A LETTER FROM THE DEVIL

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Today the devil has no need to seduce, harangue or write threatening letters to most who call themselves Christians. That is because he already controls the lukewarm segment of the Church! In fact, he has placed his very own “angels of light” in the pulpits. He has entrusted to them a lukewarm religion of mixture: just enough tradition combined with a great deal of wickedness. The Church today pays tribute to the devil by producing wicked music, and calling for “Christian” entertainment and practicing of double standards.

Most “Christians” today walk in fear and intimidation, accommodate worldliness and are afraid to step out boldly and expose sin for what it is.

No, the devil’s onslaught today remains focused on those precious ones whose hearts are set wholly on hungering after the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s remnant Church on earth is Satan’s target because she is under covenant with the Lord and, therefore, poses a tremendous threat to the kingdom of darkness.

You see, the moment you give up on this world and put your life wholly in the hands of the Lord -watch out: All hell will come against you! You will become a target of the devil, and you will come under siege. You will be tested severely to see if you will really trust God in all things. And everywhere you look, you will see the enemy standing against you.

SATAN USES SUBTLE DEVICES AGAINST THE REMNANT

The first trick is to question a believer’s commitment to trust the Lord fully. “God is not going to get you out of this mess. You are going down! You are in real trouble, and your faith is not going to work.”

Are you in a mess right now – in really deep trouble? Has the devil told you that God is not going to rescue you, your faith is too weak or too little? Perhaps you are unemployed right now, and your bills are slowly mounting. You are scared because everything looks hopeless. You hear the devil laugh, “In spite of all your love for Jesus, giving up the world, doing the right things and trusting in God, it’s not going to work. You are destined to fail! You are going to end up broke, hounded by creditors and headed for suicide.”

“What can you do to stop this trouble? How will you make it if you can’t find a job-if you can’t see even a month ahead of you, let alone your whole future? How can you possibly survive if there is an army of troubles coming in behind your present ones? Do you really believe God is going to work a miracle for you and get you out of this big mess? Give up! Here – I have a deal to offer you….”

Now Satan adds a new twist: He tells you that God is the one behind all your troubles. Satan will try to convince you that God is getting even with you, that He is mad at you. This is his slickest lie! He makes you believe God has forsaken you and turned you over to trouble and sorrow. He wants you to think all your problems are the result of God’s punishment for your past sins. Don’t believe it! It is Satan who is out to destroy you.

No, dear saint, you are not going down. You are simply under attack, being barraged by the enemy’s lies because you have set your heart truly to trust in the Lord. Satan is trying to destroy your faith in God.

Another device Satan uses to intensify his attack on you is to try to focus your attention on his victories over other Christians. Satan will boast, “I am more powerful than your God. I brought down some of your biggest evangelists and seduced them into gross sin. I turned some of them into money-crazed liars. Those fallen televangelists were supposed to be close to the Lord, but look how they ended up. If preachers can’t make it, how can you? What makes you think God is going to answer you when so many spiritual giants are falling?”

Satan will bring to your mind all the Christians who claimed to trust God but who suffer trouble, sickness and even death. He will point out some dear friend, who is always in pain and has so little to live on she seems crushed by it. The enemy will say, “She trusted God -and look what it got her!”

Another of Satan’s tricks is to paint a fantastic picture of what your life could be like if you make a deal with him. The devil’s voice whispers, “There’s no need for you to be a nobody or to suffer unjustly. Just come out of your narrow, straight ways and I’ll fix things for you. You’re going to prosper! I’ll give you all the money you need. No more bills, no more just making ends meet. I’ll open the bank for you.”

What a crooked salesman the devil is! He tells you, “Just one little deal, and all your problems will be solved. You deserve a break; you’ve suffered enough. Now it’s your turn to make it.” But don’t be deceived: Every compromise you make in your walk with Jesus is the same as “going out” to the devil. When you sell short your relationship to Jesus, you are cutting a deal, making a bargain – and you are selling your soul in the process.

Satan promises, “You can take God with you when you go with me. You will have to make some changes – but you will still be you. It won’t hurt anything. You can have it all – Jesus and a deal!”

Be warned: If you buy into this lie you will be the devil’s slave from that point on. There is no land of wine and oil or paradise as he promised. The minute you come out to him, he will slap chains around your neck and hands and lead you off to Babylon. You will never get what you thought you would get. Instead, you will get the whip and chain, broken promises and despair. You will get a taskmaster for a father. The satisfying water he promised you is actually poisoned. No, you won’t have freedom. Instead, you will live under complete bondage, a slave to Satan’s whims.

Finally, as a last resort, Satan will send you a threatening letter: Have you received your own letter from the devil? Those divorce papers you received may have been Satan’s way of saying to you, “Read it, you failure! What good does it do to serve God and deny yourself? It didn’t save your marriage. It’s all your fault. It could have been avoided. Phony! Failure! Give it all up!”

That retrenchment letter on the job may also carry the devil’s voice. “So that’s what you get when you follow Jesus, huh? A swift kick? Nobody wants you. You’re too old, too much of a has-been. You’re going down, you’ll lose everything. You won’t have any rent money or be able to care for your family. You’re finished!”

Or what about that X-ray? There it is in black and white: You have a terminal disease: AIDS! Cancer! Lupus! It’s hopeless. And Satan says, “So you believe Jesus heals, do you? Well, where is He now? Why do you still have to suffer? You gave Him everything, and look what happened. He gave you nothing but continued suffering in return.”

So what do you do when you are confronted with a message from the devil? Pray and seek the Lord. Don’t ever talk or reason with the devil. Simply hold your peace.

You see, God’s response to the devil’s letter is to read it and laugh! God takes your letter personally. He said, “Devil, you didn’t send that letter to My child. You sent it to Me!” He who touches you touches the apple of God’s eye. God says His loved ones are safe and that the devil cannot harm them. Remember: “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Psalm 34:7, KJV).

No matter how many demons invade, no matter how fiercely the kingdom of darkness threatens, God’s people are safe. Let it sink deep into your heart of hearts: You are safe. The Lord is set to defend and deliver you.

THE LORD SENDS HIS OWN LETTER TO THE DEVIL

The Lord has written His own letter to the devil in Psalm 46. It is your answer to the devil in all his attacks. It reads as follows:

“God is a very present help in trouble” (verse 1, KJV here and throughout). Our God is present now. He is our help not just in ages past but a very present help now, today – in the midst of any and all troubles.

“Therefore [we] will not fear” (verse 2). We have no need to fear. Our God is a consuming fire, a defender and shield for His children. Second Timothy 1:7 tells us, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” He is altogether faithful and true to His Word.

“God is in the midst” of this temple, I cannot be moved (verse 5). My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit – and He says He is in the midst of that temple. Christ Himself makes His abode, His dwelling place, within my heart. And I cannot be moved or shaken! “The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved” (verse 6). Let the heathen rage, let all the kingdoms of the earth be shaken and moved. Our God will completely destroy all demonic attackers.

“He maketh wars to cease … he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear … he burneth the chariot in the fire” (verse 9). He is my army against my enemies, against those who make war against me. And He Himself will completely annihilate all the devil’s weapons arrayed against me: “No weapon that is formed against [the servants of the Lord] shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17).

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (verse 10). I will be still and rest completely in the knowledge that He is God. He is my God, my Redeemer, my Defender-the sovereign Lord over all my affairs. I am safe, surrounded by His presence in the pavilion of His love. And I will stand firm and behold His majesty and glory!”

Dear saint, God provides this letter for all of Satan’s attacks on your faith. Read it, meditate on it -believe it. It is heaven’s answer to your letter from the devil.

(Main Source: David Wilkerson – Hungry For More Jesus)

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DELAYED PRAYERS

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Most of us pray as David did: “In the day that I call, answer me speedily” (Psalm 102:2). “1 am in trouble; hear me speedily” (Psalm 69:17). The Hebrew word for speedily means “right now, hurry up, in the very hour I call on You, do it!” David was saying, “Lord, I put my trust in You-but please hurry!”

God is in no hurry. He doesn’t jump at our commands. In fact, at times you may wonder if He will ever answer. You cry out, weep, fast and hope-but days go by, weeks, months, even years, and you don’t receive even the slightest evidence that God is hearing you. First you question yourself: “Something must be blocking my prayers, some hidden sin. Maybe I asked amiss. Or perhaps my faith is too weak.” You become perplexed, and over time your attitude toward God becomes something like this: “Lord, what do I have to do to get this prayer answered? You promised in Your Word to give me an answer, and I prayed in faith. How many tears must I shed?”

Why does God delay answers to sincere prayers? It certainly isn’t because He lacks power. He could merely wink an eye or think a thought and His work would be finished. And He is most willing -even more than we are-for us to receive from Him. No, the answer is found rather in this verse: “He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

The Greek word for lose heart, or faint in the King James Version, means “relax, become weak or weary in faith, give up the struggle, no longer wait for completion.” Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” The Lord is seeking for a praying people who will not relax or grow weary of coming to Him. These people will wait on the Lord, not giving up before His work is completed. And they will be found waiting when He brings the answer.

I thought I had unshakable faith, that I fully trusted in the Lord. Then some of my very important prayers were not answered for a long time; in fact, some still are not answered. I reasoned with the Lord, “If You will just answer my prayers, it will build up my faith. I can go to the sanctuary and boast of Your faithfulness the way David did. Think of how others will be greatly encouraged.” But the whole time the Lord was saying to me, I don’t build your faith on My answers-I build your faith on My delays!

Anybody can believe when the answers to prayer are flooding in. But who’s going to believe after a year or two years? As time goes on, we abandon our prayers and the belief that He will answer, and we move on to something else.

We say to God, “I’ll be faithful to You. But don’t expect me to have faith to wait for answers to prayers anymore.” In reality, God wants only to make sure you’re not going to relax in your prayer vigil. He wants your heart set on persevering, no matter how long His answer takes.

Jesus gave us a parable to prove that He waits on us to dig in and determine not to give up. It is the parable of the distressed widow who kept coming to the judge seeking justice (see Luke 18:2-8). The judge finally granted her request only because he was worn down by her constant pleading: “Because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me” (verse 5). Jesus added to this parable, “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily” (verses 7-8).

You say, “But doesn’t Jesus seem to be speaking a paradox in this verse? First He says God `bears long’ with us-then He says He `will avenge us speedily.’ ” Most of us misinterpret this passage completely. You see, Jesus isn’t speaking of delaying a long time. He says God wants to answer us speedily but is enduring something. God is bearing something that calls for patience on His part. He’s saying, I’ll put up with this thing I see in your heart-I’ll bear with you-until you’re willing to lay hold of Me for the answer as I desire you should.

As I look back at some of the things I’ve prayed for over a long period, I hear the Lord saying, I’m holding up this request to you, like a mirror. And through this, I’m going to show you what’s deep in your heart. What I’ve seen reflected in that mirror are doubt … fear … unbelief … things that have made me throw myself at Jesus’ feet and cry, “0 Lord! I’m not interested in the answer anymore, but only in getting this spirit out of me. I don’t want to doubt You-to pray and weep for an answer, yet still have seeds of unbelief in my heart!”

It’s true that the hardest part of faith is the last half hour. When it looks as if God won’t answer, we give up, putting all behind us and going on to something else. And as we do this, we think we are surrendering to God’s providence, His sovereign will. We say, “Lord, do what You think is best,” or, “Well, God, You must not have wanted it after all.” That is not what God ever intended! When we pray for what is obviously the will of God-salvation of a family member, for instance-we have every right to hold on and never give up until Jesus answers.

We have every reason not to listen to the devil. And we have every right to ask God to plant the faith of Jesus Christ in us and not let us relax until we see completion.

Too often, instead, we faint-we fail the test. If we hadn’t fainted, we would still be holding on more determined than ever to see the answer through. Yet the Lord sees our fainting heart all along. In fact, He gives us a picture of this humbling experience in 2 Kings 6-7.

Samaria was under seige by Ben-Hadad and his great Syrian army. The city was starving: A donkey’s head sold for eighty pieces of silver, a pint of dove’s dung for five. The prophet Elisha had prophesied to the king of Samaria that God was going to deliver the people supernaturally. He said to hold on-to wait, pray, repent and trust God no matter how bad things got.

As the king paced atop the city walls, he may have thought, “How long must this go on? We can’t hold out much longer. If God doesn’t answer soon, we’ll have to go out with the white flag and surrender.” Then a woman saw the king and cried out, “Yesterday my neighbor and I boiled and ate my baby. We agreed that today we would eat her baby, but now she has hidden her child. King, it’s unfair-make her give up her baby, too!”

That did it! The king ripped open his sackcloth, and in a rage he bellowed, “Elisha, off comes your head! You had us believing that God would answer your prayer. You told us a miracle would happen.” When the king found Elisha praying among the elders, he screamed, “Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” In other words, “It’s too late! The deadline has come and gone and God didn’t keep His word. Prayer isn’t going to help. It’s time to take matters into our own hands!”

While the king was fainting-quitting on his faith-the answer was almost at the gate. Elisha told him, “Tomorrow about this time a seah [about eight gallons] of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria” (2 Kings 7:1). It’s too bad the king hadn’t waited another 24 hours before blowing up. He didn’t know that God was at work creating a miracle. In the Syrian camp, a miraculous buzzing filled the air-the sound of a huge army of chariots rumbling toward them. Panic swept over the Syrians, and they dropped everything and ran for their lives. So the Samarians brought home wagonloads of the Syrians’ food. Vegetables, fine flour and barrels of barley poured through the city gates. Watching this, the king must have been red-faced as he recalled stating, “God didn’t keep His word!”

This kind of thing must have happened to me at least a dozen times. I’ve given up and said, “Oh, well, this must not have been God’s will. It’s an impossible situation.” And sometimes the answer came within an hour of my words! Is that what’s happening with you? Have you given up and stopped pressing in? You must recognize that God is already at work, and His answer is just about to arrive. It is when we wait in faith and see it through that we grow in faith and bring greater glory to His name.

(Source: David Wilkerson – Hungry For More Jesus)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (25)

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CHAPTER VII

The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 1)

RESUME

As stated earlier, it is not possible to fit all of the events of Christ’s ministry into a perfect chronological order. Some writers end the Period of Retirement with Mark 9:50, and insert next a Judean Ministry beginning at Mk. 10:1 taking in the trip from Galilee to Jerusalem and continuing through the Feast of Tabernacles to the Feast of Dedication in John 10. Because the events at these two feasts are recorded only in John it is uncertain exactly where they fit into the Synoptic record. We are beginning the Perean Period with Christ’s final departure from Galilee and ending in His last appearance in Jerusalem. As will be seen the greater part of this period is covered only by Luke. Of the 43 topics in this section, only 9 are common to the Synoptics – 5 are found only in John, and 28 only in Luke.

Perea is not a scriptural name. It is the name used by Josephus to describe the district which the rabbis habitually referred to as “the land beyond Jordan,” which in the Greek is “peran tou Iordanou” (Matt. 4:15; 19:1). It was bounded by Pella in the north to Machaerus in the south and extended from the Jordan river on the west to the desert on the east. Perea was considered as a part of the land of Israel, along with Judea and Galilee and was under the same religious and political laws.

The Final Departure From Galilee

References: Matt. 19:1,2 cf. 8:18-22; Mk. 10:1; Lk. 9:51-62

Much of our Lord’s ministry was in Galilee, but now He is leaving Galilee behind and heading for the eventualities which will transpire in Jerusalem, although there still remains several months of ministry beyond Jordan. The chronology of this section is uncertain. Luke states that when the time had come for Him to be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. But following this is the account of certain men who would follow Jesus, but only after they had taken care of other business. This same account is found in Matt. 8, which means that the passage is out of chronological order in either Matthew or Luke, or the same situation happened on two different occasions.

The Lord never made it easy to be a disciple. He reminded these men that even the animals have a place they can call home, but He didn’t own so much as a place to lay His head. We are not told whether the man changed his mind about following Jesus when he learned that. Then Jesus said to another, “Follow me,” but he asked for permission to wait until his father died and was buried, but Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their dead.” This sounds strange, for how could a dead person bury another dead person? Undoubtedly Jesus used “dead” in two different senses. The unsaved are spiritually dead. There are many jobs they can do as well or better than a saved person. The saved person should be sure he is doing God’s work first of all. Another man wanted to wait until he went back home and bid farewell to his friends and family. Many a person has thought of serving Christ, but after consulting with friends and relatives has been dissuaded. It is man’s nature either to be too forward (vs. 57), or too backward (vs. 59), or too undecided (vs. 61).

The Samaritans had no dealings with the Jews (John 4:9), so when Jesus sent His disciples to find lodging in the Samaritan village, they would not receive Him because He was going toward Jerusalem. James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven, and while the fire will fail some day, it was then the day of salvation and not of judgment.

1.     The Mission of the Seventy

Reference: Lk. 10:1-24

Jesus appointed these seventy disciples to go ahead of Him in pairs into every city and village He was going to visit to prepare the way for His coming. Just as the number twelve is significant in connection with Israel, so is the number seventy. Beginning with Jacob, there were seventy souls. that came forth out of his loins (Ex. 1:5). There were seventy elders in Israel (Ex. 24:1,9; Num. 11:16). Israel’s period of captivity in Babylon lasted seventy years (Jer. 25:11). Daniel prophesied that seventy weeks (of years) had been determined upon Israel (9:24 cf. vs. 2). And the ruling body in Israel, the Sanhedrin, was composed of seventy men. The Septuagint was supposedly translated by seventy scholars.

The commission of the seventy disciples was very similar to that of the Twelve, given in Matt. 10. They were to take no supplies with them; they were not to pass the time of day with people on their journey; they were to be entertained at a home that would receive them, and if no one received them they were to wipe the dust off their feet as a gesture of shame against that city and tell them to be sure of the fact that the Kingdom of God had come near unto them. Then Jesus berated the cities in which He had done His mightiest works, stating that they would suffer a sorer judgment than such wicked cities as Tyre and Sidon.

When the Seventy had finished their mission and had returned they were very happy, for they said that even the demons were subject to them through the name of Jesus. Jesus replied: “I was beholding (imperfect) Satan as lightning having fallen (aorist) from heaven.” This may refer to Satan’s original fall, but more likely to what had just been transpiring. While the Seventy were getting the victory over the servants of Satan, Christ was beholding Satan fall as a dazzling flash of light which was quickly extinguished. The divine protection against serpents and scorpions is similar to that given to the Apostles in the commission of Mk. 16:17,18. However, their greater cause of rejoicing was that their names were written in heaven. The disciples were honored above many kings and prophets who never had the privilege of seeing and hearing the things they were experiencing.

2.     The Good Samaritan

Reference: Lk. 10:25-37

The expressed purpose of this parable was to answer the question of the lawyer: “Who is my neighbor?,” and this should be the primary interpretation. The lawyer, one versed in the Mosaic law, was tempting Jesus, that is, trying to trip Him up. As usual, Jesus made His questioner answer his own question. It was most difficult for the Jewish lawyer to admit that a despised Samaritan was a better neighbor than a priest or Levite of the Jews, but that is what he had to admit and that is the primary teaching of the parable.

However, the parable has many applications, and Christians generally make only applications and never use it to teach the human relationship of neighborliness.

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Anyone who has visited Jerusalem knows that one literally goes down from Jerusalem, 2500 feet above sea level, to Jericho, 825 feet below sea level. The usual application of the parable makes the certain man who thus went down to represent Adam’s fall.

He was robbed of his innocence and righteousness, mortally wounded and left to die. The priest and the Levite who happened along, when they saw the dying man, passed by on the other side of the road. They represent the Law. The Law cannot forgive, or restore life; it can only condemn and put to death. That is the clear teaching of Paul’s epistles, especially Romans and Galatians.

But then a certain Samaritan came along, and came to where the dying man was, had compassion on him, treated his wounds and bandaged them, put him on his own beast of burden and brought him to the inn and took care of him. And when he left the next day, he gave the host money and promised upon his return to pay the entire bill for caring for this robbed and wounded man, who had no money to pay his own debts, and had no strength to take care of himself.

And in the application, Jesus, of course, is the good Samaritan. In fact, shortly before this incident the Jews had said: “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan and hast a demon?” (John 8:48). Jesus is the only man who ever loved God with all His heart and His neighbor as Himself. He is the only good, really good, neighbor this world has ever had.

3.     The Visit to Martha and Mary

Reference: Lk. 10:38-42

We often hear of women’s societies in churches which call themselves the Martha Society, but seldom do we hear of a Mary Society, and yet Mary was the one who chose the better part. The inference might be made that Mary was an impractical kind who shirked her household duties; however, the text proves just the opposite. When Martha said: “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone,” the verb, “hath left,” is in the aorist tense. “She did leave,” indicates that she had been helping until Jesus appeared. The text makes it plain that the house belonged to Martha and she was the one who invited and received Jesus under her roof and was responsible for providing the hospitality. We dare not condemn Martha for what she was doing, for she was doing her best to entertain Jesus in her home, and we can think of many things worse than that. But Martha did not have the spiritual discernment possessed by Mary. She was interested only in providing the outward, physical things for the enjoyment of her Guest, but Mary realized that the Guest had spiritual blessings to bestow, and so took time off from the physical preparations to become spiritually prepared.

The word “cumbered” is an interesting word. This word appears only twice in our A.V., here and in Lk. 13:7; however, they are entirely different words in the Greek. Here the verb means to be distracted. She was distracted from the person of Jesus by the many little chores which needed to be done.

The word “help” is also an unusual word. It is a compound of three words: “to take hold,” “together with,” “reciprocally,” so that Martha said: “Bid her therefore that she take hold and do her part together with me.” This word occurs only one other time, in Rom. 8:26, where we are told that the Spirit “helpeth” our infirmities; that is, the indwelling Holy Spirit takes hold of the heavy end of the load we are called upon to bear and thus helps us in our weakness.

4.     Healing of Man Born Blind

Reference: John 9:1-41

Here we would point out a few principles involved. The first is what we might call the mediate and the immediate cause of disease. Disease is the result of sin, and so naturally the disciples asked: “Who committed the sin which caused this man to be born blind, the man himself or his parents?” In saying that neither this man nor his parents sinned, Jesus did not mean that they had never committed sin, but that it was not their sin which caused the blindness. A man may commit a sin which is the immediate cause of disease, or it may be some defect which he has inherited mediately through his forebears. Ultimately all the sin and disease in the world came in a mediate way from Adam. But in this case Jesus said the man had been born blind that the works of God might be manifested in him. How little did he or his parents have any such concept until the day that Jesus worked this great miracle, for there was no case on record of the restoration of sight to a man born blind. There are doubtless cases today where God has permitted one to be diseased for this very same purpose, that God might do some work through him to bring glory to God, but apart from revelation it would be mere speculation to make such judgments today.

Actually this man was not the only blind person involved. The Jewish rulers in their hatred of Jesus were spiritually blind. They closed their eyes to every bit of evidence: refused to believe the man had been blind until his parents testified he was their son and although they didn’t know how he had received his sight they knew he had been blind from birth. Faced with this evidence they went back to the man and tried to make him confess that Jesus was a sinner. They accused him of being a disciple of this sinner Jesus, but claimed they were Moses’ disciples, and knew not where this Jesus came from. The man marvelled at the ignorance of the rulers: here is a Man restoring sight to the blind and the rulers don’t even know anything about Him. This answer enraged the rulers: “Are you who were born in sin trying to teach us?” And they cast him out.

Up to this point the only thing the man knew for certain was that whereas he was blind, now he could see. When Jesus had heard what the leaders had done, He found the man and asked if he believed on the Son of God, and he replied: “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe?” And Jesus revealed Himself to the man as the Son of God and he believed and worshipped Him. It has often been pointed out that if Jesus accepted the worship of man, and Jesus was not truly God manifested in the flesh, He was guilty of blasphemy and was the greatest imposter the world has ever seen.

In conclusion Jesus told the Pharisees, “For judgment I am come into the world.” He did not mean that He had come to judge the world, for He explicitly stated: “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47). The original meaning of judgment was separation, such as dividing the sheep from the goats at the judgment of the nations. Thus, His coming into the world resulted in a judgment, a separation between those who believed on Him and those that rejected Him. Phillips catches the idea in his paraphrase: “My coming into this world is itself a judgment – those who cannot see have their eyes opened and those who think they can see become blind.” Some of the Pharisees overheard this and said: “So we’re blind too, are we?” “If you were blind,” returned Jesus, “nobody could blame you, but as you insist, ‘We can see,’ your guilt remains.”

5.     The Good Shepherd

Reference: John 10:1-21

The first five verses of this chapter constitute a parable, but the disciples did not understand what Jesus meant by the parable. In the verses that follow Jesus applies the parable to Himself as the Shepherd who enters in by the door, in contrast to all who came before Him, who climbed in by some other way and were thieves and robbers. Actually the expression “some other way” (vs. 1), means from some other quarter. It is a matter of origin. Christ had been insisting previously that He came from above, from heaven. The others had their origin from a different quarter: they were from the world. Christ is the door for the sheep. It is said that the shepherd, after bringing his flock into the fold, lies down at the entrance, so that any intruder would have to come in contact with him before getting at the sheep. He is thus both shepherd and door. The shepherd’s job is to lead his sheep in and out for pasture so that they might have abundance of life, as well as to protect them from danger. All of this is in contrast to the hirelings, the rulers or shepherds in Israel. Read the entire 34th chapter of Ezekiel for God’s appraisal of these false shepherds, and for God’s plan for the restoration of His flock and fold.

The interpretation of this portion belongs to Israel, as is evident from both the 34th and the 37th chapters of Ezekiel. The traditional interpretation makes the other sheep of vs. 16 to be the Gentiles, which are to be incorporated with Israel into the Church. This mistake has been partly due to a failure to recognize Old Testament prophecy and partly to the inaccurate rendering both in the Vulgate and the A.V. of the words for flock and fold. These two translations ignore the differences between these two words.

The A.V. entirely ignores the distinction between aule, fold, and poimne, flock. The latter word is found in Matt. xxvi. 31; Lk. ii. 8; 1 Cor. ix. 7, and always distinctly meaning a flock, as does also the diminutive poimnion, little flock (Lk. xii. 32; I Pet. v. 2, etc.). Render as Rev., one flock, one shepherd. So Tynd. Compare Ezek. xxxiv. 23. We are not, however, to say with Trench (‘Authorized Version of the New Testament’), that the Jew and the Gentile are the two folds which Christ will gather into a single flock. The heathen are not conceived as a fold but as a dispersion. ‘Nothing is said of one fold under the new dispensation’ (Wescott). It will readily be seen that the incorrect rendering fostered by the carelessness or the mistake of some of the Western fathers, and. by the Vulgate, which renders both words by ovile, fold, has been in the interest of Romish claims.28

Thus, vs. 16 should read: “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold (aules): them also I must lead out, and they shall become one flock (poimne), and one shepherd.”

The Gentiles are nowhere in Scripture represented as being a sheep fold. Instead, it is evident from Ezek. 37 in the sign of the two sticks, that Israel’s one fold became divided into two folds when the northern ten tribes split off from the southern two tribes and became two nations. The prophet was told to take two sticks and write the name of Judah on one and Ephraim on the other, and then to join the two sticks together into one stick. This was a sign of what God was going to do:

Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel: and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all;… And David my servant shall be king over them, and they shall have one shepherd…and the heathen (Gentiles) shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore (Ezek. 37:21,22,24,28).

Here the one shepherd is over the two folds of Israel which have been united into one flock in contrast to the Gentiles. By refusing to interpret literally the Old Testament prophecies and by refusing to recognize the mystery character of the Body of Christ which had not been revealed while Christ was on earth, traditional theologians have applied this passage in John to the Gentiles of the present era. The great blunder of the Church has ever been to identify itself with Israel, appropriating to itself the Israel promises, and leaving only the curses to the Israel to whom the promises were made.

While it is true that Jesus is Israel’s Good Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep, we know that at the same time God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Here we need to distinguish between the dispensational and the doctrinal aspects of Christ’s life and ministry.

In laying down His life, Christ made it plain that no man could take His life from Him. He had the power to lay it down and to take it again. This is another evidence of His Deity. The truth of John 9:39 is seen again, in that His words caused a division among the Jews, some claiming He was demon possessed and others asking if a demon could open the eyes of one born blind.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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DISPENSATIONALISM IN A NUTSHELL (DR CHARLES RYRIE)

dispensationalism

Many evangelicals and liberals believe that dispensationalism is either downright heresy or close to it. Some speak harshly against dispensationalism and warn that it is unscriptural and that no biblically responsible Christian should be involved in such heresy. For many, dispensationalism is a Christian cuss word!

A CLUSTER OF ITEMS

Actually, dispensationalism is a cluster of items joined together to form a system of thought. Just as terms like Calvinism, Arminianism, Anglicanism, Catholicism, or Lutheranism are historical labels that represent, not a single idea, but a group of items joined together to form a multifaceted scheme, so is dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is a term that arose in church history to label certain Christians who believe a group of certain things that are taught in the Bible.

Dispensationalists are those who believe the following things:

  • The Bible is God’s inspired, inerrant (i.e., without any errors) revelation to man. Scripture provides the framework through which to interpret history (past and future). God’s written Word tells us of His plan for His creation and this will surely come to past.
  • Since the Bible is God’s literal Word of His plan for history, it should be interpreted literally and historically (past and future).
  • Since the Bible reveals God’s plan for history, then it follows that there is an ebb and flow to His plan. Therefore, God’s plan includes different dispensations, ages, or epochs of history through which His creatures (man and angels) are tested. Therefore, God is instructing His creatures through the progress of history, as His creation progresses from a garden to a city.
  • Since all humanity fell into sin, each person must individually receive God’s provision of salvation through the death of Christ by believing the gospel. Thus, Jesus Christ is the only way to a relationship with God.
  • Because of mankind’s fall into sin, Scripture teaches that all humanity is naturally rebellious to God and the things of God. This is why only genuine believers in Christ are open to the teachings of the Bible. Thus, salvation through Christ is a prerequisite to properly understanding God’s Word.
  • God’s plan for history includes a purpose for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—that is Israel. This plan for Israel includes promises that they will have the land of Israel, will have a seed, and will be a worldwide blessing to the nations. Many of the promises to national Israel are yet future, therefore, God is not finished with Israel.
  • God’s plan from all eternity also includes a purpose for the church, however, this is a temporary phase that will end with the rapture. After the rapture, God will complete His plan for Israel and the Gentiles.
  • The main purpose in God’s master plan for history is to glorify Himself through Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the goal and hero of history.

In a nutshell, Christians who believe like this are known throughout Christendom as dispensationalists. We believe that it is the same as saying that I believe what the Bible literally teaches. Millions of Christians throughout the world are dispensationalists. In fact, the word “dispensation” occurs four times in the King James Version of the Bible (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25).

A DEFINITION OF DISPENSATIONALISM

Most likely, the leading spokesman for dispensationalism is retired Dallas Theological Seminary professor, Dr. Charles Ryrie. Many know Ryrie through his books and articles, but he is best known for his popular Ryrie Study Bible. Ryrie’s book, Dispensationalism, and some additional items are the reference point to look for an understanding of dispensationalism.

Since Dr. Ryrie is the expert on this subject, we will let him speak as we summarize his material.

He notes that The Oxford English Dictionary defines a theological dispensation as “a stage in a progressive revelation, expressly adapted to the needs of a particular nation or period of time . . . also, the age or period during which a system has prevailed.” The English word “dispensation” translates the Greek noun oikonomía, often rendered “administration” in modern translations. The verb oikonoméô refers to a manager of a household. “In the New Testament,” notes Ryrie, “dispensation means to manage or administer the affairs of a household, as, for example, in the Lord’s story of the unfaithful steward in Luke 16:1-13.”

Scriptural Use of Dispensation

The Greek word oikonomía is a compound of oíkos meaning “house” and nómos meaning “law.” Taken together “the central idea in the word dispensation is that of managing or administering the affairs of a household.”

The various forms of the word dispensation appears in the New Testament twenty times. The verb oikonoméô is used once in Luke 16:2, where it is translated “to be a steward.” The noun oikonómos appears ten times (Luke 12:42; 16:1, 3, 8; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 4:1, 2; Gal. 4:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10), and is usually translated “steward” or “manager” (but “treasurer” in Rom. 16:23). The noun oikonomía is used nine times (Luke 16:2, 3, 4; 1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2, 9; Col. 1:25; 1 Tim. 1:4). In these instances it is translated variously (“stewardship,” “dispensation,” “administration,” “job,” “commission”).

Features of Dispensationalism

Examination of oikonómos in the Gospels finds Christ using the word in two parables in Luke (Lk. 12:42; 16:1, 3, 8). Ryrie notes that in Luke 16 we find “some important characteristics of a stewardship, or dispensational arrangement.” The characteristics are:

(1) Basically there are two parties: the one whose authority it is to delegate duties, and the one whose responsibility it is to carry out these charges. The rich man (or master) and the steward (or manager) play these roles in the parable of Luke 16 (v. 1).

(2) These are specific responsibilities. In the parable the steward failed in his known duties when he wasted the goods of his lord (v. 1).

(3) Accountability, as well as responsibility, is part of the arrangement. A steward may be called to account for the discharge of his stewardship at any time, for it is the owner’s or master’s prerogative to expect faithful obedience to the duties entrusted to the steward (v. 2).

(4) A change may be made at any time unfaithfulness is found in the existing administration (“can no longer be steward.”).

Further features can be gleaned in the other occurrences of the “dispensation” word group.

All other uses, except 1 Peter 4:10, are found in the writings of Paul. Ryrie cites the following features:

(1) God is the one to whom men are responsible in the discharge of their stewardship obligations. In three instances this relationship to God is mentioned by Paul (I Cor. 4:1-2; Titus 1:7).

(2) Faithfulness is required of those to whom a dispensational responsibility is committed (I Cor. 4:2). This is illustrated by Erastus, who held the important position of treasurer (steward) of the city (Rom. 16:23).

(3) A stewardship may end at an appointed time (Gal. 4:2). In this reference the end of the stewardship came because of a different purpose being introduced. This reference also shows that a dispensation is connected with time.

(4) Dispensations are connected with the mysteries of God, that is, with specific revelation from God (I Cor. 4:1; Eph. 3:2; Col. 1:25).

(5) Dispensation and age are connected ideas, but the words are not exactly interchangeable. For instance, Paul declares that the revelation of the present dispensation was hidden “for ages” meaning simply a long period of time (Eph. 3:9). The same thing is said in Colossians 1:26. However, since a dispensation operates within a time period, the concepts are related.

(6) At least three dispensations (as commonly understood in dispensational teaching) are mentioned by Paul. In Ephesians 1:10 he writes of “an administration [dispensation, KJV] suitable to the fullness of the times,” which is a future period. In Ephesians 3:2 he designates the “stewardship [dispensation, KJV] of God’s grace,” which was the emphasis of the content of his preaching at that time. In Colossians 1:25-26 it is implied that another dispensation preceded the present one, in which the mystery of Christ in the believer is revealed.

It should be noted that dispensationalists have developed the theological term “dispensation” in a way similar to the biblical use of the term. Therefore, we believe that the system of theology we know today as dispensationalism is consistent with biblical teaching.

Definitions

Building upon the above biblical observations, we are now able to define dispensationalism. According to Ryrie, “a dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose.” In addition to a definition of a dispensation, Ryrie notes that if “one were describing a dispensation, he would include other things, such as the ideas of distinctive revelation, testing, failure, and judgment.” The overall combined purpose of the whole program is the glory of God.

In his classic work, Dispensationalism, Ryrie formulates the following extensive definition of dispensationalism:

Dispensationalism views the world as a household run by God. In this household world God is dispensing or administering its affairs according to His own will and in various stages of revelation in the process of time. These various stages mark off the distinguishably different economies in the outworking of His total purpose, and these different economies constitute the dispensations. The understanding of God’s differing economies is essential to a proper interpretation of His revelation within those various economies.

Another dispensational scholar, Paul Nevin, summarized dispensationalism as follows:

God’s distinctive method of governing mankind or a group of men during a period of human history, marked by a crucial event, test, failure, and judgment. From the divine standpoint, it is an economy, or administration. From the human standpoint, it is a stewardship, a rule of life, or a responsibility for managing God’s affairs in His house. From the historical standpoint, it is a stage in the progress of revelation.

Dispensationalist, Renald Showers, emphasizing a dispensational view of history, gives the following definition:

Dispensational Theology can be defined very simply as a system of theology which attempts to develop the Bible’s philosophy of history on the basis of the sovereign rule of God. It represents the whole of Scripture and history as being covered by several dispensations of God’s rule.

. . . the term dispensation as it relates to Dispensational Theology could be defined as a particular way of God’s administering His rule over the world as He progressively works out His purpose for world history.

ESSENTIALS OF DISPENSATIONALISM

Who is a dispensationalist? Essentials are needed by which to gauge a theology. What are the essentials that characterize a dispensationalist? Ryrie has stated what he calls the three essentials or sine qua non (Latin, “that without which”) of dispensationalism.

The essence of dispensationalism, then, is the distinction between Israel and the church. This grows out of the dispensationalist’s consistent employment of normal or plain or historical-grammatical interpretation, and it reflects an understanding of the basic purpose of God in all His dealings with mankind as that of glorifying Himself through salvation and other purposes as well.

The three essentials are not a definition or description of dispensationalism, instead they are basic theological tests which can be applied to an individual to see whether or not he is a dispensationalist.

First Essential: Literal Interpretation

Ryrie’s first essential of dispensationalism is not just literal interpretation, but more fully, a consistent literal hermeneutic. “The word literal is perhaps not so good as either the word normal or plain,” explains Ryrie, “but in any case it is interpretation that does not spiritualize or allegorize as non-dispensational interpretation does.” Literal interpretation is foundational to the dispensational approach to Scripture. Literal interpretation is foundational to the dispensational approach to Scripture. Earl Radmacher went so far as to say that literal interpretation “is the ‘bottom-line’ of dispensationalism.”

The dictionary defines literal as “belonging to letters.” It also says literal interpretation involves an approach “based on the actual words in their ordinary meaning, . . . not going beyond the facts.” “Literal interpretation of the Bible simply means to explain the original sense of the Bible according to the normal and customary usages of its language.” How is this done? It can only be accomplished through the grammatical (according to the rules of grammar), historical (consistent with the historical setting of the passage), contextual (in accord with its context) method of interpretation. Literalism looks to the text, the actual words and phrases of a passage.

Non-literal interpretation imports an idea not found specifically in the text of a passage. To some degree, all Bible interpreters interpret literally. However, dispensationalists consistently handle the text literally from Genesis to Revelation.

Literal interpretation recognizes that a word or phrase can be used plainly (denotative) or figuratively (connotative). In modern speech, as in the Bible, we talk plainly–”Grandmother died” (denotative), or more colorfully, “Grandmother kicked the bucket” (connotative). An important point to make is that even though we may use a figure of speech to refer to death, we are using that figure in reference to an event that literally happened. Ryrie says:

Symbols, figures of speech and types are all interpreted plainly in this method and they are in no way contrary to literal interpretation. After all, the very existence of any meaning for a figure of speech depends on the reality of the literal meaning of the terms involved. Figures often make the meaning plainer, but it is the literal, normal, or plain meaning that they convey to the reader.

Some are mistaken to think that just because a figure of speech is used to describe an event (i.e., Jonah’s experience in the belly of the great fish in Jonah 2), that the event was not literal.

Such is not the case. A “Golden Rule of Interpretation” has been developed to help discern whether or not a figure of speech is intended.

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.

E.E. Johnson (Dallas Seminary) notes that much of the confusion over literalism is removed when understanding the two ways it is used: “(1) the clear, plain sense of a word or phrase as over against a figurative use, and (2) a system that views the text as providing the basis of the true interpretation.” Thus, dispensationalists, by and large, use “literal” to refer to their system of interpretation (the consistent use of the grammatical-historical system), and once inside that system, literal refers to whether a specific word or phrase is used in its context figuratively or literally.

Johnson’s second use of literal (i.e., systematic literalism) is simply the grammatical historical system consistently used. The grammatical-historical system was revived by many Reformers and was set against the spiritual (spiritualized) or deeper meaning of the text common in the middle ages. The literal meaning was used simply as a springboard to a deeper (“spiritual”) meaning, which was viewed as more desirable.

A classic spiritualized interpretation would see the four rivers of Genesis 2–the Pishon, Havilah, Tigris and Euphrates–as representing the body, soul, spirit and mind. Coming from such a system, many Reformers saw the need to get back to the literal or textual meaning of the Bible.

The system of literal interpretation is the grammatical-historical or textual approach to hermeneutics. Use of literalism in this sense could be called “macro-literalism.” Within macro-literalism, the consistent use of the grammatical-historical system yields the interpretative conclusion, for example, that Israel always and only refers to national Israel. The church will not be substituted for Israel if the grammatical-historical system is consistently used, because there are no textual indicators that such is the case. One must import an idea from outside the text by saying that the passage really means something that it does not actually say. This replacement approach is a mild form of spiritual or allegorical interpretation. So, when speaking of those who do replace Israel with the church as not taking the Bible literally and spiritualizing the text, it is true, since such a belief is contrary to a macro-literal interpretation.

Consistently literal interpreters, within the framework of the grammatical-historical system, do discuss whether or not a word, phrase or the literary genre of a biblical book is a figure of speech (connotative) or is to be taken literally/plainly (denotative). This is Johnson’s first use of literal which could be called “micro-literalism.”

Within micro-literalism, there may be discussion by literalists as to whether or not a given word or phrase is being used in a literal or figurative way within a given passage. Some passages are quite naturally clearer than others and a consensus among interpreters develops, while other passages may find literal interpreters divided as to whether or not it should be taken as a figure of speech. This is more a problem of application than of method.

Reconstructionist, Ken Gentry, in his attack on literalism, argues that “consistent literalism is unreasonable.” He attempts to prove his point by arguing that, since dispensationalists take some words and phrases as figures of speech, they are not consistently literal.7 He says “the dispensational claim to ‘consistent literalism’ is frustrating due to its inconsistent employment.” Gentry seeks to discredit the dispensational hermeneutic by citing examples of dispensationalists who interpret certain passages as containing figures of speech, citing this as inconsistent with the system of literal interpretation. According to Gentry, the dispensationalist has to abandon literal interpretation when he realizes that Jesus refers figuratively to Himself as a door in John 10:9.  Gentry is not defining literal interpretation the way dispensationalists do. Therefore, his conclusions about literal interpretation are misguided because he commonly mixes the two senses noted by Johnson. When speaking of the macro-literal, he uses an example from micro-literalism, and vice versa, therefore appearing to have shown an inconsistency in literal interpretation. In reality, his examples fall within the framework of how dispensationalists have defined what they mean by literal interpretation.

This is the first essential of dispensationalism. A way of approaching Scripture that allows the Scripture, through the progress of revelation to interpret itself. It does not approach the Bible through some fantastic interpretational scheme, composed of complex symbolism which reduces Scripture to a mystical code book that requires a special decoding manual in order to figure it out.

The second essential, flows from the first. It is a distinction between Israel and the Church.

Second Essential: Distinction Between Israel and the Church

A dispensationalist keeps Israel and the church distinct,” declares Ryrie. He also notes that anyone “who fails to distinguish Israel and the church consistently will inevitably not hold to dispensational distinctions; and one who does, will.”

What does it mean to keep Israel and the church distinct? Dispensationalists believe the Bible teaches that God’s single program for history includes a distinct plan for Israel and a distinct plan for the church. God’s plan for history has two people: Israel and the church. John Walvoord says that “dispensations are rules of life. They are not ways of salvation. There is only one way of salvation and that is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.”

If the unfulfilled promises given to Israel in the Old Testament literally refer to the Jews, which they do, then it is clear that many are yet unfulfilled. Therefore, it is clear that God’s plan for Israel, who is currently in dispersion (Deut. 4:27-28; 28:63-68; 30:2-4), is on hold until He completes His current purpose with the church, which is to take out from the Gentiles a people for His name (Acts 15:14), and Raptures His Bride to heaven. After the Rapture, God will then complete His unfinished business with Israel (Acts 15:16-18) during the seven-year Tribulation period. Thus, if one does not distinguish between passages in which God speaks to Israel from those intended for the church, then the results will be an improper merging of the two programs.

In the Old Testament God made certain promises to Abraham when He pledged to make him the father of a special people. Dispensationalists understand these promises, and other unconditional covenant promises (i.e., treaty grants) made by God to Israel as still in tact for Israel, even though the church currently shares in some of Israel’s spiritual blessings (Rom. 15:27). Ultimately God will not only restore Israel to a place of blessing (Rom. 11), but will also literally fulfill the land and kingdom promises made to Israel in the Abrahamic (Gen. 12:1-3), Land of Israel (Deut. 30:1-10), and Davidic (2 Sam. 7:12-16) Covenants.

In the present time, God has another plan for the church that is distinct from His plan for Israel (Eph. 2-3). Dispensationalists do not believe that the church is the New Israel or has replaced Israel as the heir to the Old Testament promises. Contrary to some who say that the church has superseded Israel, the New Testament nowhere calls the church Israel. Dispensationalist Arnold Fruchtenbaum says:

The conclusion is that the church is never called a “spiritual Israel” or a “new Israel.” The term Israel is either used of the nation or the people as a whole, or of the believing remnant within. It is never used of the church in general or of Gentile believers in particular. In fact, even after the Cross there remains a threefold distinction.

First, there is a distinction between Israel and the Gentiles as in 1 Corinthians 10:32 and Ephesians 2:11-12. Second, there is a distinction between Israel and the church in 1 Corinthians 10:32. Third, there is a distinction between Jewish believers (the Israel of God) and Gentile believers in Romans 9:6 and Galatians 6:16).

Fruchtenbaum gives six reasons why the New Testament keeps Israel and the church distinct. They are:

(1) the church was born at Pentecost, whereas Israel had existed for many centuries.

(2) certain events in the ministry of the Messiah were essential to the establishment of the church—the church does not come into being until certain events have taken place.

(3) the mystery character of the church.

(4) the church is distinct from Israel is the unique relationship between Jews and the Gentiles, called one new man in Ephesians 2:15 .

(5) the distinction between Israel and the church is found in Galatians 6:16 [i.e., “the Israel of God”].

(6) In the book of Acts, both Israel and the church exist simultaneously. The term Israel is used twenty times and ekklesia (church) nineteen times, yet the two groups are always kept distinct.

Third Essential: Glory of God is the Purpose of History

The third essential of dispensationalism also revolves around another important distinction. Showers says, this “indispensable factor is the recognition that the ultimate purpose of history is the glory of God through the demonstration that He alone is the sovereign God.” Ryrie explains:

We avow that the unifying principle of the Bible is the glory of God and that this is worked out in several ways—the program of redemption, the program for Israel, the punishment of the wicked, the plan for the angels, and the glory of God revealed through nature. We see all these programs as means of glorifying God, and we reject the charge that by distinguishing them (particularly God’s program for Israel from His purpose for the church) we have bifurcated God’s purpose.

This essential is the most misunderstood and often thought to be the least essential. When properly understood, I believe that this is a valid essential. Dispensationalists are not saying that non-dispensationalists do not believe in God’s glory. We are making the point that the dispensationalist understanding of the plan of God means that He is glorified in history by more areas or facets, than those who see mankind’s salvation (probably the most important aspect of God’s plan) as the single area displaying God’s glory.

A BIBLICAL PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY

Showers notes that a dispensational view of the Bible provides a believer with a biblical philosophy of history. This is important for a Christian, because when we understand God’s purpose for each era of history we are able to develop a worldview for living in accordance with God’s will for each dispensation. A believer who has a Divine perspective on the past, present and future is able to know what God expects of him in every area of life in our present day.

In the current church age, the New Testament instructs us in both private and public spheres of life. The dispensationalist, for example, does not live in this age of grace as if he was still under the rule of the Mosaic Law. Instead we understand that we are now under the commands that the New Testament calls the Law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2).

Current dispensational obligations are combined with responsibilities from previous ages, which continue in our own day, to provide a New Testament believer with a complete biblical framework for understanding how to please God in every area of our current lives.

CONCLUSION

We believe that dispensationalism is a system of theology that has been properly developed from the Bible itself. Dispensationalism is essential to correctly understanding the Bible, especially Bible prophecy. No one will be able to rightly divide God’s Word without understanding these great truths. Instead of being a hindrance to correct understanding of God’s Word, as is regularly claimed by the opponents, dispensationalism is a human label for the correct approach and understanding of Scripture. We plead guilty to the critic’s charge that say we are dispensationalists. We only wish that they would properly come to understand what it is that we believe and quite misrepresenting dispensationalism as often occurs.

In this paper we have provided definitions, descriptions and essentials in an effort to

answer the question: “What is dispensationalism?” Dr. Ryrie concludes:

If one does interpret the Bible this way, will it mean that he cuts out some of its parts? Not at all. Actually, the Bible comes alive as never before. There is no need to dodge the plain meaning of a passage or to reinterpret or spiritualize it in order to resolve conflicts with other passages. God’s commands and standards for me today become even more distinct, and His program with its unfolding splendor falls into a harmonious pattern. The history of dispensationalism is replete with men and women who love the Word of God and promote its study, and who have a burden for spreading the gospel to all the world.

(Source: Thomas D. Ice – May 2009 Liberty University – What is Dispensationalism?)

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THE PEACE THAT SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING

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PHILIPPIANS 4:5b-7

RESTING ON A CONFIDENT FAITH IN THE LORD

The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, (4:5b–6a)

There is no greater source of spiritual stability than the confidence of knowing that the Lord is near. Engus (near) can mean near in space or near in time. Some take engus in a chronological sense, either as a reference to Christ’s return (3:20–21; James 5:8), or to believers’ death, which ushers them into the Lord’s presence (1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8). While those are comforting truths, it seems that Paul’s emphasis here is on the Lord’s nearness in the sense of His presence. He is near both to hear the cry of the believer’s heart, and to help and strengthen them. In Psalm 73:28 the psalmist declared, “The nearness of God is my good” (cf. Pss. 34:18; 75:1; 119:151; 145:18). Because of God’s nearness, believers should not be fearful, anxious, or wavering. They should not collapse but be strong and stable (Josh. 1:6–9; Pss. 27:14; 125:1).

Unfortunately, when they face trials, believers often seem to forget what they know about God. They lose their confident trust in Him, lose their self-control and spiritual stability, and are defeated. Even strong believers are not immune to an occasional lapse, as an incident from the life of David reveals.

Seeking refuge from Saul’s relentless pursuit, David sought asylum in the Philistine city of Gath. Some of the Philistines recognized him and said to Achish, the king of Gath, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of this one as they danced, saying, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” (1 Sam. 21:11). Realizing that his true identity had become known, “David . . . greatly feared Achish king of Gath” (v. 12). Instead of trusting God to deliver him, David panicked and “disguised his sanity before [the Philistines], and acted insanely in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva run down into his beard” (v. 13). His act produced the desired results: “Then Achish said to his servants, ‘Behold, you see the man behaving as a madman. Why do you bring him to me? Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this one to act the madman in my presence? Shall this one come into my house?’” (vv. 14–15). As a result, “David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam” (1 Sam. 22:1). There, with the crisis past, David had time to reflect on how he should have handled the situation in Gath. In Psalm 57, written at that time, he reaffirmed the truths about God that he had temporarily forgotten:

Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by. I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me. He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. Selah. God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth. (Ps. 57:1–3)

Remembering the character of God restored David’s spiritual stability and his joy, enabling him to declare, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!” (Ps. 57:7).

Like David, the prophet Habakkuk faced a crisis. But unlike David, he maintained his spiritual stability. Habakkuk the prophet cried out to God about His apparent indifference to Judah’s apostasy:

How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2–4)

To Habakkuk’s dismay, God answered that things were going to get even worse:

Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—you would not believe if you were told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs. They are dreaded and feared; their justice and authority originate with themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards and keener than wolves in the evening. Their horsemen come galloping, their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swooping down to devour. All of them come for violence. Their horde of faces moves forward. They collect captives like sand. They mock at kings and rulers are a laughing matter to them. They laugh at every fortress and heap up rubble to capture it. Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on. But they will be held guilty, they whose strength is their god. (Hab. 1:5–11)

Instead of answering Habakkuk’s original question, God’s reply raised a second even more vexing question: How could He use a godless, pagan nation to chasten His people?

Faced with Judah’s apostasy, the impending Chaldean invasion, and his own unanswered questions, Habakkuk reminded himself of what he knew to be true about God: “Are You not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O Lord, have appointed them to judge; and You, O Rock, have established them to correct. Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor” (Hab. 1:12–13). Habakkuk reminded himself of God’s eternity, faithfulness, justice, sovereignty, and holiness.

Despite the trials, doubts, and questions he faced, Habakkuk’s faith and trust in God stood firm. He affirmed the importance of living a life of faith in Habakkuk 2:4: “The righteous will live by his faith.” Both initially in justification, and continually in sanctification, the Christian life is a life of faith in God. As he reminded himself of the greatness of his God, Habakkuk’s faith grew stronger. By the end of his prophecy he was able to sing triumphantly of God’s glorious nature and power,

Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places. (Hab. 3:17–19)

Habakkuk’s faith in God made him a spiritually stable man—so much so that even if the normal, dependable things in life suddenly collapsed, he would still rejoice in God.

The Lord who is near is the almighty, true, and living God revealed in Scripture. Those who delight themselves in His holy power, love, and wisdom and cultivate a deep knowledge of Him by studying and meditating on His Word will live by the foundation of that truth and be spiritually stable. Because of the presence of God, believers should be anxious for nothing. Nothing is outside of His sovereign control or too difficult for Him to handle. A low view of God leads to a myriad of problems in the church:

Weak, struggling, unstable Christians need to build their strength on the foundation of what the Bible says about God. The result of the church’s failure to equip believers with the knowledge of God’s character and works is a lack of understanding of His nature and purposes, and a subsequent lack of confidence in Him. The shifting sands of shallow or faulty theology provide no stable footing for the believer.

Anxious, fretful, worried, harried believers are inherently unstable and vulnerable to trials and temptations. Anxiety is both a violation of Scripture and totally unnecessary. In a magnificent passage in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pointed out the sinful folly of anxiety:

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt. 6:25–34)

REACTING TO PROBLEMS WITH THANKFUL PRAYER

Harmony in the fellowship, joy in the Lord, contentment in circumstances, and confident trust in God are the first steps on the path to spiritual stability.

but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (4:6b-7)

Our society admires people who stand firm, hold to their convictions, are courageous and bold, and cannot be bought, intimidated, or defeated. If courage of conviction, integrity, credibility, and an uncompromising devotion to virtue are admirable qualities for people of the world, how much more essential are they for Christians? The very name “Christian” identifies believers with Jesus Christ—the most perfect model of uncompromising, courageous integrity who ever lived. The New Testament repeatedly commands believers to follow Him by standing firm in submission to God (cf. 1:27; 1 Cor. 16:13; 2 Cor. 1:24; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 6:11, 13, 14; 1 Thess. 3:8; 2 Thess. 2:15; Heb. 3:6, 14; 1 Peter 5:9, 12).

Spiritually stable people react to trials with thankful prayer. Such prayer is the antidote to worry and the cure for anxiety. The theology of prayer is not in view here, but rather its priority and the attitude the believer brings to it. The three synonyms used here, prayer, supplication, and requests, all refer to specific, direct offerings of petition to God. The assumption of the text is that believers will cry out to God when they have a need or a problem, not with doubting, questioning, or even blaming God, but with thanksgiving (cf. Col. 4:2). Instead of having a spirit of rebellion against what God allows, believers are to trustingly cast “all [their] anxiety on Him, because He cares for [them]” (1 Peter 5:7).

God’s promises support the wisdom of gratitude. He has promised that no trial believers face will be too difficult for them to handle (1 Cor. 10:13). He has also promised to use everything that happens in believers’ lives for their ultimate good (Rom. 8:28). Even suffering leads to their being perfected, confirmed, strengthened, and established (1 Peter 5:10). Believers should also be thankful for God’s power (Ps. 62:11; 1 Peter 1:5; Rev. 4:11), for His promises (Deut. 1:11; 2 Cor. 1:20), for the hope of relief from suffering (2 Cor. 4:17; 1 Peter 5:10), for the hope of glory (Rom. 5:2; Col. 1:27), for His mercy (Rom. 15:9), and for His perfecting work in them (Phil. 1:6).

People become worried, anxious, and fearful because they do not trust in God’s wisdom, power, or goodness. They fear that God is not wise enough, strong enough, or good enough to prevent disaster. It may be that this sinful doubt is because their knowledge of Him is faulty, or that sin in their lives has crippled their faith. Thankful prayer brings release from fear and worry, because it affirms God’s sovereign control over every circumstance, and that His purpose is the believer’s good (Rom. 8:28).

Once the sinner has made “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1), that is, in salvation having ceased to be God’s enemy and become His child, he can enjoy the peace of God, the inward tranquility of soul granted by God. It is a confident trust in His flawless wisdom and infinite power that provides calm amid the storms of life. Isaiah wrote of this supernatural peace: “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You” (Isa. 26:3). Paul prayed for the Romans that “the God of hope [would] fill [them] with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:13). In his high priestly blessing on Israel Aaron said, “The Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:26). In Psalm 29:11 David wrote, “The Lord will bless His people with peace.” Shortly before His death Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). God’s peace is not for everyone, however; “‘There is no peace for the wicked,’ says the Lord” (Isa. 48:22), neither with God, nor from God.

Paul further defines this supernatural peace as that which surpasses all comprehension. It transcends human intellectual powers, human analysis, human insights, and human understanding. It is superior to human scheming, human devices, and human solutions, since its source is the God whose judgments are unsearchable and whose ways are unfathomable (Rom. 11:33). It is experienced in a transcendent calm that lifts the believer above the most debilitating trial. Since it is a supernatural work, it resists any human comprehension. The real challenge of the Christian life is not to eliminate every unpleasant circumstance; it is to trust in the good purpose of our infinite, holy, sovereign, powerful God in every difficulty. Those who honor Him by trusting Him will experience the blessings of His perfect peace.

When realized in believers’ lives, God’s peace will guard them from anxiety, doubt, and worry. Phroure (will guard) is a military term used of soldiers on guard duty. The picture would have been familiar to the Philippians, since the Romans stationed troops in Philippi to protect their interests in that part of the world. Just as soldiers guard and protect a city, so God’s peace guards and protects believers who confidently trust in Him. Paul’s use of the phrase hearts and minds was not intended to imply a distinction between the two; he was merely making a comprehensive reference to the believer’s inner person. Once again, Paul reminds his readers that true peace is not available through any human source, but only in Christ Jesus.

(Source: John MacArthur – New Testament Commentary – Philippians)

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THE REPROBATE MINDS OF 2020 (ROMANS 1) – PART 2

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In Christian theology, REPROBATION is a doctrine of the Bible found in many passages of scripture such as Romans 1:18-32, Proverbs 1:23-33, John 12:37-41, Hebrews 6:4-8 etc. which teaches that a person can reject the gospel to a point where God in turn rejects them and curses their conscience to do unnatural and abominable things. We do not have to look very far to realize that this is the lot of many in 2020.

This is the second and last part of our study, where we focus on Romans 1:18-32.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. (1:26–27)

Paul declares that because of man’s rejecting the true God for false gods of his own making, and for worshiping the creature rather than the Creator, God gave them over to degrading passions. For the second time (see v. 24) the apostle mentions God’s abandonment of sinful mankind. He abandoned them not only to idolatry, the ultimate sexual expression of man’s spiritual degeneracy, but also to degrading passions, which he identifies in these two verses as homosexuality, the ultimate expression of man’s moral degeneracy.

To illustrate the degrading passions that rise out of the fallen human heart, Paul uses homosexuality, the most degrading and repulsive of all passions. In their freedom from God’s truth, men turned to perversion and even inversion of the created order. In the end their humanism resulted in the dehumanization of each of them. Perversion is the illicit and twisted expression of that which is God-given and natural. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is inversion, the expression of that which is neither God-given nor natural. When man forsakes the Author of nature, he inevitably forsakes the order of nature.

Some women of ancient times and throughout history have exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural. In most cultures women have been more reluctant than men to become involved either in sexual promiscuity or homosexuality. Perhaps Paul mentions women first because their practice of homosexuality is especially shocking and dismaying.

Chrēsis (function) was commonly used of sexual intercourse, and in this context the term could refer to nothing other than intimate sexual relations. Even most pagan societies have recognized the clearly obvious fact that homosexuality is abnormal and unnatural. It is also an abnormality that is unique to man.

The males, says Paul, abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts. There is a burning level of lust among homosexuals that beggs description and is rarely known among heterosexuals. The homosexuals of Sodom were so passionately consumed with their lust that they ignored the fact that they had been made blind and “wearied themselves trying to find the doorway” into Lot’s house in order to pursue their vile passion (Gen. 19:11).

Those ancient people were so morally perverse that in Scripture the name Sodom became a byword for immoral godlessness, and sodomy, a term derived from that name, became throughout history a synonym for homosexuality and other forms of sexual deviation.

Unimaginably, many church denominations in the United States and elsewhere have ordained homosexuals to the ministry and even established special congregations for homosexuals.

Instead of trying to help their children become free of sexual deviation, many parents of homosexuals have banded together to defend their children and to coerce society, government, and churches to recognize and accept homosexuality as normal. In many cases, religions that hold homosexuality to be a sin are blamed for the tragic results that homosexuals bring on themselves and on their families and friends. Evangelical Christianity in particular is often made the culprit and is accused of persecuting innocent people who cannot help being what they are.

But in both testaments God’s Word condemns homosexuality in the strongest of terms. Under the Old Covenant it was punishable by death. Paul declares unequivocally that, although homosexuality can be forgiven and cleansed just as any other sin, no unrepentant homosexual will enter heaven, just as will no unrepentant fornicator, idolater, adulterer, effeminate person, thief, covetous person, drunkard, reviler, or swindler (1 Cor. 6:9–11; cf. Gal. 5:19–21; Eph. 5:3–5; 1 Tim. 1:9–10; Jude 7).

Any attempt at all to justify homosexuality is both futile and wicked, but to attempt to justify it on biblical grounds, as do many misguided church leaders, is even more futile and vile. To do that is to make God a liar and to love what He hates and justify what He condemns.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (1:28–32)

Because fallen mankind did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over in still another way, in this case to a depraved mind. The godless mind is a depraved mind, whose predetermined and inevitable disposition is to do those things which are not proper.

The basic meaning of adokimos (depraved) is that of not standing the test, and the term was commonly used of metals that were rejected by refiners because of impurities. The impure metals were discarded, and adokimos therefore came to include the ideas of worthlessness and uselessness. In relation to God, the rejecting mind becomes a rejected mind and thereby becomes spiritually depraved, worthless and useless. Of unbelievers, Jeremiah wrote, “They call them rejected silver, because the Lord has rejected them” (Jer. 6:30).

The mind that finds God worthless becomes worthless itself. It is debauched, deceived, and deserving only of God’s divine wrath.

The sinful, depraved mind says to God, “Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Thy ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, and what would we gain if we entreat Him?” (Job 21:14–15). Although godless people think they are wise, they are supremely foolish (Rom. 1:22).

Regardless of their natural intelligence and their learning in the physical realm, in the things of God they are devoid even of “the beginning of knowledge,” because they lack reverential fear of Him. They are merely “fools [who] despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov 1:7; cf. v. 29).

Even God’s chosen people, the Jews, fell into that foolishness when they rejected or neglected the revelation and blessings He had showered on them so uniquely and abundantly “For My people are foolish, they know Me not,” the Lord declared through Jeremiah; “they are stupid children, and they have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know” (Jer. 4:22; cf. 9:6). Those who reject the true God are wholly vulnerable to “the god of this world [who] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).

The catalogue of sins Paul proceeds to mention in Romans 1:29–31 is not exhaustive, but it is representative of the virtually endless number of vices with which the natural man is filled.

The first two terms in the NASB text, all unrighteousness and wickedness, are comprehensive and general, synonyms that encompass the entire range of the particular sins that follow. Some versions include fornication between those first two terms, but that word is not found in the best Greek manuscripts. The idea is certainly not inappropriate to the context, however, because fornication is universally condemned in Scripture and is frequently included by Paul in lists of vices (see 1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5). Fornication is implied in the sin of impurity, which has already been mentioned in the present passage (1:24).

The sins mentioned in the rest of the list are basically self-explanatory: greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.

The Greek term behind untrustworthy means literally to break a covenant, as reflected in some translations. Unloving relates especially to unnatural family relationships, such as that of a parent who abandons a young child or a grown child who abandons his aging parents.

Reiterating the fact that rebellious, ungodly men are without excuse, Paul declares that they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death. The apostle has already established that, since the creation of the world, God has made Himself known to every human being (vv. 19–21). People do not recognize God because they do not want to recognize Him, because they willingly “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18).

“This is the judgment,” Jesus said, “that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19–20).

Whether they recognize it or not, even those who have never been exposed to the revelation of God’s Word are instinctively aware of His existence and of His basic standards of righteousness. “They show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:15).

In most societies of the world, even in those considered uncivilized, most of the sins Paul lists here are considered wrong, and many are held to be crimes. Men inherently know that such things as greed, envy, murder, deceit, arrogance, disobedience, and mercilessness are wrong.

The absolute pit of wickedness is reached, Paul says, when those who are themselves involved in evils also give hearty approval to others who practice them. To justify one’s own sin is wicked enough, but to approve and encourage others to sin is immeasurably worse. Even the best of societies have had those within them who were blatantly wicked and perverse. But a society that openly condones and defends such evils as sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, abortion and the rest has reached the deepest level of corruption. Many of the most socially advanced societies of our own day are in that category. Sexually promiscuous celebrities are glamorized and the rights of homosexuals are ardently defended.

These acts of sin are in direct contradiction to the revealed will of God.

A certain species of ants in Africa builds its nests in deep subterranean tunnels, where its young and its queen live. Although they may be great distances from the nest foraging for food, worker ants of that species are able to sense when the queen is being molested and they become extremely nervous and uncoordinated. If she is killed, they become frantic and rush around aimlessly until they die.

What better illustration could there be of fallen man. Even in his sinful rejection and rebellion, he cannot function properly apart from God and is destined only for death.

(Main Source: John MacArthur – New Testament Commentary – Romans)

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THE IDEALIST OR TIMELESS VIEW OF THE ANTICHRIST

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One way of looking at the predicted events in Scripture is to interpret them in a non-literal manner. Many have applied this interpretive technique to the Book of Revelation. This is known as the “Idealist View,” or the “Timeless View.”

THE ISSUE: INTERPRET LITERALLY OR NOT?

The key issue in answering this question concerning the subject of the beast, the Antichrist, as well as other events contained in the Book of Revelation, is whether or not we should interpret the Bible literally.

Literal interpretation will lead one to believe the Antichrist is a person who is still to come on the scene of history.

On the other hand, spiritualizing or interpreting the persons and events in a non-literal manner will cause one to see Antichrist as something nonpersonal.

Those who have an idealized view of the Book of Revelation basically see the entire book as a simple description of the ongoing fight of good versus evil. The Book of Revelation teaches we are going to win in the end but there are no time markers to tell us when the victory will be won.

It is a timeless struggle. Indeed, according to idealism Scripture gives us no time references whatsoever with respect to the future. Consequently, they see it as a mistake to attempt to understand the various references as literal events about a literal person who either has already arrived in history, or will come at some time in the future.

Therefore, they will usually assume the Antichrist is an evil force, or some evil system. The references to the beast and his actions will be interpreted in a non-literal, symbolic manner. Everything is symbolic.

THERE IS NO PERSONAL ANTICHRIST IN THE IDEALISTIC SYSTEM

This being the case, should we understand Antichrist as an evil influence or an evil religious system? There are those who argue for either of these.

However, they insist that we should not be looking for an actual historical person, or historical religious system to fulfill what is written about the Antichrist, the beast. The Book of Revelation is not meant to be understood in that manner.

SOME PROBLEMS WITH THE IDEALIST VIEW

There are a number of objections which are raised against the idealist view. The main ones can be summed up as follows.

  1. Idealists Interpret Inconsistently

For one thing, they are not consistent in their interpretation. Idealists will interpret most of the Book of Revelation symbolically. Yet they will literally accept the passages which speak of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. They do believe that He will literally return.

However, once it is admitted that some of the passages are not symbolic, but are meant to be interpreted literally, then one must give explicit reasons as to why these other passages should be understood in a nonliteral manner. Idealists have never done this in a convincing manner.

  1. Words Do Not Mean What They Say

Furthermore, it becomes difficult to hold to the position that words do not really mean what they clearly seem to mean. According to idealism, “days” do not mean days, the “twelve tribes of Israel” do not mean the twelve tribes of Israel, the number “one thousand” does not mean one thousand, the “temple” does mean the temple, the “two periods of three and one half years” do not really mean three and one half years, the “two witnesses” are not really two people and the “beast, the Antichrist” is not really a person, etc.

Idealists do not believe these can be seen as actual places, times and persons in history. These references are viewed as symbols that may refer to various places, persons and events throughout history, but they do not refer exclusively to any particular place, person or event in history.

The problem with this is determining what they do mean. This is the fatal problem with idealism. Nobody can agree what these symbols actually represent. Instead of coming to some consensus about the meaning of these symbols, commentators contradict one another. This reveals how meaningless such a method of interpretation is. If a symbol can be used to mean anything and everything, then ultimately it means nothing! This is what one ends up with in the idealistic system.

Therefore, God’s communication, the Bible, is now left in the hands of each reader to provide their own meaning to the text. It is no wonder that no consensus can be reached among interpreters who view Bible prophecy in an idealistic manner.

  1. There Is A Literal Object Behind Every Symbol

Nobody discounts the fact that there are symbols in Scripture. However, when someone says that a passage is symbolic, the question which should be asked of them is, “Symbolic of what?” The symbol has to mean something.

The issue of course is this: what does it mean? The fact that those who hold the idealist view cannot come to any consensus on the meaning of these symbols makes their method of interpretation highly suspect.

ANTICHRIST SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD AS A LITERAL PERSON WHO IS STILL TO COME

The conclusion is that idealism is not the way to interpret the New Testament references to the beast, the Antichrist. We are dealing with a coming person, not a symbol or idea.

Therefore, idealism provides no real answer as to the question of Antichrist.

SUMMARY – THE IDEALIST VIEW

Those who hold the idealist view of the Book of Revelation do not believe that a personal Antichrist has come in the past, or will even come on the scene of history in the future. They view Revelation as a timeless struggle. The terms used in the book such as the beast, 144,000, two witnesses, false prophet, Armageddon, etc. are not to be understood in a literal manner, but rather symbolically. They are symbols of the timeless struggle of good versus evil. Hardly anything in the Book of Revelation is to be understood literally.

Consequently idealists believe that it is wrong to see the events in Revelation as having been fulfilled in the past or that they will be fulfilled in the future. Therefore, there is no such thing as a personal Antichrist who has come, or who is to come. Antichrist is a symbol.

Idealism has been criticized on a number of fronts. For one thing, it does not take seriously the many literal references in the Book of Revelation.

In other words, things do not mean what they clearly appear to mean. To say days do not mean days, persons do not mean persons, and specific places do not specific places, does injustice to the words of the Lord. The fact that idealists cannot agree among themselves, as to what these symbols are symbolic of, further shows the meaninglessness of their comments.

There is a better answer as to the way the subject of the Antichrist should be viewed. The better way is to assume a personal Antichrist is still to come.

(Source: The Final Antichrist – Don Stewart)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (24)

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CHAPTER VI (CONTINUE)

Final Period of the Galilean Ministry (Continue)

13. Discipline in the Church and Forgiveness
Reference: Matt. 18:15-35

This is the second time in Matthew that Christ has spoken about His Church. As we have seen in ch. 16:18,19, this Church is associated with the Messianic Kingdom. While it is true that the Kingdom had not yet been established, Christ was in the process of calling out His people for that Kingdom, and that is the meaning of the word “church,” a called out company. The rules He gives here for dealing with a sinning brother are similar to Paul’s instructions for members of the Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 5:3-5; 6:1-5; Gal. 6:1; I Tim. 5:19,20). The binding and loosing on earth and in heaven means that the results of such scriptural proceedings here on earth are approved in heaven. It should be remembered that the Lord was addressing His apostles who were to be judges in Israel.

This fact needs to be remembered also in connection with the promise, “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” This prayer promise cannot be isolated from all of the other promises and instruction which Christ gave to His Kingdom apostles. Christians may make two serious mistakes about prayer. One is taking in an unqualified manner the prayer promises for the Kingdom and applying them to the present divine economy, and the other is isolating one particular promise from all of the others. We do not believe that Jesus ever intended to leave the impression that His disciples could ask anything for themselves in prayer without any qualifications whatsoever, with the promise that the Father would grant their request. We have record of a number of things which the disciples asked, which were not only refused, but the disciples were rebuked for asking such things (cf. Matt. 20:21,22; Lk. 9:54). Our Lord laid down several conditions for prayer. It had to be in His name, and that involved more than merely tacking on those three magic words at the end of the prayer. The disciples had to abide in Him and His words abide in them (John 14:13; 15:7). James, who was a Kingdom disciple, surely didn’t believe in unconditional prayer promises (cf. Jas. 1:5-7; 4:3). John likewise lays down conditions (cf. I John 3:20- 22; 5:14). And we surely find no so-called unconditional prayer promises in Paul’s letters to members of the Body of Christ.

This section ends with a discourse on how often we should forgive a brother who sins against us. Peter thought seven times was sufficient, but the Lord said, “Seventy times seven.” The Lord reinforced this teaching with the parable of the King who freely forgave his servant an enormous debt of 10,000 talents, and then the self- same servant refused to forgive his fellow-servant a paltry debt of 100 pennies and had him cast into prison. We cannot estimate the magnitude of the debt of sin which we owed to God and which He has freely forgiven through the death of His Son; therefore we should “forgive one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven us” (Eph. 4:32). Does the command that we forgive mean that we must forgive in a sort of automatic way? Luke gives these words of Jesus which show that forgiveness is conditioned upon repentance: “if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Lk. 17:4). This is a most important principle which many people forget. God does not forgive unless there is a change of mind on the part of the sinner, and He does not ask us to forgive those who wrong us and who remain adamant in their sin.

14. Christ Attends The Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem
Reference: John 7:1-52

In the introduction to this lesson one is reminded of Joseph and his brothers in the Old Testament, for they did not believe in Joseph, even as the brethren of Jesus did not believe in Him (“not believe” is imperfect – they were habitually unbelieving). They urged Him to leave Galilee and go to the feast in Jerusalem and show his works openly if He was what He claimed to be. But Jesus would not go into Judea, for He knew the Jews there were seeking to kill Him. He let His brothers go up to the feast first and then He went up rather secretly. The Jews at the feast were all looking for Him and inquiring about Him and expressing their beliefs and disbeliefs concerning Him. Then in the middle of the feast which lasted seven days (Lev. 23:34), and came in early autumn, He entered the temple and began teaching. This resulted in many questions being raised by the crowds. “How is it that this unschooled man has such learning?” “Isn’t this the man whom they seek to kill? But lo, he speaks boldly and they say nothing to him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Messiah?” “What is he talking about: Ye shall seek me and not find me; and where I am ye cannot come? Where will he go that we cannot find him? Will he go to the dispersed Jews among the Gentiles and teach the Gentiles?”

Jesus answered some of their questions and asked some of His own. He told them that His learning, His knowledge, His doctrine was not His own, but God’s who had sent Him. He asked, “Why are you plotting to kill me?” They said: “No one’s plotting to kill you; you must be demon possessed.” Jesus asked: “You circumcise a man on the sabbath day that the law of Moses be not broken, then why are you angry at me because I have completely restored to health a man on the sabbath?”

The culmination came on the last day of the feast, which was the most important day. Edersheim, an authority on Jewish antiquities, graphically describes the liturgy performed on that day, which greatly enhances the Scriptural account. Space does not permit quoting all of the preliminary celebrations, sacrifices, chanting of Psalms by the priests, etc. The priest had filled his golden pitcher with water when the temple procession had reached the Pool of Siloam and then returned to the temple to pour out the water at the altar. Edersheim states:

We can have little difficulty in determining at what part of the services of the last day, the Great Day of the Feast, Jesus stood and cried: If anyone thirst let him come unto me and drink! It must have been with special reference to the ceremony of the outpouring of the water, which as we have seen, was considered the central part of the service. Moreover, all would understand that His words must refer to the Holy Spirit, since the rite was universally regarded as symbolical of His outpouring. The forthpouring of the water was immediately followed by the chanting of the Hallel. But after that there must have been a short pause to prepare for the festive sacrifices (the Musaph). It was then, immediately after the symbolic rite of water-pouting, immediately after the people had responded by repeating those lines from Psalm cxviii given thanks, and prayed that Jehovah would send salvation and prosperity, and had shaken their lulabh towards the altar, thus praising with the heart, the mouth, the hands, and then silence had fallen upon them – that there arose, so loud as to be heard throughout the Temple, the Voice of Jesus. He interrupted not the services, for they had for the moment ceased: He interpreted, and He fulfilled them.

What an electrifying sight that must have been, as that Voice rang out in the midst of this great celebration: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (and John explains “this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified”). There was a mixed reaction among the multitudes. Some said, “Of a truth this is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But others objected: “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Doesn’t the scripture state that the Christ will come of the seed of David and from Bethlehem?” And there was a division and the ones who had been sent to arrest Him returned empty-handed to the chief priests, who asked, “Why did you not bring him?” and they answered, “Never man spake like this man.” Whereupon the Pharisees replied, “Are you also deceived? Have any of the Pharisees believed on him? The common people don’t know the Law; they are accursed.” But there was one Pharisee who secretly believed on Him and he enquired, “Does our law judge any man before it has heard him and knows what he has done?” Nicodemus who had interviewed Jesus at night in secret, and who had been a secret believer, later came openly with Joseph of Arimathea and begged for the body of Jesus from Pilate and prepared the body of Jesus for burial (John 19:38-42). One who is a true believer cannot remain in silence and secrecy forever. When the crisis arises he must speak out and declare his faith.

Jesus’ time had not yet come and the Sanhedrin was again thwarted in their attempts to take Him and put Him to death.

15. The Woman Taken in Adultery
Reference: John 7:53-8:11

After the feast of Tabernacles we read that “they went every man to his own house, but Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives,” where He spent the night and early in the morning He crossed back over the Kidron valley to the Temple and sat down and taught the crowds of people which surrounded Him. The scribes and Pharisees, still looking for some trick whereby they might catch Jesus in their trap, had found a woman who was guilty of adultery and felt sure if they brought her to Jesus, and He let her off with perhaps a rebuke instead of sticking to the law of Moses and inflicting the death penalty on her, they could accuse Him of violating the Law.

It would be interesting to know what it was that Jesus wrote with His finger on the stone floor as He stooped down, while they continued asking Him. Perhaps He hesitated just long enough to make these religious bigots think they had surely trapped Him this time. But then He looked up and said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” How quickly Jesus had turned the tables on them. They all knew they were sinners, and that was one of the reasons they wanted to get rid of Jesus, because of His preaching against sin. Who of them would have the gall to pick up a stone and hurl at the woman, when everyone in the crowd knew he was guilty of sin, perhaps the very sin of which they were accusing this poor woman.

And so the crowd evaporated, beginning with the oldest, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. It is most instructive to see the divine wisdom with which He then dealt with the woman. “Where are your accusers? Didn’t any man condemn you?” He asked. “No man, Lord,” she replied. Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.” If we had been dealing with the woman we probably would have preached a long sermon to her, telling her what an awful sinner she was and thus humiliate her as much as possible. But the woman knew she was a great sinner and that she had come very near to being stoned to death, but she had been saved by the gracious and loving act of Christ, and although we are not told, it is our belief that this woman never again became involved in this sex sin.

Jesus did not condone her sin. It was not His business to enforce the law. He merely showed that the rulers whose duty it was to enforce it, were all as guilty as the woman, and therefore unable to enforce it, because the law required at least two witnesses and none remained to prosecute her.

16. Discourse on The Light of the World
Reference: John 8:12-30

Jesus calls Himself “the Light of the World.” Light is a characteristic term in John’s Gospel and in his first Epistle it portrays the manifestation of the life of God in the person of Jesus. John the Baptist was called a burning and shining light (John 5:35), but there the word is “luchnos,” a lamp. Here the word is “phos.” In John 1:7,8, it is said of John: “The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Phos that all men through him might believe. He (John) was not that Phos, but was sent to bear witness of the Phos.” John was a luchnos, a hand held oil lamp, lighted by Another, in whose brightness men might rejoice for a season and which would ultimately be extinguished. Christ is the True Phos (John 1:9), in antithesis to John, the Eternal Light which never needed to be kindled and which will never be extinguished. Light occurs 23 times in John’s Gospel. God is light essentially (1 John 1:5), and in Him is no darkness, the opposite of Phos. Paul says that whatever makes manifest is light (Eph. 5:13). Light is an emanation which requires an organ adapted for its reception. Light is not apprehended where there is no eye or there is blindness. Man is naturally incapable of receiving spiritual light because as a sinner he lacks the capacity for spiritual truth.

It is illuminating to note that Jesus spoke these words in the Treasury, where there were four golden candelabra, with four golden bowls filled with oil, which were lighted on the first night of the Feast. This may have provided the backdrop for Jesus’ words. Isaiah in four places speaks of the coming Messiah as the Light (cf. 9:2; 42:6; 49:6; 60:1-3). Malachi calls Him “the Sun of righteousness who will arise with healing in his wings,” (4:2). “Wings” refers to the sun’s rays.

This discourse is one of the clearest defenses which Jesus made for His Deity. As the Light of the world He was one with the Father, for only God is Light. He claimed that even if He did bear witness of Himself, His witness was true. He knew where He came from, from the Father, and where He was going. He said He was going to a place where they could not come. He said He was from above, and unless they believed He is the “I am” they would die in their sins. The translators have added “he” to the “I am.” But “I AM” is the covenant name of God in the Old Testament (Ex. 3:14 cf. also John 8:28,58; 13:19; and 18:6). Who else but the great I Am could say, “If ye believe not that I Am, ye shall die in your sins?”

17. The Discourse on True Freedom
Reference: John 8:31-59

The last verse of the preceding section stated: “As he spake these things, many believed on him.” The first verse of this section states: “Jesus then said to those Jews which believed on him.” The A.V. has missed the distinction in the Greek. The latter statement should read: “The Jews which believed him.” There is a difference between believing on and simply believing. Within this group which believed Him were some which truly believed on Him. The following context brings out this fact. He told them if they continued in His word, they would be His disciples indeed. And as we continue, we see these very ones who believed Him arguing that they were Abraham’s seed and had never been in bondage to any one, although they had been in bondage to the four great world empires, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and now Rome. And finally Jesus has to tell them that instead of having Abraham as their father, the Devil is their father. (Refer back to our comments on John 2:23-25.)

Then the Jews called Him a demon-possessed Samaritan. When Jesus claimed that one who kept His saying would never see death, the Jews responded: “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham and all the prophets are dead. Are you greater than Abraham who is dead?” Jesus replied, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” “Why, you are not fifty years old and have you seen Abraham?” they responded. Then Jesus made another claim to Deity: “Before Abraham was, I AM.” By this time some of these who had previously believed Him took up stones to kill Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping through the multitude, and went out of the temple.

The freedom and bondage Jesus spoke about had no reference to political or physical conditions, but to sin and deliverance from it. Israel had been promised both political and spiritual freedom, but the spiritual had to be experienced first, and they are here rejecting it. The unsaved today boast to being free men, just as the Jews did, but Jesus says they are bondslaves. Only those who have been delivered from the guilt and power of sin are sons, and therefore free.

Universal Reconciliationists who teach that ultimately every created intelligence, including the Devil, will be reconciled to God, in reality make God to be the author of sin and therefore justice demands that He finally save everyone. They base this teaching partly on John 8:44, where Jesus stated that the Devil was a murderer “from the beginning.” They make this to mean that the Devil was created as a devil; that he was always a devil from the very beginning of creation.

But there is more than one beginning in the Bible. John 1:1 says that the Word was in existence at the beginning, and that beginning goes back before the first creative acts of God. There was a beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth. But the beginning of John 8:44 cannot be that earlier beginning, for the word “murderer” is actually in the original, “manslayer.” There could be no manslayer until there was a man to slay. Therefore the beginning from which the Devil was a manslayer was the beginning of the human race. This does not prove that Satan was not the Devil before he caused the human race to fall, but it does destroy the argument that the Devil was created as a Devil.

And besides, there are numerous passages which speak of the fall of Satan (Lk. 10:18; Isa. 14:12; Ezek. 28:15). The teaching of Jesus that these unbelieving Jews were of their father, the Devil, contradicts the liberal’s teaching of the universal Fatherhood of God. God is presented in the Bible as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as the Father of all who believe and have thereby been born again into the family of God.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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THE REPROBATE MINDS OF 2020 (ROMANS 1) – PART 1

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In Christian theology, REPROBATION is a doctrine of the Bible found in many passages of scripture such as Romans 1:18-32, Proverbs 1:23-33, John 12:37-41, Hebrews 6:4-8 etc. which teaches that a person can reject the gospel to a point where God in turn rejects them and curses their conscience to do unnatural and abominable things. We do not have to look very far to realize that this is the lot of many in 2020.

In this study, we are focusing on Romans 1:18-32.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in ungodliness, because that which is known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (1:18-20)

First of all God is justified in His wrath against sinners because of the revelation of Himself to all mankind. Paul’s point here is that, even apart from His written revelation, that which is known about God is evident within everyone of us, for God made it evident to us. The Lord testifies through Paul that His outward, visible manifestation of Himself is universally known by man. All men have evidence of God, and what their physical senses can perceive of Him their inner senses can understand to some extent.

The characteristics of God that are reflected in His creation give unmistakable testimony to Him. Paul specifies the content of the revelation of Himself that God makes known to all mankind. Since the creation of the world, he declares, God has made His invisible attributes visible. The particular attributes that man can perceive in part through his natural senses are God’s eternal power and His divine nature. God’s eternal power refers to His never-failing omnipotence, which is reflected in the awesome creation which that power both brought into being and sustains. God’s divine nature of kindness and graciousness is reflected, as Paul told the Lystrans, in the “rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). We are responsible for a proper response to that revelation. Any wrong response is “inexcusable.”

Unregenerate man has “no help and [is] without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12), not because he has no knowledge of God but because he naturally rebels against the knowledge of God that he has. No person can rightly claim ignorance of God, and therefore no person can rightly claim that God’s wrath against him is unjust.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (1:21)

God is also justified in His wrath and judgment because of man’s wilful rejection of Him. Though they knew God through this natural, general revelation, unbelieving men still rejected Him. Man is just as innately and wickedly inclined to reject that knowledge. The natural tendency of unregenerate mankind is to “proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). As Paul reminds believers, “We also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another” (Titus 3:3).

In verse 21, Paul mentions four ways in which men exhibit their rejection of God: by dishonouring Him, by being thankless to Him, by being futile in their speculations concerning Him, and by being darkened in their hearts about Him.

Refusing to recognize God and to have His truth guide their minds, sinful men are doomed to futile quests for wisdom through various human speculations that lead only to falsehood and therefore to still greater unbelief and wickedness. The term speculation embraces all man’s godless reasonings.

Spiritual darkness and moral perversity are inseparable. When man forfeits God, he forfeits virtue. The godless philosophy of the world inescapably leads to moral perversion, because unbelief and immorality are inextricably intertwined.

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (1:22–23)

The mind devoid of God’s truth has no way to discriminate between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong, between the significant and the trivial, between the truly beautiful and the monstrous, or between the ephemeral and the eternal. Intimidated by the everchanging and mutually-conflicting theories of psychology, sociology, and anthropology, they foolishly modify or exchange the truths of God’s revelation about man in favour of man’s absurd conjectures about himself.

The greatest fool in all the world is the person who exchanges God’s wisdom of truth and light for man’s wisdom of deceit and darkness. In their spiritual blindness, intellectual darkness, and moral depravity, men are by nature inclined to reject the Holy Creator for the unholy creature. Because something even in their fallenness demands a god, but one they like better than the true God, they devise deities of their own making.

The first creature man substitutes for God is himself, an image in the form of corruptible man. The epitome of human self-worship will be that of Antichrist, who will demand that all the world worship him in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem (2 Thess. 2:3–4). As Satan’s supreme emissary on earth in the last days, Antichrist’s demand of worship will also testify that, despite his self-glorification, his real god will be Satan.

A ludicrous form of idolatry noted by Paul is the worship of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. There have also always been people who worship the idols of wealth, health, pleasure, prestige, sex, sports, education, entertainment, celebrities, success, and power. And at no time in history have those forms of idolatry been more pervasive and corrupting than in our own day. Moral and spiritual pollution is pandemic in modern society and is a degenerative and addictive form of idolatry.

When man rejects God’s revelation, whatever the form of that revelation might be, he regresses through rationalization and false religion ultimately to reprobation, which, in Romans 1:24–32, Paul proceeds to relate. The major point of Romans 1:24–32 is that when men persistently abandon God, God will abandon them.

When God abandons men to their own devices, His divine protection is withdrawn. When that occurs, men not only become more vulnerable to the destructive wiles of Satan but also suffer the destruction that their own sin works in and through them.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (1:24–25)

God abandoned men—He gave them over. First, in an indirect sense God gave them over simply by withdrawing His restraining and protective hand, allowing the consequences of sin to take their inevitable, destructive course. Sin degrades man, debases the image of God in which he is made, and strips him of dignity, peace of mind, and a clear conscience. Sin destroys personal relationships, marriages, families, cities, and nations. It also destroys churches.

Fallen men are not concerned about their sin but only about the pain from the unpleasant consequences sin brings. Many people, for example, are greatly concerned about venereal disease but resent the suggestion of avoiding it by restraining sexual promiscuity and perversions. Instead of adhering to God’s standards of moral purity, they attempt to remove the consequences of their impurity. They turn to counseling, to medicine, to psychoanalysis, to drugs, or to alcohol.

Not all of God’s wrath is future. In the case of sexual promiscuity—perhaps more specifically and severely than in any other area of morality—God has continually poured out His divine wrath by means of venereal disease. In regard to countless other manifestations of godlessness, He pours out His wrath in the forms of the loneliness, frustration, meaninglessness, anxiety, and despair that are so characteristic of modern society. As sophisticated, self-sufficient mankind draws further and further away from God, God gives them over to the consequences of their spiritual and moral rebellion against Him.

The divine abandonment of men to their sin about which Paul speaks here is not eternal abandonment. As long as sinful men are alive, God provides opportunity for their salvation. Despite His righteous wrath against sin, God is patient toward sinners, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

In a second, direct sense God gave … over rebellious mankind by specific acts of judgment. The Bible is replete with accounts of divine wrath being directly and supernaturally poured out on sinful men. The flood of Noah’s day and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, for example, were not indirect natural consequences of sin but were overt supernatural expressions of God’s judgment on gross and unrepented sin.

God often allows men to go deeper and deeper into sin in order to drive them to despair and to show them their need of Him. Often He punishes men in order to heal and restore (Isa. 19:22).

It was because the lusts of their hearts were for impurity that God abandoned men to their sin. Men’s lostness is not determined by the outward circumstances of their lives but by the inner condition of their hearts.

The effect of men’s rebellious, self-willed impurity was that their bodies might be dishonoured. When men seek to glorify their own ways and to satisfy their bodies through shameful indulgence in sexual and other sins, their bodies, along with their souls, are instead dishonoured. When man seeks to elevate himself for his own purposes and by his own standards, he inevitably does the opposite. The way of fallen mankind is always downward, never upward. The more he exalts himself, the more he declines. The more he magnifies himself the more he diminishes. The more he honours himself, the more he becomes dishonoured.

Because they reject the God who made them and would redeem them, “the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives” (Eccles. 9:3).

When men turned from God and His truth, Paul goes on to say, they then worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.

To be continued in Part 2

(Main Source: John MacArthur – New Testament Commentary – Romans)

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THE REALITY OF GOD’S WRATH

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The idea of a wrathful God goes against the wishful thinking of fallen human nature and is even a stumbling block to many Christians. Much contemporary evangelism talks only about abundant life in Christ, the joy and blessings of salvation, and the peace with God that faith in Christ brings. All of those benefits do result from true faith, but they are not the whole picture of God’s plan of salvation. The corollary truth of God’s judgment against sin and those who participate in it must also be heard.

For Paul, fear of eternal condemnation was the first motivation he offered for coming to Christ, the first pressure he applied to evil men. He was determined that they understand the reality of being under God’s wrath before he offered them the way of escape from it. That approach makes both logical and theological sense. A person cannot appreciate the wonder of God’s grace until he knows about the perfect demands of God’s law, and he cannot appreciate the fullness of God’s love for him until he knows something about the fierceness of God’s anger against his sinful failure to perfectly obey that law. He cannot appreciate God’s forgiveness until he knows about the eternal consequences of the sins that require a penalty and need forgiving.

Orgē (wrath) refers to a settled, determined indignation, not to the momentary, emotional, and often uncontrolled anger (thumos) to which human beings are prone.

God’s attributes are balanced in divine perfection. If He had no righteous anger and wrath, He would not be God, just as surely as He would not be God without His gracious love. He perfectly hates just as He perfectly loves, perfectly loving righteousness and perfectly hating evil (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:9). One of the great tragedies of modern Christianity, including much of evangelicalism, is the failure to preach and teach the wrath of God and the condemnation it brings upon all with unforgiven sin. The truncated, sentimental gospel that is frequently presented today falls far short of the gospel that Jesus and the apostle Paul proclaimed.

Scripture, New Testament as well as Old, consistently emphasizes God’s righteous wrath.

The prophets spoke much of God’s wrath. Isaiah declared, “By the fury of the Lord of hosts the land is burned up, and the people are like fuel for the fire” (Isa. 9:19). Jeremiah proclaimed, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and on beast and on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and not be quenched’” (Jer. 7:20). Through Ezekiel, God warned His people that “their silver and their gold [would] not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath

of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their appetite, nor can they fill their stomachs, for their iniquity has become an occasion of stumbling” (Ezek. 7:19).

In many well-known ways God expressed His wrath against sinful mankind in past ages. In the days of Noah, He destroyed all mankind in the Flood, except for eight people (Gen. 6–7). Several generations after Noah, He confounded men’s language and scattered them around the earth for trying to build an idolatrous tower to heaven (Gen. 11:1–9). In the days of Abraham, He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, with only Lot and his family escaping (Gen. 18–19). He destroyed Pharaoh and his army in the sea as they vainly pursued the Israelites to bring them back to Egypt (Ex. 14). He poured out His wrath against pagan kings such as Sennacherib (2 Kings 18–19), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4), and Belshazzar (Dan. 5). He even poured out His wrath against some of His own people—against King Nadab for doing “evil in the sight of the Lord, and [walking] in the way of his father and in his sin which he made Israel sin” (1 Kings 15:25–26) and against Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ brother and sister, for questioning Moses’ revelations from Him (Num. 12:1–10).

God’s wrath is just as clearly exhibited in the New Testament, both in reference to what He has already done and to what He will yet do at the end of the age. The gospel of John, which speaks so eloquently of God’s love and graciousness, also speaks powerfully of His anger and wrath. The comforting words “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” are followed closely by the warning “He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:16, 36).

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul focuses on God’s wrath, declaring, “God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (9:22). The apostle warned the Corinthians that anyone who did not love the Lord Jesus was to be eternally cursed (1 Cor. 16:22). He said to the Ephesians, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6). He warned the Colossians that because of “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry, … the wrath of God will come” (Col. 3:5–6). He assured the persecuted Thessalonian believers that God would one day give them relief and that “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from

heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, [He will deal] out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7–8).

A disease has to be recognized and identified before seeking a cure means anything. In the same way and for the same reason, Scripture reveals the bad news before the good news. God’s righteous judgment against sin is proclaimed before His gracious forgiveness of sin is offered. A person has no reason to seek salvation from sin if he does not know he is condemned by it. He has no reason to want spiritual life unless he realizes he is spiritually dead.

With the one exception of Jesus Christ, every human being since the Fall has been born condemned, because when Adam and Eve fell, the divine sentence against all sinners was passed. Paul therefore declared to the Romans that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). He reminded the Ephesians: “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Eph. 2:1–3).

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