Friday, October 31, 2008

Historical anarchonism by Ponter and the Neo-Amyraldians

Well, it seems that the Neo-Amyraldian David Ponter cannot stop practising the deceitful practice of Historical Anachronism, as Turretinfan aptly points out:

And, as has already been pointed out, quoting loosely worded statements by Reformers from before the Arminian controversy is a recipe for confusion, just as it would be improper to try read the "New Perspective on Paul" controversy back onto Calvin and his contemporaries, it is likewise improper to try to read the Arminian/Amyraldian controversies back into the minds of the pre-controversy Reformers.

There are some quotations, and Ponter's post provides two examples, that taken out of their historical context and placed into ours sound very Arminian or Amyraldian. Ponter's argument seems to be: "no one made a fuss about these comments at that time, so when Amyraldians make such arguments today, everyone should just accept them as part of the 'Reformed' perspective." Such an argument is the result of shielding one's eyes from the value that the Arminian/Amyraldian controversy had in developing and working out clearly the Scriptural doctrine of the Atonement. The debates with Romanists for the most part focused elsewhere.

Ponter's apparent underlying strategy is to amass as many decontextualized quotations as possible from early Reformers, and then argue that despite the Scriptural resolution of the Arminian/Amyraldian controversies (in favor of TULIP, which Ponter so loathes), such positions (the positions contrary to the Reformed confessions) should still be viewed Reformed.

Such indeed seems to be the strategy of the Neo-Amyraldian promoters nowadays, from David Byrne to the misnamed "Calvin and Calvinism" blog, which is anything BUT that.

I truly wonder: Is it too much to expect that these Neo-Amyraldians practice proper historical interpretation of Reformed writings? For example, I am very sure none of them would allow the Romanists to read the church fathers' teaching on the concept of the Real Presence as indicative of the church fathers' belief in the doctrine of Transubstantiation (which require Aquinas' assimilation of Aristotelian categories to be understood)!

[HT: The Crumbs which Fall]

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On Regeneration

First of all, Blessed Reformation Day to all my readers. In line with Paul Washer's recent sermon entitled Ten Indictments, I was thinking an article on Regeneration would be good. Here is a good article on Regeneration by J.I. Packer.

As the Evangelical Arminian Charles Wesley sings also, in one of those rare moments inconsistent with his professed theology:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mistranslations in the NIV and TNIV?

Logical Criticism of Textual Criticism

In my review of the book Logical Criticism of Textual Criticism, Dr. Gordon H. Clark has pointed out the mistranslation of two texts in the book of Hebrews in the NIV — namely Heb. 1:5 and 11:11. I had then decided to check out the bible versions themselves electronically on the Biblegateway website. What I saw confirmed the claims of Dr. Gordon Clark and places serious doubts on the fidelity of the NIV and TNIV (which claims to be an improvement over the NIV) at least at those two verses.

Here are the verses in the different versions:

For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? (Heb. 1:5a — ESV)

For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? (Heb. 1:5a — NIV)

For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? (Heb. 1:5a — TNIV)

and

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. (Heb. 11:11 — ESV)

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise (Heb. 11:11 — NIV)

And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. (Heb. 11:11 — TNIV)

As I have said in my review:

As it can be seen, the NIV and TNIV in Heb. 1:5a changed the traditional phrase "begotten you" to "have become your Father", which alters the meaning of the text rather significantly. There is a footnote there giving the rendering of "begotten", but the question then is why is the phrase "have become" used here, since there is no textual variant that can be translated "have become" here? Furthermore, this footnote is found only in the NIV not in the later TNIV, so why is that the case?

With regards to Heb. 11:11, the distortion of the text in the NIV and the TNIV is simply amazing. The NIV comes up with a complete novel proposition and places the correct rendering in a footnote, all done without any textual rationale for doing so. The TNIV which is later and supposed to be better reverts back to the correct rendering of the passage (which is good), but inexplicably it places the false rendering of the passage in a footnote for the text! So much for improvement of the NIV! Oh well, I guess swapping the text and footnote text is an improvement after all, but still in error.

So what do the NIV and TNIV supporters have to say about this?

Book reviews

I have just finished reviews of two interesting books that I have read recently. The first is a review of the book The Market Driven Church by Udo W. Middelmann, which can be found here.

The second review is of the book Logical Criticism of Textual Criticism by Gordon H. Clark, which can be found here.

Logical Criticism of Textual Criticism

As it can be seen from this book, anyone with even a bit of knowledge on textual issues can see that there is a difference between the textual critical methodology as utilized by Westcort, Hort, Metzger, Aland etc, and the text-types (Byzantine, Alexandrian, Western etc) contributing to the variant readings of the texts.

[Btw, if anybody discovers any link whatsoever that I have missed out to the blog of that irrational, cowardly and reprobate anonymous idiot who calls himself Antithesis (fulfilling Jude 1:10 and 2 Peter 2:12), please inform me so I can delete those links.

But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. (Jude 1:10)

But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, (2 Peter 2:12)]

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Misquoted Verses: Rev. 3:20

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20)

In context:

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Rev. 3: 14-22)

This verse is the second most misquoted verse according to the poll, and most certainly it must be the most misquoted verse used during evangelism. Typically, it is used in a Gospel invitation near the end of an Evangelistic message or tract to ask people to "invite Christ into your heart". As it is normally presented in a well-known tract which does not need introduction:

Law 4: We need to personally RECEIVE Jesus Christ as our SAVIOR and LORD, then we can KNOW God personally and experience His LOVE.

...

We receive Christ by Personal Invitation

[Christ is speaking] "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him." - Revelation 3:20

The tract or message then uses this text to call sinners to ask Jesus into your heart. For Jesus is outside knocking on the door of the sinner's heart, and wants to dine with the person, if only the sinner would open his/her heart and allow Christ in, then s/he would experience the fullness of life promised by Jesus to all who believe in him (cf Jn. 10:10). The Gospel invitation is then given and the sinner is asked to respond to the Gospel so proclaimed. It all sounds reasonable, or is it?

First of all, this would NOT be an analysis/critique of the 4SL as commonly presented, but rather an analysis of the use of Rev. 3:20 as a proof-text for the Gospel invitation. Suffice it is to say here that the Apostles and most of Church History knows not this form of presenting the Gospel. [One example of the historical method of Gospel proclamation can be seen in evangelists such as Paul Washer as seen in a previous post here]

The context of Revelations 3:20 is the message of Jesus through the Holy Spirit to the Church of Laodicea. The Church of Laodicea was a a lukewarm church that was neither passionate for the Lord (hot) nor refreshing others (cold), and thus it incurred the wrath and judgment of God on her disgusting lukewarmness (v. 16). She thinks herself rich and prosperous (v. 17), which she most definitely is materially, but in spirituality she is wretched and poor. In a parody of her boasted condition, her Lord call her to get true riches, spiritual riches, as opposed to the outward material riches she has and boasts in.

It is in this context that Rev. 3:20 is situated. Rev. 3:20 therefore is addressed primarily to the Church of Laodicea to repent of her lukewarmness; that she by her lukewarmness has removed Christ her lord from her midst. Yet Christ IS the head of the Church (Eph. 5:23, Col. 1:18) and as such He is pleading with the wayward Church of Laodicea to return back to him and allow Him back into their midst, for their disgusting lukewarmness has chased Him away.

It can be seen immediately that there is a problem with applying this verse to the context of salvation and the Gospel call, not the least is which the contexts are different. The biblical context is towards people in the Visible Church as opposed to unbelievers, corporate as opposed to individual, and the call is to return back to their professed faith as opposed to calling unbelievers to repentance and faith. Such a major difference immediately invalidates such an application as committing a case of eisegesis. And pragmatism is no substitute for fidelity to the Word of God. There is no mitigating factor for misquoting the verse even if it somehow works, as if we have the power to convert anyone in the first place.

In fact, dare I say it, but that the application of this verse to evangelism actually demeans Christ. It reduces our sovereign Lord to be the helpless and often rejected beggar always so "meekly" knocking on everyone's doors, and most of them will reject Him anyway. It dethrones God and elevates Man, as if Man is the center of all things. Such an Arminian methodology compromises the person of Christ and the Godhead, and therefore dishonors the Lord we claim to worship.

With regards to the Gospel invitation, why can't we just use the method of the Apostles, of which we have apostolic warrant even? Let us look at Peter's Gospel invitation:

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:37-41)

Peter's Gospel invitation does not require him to dethrone God. Instead, the focus of the invitation points to what is known as duty-faith: Man's duty to repent of their sins and therefore turn to Christ. God through the Apostle Peter commands the Jewish sinners present at Pentecost that it is their duty to repent of their sins and thus save themselves from their crooked and perverse generation. As Jonathan Edwards preached, sinners are in the hand of an angry God whose wrath is kindled against them for their many sins. All sinners are obligated to repent of their sins, as fallen creatures owe to their righteous Creator His due. THIS is the biblical basis for the Gospel invitation, and we should proclaim the Creator's right over the sinful creature and of his duty to repent. Of course, this would mean that a more complete Gospel presentation would be needed, but whoever said that the Gospel was just the presentation of a few points based on disjointed verses which do not seem to cohere with each other?

So therefore, let us STOP using this verse out of context, and re-evaluate how we should be presenting the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And may God be pleased to bless us and use us for the furtherance of His Kingdom. Amen.

Sermon: Ten Indictments by Paul Washer

This is a message from Paul Washer that was preached Wednesday, October 22nd at the Revival Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Paul Washer delivers a urgent appeal to the Christians and Churches in North America (which is applicable to many in Singapore and around the world too) that many have been believing a false gospel and have false assurance of their salvation. He lists 10 indictments against the modern Church system. The first 9 that I can catch are:

  1. A practical denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.
  2. An ignorance of God.
  3. A failure to address man’s malady.
  4. Ignorance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  5. An ignorance of the doctrine of Regeneration.
  6. Ignorance regarding the nature of the Church.
  7. A lack of loving and compassionate Church discipline.
  8. A silence on Separation.
  9. Psychology and Sociology have replaced the Scriptures with regards to the family.

You may download the sermon here

Incidentally, it is heartening to hear of Paul Washer's own testimony of the growing Reformed resurgence. Though it has its flaws, it can be seen that God is moving in the midst of the death throes of Evangelicalism and creating a new movement to advance His Kingdom. This has given me new impetus to start something here even in Singapore. Let us sacrifice our all for the sake of His Kingdom, and count all things but loss for the expansion of the glorious Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. While it is still day, let us work, and may God be merciful to the Visible churches in Singapore and grant us a new reformation and revival — to turn the entire Christendom in this region upside down!

[HT: Word and Verse, Lane's blog]

P.S.: While I do not agree with his assessment of infant baptism, the rest of his sermon is good and a needed indictment against the many false gospels and false doctrines circulating in our times. Also, it is also my opinion that certain forms of Covenantal Theology are more "theological" than the Scriptures. When your view of Covenantal Theology makes you devalue the necessity to call upon children of believers to personally repent of their sins, and devalue the need to call upon them to examine their lives to see if they are truly of the faith (and not they can assume they are Christians because they are brought up and instructed in Covenant homes), then there is certainly something wrong somewhere. It does NOT need a person to be sufficiently conversant with the intricacies of Covenant Theology to realize that such teaching is wrong. In fact anyone with a good grasp of the biblical Gospel can do so, no matter how "logical" it may seem to be when developing the theme of the Covenant. In fact, may I suggest that if your view of the Covenant logically necessitates such a view of children in the Covenant, perhaps you may need to re-evaluate your theology of the Covenant to see whether it actually conforms to Scripture, or it has become an intellectual and "reformed" yet pseudo-biblical framework which you use to eisegete the texts of Scripture? For Scripture DOES NOT contradict itself. If it seemingly does, then one or many parts of your theology is not biblical.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sermon: Regeneration v. The Idolatry of Decisional 'Evangelism'

An excellent sermon by Paul Washer at the Deeper Conference, speaking about decisional "evangelism" and what really constitutes true regeneration and salvation at the Deeper Conference hosted by Way of the Master.

Especially liked the earlier part about contextualization, something that the Emerging leaning 'reformed' folks are always harping on. Also, the part critiquing the usage of the first law in the 4SL is something that we must hear. Just because our professed theology is evangelical does not give us the right to be anthropocentric and semi-pelagian in our praxis of evangelism.

[HT: Philosophy of Joel]

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The ESV Study Bible: Reformed and Covenantal

Over at Reformation Theology, the blog ministry of Monergism.com (an excellent resource site I may add), the ESV Study Bible has been reviewed and found to be both unashamedly Reformed and Covenantal. This is most certainly good news indeed, and just whets my appetite for it.

The Covenant of Works by Wayne Grudem

In line with the recent assault on the idea of the Covenant of Works, and the biblical idea that the Law has the innate potentiality to save (not that it can save or was meant to save), here is an article by Wayne Grudem from his Systematic Theology on the issue of the Covenant of Works

Excerpt:

Is the covenant of works still in force? In several important senses it is. First of all, Paul implies that perfect obedience to God’s laws, if it were possible, would lead to life (see Rom. 7:10; 10:5; Gal. 3:12). We should also notice that the punishment for this covenant is still in effect, for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). This implies that the covenant of works is still in force for every human being apart from Christ, even though no sinful human being can fulfill its provisions and gain blessing by it. Finally, we should note that Christ perfectly obeyed the covenant of works for us since he committed no sin (1 Peter 2:22) but completely obeyed God on our behalf (Rom. 5:18–19).

On the other hand, in certain senses, the covenant of works does not remain in force: (1) We no longer are faced with the specific command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (2) Since we all have a sinful nature (both Christians and non-Christians), we are not able to fulfill the provisions of the covenant of works on our own and receive its benefits—as this covenant applies to people directly, it only brings punishments. (3) For Christians, Christ has fulfilled the provisions of this covenant successfully once for all, and we gain the benefits of it not by actual obedience on our part but by trusting in the merits of Christ’s work. In fact, for Christians today to think of themselves as obligated to try to earn God’s favor by obedience would be to cut themselves off from the hope of salvation. “All who rely on works of the law are under a curse....Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law (Gal. 3:10–11). Christians have been freed from the covenant of works by virtue of Christ’s work and their inclusion in the new covenant, the covenant of grace.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Poll: Frequently misquoted verses

Frequently misquoted verses

Well, after a long time, it is time to close this poll. Interesting results, though it has a small sample size of 27. It seems that Mt. 7:1, the one on judging, seems to be thought the most misquoted verse in Scripture. I will be looking at all the verses and their proper interpretation in context. For now, here is an article I have penned nearly 4 years ago which shows the proper interpretation of Mt. 7:1 in context (among other verses). In summary, Mt. 7:1 is talking about hypocritical judgment and judgment of motives which are not expressed, and so therefore those who use this verse as a so-called "proof-text" against all forms of judgment do not know the Scriptures and are wrenching the verse out of context.

Weekly Meditations: Is. 14 (3)

The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and on my mountains trample him underfoot; and his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden from their shoulder.”

This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth,and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

In the year that King Ahaz died came this oracle:

Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you, that the rod that struck you is broken, for from the serpent's root will come forth an adder, and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent. And the firstborn of the poor will graze, and the needy lie down in safety; but I will kill your root with famine, and your remnant it will slay. Wail, O gate; cry out, O city; melt in fear, O Philistia, all of you!For smoke comes out of the north, and there is no straggler in his ranks. What will one answer the messengers of the nation? “The Lord has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.” (Is. 14: 24-32)

In verses 24-27, Isaiah reverts back to the prophetic proclamation of doom over Assyria, the immediate enemy of Judah. Swearing by His Name (v. 24), the Lord promised impending doom upon Assyria as He Himself will crush Assyria while they were invading Judah (v. 25), a fact realized in the elimination of the Assyrian army at the walls of Jerusalem (Is. 37:36), thus ending Assyria's oppression of His people as symbolized by the departing of the yoke from Judah. In verses 26 and 27, the Lord states that this is God's purpose and no one can stop God and His plans in this regard. God's purposes concerning the whole earth is that He will protect His people from their enemies, of which Assyria functions here in typology.

Verse 28 however starts off on a note about the death of the wicked 3rd king which Isaiah served under, King Ahaz. The Philistines could possibly have been rejoicing with the death of King Ahaz, as they had envisioned an even greater time of further victories against Judah as they have had in the time of King Ahaz (2 Chron. 28:18). God however pronounces judgment against them through the prophet Isaiah. Judah has been broken in the time of wicked King Ahaz, but the Philistines were asked not to rejoice as they will face an even deadlier foe (v. 29). Although God will protect the poor and the needy, yet God will send famine and sword against the Philistines (v. 30). Through the coming king Hezekiah, the Philistines will face the wrath of Almighty God in attacking His people, as King Hezekiah will struck down the Philistines even to their major city of Gaza (2 King. 18:8), and their fortifications will do them no good in averting this judgment of God. Philistia is thus called to wail as their judgment is near (v. 31). Far from it that they would grow in strength and numbers, they would face a strong army in the army of Judah under King Hezekiah who would crush them resoundingly.

The passage thus ends in a note of comfort to God's people, which also functions as a testimony of God's glory to the nations. To those from other nations who came to enquire about the happenings in Judah, Judah is to proclaim the strength of YHWH God on her behalf. Those of His people who are afflicted can find strength and refuge in Him and in the place where they can meet Him, the temple in the city of God, Zion. The power of God on the behalf of His people is thus to be proclaimed among the nations as to the greatness of the God of Israel. It is God that is to be glorified in this, not the tactical brilliance or military prowess of the Jews.

For us too therefore, we are to continue trusting God to work on our behalf in vindicating us from our enemies. God will do so in His own time, as He works all things together for our good (Rom. 8:28). Yet through our afflictions, we can find strength and refuge in the Lord who will aid us. And when the deliverance does come, we are to give glory to God for the good things He has done on our behalf, NOT to boast about our competence but about how God has saved us in this regard. Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

City Harvest's beauty pagent

City Harvest Hunks and Babes

Well, it seems that City Harvest Church, the most popular Word-faith prosperity "church" in Singapore is truly being consistent with their message of health and wealth. During their Asia Conference 2008 of which the speakers read off like a who's who of heretics, City Harvest has decided to organize a beauty pageant as well. In their own words,

Few would expect to see a droolworthy display of well-toned bods and gorgeous faces strutting their stuff in a church setting, but City Harvest Church put that traditional mindset to rest once and for all by holding a Manhunt and Beauty Pageant during their Emerge! Conference in 2007.

Yup, few would expect it. And while I am quite sure the event would be able to satisfy the fleshly lusts of Man for some time, I'm sure after some time this would be stale. A suggestion for Kong Hee and City Harvest: Maybe you may want to consider something more titillating, like having a 30 days of s-x campaign like what they do in the US by New Harvest Church, s-x advertisements or how about a s-x magazine that targets married, Christian women? After all, that would most definitely be "droolworthy". Oh yeah, I'm quite sure it would bring in the crowds too, lots of them.

[HT: Word and Verse]

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Law and Gospel: Galatians (3)

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal. 3:10-29)

As we continue on through Galatians, the role of the Law for New Covenant believers, in fact for believers of all ages, is here revealed to us.

The Law: It can theoretically save

Gal. 3:10 allows for the possibility of salvation by the Law if one obeys all of them perfectly, but it does not teach it as it is logically fallacious (Denial of the antecedent) to infer the inverse principle of Gal. 3:10 (ie p → q, therefore ~p → ~q?). Verse 21 however informs us that the failure of the Law was that it could not give life, otherwise the Law could otherwise suffice for righteousness and salvation, thus showing forth the theoretical potential of the Law to save

For more explicit teachings on this aspect of the Law however, the passage of Rom. 2:6-11 is referred to. As it is written:

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality (Rom. 2:6-11)

I have exposited on this relevant passage in a previous article[1], of which the main thrust of this passage have been summarized as follows:

Therefore, when Paul wrote verses 6-10, he is indeed affirming the viability of works in gaining salvation. He affirms with the Jews that truly if you want to be saved through works, then it is theoretically possible for such to be done (Gal. 3:21b). However, as he shows and will continue to show, what is demanded to earn salvation by works is perfect obedience to the Law, for a slight infraction would be as if the whole law was broken (Jas. 2:10). Since such is the case, no person can be justified by the law, for the Law condemns all who fail to meet up to its high standard (Gal. 3:10).

Thus, it can be seen that the Scriptures do teach that the Law have the potentiality for meriting salvation. In fact, the entirety of the concept of federal representation, of Christ functioning as a second Adam (cf Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:20-22), requires this concept as it is expressed in the Covenant of Works in order for the whole scheme of salvation to be theologically and logically coherent[2].

The Law: It brings judgment

Verse 10 of Galatians 3 pronounces a curse on the those who rely on the Law for their salvation, by pronouncing judgment on all who do not do all the works of the Law. Verse 12 states also that those who desire to practice the Law in the context of salvation and gaining righteousness would live according to its dictates for salvation, which is impossible given the impossibility of fallen Man to follow all the commandments perfectly. This is confirmed especially in passages like Rom. 2:12-3:18 as it depicts the reality of the total depravity of Man. Man therefore is incapable of following the Law and will be judged by whatever law they have, whether the one of the conscience or the one revealed by God (Rom. 2:12-16), and thereby shown to be under the judgment of God as we have all fallen short of God's perfect righteousness (Rom. 3:23)

The Law: It prepares the way for the Gospel

Paul continues on in verses 19-26 to reveal to us this aspect of the Law. The Law as stated in verse 24 was our guardian or tutor (NASB) until Christ came. In the ancient Roman culture, this guardian or tutor was an older person hired to bring up the child and teach the child various skills etc in order to prepare him for life as he grows up to be his father's heir. The Law therefore is said to function in such a way to prepare us for life as children of God, which is by faith and faith alone. In other words, life under God's free grace is made available in the Gospel for those whose hearts have been prepared for it by use of the Law as a tutor to prepare us for the Gospel. But what kind of preparation was the Law meant to give?

Verse 19 shows us that the law was added because of transgressions while awaiting the arrival of the Messiah of promise, while verse 22 in conjunction with verse 21 inform us that the Law imprisoned everything under sin so that the promise of eternal life which is by faith in Jesus Christ would be available to those who believe. This therefore shows us that the Law through placing everyone under the concept of sin and judgment prepares the way for the Gospel to save us who believe. Referencing back to Paul's own teaching on the subject in Rom. 7: 7-13

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure (Rom. 7:7-13)

The Law of God therefore produces in Paul the awareness of sin, for apart from the Law, Paul would have still sin but he would not have known sin as sin (Rom. 7:7), so that sin might be shown to be sin (Rom. 7:13). In figurative language, Paul describes this awareness of sin as sin coming seemingly alive when the Law was heard and understood (Rom. 7:9), and thus bringing knowledge of condemnation.

So therefore to the question of how the Law prepares the person for the Gospel, it can be seen especially in Rom. 7 that the Law does this by showing us our sinfulness and inability to save ourselves, thus precipitating our need for an external Savior to save us from our sins. It is thus in this way that the Law is needful for all of us who believe, and apart from going through the school of the Law, we cannot "graduate" to the inheritance of grace.

The Law of God: Against Antinomianism

As the imagery of the schoolmaster or tutor or guardian in Gal. 3:23-25 shows, the way to the inheritance of grace is by "graduating" from the school of the Law. If this is so, then the teaching of Antinomianism will be severely undermined here. Although the epistle to the Galatians mainly addresses Legalism in all its forms, yet in this passage especially, the usage of the Law undermines the claims of Antinomianism. For if the Law's usage is likened to a Roman tutor, then the nature of those who are saved are those who have been trained by the Law, thus the Law does train believers for the Gospel, not that it has no bearing whatsoever on the believer, and therefore this undermines the entire enterprise of Antinomianism in which system it has no place for the Law at all in the lives of believers.

That said, it may be argued that the Law functioning as a tutor ceases when the promised Messiah Jesus came, and therefore this function of the Law only applies to Old Testament Jews and not to New Testament Christians. Notwithstanding the obvious Dispensational error of dividing the people of God, this does not hold in light of Scripture in passages such as Rom. 7 in which Paul shows this function of the Law working out in his own personal life, which surely occurred after Jesus' death and resurrection. It is therefore true that the function of the Law as a tutor ceases when Jesus comes, but this just means that the New Covenant makes available the cessation because now the way for salvation is proclaimed and manifested. This reality therefore plays out in the heart of every individual who likes Paul therefore has the Law to prepare him for the Gospel of grace, which in turn ceases the guardianship of the Law. The alternative interpretation therefore is untenable in the light of Scripture, and the usage of the Law to prepare us who will believe for the Gospel is thus still valid.

[to be continued]


References:

[1] Daniel H. Chew, Review of John Piper’s sermon on Rom. 2:6-10 given on 6th Dec 1998 (Source)

[2] Daniel H. Chew, On the Covenant of Works (Source). Referencing Robert Reymond's excellent book on systematic theology, Reymond says that "if Christ's obedience has no meritorious value, neither has a penal substitution been made for our sins nor is there a preceptive righteousness available to be imputed to us' (p. 433)"

Song: Everlasting God

Interesting song.


Everlasting God
by Brenton Brown, Ken Riley © 2005 Thankyou Music

Guitar: 4 frets up

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord (repeat)

Pre-chorus:
Our God You reign forever
Our hope our strong deliverer

Chorus:
You are the everlasting God
the everlasting God
You do not faint, You won’t grow weary
You’re the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles

Please click here for chords.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Article: Having nothing but possessing everything

Here is an excellent article by my friend Mike Ratliff which is especially pertinent in this time of financial and economic turnoil. May it be used to comfort all of us even as we trust in God in this time of shaking.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The ESV Study Bible: A Review

The ESV Study Bible is out, and I am eagerly waiting to get a copy for myself. Unfortunately, it is not yet sold in Singapore, but it will come so I will wait for it. In the meantime, here is a good review of the Study Bible by Tim Challies.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The self-defeating position of those who deny the ability of language to convey truths perfectly

Over in the comments section at my post linking to my friend Mike Ratliff's post on there being only two religions in the World, a guy who calls himself Antithesis has attempted to promote the view of the imperfection of language to convey truth perfectly, in service to his neo-orthodox anthopo-theo-logy. Of course, the fact that he uses language to convey his point of view, and assume that his propositions are able to convey his thoughts perfectly, makes his position utterly self-defeating.

For if language is not perfectly able to convey the truth, then how much imperfection may there be in propositions made by anyone? Who or what determines how much imperfection can exist before there is a breakdown in communication between two people such that communication is impossible? And if communication may not be possible, then why bother trying at all, since you would have no certainty that the person you are talking to would be able to understand you at all? Of course, it may be objected that in general, communication is possible and in fact happens often between people, but such is an empirical observation which is of no comfort at all to the "language is unable to communicate truth perfectly" crowd. If p refers to the ability of language to communicate perfectly, and q refers to the actual empirical fact of language being largely able to communicate truth perfectly, then the propositions "If p, then q" is most definitely true. Therefore, the empirical fact of everyday language usage is congruent with the theory of the perfect communicative property of language, while the converse is not, as we shall see in the next paragraph.

It may be very tempting to state "If ~p, therefore ~q" but that is a logical fallacy. Rather, what can be seen is that the denial of p makes one skeptical about the possibility of q. Since language is not deemed to be able to communicate truths perfectly, therefore there can be no certainty whatsoever that people are able to communicate truths perfectly. For Antithesis and the neo-orthodox who think like him, the fact of q should disturb them, for either their theory is wrong, or that most people are deluded and wrong when they exude so much confidence that the many sentences they make in their entire lives could be understood at least most of the time.

An objection may be made that we must take into account the noetic effects of sin, but this has nothing whatsoever to do with the ability of language to communicate truths perfectly or not. This is unless one thinks that language is a thoroughly human invention instead of being first and foremost a gift of God at Creation and one which is not super-intended by God (ie to have a anthropocentric view of language instead of a theocentric view). Language however is first and foremost from God who is the foremost communicator to Man His creation. That God super-intends the development of language such that sin does not touch language (a non-moral instrument) but rather the moral ability of the moral creature to discover truth from language can be seen in the narrative of Scripture in which the ability of words to communicate truths perfectly was assumed throughout by God and all the people in both testaments, including the pagans. In fact, in a classic passage on the judgment of God upon His people for their sin, God said:

Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed (Is. 6:9-10)

In verse 10, God states that His judgment removes the people's ability to discern the Truth, but if that ability is present, they would thus be able to know the Truth and repent of their error. Furthermore, in Rom. 1:18-32, the whole idea present is that Man are darkened in their understanding (Rom. 1:21) and that caused them to sin even more. Therefore, the noetic effects of sin affects the sinner's ability to discern the truth, NOT upon the ability of the instrument, language, to convey truth perfectly.

This neo-orthodox position suffers also from a blatant contradiction of the doctrine of Scripture, more specifically the doctrine of the Verbal Plenary Inspiration of Scripture which I have proven to be biblical in a previous article . For if VPI is true, which it is, then the very words of Scripture must be inspired (Verbal Inspiration). However, if language cannot convey truth perfectly, then that would mean that the very words of Scripture is irrelevant; only the sense of them is important. It is inconceivable to think of each word of Scripture being at the same time inspired and yet at the same time not relevant to knowing the Truth. The two properties necessarily conflict and contradict each other because inspired words MUST be individually relevant and not irrelevant, and irrelevant words cannot be individually important, much less inspired. And so therefore, the attack on the ability of language to convey truth perfectly actually results in an attack on the Inspiration of Scripture.

It may be seen that Antithesis does not truly know or understand logic at all. There is a marked difference between sentences and propositions which he does not even seem to be aware of, which I have learned early on in my logic module class. Using the same words or phases does not necessarily mean that the same thing is being talked about and therefore would lead to different propositions. A cursory look at the known logical fallacies would show that the logical fallacy of equivocation (using one word to express two different things in different instances) and amphiboly (using one phrase or sentence to mean two different propositions) is built upon the fact that using the same word or sentence even does not mean that they are the same proposition. For otherwise how can they be called logical fallacies at all? Antithesis has here tripped himself up and shown himself to be totally ignorant of logic as seen in the following exchange:

Daniel: 3)You should go and be a lawyer; words seem to be mere putty to you. Question: In your opinion, is there ONE meaning for any particular sentence made by anyone?

Antithesis: Let’s consider the sentence, “Great!” in different contexts.

A boy got his exam results, and it is an A. He said, “Great!”

A boy got his trousers torn by his school bullies. He said, “Great!”

Do those two sentences - “Great!” - mean the same thing? But according to you, they both mean the same thing. One meaning, right?

First of all, Antithesis totally misunderstand the question that I was asking, which was about a particular statement; a single statement, NOT two similar statements used in two different contexts. His example however is flawed, for the two exclamations of "Great!" are not the same proposition. In language, it is typical to let the context feel in the meaning for you instead of stating a proper statement containing all the necessary information that is implicit within the context. For these two examples, the propositions made by these two boys are actually, after filling in information from the contexts:

1st boy: Great = I am happy to have accomplish this feat (of scoring an A)

2nd boy: Great = A terrible thing has happened to me (trousers torn by school bullies) (and I am being sarcastic about it)

This failure to distinguish between sentences/phrases and propositions is a very fundamental error in logical argumentation — one which is covered in basic logic class within the first few weeks, and therefore it should not be made by those who have studied logic in any degree whatsoever.

Last but not least, Antithesis shows us in the end that he does not understand basic logical argumentation at all; thus being the 'perfect' illustration for our case that God has indeed in punishment blinded the eyes of those who do not believe (Is. 6:9-10). Over at Joel's blog on a totally unrelated subject, Antithesis has commented, and I have posted one of my replies over here

Antithesis seems to have so much time in his hands to attempt to communicate his "truths". Of course, since language cannot perfectly convey truth, who exactly knows what he is actually saying? Maybe when he says "it does speak a lot concerning your reasoning ability", we should interpret it 'literally' as a compliment instead, as in "your reasoning ability" = subject, "it does speak" = verb, "a lot" = quantity, therefore we should interpret this phrase as Antithesis is praising Joel's great intellectual ability! Of course, since this whole thing is a silly discussion anyway, perhaps the adjective "silly" is meant to describe his tirades on my blog in wasting my time responding to his silly questions?

Applying the great Antithesis' neo-orthodox philosophy of language to his own writings truly has been so much fun. [Michel] Foucault would be proud...

To which Antithesis replied with this post which completely misses the point that the comment is an exercise in reductio ad absurdum.

In conclusion, it can be seen that the inability of language to convey truths is impractical and inconsistent with the praxis of those promoting it and it also undermines and contradicts the doctrine of Verbal Plenary Inspiration. Those who try to defend this self-defeating position are affirming the position in practice while denying it in theory — a sure recipe for disaster for them. Also, it would be a good idea for us to brush up on our logic so that we can spot all the many logical fallacies the Neo-Orthodox (and their cousins the Liberals and Emergents of which this is relevant too) commit over and over again especially in the field of epistemology.

P.S.: This would be my first and only serious post against the person who calls himself Antithesis. If not for the fact that this issue is an important issue, I would not have bothered to refute someone who is so full of himself and who refuses to submit himself to the authority of Scripture, but instead places himself and his reason (and probably "scholarship" too) in judgment over the Word of God.

texts

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Excerpt from Above all Earthly Powers

I have been reading through David Wells' book entitled Above all Earthly Powers: Christ in a Postmodern World, before going on to his latest book The Courage to be Protestant. I don't exactly take to the sociological analysis portions, but overall the book does presents its case of the collapse of Evangelicalism as it succumbs to the Zeitgeist or Spirit of the Age. Anyway, here is a good excerpt which describes the error of the entire seeker-sensitivity philosophy and methodology and also "seeker-sensitivity version 2", as seen by some in the rush to "contextualize" the Christian faith and to be "missional".

Many in the new seeker-sensitive experiment in "doing church" have seen only the surface habits of this postmodern world and have not really understood its Eros spirituality. Theirs is an experiment in tactics in which innumerable questions have been asked about the ways the Church can become successful in this culture and they are all prefaced by the word how. How do we get on the wavelength of Generation Xers? How do we do worship so that the transition from home to church, from mall to church, and from unbelief into a context of belief, is seamless and even unnoticed? How do we speak about Christian faith to those who only want techniques for survival in life? How can we be motivational for those who need a lift without burdening them? How can we say what we want to say in church when the audience will give us only a small slice of their attention, especially if we are not amusing? And what is emerging, as the evangelical Church continues to empty itself of theology, is that it now find that it is tapping, wittingly or not, into this broad cultural yearning for spirituality, and capitalizing on that disposition's inclination not to be religious. Evangelical spirituality without theology, that even sometimes despises theology, parallels almost exactly the broader cultural spirituality that is without religion. Evangelical faith without theology, without the structure and discipline of truth, is not Agape faith but it is much close to Eros spirituality.

This, however, is not understood. Church talks about "reaching" the culture turns, almost inevitably, into a discussion about tactics and methodology, not about worldviews. It is only about tactics and not about strategy. It is about seduction and not about truth, about success and not about confrontation. However, without strategy, the tactics inevitably fail; without truth, all of the arts of seduction which the churches are practicing sooner or later are seen to be the empty charade that they are; and because the emerging worldview is not being engaged, the Church has little it can really say. Indeed, one has to ask how much it actually wants to say. Biblical truth contradicts this cultural spirituality, and that contradiction is hard to bear. Biblical truth displaces it, refuses to allow it its operating assumptions, declares to it its bankruptcy. Here, indeed, is an anti-god, dressed up in the garb of authenticity, but whose world is a world of fiction. Is the evangelical Church faithful enough to explode the worldview of this new spiritual search? Is it brave enough to contradict what has wide cultural approval? The verdict may not finally be in but it seems quite apparent that while the culture is burning, the evangelical Church is fiddling precisely because it has decided it must be so like the culture to be successful.

[David F. Wells, Above all Earthly Powers: Christ in a Postmodern World (Eerdmans, Grand Rapid, MI, USA, 2005), 162-163]

Afflictions of the righteous

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. (Ps. 119:71)

A few days back, I had the privilege of meeting Joel Tay over dinner, a brother who truly is passionate about the things of God. Anyway, one of the thoughts that came to me as we talked and shared with each other was the idea of the affliction of the righteous. A common theme in our lives was the hand of God in using various trials and tribulations in our personal lives to mold us into what we now are. Whereas we were once carnal and proud, the Lord saw fit to crush us and bring us to even to the breaking point. He does this in order to wean us off the things of the world, and for His ultimate design — our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3a).

Meditating on this, although the experiences most definitely were not nice, but truly through adversity the Lord used them to bring us closer to Him and His Word. Through afflicting us, He drove us to cling to Him and Him alone as we draw closer to Him in His Word, so that we can claim the truth of Ps. 119:71 as realities in our lives.

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14: 21-22)

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12)

Suffering, trails and tribulations are indeed normal for those who truly desire to follow Christ. The Apostles themselves not only proclaim that it is normative for those who desire to enter the Kingdom of God, but that we as Christians should not find it strange to encounter trials and tribulations. The Christian life was never meant to be a life of roses, or health and wealth and kingdom-now dominion, and those who say or teach otherwise are liars.

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons ... For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:7-8; 11)

The affliction of the righteous is the hallmark of their status as children of God. God as our heavenly Father disciplines us children for our own good. Those who have not partaken of the Lord's discipline are not truly Christians, being illegitimate children not true sons and daughters of the King. This discipline will obviously be painful, but it would produce in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness as stated in Heb. 12:11.

As stated, God's goal in our lives has always been our sanctification, NOT how much we can do for Him in ministry, how many people we have reached for Christ, whether we have reached set ministry goals etc, much less how much money we can give to God for His work. After all, God IS the Sovereign One who does not need our help to do His work; our ministry unto Him is our privilege but we are not necessary and indispensable. The LORD who is able to raise up children of Abraham from inanimate stones (Mt. 3:9; Lk. 3:8) can raise up evangelists from anywhere and use anyone and anything He pleases to accomplish His will and does not need us to do His work, yet is is our humble privilege to join Him in His work. Similarly, the whole earth is owned by the Lord, so it is pathetically laughable to hear prosperity advocates talk about how we need to focus on money because then we can give more to God's work, as if God needs your money otherwise His plan will fail! Why should God need your puny $1 million donation when He owns all the wealth of the entire world and more?

We can see that God sends trials and tribulations to us who are His children. In fact, if God desires to use you as His instrument in ministry, the trials and tribulations you will experience would probably increase. God is pleased to use clean vessels (cf 2 Tim. 2:21) and to prepare the vessel, God may subject the vessel to severe trials and testing by fire. (Anybody interested in ministry now? You can start to experience more trials and persecution for starters)

In conclusion, therefore, let us not find it strange to face trials and tribulations when (not if) they come. As long as you are truly a Christian, the world will hate you (Jn. 15:18-19), and even professing Christians in the visible Church (not excluding pastors, elders and seminary professors) may attack you in the name of God (Jn. 16:2). Nevertheless, rejoice in your afflictions, for this is how you will be sanctified by God and to know Him more through His Word. God will be with you and strengthen you in your time of need. Truly there is no place more blessed than to be with the Savior even amidst severe trials than to be without God in the midst of prosperity and popular acclaim. May we lean to rest in Him, knowing that in all things He will work them for our good (cf Rom. 8:28). Amen.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Weekly Meditations: Is. 14 (2)

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God. I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’ All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb; but you are cast out, away from your grave, like a loathed branch, clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a dead body trampled underfoot. You will not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have slain your people.

“May the offspring of evildoers nevermore be named! Prepare slaughter for his sons because of the guilt of their fathers, lest they rise and possess the earth, and fill the face of the world with cities.”

“I will rise up against them,” declares the Lord of hosts, “and will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, descendants and posterity,” declares the Lord. “And I will make it a possession of the hedgehog, and pools of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” declares the Lord of hosts. (Is. 14:12-23)

The judgment of Babylon continues in this passage, and the last two verses in verses 22 and 23 restates God's judgment in rendering Babylon into a wasteland. This passage however is infused with an interesting element which is otherwise foreign to the judgment of Babylon — that of Satan and God's judgment of Satan.

Verse 12 starts off with a remark on the fall of the Day Star. The Day Star typically refers to Venus which can be seen brightly early in the morning or in the early evening from the earth, and is thus the most prominent of all the astral bodies from earth besides the Sun and the Moon. Stars typically are used to symbolize angels (cf Job 38:7; Rev. 12:4) or the child(ren) of God (cf Gen. 37:9; Num. 24:17). So on the one hand, the narrative continues to proclaim judgment on Babylon and the king of Babylon, and then introduces him as being akin to Satan, who is the Day Star, brighter than the other stars (angels). Both of their sins and fates in this passage parallel each other to a certain extent.

From verses 13 and 14, it can be seen that the Day Star desires to ascend to the heavens, above the stars of God, setting his throne over multitudes, and even be like the God the Most High. This at once describe the unbridled and proud ambition of the King of Babylon who desires through astrology and magic etc to reach heaven and control the future if possible (cf King Nebuchadnezzar's act of defiance in Dan. 3:1 in imitation of the image in the God-given vision in Dan. 2:31-35), and also his desire to conquer all nations and rule over them. And such pride and ruthless ambition mirrors that of Satan who similarly desires to be over all the angels and rule over the world which God creates, and desire to be equal to God Himself.

God's judgment on such pride and godless ambition will be swift. The King of Babylon will be destroyed and brought down to the grave to its lowest depths (v. 15), as Satan himself is thrown into hell. He will be punished worse than the others for his gross wickedness and pride (v. 20), thus becoming a mockery to those he had formerly conquered (v. 16-19). And their offspring would be cut off so that the wicked seed would not flourish in the land (v. 21). This is not talking about the physical offspring of the King of Babylon per se as much as the rulers and their heirs of the Babylonian throne, as judgment on the King of Babylon and her dynasty. Similarly, Satan will have seeming great success in ruling over the world and subjugating the wicked under him, but in the end his end would be the worst off, being thrown into the lake of fire and punished the most severely.

So therefore, through all this, let us not be fearful of the devices of the enemy. Their rage is for a while, but their doom is sure. As Luther mentioned in his great hymn A Mighty Fortress is Our God, "One little word shall fell him".

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him

(Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress is our God, Third stanza)

Law and Gospel: Galatians (2)

[continued from here, here, here and here]

The argument started in Gal. 2

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal. 2:11-21)

We have seen that the theme of this epistle the apostle Paul focused on was the Gospel, and he treated it very seriously. Whatever the error was, this error was a soul-damning error which distorts the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ into a false one which does not save. After spending an extended section establishing his apostolic credentials in Gal. 1:11- 2:10, Paul launches into a discussion of the Gospel with regards to the "works of the law", which will in fact continue throughout the next 3 chapters.

In Gal. 2:11-21, the passage starts with Paul taking upon himself to oppose Peter while Peter (or Cephas) was in Syrian Antioch. It must be noticed that this section flows immediately from the previous section in verse 9 in which Paul had named Peter as being a pillar in the church. This is especially remarkable since the original text did not consist of chapter and verse numberings, and paragraphing also, and therefore the whole thing could very well be one chunk of text. This shows us that although Paul uses Peter's name to assert the authenticity of his apostolic credentials, Paul was telling the Galatian Christins, and us, that the Truth of the Gospel is higher than the rank of apostleship. Truth is truth objectively apart from the actions of Apostles, much less Councils, Synods or individuals within the Church, in asserting or denying it.

Gal. 2:11 therefore starts off with Paul stating that Peter stands condemned, and the reason for this can be found in his action in being a hypocrite in living contrary to his convictions and the Truth. Although an apostle, Peter was still a man, and in this instance, he feared Man more than he feared God. Whereas previously he ate with the Gentile Christians, he withdrew and separated himself from eating with them when those who were "from the circumcision party" arrived in Syrian Antioch (v. 12). And such an action causes even Barnabas (who had formerly resisted the Judaists/ Judaizers cf Acts 15:2) as well as the Jewish Christians to follow suit (v. 13), resulting in Paul rebuking Peter publicly for his hypocrisy (v. 14).

This episode was used by Paul as an introduction to lead into the details of what was wrong among the Galatian Christians, and therefore we ought to examine what exactly happened here. It may be recalled that the historical context of the book of Galatians was after the time of the Jerusalem Council, and that the controversy then was over the issue of circumcision (cf Acts. 15:1). Coming over to the book of Galatians, we encouter again, it seems, the same group of false teachers who are described as the "circumcision party". Paul's rebuke to Peter in verse 14 shows us also that the action which the circumcision party requires is the focus on living "like a Jew", as seen in the withdrawal of Peter and the other Jewish Christians who separated from the Gentile Christians who were obviously not living like Jews.

Paul then followed this narrative experience of his with a exposition on the nature of the Gospel with regards to Christian living in light of the Law of Moses, which we have seen is the error of the Judaists in Acts 15 in insisting that believers are to follow the Law of Moses to be saved. Gal. 2:16 shows us that for both Jews and Gentiles, works of the Law can never justify us, but rather we are justified by having faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, those who depend on obeying the Law (νομον) (practicing the works of the Law) can never be justified. Verse 15 further informs us that this is applicable to Jews as well, who are similarly not saved by obeying the Law of God.

The logical argumentation continues in verse 21 — stating that if obeying the Law could constitute righteousness, then Christ had died in vain because we would all have merited eternal life by our own merits. Verse 17 refutes those who may think that removing the Law from meriting salvation would result in Christ giving us a license to sin, yet Paul in turn states that using the Law to merit salvation in fact IS sin (Gal. 2:18). So therefore, far from it to multiply sin, rejecting the Law as meritorious and embracing grace in living to God is the righteous thing to do. The godly life according to Paul therefore is not to be lived according to the works of the Law like what the circumcision party is adopting, but to be lived by faith in Christ and recknoning ourselves dead to sin (Gal. 2:19-20), echoing Paul's sentiments on this issue as seen in Rom. 6:1-2.

The Problem in Galatia

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? (Gal. 3:1-4)

The problem that exists among the churches in Galatia is now revealed. Paul in this passage rebuked the foolish Galatian Christians who it seems are now adding the Jewish works of the Law to their faith, as seen in Gal. 3:3. The deluded Galatian Christians have started off their Christian walk in faith, but now they are turning to the works of the Law to "perfect" their Christian walk.

Here, we can start to see a difference between the 'doctrine' of the Judaists in Acts 15 and the false teachers in Galatians, who are formally given the title of Judaizers. Whether through mutation of their doctrine or that their objection was not exhaustively presented at the Jerusalem Council, the false doctrine of the Judaizers which was believed by the Galatian Christians was a salvation by faith plus works of the Law, not merely doing works of the Law without the necessity of having faith (salvation by works). Gal. 2:18 is thus clearer when seen in this light, and shows us why adding of works of the Law as being necessary for salvation is so detrimental to the Gospel, as it adds transgressions to the person instead of removing it.

Faith and works of the law are thenceforth coupled together as a thesis-antithesis pair in Paul's argumentation, thus setting them as opposite polarities which opposites of each other. Such was already implicitly stated in Gal. 2:16, and is found in Gal. 3:5 even. Gal. 3:12a however makes it very explicit that the law is NOT of faith, and therefore it is impossible for there to have law and faith together, as the presence of law would automatically removes faith, and thus the two could not coexist as instruments of salvation.

Since Law and Faith are stated by Paul to be antithetical to each other, why is the Law given such a prominent position in the Old Covenant in the first place? What is the purpose of the Law, and what exactly is its function for true believers under this New Covenant of Grace?

[to be continued]