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Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Author of Hebrews

ms2648 Hebrews 4:8I have recently begun preaching a series through the book of Hebrews.  This is not an easy undertaking, as I recognize that Hebrews is considered one of the most difficult books in the New Testament.  However, it is the direction toward which I felt God leading me.  The challenge of it will keep me on my toes, as I desire to be faithful to the message that God has given to His people.  It is a difficult book, but is is also an amazing book.  Along with the difficult passages to interpret, it also contains some of the clearest passages in Scripture on God’s preservation of His people, and on the high priestly ministry of Christ.

As I began the study, I reviewed and considered my opinion regarding the human author of Hebrews.  I was prepared to spend 15 or so minutes discussing possible authors, and the reason for my own thoughts on the subject.  However, as I continued studying the issue, I came to a completely different conclusion.

As you read each of the epistles, they begin with a greeting from the human author (recognizing, of course, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit resting squarely underneath each).  For example:

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, -Romans 1:1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. -James 1:1

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ: -II Peter 1:1

The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. -III John 1:1

Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called. -Jude 1:1

Get the picture? It’s the same for each of these epistles (and most of the others). But, when we come to the epistle to the Hebrews, the pattern seems to be different:

God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

-Hebrews 1:1-2

Why would God see fit to change the format from other epistles, and, on top of that, not clearly indicate from whose pen these words flowed? I believe the answer is very simple: the format is the same!

The truth is that nothing in God’s Word is done arbitrarily. Many times we may not understand God’s reason for the way something is expressed, but we must come to this Book with the presupposition that it has very definite purpose and meaning. The introduction to the book of Hebrews is no different. In this case, I believe that God is simply emphasizing the fact that He wrote the book! The message is spoken clearly in the first few lines. It is simply that God hath spoken by His Son. The theme is then developed that He is better than the angels, and as such, we must pay attention to His Word. All of the warnings in this book flow from that truth. All of the exhortations given are true because He hath spoken by His Son.

Therefore, we see that the familiar pattern for the epistles has not changed.  God simply emphasizes divine authorship in a special way with the opening phrases of this wonderful letter.

When I came to this realization, I put aside my opinions concerning the human author.  I still have an opinion, but I no longer think it matters!  I was ready to argue it, and perhaps I still will, but it is not the issue to focus on.  Rather, let us remember that God wrote the book, and it is for this reason—not the supposed authorship of Paul, or Apollos, or Luke, or whoever else you may think penned it—that we must read it, study it, memorize it, mediate on it, and heed it.  May God illumine us with His Holy Spirit to understand His word and obey it!

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2013 in Bible Study, Hebrews, Inspiration

 

Is God’s Call Sincere?

Those who reject the doctrines of grace often have misunderstandings which lead to an improper understanding of God’s work in salvation. I know because I have had the same misunderstandings, and asked the same questions! It was not until I allowed God’s Word to speak for itself that the answers to the questions became clear—or I realized that the answers to some questions are part of the secret things of God and will not be revealed on this side of glory. Recently, I was posed with one such question:
Is God’s call to repent sincere to those who He knows cannot heed such calls?

I would respond with an equally important question: Is God’s call to holiness and obedience of the law sincere to those who He knows cannot heed such calls?

Of course it is sincere. And there will never be a sinner who desires to repent and come to Christ who finds himself unable to do so–because without God’s grace in the first place, he has no desire to repent.

This is a common straw-man, based on a misunderstanding of what spiritual death means. Man is dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). Those who disobey God’s command do so because that is what they desire due to their nature. The truth is that God does not have to force any man to remain in his sins and refuse Christ. The opposite is true: without the drawing of the Father, man will continue to refuse (John 6:37-44).

This very question is what Paul anticipated in Romans 9 when he said, What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. Is God unrighteous and unjust because He has chosen to mercy some and not others? No, He has done what He will for His eternal purpose. And again in verse 19: Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? In other words, “Since God has not enabled an individual to respond in faith and repentance, is He not unjust since He has commanded something that the individual cannot do?” Paul’s response is to rebuke us for replying against God.

It is not for us to reason how it works together. We must recognize that we serve a holy, righteous, just God, and that He will do what is best.

Soli Deo Gloria.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2013 in Doctrines of Grace

 

The Altar Call

The invitation/altar call as it is practiced in many Baptist churches is a relatively modern invention, beginning in the revivals of Charles Finney, who was heretical in a number of areas. This is not a biblically mandated practice. It is not clever emotional and psychological appeals we need, but the work of the Holy Spirit in hearts! Calling men to trust Christ does not include physical activity. The gospel call is not “Come forward to this old-fashioned altar”, but “Cast your soul at the mercy of Christ!”

Often, the altar call produces false professions of Christ. How many people have you spoken to that claim to have come forward at a meeting sometime who do not display the fruits of righteousness? How many of those are baptized and added to the church? It is not an altar call that we need, but a plea for men to put their trust in Christ, and faith in the Holy Spirit to do that work! As God works, His Word will not return void, and men will be saved. When they are saved, it will be evident by their testimony, and their obedience will cause them to present themselves for baptism.

Spurgeon said the following regarding this system:
“Men will say, ‘I should like to go to the inquiry room.’ I dare say you would, but we are not willing to pander to popular superstition. We fear that in those rooms men are warmed into a fictitious confidence. Very few of the supposed converts of inquiry rooms turn out well.
“Go to your God at once, even where you are now. Cast yourself on Christ, at once, ere you stir an inch!”

May God give us a passion to plea for souls, and trust Him to do the work of converting them!

 

Brief Commentary on Ephesians 2:1-7

Ephesians 2: The chapter begins, “You who WERE DEAD in trespasses and sins.” What does dead mean? Simply a sentence of death? God told Adam that he would die IN THE DAY that he ate of the tree. Did God mean what He said? Notice what the death is – not you WILL be dead BECAUSE OF your sins, but you WERE dead IN trespasses and sins. This is speaking of a spiritual REALITY, not simply a physical picture. Just as verse 6 tells us that we ARE sitting in heavenly places WITH Christ – not simply a future promise, but a present spiritual reality, even though it is not yet physical (that will be in the ages to come!).

What is the fruit of this deadness IN sin, i.e. spiritual death?

Verse 2 – “ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air.” Walking according to the world is not what CAUSES that death (as you are trying to make it say), but the result of the death that we were already partakers of. BECAUSE we were dead in sin, we walked according to the way of life of the world system. We walked according to the devil, BECAUSE of who we already were – dead in sin. We already were children of disobedience – we had no desire to do that which is truly pleasing to God (don’t confuse morality/conscience with true spirituality).

Verse 3 – “we all had our [behavior] in times past in the lusts of our flesh” – that is, whatever our flesh wanted, in which, according to Paul, dwells NO good thing “”fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind;” – “desires” could be translated “will”. In other words, our will was bent toward the flesh and our understanding, which is devoid of any spiritual understanding prior to regeneration. That’s the problem with our will – yes, it is free to do whatever is in our nature. And it did – not that which is pleasing to God, but that which is according to the world, the devil, and our own flesh.

“and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” – our NATURE (inborn quality, not just a “habit” that we grown into) was children of wrath. The word “children” used here emphasizes natural birth. That is we were born into wrath; it is our nature, what we deserve. That paints a bleak picture. We can’t escape that wrath ourselves, by any good we try to do, or by any decision we make, because we don’t desire those good decisions to begin with.

“But God” – what wonderful words! “who is rich in mercy” – mercy is not just “withholding the punishment I deserve”, which is the definition commonly given, but is something active which God bestows which we are unworthy of. Most of the OT uses of the word “mercy” are a word which is translated in the ESV “steadfast love”. From my study of the word, that’s a beautiful translation, and very apt for the word. NT usage is not precisely the same, but very similar in many ways. Notice that, even here, the mercy is connected with His love: “for His great love wherewith He loved us” – A side note here: who is “us”? It is a pronoun used often throughout the epistles, and very important!

What did that great love cause Him to do? “Even when we were DEAD in sins” – nothing we could do about it, not even “belief” would change that condition, just as Lazarus could not raise himself from the dead!

“hath quickened us together with Christ AND hath raised us up together” – What is quickening? Is it merely the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us? No. That may be involved, but that’s really a different aspect of salvation, directly connected to justification. Yes, they’re related topics, but mixing them up only leads to confusion (look at how the Roman Catholics have made such a mess of salvation by mixing up justification and sanctification – which are also related, but must be properly understood!).

The phrase, “hath quickened us together with” is actually one word in the Greek. A clear reference is being made here to the resurrection of Christ. What was Christ resurrected from? The DEAD! Was He merely under a sentence of death? Did He merely swoon in the grave and had to be made alive? That’s nonsense! The clear meaning of the word is that LIFE was imparted to something that was DEAD! We were quickened and raised up “together with” Christ! This is not a death sentence that was torn up and nailed to the cross (although yes, that also happened according to Colossians 2!) – this is a dead corpse having life breathed into it! As a result of this life that has been given, we are now SEATED WITH Christ in the heavenlies – that’s not just a promise of what is to come, but a present spiritual reality (just as spiritual death was a reality before quickening), as proof that in the ages to come we will experience the exceeding riches of his grace that has been extended to US (there’s that pronoun again!).

A very apt OT illustration of this truth is found in Ezekiel 37. It is argued that this has nothing to do with salvation, and is only dealing with a physical restoration of Israel to the land. What nonsense. If that is the explanation of OT prophecy, it is very shallow. Note verses 12-14 of that chapter: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your GRAVES, and CAUSE you to come up OUT of your GRAVES, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD when I have OPENED your GRAVES, O MY PEOPLE, and brought you up out of your GRAVES, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live…” That’s far deeper than simple restoration to a physical land. That’s a spiritual reality! If you read Ezekiel without seeing Christ in the book, it will be very dry and meaningless. If you read this book without NT interpretation, you will completely misunderstand the book! It is an illustration of God breathing His spirit into dead bones, causing them to live! That is exactly what He did for me.

Praise His holy name! His thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts – this is an impossible work without a supernatural Saviour!