A Day With the Lord

‎”Remember a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.” We often hear this cited as an argument against a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 with 6, 24 hours days. This phrase comes from 2 Peter chapter 3. But is that the true meaning of the text? Are we to take this text as to mean that since a day with the Lord is as a thousand years, then we can’t Genesis 1 and 2 literally? Is this sound hermeneutics (biblical interpretation)? Let’s look at the verse in context and see.

2 Peter 3:4-10 “They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (5) For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, (6) and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. (7) But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (8) But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (9) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”

What was Peter’s point, in the context of this passage, by saying that a day with the Lord is as a thousand years? Was he suggesting to his audience that any time you read historical narrative in the Bible any given day could be interpreted as not a literal day but a thousand years? No of course not. He was using an illustration to encourage his audience to be faithful until the end, to not be discouraged though it may seem like the return of the Lord Jesus tarries. God will fulfill his promise, and so we ought to live every day in the anticipation of that day. He was reminding them of the implications of that truth (i.e. the urgency of missions, the pursuit of holiness, etc), for the Lord will indeed come and he will come when we least expect it.

Just to be sure, let’s see what kind of exegetical fallacies are necessary in order to make 2 Peter 3:8 mean what some have twisted it to mean; which is you can’t take Genesis 1 &2 as literal, historical narrative. First of all we are going to lift a phrase out of context from the NT that serves not as a commentary on how to read the word “day” in historical narrative in the OT, but as an illustration to a broader point on living in the anticipation of the return of Christ. Next, we are going to change how that phrase is used and make it so that it is in fact, supposed to inform us how we read the word “day” in historical narrative in the OT. Finally, having changed the meaning of this text and lifted it out of context for our own purposes, we then must place it pro forma on top of Genesis 1 and 2 and suggest that the days mentioned in Genesis could be not literal days but a 1000 years or more.

So if this is the hermeneutic we are using here, my next question is very simple: Why stop with Genesis 1 and 2? Do you see where I am going with this? When Noah was on the ark, did it rain for 40 days and 40 nights, or did it rain for 40,000 years? Was Lazarus in the tomb for 4 days or 4,000 years? Did Jesus rise from the dead on the third day or the 3000th year? Was Jonah in the belly of the great fish 3 days or 3,000 years? Did the Israelites march around Jericho for 7 days or 7,000 years? Did they wander in the wilderness for 40 years or 40 millennia?

If we are going to take 2 Peter 3:8 and twist it around to make it mean that we can’t know how long the days were in Genesis 1 and 2, that they could be thousands of years or more; then we have to be consistent and apply the same flawed hermeneutic to other passages of historical narrative, and we have to concede that we don’t know how long Noah was on the ark, how long Lazarus was in the tomb, how long it was until Jesus rose from the dead, how long Jonah was in the belly of the fish, or how long the Israelites marched around Jericho or how long they wandered in the wilderness. But of course we wouldn’t do that because that would be silly.

Posted in creationism, Genesis, God, Hermeneutics, old earth, Theology, worldview, young earth | 2 Comments

Preaching in Acts 20

Acts 20:17-21 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. (18) And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, (19) serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; (20) how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, (21) testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

A few observations:

1. In verse 20, the Greek for ‘declaring’ is ἀναγγέλλω, which means to declare, report, tell, or show. Also in verse 20, is the word διδάσκω for teaching, which is closely related to διδακτικός (meaning apt to teach) in 1 Timothy 3 in qualifications for overseers. Also in 1 Tim 4, Paul instructs Timothy to prescribe and διδάσκω these things.

2. Also in verse 20 that Paul declared (ἀναγγέλλω) to them and taught (διδάσκω) them both publicly and from house to house.

3. Again in verse 20, he kept back ‘nothing that was profitable (συμφέρω)’ Which is very similar to the ‘profitable’ from 2 Tim 3:16:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable (ὠφέλιμος) for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Both ὠφέλιμος and συμφέρω have similar definitions:

ὠφέλιμος: helpful or serviceable, that is, advantageous: – profit (-able)

συμφέρω: to bear together (contribute), that is, (literally) to collect, or (figuratively) to conduce; especially (neuter participle as noun) advantage: – be better for, bring together, be expedient (for), be good, (be) profit (-able for).

(Source: Strong’s Dictionary)

In other words, they are synonyms.

4. In verse 17, it is clear that he is speaking to the elders of the church.

5. In verse 21, it says that he testified (διαμαρτύρομαι, a compound word: δια + μαρτυρέω) that is, he bore witness (μαρτυρέω) to both Jews and Greeks concerning repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ

Where am I going with all this?

Is preaching biblical, that is, preaching by one man proclaiming the word of God to a group of gathered believers? I believe this affirms that it is. What is preaching if it is not a man who apt to teach (διδακτικός ) declaring (ἀναγγέλλω), teaching (διδάσκω), and bearing witness (μαρτυρέω), from the Scriptures all that is profitable (ὠφέλιμος, συμφέρω), to both the church and to unbelievers concerning repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ, both publicly (where unbelievers are almost certainly present) and from house to house (where the gathering consists of mostly believers)?

I believe this passage demonstrates that Paul and the apostles preached the gospel and everything that is profitable from the Scriptures to both believers and unbelievers alike. Furthermore there is nothing in this passage that suggests that Paul is speaking of a dialogue, like in Acts 20:7 where is says:

“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking (διαλέγομαι) to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.”

This verse, by the way, is often cited in support of this idea that preaching to the church is unbiblical. For those who make this argument, Acts 20:7 is a proof text to claim that preaching in the church was not actually preaching as we think of it but rather always a dialogue.

But this passage from Acts 20:20-21 does not suggest a dialogue. It speaks of ‘declaring’, ‘teaching’, and ‘testifying”. Sounds like good old fashioned preaching to me.

Yes there is a time for dialogue in the church, and perhaps we do not emphasize that enough in the traditional church today. But there is also a time to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Posted in House Church | 1 Comment

Coexist

We’ve all seem them. The ubiquitous “Coexist” bumper stickers. They certainly grab your attention. You are driving along and you are immediately confronted with the message of universalism in one word. Sure the bumper sticker is only one word, but its’ design carries the message across, and that message is that there are many paths to God and no one way is the only way. Therefore, we should simply go along to get along and certainly never suggest that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life and that no man comes to the Father but through him” (John 14:6). I’m sure you can tell at this point that I am very troubled by these bumper stickers. Why am I so troubled you ask? Let me explain.

There are real, eternal implications and consequences at stake here. The idea behind “coexist” troubles me because it suggests I should just go along with an opposing worldview so that we all just get along. This trivializes and ignores the real problem. It is those opposing worldviews that are sending souls to hell! Should I just stand idly by and not warn someone that their religion is false and offers no hope for eternal life, and that if they continue on this course they will perish and suffer an eternity of conscious torment in hell? That would be like me not warning or trying to stop someone who is about to step out in front of a speeding 18 wheeler. So my concern is to preach the true gospel, so that a soul might be rescued death.

Which should I be more concerned about? The fact that they are perishing or that I might offend someone? We are not going to get around the fact that many will be offended by the gospel. The Scriptures tell us so, that the gospel is foolishness to those that are perishing (1 Cor 1:18). But even though the gospel will offend many, that does not change the fact that the gospel is the power of God for salvation. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

At this point someone might object and say:

“Yes but shouldn’t we follow Jesus’ example? Didn’t he love others and therefore we should love others and not be judgmental about their views? After all, aren’t many people turned off by Christianity because Christians are constantly telling everyone that they are right and everyone else is wrong? Wouldn’t we do better to show them the love of God and change their hearts through our actions?”

Yes Jesus loved others, but his moral example was not primarily how he shared the truth of the gospel. He called people to repentance, and he was very direct in doing so. He said, “Unless you repent you will likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). He said “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14). Read the entire chapter of Matthew 7. Jesus is very blunt and very frank about the matters. So it is fair to say that yes, Jesus loved others, but he loved them enough to be very upfront about the truth and call them to repentance.

Just like my 18 wheeler example, if I see the truck coming and they don’t and I don’t warn them, there is nothing loving about that. In fact the most un-loving thing I can do is not warn them about their impending doom. Therefore, if I truly subscribe to the spirit of the “coexist” bumper sticker, that is, if I just go along to get along, so that I might not offend anyone, then I have failed in my responsibility as a Christian. So yes I will love others in word and in deed, but I will also love them enough to call them to repentance. I will speak the truth with gentleness and respect, but I will not be worried about whether or not they are offended. I will speak the truth of the gospel and offer them the only true hope they have. I will not coexist.

Posted in Evangelism, God, Gospel, Jesus Christ | Tagged | Leave a comment

Credo Magazine

There is a new Evangelical online magazine coming soon, Credo.

Here is a description from their website:

Credo is Latin for “I believe.” From the early Church Fathers to the sixteenth-century Reformers to present-day Evangelicals, Christians have faithfully confessed the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), over against error and heresy. Credo magazine seeks to situate itself in this biblical tradition by teaching “what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1)

Check out the list of contributors which includes Tom Schreiner, Greg Allison, and from Boyce College; Chad Brand and my Christian Theology professor, Owen Stachan

The first issue is due in October.

 

 

 

 

 

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Reflections on Theology

This was too good not to share. To kick off our Christian Theology class, my professor, Owen Strachan (pronounced “stran”, rhymes with “man”) shared with us a few reflections to think on before we dive in. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And just to make sure I give credit where credit is due: Everything that follows is a direct quote or paraphrase from Professor Strachan’s lecture. Sources quoted in the lecture are otherwise specified.

Reflections on Theology

  1. Theology is the study of God. We are studying God Himself from the Word of God.
  2. Theology is thus the study of ourselves and our world.
    1. John Calvin: “The sum of sacred doctrine is contained almost entire in these two parts: The knowledge of God and of ourselves.” In theology it is also very important that we study ourselves. The central assertion in Christian Theology is that by studying God you find out who you are.
  3. Theology is a multisided enterprise. It involves learning but it also involves formation.
    1. You do not study the Bible as a textbook. We do study the Bible but we study it not only to grow in knowledge of God but also to be transformed in our lives.
    2. Jonathan Edwards: “God has endued the soul with two faculties: one is that by which it is capable of perception and speculation, or by which it discerns, and views, and judges of things; which is called the understanding. The other faculty is that by which the soul does not merely perceive and view things, but is some way inclined with respect to the things it views or considers; either is inclined to them, or is disinclined and averse from them; or is the faculty by which the soul does not behold things, as an indifferent unaffected spectator, but either as liking or disliking, pleased or displeased, approving or rejecting. This faculty is called by various names; it is sometimes called the inclination: and, as it has respect to the actions that are determined and governed by it, is called the will: and the mind, with regard to the exercises of this faculty, is often called the heart.”
    3. In other words we have the understanding – that is the mind – and we have the affections – that is the heart. As we receive information, we are filtering and processing it, discerning whether it is true or not. That is understanding. Then with the heart and affections, we are either inclined or disinclined to what we are seeing or hearing. This applies directly to the study of theology. A right worship of God with the mind sees God for who he is, understands that knowledge to be true, and transforms that understanding into worship and affections from the heart, such that you know what is true and live according to it. Jesus said that even the demons have a right understanding of God, but their problem is that they do not love God. Their knowledge of God does not translate into heart affections for God. So the challenge in our Christian ministry is to engage our minds and our hearts in the study of God.
    4. To quote Edwards again: “…every true disciple of Christ “loves him above father or mother, wife and children, brethren and sisters, houses and lands: yea, than his own life.” From hence it follows, that wherever true religion is, there are vigorous exercises of the inclination and will towards divine objects: but by what was said before, the vigorous, lively, and sensible exercises of the will, are no other than the affections of the soul.”
  4. Theology also includes a negative element: Defense.
    1. Defense is not very popular today. It has fallen out of favor in our day. The postmodern spirit encourages us to be listless in what we believe in and to not hold onto it too tightly. A lot of people will state what they believe but then say, “It is true for me.”
    2. The Scriptures challenge us to hold the Faith so closely, that we will even give our lives for it. There are people who have gone before us who have given their lives to defend the gospel and to preserve the Scriptures.
    3. 2 Timothy 1:13-14 “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” Guard it. If you are trying to understand you believe and then you are standing up for that Scriptural truth you are doing a profoundly biblical thing if you defend the gospel. People don’t want to be unpopular today. We want everyone to like us. We don’t want to be on bad terms with anyone. And that can mean that we don’t say that things are true and not true. But in the Scripture, the apostles and authors of the Bible do; is they defend the gospel. This is also related to the apologetic task of Theology. We defend the gospel and we try to persuade people of its truth. It is a good thing for you to be equipped to defend the Faith. There are going to be people who try to pervert it, who try to oppose it, and it is your call as a Christian, in some form, to defend the truth.
  5. Theology is fundamentally an exercise in glorifying Christ.
    1. Philippians 2:9-11 “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
    2. This is ultimately what we are after; the exaltation of Christ, in our study of Theology, in our proclamation of the gospel and the truth of the Bible, and in our daily Christian lives.
    3. The Scriptures themselves are Christocentric. The theme of the Bible from every corner testifies to the supremacy of Jesus Christ. He is the one who is foretold and expected in the OT and he is the one who is proclaimed in the NT after he comes.
  6. Because of all these things, theology is filled with truth, beauty, drama, and mystery.
    1. Theology is filled with these things. Theology is not boring, and dry, and dusty as it sometimes is portrayed.
    2. The moment you say that Jesus is Lord, you are making a most profound theological statement. And the moment you start living in such a way that proclaims that Jesus is Lord, you are living your life in the most profound theological way. Indeed all of life is dependent on Theology. If God is truth, then you order your life around that truth.
    3. So as we begin our study of Theology, we are like Ezekiel who said “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking” (Ezekiel 1:28. In other words, through God’s revelation, Ezekiel saw something of the glory of God. In our study of Theology we are going to see something of the glory of God. We see through a glass darkly. We do not see as we will in heaven. But will we see something that will grip us and that will lead us to fall in the dust and worship God.
Posted in Theology | 1 Comment

Equipping the Saints

Today’s post is actually from notes and meditation on today’s sermon. The sermon mainly focused on Ephesians 4:11-16 but several observations were made from the beginning of the chapter 4 through verse 16:

Ephesians 4:1-16  I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  (2)  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  (3)  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  (4)  There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–  (5)  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  (6)  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  (7)  But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  (8)  Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”  (9)  (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  (10)  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)  (11)  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  (12)  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  (13)  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,  (14)  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.  (15)  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  (16)  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

The speaker was ultimately giving a talk about Biblical Counseling. However he noted that Biblical Counseling is not primary, it is not an end in itself. Counseling, is a tool, among others, that we have for speaking the truth in love to one another.

Our speaker then went on to talk about work of ministry within the Church body. Here are two observations:

1. Christ is the cause of growth in the body.

2. Christ’s body, the Church, cases growth in itself by sharing Christ’s truth and sharing Christ’s love.

So we have a positive paradox which is self-reinforcing: Christ causes growth and we as the Church cause growth.

Notice that Christ calls us but he also gives. We are to “walk in manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called” (verse 1), but it is also Christ’s calling that equips us. Look at verse 7: “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”  Grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gifts. Christ has given to each of us the full measure of his grace. Believe this promise. We are all as Christians called to the work of ministry and Christ has given us everything we need to fulfill our ministry. Not only has He given us the full measure of His grace but he has also given “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” (verse 11). So we know Christ calls and we see several examples of His equipping the Body through what He has given. Likewise, just as Christ has equipped us, we then equip the saints for the work of ministry.

How does this play out? Though the building up of the body. Building up means growing up. The metaphor we see here is growing up from vulnerable children into mature manhood. We know that children are vulnerable in that they can be easily swayed and influenced because they are very impressionable. We are all in danger of such vulnerability from the world (which constantly tries to persuade us love worldly things above Christ), from Satan and his demons, and from our very own sin nature.

In building up the Body, we are growing up into “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (verse 13). And we see that the result of growing up is that we are no longer “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (verse 14).

How then as the Body do we cause this growth? By sharing Christ’s truth and sharing Christ’s love. In other words, speaking the truth in love.

When we think of speaking the truth in love we often think of the manner in which we speak. We know sometimes the truth is difficult to accept so when we think of speaking the truth in love, we think of speaking in a way that is loving and not harsh. But there is a greater application here to speaking the truth in love. When we are talking about equipping the saints from ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, we mean speaking the gospel to one another. In other words, we speak the truth in love as we share with one another how the truth of the gospel applies to the specifics of our lives. It is coming to Christ through his Word, and encouraging and exhorting each other what the gospel of Jesus Christ would call us to do as we face all the various situations we encounter in this life.

And so as we do this, each one of us having been called and equipped by Christ we cause each other to grow up into Christ, “from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (verse 16).

So you can see this reinforcing relationship: Christ causing growth in the body, the body causing growth in itself, by speaking the truth in love, and the body being built up in love as each part of the body is working properly which is joined and held together by Christ. It is the natural outworking of the unity of love expressed in gospel community with Christ and the body; with Christ being the first cause through the full measure of his grace, his gifts to the body, and his equipping us to equip the saints for ministry.

As Christians, every one of us can do this because Christ has called us and not only called us, but given us the grace we need to do it.

Isn’t it amazing how God works, especially through his children, though we are weak and sinful, to accomplish his purposes and bring glory to Himself?

Posted in God, Gospel, Grace, Jesus Christ, Truth, Unity | 1 Comment

Look Unto Me : God Calls the Unrighteous

I recently picked up a great daily devotion book, Look Unto Me. It is a daily devotional based on Charles Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning. It has been edited and updated into modern language by Jim Reimann.

Today’s devotional focuses on God’s love and his mercy he offers through Jesus Christ in spite of our sin. All too often lost people think that they have to clean themselves up first before they can come to Christ; that God will only accept and forgive them once they’ve got their act together.

The text for today’s devotional comes from Job 40:4 “Behold, I am vile.”

Here are some highlights:

From the pen of Charles Spurgeon:

“If Job, Isaiah, and Paul  were all obliged to say, “I am vile,” the will you, poor sinner, be ashamed to join in the same confession? If divine grace does not eradicate all sin from believers, how can you expect to do it yourself? And if God loves people while theu are still vile, do you really think your vileness will prevent Him from loving you? Believe on Jesus, he calls you just as you are! If you trust “God who justifies the wicked” (Romans 4:5), “you are saved” (1 Corinthians 15:2). Oh, may the Holy Spirit give you saving faith in Him who receives even the vilest of sinners!”

Personal reflection:

My friends, it was not the righteous, but sinners that Jesus came to call. Jesus came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He came to save not “those who are well,” and “have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mark 2:17). Come to Christ. Today is the day of salvation. Do not try to touch yourself up and try to make yourself something other than what you really are. Come at once as you are to God who justifies the wicked. Do not attempt to clean yourself up first. Remember that the Scriptures say that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He died for us while we were still sinners not after we had forsaken all our sins! My friends, that’s the whole point! You can’t clean yourself up on you own! You are powerless to do so! That’s why you need a Savior! Ephesians 2:4-5 says “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” You see, before we come to Christ, we are dead in our sins. And what can a dead man do? A dead man cannot do anything, much less “get his act together first”!

Friend, if you have already come to Christ and trust in him alone for your salvation, never take this for granted. Do buy into the lie that you have to add anything to what Christ has already done for you. Your salvation is eternally secure and Christ’s perfect life and death on the cross is sufficient. Trust in him alone.

On the other hand, if you have not yet come to Christ, make this the day of salvation. Lay down your rebellion against God and surrender. There is nothing you can do to make yourself acceptable before God. He is calling you as a beggar so come to him as a beggar. If you will confess to God that you are a vile sinner and believe in your heart that Christ died to pay the penalty for all your sins, and that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. You will be washed in the blood of Christ and you will be clean. Do you want to be clean? Do you think you can come to Christ. If you think you can come to Christ, you can, and you can be cleansed. You can be forgiven. But you must trust in Christ alone and not in yourself.

Posted in God, Gospel, Grace, Jesus Christ, Job, Mercy, Salvation, Sin, Surrender | Leave a comment