Matt Postiff's Blog
On Wednesday evenings, we just finished studying a series on faith.
We saw unbelief, little faith, imperfect faith, great faith, repentant faith, and self-confident faith.
We learned some ways to remedy imperfect faith, such as thanking God that He has given us the gift of faith in the first place, even if it is not fully formed in us as it should be. We saw that we can seek God's help. We can cultivate a self-examining faith. We can also follow Biblical examples during our trials and obey Biblical commands that have to do with improving our faith.
We also reminded ourselves that no matter how imperfect our faith may be, regardless of our performance or strength of faith, the object of our faith—God—is perfect and great beyond description. Thanks be to God!
Finally, we looked at the case of Mary and Martha regarding the death of their brother Lazarus, recorded in John 11. They said, "If you had been with us, our brother would not have died." And, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Sometimes we have great faith in the abstract. "If" in the past or "sometime in the future." But what about right now in the present? Do you have faith in the Lord? If someone gets sick, we believe in the abstract the Lord can heal them or give them grace to persevere and die well. But what about when "I" am sick "right now"? Do we trust God then? Let us ask God to grant faith in Him that grows strong and does not falter.
For more, view the full set of notes.
One of those things that's been in the back of my mind for a while to do is to write a Bible reading schedule that takes you chronologically through the book of Acts and epistles of Paul. I added in James just for fun, and produced a 4-month, one-chapter-per-day reading schedule. Try it out sometime and let me know what you think.
Here's today's question:
The Bible promises that there will be no more tears in heaven (Rev. 21:4). But will believers be sad in heaven if our loves ones are not there? It seems that we will know who is there and who is not there when we arrive, and if someone is not there (beloved grandmother, wayward child, etc.) then we might be sad about that.
Here is a similar question:
If we make it to the rapture, will we mourn for friends and family that didn't "make it"? I know we will be in awe of Christ, but will we think about those that were not saved? Will we feel guilty that we didn't do more to evangelize them?
In answer to these questions, let us resolve to believe God that the Scripture’s promise is true about there being no sorrow in heaven. Even so, I believe we will know the fact that someone is not with us. However:
- We will have an understanding of God's holiness and wisdom such that we will not be troubled by the fact that a particular person is not there. In other words, we will understand that God, the judge of all the earth, decided and did the right thing in each individual’s case.
- We will understand truly that the wages of sin is eternal death for those who are not in Christ. In other words, those who rejected Christ are deserving of death, and we will "get" that fact so much that we will embrace it even in the case of ones we thought were close to us.
- Earthly bonds will seem as nothing in heaven. When we realize that our family is a spiritual family, and that even dear old Aunt Gertrude who was not saved is not as close to us as our spiritual brother from half-way across the globe who lived 500 years before us, then we will not worry about Aunt Gertrude.
- We will further understand that unbelievers willingly rejected the revelation of God that they had. Therefore they exhibited that they did not want to have a relationship with God at all, much less for eternity. This rejection of all good is certainly not in their ultimate and eternal self-interest, but once the decision is finalized, it is final.
- We will have a level of satisfaction and joy in the fact that God has banished all sin and vindicated Himself after all the millennia of unbelief and wickedness and opposition to God. Those who are outsiders will be outside (Rev. 22:14-15), unable to enter and spoil God's perfect re-creation in which we can dwell in righteousness.
- The fact of a person not being in Heaven will fade into total unimportance when we experience who is there—namely Jesus Christ, God the Father (Rev. 21:3), the Holy Spirit, the angels, and all other believers of all ages!
- So much will be new and different in heaven; much of it is unknown at this point. However, one key thing will be different, and that is that we will be different. We will have a new body and a new mind unclouded by sin. We will be like Jesus (1 John 3:2, Rom. 8:29). Whatever Jesus' attitude is toward the lost, that will be our attitude as well. I don't believe He will be crying over them. And neither will we. That doesn't mean He has no compassion for them as if He were a cold and calculating criminal. But it is ever true that the soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4). Sin has consequences and those are eternally irreversible for those outside of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 26:74-75 records the end of Peter's triple denial of Jesus:
Then he began to curse and swear, saying, "I do not know the Man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." So he went out and wept bitterly."
In my reading this morning, I took note of the last phrase. It is easy to look down on Peter because of his early impetuousness and his denial of Christ, as if I am better than him. But I wonder if I have the spiritual sensitivity that Peter had. When I sin, do I really recognize it as such and "weep bitterly"? Or do I just say a quick "confessional" and go about the rest of my day without thinking too much about it?
I am not saying this to commend wallowing in guilt or inflicting spiritual depression on one's self for long periods of time. Rather, Peter's weeping is a reminder to me that I am a sinner just like Peter was. And the passage raises a question. Namely, do I really repent of sin because of how bad it is in the sight of the holy God? Or do I treat sin lightly?
It would be good for many of us to do a little more bitter weeping over our sin.
Divorce is sinful because it is against God's design for marriage (Mark 10:9). Furthermore, it (and all the events leading up to it) is harmful because it leads to all kinds of heartache for the spouses, devastation for the children, and often poverty. So: work hard to avoid it; make choices to avoid it; conduct yourself so as to avoid it.
For Christians divorce is wrong for another reason. It is wrong because divorce is basically implemented by one spouse suing the other spouse, placing both of them under a secular judge to divide their marriage, their children, and their material possessions.
Divorce amounts to "going to law before the unjust" (1 Cor. 6:1).
Have you ever wondered why young couples go to a church for counseling and marriage, but then they run to the secular judge to be divorced? Why don't they run to the church where they were married and ask the pastor to divorce them? "That's crazy," you reply, "because the pastor doesn't have the power to divorce them." And why is that? Why did he have the authority to marry them, but then can have nothing to do with their divorce? Why do we accept the status quo as if it is the most righteous thing there is? Couldn't there be another way?
Don't you know that the saints will judge the world? Don't you know that saints will judge angels? Isn't there anyone in the church wise enough to settle problems between believers, even spouses? Why do we ask to be judged by the unrighteous? Shameful! (See 1 Cor. 6:1-8).
Of course the couple doesn't want to go to the church and have to face up to their sin and repent of it, or be told they cannot legitimately divorce. They want what they want because of the hardness of their hearts (Mark 10:5).
I know, I know...there are some situations that are "difficult or exceptional." I just do not believe those adjectives allow us to ditch God's word.
If you have a problem in your marriage, your attorney should not be your first stop. Run to your God, and to your church!
Here's today's question:
In Psalm 8:5, I heard that the word "angels" in Hebrew is Elohim. This changes the meaning of the verse, to something about being made a little lower than God Himself. What does that mean?
It is true that the Psalmist uses elohim, the word often used for God. But there are four reasons in favor of taking this to refer to angels or, more generally, "heavenly beings." First, the Greek translation of the Old Testament (called the LXX or Septuagint) translates the word unambiguously as "angels."
Second, in the New Testament quotation of this passage in Hebrews 2:7, the author of Hebrews uses "angels," and the text is inspired by God so we know it is correct. There are no significant variants among the many known Greek manuscripts at this point in Hebrews 2:7.
Third, almost all good English translations use the word "angels" (ESV, KJV, NET, NIV, NKJ). The NAS and CSB are the only translations that use "God." In light of the clear parallel in Hebrews 2:7, such a translation is in error. It would be permissible, in my view, to translate the verse as "you have made him a little lower than the gods," but then a footnote would have to explain what "gods" means and that would cloud the meaning too much for the English reader.
Fourth, sometimes the word elohim is used to refer to beings other than God. For instance, Exodus 18:11, Isaiah 41:23, and 1 Kings 11:5 use the term to refer to idols, that is, false gods. In two other instances, the word elohim refers to human beings. In Exodus 21:6, most translations understand "elohim" to refer to the judges in the city or region. In Psalm 82:6, quoted by Jesus in John 10:34, Jesus says that if it is appropriate to call others as "gods" then it is certainly appropriate to call Himself the "Son of God." Here is the note at John 10:34 in the NET Bible on this point:
The psalm was understood in rabbinic circles as an attack on unjust judges who, though they have been given the title "gods" because of their quasi-divine function of exercising judgment, are just as mortal as other men. What is the argument here? ...This is evidently a case of arguing from the lesser to the greater, a common form of rabbinic argument. The reason the OT judges could be called gods is because they were vehicles of the word of God (cf. 10:35). But granting that premise, Jesus deserves much more than they to be called God. He is the Word incarnate, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world to save the world (10:36 ). In light of the prologue to the Gospel of John, it seems this interpretation would have been most natural for the author. If it is permissible to call men "gods" because they were the vehicles of the word of God, how much more permissible is it to use the word "God" of him who is the Word of God?
For these four reasons, it is legitimate to translate "elohim" as angels. Certainly the term "Elohim" most often refers to the true God (in about two thousand occurrences), but consideration has to be given for these rather clear exceptions to that general rule.
Finally, I would say that it is true enough that God made mankind lower than Himself. However, the text says more than that: it says, "you made him a little lower. Mankind is not just a little lower than God. He is much lower than God. So it makes more sense theologically to understand elohim as angels since mankind is closer to finite angels than to the infinite God.
In Matthew 22:29, Jesus rebuked the Sadducees with these words:
You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.
He was replying to their story about a woman who had seven husbands in her lifetime, and their question as to which of the seven would be her husband after the resurrection occurred. Since Matthew commented in verse 23 that the Sadducees reject the doctrine of resurrection, the reader knows that their question was not an honest one, but was meant as a trap or counter-example to show that the resurrection was an untenable doctrine. Behind their "presenting question" was their bald assertion: resurrection is impossible.
Jesus' reply rebuked them for not understanding two things: (1) the Scriptures and (2) the power of God. In the first place, they did not understand the Scriptures because the instruction about Levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:25) said nothing about what happens to the marriage as far as the eternal, post-resurrection state is concerned. They were adding to the text, and basically were claiming that marriage lasts beyond death, something which this passage and later revelation clarifies is not the case (e.g. Romans 7:2-3, 1 Corinthians 7:39). Jesus flat out states that there is a resurrection, and that marriage is not part of it.
In the second place, they did not understand the Scriptures because they missed an obvious passage of their Hebrew Bible that taught that God is (not was) the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Those three men are not simply dead and gone; rather they are in some sense living! There is a life after this life, and the present tense is proves it!Finally, in the third place, the Sadducees did not understand the power of God. God can indeed raise people from the dead. He has done so, and He will do so en masse in the future. He can raise dead people to life without any problem at all, just like He can create something out of nothing (Genesis 1:1) and He can create spiritual life in spiritually dead people (Ephesians 2:1). We know from other Scripture that resurrection entails rejoining the living and conscious spirit of a person from heaven to that person's resurrected material body. To doubt this is to doubt the very power of God, something no believer should ever do!
May we be people who know both the Scriptures and the power of God.
A quick thought for you, which occurred to me while reading the Lord's parables in Matthew 21 and 22. After the priests and elders questioned the origin of Jesus' authority in Matthew 21:23, Jesus pushed back at them with a question of His own. Then he proceeded to tell three parables in rapid succession: about the two sons, about the evil vineyard renters, and about the wedding feast. All three parables were directed at them because of their unbelief and rejection of the Messiah. I found the parallel between the vineyard and the kingdom very interesting, along with the fact that a severe judgment was going to befall the unbelievers.
But even with this warning of certain judgment, I find a note of mercy. For God is not obligated to tell us that judgment will soon befall us if we remain in unbelief. But He does tell us, and repeatedly so. The warnings and pronouncements of judgment, as "negative" as they seem to our soft modern ears, are actually full of mercy because if heeded, they push us away from future judgment toward God's salvation. I'm thankful for that.
What do you think about using this set of questions as a "spiritual conversation starter"?
- If you could describe your life in one word, what word would you choose?
- What three things do you most desire out of life?
- Do you foresee any obstacles that might prevent you from obtaining those three things?
- Describe God in a sentence or two.
- How might God affect your efforts to achieve the things you desire in life?
- In your opinion, who is Jesus Christ?
- If you knew that through Jesus Christ God desires to give you the best life possible, would you be interested in finding out more about Him?
I found these amongst the piles of papers I was cleaning out from the 2014 version of my office; evidently I had picked it up somewhere along the way, but I don't remember where.
Theologically, this list of questions is not very good. I don't have a problem with using something of this sort, but these particular questions need a lot of improvement.
In general, the questions place a heavy emphasis on the desires of the person being interviewed. The final question sounds Osteen-ish and is based on wrong theology. The way that a non-Christian hears "best life possible" is "best life right now." But those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), so there is no promise of a "best life now" for the new believer. True, in the long run the benefits of the Christian life are way better than the alternative, but that is not what the interviewee is thinking when asked this question.
There are many better surveys than this. One better one would simply be to cut to question 6, but change it to something like this: "What do you know about Jesus?" When they answer, inquire if you could tell them what the Bible says about Him, and see where the conversation goes.
The 2015 Bible reading schedules are available as PDF files (below) and soon will also be available on the front page of our site, in left menu bar under the Bible Guide.
Why should you regularly read the Bible? Because you are not supposed to live by bread alone, but by every word of God (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3).
A new Bible book outline is available on the Book of 2 Peter.
Peter's second letter reminds the readers about their Christian growth, warns them about false teachers that will come into their midst, and reminds again about coming judgment. The second chapter contains a lot of the same material in Jude, and I lean toward the view that understands Jude to have come after 2 Peter in this regard.
Besides providing an outline of the book, I expose in the aforementioned document some my process in arriving at the outline that I did. If you want to know how I arrived at the outline, this will be of some interest to you.
Recently I received this question:
I've been thinking about the verse in Psalm 66:18: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." I understand this to mean that if we are sinning that the Lord will not hear our prayers. It seems as though we (as humans) are sinning all of the time, whether we know it or not. Does this refer to sin we know about that we haven't confessed? If so, where does the forgiveness of our sins as born-again believers fit into this?
I sent back this reply:
Great question. That is a convicting verse, isn't it?
I have understood the verse to mean that if we we are trying to hide sin in our hearts, the Lord will not hear our prayers. In other words, it does not mean only "if we are sinning" but
- "if we are sinning and like it," or
- "if we are sinning and trying to hide it from God," or
- "if we are sinning and not confessing it to God," or
- "if we are sinning and we know about it = regard it but don't do anything about it,"
that is when the Lord will not hear us. This is because we are being hypocrites if we sin in one 'part' of our life, and then pretend there is no sin in the prayer-part of our life, as if the parts can be separated one from another.
We do sin frequently, but we can also have the blood of Jesus Christ constantly cleansing us as well, providing forgiveness as we confess sin to God.
We should also note that it is not God's auditory processing faculty that is blocked by sin, as if He had ear plugs in His ears. "Hearing" refers to acknowledging, answering, or doing something about the prayers offered. God doesn't acknowledge the prayers of those who try to hide sin in their hearts. His ears are open to the prayers of the righteous, but His face is against those who do evil (1 Peter 3:12).
The last part of the question is an even bigger matter. I think you are talking about sin being dealt with once for all versus how we have to deal with it daily. This has to do on the one hand with the legal forgiveness of sins that establishes our relationship with God, and on the other hand with the family forgiveness that maintains the close family fellowship with God. I think you will be helped if you read the article here.