Daily Archives: August 15, 2014

Questions about Theology: What Is the Dispensation of Grace?

 

In the dispensation of Innocence, God worked face to face with His highest creation, made in His own image. After the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind was no longer innocent, and God appealed to humans to use their divinely implanted consciences to do right. That brought in the second dispensation (Conscience), which lasted for about 1600 years until God could tolerate the sin no more and brought a flood to destroy all but eight persons—a remnant to continue His sovereign plan for mankind. During the dispensation of Human Government, civil authority was established to govern society, but again, mankind rebelled—this time, at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:4). After God dispersed the people, He created the nation of Israel from Abraham and his descendants (the dispensation of Promise). After God had created the Hebrew people, He gave them the Law through Moses (the dispensation of Law). God’s people consistently broke the commandments, but the Law was finally fulfilled in Christ. The Lord then established the dispensation of Grace. God’s unmerited favor would finally allow His chosen people (believing Jews and Gentiles) to have lasting fellowship with Him.

Grace is the sixth dispensation (John 19:31 to Revelation 3:22).

Stewards: The church. All believers are ministers of their spiritual fruit and a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9) The Period: From the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) to the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18), a period of nearly 2,000 years and counting Responsibility: To be perfected by sanctification; to love one another; to exhibit ever-increasing godliness (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 2 John 1:5) Failure: A lack of maturity; worldliness; many churches falling into apostasy (Galatians 5:4; 2 Timothy 3:1–5) Judgment: The blindness of apostasy and false doctrine (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Timothy 4:3) Grace: Forgiveness of sins through Christ Jesus (1 John 1:3–7; John 14:20)

This dispensation of Grace is often referred to as the Church Age because it is during this era that Jesus is building His Church (Matthew 16:18). It began at Pentecost (Acts 2) and will end when all who are born again by the baptism of the Holy Spirit are raptured out of this world to be with Jesus Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). The Church is mentioned again in Revelation 19 as returning to earth with the Lord Jesus at His Second Coming.

Grace is God’s benevolence to the undeserving. Grace is the rule of life for the Church, and through the Church God’s grace is extended to the whole world, as the gospel of Jesus Christ is taken to the ends of the earth. It has been said that grace saved us (Ephesians 2:8–9), it supports us (Romans 5:2), it teaches us (Titus 2:11–12), and it disciplines us (1 Corinthians 11:28–32; Hebrews 12:5–11). With the Holy Spirit indwelling His Church, we are able to walk with the Lord and live as He intends (Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 2:10; 5:17–18; Philippians 1:6; 4:13; Romans 8:14). It is not heaven yet, and it is far short of perfection, but as the Church is being sanctified, it provides a little taste of heaven on earth (Ephesians 2:21–22).[1]

 

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

Questions about Creation: Would the Discovery of Noah’s Ark Be Important?

 

There have been numerous claimed discoveries of Noah’s Ark in recent years. The discoveries have been in various locations, ranging from Mount Ararat in Turkey, to a mountain range in Iran, to an entirely different location on Mount Ararat (with a visitors’ center). It is not the purpose of this article to evaluate whether or not the Noah’s Ark discovery claims are legitimate. Rather, the question at hand is, if Noah’s Ark was discovered, would that be significant? Would the discovery of Noah’s Ark cause people to turn to God in faith?

The discovery of a boat-like structure in the mountains of the Middle East, carbon-dated to approximately the time of the biblical account of Noah’s Ark (2500 B.C), with evidence of animal life once having been aboard would surely be a tremendous discovery. For those who believe in God and trust in the Bible as His inspired Word, it would be powerful confirmation that the Bible is true and that early human history occurred precisely as the Bible describes it. A verified discovery of Noah’s Ark would likely cause many seekers and open-minded skeptics to at least re-evaluate their beliefs. For the close-minded critic and hardened atheist, however, the discovery of Noah’s Ark would not make one bit of a difference.

Romans 1:19–20 declares, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (ESV). If a person is rejecting the clear evidence of God in the universe, no biblically related discovery would change his/her mind. Similarly, in Luke 16:31, Jesus declares, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” No discovery, no argument, and no miracle will change the mind of a person who has been blinded by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4) and is, with a hard heart and closed mind, rejecting the light of the Gospel.

Conversely, would it matter if Noah’s Ark is never discovered? No, it would not matter because the Christian faith is not built on every biblical account being explicitly/conclusively proven. The Christian faith is built on faith. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). With that in mind, though, there are two primary explanations for why Noah’s Ark might never be discovered. First, the wood of the Ark would have been very valuable post-Flood. Noah and his family would have needed wood to build their homes. It is possible that Noah and his family, or their descendants, deconstructed the Ark and used its wood for other purposes. Second, even if Noah and his family left the Ark intact, approximately 4500 years have passed (if the biblical account is interpreted strictly literally). A wooden structure exposed to harsh elements for 4500 years would, for the most part, decompose/decay into virtual nothingness.

While the discovery of Noah’s Ark would be a tremendous and powerful archaeological find, it will never be something Christians should place their faith in. The discovery of Noah’s Ark, or the Ark of the Covenant, or the Garden of Eden, or any other biblical artifact will not prove the Christian faith and will not change the mind of anyone whom God is not drawing (John 6:44). “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).[1]

 

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

Miscellaneous Bible Questions: Was It Unfair for God to Allow Job to Suffer over What Was Basically an Argument between God and Satan?

 

A surface reading of the book of Job usually evokes a reaction such as “Why is God making a ‘bet’ with the devil? God is being unfair to Job!” If we are honest and not just trying to defend God, He seems at first like some kind of cosmic ogre. God not only wagered Satan over the outcome of Job’s trials, but He actually provoked the bet (Job 1–2). To make matters worse, Job never finds out why he was afflicted in the first place. This is very disturbing for those who hope to see God as just, gracious and loving and not just “playing” with us as if we were pawns on a chessboard. So, in a way, the story of Job puts God on trial. To really understand what is going on in Job, we need to evaluate how this “trial” is litigated in the book’s argument.

On the surface, when God finally “testifies” in Job 38–42, the way He “grills” Job may seem to suggest that God is “against” Job rather than “for” him. The God-speeches are notable for their deep sarcasm, as if God were simply highlighting Job’s cluelessness (Job 38–39). However, a deeper look reveals a more redemptive dynamic in this trial: first, Job’s friend Elihu actually serves under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, both as Job’s advocate before God and God’s advocate before Job (Job 32–37); second, we find that God indeed did express His love to Job, both in His speeches (Job 38–41) and in finally vindicating Job. God confirms that Job had spoken “what was right” about Him, whereas his first three friends had not (42:7).

As Job and his friends debate God’s fairness, it becomes apparent that all of them basically believe in the doctrine of “retribution theology”—every act receives just punishment or reward in this present life, so we should be able to tell who is righteous or wicked by whether they are visibly blessed or cursed on earth. This is a false doctrine, but Job thought it should be true and went on the offensive, charging God with injustice and calling for a trial (Job 29–31). Surprisingly, God condescends and agrees to be put on trial. The speeches in Job 38–41 actually consist of God’s testimony in His own defense. In the “trial” we see that Job has no legal standing to convict God. Job cannot demonstrate how God runs the universe, so he cannot present any evidence of injustice (chapters 38–39). Also, God establishes His absolute right to act as He sees fit. As proof, He points to two creatures—behemoth and leviathan—that mankind has no control over whatsoever and that answer only to God.

Even before God shows up, Elihu makes the same points and argues that God is deeply redemptive in His dealings with man in spite of man’s notorious tendency toward self-destruction (32–37). Since God validates Elihu’s points (38–41), the adversarial tone in God’s answer to Job makes even more sense: throughout Job’s dialogue with his friends (4–27) and in his formal complaint to God (29–31), Job had assumed that God was unaware of what happened to him or that He was deliberately persecuting him or that Job had inadvertently sinned and God was not willing to tell him what the problem was. Job thought he was being punished entirely out of proportion to any conceivable offense he may have committed. In fact, Job questions God incessantly throughout the dialogue. His protest climaxes in a direct indictment of God on the charge of injustice (29–31).

So what did Job “get right” (42:7)? The upshot of the trial is that Job finally sees that God’s governance of the universe is much more wonderful than he could have imagined, and he openly concedes this (42:2–5); so this is what Job spoke about God that was “right” (42:7). Now, it is absolutely crucial to note the sequence of events at this point: it is only when Job obeys God and intercedes on behalf of his three friends—who had now become his enemies—that God actually blesses Job with a twofold inheritance (42:8–17). This “reward” was not at all some kind of “consolation prize” for Job’s unfair treatment; rather, it was the inheritance God promises to all who serve faithfully as redemptive agents of the Creator (cf. Daniel 12:3). Job obeyed God and was rewarded for his obedience.

In the end, God’s wager with Satan actually achieved an incredible coup: He harnessed evil and turned it to good (cf. Genesis 50:20), and He transformed Job into the most effective servant of all, one who took on God’s own redemptive character and loved his enemies. And this, in fact, is our take-home lesson from Job.[1]

 

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

The Call for Discernment Concerning the Christian Music World

The Domain for Truth

We have been told to be discerning in terms of what types of secular music to not assimilate into our minds if it is degrading, anti-Christ, and vulgar, to name a few.  But what about the call to be discerning concerning the Christian music world?  If you have not seen some of the news feeds, more and more disclosures of secret sins and a myriads of false teachings are coming out from the Christian music world–from people who claim to be followers of Christ.  Much of what these people say falls in harmony with human autonomy rather than Sola Scriptura.  Their beliefs are unorthodox. Here is a list below for your discernment when you encounter them:

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God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

7 Do not be deceived:God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:7-10 ESV)

Repentance is not a large part of the paradigm that is the 21st Century version of the visible Church. The current trend to build Mega-Churches has as one of its main tenets that the prevailing culture within which the church resides must determine the content of the Gospel. In…

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