Daily Archives: September 3, 2014

Questions about Family / Parenting: I Am a Parent; How Can I Let Go of My Adult Children?

 

Letting go of adult children is a struggle for all parents, both Christian and non-Christian. When we consider that nearly twenty years of our lives are invested in raising, nurturing, and caring for a child, it’s easy to see why letting go of that role is a daunting task. For most parents, child-rearing consumes our time, energy, love, and concern for two decades. We invest our hearts, minds and spirits into their physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being, and it can be very difficult when that part of our lives comes to an end. Parents who find themselves in the “empty nest” often struggle to find an appropriate balance of love and concern for their adult children while resisting the impulse to continue to control.

Biblically, we know that God takes the role of the parent very seriously. Admonitions to good parenting abound in Scripture. Parents are to raise children in the “training and instruction of the Lord,” not frustrating or exasperating them (Ephesians 6:4). We are to “train a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6), giving him good gifts (Matthew 7:11), loving and disciplining him for his sake (Proverbs 13:24), and providing for his needs (1 Timothy 5:8). Ironically, it’s often the parents who take their parenting roles most seriously and who do a great job at it who struggle most to let go. More mothers than fathers seem to experience difficulty, probably due to the strong maternal urge to nurture and care for children and the amount of time spent with them as they grow.

At the heart of the difficulty of letting go of our children is a certain amount of fear. The world is a scary place, and the numerous stories of terrible things happening increase our fears. When our children are young, we can monitor their every moment, control their environment, and guard their safety. But as they grow and mature, they begin to move out into the world on their own. We are no longer in control of their every move, who they see, where they go, and what they do. For the Christian parent, this is where faith enters the picture. Perhaps nothing on earth is more testing of our faith than the time when our children begin to sever the bonds that have held them close to us. Letting go of children doesn’t mean simply turning them loose in the world to fend for themselves. It means turning them over to our heavenly Father who loves them more than we ever could, and who guides and guards them according to His perfect will. The reality is that they are His children; they belong to Him, not to us. He has loaned them to us for a while and given us instruction on how to care for them. But eventually, we have to give them back to Him and trust that He will love them and nurture their spirits in the same way we have nurtured them physically. The more faith we have in Him, the less fearful we are and the more we are willing to turn our children over to Him.

As with so many things in the Christian life, the ability to do this depends on how well we know our God and how much time we spend in His Word. We cannot trust someone we don’t know, and we can’t know God except through Scripture. When God promises not to test us beyond our ability to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13), how can we believe that unless we know in our hearts that He is faithful? Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” Deuteronomy 32:4 concurs: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” If we belong to Him, He will be faithful to us and to our children, and the more we know and trust Him, the more we are able to put our children in His capable hands. Lack of faith in Him and His purposes for our children will result in an inability or an unwillingness to let our children go.

So what is the parents’ role as children become adults? Certainly we never ‘let go’ of them in the sense of abandoning them. We are still their parents and always will be. But while we no longer nurture and guard them physically, we are still concerned for their welfare. For the Christian family, they are no longer just our children; they are now our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we relate to them as we do our other friends in the Lord. Most importantly, we pray for them. We encourage them in their walk with God, offering advice when it is asked for. We offer help if it is needed and accept their decision to receive it or reject it. Finally, we respect their privacy just as we would any other adult’s. When parents finally do let go of adult children, they often find a stronger, deeper, and more fulfilling relationship than they ever could have imagined.[1]

 

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

Questions about Theology: What Are the Main Arguments against Limited Atonement?

 

Limited atonement is the teaching that Jesus died only for the elect. It is one of the five points of Calvinism, the L in the acronym “TULIP.” Many who hold to limited atonement prefer the term “particular redemption,” but to minimize confusion this article will use the term “limited atonement.” For a full explication of what limited atonement is from a five-point Calvinistic perspective, please read our article on limited atonement, and for arguments supporting unlimited or universal atonement, please read our article on unlimited atonement.

Arminians and four-point Calvinists, or Amyraldians, believe that limited atonement is unbiblical. Got Questions Ministries takes an official four-point stance in support of unlimited atonement. Here, we present several arguments against limited atonement.

Argument 1: Limited Atonement Is Hermeneutically Insupportable

Arguing against limited atonement are verses which appear to teach universal atonement, the absence of verses that explicitly limit Christ’s atonement, verses that declare the necessity of faith for salvation, and several Old Testament types of Christ that do not fit the limited atonement paradigm.

Passages Supporting Universal Atonement

Universal (or unlimited) atonement is supported throughout the New Testament. John 3:16–17 says that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.… God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” The Greek word kosmos, translated “the world,” covers the inhabitants of the entire earth. Other verses supporting unlimited atonement include John 1:29, where Jesus is said to take away “the sin of the world”; Romans 11:32, in which God has mercy on “all” the disobedient; and 1 John 2:2, which says Jesus is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

None of these verses contain any kind of limitation, stated or implied, on Christ’s sacrifice. As if saying that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world was not sufficient, the apostle John specifically included the Greek word holou, which means “whole, entire, all, complete.” Unless limited atonement is presumed, there is no solid basis for limiting the extent of the atonement mentioned in 1 John 2:2.

Passages Only Mentioning Atonement for Believers

On the other side of the coin, there are verses that say Jesus died for those who believe. Verses that seem to support limited atonement include John 10:15, where Jesus says, “I lay down my life for the sheep”; and Revelation 5:9, which indicates that Jesus’ blood “purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

These passages and others only mention a select group of people as being the focus of God’s redemptive work. However, none of the passages explicitly limit His offer of salvation. They simply say Jesus died for those who believe, not that He died only for those who believe. Jesus said He laid down His life for the sheep; He did not say that He laid down His life only for the sheep. There remains a larger group of which the sheep are but a part.

Faith Necessary for Salvation

“Universal atonement” is not the same as “universalism,” which says that everyone will be saved and go to heaven. Unlimited atonement acknowledges the reality that Jesus’ atonement must be accepted by faith, and that not everyone will believe. Four-point Calvinists believe that salvation comes only to those who have faith; it is faith that brings the saving effects of the atonement to the Christian. Unbelievers, though offered the gift of salvation through the atonement of Christ, have rejected God’s gift. Some passages proclaiming the necessity of faith for salvation are Luke 8:12; John 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 1:16; 10:9; and Ephesians 2:8.

Old Testament Types of Christ

An oft-repeated type of Christ presents Him as a lamb. The Old Testament sacrificial system and the Passover celebration clearly show the penalty of sin and the need for us to have an innocent substitute to cover our sin (see 1 Corinthians 5:7). At the time of the first Passover, all the Israelites had the opportunity to sacrifice a lamb and apply its blood to their doorposts. At the same time, each family had to exercise faith in God. The Passover’s atonement was universal in that it was offered to all, but the atonement still had to be applied individually, by faith.

Another type of Christ in the Old Testament is the bronze serpent on the pole (Numbers 21:5–9). Jesus related this object to Himself in John 3:14, explaining that He must be “lifted up” from the earth. During the plague of the “fiery serpents” in Moses’ day, every person who looked to the bronze serpent—believing that God would heal—was made whole. The healing power was universal in that it was available to every one of the Israelites, dependent only upon their willingness to obey. Jesus compared that incident to His own death on the cross and the spiritual healing He provides.

Argument 2: Christian Tradition Opposes Limited Atonement

Limited atonement has always been a controversial belief. The Synod of Dort in 1619 issued the points of doctrine now known as TULIP; however, several theologians at the synod rejected limited atonement while accepting the other four points of Calvinism.

Long before the Protestant confessions and synods, though, the early church father Athanasius was describing universal atonement. In his “On the Incarnation of the Word” (2.9), Athanasius writes that Jesus’ death was “a substitute for the life of all” and that, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, “the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all.” Note the word all. Athanasius’ point is that Jesus’ death atoned for all of humanity.

Ironically, Calvin himself may not have placed much value on the idea of a limited atonement. After all, the five points of what is called “Calvinism” came from a synod in the Netherlands almost 60 years after his death. Calvin had this to say about John 3:16: “It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction.… And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World; … he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life” (Commentary on John, Vol. 1).

Argument 3: Limited Atonement Would Make It Impossible to Genuinely Offer Salvation to All

Limited atonement affects one’s beliefs regarding evangelism and the offer of salvation. Essentially, if only those who will be saved (the elect) are atoned for, there is no atonement to be offered to anyone else. You could only truly offer salvation to the elect. Even a cursory look at Jesus’ ministry shows that He extended invitations of salvation to people He knew would take part in crucifying Him (see Luke 13:34). In the book of Acts, Paul preached to large portions of entire towns, Peter to thousands at a time. Salvation was offered to all without caveat, proviso, or discrimination. Repentance and faith were the required responses (see Matthew 21:32). If Christ’s death did not provide atonement for everyone, then the apostles, and even Jesus Himself, were offering something that most of their audiences could never receive.

Conclusion:

Limited atonement is the point of traditional Calvinism that has caused the most confusion and consternation among Bible-believing theologians. Will only the elect be saved? Yes. However, Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to pay for all sin, and the offer of salvation is universal. Our invitation for others to accept Christ should echo the Spirit’s call in Revelation 22:17: “ ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”[1]

 

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

Miscellaneous Bible Questions: What Are the Biblical Qualifications for Apostleship?

 

An apostle (“one sent on a mission”) is one whom God has sent on an errand or with a message. An apostle is accountable to his Sender and carries the authority of his Sender.

Jesus Christ Himself wears Apostle as one of His descriptive titles (Hebrews 3:1). He was sent to earth by the Heavenly Father with God’s authoritative message, which He faithfully delivered (John 17:1–5).

While Jesus was here on earth, He personally selected from His many followers twelve men and gave them special responsibility to receive and spread His message after He returned to heaven (John 17:6–20; Matthew 10:1–4; Mark 3:14–15; Mark 6:40). These chosen and sent ones were His apostles. During the time Jesus was training them, He did not explain the criteria that He used to choose them. It would be interesting to study the common traits of those twelve men and what might have been Jesus’ qualifications.

One of the twelve was Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus to His enemies. In agony of conscience, Judas hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). Thus, when Jesus returned to heaven, He left behind only eleven apostles.

Some days later, the remaining apostles were praying with Jesus’ mother, His brothers, and other believers. The group totaled about 120 (Acts 1:12–26). Simon Peter addressed the group and told them that Psalm 69:25 predicted Judas’ desertion and Psalm 109:8 predicted that the defector’s place among the apostles should be filled.

Peter proposed choosing a new apostle and set the qualifications. Anyone under consideration needed to have been with Jesus during the whole three years that Jesus was among them. That is, he needed to be an eye-witness of Jesus’ baptism when the Heavenly Father validated Jesus’ person and work. He needed to have heard Jesus’ life-changing teachings and been present to see His healings and other miracles. He needed to have witnessed Jesus sacrifice Himself on the cross and to have seen Jesus walk, talk, and eat among the disciples again after His resurrection. These were the pivotal facts of Jesus’ life, the heart of the message they were to teach, and personal witnesses were required to verify the truth of the good news.

The prayer group nominated two who met these qualifications, Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. Then the disciples asked God to guide them to know which one was to fill the post. Using a method of determining God’s will that was common at that time, they cast lots, thus giving God freedom to make His choice clear. The lot fell to Matthias, and he became the twelfth apostle.

On repeated occasions, these men gave witness of their personal observations of Jesus, using such words as, “We are witnesses of everything Jesus did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen” (Acts 10:39–40).

Months later, Saul, one of the Pharisees, was trying to stamp out the new “cult” of Christianity by killing and jailing some of Jesus’ followers. While Saul was on one of his deadly errands to Damascus, the living Jesus personally appeared to him. This undeniable encounter with the resurrected Lord revolutionized Saul’s life. In a vision to another believer in Damascus, Jesus said that He had chosen Saul “as My chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15; cf. 22:14–15). Following his conversion, Paul spent some time in Arabia, where he was taught by Christ (Galatians 1:12–17). The other apostles recognized that Jesus Himself had appointed their former enemy to be one of them. As Saul went into Gentile territories, he changed his name to the Greek “Paul,” and Jesus sent many messages through him to His churches and to unbelievers. It was this apostle, Paul, who wrote over half of the books of the New Testament.

In two of his Epistles, Paul identifies the office of apostle as the first that Jesus appointed to serve His churches (1 Corinthians 12:27–30; Ephesians 4:11). Clearly, the work of the apostle was to lay the foundation of the Church in a sense secondary only to that of Christ Himself (Ephesians 2:19–20), thus requiring eye-witness authority behind their preaching. After the apostles laid the foundation, the Church could be built.

While Paul never claimed to be included among the original twelve, he, the others, and all believers have recognized that Jesus appointed him as His special apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 9:1; Acts 26:16–18). There are others in the early church referred to as “apostles” (Acts 14:4, 14; Romans 16:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:6), but only in the sense that they were appointed, authorized, and sent by churches on special errands. These individuals bore the title in a limited sense and did not possess all the qualifications of apostleship that the original twelve and Paul did.

No biblical evidence exists to indicate that these thirteen apostles were replaced when they died. See Acts 12:1–2, for example. Jesus appointed the apostles to do the founding work of the Church, and foundations only need to be laid once. After the apostles’ deaths, other offices, not requiring an eye-witness relationship with Jesus, would carry on the work.[1]

 

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

The nature of genuine repentance

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

8 And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. 10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. (Ezra 7:8-10 NKJV)

If we study God’s Word from cover to cover we will find that only God is perfect. He is Sovereign. He is Holy. He is complete and perfectly righteous. On the other hand, people are none of the above. We are a fallen race who, even after God’s gracious regeneration of our hearts, must continually work out our salvation with fear and…

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