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Archive for the ‘Studying the Scriptures’ Category

The Old Testament is so boring and so is most of the sermons that I hear on it. “How to pray like Nehemiah” or “How to have the attitude of Joseph” or “Why not complain when you are in a desert situation” or “Why you have to get some friends out of your boat of promise” or “How adultery destroys your testimony” or “The leafs and onions of Egypt”….. I could continue but I digress.

Not to mention the yearly bible plans are cool if I could read something that I liked. Unlike Leviticus, Numbers, Chronicles, Nahum, Obadiah …….  which can become quite redundant and boring.

However, when the Old Testament is faithfully exposited through Christoloigcal lenses the Old Testament becomes just as exciting as the New Testament.  So here is yet another plug for a case for biblical theology. About a year and a half ago I was introduced to biblical theology by wrestling through New Covenant Theology and Covenantal Theology.

Men like Goldsworthy, Azurdia, Poythress, Clowney, Dale Ralph Davis and Vos not to mention sites like Beginning with Moses and Biblical Theology . If you are new there a few great introduction books and a host of articles and writings on the two links above. Listening to Azurdia and Keller is also a really good way to get acquainted to this type of biblical interpretation.

As you being your new bible reading plans keep the verse below in mind I believe it will help you gain an unquenchable passion for the Old Testament scriptures and help you understand the Theocentrcity (God Centeredness) and Christocentric (Christ Centered) nature of the Old Testament. Not to mention we find the Gospel written throughout all of the Old Testament in shadows and pictures:

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

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1 Corinthians 12:7-11

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom teaching, and to another the utterance of knowledge  teaching according to the same Spirit, to another faith teaching by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing teaching by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles teaching, to another prophecy teaching, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits teach, to another various kinds of tongues teachings, to another the interpretation of tongues teachings. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11, TSV-Theological Standard Version)

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I wonder if we take the plain writing of scripture seriously? In both Galatians and Hebrews. Lets look at the two warnings:

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Now the argument usually goes like this. “Well that falling from grace in Galatians 5, means a lost of rewards” or “this is hypothetical and doesn’t mean that” or most common “they were never saved at first”. Why? Because our theological presuppositions tell us that one who comes to faith can’t fall away. Usually Romans 8 and John 5:24 are quoted.

The argument for Hebrews is usually verse 9 again this is a hypothetical statement and doesn’t mean what it says. But Paul says in Hebrews 6 that these individuals have been “enlightened”, have “tasted the heavenly gift” and “shared (partaken) ” of the Holy Spirit”. These aren’t experiences of the nonbeliever this seems to be the language of one who has trusted in the Gospel and has been born again.

Here is what I am not saying. I am not saying that sin seperates us from God and I think this is what John 5 and Romans 8 convey. I am saying that a man can willfully follow Christ trust in Him and as Matthew says in his Gospel the 13th Chapter one can get so concerned with this world, count the cost of the Christian life and walk away. I believe this is what Paul is conveying in Hebrews 6.

If we follow the letter to the Hebrews. The theme is one huge warning. “To turn back to Judaism due to persecution is to reject the true High Priest, the true land, the true sabbath rest, the true Son of God, the true temple and to turn back to Sinai which has been replaced by Zion”. That is why the writer tells the Hebrews to “go outside of the camp”. Because this is where the scapegoat goes, to take the guilt of Israel away. We see Jesus as that scapegoat, who takes our sins away and bears our guilt and shame, however, this is predicated on a continual faith.

Now there are two camps who agree with OSAS. The first are those who reject the Doctrines of Grace and for some reason these are the people I have the greatest quarrel with. They reject the Doctrine of Election by saying “Jesus would never force anyone to come to Him”. Which is fine. However, in the same breath they say “Jesus would never let someone go who doesn’t want Him anymore”. This is a blaring inconsistency here. To say Jesus won’t force you to believe but He will force you to continue believing once you have believed is a bit weird to me. The big reason this train of thought follows is to protect and uphold the erroneous doctrine of the “Carnal Christian”. Which, biblically speaking, is false.

The other camp is the Calvinistic camp. I don’t agree there anymore; however, they are the most consistent. They say “God elected you, Christ died for you, so God will sustain your faith, less He proves to not be totally sovereign over your salvtion”. I applaud the consistency though I disagree with the conclusion.

Here is why. Paul gives a stern warning in Galatians. We all know the issue. They are looking at turning back to the Jewish law for justification (Chapter 5). Paul says once you attempt to be justified by a Covenant God has rejected and replaced with the New Covenant (the Gospel), you have in turn rejected the subject of that Covenant, who is Jesus. So in essence to attach anything to Christ’s work is to reject Christ wholeheartedly. As Paul says in Chapter 2 “Christ died needlessly”. Paul goes on to say “I would have labored in vain”. This doesn’t seem like the language of the hypothetical and Paul seems to be convinced that they were born of the Spirit but now want to be justified in the flesh.

In Hebrews Paul is saying “if you turn back to a dead, obsolete, worthless, Covenant, then there is no way for you to gain favor or repentance from God”. Paul was not saying that they could never trust in Christ again. He was saying that you can’t reject the New Covenant and gain repentance from God, thus to turn back to the Old Covenant is to reject God and that Old Covenant can’t save you thus you have no hope!

I close with this. We can’t allow our theological presuppositions to drive our hermeneutic. If we do, we can’t reject the way others read and interpret the bible, because we do the same we just dress it up in theological jargon. Let me know what you think! 8)

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Here is how we would define Sola Scriptura:

The phrase sola scripturais from the Latin: sola having the idea of “alone,” “ground,” “base,” and the word scriptura meaning “writings” – referring to the Scriptures. Sola scriptura means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. “All Scripture is ‘God breathed’ (given of inspiration of God) and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness…”

Most people who visit this blog don’t need a history lesson. So since the audience knows the history of the Protestant Reformation I won’t go into much detail.

However, I will say this. Sola Sciptura was a necessary doctrine for the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church had a strong hold on all things called Christian thus the development of Sola Scriptura was timely, relevant and again necessary for its season.

500 years ago there was only 2 churches. The Reformed Church and the Catholic Church both fighting for the right to be called “the true church”. One church felt it was tradition plus scripture the other said it was “sola scriptura” though as we come to find out they also attached just as much tradition to scripture as the Catholic Church. There was  third voice however, that was muted by the Reformers called the Anabaptist that had a desire to take Sola Scriptura literally but we know they found out quickly that there was no room at the table for another plate so they were burned at the stake, drowned, imprisoned, had their goods taken all in the name of  “orthodoxy”.

So why do I believe this doctrine is irrelevant? Because by practice no one upholds it. It sounds good and I know people like to quote Latin and seem smarter due to the terminology but at the end of the day we fail the test of holding to “sola scriptura”.

Let me give you an example. There are some today who believe that the Gifts of the Spirit (well the Charismatic ones as they call them or Apostolic gifts) have ceased. The same people who say “scripture must have a witness, in order for it to be made a doctrine” have one verse in the whole bible to defend such a position. So what do they supplement as the witness? Ding, Ding, Ding! Tradition! That is absolutely correct “what do they win Bob”. They say “the early church fathers did not talk about these gifts so they died out somewhere in the first century”!

Now for you sola scriptura guys who also hold to a cessasionist view I am bit confused. The bible nowhere says these gifts ceased and we see them in full operation through the end of the book of Acts; however, you say they cease because you don’t see it! That is like saying Pluto don’t exist because no one has landed on it.

Here is another example. Church buildings! For the sola scriptura guys they use double standard interpretive methods. In one voice they say “the bible is the final voice of authority on Christian practice and faith” but then they say “if the bible doesn’t say we can’t do it then there is freedom”. Now let me fall back a little. Nowhere in the bible does it say “you can’t use seeker sensitive methods to get people into church” or “you can’t use seeker sensitive methods because its unbiblical” the problem is you can’t find a verse that says that. The bible is silent. However, I hear “well the bible doesn’t tell us to use such methods”. See where I am going? But back to the church buildings. As much as I can see ALL the gentiles met in homes. The Jews were the only ones to meet in a building setting and as soon as the Jews labled them a cult they had to run to houses also. Where does the bible say “as soon as possible take 20 million dollars and erect musems buildings to meet in”? Nowhere!

So where am I going? Great question. We need to quit saying we believe in “Sola Scriptura” because we don’t. What we believe is Scripture plus my denominations interpretation. Or Scripture plus my seminary’s hermeneutic. Or Scripture plus my private interpretation. Or scripture plus my favorite theologians theological slant! “Why do you say such heretical things Lionel” you may ask! Because we are gravely mistaken at best, and hypocritical at worse. We all come to the bible with our presuppostions (wherever they have come from) and we all interpret the bible through our foggy lens. We need to quite saying we believe in Sola Scriptura.

This doctrine was for a specific group of people (most of who a Baptist would almost call a heretic LOL). It was necessary then but it is relevant now? My answer is a resounding no! One guy feels you should obey the Sabbath. The other believes you will be raptured in some secret meeting, one guy feels we should have a full meal for the Lord’s Supper, the other feels a shot of grape juice and an oyster cracker suffices, one guy feels that the Law should be preached for sanctification others believe (me) that the Law was a covenant document made obsolete by He who fulfills the Law, one person believes in a plurality of elders the other in a Senior pastor (with elders others with deacons). One person believes that we should bless Israel because of their future promises, others like me only acknowledge the “true Israel of God”. One feels women can preach/teach others not so much 8) Some feel that infants should be baptized into the covenant others feel disciples only, some feel that the sacraments “imparts grace” others not so much. Some feel that a theological education is necessary for pastoring others not so much. And guess what! They all do it under the banner of  “Sola Scriptura”. If you still believe this doctrine to be relevant, reread this post again and tell me how!

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My last post sparked a discussion that I didn’t want to get lost so I am reposting one the subpoints as a main point here.

It seems that many believe that I think Theology=Maturity! That would be untrue Theology Applied=Maturity. Rather we like it or not we all have a theology and certain theological positions. It seems smart today to avoid calling it something, the problem is you can’t. For example. If you take metal, rubber, glass and plastic, put it together, put fuel in it and use it to get from point A to point B then you have a car or some type of motor vehicle. You can say “I don’t want to call it that” but that would be irrelevant! Such is the same for theology. You don’t have to call it that, but the fact that you believe something about God, something about the bible, something about how the church should meet, something about Christ, something about salvation and something about what Christians should obey and what they don’t have to obey means you have taken certain theological stances and positions.

Now if it is you want to avoid labels then fine! I have no problem with that, but just because you want to avoid them doesn’t mean that someone has not defined what you believe and has written it in a book, and it is taught maybe even in seminary. If you believe like I believe that after 2000 years nobody has figured it out, then I promise you some smart dude has written what you believe.

But lets take it a bit further! What you believe has been taught to you and what you hold to has been shaped by some theologian over the past 2000 years. I bet my yearly salary to a Peanut Butter with no jelly sandwich and a stick of celery to that statement! What you believe didn’t fall out of the sky, you were shaped. Listen to me very carefully. The Ephesians, Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, Philippians, Macedonians, the Jews, Laodacians, Thessalonians, The Bereans, and any other person who became a Christian in the 1st Century was shaped by Pauline Theology! Now you might say that is Holy Spirit theology, but it is still Pauline Theology! The thing they have that you and I don’t is access to Paul, Timothy, Titus, Epaphorditus, John, Peter, Apollos and others who can directly ask a question and get a straight answer, even if they could answer the question!

Theology was before Seminary! Let me say that again Theology was before Seminary. Now theological language can be avoided, but we as humans always use language to discuss concepts. For example I am in Coporate America as a Financial Analyst. There are terms we use to describe what we do! When my wife asks me certain things, I have to show her more than I can tell her because the terms will leave her void of what I am trying to explain. The same goes for musicians when they talk music, writers when they discuss writing, artist when they discuss art……. You see terms like the Trinity are theological term, The Fall is a theological term, The Divinity of Christ is a theological term, and many other words we use are theological terms and concepts that are deduced and put into books to discuss them.

Now for this one I will get shot but I am going to say it anyway! Is the bible all we need? My answer is no! Absolutely not! Heck no! When I look at the Gifts given by the Spirit one of those gifts is teaching! Just because someone decides to write it in a book doesn’t negate the gift! Actually the printing press has become a blessing! We now can print 1,000,000 bibles in different languages in a a fraction of the time it would take to hand-write 10! But not only that things that was passed orally or taught can now be written and reproduced! In my experience my vast amount of theology has helped me once the Spirit caught up with my learning! So the problem wasn’t theology the problem was my ability or even desire to apply it!

Are there drawbacks to theology? I think I have written extensively about this. Theology can make one proud, arrogant, self-righteous, it can produce unbiblical distinctions as Daniel brings up, it can even produce a Christian caste system. But theology isn’t the problem, application is. Pursuing a theological education isn’t bad in and of itself. Understanding the work of the Holy Spirit systematically, that Jesus is the metanarrative or the interpretive key of the whole bible (a Christ centered interpretation) or learning the difference between how to apply the law in the Old Testament versus the New Testament are not bad things!

Using are minds and hearts simultaneously is not a bad thing. Back in the day I took an Intro to Theology class under Michael Patton, one of the books I had to read was J.P Morelands “Love God With All of Your Mind”. Listen the Holy Spirit isn’t quenched by theology. My move towards my current ecclesiological perspective and theology of the New Testament was assisted by wrestling with theological concepts and terms. Again the Spirit is quenched by not obeying and applying what you do know. The Spirit not only works in the heart He works in the mind also. The book of Romans is a theological work of Paul. It would have taken some thinking to wrestle with and it was written by the Holy Spirit! Does it mean that the uneducated couldn’t understand the Gospel? No! It does mean; however, that someone with some form of eduction would have to read it and explain it to them though.

I end with this. A little theology ain’t going to hurt nobody! The Spirit works in the mind and in the heart! But most importantly if you believe you are void of theology you are only fooling yourself. Your theological position was shaped by someone rather that is Viola and Barna or Owen and Edwards! Both sets have theological knowledge and extensive theology as a matter of fact! Most of what we believe has been shaped by 2000 years of theology from the Deity of Christ to the Trinity to baptism we have to affirm that.

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Monergism is offering a 15 sermon MP3 CD on the Doctrines of Grace. From Dr. Arturo G. Azurdia III who happens to be my favorite preacher. Here are the sermons:

The Doctrines of Grace
Christians often speak about being saved by grace.  But what does this mean?  Does God save us apart from our willing cooperation?  Does God’s grace invalidate the demand for our obedience?  Why do some people embrace the Gospel while others adamantly refuse it?  Is our experience of salvation, from God’s perspective, a predetermined purpose or heartfelt hope?

Track List
1) Total Depravity        
2) Unconditional Election        
3) Limited Atonement        
4) Irresistible Grace        
5) Perseverance of the Saints        
6) Q&A on the Doctrines of Grace Part 1    
7) Q&A on the Doctrines of Grace Part 2    
8) Q&A on the Doctrines of Grace Part 3    
Plus:
9) The Discriminating Love of Jesus Christ – John 13:1
10) Did Jesus Pray for You? – John 17:20
11) Monergistic Regeneration Part 1
12) Monergistic Regeneration Part 2
13) The Ultimate Hermeneutic Part 1
14) The Ultimate Hermeneutic Part 2
15) Solus Christus – Isaiah 55:1-12

About the Speaker
Arturo (Art) Azurdia III joined the faculty of Western Seminary Portland, OR, in January 2006. He directs the pastoral mentoring program and teaches selected preaching courses for both masters and doctoral students. Education: BA-California State University (’81), MA-Simpson College (’83), MDiv-American Baptist Seminary of the West (’88), DMin-Westminster Theological Seminary (’98). Pastoral Experience: 1981-1986: College and Career Pastor at Neighborhood Church; 1987-2005: Founder and Pastor of Christ Community Church. Written Works: Spirit Empowered Preaching and Partners in Preaching

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wflesh

Many times when I hear Galatians 5 taught, or see it used in a book on sanctification or hear expository sermons on it I hear it discussed as the “fleshly Christian vs the Spiritual Christian”. I want to tell you why I disagree with this given the context. I also want to note many people use Galatians 5 to back their position on Romans 7, which I also disagree with wholeheartedly, it is the old cut and paste method that one person can use to defend their position but others can’t use (I will discuss this in a future post).

First lets note. The warnings to the Galatians are real warnings. They aren’t generic. Paul really means that if they want to be justified by works of the law they will fall away from Christ. I know many of my Calvinistic brothers won’t like that; and will say “well they were not really saved at first”. However, given Hebrews and given Galatians these warnings Paul provide are serious and has a huge impact on the readers. To accept circumcision would make “Christ of not avail”!

Now on to reason of this post here are the verses:

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God

Paul talks about two different people! First those who are led by the flesh are “under the law” and are not of the Spirit! There isn’t this dual fight going on as many propose today! Paul believes those who are led by the flesh are in opposition to the Spirit. We all know the fruit of the Spirit verses but I really believe what Paul is conveying here is not a Christian but one who is under the works of the flesh and in layman terms is not a believer.

Paul says those who “practice” such things will not “inherit the kingdom of God”. Paul doesn’t say “they will not be spiritual christians but fleshly christians”. He says quite plainly that their abode will be hell! He isn’t telling them to walk by the Spirit to be better Christians but to walk by the Spirit to prove their Christianity! Once again many of my “justified by faith” brothers will want to hang me and that is fine also!

What Paul is providing us with is a salvation that works (thats for Q-Dog LOL)! Those opposed to the Spirit are not believers walking in the flesh but nonbelievers that are OF THE FLESH! Paul says something key here about the flesh:

24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Now if I follow the plain reading (as many of my expository brothers say) then Paul means what he says and says what he means. That is that those who are of Christ have “crucified the flesh”! If the flesh is not crucified (I am not talking sinless perfectionism, but a real and living work of the new nature and heart given to all believers) then we are of the flesh and not of the Spirit and are deeds prove to us that we are of the flesh and as Paul says “we will not inherit the kingdom of God”.

I want to stop there; however, Paul is looking for Christian to be more Spiritual but to be Christians, the other side of that is fleshly and that my friend is where Paul says “you will not inherit the Kingdom of God”!

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