Matt Postiff's Blog
Reading in 1 and 2 John the last couple of days reminded me that several truths about Jesus must be believed by all Christians.
First, Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah (1 John 2:22-23). Anyone who denies this is, as John says, a liar and antichrist who not only denies the Messianic credentials of Christ, but also denies God the Father. Note that this does not mean that the person explicitly denies God the Father and the Son. He may claim to acknowledge God the Father while rejecting the Son; however John pushes back that anyone who denies the Son also denies the Father. This is reinforced by another text authored by John: John 5:23.
Second, Jesus has come in the flesh (1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 7). This means that He existed prior to His coming and then took up his fleshly dwelling subsequent to that prior existence. Anyone who denies this truth is not from God.
Third, Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:5). Whoever does not hold this faith has not overcome the world, is not born of God, and does not love God.
So far so good. But prominent cults can claim to believe all of the above in some sense. A couple more truths will set some obvious distance between the Biblical view and that of the cults.
Fourth, Jesus is the creator of all things (John 1:3). It is clear from that text that any "made thing" was made by Christ. This explicitly puts Christ into a different category than "made things."
Fifth and finally, Jesus is God (John 1:1). The Word, the one which became flesh (John 1:14), existed in the beginning, existed with God, and "was God."
Editor's Note: This is a guest post by FBC member Vincent Brattin.
Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Objection: How can an all-wise God increase in wisdom?
Response: It may be that when Jesus took on human flesh, he took on some human limitations, and this may have included his knowledge. Or, it may be that "wisdom" is being identified as "knowledge + experience," and so as Jesus grew in years and gained in experience, he naturally grew in wisdom as a result.
John 5:19, 30 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me."
Objection: How can an all-powerful God express himself powerless to act on his own accord?
Response: Jesus is saying that His own motives and intentions are so perfectly intertwined with those of the Father that there is no separation. Neither one would do anything apart from the other. Even in a moment of weakness, when it looks like Jesus might "go his own way," he confirms that that unique bond will continue (Mark 14:36, Matt 26:39).
John 14:28 You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
Objection: How can an all-powerful God say that someone is greater than himself?
Response: We can only surmise the intricacies of the relationship between the members of the Godhead. His ways are above our ways, after all. Evidently God the Son volunteered to be in a subservient role to God the Father (and God the Holy Spirit likewise subservient to both). The Father is greater, in authority, but not in power.
Luke 18:19 (see also Mark 10:18) And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone."
Objection: Jesus is specifically separating himself from God here, and saying only God is good.
Response: Jesus didn’t say "Don’t call me good." He clearly was and is "good." Jesus is not denying his divinity so much as He is proclaiming it. Here He is giving the rich young ruler a chance to confess who Jesus is.
Luke 19:29-34 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say this: 'The Lord has need of it.'" So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, 'Why are you untying the colt?' And they said, "The Lord has need of it."
Objection: How can God urge his followers into criminal behavior (in this case, a brazen theft of someone's livestock)?
Response: It's not recorded, but it's entirely possible that Jesus had alerted the owner of the colt beforehand what was going to take place. This would certainly explain why the owner expressed no outrage upon being reassured "The Lord has need of it." Given our Lord's character, we can also assume that the disciples returned the colt when he was done using it.
Mark 11:13-14 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it.
Objection: How could God not know when the season for figs would be?
Response: This episode was an object lesson for his disciples about the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. They were showing the outward signs of spirituality, but not displaying the works or the attitude that result from genuine faith, just as the tree had the leaves, but no fruit. Jesus certainly knew beforehand what He would find on the tree.
Matthew 24:36 (also Mark 13:32) But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. [Some manuscripts omit "nor the Son"]
Objection: How can God not know the day and hour, especially of something so important?
Response: This is a result of the voluntary limitations that Jesus imposed on Himself by taking on human flesh. I think that there can be no doubt that Jesus, in his present state, does know the day and hour.
Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Objection: How can God forsake God?
Response: First, Jesus as a man is bemoaning the fact that He is now without God’s protection. Second, He is reminding all who can hear him that He is fulfilling Psalm 22.
John 20:17 Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
Objection: How can Jesus be God when He refers to the Father as "my God"?
Response: Jesus could always refer to the Father as "my God" because of His voluntary subservient relationship to Him. But then Jesus made Himself lower still (in fact, a little lower than the angels), so referring to the Father as he did made perfect sense.
I was asked recently about the Feast of Pentecost and its significance for the Christian. Here are some thoughts on that subject.
I am skeptical of doing a deep search for meaning in the feasts of Israel. I am convinced that the Biblical text will tell us plainly what we need to know. We need not hunt for hidden significance, or worry that we will miss something if we don't do such a search. Furthermore, I have seen a lot of 'stretching' of the feasts to find significance in them for us today.
In general, all the feasts of Israel present us an opportunity to teach what God expected ancient Israel to do in terms of religious observances. They also provide an open door to show that there are dispensational distinctions between the Jews of old, Gentiles, and the church. In the church, we don't do some of the things Israel did.
In particular, Pentecost reminds us of the following:
1. To be thankful for the agricultural harvest, because our food depends on God. This is indicated in the word "firstfruits" in Lev. 23:17. Firstfruits is a word that is tied to harvest and agriculture.
2. The giving of the Ten Commandments, in Jewish thought, is tied to the giving of the Law. That connection is not explicit in the Bible. The timing is a bit off if you compare the "three months" from Exodus 12:2 to Exodus 19:1 just before the Law was given, since that would be about 28*3 = 84 days after Passover and the departure from Egypt, instead of 50 days after Passover.
3. Acts 2 and the birth of the church along with the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is just a reminder, however, because that information was hidden from, not revealed to, Israel, until Acts 2. Pentecost does not teach church truth. It just happens to be the time at which God decided to send the Spirit and complete the steps required to start the church.
The thought occurred to me that someone could profitably spend some time looking into the problem of evil from the perspective of those close encounters that Jesus had with evil. A careful study may highlight some helpful truths as we think about how God and evil co-exist in the universe.
Passages I was thinking about included the temptation (Matthew 4 and Luke 4), Jesus' encounters with people possessed by demons, and His interaction with Judas at the last supper (John 13:26-27 and verse 30-31). There are probably others. The latter passage came up in my reading this morning and I noted how the Lord told Judas, "What you do, do quickly." Without condoning Judas' actions, Jesus told him to get it done, even though it was evil. Ponder that...
Let me know if you write a research paper or thesis on this. I'd be interested to see what you come up with!
Back on March 18, 2016, Dr. Kyle Dunham presented on the matter of holy war in the Rice Lecture series at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. This article is not a review but rather a summary of of things that I learned or noted while I listened to Dr. Dunham. Consider it a after-the-fact live blog of the event! These are listed in the order I wrote them down, not in any other order.
- Motivating factors for God were compassion and deliverance of His people. The deliverance through holy war was a blessing to them.
- Holy war starts in Exodus.
- God is active or passive/permissive in holy war, not always the former.
- God sometimes had holy war against Israel!
- Justice is another key motivation behind holy war. See Deut. 16.
- Holy war was used to establish Israel (against Egypt) and to preserve it from bondage or peril.
- Dr. Dunham takes a dispensational approach to holy war.
- We can see echoes of holy war in the book of Revelation, including trumpets in both.
- We have to maintain a connection between holy war and hte land and its consecration.
- Holy war is a fulfillment of Abrahamic curses on the enemies and blessings on the nation of Israel. Unless, of course, the people of Israel departed from God, and then he turned the instrument of holy war against them!
- Holiness is another motivating factor behind holy war, and teh resultant moral protection of God's people.
- The gift of the land to Israel is another motivation behind holy war.
- The idea of gradual displacement.
- Key resources include Von Rad 1951, Copan and Flannagan, Qureshi's Answering Jihad.
- Not about Haman the Agagite. Perhaps he was an Amalekite and maybe he hated Israel for the reason that the Israelites had victory over the Amalekites years earlier.
- Holy war consisted in judgment against groups that threatened Israel's existence or that were sinful, committing sins such as infanticide. These require a proportional response.
- Kev difficult texts include Deut 7 and 20:16-17.
- Genocide charges must be limited to the issue of herem, the so-called ban or devotion to total destruction.
- Dunham gave a careful definition of herem. He linked idolatry (which is demonic worship) into the idea, with Lev. 27:21. God has a claim on the land.
- Herem is a purging followed by a reconstruction or re-populating of the land.
- Herem is 1. capital punishment of many people; 2. conflagration; 3. repopulation; 4. connection to the temple. It is about the land and the nation, it is not racially motivated. We could say that it is religiously motivated in a sense./li>
- Herem prevented "exchange" from happening between cultures and was a way to implement separation from idolatry.
- Herem echoes the genesis flood in terms of purification and the mass killing of many sinful people. I noted this seems to echo more the holiness of God than Herem per se.
- The Canannite people are connected to the curse on Canaan due to sexual perversion (Genesis 9:20-27).
- Gave a definition of Jihad, and showed a progression of violence, and the distinction with Yahweh War in the Old Testament.
- Sacred geography in Yahweh wars are for one nation; focused on false gods, not on unbelievers. I believe this would be a slim distinction lost on the world.
- Yahweh War includes proportional violence, versus no limit in Jihad. God's war is an act of justice proportionate to the crime committed.
- Islam propagates through Jihad; Holy War protects the people of Israel.
- Christian Bible preserves life; Islam dose not, and extols the martyr.
- Just war principles (Grotius and others). Mentioned 7 facts about war. Mentioned O'donovan and Just war theory with parallels to God's War.
- Israel is preserved for Messiah, and (this is a key addition) God loves Israel so he preserves them until the eschaton too.
- Dunham diagrams Yahweh Wars with first the infinite transcendence of God, second His holiness, justice, and righteousness, third His truth, faithfulness and veracity, and fourth with His love and compassion. The entries under "second" are motivations, as well as compassion in "fourth." God says that the Canaanites were sinners. As sinners today look more like Canannites, they see those "victims of Yahweh war" as more and more innocent.
- Yahweh war is tied to Israel, so we don't have to find out how to fit it into the New Testament or the church.
- I had a question: So is "NT" Yahweh War against the believer's sin our "greater jihad" as in Galatians 5 whereas in the OT is the "lesser jihad"?
- We take a defensive posture in NT spiritual war (standing our ground against the wiles of the devil, etc.)
- Resource from David Cook on Jihad.
- Holy War comes back as Israel comes back into focus in Gods' program in the eschaton. As they receive focus, holy war themes come into more focus, as in during the Tribulation.
First, be reading your Bible very regularly. Second, consider some resources that remind you what to look for. I have written a fairly detailed and, frankly, blunt, guide to finding what I would consider a good church. I call it the A Regular Person's Guide on How to Find a Good Church.
I read this morning:
And now I ask you...that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments...For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. (2 John 5-7, ESV)
The juxtaposition of three ideas caught my attention: loving one another, keeping His commandments, and "because" many deceivers are out there not acknowledging the coming of Christ. Not only is the presence of deceivers a motivation to emphasize love in the Christian community, but also such deception is far from the kind of obedient love that John says characterizes the true believer.
Love and deception don't go together; love and deception on the doctrine of Christ really don't go together.
A few days ago, I received the following question:
Where does the Bible condemn someone surgically becoming another gender?
The question arises because there is no Biblical text that clearly says "thou shalt not" to gender reassignment. But it would be a woefully inadequate argument to use that fact in favor of reassignment, for there are many particular behaviors that are not specifically called out by the Bible as sin which are in fact sin. It is obvious to genuine Christians that certain behaviors are outside of the realm of righteousness. The works of the sinful nature of man are obvious (Galatians 5:19-21).
For instance, ingesting cocaine is not forbidden specifically by the Bible. But the fact that it is illegal in our country, coupled with the witness of Scripture to not be under the control of some substance, makes it unacceptable (Romans 13:1, 1 Cor. 6:12, Ephesians 5:18).
So why no gender reassignment according to the Bible?
1. Gender reassignment rejects the created order. God created basically all species of animals with male and female counterparts, according to their kind, with ability to reproduce in pairs. Don't hold me to scientific specificity here; I know about inter-sex and morphs and asexual reproduction in microscopic living things and hermaphrodites and the like. My point is that God created humans as male and female (Genesis 1:27, 5:2). There are therefore only two sexes.
2. Gender reassignment violates the principle of not mutilating the human body. Leviticus 19:28 prohibits cuttings and tattoos (see also Leviticus 21:5, Deut. 14:1). Such activities were associated with pagan idolatrous religious practices, including mourning rituals (1 Kings 18:28). Admittedly, these are all Old Testament references. Elsewhere I have written on the issue of the applicability of the Mosaic Law to modern issues. The reason for this is that the body is a gift from God and is to be respected as such. The body is made in the image of God and that conveys dignity to it.
3. Gender reassignment rejects God's choice for the individual's sex and gender. To change gender is to effectively thumb your nose at God, rejecting His authority over your life. Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9-10); that means He is the boss. It is not your will, but God's will that carries the day. Related to this is the Bible's teaching on how we should be content and not dissatisfied. Gender reassignment indicates a deep-seated discontentment with God's choice of one's sex/gender (Hebrews 13:5, 1 Timothy 6:8, Philippians 4:11, Luke 3:14).
4. Gender reassignment "did not come into God's mind" in the sense of Jeremiah 32:35. It is a thing so outside of the realm of right and proper that it is an abomination to God. It was not considered by human societies until the twentieth century when medical technology had advanced to a point where such things could be done.
5. Finally, an argument from lesser to greater. The Scriptures prohibit cross-dressing. See Deuteronomy 22:5:
"A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God. (NKJV)
Since Scripture prohibits the lesser—putting on of the clothing of the opposite gender—it is very reasonable to assume that God prohibits permanently changing from a man to a woman or the reverse (if that were actually possible).
6. Gender follows sex. There are, as with everything in this world, things that can break from this simple and normative pattern. Christians are not surprised at the confusion about gender and sex that exists in our society. That confusion is just another evidence of how deeply the fall of mankind into sin has affected our minds and bodies (Ephesians 4:18, Romans 1:21-28).
And now, why does gender reassignment go awry according to science and reason?
7. Gender reassignment is not the same as fixing a birth defect. If a person is born as a boy, that is a gift from God, not a birth defect or a deviation from the proper gender of the child. Any feelings of deviation in gender are that--feelings--and can be helped by acknowledging the Biblical truth of God's creation, sin, the fall, and redemption. A birth defect such as club feet or fused fingers or hypoplastic left heart syndrome are deviations from the normal and correct anatomy. To fix them is to alleviate pain and suffering. To reassign gender is to fix a problem that is not a problem. It takes the normal and makes it abnormal.
8. Gender reassignment is not the same as cosmetic surgery. A facelift or tummy tuck or fixing varicose veins is like fixing a birth defect: it is fixing something that has deviated from its normal or proper design. Changing a person's external and internal sexual organs from their normal anatomy to something abnormal is a totally different kind of thing.
9. You cannot change your X and Y chromosomes. They are replicated in every one of the 37.2 trillion cells in your body, if you are average size. Well, except for your red blood cells which have no nucleus, or your sperm or eggs which only have the 23 chromosomes instead of the full complement of 46. The point is that the same genetic material is replicated trillions of times throughout your body, although only parts of it are active in certain cells depending on their type. A few cosmetic changes and hormonal treatments will not change the fact that trillions of cells contain either XX or XY, and those remain the same throughout the person's lifetime. While the external appearance may be made to look like the opposite sex, every cell in the body cries out the birth sex of the person.
Please don't bother with the worn out argument that I hate you if you have had a reassignment surgery, or are pondering one, or are of an opposite view than I am. I am telling you what the BIBLE says about gender reassignment. And I believe the Bible is right because it comes from God. But I am not a hater. For more on that, read here.
I've been reflecting on raising my sons and some practical wisdom a middle age man who came to faith in Christ later in life might be able to share with next generation of young Christian men. Some of these are from mistakes I've made and learned the hard way. Some are from watching others do the same. But all of them can be gleaned directly or indirectly from Scripture. I pray you find them helpful. Feel free to share.
1. Truly commit and surrender your life to God. Put every decision and direction in His hands. You won't go wrong.
2. Get knowledge. Get wisdom. Get direction. First and foremost in God and then in your relationship with God to seek your calling – a calling that you are passionate about and to which God is leading. It may be secular or it may be sacred or it may be both. It may take 5, 10, 20 years and it may change in 5, 10, 20 years. But make sure God is leading it.
3. Pride kills. You aren't all that. You don’t know what you don't know. Walk wisely. Ask questions. Think before you speak. If you are angry, think longer and pray. If you are still angry, keep thinking and pray harder. True humility will honor God and benefit you much more than any level of pride.
4. Be content. In Christ your hope and future is secure. Trust in and learn from what God is doing in and through you now. You may not have everything you want, but I'll bet you have everything you need. Is it enough? The truthful answer is yes.
5. Don't go into debt. Period. It’s hard to be flexible to where and when God calls you when you have debt looming over you. "The borrower is servant to the lender" is true. Don't do it. Don't.
6. Give First to God. Spend wisely. Don’t accumulate. There is very little you really need. I understand the pull of "stuff." But you will end up throwing away or Craigslisting the majority of the "stuff" and the money spent will not have aided anyone. And if you have it, you have to maintain it. And that costs as well. It's hard to be flexible to God's call when you have all this "stuff" to deal with and maintain.
7. Travel light. This goes with don't accumulate. This is especially true as you remain single. What you truly need can probably fit in a good backpack. God may call you in an instant to be out the door and moving for His purposes. Be ready.
8. Don't waste your time. You lose valuable time and opportunity when you spend hours playing video games, watching movies, TV, etc. A little diversion from time to time is good. Obsessing is bad. PS – once you invest in the big TV and/or the gaming system, you're sunk. Don't do it. Don't.
9. Let God lead your love life. Honor God. Honor your prospective wife. Honor her parents. Honor your parents. Don't enter into a relationship without the view to marriage. Don’t enter into a relationship without the prospective spouse sharing your faith, values and direction in life.
10. Live close to your church. Live close to where you work. It's hard to be involved in your church and your community and to invite those from work and the community to church when you are a long distance from either. An ideal distance? You can ride a bicycle to church and to work if you needed (or wanted) too.
11. Stay fit physically. Stay fit mentally. Eat good things in moderation. Exercise. Take down time. Yes you can get in shape pretty quickly now, but in 20 years, it's a battle. And...you may need to ride a bike to church. Watch what you put into your mind or let society put into your mind. In addition to your Bible, read good books. Choose your entertainment wisely; once it gets in your mind, it's impossible to get out.
12. Build relationships. Not on Facebook, not on Twitter. Sit down with people. Get to know, care for and love them. Invest in people – especially those in your church – you are part of that body. Get to know those in your community. Get to know those in your place of work. Jesus had compassion on the masses when He saw them; get out from behind the screens and go see them.
I read 1 Timothy 2:12 yesterday and today and a slightly different thought struck me in relation to a church problem that I encountered in an overseas missions context.
Some women have taken it upon themselves to become pastors and teachers in churches. This verse forbids that because the basic idea of it and the following is that God has not designed for women to have such authority.
Some men have said that if they permit a woman to teach or lead a service "under the men's authority" then it is OK.
But if Paul were in their shoes, he would say, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man."
Men who do that would do well to consider that they are violating the apostolic example. Paul is showing how we ought to behave in the church (1 Tim. 3:15). If Paul would not permit a woman to teach or have authority over men, how can we?
Dispensationalists among themselves, along with covenant theologians, have debated the correct way to express the Christian Gentile's relationship to the New Covenant, and to the related Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. The answers range from two new covenants to full involvement of the Gentile in the new covenant at the expense of Israel, to participation in the spiritual blessings in the covenant. See Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant: 3 Views: Regular Baptist Books, 2012 (available here).
Another way of explaining it is to use the language of Paul in Ephesians 2:13. He says that those who were formerly without God, without hope, and strangers to the covenants of promise were "brought near" by the blood of Christ. This seems to be close to the spiritual participation view which I have held. It is as if being 'near' lets some of the blessings of the covenants "rub off onto the Gentile Christian" or "diffuse over to the Christian" because of a new-found proximity to those promises.
It does not say "brought into" or "merged," thus maintaining a distinction between Israel and the Church. Nor does it indicate a duplication of the covenants as if there are two new covenants or two sets of covenant promises.
So our relationship to the covenants is that we are brought near. It is sort of simple, but the advantage of this explanation is that it uses straightforward Biblical terminology.