Sunday Meditation – Fight for Souls

“Usually, priests and pastors do not have to fight for souls.  A Catholic couple have a child who is born destined to be the Catholic priest’s parishioner.  When the child is brought to baptism, the priest has one more member in his church without any battle.  The same kind of thing happens in Protestant denominations.  When you don’t have to fight for souls, you don’t value them as much.  You don’t love them as much.  Not every pastor weeps when he loses them, or seeks them when they go astray.  I have fought for you, Helens and Marias and Floricas.  You were my every day’s work and my every night’s prayer.”

Richard Wurmbrand, “If Prison Walls Could Speak,” 35.

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How Do the Church and Israel Relate to Each Other?

It would be an understatement to say that how the church and Israel relate to one another has been an area of much disagreement and debate. Everyone agrees that there is both at least some continuity and at least some discontinuity between the two. Where we disagree is in how much continuity or discontinuity there is. The position I would like to advocate here is that the church is the continuation of the faithful remnant within Israel now composed of both Jews and Gentiles.

As a Baptist, I believe that the church is composed of only regenerate believers (Heb 8:8-12). Hence, only believers can be baptized because they alone are members of the New Covenant. It is only those who are covenant members who can receive the signs of the covenant – baptism and the Lord’s supper. Jesus mediates on behalf of those in the New Covenant and therefore all of them will be saved (Heb 7:25; 9:15; 12:24). The church is composed of only those whom Christ has bought with his own blood (Acts 20:28). Regenerate church membership is demanded by how the church is described in the New Testament: “to those sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor 1:2); the body of Christ (Col 1:18); saints whom God has begun a good work in (Phil 1:1, 6-7); and the bride of Christ (Eph 5:23-32).

At the same time, the parallels between the church and Israel are too numerous to ignore. The New Testament teaches that the church is the eschatological Israel prophesied in the Old Testament; the community of the New Covenant described in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12. The church is directly compared to Israel in many ways: “For we are the real circumcision” (Phil 3:3); “circumcision is a matter of the heart” (Rom 2:29); “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Rom 9:6); “it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:7); “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Pet 2:9); “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16); the children of Abraham (Rom 4:12, 16); and those who are Jewish by birth only are “a synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9; 3:9).

At this point, I may be accused of advocating “Replacement Theology” which means I don’t interpret the Bible literally and have never read Romans 11. But the term “Replacement Theology” is a misunderstanding of the Reformed or paedobaptist understanding of the relationship between the Church and Israel. Reformed theology says that the church, which includes its infant members, is the continuation of Israel, not its replacement. I don’t know of any Reformed theologian who says the church replaces Israel. Dispensationalists are reading into Reformed theology their own strict distinction between the church and Israel, and so from their perspective, it looks like Reformed theology is saying that the church replaces Israel, when in fact, it is impossible for them to say that because there is no strict division between the two. They believe that the church is Israel, not a replacement for it. Those who use the term “Replacement Theology” have never actually studied Reformed theology deeply or are being dishonest to poison the well against hearing arguments in favor of it. How my position differs from that of Reformed theology is that I do not include the infant children of believers as part of the church so it is not that the church is the continuation of Israel, but that the church is the continuation of only the saved remnant within Israel now made up of both Jews and Gentiles. It is not that the church is the new Israel, but that the church is the true Israel (Psa 73:1).

I think Charles Spurgeon in his sermon “Jesus Christ Immutable” came close to my position:

“Distinctions have been drawn by certain exceedingly wise men (measured by their own estimate of themselves), between the people of God who lived before the coming of Christ, and those who lived afterwards. We have even heard it asserted that those who lived before the coming of Christ do not belong to the church of God! We never know what we shall hear next, and perhaps it is a mercy that these absurdities are revealed one at a time, in order that we may be able to endure their stupidity without dying of amazement. Why, every child of God in every place stands on the same footing; the Lord has not some children best beloved, some second-rate offspring, and others whom he hardly cares about. These who saw Christ’s day before it came, had a great difference as to what they knew, and perhaps in the same measure a difference as to what they enjoyed while on earth meditating upon Christ; but they were all washed in the same blood, all redeemed with the same ransom price, and made members of the same body. Israel in the covenant of grace is not natural Israel, but all believers in all ages.”

A Letter from An Atheist

“Did I firmly believe, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, religion would mean to me everything. I would cast away all earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought, and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I should labor in its cause alone. I would take thought for the tomorrow of eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences should never stay my hand, nor seal my lips. Earth, its joys and its griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon eternity alone, and on the immortal souls around me, soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach it in season and out of season and my text would be, ‘what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?'”

“I at once saw that this was the truly consistent Christian life. When I looked back upon my own life I saw how inconsistent it had been. I therefore determined that from that time forth my life should be consistent, and I set myself to know what was God’s will for me. But this time I determined not to consult with flesh and blood, but just waiting until God should show me.”

Norman Grubb, “C. T. Studd: Cricketer and Pioneer,” 35-36.

What Does 1 Timothy 2:15 Mean When It Says Women “Will Be Saved Through Childbearing”?

1 Timothy 2:15 is not an easy verse to interpret and I relish in the challenge of explaining difficult texts. If I could summarize verse 15 in a single sentence it would be: Christian women are saved in the context of being a mother and raising children rather than teaching and having authority over men in the church as a pastor. I understand “through” as “in the context of” or “in the sphere of.” Childbearing is representative of the unique role that a woman plays in society. Paul is saying that a wife’s submission to the role of motherhood, rather than trying to have authority over men, is evidence of her salvation and a fruit of the Spirit just as faith, love, holiness, and self-control are. The woman who is filled with the Spirit submits gladly to her husband and Christian men are called to find their identity as a man in the protection, provision, and flourishing of women. Paul praises the noble and high calling of being a mother in contrast to the feminist culture we live in. Being a so-called “stay-at-home mom” is God’s plan for the raising of children and nothing to be ashamed of (Tit 2:5).

There is a direct contrast between verses 12 and 15 where Paul distinguishes between the role of a pastor and the role of a godly Christian woman who submits to the authority of her husband in the home and the authority of the elders in the church. The church is likewise a family of families, the household of God, which is a representation of the nuclear family which itself represents God the Father’s eternal plan of uniting the church to his Son. This principle of primogeniture is rooted in the order of creation since Adam was created first before his wife and so has headship over her. Satan went to Eve first in order to undermine God’s plan of male headship and responsibility. Biblical patriarchy is grounded in the identity of the first person of the Trinity who is our Father. Sonship and human father-son relationships were created to reflect the eternal relationship between God the Father and God the Son. Marriage was created to reflect the eternal plan of the Father to give his Son a bride. Motherhood was created to reflect the work of the new birth which brings about new life to those who are Christ’s bride.

Have you ever noticed that the enemies of Scripture often interpret it better than those who claim to believe in it? Feminists are right to see Paul as a relic of the past defending biblical patriarchy with different roles for men and women in society, the church, and the home. Often, the reason why the Bible is difficult to interpret is not because it is unclear, but because we do not want to believe in what it clearly says. One way this verse is interpreted is that Christian women are promised that they will be kept safe through childbearing. But many godly Christian women have died while giving birth. Another interpretation of this verse is that “childbearing” is a metaphor for believing in Christ and the attributes listed here. But in that case, you could apply “childbearing” to men as well since they too have faith, love, holiness, and self-control. Also, how does this interpretation of childbearing contrast with the failure to obey Paul’s command in verse 12? Rather, the role of motherhood is an example of what it looks like to continue in the faith. Of course, Paul is not saying that every Christian woman is called to be a mother or else he would be contradicting his advice in 1 Corinthians 7.

Sunday Meditation – Christ in You

“If the Scriptures tell me my Lord is going to fill me with his own glory, and to set me at his own right hand, I can believe it. He who went to the cross for me will never be ashamed of me: he who gave me himself will give me all heaven and more: he that opened his very heart to find blood and water to wash me in, how shall he keep back even his kingdom from me? O sweet Lord Jesus, thou art indeed to us the hope, the pledge, the guarantee of glory. Friend, do you not feel that Christ in you is the dawn of heaven? . . . Go your ways and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and let men see who it is that lives in you. Let Jesus speak through your mouth, and weep through your eyes, and smile through your face; let him work with your hands and walk within your feet, and be tender with your heart. Let him seek sinners through you; let him comfort saints through you; until the day break and the shadows flee away.”

Charles Spurgeon – Sermon “Christ in You”

How Should 1 Timothy 2:12 Be Translated? Is Authenteō Positive or Negative?

The NIV 2011 caused quite a bit of controversy by translating authenteō in 1 Timothy 2:12 as “assume authority over” which is purported to be a neutral interpretation of the famous passage rather than the more traditional “have authority over.” The problem with this neutral approach is that the Bible is not neutral when it comes to the issue of whether women can teach men when the church is gathered together and on every other controversial topic. This translation philosophy shows a lack of fear of God and respect for his Word. Denominationally neutral translations are motivated by a desire to profit off of God’s Word rather than please him (2 Cor 2:17). I am afraid many readers of the new NIV will assume that “assume authority over” is a negative thing because they live in an egalitarian culture that despises authority. Many of them will interpret this verse to mean that this is only a prohibition against women teaching men in a domineering way rather than a prohibition against all teaching of men in the church rooted in the order of creation and primogeniture.

But what does authenteō actually entail in this verse? I will argue in this article, assisted by the work of H. Scott Baldwin, Andreas Köstenberger, Al Wolters, and George Knight III, that the verb is being used positively to describe the authority and teaching involved in serving as a Christian pastor over men (Heb 13:17; 1 Pet 5:5). Those who argue for authenteō having a negative connotation in 1 Timothy 2:12 cite the KJV’s translation of the verse: “to usurp authority over a man” and other older translations. But the translators who worked on those translations did not have access to the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae which is a searchable digital library of every ancient Greek text known to man. Translating authenteō is difficult because it is a hapax legomenon or word that only occurs once in the New Testament so we are dependent on other Greek literature to establish the semantic domain of the word (the different ways in which a word can be used based on context). But with the TLG, we have the ability to do what previous generations could not and better translate the word into English.

H. Scott Baldwin in the first edition of Women in the Church lists 80 occurrences of authenteō in Greek literature and Wayne Grudem republishes them in his Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. Of these 80 occurrences, 39 of them are used in a positive manner to describe a legitimate use of authority, 20 of them are used in a neutral sense to describe authority which is neither good nor bad in and of itself, and 21 times the verb describes a negative illegitimate use of authority. Therefore, it cannot be said that authenteō is a negative verb and therefore it should be translated as such in 1 Timothy 2:12 when there are many instances of it being used positively in Greek literature. It is disingenuous for anyone to claim such and it displays either a lack of awareness of Greek literature or outright deception. Therefore, how authenteō should be translated in 1 Timothy 2:12 must be determined by the context and not simply word usage.

Positive ways that authenteō are used include: the authority of human government in punishing evildoers (Philodemus, Rhetorica), a human ruler in deciding legal cases (cited by George W. Knight III), the authority of a master over his slave (Hippolytus, On the End of the World), the authority of God over creation (Eusebius, On Ecclesiastical Theology), God’s administration of judgment (Eusebius, Vita Constantini), the compelling of the Holy Spirit (Athanasius, Testimonies from Scripture), the bishop of Rome exercising authority over a dispute (Basil, Letters), being in charge of a marriage as the husband (Chrysostom, In Genesium), Peter’s authority over the other apostles (Chrysostom, In Acta Apostelorum), Jesus compelling Lazarus to be raised from the dead (Chrysostom, In Martham), Jesus taking charge of healing the leper (Chrysostom, By the Lake of Genesareth), the use of authority over men in the church associated with teaching and writing that women cannot have (Didymus Caecus, Dialogue), and many others that I don’t have space to write out here. The closest parallel use of authenteō to 1 Timothy 2:12 is by Eusebius of Alexandria in his sermons when he uses the term to describe the authority of an elder in the church which a deacon cannot use: “The deacon ought to accomplish everything in accordance with the intention of the elder, and for the rules and for the needs of the church; not to exercise authority over (authentein – the same infinitive form as in 1 Timothy 2:12) the people, but to do everything by the command of the elder.  But the elder being at hand, neither does he have authority to banish or to do the like.” Notice that authenteō is rephrased later as “the command of the elder” and “the authority to banish” reserved for church elders since a deacon was not a position of leadership or authority in the patristic period or the New Testament but one of service.

The reason why authenteō should be understood positively in 1 Timothy 2:12 to describe the task of Christian preaching is that the verb is associated with teaching. Both infinitives are connected together and refer to one activity. The authority of this verse is the authority that is within the sphere of Christian teaching and preaching. The congregation is to submit to the preacher of God’s Word because he is preaching God’s Word, the Bible, not his own words. The context of the passage is the local church where men lift up their hands in prayer. To say that “to teach” here is negative because Paul uses authenteō is circular reasoning since it has already been established than authenteō can be used either negatively or positively based on context. Andreas Köstenberger has demonstrated, based on the syntax of this verse in comparison to other Greek literature, that when one infinitive prefaced by a negative adverb is followed by another infinitive with a negative conjunction in-between them, both infinitives are either positive or negative. That means if “to teach” is positive, then “to have authority over” is also positive. A study of how Paul uses teaching in his epistles demonstrates that he views it as a high and holy calling worthy of respect and submission (1 Tim 3:2; 4:11; 6:2; 2 Tim 2:24). Teaching in Paul’s epistles is always a positive thing unless it is explicitly qualified by another negative term which he does not do here. Because teaching is positive, having authority over is likewise positive.

Good Theology Versus Bad Theology

How do I know that my beliefs are the beliefs of Jesus and the apostles? How can I have certainty regarding what the Bible teaches when there is so much disagreement among Christian leaders who know the Bible better than I do? Why are there are so many Christian denominations? Logically, we cannot all be right on everything. I have created the following chart to help you discern the differences between good theology that comes from Scripture and bad theology which is derived from human tradition and produces denominationalism and division:

Good Theology

Bad Theology

Starting Point

Scripture Alone

A Theological System: (a confession, statement of faith, or human tradition)

Method of Approaching Scripture

Exegesis: discovering the meaning of the original text and changing our doctrine on the basis of Scripture.

Eisegesis: reading into Scripture a meaning that would have been foreign to the original author and so change Scripture to fit the doctrines of our theological system which is viciously circular reasoning.

Source of Doctrine

All doctrine must be derived explicitly from scriptural exegesis.  Theological synthesis is only valid if all propositions are scripturally derived and the conclusions follow logically. The Bible changes us and sits in judgment over us.

Scripture is investigated to find proof texts to support a pre-conceived system of doctrine. If no proof text can be found, doctrine is derived from improper deduction. We change the Bible and sit in judgment over it.

Approach to Changing One’s Beliefs

We must believe whatever God says as those who are called to imitate him (Eph 5:1). Christlikeness and the glory of God are the goal of our worship, doctrine, and life (Rom 8:29). Change may be costly, but God will recompense whatever sacrifices we make for his sake.

Changing one’s theological views is frowned upon and costly because of peer-pressure, financial loss, and self-deception to keep people in the confessional fold.

Approach to Handling Objections to Our Beliefs

The truth has no reason to be afraid of the best arguments against it. The truth shines brightest against the backdrop of false doctrine and an impartial reading of Scripture will always lead to the truth. The best arguments against our position must be answered in order for us to be intellectually honest.

The best objections to our doctrine are avoided and never mentioned out of fear that those who share our views will leave when confronted with these arguments. We avoid dealing with them seriously in fear that we ourselves may have to change our beliefs. The alternative positions to our beliefs are misrepresented and we only deal with the weakest arguments against our position.

Approach to Historical Theology

Since false doctrine does not come from Scripture, all false beliefs can be traced historically from a foreign influence injected into the life of the church or from a mishandling of Scripture. Quoting famous Christians from the past to support our beliefs is not a substitute for scriptural exegesis. That doctrine which is most true is most offensive to sinful man.

Our starting point for what we believe is the beliefs of our heroes in the faith. We cannot imagine that so many godly men and women could be wrong for so long. Tradition functionally takes authority over Scripture by determining what we want the Bible to teach. We exalt the great Christians of the past to a position that they themselves never would have desired.