Thursday, October 15, 2009

Who do you think you are?

A little over 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson penned a statement (amid a much longer document) that stated his belief that all men are created equal. 55 other men put their signatures on the document, affirming that they, too, believed this and the accompanying statements that it supported. Do you know what was so equal about these 55 men? They were all white males who owned black people because they didn't see them as equal--which meant, in turn, they didn't see them as men.

The problem with the perspective of our founding fathers was not their self-image. They knew they were white. They knew they were males. The problem was the inherent value that they placed on these qualities.

In the last few verses of Galatians 3, we find Paul charging something very similar. His opponents, the judaisers, were not incorrect in their self assessment. They were indeed Jews. They were indeed freemen. They were indeed male. And, as an interesting tidbit of historical context, those three attributes comprised a common prayer for the Jewish member of a synagogue in the 1st century--not unlike (though not identical to) the haughty prayer of the Pharisee in Luke 18.

The Judaisers were not wrong, however, in that they were Jews. They were male. They were freemen. They were wrong, however, in the ultimate relevance of these facts to the matter of their own righteousness.

However, this topic burrows far deeper into the theological and doctrinal realms than mere social justice and racial equality. In the verses that follow, the first 7 verses of Galatians 4, Paul goes on to describe exactly what sort of equal playing field "we"--both Jews and Gentiles--are all on. Paul describes all of God's sons as once being children, and as children, likened to slaves. Under the guide of masters, children are held prisoner to the most basic of rules--such as the Law.

But Christ, born of a woman under the Law, redeemed us. The language is very reminiscent of Exodus 13, where firstborn sons belong to God and must be killed, that is unless redeemed by the blood of a spotless lamb. So, then, having been redeemed in similar fashion we are spared from death and reinstated our "full rights" as sons--nay, even heirs, as if to say firstborn sons. As a deposit of this inheritance--since, after all, we are sons--God sent the Spirit of His Son.

So, up to this point you may be thinking that all this amount to the very familiar doctrine of the atonement. Where does all that "burrowing far deeper into the theological and doctrinal realms" come from? Well, ask yourself this. In the description Paul gives in this text, is there ever a moment when we are not children, even before we are redeemed and given full rights as sons? As Paul teaches his readers the right view of their humble beginnings with God, he is sure to remind them that God foreknew them and redeemed them with purpose.

Moreover, the spirit of the sonship is not just a deposit. He is not just sent to help us live as heirs. He is not just sent to give us special powers and supernatural abilities as God's children. No, it is the Spirit Himself who actually cries "abba, Father." The Spirit is not sent to those who believe, it is sent to those to believe.

So, who do you think you are? Are you the religiously pious overly confident in your own righteousness. Are you the spiritually insightful one who found God and pursued Him with all your might? Are you the loving soul mimicking Christ as you try to bring Heaven to earth? Or, are you the child, born a child of God, redeemed by His son, and even given the very Spirit by which you cry out to your Father?

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Monday, May 25, 2009

So the World May Know You Reign... You Reign in Us.

One of the less fortunate effects of God having placed in me a deep reverence for His sovereignty and the doctrines that acknowledge it has been the thought process that now accompanies any worship experience. Operating out of a deeply rooted understanding that God is wholly and totally sovereign over all things, salvation included, has prompted some questioning over certain worship songs. However, rather than digress into a philosophical conundrum over the phrasing of this lyric or that, I am compelled to write today about a song that I sang yesterday to my God with incredible joy.

In the song, "Reign in Us" by Starfield, the ending chorus says,
"Come cleanse us like a flood and send us out
So the world may know you reign, you reign in us."
As I sang this song aloud it struck me how great a picture this truly is of Jesus' command to tell the whole world about the good news of the Kingdom. That the world may know God reigns, and specifically that He reigns in His people, is exactly how He has purposed for His name to be glorified from as early as His covenant with Abraham. God's reign in Israel was to cause other nations to say, "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them" (Deut. 4:7).

In the same way, we are all to reflect the "Kingdom Values"--as our pastor has been calling it in his sermon "Jesus Speaks" series from the Sermon on the Mount. Our message to the world is to be that of proclamation of God's reign, His praiseworthy personhood, and His covenant of love with His church.

Yet, just as I do desire to go out into the world and proclaim that He reigns, and as we the Church are sent out to show that He reigns in us as a body, none of this can be shown without first the cleansing through Christ. The song declares first, "Come cleanse us." That is the prerequisite for His sending us out. When we declare His reign, it is not that we are declaring our choice to allow Him to reign. No, instead, we declare that it is He who re-created us anew, purchased us at a price, adopted us as sons, and now reigns supreme in our lives.

"But, Nick!" someone will exclaim, "The world will hear that as an undesirable dictator-god and not respond." But I ask, for whom do you proclaim? It is for God that we proclaim; it is in adoration of His son that we obey the command to go into all nations; We baptize in the name of the Father, Spirit, and Son; we teach them everything that Christ taught us; indeed it is Christ who is with us always.

So, as our desires are brought in line with God's (a nice plug for compatibalism), we pray "please reign." And, having the cleansing of His blood we are sent out to proclaim that He reigns... He reigns in us.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Faith That Works

People call me a "free gracer," or even a "cheap gracer," because I have (and still do) intellectually agree that the prospect of a once-believing Christian could die apostate and, to our surprise, be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. Is it the standard? No. Is it to be pursued? No. Yet, I'm convinced that to deny that possibility on a theoretical level would contradict scripture. However, despite whatever theoretical possibilities exist, I am also convinced and convicted that Scripture has no teaching for the encouragement, comfort, or even the invitation to live a life characterized as a "carnal Christian." Faith is not faith which has no works.

Wait wait wait! You JUST said that it's possible.... stop. I am interested in expositing what Scripture has to tell us. To agree with a theory is quite a different thing than to discharge my duty faithfully to teach the Word of God to believers called into His grace for the singular purpose of glorifying His name. We see in each morning paper that it's possible to win the lottery, and yet most of us still head off for work just the same. The person who learns of the lottery and decides to quit the work to which he is called will suffer great loss and live with zero confidence in his future. So it is with the followers of Christ.

Few passages state this truth more poignantly than the text we'll be studying this Sunday, James 2:14-26. Beginning with the challenge to anyone who "claims to have faith but has no deeds... Can such faith save him" (James 2:14)? It cuts to the heart of our theological values in evangelical protestantism: how dare you assess my deeds and ask if I am really saved! (see previous article on Faith & Deeds) But James does dare. And, he does so for the benefit and edification of his readers. Moreover, he does it for the glorification of the name his readers bear: Christ.

James describes faith without deeds as lifeless, "as the body without the spirit is dead" (James 2:26). A body without breath or spirit is lifeless, useless, limp and inanimate. It will bear no offspring, no labor, no worth of any kind. While Luther and the rest of the protestant movement emphasize faith alone, Peter addresses this topic telling his readers to "add to your faith" (2 Peter 1:5). After describing a laundry list of works that result from and add to faith, Peter concludes "they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive" (2 Peter 1:8).

But probably the most debated point that comes from the faith and deeds topic is that of eternal security. In James 2:18 we read a charge that few of us dare to place on any brother or disciple in the faith: "show me." While his readers were presuming upon the grace of God, so confident in it that they thought their actions were irrelevant, James saw fit to sweep that blanket of security right out from under them. "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder" (James 2:19).

If we continue reading in Peter's exhortation to "add" to your faith, we are told to "make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall" (2 Peter 1:10). Who needs to be sure? The one who called and elected us? Certainly not. But if you know a tree by it's fruit, you will know you are His child by your fruit. If you are marked by the Spirit, a seal guaranteeing your inheritance, then you will see the mark in the Spirit's work. If you were buried with Christ in order to be raised again with Him, then you can eagerly await that assured resurrection when you indeed die to yourself for the sake of Christ. But if you presume upon His grace, as a worker would presume upon the lottery, you will forsake the blessing of confidence before God for a blind hope of salvation without any credible evidence.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jesus is Lord

In our continued study of the Person and Work of Christ, we come to the study of His Lordship. The earliest creed of the church, recorded in Romans 10:9-10, is a simple three-word phrase that's rich with meaning. "Jesus is Lord." What does it mean to confess with one's mouth that Jesus is Lord? And, more importantly, what does it mean that Jesus is Lord?

First, a confession that Jesus is Lord is a statement of allegiance. Satan is god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4), ruler of the kingdom of the air (Eph. 2:2). But when we confess with our mouth that he is not Lord, Jesus is Lord, we defect from the rule of darkness and claim citizenship in heaven—in a kingdom that we eagerly await here on earth. We henceforth make ourselves outcasts. Surrounded by devout patriots in an evil dominion, we have confessed publicly that Jesus is Lord. We have no inheritance, no place, no citizenship in this realm anymore.

So, who is the Lord for whom we have abandoned all comforts to follow? Ephesians 1:20-23 gives the clear description of how total and sovereign His rule really is. "Far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given," Jesus is in fact sovereign over Satan himself.

What's more, He is Lord over us all men as well. As we read on in Ephesians 2, we see the effect of our former allegiance to the kingdom of this age, that we were by nature objects of wrath. We were dead in that transgression prior to defecting to the Lord. So, by what means did we defect to Jesus' reign? God "made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:5).

It is in this truth that we realize the fallacy of the misinterpretation of this verse, that we are saved when we "make Jesus Lord in our Lives." We do nothing to make Jesus Lord. He is Lord. The earliest creed found in Romans 10 is a humble confession that He is Lord. He is the Lord so powerful that He saved us while we were unable to save ourselves, unable to defect.

But praise be to God. By grace He has called us, and in faith we respond confessing, "Jesus is Lord."

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rejoicing in God's Sovereignty

I was at breakfast this morning with my accountability partner, doing a quick Bible study and spending time in prayer as we usually do. This morning was not uncommon from many others. From the moment I woke, the pressures of being a business owner in this economy were weighing on my mind. I drove to meet Jeff, half thinking about the study we would be doing, but mostly thinking about how I would find the business to keep alive in the coming months.

I sat down with Jeff. We talked back and forth about how our weeks were going. We shared the trials that we were facing in business and the challenges that we have in finding new contracts. After the catch-up, we opened to our reading for the day. We've been reading through the history of Israel for about 2 years now, starting in 1 Samuel. Today, by what some might call coincidence, we happened to be on the last chapter of 1 Kings.

No self-respecting Calvinist can be unfamiliar with this text. It's an oft-cited text in the academic debate between God's permissive and His direct control over evil in the world. However, this morning it was not that facet of this account that stimulated me the most. As we read together through the story and discussed what God had to show us from the text, the lesson became obvious: God is in control no matter what. No matter what prophets (or business analysts) a person listens to, what evil motives shape their decision, or even how they disguise themselves in the world, God's purpose will stand.

Ahab did everything humanly possible to defy God's plan and decree that he should die. Dressed in commoner's clothes, Ahab was still killed by what the narrator calls a "random" flight of an arrow. But random as it may have been to the archer and to Ahab, God's plan was sovereign over all.

Where do I find joy in life when life seems stacked against me? Nowhere else but in the comfort that God is indeed working all things for the good of those whom He has called (Romans 8:28). Jeff and I laughed as we recalled the many times in our own respective businesses that we had struggled and strived to earn business by all conventional wisdom, only to have seemingly random chance bring us into contact with our next major client.

It was well after 8:00 when we parted ways for the morning and I headed off to the office. My mood was notably different than just an hour previous. Has God promised me wealth? No. Has He promised me a life without trials? Actually quite the opposite. But has He promised to meet my needs? Yes. I rejoice knowing that God is totally sovereign, and I cannot imagine having hope in His providence if He were anything less.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

The Undeniable Doctrine of Election

There exists in the church today a misconception that election represents a controversial topic. When this misconception is perpetuated, we do an injustice to students of the Word who seek to deepen their love of God. The doctrine of election is not controversial. The doctrine of election is rarely even debated. It is the doctrine of salvation, particularly the aspect of free will, that is the root of so much strife and that is often inappropriately linked to the doctrine of election causing so many people to shriek at it's mention. But with those misconceptions and debates aside, the doctrine of election should be the most unifying truth in all of Church doctrine.

Regardless of where one may fall in the free will debate, the doctrine of election is an undeniable fact found throughout scripture. The proof texts are too numerous to count, but among the more prominent are Deuteronomy 7, John 10, Ephesians 1, and 1 Peter 1. In fact, even popular memory verses that we teach our children to recite echo the truth of election: "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10). Or, when we sing together, "I once was lost but now am found... T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear," we are proclaiming and extolling God for His election of those whom He foreknew.

So why do I say so strongly that to misrepresent the doctrine of election is an injustice to followers of Christ? Is it because I am just another radical and irrational Calvinist to be quickly dismissed and ignored. Not at all. Need I remind you that Arminius, too, believed in election, though his definition of foreknowledge differed from mine. For that matter (though I have no evidence) I would suggest Pelagius as well would not have denied the obvious Biblical teaching that we, the Church, are chosen of God.

No, it is an injustice to pass over, as many timid teachers do, the truth that God chose us because it is in His choosing of us that we are filled the most awe and wonder. Yes, it is wondrous that He would send His Son to die, but can we really view the cross as a cosmic roll of the dice? God, hoping that some might accept His gift, crucified His Son with blind hope in our acceptance? No. Be it born out of His foreknowledge of us or His foreknowledge of our faith, God chose us before we chose Him. And therein lies the wonder and mystery of the love of our God.
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -- Romans 5:8

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Abba Father: The Cry of God's Humble Children

In my spare time, I've been working on a second book—one that will take much longer than the first to compose and even longer for me to dare to publish. I've tentatively titled it, "Thy Will Be Done," as a follow-up to my last book, "Thy Kingdom Come." The theme of this book will (Lord willing) be about living life as ambassadors of a totally sovereign God. During some of my recent times of reflection and study, I've come to appreciate and understand new perspectives about the Abba cry that I felt led to share. Consider it a pre-release preview.

There is no shortage of proposals put forth on the real meaning of "Abba" in the New Testament. Some have considered the term to mean little more than father, while others believe it renders a more intimate meaning, a sort of Aramaic form of "daddy". The exegetical task is formidable, with a mere 3 instances of the term found in the whole of the New Testament. Here's what we do know:
  1. In all three instances, the term ?ßßa is immediately followed by pat?? (pater, or father)
  2. It is derived from Aramaic, whereas pater is purely Greek
  3. Although similar in meaning, pater is not a direct translation of abba, which indicates there is additional significance in abba beyond just "father."
  4. Most importantly, in all three instances, the use of the word abba arises out of a humble and submissive heart. In Mark 14:36, Christ is submitting (with pain and turmoil) to the will of the Father for Him to suffer. In Romans 8:15, Paul explains how we as believers cry out to God in the context of fear and suffering. And in Galatians 4:6, Paul describes the believer's confession that he/she deserves nothing under the Law, but is made alive in Christ alone.

So, what does this tell us? The abba cry is indeed a cry! This is not the gentle coo of a son resting peacefully in his father's arms. This is the cry of a toddler getting his first shot at the doctor's office, screaming in pain and looking at his father who stands by watching. Innocent and ignorant of what is truly in his best interest, the child is confused and terrified.

How can he just stand there watching his child in pain? "Dad," the son cries out, "make it stop!" But he won't. Can this be love? "Can this really be what's best for me?" the toddler might ask (if a toddler could reason... bear with the analogy).

After all, isn't that what Christ Himself cried? "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me." How often do we cry that? We pray for things that we do not understand. Lord heal me. Lord find me a new job. Lord bring my loved ones to repentance and salvation. "Yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mark 14:36).

Are we much different? Just a few verses following the abba cry in Romans 8, Paul continues, "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" (Romans 8:26). Here we stand in the midst of a fallen world, enduring pain and suffering for God, all the while knowing (just as the toddler knew) that our Father is fully capable to make it all stop in an instant. "Abba! Help us! Oh, Lord, won't you make it all stop!"

But we already know the answer. "Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening" (1 Peter 4:12). So what do we pray for in times like these? How do we groan to our Abba Father? I don't know. The Spirit knows.

This is the picture of the life we live as ambassadors of the sovereign King. We struggle to understand His power. We cannot begin to understand His will. Yet as Christ cried out to God, His sweat even turning to blood under great distress, He submitted Himself humbly to the will of the Father, and so must we.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Impeccability: Could Christ Have Sinned?

In this week's class, as I had somewhat expected, the discussion of Christ's humanity led directly to the question of whether or not it was possible for Christ to have sinned. The Impeccability Doctrine (for those of you who may not be familiar with the debate) hinges on the dilemma that if Christ could have sinned, then we are at risk of implicating His divine nature in sin as well, and yet if he could not have sinned, then how was He truly tempted? It's no trivial matter and one that is hotly disputed in the study of Christology.

Could Christ have sinned? No. How can we know? We know today that He could not have sinned becayse we know today that He did not sin. Confused? Allow me to explain.

I'd like to begin by reducing the debate to it's core. To posit that Christ could not have sinned on the basis that He was God assumes the fact that God Himself is impeccable. So I ask: why is God unable to sin. As I consider the truth of His sovereignty, it's become more and more troubling to me to resolve that He cannot sin simply because He is moral. Can some outside moral structure of existence impose upon God the limitations of His action? As gravity dictates our abilities as humans, is God dictated to be sinless by some moral order of the universe? No.

This view is known as voluntarism, which is a deeply entangled term that can have many implications. For this topic, I simply mean to present that God is sinless because God has willed to be sinless. God, being omnipotent and omniscient, determined and willed according to His good pleasure to be sinnless, moral, faithful, and the host of other communicable attributes that we identify in God.

As we consider this, the question of Christ's impeccability becomes invariably clear. Could Christ have sinned? No. Why? Because God the Father ordained it. In the same way that He ordained that the pharisees would reject Him, that Peter would deny Him, and that Rome would Crucify Him, God ordained Christ to be sinless.

Now, as surely as we recognize this exhibition of God's sovereignty we must also recognize the mysterious reality of compatible free will. Inasmuch as we each have the genuine choice of what to eat for dinner tonight, that choice is no less real to us in the present despite the reality that God already knows what we'll eat. In the same way, Christ's temptation was no less real to Him during His life on earth. In fact, to all of creation—Jesus' human form included—the impeccability doctrine was yet undecided prior to Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension. However, to the only God the Father, it most certainly was. He was not sitting on the edge of His seat for some 30 years, hoping like mad that His plan would come true. No, the sovereign Father says:

"I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is
still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I
please" (Isaiah 46:10).
So, what can this possibly mean for us? How can I take this philosophical proposition that appears to be nothing more than an extension of the age-old free will debate and actually apply it to my life? First, take heart: we have a mediator who was indeed tempted in every way we were. Not only that, but rejoice in the confidence that we have. The child of God is predestined to be conformed to the likeness of the Son, not because he can stand sinless in his own power, but because "the Lord is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4). This power of God has been evidenced for us in Christ's life that He might be the firstfruits among many brothers: the second Adam, our glorious Head.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

1 Peter 4:12-19 - Judgment & God's Sovereignty

Several weeks back I wrote a lengthy response to a reader's question about Job, his suffering, and God's sovereignty. The basic premise was, "He's God, you're not." For many people, that is an unsatisfactory answer to the dilemma of evil, suffering, injustices and social inequality. For me, it's the most satisfying response there could be. Why the disparity?

At my office one afternoon, I sat and discussed communication rhetoric, approaches, and strategies with an intern, himself a communication major, and writer at our firm. In his studies at a secular university he was learning about the sharp distinctions between historic Christian rhetoric, born out of a worldview of absolute truth handed down by God, and that of the secular culture today where truth is relative and God's words hold no higher authority (nay, even less) than one's own thought. The application of his study in school was that to these two diverse audiences, two diverse forms of rhetoric have emerged: the apologetic and the exegetical.

The apologetic is of little value to the believer because he can (or should be able to) understand and process the words of God as truth. Instead, he benefits from the exegesis of scripture. On the contrary, the non-believer will find little value in exegesis because it's basis is not established yet in the heart and mind of the listener.

So, why this dissertation on communication to address the topic of sovereignty? I can accept from the non-believer that suffering, evil, injustice and the like present a logical hurdle toward faith in God. But I must rebuke, on the basis of God's word, that a believer professing faith in God the Father Almighty would cite such circumstances as problematic to their faith. I openly oppose such a view within the church in light of one simple and certain exegetical truth: God is God.

In exegetical style, New Testament authors refuted any questioning of God with authoritative fashion. "Do not be surprised," Peter says in verse 12. He goes on in verse 19 to declare that we "suffer according to the will of God." Elsewhere, Paul answers the question directly, "Is God unjust? Not at all" (Romans 9:14). Job is faced with the undeniable truth of his own futility and humanity as God rants, "Where were you..." (Job 38:4 et al).

For the seeker who is trying to grasp the riches of God's glory and struggles with the perceptions of the things around him, God shows Himself merciful and good through the compassion and love of Jesus Christ. But for anyone among His own household that would question the motives and desires of God, He charges:

"Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right
way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of
understanding?" (Isaiah 40:14)


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Monday, October 27, 2008

1 Peter 2:8 - The Double Predestinarian View

To follow up in more detail on my post last week, as well as the discussion yesterday in my class, I just want to expound on the varying views for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the debate. We discussed all of 1 Peter 8-12 in class, and regretfully had very little time to address the truths of the 8th and 12th verses regarding God's appointments and the Day of judgment.

There are primarily two views, although there are undoubtedly innumerable views in reality, we will look at two diverse perspectives. I want to also make clear that these are two views within the reformed tradition, and certainly a great many views exist in the Wesleyan, Arminian, etc. traditions.

First is the "Single Predestinarian" view. According to this teaching, Man is singly responsible for their own damnation. Though created good, Adam and Eve sinned and brought death and eternal separation from God onto all of their progeny. Then, in an act of unmerited grace, God elected some to receive mercy. The fact that others do not, then, is not God actively appointing them to damnation because they had already appointed themselves for damnation. Instead, God performs a single act of predestination, that for His elect to be justified. Thus the title "Single Predestination."

With that description of the single view, you've probably already ascertained the meaning of the double view. Double Predestination believes that in order for God to be ultimately sovereign, He must be the initiator over both appointments—both to justification and to "stumbling," as 1 Peter puts it.

First, my warning: The distinction between these two views is largely a philosophical debate, and not a doctrine that is pivotal in scripture. At the same time, it's not neglected in scripture, and so an exploration of it is not unwarranted. If you are intrigued, by all means, dig into scripture. I would remind you that (1) scripture is the ultimate authority, not your view of fairness; (2) whichever view you decide, you're deciding it for yourself only... not for others around you and certainly not for God. The mission of theology is not to try and define God using scripture, it's to allow God to reveal Himself to us through scripture. There's a big difference.

Second, my instigation: So, you're intrigued to investigate? Where do you start? 1 Peter 2:8 certainly seems a likely verse to help us reach a decision. Without question, Romans 9 is as well. But riddle me this: What is evil? Dig into the Hebrew (blueletterbible.com is a decent resource) and see what you find? We read in 1 Peter, God "lay" or "placed" a stumbling stone in Zion. What did he place in the Garden? Why? Is the parallel intentional?

Third: my invitation: Got any thoughts on the issue? Questions? Please feel free to comment here. (Anonymous comments are permitted)

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Friday, October 24, 2008

1 Peter 2:8-12 - His Chosen People

Last week, we looked at the identity of Christ in verses 4-7. In verse 8 Peter continues with a description of who we, members of the Church and stones in this figurative temple, are as a result. He begins by stating that those who disobey are recieving just what God had appointed for them. By sharp contrast, Peter goes on to name 4 things, none of which are things we could ever become by our own doing, that describe the Church.

The church is, first of all, chosen from what was once a hopeless and Godless existence (see Eph 2:11-22). Not only chosen to simply escape damnation, but to be a royal priesthood worthy of God's service. He sets the Church apart like a holy nation, similar to Israel. And finally, the church belongs to God.

The end result is praise. Praise for God calling us out of darkness. Praise for God making us into something ("a people") when we were once nothing. Praise for God making us objects of mercy rather than objects of wrath. Then, this overwhelming praise manifests itself in daily living, as we see in verses 11-12.

As I mentioned in last week's post, Scripture is God-centric. We see that theme once again here. This passage begins explaining His plan for Christ, His authority to justify, and His authority to judge, then moves on to reiterate Peter's opening from 1:1-2 regarding His choice, and finally concludes with the intended result: glory and honor to.... drum role please... God Himeself!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

1 Peter 2:4-8 - The Chosen Cornerstone

In this passage, Peter uses a combination of metaphors as well as Old Testament quotations to show us (1) who Jesus was and then (2) who his readers, and all of the Church, is as a result. Let's begin with the identity of Jesus:

• Though rejected by men, Jesus was shown to be chosen with a purpose (verse 4; see also Matt. 21:33-44; Acts 2:22-35)...
• To be our High Priest, consecrating us in order that we too
can make spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (verse 5; see also Hebrews 8:11-14)...
• And to be the cornerstone, providing a pattern and foundation upon which the rest of the Church would be built (verse 6; see also Ephesians 2:19-22)...
• Of which he is the Savior, and the "one who trusts in Him" is saved by faith (verse 6; see also John 3:16)...
• From the wrath of God Himself and no other (see context of quote in verse 6 and 8 - Isaiah 28:14-19; 8:12-15).

I find it very important to realize the God-centric emphasis from beginning to end of this section. As I look through Scripture seeking instruction, truth, etc. I find constant reminders that God wants us to begin by acknowledging His supremacy. Here He begins by reiterating that Christ was His chosen one, and concludes letting us know that He is the one who judges. No one else can be compared to God. No one shares His powers to justify, to sanctify, and to judge.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Compatibilism & Libertarianism

First, a follow-up for last week. We ended our discussion with the debate over human free will. I want to round out that discussion with a little final commentary, then I'll move on to our preview for next week's lesson in 1 Peter.

Free will that is "compatible" with God's is described like this: Man will do that which he most desires. This means that—in theory—God's will is carried forth through Man's so-called "free" will in that He knows what we desire, what we would choose given various circumstances, and thereby guides human history with this infinite knowledge. This stands in contrast to the libertarian freedom most advocated by Arminians where man's will is not imposed on in any way by God's will—compatible or otherwise.

Now, I included one key phrase "in theory" in this final commentary that (hopefully) wraps up this discussion for our class... at least for now. What I want you to realize is that neither "compatibalism" nor "libertarian" appear anywhere in my concordance, and unless you have some radical new translation of the Bible, I venture to say it's nowhere in yours either. The only authoritative word that we have to go on is the Word itself (or Himself, I could go either way there). I encourage you—nay, implore you—to seek answers FIRST in scripture and make every effort neither to add to its teaching nor dismiss any of its truths despite the understandability and/or logic of what you find.

I don't ask that everyone agree with me, nor Calvin, but only this: that you base your beliefs solely in scripture. Everything else is merely "in theory."

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

1 Peter 1:1-2 - To God's Elect

Hello all you elect people, how are you today? Ok, so that's not customary language that we use in the Church today. But, as we begin our study in 1 Peter this Sunday, we'll see that it certainly was a perfectly fine way to address believers in the early church.

Writing to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, Peter addressed his letter specifically to "God's Elect ... who have been chosen." Now, before your minds immediately begin to draft acceptable definitions of what Peter really meant by that, let's stop for a moment and ask, what's so important about election that Peter wanted to identify his audience with the term? He didn't hide from the concept or dismiss it as illogical, unpalatable, or counter to his own free will. Maybe... juuuuust maybe... his readers didn't see the concept as quite so inflammatory as we do today.

I think we can all agree that there may be something foundational to a 1st century Jew about the concept of being God's "chosen people." So then, is there something from this doctrine of election that should be foundational to us as modern-day, gentile believers? Well, if you've been around me long enough, you know my answer to that already. I want to invite you to come ready for an in-depth look at this doctrine this Sunday. There's a lot of ground to cover, so we'll start promptly at 9:15.

Oh, and if you'd like to come prepared, here's some recommended reading: Romans 8-9; Ephesians 1:3-14.

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