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Posted by Matt Postiff March 21, 2015 under Gospel 

Your personal salvation testimony can be presented more effectively by careful organization. The following guidelines will help you in preparing a testimony that will communicate effectively what Christ has done for you.

  1. Before you begin, ask the Lord to give you wisdom and guidance as you work on your testimony.
  2. Make brief notes on three separate sheets of paper labeled:
    1. BEFORE = a short sketch of what your life was like before you became a Christian
    2. HOW = the details of how, specifically, you took the step of receiving Christ
    3. AFTER = relating the changes in your life after you became a Christian
    4. Using your notes from the three sheets of paper, prepare a draft of your testimony, applying the guidelines below.
  3. Things to Avoid
    1. Avoid giving a travelogue dealing with externals and missing the spiritual matters.
    2. Avoid using lots of unnecessary details.
    3. Avoid mentioning specific churches, denominations, or groups (such as to criticize).
  4. Identify with those who will be hearing your testimony.
    1. Use word pictures to increase interest. Don't just say, "I grew up on a farm." You might briefly describe the farm so a person listening can visualize it.
    2. Remember that this is a testimony, not a "preachamony." Say "I" and "me" instead of "you." Keep your testimony warm and personal.
    3. Include some humor and human interest.
    4. Generalize so that more people can identify with your story. You could say, "For fifteen years I didn't miss a single service at church, but never heard how I could have eternal life."
  5. In the BEFORE, include both good and bad aspects of your life. Examples of good aspects might be a desire to excel, a concern for others, hard-working. Bad aspects might include an inferiority complex, temper, greed for finances.
  6. In the HOW...
    1. Communicate the gospel clearly from your first-person perspective.
    2. Start with God, that He wants us to honor, love, and serve Him.
    3. Tell about the fact and penalty of sin.
    4. Say how Christ died to pay sin's penalty and rose from the dead.
    5. Explain the need to turn from sin/rebellion and receive Christ.
    6. Convey how God promises eternal life and how you can be assured of salvation.
    7. Keep in mind that someone else should be able to trust the Lord through your testimony.
    8. Use Bible verses to back up what you say. You should quote at least one to show that you really believe it. The Bible is the authority. Don't say, "Bill shared with me that I had sinned and needed forgiveness." Say, "Bill shared with me that the Bible says...."
  7. In the AFTER, give some personal benefits of becoming a Christian. Emphasize the fact that the thing that has made the difference in your life was trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior.
  8. Try to outline your presentation on a 3x5 card so that you can give your testimony from this outline.

Posted by Matt Postiff March 17, 2015 under General 

I was glad to see that more DBSJ articles are now available online at the Seminary website. The articles include many from the journal from 1996 through 2013. Subscription information can be found there as well if you are interested in receiving the most recent articles and book reviews. The DBSJ articles are also available at the Galaxie Software site.

I had tracked the journal electronically up through volume 15 using Galaxie Software's Theological Journal Library CD, but lost track of it after TJLCD volume 12. Then the TJL transitioned over to Logos and I have not managed to get up-to-date on the journals in Logos 6 because it is not clear to me how to go from where I am to the updated collection.


Posted by Matt Postiff March 5, 2015 under Theology 

Summary

A good argument against continuationism and in favor of cessationism is this: the Bible promises that there will be a resumption of revelatory activity and associated spiritual gifts during the end time.

For a resumption to be possible, there has to be a cessation first. We are experiencing that cessation in the present day, because there is a complete absence of new revelatory activity, including revelatory gifts such as prophecies, tongues, and knowledge. There is also the complete absence of authenticating gifts such as miraculous healing and resurrections. The current cessation of such charismata makes a future resumption of them meaningful.

If the cessation indicated in 1 Cor. 13:8 does not happen until the end time, or in other words if continuationism is true, it makes no sense for Paul state that something will cease, for in fact it will never cease if it "ceases" in the end time and immediately restarts again. At best, continuationism and cessation-at-the-end-time basically make the phrase "they will cease" a vacuous statement because the point at which they will cease is the same point they start again. At worst, the continuationism doctrine completely turns the meaning around so that "they will cease" means "they will never cease."

I contend therefore that for there to be any meaningful sense of resumption of the spiritual gifts and revelatory activity, there must be a cessation first. Something cannot resume if it never ceased.

Further Explanation

1. Basic Cessationism

I am not a continuationist. I am a cessationist. I believe that in the church age, since the completion of the 66 books of the Bible, God has ceased giving miraculous gifts. This does not mean I deny miracles, for the miracle of regeneration occurs regularly. God can heal someone from a sickness if He so chooses. I deny that God gives gifts to individuals that permits them to do miraculous activities such as prophecy, tongues, knowledge, healing, interpretation of tongues, resurrections, and the like.

I have long believed the cessation doctrine on grounds other than I describe in this article: the plain statement of 1 Corinthians 13:8, the argument of the apostolic foundation in Ephesians 2:20, and the complete lack of evidence of the existence of miraculous spiritual gifts today. Since I understand miraculous gifts and revelatory activity to be closely connected, and I understand that the canon is closed, there is no need for miraculous spiritual gifts in the present day. God has, in his sovereign distribution of gifts, decided not to give certain gifts in the present portion of the church age. The question is not whether God can give such gifts for obviously He can; it is whether He has said He will. Presently, the Scriptures indicate, He has decided against distributing such gifts.

2. Basic Resumptionism

However, I am a resumptionist. I coined this term for my own thinking on the subject (not sure if it has been used before or not) to refer to the doctrine that God will once again, at the end time, sovereignly grant special miraculous abilities to certain individuals. This will occur during the Tribulation and forward, according to Joel 2:28-29. At that time, God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh; Jewish men and women will prophesy; older men will have special dreams and younger men will have visions. These manifestations of the Spirit are reminiscent of what happened on a limited scale in the prophets during the Old Testament era.

It is evident that the Joel prophecy was not completely fulfilled at Pentecost, for the heavenly disturbances were not, and have not, happened (Joel 2:30-31, Acts 2:19-20). Because of this incomplete kind of fulfillment, I understand Peter to be preaching using an analogy, that the Pentecost outpouring of the Spirit is like that which will happen in the end time, but because of the obvious differences, Joel has not yet been fulfilled.

The gifts listed in Joel do not include tongues, but they do include a special presence of the Holy Spirit and associated dreams, visions, and prophecies. These are all revelatory gifts. Were such gifts operational today as is supposed in the continuationist view, there would be nothing special about them being promised in the end time.

Seminary professor and author Kevin Bauder recently wrote on the subject of the resumption of revelation and spiritual gifts at the end time: "In the future, however, special revelation will commence again. The Tribulation will involve divine communication at several different levels. This phenomenon is what Joel had in mind when he wrote that God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh and 'your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions' (Joel 2:28-31)." (In the Nick of Time, February 20, 2015, Central Baptist Theological Seminary).

When the Lord returns in the end time, the things He says and the world-wide decrees He makes will obviously be revelatory as well, authoritative and equal to Scripture. The end time will bring both the revelatory and the miraculous.

3. Problem with Continuationism

Gordon Fee in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 teaches that the first century gifts will not cease, but will rather continue until the end time, at which point they will disappear because they are no longer needed. He illustrates by citing Barth's imagery that the nighttime visible light of the stars is extinguished by the brighter light of the Sun when it rises (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, p. 646). So the continuationist's gifts continue until the end time when something greater arises and cause the earlier, dimmer gifts to "cease." Fee basically argues that the gifts that are needed to build the church today will fade as the "complete" comes onto the scene.

He writes, "Good as spiritual gifts are, they are only for the present; Christian love, which the Corinthians currently lack, is the 'more excellent way' in part because it belongs to eternity as well as to the present" (p. 649). His point about love is helpful, and the solar illustration is clever, but it doesn't do justice to the real meaning of cease because the gifts effectively never cease on his view. Those gifts were present—at the time of Paul's writing and for a brief period of time beyond that—but are obviously not present now. That I view it this way is not due to my "totally cerebral" and "domesticated" "bland" western version of Christianity which is without the Spirit (a severe charge leveled on p. 645, fn. 23). Rather, it is due to my eyes being open to the lack of evidence of miracles (an experiential argument, to be sure), and to the teaching of Scripture that such things would stop at some point. That point was reached a long time ago.

The inaugurated eschatology of Fee allows him to say that we are in the end time already but not in the end time yet. We are in the beginning, but not the completion, of the End (p. 645-46). Such inaugurated eschatology permits the interpreter to believe that Joel's prophecy is being fulfilled in the present "end times." But current conditions are so far from the promised conditions in the Old Testament surrounding the inauguration of the earthly kingdom of the Messiah that there is no meaningful way we can say we are in that kingdom. We are in the church, not the kingdom.

Around the time of Jesus' return we will see a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, new revelatory activity, and a massive change in world conditions as the Messiah takes His throne and rules the nations with a rod of iron. We pray that the kingdom will come (Matthew 6:10), and that the Spirit's work of old will resume. For now, we await that resumption, praying to be faithful with the "normal" means granted by the Spirit to accomplish the work of Christ.


Posted by Matt Postiff February 18, 2015 under General 

A new Bible book outline is available on the Book of Leviticus.

Moses penned words of this book at God's direct instruction. It covers the law of offerings, the induction of Aaron and his sons into priestly ministry, various regulations for the priests and the people, annual feasts, redemption of property and people sold in various circumstances, and a strong chapter covering the blessings for obedience to the Law and the curses for disobedience.

Other Bible book outlines are available here.


Posted by Matt Postiff February 17, 2015 under General 

From Voice of the Martyrs, I share this:

How to Pray for Those Who are Persecuted
  1. Pray that persecuted believers will sense God's presence (Heb. 13:5).
  2. Pray that they will feel connected to the greater Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:20, 26).
  3. Pray that they will experience God's comfort when their family members are killed, injured or imprisoned for their witness (2 Cor. 1:3-5).
  4. Pray that they will have more opportunities to share the gospel (Col. 4:3).
  5. Pray for their boldness to make Christ known (Phil. 1:14).
  6. Pray that they will forgive and love their persecutors (Matt. 5:44).
  7. Pray that their ministry activities will remain undetected by authorities or others who wish to silence them (Acts 9:25).
  8. Pray that they will rejoice in suffering (Acts 5:41).
  9. Pray that they will be refreshed through God's Word and grow in their faith (Eph. 6:17).
  10. Pray that they will be strengthened through the prayers of fellow believers (Jude 20-25).

Posted by Matt Postiff February 17, 2015 under General 

Why do I not recommend the KJV? Archaic and strange words are a key reason.

Romans 9:25—As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

This is supposed to be Hosea.

Ephesians 1:19—And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.

This should be toward us.

Philippians 1:22—But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.

This should be I do not know.

Matthew 2:17—Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying...
Matthew 3:3—For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias...

These should be Jeremiah and Isaiah, respectively.

I often look at the KJV in my studies, and I'm not trying to "bash" it. I'm just saying that it is not helpful for the modern English reader to have to slog through such archaisms to understand the Word of God. The 1769 revision stands in serious need of an update. Actually the NKJV has provided that update and could simply be called the KJV for this era. There are several other very good translations available which provide today's English reader with a more accurate and understandable translation of the Bible.

For a list of many other archaic or little-known words in the KJV, visit this site or this one.


Posted by Matt Postiff January 30, 2015 under General 

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.


Posted by Matt Postiff January 24, 2015 under General 

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.


Posted by Matt Postiff January 14, 2015 under Theology 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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.

Posted by Matt Postiff January 14, 2015 under Bible Texts 

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.


Posted by Matt Postiff January 14, 2015 under Interpretation  Theology  Bible Texts 

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!


Posted by Matt Postiff January 3, 2015 under Bible Texts 

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.

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