Now Available in Summary Form: “A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF SPIRITUALITY” by Francis Schaeffer

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In volume three A Christian View of Spirituality, Schaeffer dovetails the thought of the “God who is There”, and considers what spirituality consists of.   He starts off by accentuating the fact that no people are “little” or insignificant because they are image bearers and it’s often the little matters that have monumental consequences in life.  Moreover, true spirituality is always grounded in the thought life where ideas ultimately govern people’s destiny.  Because the life of the mind is downplayed in many Evangelical circles, too many of its’ youth who grow up in church leave the faith never to return.  a major contributing factor is the egregious way God’s word is ignored and handles by leadership.  Sermons are constructed in shallow and glib manners.  This has terrible effects on the witness and vitality of the church.   The remedy is getting back to sound doctrine and living out its implications so that Christ is honored among the nations as the church community is true to the Lord. Follow the link Volume 3_A Christian View of Spirituality  and enjoy friend.

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Reflections From 1st Corinthians CHAPTER 2: GOD THE SPIRIT REVEALS HIS THOUGHTS THROUGH HUMAN LANGUAGE (Vvs.10-16)

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Paul stays on the same theme of wisdom from verse 6-9 and accentuates the Spirit’s activity:

10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”

This wisdom of God is evidenced in Christ’s life which is revealed to believers by the Spirit who searches and knows the depths of God.  Don’t miss this, only God knows the depths of God and by human analogy (v.11) we see here that the Spirit of God is God.  That’s why He can reveal God’s thoughts.  He is the third person of the Triune God.

How can this be?  Consider our human interactions, each of us choose to reveal or to hide our thoughts when conversing.  This attribute of thought and communication is one that reveals what it means to be human.  Similarly, the divine being reveals His thoughts through language and this to whomever He wills.  It’s God the Holy Spirit who reveals God the Father’s plans and purposes.

Paul affirms that the Spirit believers have received is the same Spirit who is God who reveals God’s purposes to us.  These are the things which have been freely given to us and contextually is the gospel message of Christ crucified.

Moreover, Paul accentuates that the Spirit is the one who gives God’s divinely sanctioned spokesmen the words to speak and to teach to the church.  This comes not from human invention or wisdom, but through the Spirit’s wisdom and thoughts through human language.  But a major problem obtains for not all people believe and thus accept these thoughts in words:

14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Paul points out that a “natural man” or one un-regenerated has an epistemological problem and therefore lacks discernment.  That is, the thoughts of God which are given through human language are rejected by the unbeliever because they are operating under this world’s wisdom. They think the message is foolishness (implying they understand it) but reject it because they don’t trust/believe that it’s true.  There’s a veil blinding the unbeliever here from seeing and treasuring Christ.

Yet, Paul says that he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet is himself appraised by no one (v.15).  He is making a comparison between the regenerate and unregenerate soul, between the believer and the non-believer, between the wise and the foolish.  The implication here is not about “smarts” but about “grace”.  That is, unless there’s the Spirit’s aid to see, one won’t see, value, or embrace the wonder of the cross.  Paul grounds this from a quote out of Isaiah whose larger context declares the Creator’s incomparable majesty, might, knowledge, wisdom, and benevolence.

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a balance And the hills in a pair of scales?  
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counselor has informed Him?  14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge And informed Him of the way of understanding?” (Isa. 40:12-14)

Paul is disrobing the wisdom of this world when compared to the Creator’s wisdom and puts an exclamation on this thought when he says, “But we have the mind of Christ”.  What is the significance here?

I think Paul is telling believers that God’s thoughts revealed to us through God’ Spirit, are the exact thoughts that Christ the Son of God possess (this is a clear pointer to Jesus deity and the Spirit’s deity).  Thus, the knowledge and wisdom of the Creator freely bestowed on the believer is the prized possession.  This “foolishness” and “stumbling block” of the cross is truly astounding.

Paul is declaring to the Corinthian church and to the world that this message originated with God the Creator and has now been revealed to humanity in plain language by the Spirit’s activity, not the creatures.  Another way of putting it is that the message of the Gospel is not a fabrication of fiction, but a revelation of true reality, this reality is the un-created Creator, who sustains His good creation.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1st Corinthians 2: HOW DO WE MINISTER TO GIFTED, KNOWLEDGEABLE, & PROUD PEOPLE?

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Human pride is that malady that makes much of the creature and little of the Creator. It disproportionately attaches value to self and turns what is good and beautiful into a hideous reality.  Paul continues his thought from chapter one and offers personal biography that’s focused on intent:

“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”   (Vvs.1-5)

When a crowd is gifted, knowledgeable, and proud, if we were able, many of us would be tempted to show our intellectual prowess in order to spar with the opposition.

To possess intellectual gifts and have a facility with theological and philosophical ideas and their requisite analysis has an appropriate place in gospel persuasion.  Certainly Paul could do this but when it came to the proclamation of the gospel, his strategy for persuasion is one of simplicity and substance.  This surely mocks human pride and showcases its emptiness.

Paul neither comes with rhetoric nor this world’s wisdom when he proclaims the testimony of God, but instead focuses on the person and work of Jesus Christ and Calvary’s cross.  His purpose for doing this was so that believers would not trust in the creature’s mere words, but in the demonstrable power of the God/Man.

The incarnation of Christ (i.e., God became a fully functioning human being without any sin) is not one of the many critical aspects of the gospel, but the absolute heart of it.  In Jesus of Nazareth, God took on human flesh (while not at all compromising the perfections of His being of: aseity, simplicity, omniscience, omnipresence, omnisapience, omnibenevolence, etc.) which to the Jew was impossible (and a stumbling block) and to the Greeks (foolishness) but to the called it’s both the wisdom and power of God.

Now this demonstration of the Spirit’s power had to include signs, wonders, healings, etc.  Something other worldly followed Paul’s proclamation, but the greatest evidence was the church which had regenerated souls who once were dead in trespasses and sins.  This can’t be overstated but too often is misconstrued.  New birth truly is a miracle, where human will adds nothing to that reality according to Paul (something many believers have difficulty reconciling between the order of salvation: does faith precede new birth or does new birth precede faith).

Today, many false conversions obtain in America specifically because of a doctrine of salvation that says “by faith alone” I’m saved.  True, but that faith is “never alone”, it produces the evidence of new life in how a professing believer lives.

This state of affairs generally results from a functional illiteracy of the gospel of Christ, and a relativistic understanding of “faith” that is neither able to be verified or falsified, is not understood to be in the realm of knowledge, and is thus relegated to the private, subjective and personal sphere.  That’s not good news, but rather an indictment on church leadership that has forsaken the eternal, inerrant, infallible word of God and exchanged it for the temporal, errant, fallible word of men.

If one of us can’t “believe” in this book called Holy Scripture, the Bible, because men wrote it, then there’s a problem with consistency.  Daily men are trying to persuade us to their views of: politics, science, philosophy, history, theology, ethics, etc. through their writings.  Why do we choose to believe their views?  Are we to seriously discard everything they say because they wrote it?  There’s more going on here than meets the eye friends.

For Paul and those wanting to be faithful to gospel of Christ, the way to minister to knowledgeable, gifted and proud people is to keep it simple without being simplistic.  Because the gospel of Christ while being simple is exceedingly profound, and it is therefore the duty of every teacher to do their due diligence in order to not be derelicts with the treasure of God’s word.

(SDG)

REFLECTIONS FROM 1st CORINTHIANS: CHAPTER 1: DO CALLED SAINTS EVER HAVE TO OVERCOME PRIDE?

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My goal in writing reflections from 1st Corinthians are the following: First, to encourage you the reader that if you will pay attention to the words on the page and listen carefully you will mine a lot of truth for life without the need of a commentary or any secondary source.  That is, “take up and read” to enrich your soul Christian.

Second, I write to give you a model of how observations can be done in scripture that do not read into the text something foreign to the author’s intent.  This will help you experience the joy of discovery and increase your confidence in your ability to comprehend God’s word.

Third, by doing the above my hope is that you will be able to hear God’s voice all the more clearly because it is the word of God that is forever settled in heaven, and not our subjective impressions however valid they may be.  That is, we have a more sure word of prophecy according to Peter—meaning the inscripturated word of God—then a glorious experience we may claim to have (2 Peter 1:16-21).  Too often we Christians have bizarre ideas of what “God” is supposedly speaking to us and when it contradicts the Bible, be assured we are not hearing his voice.

This first letter of Paul to the Corinthian church is one of his earliest writings, occasioned by internal strife among believers fueled by pride in the creature rather than the Creator:

Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Vvs.1-9) 

 

These verses let us peer into several facts about the letter, the audience and the key issue at hand.  First, as in all his letters, Paul establishes his credentials as sourced in God’s will (v.1), not mans’, so that his apostolic ministry is sanctioned by the Lord of the church not an earthly institution or movement.  Why is this significant?  Because unless one is sanctioned from above, they don’t have the authority to speak into how we come to understand God, love God, and walk humbly before God.  Paul is saying, what I’m about to deliver to you comes from the uncreated Creator through the created creature.

Second, the audience is the church of God in Corinth which means that as Christ’s prized possession, through his shed blood on Calvary have been purchased by God’s mercy and grace and as such have been sanctified in Him (v.2).  They are holy because Christ’s righteousness is theirs.  Moreover, they are saints—holy ones—by calling which means that its’ utterly God’s choosing not theirs (i.e., they brought nothing into the relationship to fulfill this state of affairs) concerning their rescue from wrath.

Again, those called, call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ which I take to mean that Jesus, because of his ontological status as Master, Shepherd, and God incarnate, is the source of all that is good.

Fourth, after describing who they are, Paul gives thanks for the grace the Corinthian church received evidenced in their speech, knowledge, and gifting (vvs.4-9) but something was amiss, there was internal strife.  Paul states:

10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.”   (Vvs.10-16)

Fifth, the apostle exhorts the believers not to divide among themselves over their favorite minister (e.g., Paul, Apollos, Cephas or Christ) as if they were anything special in one sense, (only Jesus Christ is redeemer and savior here, not his servants).  These divisions which must stop are evidenced in quarrels which are caused by their pride.  This problem is an overarching theme which influences what Paul says and how he says it throughout this letter.

Sixth, the contrast between the clever/foolish and between the wise/knowledgeable is also rife in the letter.  Consider how after Paul explains that his call was to preach the gospel rather than to baptize believers (vvs.14-16) and to do this in a specific way that hits a nerve with these prideful believers:

 

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.

It’s not as if Paul is denigrating the life of the mind, but for the apostle how Christ is preached, how the gospel is presented, is fundamental to what it accomplishes.  If it rests on the cleverness of speech, it certainly will make the cross of Christ void.  That is, for those who “come behind in no gift and are enriched in all speech and knowledge” (1:5), if they don’t plainly and clearly speak the truth of Christ’s cross, true conversions won’t occur.

Seventh, I don’t think Paul is calling for “dumbing down” the message so that its breadth, length, height and depth are stripped.  Instead, what he is exposing here is the motive of pride which is the cause of why people reject the Gospel message.  The preaching event involves the word of God, the preacher, the hearer and the response.  Paul notes:

18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

 Here the same word is either devalued or valued.  If devalued this word is unable to save from God’s wrath, that is those perishing can’t receive the message and thus be rescued.  If valued, then the message utterly rescues those who embrace it for in it God’s power resides.  The same word has two different effects; it has two different responses, but why?

I think the reason is found in the quote from Isaiah 29:14 which Paul cites (v.19).  Here, the prophet indicts a people who honor God with their lips but whose hearts are far from Him.  This refers to the Jews, the people of the book, who should have known better but did not.  The result was judgment and destruction.  The same end awaits Gentiles too.

Jesus applied this same text to the Pharisees when their hearts were hardened to his message and person.  The main problem here as always, is that the word of men (i.e., tradition of washing of hands) wants to take precedence over the word of God (Mt. 15:1-9).

Paul in Romans (1:18-23) explains why God’s wrath is justly revealed and why men became fools: “they suppressed the truth of God in unrighteousness and thus become darkened in their understanding.  They become fools.

James also addresses this issue in (4:1-7) where the people because they don’t love God but the world instead, live as fools because of the swelling of their own pride.

Paul’s point here is that human wisdom when compared to God’s is foolish and the reason for this is because the knowledge of the Creator is necessarily both ontologically and epistemically superior to all created things.  Ironically, the very foolishness of God in the preaching of the Cross of Christ is the remedy the Corinthian believers don’t see because of their blinding pride:

19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”  20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

Of course, the world sees the Cross either as a stumbling block (for the Jew) or foolishness (for the Gentiles “every non-Jew”).  The stumbling block is understood but not embraced, it is scandalous to Jews.  The foolishness is understood but not welcomed because it’s not sophisticated enough for the “wise”.

This demonstrates human ignorance concerning ultimate issues and also explains our need for God to move on the minds and hearts of blinded people which is what takes place for the “called”.  The “called” consist of both Jew and Gentile alike, who when hearing the message of the Cross love and embrace it, they see that it is—the wisdom and power of God:

22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 

Paul continues explaining how God’s infinite superior knowledge, His epistemological prowess, supersedes the creatures finite limited knowledge and how in the simplicities and complexities of the cross God accomplished His purpose of “choosing” the proud while simultaneously crushing their arrogance:

26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God.”   

And just in case there’s any misunderstanding of how the Corinthians got saved, Paul continues:

30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Human boasting is the highway to hell.  The knowledge of God revealed to us through Christ Jesus tells us minimally the following things.

First, the knowledge of God reveals that our religious tradition is an epistemological one where we can come to know the Creator God through His son.  Knowledge and specifically of God, is a necessary condition for salvation to obtain, though it is not sufficient.

Second, this knowledge is granted to us by God which means that it comes from outside of ourselves, it does not come from within the human being.  The reason here is so that there will be no boasting before God.  Moreover, this knowledge produces trust, or faith that results in rescue from God’s wrath.

Third, this understanding reveals the human malady of pride and the necessity of preaching the cross of Christ clearly and boldly so that many called may come into the kingdom.  Human pride caused the “Fall” in the Garden of Eden and Sovereign grace has come to rectify that malady.  May we not shy away from the foolishness or offense of the Cross due to our pride, instead may we along with Paul love it and cherish it as we endeavor to be salt and light in this dark world.  Lord have mercy on us.

(SDG)

Summary of “DEATH IN THE CITY” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book Death in the City, Schaeffer accentuates six sobering observations.  First, the reason for why there’s death in the city is that we have turned away from our Reformation roots.  God has been discarded by not only our culture but also by many professed Christians. The propositional force and nature of the Scriptures is what has been abandoned and what we must return to in order for life to spring forth in said desolation.

Second, just as the God who is there exists, it follows biblically that He is both holy and gracious in revealing to us His propositional truth.  To neglect Him and thus His self-disclosure (which we have) is to fall into judgment.  Jeremiah  wept for the church and the culture.  We must also.  His message was one of truth and grace.  When said truth is trampled, judgment follows.  Nothing has changed.  To speak prophetically to our culture it will require us to preach the two sides of the same coin with humility and love.  That’s a tall task and one which God enables us to accomplish.

Hence, there must be a dual weeping, a knowing that preaching judgment is hard but indispensable.  For where false religion, adultery, extortion, lying, and the oppression of the poor by the powerful exist, there’s judgment.  We must call sin, sin; beware of our affluence and its trappings, and put our hope not in man’s power but God’s strength ultimately.  If we preach this way coupled with humility and love, then the world might start taking us seriously.  We’re truly in Jeremiah’s days.

Third, are we perturbed that the message of judgment is ever lingering before men but do we love God and people in such a way that we cry out with the truth compassionately?  Jeremiah did and his message of judgment on both great and small brought a price on his head.  The people wanted him dead.  Nothing’s changed, people want us dead as well.  Disdain for God’s word is ever real, nothing new and always our doom.  God help us in our weakness.

Fourth, in light of the aforesaid, persistent compassion is vital and yet costly.  Jeremiah illustrates the physical and psychological price that will be paid by those who follow in his footsteps.  Like Jeremiah we must:  a) preach the truth of judgment, b) recognize that our country is already under God’s judgment, c) practice the truth, d) know it will be costly, e) persevere doing the above regardless of the price.  When historically the church fails to do the above, defection is followed by destruction.

Fifth, the man without the Bible will be judged according to his own standards which he has broken.  The man with the Bible will be judged according to the light of Scripture which he has broken.  The fact is that all are under judgment.  But in Christ, God’s rescue is available and can be realized by the compassionate clear preaching of the Gospel.  We are debtors to the lost and often we don’t feel this.  God help us here.

Lastly, we must live as Christians before the lost.  This includes a life of dependent prayer to the God of Creation who is there.  He will hear the cry of our hearts and respond to believing supplication.  And when He is silent, we must continue to trust the Faithful One who is amazing.

Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES 16: “BEWARE HARDENING YOUR HEART BEFORE THE LORD__FOR THE PATH TO RETURN MAY BE SHUT TO YOU”

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          What struck me of king Asa’s life is that in his earlier years he trusted in the LORD to aid in his affairs (2 Chron.14:11) which he demonstrated through an amazing prayer for God’s help, but something along the way happened to him, such that he no longer had ears to hear the word of the LORD:

At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand…10 Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him for this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time.”  

  While Asa imprisoned the prophet because of the word of the LORD, the irony is by his own mouth he revealed the prison cell his soul was in.   Even to his old age, when his foot was diseased the text reads:

12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians

Once, Asa relied on the Deliver to rescue his people from their enemies, but now he looked to the arm of man which will fail him inevitably.  Even in sickness, instead of calling out to the great physician he settles for what only the creature could do for him.  We are all prone to wander LORD like king Asa, so keep our hearts from becoming proud and hardened.

(SDG)

Reflections From PROVERBS 17: FAMILIAL TREASURES & RELATIVISM

 

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(V.6) “Grandchildren are the crown of old men, And the glory of sons is their fathers.”

To have the line of the family name is an honor indeed and to have fathers that are present is an equal reward.  Yet, so many are not crowned in this way, instead they are barren, an orphan syndrome that plagues many in my day.  Does God ever remedy this plight?  Yes He does at times.  One may have no biological children to speak of and yet can father many in the faith.

Here, both experience a glory and honor similar yet distinct from the former.  At times we are left orphaned, childless, yet never alone, never abandoned by our Creator.  Somewhere in the scriptures, it is said of God that, “He is a father to the fatherless” even when dire circumstances of need physically and spiritually obtain, God the father is nevertheless present to comfort, protect and to guide.  He does this through His eternal word, redeemed church, and Holy Spirit.

Some have this physical/biological glory and honor, while others possess it through a substitute and often this latter reality can be as glorious or even more magnificent than the former state of affairs.

(V.15) “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”

This text signals a beacon light which this present culture is absolutely ignoring: that God exists, they’re ignoring the light of His word and thus they are assured inevitable destruction.  The denial of God’s existence is followed by making mankind the measure of all things.  It invites a malleable view of what’s true, real, and moral.  It assures that the freedom people so desperately yearn for is ever further away from their grasp.  When we snub our noses at God our maker, we are not free, but enslaved.

What marks this “slavery” is relativism, moral relativism and it’s in the very air we breathe today.  God abhors this because it is false and since He is the God of truth, He doesn’t laud it, but instead condemns it.  It is a lie all people, to one degree or another, suppress in unrighteousness:

19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 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. 21 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. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 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. (Rom.1:19-23)

What is true, just and beautiful will always be grounded on the immutable being of God the Creator.

(SDG)

Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES: 10-14 “WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN EVIL & GOOD KING?”

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Ruling comes with much pressure.  That burden is an opportunity to either submit to the LORD God or to rebel against Him.  Both Rehoboam and Jeroboam instruct us on what it means to be objectively evil, regardless if our relativistic culture denies this reality.

First, Rehoboam shows us the brazen foolishness of youth.  He discards the wise council of the elders to gently and kindly deal with the people for the foolish advice of those with whom he grew up.  Instead of being gentle, he was counseled to be brutal with the people:

 

Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you counsel me to answer this people?” They spoke to him, saying, “If you will be kind to this people and please them and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him. So he said to them, “What counsel do you give that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” 10 The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you shall say to the people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter for us.’ Thus you shall say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! 11 Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”  12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day as the king had directed, saying, “Return to me on the third day.” 13 The king answered them harshly, and King Rehoboam forsook the counsel of the elders. 14 He spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of events from God that the Lord might establish His word, which He spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.(2 Chron.10:6-15)

 This ultimately came from God’s hand (v.15) and yet they were culpable.  This tension in Scripture is rife where one’s actions while evil are somehow ordained by God and He is not unjust in punishing their evil deeds.  Rehoboam did what so many kings before had already done, “…he and all Israel forsook the law of the LORD (12:1)” and because of this “He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the LORD (12:14)”.  It is evil to turn a deaf ear to God’s word and thus seek some other “word” by which to ultimately live; it is evil to have a predisposition to listen to the creatures’ voice above and beyond the Creators.

Why, because the creature is finite and contingent, whereas the Creator is infinite and self-existent; because as Creator He owns everything and thus the creature owes its very existence to the Designer of all things.  When we as people look to creatures for ultimate understanding, purpose and meaning for life; “empty will be our fill”.

Rehoboam was not the only ruler who did evil in God’s sight, so too did Jeroboam for the king set-up “teflon” priests in order to worship other gods:

14 For the Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from serving as priests to the Lord. 15 He set up priests of his own for the high places, for the satyrs and for the calves which he had made.

Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his master, and worthless men gathered about him, scoundrels, who proved too strong for Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, when he was young and timid and could not hold his own against them.  “So now you intend to resist the kingdom of the Lord through the sons of David, being a great multitude and having with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made for gods for you.” (2 Chron.11:14-15; 13:6-8)

To worship any “god” (which is no god at all), instead of worshipping the One True God of Israel, is ultimately damnable.  Too many around me think this statement is truly “nonsensical” poppycock!  (Look up this word).

The two characteristics that were evil and remain to this day is first that God’s word and thus His law are neglected and replaced for the creatures’ word and law in order to rule.  And secondly such neglect leads to idolatry and the worship of false gods.  But another king did not do evil in the eyes of the LORD.

Asa, unlike these previous two evil kings, “…did good”:

Asa did good and right in the sight of the Lord his God, for he removed the foreign altars and high places, tore down the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherim, and commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers and to observe the law and the commandment. He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah. And the kingdom was undisturbed under him. He built fortified cities in Judah, since the land was undisturbed, and there was no one at war with him during those years, because the Lord had given him rest.(2Chron.14:2-6)

Redirecting people who have gone astray into idolatrous living are never just told to stop, instead they are told to turn to the LORD God, which means to repent!  This king models an amazing prayer for divine help in the face of war and a foe far too great for the people to overcome:

11 Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.” 12 So the Lord routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.

In this petition for help, king Asa affirms first a personal relationship to the Creator by means of the covenant name of Yahweh; he secondly recalls the rescue through the Red Sea from Pharaoh’s army and in his plea he continues, thirdly to confess human weakness comparing it to God’s might which is incomparable.  Moreover, he acknowledges that it’s because of the renown of the LORD that they are meeting the enemy in battle (God’s glory is at the core of this event), and finally, he reaffirms the covenant relationship between Israel and God thus “Your name be exalted!” is the final cry.

I see this petition as a model for doing spiritual warfare, especially with the idea of scientific naturalism that blatantly and brazenly mocks God’s existence.  But I also see that this prayer is for the churched, the influential who are in charge, who unwittingly have forsaken the God of Creation, while giving lip service to His name.  LORD, act swiftly and let not man prevail against You.  As if we could.

(SDG)

Summaries__CHAPTER 2: THE PATRISTIC ERA [Pgs.23-71]

images The Patristic (Latin—Father) era of the Church historically describes the times and writings of the “Church Fathers”.  During this time we see the end of the Apostolic age (i.e., Christ’s apostles) and one where their first disciples make a mark on their generation.  Dulles points out that the main apologetic focus during this era tackled both the political and religious venues.

APOLOGISTS OF THE SECOND CENTURY [pp.24-31]

 First, there was the Preaching of Peter, an apocryphal fragment that exalts Biblical monotheism and ridicules idolatry.  This fragment differentiates between Jesus’ miracles and magic because Christians didn’t want their faith confused with pagan religions. [pp. 24-25]

Second, we have Aristedes, who was the most important apologist before Justin Martyr.  In his Apology addressed to the Emperor Hadrian (125 AD), Aristedes focuses on five groups of humanity in a sort of comparative religion excursion, these are; Barbarians, Greeks, Egyptians, Jews, and Christians.  When coming to Christians, he asserts that they surpass all the above because of their worship of the one true God, and their moral pure conduct.  This is a powerful apology for its brevity and cogency. [P.25]

Third, we have Justin Martyr [pp.25-27] who wrote several apologies. In his First Apology, Justin addresses the Emperor Antoninus Pius and Lucius Commodus and argues that Christians should not be condemned based solely on their name.  However, if they deserve condemnation for wrong acts, so be it.  In his Second Apology, much like in the first apology, Justin seeks to defend his brethren from unjust condemnations and in some parts he alludes to pagan philosophies that achieved similar insights Christians believe because of divine revelation.

In Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, he attempts to show that Jesus is the Messiah of the Old Testament, that the New Covenant has abrogated the Old Covenant and that only Christians are in a position to properly interpret the Hebrew text, not the Jews.

The value of his writings consists of his sincere character, his frank and open esteem of pagan philosophers, and his respect for Jewish Theologians.

Fourth, there’s Tatian a disciple of Justin Martyr [p.27] who wrote a bitter polemic against the Greeks deploring: their immoral Olympian gods; the absurdities of their myths; the indecency of their public religious festivals; and the vices and contradictions of the philosophers.  Then, he advances the superiority of Christianity in his search for truth through the prophetic writings which superior to those of their philosophers.  He would take Moses’ writings over Homer’s texts any day.

Fifth, there’s Athenagoras of Athens [pp.27-28] who Johannes Quasten calls ‘unquestionably the most eloquent of the early Christian apologists’.  In his Embassy for the Christian, he pleads with the Emperors Lucius Aurelius Commodus and Marcus Aurelius (176-180) for civil toleration of Christians.  He demonstrates that the charges against Christians (E.g., atheism, cannibalism and promiscuity) were misguided.  He also produced an apologetic work On the Resurrection of the Dead.

Sixth, there’s Theophilus the Syrian Bishop of Antioch is impressed with Moses’ wisdom and of the creation account of Genesis as the only reliable guide to the origins of the universe.  For Theophilus, God is manifest to the soul who is open to the Spirit’s light, but God is hidden to the man who loves darkness. [P.28]

Seventh, in a Letter to Diognetus, whose author is unknown, is a text considered by many critics to be the pearl of early Christian apologetics.  The letter’s aim is: respond to what sort of cult Christianity is, to answer why Christians love each other so much, to answer why Christianity came about so late in the world’s history.  The letter reveals that the author was a brilliant rhetorician and that early Christendom was serious [pp.28-29]

There are however several Weaknesses of the Apologists [pp.30-31].  The following examples: they demonstrated certain excesses in exegesis; they exaggerated the Bible’s antiquity; they lacked any consistent view of classical literature’s value; unfortunately they too rapidly rejected Judaism (although at times it is warranted).  Moreover, they make too little of the Character of Jesus in their apologetic, they were often unclear between the relationship of reason and revelation.  Given that the church emerged from the catacombs, what the apologists did cover is to be lauded and their strength is worthy to be emulated.

Summaries__CHAPTER 1: APOLOGETICS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT    [Pgs.1-21] 

 

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Apologetics and specifically apologists have had a bad rap among modern Christians for various reasons.  Some have been known to be arrogant, pushy, snobbish, graceless, prayer-less people who ironically have diluted the gospel message. But a few bad apples “don’t spoil the whole bunch”.  There have been many who have been faithful to the cause of Christ and the kingdom of God and have paid the price for it as a result.

The church has been graced with many apologists since the inception of the primitive church who were marked by: prayer, erudition, genius, talent, and true piety.  In this book Avery Dulles aims to reveal how the heroes from the past understood and lived out what it meant to fulfill the mandate of 1 Peter 3:15.

Although nothing “new” can be said, recurring issues from the past resurface with “new” garb, which at the core are the same old problems.  Dulles gives special attention to both Catholic and Protestant contributors.  This text is a historical must read for those would learn from those who have gone before us.          

APOLOGETIC MOTIFS IN THE EARLY TRADITION

Christianity was a message before being an apologetic.  Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, crucified, buried, and Risen from the dead was at the story’s core [pp.2-3].  The Earliest Preaching focused on Christ’s Lordship (Acts 2:14-40; 3:12-26); backed up the claims of his Messiahship through fulfilled prophecy (Ps.2:7-8; 110:1; Acts 2:26; Heb. 1:5; 5:5); emphasized his resurrection as the core of the apostolic proclamation (Dan.7:13; acts 2:25-28); and Jesus’ passion was seen as the fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah’s account (Is.53):

Who has believed our message?  And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. 
He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.  By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 10 But he Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.  11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.

APOLOGETIC DEVELOPMENT:  [Pgs.3-9]

The early believers confronted and answered their objectors with amazing precision, penetration and practicality.  One objection was explaining: “the Ascension of Christ—where is He now?”  He’s presently in heaven (Ps.16: 11; 110:1); he will return as the judge of the living and the dead (Acts 3:21); and his dominion is presently exercised through the Spirit’s outpouring (Acts 2:16-21).

When it came to the Passion of Christ, Jesus was seen to be cursed by God through the crucifixion (Dt.21:23), but this humiliation was part of God’s redemptive plan (Is. 52-53, see 53:5) in order to justify many from the curse of the Law through faith in Jesus (Gal. 3:10-14).  Moreover, the blindness of the Jews was predicted by the prophet (Is.9-10; Acts 28:26-27); and was caused by God even though God has not forgotten them (Rom.9-11).

Another issue that had to be addressed was the betrayal of Judas.  How could Jesus have miscalculated the treachery of this disciple?  This betrayal was also predicted in scripture (Jn.13:18; cf., Ps.41:9) and points to the sovereignty of God in all things even when our choices are significant and we’re culpable.

Then there’s the issue of Jesus’ Origin being from Nazareth.  He’s in the line of David (Ps.89:3-4; Jn.1:45-46; Mic.5:1; Mt.2:5; Jn.7:42) seen by his birthplace to be in Bethlehem.

Again, there’s the issue of Jesus’ Public Life: where he never claimed to be the Messiah.  Nevertheless, God pointed to Jesus as his beloved Son (Ps.2: 7; Is.42:1; Lk. 3:22; 9:35; Acts 10:38; 2 Pet.1:17); the writers of the New Testament later understood that Jesus’ Messiahship was to be secret (Mk.1:34; 3:12; 5:42) perhaps because the Jews could not conceive of the type of Messiah Jesus was, or maybe because of Jesus’ ambivalent attitude toward the messianic appellations, or possibly because their hearts were hardened (Mk.6:52; 8:17; Jer.5:21).

When it came to the Miracles of Jesus they had a specific purpose.  Miracles were aids to faith, evoking wonder and amazement; they are seen (especially in the casting out of demons) as Satan being overthrown by the inauguration of the Kingdom of God; and they authenticate Jesus’ message because they blend in with the Good news of salvation.

CHANGING CONTEXTS: ACTS, PAUL, AND HEBREWS [Pgs.9-13]

In The Book Acts [pp. 9-11] we see Stephens defense of Christ and the gospel (Acts 7) by pointing to Old Testament redemptive history, where God is to be sought through the prophets, who ultimately point to the exclusivity of Jesus as the only means of salvation (Is.6:9-10).  Then there’s Peter’s address to the uncircumcised (Acts 10) where he undergoes a major paradigm shift of who can be saved and explains that Jesus is the healer, wonder worker, and risen Lord from the dead.

We also observe the Gentile world addressed through the agency of Natural Theology employed by Paul (Acts11…).  This apostle is seen contradicting polytheism (14:15-17); on the Areopagus address to the Athenians (17:23) Paul confronts their worship, explains God’s necessity and his transcendence.  Moreover, because Paul knew their authorities he could speak more forcefully to the gospel truth of coming judgment and Christ’s resurrection.

The Apostle Paul [Pgs.11-13]

This converted Pharisee who once persecuted the church was now its most influential spokesmen especially to the Gentile world.  When Paul addressed the Corinthian church he tackled the issue of Faith and Reason; refused to capitulate to their love of human wisdom (1 Cor.3: 6); would not ground his preaching on the hot philosophic views of the age, but instead rested his proclamation on the Spirit’s power so that their faith (the Corinthians) be not based on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

When Paul addressed the Romans, he focused on the hindrance to worship (Rom. 1).  This was the classic case against idolatry (vv18-23) that’s inexcusable, self-delusional, self-exalting, self-destructive, and is the reason for why God’s judgment obtains.

The Book of Hebrews [Pg.13]

We don’t really know who wrote the book of Hebrews but it’s the first apology to the Hebrew Christian Community where Christianity is seen as the perfect religion which eclipses the religion of Israel because of who Jesus of Nazareth is.  Here, the Old Covenant is compared to the New Covenant, Moses is compared to Jesus, the Levites are compared to Jesus’ Priesthood, the constant sacrifices are compared to Christ’s final sacrifice and Christ’s supremacy is placarded throughout the letter.

THE FOUR EVANGELISTS AS APOLOGISTS [Pgs.13-19]

The gospel accounts come from four different perspectives concerning the life and teachings of Christ.  At the core their message is identical, yet due to their audience, each biography has a different emphasis.   For example, Mark’s Gospel focuses on [p.14]; the edification of converts, the explanation for why Christianity began, the supply of preaching material for missionary preachers, an armory of apologetic arguments for Jewish and heathen opposition, with the view always to remember that Christ is risen indeed.

Matthew’s Gospel intentions [p.15] focused more on the believing community where apologetically the writer was concerned with fulfilled prophecy—as a summary of Jesus’ career (Is.14:1-4), with ecclesiastical hierarchy (Mt.16:19), with combating Rabbinic thought (Mt.23), and finally with unfolding the Passion narrative (Mt.27-28).

Luke-Acts intentions [Pgs.16-17] focused on demonstrating the accurate historical account of the life of Jesus (to know the truth of all Theophilus had heard (Lk.1:1-4), it was geared toward the Roman ruler it was focused on redemptive history, and the need to establish a harmonious relationship between the Church and the supreme secular powers.

John’s Gospel intentions [Pgs.17-19] are for people to come to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the goal of which is eternal life.  This would be realized through; the Signs of the miracles, emphasis on Jesus as the Light of the world to a Hellenistic audience.  John’s aim in all of this is to sustain and intensify the life of believers.  As such, it has apologetic affinities.

CONCLUSION

The Resurrection of Jesus was indubitably the centerpiece of early Christian apostolic preaching.  Since the majority of audiences held the OT Scriptures as authoritative, it was the sacred text used apologetically to demonstrate Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, and Redeemer of all mankind.  However, when ignorance of such literature obtained, preachers like Paul would employ natural theology to proclaim the Gospel.

This brief outline is packed with Gospel truth that you believer would do well to meditate on, understand and impart to those God has called you to disciple.