Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Teaching is Crucial

(Listen to Radio Program "Teaching is Crucial" - part one and two - online with link at the end of this blog.)
All churches and many Christians will identify the three great Christian virtues as FAITH, HOPE and LOVE. Ever since Paul strung these words together in his letter to the Corinthians in 55 AD these words have been heard in sermons, plastered on book covers, sewn into banners, sung in lyrics and eloquently spoken in every wedding. These three virtuous character traits are the source from which all Christian deeds are to spring. They are the standard by which all Christian activity is measured. Christians are to always "keep the faith," never "give up hope," and continue to "live a life of love."

In many cases clergy consider their job done if the church has named their local assembly with these words ("Hope Church", "Faith Church", etc.) and are weekly encouraged by hearing these words in sermons and lyrics or seeing them on banners and bulletins. But, without teaching the Word of God to people this approach will get as little result as a basketball coach who hollers at his team in the locker room during half time about rebounding without having spent the necessary time in the gym practicing and teaching rebounding technique. The coach can write the word "REBOUNDING" on the locker room chalk board. He can spend his precious halftime minutes hollering about how statistics prove that winning teams must rebound to win. But, if the players do not have the skills and have not practiced the technique the only thing the coach is preparing his athletes for is a future career as coaches who also holler about rebounding at halftime.

Each of these virtues - FAITH, HOPE and LOVE - come from knowing the Word of God. According to the Scriptures themselves the Christian must hear the Word of God, understanding the promises of  God and know God's ways in order to have faith, hope and love.

First, concerning FAITH:
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. -Romans 10:17
Second, concerning HOPE:
Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  - Hebrews 6:17-19
Third, concerning LOVE:
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, 'All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers, fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.' And this is the word that was preached to you. Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in our salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." - 1 Peter 1:22-2:3
Only when faith, hope and love are instilled in the thinking (in the soul, in the world view, etc.) of the Christian will they be able to produce the deeds that come from faith, hope or love.

Notice that Paul credits FAITH, HOPE and LOVE for being the source of the Thessalonian's Christian performance which is identified as WORK, LABOR and ENDURANCE:
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by FAITH, your labor prompted by LOVE, and your endurance inspired by HOPE in our Lord Jesus Christ.  - 1 Thessalonians 1:3
Even faith, hope and love are not the final goal of the Christian life. Faith, hope and love are character traits that will produce what everyone is hollering about, which is, good Christian conduct. Faith, hope and love will produce the Christian life, just like rebounding will help produce the victory. But, even then, FAITH, HOPE and LOVE come from good, basic bible teaching (Romans 1:17; Hebrews 6:17-19 ; 1 Peter 1:22-2:2) just like great rebounding in a game comes from hours of drilling and coaching in practices.

Churches need to trust the Word of God instead of trusting in their programs and oversimplified approaches to the eternal Truth revealed in Scripture. Pastors need to heed Paul's advice given to the Ephesian pastors and elders in 57 AD:
Now I commit you to God and to the word of his gracewhich can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.  - Acts 20:32
Remember Paul's words to Timothy:
Command and teach these things,...Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift!!  - 1 Timothy 4:11-14
I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with healthy teaching.  - 2 Timothy 4:1-3
Part One - "Teaching is Crucial (part one)" - radio program in .mp3

Part Two - "Teaching is Crucial (part two)" - radio program in .mp3

Friday, November 12, 2010

Refuting Calvinism - Total Depravity (part one)

This is written to support my rejection of Calvinism. I have no hope that this will change the mind of any Calvinists. Even though I do not say anything original enough to solve a theological conflict that came to a head around 400 AD, I do intend to defend my opposition to Calvinism. I do not care to debate with Calvinist since neither they nor I have any desire to change our position. I do not oppose Calvinism because I am ignorant, shallow, naive or unscriptural. I oppose Calvinism because Calvinism is not supported by accurate scriptural exegesis and Calvinism is theologically, philosophically and scientifically illogical. Even if Calvinism were true there is more than enough scripture that would appear to speak otherwise and, thus, give a person like myself enough evidence to have reasonable doubt. I believe that the Calvinistic doctrines of soteriology are false. Since this belief is based on the ample scripture which supports my doubt I should not have to face ridicule and scorn from the Calvinist. Calvinist need to man-up to their theological position and have enough wisdom to allow me to scripturally man-up to my position. Do note that my position is not Pelagian nor Arminian, but could better be understood in Calvinistic lingo as 2 point Calvinism – T and P -  that also recognizes the free will of man.

T – Total Depravity
U – Unconditional Election
L – Limited Atonement
I – Irresistible Grace
P – Perseverance of the Saints

Total Depravity
What it means to Calvinists: An unsaved person is spiritually dead which means they have no ability to understand or respond to God. Sin has destroyed the ability to receive salvation and has destroyed the human will.
What it does not mean to Calvinists: An unsaved person can still be socially good. This is called “horizontal” good between men and is possible because of “common grace” given to all men. Unsaved are totally incapable of “vertical good” between God and Man which includes receiving God’s plan of salvation.
Verses Used by Calvinist to prove and support Total Depravity:
Ephesians 2:1
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”

·         Calvinist Point: Dead men cannot walk, think, or believe. They are dead and cannot respond. Dead men cannot even know enough to receive the free gift of life. It must be forced upon them.

·         Refutation of Calvinism: “Spiritual Death” needs to be defined by scripture not Calvinist’s philosophy or eisogesis. Spiritual death, like physical death, means separation not annihilation. Death never means the total destruction of the ability to hear or respond to God. James says death is the separation of the soul from the body: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:26) 

       Jesus makes it clear that a person who is both spiritually dead and physically dead can respond to spiritual things when he describes the rich man in Hades as recorded in Luke 16:27-31 -“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Also, note Abraham’s response places the brothers' hope in the revealed Word of God and in their response to the Word of God, not in their predestination. 

     The book of Revelation calls eternal damnation the second death (Rev. 20:10), yet this is not the total destruction of the human nor is it annihilation. Isaiah says, “your iniquities have separated you from your God.” (Isaiah 59:2) A spiritually dead person can perceive the truth of God: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20) Even after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden they were fully aware of their sinful state and fully able to communicate with God. Adam in his fallen state heard the voice of God and carried on a conversation with him. He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:10) 

      The Bible also uses words besides “dead” to describe the sinful state of the natural man such as “sickness,” and “wounds.” In Mark 2:17 Jesus said, “"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." A sick man and a wounded man are not irresponsive, but can be aware of their disease or injury and be looking for (seeking) help. Man was created in God’s image and that image was not lost when man fell otherwise murder would be wrong for different reasons: “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.” (Genesis 9:6) Part of the image of God given to man is free will and self-determination. Divine judgment becomes a strange, irrational concept if individual men are not free to choose and take responsibility for their own decisions. Insight can be gained from Colossians 2:12-13 concerning Paul’s words “you were dead in your transgressions and sins” found in Ephesians 2:1. Colossians 2:12-13 describes the faith that saved us as “your faith” that you had “when you were dead in your sins.” It says: “you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.” Jesus says in John 5:25, “An hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Here Jesus says the spiritually dead can and will hear him. Details of man’s responsibility when they hear God’s call is found in the preceding verse in John 5:24, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.” In this case not only do the spiritually dead hear Jesus’ voice, but they must also believe the message to have eternal life. This is by no means a radical concept nor is it a strange New Testament theological position!

John 1:12-13 “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
      Calvinist Point: The new birth does not occur because of any “human decision” or because of the human will desiring to be saved. Salvation and the decision and desire for human salvation come only from God. Salvation happens to a man. A man has no part in that salvation.
      Refutation of Calvinism: Verse 12 says clearly “all who did receive him” which clearly indicates a free will response from the man who received Christ. Verse 12 also says that it is to “those who believe” God “gave the right to become children of God.” The Calvinist make a big deal about the phrases that say children of God are not born of “natural descent,” “human decision,” or “husband’s will.” Are these phrases placed here in scripture to emphasize the complete inability of man to respond to the gospel? Are these phrases trying to communicate the concept of total depravity? Or, are they saying mankind has no hope of salvation outside of:
  1. a new spiritual birth,
  2. God’s decision to offer salvation through his one and only Son, 
  3. God’s will to save people. 
To read Calvinism into this verse is an overstatement. This is especially true when the context states “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name.” 

Man’s ability to respond is confirmed elsewhere: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) If man could not respond why is our faith for salvation continuously referred to as our personal faith? “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 6:65) Realize that in every one of these cases the Calvinist has to first teach you the Calvinistic theology before you can “correctly” interpret this verse according to their views. Who would read “whoever believes in him shall not perish,” and then think that it actually meant, “no one can believe because they are all perishing?” How about these other verses? 

Philippians 1:29 – “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” (“granted” is from the word “grace” and means here “to give graciously.” We have all been given the opportunity to believe and to suffer. But, we are not forced to suffer for Christ nor are we forced to believe. We can reject the offer.) 

Philippians 3:8-9 – “That I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Notice that the righteousness comes through faith in Christ and that Paul says explicitly that this righteousness comes from God. The righteousness comes from God, not the faith. The faith is our faith. Our faith is an expression of our wills.) 

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Calvinists want to say the “it” that is the “gift of God” is the “faith” to be saved instead of the grace offered to us for salvation. Mr. John Calvin himself wrote that Paul “does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God.” In the Greek “that” (touto) is neuter and cannot refer to “faith” (pistis) which is feminine but instead refers to the act of being saved by grace. If Paul was thinking about “faith” being the gift he would have needed to use the neuter. The Greek scholar A.T. Robertson said that concerning this verse that “ ‘Grace’ is God’s part and ‘faith’ ours.” 

Romans 10:17 – “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (First comes the Word of God to the unregenerate heart. Second, the unregenerate heart hears and believes the Word of God and salvation occurs. Faith being a gift in this verse is neither explicit nor implicit. It is eisogesis. Clearly not everyone who hears the message responds with faith. But, at the same time, it is clear that every one who would have faith must first hear the Word of God.
Galyn Wiemers reloading camera batteries while sitting above the rubble of the 70 AD Roman destruction of the Jewish Temple with Herodian ashlar stones of the western retaining wall of the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Verses used by Calvinist that have nothing to do with supporting Calvinism:
1 Corinthians 4:7 – “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (This is a reference to receiving spiritual gifts, not everything

1 Corinthians 7:25 – “I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.” KJV  (This verse is not talking about salvation faith, but living the Christian life and remaining faithful. Augustine used this verse to support his belief that faith is a gift of God given before we can be saved.)

1 Corinthians 12:8-9 – “To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit..” (This is the spiritual gift of faith, not the gift of faith for salvation.)

Acts 5:31 – “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” (If repentance and forgiveness was given to Israel then all of Israel will be saved.

Acts 11:18 – “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (If God granting the Gentiles repentance is understood in the Calvinistic way then all the Gentiles are also saved!? So, between Acts 5:31 and Acts 11:18 all Jews and all Gentiles are saved? Or, is this saying that both Jews and Gentiles have been given the opportunity to respond? The word “granted” is “hedoken” which is aorist indicative active of “didomi” and means “to give.”

Monday, November 1, 2010

Roman Road

While doing an overview of Romans I typed the following chart known as the Roman Road to Salvation. It is something that I have not taught for several years, at least, not step by step. It was very refreshing to look the verses up and type them out. I thought it would be good for everyone to review it for their own understanding and know it so they can explain our salvation to today’s culture. The way of salvation is both simple and very deep with the richness of God’s wisdom and power.

The Roman Road: The Way of Salvation

Death came to all men
“Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned”

All men have sinned
“There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

No one will be declared righteous by obedience
“Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.”

Christ died for us
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Christ died for our sins;Christ rose because we were justified
“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

Wages of sin is death; God’s gift is eternal life
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Righteousness from God through faith
“Now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.”

Gospel is the power of God for everyone who believes
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God, for the salvation of everyone who believes . . . For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.”

Confess Jesus and be saved
“The word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in you r heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be save.”

Sin shall not be your master
“Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”

All things work together for good of those who love God
A Roman Road in Sepphoris, Israel

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him . . . if God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?