Oh my goodness! We have really lost our minds. Romans 1:18ff being fully displayed in this day and age.
This is a helpful article from a friend of mine. Please read and enjoy … or don’t enjoy.
Does God talk to people today? Let’s check the facts!
Wow! The following poem was something that I, as a pastor, needed to hear today. Pray for your pastor today and every day.
When you’re feeling lonely, remember, he does too. When you’re feeling depressed, remember, he does too. When you’re feeling your inadequacies, remember, he does too. When you get…
Source: He Does Too
It has been a very long time since I last wrote. I have been very busy with teaching, family, and taking courses myself. I must also admit that I simply haven’t had anything to say. However, I have just finished a course on Canon and Criticism and had to do some writing (and still have some to go), and thought that I would share with you what I have written. I pray that this is insightful and helpful.
The canon of Christian Scripture is the foundation of the Christian system. Therefore, it is the final authority for Christian thought, belief, and action.The question that must follow concerns authority: by what authority has this canon been determined? Men have put forth great effort into determining exactly which books belonged in the canon, but fallen man is not the final authority on such issues. If the books contained in the canon are indeed God-breathed, then He is the Authority to which man must turn to determine the canon of Scripture. This paper will examine the testimony of Jesus Messiah, the second person of the triune godhead, in order to argue that Scripture’s own testimony settles the debate over canonicity. In the end, the reception or rejection of the canon, and thus the testimony of Jesus, will depend on the faith, or lack thereof, of the reader.
The apostle Paul informed Timothy that all of the “sacred writings” are profitable the end result being that “the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15-17, NASB) This flows well with his teaching that believers are God’s workmanship “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB) Since Christians are the result of God’s workmanship, and He has prepared works for them to complete, then it is reasonable to believe that the sacred writings that He supernaturally delivered to man, and providentially preserved through the centuries contain what must be known by His people in order to complete their work. To this end, it is also reasonable to believe that He gave and preserved His own testimony concerning what writings constitute the sacred writings. Jesus offered such testimony concerning both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.
Jesus and the Hebrew Canon
That the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures was unquestioned in the early Church is settled fact. As F.F. Bruce wrote, “They accepted the Old Testament scriptures as they had received them: the authority of those scriptures was sufficiently ratified by the teaching and example of the Lord and his apostles.” However, as has already been stated, it is Jesus’ own testimony that gives the final, authoritative stamp upon the Hebrew Scriptures. When Jesus testified concerning Scripture He was offering God’s own perspective and stamp of authority on the words of the Old Testament. As John wrote, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God” (John 3:34).
There are three traditional divisions of the Hebrew Scripture, the Torah (also known as the Law of Moses, or the Pentateuch) the Nevi’im (the prophets), and the Ketuvim (the writings). These three divisions consist of the same basic books that are in the present day canon the only difference being the divisions in two books that were originally combined, i.e. Samuel (1 & 2) and Ezra-Nehemiah. Although this is not the focus of our investigation, it is necessary to understand in order to properly interpret Jesus’ testimony concerning the Scriptures for this division comprises the Hebrew Scriptures to which Jesus consistently turned during His earthly ministry. Jesus directed His disciples to this division as “the key to the Scriptures…all that which concerns Himself in the Law of Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets.” Luke 24:44 reads “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” In fact, the recorded words of Jesus are filled with references to or quotations from these three sections. Rene Pache states that “One tenth of His words were taken from the Old Testament….180 of 1,800 verses which report His discourses are either quotations of the written revelation or else direct allusions to it.”
Further, when one looks more closely the quotes and allusions may be seen to identify each of the divisions separately. First, in Jesus’ confrontation with Satan three times He quoted from the Torah, in particular from Deuteronomy (8:3; 6:16; 6:13, cf., Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). He also validated the Genesis account on multiple occasions as well as the creation of Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4-5). In these two accounts alone He addressed the beginning and completion of the Torah. Second, Jesus identified Jonah as a prophet and used Jonah’s time of being swallowed by the great fish as an illustration of His own impending death, burial, and resurrection (Matt. 12:40-41). In doing so Jesus validated the latter prophets. Jesus also did the same for the former prophets when He used the example of Elijah and the widow, Zarephath, in Luke 4:26. Finally, Jesus included the Ketuvim, the writings, as He quoted from the Psalms on numerous occasions, as well as quoting Daniel including His favorite title for Himself, “Son of man.” Each of these quotations, or allusions serves to demonstrate that Jesus viewed the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures as the God-breathed, authoritative canon.
It is easy to accept that Jesus identified the Torah and Nevi’im, but the question of the Ketuvim may need more explanation. In Matthew 21:42 Jesus asked the religious leaders if they had never read a particular passage from “the Scriptures.” He then quoted from Psalm 118:22-23. This illustrates Jesus’ words to the disciples in Luke 24:44 when He referred them to His teaching from the Psalms. The Jews often used the first words of a Hebrew book as its title, which is similar to what Jesus did by using the term Psalms. In fact this form of shorthand was quite common, as Greg Gilbert has described it, “the Jews often used a shorthand to refer to the books of their Old Testament, either “the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings” or, more simply, ‘the Law and the Prophets.’…(the book of Psalms representing the Writings as the largest book in that collection).” And when using this form in His teaching Jesus “was endorsing and ratifying the authority of the entire Old Testament from start to finish.” Dr. Chris Cone concurs with Gilbert, asserting “Psalms is the name of the first book of the section called the writings, and it would be consistent with the practice of using that as the name for the entire grouping of books. In other words, Psalms would be the title for the entire section called the Writings, the Ketuvim.”
It is clear from this short examination of Jesus’ view of the Hebrew canon that one may conclude that the existing canon found in Protestant Bibles is the same as that of Jesus’ day. Gilbert offers a fitting conclusion; “Here’s why all those large books [on topics such as transmission, canonization, etc.] will begin with the belief that the Old Testament is the Word of God: because Jesus, the resurrected Messiah, said it was. And therefore we believe it.”
Jesus and the Greek Scriptures
Jesus told the eleven disciples that He was going to send “the Spirit of truth” who would “guide you into all truth” (Jn. 16:13). He, in turn, sent them out to make disciples using what He had taught, and what the Spirit would teach (Matt. 28:19-20). The disciples were given apostolic authority in the new entity, the Church. New Testament scholar N. B. Stonehouse addressed the topic of apostolic authority:
“[apostolic authority] which speaks forth in the New Testament is never detached from the authority of the Lord. In the Epistles there is consistent recognition that in the church there is only one absolute authority, the authority of the Lord himself. Wherever the apostles speak with authority, they do so as exercising the Lord’s authority. Thus, for example, where Paul defends his authority as an apostle, he bases his claim solely and directly upon his commission by the Lord (Gal. 1 and 2); where he assumes the right to regulate the life of the church, he claims for his word the Lord’s authority, even when no direct word of the Lord has been handed down (1 Cor. 14:37; cf. 1 Cor. 7:10)…”
Jesus passed His authority to the Apostles, and Paul’s testimony is only a sampling displaying the same authority given to the others. Thus, as Paul’s writings carry the authority of Jesus Christ, so, too, the writings of the others of whom we have the written messages. Therefore, when one reads the Gospels of Matthew and John, or the letters of John and Peter, or the Revelation of Jesus Christ given to the Apostle John he may be sure that he is reading the inspired word of God with all of the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures. This is the “amazing chain of authority” that Jesus described in the aforementioned passage in John’s gospel. When an Apostle wrote under the leading of the Spirit what he wrote was God-breathed and authoritative, and therefore, must be accepted as canonical. how to handle the influx of Gentile believers (Acts 15:13-22). Further, Paul confirmed James’ apostolic authority in his letter to the Galatians (1:19). It should also be noted that both James and Jude were present in Acts when Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come upon them all (1:13-14).
That leaves the question of the Gospels of Mark and Luke, and Acts. Although neither Mark nor Luke were Apostles, both received endorsements from Paul. For instance, Paul said “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” (2 Tim. 4:11), thus commending Mark’s ministry and, by implication, his writing. Paul also affirmed Luke in the same passage when he identified Luke as the last man standing with him at the end of his ministry. Paul’s authority was directly from Jesus (Acts 9:4-6, 15-16), and it was in Paul’s warning to Timothy concerning false doctrine that he offered these commendations. At this point, one must reiterate that this is the chain of authority that had been established by Jesus, through Paul, and down to Mark and Luke.
However, there remains one book that has not been established as authoritative, and thus canonical. That is the book of Hebrews. The great difficulty lies in the fact that the author is unknown. What may be stated as fact about the author is he must have been a second-generation believer (Heb. 2:3). Many arguments have been made in attempts to promote various biblical figures as the author, but without historical confirmation, all of these arguments are merely conjecture. Beyond this point, the only argument that may legitimately be made is that the Christology and other doctrines addressed in the letter are completely in line with the other authoritative, canonical writings. Based on that fact alone may it be deemed canonical.
Peter offered an excellent example of the Church’s recognition of canonicity in his remarks concerning Paul’s letters; “and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Peter clearly understood that when Paul spoke he spoke with the authority of Christ Himself. As stated in the opening remarks of this paper, in the end, the reception or rejection of the canon, and thus the testimony of Jesus, will depend on the faith, or lack thereof, of the reader. However, acceptance of the Bible is not founded on blind faith for the Bible attests to its authenticity and authority in many ways, but none more authoritative than that of the Savior Himself. Because of this, we can agree with Gilbert’s summation; “In the end,…the answer a Christian will give to the question, “Why do you trust the Bible?” is, “Because King Jesus the Resurrected endorsed the Old Testament and authorized the New.”
 F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1988), 255.
 Rene Pache, The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 215.
 All Scripture quotes from New American Standard Version, 1995 Update.
 Pache, Inspiration and Authority, 221.
 Greg Gilbert, Why Trust the Bible? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 135.
 Christopher Cone, “Old Testament Canon, Part II” unpublished lecture notes.
 Gilbert, Bible?, 138, italics in original.
 Ned B. Stonehouse, “The Authority of the New Testament.” The Infallible Word (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1946), 117-118. Quoted in Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc. 1972), 41.
 Gilbert, Bible?, 139.
 Ibid., 141.
For those of you who are still checking out my blog I appreciate your patience. I’ve been very busy teaching classes, pastoring the church, leading the worship, and trying to be a god honoring husband and father. I also have not had much time to write, nor have I had much about which to right. I guess I’ve experienced a kind of brain drain. What I have today grew out of past online conversations, many that I can recall from years gone by , and others that I’ve only read. I hope you find this useful.
My Dearest Friend,
It is encouraging to me that you have chosen to engage me in this conversation concerning my beliefs as a Christian. The reason being is that I believe it simply reaffirms what God has revealed in Scripture; that it is He who has placed a desire to understand life and seek out our purpose (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and also He who moves in a person to cause him to seek Him (John 6:44). I realize that you are not to the point where you can accept this point of view, yet. But I am hopeful.
I have thought much about our last discussion, and would like to address a theme or two with you based on it. First, I’d like to return to your view of what constitutes what is right, and what is wrong. If, as you say, there is no God, what, then, is your basis for even attempting to differentiate between right and wrong? If there is no one higher than man himself, then wouldn’t that mean that man is the final arbiter of right and wrong? If that is the case, then which man is the final final arbiter of right and wrong? It seems to me that the buck must stop somewhere, and if it were left up to a single individual wouldn’t that mean that somewhere there is a worldwide dictator? By the way, God has warned that a final world dictator will come on the scene eventually, and it is not going to be pretty (see the book of Revelation for an explanation of that). We actually have a historical illustration of the harm that comes when a nation allows one man to be the final arbiter of right and wrong. Germany bought into Hitler’s ideals, which not only led to World War II and the deaths of many millions of soldiers from multiple nations, but also to the deaths of six million Jews, and many millions of civilians from various countries. The reason for this is that a man is not a reliable source of absolute authority. As in the case of Hitler, he was a man whose ideals were based not on facts, but on his own biases, misunderstandings, and hate. Reality demonstrates time and time again that, when allowed, men will manipulate circumstances in such a way as to suit their own personal likes and dislikes. And what happens when those personal preferences change? Once again Hitler’s treatment of his own right hand man, Ernst Roehm, the founder and original leader of Hitler’s Storm Troopers, gives a great illustration of the, shall we say evil, things that can result. My point is that if you believe that man in general makes the decisions concerning right and wrong, then the definition is left to a finite being incapable of infinite knowledge and thus incapable of establishing a universal ethical code. You would also be subject to the changing ethical “tastes” of a finite being whose own requirements, or standards for determining right and wrong may change. The resultant consequences would be devastating. God has warned us that the human heart (the innermost part of man) is sick, and desperately wicked; it cannot be trusted (Jeremiah 17:9). In truth, in His grace, God has built-in some protection against this sort of situation in that He has created each of us with an innate knowledge of right and wrong. But I’ll come back to that.
If, then, there is no one man who is the final authority, does that mean that there is a group, or conglomeration of men and woman who make that decision? That would ultimately end in a totalitarian government of sorts, would it not? Once again history has provide for us multiple accounts of what happens when such a situation occurs. The communist regimes of Russia, and China have killed, and imprisoned untold millions of their own people based upon the government’s idea of what constitutes right and wrong; right being whatever they said at the moment, and wrong being whatever they decide on the basis of what is best for the collective. Any dissenting view is met with harsh retribution. Is that the solution for determining ethical standards? Can an authoritarian government establish universal ethical standards? The answer is no.
Another alternative, if there is no God, is to allow each individual to establish his or her own standards of ethical behavior. However, this is not realistic. If I determine my own ethical standards, and the next guy establishes his own ethical standards, and we each have differing views of what constitutes theft, then how can I keep him from taking my stuff if he believes its okay to do so? At that point we must turn to the courts, which have established their own standards that go against both of ours and determine that everything that was taken from me is actually theirs. You can see the predicament that such a situation would put the world in; there would be mass chaos.
Behind all of this discussion is another question. Perhaps it is where we should have begun our discussion. That question is, why should anyone be concerned about right and wrong to begin with? I mean, if there is no God, and we are simply the product of random chance and time, evolution, then what difference does it make what one bag of protoplasm does to another anyway? If I answer only to myself, why should I be concerned about anyone but myself, and maybe my immediate family? Why would anyone care about anyone else at all?
Yet that is not what we see around us is it? No. We see that people and societies in one part of the world have ethical standards that are identical to people, and societies in every other part of the world. We know that people in Thailand, or China, or England do not want anyone stealing their possessions, committing adultery with their spouses, killing them or their families, etc. in the same way that we don’t want any of those things to happen in our own lives here in the United States. My point is very simply that there are universal standards of right and wrong behavior that transcend the boundaries of countries, ethnic groups, communities, and even religious sects. How does a worldview (remember a worldview is, in the simplest of terms, the entire system, no matter how loosely organized, that every individual uses to understand, and interpret the world around them) that believes that the God of the Bible does not exist account for such universal ethical standards? If you will allow me to answer, such a worldview cannot account for such ethical standards, nor can it justify their existence at all. I will restate the question I asked earlier in the form of a statement: It doesn’t matter what one bag of evolved/evolving protoplasm does to another, whether good or bad, assuming there really is such things as good and bad. In a world that is the product of random chance evolution there is no room for right or wrong. There just IS. Survival of the fittest is the rule of the day.
Now, within the Christian worldview we have answers for the questions that surround the concept of ethics. We believe in the One God of Christian Scriptures who has revealed Himself in His creation, His Son, who has explained the unseen God to us (John 1:18), and through the Christian Scriptures, which He superintended in such a way that all that was written is correct, without error, and exactly what He wanted us to know. He revealed that in the beginning He created all that exists out of nothing (Genesis 1 & 2). He explained that He created man in His image, thus insuring that mankind both knows Him, and right and wrong (Genesis 1:26-31). His creation was without flaw, but Adam rebelled against God by refusing to abstain from eating from the only tree that God forbade him from eating (Genesis 3), and at that point, sin entered the world that God had created. For our purposes we can say that at that point in history the contrast between right and wrong was presented to the created order.
Adam’s sin, or rebellion, brought devastation upon the created universe to the extent that all of creation was placed under the curse of God’s impending judgment. However, God was not content to leave things in such a state, but put in motion His plan to repair the breach culminating in the entrance of His own Son into the world. He took on humanity, lived a sinless, perfect life among His creation, died to pay the penalty of man’s rebellion, rose again on the third day to be seated at His Father’s right hand where He now awaits His return to judge the world. I tell you all of this to demonstrate first that the God of the Bible created all things. Therefore, as the Creator He has the absolute authority, right, and responsibility to establish the universal ethical standards, which He has done. These standards reflect His character and reflect who He is. He has revealed His standards in the Scriptures, and He has put those same standards within the operating system of every man. The apostle Paul explained this in his letter to the Romans: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them…and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:18-19, 32). Mankind, on the basis of being created in the image of their Creator, knows right from wrong because they know Him. They cannot escape the testimony within themselves, nor can they escape the testimony found in the rest of creation.
My friend, the Christian worldview is the only worldview that can explain both the existence of the universal ethical standards, and their origin. Only the Christian worldview, with its belief in and dependence upon the God of Christian Scriptures, offers the truthful explanation of the universal ethical standards that actually exist in reality. Only the Christian worldview can explain the existence of evil, and why certain things are right, and why certain things are wrong. Only the Christian worldview has a remedy for the evil that exists in the world. In the end God will reconcile with evil, and all who have not turned to Him for forgiveness will endure His judgment.
The good news is that He has provided a way for our bad to be erased. His own Son, Jesus Christ, became a man and lived among His creation. His death on a cross paid the penalty of our sin, and made it possible for us to be forgiven for our wrong. God will judge the wrong, or evil of the world, but those who have accepted the forgiveness purchased by the death of Christ will escape that judgment. It is my prayer for you that you will come to know the God that you know by faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
I pray that you will find His saving grace.
Forever your friend,
Excellent article, well worth reading.
If you notice in the replies at the end, one skeptical of this approach, and of the Bible in general it seems, actually illustrates the argument being made by the author by unknowingly admitting that what he “believes” is by faith; faith in the “thousands of learned professors, scientists and teachers…” in whom he places his faith. Also, in the respondent’s words, “Historic evidence by first hand witnesses…,” etc. reveals that it is not more evidence that the reader needs since the Bible is the product of 39 first-hand accounts (40 including Moses, who was given the account of the creation by the Creator) all of whom were carried along by God Himself to write an infallible, completely accurate account of God’s revelation to man through history.
I recommend that you read all the way through this excellent article including the responses.
This will be a geeky post, sorry.
Occasionally, I like to write on topics pertaining to apologetic methodology. My primary purpose is to sharpen my personal thinking in the matters of how my exegesis and theology shape my overall approach in apologetics and evangelism. My objective has always been two-fold: I want to make sure I am defending the faith accurately as well as engaging unbelief effectively.
I approach the subject of apologetics as a presuppositionalist as opposed to one who would consider himself a classic apologist or an evidentialist. Most Christians who fancy the subject of “apologetics” operate in the matrix of classical/evidentialist apologetics. That is because the classic/evidential apologetic is the most popular and the one the average church-going red state evangelical Christian is familiar.
Proponents of the classical approach are also known to have a disdain toward presuppositionalism. Their blog articles and lectures will often times offer…
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It has been some time since my last post. I have been busy with teaching, pastoring, studying, and most importantly, being a husband and father. Recent events in our nation have introduced changes to cherished, God-ordained patterns, as well as stealing individual freedoms once protected by our nation’s Bill of Rights, and overstepping the explicit dictates of our Constitution. However, these changes, abuses of power, and wanton acts of hubris on the part of many do nothing to change God’s plan, or diminish biblical truth. With this in mind we continue, and conclude our study of true Christian spirituality as set forth in the pages of Scripture.
In our last outing we examined Scripture’s two negative imperatives, namely do not grieve the Spirit, and do not quench the Spirit, and also the positive assertion that we must walk by means of the Spirit. The key to obeying these scriptural instructions is found only in Scripture itself. That will be our focus as we close out this series.
Paul makes reference to the fact that there is a state of the Christian walk that corresponds to that state of an infant. Returning to his letter to the Corinthians Paul states, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able for you are still fleshly. . . and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3). The criticism that Paul levels at them is based upon their “jealousy and strife” (v. 3). They were grieving the Spirit by their sinfulness and quenching the Spirit through their rebellion and thus they were infants in need of milk and not able to take in the meat of God’s word. From this testimony it is easily seen that believers go through stages of growth, but those stages of growth do not come without the cooperation of the believer himself. To state it a different and somewhat controversial way, growth is not automatic nor is it guaranteed.
Again, when we turn to the book of Hebrews we see a very similar chastisement. The writer states,
…you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their sense trained to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:11b-14)
In carefully reading this rebuke it becomes obvious that these Jews were believers who had regressed in their walk. Instead of growing upward they had actually gone backward. They had been believers long enough that they should have been teaching others. Contrariwise, those who are mature are so because they have practiced faith and obedience in the word. The result is that they have had their senses trained to judge between that which is good and that which is evil. However, they needed kindergarten remedial classes in the truth of God’s revelation. Just as Paul had described the Corinthian church and the writer of Hebrews identifies his Jewish audience, believers today can be immature infants not actively engaged in the growth process. Just as the lack of growth signifies a serious problem in the natural child so it is with the spiritual child. Peter gives a good directive as to the correction of this problem.
In First Peter 2:2 he wrote, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” Peter identifies the fact that growth depends on the intake of the word and gives the imperative to long for God’s word for it is the “mother’s milk” that nourishes baby believers allowing them to grow to maturity in the Christian walk.
These three biblical examples identify the fact that maturity depends on the knowledge of God’s will and “spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that (believers) will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:9-10). The believer is like a well from which the Holy Spirit draws in order for the believer to receive His direction. Without the water of the word (Eph. 5:26) filling the mind of the believer the Spirit’s work is hindered seeing that the believer’s “well” is empty. Thus, maturity is in part dependent upon the knowledge and understanding of the revealed will of God, His word.
The Filling of the Spirit
The filling of the Spirit is, if not synonymous with, closely related to walking by the Spirit. It is not to be confused with the baptism of the Spirit, which is a one-time act, for the filling of the Spirit is a repeated occurrence.[i] The filling of the Spirit occurs when He exercises control over the direction of and actions in the life of the believer. When this is accomplished through His empowerment and the believer’s cooperation the believer lives the Christian life and grows towards maturity.
In the closing statements to the church in Ephesus Paul wrote, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). The clear comparison that Paul made centers on the issues of control and influence. To be Spirit-filled is to be controlled by the Spirit, or, just as one can be under the influence (control) of alcohol, the Christian is to be under the influence (control) of the Holy Spirit. It must also be noticed that the one who has come under the control of alcohol has done so voluntarily. Likewise, the believer who would be controlled by the Spirit must voluntarily submit himself to the Spirit’s influence. Many refer to this as yielding to the Spirit while others prefer to refer to it as depending on Him. This decision to yield to, or depend on the Holy Spirit is a matter that the believer faces following the decision to dedicate oneself to God. It is an ongoing issue in the believer’s life since the filling can only be accomplished when not in a state of grieving or quenching the Spirit and thus must depend upon the consistent confession of sin (1 John 1:19) and obedience to the word of God (John 14:15, 24).
To be Spirit-filled the believer must also know and obey the will of the Lord meaning that knowing the revealed will of God in Christ, is a necessity (Eph. 5:15,17,18ff cf. Col. 3:16ff). Remaining in the state of being Spirit-filled is to abide in Christ and in His word (John 14). Jesus told His disciples that in order for them to bear fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, they must abide in Him for, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). To abide means to reside or remain in a certain location or sphere.[ii] In this passage it refers to remaining in fellowship with Christ by being obedient to His commands[iii] (John 15:7,10,14). John explained this very verse in 1 John 3:24; “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” When a believer is not in fellowship with Christ he is no longer being filled by the Spirit. When a believer is abiding in Christ’s words then the Spirit is able to direct him in the Christian walk.
There is so much more to be discussed and what has been discussed deserves a much greater treatment than what has been given here. I would recommend that each reader take the time to examine thoroughly the references given in this chapter because the Christian life is a vast and deep subject, and we have barely scratched the surface. We have seen God’s provision for the Christian life in regeneration, justification, sanctification, baptism into Christ, and the indwelling of the Spirit. We have seen the importance of the believer’s position in Christ, the problems that the Christian faces both externally and internally as well as what it takes to progress in the Christian life. And all of this has been viewed from a Dispensational perspective. Seeing that we are meant to live “in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God,” (Co. 1:10) it would behoove us to have a firm grasp of what the Christian life is and how we are to live it. I pray that God grace will continue to guide you in your studies.
[i]For a more in-depth treatment of this subject the reader is directed to Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life, 112-114.
[ii] William Arndt and Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000) Logos Bible Software.
[iii]For an excellent discussion of this conclusion the reader is directed to Robert Dean, Jr., “Abiding in Christ: A Dispensational Theology of the Spiritual Life (Part 1),” CTS Journal 7, no. 1 (January-March 2001), http://chafer.edu/content.cfm?id=367#01 (accessed July 10, 2012).
As we continue to look at the Dispensational view of the Christian life, we are pleased to be able to begin to look at the more positive side of the issue. That is not to say that the content of the teaching doesn’t have negative aspects, but the outcome of those is quite positive. Having examined the Christian’s obstacles to living the Christian life, it is necessary now to look at what are the positive steps toward actually overcoming said obstacles. We will endeavor to do that here, and in the following post(s).
The Believer’s Progress in the Christian Life
Lewis Sperry Chafer made a bold statement when he said, “The Christian will always be filled (by the Spirit) while he is making the work of the Spirit possible in his life.”[i] Bold statement or not it is biblical and can be substantiated by careful exegesis. We will now consider this truth very briefly.
Scripture gives the believer much in the way of directives and principles by which he is able to progress in the Christian life. We will examine four main imperatives, one dealing with the first intelligent step toward growth, and three dealing with the believer’s relationship to the indwelling Spirit: 1.) Present yourself to God (Rom. 12:1), 2.) Do not grieve the Spirit (Eph. 4:30), 3.) Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), 4.) Walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).
Present Yourself to God
After spending the first eight chapters of Romans developing deep doctrinal truths including the foundation of the believer’s position in Christ Paul begins chapter twelve with a command that serves to shape the remainder of the letter: “Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God (from the first eight chapters) to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1). Paul spent a great amount of the first three chapters developing the truth of man’s lost estate capping off the section with the pronouncement that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” followed immediately by the glorious news that those who are saved are so by “being justified as a gift by His grace through, the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (3:23-24). Again, the focus is on what God has accomplished on behalf of the believer and this truth is the basis upon which Paul pleads with believers to present their bodies to God.
The idea that Paul is attempting to convey is that, based on the glorious mercy of God in our salvation, we should dedicate ourselves completely to Him. The language used here is reminiscent of the animal sacrifices familiar to both Jewish worshippers and pagan ritualists. The Greek word paristemi is translated “present” in this passage. As to the technical usage of the word in this context, Marvin Vincent states, “It is the technical term for presenting the Levitical victims and offerings. . . . In the Levitical sacrifices the offerer placed his offering so as to face the Most Holy Place, thus bringing it before the Lord.”[ii] What we see then is that Paul is presenting, no pun intended, the fact that the believer has an obligation to offer himself as a real sacrifice to God, which is a total dedication in the same fashion that the Old Testament animals were set apart and dedicated for the purpose of giving their lives for the sins of Israel. The obvious differences serve to further expound the magnitude of the decision, which differences are first that unlike the sacrifices of old it is a voluntary decision, and second, it involves continued living in a state of dedication instead of immediate death of the sacrifice.
I labeled this as the first intelligent step toward growth. The reason is simple; it is a step of obedience to the Word of God. This does not necessarily mean that the believer is acting in response to Paul’s words, but it does mean that he is acting in response to God’s work in his life possibly through a series of events that God has used to bring him to the end of his own strength. In conjunction with this positive step it is without question that he will soon thereafter discover that what he has done was in obedience to God’s word.
Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). Chafer correctly expresses the truth of the matter when he described the Christian life as one of supernatural requirements and in constant need of the empowerment of the indwelling Spirit and God’s enabling grace.[iii] With such needs and requirements it is imperative that the believer maintain a fellowship with the Spirit. It is therefore incumbent upon the believer to obey Paul’s message.
To grieve the Spirit is to tolerate known sin in our lives, to live with unconfessed sin. “Grieve” is the translation of the Greek word lupeo in its present active form which likely indicates that Paul was saying “do not go on grieving the Holy Spirit.” Sin is to miss the mark of God’s perfect righteousness or to deviate from His perfect standard. As Chafer states, “where sin is tolerated in the believer’s daily life, the Spirit, who indwells him, must then turn from His blessed ministry through him, to a pleading ministry to him.”[iv] Allowing sin in our hearts to go unchecked places us in an immediate state of carnality regardless of the length of time that we stay in that condition (Ps. 66:18). Yet, God has provided for the remedy for the sins of the believer, which provision also allows an immediate restoration of fellowship between the believer and Himself.
John addresses this subject in First John where he admits that any believer can “walk in darkness” (1:6), and thus he is not practicing the truth but that which is contrary to God’s very nature (1:5). Though still a believer, he is nonetheless living in the flesh (carnal). That walk in darkness proves that the one doing so is not in fellowship with God but out of fellowship. John continues by broadening the subject stating, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1:8). “Sin” here is in reference to the sin nature and not individual sins.[v] If we say that we do not continue to have the very source of sin, the old man, remaining in us we are deceiving ourselves. This is a sure way to live a defeated life and not progress in growth toward maturity. However, John continues: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). Therefore, understanding that we continue to have a sin nature we also understand that we continue to sin and are able to deal correctly with it. In doing so, we can maintain a consistent fellowship with the indwelling, empowering Spirit.
We can conclude that at some point in our lives as Christians we will grieve the Holy Spirit by sinning and not immediately confessing it. We may even remain in that state for some length of time. That state of broken fellowship isolates us from the Spirit’s ministries in us, particularly His work of empowering us to live the Christian life. However, God has offered the means for reestablishing fellowship by simply confessing our sins.
Do Not Quench the Spirit
Another negative command is, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19). “Quench” is from the Greek meaning to put out (a fire), suppress, or stifle. In the present context Paul was telling the Thessalonians not to resist the out working of the Spirit and of the gifts He gives within the life of the Church (see vv. 12-18 and 20-22). Such resistance would stifle His work in their midst and would be tantamount to refusing to abide by and submit to the Spirit and the spiritual gifts at work. However, the quenching of the Spirit is not limited to the output of the spiritual gifts (vv. 12-18).
When the believer says no to the Spirit’s work, regardless of the form that work takes, he quenches or suppresses the Spirit and therefore limits or inhibits His work in the believer’s life. The Spirit does not abandon the believer, as seen earlier in the distinctions between Israel and the Church, but the believer’s resistance makes the Spirit’s filling impossible until the believer changes his mind (repentance) and confesses his sin. Therefore, the believer, according to Paul, must “stop quenching the Spirit” (present active imperative) by refusing to allow Him to work.
The cure to the quenching of the Spirit is to “present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13). This correlates directly with one’s decision to dedicate himself to God (Rom. 12:1). Christ Himself is the perfect example of this attitude (Phil. 2:5). In Hebrews 10:7 the testimony of our Lord is found: “Then I said, Behold, I have come . . .to do your will, O God.” It is perfect submission and obedience to God’s will.
To sum up, to quench the Spirit is to refuse to obey God’s revealed will. The cure is to have a change of mind (repentance) concerning said refusal and the decision to live in obedience to His will. It is to have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) and to adopt both the knowledge and the attitude associated with it (Phil. 2:5).
Walk by the Spirit
Finally, we find a positive command from Paul. He says, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). This is the believer’s exercising positive volition in deciding live in dependence upon the indwelling Spirit’s power and guidance.
To walk by the Spirit refers to living by means of the indwelling Spirit. In other words it is a moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit’s guidance in taking every step of life by faith in God based upon the knowledge of His revealed will in Scripture. Ryrie agrees, “Actually walking is, by its very nature, a succession of dependent acts. . . .Walking can only be done successfully by successive acts of faith in the power of one’s feet. Likewise the Christian walk can be done successfully only by a constant dependence on the Holy Spirit’s control over one’s life.”[vi] Remember, the Christian life is one of supernatural requirements such as understanding God’s will and choosing to live in obedience to it. This is made possible only through reliance upon the indwelling Spirit, the one “who is at work in [us], both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). When a believer grieves the Spirit by allowing sin to remain unchecked in his life he allows sin to interrupt the Spirit’s continued guidance. When a believer quenches the Spirit by refusing to live in obedience to what he knows the will of God to be he suppresses the Spirit’s work in his life. However, when the believer responds in obedience to God’s revealed will and chooses to depend upon the Spirit to do so he is walking by means of the Spirit.
Walking in the Spirit is living moment-by-moment under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit. It is to walk step-by-step under His guidance by not allowing personal sins to be left unconfessed and thereby not grieving the Spirit, and by choosing obedience to God’s revealed will thereby not quenching the Spirit. The positive decision to depend on the Spirit results in walking by means of the Spirit, or the Spirit’s filling. We will address the Spirit’s filling in the final section to follow.
It is therefore to the Christian’s benefit to strive to walk by means of the Spirit. Only in doing so will the believer find victory in the Christian life. However, we must not confuse this striving with the self-generated attempt to gain holiness by mere self-effort. Instead it is accomplished in the one who is being motivated by the Holy Spirit through knowledge of God’s revealed will and who is empowered to do so by the indwelling Spirit to choose to obey God.
Each of the previous subsections of the believer’s progress in the Christian life are related to the maturation progress involved in growth as a follower of Jesus Christ. In addition to these truths there must be added at least two others that have direct bearing upon a Christian’s ability to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).
The Christian life is reflective of natural life. Within the believing one is born a new man. That new man is meant to progress forward from the initial stage of birth to the final stage of full maturation. There is a definite process to this growth. The ultimate goal is to progress to the point that Christ is formed in us (Gal. 4:19). The Christian life, when healthy and normal, follows the same process as natural life. That is, just as a newborn baby must go through the stages of growth on his way to maturity, so the newborn Christian is a baby that must progress toward maturity. One of the failures of the Church is that there seems to be a mindset that believes every Christian is automatically on the course toward maturity simply because they believe in Christ for salvation. Merryman offers a clear and helpful explanation, “…[A] new Christian cannot be mature because maturity involves time plus knowledge of truth and application of truth (m = t + kot + aot). The same is true in physical life: at age 1 a person can be an absolutely healthy organism just as at age 20; but at age 1, it is impossible to be as mature as at age 20.”[vii] Sadly, there are many believers who are twenty years old in Christ but are babies in their maturity level.
[i]Chafer, Spiritual, 67.
[ii]Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), Logos Bible Software.
[iii]Chafer, Spiritual, 43.
[v]Both Chafer and Merryman address this issue. Chafer states, “Sin is what we are by birth, while sins are the evil we do in life” (Chafer, Spiritual, 114). Merryman addresses the issue in the following: “John is not referring in this verse to “sins” (as he does in verse 9), rather to their source, the animating sin that continually resides in us. . . . It is the animating sin nature that he is focusing on.” See Ron Merryman, The Passion War: Spiritual Conflict in Every Believer (Casa Grande, AZ: Merryman Ministries, 2002), 5.
[vi]Ryrie, Christian Life, 114-15.
[vii] Ron Merryman, Spirituality…Maturation…Retrogression… (Casa Grande, AZ: Merryman Ministries, 2004), 6 (emphases in original).
This is an extremely important, and informative piece that Dr. White has written. As a former Southern Baptist pastor, and longtime member of the SBC tradition, I was quite concerned with the appointment of Russell Moore. I appreciate Dr. White’s work, and writing on this topic. Moore’s poor understanding of Scripture and God’s overarching plan for His world will further permeate the SBC and lead it further down the road to compromise and globalism.