I'm a proud daddy. This is what my daughter wrote for one of her assignments.
As humans, we cannot see our destiny. That is one thing that God has not allowed us to do. If we could, we would probably live in fear of what would happen the next day.
Some people claim to know what the future holds. They lie. Nobody can really see into the future. If we try, then we are disobeying the rules that God set out for us, and attempting to do the impossible. Think of a baby. A newborn baby; only a day old. What can that baby do? Nothing. What do you think would happen if that newborn started talking and walking around? That would be against the rules of human nature; just as trying to do what only God can is against the rules of Christian nature.
I’m sure that if God wanted us to see our destiny, then we would be able to. But I also think that God doesn’t let us for our own good! If we could see into the future, just think of how miserable we would be! The only thing that I can safely say about my destiny is that I know that someday Jesus will come again, and save me from my sins.
Over the last few months I've been learning more and more about dispensationalism. I have to say that the more I learn, the more frustrated I am becoming with it.
I wanted to take a moment here and put forth a few of my thoughts that I've had regarding the dispensational viewpoint.
1). Dispensationalism posits that there will be a time when the Jews erect the temple and reinstitute the sacrificial system.
I personally find this to be a form of blasphemy. Christ is the once and for all sacrifice and the greatest possible revelation of God (See my sermon on Hebrews 1). There is a reason we do not sacrifice animals any more. It is because Christ is the fulfillment of such things. To re-institute the sacrifices is to profane the name of Christ by resorting back to the shadows and the continual shedding of blood.
I've heard it said that these sacrifices will only be memorials and not atonement oriented. But that's what they were in the first place! They were pointing forward to Christ. Now that he is here, we do not need them anymore. This is especially true since the means of grace of the New Testament have more clarity and spiritual efficacy than all the forms given in the OT (see WCF 7.6).
The analogy that I give goes like this: We don't use candles anymore. Why is that? It is because of the invention of the light bulb. Light bulbs are superior to candles in their power and brilliance. It would be a foolish thing to say, "Candles are better for helping people see."
So too, the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper are "brighter" forms of revelation. Why try to implement the forms that are less effective?
Here's a real practical point on this whole idea of temple building: When I was in Israel I went to a institute where they are preparing to build the third temple. They welcome donations to help build the funds they need for this venture. Now, should a dispensationalist contribute to this? Or should he give his money to a missionary who preaches the gospel? It would seem that, if they are consistent, they should give to the temple building fund. However, it defies the means of grace God has established for the building of his people (i.e. preaching!).
2) Dispensationalism posits that promises made to Abraham and the Jews regarding the land must be fulfilled.
I deal with this to some degree here and here. I also talk about it in the sermon I preached this past week on Hebrews 3 (check under point one). Essentially it goes like this: Abraham's promises need to be seen in light of Genesis 3:15 and Hebrews 11:16. The land promise is salvific in nature, pointing forward to the promise of salvation and life in Paradise.
3) Some Dispensationalists believe that the Jews worship the true God. The only problem is that the just need Jesus.
I understand that this is not something all dispensationalists believe. But this is out there. These people do not understand that Judaism is idolatry. If they loved YHWH, they would follow Christ. Jesus himself said, "He who receives me, receives him who sent me." (Matt. 10:40) He also said, "I am the way, life and truth, no one comes to the Father but by me."
The conclusion is that there is no other way to YHWH than through Christ. The god Jews worship does not exist. It is a false belief and idolatry.
You are invited to come see our sister Raylene present her latest act "Swinging with the Saints: A fast paced musical adventure through church history."
It is tonight at 7 pm at the Ashland Brethren in Christ church, which is located on County Road 1095.
In this act you'll meet 15 musical pillars of the faith, such as Ambrose, Charles Wesley, Clement of Rome, Bernard of Clairvaux, John Newton, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and many more.
Raylene also has a chautauqua style performance of the famous hymnist Fanny Crosby. You can see all her acts or book her for a presentation at your next event at her website Timeless Voices.
I was asked to introduce this part of the service by offering a brief explanation of the doctrine of ordination. And I’d like to do so by beginning with a little illustration that I hope will give you a sense of what is happening here today.
Let’s say you and I are driving down the road. You look over and see that I’m going too fast. So you say to me, “You know, you are speeding. You better slow down.” That would be a very true thing (and a very good thing) to say. And I should listen to you because what you just said is very important. However, it is quite a different thing to have a police officer pull you over and tell you that you were going too fast.
Now, what I want you to see is that both you and the officer said virtually the same thing. But at the same time they were vastly different, weren’t they? Your words might have been true, but they did not have the same weight as the Police officer’s. Why is that? It is because he is a police officer. He has authority that you do not. As a result, his words have a greater gravity to them.
Let me give you another illustration. If I go to Iran and I start talking about some new policies that America is going to be enacting, what I say may be true. It might be good if the Iranian people and the Iranian government to listen to me. But it is a whole different thing if the US ambassador to Iran gets on the Aljazeera TV network and makes a speech. Even though we might say the same thing, there is a huge difference in what is said because the US ambassador has a power and authority that I do not have because he is specifically sent by the United States.
What I want you to see is that these illustrations portray well the meaning and significance of the doctrine of ordination. Up until now, Joe has been going around doing his evangelism, and he has been doing a great job of it. He’s been calling people to repentance and faith, and he has had many opportunities to share the gospel.
But today things are going to change. Even though Joe is probably not going to be doing anything really different when he goes out to do his evangelism. He’s probably going to be saying virtually the same things he has done before. There is going to be a significant change because his words are going to carry a greater weight and power due to his being set apart by God to be an evangelist in this church.
The wonderful thing about this service is that we all have opportunity to participate in this tremendous event. In just a few moments we as elders will be laying our hands on Joe. This little act is a way of publicly testifying to the fact that God has called and equipped Joe for this work. In our doing this we are as a church body confirming to Joe, each other, and all the world that God has set Joe apart for the work of evangelism, and that he joins us in leadership for this purpose.
But this ceremony is certainly not limited to Joe and those of us who lay our hands on him. All of you who are members of this church have an active role to play. Each of you participates to some degree. As we lay our hands on Joe, you personally must agree to what is being done here today, and you must personally affirm Joe & his new role. As you sit here today, you must in your own heart pledge both your support of him and your submission to his authority as a minister of the gospel.
So as we enter into this part of the service, let us all remember the depth of what happens here today and praise God for it. The kingdom of Satan today shudders because God has raise up a gospel evangelist. May we be equally grateful as they are fearful, and may we all unite together in one heart to join God in the sending forth of Joe.
Ordination is a doctrine that needs to be revived if we are going to see the church revived in our day. It is all but neglected because any old slub thinks he can do something for Jesus by becoming a campus parachurch worker or by jumping up in pulpit and "preaching." However, standing in a pulpit does not make one a preacher.
Preaching is an act only of the officially ordained (or licensed) man. In Romans 10:14-15 it says, "How are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'"
The preaching in this passage is done by someone who is officially "sent." The OT quote emphasizes this as it references an official messenger who has been given the special charge to go announce a victory.
Therefore, when a man is ordained, he assumes an office. He becomes God's ambassador with the specific charge of formally declaring God's message, which is the gospel. That is what preaching is: The official declaration of God's Word by the man who is distinctly appointed by God for this solemn affair.
In the ordination service the church publicly testifies that this particular man who they are ordaining has been raised up and equipped by God for that role. Then, as they lay hands on him, they formally recognize that God has invested him with the authority that specifically pertains to this office.
It is not until that has happened that he actually preaches. Anything that happens before that moment is not what is technically known as "preaching." This is why theologians have differentiated between preaching and exhortation. Preaching is what preachers do (that is, ordained men). Everyone else who speaks biblical truth exhorts his brethren (i.e. encourages or instructs).
This is not to say that what a non-ordained person says is not effective or that God cannot use this person to convert people or edify the church. It's just not technically preaching.
Why is it important to consider this? For one, we are required to sit under the preaching of God's word from week to week. Paul tells Timothy to "Preach the Word." As a result, the people to whom he is to preach are to submit themselves to that word. So when we gather together for worship, we are mandated to listen to the officially appointed man declare what God has to say.
What's the big deal? Isn't that what any non-ordained person does? The truth is that there is a large difference. It is one thing to hear a brother speak to us and teach us truth from the Scripture; it is another to hear someone who has the authority of the office preach.
Let me illustrate: Suppose you are driving down the highway and your speed exceeds the set speed limit. The person in the passenger seat can tell you that you are going too fast and need to slow down. That would be a useful exhortation. However, it is quite a different thing to have a police officer pull you over and tell you that you were going too fast. Both said virtually the same thing, but they were vastly different as to their nature and power.
Secondly, understanding this doctrine will help us sift through the scads of men who wish to serve as pastor (funny, I almost said "who wish to play pastor", which is a blog in and of itself!). Men who do not have the skills required to preach ought not to preach. If they cannot speak well, put together a coherent message, or interpret Scripture with any sort of meaningful intelligence, they should not act in the capacity that requires them to do so.
Similarly, men who have not the theological acumen for this work ought to leave well enough alone. Men who are ordained ought to be thoroughly examined as to their knowledge and beliefs. We would not want any old schmo walking off to some foreign country to act as a representative of our country. We want someone who has some intelligence and expertise in his area of work to act in that capacity. Ought then we not to expect the same of those who will serve as God's ambassadors.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, after worship the congregation should be able to walk away saying, "I heard from God today." The words might have had the intonations of a man, but the message most certainly had the authority and weight of God's very word.
And when a man preaches, that's exactly what happens.
How old do you think Jesus' disciples were? Many people envision them in their 20's or 30's. Some even picture them with long white beards. But the answe may surprise you.
Our latest newsletter from Providence Church deals with this very question. You might be thinking that this is rather frivolous in the grand scheme of things. But the answer does have some rather interesting implications for how you go about raising your children. I encourage you to give it a read.
You can check it out here: Jesus' 12 Pubescent Disciples.
An obnoxious fundamentalist baptist came by the prayer stand today while we were doing our evangelism. He proudly rebuked us for having tracts that called people to repent of their sins. He said that telling people they needed to repent in order to be saved was "salvation by works."
I returned the obnoxious attitude in kind by asking him, "How big of a wretch are you?" He stared at me for some time then finally said, "I don't know where you are going with this." So I said, "I just want to know how big of a wretch you think you are because I bet you $10 that I'm much more wretched than you are."
He tried to go back to his beef about repentance and salvation by works. He said that salvation is only by believing and that the only thing a person has to do in order to be saved is have faith in Christ.
This was my point of course! He had fallen right into my trap. I pressed the point of our depravity by saying, "I'm so vile that I can do absolutely nothing to contribute to my salvation. As a matter of fact, my heart is so full of sin that I cannot even believe of my own power. Even my faith has to be a gift of His grace."
I then pointed out that he was actually the one who believed in salvation by works. He was the one who earned his salvation by the good work of his believing.
No matter how many times I pressed him, he would not admit to being a wretch. I pointed him to Paul who exclaimed, "What a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ."
Finally he said, "Are you are Presbyterian, Calvinist?"
The Nicene Creed was modified by the Latin Church, adding the word “Filioque” (i.e. and the Son). The Western Church wanted to be clear regarding the third person of the Trinity and His spiration. The Eastern Church, however, never accepted the term, and to this day continues to use the original form of the Nicene Creed. Thus, the controversy of the Spirit's procession
The Latin Church added the term because they thought it best represented the teaching of Scripture: The Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.
The difference between the Western and Eastern Churches' understanding may be depicted like this:
You may ask, “What’s the big deal?” The difference is significant. The Eastern and Western churches have developed quite differently over the last 1000 years.
Before we get into more pragmatics, let’s examine the dynamics of filioque. The question comes down to this: How does one relate to the Father? In the Eastern church one is said to have communion with the Father by means of the Spirit only. In the Western church one relates to the Father by means of the Spirit and the Son. On the one hand, you have almost a direct access to the mind of God the Father. The Spirit brings it straight to you. One the other hand, the knowledge you may gain from the Spirit about God the Father includes the Incarnate Son (thus, this knowledge is mediated by means of what the Son reveals about the Father).
In sum, the Western Church will have both an incarnational aspect to it and it will be greatly influenced by the Word of Christ. In the Eastern Church, one does not necessarily have an incarnational aspect and may not need any relation to the Son to gain knowledge of God. For the Eastern Church then, the focus then tends to be on a mystical experience of God.
1. We can see some of the practical outworking of this through the writings of various people associated with the Eastern Orthodox Church (EOC). One Eastern writer sums up the Greek Church’s views well this way, “The premise of all mysticism is that experiential knowledge of God takes preference over doctrinal understanding of the character and being of God because of the transcendent nature of God.” (Italics added for emphasis).
Another Eastern writer says, “None of the mysteries of the most secret wisdom of God ought to appear alien or altogether transcendent to us, but in all humility we must apply our spirit to the contemplation of divine things.”
One more quote ought to suffice. This one from a contemporary youth who converted from Protestantism to the EOC, “This is how we worship, to stay concentrated in prayer. We believe that, during the service, God pours himself out. If you get quiet enough in your mind, you can feel, palpably, his presence.”
One can see how this radically differs from Western Christianity, especially Reformed Western Christianity. In the West we know God through the Bible alone and we admit that there are some things God has not chosen to reveal. Thus, for the West, “The secret things belong to the Lord” and we try not to pry curiously into them.
In the East, there are no secret things. All God's truth, even that which is not revealed in Scripture, is fair game because the Spirit grants us free and unhindered access to it.
To put it another way, in the West, we “experience God” by the Spirit’s illuminating our minds to the teaching of Christ in His word. In the East, one experiences God without this word and almost directly (save the mediation of the Spirit).
You might say that some of the Eastern Orthodox mysticism is parallel to some of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches today in that it seeks to have a definite, physical experience of God and gain knowledge of God without the Son. The Pentecostal inclination to seek mystical experiences of God apart from the Son and the truth He gives centers isan implicit denial of the filioque. Though Pentecostals might not openly reject the filioque clause, in practice they do.
2. Another practical expression of the filioque is highlighted by Bojidar Marinov. Marinov says that the Eastern countries do not have an adequate understanding of the “rule of law” as the western countries do. This is because their religious experience was framed by the Spirit’s direct interaction with the Father and had no incarnational aspect. Western Churches have fought tyranny because the word of Christ dealt with our physical, everyday life and not just our spiritual relationship with God. The law of God (i.e. the Bible) impacts both our relation to the world as well as our relation to God.
Eastern churches did not see this incarnational aspect. God only spoke (so it is said) to our spiritual lives. When it came to normal, everyday life another source of truth was needed. It became the state. Government leaders were the ones who gave law to direct the affairs of this world. So man was to be governed by two laws: one which was spiritual (life with the Father, mediated by the Spirit), and one which was physical/temporal (life on earth, mediated by bureaucrat).
3. Another expression of the practical implications of denying the filioque may be seen in the EOC’s focus on deification. The EOC says that the goal of human redemption is to be so united with God that one actually becomes divine.
For many Church Fathers, theosis [i.e. deification] goes beyond simply restoring people to their state before the Fall of Adam and Eve, teaching that because Christ united the human and divine natures in Jesus' person, it is now possible for someone to experience closer fellowship with God than Adam and Eve initially experienced in the Garden of Eden, and that people can become more like God than Adam and Eve were at that time. Some Orthodox theologians go so far as to say that Jesus would have become incarnate for this reason alone, even if Adam and Eve had never sinned.
In Western theology this is repudiated. The goal of Western theology is justification and being made right with God. This occurs through the atonement and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us by the Spirit's application. In Eastern theology, there is essentially no need for atonement because union with the Father is not dependent upon the Son's activity.
Something of this is seen in the liberalism of the West. Liberalism says that God can be known apart from Christ, that there are “many roads to God,” and that all people will be saved (universalism). Such views say that the Spirit lives in us all and allows us to know God apart from Christ and the preaching of His word.
The phrase [filioque] in the creed can lead to a possible misunderstanding. It can threaten our understanding of the Spirit’s universality. It might suggest to the worshiper that Spirit is not the gift of the Father to creation universally but a gift confined to the sphere of the Son and even the sphere of the church. It could give the impression that the Spirit is not present in the whole world but limited to Christian territories. Though it need not, the filioque might threaten the principle of universality- the truth that the Spirit is universally present, implementing the universal salvific will of Father and Son. One could say that the filioque promotes Christomonism. -Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love, p. 196. (Underlining added for emphasis)
Pinnock's description is a clear renunciation of the fact that the Spirit is bound to “reveal the Son.” Instead, the Spirit is “universal” and “threatens…the universal salvific will of Father and Son.” In other words, Pinnock says that the way to God does not depend on the Spirit working in and through the word of God (which is the message of the Son, Rom. 10). Rather salvation is the working of the Spirit alone apart from God the Son & His word.
All this radically denies the Bible's plain teaching on the exclusivity of Christ for salvation.
 Understanding this is difficult. To say the least, it is not an ontological merge, where you become one with God physically. However, you are increasingly becoming god-like. The goal is not to become like Adam and Eve, as they were in the garden. But to become more than Adam & Eve were to the point where you are made divine.
The topic for this morning’s discussion is the general topic of Sola Scriptura. Specifically speaking, the topic is the doctrine that Calvin developed known as the self-authenticating Word.
But before I begin I would like to elaborate a little on the parallels between our day and Calvin’s. As you may well know, the Reformation is known as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) back to the Bible movements in history. This period of history was unique because it experienced the proliferation of the Scriptures in their written form, of course due to the printing press and the invention of the movable type. And so, people, for practically the first time in the history of the world, were able to begin to study the Bible on their own and in their own homes.
Now I do not wish to downplay the fact that Bibles now were being disseminated at such a rapid pace. Neither do I want to pooh-pooh the personal and individual study of the Bible. But the most significant development of the Reformation was a renewal of the corporate reading of Scripture in worship, and more importantly, the return of the pure preaching of the Gospel.
I would suggest to you that the mass production of Bibles would have been little or no worth if it had not been for the restoration of the pulpit ministry. For it was there that men began to hear the call of God once more. It was because God raised up men who expounded the Scriptures that people began to recognize the authority of the Scriptures and the importance of the law of God for one’s daily life.
Just prior to the Reformation the great cathedrals that had been erected in the preceding centuries were rapidly becoming nothing more than ecclesiastical tombs. Pews were becoming more and more vacant. And this is mainly for two reasons. On the one hand most all of the services were conducted in Latin (a language that was no longer the common tongue). On the other hand, if a sermon happened to be preached in the native tongue, it was most likely a short word from a prior scheduled lectionary. If I might be a bit anachronistic and use some phraseology from our contemporary linguistics: the church services at that time were no longer “relevant.” God did not speak my language, and, if he did, he had nothing of real significance to say to me.
Within this context a Swiss minister by the name of Zwingli announced on January 1st that the following Sunday he would begin a series of sermons on the book of Matthew. His plan, then decried and objected to quite heavily, was to begin with the first verse and continue to the next verse and to the next and to the next, and so on, until he finished the entire book. The discourses might be considered crude as they were marked by such simplicity. Sound scholarship certainly underlined the messages, but, as one has said, “the only real ornaments were the conviction and fervor with which they were spoken.” But upon hearing the first of those sermons one man reported to have felt like he had been lifted up by his hair and suspended in air. That is how radical and exhilarating the experience was. The reaction must have been contagious because those who had formerly ceased attending once again became regular churchgoers. And this happened all over the continent of Europe as the pulpit became once again a place where God’s word was preached.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.