"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" An Exhortation To Walk In Holiness (4:1-8) INTRODUCTION 1. As we saw in our previous study, Paul concluded his "apostolic reflections" with a prayer... a. In which he expressed his desire for his brethren - 1Th 3:11-12 b. In particular, that their hearts be established blameless in holiness - 1Th 3:13 2. In the second half of this epistle, Paul gives "apostolic instructions"... a. In other words, exhortations, commands, urgings, etc. b. All designed to help answer his own prayer! 1) That they increase and abound in love 2) That they be blameless in holiness at the coming of the Lord [His first "apostolic instruction" could be called "An Exhortation To Walk In Holiness". It begins with a general exhortation on how we ought to walk and please God...] I. ABOUNDING MORE AND MORE (1-2) A. NOTE THE FORCEFULNESS OF THIS EXHORTATION... 1. Paul "urges" and "exhorts" them 2. He reminds them this is: a. What they received from him on how they "ought to walk" and "to please God" b. In keeping with "commandments" given to them 3. Twice he appeals to the name of Jesus (which adds to the force of his appeal) a. Urging and exhorting "in the Lord Jesus" b. Commandments given "through the Lord Jesus" 4. These "instructions" are not suggestions; they carry the force of commands necessary to keep in order to please God! a. Which Jesus expected His apostles to teach - Mt 28:20 b. Which Paul certainly stressed - 1Co 7:19 B. A COMMAND FOR INCREASING SERVICE... 1. They should "abound more and more" a. As he prayed earlier - 1Th 3:12 b. As he will urge them again later - 1Th 4:10 2. This aspect of Christian living is taught throughout the Scriptures a. By Jesus in His parables 1) The Talents - cf. Mt 25:14-30 2) The Vine and The Branches - cf. Jn 15:1-2 b. By Peter in defining what it means to grow in the knowledge of Christ - cf. 2Pe 1:5-8 c. By Paul in his writing to other Christians 1) The Corinthians - 1Co 15:58 2) The Philippians - Php 1:9; 3:13-14 [The Christian "walk" or life is to be one where we abound more and more, never resting on our laurels, always pressing on to increasing levels of service. This is especially true when it comes to living morally pure lives...] II. SANCTIFICATION THROUGH ABSTINENCE (3-8) A. GOD'S WILL IS OUR SANCTIFICATION... 1. The words "sanctification" and "holiness" come from the same Greek word meaning to be "set apart" a. Through the Word of God, we are to be "sanctified" - Jn 17:17 b. With the aid of the Spirit, we can be "sanctified" - 1Co 6:11 2. Sanctification is an on-going process... a. It began at our conversion - 1Co 6:11; Ep 5:26 b. It continues throughout our Christian life - He 2:11; 10:14 c. It will be completed at the coming of Christ - 1Th 5:23 B. SANCTIFICATION INVOLVES ABSTINENCE... 1. Abstaining from "sexual immorality" a. The Greek word (porneia) is commonly translated "fornication" b. It is a "general word for unlawful and immoral sexual intercourse and relationships" (Barclay) 1) Thus it includes pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex (adultery), homosexuality 2) I.e., any sexual activity outside a lawful, marital relationship between husband and wife 2. Possessing one's own vessel (body, or wife) in sanctification and honor a. Not in passion of lust, like those who do not know God - cf. Ep 4:17-19 b. Something we should know how to do - in case one doesn't, it involves: 1) Being transformed by the renewing of the mind - Ro 12: 1-2 2) Not making provision for fulfilling the lusts of the flesh - Ro 13:13-14 3. So we will not be take advantage of and defraud our brother a. I.e., commit adultery (perhaps the highest form of fraud - cf. Pr 6:30-35) b. Which is what happens when we do not possess our bodies in sanctification and honor C. WHY SANCTIFICATION (ESP. ABSTINENCE) IS NECESSARY... 1. It is God's will - 1Th 4:3 2. God will avenge those who defraud their brethren - 1Th 4:6; cf. He 13:4 3. God has called us to holiness, not (moral) uncleanness - 1Th 4:7 4. Otherwise we reject God, who has given us His Holy Spirit - 1Th 4:8 a. Given to us when we became His sons - Ga 4:6 b. Our bodies are to be temples for the Holy Spirit - 1Co 6:18-20 -- Dare we grieve the Spirit by defiling His temple? CONCLUSION 1. To be blameless in holiness at the Lord's coming requires we walk in holiness now... a. Abounding more and more in our service to God b. Abstaining from sexual immorality by possessing our bodies in sanctification and honor 2. Through the grace of God, such holy living is possible... a. We have the blood of Christ to forgive us of the guilt of sin b. We have the help of the Spirit to free us from the power of sin -- But we must do our part, thus the need for "An Exhortation To Walk In Holiness" In view of our morally lax society, this is a much needed exhortation! God has not called us to (sexual) uncleanness, but in holiness (1 Th 4:7). Are we living in a way becoming of our calling?
"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" An Exhortation To Walk In Holiness (4:1-8) by Mark Copeland
Can the Book of Mormon Pass the Test?
|by||Brad Bromling, D.Min.|
Is the Book of Mormon from God? The four million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints (Mormons) claim that it is. They believe that Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844) was a prophet commissioned by God to translate the book from golden plates delivered to him by an angel. As such, the Book of Mormon is one of a relatively few number of books in the world that are considered Holy Scripture. The Bible teaches us to “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Book of Mormon claims to be inspired; when tested on this claim, does it pass or fail?
Since God is by definition all-knowing and all-powerful, we would expect a book from Him to be free from mistakes. Humans often err; God does not. When tested on this point, the Book of Mormon faces serious difficulties. It contains numerous errors that may be discussed under two categories.
First, when it was issued from the press in 1830, the book was riddled with thousands of grammatical mistakes. An occasional error of this kind might be attributed to the typesetter, but the grammar problems of the first edition were systematic in nature, indicating that its author simply lacked education. Note these few examples:
“And he beheld that they did contain the five Books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, which was our first parents...” (p. 15). “And thus ended the record of Alma, which was wrote upon the plates of Nephi” (p. 347; see also pp. 49,66,195, et al.).
“but behold, the Lamanites were exceeding fraid, insomuch that they would not hearken to the words of those dissenters” (p. 415; see also pp. 354,392).
“yea, if my days could have been in them days...” (p. 427).
“and behold, we have took of their wine, and brought with us” (p. 379).
“And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had wrote upon the rent, and crying with a loud voice...” (p. 351).
[NOTE: The above quotations from the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon are from the 1958 reprint issued by Mormon historian Wilford C. Wood under the title Joseph Smith Begins his Work: Volume 1. All emphases added.]This challenge to the Book of Mormon might be met with the response that it was God’s will to employ the vocabulary of Joseph Smith since his lack of education is proof that he could not have composed the book without divine guidance. This response is problematic, since Mormon writers like historian Brigham H. Roberts have argued that the “plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them is correct...” (1930, 1:54-55). Besides, the Mormon Church has carefully removed most of these imperfections in subsequent editions. If it was the will of God to employ Smith’s vocabulary in the original translation, by what authority was it changed? Did God make a mistake that men had to correct?
Second, the Book of Mormon contains many blunders of content. Some are merely oddities. For example, the Nephites are said to have used a compass about 550 B.C. (1 Nephi 18:12); but the instrument was not invented until ca. A.D. 1100. Another anomaly of this nature is the appearance of the French word adieu in Jacob 7:27. It strains credulity to believe that this is the correct English translation of a “reformed Egyptian” word written upon metal plates by a Hebrew living on American soil in 421 B.C. (which is the claim being made by Mormonism).
Other errors are more serious since they contradict the Bible. Notice these few examples:
Alma predicted in about 83 B.C. that Jesus would be born in Jerusalem (Alma 7:10). However, in keeping with Micah’s prophecy, Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4).
Nephi called the Savior “Jesus Christ, the Son of God” almost 600 years before His birth (2 Nephi 25:19). This is curious since the angel told Mary: You “shall call his name Jesus” and he “shall be called the son of God” (Luke 1:31,35). Further, “Christ” is not a name; it is the Greek word that means “anointed”—corresponding to the Hebrew word “messiah.” Joseph Smith is asking us to believe that the correct English translation of a reformed Egyptian word is the Anglicized Greek word Christ. This is asking too much.
A century before the resurrection of Christ, some Nephites were praised for being “firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end” (Alma 27:27). They even were called Christians (Alma 46:13-16). Related to this is the contention that the religion of Alma was called the “church of Christ” almost 200 years before Jesus built His church (Mosiah 18:17; cf. Matthew 16:18)! These teachings contradict the Bible which says, “the disciples were divinely called ‘Christians’ first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26, McCord). Besides, how could people living during the Mosaic Covenant be Christians and in the church of Christ (which implies their part in the New Covenant)? It was necessary for Christ to die before His Covenant could come into effect (Hebrews 9:11-17).
In about 600 B.C. the prophet Nephi is shown a vision of the virgin Mary. According to the 1830 edition she is called “the mother of God,” and her Son is called “the Eternal Father.” However, in the modern editions these statements read: “the mother of the Son of God” and “the Son of the Eternal Father” (1 Nephi 11:18,21). These “corrections” convey a different meaning from the original. Changes of this nature strongly contradict Mormon inspiration claims.
Any book that purports to be from God should be able to pass a test for accuracy. Since God does not make mistakes, no book from His hand will contain factual or doctrinal errors. Like all humans, Joseph Smith erred. Unfortunately, his assertion that the Book of Mormon was divinely translated implies that God is the author of its mistakes. That claim is self-contradictory.
FOR FURTHER READING
Bromling, Brad T. (1992) “The Book of Ether—A Mormon Myth Examined,” Reasoning from Revelation, 4:21, November.
Crouch, Brodie (1968), The Myth of Mormon Inspiration (Shreveport, LA: Lambert).
Fraser, Gordon H. (1978), Joseph and the Golden Plates (Eugene OR: Industrial Litho).
Ropp, Harry L. (1977), The Mormon Papers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity).
Tanner, Jerald and Sandra (1972), Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? (Salt Lake City, UT: Modern Microfilm Company).
Can Humans Become Gods?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
One of the more eye-opening beliefs of Mormonism is the polytheistic notion that humans can become gods. Standard Mormon theology maintains that even God (the Father) and Jesus Christ were once human. They were preceded by other humans who themselves progressed to the status of gods.
Of course, this doctrine was not presented initially by Joseph Smith, but was developed after the production of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon actually contradicts later Mormon revelation, in that it affirmed in 1830 the biblical doctrine of the oneness of God in three persons, i.e., the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Observe the conversation between Ammon and King Lamoni:
And then Ammon said: “Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?” And he said, “Yea.” And Ammon said: “This is God.” And Ammon said unto him again: “Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?” And he said: “Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens.” And Ammon said unto him: “The heavens is a place where God dwells and all his holy angels.… I am called by his Holy Spirit to teach these things unto this people” (Alma 18:26-30).Nephi declared: “And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end” (2 Nephi 31:21, emp. added). Amulek contended with the diabolical Zeezrom: “And Zeezrom said unto him: ‘Thou sayest there is a true and living God?’ And Amulek said: ‘Yea, there is a true and living God.’ Now Zeezrom said: ‘Is there more than one God?’ And he answered, ‘No’ ” (Alma 11:26-29, emp. added).
The Book of Mormon also affirmed that Jesus was God in the flesh:
And now Abinadi said unto them: “I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth” (Mosiah 15:1-4, emp. added).Even the “three witnesses” to the Book of Mormon, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, affirmed monotheism and the oneness of God: “And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God” (“The Testimony,” 1981, emp. added). Joseph Smith affirmed the same thing in the Articles of Faith: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” (Pearl, 1981, p. 60).
These teachings certainly are in harmony with the Bible. The Bible repeatedly and frequently affirms the doctrine of monotheism and the unity of God: Deuteronomy 4:35,39; 6:4; Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6,8; 45:5; 46:9; Mark 12:29; Romans 3:30; 1 Corinthians 8:4,6; 1 Timothy 2:5. These and many other passages indicate “there is but one infinite Spirit Being, and that within that one Spirit essence there are three personal distinctions, each of which may be, and is, called God” (Lanier, 1974, p. 46). There is only one divine essence (ousia) or nature (phusis)—a solidaric unity—one divine substance in (not and) three persons (prosopa or persona), with each “person” being the subsistence (hupostaseis) of the divine Essence [NOTE: for discussions of the concept of Trinity and its treatment in church history, see Archer, 1982, pp. 357-361; Bickersteth, n.d.; Boles, 1942, pp. 19ff.; Chadwick, 1967, pp. 84ff.; Schaff, 1910, 3:670ff.; Walker, 1970, pp. 106ff.; Warfield, 1939a, 5:3012-3022].
But by 1844, Joseph Smith had begun to advocate a very different understanding of deity—in direct contradiction to the Book of Mormon. He began to promulgate the idea that God had, in fact, previously been a man Himself Who had become exalted, and that all men were capable of the same progression (see Tanner, 1972, p. 163). This shift was expressed formally in the Pearl of Great Price where, in the Book of Moses, God is spoken of in the singular throughout. For example: “I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God; by mine Only Begotten I created these things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven and the earth upon which thou standest” (2:1). In stark contrast, however, in the Book of Abraham, in a section discussing the same creation event, God is spoken of as “Gods.” For example:
And then the Lord said: “Let us go down.” And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.... And the Gods called the light Day, and the darkness they called Night....And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.... And the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness....And the Gods planted a garden, eastward in Eden, and there they put the man, whose spirit they had put into the body which they had formed (4:1,5,18; 5:8, emp. added).Anyone who is familiar with the King James Version cannot help but be struck with the fact that the author of the Book of Abraham had before him a copy of a KJV and merely paraphrased the text. It is equally apparent that the author “had an axe to grind” in adjusting the text to foist upon the reader the notion of multiple “gods.” In fact, in the thirty-one verses of chapter four, the term “Gods” is used thirty-two times! It is used sixteen times in chapter five! Polytheism now so thoroughly permeates Mormonism that one Mormon apostle asserted that humans are the offspring of the union between an Eternal Father and an Eternal Mother (McConkie, 1979, p. 516)!
“LET US MAKE MAN”Separate and apart from the issue of the inspiration of the Book of Mormon (see Miller, 2003), the question must be asked: Does the Bible give credence to the notion of multiple gods? Certainly not! However, various verses have been marshaled in an effort to defend the Mormon viewpoint. For example, on the sixth day of Creation, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). It is alleged by Mormons that the use of the plural in this verse implies a multiplicity of “gods.” However, an examination of the context reveals that the doctrine of the Trinity is being conveyed (see Leupold, 1942, 1:86ff.).
The Holy Spirit was active at the Creation, “hovering over the face of the waters” (1:2). “Hovering” refers to attentive participation (cf. Deuteronomy 32:11). Elsewhere, the Bible makes clear that Jesus also was present at the Creation, in active participation with Deity’s creative activity (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2; 2:10). Hence, when God spoke of “Us,” He was referring to Himself and the other two members of the divine Essence [cf. “Godhead” (theotes) in Colossians 2:9, “divine” nature (theios) in Acts 17:29 and 2 Peter 1:3-4, and “divinity” (theioteis) in Romans 1:20. The first term (theotes) differs from the third term (theioteis) “as essence differs from quality or attribute” (Thayer, 1901, p. 288; cf. Vine, 1966, pp. 328-329; Warfield, 1939b, 2:1268-1270)]. Some (e.g., Archer, 1982, p. 74) have suggested that God was including the angels in the “us,” since “sons of God” sometimes can refer to the angels (e.g., Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; cf. Psalms 29:1; 89:6), and “sons of God” can be shortened to “God” while still referring to angels (e.g., compare Psalm 97:7 with Hebrews 1:6, and Psalm 8:5 with Hebrews 2:7,9). In either case, the fact remains that the Bible presents a consistent picture that there is only one God, and that this divine essence includes three—and only three—persons.
“YE SHALL BE AS GODS”Another verse that has been brought forward to substantiate Mormon polytheism is the comment made on the occasion of Adam and Eve being tempted to eat the forbidden fruit: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5—NKJV). The King James Version says, “ye shall be as gods.” Four points of clarification are in order on this verse. In the first place, Satan made this statement—not God. Satan’s declarations are never to be trusted, since he is “a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
In the second place, the uncertainty conveyed by the various English translations in their differing treatment of the verse (i.e., whether “God” or “gods”) is the result of the underlying Hebrew term elohim. This word is not to be confused with Yahweh, the formal name for God throughout the Old Testament. Elohim is a generic term used some 2,570 times in Scripture, and generally refers to the one true God, but also is used to refer to pagan gods, and even can refer to judges or rulers and, as noted previously, to angels (Harris, et al., 1980, 1:44-45). Though the word is plural in form, it is used in both the plural and singular sense [cf. “face” (panim)—Genesis 50:1; Exodus 34:35 and “image” (teraphim)—1 Samuel 19:13]. English shares a similar phenomenon with its plural nouns like “deer,” “seed,” “sheep,” and “moose.” The same form is used, whether referring to one or to many. Hebrew, like most other languages, matched the number (whether singular or plural) of verbs and adjectives with the noun. In the case of elohim, with only rare exception, the verbs and adjectives used with it are either singular or plural in conformity with the intended meaning (Ringgren, 1974, p. 272). Fretheim noted that its use in the Old Testament for Israel’s God is “always with singular verbs” (1997, 1:405; cf. Archer, 1982, p. 74).
Some Hebrew scholars maintain that the plural form used to designate the one true God is the pluralis majestatis or excellentiae—the plural of majesty—or the plural of intensification, absolutization, or exclusivity (e.g., Fretheim, 1:405; Gesenius, 1847, p. 49; Harris, et al., p. 44; Mack, 1939, 2:1265; Reeve, 1939, 2:1270), although others question this usage (e.g., Grudem, 1994, p. 227; Jenni and Westermann, 1997, p. 116). In the case at hand, Satan was tempting Eve with the prospect of being like God—Whom she knew, and from Whom she (or at least her husband) had received previous communication (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:3). She knew nothing of other “gods”—pagan or otherwise. Since the term elohim occurs 58 times in the first three chapters of Genesis and is consistently rendered “God,” and since Satan himself used the term earlier in the same verse as well as four verses earlier (vs. 1) to refer to the one God, no contextual, grammatical, or lexical reason exists for rendering it “gods” in verse five. In fact, most of the major English translations properly render it “God” (e.g., NKJV, ASV, NASB, NIV, RSV). [See also the discussion in Clarke, n.d., 1:50, who noted that the ancient Syriac version rendered the term correctly].
Third, elohim in this verse has an attached prefix (Biblia Hebraica, 1967/77, p. 4)—what Hebrew scholars call an “inseparable preposition” (Weingreen, 1959, p. 26). In this case, the prepositional prefix is the eleventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the kaph, and means “like” or “as.” Satan was not saying that Eve would become God or a god; He was saying she would become like God. This realization brings us to a fourth point: the context stipulates in what way Eve would become like God. In the very verse under consideration, an explanatory phrase clarifies what Satan meant: “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (emp. added). This meaning is evident from subsequent references in the same chapter. When they disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew…” (verse 7, emp. added). God commented: “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil” (verse 22, emp. added). In other words, Adam and Eve became like God in the sense that they now were privy to a greater breadth of awareness, understanding, and insight: “They now had a sufficient discovery of their sin and folly in disobeying the command of God; they could discern between good and evil; and what was the consequence? Confusion and shame were engendered, because innocence was lost and guilt contracted” (Clarke, p. 51). As Keil and Delitzsch summarized: “By eating the fruit, man did obtain the knowledge of good and evil, and in this respect became like God” (1976, 1:95, emp. added).
GOD OF GODSA third attempt to substantiate the Mormon doctrine of plural gods is the use of various verses from the Bible that speak of God being a “God of gods.” For example, on the occasion of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, the “Song of Moses” declared: “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods” (Exodus 15:11, emp. added). Forty years later, in his stirring challenge to the Israelites to be firm in their future commitment to God, he reminded them: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome” (Deuteronomy 10:17, emp. added). During the days of Joshua, some of the Israelites exclaimed: “The Lord God of gods, the Lord God of gods, He knows” (Joshua 22:22, emp. added). These verses, and many more in the Bible, speak of “gods” in such a way that a cursory reading might leave one with the impression that the Bible teaches that “gods” actually existed. However, one cannot really study the Bible and come away with that conclusion. The Bible presents a thoroughgoing monotheistic view of reality. It repeatedly conveys the fact that “gods” are merely the figment of human imagination, invented by humans to provide themselves with exemption from following the one true God by living up to the higher standard of deity. Humans throughout history have conjured up their own imaginary gods to justify freedom from restriction and to excuse relaxed moral behavior.
Consequently, all verses in the Bible that use the term “gods” to refer to deity (with the exception of the one God) are referring to nonexistent deities that humans have invented. When God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, the very first one said: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Liberal higher critics of the Bible (like Wellhausen) have alleged that this dictum advocated only monolatry (exclusive worship of Yahweh) rather than actually denying the existence of other gods. Distinguished professor of Old Testament languages, Gleason Archer, has maintained, however, that “this construction of the words is quite unwarranted” (1974, p. 235). Many additional passages clarify the point. For example, the psalmist declared: “For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods” (Psalm 96:4, emp. added). One might get the impression from this verse by itself that the psalmist thought that “gods” actually existed. However, the next verse sets the record straight: “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens” (vs. 5, emp. added). The Hebrew word for “idols” (elilim) means “of nothing, of nought, empty, vain” (Gesenius, p. 51). Notice carefully the contrast the psalmist was making. The people made their gods; but the one true God made the heavens (i.e., the Universe). The genuineness, reality, and greatness of God are placed in contrast to the people’s fake, nonexistent gods who could not make anything. Archer concluded: “This passage alone…demonstrates conclusively that the mention of ‘gods’ in the plural implied no admission of the actual existence of heathen gods in the first commandment” (1974, p. 236). As God Himself announced: “They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God” (Deuteronomy 32:21, emp. added).
The denunciation of the Israelites for conjuring up false gods—pretending that such actually existed, rather than devoting themselves exclusively to the one and only God—reached its zenith in the eloquent preaching pronouncements of the Old Testament prophets. Elijah treated the notion of the existence of gods in addition to the one God with sarcasm and forthright ridicule (1 Kings 18:27-29). The idea of multiple gods would have been laughable, if it were not so spiritually serious (cf. Psalm 115:2-8). The people on that occasion finally got the point, for they shouted: “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” (vs. 39).
Likewise, the reality of monotheism was pure, well defined, and single minded for Jeremiah. He frequently chastised the people by accusing them of following gods that were, in fact, “not gods” (2:11; 5:7; 16:20). Isaiah was equally adamant and explicit:
You are My witnesses, says the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; therefore you are My witnesses, says the Lord, that I am God. Indeed, before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it? (43:10-13, emp. added; cf. 37: 19; 40:18-20; 41; 44:8-24).Over and over, Isaiah recorded the exclusivity of the one true God: “I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me” (45:5, emp. added); “There is no other God” (45:14, emp. added); “I am the Lord, and there is no other” (45:18, emp. added).
The New Testament continues the same recognition of the nonexistence of deities beyond the one God Who exists in three persons. Paul reminded the Galatian Christians of their pre-Christian foolish belief in other deities: “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods” (4:8, emp. added). By definition, the “gods” that people claim actually exist are not gods! In his lengthy discussion of whether Christians were permitted to eat foods that had been sacrificed to pagan deities, Paul clarified succinctly the Bible position on the existence of so-called gods:
Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is only one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live (1 Corinthians 8:4-6, emp. added).In this passage, Paul declared very forthrightly that idols, and the gods they represent, are, in fact, nonentities. The RSV renders the meaning even more clearly: “We know that an idol has no real existence, and that there is no God but one” (emp. added).
Of course, Paul recognized and acknowledged that humans have worshipped imaginary, nonexistent gods in heaven (like Greek mythology advocated) and on Earth (in the form of idols). He used the figure of speech known as “metonymy of the adjunct,” where “things are spoken of according to appearance, opinions formed respecting them, or the claims made for them” (Bullinger, 1898, p. 597; Dungan, 1888, p. 295; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4). He spoke of “gods” as if they existed, simply because many people of his day had that opinion. But Paul knew “there is no God but one.” As Allen observed: “The gods (i.e., the so-called divine beings contemplated by the pagans) represented by the images did not exist. …[T]hey were nothing as far as representing the deities envisioned by the heathen” (1975, p. 98, emp. added; cf. Kelcy, 1967, p. 38; Thomas, 1984, p. 30).
Paul continued his discussion of idols two chapters later, and again affirmed the nonexistence of any deities besides God: “What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?” (1 Corinthians 10:19). For Paul, it was technically permissible for a Christian to eat food that had previously been used in a pagan ceremony as an offering to a “god.” Why? Because such “gods” did not, and do not, actually exist—except in the mind of the worshipper (cf. 8:7-8)! Thus, the food used in such ceremonies was unaffected. However, the person who really thinks there are “gods,” and who then worships these imaginary “gods,” is, in actuality, worshipping demons (10:20)! Paul said there are only two possibilities: “But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons” (10:20-21). Paul envisioned no class of beings known as “gods.” There is only the one true God, and then there are the demons and forces of Satan (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:15-16). This bifurcation of the spiritual realm (i.e., God versus Satan and his forces) is the consistent portrait presented throughout the Bible. The Bible simply admits no knowledge or possibility of “gods.”
YE ARE GODSA final passage that is alleged to support the notion of “gods” is the statement made by Jesus when the Jews wanted to stone Him because He claimed divinity for Himself:
The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”?’ If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came…do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”? (John 10:33-36).Mormons allege that Jesus here endorsed the notion that men can become “gods.” But, of course, Jesus did no such thing. On this occasion, He appealed to an Old Testament context to deflect the barb of His critics. Psalm 82 is a passage that issued a scathing indictment of the unjust judges who had been assigned the responsibility of executing God’s justice among the people (cf. Deuteronomy 1:16; 19:17-18; Psalm 58). Such a magistrate was “God’s minister” (Romans 13:4) who acted in the place of God, wielding His authority, and who was responsible for mediating God’s help and justice (cf. Exodus 7:1). In this sense, they were “gods” (elohim)—acting as God to men (Barclay, 1956, 2:89). Hebrew parallelism clarifies this sense: “I said, ‘You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High’” (Psalm 82:6, emp. added). They did not share divinity with God—but merely delegated jurisdiction. They still were mere humans—although invested with divine authority, and permitted to act in God’s behalf.
This point is apparent throughout the Torah, where the term translated “judges” or “ruler” is often elohim (e.g., Exodus 21:6; 22:9,28). Take Moses as an example. Moses was not a “god.” Yet God told Moses that when he went to Egypt to achieve the release of the Israelites, he would be “God” to his brother Aaron and to Pharaoh (Exodus 4:16; 7:1). He meant that Moses would supply both his brother and Pharaoh with the words that came from God. Though admittedly a rather rare use of elohim, nevertheless “it shows that the word translated ‘god’ in that place might be applied to man” (Barnes, 1949, p. 294, emp. in orig.). Clarke summarized this point: “Ye are my representatives, and are clothed with my power and authority to dispense judgment and justice, therefore all of them are said to be children of the Most High” (3:479, emp. in orig.). But because they had shirked their awesome responsibility to represent God’s will fairly and accurately, and because they had betrayed the sacred trust bestowed upon them by God Himself, He decreed death upon them (vs. 7). Obviously, they were not “gods,” since God could and would execute them!
Jesus marshaled this Old Testament psalm to thwart His opponents’ attack, while simultaneously reaffirming His deity (which is the central feature of the book of John—20:30-31). He made shrewd use of syllogistic argumentation by reasoning a minori ad majus (see Lenski, 1943, pp. 765-770; cf. Fishbane, 1985, p. 420). “Jesus is here arguing like a rabbi from a lesser position to a greater position, a ‘how much more’ argument very popular among the rabbis” (Pack, 1975, 1:178). In fact, “it is an argument which to a Jewish Rabbi would have been entirely convincing. It was just the kind of argument, an argument founded on a word of scripture, which the Rabbis loved to use and found most unanswerable” (Barclay, 1956, p. 90).
Jesus identified the unjust judges of Israel as persons “to whom the word of God came” (John 10:35). That is, they had been “appointed judges by Divine commission” (Butler, 1961, p. 127)—by “the command of God; his commission to them to do justice” (Barnes, 1949, p. 294, emp. in orig.; cf. Jeremiah 1:2; Ezekiel 1:3; Luke 3:2). McGarvey summarized the ensuing argument of Jesus: “If it was not blasphemy to call those gods who so remotely represented the Deity, how much less did Christ blaspheme in taking unto himself a title to which he had a better right than they, even in the subordinate sense of being a mere messenger” (n.d., p. 487). Charles Erdman observed:
By his defense Jesus does not renounce his claim to deity; but he argues that if the judges, who represented Jehovah in their appointed office, could be called “gods,” in the Hebrew scriptures, it could not be blasphemy for him, who was the final and complete revelation of God, to call himself “the Son of God (1922, pp. 95-96; cf. Morris, 1971, pp. 527-528).This verse teaches the exact opposite of what Mormons would like for it to teach! It brings into stark contrast the deity—the Godhood—of Christ (and His Father Who “sanctified and sent” Him—vs. 36) with the absence of deity for all others! There are no other “gods” in the sense of deity, i.e., eternality and infinitude in all attributes. Jesus verified this very conclusion by directing the attention of His accusers to the “works” that He performed (vs. 37-38). These “works” (i.e., miraculous signs) proved the divine identity of Jesus to the exclusion of all other alleged deities. Archer concluded: “By no means, then, does our Lord imply here that we are sons of God just as He is—except for a lower level of holiness and virtue. No misunderstanding could be more wrongheaded than that” (1982, p. 374). Indeed, the Mormon notion of a plurality of gods is “wrongheaded,” as is the accompanying claim that humans can become gods.
CONCLUSIONIt is unthinkable that the consistent prohibition of polytheism and idolatry throughout the Bible would or could give way to the completely contrary notion that, as a matter of fact, many gods do exist, and that these gods are merely exalted humans who now rule over their own worlds even as God and Christ rule over theirs. It is likewise outlandish—and contradictory—that humans would be required to worship God and Christ—while being banned from worshipping these other gods. The fact of the matter is that “historic Hebrew is unquestionably and uniformly monotheistic” (Mack, 1939, 2:1265). The same may be said of historic Christianity. To think otherwise is pure pagan hocus-pocus—“a mere creation of the imagination, a mere matter of superstition” (Erdman, 1928, p. 78, emp. added).
REFERENCESAllen, Jimmy (1975), Survey of 1 Corinthians (Searcy, AR: Privately published by author).
Archer, Gleason L. (1974), A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody), revised edition.
Archer, Gleason L. (1982), An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Barclay, William (1956), The Gospel of John (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press), second edition.
Barnes, Albert (1949 reprint), Notes on the New Testament: Luke and John (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Bickersteth, Edward (no date), The Trinity (MacDill AFB, FL: MacDonald Publishing).
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1967/77), (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung).
Boles, H. Leo (1942), The Holy Spirit: His Personality, Nature, Works (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate, 1971 reprint).
Book of Mormon (1981 reprint), (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Butler, Paul (1961), The Gospel of John (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Chadwick, Henry (1967), The Early Church (New York: Penguin Books).
Clarke, Adam (no date), Clarke’s Commentary: Genesis-Deuteronomy (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury).
Dungan, D.R. (1888), Hermeneutics (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).
Erdman, Charles (1922), The Gospel of John (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).
Erdman, Charles (1928), The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).
Fishbane, Michael (1985), Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Fretheim, Terence (1997), “elohim,” The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. Willem VanGemeren (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Gesenius, William (1847), Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 1979 reprint.
Grudem, Wayne (1994), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Jenni, Ernst and Claus Westermann (1997), Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson).
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1976 reprint), Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Kelcy, Raymond C. (1967), First Corinthians (Austin, TX: Sweet).
Lanier, Roy H., Sr. (1974), The Timeless Trinity for the Ceaseless Centuries (Denver, CO: Roy H. Lanier, Sr.).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1943), The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Leupold, Herbert C. (1942), Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1950 reprint).
Mack, Edward (1939), “Names of God,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974 reprint).
McConkie, Bruce (1979), Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft).
McGarvey, J.W. (n.d.), The Fourfold Gospel (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Is the Book of Mormon From God?” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2243
Morris, Leon (1971), The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Pack, Frank (1975), The Gospel According to John (Austin, TX: Sweet).
Pearl of Great Price (1981 reprint), (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Reeve, J.J. (1939), “Gods,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 1974 reprint.
Ringgren, Helmer (1974), “elohim,” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Schaff, Philip (1910), History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979 reprint).
Tanner, Jerald and Sandra (1972), Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? (Salt Lake City, UT: Modern Microfilm).
Thayer, Joseph H. (1901), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977 reprint).
“The Testimony of Three Witnesses” (1981 reprint), Introduction to the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Thomas, J.D. (1984), The Message of the New Testament: First Corinthians (Abilene, TX: Biblical Research Press).
Vine, W.E. (1966 reprint), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).
Walker, Williston (1970), A History of the Christian Church (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons).
Warfield, Benjamin (1939a), “Trinity,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974 reprint).
Warfield, Benjamin (1939b), “Godhead,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974 reprint).
Weingreen, J. (1959), A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew (Oxford: Oxford University Press), second edition.
Can a Person Live in Adultery?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Confusion exists in the mind of some concerning the status of those who commit the sin of adultery. It is generally recognized that a couple becomes guilty of adultery when they form a sexual relationship in violation of Christ’s teaching in Matthew 19:9. But what is a church to do when one or both of those marriage partners present themselves for church membership, expressing their regret for their sin, but their intention to continue their relationship? Some argue that the couple can be forgiven, if they say they are sorry, on the grounds that people cannot live in adultery. They were guilty of committing adultery when they first came together, but they cannot be guilty of living (in an ongoing state) in adultery, and so may continue their marriage without being guilty of further sin.
Meanwhile, the church tends to shy away from dealing with the matter, permitting the couple fellowship but, amid vague feelings of uncertainty, keeping them at arm’s length. In the midst of this inconsistency, the church unwittingly brings itself under the same indictment leveled at the churches in Pergamum (Revelation 2:14) and Thyatira (Revelation 2:20-22) for their unholy “tolerance.” We must permit God’s words to give us guidance rather than be influenced by our human inclinations, sympathies, or emotions. God’s Word speaks very clearly to this matter.
It is true that sin may be viewed as the practice of isolated acts that are contrary to God’s will. But it does not follow that individuals cannot live in sin. A “liar” is one who is involved in separate acts of lying. What makes him a liar, and therefore guilty of living a life of lying, is his refusal to cease telling lies. A person is a “murderer” if he has killed one or more persons and continues to entertain the possibility of repeating such behavior. A person is an “adulterer” because he has formed a sexual relationship which violates God’s law and refuses to cease that illicit relationship. Simply saying he is sorry for the existence of this adulterous union will not and cannot alter what, in God’s sight, is “not lawful” (Matthew 14:4). As long as that marriage is continued, the parties involved are adulterers (Romans 7:3). Only by terminating that relationship can the parties involved put an end to their adultery. Otherwise, they “continue to commit adultery” (Matthew 19:9—the present tense continuous action), “live in fornication” (Colossians 3:5-7), and “live in [sin]” (Romans 6:2). When Paul reminded Christians at Corinth of their conversion day, he noted that some had previously been fornicators, adulterers, and homosexuals (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Who could possibly doubt the fact that their salvation would have been impossible unless these sexual unions were terminated? Indeed, how could they “that are dead to sin, live any longer therein” (Romans 6:2)?
Boy Came Back from Heaven?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
It was 2004 when 6-year-old Alex Malarkey was plunged into a coma by injuries sustained in a car accident. After waking two months later, he claimed he had seen angels who took him to heaven to meet Jesus. Six years later, Tyndale published a book by the boy, co-authored with his father, titled The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, which became an instant bestseller, even spawning a documentary DVD. Now, at the age of 16, Alex has retracted his claims and, thankfully, is urging people to return to the Bible for the only reliable source for information on the afterlife (Zylstra, 2015).
Manmade religion typically relies heavily on subjective experience that the perpetrators expect people to accept based solely on personal “testimony.” However, such an approach to arriving at truth is in stark contrast with Bible teaching. God has always insisted that humans must weigh the evidence and draw only those conclusions warranted by that evidence (Miller, 2011). When God revealed new information, He never expected anyone to merely accept the word of another—even a prophet from God—without confirmation by an undeniable miraculous sign that demonstrates divine authenticity (John 10:37; see Miller, 2003a).
What’s more, the Bible speaks definitively concerning the afterlife. Since the Bible can be shown to be the inspired, infallible Word of God (Butt, 2007), it can be relied on to provide accurate information regarding life after death. It does not answer all our questions, but it gives sufficient information by which one can know with certainty the general parameters of life beyond the grave. The Bible teaches that for all individuals who died in Bible history, in every case, a miracle was necessary to restore the separated spirit of the individual to the body. This return of a person’s spirit constituted a resurrection. But miracles served a very specific purpose in Bible times—a purpose no longer needed (Miller, 2003a). Since God has chosen not to work miracles today (1 Corinthians 13:8-11; Ephesians 4:8-13), and no resurrections will occur until the general resurrection (John 5:25-29; Luke 14:14; 1 Corinthians 15:12ff.), there is no such thing as an “out-of-body experience” (for more discussion, read Miller, 2013).
Further, the Bible lays out a fairly complete treatment of afterlife (see Miller, 2003b). Briefly, God gives people this life on Earth to prepare their spirits for their eternal abode. When a person dies, his or her body goes into the grave, while the conscious spirit enters the hadean realm to await the final Judgment. At the Second Coming of Christ, all spirits will come forth from hades and be resurrected in immortal bodies. All will then face God in judgment, receive the pronouncement of eternal sentence, and then be consigned to heaven or hell for eternity (read Luke 16:19-31; cf. Miller, 2003b).
As usual, people could spare themselves a lot of hype and sensationalism that ends in embarrassment, disillusion, and resentment if they would simply consult the sure Word of God and order their thinking and life according to its precepts.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13).
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so (Acts 17:11, emp. added).
REFERENCESButt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Miller, Dave (2003a), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation--EXTENDED VERSION,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1399.
Miller, Dave (2003b), “One Second After Death,” Apologetics Press, https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1188&topic=74.
Miller, Dave (2011), “Is Christianity Logical? Parts 1&2,” Reason & Revelation, 31:50-52,56-59; 31:62-64,68-71, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=977.
Miller, Dave (2013), “What About ‘Out-of-Body Experiences’?” Apologetics Press, https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=4694&topic=74.
Zylstra, Sarah Eekhoff (2015), “The ‘Boy Who Came Back from Heaven’ Retracts Story,” Christianity Today, January 15, http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/january/boy-who-came-back-from-heaven-retraction.html?paging=off.
Why I am not a Calvinist
- Sovereignty of God
- Total Inherited Depravity of Man
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement
- Irresistible Grace
- Perseverance of the Saints
More Refuting Calvinism
IntroductionAlthough Calvinism is a highly logical and interconnected system of theology, to the outsider it is a complicated and confusing arrangement of ideas. While studying this topic point-by-point, it is easy for us to lose sight of the "big picture" and forget that Calvinism is a subject that demands a conclusion and decision upon our part. For different people, different points may seem more or less convincing. For this reason and to finalize what we have elsewhere discussed, a unique, personal defense is here presented of the points that are most compelling to this author - the reasons why I am not a Calvinist. The purpose is not to summarize our discussion, but to conclude it.
God's Plea for ChangeTo me, the most convincing point that God has not predestined all events is His constant plea for man to change. If passages were taken out of context, then one would expect to find only one or two references to man's need to change. However, repentance is the underlying theme of all prophetic and gospel messages, which by definition implies man can change. These messages are not addressed to the Holy Spirit but to people, from whom action is demanded.
Whenever repentance is preached, the alternative is typically taught as well. The warnings of sure punishment upon the unrepentant is found throughout the Bible. In fact, Jesus used the phrase "hell fire" more than any other preacher in the Bible. Were these statements from a cruel God mocking those who could not change, or were these encouragement and warnings to the sinner?
Calvinism would have us believe that God did not really mean what He said. We are to believe that these pleas were only the "appearances" of invitation, persuasion, and free will; however, if these straight forward statements of fact were mere "appearances", how can we distinguish the "appearance of truth" from the real truth? Why should we not accept what is written, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:15-16)?
Recall Jesus' statement to the apostle Paul, before his conversion:
"Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' And he said, 'Who are You, Lord?' Then the Lord said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'" Acts 9:4-5Goads are sharp-pointed sticks that are used to prod cattle in the right direction as they plow a field. Cattle can and do kick against these prods, but they only hurt themselves. God does try to direct our lives so that we will be encouraged to seek Him (Acts 17:25-27), but we can kick against the goads (Romans 2:4-5). Paul had been avoiding the truth that was confronting him. Although it was difficult, he was kicking against the goads, and his conscience must have felt it. The question for us to consider is, "Are we kicking against the goads?".
Calvin's Unjust GodCalvin explained that God's absolute extension and exercise of His authority was the answer to all questions regarding our nature and need for salvation. He nobly sought to answer questions regarding why God saved man, why man needed saving, and why only some were saved. Regardless of its noble intentions, Calvinism seems to have necessarily indicted God with characteristics that He would condemn, even in His creation.
Calvinism teaches that God unfairly condemned the human race for sins that He prearranged and predetermined. Can God fairly condemn man for sins that He made Him do? Calvinism blames God for man's mistakes. It teaches that the guilt for the original sin was unfairly passed down through all generations, condemning children for sins they did not commit. This is also unfair. How can we use the words "equity", "fair", "right", and "just" to describe God's judgment according to Calvin? Compare Calvin's vision of God's judgment with the Bible's description:
"For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, And the peoples with equity." Psalm 98:9The Lord despises injustice and unfairness. How can He arbitrarily choose who will go to heaven or hell regardless of their actions? Punishment becomes cruelty if it is inflicted independent of a person's actions.
"Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter. So truth fails, And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him That there was no justice." Isaiah 59:14-15
Calvin's Egotistical GodAlthough these words may seem shocking, please consider the following implication. Not only does Calvinism make God to be an arbitrary Savior, but it necessarily implies that God was motivated by glory rather than love. According to Calvin, God never sought man's best interest, else He would have extended salvation to the entire race. Instead, He arbitrarily selected some, condemning others. Why did God do this? According to Calvinism, it was performed for God's glory.
"God's decrees are the wise, free and holy acts of the counsel of His will, whereby, from all eternity, He hath for His own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men" The Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 12, p. 97Nowhere in the Bible are we encouraged to perform good deeds for our glory. In fact the Bible condemns the hypocritical Pharisees for just such behavior (Matthew 6:1-5). Calvinism exalts a God, who condemned man for performing just as he was built to do and then selectively saving some to make Himself look good. This is contrary to all that is in the Bible regarding God and His goals for man. Calvinism bears the marks of all man-made religions. Like Greek mythology, it's gods are imperfect and marred, living up only to the standards of its creators and believers.
The Bible teaches of a God who created man and gave him laws, which were always for man's good (Deuteronomy 6:24). When man sinned, alienating himself from a perfect, holy, and just God, he was given another chance by the God of the Bible - not for God's glory, but because God loved man and sought his best interest (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). This God calls us to become like him (I John 3:3; II Peter 1:4), learning to similarly love others before they love us (I John 4:10-11). God only manifested His glory and power so that man would learn and repent, not to destroy him and build up God's glory.
If Calvinism be true, then no good can come from the glory won by God for unjustly sending men to eternal hell. How could we truly appreciate His power, if He made us appreciate it? How can one truly glorify God, if He has no free will? How can any offering of love or respect be valuable, if it was not freely given? How can love exist without choice? If this was how Calvin's god sought glory, then he failed.
An Army of VolunteersWhy would God entreat man to repent? He could easily force men to repent, which Calvin taught regarding the elect and their salvation. Why would God ask man to change and love Him? The answer is quite simple. Would you prefer a spouse who is forced to love you, bow before you, and serve you as a slave, or would you prefer a partner who chooses to love you and care for you? Just as most people desire, God similarly seeks a people that seek Him:
"Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth" Psalm 110:3He does not want to force people to do good, but He wants them to choose to do good. Because of our frail condition and subjection to vanity, this desired maturity takes some time to develop, but God never wants good deeds to be forced. The apostle Paul once had an opportunity to "force" a good deed from a fellow Christian. Although he never could truly force a good deed, notice the care Paul took that the right choice would be made voluntarily by Philemon:
"I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary ." Philemon 1:12-14What reason could Paul possibly have for not compelling Philemon? If Calvinism be true, and if God forces the elect to do good, then why would Paul care that this good deed be done voluntarily? Moreover, how can any deed even be done voluntarily, if there is no free will?
SummaryTwo central problems exist with the doctrines of Calvinism. They indite God's character by accusing Him of mass injustice and selfish egotism. These implications are unavoidable and necessarily implied by the beliefs that God arbitrarily judges mankind based on God's predestination and for His own glory.
These beliefs and their derivatives are impossible for me to accept. Why? Not because I personally find them offensive or distasteful, but because God condemns such behavior from his creation. Would Calvinism teach that the creation is more responsible and capable than its Creator? Not without contradicting its fundamental premise of God's absolute sovereignty.
To a Calvinist, life may seem fearful without the unchangeable favor of God, consequently, it is anticipated that many questions would naturally arise in a reader's mind. A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page is offered as a chance to consider miscellaneous thoughts and responses to common questions. Links are also provided that would allow you to e-mail suggestions for comments or questions.
In closing, consider Ezekiel's inspired description of God's judgment. Remember, God has no desire that you be lost. He is on your side, if you want to be on His (Romans 8:23).
20 "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.Go back to the Introduction to Calvinism
21 " But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live.
23 "Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?
24 " But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die.
25 " Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair?
26 "When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies.
27 "Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.
29 "Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways," says the Lord GOD. "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?
32 "For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord GOD. "Therefore turn and live!" Ezekiel 18:20-32
After Jesus came into the world He set a standard that was unheard of to the people of His day. They had a religion, they thought it was biblical. It was at least sophisticated and certainly complex, but it was substandard. In a previous lesson I talked about how Jesus raised the bar, or the standard on how they should conduct themselves; that the Christian’s standard of righteousness should even surpass that of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.
In the Sermon on the Mt. He unveiled the problem with their religion. He tells these so called religious men that basically what they are doing is not much more than a show. He calls them hypocrites and the original Greek word there means, ‘An actor on a stage.’ So He was telling them that ‘You’re nothing but actors on a stage doing what you do for the applause of the people who watch.’ Their religion was a farce.
And here in Matthew chapter 6 Jesus picks out three elements of their religion to attack. #1 is their giving, #2 is how they prayed, and #3 is how they fasted. So this week and the next 2 weeks to follow we are going to look at these three topics in more detail.
Jesus get right down to teaching us our religious responsibility in letting us know that whatever we do in regard to worship, it should be coming from a pure heart not hypocrisy. He tells these men that their giving, their praying, and their fasting is nothing more than a show. And that is not Pleasing to the Lord.
In dealing with these elements, Jesus tell His disciples in chapter. 6, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. (Then He tells His disciples how) But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
In other words, He says, now when it comes to how those Pharisees give, it’s hypocritical, but it ought not to be so. So He tells them what the problem is and then He offers them the solution.
Now when a preacher gets into the area of giving sometimes he open up a can of worms. It seems like we are getting bombardment from people asking for our money from so called “Christian causes:” from numerous requests on the radio, tv and even in our mail boxes.
But in the Bible I only read about only two kinds of giving, basically, two areas or things that they gave to. #1 was their systematic, structured, regular giving to the church. We know the Bible teaches that. In 1 Corinthians 16 it tells us that on the first day of the week we are to lay by and store as God has prospered us. We also see there that those early Christians lay by in store and gave a contribution to the church.
So the teaching there was that believing people gave weekly, every week, not just now and then but every week; a predetermined amount which they set aside to give to their church. I believe in doing so, we learn the importance lesson in stewardship of money. I believe that’s why God wants us to do it every week, so that every week we take stock of what we have as it relates to our funds and learn to be good stewards. It is a discipline.
So when it says in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 “On the first day of the week lay by and store.” That is a systematic, structured giving as you purpose in your heart. But then there’s a second kind of giving we see in the Biblical text. That is giving to the poor and needy. This giving is an unstructured, unspecified, and spontaneous. It is over and above giving to the church. Throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, we read about that kind of giving when a needy person crosses our path and we are encouraged to reach out and help that individual. (eg. Story of the Good Samaritan) Beyond giving to the church and those in need, the Bible is silent.
All too often we don’t like to hear sermons on giving. I believe it is an unpopular subject because #1 it has been abused, and #2, I believe people don’t understand the blessing of giving that Bible speaks about.
To begin with, you have to begin with this premise; that God doesn’t really need your money. He can get along fine without it. In fact, God got along quite well throughout all eternity before He ever made you me and our money. I think some people forget that God ran the whole universe before there were any people in it, and it didn’t cost Him a penny.
So 1st of all we need to remember that we are not doing Him a big favor by giving Him a big check. God is not at the mercy of us and how much we give.
BUT the thing you and I must realize is that we need to give it. And why do we need to give? Because in giving we find one of those Christian paradoxes I talked about last week. Like, how we really live by dying, or we become free by becoming a slave, or how we are the strongest when we are weak. Well in this case the Bible teaches us over and over again that you receive a blessing when you give.
God tell us in scripture to give so that He may give you back even more. It is a blessing promised by God that most of us forget or don’t even know about. Most people don’t realize that there’s a cycle of blessedness that takes place when we give.
I’d like to illustrate this from Scriptures. In Proverbs 11:24-25 it says, 24” One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. 25 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
See the principle here? It’s like this If a farmer too cheap to buy few bags of seed to sows in the ground he not going to have tons crops to harvest in the fall. You see there is a cycle that needs to take place. You buy the seed, you sow it, and God produces the increase, multiplying the seed, producing a crop. If you sell it you get more money back than you paid for the original of bags of seed you bought to plant. If you feed it to your cows that’s all the less you have to purchase, again money that’s in your pocket. With that money you buy more seed the following year. You plant it, and you harvest tons of crops again and around and around and around you go. The whole thing depends upon your faithfulness to fork out some cash to buy the seed in the first place and sow it.
Do you realize a farmer takes everything he has and throws it in the dirt and operates on faith that God will give him a big return. God gives him that return and the cycle begins. That’s the illustration. “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. “ In other words, as you give, God blesses. And when God blesses, you, out of His blessing, you give again.
But if you step out of that circle, that cycle of blessing and don’t give, you don’t get a return. There’s no investment for God to bless and multiply. There’s no return, and that just keeps lending to more poverty. Pretty soon you’re out of resources. Isn’t that what Solomon said there in this Proverbs. He said, “another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. “
And mind you, the principle about giving is not just about monetary things. The principle of giving is broader than just giving money. We can give our time, talents and acts of love which God will in turn bless and multiply. I believe it is important to give because it puts us in a circle of blessing which demonstrates our faith and reveals God’s willingness to bless us.
You give. God blesses. Out of His blessing you give again. There’s only one way to live as believing people. God says, and that’s to give, because you put yourself in the flow of His blessing.
Now the New Testament says a lot about some basic principles to consider as we give. I want to share some of them with you before I move to our text. Let me give you just eight simple principles to remember as you give. Eight simple principles that’ll help you to give in a non-hypocritical way.
#1 Giving is investing with God. That’s what I’ve been saying so far here. It puts you in the cycle of blessing.
In 2 Corinthians 9:6 says “If you sow sparingly, you reap sparingly. If you sow bountifully, you reap bountifully.” God does not need your money, but you need to invest with Him to get into the flow of His blessedness. Of course that’s not the only reason one should give, it’s not just about our greed and getting ahead with God’s help, but rather it’s investing in what is important to God, glorifying Him and hopefully expanding His kingdom.
2ndly We need to remember that giving should be sacrificial. David said, “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” You think or say, “God here, I don’t need this, this is what I have left over, you can have it.” That isn’t an act of love. This is the problem we read about in the book of Malachi. I believe God is please when we give something to Him which is important and valuable to us. Then it is a sacrifice pleasing unto the Lord.
I think of Mark 12 where Jesus sat and watched the Jews as they gave at the Temple. And then along came a poor little widow. All she only had was two mites, hardly worth anything. And yet the Lord said she gave more than everybody else when she gave them. Why? Because that’s all she had. It was the essence of her sacrifice that made her offering significant.
There’s a 3rd principle. Giving is never related to how much you have. People say “If I had more, I’d give more.” In Luke 16:10 it says “He that is faithful in little will be faithful in much. And He that is unjust and little will be unjust in much.” Giving is not a matter of how much have, it’s a matter of where your heart is and where your commitment is. You can have a lot and be stingy or have just a little and be just as stingy, or you can have a generous heart whether you have a lot or just a little.
#4 How many spiritual blessing we have will be in direct proportion to our attitude about giving and how generous we are. In other words, if you’re not faithful in what you do with what you have, God’s is not about to give you the true riches. In Luke 16:11-12 it says “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”
What are true riches? Spiritual things, Things of God; people, their souls ministry, and God is not about to give a strategic ministry to somebody who can’t handle money or other thing He has given them. There are many men who never made it through Bible school or seminary, some have even left ministry because they were poor stewards and the Lord didn’t want them in a position over His flock. So depending how you handle what God has given you including your money, God may withhold some true spiritual responsibilities from you if you are not wise. So learn to be a good steward of what you already have now.
5th, What you give is up to you. In 2 Cor. 9:7 it says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver..” Whatever you purpose in or decide in your heart to give, that’s between you and God. We read in Corinthians that the Macedonians gave abundantly out of their deep poverty. The Philippians gave because they chose to give out of a heart of love. There is no NT law on how much we should give. It is a freedom we have in Christ. It’s your personal decision..
6th, We should give in response to particular needs. So then we should be sensitive to and listen to needs that come our way. In Acts 4 and Acts 5, the early church shared its resources because there were people who had a need. Paul went all through Asia Minor collecting money from the Gentile churches to give to the saints of Jerusalem because there was a need due to famine.
#7 Giving demonstrates our love, not law. As I already mentioned, there is no New Testament law commanding us to give a fixed sum. We’re not giving to please some legal system. Our giving should be an act of love and devotion to God and His children. That’s why it’s to be given cheerfully, not grudgingly . It’s not a law. It should be an act of love; a gift of love.
And I might sum this all up with number eight by saying that our giving should be generous, that’s right generous. And I believe how generous we are will be determined by all of these other factors.
It will come down to (How much do you want to invest with God?)
& (How much you willing to sacrifice for Him who sacrificed all for you?)
& (How much spiritual riches do you really want to be worthy of?)
& (How many needs do you really want to meet?)
& (How much love are you willing to demonstrate?)
So the point is God is not saying give because He needs your money. He’s saying give because it’s a spiritual exercise that blesses your life. Now these principles cover our giving to the church and our giving to the needy, but let’s go to the giving to the needy because that’s the text we’re studying.
The Old Testament made it abundantly clear that the people of God were to give to the poor. In fact, in Leviticus 25:35 it tells people to give to the poor whether they’re a travelers or somebody who belongs in the land. In Deut. 15, it says if you come across a poor person, make sure you meet his needs.
You can read it in Psalm 41:1, Proverbs 19, Proverbs 21, Proverbs 29, again and again. It says when you give to the poor, you give to the Lord. Why? Because this kind of giving put us into the cycle of blessing.
Such giving is investing with God, because this kind of giving is directed to His children who cross our path who are in deep need. And so the Lord teaches on this matter of giving, because obviously the scribes and the Pharisees and the people following them were not giving with these principles in mind. They weren’t giving self-lessly or out of a pure heart. They were giving to put on a show.
That’s why in the Sermon on the Mt. Jesus addresses that attitude. He said, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
So what is He saying? – Give, but don’t do it to toot your own horn. Don’t do it to show off in front of others to get their praise. If you do that then Jesus tells us that’s the only reward you’ll ever get.
Rather He said, ‘do it in secret,’ in such a way that the person you are helping won’t be embarrassed or humiliated. Do it in such a way other won’t see what you did and pat you on the back. Rather, do it out of love, and then Father God who sees what you have done in secret, will reward and bless you so that you will even be able to help others.
I think this teaching is pretty simple and to the point.
As we study the Sermon on the Mt., more than anything Jesus wants us to know that God is concerned about our heart, and the attitudes we have when we do things in His name. And He lets us know right up front that there is no room for phony showoffs in His kingdom. Rather He wants His disciples to be humble, and motivated by love…So much so that we are will to make sacrifice in His name. Then He in turn will bless you by multiplying your blessings.
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