True Israel

John Hendryx posted a concise post regarding the real definition of “Israel” as used in the Scriptures. Referring to Ephesians 2:11-21, he writes:

Notice in this passage that Paul speaks to Gentiles as having been previously separate and alienated from Israel and the covenants, but in Christ, Gentiles have become citizens of Israel. Being “brought near” was their modern day parlance for Jewish proselytes. Because verse 12 and verse 19 are separated by some text (which speaks of benefits in Christ) many do not pay attention to their close connection. Let’s have a look then: Verse 12 “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel” is joined to (vr. 19) “you are no longer strangers and aliens”. No longer aliens to what? No longer aliens to the commonwealth of Israel. That means that Gentiles who are in Christ are now “citizens” (v. 19) of Israel built as a house with Christ as the chief cornerstone. In other words, Jesus Christ is the True Israel of God (its fulfillment and foundation) as are all who are joined in union to Him. To say it another way, both OT and NT saints who are in union with Christ are citizens of Israel according to this passage.

Full article is here: http://www.reformationtheology.com/2009/06/an_observation_about_israel_in.php

Prodigal, Not Lost

prodigal

The actual meaning of the word ‘Prodigal’ is ‘lavish’ or ‘extravagant’. Most of the time it is in connection to the attitude of the person who is spending what is in his (or her) possession. It does not mean ‘lost’.

That is something that I only found out when I checked the actual meaning from the dictionary. The problem stems from the fact that it comes from one of the most popular (if not the most popular) parable (story) which Jesus Christ told. It is recorded for us in Luke 15:11-32. In that parable, the younger son is said to have spent his possessions in ‘prodigal living’ (based on the NKJV translation). The younger son was also tagged with the label ‘lost’ by his father, for he left the confines of the father’s house in order to lose himself from his father’s control.

The two terms were confused because many in the church would refer to that parable as either, “The Prodigal Son” or “The Lost Son”. Totally different words.

Now I know 😛

Against Future Justification According to N.T. Wright

Wright

It is here that the main issue comes out clearly against N. T. Wright’s (his website is shown above) novel approach to future justification:

According to the vision of final judgment in Revelation 20:11-15, it is only those outside of Christ who will be judged according to their works.  John says, “I saw the dead, great and small standing before the throne, and books were opened” (Rev. 20:12).  The question is, “To whom does John refer when speaking of ‘the dead’?”  On a simple reading, we might assume that he means everyone who had previously been dead prior to their resurrection, that is, all persons who ever lived.  But on more careful consideration, we should realize that those who are resurrected to death are only those who are resurrected for eternal condemnation.  Jesus noted two categories of persons resurrected in the future: some will be raised “to the resurrection of life,” whereas the wicked will rise “to the resurrection of judgment” (Jn. 5:29).  Now, John says in the Revelation, “the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done” (Rev. 20:12).  Here is the final judgment according to works, by which every man and woman outside of Christ will give an account before his holy judgment seat.  But John mentions another book, by which those who are raised to life are justified: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).  By necessary inference, some are judged by their works and thrown into the lake of fire, and others are not condemned because their name is in the book of life.

Richard Phillips gives us a general argument against Wright’s position, which you can read fully here: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/five-arguments-against-future-justification-according-to-works.php. If you are confused over the issue of Future Justification according to N.T. Wright, it basically says that the believer in Christ, is finally justified by works in the future. This is a departure from Classical Reformed teaching that was recovered by Luther and Calvin in the 17th century.

Again, this calls into question all these newer (modern) takes on Christian doctrines that departs from the history of the faith. Although I never believe in the extreme orthodoxy of some churches (e.g. Rome and Greek), but it is good to keep the understanding that our Christian forefathers had the same Spirit that is working in our contemporary believers today. It is wise not to discount the past just because we are lazy or because of pride in what is ‘novel’.

Sad to see so many in Malaysia trying to hold on to new concepts that were traditionally taught in their churches, not knowing that they are novel doctrines that just came out 100 years before. It is soberring to consider that we have to always be vigilant and come back to the bible  and to study it (not just memorise) by having the whole counsel of God as a measure against what we are taught.

Rapper Shai Linne on Particular Redemption / Limited Atonement

This is the best rap song on Calvin’s teaching on Particular Redemption. Thoroughly biblical point which highlight’s Jesus Christ’s work on earth to save sinners, and not merely to make it ‘possible’ to save. The lyrics are very good:

Verse 1

Here’s a controversial subject that tends to divide
For years it’s had Christians lining up on both sides
By God’s grace, I’ll address this without pride
The question concerns those for whom Christ died
Was He trying to save everybody worldwide?
Was He trying to make the entire world His Bride?
Does man’s unbelief keep the Savior’s hands tied?
Biblically, each of these must be denied
It’s true, Jesus gave up His life for His Bride
But His Bride is the elect, to whom His death is applied
If on judgment day, you see that you can’t hide
And because of your sin, God’s wrath on you abides
And hell is the place you eternally reside
That means your wrath from God hasn’t been satisfied
But we believe His mission was accomplished when He died
But how the cross relates to those in hell?
Well, they be saying:

God knows He tried (8x)

Verse 2

Father, Son and Spirit: three and yet one
Working as a unit to get things done
Our salvation began in eternity past
God certainly has to bring all His purpose to pass
A triune, eternal bond no one could ever sever
When it comes to the church, peep how they work together
The Father foreknew first, the Son came to earth
To die- the Holy Spirit gives the new birth
The Father elects them, the Son pays their debt and protects them
The Spirit is the One who resurrects them
The Father chooses them, the Son gets bruised for them
The Spirit renews them and produces fruit in them
Everybody’s not elect, the Father decides
And it’s only the elect in whom the Spirit resides
The Father and the Spirit- completely unified
But when it comes to Christ and those in hell?
Well, they be saying:

God knows He tried (8x)

Verse 3

My third and final verse- here’s the situation
Just a couple more things for your consideration
If saving everybody was why Christ came in history
With so many in hell, we’d have to say He failed miserably
So many think He only came to make it possible
Let’s follow this solution to a conclusion that’s logical
What about those who were already in the grave?
The Old Testament wicked- condemned as depraved
Did He die for them? C’mon, behave
But worst of all, you’re saying the cross by itself doesn’t save
That we must do something to give the cross its power
That means, at the end of the day, the glory’s ours
That man-centered thinking is not recommended
The cross will save all for whom it was intended
Because for the elect, God’s wrath was satisfied
But still, when it comes to those in hell
Well, they be saying:

God knows He tried (8x)

I don’t agree with the entire ‘video’, what with the depiction of the Lord and all, but the music is intriguing enough to warrant inclusion in my post.

It’s nice to see the chorus playing on the absurdity of those who do not understand Particular Redemption (also known as Limited Atonement)… they will be the one saying “God knows He tried”, which is a sad utterance on a Lord who was supposed to save, and not just ‘make it possible’.

The Purpose of Gospel-Centred Ministry

It is explained here in God’s Word:

Ephesians 4:11-14: And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

It is to equip Christians for God’s work, which builds the body of Christ (God’s spiritual Kingdom that is not physical). It is done until perfection arrives (either we pass this temporary world, or our Lord returns to judge the world). In the meanwhile we (Christians) should grow in the faith so that the world will not be able to topple us down with its ever increasing assaults.

I like being reminded of the purpose. It is a good reminder, always.

On Preaching

It is true, when you are preaching, you are not doing a commentary on the passage. If someone wants to hear a commentary, they would go to the commentary. Preaching is about conveying a message from God. 

It is not a lecture. Definitely not, unless you are doing a bible study.

Interesting to hear local preachers who really are doing a lot of ‘lectures’ and ‘commentary’ and not a lot of preaching. 

Preaching is hard. Always have, always will be.

Hezekiah’s Reformation Part 2

It was a declaration of intention. Making up the mind to repent is one of the hardest aspect of reformation, for it is dependant on the Spirit’s work to soften the hardened heart (see Ezekiel 11:19 & compare with Luke 15:17). Self will is not repentance as it leads to self-righteousness, which begins a new cycle of spiritual decline.

I mentioned this previously here, yesterday in fact. It is a hard thing to understand, especially with the majority of evangelicals in Malaysia believing in the neutrality of the human will (i.e. man or woman can ‘choose’ to do good or bad – ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as defined by God). They do not believe in the biblical doctrine of man’s depravity, where sin corrupts everything, even man’s so-called ‘free will’. 

Jeremiah was right in claiming that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9) and with Solomon, puts out the reality that no one can know his or her heart accurately; seen in 2 Chronicles 6:30 (the rationale being ‘the heart is deceitful’). That is why, we see this:

(2 Chronicles 30:12)  The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD.

The singleness of heart in obeying God was given by God. It was not man’s will that determined that they wanted to ‘reform’. No, it was God’s doing. If He unites them, He is the one who flame them and changed them. That is grace. Not a cheapened grace which subscribed to the notion that man has a part to play. Man only has the ‘duty’ to obey, but the willingness is given by God. It is systematically dependant on God. And that scares a lot of mainstream evangelicals in this country somehow. I guess the prospect of not being in control, but in constant knee-bending, is humbling. Our society is not known to be humble.

You want real reformation like the one during Luther and Calvin’s time? Be submitted wholly to the work of God and His sovereignty. Real heart reformation can only come, ever come, through the Grace of our Lord. Amen.