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Living as Canceled Christians 

It happened to the elect exiles to whom Peter wrote (here’s a brief overview). Our voice can vanish too. We are not immune. We can be canceled.

But are we ready? Can we stand in the storm or will our house be blown to smithereens? Will it crumble on the sand that it is laid or is it’s foundation deep and solid? Will our life vanish and wither? Where is our source of life?

Soon these questions will meet their answer. We will see the truth with our eyes. Soon we will see our faith—or lack thereof—with sight. Soon the gold, or dross, will be revealed. Soon we will see what our treasure truly is.

Yet, even the scorching brutality of heat can be a blessing of bounty and beauty when it’s sustained by the water of the Spirit. And from the sand, we can find a foundation when from the Word we mix our mortar and ever rely upon the unshifting rock of Christ. It’s when the wind blows that the flag is most clearly waved if it’s tightly tethered. Yes, we can stand and standout if we ever lean on the Savior and not the many would-be-saviors that can’t deliver.

So, will the steep decline of morality make us fall or will we cling tighter to our Master? Notice we must cling to our Messiah and not to morality itself. The law is a stone that crushes and upon which our feet slip. Christ is a sure and steady cornerstone.

If we as canceled Christians are going to make it and obtain the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9) and the inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven for us” (1 Peter 1:4) then we must set our hope fully on the grace and abundant goodness that will be brought to us at the coming of Messiah Jesus (1 Peter 1:13). We must set our hope on and think often of heaven, and not obsess over making heaven here. Here there is no home, only longing. Only a damp, humid, and stinky tent. Our home is being prepared for us. We are campers.

So, let’s live as campers and let’s long for our true home and for the true bed in which we can finally really rest. We as canceled Christians can flourish if we live like the campers we are.

A reader of this post thought it was gobbledygook. Here’s my response.

The Work of the Spirit | pt. 10

Tongues

Tongues are used in a few overlapping ways in Scripture and should be pursued and practiced as outlined in the Bible. Scripture shows us that the problem is not tongues but the abuse of the gift of tongues.[1] I think it should be admitted that even if we do not completely understand the gift of tongues we should not forbid their practice in private or publically when interpreted (1 Cor 14:27-28) because Paul explicitly says “do not forbid speaking in tongues” (v. 39).

Paul actually tells people to be ready to share a tongue (1 Cor 14:26) and he says, “I want you all to speak in tongues” (v. 5). Further, Paul tells us that he spoke in tongues more than all the Corinthians (v. 18).[2] Paul said all of this even though “one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (v. 2). Therefore, even though tongues are unintelligible to the human mind unless one is given the gift of interpretation (12:10), to speak in tongues is not wrong or bad (see 14:39); although, it should not be done publicly unless there is an interpreter (v. 28).

Many believe that tongues simply refer to a foreign human language (e.g. Ferguson, MacArthur).[3] Michael Horton says, “We should… understand ‘tongues’ as synonymous with natural languages, which some were miraculously gifted to speak and others to interpret.”[4] This understanding of tongues is simplistic and wrong for at least three reasons. (1) Tongues are used to speak to God. Paul says, the “one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (v. 2). In this way tongues, at least the way tongues are used here, may be similar to the groans that Romans speaks of (Rom 8:26-27). (2) If tongues are interpreted they seem to function in a similar way as prophecy thus they are different than a foreign speaker coming into a meeting that needs to be interpreted. (3) Paul says there are different types of tongues (1 Cor 12:10, 28). It seems that tongues (glossia) are used in overlapping ways in Scripture. R. P. Spittler points out that in Scripture we see that tongues refer to three types of overlapping phenomena. He says,

‘Kinds of tongues’ (génê glôssôn, 1 Cor. 12:10, 28) can refer to anything on a glossolalic continuum ranging from (1) prayer ‘with groans that words cannot express’ (Rom. 8:26, NIV; preferable to RSV ‘sighs too deep for words’), through (2) tongues speech in a controlled ecstatic jargon that ‘no one understands’ by someone who ‘utterers mysteries to God’ (1 Cor. 14:2), to (3) charismatic use of a recognizable language never learned by the speaker (Acts 2:8).[5]

Regarding tongues, it must also be pointed out that though tongues are good gifts that are given by the Spirit, tongues are not the marker of maturity. Further, tongues are not linked to a “second blessing” or to being filled with the Spirit.[6] Lastly, it must be understood that even if we do not understand something in Scripture does not mean it is wrong or that it does not continue. I, for example, do not understand, the seraphim. But I believe in them. In the same way, just because we may not understand every aspect of tongues does not mean that tongues do not still or cannot function as a blessing to the Church.

Here is a summary of what 1 Corinthians says regarding the gifts of tongues:

(1) There seem to be various kinds of tongues (1 Cor 12:10. 28 cf. 13:1; Acts 2:4).

(2) Tongues are unintelligible and unedifying to the group (1 Cor. 14:2-4, 6, 19) but are edifying to the speaker (v. 4).

(3) Tongues are not a foreign langue but are addressed to God (at least this is the case in 1 Corinthians) (vv. 2, 14-17).

(4) Tongues are not to be shared publically unless interpreted (1 Cor 14:6, 13, 26-33 cf. Acts 19:6).

(5) Tongues themselves are not forbidden but actually encouraged (1 Cor 14:5, 26).

(6) The regulations of tongues show that the tongues speaker is not in “ecstasy” or “out of control” (vv. 27-28).[7]

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The Work of the Spirit | pt. 8

Prophecy

The ministry of a prophet does not contradict or add to Scripture but if truly from God is infallible. This is very controversial but it seems to be the correct conclusion when we unbiasedly consider the biblical evidence. It is helpful here to consider what Sam Storms has said, “If noncanonical revelation was not a threat to the ultimate authority of Scripture in its emerging from, neither should it pose a threat to Scripture in its final form.”[1] Many, however, do not buy that.

For example, John MacArthur says, “extrabiblical revelation always leads to error!”[2] Then he proceeds to look at cults and mentions the Book of Mormon as an example. It is true that there are many false claims to revelation but that in itself does not mean that there is not still revelation. If we truly believe in solo Scriptura we need to show where the Bible says there is no longer revelation.

Schreiner, in his helpful book Spiritual Gifts, argues that prophecy no longer continues because the prophecy in the New Testament was infallible and what is happening now is not infallible.[3] He never demonstrates, however, that all of what is called “prophecy” today is not at least in some cases from God and thus infallible. Further, this is not an argument grounded in Scripture. Instead, Schreiner is simply making an assertion about all modern claims to prophecy.[4] That, we should see, is a big sweeping claim.

I believe Schreiner actually helps the case for the continuance of prophecy because he makes a strong argument that not all prophecy is inscripturated. That is a big part of what I believe regarding prophecy. I believe infallible prophecy continues today but just like in the Old and New Testaments, not all infallible prophecy is included within the canon.

Schreiner shows that New Testament prophecy does not differ from Old Testament prophecy.[5] He says,

New Testament prophets spoke authoritatively and with complete truth to the situations in their churches. The fact that most prophecies weren’t written down and preserved is completely irrelevant as far as the truth of the prophecies is concerned. It is a category mistake to think that if prophecies are without error, then they must be written down and included in the Scriptures. And it doesn’t logically follow that prophecies must contain errors if they aren’t preserved and written down. God spoke authoritatively and truly through the prophets, even if their prophecies weren’t recorded and preserved. They spoke the infallible word of God to their contemporaries, who needed to hear these true and authoritative words of God.[6]

Further, in chapter 7, Schreiner makes a convincing case for infallible prophecy. He argues that “the idea that New Testament prophecies are mixed with error is mistaken.”[7]

I believe that what the prophets of today share is similar to what Agabus shared. Of course, some claim that Agabus’ prophecy in Acts 11 was wrong. They, however, are mistaken.[8] Ferguson concludes, “Paul’s testimony assumes its accuracy. We have no reason to believe that Agabus’ prophecy failed. Luke gives no indication that Paul thought it had done so.”[9]

Prophecy is never produced by human will[10]; instead, the person with the prophecy speaks what God gives them to say by the Spirit (2 Pet 1:20-21).[11] Thus, prophecy is infallible because prophecy gives the words of God and God always speaks the truth (Titus. 1:2; John 17:3,17; Heb 6:18; Prov 30:5).[12] Of course, we can misunderstand or disobey but God’s words are always without error.

So we see prophecy in the New Testament was both accurate and highly significant for the actions of the church[13] but it was not on par with Scripture in the sense that it was not to be inscripturated.[14] It is not the type of revelation to be inscripturated. It is not didactic revelatory teaching but pertains to the local body or a local situation. As in disclosing someone’s heart (as in the Spurgeon’s real-life example[15]) and that encourages the local body because they see the Lord at work. It is not something that would add to the canon.

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The Work of the Spirit | pt. 7

The Gifts Must Function in Accordance with Scripture

When the gifts of the Spirit are carried out and employed within the parameters of Scripture then a lot of the concerns that cessationists have should be able to be set aside. So, first, let us consider some of the parameters that Scripture puts in place for us. The gifts must function in a way that serves others (1 Pet 4:10-11), edifies (1 Cor 14:3, 12), is clear and ordered, not confusing or chaotic (14:23, 29, 33, 40), is loving (1 Cor. 13),[1] and exalts Christ (Eph 3:21; 1 Cor 12:3).[2]

Scripture further says that tongues must be interpreted if they are shared in the gathering (1 Cor 14:27-28), prophecy must be weighed (v. 29 cf. 1 John 4:1; John 7:24), only two or at most three prophecies or tongues can be shared at a public gathering (1 Cor 14:27-29), and all things should be carried out in an orderly way (vv. 30-33, 40) for the express and emphatic purpose of building up the body of Christ (e.g. v. 12). Paul says, “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation” (v. 26). Why? “For building up” (v. 26). Thus, Paul tells us to “earnestly desire” (12:31; 14:1, 39) the Spirit-empowered gifts and “strive to excel in building up the church” (14:12).

Second, let’s ensure we have a biblical understanding regarding the more controversial issues related to the gifts of the Spirit. I created an acronym to help us consider this subject more effectively. The acronym is G.I.F.T.S. Here is a summary of the acronym:

  • God continues to give gifts to build up the church.
  • Individuals with the gift of prophecy do not contradict or add to Scripture but if what they share is truly from God then it is infallible.
  • Fallible apostles still exist and are gifted men of God but the office of Apostle does not continue.
  • Tongues are used in two overlapping ways in Scripture and should be pursued and practiced as outlined in the Bible.
  • Scripture is to always be obeyed as the final authority.

We will now look at each of those bullet points in order.

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The Work of the Spirit | pt. 6

You can see the previous post in the series here.

There is no exegetical reason for believing the gifts have ceased. Ninth, despite what many believe, there is no convincing exegetical argument for the cessation of the grace gifts.[1] 1 Corinthians 13:10 plays a prominent role in many cessationists’ arguments. It did for me when I was taught as a kid. There is another hermeneutical issue, however. Thomas R. Schreiner says,

To see ‘the perfect’ as referring to the New Testament canon is an example of anachronism…

Instead of referring to spiritual maturity or to the canon of the New Testament, ‘the perfect’ most likely refers to the second coming of Christ, the end of the age. The perfect is equivalent with seeing God face to face (1 Cor. 13:12).[2]

John MacArthur says although many “scholars [e.g. B.B. Warfield, Richard Gaffin, Robert Thomas, Thomas Edgar, Simon J. Kistemaker] disagree on the identification of the ‘perfect,’ they all reach the same conclusion—namely, that the miraculous and revelatory gifts have ceased.”[3] He goes on to say that “we must look elsewhere than 1 Corinthians 13:10, to passages like Ephesians 2:20, where Paul indicated that both the apostolic and prophetic offices were only for the foundational age of the church.”[4] 

Many, such as John MacArthur, Richard B. Gaffin, along with Schreiner, end up making the argument that the gifts of the Spirit have ceased because they claim, otherwise, the canon of Scripture would be in jeopardy.[5] That, however, is rather a different issue than if the gifts of the Spirit continue or not. For one, the canon of Scripture, as well as the very existence of the Church, has been in jeopardy since the outset. The way to defend Scripture, as well as the church, is a more robust understanding of what Scripture teaches, not fear.

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The Work of the Spirit | pt. 3

In the last post, we looked at “God the Spirit and the Filling of the Spirit.” In this post, we will be looking at…

Grace Gifts

Next, we need to understand that God the Spirit gives “grace gifts.”[1] God’s abundant grace that we see demonstrated all throughout redemptive history issues in grace gifts.[2] God expresses His grace concretely in the rich number of grace gifts He bestows upon the Church for its upbuilding.[3] Schreiner observes this and says, “I would define spiritual gifts as gifts of grace granted by the Holy Spirit which are designed for the edification of the church.”[4]

The Spirit was vital at the beginning of the church and He continues to be on through to the consummation. He brought the birth of the Church, He hovered over the Church like He hovered over the water at the beginning. The Spirit does not bring charismatic chaos but the creation of order. That was the Spirit’s work at the beginning and it is the Spirit’s work today. There is no biblical warrant for believing in some big discontinuity between the work of the Spirit then and the work of the Spirit now in the last days. Actually, Scripture says, “in the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17). We are in those latter days today and we still need the empowering presence of the Spirit.

The hodgepodge, unlearned, and often unimpressive group of Jesus followers did not see the messianic movement die. Instead, the people of the way (Acts 9:2) actually exploded in growth, this group of people that followed a crucified and cursed man who claimed to be God, this group of people who had no leader on earth. How did this group survive let alone thrive?

Because Jesus did not leave His disciples without what they needed. Jesus sent the Helper.

Jesus said, that it was better that He go. That seems shocking. As it should. And as it did for the first disciples. We are left asking, how could it be better that Jesus’ bodily presence not be with us?

Thankfully Jesus answers that question. He tells us that He will not leave us as orphans. He gives us the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to be with us (See John 14).

The Grace Gifts Continue Today

“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8[5]). Will we? Will we receive power?

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The Work of the Spirit | pt. 1

Introduction and Thesis

The Apostle Paul said, “Now concerning spiritual gifts: brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be unaware” (1 Cor 12:1).[1] This is a very important subject yet sadly very divisive. The reality is “there is one body and one Spirit” and “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:4-5) but there are many divergent views on the work of the Spirit within the Church. So we have all the more reason to carefully evaluate this subject.[2]

This subject is important to consider because we want Christ’s church to be as healthy as it can possibly be, we want it to be adorned as Christ would have it. If there are good gifts that are available to the church for it’s upbuilding then we should want to and should make use of them.[3] Especially because 1 Corinthians 12:31 tells us we are to eagerly desire the greater grace gifts.

I believe that all the good gifts that were available at the outset of the church continue to be available and will be until the consummation when the Lord Jesus comes back to get His bride. So my thesis is that God the Spirit continues to empower and provide various grace gifts[4] to the Church for its upbuilding and these gifts should be earnestly desired and practiced in accordance with Scripture. This is very important to consider because “despite the affirmations in our creeds… and the lip service paid to the Spirit in our occasional conversations, the Spirit is largely marginalized in our actual life together as a community of faith.”[5]

Setting the Context

I have a number of questions that are important for us to honestly consider.[6] Could it be the case that some people have a bias against the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit?[7] Could it be that people do not have solid biblical reasons for believing that the “more miraculous” gifts of the Spirit have ceased? Could it be that most people’s beliefs in this regard are simply based upon what they have heard someone else say? Could it be that in this case, people have failed to check what was taught to ensure it was in accordance with Scripture (See Acts 17:11)?

Could it be that the Western enlightenment worldview has crept into our own view of the world and impacted the way we think about spiritual things?[8] Many have adopted a view of reality that sees “the universe as a uniform system based strictly on the cause-and-effect relationships between its constituent parts, each in a determinate relationship one to the others, utterly closed to any dimensions of reality that transcend the natural.”[9] Of course, many Christians rightly confess with Abraham Kuyper, that “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” But, could it still be the case that “naturalism nonetheless deeply influences our view of the daily events of our lives”[10]?

Can we concede that the continuation of the gifts would be a good thing? Should not we want all the grace that our good Father has availed to us? How can we say something is bad that our Father has called good?[11] If the grace gifts are part of the “every good and perfect gifts” (Jas 1:17) that God has graciously given us then should we not receive them gratefully?[12] If spiritual gifts are as bad and unhelpful as many make them seem, then why would the gifts have ever existed at all?

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“Be kind to one another”

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).

There is a right way and a wrong way to live. That is not popular to say but it is the undiluted truth. The right way is in accord with “the way [we] learned Christ” (Eph. 4:20). The wrong way to live involves “hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:18), callousness (Eph. 4:19), and corruption through deceitful desires (Eph. 4:22).

So, there are certain things we should not do. There is a wrong way to live and act. It is damaging and even devilish (James 3:15). 

Therefore, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” We should not be resentful. Sinful anger should have no place in our lives. Foolish arguments should never be heard to come from our mouths. We should never speak wrong of others. How can we try to tarnish a person made in God’s image (James 3:9)?! Lastly, how can we have ill-will for someone when God the Son paid the ultimate price for us?! How can we not be transformed by our heavenly Father’s sacrificial love so that we extend grace and love even to our enemies?!

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Be Eager to Maintain Unity

“Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2).

I quoted this verse to my daughter today and she looked at me with a confused look and said, “What does that mean?” 

That’s always a good question. I explained to her that in the Church we are all one big family and so we need to stay together and get along. We need to make sure that even when we’re mad and hurt by each other we work at still forgiving each other.

It is very necessary that we read this verse and heed its exhortation. It will inevitably be a verse we have to apply in our own lives. So, as my daughter asked, “what does it mean?” And I would add, “how do we do it?” and “what motivation are we given to obey?”

What does this verse mean?

It says to be “eager”? That means to want to do or have something very much. What do you do when you want something really bad? You pursue it. You work to get it. Even if there are opticals you keep at it. That needs to be us. We need to be zealous in our pursuit of unity. 

Notice also that we are to want to “maintain” the unity. Unity is not just important at one point in one situation. We should desire and work towards maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace at all times and through all situations. 

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Why did Jesus flip over tables?

“And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple” (Mark 11:15-16).

Why did Jesus drive out those who sold and bought in the temple? Why did He flip over tables? That seems pretty extreme. Why was He so worked up? What was such a big deal? I mean in some ways the moneychangers actually helped people it would seem.

When I was in Germany, for instance, I had to go to the “moneychangers” to get euros. Without the moneychangers, after all, I would have had no schnitzel. Further, pigeons were sold. That is actually pretty convenient. Because who wants to have to haul a pigeon halfway across the known world? Not me. So, what was the deal with Jesus getting upset?

It seems that money was not the only issue. In fact, maybe not the biggest issue. Though, Jesus does mention that the moneychangers were essentially robbers (again, reminds me of the bank in Germany where I got my euros). But I think the bigger issue is what the Temple was intended to be and what it had become. It clearly was never meant to be “a den of robbers” but “a house of prayer.” A house of prayer “for all peoples,” it says.

The moneychangers were in the “Court of the Gentiles,” that’s basically equivalent to where Gentiles (non-Jews/”the nations”) would worship. As you can imagine that would obstruct worship. It would be a hindrance from Gentiles, “the nations,” from worshiping the Lord. This is the converse, as Jesus pointed out, of what Isaiah said: “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is. 56:7).

Jesus brings blessing and salvation to all peoples but at the temple people were hindered from worshiping. That is why Jesus was furious. And rightly so. May we never be worthy of Jesus’ wrath for that same sin. 

May we never prevent or hinder people from coming to the LORD, even if they are convenient or important things that we don’t want to give up. May we work to destroy unnecessary stumbling blocks. And may the church be a house and family that welcomes all people in!

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