Christianity 201

January 10, 2023

Prayer Prompts and Study Prompts

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom – Colossians 3:16a NIV

Most people are familiar with prayer prompts. Using a list is most common, but earlier today I was thinking of some people I went to high school with who have rather unusual names, and it occurred to me that instead of just thinking of those names, perhaps I should be praying for those people, wherever they are today.

Study prompts are another matter.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been using some of the verses on my NIV Bible app as a springboard for writing a longer article. I don’t write original devotionals here each day, so it’s something that happens only when a verse strikes me as worthy of further examination.

Which brings me to our opening verse.

The NLT breaks it up into three sentences, of which the first two are:

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives.

Note: The part I’ve omitted in both the NIV and NLT citation from Colossians is the “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” part of the verse. This is usually thought of as one of the “music verses” of the New Testament, but I wanted to focus on the first part today. However, I do want to note the connection between the other “psalms, hymns…” passage in Ephesians 5. In the former case, the word of God fills our minds and provides text for our singing, and in the latter case, being filled with the Spirit has the same effect; it causes us to sing.

I do prefer the older rendering, with its phrase “dwell in you richly.” We often speak of meditating on scripture. In Psalm 1, we are told of the upright, “But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. (1:2 NLT)

Here I’m also reminded of Joshua 1:8, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (NIV)

Fine, you say; God’s word is important, but what about “study prompts?”

The website Holding on to Truth offers 8 Reasons to Let the Word of God Dwell in You. At the end of the article, the writer, Tom Smith provides four ways to accomplish this. If this section interests you, I encourage to read it in full, but his means of letting God’s word get embedded deeper into our souls are:

  1. Feed on it (see it as daily nourishment starting with key verses)
  2. Read it (i.e. have a plan to methodically read all of it)
  3. Sing it (Christianity is a singing faith. It’s part of our DNA)
  4. Speak it (find people with whom you can talk about scripture texts and share meaningful times in God’s Word.)

Well…that gets us closer, but it’s still not what I have in mind by the phrase “Study Prompts.”

A study prompt is where you really want to start, to use our tag line here at Christianity 201, “Digging a little bit deeper.”

■ If you use BibleHub, or have a reference Bible, it might mean checking out some of the related scriptures.

■ If you own a Study Bible, it might mean delving into the notes provided for the passage in question.

■ If you own a Bible Commentary, it might mean reading what others have written about the verse or chapter.

■ If you have internet (which you do, since you’re reading this) it might mean looking for articles explaining the verse. (Type the verse reference followed by the word commentary, like this “John 3:16 commentary.” Or ask a question like “Why did Paul ask the church to…?”)

■ If you’re in a small group and there’s free discussion time, it might mean asking the group. (“Have any of you ever wondered about this verse in Ecclesiastes?) (Answer: If it’s in Ecclesiastes, yes, someone else in your group has wondered about it!)

■ If you’re a visual learner, it might mean checking out The Bible Project to see a video on that Bible book or topic.

■ If you’re marooned on an island, it might mean clearing your head and asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of the passage or theme to you. (That won’t be many of you, but the method is worth considering either way!)

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11 NIV

Just as someone’s name comes to mind in a prayer prompt, so also allow a verse or a theme to come to mind in a study prompt, and don’t let go until you’ve learned more. With a study prompt — however it becomes front of mind — you do the thing that comes next.

You study.

 

 

January 5, 2023

How to Read the Bible (and How Not To)

by Clarke Dixon

The commitment to read the Bible daily may not be the biggest challenge of The OneYear Bible reading challenge I have set before our church family. The bigger challenge may be in understanding what we are reading, especially since we will be reading all of it and not just our favourite verses. We may be surprised to find within the New Testament things like “slaves, obey your masters,” and “women must be silent in the church.” What we find in the Old Testament may be even more surprising.

As we read through the Bible, let us keep in mind what the Bible is and what it is not. It is not one book dropped into our laps, pre-written in heaven. It is a compilation of many writings, written by many people at different times under different circumstances, and using different genres of writing. It is “God-breathed,” but it is not God-dictated.

We do well to understand how the various writings that make up the Scriptures came about. I am going to borrow from N.T. Wright here who in the book, The New Testament in Its World: An Introduction to the History, Literature, and Theology of the First Christians points to three words to keep in mind as we read the Bible, these being, not surprisingly, history, literature, and theology. Things happened in history (history). People had beliefs about what happened and what it meant (theology). People wrote about both the history and what it meant (literature).

Keeping in mind history, theology, and literature will help keep us from “adventures in missing the point” to borrow an expression from a book by Tony Campolo and Brian McClaren We can miss the point of the Scriptures when we fail to think through the context of their writing. We miss the point when we treat every word of the Bible as the very words of God for all people and all time rather than thinking of the writings as recording the response of people to what God was doing in their specific time and place, which does of course speak to us about what is true for all people and all times. There is a subtle and important difference there.

Let me give one example of missing the point, or of how not to read the Bible. Here is a quote I came across sometime ago, though I don’t remember the original source:

Since we cannot be absolutely certain that God finds the use of musical instruments an appropriate form of worship, then it seems quite foolish to risk His wrath by adding something which He did not clearly authorize us to do during collective worship. Our only assurance of practicing acceptable Christian worship is to disregard man-made creeds and turn to God’s Word as our only authoritative guide to worship. Unless we pattern our worship after the first century church, we can have no assurance that God approves of our assemblies

Source unknown

This makes God out to be a bit of a bully. Such a theology builds upon treating the Bible far too literally, and far too seriously as a bunch of God-dictated rules rather than a collection of God-breathed responses. Such a stringent view of the Bible, and God, messes with peoples heads, making understanding and living out every word of the Bible, neither of which can actually be done, the main goal. If that is our goal, we have missed the point. The key moment in history where God showed up was in Jesus, who took the nails. Bullies don’t get nailed to a cross and then given the chance to get even, offer forgiveness instead. God is not the bully we make him out to be when we don’t read the Bible well.

What does an adventure in getting the point look like instead? Let us consider the writing of someone who spent time with Jesus:

We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.

1 John 1:1-4 (NLT)

Something, or better, someone happened in history; Jesus. John experienced that and it was life changing, challenging and changing what John thought about God. Based on John’s interaction with Jesus what did John come to believe?

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us… Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world… God is love…

1 John 4:9-12,14,15 (NLT)

In reading the Bible, let us watch for how people responded to God who moved in history. This is more difficult in the Old Testament which spans a lot of rather complicated history. However, in the New Testament, there is one unique person who enters into history, Jesus. Because of Jesus, people changed what they were thinking about God and people changed. Then they wrote about it and because of it. Through their writings we discover the one who changes us. Reading the Bible well can change the world.


Before they appear here, Canadian pastor Clarke Dixon’s condensed sermons appear at his blog, Thinking Through Scripture.

December 17, 2022

The Trinity Both Is and Isn’t in the Bible

Just hours ago I had a conversation with someone who is trying to avoid Bible commentary written from a trinitarian perspective. It’s not the first time I’ve had that discussion, but the trinity is something that is so central to historical Christianity that it forms the centerpiece of the major creeds.

In some ways, I get it. The word isn’t in the Bible. Which means it’s not in your concordance, either.

But personally, I would argue the doctrine is there, somewhat unambiguously, even if the concept is difficult for us to wrap our heads around.

That got me thinking that perhaps we could look back at this topic as it has been discussed here.

In November of 2014 we began with a quote from Tozer:

Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.
~A.W. Tozer, The Idea of the Holy, chapter 4

and then continued to look at “who does what.”

In the Holy Scriptures the work of creation is attributed to the Father

Gen. 1:1 In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below

to the Son

Col 1:16 It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes.

and to the Holy Spirit

Job 26:13     By His breath, the heavens are made beautifully clear;
        by His hand that ancient serpent—even as it attempted escape—is pierced through.

Psalm 104:30 When You send out Your breath, life is created,
    and the face of the earth is made beautiful and is renewed.

The article continues as a scripture medley worth checking out… continue reading here.

In July, 2013 we looked at the idea of “One What and Three Whos” with this item by C. Michael Patton:

I believe in one God (ousia), who exists eternally in three persons (hypostasis) — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — all of whom are fully God, all of whom are equal.

Spirit of GodSince there is only one God, one member of the Trinity, in his essence, cannot have more power, authority, or dignity than another. They all share in the exact same nature (ousia, ontos, “stuff”). I did not understand this until later in my Christian life. For many years I existed as a functional polytheist (a tritheist, to be technically precise). I believed the three members of the Trinity shared in a similar nature, not the exact same nature. In other words, just like you and I share in the nature of being homo sapiens, so the members of the Trinity are all from the “God species” . . . or something like that. But this is a bad analogy since, though you and I may be the same species, we are different in essence. You are you and I am me. I have my body and you have yours. But in the Trinity, all three persons share in the exact same essence. One in nature; three in person. One what; three whos…

For more on the idea of a hierarchy within the Trinity… continue reading here.

In February of 2011, we offered “The Trinity Collection,” to go-to verses in which all three members of the Godhead are referenced:

Matthew 3: 16, 17 NIV

16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 28: 19 NLT

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

John 15: 26 ESV

[Jesus speaking] 26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Acts 2: 33 NIrV

33 Jesus has been given a place of honor at the right hand of God. He has received the Holy Spirit from the Father. This is what God had promised. It is Jesus who has poured out what you now see and hear.

II Cor. 13: 14 The Message

14The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

Ephesians 2: 17 – 18 TNIV

17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

I Thess. 1: 2-5a CEV

2We thank God for you and always mention you in our prayers. Each time we pray, 3we tell God our Father about your faith and loving work and about your firm hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4My dear friends, God loves you, and we know he has chosen you to be his people. 5When we told you the good news, it was with the power and assurance that come from the Holy Spirit, and not simply with words…

I Peter 1: 1 – 2 NIV (UK)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world … 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Also included in this list is the longer passage at I Cor. 12: 4-13.

That’s pretty much the entire piece… read at source here.

Also in February, 2011, we had a discussion at Thinking Out Loud and noted that

…four of the seven statements in the National Association of Evangelicals Statement of Faith which specifically refer to God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, of which the first is primary for this discussion:

  • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.

(For Canadian readers, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Statement of Faith is identical.)

For that article… continue reading here.

In January of 2017, here at C201 we quoted Fred Sanders on Trinitarian Praise:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the
Holy Ghost! As it was in the beginning, is now,

and ever shall be, world without end.

The glory of God is from everlasting to everlasting, but while the praise of the Trinity will have no end, it had a beginning. There was never a time when God was not glorious as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit. But there was a time when that singular glory (singular because, to gloss the Athanasian Creed, there are not three glorious, but one) had not yet disclosed itself so as to invite creatures to its praise. To join in the ancient Christian prayer called the Gloria Patri, directing praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is to come into alignment here in the world “as it is now” with triune glory “as it was in the beginning.” All theology ought to be doxology, but Trinitarian theology in particular is essentially a matter of praising God. This doxological response is the praise of a glory (ἔπαινον δόξης, Eph 1:6, 12, 14) that always was, and whose epiphany in time entails its antecedent depth in eternity. Those whom God has blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ are summoned to join that praise: “Blessed be God the Father, who has blessed us in the Beloved and sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:3–14, condensed).

For more of that article… continue reading here.

Finally, here’s a link to a video teaching from Ruth Wilkinson. Shes looking at one of the most overtly trinitarian hymns we have, Holy, Holy, Holy, and an analogy you may not hear as often. Click the link for Part Two – Trinity

December 2, 2022

Does God Deliberately Hide Himself from Some People

Navigating the waters of the predestination debate is tough enough — the idea that some people, often referred to as “the elect” represent the “chosen” of God, with that choosing having already been established long before the foundations of the world — without also having to consider the implications that there are the “un-chosen” or if you will the “non-elect.”

But the one clearly implies the other, and of course those who hold to predestination have a number of scripture verses — think of Jacob and Esau — always at the ready in such situations.

Countering that doctrine however is the nature of God, and the place where it meets the nature of humankind, in particular with respect to the idea of free will, or to say it more succinctly, “Did I choose God or did God choose me?”

In Hosea 1:9 there is a contrast presented between what it means to be God’s people, and what it means to not be God’s people:

Then the LORD said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God. (NIV)

We had a devotional here in August, 2018 which explains this unusual passage:

In the same way, because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, God could not call them his loved ones or his children. Instead, he would reject them and cause them to fall as a kingdom.

And yet even in the midst of this, God makes clear that this punishment would not last forever. That the day would come when he would call them his people and his sons once again, and would restore them.

Which brings us to an even more unusual verse, our key verse for today:

At that time Jesus said, “I thank You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to infants. Even so, Father, for it seemed good in Your sight.”
Matthew 11:25-26, Modern English Version (MEV)

The website BibleRef.com presents the idea that God shields some people from seeing him fully.

  • those who are wise in their own estimation
  • those who are arrogant

(You could argue that these are often one and the same.)

The site states,

Jesus has just finished condemning three towns in Galilee where He has performed miraculous works and powerful preaching. Despite seeing the power of God on display with their own eyes, the people of these towns failed to repent of their sin and to believe that Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 11:20–24).

Why did these people fail to believe in Jesus? A possible clue comes in what Christ thanks God the Father for in this verse. In the middle of talking to the crowds, Jesus turns to His Father, “the Lord of heaven and earth,” and thanks Him for having hidden “these things” from the wise and understanding. In other words, Jesus thanks the Father for actively participating in keeping the truth from those who are thought to be smart according to the world’s standards, or at least according to themselves. Instead, the Father reveals the hidden truth to “little children.”

What are “these things”? In the case of what Jesus has just been talking about in this chapter, they are things that seemingly should be obvious. If Jesus displays power that can only come from God—power to raise the dead and heal impossible illnesses and cast out demons with a word—then He must be the Messiah. Why would anyone not believe that?

Is this situation irredeemable? That would depend on where you land in terms of the doctrine we discussed at the outset. It could mean that God blinds such people for a period (limited or extended) of time. I base that on this verse in 1 Corinthians 5:5, (which is a verse for a whole other study!)

Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns. (NLT)

Back to Jesus’ words in Matthew; at Russ’ Bible Devotions we read,

This seems a rather unusual thing for Jesus to say, but it shows us, once again, that God does things according to His ways, not ours. We spend a lot of time, effort, and resources in attempt after attempt to prove God in accordance with human standards and rules of reasoning, logic, and rational thought. While using such tools in the study of God is not wrong, to expect them to prove God, or even to provide a complete picture of Who God really is, only causes confusion, distortion, and is mostly foolish.

I see what Russ is saying. This can’t be an intellectual exercise or you end up with people who have undergone an intellectual conversion only. In other words, you convert them deism, or you have someone for whom Christ’s atonement has never truly reached the heart level.

But I’m not sure that I agree that we might abandon all apologetics, the context in Matthew is miracles, they had seen the miracles but couldn’t wrap their minds around them. In contrast are the opposite group; all the people — in all locations and all centuries of history — who did not see the miracles, about whom Jesus says to Thomas,

Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”  – John 20:29 CSB

So we’re left with more questions:

  • Are there people in my sphere of influence and acquaintance who God is preventing from seeing the truth?
  • Are there people to whom I am witnessing for which the approach of reason and apologetics is not the way to their heart?
  • Are these situations fixed permanently, or is God allowing this to continue for a season with an offer of redemption to be presented at a later date?

This can become perplexing. The higher principle is the command to go and tell. We were never responsible for outcomes to begin with. We have to act like it depends on us, and realize that ultimately everything depends on God.

 

 

November 25, 2022

The Dual Nature of Jesus of Nazareth

TheMessage.Philippians.2.5-7 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges.

I like today’s article because it is willing to delve into a tough topic, and also because it gets my brain working! I went back and read several of the paragraphs a second time. I hope you’ll do the same.

Today we’re visiting, for the first time, a blog called Living as a Christian in This World. The blog is normally written by “Raymond the Brave” who calls himself a “Biblical Unitarian.” (We carry a wide swath of writers here at C201, so I decided, ‘Why, not?’) Today’s article is actually written by Sean Finnegan. You may click the link in the title below where you’ll find an email address for Sean if you want to ask questions or seek clarification.

Is Jesus Both God and Man?

“…How in the world could Jesus be omnipresent if he couldn’t be in two places at once?” I asked. “How could he be omniscient when he says, Not even the Son of Man knows the hour of his return? How could he be omnipotent when the gospels plainly tell us that he was unable to do many miracles in his hometown?” —Lee Strobel, Case for Christ, p. 158.

In the foyer of our church, is a tract that says on its cover “Did Jesus Think He Was God?”

Below, I have reproduced the chart found in it, enumerating 11 points as to why Jesus could not be God.

If Jesus is God then…

  1. How could he have a beginning (Matthew 1:18; Romans 1:3), since God has always existed (Isaiah 43:13)?
  2. How could he keep “increasing in wisdom”(Luke 2 : 5 2 ), since God’s “understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5)?
  3. Why did he say, “I can do nothing on my own initiative” (John 5:30), whereas God “can do all things” (Job 42:2)?
  4. Why did he spend “the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12), as there is never a time when God prays, but only receives prayer from others?
  5. How could he learn obedience and become perfect (Hebrews 5:8 and 9), since God invented obedience and is already perfect (Matthew 5:48)?
  6. Why doesn’t he know the day and hour when he will return, and yet his Father, God, does know (Matthew 24:36)?
  7. Why didn’t he know who touched him (Mark 5:30), whereas God knows everything (Isaiah 46:10)?
  8. How could he be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1), yet “God cannot be tempted by evil” (James 1:13)?
  9. How could he die (Philippians 2:8), if God “alone possesses immortality ” (1 Timothy 6:16)?
  10. How could he be in subjection to the Father [if he were the Father] for all eternity, (1 Corinthians 15:28)?
  11. Why was he asleep on the cushion (Mark 4:38), yet God never sleeps or slumbers (Psalms 12:14)?

Though these reasons may appear very conclusive to most Unitarians and non-Christians, they are not by most mainstream Christians. When I speak to orthodox Christians along these lines, the person often responds “You misunderstand the dual nature of Christ.” Their reasoning continues, “In his divinity, he is God; but in his humanity, he is man. When he performs miracles, that is a manifestation of his deity. When he suffers or is limited in any way, that is a manifestation of his humanity.” Thus, a dual nature proposition is given as the explanation as to why Jesus did not exactly match the attributes recorded of God.

But why is this doctrine necessary? Why do people believe that Jesus is God? The main reason given for why Jesus would be God is that he did things that only God can do–he raised the dead, walked on water, exorcised demons, forgave sins, and lived perfectly. Each of these will be taken in its turn.

Jesus raised the dead. Jesus raised Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, and the widow’s son. If raising the dead makes Jesus God, then Elijah, Elisha, and Peter are also God, because they also raised the dead.

Jesus walked on water. Jesus confessed the source of his miracles when he said, “the Father abiding in me does His works” (John 10:25, 32, 37; 14:10) and, “the son can do nothing of himself” (John 5:19). Jesus walked on the water because God empowered him to do so. (And Peter walked on the water also.)

Jesus exorcised demons. Often, Jesus came face to face with the spiritual forces of wickedness. He never struggled but cast them

out with a few words. However, he is not unique here either, the 12 also cast out demons, as well as the 70. Besides, Jesus clearly stated, “I cast out demons by the spirit of God” (Matthew 12:28). God empowered His Messiah to do these things.

Jesus forgave sins. When the paralyzed man was brought to Jesus, he said, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2). It is alleged that since all sins are ultimately an affront to God (Psalms 51:4), that only God can forgive sins. This reasoning is logical, but what if God conferred His right to forgive sins onto His earthly agent–the Messiah. “But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God who had given such authority to men” (Matthew 9:8). Similarly, the disciples of Christ are authorized to forgive or retain sins (cf. John 20:23).

Jesus lived perfectly. Adam was made in God’s image–perfect. God’s plan was for him to stay sinless, live forever, cultivate the garden of Eden, rule over the earth, and produce many children. Jesus also was made in the image of God (Colossians 3:10). He was divinely created [begotten] (Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:20) in the womb of his mother, Mary; Adam was also divinely made (Genesis 2:7). Thus, Jesus falls in the category of one who began as perfect and who needed to maintain his perfection (i.e. the second Adam), rather than one who had inherited the fallen sin nature. Because of what Christ has done, we can now mortify the deeds of our old man and live as he lived (Romans 8:10, 13).

One other argument that often surfaces is that if Jesus was not God, then his sacrifice would not have been sufficient to redeem all of humanity. This assertion seems logical on its surface, but there are four problems with it.

  • Nowhere in the Bible is this stated.
  • God cannot die (1 Timothy 1:17 says He is immortal).
  • A sacrifice is sufficient because God accepts it, not because its value equals the offense.
  • According to their view, only the body (the humanity) of Jesus died; his spirit (the deity) continued to live. Thus, the God portion of Jesus did not die.

Besides, is it fair to split Jesus in any way? If Jesus were fully God and fully man, then everything Jesus experienced, both his divine and human natures also experienced. For example, if I could ask them, “How can Jesus be God if he doesn’t know everything?” They would respond, “In his humanity he didn’t know, but in his divinity he is omniscient.” However, this is impossible. One cannot both know everything and not know everything at the same time! If Jesus had claimed ignorance about his second coming when he was really omniscient, would this not be deceptive? To illustrate this, consider the analogy below.

Fred asked Laura for $5, and she responded, “I don’t have $5.” But then 10 minutes later, Fred noticed that she was holding $5 in her hand and questioned her why she had lied. Laura replied, “When I said I didn’t have $5, I meant in my right hand I did not have it; although it is true that in my left hand I do have $5.” Would this not be immediately exposed as deception? Either the person has the $5 or not. One cannot both have and not have $5 at the same time.

Jesus always spoke the truth. If he said he did not know something, then all of Jesus did not know it. If he died, then he was not immortal. If he slept on the boat, then he cannot claim to be the God Who never sleeps, etc. All of this confusion can be avoided if we understand Jesus as a human–a sinless man who, like Adam, was directly made by God but, unlike Adam, did not grasp at equality with God. There is nothing complicated about that. Jesus is a real human who really died for our sins.

Our entire faith depends on this truth. It is a simple fact: if the whole Jesus did not really die, then the whole of our sins are not really paid for. Thanks be to God who would not leave us in such a predicament.

November 24, 2022

If I’m Being Honest

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Before we begin today, Clarke’s column today includes a reference to Acts 15, which contains one of my favourite verses:

NIV.Acts.15.19 [James speaking] “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God…”

The verses Clarke more directly mentions are:

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them…

Click the link in the title below to read today’s devotional at Clarke’s blog.

Thinking Through Honesty in the Church

by Clarke Dixon

Everyone knew that God’s big plan centered on a particular people and a specific patch of land in the Middle East. Some dared to question that when they shared honestly – we have seen Jesus alive and we think that changes everything. – Their honesty led to a dark place, it led to persecution. It also led to a brighter future.

Everyone knew that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law, and that being a Jesus follower was tied up with being a follower of the traditions of being Jewish. But some dared to question that including Peter – I have seen a vision and we have seen the Holy Spirit move among the non-Jews. – Such honestly was shared during a time of division which can feel like a dark time. We can read about that Acts 15. Such honesty led to a brighter future.

Everyone knew that the traditions of the church were super-important, that the word of the Pope was not to be questioned. Some dared to question that – What we are reading in the Bible is not fitting well with the traditions. – And so Luther and many others came under persecution from the powers that be. The honesty of the Reformers led to the darkness of division and persecution. It also led to a brighter future.

Everyone knew that if you were English, the Church of England was your church and you need not question its theology or traditions. Some, like Thomas Helwys and John Smith did dare to question, to be honest about what they were thinking – What we read in the Bible does not fit with what we are being told. – And so the Baptist movement came to be, with Baptists becoming champions of freedom of religion and belief in the separation of church and State. The honesty of the early Baptists led to the darkness of division and persecution. It also led to a brighter future.

All through the history of Christianity, honesty has been difficult, but rewarding. Honesty has led to richer, deeper theology. Much of our theology, however, has been crafted, yes from the Bible, but by dead white men. In our day are we listening to the voices of the living including those who are not white men? Living people, looking at the Bible and life through other eyes, may see things many of us have not seen before. Do some people feel like they need to keep quiet, that their honesty will bring them to a difficult place?

Do you feel like you can be honest? Or does that seem like a dark place to go?

It is so very normal to have mixed thoughts and feelings about God, life, and our understanding about God, and life. It should be normal to feel comfortable talking about those mixed thoughts and feelings in Christian community without the fear of being shunned, or being made to feel stupid.

We may feel like being honest will lead us to a dark place, but sometimes our honesty comes from a dark place. I recently went to a concert by a country artist called Tenille Townes who told a story about playing a gig at a high school shortly after some students were killed in a car accident. She spoke of having questions and the importance of asking honest questions. Then she sang a song she wrote called “Jersey on the Wall,” which includes this question for God: “if you’ve got your hands on everything that happened, why couldn’t you stop that car from crashing?” Every time I hear that song I think of my best friend who died in a car accident when we were both in our early twenties. Perhaps there is someone you think of. Perhaps you ask the same question.

This is the last in our series “What Kind of Church.”  Are we the kind of church where you can ask questions without fear of being shunned, or being made to feel stupid? Are we the kind of church where there is understanding when things are beyond understanding? Are we the kind of church where you can just be honest?

Sometimes being honest can be the scary thing, the thing we might think will lead to a dark place. But it usually leads to a brighter future.

In this series we have been considering the cultural statements of Open Table Communities and today’s is:

A Culture of Honesty
We nurture a posture of relational, emotional and intellectual honesty. We value relational honesty with others and self, emotional honesty in identification and expression of feelings, and intellectual honesty with regard to truth.

OPEN TABLE COMMUNITIES

 

 

November 13, 2022

Quotations: Thoughts on Grace

The difference between mercy and grace? Mercy gave the prodigal son a second chance. Grace gave him a feast.

~Max Lucado


The Law tells me how crooked I am; Grace comes along and straightens me out.

~Dwight L Moody


While our various guest writers’ material appears here only once, I do permit myself the luxury of a few “reruns” of some of the original devotionals here. That said, I’ve never circled back to any of the series of quotations by different writers or on different themes. Today’s quotations appeared in two different pieces, one from 2011 and one from 2012. (Apparently some were longer back then!) The authors are attributed on some (not all) where they’re linked with their names, just click.

Grace is at the heart of the Christian faith. It’s our distinctive. Part of our mission is to make people understand that salvation is not earned, it is the gift of God made available to us through Jesus Christ.

A scripture focus for today may be found at this August, 2015 blog post.


Grace binds you with far stronger cords than the cords of duty or obligation can bind you. Grace is free, but when once you take it you are bound forever to the Giver, and bound to catch the spirit of the Giver. Like produces like, Grace makes you gracious, the Giver makes you give.

~(Eli) E. Stanley Jones


We tend to give an unbeliever just enough of the gospel to get him or her to pray a prayer to receive Christ. Then we immediately put the gospel on the shelf, so to speak, and go on to the duties of discipleship. The grace that brought salvation to you is the same grace that teaches or disciplines you. But you must respond on the basis of grace, not law.

~Jerry Bridges


“The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.”

~Philip Yancey


‘He’s prone to stoop. He stooped to wash feet, to embrace children. Stooped to pull Peter out of the sea, to pray in the Garden. He stooped before the Roman whipping post. Stooped to carry the cross. Grace is a God who stoops. Here he stooped to write in the dust.’

~Max Lucado


“Romans 8 is all about living in a suffering world marked by brokenness… Verse 28 says: For those loving him, God works together all things for good. …Earlier in Romans 8, Paul discusses how things fall apart because the world is burdened with evil and sin. Things are subject to decay. Everyone will eventually experience the decay of their bodies; that’s the nature of things. The little grains of sand on the beach used to be a mountain. Everything falls apart; things do not come together. This verse tells Christians to get rid of the saccharine, sentimental idea that things ought to go right, that things do go right, and that it’s normal for things to go right. Modern, Western people believe that if things go wrong, we should sue, because things ought to go right. But Christians have to discard that idea completely. Christians have to recognize that if our health remains intact, it is simply because God is holding it up. If people love us, if someone is there to hug us or squeeze our hand, if someone loves us in spite of all our flaws—if someone loves us at all—it’s because God is bringing all things together. God is holding it up. Everything that goes well is a miracle of grace.”

~Timothy Keller


Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There’s no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about anymore than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks. A good night’s sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace.

~Frederick Buechner


Grace is the incomprehensible fact that God is well pleased with a man, and that a man can rejoice in God. Only when grace is recognized to be incomprehensible is it grace. Grace exists, therefore, only where the Resurrection is reflected. Grace is the gift of Christ, who exposes the gulf which separates God and man, and, by exposing it, bridges it.

~Karl Barth


“…Jesus’ approach toward a decadent Roman empire, as well as toward individual sinners who must have offended him deeply, seemed almost the opposite of the self-righteous attitude of many evangelicals.  As I studied Jesus’ life, the notion of grace kept hitting me in the face.  All his stories made the wrong person the hero: the prodigal son not the responsible older brother, Lazarus not the rich man, the good Samaritan not the Jewish rabbi.  And I began to see grace as one of the great, often untapped, powers of the universe that God has asked us to set loose.  Human society runs by Ungrace, ranking people, holding them accountable, insisting on reciprocity and fairness.  Grace is, by definition, unfair.  That intrigued me.”

~Philip Yancey


Who can estimate the value of God’s gift, when He gave to the world His only begotten Son! It is something unspeakable and incomprehensible. It passes man’s understanding. Two things there are which man has no arithmetic to reckon, and no line to measure. One of these things is the extent of that man’s loss who loses his own soul. The other is the extent of God’s gift when he gave Christ to sinners…Sin must indeed be exceeding sinful, when the Father must needs give His only Son to be the sinner’s Friend!

~James Charles (J. C.) Ryle


“Most every cult you could name is a cult of salvation by works. It appeals to the flesh. It tells you, if you will stand so long on a street corner, if you will distribute so much literature, if you will sacrifice so much of life, if you will be baptized, if you will contribute your money, if you will pray or attend numerous meetings, then your good works and hard effort will cause God to smile on you. Ultimately when the good is weighed against the bad on the Day of Judgement, you will finally earn His favor. The result in that, I say again, is man’s glory, because you added to your salvation.

“Grace says you have nothing to give, nothing to earn, nothing to pay. You couldn’t if you tried! Salvation is a free gift. You simply lay hold of what Christ has provided. Period. And yet the heretical doctrine of works goes on all around the world and always will. It is effective because the pride of men and women is so strong. We simply have to do something in order to feel right about it. It just doesn’t make good humanistic sense to get something valuable for nothing.

“Please allow me to be absolutely straight with you: Stop tolerating the heretical gospel of works! It is legalism. Wake up to the fact that it will put you into a bondage syndrome that won’t end. The true gospel of grace, however, will set you free. Free forever.”

~Charles (Chuck) Swindoll


“You are loved by your Maker not because you try to please him and succeed, or fail to please him and apologize, but because he wants to be your Father. Nothing more. All your efforts to win his affection are unnecessary. All your fears of losing his affection are needless. You can no more make him want you than you can convince him to abandon you. The adoption is irreversible. You have a place at his table.”

~Max Lucado


 

November 12, 2022

You Don’t Have to Know Everything to Share Something

Can you imagine someone preaching in your church whose education was sorely lacking in certain areas? You might feel their training was woefully inadequate.

On the other hand, there are seminary graduates, not to mention rank-and-file church members, who will tell you that they are always learning new things, they are always seeking to learn new things. For those with an unceasing thirst for knowledge, we have the term lifelong learning.

Still, you want the teaching that goes out from your church in weekend services to be accurate, and there’s nothing wrong with taking someone aside and mentioning some area of doctrine, or scripture, or theology with which they seem to be unfamiliar. Done lovingly, it will be received lovingly.

This was the issue with Apollos:

NIV.Acts.18.24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

Note that the text says he spoke about Jesus accurately. His gospel account, such as it was, was presented with the type of precision you want a good message to have.

But there was a knowledge gap.

Eugene Peterson renders vs. 25 and 26:

Apollos was accurate in everything he taught about Jesus up to a point, but he only went as far as the baptism of John. He preached with power in the meeting place. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and told him the rest of the story.

As radio Paul Harvey said for years, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

Apollos wasn’t the only one with gaps in his learning of the Jesus story. Remember, they didn’t have the printed scriptures as we do today; not to mention the wealth of resources that exist for us today in print, and on video and audio. As it turns out, our other example occurs in the very next chapter, and for this one, we’ll stay with Eugene Peterson’s version of the text:

MSG.Acts.19.1-2 Now, it happened that while Apollos was away in Corinth, Paul made his way down through the mountains, came to Ephesus, and happened on some disciples there. The first thing he said was, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?”

“We’ve never even heard of that—a Holy Spirit? God within us?”

“How were you baptized, then?” asked Paul.

“In John’s baptism.”

“That explains it,” said Paul. “John preached a baptism of radical life-change so that people would be ready to receive the One coming after him, who turned out to be Jesus. If you’ve been baptized in John’s baptism, you’re ready now for the real thing, for Jesus.”

5-7 And they were. As soon as they heard of it, they were baptized in the name of the Master Jesus. Paul put his hands on their heads and the Holy Spirit entered them. From that moment on, they were praising God in tongues and talking about God’s actions. Altogether there were about twelve people there that day.

Taking these two accounts together, we could easily ask ourselves, ‘How could they not possibly have heard of the Baptism of Jesus or the giving of the Holy Spirit?’

Fair enough. But despite the printed pages, the downloads, the streaming media, there can people today who might not overtly have gaps in what they teach, but may in fact emphasize certain aspects of the Gospel so as to inadvertently omit other essential aspects. You can be in a certain church for years and never hear the full compendium of teaching about living the Jesus-centered life in that particular church.

Or… we could equally ask ourselves, ‘What gaps are there in my knowledge?’ Or, ‘What types of doctrine have I missed out on by only chasing after other aspects of doctrine?’

There’s a verse I wanted to close with today, and to my amazement, it turns up in the next chapter of Acts; so our thoughts today have taken us into chapters 18, 19 and now 20:

NLT.Acts.20.27 for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.

Other translations have:

  • the whole will of God (NIV)
  • the whole counsel of God (YLT, KJV, ESV)
  • the whole plan of God (CSB, ISV)
  • the whole purpose of God (NET)

Decades ago, Pentecostals and Charismatics appropriated the phrase “the full gospel” to mean a gospel that is inclusive of supernatural gifts and being filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues.

But we should all want to be speaking/announcing/declaring “a full gospel” that is inclusive of everything. Nothing left out.

Commit yourself to spiritual lifelong learning.

In the meantime, you don’t have to have learned everything to begin to share a public witness. Apollos didn’t; he spoke boldly. You can, too.

And if you’ve been around the church for awhile, remember that you may be the Priscilla or Aquila who someone needs.

October 18, 2022

Are We Being Watched?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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A year ago we shared some content from the website Never Thirsty. There, people ask questions, some of which are more theological, but others of which are more practically concerned with our everyday relationships or the government of our local churches.

The question today is one which arises periodically, especially among people who have recently lost loved ones, or people who have concerns that the actions of a wayward son, grandson, daughter or granddaughter might not be something they would want to see.

Clicking the title below will show you this one where it first appeared. I’d encourage you to do that and then look around at some of the other questions.

Can the people in heaven see what is happening on earth?

Bible Question:

Watching from Heaven – Can the people in heaven see what is happening on earth?

Bible Answer:

Some Bible scholars believe that the answer to the question, “Can the dead in Christ see us now on earth?” is yes. But other Bible scholars disagree. So, we will examine a few verses  that provide some reasons to believe that people in heaven may be watching us.  However, there are no verses that definitely state people can and are watching us from heaven.

Is Heaven Watching Us?

Luke 15:7, 10 may reveal that angels are watching us from heaven. These two verses reveal that the angels in heaven know when people are saved. Verse 7 says,

. . . there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:7

This seems to suggest that all of heaven is watching us on earth. Now it is possible that God the Father makes an announcement to all of heaven that someone has repented and believed in Christ. If so, then that may be how heaven knows someone repented. It is also possible heaven is watching and can see what is happening. If angels can see what happens on earth, then perhaps believers in heaven can also! However, this verse does not provide definite proof.

Do Moses & Elijah Watch From Heaven?

Luke 9:30-31 provides a second possible reason that people in heaven may see us from heaven. The passage reveals that Jesus, Moses, and Elijah were talking about the future events that would occur on earth.

And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Luke 9:30-31 (NASB)

This occurred when Moses and Elijah were on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. It suggests that they may have known what was happening on earth. But they may have just learned about it from Jesus while on the mount with Him. We are not told they had been watching events on earth from heaven.

Can Saints Watch Us From Heaven?

Revelation 6:9-10 is another possible passage may reveal saints are watching us from heaven.

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Revelation 6:9-10 (NASB)

Here we are told the saints in heaven, during the tribulation, will ask when God will avenge their blood of those who had killed then while on the earth. It may suggest that they know what is happening on the earth. But again, the verse does not specifically say so.

Conclusion:

Some believe that other passages are convincing proof that people in heaven see what is happening on earth. Two of those passages are 1 Samuel 28:8, 11-19 and Hebrews 11:39-12:1. The difficulty with those passages is that they are not as strong as the ones quoted above. The word “cloud” in Hebrews 12:1 can also be translated as “mass” or “crowd.” So, there are no clear statements that the saints in heaven are actually watching.


What do you think? Some say heaven wouldn’t be ‘heaven’ if those who died in Christ could see the state of the world today, with its wars, economic hardships, natural disasters and political divisions. But others have had a sense that close relatives are interceding in heaven on their behalf; that only after someone died did they see answers to prayer they had sought for a long time.

Ultimately, we don’t know.


Here’s a link to some recently asked questions at Never Thirsty.

September 20, 2022

Eliminating Walls Between Christ-Followers

We’re back once again for a visit to the website called More Than Useless, written by Thom Fowler. Clicking the title which follows will take you there where you can read today’s thoughts where they originally appeared.

Tear Down Those Walls!

In my distress I prayed to the Lord,
… and the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
… What can mere people do to me?
Psalm 118:5-6 NLT


God’s Good News

Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart[a] by spreading the Good News about his Son.

10 One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. 11 For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. 12 When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.

13 I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters,[b] that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit, just as I have seen among other Gentiles. 14 For I have a great sense of obligation to people in both the civilized world and the rest of the world,[c] to the educated and uneducated alike. 15 So I am eager to come to you in Rome, too, to preach the Good News.

16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.[d] 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”[e]

Growing up I went to kindergarten through 5th grade, initially in West Virginia then finished in North Carolina. We then moved to Ohio where I attended middle school.

Younger readers won’t get this reference, but in Ohio, many of my classmates called me Gomer Pyle! (Remember these colloquialisms? “Shazam!”, “Gooolly”, “Sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise!” If you recall his character, I’m sure you heard his accent loud and clear in your head!) So unsurprisingly, I had a bit of a southern accent. I wasn’t labeled for very long, but obviously, it impacted me, because I still remember it after all these years.

Unfortunately, one of the worst traits of humanity is not accepting others who are different. It is an ancient habit that is just as prominent today as it has ever been. It is a very complex mentality that plagues us all.

It is most disheartening in that, though you’d think it wouldn’t be, the church is not exempt from these thoughts and attitudes. If anything, we tend to expand the criteria of separation. We don’t just hold at arm’s length those who differ from us along cultural, social, racial, and economic lines, but we also throw in all the religious issues.

Some may be pretty vocal, but I think, instead, many have this underlying mentality of distrust – even fear – of those who aren’t like them. And the list of “problematic” characteristics then goes on forever – they may not speak the language we know, the customs of their culture exclude some of our traditions and add things that are totally foreign to us, they may come from way more money than we’ve ever seen, or they may be dirt poor and lack the fastidiousness of our hygiene, and of course, having any other skin tone may automatically throw up red flags.

Then to make matters worse, they may adhere to different faith practices than we do. They may speak in tongues, or partake of communion from a chalice, they may follow a strict liturgy of worship, or be entirely led by the Spirit in their worship style…and on and on it goes.

It’s not necessarily intentional, but walls go up…dividers are set into place. But isn’t that what Jesus came to tear down? The Apostle Paul said it this way,

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Ephesians 2:14-16 NIV

In verse 14 of today’s passage he stated,

For I have a great sense of obligation to people in both the civilized world and the rest of the world… NLT

My Life Application Study Bible says, regarding this verse,

Paul’s…obligation was to people of the entire world. He met his obligation by proclaiming Christ’s salvation to people – across all cultural, social, racial, and economic lines, both Jews and Gentiles. We also are obligated to Christ because he took the punishment we deserve for our sins. Although we cannot repay Christ for all he has done, we can demonstrate our gratitude by showing his love to others.

Lord Jesus, help us tear down those walls. May we too feel that obligation to people of the entire world…not just those near and dear. Amen.


NLT footnotes:

  1. 1:9 Or in my spirit.
  2. 1:13 Greek brothers.
  3. 1:14 Greek to Greeks and barbarians.
  4. 1:16 Greek also the Greek.
  5. 1:17 Or “The righteous will live by faith.” Hab 2:4.

September 19, 2022

Legalism Leads with the Law, Rather Than the Gospel

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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We’re back for a third time with author K.K. Hodge, who writes devotions at Inspirations from the Funny Farm and you can read this one at source by clicking the title which follows.

Legalism vs. Grace

Galations 2:16-21 (NLT) Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law. But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law.

Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

My daddy is a wonderful Christian man. We know that there was only one perfect Man who walked this earth, and His name was Jesus. Daddy isn’t perfect, but I know that my daddy has been made right through the blood of Jesus Christ. He loves to tell others about Christ. He helped to build the foundation for me to become the believer that I am today, and I want to be a witness like he is to others. He told me once that his goal is to share the plan of salvation with someone at least once every single day. When he told me that, I thought, “Wow, I want to be just like him!”

I remember a situation a couple of years ago in which a pastor caused my daddy to have a bit of a spiritual battle, and it had to do with legalism. I’m not a pastor. I don’t have a theological degree. I’m just a nurse practitioner and a farmer who has a heart for Christ and for sharing His word with others, but it is my opinion from studying God’s word that grace defeats legalism every time!

My daddy was raised in a Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. Actually, the church formed in my grandparents’, his parents’, home. They were charter members. It is still a wonderful church, and we have visited from time to time. They preach the word, no doubt. As young children, we attended a Southern Baptist Church, and in our teen years, we attended another Missionary Baptist Church. We were fed the gospel at both churches. I loved both churches. I grew in my faith at both churches. The church ordinances may have differed, but the fact remains that the gospel was being preached at both churches.

Did difference in ordinances make one church wrong and one church right? I’m not here to determine that. My belief is that if a pastor/preacher is preaching and teaching the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, then that church is doing the right thing. How do we determine that the truth is being preached? Well, we have to study the word of God ourselves.

Back to my story, this man told Daddy that the women at the church Daddy attends wear lipstick, cut their hair, wear pants, and sometimes even wear shorts, and therefore, it is wrong for him to attend that church. Y’all don’t pull out your stones or torches just yet, but I’m going to tell you about me. This girl right here wears lipstick, cuts her hair, wears pants, and yes, on a hot summer day in south Mississippi, this girl even wears shorts! BUT, BIG BUT, not little but, this girl also loves Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior more than anything else in this world. Am I going to die and go to hell because “the rules” of my church are different than “the rules” of another church? I must answer emphatically–NO! I know that my eternal home is in heaven. There is not even a shadow of a doubt in my mind!

I prayed a lot before I wrote this today. I don’t want anyone to think that I am making light of the choice of church in which one chooses to be a member. I merely want to point out that Baptists won’t be the only ones in heaven, y’all. There will be Baptists, Methodists, Non-denominationals, and Pentecostals there too (to name a few)! God isn’t going to just call one church home. He is going to call THE CHURCH. You don’t get to heaven by attending a certain church on Sunday and following the ordinances of that church. You get to heaven by placing faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. It’s a free gift of grace that was given to each of us when His blood poured out on the cross.

Legalism leads with the law rather than the gospel. The gospel stands on it’s own. It doesn’t need any help from us to give it strength. Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 2:8-9 , “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” We can’t work our way into heaven, but we work for the gospel and Christ because of the gracious gift of salvation.

But if works are taking the lead over the gospel of Jesus Christ, this is legalism. It’s human nature to distort the glorious truths of God, and I think we have all been guilty of trying to misuse that free gift of grace. God has given us all that we need for godliness. We desire to live for Christ, and we have deep convictions that the sins in our life dishonor God. But sometimes, in the midst of our pursuit for godliness, we forget that it is only by the grace of God that we can live for Him. Unfortunately, we sometimes tend to forget that any and all godliness comes from the Father. We become all puffed up and start projecting our standards on others. We soon begin to judge people and pressure them to conform to our “God lifestyle.” We forget about the principles that the word of God reveal to us, and we teach our own preferences and practices of the law.

In Galatians 2, Paul brought up an example of when Peter went to Antioch. When Peter first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians who were not circumcised. But later on, when some of the friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles any longer. He was afraid of the criticism that he would receive because the other people insisted on the necessity of circumcision.

Paul later says, “Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” Those uncircumcised believers were believers too, and they have receive the gracious gift of salvation and eternal life just like their fellow circumcised believers.

We have to learn to balance the reality that our faith is through grace alone and by faith alone. We are called to glorify God, and we are called to follow His word. Grace teaches us to separate ourselves from cultural sin, but it never teaches us to use ourselves as the standard for grace. We must look to Christ as the standard, not ourselves! The important questions to ask yourself are, “Have I received the gift of salvation? Am I a child of God?”

If you know that the answer is yes, then you know. We aren’t perfect. We are perfectly imperfect children of a perfect God, and it is through Him that we are made right. We can’t do this thing called life on our own accord, but with God we can. We were created to glorify God. If what you are doing is sharing the gospel and bringing honor and glory to our Father, then keep on doing that! That is His desire for each of us. I leave you with this a word from 2 Corinthians 12:9 that assures us, ““Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” Alone, we are weak, but the power of the Father works best in our weakness.

His grace is all we need!

 

September 5, 2022

The Opposite of Sola Scriptura

Today’s devotional study is going to be interesting, to say the least. Far more so now than when much of it was posted in March, 2017. And the title I gave today’s thoughts was chosen to be deliberately provocative.

So first let’s deal with that title. In offering the opposite of sola scriptura (the word of God alone) I realize that some, especially if you are from a tradition which holds high “the five solas,” are going to be thinking that anything that opposes this view is heretical.

Years ago, someone challenged me with the question, “Are there things we know about God that we don’t know from the Bible?” I thought about my university philosophy studies and how some of the characteristics of God were intuited or deduced based on other information we have about God. In other words, we could say ‘If God is all-knowing, but he’s also just, then _________.’ (I don’t have a particular answer in mind there, but I wanted you to see the form such reasoning might follow.)

If we were to ask, “Are there things we know about Jesus we don’t know from the Bible?’ then the answer is more clear. Even the most conservative Christians are content to draw from the writings of Josephus and others to get a fuller picture of Christ’s impact, and the life of the Early Church. The Bible tells us even as much itself, The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. John 20:30 NLT and “There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” – John 21:25 NET

Instead, I want to propose that there is a different type of opposite to sola scriptura, one that is not to be condemned, but rather to be considered, and perhaps adopted in your own Biblical studies.

It’s usually referred to today as “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral.”

This week we visited another church, as Ruth Wilkinson (who you’ve read here regularly) was preaching. The pastor chairing the service mentioned that the week before, he had spoken about this quadrilateral, and I checked and we’d only really mentioned it here once.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. In November, 2012 it briefly was part of a devotional by we ran by Scott Lencke.

Now, while some might loathe the idea of utilizing our experience to understand Scripture, I wouldn’t say it’s completely terrible. I’m an advocate of something like the Wesleyan quadrilateral that recognizes we have more than Scripture alone in helping us understand God’s revelation. Rather this perspective takes a more holistic approach, identifying a) Scripture, b) tradition (there is such things as good tradition), c) reason (not ‘objective rationalism’) and d) experience as important in grasping the revelation of God.

So, my point is that understanding Scripture is not completely devoid of our human experience and encounter with God and his truth.

But we got ahead of ourselves. What is the quadrilateral?

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, or Methodist Quadrilateral, is a methodology for theological reflection that is credited to John Wesley, leader of the Methodist movement in the late 18th Century. The term itself was coined by 20th century American Methodist scholar Albert C. Outler.

This method based its teaching on four sources as the basis of theological and doctrinal development. These four sources are scripture, tradition, reason, and Christian experience.

Upon examination of Wesley’s work, Outler theorized that Wesley used four different sources in coming to theological conclusions. Wesley believed, first of all, that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in “scripture” as the sole foundational source. The centrality of scripture was so important for Wesley that he called himself “a man of one book”. However, doctrine had to be in keeping with Christian orthodox “tradition.” So, tradition became in his view the second aspect of the so-called Quadrilateral. Furthermore, believing, as he did, that faith is more than merely an acknowledgment of ideas, Wesley as a practical theologian, contended that a part of the theological method would involve “experiential” faith. In other words, truth would be vivified in personal experience of Christians (overall, not individually), if it were really truth. And every doctrine must be able to be defended “rationally.” He did not divorce faith from reason. Tradition, experience, and reason, however, are subject always to scripture, which is primary.

Each of the “legs” of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral must be taken in balance, and none of the other three apart from scripture should be viewed as being of equal value or authority with scripture. None of these should be taken in isolation without the balancing effect of the others, and always Scripture should have the central place of authority.

Here are some images from various places online, where people tried to illustrate the concept graphically:

Do an image search for Wesleyan Quadrilateral and you’ll find various attempts to explain it.

I’m not sure the one on the bottom left is what Wesley had in mind. This is how stereotyping leads to divisiveness. And as I said earlier, the headline I chose would immediately cause some readers to think that the opposite to “scripture alone” would be something bad, or fringe, or not Christian at all.

Personally, I think it is another way forward. It gets us past the notion “The Bible says…” and also the resistance that we’re going to meet in the broader world when we start with “The Bible says…” The pastor we spoke with this morning mentioned that one of the people he’s read says our interactions should begin with experience.

Would that make scripture interpretation subjective? Perhaps, but the truth about God and the narratives about Jesus are subjective in the sense they are going to impact lives in a very personal, very individual sense.

Besides, as Michael Simpson informed us in the same article linked above:

This is a methodology for theological reflection that is credited to John Wesley, leader of the Methodist movement in the late 18th Century. In this method, tradition, experience, and reason are employed, while being subject always to scripture, when forming and applying our theology. Each of the “legs” of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral must be taken in balance, and none of the other three apart from scripture should be viewed as being of equal value or authority with scripture. None of these should be taken in isolation without the balancing effect of the others, and always Scripture should have the central place of authority. (italics added)

In an article posted in October, 2020, Matthew Marino reminded us that:

New folk are often struck by how much Anglicans talk about “the tradition.” People sometimes assume we mean, “That’s just how we’ve always done it.” But that is not what we are talking about at all. Refusal to change is not “the tradition,” just stasis. Jaroslav Pelikan, called that, “Traditionalism, the dead faith of the living.” The Great Tradition is the living faith of the dead. What we mean by “tradition” is robust and life-altering. The Apostle Paul commended the Corinthians because they, maintain the traditions as I delivered them to you.” (1 Cor 11:2) and, “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter (2 Thes. 2:15). So while Jesus criticized the traditions of the elders (Matt 15:3), the traditions of the Christian faith passed along both verbally and in scripture are applauded…

…Why not just go with the Bible? Because heresy after heresy and schism after schism arose in those first five centuries. The early church dealt with them and told us how to deal with them. St. Vincent of Lerins referred to the tradition as, “That which has been taught always, everywhere, and by all.” In our era many claim God giving them new revelation. Yet these “new ideas” are always remarkably similar to ideas resoundingly rejected by the Church as novelty centuries ago. “The Tradition” is Mere Christianity, the core of the faith, that which has been passed from generation to generation.

The verb form of the Greek word for tradition, “paradosis” is “handed off” or “delivered.” When Paul said in 1 Cor 11:2, “maintain the traditions as I delivered them to you.” Paul literally said, “maintain the traditions as I traditioned you.”

He used the same word when he said, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3). Jude called it, the faith once for all delivered.The tradition” is nothing less than the core of the faith that is handed from generation to generation. It is the baton that must be passed, the irreducible minimum.

And so, tradition. We could also look in detail at the other two “legs” of the Wesleyan hermeneutical tool in a similar fashion.

Again, the way I framed this may upset the preconditioning of some readers, but I hope you’ll at least file it away and perhaps, a situation will cross your path sometime soon where this interpretive tool is useful.

 

 

 

 

June 16, 2022

When We Disagree

Today’s devotional columns — two, actually — were a real gift, because I was thinking about this topic, and also thinking about Romans 14…

We’re back again at Discovering the Bible, written by Deborah, a retired doctor in Wales. This month marks ten years she has been posting devotionals at that page. Clicking the headers below will take you to where each article first appeared.

Applying the Gospel: Disagreements (1)

NIV.Romans.14.1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Every church fellowship has members with divergent opinions on how to put their faith into practice. Some of us are vegetarians, some are teetotal, some even refuse to celebrate Christmas (because of its ‘pagan’ associations). In the church at Rome, it’s likely that some Christians from a Jewish background were finding it difficult to shed the cultic requirements of the Law (they probably abstained from eating meat because they could not be certain that it was kosher).

As far as our salvation is concerned, these things really don’t matter one way or the other. So while our personal opinions may be held strongly, we mustn’t make them into ‘articles of faith’. If we do, even trivial matters can cause a church to split.

In every church there are believers who feel obliged to deny themselves certain legitimate activities in order to please God – and thus they fail to enter fully into their Christian freedom.They may appear to be more ‘spiritual’ than their more easy-going brothers and sisters, but actually they have a ‘weaker’ faith! And what should the rest of us (probably the majority) do? We must accept them as they are. Now this means more than just tolerating their presence; we are to give them an unreserved welcome!

Yet a degree of tension is inevitable. The strong in faith will be tempted to look down on the weak and consider them ‘legalistic’ because of their unnecessary scruples. And the weak will be tempted to despise the strong for having ‘low’ standards of personal piety. We need to remember that we are accountable to God, not to each other. Because these issues are contentious, it will never be possible for everyone to agree. So we shouldn’t insist that every other member of our fellowship should conform to our own personal standards (whether they are strict or lax).

Our relationship with God must be given priority. Then these peripheral matters will be where they ought to be – at the periphery.

Applying the Gospel: Disagreements (2)

NIV.Romans.14.5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”[Isaiah 45:23]

12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

There are many practical matters on which Scripture does not give us clear, unambiguous instructions. Christians who agree on the fundamental principles of the Gospel may therefore find themselves holding widely divergent opinions and doing radically different things. But whichever side of a particular argument we are on, it must be for good, well-thought-out reasons. “Each should be fully convinced in their own mind.” (Romans 14:5) It doesn’t matter if we can’t convince anyone else, but we must convince ourselves! If we don’t think these issues through, we may find ourselves absorbing attitudes from our culture or carrying over bad habits from our pre-Christian life.

Jesus is our Lord, and His honour should always be our very first consideration. So the essential question to ask is: will I bring glory to God by doing (or not doing) this? This applies just as much to the mundane choices of everyday life as to the big issues, because every aspect of our lifestyle should testify to the absolute authority of Christ. And very often, God can be glorified either way. For Jesus is Lord of all – and so He can be honoured even in the two most extreme opposites, in both life and death!

“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister?” (Romans 14:10) As members of God’s family, we belong together, whether or not we see eye to eye. We must therefore be prepared to embrace those who see and do things differently from us; we certainly do not have the right to criticize them (either publicly or privately) or to condemn them for what we perceive as mistakes (Matthew 7:1,2). That would be to usurp God’s place – to set ourselves up as the arbiters of what is and is not acceptable. Such contempt for our brothers and sisters in Christ is actually a much more serious sin than their failure to meet our personal standards of holiness!

We need to remember that it is God – and God alone – who is the Judge. And it is to Him that we are ultimately accountable, not to each other!

June 10, 2022

“The Savior of All… Especially Believers”

For many months now I’ve tried to be extremely faithful in making the NIV Bible App on my phone the first thing my eyes read each morning. Yesterday morning however, the wording in 1 Timothy 4:10 stopped me in my tracks.

That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

In my waking state, I thought perhaps that this was a verse that shows preference to the members of God’s family. For example consider, Galatians 6:10.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

In our business, which deals more than most with Christian commercial enterprises — in this case Christian publishers and book distributors — this is been the guiding policy of our bill-paying (accounts payable) strategy. We try to prioritize our brothers and sisters based on the above words in Galatians.

But clearly the verse in 1 Timothy was more loaded than that. Comparing the many English translations of this verse on BibleGateway.com there was an almost 100% consistency.

  • God is the savior of all people
  • Especially those who believe

I’m sure this verse is in the toolkit of those who believe in unlimited atonement, which is the doctrine that when Jesus died, his sacrifice was high enough, wide enough, deep enough, big enough, etc., to cover the sin of all the world, including those who might not ultimately choose to accept his offer of salvation. This doctrine stands in contrast to limited atonement which is the doctrine that the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary was sufficient only for those who are ultimately chosen, or who are called the elect and who, presented with the offer of salvation, cannot refuse.

The difference in those two doctrines is like a cord which runs down the center of Christianity placing people in one of the two tribes, although, as I type this, I realize there might be readers who are thinking, ‘What’s the big deal.’ If that’s you, God bless you!

Only one translation on Bible Gateway offered a significantly different rendering, and that was the classic Living Bible (not to be confused with the NLT) which reads,

…for our hope is in the living God who died for all, and particularly for those who have accepted his salvation.

Different wording (in a verse where all others are so uniform) but the same impact, and the same implications regarding unlimited atonement.

The website BibleRef.com offers two important insights. Rather than quote it directly, I’ll just highlight:

  • Paul’s words to Timothy are not promoting the idea of what we today call universalism. This is the idea that in the end, everyone inherits eternal life.
  • Rather, he might be said to be contrasting those redeemed under the Old Covenant (or simply “the law”) and those receiving atonement through Christ’s death on the cross (and the resurrection). But having made the distinction, he draws the two groups together.

The website KnowingJesus.com offers this:

…Because God provided adequate provision for the salvation of every single man, woman and child, by faith.. Paul can legitimately call the Lord Jesus Christ, “the Saviour of all men.’ Christ’s death on the cross paid the redemption price for the sin of the whole of humanity – so that whosoever believes on Him will not perish but have everlasting life…

…Paul tells us that: Jesus is the Saviour of all men – especially those who believe. But how sobering to realise that although His death had the capability to save everyone, not all will accept His offer of free salvation. Although Christ is the POTENTIAL Saviour for all men, He is the ACTUAL Saviour for those who truly trust in Him alone, by grace through faith…

[You’re encouraged to click the above link and read the full article.]

That’s two commentaries. I should say that there was another one, which we have actually used here on previous occasions, which dared to say that the phrase, “Savior of all…” was simply not true in practice. Yes, they used the phrase, “not true.” Another one suggested that it meant that he is the Savior of all people in the sense of people of all nations. I’m not sure how they arrived at that.

Curiously, The NET Bible with Notes seems to prefer the idea that “Savior of all” simply means “both men and women,” an idea I did not see expressed in the other commentaries I examined…

…This verse is challenging, and the lack of alternative renderings in other English translations suggest that we must accept it and, with fear and trembling, try to work out its meaning. I make no declaration that we’ve resolved this today, but encourage you to “search the scriptures” for yourself, and if you have any thoughts, feel free to leave a comment on the blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 6, 2022

Name It and Claim It?

This is only our second (complete article) highlighting of Michael Battle and his site Rooted and Grounded in Christ. We’ve all heard of “name it and claim it” doctrine, but on what understanding of scripture is it based? He looks into that in this article from one month ago. Clicking the header below will let you read it where it first appeared.

Speaking Things Into Existence

There are many unbiblical doctrines that circulate among Christians, especially among American evangelicals. One of those is the claim that we have creative ability with the words of our mouth, thus we are to speak things into existence. Therefore, If we are struggling financially we speak prosperity into existence. If we are sick or have a disease we are to speak healing into existence.

This doctrine has become so prevalent that in some places public prayers are no longer heartfelt requests humbly petitioning God, but “preachy declarations” instead, because we must “declare and decree” and boldly speak them into existence.

How did we get here?

The speaking it into existence doctrine stems from teachings within the Word of Faith movement, which at one time (30 plus years ago) did have a more balanced approach to the teachings of scripture concerning the words that we speak.

The Bible has much to say about our speech, but never once does the Bible teach that we have creative power in our words as God does. The biblical emphasis concerning the importance of wholesome speech has to do with expressions of faith in God, edifying and encourage others, praise and thanksgiving towards God rather than murmuring and complaining, and wholesome speech which is becoming of godliness, purity and good sound doctrine.

Unfortunately, the importance of having wholesome speech has morphed into a belief that we have creative power and thus should speak into existence whatever it may be that we desire. Yet no one in scripture served God in this manner. If we can’t find an example in scripture of any servant of God who held to this practice, why would we think we could? And if we can plainly understand that God’s servants in the scriptures never practiced speaking things into existences, why would we think we could twist some of their writings to justify such practices?

The truth is, the idea of speaking things into existence appeals to our carnality, but wholesome speech which is becoming of godliness requires true spiritual growth and maturity, and therein lies the difference.

One very popular Word of Faith minister who has taught speaking things into existence, claimed that Psalm 119:72 speaks of “the law of the mouth.” He followed up by saying, “the Bible says the law of the mouth is better than silver and gold. Why? Cause that’s how we make it.”

Here is what Psalm 119:72 actually says: The law of THY mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.

This text is not referring to some spiritual law that we put into motion with our words. It is referring to God’s law that came from the mouth of God, and the Psalmist is declaring his desire for God’s law rather than the wealth and riches of this world. In fact, much of Psalm 119 is dedicated to praising God and glorifying his law. Psalm 119 begins by saying, Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. ~ v.1

Consider also these verses from Psalm 119:

Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. ~ v.18

Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously. ~ v.29

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. ~ v. 34

The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law.~ v. 51

I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law. ~ v. 55

Verses 61, 70, 72, 77, 85, 92, 97, 109, 113,126, 136, 142, 150, 153, 163,165, and 174 all make reference to God’s law as Thy law”. Now consider verses 43-45:

And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments. So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.

Speaking God’s word (God’s law, precepts, commands, and instructions) was a practice encouraged in the Old Testament as an expression of love, dedication, and service towards God. It had absolutely nothing to do with speaking things into existence because of having “god-like” creative power.

In Psalm 119, the Psalmist prays, Remove from me the way of lying”. If the Psalmist had believed he had creative power in his words, why wouldn’t he have just removed the way of lying from himself?

And again, therein lies another problem with the speak it into existence doctrine. It plants the idea in the minds and hearts of people that they are somewhat self-sufficient with God-like creative abilities in their words. Yet the Psalmist declares “I am poor and needy” in his seeking after God (Ps 40:17; 70:5).

In the book of the Revelation Jesus rebukes the church of the Laodiceans for saying “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” Jesus then tells them that they do not know that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. ~ Revelation 3:17

If there were a “law of the mouth” by which we could create with our words as the minister mentioned above has suggested, what then was the problem with the Laodiceans claim to being rich, and why would Jesus give them such a rebuke?

And again, here lies another problem with the speaking it into existence doctrine. It deceives people into thinking they are spiritual when they are not. It deceives them from acknowledging their true spiritual condition before God. It leads them into a false sense of spirituality and gives futile ground to pride, but God hears the desire of the humble (Ps 10:17).

There is so much more I could write on this topic but this will suffice for now. The Bible does have much to say about the importance of our words, but never once does it teach us that we have creative power like God. This belief is not scriptural and is actually akin to sorcery and witchcraft.

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