Thursday, January 29, 2004

Patriotism or Nationalism

Three times in my life I have raised my right hand and taken an oath to serve this country in her armed forces. The first time was at the age of eighteen when I joined the United States Navy, next was to serve as a member of the Louisiana Army National Guard and the last time for the Navy Reserves.

This is the oath I took I, Kenith A-----, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

I meant those words when I said them. I was proud to take the oath then and I would do so again today if I were needed. I am sure you would do the same. I believe every American should be willing tosupport and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic even if it means loosing ones own life in that struggle. I dearly love the Constitution of these United States. I’ve read it many times, but I’m said to say most Americans have failed to read it even once.

I also enjoy reading the debates of the Founding Fathers had over her ratification of the Constitution. These men on, whatever side they took, were passionate about it. The ratification debates are a wonderful treasure, and if you want to know what the Founders actually meant when they wrote and ratified this great document read their debates about it.

Now I would like to look at another popular oath that I cannot recite with a clear conscience. We all know this oath very well. It is called the Pledge of Allegiance.

I know you are probably surprised by what I just said. You maybe asking yourself “How can he proudly take the first oath and not repeat the pledge?” I hope you will take a moment and read my reasons below.

In the first oath I am pledging to defend something that is well defined and has clear limits. It is a patriotic oath to defend the system of government handed down to us by our forebears. It is an oath to defend ideas.

The pledge to the flag is very different. First the original author of the pledge, Francis Bellamy (1855 - 1931), was a socialist. This fact alone should give us some hesitation. Next there are points in the pledge that are not historically accurate. The United States was not founded as a single nation state, but as a federated republic of states (nations). The founders did not create the union to be indivisible. In fact eleven states did legally divide themselves from the union but were forcibly reattached to the union by the point of a bayonet after the bloodiest war in our history.

But those reasons, while they are not minor things they are not the main reason why I can’t say the pledge. The main reason is the pledge is a nationalist pledge. It is not a statement of patriotism (though it is often confused with patriotism), but an oath to follow the flag wherever and whenever, right or wrong.

There is a famous toast from 1816 by a young naval officer named Stephen Decatur that epitomizes what I mean by nationalism over against patriotism. Decatur said To our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right, but our country, right or wrong! His loyalty was first to the nation even if she is wrong. That is not a Christian concept.

John Quincy Adams responded to the words of Decatur this way. He said I can never join with my voice in the toast which I see in the papers attributed to one of our gallant naval heroes. I cannot ask of heaven success, even for my country, in a cause where she should be in the wrong. Fiat justitia, pereat coelum. My toast would be, may our country always be successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right. [The Latin phrase translates this way "Let justice be done though heaven should fall" - anonymous, circa 43 B.C.]

The only entity deserving of our unquestioned loyalty is God alone. If our nation seeks to do evil then it is our duty to God and country to stand against the evil. Meanings ascribed to a flag can change and our allegiance may have to change as well.

The Oath to defend the Constitution is clear. It is not an unquestioned oath to a symbol, but an oath to an idea that is clearly stated. Lawyers and others have done a great deal to muddle the meaning of those words, but you and I can read them, and the writings and speeches of the men who ratified them. We can know what they meant and what it means.

Nationalism is a very dangerous thing. It can be used far greater evi,l so it is important that we never give blind allegiance to an earthly government.

Patriotism is noble and good and it is kin to familial loyalty. Christians especially need to be able to understand the difference between nationalism and patriotism. The difference is vast and the Pledge of Allegiance is, like it or not, a nationalist pledge.

Coram Deo,

Why I am not a Vegetarian

Vegetarianism has always seemed to me to be a bit odd, but if someone does not enjoy or want to eat meat for personal reasons, that is fine with me. Still, I do believe most vegetarians have very poor theology. Pantheists certainly tend toward vegetarianism. It is not possible for anyone to legitimately use the Bible in defense of a meatless diet, but there are those that have little regard for truth and try to anyway.

Let's look at just a couple of biblical reasons why vegetarianism is not defendable from God's Word. We first find God allowing us to eat meat after the flood. We read in Gen. 9:2,3 "And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things."

So in Genesis God tells us that we may eat meat, and this includes land animals, birds and fish. There is so much more in the Old Testament that can be shown to prove that God gives us permission to kill and eat these creatures for food. Instead of going over all that let's move onto the New Testament instead.

Here again we find a great deal of evidence that Jesus and all the Christians ate meat, but for the sake of brevity let's only look at what Paul tells Timothy in his first epistle to Timothy.

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. (I Tim. 4:1-3)

In all honesty, I do believe the Bible completely settles the argument in favour of the eating of meat, and as a man who enjoys both hunting and fishing, I am glad of that. But I would like to make a secondary argument for the consumption of meat. This argument is based on observation instead of Scripture, but I do believe it is an important one.

I enjoy wildlife, and as an observer of wild and domesticated animals, I have noticed a few interesting things that we should all be aware of. If you go to a farm and study the herbivores (mammals that only eat vegetables) you should notice something interesting. They all have eyes on the sides of their heads. This gives them a very wide-angle view of their surroundings. This is important for herbivores because they tend to be the food of the carnivores (meat eaters) that hunt them. They need to see a wide range so that they can catch the meat eaters approaching and try to escape.

If you observe carnivores you should notice that their eyes are in the front of their head. They look forward because peripheral vision is not nearly as important for them as it is for the herbivore. They are the hunters instead of the hunted.

The important thing to notice here is where God placed our eyes. We have eyes in the front of our head just like the carnivores. From this anatomical observation it is easily deduced that we are in some ways related to the meat eaters. That isn't to say I don't love broccoli, beans, celery, cabbage, lettuce and all kinds of other vegetables, I do, but God gave we humans eyes designed for hunting other animals.

I conclude from the above anatomical observations that the vegetarian crowd is wrong when they say I should not eat meat. Had God wanted me to be a strict vegetarian I would have eyes on side my head instead of in front of my head (and that would look silly). I do believe that this observation is pretty much a slam dunk argument against both the vegetarian and PETA people, but we do have another thing that we can look at: teeth.

Have you ever noticed a cow's teeth? Their teeth are like our molars (which are for eating veggies) but they do not have some of the teeth we have. We, as do other carnivores, have teeth designed to tear meat. That is what our eye-teeth are for. We have meat-eating teeth in our mouths and it is God who gave them to us.

Had God not wanted me to eat meat I don't think he would have given me teeth that are designed for munching on steaks. So again, the human anatomy tells us that we are built to be carnivores. It is true that we have teeth designed for consuming vegetables, as well as meat. This makes us omnivores. God gave the ability to eat both meat and vegetables.

God gave us the teeth for veggies and meat, and the eyes of a carnivore. We may conclude from all this, looking strictly at nature, completely apart from the definitive statements in Scripture that we are designed to eat both meat and vegetables alike.

I do believe that if God should move our eyes to the sides of our heads and remove the meat tearing teeth from our mouths, then and only then should we take vegetarian arguments seriously. Until that day comes I will enjoy the bounty that God has given to me and told me that I may eat.

Coram Deo,

Monday, January 12, 2004

Persecution and Faith

In the Federalist Papers #1 Alexander Hamilton wrote "in politics as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresy in either case can rarely be cured by persecution." This is a wise and true statement.

No one's heart will be changed by persecution. Cowards and schemers, when persecution starts, will bow to the persecutor, while the honest and brave will suffer and die on matters of principle. This is as things are, and Christian doctrine admits it to be so. Jesus and His Apostles taught that we are to extend the Kingdom of our Lord by the simple preaching of the Gospel and not by physical warfare or force.

We are also supposed to defend the Gospel not by beating up those that mock it, but by answering their erroneous views with solid, informed, bible based answers. Too often these days the average Christian doesn't have an answer for those who argue against or attack the Christian the faith. When this happens it is a poor witness to those around us whom we desire to see come to Christ.

We are commanded in Scripture to always be ready to give a defence of the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Doing this takes some work and study on our part. It takes thinking about, and knowing what it is we believe and why we believe it. You can hardly defend the faith if you don't really understand what it is. Some aspects of the faith are very simple, but others are much more involved and takes time and study to grasp and defend.

There are many issues in Scripture that the world around us rages about. One such issue today is the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexuality. This is not popular in our "I’m ok, your ok culture.” Another Christian that has always been hated is the exclusivity of the Christian faith. We are told and then proclaim that "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) That one and only saviour is Jesus Christ. To teach that is seen as unfair and even bigoted in our so-called “pluralistic society.” It is bigoted to deny salvation to non-Christians, like Buddhists, Hindus, Jehovah Witnesses, Muslims, or Liberal "Christians" all of whom deny the fundamental teachings of the Christian faith.

We may face persecution someday if we do not bend on these and other issues, to bend on these issues is to deny fundamental aspects of the faith we claim to hold. Even now, many of our Christian brethren, all across the world, are being killed and persecuted because the biblical teachings they hold to are counter to the culture in which they live. Our own ancestors in the faith, faced persecution and death for the same reason. If, God forbid, we are called to suffer for the faith in this country, we must persevere in the faith that has been once delivered to the saints. There is salvation in perseverance. Remember what Jesus said "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." (Matt. 10:22)

There are times when we will suffer for our faith in Christ, but we are still to advance His Kingdom, not by attacking and persecuting others, but with the ability to patently proclaim and defend God's Word. If we fail to do either it is sin.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Baptism and the Early Church

All churches that date back to the earliest Churches of Asia, Africa, and Europe, to this day, hold to infant baptism. I think that speaks volumes, and should give any Christian pause before he or she dismisses the idea of infant baptism without a thorough study. Believers baptism only is, before modern times, is a rare phenomenon, this to should be a read flag to our Christian brethren who deny infant baptism.

The early church fathers disagreed and debated many things, but they didn’t debate this subject. All those ancient Churches were paedobaptist churches as far back as we can see. This includes the Greek Orthodox, The Coptic Church of Egypt, the Ethiopian Church, The Arminian Church, The Assyrian and Chaldean Churches of Iraq, the Lebanese and Palestinian Orthodox Churches and of course the Western or Latin Church which split in the 16th Century into Protestant and Roman Catholic camps, both of which were and are paedobaptists.

The Church Fathers debated many things (just as we do today) but they never debated whether the children of believers should be baptised. That subject was a reality in their world. The only objection to infant baptism in the early Church came from Tertullian (160-225 AD), and even he admits that the common practice of infant baptism was the norm in his day. If you have read any of Tertullian's polemical writings, than you know that he was not one to pull his punches. So let's look at his argument against infant baptism.

Tertullian wrote:
According to circumstance and disposition and even age of the individual person, it may be better to delay Baptism; and especially so in the case of little children. Why, indeed, is it necessary -- if it be not a case of necessity -- that the sponsors to be thrust into danger, when they themselves may fail to fulfill their promises by reason of death, or when they may be disappointed by the growth of an evil disposition? Indeed the Lord says, 'Do not forbid them to come to me'
Let them come, then, while they grow up, while they learn, while they are taught to whom to come; let them become Christians when they will have been able to know Christ! Why does the innocent age hasten to the remission of sins? ...For no less cause should the unmarried also be deferred, in whom there is an aptness to temptation -- in virgins on account of their ripeness as also in the widowed on account of their freedom -- until they are married or are better strengthened for continence. Anyone who understands the seriousness of Baptism will fear its reception more than its deferral. Sound faith is secure of its salvation
! ( On Baptism; Chapter XIV)

Tertullian is the best my credobaptist (believer's baptism only) friends have to support their position from the ancient church. He argues against the baptism of infants using the same argument that he puts forth to defend his view that unmarried people and widowed women too should not be baptised. Tertullian's reasons have everything to do with baptismal regeneration and nothing to do with modern baptistic reasons. The important thing here (IMHO) is that Tertullian seems to admit that the baptism of "little children," like that of virgins and widows is common, but because of his regenerational views he argues for delay.

Tertullian is is the only person my Baptist friends have in the ancient church who they can put forward as an example for believer's only baptism. And as I said, if you know Tertullian than you know that he could be very bombastic and he usually blasted opponents, but his argument against paedobaptism is quite feeble.

Justin Martyr (110-165 A.D.) says "And both men and women who have been Christ's disciples since infancy, remain pure, and at the age of sixty or seventy years ..."

Irenaeus (circa 125-202 AD) was a disciple of Polycarp (69-155 A.D.), who was a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus wrote to a friend who was also a disciple of Polycarp that "I saw thee when I was still a boy in Lower Asia in company with Polycarp... I distinctly remember the incidents of that time better than events of recent occurrence...I can describe the very place in which the Blessed Polycarp used to sit when he discoursed...his personal appearance...and how he would describe his intercourse with John and with the rest who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words."

Lets look at what else Irenaeus wrote:
He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age. (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [written between A.D. 155 to 189])

Let's now look what Hippolitus wrote his work Apostolic Tradition in 215 AD. He said:
And they shall Baptize the little children first. And if they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot, let their parents answer or someone from their family.

Infant baptism, when it appears in the early church, is accepted as a given. Had some Christians started to baptise babies, in opposition to the Apostolic teaching and practice as our baptistic brethren suppose, there can be no doubt that there would have been a serious debate, excommunications and accusations of heresy. But that never happened. Even Tertullian, who is the one person who argues for delaying baptism, seems to admit to the common practice of infant baptism in late 2nd century.

I would also add that it appears that Polycarp was burned at the stake when he was 86 years old. Here are his words when he is called upon to say ""Caesar is Lord." Polycarp responded "Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He has never done me wrong. How, then, should I be able to blaspheme my King who has saved me." He was then burned at the stake.

My dear Baptists brethren (including my dad) have no historical validation for their view. We paedobaptisers have much more. Even the one apologist against paedobaptism (Tertullian) admits that infant baptism existed at a very early date and it was most likely) the norm in his day. Other Fathers, who are his contemporaries, consider it the normal and Apostolic position of the Church.

My Baptists brethren argue that the church slipped from believer's baptism "ONLY" with not one Christian standing up for the truth, and that is (IMHO) totally inconceivable. The Fathers were men quick to debate and defend the faith, yet we are asked to believe that the WHOLE church from England to Ethiopia and India to Spain all slipped quietly into an heretical doctrine without even a whimper or one apologist standing for the truth. This is (IMHO) both fantastic and unrealistic.

Dominus vobiscum,

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

What Say Ye

“… without shedding of blood is no remission.” Hebrews 9:22

In the garden, before the fall, Adam was told that the day he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil on that day he would surely die (Gen. 2:17). But in fact when Adam sinned he did not die immediately, at least not in a physical sense. On that day God killed animals and clothed Adam and Eve with their skins. Blood was shed, but it was not the blood of Adam and Eve, who had transgressed God’s Law/Word, but the blood of what must have been “clean” animals.

God spared Adam. He was gracious and did not kill him as he had promised to do. Animals died instead, and God made their skins to be a covering for our first parents. Before they sinned there was no need for a covering, but because of their sin they were now in need of a something to cover their nakedness. Their own attempt at clothing was not acceptable and God provided an acceptable covering for them. This is true for all of us. We are in need of a covering. They needed an outward and an inward covering. God provides the needed covering in both cases. Animals were substituted for Adam and eve. The animals died instead of them and Christ died as a substitute for all who are saved from spiritual death. We are told in Galatians 3:27 “For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ.” Just as Adam and Eve were physically clothed by God, all who are saved are clothed by Christ.

Before God clothed them in animal skins he pronounced judgement upon all involved in the fall. The important “curse” for us here is the one pronounced on the serpent. The Lord says:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen. 3:15)

This is the proto-evangelium or the first promise of the Saviour to come. God makes this pronouncement to the serpent in the presents of Adam and Eve. It is after this promise of a future Saviour that God then kills animals in place of (so I believe) Adam and Eve and cloths them.

All persons from this point on who are to be saved look forward to the promised Seed of the woman for their redemption. The whole human race fell in Adam because of his sin. Adam was the federal or covenant head of the whole human race. When he sinned we all fell into sin with him.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned… (Rom. 5:12)

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (I Cor. 15:22)

We all die in Adam because we are all fallen in Adam. Because of the sin of this one man all of us are heirs to sin and death. Adam’s sin corrupted not simply his nature, but the nature of all his natural descendants and this sinful corrupted state doesn’t manifest itself in us after we reach a so-called “age of accountability” but we are sinners before God from the very point of conception.

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Ps. 51:5)

Psalm 51 is a prayer of repentance written by King David. David is confessing his sin and in verse five he speaks of his being defiled with sin even from his conception in his mother’s womb. What David says of himself is true of all natural sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. No one since Adam has, at birth, possessed original righteousness. We have all been tainted with sin from conception. This is our inheritance from the first Adam. He is the federal head of the human race and in him we all sin and in him we all die.

In our modern individualistic world this doctrine is not liked by many people. They will say “Hey it was Adam who sinned not me, so why should I suffer for his sin?” This is a good question and I will attempt to answer it.

When God “covenanted” with Adam, Adam stood as the federal head of all his posterity. When he fell, we all fell. The idea of someone being a covenant or “federal” head is a common feature found throughout the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; (Gen. 9:8,9)

Here we learn why God has not and will not destroy the earth by flood again. God covenanted with Noah and his “seed” after him. We are all Noah’s seed. God made this covenant with Noah and us more then four thousand years ago. Yet it is still valid today, because while Noah was the original person with whom God made this Covenant he made it with us under Noah’s covenant or federal headship. God’s promises are, and His curses are, generational and not simply with individuals.

Let’s look at some other examples.

But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. (Ps.103: 17, 18)

God’s blessing is here promised to be generational (we see that it goes as far as to grandchildren), but there is a condition. Each subsequent generation must likewise keep God’s covenant. I believe this is the constant pattern set in Scripture in both the Old and New Covenants. God promised blessings to those that follow him and keep His Covenant. He makes this promise with an individual, a nation or a generation in time, but it is always extended to future generations as well.

He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great. The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children. (Ps.115:13, 14)

Here in Ps. 115 we see another example of God’s generational promise to His people. In Isaiah 59: 21 we read “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.”

Again, here in Isaiah, God’s promise and covenant are not just to those with whom it is made, but with future generations as well. This is a constant refrain of Scripture. But in the verse below we find something different. In Exodus 20 when God gives the Ten Commandments He speaks negatively along generational lines.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (Exodus 20:5)

Those that rejected God, their descendents were (are?) somehow affected, because of the sins of the fathers, for up to at least four generations (great, great grandchildren). This should, for the sake of our posterity, make us strive to serve the Lord righteously (yet we must not forget that our salvation is by grace and not works, but as Paul says in Gal. 2:10 it is “unto good works”).

This generational promise is a constant refrain throughout the Old Covenant and I believe it is repeated in the New Covenant. If this is true then much of the modern American Christian’s individualistic understanding of God’s Word will have to be re-examined and re-worked in order to incorporate the covenant or federal concept of how the Lord deals with His people.

This idea may seem new to many, but it is as old as the church itself (Old and New) and has been (up until modern times) the generally held view of things. I am not writing something new. If one studies historic Christian thought he/she will see that it is the modern individualistic (baptistic) idea, which is the new kid on the block (theologically speaking).

So far we have looked at the spiritual aspects and consequences of Adams fall. In him we all fell, and have no original righteousness. We are therefore in subjection to sin and death, both physically and spiritually. But there are even more “earthy” aspects of the fall that effect all of us.

The earth at creation was very good, and man was given a job to perform in the garden. He was to “to dress it and to keep it, that is he was to work.” Before the fall his labours were not arduous, but because of Adam’s sin God cursed the earth itself.

And unto Adam he said, “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:17-19)

This is again something we have inherited from Adam, because of his sin. We are born into a world that that demands burdensome work on our part so that we can provide our daily needs. Is this fair? For thousands of years people have had to struggle to survive in a world corrupted because of someone else’s actions. Millions have died of hunger and thirst partly because the covenant head of our race, Adam, sinned against God.

So in Adam we see that God’s covenant with him was not to him alone, but to him and his posterity. The repercussion of Adam’s sin has caused dramatic consequences for all of us, both physically and spiritually. This is because he stood as covenant head for the whole race of man. The consequence will be felt even by the very last person born just before the end of history at the Second Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Noah also is covenant head over all men. God determined to destroy most of the race, but to save Noah. Noah was a “just man” who “walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). In Gen. 7:1 we read “And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” Notice we learn nothing of the spiritual condition of Noah’s wife, his sons or his daughter-in-laws. God’s covenant is with Noah, but all those mentioned above benefit, because he is their federal/covenant head. God blesses and saves Noah’s household because of Noah’s righteousness.

Covenant headship is an important biblical concept lost by much of modern evangelical Christians today and I believe that it is a doctrinal view that we desperately need to recover. Covenant headship is found in the New Testament as well. God’s promises here follow the Old Covenant pattern. One place where we see this is in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost. Here peter repeats the same covenant promise that was so familiar to his Jewish audience. We read, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:38,39)

God always has dealt with people both covenantally and generationally, and he still does today.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Christians and perseverance

Baptist and Reformed Christians agree with one another that someone who is truly born again will not become unsaved. Our Baptists brethren call their understanding of this teaching eternal security of the believer or once saved always saved (OSAS). Reformed Christians are uncomfortable with those phrases for several reasons and opt not to use those terms.

One reason that we don't care for those terms is we believe they can lead to a false sense of security. Someone may have walked an aisle, said a sinners prayer and been baptised but then they never produce any of the spiritual fruit that must come with being born a new creature in Christ Jesus. Such a person may think they have a get out of hell free card, when in fact, if they were to study the Scriptures, they would see the many warnings in God's Word about being presumptuous about such things.

The Holy Scriptures are very clear that those who are new creatures in Christ Jesus will be about doing good works and that those who are truly born again WILL endure or persevere in the faith to the end.

I am, like most Reformed Christians, much more comfortable with the phrase perseverance of the saints because it gives biblical security to those that are saved, but it rightly will not allow for presumption of salvation for someone who is not seeing the fruits of the spirit in his or her life.

I am not going to attempt to prove that one cannot truly loose salvation here, because both Reformed and Baptist Christians agree on that. What I hope to show is that if we are saved we will (must) persevere in the faith.

Lets look at the Scriptures:

And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (Matt. 10:21-22)

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved .(Matt. 24:9-13)

What are the implications of the Word's of Jesus in these verses above? Is Jesus just being rhetorical or is what He says an important warning to His people. I believe it is the latter. The true believer must endure (persevere) in the faith. Anyone who claims Christ but does not persevere will be lost and rejected on the Last Day.

Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:22,23)

Notice in the verse above that we are talking about disciples of Christ and that they are being exhorted to "continue" in the faith.

Q: Is this simply a rhetorical point, or is it as the Arminian believes a warning against loosing salvation?
A: It may be the case that both possibilities are wrong, and the Reformed view is a third and far better option. The disciples in the New Covenant Church are made up of those who are born again and those that are not born again, just as we find from Genesis forward through Revelation. If looked at that way the Arminian argument looses all its weight, but it also shows why the OSAS phrase is poorly worded.

If we look at these New Testament warnings in the context of the whole Bible (all of the Scriptures) we will find that this is a constant theme of the writers of Scripture from Genesis to the end of Revelation.

My Baptist brethren cannot make good (logical/contextual) sense of this versa and numerous others, because (I believe) he has mistakenly, and far to drastically, cut the New Testament Scriptures away from the Old. He seems to have forgotten that the Bereans looked in the Old to see if what Paul preached in the New Covenant era was so. They would certainly have seen that God's covenant people had always included wheat and tares.

For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. (Rom 11:21,22)

Q: Who is Paul writing these words to?
A: He tells us at the beginning of this epistle. Paul is writing, "To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints." But notice Paul has just told these Christians that God had broken off unbelieving Jews from the olive tree (covenant people of God) and has grafted believing Gentiles into the covenant people of God (the Olive tree). He then warns them to "take heed lest he also spare not thee" and again to "continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off."

Q: How can these words make sense in the OSAS position?
A: I don't believe they can make sense from the strict OSAS view. They do make sense from an Arminian position, but the Arminian has plenty of other Scriptures that will not allow for his position either.

Is there a contradiction in the Word of God? Certainly not!! But if we hold closely to the OSAS or full Arminian positions, then we must live with a contradiction. Both schools of thought must ignore large segments of the Bible to continue with their chosen doctrinal position. The Reformed/Covenantal position takes the numerous proof texts of both these schools of thought seriously without dismissing one set or the other and without doing exegetical gymnastics to explain them away. Both the proof texts of the OSAS individual and the proof texts of the Arminian position fit nicely together when looked at covenantally.

If you hold to OSAS you must ask yourself how is it that Paul, writing to saints, can say "take heed lest he also spare not thee" and "thou also shalt be cut off." What is it that saints can be cut off from? What were the Jews cut off from?

We must remember that Paul in Romans is writing to Christians. He addressed them as "all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints" (Rom. 1:7) and it is these same saints who are warned to "take heed" and then further warned that they can be "cut off" just as the unbelieving Jews were cut off.

I hope you will look carefully at the other Scriptures that follow and see if they can easily fit into the OSAS position without some serious qualifications.

In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister...(Col. 1:22, 23)

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; (Heb 2:1-3)

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end... (Heb. 3:12-14)

Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (James 5:19,20)

There are many more verses that seem to be problematic to the OSAS position, but they make perfect sense in the covenantal view. All that are baptised into the Church, which is the body of Christ, are addressed as brethren and saints. Does this mean they are all born again? No, but still they are truly in Christ and are connected to him. God has always dealt with His people covenantally, and if we ignore this fact as we study the Scriptures we will err in our understanding in one way or another.

John 15 is another example this covenantal perspective.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned
. (John 15:1-6)

Jesus is here speaking to His disciples. They, like all Christians, are in Christ. They are branches and covenantally connected to Christ who is the True Vine. A branch, which by definition must be connected to the vine, can be cut off and cast into the fire, if it does not continue to abide in Christ.

How does the branch continue to abide in Chrsit and not get cut off? The branch must be productive and produce fruit. Those branches that do not produce spiritual fruit are cut off. Jesus gives us very practical ways to know that we are continuing to abide in him. He says in verse ten "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love."

The Bible is a covenant book given to us by our Covenant God. In order to understand some of the hard stuff we must look at it covenantally. OSAS falls far short of dealing with the verses mentioned in this article and I don't think that they can be dealt with from the OSAS position. They fit perfectly with the Reformed Doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

Coram Deo,

Friday, January 02, 2004

Repentance and the Gospel

Many years ago I went to visit an uncle in the hospital. My uncle had not attended church for many years and showed no interest in spiritual matters. When I arrived in his hospital room I found that a local minister whom I knew was already there visiting with him. I listened as the minister told my uncle that he needed to ask Jesus into his life. After that the minister said his goodbyes and turned to leave.

I spoke up at that point and said that I certainly agreed with what he had said about my uncles need for Christ, but I wanted to add something to what he had said. With the minister still present, I then told my uncle that the Scriptures also tell us that we need to repent of our sins. True acceptance of Christ involved a heart of repentance.

I remember the look on the ministers face. He looked stunned. That look surprised me more than the fact that he had failed to ever mention repentance in his presentation of the Gospel of Christ to my uncle. I believe the shocking thing in all this is that a minister of the Gospel would attempt to present the Gospel and never mention the need of repentance from sin. Such a presentation is at best a truncated Gospel and a distortion of the true Gospel, because there is no salvation without heart felt repentance. Without repentance there is no forgiveness and there is no Gospel.

Below are just some of the things we read in the Scriptures about repentance.

Lets look at the Old Testament first.

Eze. 14:6 --Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

Eze. 18:30 --Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

We find this same need for repentance in the New Testament.

Matt. 3:1-3 --In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Matt. 4:17 --From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Mark 1:14,15 --Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Mark 6:12 --And they [disciples of Jesus] went out, and preached that men should repent.

Luke 13:2-5 --And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Acts 2:37-38 --Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 3:18-19 --But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

Acts 8:22
--Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

Acts 17:30 --And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

Acts 26:20 --But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. [Notice true repentance is also tied to works]

The point is, if we present the Gospel and don't call the person to whom we are speaking to repent of their sins, then we have , in fact, not presented the Gospel at all. We have, at best, only presented part or some of the Gospel. There is no salvation without a repentant heart.

What is repentance? What does the Bible mean by calling all men to repent. The following definition from Easton's Bible Dictionary is, believe, adequate. It says:
Evangelical repentance consists of (1) a true sense of one's own guilt and sinfulness; (2) an apprehension of God's mercy in Christ; (3) an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5,6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God; and (4) a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments.

John the Baptist, Jesus and His Apostles all called men to repent of their sins. If someone has not heard the call to repentance, than they have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dominus vobiscum,