Category Archives: Biblical Theme/Topic

Why Are Satan’s Lies So Convincing?

Code: B180212

Why is the unconverted world so easily enamored with Satan’s lies? Why do sinners eagerly and gullibly imbibe foolish notions about their own innate goodness and charitable judgments in the afterlife? And why do they embrace self-apparent nonsense about the relativity of truth while rejecting the absolute, unassailable truth of Scripture?

We recently asked John MacArthur to help us understand what makes Satan’s lies so enticing and convincing to the unsaved world. Here’s what he had to say:

In the days ahead, we’re going to look at ten of Satan’s primary lies that dominate the world. These lies drive the world’s philosophy, morality, and ideology. They shape the sinner’s worldview and snare him in the grip of Satan’s influence. And increasingly, these lies are infiltrating the church, corrupting the gospel and confusing God’s people.

As John MacArthur explained, the darkness of the unbelieving heart can only be penetrated by the light of the gospel. To that end, we want to expose these lies and give you the biblical tools to combat them in your interactions with unsaved friends and family. We want you to understand the gospel truth that contradicts Satan’s deceptions, and know how to stand faithfully for the truth in a world dominated by lies.


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180212
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

Advertisements

God Is Just Judge and Merciful Justifier

Imagine you’re a judge. Your job is to uphold and execute the law. It’s the only standard you must adhere to, and you must do it unflinchingly. One day a man stands before you—a vile, wicked murderer. The evidence against him is ironclad. There’s no doubt about his guilt—he openly admits it. He confesses what he did and says he’s very sorry. Then he asks you to forgive him. And in spite of what the law says, in spite of your responsibility to dispatch justice, you grant him complete forgiveness and let him walk free. We’d certainly be horrified if human judges operated that way.

But that’s exactly what our Judge has done. In spite of the clear standard of His law, and in spite of the overwhelming evidence of our sin and corruption, He sweeps aside our crimes, washes away our guilt, and sets us free from the due penalty of our sin. How can He do that and uphold His own holy law?

Paul gives us the glorious answer in 2 Corinthians 5:21— just fifteen Greek words that sum up the entire gospel and encapsulate God’s ministry of reconciliation. Paul writes, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” That is the doctrine of substitution, and that’s how God can be both our just Judge and merciful justifier.

God “made Him who knew no sin”—which can only be a reference to Jesus Christ—“to be sin on our behalf.” As we’ve already seen, Scripture testifies over and over to Christ’s sinless perfection. The writer of Hebrews calls Him “holy, innocent, undefiled” (Heb. 7:26). Pontius Pilate—who had every incentive to find some flaw in the character and reputation of Jesus—said, “I find no guilt in Him” (John 19:6). The Father even spoke of the Son’s implicit sinlessness, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17). That same perfect, spotless, undefiled Son was “made. . . to be sin on our behalf ” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Don’t make the mistake, as some do, when it comes to understanding how God made Christ to “be sin.” Many preachers in the Word of Faith movement, for example, teach that Paul is telling us that Jesus actually became a sinner on the cross. They say His sin forced Him to go to hell for three days, and that after He had suffered sufficiently, He was released through the resurrection. That is a blasphemous, ludicrous heresy. Ephesians 5 tells us Christ surrendered Himself without spot or blemish (vv. 25–27). On the cross He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). If He was a sinner, He would not have had to ask why He was punished.

So what is Paul saying when he tells us that God made Christ “to be sin on our behalf”? It means God treated Him as if He were a sinner. More than that, actually—God poured out on Him the full fury of His wrath against all the sins of all the people who would ever believe, as if Christ had committed them Himself. As a righteous Judge, He had no other choice. The just God of the universe had to punish sin justly—He had to pour out the full penalty on His Son to grant forgiveness to His elect people. And His justice demands that every sin that has ever been committed, by every person who has ever lived, will be punished—either in the eternal torment of hell or on Christ at the cross.

It’s a humbling and profound thought that God treated Jesus on the cross as if He had lived my life and punished Him for every sin I have ever committed or ever will commit, to the full satisfaction of His justice. And for all who were included in the atonement—provided by the sacrifice of the Son by the glorious grace and mercy of God—the same is true.

All the judgment, all the torment, all the excruciating punishment was poured out on Christ as He died in our place. That’s a breathtaking reality, especially when you consider that Jesus was only on the cross for about three hours. In that brief window of time, Christ paid for all the sins of all those whom God would one day reconcile to Himself. In the span of a scant few hours, He was “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). First Peter 2:24 sums it up simply but powerfully: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Through His suffering, Christ purchased our forgiveness. Through His sacrifice, He cleared the way for our reconciliation to God. He is our Redeemer King, our Lord and Lamb.

Amazingly, some people don’t seem to think Christ’s sacrifice was enough. They attempt to extend the atonement Christ purchased on the cross to the whole of humanity, as if He died for the whole human race. In so doing, they make His atoning sacrifice merely potentially effective. It must be actualized by the believing sinner. According to that notion, the price has already been paid for all humans—it’s simply up to the sinner to cash it in. But a just God can’t punish sin twice. He wouldn’t lay the penalty for the sins of everyone on His Son only to later mete out that same punishment on those who didn’t believe. A righteous Judge doesn’t deliver double punishment. God did not punish His Son for our sins and then punish the unbelieving sinner for the same sins.

Furthermore, such a notion would mean that Jesus Christ did the same thing, in dying, for those in hell as He did for those in heaven. It would mean that He did not actually, really atone for anyone’s sins. He just offered a potential atonement that is converted to a real one by the willing sinner. Christ died for no one in particular if He died for everyone. As Christ Himself explained, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. . . . I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:11, 14–15). It’s clear there was no limit to the punishment Christ could endure on the cross, but there would be no sense in enduring God’s wrath if it didn’t purchase redemption for those He would one day reconcile to Himself. Put simply, Christ is not the Redeemer for those who will not be redeemed.

There’s more. Paul saves arguably the best news for last. Second Corinthians 5:21 concludes that God made Christ to be sin for us “so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Not only has God imputed our sins to Christ, He has imputed Christ’s righteousness to us. God treated Jesus as a sinner, though He was not, so that He could treat us as if we were righteous, though we are not. In the most personal terms, God treated Christ on the cross as if He had lived my life, so He could treat me as if I had lived His life. That’s the beautiful glory of the gospel. God sees us covered with the righteousness of His Son.

Many people—including some Bible scholars—wonder why Christ had to live through the humility of the incarnation for thirty-three years. Why didn’t God just send Him down for a weekend—to be crucified on Friday and return to heaven on Sunday? Why wouldn’t that suffice? Why did the Lord have to endure all the stages of life—most of them spent living in total obscurity?

The answer is the glorious truth we know as the doctrine of imputation. The writer of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Christ had to live a complete life, fulfilling all righteousness, so it could one day be credited to us. The comprehensive nature of God’s reconciliation is staggering. When God looked at the cross, He saw us; when He looks at us, He sees His Son. Our Lord did not just take on the punishment of our sins—He lived a holy, blameless life credited to us by faith. And we now stand before God fully reconciled to Him, cloaked in the righteousness of our blessed Redeemer.

This excerpt is adapted from Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ by John MacArthur.

Source: God Is Just Judge and Merciful Justifier

Pleading with Sinners to Be Reconciled to God

The means of our reconciliation to God—the sacrificial death of Christ, the perfect forgiveness God applies to our sin—are divine works. But there is a human component that goes along with it. We bear some responsibility, too, if we are to be reconciled and redeemed. Paul hints at it in 2 Corinthians 5:20: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

In God’s divine design, He has given each of us the responsibility to respond to the gospel in the obedience of faith. He doesn’t pluck us out of this wicked world against our will— we’re not robots that He merely has to reprogram. God is the initiator; He’s the Savior. But it does not happen without a response.

The two little parables in Matthew 13 perfectly illustrate this point. Jesus said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matt. 13:44–46). Christ’s point in those two parables is that if you want salvation, it will cost you everything.

Reconciliation to God isn’t a little bump in the road of life—it’s a radical transformation and reorientation of your entire being. We become new creatures entirely. Paul had just made that very point in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” Being reconciled to God means dying to our old selves, our old lives, and our old interests. Christ repeatedly urged His disciples to count the cost of following Him. It’s why He told them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Responding in obedience to God’s call to be reconciled to Him can cost us everything—even our lives.

The rich young ruler understood that. It’s why he walked away from Christ in shame (Luke 18:18–30). When Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give everything to the poor, He wasn’t offering the young man salvation by works. The money itself wasn’t the point—it was a question of his willingness to do whatever the Lord told him to do. What would he give up for the sake of his eternal soul? It was a test of his obedience and what he valued most in his heart. And he failed miserably. Reconciliation to God doesn’t happen on our terms, according to our schedules, when it’s convenient for us. It’s a radical redemption and transformation, and it requires us to be penitent, submissive, and completely sold out for God’s purpose and work. Nothing less is acceptable. And because of that high cost, Paul says we have to “beg” sinners to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).

When I was in college, I played football, and I had a coach who meant a lot to me personally. Throughout high school and college, he was the best coach I ever had. His name was Jim Brownfield, and he was a legend in southern California. He coached at every level of football. He was innovative, he was creative, and I cared about him a great deal.

I remember sitting next to him on the plane as we were flying up to San Francisco for a game. I took that opportunity to communicate the gospel to him with all my heart, but he rejected it. Through the years, I had opportunities to be with him here and there, at golf tournaments or other functions. He knew about my church and the ministry God has called me to, and he watched my life from a distance. And every time I was with him, I tried to talk to him about the Lord. He’d say, “I respect that. I respect you. But I’m not interested.” I felt like I was always begging him, “Coach, this is the most important thing you’ll ever do.” But he was stubborn.

One day, I got a phone call. Coach was in the hospital. He had heart problems. Surgery hadn’t helped, and it looked like he was about to die. When I arrived at the hospital, the nurse said to me, “He hasn’t moved for three days. We haven’t seen any motion, so I can’t promise anything.” I walked in the room, took his hand, and said, “Hey, Coach, it’s Johnny Mac.” He opened his eyes and smiled. I said, “Coach, one more time, can I beg you to be reconciled to God? Coach, you are the thief on the cross. You have no future. This has to be your time. Will you open your heart to Christ?” His head went up and down. He grabbed my hand, started to squeeze it, and reached his other arm over and grabbed my other hand. I was locked in his grip. The nurse came in and scolded me, saying, “Sir, you’ll have to let go of him.” I said, “I’m not holding on to him. He is holding on to me.” With every last ounce of his strength, he was responding to the call of the gospel. For all those years, I had begged and pleaded with him—right down to the last hour. And as we prayed together in his hospital room, the Lord poured out his forgiveness and reconciled Coach Brownfield to Himself. I’m so glad I went to the hospital that day. I’m so thankful I had one more opportunity to beg him to be reconciled to God.

We ought to cling to the vital doctrine of God’s sovereignty. But don’t ever let your view of sovereignty overwhelm or obscure the fact that sinners have a responsibility to respond to God—and we have a responsibility to beg them to do so. God accomplishes His reconciling work through—not in spite of—the obedience of faith from those He calls to be reconciled.

This excerpt is adapted from Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ by John MacArthur.

Source: Pleading with Sinners to Be Reconciled to God

Rediscovering the Holiness of God

“Where did holiness go?” wonders David Schrock. “Evangelicals who only speak profusely of God’s love,” says Schrock, “have too often discarded his holiness. As A. W. Tozer observed more than a generation ago, ‘we lack reverence—not because we are free in the gospel, but because God is absent, and we have no sense of His presence.’ We offer to others a message of salvation from judgment, when we ourselves do not tremble before God.”

In this piece over at Credo Magazine, Dr. Schrock helps us rediscover the Holiness of God. He writes: Note then the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen,but God’s kindness to you,  provided you continue in his kindness.

When God created Adam and Eve, he endowed them with righteousness and a limitless capacity to delight in God’s holiness. On the hill of the Lord, they were to worship and work, as they extended the boundaries of God’s garden-temple. For Eden was more than an ancient garden for planting; it was an arboreal sanctuary where God’s priestly children daily walk in the presence of God’s holiness.

Sadly, this original design was lost when the first couple rebelled against his word (Gen 3:1–6). Seeking to be like God, they spurned their Creator. In the fall, they traded God’s holiness for the profane. Ever since, humanity has been chasing glory with impure hands and unholy hearts.

Idolatry: A Journey into the Profane

In Scripture, sin finds its source in idolatry. Borrowing imagery from the fall, Paul speaks of humanity’s plight: “For although they knew God, they did no honor him as God or give thanks to him, . . . Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images” of created things (Rom. 1:21-23).

As image-bearers, we abound in worship. Humankind has worshiped beasts, birds, business ventures, and ballplayers. Even Israel turned God’s holy law into an idol (see Romans 2). In short, all have sinned and fallen short of God’s holiness.

In response, God warns those who worship false gods. He also indicts those who worship God falsely. For instance, 3,000 men died when Israel worshiped God by means of a golden calf (Exod. 32). Of note, Aaron didn’t lead Israel to stray from Yahweh (the first commandment); he led them to break the second commandment—the fashioning of a graven image.

Likewise, leprosy broke out on Uzziah’s forehead when he presumed to worship the temple (1 Chron. 26). And before him, Uzzah perished by putting his hand out to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling (1 Chron. 13). Apparently, the dirty ground was cleaner than Uzzah’s flesh!

Each of these episodes speaks of God’s holiness and man’s profane attempts to approach God on our own. God will not stand for sinful men to worship him as they choose. Rather, he is looking for worshipers who tremble at his holiness and humbly receive his cruciform grace. View article →

Source: Rediscovering the Holiness of God

Seven Important Differences Between Angels and Demons

Seven Important Differences Between Angels and DemonsA recent study revealed 63% of young Americans (age 18-29) believe in demon possession. Even though fewer people in this age group claim any affiliation to organized religion, their belief in demons is actually increasing. While there are good reasons to believe in the existence of angelic beings (even apart from what the Bible teaches), the clearest description of angels and demons comes directly from the Biblical text. We’ve been examining the nature of angels in recent posts, but given the increasing cultural interest in demons, it might be wise to understand them more deeply. While angelic beings were originally were created to love God, demons have rejected him entirely. In many ways the story of angelic beings parallels our own experiences as humans. Demons rebelled against God in a manner similar to those of us who have also rebelled. Angels worship and honor their Creator and choose continually to help reunite all of creation to Him, but demons reject God and endeavor daily to oppose the spiritual understanding and development of humans (Ephesians 6:12). Angels and demons are the same kind of being; they share the same powers we’ve already described. The behavior of demons, therefore, can be contrasted with the behavior of angels:

Angels Appear Human / Demons Inhabit Humans
While angels appear in human form to demonstrate their empathy and love for us, demons enter human bodies to take on the form of those they are attacking:

Matthew 17:14-18
When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

Angels Herald the Savior / Demons Shriek the Savior
While angels announce the Savior in love and expectation, demons scream his name in fear, provoking fear in those non-believers who may be watching:

Mark 3:11-12
Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”

Angels Celebrate Our Salvation / Demons Obstruct Our Salvation 
While angels celebrate our salvation, demons do all they can to prevent our conversion. They often do this by simply attacking our ability to hear the word or to speak in response to the Gospel:

Mark 9:25
And when Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”

Angels Are Poised to Protect / Demons Are Poised to Attack
While both angels and demons are watching over us, demons are watching for a very different purpose. Demons are looking carefully for another host to attack:

Matthew 12:43-45
When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.

Angels Seek to Unite Us / Demons Seek to Separate Us
While surround us in protection, demons are continually trying to separate us from God (fortunately we know they could never overpower the God who created them):

Romans 8:37-39
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Angels Inhabit the Church to Worship / Demons Inhabit the Church to Subvert
While angels are with us in our places of worship, singing right alongside the saints, demons also try to infiltrate the places of God:

Luke 4:33-35
In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Ha. What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God.” “Be quiet.” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him.” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

Angels Point Us to God / Demons Distract Us from God
God’s holy angels will someday take us back home to Him, but demons are doing all they can to distract us from the God of the universe. In fact, they try to accomplish this by acting as false gods to divert our attention from the true God:

Revelation 16:14
They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

Revelation 9:20-21
The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood-idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

In our study of angelic beings, one thing should be clear. According to the Christian worldview, we are surrounded by an invisible reality; a host of angels and demons engaged in battles and victories. While we sometimes ignore the existence and activity of these beings, they continue to pursue opposing goals. As Christians, we can have confidence we have a Father who sent His Spirit to protect those who have placed our trust in Him. Jesus asked God the Father for this protection, and God continues to utilize His holy angels to accomplish His Goals:

John 17:9-16
I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

We have been protected from the “evil one” and the many demons who are active in the world. Part of this protection comes in the form of information. God has forewarned us of the nature and activity of demons so we can be better prepared to recognize and respond to their activity.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case DetectiveChristian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case ChristianityCold-Case Christianity for KidsGod’s Crime SceneGod’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.

Source: Seven Important Differences Between Angels and Demons

What Did Early Christians Believe About Hell?

As we seek to understand what the Bible teaches about Hell, it may be helpful to understand what the earliest believers believed and taught. The teachings of some of these believers has been preserved for us in the writings of ancient church leaders (known as the Early Church Fathers). While their writings are neither canonical nor authoritative, they do help us to understand what those closest to the apostles first believed about Hell. As we assemble the teachings of these first church leaders, several patterns emerge related to the nature of Hell. The Early Church Fathers, with very few exceptions, agree with traditional views descriptions of Hell as a place of eternal, conscious torment:

1. Hell is a place of judgment for those who have rejected God and denied Jesus as their Savior
2. Hell is a place of separation from God
3. Hell is a place of torment in which the rebellious are in anguish and pain
4. Hell is a place where the rebellious are tormented forever and are conscious of this torment for all eternity (In fact, the eternal duration of their torment is often compared to the eternal duration of the reward of the saved)

At the same time, the earliest Church Fathers are ambiguous on those areas where the Bible is ALSO ambiguous.

1. The exact nature of the torment of the rebellious is unknown
2. The manner in which the rebellious are kept alive in spite of ‘deathly’ anguish is also un-described

The Early Church Fathers simply reflected the clearest teachings of the Bible. Here is a very brief assessment of several quotes made by early Christians about the nature of Hell:

From “The Epistle of Barnabas” (70-130AD)
The author of the Epistle of Barnabas is unknown, but many consider him to simply be who he said he was, Barnabas, the associate of Paul who is mentioned in the Book of Acts. The letter was written to new converts to Christianity:

The way of darkness is crooked, and it is full of cursing. It is the way of eternal death with punishment. (“Epistle of Barnabas”)

From Ignatius of Antioch (110AD)
Ignatius was a student of the Apostle John, and succeeded the Apostle Peter as the Bishop of Antioch. He wrote a number of important letters to believers in churches in the area:

Corrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death. how much more if a man corrupt by evil reaching the faith of God. for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire: and so will anyone who listens to him. (Letter to the Ephesians 16:1-2)

From Clement of Rome (150AD)
Clement was Bishop of Rome from 88 to 98AD, and his teaching reflects the early traditions of the Church. “Second Clement” reportedly a recorded sermon, and Clement discusses the nature of Hell:

If we do the will of Christ, we shall obtain rest; but if not, if we neglect his commandments, nothing will rescue us from eternal punishment (“Second Clement” 5:5)

But when they see how those who have sinned and who have denied Jesus by their words or by their deeds are punished with terrible torture in unquenchable fire, the righteous, who have done good, and who have endured tortures and have hated the luxuries of life, will give glory to their God saying, ‘There shall be hope for him that has served God with all his heart!’ (“Second Clement” 17:7)

From “The Martyrdom of Polycarp” (155AD)
This work was written by an Early Church Father (unknown author) and is dated very early in the history of Christianity. It describes the death of Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, and also describes early teachings of the church:

Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire (“Martyrdom of Polycarp” 2:3)

From Tatian (160AD) 
Tatian was an early Assyrian believer who moved to Rome as a pagan and eventually became a Christian. Interestingly, he read the Jewish Scriptures and from these became convinced that other pagan ideas about the world were simply false. He was a student of Justin Martyr and wrote about the unreasonableness of paganism and the truth of Christianity:

 We who are now easily susceptible to death, will afterwards receive immortality with either enjoyment or with pain. (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1.71)

From Athenagoras of Athens (175AD)
Athenagoras was a philosopher and citizen of Athens who became a Christian (possibly from Platonism) and wrote two important apologetic works; “Apology” or “Embassy for the Christians”, and a “Treatise on the Resurrection”:

We are persuaded that when we are removed from the present life we will live another life, better than the present one…or, if they fall with the rest, they will endure a worse life, one in fire. For God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, who are mere by-products. For animals perish and are annihilated. On these grounds, it is not likely that we would wish to do evil. (“Apology”)

From Theophilus of Antioch (181AD)
Theophilus was the Patriarch of Antioch from 169 to 183AD. He was born a pagan and converted to Christianity after reading the scriptures. He was very zealous about protecting the orthodoxy of the earliest believers and he wrote a defense of the faith to a man named Autolycus:

Give studious attention to the prophetic writings [the Bible] and they will lead you on a clearer path to escape the eternal punishments and to obtain the eternal good things of God. . . . [God] will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortality by the patient exercise of good works, he will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things. . . . For the unbelievers and for the contemptuous, and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries, there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire (“To Autolycus” 1:14)

From Irenaeus (189AD)
Irenaeus was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (now Lyon, France) at the end of the second century. He was a disciple of Polycarp and a notable early apologist for the faith. He wrote several volumes defending the faith against Gnosticism and other early heresies of the Church, and he often compared eternal punishment to eternal reward, drawing the conclusion that one endured as long as the other:

…Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, ‘every knee should bow, of things in heaven,, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess’ to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send ‘spiritual wickednesses,’ and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning of their Christian course, and others from the date of their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory. (“Against Heresies” 1:10:10)

The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . [I]t is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,’ they will be damned forever (“Against Heresies” 4:28:2)

From Clement of Alexandria (195AD)
Titus Flavius Clemens was the first significant and recorded Christian from the church of Alexandria, Egypt. His parents were Greek and he was raised with a solid, formal Greek education. While he had a tendency to blend Greek and Christian philosophies, his view on the issue of Hell was derived from the scriptures:

All souls are immortal, even those of the wicked. Yet, it would be better for them if they were not deathless. For they are punished with the endless vengeance of quenchless fire. Since they do not die, it is impossible for them to have an end put to their misery. (from a post-Nicene manuscript fragment)

From Tertullian (197AD)
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus was a Romanized African citizen who was born in Carthage (now Tunisia). He became a Christian and was a powerful and influential apologist for the faith, writing prolifically in defense of the doctrines of orthodoxy:

These have further set before us the proofs He has given of His majesty in judgments by floods and fires, the rules appointed by Him for securing His favor, as well as the retribution in store for the ignoring, forsaking and keeping them, as being about at the end of all to adjudge His worshippers to everlasting life, and the wicked to the doom of fire at once without ending and without break, raising up again all the dead from the beginning, reforming and renewing them with the object of awarding either recompense. (“Apology” 18:3)

Then will the entire race of men be restored to receive its just deserts according to what it has merited in this period of good and evil, and thereafter to have these paid out in an immeasurable and unending eternity. Then there will be neither death again nor resurrection again, but we shall be always the same as we are now, without changing. The worshipers of God shall always be with God, clothed in the proper substance of eternity. But the godless and those who have not turned wholly to God will be punished in fire equally unending, and they shall have from the very nature of this fire, divine as it were, a supply of incorruptibility (“Apology” 44:12–13)

Therefore after this there is neither death nor repeated resurrections, but we shall be the same that we are now, and still unchanged–the servants of God, ever with God, clothed upon with the proper substance of eternity; but the profane, and all who are not true worshippers of God, in like manner shall be consigned to the punishment of everlasting fire–that fire which, from its very nature indeed, directly ministers to their incorruptibility. (“Apology” 48:12)

From Hippolytus of Rome (212AD)
Hippolytus was one of the most prolific writers of the early Church, and he was often at theological odds with the early Popes and church leaders of his time. He appears to have been a student of Irenaeus, and wrote MANY volumes of history, apologetics and Biblical teaching:

Standing before [Christ’s] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: ‘Just is your judgment!’ And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them (“Against the Greeks” 3)

From Felix Minucius (226AD)
Felix Marcus Minucius is perhaps the earliest known Latin apologist for the Christian faith. He wrote “Octavius”, a dialogue on Christianity between a non-believer named Caecilius Natalis and a Christian named Octavius Januarius (who was a lawyer, friend and student of Minucius Felix:

I am not ignorant of the fact that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, would rather hope than actually believe that there is nothing for them after death. They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment… Nor is there either measure nor end to these torments. That clever fire burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them (“Octavius” 34:12–5:3)

From Cyprian of Carthage (252-253 AD)
Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus was bishop at Carthage. He had an excellent Greek education and wrote several key letters and treatises in which he discussed doctrines of the Church:

An ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will there be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies… The grief at punishment will then be without the fruit of repentance; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late will they believe in eternal punishment, who would not believe in eternal life (“To Demetrian” 24)

Oh,what and how great will that day be at its coming, beloved brethren, when the Lord shall begin to count up His people, and to recognize the deservings of each one by the inspection of His divine knowledge, to send the guilty to Gehenna, and to set on fire our persecutors with the perpetual burning of a penal fire, but to pay to us the reward of our faith and devotion! (“To Thibaris” 55:10)

From Lactantius (307AD)
Lucius Caelius Firmianus Lactantius was a Latin speaking native of North Africa. He was an expert in rhetoric and he taught the subject in the city of Nicomedia at the request of Emperor Diocletian. He also wrote several apologetic and doctrinal works:

But, however, the sacred writings inform us in what manner the wicked are to undergo punishment. For because they have committed sins in their bodies, they will again be clothed with flesh, that they may make atonement in their bodies; and yet it will not be that flesh with which God clothed man, like this our earthly body, but indestructible, and abiding forever, that it may be able to hold out against tortures and everlasting fire…The same divine fire, therefore, with one and the same force and power, will both burn the wicked and will form them again, and will replace as much as it shall consume of their bodies, and will supply itself with eternal nourishment …Then they whose piety shall have been approved of will receive the reward of immortality; but they whose sins and crimes shall have been brought to light will not rise again, but will be hidden in the same darkness with the wicked, being destined to certain punishment. (“Divine Institutes” 7:21)

From Cyril of Jerusalem (350AD)
Cyril was a well respected theologian of the early Church and a bishop of the church at Jerusalem. He wrote twenty three teaching lectures on the doctrines of the Church and delivered these lectures while he was a presbyter in Jerusalem:

We shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike: for if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed… (“Catechetical Lectures” 18:19)

The real and true life then is the Father, who through the Son in the Holy Spirit pours forth as from a fountain His heavenly gifts to all; and through His love to man, the blessings of the life eternal are promised without fail to us men also. We must not disbelieve the possibility of this, but having an eye not to our own weakness but to His power, we must believe; for with God all things are possible. And that this is possible, and that we may look for eternal life, Daniel declares, And of the many righteous shall they shine as the stars forever and ever. And Paul says, And so shall we be ever with the Lord: for the being forever with the lord implies the life eternal. But most plainly of all the Savior Himself says in the Gospel, And these shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. (“Catechetical Lectures” 18:28)

While this survey of early teachings on the nature of Hell may seem a bit long and laborious, it does help us to understand what the first believers learned and taught about the nature of the eternal conscious torment of those who reject Christ. Over and over again, we see that the Early Church Fathers believed that those who enter Hell are NOT annihilated or destroyed. In summary, these early believers understood the Scriptures to teach that:

1. Souls live on after the grave. Even those who are assigned to Hell are “immortal”, “indestructible” and “abide forever” Those assigned to Hell will be “detained in everlasting fire” for a period of time that is as “equally perpetual and unending” as the eternal life of those who are in Heaven.

2. The rebellious will exist in Hell with an “eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins”. They will “burn eternally in fire” and they will never “be consumed” Those tormented in Hell will never “have respite” and their torment will never “be at an end”. “Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies”

3. Souls in Hell will NOT be allowed to die or cease to exist. “They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment”, but this is simply not the case. The fire of Hell is an “unquenchable fire”. It is “clever” and “burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them.”

4. The torment suffered by those in Hell will be incredibly unbearable. It will feel as though “a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body” will continually burst forth from the body “with unceasing pain”.

This description of eternal conscious torment in Hell is certainly horrifying. It is hard to believe and even harder to accept. It is not something that we would wish on our worst enemy, and it is not something that we, as believers, can ignore. The Church Fathers affirm the Biblical truth related to the orthodox doctrine of Hell. It is a place of eternal conscious torment and a place that should motivate us to reach others with the truth, even as it motivates us to live a life that is worthy of the God who created us. C.S. Lewis encouraged us to view Hell not only from the eyes of those who don’t believe, but also from our own concerned and cautious position as believers:

“In all discussions of hell we should keep steadily before our eyes the possible damnation, not of our enemies nor our friends… but of ourselves” (C.S. Lewis in “The Problem of Pain”)

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case DetectiveChristian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case ChristianityCold-Case Christianity for KidsGod’s Crime SceneGod’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.

Source: What Did Early Christians Believe About Hell?

Bad Examples of Women Pastors (But Great Examples of Godly Women)

“God made men and women different from day one of creation… sorry, day six. He meant for men to fill certain roles and women to fill certain roles. We are one body in Christ made of individual parts, each functioning in their own way. One person is not to infringe upon another or take it upon themselves to do the task given to someone else.”

In 1 Timothy 2:11-12, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” The context here is church leadership, an instruction that continues into chapter 3. A woman is not permitted to be a pastor in a church (elder, bishop, overseer, etc.). Only a man can be a pastor.

This instruction is not limited to the time-period in which Paul was writing. It applies to all people in every place at every point in the history of the church. How do we know this? Because Paul goes all the way back to Genesis with his explanation: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (verses 13-14).

So the first reason the role of pastor is to be filled by a man is because Adam was formed first, and Eve was formed from Adam as his help-meet. The differences between the sexes and the different roles they are assigned are not a result of the fall. They were established at creation and have applied to all people in all cultures at all times.

The second reason a pastor is to be man is because Adam was not deceived by the serpent, but the woman was deceived and transgressed the law of God. This might seem unfair because Adam certainly sinned as well, and death came to all men because Adam sinned (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21). But Adam wasn’t deceived, and Eve was. So whether we’re talking about a perfect, sinless world, or the fallen, sinful one we currently inhabit, God intends that a man be the one to shepherd the flock of God (pastor means “shepherd;” see also 1 Peter 5:1-5).

Elsewhere, Paul wrote, “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak at church” (1 Corinthians 14:33-35).

This doesn’t mean a woman is supposed to have duct-tape over her mouth from the moment she walks into church to the moment she walks out. The context is teaching the church, or administering the authority of the word of God over the gathered people of God. The role as overseer is set apart for specifically a man to fill.

This also doesn’t mean a church that obeys this instruction is oppressing women. Heavens, no! A woman sitting in that church during a gospel sermon is no more oppressed than any man in the congregation. The truth does not oppress those who listen to it — it sets them free (John 8:31). It is a woman’s delight to learn quietly with all submissiveness, and she does this in honor of the Lord.

Women serve an incredibly important role in the church. If a church was all men and no women, that would be a dysfunctional church (see Titus 2:1-8). The church is to be made up of men and women, young and old, complimenting one another in their strengths and weaknesses, working and growing together so that we may be a functioning body of Christ.

But each according to their own purpose. God made men and women different from day one of creation… sorry, day six. He meant for men to fill certain roles and women to fill certain roles. We are one body in Christ made of individual parts, each functioning in their own way. One person is not to infringe upon another or take it upon themselves to do the task given to someone else. We all submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

Bad Arguments for Women Pastors
Over the weekend, a friend got into a discussion over this topic with a feminist, and the feminist retorted with a list of names — women of the Bible who were more than just “helps” but, in her view, were qualified to be pastors. That list was as follows: “Deborah, Hannah, Miriam, Ruth, Esther, Jael, Proverbs 31, Wisdom personified as woman in Proverbs 8 (present with God at creation), Phoebe, Lydia, Prisca, Mary, Mary Magdalene, [were] all just there ‘to help’?”

This is a very common tactic when arguing for why women deserve to be pastors: throw out the name of a woman from the Bible. Boom! But that name is always taken out of context. There are no examples of a woman serving as a pastor in the church. None of the apostles were women, for that matter. I can say “period” and leave it at that. The instruction in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is clear.

But for the sake of teaching, I’d like to go through that list of names and explain why they’re actually bad examples. While they are not examples of women pastors, most of them are certainly great examples for being strong women of God.

Deborah
The book of Judges captures a very dark time in Israel’s history. In those days there was no king in Israel, and the people did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25). But God gave them judges to be their leaders, decision-makers, and deliverers.

The pattern of the story of Judges goes like this: the people sinned and worshiped false gods, the Lord sent an enemy to punish and oppress them, the people cried out for mercy, so God sent a judge to conquer their enemies and deliver a semi-repentant Israel. Wash, rinse, repeat. Three of the most famous judges were Samson, Gideon, and a woman named Deborah.

Deborah was a prophetess and a God-fearing woman who judged during a time when there were no God-fearing men. In Judges 4, Deborah confronted Barak, commander of the Lord’s army, who was reluctant to do what God had told him to do: gather his troops and fight the Canaanites. Instead, Barak told Deborah, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” So Deborah mommied him and led him by the hand to get him to obey God.

If you had been reading through Deuteronomy and Joshua, by the time you got to Judges 4, you’d recognize Israel’s digression in faith and obedience. In Deuteronomy 1:15, the tribes of Israel had wise and experienced men as heads over them. In Joshua 24:1, these men met with Joshua to renew their covenant before God. But within a generation, Israel began worshiping the Baals and forgot what the Lord had done for them (Judges 2:10-12).

It got to the point that the men weren’t doing what the leaders of Israel were supposed to do. So God placed a woman over them as though to say, “Sure, I’ll deliver you from your enemies. But to your shame, I’m going to send a woman to do what no man will do.” It was an embarrassment that Deborah was judge, not a high achievement (consider Judges 9:53 where it was to Abimelech’s shame that he was killed by a woman and not a man). In Deborah’s song of victory, she praised the tribes that stepped up to fight and lambasted those who stayed home (Judges 5:14-18).

Isaiah 3:12 says, “My people — infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them.” It is the judgment of God upon a nation when women occupy the roles that should be filled by men. Barak should have been the judge of Israel, following in the footsteps of Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar before him. But because he was kind of a weenie, God gave Deborah to do what Barak wouldn’t.

So using Deborah as an argument for why it’s okay for a woman to be a pastor really isn’t a good move. It would be to admit, “There are no godly men here, so a woman is going to have to do this job.” When a woman is pastor, the church is immature and disobedient, just like Israel was when Deborah was judge. She is a great example of a God-fearing woman. She is not an example of a pastor.

Read More

The post Bad Examples of Women Pastors (But Great Examples of Godly Women) appeared first on The Aquila Report.

A Concise Resource on Justification by Faith Alone from Romans 4:3-5

Any of the following types of theological confusion, such as 1) mingling justification with sanctification; 2) equating  justification with church membership; 3) describing saving faith in terms of a saving faithfulness; 4) teaching that faith or righteousness is conferred by a sacrament rather than that faith is sealed by a sacrament; or 5) claiming that faith is the basis for justifying righteousness rather than the instrument by which it is imputed are contrary to the teaching of this passage. Rather, the elect are justified by faith (the sole, God-granted instrument) in Christ alone as God definitively imputes to them forever the perfect righteousness of Christ even as their sins and the eternal judgment they deserved are transferred to Christ.

With the confusion that is often sown regarding the doctrine of justification by faith alone, I wanted to review and clarify in my own mind my understanding of this essential doctrine. Especially in light of just celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, writing down my thoughts is a good exercise in application. Yet I wanted to be sure this clarification came from a study of Scripture, not only just from reading what others have written about it.

Thus, I returned to the crystal clear teaching of Romans 4:3-5 on this subject. How refreshing it is! This text says, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (NASB).

I thought I would share my thoughts with you. To that end, I offer below why this subject continues to need to be treated, a concise exegetical treatment on how to understand this text, a short summary statement on justification from my study, and then a guard produced by others to protect the church against those who would try to teach contrary to this doctrine. I hope this is a handy resource here on Gentle Reformation.

Modern Confusion

For there is confusion. The last few decades have shown us that. Examples abound. Norman Shepherd stating that “The exclusive ground of the justification of the believer in the state of justification is the righteousness of Christ, but his obedience, which is simply the perseverance of the saints in the way of truth and righteousness, is necessary to his continuing in a state of justification” (Call of Grace). Pastor Steve Schlissel saying at the Auburn Avenue conference that “anyone who believes that the main message of the book of Romans or Galatians is justification by faith is a nutcase.” N.T Wright declaring that “justification…is not a matter of how someone enters the community of the true people of God, but of how you tell who belongs to that community” (What Saint Paul Really Said). Recently, Kyle wrote this post on yet the latest controversy surrounding this topic.

Remembering we need sola scriptura to uphold sola fide, let’s look then at this passage. We will consider first the context of the verses under study.

The Context of Romans 4:3-5

Contrary to the statements above, one of the main teachings of all of Scripture, and particularly the Book of Romans, is justification by faith. Looking back at the previous chapter, we read that we are justified “through faith” (dia pisteuo in the Greek of Romans 3:25), “by faith” (pistei in Romans 3:28 is an instrumental dative), and “from faith” (ek pisteuo in Romans 3:30), but never “on account of faith” (dia pistin) as indicated by some of the quotes above. Faith is the instrument of our justification, but not the meritorious grounds of it. Faith is expressed as trusting Christ for our salvation.

Coming to our immediate context, Paul makes clear that Abraham was not justified by works (Romans 4:1-2). The thrust of Paul’s argument in Romans 4 is that Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised, making him the father of all – Jew or Greek – who believe in Christ (Romans 4:9-12). Paul then speaks with undeniable clarity in our verses regarding this truth.

Studying Our Text

Paul’s chief statement regarding justification by faith is in Romans 4:3 where he quotes from Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” This quote comes from Abraham’s story where the LORD promised him that his seed would number as the stars. In the Hebrew Old Testament of Genesis 15:6, the word “believed” is a form of the Hebrew word “Amen,” which indicates ideas such as “certainly, truly, solemn ratification, hearty approval.”  In its verb form, the word means “to stand firm in, to trust in, to be certain in, to believe in,” and always has an object, which in this case is the Lord.  The Lord must provide the salvation and blessing he has promised, and this is what Abraham believes or says “Amen” to. Abraham could not have been justified by works anymore than he could have counted all the stars that the Lord showed to him.  Continue reading…

The post A Concise Resource on Justification by Faith Alone from Romans 4:3-5 appeared first on The Aquila Report.

10 False Versions of Jesus People Are Falling For

When I found out I wasn’t following the real Jesus, I was totally undone. The hard work of making Jesus fit my brain, answer when I called, and label me righteous was a full-time job that robbed me of peace. When I finally fell into the loving arms of the real Jesus, I began a genuine relationship with the Savior of the world—the One who died for me.

He is everything He promised and so much more. Our culture presents us with so many versions of Jesus, letting us make Him in our own image. Maybe you’ve come to depend on a false Jesus and didn’t even realize it. If you are struggling to find peace, read about these false Jesuses with an open mind. Consider what Jesus said about Himself and test your beliefs against the truth from Scripture.

Here are 10 false Jesuses you keep falling for:

Read more

Here are Some Great Videos on the Five Solas from the Faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary – Canon Fodder

Last month RTS Charlotte and Christ Covenant Church came together to host a Reformation conference entitled, The Gospel of Grace and Glory: The Reformation at 500 and Counting.

The five plenary sessions of this conference were on the five solas of the Reformation: Kevin DeYoung (Sola Fide), James Anderson (Sola Gratia), Blair Smith (Solus Christus), Derek Thomas (Soli Deo Gloria), and myself (Sola Scriptura).

I might add that all these speakers (except myself!) are Systematic Theology profs at Reformed Theological Seminary.

And Keith and Kristyn Getty capped off the weekend with a concert that Sunday night.

Over the years (and even this year) I’ve heard a number of talks on the five solas.  And I have to say that the four talks given by my colleagues are some of the best I’ve ever heard.  They were insightful, profound, enlightening, convicting and encouraging.

The good news is that we have these talks on video.  Feel free to skip over mine and get onto the good ones! Here they are:

Session 1 | Sola Scriptura

Mike Kruger — “The Foundation for the Reformation, the Church, and All of Life”
https://player.vimeo.com/video/240278500

Session 2 | Sola Fide

Kevin DeYoung — “Why the World Desperately Wants the Doctrine of Justification (But Doesn’t Realize It Yet)”
https://player.vimeo.com/video/240330646

Session 3 | Sola Gratia

James Anderson — “The Glorious Offense of God’s Gospel Grace”
https://player.vimeo.com/video/240668864

Session 4 | Solus Christus

Blair Smith — “Against the Idol Making Factory”
https://player.vimeo.com/video/240672545

Session 5 | Soli Deo Gloria

Derek Thomas — “Worshiping the God Who is Worthy”
https://player.vimeo.com/video/240676752

View Videos

John MacArthur on the Reformation and the Word of God

Code: B171023

This month marks the five hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany—an event commonly cited as the flash point of the Protestant Reformation. Believers around the world are celebrating the legacies of Luther and the other Reformers, who worked to recover the true gospel from the dogma and tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.

But how had the gospel of Christ been obscured for so long? How did the Roman Catholic Church gain and maintain such spiritual dominance over people? And how did the light of God’s truth finally break through such pervasive darkness?

We put those questions to John MacArthur. Here’s what he had to say:

We rightly credit men like Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and Knox for their roles in recovering and proclaiming the truth of God’s Word. But the power of the Catholic Church was stifled by Scripture itself, as God’s people came face-to-face with the truth of His Word. The pope and the priesthood, along with Catholic dogma and tradition, were exposed as untrustworthy and unbiblical intermediaries between God and man. In the light of God’s Word, their satanic lies were laid bare.

Today, we worship and serve in the long line of faithful believers who held to the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture. This line includes the heroes of church history who helped recover the gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. If not for the work of those faithful servants, we might still be living under the dark dominion of Catholic lies today.

More on that next time.

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B171023
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

Rightly Understanding The Crucified King

Was Jesus the true Messiah or was Jesus a failed Messiah? In other words, did his death confirm his failure? Or, to the contrary, did his death confirm his triumph?

This question is relevant to every person alive today. If we confess Jesus as the true Messiah, then we will serve Him as our King forever. If we consider Jesus to be a failed Messiah, then we will be separated from him forever. This is the difference between salvation and damnation. This is the difference between heaven and hell.

The Disciples’ Initial Confidence

This also is a question that the followers of Jesus asked. Initially, they were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. Consider, for example, the great confession of Peter in Matthew 16:13-16. Jesus asked His disciples, “‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ [i.e., the Messiah], the Son of the living God’” (see e.g., Mark 8:27–30; 10:35–45; John 1:43–51). This was the conviction of the disciples and other followers of Jesus prior to Jesus’ death.

The Disciples’ Confidence Shaken

However, when Jesus was arrested and then crucified, their confidence faltered. They began to think that they had misjudged Jesus, and that he had failed. When Jesus was arrested, Peter disassociated himself from Jesus and asserted: “I do not know the man” (Matthew 26:72). Later, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Thomas refused to believe that Jesus was different from any other person who dies, and declared: “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Thomas is making a rhetorical statement here and essentially stating: “We had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, but He died.” In short, when Jesus died, the hopes of his followers were crushed.

Three Reasons for the Disciples’ Shaken Confidence

Why then did Jesus’ followers think that Jesus failed when He died? Of course, each disciple may have had his or her own particular reaction to Jesus’ death. But the following are three flawed perspectives—evident within different followers of Jesus—that contributed to the sentiment that Jesus failed.

Erroneous Human Perspective

The followers of Jesus evidently believed that death meant human failure. This is the very assumption that the two men traveling to Emmaus betray about their thinking. When Jesus asked the two men what they were talking about, they said: “19 Concerning Jesus of Nazareth…. 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (24:19–21). They had initially thought that he was the Messiah, but then he was killed; therefore, the reasoning goes, he failed to fulfill the role of the Messiah.

We also see in Acts 5:35-39 that this notion—that death means failure—was accepted at that time more broadly. After Jesus had already risen from the dead, his disciples began to preach that He is the Messiah. Opposing this message, the Jewish leadership deliberated how to stop the disciples. At one such deliberation, a prominent Pharisee named Gamaliel offered a suggestion, which exhibits a belief that death means failure.

Gamaliel said, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

Gamaliel is essentially saying: “We have seen this before. A charismatic personality rises up, gains a following, dies, and then the movement falls apart.” Despite his qualification that God’s potential involvement changes the significance of the situation, Gamaliel’s general point is that under normal human circumstances, death marks the end of every leader.

This is how the disciples evidently saw it too. Jesus died, therefore, Jesus failed. Their human perspective that death means failure clouded their understanding of Scriptures and the very things that they heard from Jesus Himself.

Faulty Theological Perspective

Jesus’ followers also believed that death was divine punishment—a tenet that is true at its core—but this theological point produced an irreconcilable conundrum for them concerning Jesus’ death. If Jesus is the Messiah, the unique servant of God, then how is it that He suffers divine punishment?

That death is divine punishment is an accurate theological truth. We know this from Ezekiel 18:4: “The soul who sins shall die”; or Roman 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death.” But the culture of that time took it to an unbiblical level and associated every experience of suffering and death directly with the person’s presumable sin. In John 9:2, Jesus and the disciples encountered a blind man, and the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” The disciples assumed that the man’s suffering was directly linked to his or to his parents’ sins.

In Luke 13, Jesus comments on an incident in which a tower in Siloam fell and killed 18 people, and in his remarks Jesus states: “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Why did Jesus say this? Because that’s what the people were thinking—that those who died were worse sinners and that God was punishing them.

With this mindset, the disciples viewed Jesus’ death and were puzzled. What made this even more unfathomable was that Jesus was crucified on a cross—that is, Jesus’ form of death was reserved for those who were cursed by God (Deut 21:22–23). When Jesus died, his followers and the rest of the Jewish community thought that He was being punished by God. But if he was being punished, then how could he be the Messiah?

This response, however, is the very response that Isaiah predicted would be expressed by the people of Israel about the Messiah’s death: “We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (53:4). Isaiah wrote that the Jewish people would in fact misinterpret the Messiah’s suffering and death as divine punishment for his sins. However, the very point of this prophecy is that this was a faulty theological perspective. Isaiah proceeds to say in 53:5: “But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for ouriniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” The apostle Paul articulated this principle and applied it to Jesus as follows: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Yes, the Messiah was punished by God, but not for his own sins. The Messiah was punished for the sins of the sinners. Because the followers of Jesus failed to understand this role of the Messiah, they misinterpreted the nature of Jesus’ death and they wrongly concluded that he had failed.

Outright Unbelieving Perspective

Additionally, the death of the Messiah was an inconceivable and an unacceptable notion for the followers of Jesus.

The refusal to believe that the Messiah must suffer and die is clearly evident within Peter immediately following his confession that Jesus is the Messiah. As Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He would suffer and die, Peter rebuked Jesus, and said: “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22).

This lack of belief is also what Jesus confronts the two men about on the road to Emmaus. After the men expressed their disappointment that Jesus failed as Messiah because He died, Jesus replied: “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26)

In other words, the followers of Jesus failed to see and to believe the revelation concerning the Messiah’s death in the Scriptures. They refused the fact that the death of the Messiah was the plan of God and they missed that the death of the Messiah served a specific purpose. Isaiah 53:6 states: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” This was the purpose—redemption. And Jesus made this very point about Himself in Mark 10:45, when He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” The ultimate purpose of Jesus’ life was His death, but the disciples and the followers of Jesus missed this because they refused to believe.

Because of their unbelieving hearts, the followers of Jesus thought that Jesus was a failed Messiah because he died. The fact is that if Jesus had not died, then He would have been a failed Messiah, because then He would not have fulfilled the Scriptures.

However, inasmuch as Jesus did fulfill this key messianic prophecy—to die and to bring redemption in his resurrection from death—Jesus must necessarily be the true Messiah.

Jesus and the Scriptures Today

Today, people refuse to confess Jesus as the Messiah for the very same reasons. The question is: How should we respond? Well, how did Jesus respond when he was on the road to Emmaus with the two men who thought that he had failed? Beginning with Moses and the prophets, He interpreted to them the Scriptures concerning Himself (Luke 24:27). Just like Jesus, we must also always go back to the Scriptures, because it is the Scriptures that demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah.

 

The post Rightly Understanding The Crucified King appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.