The Canon According to Jesus

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.

Hoky Bible

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.

Two Expectations

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.”[1] 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.”[2] 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.”[3] 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.”[4]

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).”[5] And when using this form in His teaching Jesus “was endorsing and ratifying the authority of the entire Old Testament from start to finish.”[6] 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.”[7]

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.”[8]

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)…”[9]

 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”[10] 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.

Conclusion

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.”[11]

[1] F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1988), 255.

[2] Rene Pache, The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 215.

[3] All Scripture quotes from New American Standard Version, 1995 Update.

[4] Pache, Inspiration and Authority, 221.

[5] Greg Gilbert, Why Trust the Bible? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 135.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Christopher Cone, “Old Testament Canon, Part II” unpublished lecture notes.

[8] Gilbert, Bible?, 138, italics in original.

[9] 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.

[10] Gilbert, Bible?, 139.

[11] Ibid., 141.

 

 

The Words of the Gospel of Eternal Life | 1024project.com

The Words of the Gospel of Eternal Life | 1024project.com.

I would like to introduce you to the 1024project.com if you have not yet discovered it on your own.  I am one of the founding members and would like to invite you to sample some of the sites work.  The above article is by one of the other founding members, Dr. Mike Stallard.  I hope you enjoy reading it.

Below is a brief description of the 1024project:

1024projectlogo

What is the 1024 Project?

The 1024 Project is a collaboration of Christian leaders, based on Hebrews 10:24 – “and let us consider ways to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” One way we can accomplish this mandate is by working together to provide encouraging and edifying resources on issues that arise in the lives of individual believers and in corporate church life. The 1024 Project is a clearinghouse of teaching, resources and information from likeminded leaders of Biblical churches, who are committed to Two Key Distinctives:

First, the Bible (the Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament) is the inspired, inerrant (in the original manuscripts), revealed word of God, and is authoritative and sufficient for the equipping of saints for every good work.

Second, the Bible provides the model for its own interpretation, and should be understood in its natural (literal grammatical-historical) sense, considering context and the progress of revelation. The 1024 Project and its members are committed to the consistent application of the literal grammatical-historical method for understanding the entire Bible.

These Two Key Distinctives have some obvious implications. One implication worth noting here is that the 1024 Project means by “considering context and the progress of revelation” that the earlier Biblical texts provide grounding and definition for later Biblical texts, and not the other way around (the OT is not to be reinterpreted by the NT, rather the NT is to be understood in light of the OT). Consequently, hermeneutic models that advocate NT primacy, like the canonical or complementary approaches, do not consider context and progress of revelation in keeping with the literal grammatical-historical hermeneutic.

Finding and Following God’s Will, or, How Cessationists May Know and Do the Will of God, Part 2

In my last post I began putting forth my understanding of and belief in the idea that the sign gifts of the first century have ceased in this dispensation, a belief known as cessationism.  This belief includes the understanding that the canon of Scripture is complete and closed.  I ended my last post with my presuppositions, which include the following:

  1. The God of the Bible exists and is knowable
  2. He has spoken
  3. The Bible is the record of His speaking
  4. In speaking He has revealed His will
  5. Since He has revealed His will He must desire that we know it
  6. Since He desires that we know His will His message must be comprehensible (He is God after all)
  7. Therefore, we can know His will
  8. His will is found in Scripture

In this post I would like to demonstrate that Scripture demands that we know God’s will, and explain how Scripture teaches us how to know and obey God’s will.

The first requirement is that one must be a believer.  God’s desire is that men be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4).  The natural man, a.k.a., the unbeliever, cannot know the will of God, cannot understand the message of Scripture, and indeed does not desire to understand the will of God or message of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:14).  Thus, the first step of knowing and doing God’s will is that you must first trust Jesus Christ alone for salvation from sin.

Secondly, believers are commanded to understand God’s will.  Paul, in Ephesians 5:17, states, “So then do not be foolish, but understand (present active imperative) what the will of the Lord is.”  We can also deduce from this verse that to not understand the will of God is to be a foolish believer.  However, in order for a believer to be able to understand the instruction of Scripture he must be one who is spiritual, i.e., not walking in darkness, but in fellowship with the Father (I Cor. 2:15; 3:1-3; 1 John 1:6-7).

Third, knowing Christ’s commands, including His further instruction found in the Apostles’ teaching, is to know His will.  Psalm 40:8 proclaims, “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”  Knowing and obeying God’s Law was to do His will.  Later in the Psalms we find the following instruction: “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Your word.  With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandmentsYour word I have hid in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Ps. 119:9-11).  The clear idea is that knowing God’s word and His Law is equivalent to knowing His will.

There are several passages in the New Testament that give clear, unequivocal statements of what His revealed will for the believer is.  Such ideas as, be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), ™being sanctified (1 Thess. 4:3), ™be thankful (1 Thess. 5:18), sometimes suffering for Him (1 Peter 3:17), ™be subject to authorities (1 Peter 2:13), and ™do all without grumbling (Ph. 2:14).  These are just a few examples.

Fourth, obeying His commands is doing His will.  Jesus patterned this for us and went as far as to tell us so.  He said, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works” (John 14:10).  As a matter of fact, Jesus’ whole life of obedience was the outworking of doing God’s will: “Behold I have come to do Your will” (Heb. 10:9).  Jesus identified the fact that part of the Spirit’s ministry was to enable His disciples to obey His commandments and thereby demonstrate their love for Him (John 14:15-17).

From what I have put forth as I have found in Scripture, I believe that the clear teaching of Scripture is that we can and must know God’s will, that knowing His word is to know His will, and in doing what He commands we carry out His will.  However, there is more to this story.

There are several issues that must be addressed before we can actually know and then do God’s will.  First, there is the matter of knowing what His word says.  Our heritage is found in First Corinthians.  Paul teaches us that “we have (possess) the mind of Christ.”  I believe that what Paul is teaching here is the link between the fact that we have the indwelling Spirit as well as the Divine message of Scripture, which the Spirit enables us to understand.  Yet, before the Spirit can enlighten our minds to understand the word we must know it.  Therefore, Paul instructs Timothy to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  Accurate handling of the word requires accurate understanding and application.  One of the main issues with believer’s who don’t know the will of God is that they do not take the time nor make the effort to know what the word teaches.  The belief that God gives direct revelation in order for individual believers to know God’s will for them is, in my opinion, an act of lazy discipleship, at least in part.

Another aspect of knowing and doing the will of God is that it takes wisdom to employ His will.  The Greek word for wisdom, sophia, may be defined as “the capacity to understand and function accordingly”.  It is this word that is used by James when he teaches us that, “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).  Therefore, we see that wisdom is necessary and available for the believer who would know and do God’s will.  That wisdom is for the purpose of employing what is known of God’s will in the life of the believer.

There is also the matter of the Spirit’s ministry within the believer and our cooperation with Him.  Paul taught the Philippians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12b-13).  The Spirit’s work is accomplished fully when believers cooperate with Him by, “(being) filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).  The Spirit causes us to desire to do God’s will, enables us to do God’s will, but our obedience is required to carry out God’s will.

The final link in the chain of knowing and doing God’s will is found in adding all the 2’s together.  Here is the way I believe it all works, according to how I interpret all that we’ve seen.  The mechanics of doing His will when attempting to make a decision are as follows:

1. Know God’s revealed will
2. Obey God’s revealed will
3. Count the cost of your options, Luke 14:28-32
4. Do all for His glory – 1 Cor. 10:31
5. Do what you want to do – Psalm 37:4
This answer seems to be to “unspiritual” for some as if God doesn’t work within the mundane of the everyday life.  Too many want a mystical encounter with God, which I believe can be attributed to the Church’s refusal to accept Scripture as the only source of knowing God’s will.  The result is that many Christians remain in a perpetual state of immaturity waiting on a special message from God that never seems to come.
God bless.  I pray this helps.

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Why Christmas? 2

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I found something that I wrote last Christmas and decided to revamp it to share again.  Please forgive the repeat, but I hope you enjoy.

I love Christmas!  Although I hate cold weather, Christmas is my favorite time of year. It brings back great childhood memories, it allows me to spend time with family and friends, we give and get presents, and so on, and so on.  However there is another reason that I love Christmas; Jesus Christ stepped into history becoming a man in order to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind.

This year our Church Christmas musical mentioned Isaiah 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; …” Notice two things: 1.) A child is born – the focus is on His humanity, and 2.) A son is given – the focus is on His deity; the very Son of God has been given.  This passage identifies the uniqueness of the One who was given to Israel and mankind as He who would pay the penalty of sin and provide salvation for those who have faith in Him.

In the book of Hebrews we find the very reason that Christ was born.  The writer of Hebrews states that Jesus Christ became a man “so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).

Think of it this way; God cannot die.  Therefore, Jesus, God the Son, took on humanity in order that in His humanity He could die.  That’s really why we celebrate Christmas.  Hebrews 2:14 and 15 state, “Therefore, since the children (Israel/humanity) share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, so that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”  Through His sufferings He became “a merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17), and now “He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (2:18).

How do we answer the question posed in the title, Why Christmas?  It can be addressed this way: We celebrate Christmas to commemorate the day that God the Father gave His Son, Jesus as a gift to mankind in order to pay the penalty for sin.  Jesus the Son became human on Christmas so He could give His life as the payment for our sin.  God the Holy Spirit is now offering the gift of freedom from the penalty of sin based upon the gift given by the Father and Son.

When His offer is accepted an array of other gifts follow.  The Spirit Himself is imparted as a gift (Acts 2:38) as He indwells, empowers us to live a life of a supernatural nature, and imparts even further gifts as ministers to us.  Justification is given as a gift (Rom. 3:23-24) as well as the gift of righteousness in Christ (Rom. 5:17).  Paul also tells us that we are granted access to every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) and that we are granted the gift of eternal life (Rom. 6:23)

Therefore, Christmas is about gifts given from God to man, but His gift is not wrapped with a big red bow, but with a crimson stream that flowed from Calvary.  It is about the gift of Jesus Christ the Son.

Think about these things as you celebrate this Christmas.

Israel and the Church: Does One Equal the Other, Part 2


 

In a previous post (June 25, 2012) I began sharing many of the distinctions between Israel and the Church.  In particular, I simply shared twelve of the twenty-four contrasts that were identified by Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer in the fourth volume of his Systematic Theology, and, in some cases, clarified or refined by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum in his book Israelolgy: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology.  In this post I would like to continue what I began.

13.) “To Israel, Christ is Messiah, Immanuel, and King with all that those appellations imply.  To the Church, Christ is Savior, Lord, Bridegroom, and Head” (Chafer, IV:50)

14.) This contrast involves God the Holy Spirit and is the greatest of contrasts between Israel and the Church.  Under the Old Covenant in the Old Testament the Spirit did not indwell each individual saint.  As Chafer states, “Only in exceptional instances and for unusual service did the Holy Spirit come upon an Israelite, and the Spirit withdrew as freely as He came, when the purpose was accomplished” (Ibid.).  However, the New Testament saint is so because of or as a product of the Spirit’s indwelling – Romans 8:9b, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”

15.) The Law of Moses was the rule of life for Israel until the fulfilling of the Law by Christ (Matt. 5:17).  On the other hand, the Church is not under the Law of Moses (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18), but is now governed by “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:2)

16.) Divine enablement.  Under the Law Israel was given no supernatural enablement to live in obedience to its demands.  The Church has the supernatural enablement of the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill the righteous requirements of God (Rom. 6:14).

17.) Contrasts between farewell discourses of our Lord.  The Olivet Discourse was delivered prior to Christ’s crucifixion detailing Israel’s failure and future “and that in its relation to His return (Matt. 23:37-25:46).”  The Upper Room discourse belongs to the Church and lays out “the seeds of later Church doctrine” (Fruchtenbaum, 427).

18.) The promise of Christ’s return is addressed to Israel in the context of His returning TO her as her King with power and glory (Matt. 24:29-31).  As to the Church it is taught that He will return FOR her as His bride (John 14:1-4) at the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18) and when He returns to Israel He will return WITH His bride the Church (Rev. 19:11-15).

19.) Position.  Israel is described as a servant (Isa. 41:8) whereas the Church is “forever in Christ and are members in the family and household of God” (Chafer, 52).  “Not all Dispensationalists would agree with this contrast, though all would agree that there is some truth in it” (Fruchtenbaum, 428).

20.) Christ’s earthly reign involves the Israel as the subjects of the King (Ezek. 37:21-28), while the Church is predicted to reign with Christ “as His Consort in that kingdom (Rev. 20:6)” (Chafer, 52).

21.) Priesthood.  “The nation Israel had a priesthood.  The Church is a priesthood” (Ibid.).  As Fruchtenbaum points out, “While this contrast does have some validity, it need not be taken as absolute, for in Exodus 19:6, the nation as a whole was called to be a kingdom of priests” (Fruchtenbaum, Ibid).

22.) Marriage. Israel is the wife of Yahweh/Jehovah (Jer. 3:1, 14, 20; Ezek. 16:1, 59; Hos. 2:1-23) and the Church is the bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7-9).

23.) Judgments.  Israel will and must go through a severe time of judgment (Ezek. 20:33-44; Matt. 25:1-13).  However, the Church will not come into such a time of judgment (John 5:24; Rom. 8:1).  This does not negate the fact that God disciplines His Church-age children (Heb. 12:1-11), but the bride of Christ will not go through a time of judgment as that which is coming upon Israel.

24.) Position in eternity.  “The contrast here is not one of actual position but title, for both Israel and the Church will live eternally in the New Jerusalem.  Old Testament Israel is listed as ‘the spirit of just men made perfect,’ and these are distinct from the ‘church of the firstborn.’  Such an ‘enumeration’ clearly shows a distinction” (Fruchtenbaum, 429).

Hopefully by this time most of us can see that there are a number of contrasts between Israel and the Church. We can also see that there are many similarities also.  Yet similarity does not mean equality.  I grew up with some friends who are twins (Hey, Pickens!  How ya’ll doin’?).  They were identical to each other, at least they were “identical twins.”  Yet, if you were to know them you would begin to identify the distinctions between them.  They are very similar, but they are not the same person.  They are distinct.  So are Israel and the Church.  To confuse the two or conflate does great damage to Scripture and causes a great deal of confusion.

God bless.  I pray this helps.

Israel and the Church: Does One Equal the Other?

I received the above chart from a friend of mine.  As you can see it equates Israel with the Church based upon various similarities.  Obviously, some of the similarities are legitimate.  However, similarity does not equal identity.  In other words, just because two things have many characteristics in common doesn’t mean that they are the same entity.  Israel and the Church is a case in point.

I want to begin by simply pointing out the ill-advised hermeneutic that has been employed in at least one of the similarities.  Number sixteen states that Christ is married to them (speaking of the nation Israel) and Christ is married to the Church also.  Notice that Christ being married to Israel is in italics.  That is because the Old Testament doesn’t teach that Christ is married to Israel but that Yahweh is.  Hosea 2:19 is not Messiah speaking but is Yahweh speaking to Old Testament Israel: “I will betroth you to Me forever.” (NASB)  However, this is just one issue.  Let’s get to the meat of the subject.

There are sixteen similarities in this chart, fifteen if you discount number sixteen.  Years ago Lewis Sperry Chafer illustrated twenty-four contrasts between Israel and the Church.  Perhaps they will help to make my point, which is that Israel and the Church are two separate entities created by God for His purposes.  Note: All of these are found in Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1948), IV:47-53.  Additional explanation and variation is found in Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Israelology (San Antonio: Ariel Ministries Press, 1989).  Granted not all of these are direct statements of Scripture but are easily seen in Scriptural revelation by simply examining the information Scripture provides.  The interesting thing about these observations is that they are all derived simply by a man and his Bible and a normal reading of Scripture. To put it another way, just as the doctrine of the Trinity is not overtly stated in one verse and must be deduced from the totality of Scripture’s teaching, these distinctions or contrasts between Israel and the Church must be discovered in the same manner.

It is my intention to discuss these twenty-four contrasts over our next two blog posts.  Enjoy.

1.) The extent of biblical revelation – Scripture is occupied with the subject of Israel in almost four-fifths of its pages whereas the Church is found in about one-fifth.

2.) The divine purpose – Every covenant promise for Israel deals with a land, a people, a future kingdom and a future king with future spiritual promises.  The focus is earthly.  The Church has heavenly promises, heavenly blessings and spiritual provisions.  As Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum points out, Israel’s primary purpose is not exclusively earthly since they are also destined to be in “the heavenly Jerusalem in the Eternal State” (Israelology, 47).  It is also seen in Scripture that the Church will have a major role on earth during the Millennium (Ibid).

3.) The seed of Abraham – the physical seed of Abraham is by natural generation.  The spiritual or heavenly seed of Abraham is entered into by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit upon exercising faith in Christ.  Further, within the natural seed of Abraham is also a subset of the spiritual seed meaning that among those who are by physical birth the children of Abraham there are those who have placed their faith in Messiah and are identified as “the Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16.  They are those who are circumcised in their hearts not merely their flesh (Rom. 2:28).

4.) Birth – Physical Israelites are so through physical birth.  “Christians become what they are by spiritual birth” (48).

5.) Headship – “Abraham is the head of the Jewish race, and they are properly designated as ‘the seed of Abraham.’ . . .Over against this it may be said of Christians, though when magnifying the element of faith they are called ‘Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3:29), God is their Father and by the Spirit they are joined to Christ and he, the resurrected Lord, is their new federal Head” (Ibid.).

6.) Covenants (Theology, 49) – “God ‘made unconditional covenants with His earthly people’ already and will in the future ‘make a new covenant with them when they enter their kingdom'” (Israelology, 424).  On the other hand the Church is now experiencing spiritual blessings based on the basis of Paul’s pronunciation that Christians are “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).

7.) Nationality – Israel belongs to the earth and to the world-system…Over against this…is the fact that the Church is composed of all nations, including Israel, and sustains no citizenship here, but instead the believers are strangers and pilgrims” (Theology, 49).

8.) Divine Dealing – In the past God dealt with nations as a whole, as He did with Israel, but in the present dispensation God’s dealings with humanity are on a strictly individual level.  This fact is unique to this dispensation.  As Fruchtenbaum summarizes, “…God dealt with Israel as a nation, but with the Church as individuals.” (Israelology, 424)

9.) Dispensations – Fruchtenbaum’s summary and clarification is excellent: “Israel is present in every dispensation since Abraham, including this one.  In contrast, according to Chafer, the Church is limited to the present dispensation.  However, most Dispensationalists today would add the next dispensation of the kingdom as also being a time when the Church will be present.” (Ibid., 425)

10.) Ministry – Israel was appointed to exercise an influence over the nations of the earth (cf. Ps. 67:1-7), and this she will yet do perfectly in the coming age; nevertheless there was no missionary undertaking and no gospel proclaimed. . . . She faced inward toward the tabernacle or temple . . . However, immediately upon her formation, the Church is constituted a foreign missionary society.  It is her obligation to face outward and to those of her company is given the task of evangelizing the people of the earth in each generation.” (Theology, 50)

11.) Relationship to the Death of Christ (Israelology, 50) – Israel, though sharing great responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ calling down the blood of Christ upon them and their children (Matt. 27:25) will yet be saved as a nation by means of that very sacrifice.  “On the other hand, a present and perfect salvation to the praise of God is the portion of the Church through the offering of the Lamb of God.” (Theology, 50)

12.) God the Father (Israelology, 50) – In the Old Testament God is identified as the Father of the nation of Israel, but never so identified in relation to each individual.  In the present dispensation God is identified as the Father of each individual believer in Christ (Rom. 8:14-15).

These are the first twelve of the twenty-four contrasts between Israel and the Church.  Those who have never had these distinctions pointed out to them, if you are one reading, there should be some light being shed upon the subject of the fact that Israel and

, purposes that may overlap and share similarities, but which are still separate and distinct.

We will look at the next twelve contrasts in my next post, unless something else comes up between now and then.

I pray this helps.

Is This Really the Way to Present the Gospel?

Recently I read an account of a Gospel presentation by a man who is identified as a friend of the man who was writing.  The man who was relating the encounter is named Charles Price.  The retelling of this story can be found in his book, Real Christians (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1987, pp. 55-56).  I had never heard anything quite like it and was really terrified by it.  Here is what he wrote:

After we had talked from a couple of hours, the young man seemed to be prepared to give himself to Christ.  My friend, no doubt sensing that asked him a question: “In light of all we have talked about this evening, can you think of any reason why you should not become a Christian tonight?”

The young man sat for a few minutes, then looked back at him and replied, “No, I cannot think of any reason.”

I was excited by this but to my amazement, my friend leaned across the table and said, “Then let me give you some!”  For the next few minutes he began to explain the cost of being a Christian.  He talked about the young man’s need to surrender his whole life, his future, his ambitions, his relationships, his possessions, and everything he was to God.  Only if he was prepared to do this, my friend explained, could Christ begin to work effectively in his life.

…My friend then leaned even further across the table and asked, “Can you still not think of any reason why you shouldn’t become a Christian tonight?”

After another moment, the reply came, “I can think of some now.”

My friend responded, “In that case, do not become a Christian until you have dealt with every one of those reasons and are willing to surrender everything to Christ.”

Is this really the way that the Gospel is to be presented?  I don’t know the rest of his gospel presentation, but is this even part of the Gospel message?

When the Philippian jailer brought Paul and Silas out of the jail he fell down at their feet and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  Then Paul and Silas said to him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.” (Acts 16:30-32)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship (creation)…” Ephesians 2:8-10a.

“(John the Baptist) came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him (his testimony)” John 1:7

“Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. . . He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:14b-16, 18

When I read the account of Jesus’ ministering to the Samaritan woman at the well, I don’t read about how He gave her reasons to not believe in Him (John 4:7-30).  Furthermore, I read what Paul identifies as “the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, . . . by which also you are saved…” in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and I find a similar lack of pronunciations as to why they should not believe in Christ.

So I again pose the question concerning the presentation of the Gospel as presented by the friend of Price; is that really how we should present the gospel?  In case you are wondering what MY answer is, I say no.