of Ezra. It is interesting to note that once Ezra appears on the scene in chapter 7, the author of the Book of Ezra switches from writing in the third person to first person. This would also lend credibility to Ezra being the author.

Date of Writing: The Book of Ezra was likely written between 460 and 440 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Ezra is devoted to events occurring in the land of Israel at the time of the return from the Babylonian captivity and subsequent years, covering a period of approximately one century, beginning in 538 B.C. The emphasis in Ezra is on the rebuilding of the Temple. The book contains extensive genealogical records, principally for the purpose of establishing the claims to the priesthood on the part of the descendants of Aaron.

Key Verses: Ezra 3:11 “With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: ‘He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.’ And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.”

Ezra 7:6, “… this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.”

Brief Summary: The book may be divided as follows: Chapters 1–6—The First Return under Zerubbabel, and the Building of the Second Temple. Chapters 7–10—The Ministry of Ezra. Since well over half a century elapsed between chapters 6 and 7, the characters of the first part of the book had died by the time Ezra began his ministry in Jerusalem. Ezra is the one person who is prominent in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Both books end with prayers of confession (Ezra 9; Nehemiah 9) and a subsequent separation of the people from the sinful practices into which they had fallen. Some concept of the nature of the encouraging messages of Haggai and Zechariah, who are introduced in this narrative (Ezra 5:1), may be seen in the prophetic books that bear their names.

The Book of Ezra covers the return from captivity to rebuild the Temple up to the decree of Artaxerxes, the event covered at the beginning of the Book of Nehemiah. Haggai was the main prophet in the day of Ezra, and Zechariah was the prophet in the day of Nehemiah.

Foreshadowings: We see in the Book of Ezra a continuation of the biblical theme of the remnant. Whenever disaster or judgment falls, God always saves a tiny remnant for Himself—Noah and his family from the destruction of the flood; Lot’s family from Sodom and Gomorrah; the 7000 prophets reserved in Israel despite the persecution of Ahab and Jezebel. When the Israelites were taken into captivity in Egypt, God delivered His remnant and took them to the Promised Land. Some fifty thousand people return to the land of Judea in Ezra 2:64–67, and yet, as they compare themselves with the numbers in Israel during its prosperous days under King David, their comment is, “We are left this day as a remnant.” The remnant theme is carried into the New Testament where Paul tells us that “at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace” (Romans 11:5). Although most people of Jesus’ day rejected Him, there remained a set of people whom God had reserved and preserved in his Son, and in the covenant of His grace. Throughout all generations since Christ, there is the remnant of the faithful whose feet are on the narrow road that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13–14). This remnant will be preserved through the power of the Holy Spirit who has sealed them and who will deliver them safely at the last day (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30).

Practical Application: The Book of Ezra is a chronicle of hope and restoration. For the Christian whose life is scarred by sin and rebellion against God, there is great hope that ours is a God of forgiveness, a God who will not turn His back on us when we seek Him in repentance and brokenness (1 John 1:9). The return of the Israelites to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple are repeated in the life of every Christian who returns from the captivity of sin and rebellion against God and finds in Him a loving welcome home. No matter how long we have been away, He is ready to forgive us and receive us back into His family. He is willing to show us how to rebuild our lives and resurrect our hearts, wherein is the temple of the Holy Spirit. As with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, God superintends the work of renovating and rededicating our lives to His service.

The opposition of the adversaries of God to the rebuilding of the temple displays a pattern that is typical of that of the enemy of our souls. Satan uses those who would appear to be in sync with God’s purposes to deceive us and attempt to thwart God’s plans. Ezra 4:2 describes the deceptive speech of those who claim to worship Christ but whose real intent is to tear down, not to build up. We are to be on guard against such deceivers, respond to them as the Israelites did, and refuse to be fooled by their smooth words and false professions of faith.[1]

 

 

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

The Coming (Bloodless) Dogma War

Zwinglius Redivivus

The Christian Church will experience, I think, within the next quarter century, a bloodless dogma war akin to the dogmatic debates of the late 19th century.  I think this will happen because on the one hand there is much in Christianity today that bears no resemblance to its historical roots and on the other because for one camp in Christianity dogma matters whilst for another camp it does not.

This war will involve nearly every Christian and will divide houses, churches, families, and friends.  It is inevitable and the movement of the Church Universal towards it is inexorable.  It will be waged on the field of academic debate and church splits.  And at the end of the day, when the smoke clears, Dogmatists will be victorious for one simple reason: the non-dogmaticians, lacking any substantive foundation, will splinter into countless in-fighting sub groups and the larger culture and the majority…

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Kirsten Powers on the Liberals’ Dark Ages

Kirsten Powers on the Liberals’ Dark Ages
“How ironic that the persecutors this time around are the so-called intellectuals. They claim to be liberal while behaving as anything but. The touchstone of liberalism is tolerance of differing ideas. Yet this mob exists to enforce conformity of thought and to delegitimize any dissent from its sanctioned worldview. Intolerance is its calling card.” See also this post, Tolerance Has No Clothes.

Five Implications for Churches as the Boomers Retire

 

They are the children of the 60s. There was a time they said you couldn’t trust anyone over 30 . . . until they turned 30 themselves. Until the Millennials were born, they were the largest generation in America’s history with over 76 million live births.

They are the Baby Boomers, or the Boomers, as they are typically called today.

On January 1, 2011, the first Boomer turned 65. In fact, on that day, 10,000 of them turned 65. And that pace of aging will continue until 2030, when every Boomer is 65 or older.

The implications for churches are staggering. This generation is not of the mindset of previous aging generations. According to a Pew Research study, the typical Boomer does not believe old age begins until age 72. And the typical Boomer feels nine years younger than his or her chronological age.

So what are some of the implications for churches? Read these carefully. There are very few churches that will not feel the impact of retiring Boomers.

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Power Clip: From Failure to Faithfulness

We must be rivited and focused upon the finish line where the Lord Jesus Christ is standing, and be focused on Him.
– Steve Lawson

In the video posted, Steve Lawson explains how each Christian is specifically placed in position by God and by His will, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. This should be an incredible encouragement to all believers, and an incredible testimony to God’s sovereign power.

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Are All Angels Safe?

Are All Angels Safe?

Angels 1Contrary to popular belief angels are neither chubby little babes with rosy cheeks nor are they exquisite young women with gossamer wings decked out in long flowing gowns. The Bible reveals very little about angels. What we do know is that God sends angels to do His bidding.

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Satan’s lies about prayer

It’s a fair bet that most Christians would see prayer as a vital component of our relationship with God. We can bring our worries and troubles to our Father, we can ask for anything in Jesus’ name, we can be confident in our approach to God because of the blood of our saviour—these are all things we affirm and love.

This is good. Because each aspect of prayer to the Father is the gospel of grace in miniature. I have done nothing to earn the ear of the creator of the universe; quite the opposite, in fact. The relationship I now enjoy in prayer with my Lord is entirely his gracious gift.

So how is it that we can be so often and so easily deceived about and diverted from prayer? Well, for a start, we’re sinful creatures. And often lazy. Distractible. Not yet transformed into glory. Very often more interested in shiny things (or glowing screens) than the invisible, immortal God.

Taking advantage of our less-than-perfect features is the Deceiver—his title is a giveaway; he is very good at concocting lies. A very quick look at a couple of passages in the Bible will be sufficient for us to see Satan’s methods: Genesis 3 and Luke 4. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say; recognizing how the enemy works can give us insight into how to resist temptation when it comes.

In the garden of Eden, Satan starts out by appealing to a distortion of the truth, grounding his lies in something that is easy to believe if we’re not thinking straight. With Eve he works with the situation at hand: the fruit of the tree looks good to eat (Gen 3:6). He opens with a misquote they can both agree is wide of the mark: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1). Eve over-corrects: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die’” (Gen 3:2-3). This is the chink in the armour—not being entirely sure of God’s word. Pouncing on this, here comes the flat out lie: “You will not surely die” (Gen 3:4), and a suggestion that makes the lie attractive: “You will be like God” (Gen 3:5).

When he meets Jesus in the desert, Satan once again appeals to the situation: knowing Jesus is hungry, he tempts him to use his power to turn stones into bread (Luke 4:3). Answered this time with complete confidence in God’s word, the devil then moves to two subtle distortions of truth. Firstly, he offers Jesus the chance to share his authority (Luke 4:6-7)—but whatever authority the devil can claim over this world will not last forever, and most certainly pales in comparison to the authority Jesus has this side of his resurrection (cf. 1 Cor 15:20-28). Secondly, he appeals to the Scriptures themselves and tempts Jesus to put them to the test (Luke 4:9-11).

Clearly the two situations are different. In the abundance of Eden humanity wants more and falls; in the barrenness of the desert the ultimate human knows what he already has and resists. But notice how Satan approaches. Flat-out contradictions of truth would (hopefully) be easy enough to spot, but that’s not always the way that lies about prayer come to us. Often they’re distortions, with elements of truth twisted out of shape so that they appear to be something worth believing. They are, in fact, paths away from God. The devil doesn’t masquerade as an angel of light because he likes the look—it’s a means to the end of deceiving and blinding people to the glory of God.

So let’s look at some of the lies you and I might be tempted to believe about prayer.

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Why Aren’t We Teaching Christians How To Study The Bible?

If someone were to ask you, “How do you begin studying the Bible?” Would you know how to answer? Would you be able to explain how to analyze and interpret a chapter, to look at the historical context and setting of the book containing it? …….. Read more

Graham: ‘True Followers of Jesus…Cannot Endorse Same-Sex Marriage’

(CNSNews.com) – Rev. Franklin Graham, son of world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham, said that “true followers” of Jesus “cannot endorse same-sex marriage” regardless of what President Barack Obama, the Congress, the Supreme Court, or the media say about the issue, adding that marriage was “settled by God Himself” and cannot be modified by man.

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Op-Ed: Root Causes of US Mainline Church Anti-Israelism – Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

“The national assemblies of five American mainline Protestant churches have frequently attacked Israel over the past 10 years. Included are the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ (UCC), the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), the United Methodist Church, (UMC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

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Five Things You Need to Know about Faith in China

Evan Osnos, a staff writer at The New Yorker, lived in Beijing from 2005 to 2013. His new book, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, is an inner history of China’s transformation, told through the eyes of men and women at the center of it. Osnos writes that, beneath the physical changes, China’s rise is a story of spiritual revival comparable to America’s Great Awakening in the nineteenth century, an attempt to fill “a hole in Chinese life that people named the jingshen kongxu — ‘the spiritual void.’” In this adaptation from Age of Ambition, he explains the five essential dynamics in China’s quest for meaning.

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