Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Two Ways to God

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Here we find the Apostle John placing before us two very distinct categories. These categories we may biblically refer to as “Law” and “Gospel.” Christians today, for the most part, seem to have lost their capacity to think categorically, hence the all-important distinction between Law and Gospel seems to have all but disappeared from our preaching [evangelism], teaching [discipleship], literature, and consequently; from our understanding as a whole. I refer to Law and Gospel as categories, but we may just as well understand Law and Gospel as approaches--approaches to God. By approaches I mean “ways” or “means” to God.

The question staring down all men [expressed variously] ultimately goes something like this: “How is sinful man to approach or please a holy God?” or, “How can man and God be reconciled?” No man, be he atheist or agnostic, can avoid the question because no man, be he living or dead, can avoid God. There are two ways, and only two ways, to God: the Law or the Gospel. One is the way of condemnation and death and the other is the way of justification and life. Sadly, most prefer the former. “[W]ide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it...narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

Make no mistake, there is no combining of the two ways, into a third or middle way. We either come to God via the Law or by way of the Gospel. Why do so many take the way that leads to destruction, viz. the way of Law? Because Law is the natural religion of man. Law is the natural religion of man because man is prideful and filled with self righteousness.

Simply put, those who take the way of Law say to God, “I come to You, God, on the basis of my own goodness and worthiness. No, I may not be perfect, but I am basically a good and moral person. I don‘t hurt others, if I can help it, and I try my best to live by the ‘Golden Rule.’ And, of course, I believe in You, God. I even go to church more than is necessary.” These may not be the exact words, but we’ve all heard them and we’ve all spoken them. Law or “works” truly is the natural religion of man.

All those who come to God by way of Law and works, i.e. on the basis of their own goodness, have absolutely no hope of obtaining salvation. They do not understand the holiness of God nor the sinfulness of man. Rest assured, the problem of approaching God by way of Law, lies not with the Law. “The law of the LORD is perfect...the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Psalm 19:7; Rom. 7:12). The Law of God is not the problem--we are. “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin...Therefore, by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 7:14; 3:20).

Let these words of Paul the Apostle sink in, dear reader. No matter how hard you or I may try to live up to God’s standards in His Law, “no flesh” will be saved by attempted obedience to the Law of God. It is impossible for sinful man to keep God’s Law for we are morally unable. God’s Law does not demand our best. If it did, Christ need not have come. God’s Law does not demand our best, it demands perfection. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). We cannot hope to give God what He justly requires of us.

The purpose of the Law is not, nor has it ever been, to save us or to commend us in the sight of God. Rather, the Law convicts and condemns us, exposing our sin and stripping us of all excuses and self righteousness. “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). What is man to do? What is sinful man, justly condemned before a holy God, to do? Look to Christ. Look to Christ and to no other.
But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’ But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:11,22,24).
We are justified, not by works or self righteousness, but by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This is the Gospel: Justification by faith. We are saved or put right with God, not on the basis of what we have done, but solely on the basis of what Jesus Christ did on our behalf. He lived the perfect and sinless life and now His perfect righteousness is credited to or imputed to all those who come, by faith, to Him.

The Gospel is not about us. It’s about Him. Christ did not come to make bad people good or to make good people better. Christ came to make dead people live.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love...when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ...For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:4,5,8-9).
Forsake the broad way of good works and come to the narrow gate called Christ. Come to Christ with the empty hands of faith. He is the only way, the only door, to life everlasting.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

More End Times Madness

I was kindly asked to provide more Q & A from this discussion/debate concerning eschatology. These are the remaining questions and comments which I could salvage without sacrificing meaning [due to a lack of context]. May God add His blessing to your reading.
Is it possible that more of the early church fathers would have been more inclined to Dispensationalism had they seen Israel become a country again?
Is it POSSIBLE? Maybe. Is it PROBABLE? Not at all. We shouldn't interpret the Bible through the lens of the newspaper. Such a hermeneutical method is deplorable. (This has been the habit of many Dispensationalists. Men like Hal Lindsey--who've made so many awful "predictions" and are the major purveyors of end times madness--have little or no shame. They've been proven wrong time and again yet they keep cranking out books and updated theories...and Dispensationalists keep buying them. They're not much different than the neo pagans who are all a flutter about 2012 and the Mayan calendar.)

How do you explain Satan’s use of Hitler?
I do not see anything in the Bible pertaining to Hitler. Do you have a verse or passage which teaches “Satan used Hitler…” No. Therefore, to speak of such things is nothing more than speculation. (You know…the Pat Robertson technique.) Such speculation is very common among Dispensationalists. I do NOT presume to speak for God apart from Scripture.

When [do] you feel that the book of Revelations was written? Pre or Post 70 AD?
I believe Revelation was written prior to 70AD. An EXCELLENT and scholarly treatment of this subject is a book by Ken Gentry, “Before Jerusalem Fell.”

What about the 12,000 sealed out of each tribe of Israel in Revelation 7? If this is the church, which tribe are you in? And why is the tribe of Dan omitted?
I’ve no idea which “tribe” I’m in. But I’m almost positive…it’s not yours. Just kidding! Yes, why is Dan omitted? While we’re at it…why is Ephraim omitted? Also, what is this “tribe of Joseph” (Rev 7:8)?? I don’t recall any tribe of Israel being known as the “Tribe of Joseph.” Do you? Can you show us in the Old Testament where the tribe of Joseph lived? What they did? Anything? (Be sure to NOT “allegorize”…I want to see in the Old Testament the LITERAL tribe of Joseph.) Happy hunting!

Replacement Theology grew to maturity in the Catholic church, which denies assurance any way. Interesting, eh?
First of all, "Replacement Theology" is a pejorative term. No Covenantalist refers to himself with this inaccurate moniker.

More importantly, this is known as the logical fallacy of "poisoning the well." You are attempting to discredit historic eschatology by associating it with the Roman Catholic church. (I am assuming you mean "Roman Catholic" because "Catholic" means "universal." I belong to the Catholic church but not the Roman Catholic Church.) Because you know that Protestants tend to negatively react to the Roman church, you are attempting to associate the views which oppose yours to the Roman church, and thereby skew opinions.

The other logical fallacy present here is known as the "genetic fallacy." This is the irrational idea that says a position must be wrong because of its origin. You suggest that because historic eschatology "grew to maturity" in the Roman church--it must be wrong. Of course, this is fallacious reasoning. I wonder if you would apply this "standard" to other doctrines with roots in the Roman church--like the doctrine of the Trinity, for example?

On Matthew 24, do you believe this entire passage to have taken place with Titus in 70 AD?
Yes. I lean towards a Preteristic understanding of this passage.

Why were only 1.1million killed in 70 AD but 6million in the holocaust?
[Note: This was asked with reference to Matthew 24:21 which supposedly supports the idea of a yet future “Great Tribulation.”]
I probably wouldn't word it as "only" 1.1 million. Nor would I be anticipating even more than 6 million Jews being slaughtered in the future. (Again, I marvel at the Dispensationalists who label those who disagree with them as being anti-Semitic!)

But, how are we to understand Mtt 24:21? Like any other verse in the Bible, CONTEXT is essential to interpretation. Thus, we should ask ourselves: From the context of the verse, what is the universe of these remarks?

It is abundantly clear that the universe of Mtt 24:21 is 1st Century Judea. Why do I say this? Well, because Mtt 24:16 reads: "then let those who are in JUDEA flee to the mountains." In other words, this verse has NOTHING to do with the Holocaust, located mostly in Europe, of the 20th Century.

[What sense would it make to "warn" Jews--2000 years in the future and living in Germany--to "flee" into the "mountains" from "Judea"?? Dispensationalists are supposed to be LITERALISTS, remember?]

Notice also, these Jews are fleeing Judea and hiding in the mountains. And, from the context, this running from Judea is LITERALLY "running." They seem to be fleeing on foot. (Thus Christ speaks of "woe" to the nursing/pregnant women and of "winter" and "Sabbath.")

If this "great tribulation" [always shown as "Great Tribulation" in Dispensational literature] is world wide--why the reference for folks to save themselves by fleeing JUDEA to the mountains? [Josephus' account, however, accords quite nicely with Jesus' prophecy.]

If this "great tribulation" is world-wide and in the 21st Century [or later?], why are they fleeing on foot? How will this running to mountains save them from mechanized warfare? [Here, some Dispensationalists will argue that perhaps the world is no longer "mechanized" and has reverted back to primitive ways/means. Of course, this kind of end times madness is based more upon Hollywood movies than scripture.]

In summation: The universe of Mtt 24:21 [according to the immediate context] is limited in its scope to Jews living in Judea. And if we're going to interpret the context LITERALLY, it is obvious that it deals with ancient ways/means of warfare and transportation. Thus, it would be wrong to infer that Jesus is claiming that there would be no greater [in the sense of "worse"] wars/loss of life, ANYWHERE in the world at ANY time of history. Rather, we interpret Christ within the limited context of His own words.