Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pierced for our Transgressions

I have recently debated someone who denies the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. This is the idea that Jesus was penalized in our place, satisfying the demands of God's justice for those who have faith in Him. It is sad. If Jesus did not take the punishment for our sins on Himself, then we are left in our sins, and then the question becomes what did Jesus die for? Did Jesus accomplish anything on the cross? Was He just being a "good example?"

PLEASE!

Sadly, this person is aware of all the passages in the Bible that speak of Jesus' death as being a substitutionary atonement. Of course, his presupposition forces him to redefine and explain away certain passages; which he does instead of submitting to the Word of God. 

Here are a few of those verse:
  • And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6)
  • Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him (Isaiah 53:10)
  • Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.(Isaiah 53:12)
  • whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed (Romans 3:25)
  • For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (Galatians 3:13)
  • 1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1-4)

Interestingly enough, one of the strongest opponents of penal substitution historically was Socinius. If that name rings a bell, it should. He was an anti-trinitatian "theologian" whose name is now used to describe the heresy he promoted--Socinianism. I wonder if those who oppose the clear Biblical teaching of substitutionary atonement are comfortable in this company?

This person I debated also, I assume, holds what the patristic fathers wrote in high esteem, seeing as where this person comes from theologically (although I have found most like him enjoy picking and choosing what they like). So, I would be interested to see what he would think of what Athanasius (c.293 - 373) said:
It would, of course, have been unthinkable that God should go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die; but it was equally monstrous that beings which once had shared the nature of the Word should perish and turn back again into non-existence through corruption. It was unworthy of the goodness of God that creatures made by him should be brought to nothing through the deceit wrought upon man by the devil… Yet, true though this is…it was unthinkable that God, the Father of Truth, should go back upon his word regarding death in order to ensure our continued existence. He could not falsify himself; what then was God to do? …

The Word perceived that corruption could not be got rid of otherwise than through death; yet He Himself, as the World, being immortal and the Father’s Son, was such as could not die. For this reason, therefore, He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection. It was by surrendering to death the body which he had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent. For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required.
This is what happens when the Bible is not your authority. The Bible is so clear on why Jesus died for us (for more on that go here). It is possibly one of the most important things to understand. Jesus died for our sins so we don't have to!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My exegesis of Romans 9

While the Calvinist may be sincere in his interpretation of Romans 9, I believe he has misread this passage because he has missed some of the context needed to correctly interpret the passage. Here is what I believe is the correct interpretation of this passage. First, we need to avoid the mistake that the Calvinist exegete makes here. We need to always keep in mind the context of this passage, especially when it is a hard to understand passage, and avoid proof-texting. And always ask, “What does the text say, and what does the text mean?” Let’s begin at the beginning - verse 1.

(It would be good to have your Bible open to Romans 9)

1-3: Paul is Jewish and He is writing here about his Jewish brethren. We need to keep this important fact in mind, as it is the most important thing to remember in order to properly understand this passage. One good thing to ask ourselves here is why Paul would be so upset over those who are not accepting Christ if they had been predestined that way? Why, if God is glorified through their reprobation, is Paul so distraught? Even to the point he would give his own salvation so they may be saved! Isn’t Paul's main concern the glory of God? I thought God would be glorified in this!? Why would Paul care so much about those God has chosen to reprobate out of His own sovereign decree?

4-5: This is the context of Romans 9. Paul is writing about people groups. The early Christians in Rome had hit a stumbling block. Why were all these promises to the Jews, especially the promise of the Messiah, being ignored by the Jews? They wondered if God had somehow failed in His choice of the Jewish people. Paul argues throughout Romans that salvation is based on faith and not by works. When he comes to Romans 9-11, Paul is dealing now with Jewish fears that God has rejected His people whom He chose, and even through whom Christ came. We don’t think about it much today because we are so far separated from that line of thinking, but this is the context in which Paul wrote.

6: Paul addresses the misconception here that the Jews were automatically saved simply because they are Jews, and also the misconception that God somehow failed in choosing them as His people. He states, “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect (failed in His choice of the Jews). For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.” They are not all Israel (the people of God) simply because they are of Israel (of Jewish descent). It is crucial to see that this is about corporate/national election! God has predestined that believers as a group (spiritual Israel) would be saved, and non-believers will not. God chose Israel as His instrument throughout the Old Testament era.

In the Old Testament, God chose the Jews for a purpose. They were tasked with carrying the Law of God. God was revealing Himself to the world and they were tasked with recording that revelation. They kept the temple sacrifices and the Passover which all pointed to Jesus Christ. Remember this whenever I refer to the Israelites as God’s people. They were not saved simply because they were Jews. They were saved the same way as we are, as shown in Genesis 15:6 where Abrahams FAITH was accounted to him as righteousness (Christ’s future sacrifice paid for the salvation of Abraham and all who had faith in God in the Old Testament). Also, people from outside the Jewish nation came to faith in God, and God looked at Christ’s sacrifice instead of their sin.

7-9: God chose Isaac to be the heir of Abraham, the heir that would carry on the Jewish race. It wasn’t due to who Isaac was; it was God’s sovereign choice in choosing Isaac to do this, for His own reasons. It wasn’t simply enough to be Abraham’s son, for Ishmael was also his son. Isaac was the child of promise. God supernaturally caused Sarah to give birth to him, and chose him as the specific person to carry on the line of the Jews. However, this is not speaking of Isaac being unconditionally elected unto salvation and Ishmael being reprobated. If you remember correctly, God had mercy on Ishmael.

10-11: Here it is essential to know a little cultural context here. Rabbis at this time taught that God had chosen Israel because of the righteousness of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and other ancient Jewish fathers). Paul is refuting that! It wasn’t because of the things they did (because they were chosen before birth); it was because of the sovereign choice of God that He chose Israel as His people.

12-13: Improperly understood, this could have massive repercussions on your interpretation of the rest of the Bible. Is God telling Rebecca while her children were still in the womb that He hates one of them!? God hated a baby!? How does that fit the rest of scripture? First off, Paul is quoting Genesis 25:23.  It says, “two NATIONS are in your womb. Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.’” Remember what I said? This is a prophecy about God choosing a nation. This is not about the boys themselves. Esau became the father of the Edomites. Jacob was renamed Israel and the nation of Israel descended from him. This is about Israel being a stronger nation than Edom, not about Esau literally serving Jacob. We see later on that Esau never actually served Jacob, they were reconciled, and I think they are both in heaven today. This is also not about individual election unto salvation. It’s not about who goes to heaven and hell.

But what about, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”? This is from Malachi 1, which was written 1600 years after the passage from Genesis. Let’s examine it. Notice God is speaking to the nation of Israel.

2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness.” 4 Even though Edom has said, “We have been impoverished,  But we will return and build the desolate places,” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “ They may build, but I will throw down;

This entire passage is also about the nations, not the boys. They would have died over 1400 years prior to this. Therefore, Paul is using these passages to make his point about corporate election.

                Also, when the words “Love-hate” are used as they are here, hated is being used as an idiom (the Hebrews loved using these). It is used opposite to love to express a lesser degree of love, not literal hatred. You can see a similar usage in Genesis 29:30. Jesus uses the same idiom in Luke 14:26. We’re not actually supposed to hate our parents, but compared to our love for God, the love for our parents is like hate.

So instead of teaching that God hated a baby before he had done anything, this passage actually teaches that God chose specific nations for specific things. That is a huge difference.

14-16: What about this? Was God unrighteous when He chose Jacob over Esau? Esau was the eldest and that meant that the birthright of Isaac was naturally his. But God chose Jacob to be the one to catty on the line of Israel. Paul asserts that of course God is not unrighteous in this decision. 

In verse 15 Paul is citing Exodus 33:19. Let’s remember that Paul is a Jewish Rabbi. Jews memorized large portions of the Old Testament. He had an amazing command of knowledge of these ancient texts. Would he rip the text out of context in order to prove a point about individual unconditional election? No! The context here is not about who goes to heaven and who does not. In context, Moses has asked God to show him His glory. God says it is because of His mercy that He has decided to show Himself to Moses, not due to anything Moses did. So Paul’s point is God does not owe us mercy based on what we do (will or run).  The basis of God’s choice is not on the people’s conduct, but on His compassion. The “IT” in verse 16 is not individual salvation; the “IT” refers to God’s choice of Israel: Corporate/national election. Individual election has not appeared in this section.

17-18: Is this speaking of eternal salvation? If it is, it is terrible! Are there people whom God hardens leaving them nothing they can do about it? Has God chosen them for utilitarian destruction? Certainly God has the power to do this, but does this sound like the God of the Bible? Ezekiel 33:11 says, “‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’” 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” And 1 Timothy 2:4 says, “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This is what God wants. He wants everyone to be saved because He loves us. But He does not force us to love Him.

Concerning Pharaoh and Moses and God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, we must remember that Pharaoh was never a believer and had already hardened his heart toward God. God in displaying His grace to Pharaoh was the occasion for Pharaoh to harden his heart. Much like we say prison hardens a criminal, we know it is actually the criminal hardening himself; Pharaoh likewise was hardened because of God’s grace. Also the Hebrew word for “harden” is more often translated “to give strength, to fortify.” So in Exodus 14:17, God may have only strengthened the resolve of what the Egyptians had already chosen to do. God never decided to send Pharaoh to hell based on an arbitrary decree. Pharaoh went to hell because of his sins.

                This is still speaking of CORPORATE/NATIONAL ELECTION.

19-22: Paul is still speaking of national election here. He alludes to another passage in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 18:3-11. The potter is God and the clay is the nation of Israel.

22-23: So as God chose the people of Israel as His people, He now chooses believers (spiritual Israel) as His people that He will save. On the other hand, God prepares those who reject Him for an eternal punishment. The translation of the words, “What if,” is a little misleading. Paul is not asking a hypothetical question. He is making an assertion. Notice that God does not display His wrath hurriedly. He endures the vessels of wrath with much patience. The fact is we were all vessels of wrath at one time, until we came to Jesus by faith.

24: God calls people to be a part of His spiritual kingdom not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles. In the early church many were excluding gentiles because they weren’t Jews. The apostles had to deal with this, among many other issues they dealt with.

25-29: Paul quotes the Old Tesament to support this point (that He elects those who believe) and to tell what the ramifications of Israel’s rejection of God are.

30-33: This is the real kicker. Verse 30 is Paul’s summary of all He had just said. Paul starts by saying, "What shall we say then?" which signals he is about to summarize his whole point. Paul's ultimate point, therefore, is gentiles who have not pursued righteousness, as the Jews had, attained righteousness by FAITH. Whatever else Romans 9 means; there is certainly no reason to read a double predestenarian viewpoint into it, especially in light of verses 30-33.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pick up our cross

Reality sometimes smacks us in the face. Because of our sin, we live in a cursed creation (Genesis 3:17-19) and suffering is quite often the norm. God did not intend this kind of life for His creatures. However, God is able to show His amazing love for us because of this. This is why He created us knowing full well what we would end up doing with our free will, namely shaking our fists in His face. Even in light of this, "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Christ suffered more than any man in order to atone for the sins we have committed. He rose victorious, defeating death and providing for us eternal life!

God's loving provision does not stop there. He makes sure as we live our lives we are provided for (Matthew 6:25-34). He promises to provide what we need without fail. While there will be suffering in this life (2 Timothy 3:12), God's glory will be displayed through this suffering (Romans 8:18) and everything that happens will work together for our good (Romans 8:28). Jesus will return and transform this wicked world into a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). Those who have done evil and have not repented will face the justice that has been prepared for them, those who have called upon the name of the Lord will live with Him forever.

Furthermore, God has promised that if we walk with Him, nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39), and if we are in Jesus Christ, we cannot be defeated (2 Corinthians 4:8-11). Even in all our weakness and strife, God promises His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Finally, we can take comfort in the great testimony of those who have gone before us. They suffered far worse torment than we do, and they have been glorified and are now with God (Hebrews 12:1). The Church was built on the testimony of the martyrs.

God's word gives us words to comfort us even in the hardest times we may face. Praise Him, for He is Love (1 John 4:8, 16), and He is good (Job 36:26). So, pick up your cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24). It is the least we can do in response to His great love!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’Tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!

O The Deep Deep Love Of Jesus. Samuel Trevor Francis (1875), Welsh melody adapted by Thomas John Williams (1890)

Friday, April 10, 2009

I did this...

I am the reason the Son of God was put on the cross.

But He was wounded for our transgressions, 
      He was bruised for our iniquities; 
      The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, 
      And by His stripes we are healed.

-Isaiah 53:5

Monday, April 6, 2009

Advantage to Arminianism

I have heard it done. Many of my reformed brothers and sisters have contradicted their own theology! When speaking to the lost, they have used the phrase, "Jesus loves you!" C'mon my reformed friends, you know you have. I'm glad you did! It is biblical (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Ephesians 2:4, 1 John 4:8).

God loves His creation, which is why He gave Himself for it. As an Arminian, I can honestly look at  those who have not accepted the forgiveness of God through faith in Christ and tell them that God loves them and genuinely wants them to come to forgiveness. If a Calvinist is to be honest and consistent, the best they could say is, "there is a chance that God may love you and may have elected you to be regenerated and then have faith in Him! Otherwise He hates you." That would be very cumbersome. 

My reformed friends, it is plain in scripture that God does love all men. If you would simply shed the preconceived assumptions you hold and rely on scripture, you too could have the advantage that the Arminian has.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April fool's day

If you didn't know yet, my previous post was an April fool joke. I am still 100% Arminan.

Today...

April 1, 2009, I have decided not to fight it anymore. I have decided to accept the doctrines of grace. I have become a Calvinist!!!