Abraham: From a Pagan to a Patriarch type of Christ

              Abraham is commanded by God in Genesis 22 to sacrifice Isaac who is the promised son Abraham had long been waiting for.  Elwell said, “Abraham stands in the unique position of being the father of a nation and the father of all believers.”[1]  Biblical students should recognize that the entire Bible is the history of salvation and this story is part of God’s unified plan to restore all things in Christ.  Davis calls this story, “the spectacle of divine providence”.[2]  Along the way you see promises, partial fulfillments, and complete fulfillments of those promises.  These things point to Christ and this literal story is one of the types and shadows of the future reality of what Jesus will do.[3]

It is recorded that Abraham came from and was himself a pagan. Joshua 24:2-3 NKJV

(2) And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. (3) Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.

Joshua is telling the people that “Your fathers” which includes Abram was a pagan. Joshua confirms the “Your Father” statement in verse 3 when he again uses the term for Abraham “Then I took your father Abraham”. God took the pagan Abram and made him the prophet Abraham.

Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:2-4 helps us to understand that Abraham is included as a “father” which should clarify the reality that Abram was a pagan:

“Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, “Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.” Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.”

Stephen tells us that God called Abraham before he dwelt in Haran.  Stephen refers to him as a “father” So, this is being consistent with Joshua calling the fathers pagan (serving other gods). God called Abram around the age of 70 according to theologian Adam Clarke and at 75 his father died and he moved from Haran. It looks like despite being pagan the family believed Abram regarding the move and that they should make the 700 mile journey from Ur to Haran. Genesis 11:31 records Abrams father Terah led the way to Haran and once dead God led Abram outside of the pagan influence of his father and into true blessing found only in the God of all creation.

Regardless of God saving Abraham; he was still a sinner. He was not always doing the right thing. He and his wife tried to fulfill God’s plan for them on their own. God promised a child and they made up a plan to have a child on their own.  There is a big difference between a miraculous son and a son as a result of human planning.  God is able to open the dead womb’s of women such as Hannah in 1 Samuel.  God provides these kinds of miracles to reveal truth.  Beale said Abraham being blessed was God “renewing” the “human community” in the image of God with “regenerated progeny who also reflect God’s image and shine out its luminosity to others…”[4]  Sarah being old and unable to have a child represents the depravity of man but also the virgin birth of Christ later in history.  Believing that they should force the issue of God’s promise of a son is a lack of faith in Him and resulted in further sin because Ishmael is the father of an unbelieving people.

Abraham is like all sinful people in that he has moments of failure and success.  God proves Himself to always be faithful but men do not.  Abraham demonstrates the presence of his faith by his actions of being obedient to God.  It seems clear he recognized God’s faithfulness by his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Abraham believed that God would provide a different sacrifice which He did.  Again this event is a type and shadow of the reality that was to come.  Jesus became the ultimate and final sacrifice which is the fulfillment of Genesis 3.  The ram provided in place of Isaac prefigured the sacrifice of Christ.[5]

Bibliography

Beale, G.K. A New Testament Biblical Theology The Unforlding of the Old Testament in the New. Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 2011.

Davis, John J. Paradise to Prison. Salem: Sheffield Publishing Company, 1998.

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

Ross, Allen P. Creation and Blessing, A guide to the study and Exposition of Genesis. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998.

Vos, Gerhardus. Biblical Theology Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1954.


[1] (Elwell 2001, 19)

[2] (Davis 1998, 155)

[3] (Vos 1954)

[4] (Beale 2011, 53)

[5] (Ross 1998)

Are we predestined to know Christ?

Man’s will is not neutral. The Armenian view of “free will” seems to suggest that man’s will is evil yet somehow in a state of suspension; that somewhere along the way of life, a person is able to choose or reject Christ. This seems to swing on the “emotion” of “interest”. However, the Bible tells us that the things we do come out of the desire of our heart and we know that since the fall, man’s desire is evil. Our very core is totally corrupted and unable to come to Christ on our own. The fountain feeding the heart is evil and if we compare man to a tree we can say that tree cannot rise above the fountain which feeds it. Bottom line is that man is not a sinner because he chooses to sin. Man is a sinner because he IS a sinner; we are born evil. We are in total bondage to sin and the only way to change is for God to make the change in us. He, utilizing His Sovereign will, must change our will. We must be born again “before” being able to choose God. God must change the “will” or “desire” of the person. So, man’s own will is not the source of his hope. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is our only hope. We must be renewed in the entirety of our character to be able to choose Him. We require a new heart in order to have faith, repent, and trust in Christ. The only way to produce good fruit is to be grounded in the true Fountain of Life; which is Christ Jesus. God is the only one capable of doing that. Our will cannot be transplanted by our own power. Like a leopard we cannot change our spots. Our character is revealed by our will and outside of Christ it is entirely evil. So, it can only exercise the liberty to be what it already is. God must act on the behalf of the sinner by creating a clean heart and renew a right spirit within the person. All the glory for this renewal goes to God and that is why I accept the Calvinistic/Augustine/Reformed view. Our Salvation belongs to Him alone!  

I’m doing what I hate

I need my fix or do I??

1 Peter 5:8, 2 Corinthians 11:3, ESV, Holy Spirit, overcoming sin, Paul, Romans 7:15, Sin

As a Christian, I have God-given guilt and shame when I sin. I hate it that I do not glorify God with everything I do. At the same time, when I sin, I do it with full knowledge I am sinning. That is rebellion against my LORD! I want to stop sinning. So, what does the Bible say about it?

1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” As I read this, I notice that I need to be clear-headed. It is far to difficult to try and solve problems if my anxiety level is too high or if I am actually high on some type of substance. The only way to be watchful of problems is to be calm and clear minded.

2 Cor. 11:3 says, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” This means my thoughts can be led astray by others. In this case it was Satan who deceived Eve but lets face it we have friends and playgrounds that lead us astray. I can also be my worst enemy because my flesh loves sin even though my spirit hates it.

So, I need to be watchful of my own weaknesses. Lack of self-control is a big one. 1 Cor. 7:5 says, “…so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” Examining myself, as well as the process of sin, is a must. James 1:14 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Desire comes before temptation, and these things come before sin. I cannot be tempted by something that I do not first desire inwardly. So, it is not simply Satan who is my adversary, but also the sin nature that I was born with.

Desire exists when something is lacking. This sense of lack can be real or perceived. My real lack of belief that God will always provide is the beginning of the sin process. When I think I lack something, I am failing to believe in the security of God’s provision of all things. From my sense of lack, I begin a desire to take control of the real or perceived lack. Now is when temptation raises its ugly head and it pushes me to seek out a ‘fix’ for the issue. When I fail to resist all these things, sin takes hold and I act on the ‘fix’ I have devised for myself.

If I want to fight sin, I have to fight the desires of my natural self and that of Satan. The Holy Spirit was given to the Christian by Christ to create new desires within my heart. I must believe God will and is doing this good work in me. He is my security and safety where I lack nothing! Temptation dies on the vine because the desires given by the Holy Spirit will produce fruit, as I focus on God instead of myself. At all times, I must embrace the working of the Holy Spirit in me who is applying the salvation Jesus produced by His work.

Although I am a sinner, I am a sinner saved by grace. God is the author and finisher of my salvation and has given me the Holy Spirit to overcome all things. If I am a Christian, I will be able to overcome sin more and more, but not totally due to the remnant of my sin nature. I am a new creation in Jesus Christ and gladly rely on the work of God in me to overcome. My responsibility is to continuously examine myself and marinate myself in the Word of God humbly recognizing God provided the victory.

If you are like me, we have the liberty to live in unity with God because of Jesus and should want nothing more than to glorify God in all we do. Lets stay sober minded and watchful regarding our desires. Embrace God’s hatred of sin and apply it in our lives through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Problem of Evil

The Bible tells us “God works all things for good” (Rom. 8:28) to show His glory and His mercy, by saving people from their sin (Rom. 9).” The Bible teaches that God permitted moral evil, the resulting natural evil, and chooses to restore some people back to himself (Rom. 8:22,23).   This is why bad things happen in this world.  People don’t agree on the origin or definition of evil and formulate arguments to articulate their views.  So the “problem of evil” becomes one of trying to understand it properly and consistently.  Moral evil stems from Adam and Eve’s original violation of God’s law. The result is every generation from them are born with the nature to sin in their actions but are also conceived in sin.  Examples of moral evil would be such things like murder and rape (Ex. 20).  Natural evil actions happen as a process of the functioning of being born with a sin nature.  So, natural evil is a consequence of nature such as diseases or natural disasters (Rom. 8: 22-23).

The problem of evil should be important to all people because it grounds us in our understanding of God and of ourselves. The problem of evil has always been important to theologians, philosophers, and various religions because they generally are in place to help people understand evil.  However, each person should investigate for themselves and be able to defend their view based on the Bible. A term to know is “theodicy”. It your explanation of the problem of evil. It is an attempt to justify the ways of God to man.  Another way to put it is theodicies present man’s argument for God’s purpose of evil.

The humanistic/rationalistic theodicy promoted by Gottfried Leibniz is that God has reasons for what He does but that the reasons are necessary laws.  He said God is obligated to create the best possible world which must include moral and physical good and evil.  This view is faulty because it requires God to create subject to necessary laws outside His control and reduces God to being understandable through our own reasoning.  However, God is actually inscrutable (Isaiah 55:8,9).

The Free-will theodicy and the soul-building theodicy are two views used in the modified rationalistic theology.  They have common points in their arguments like God is not obligated to create any world.  He is supreme in His own existence. He chooses to do anything He reasons to be fitting for Himself but not by necessary laws.  Also that there is no best possible world and God was free to create or not out of an infinite number of possible worlds.  Some of those possible worlds by their nature consisted of evil.  I see the possible evil world’s argument of free-will theodicy as a fatal flaw.  Theodicy has a basic ethic in that good and evil are determined on the basis of the consequence of the act.  The fault here is that though evil may exist in another possible world that God could have created makes man a creator of evil in ours.  If the best possible world God could choose was one in which man would sin, then it appears God is subordinate to things external to Himself such as man’s actual acts of sin.  This presumes an extraordinary ability by mankind to ultimately choose the world God would create, so man is the Creator and not God. Regarding the soul-building theodicy John Hick suggests God created imperfect beings in need of moral development.  The fault of this theodicy contradicts Matt. 25:46 by teaching universal salvation.  The theodicies discussed seem to be internally consistent with faulty presuppositions.  They need to be more consistent with the Word of God.  That is because God is self-existent (John 5:26), eternal (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 48:14), unchanging (Ps. 102:25-27), omniscient (1 John 3:20), and omnipotent (Luke 1:37).

You should always recognize God created for His pleasure, not man’s.  God is unsearchable, His numerous attributes are manifested in His creation and creation glorifies Him through those attributes.  His attribute of justice is manifested by reward and punishment (Rom. 8: 18), His mercy and grace through a gift of His righteousness, received by someone who doesn’t deserve it.  Jesus was innocent of evil, lowered Himself to the point of death at the hand of His creation.  He did this in order to protect those He chooses from His Holy hatred of evil and eventual eradication of it.   We attack God by not believing this simple truth which is part of the moral evil behind our motivations to violate His standards.  Adam’s act of moral evil resulted in relational alienation from God for everyone.  God’s allowing evil may offend men but it is never right to blame God for it.  His intentions for it are good as man willfully commits evil. I am certain without it mankind could not know the true love of God. Despite our evil God became flesh to be brutalized on a cross as payment for the sin we have committed. My positions internal consistency depends on God; just as my relationship with Him depends on His unsearchable and merciful consistency (Rom 8:28).

Inspiration of the Bible

            In His work of inspiration the Holy Spirit did not obliterate the personality, vocabulary, or idiosyncrasies of the human person who was physically writing down Scripture.  God used all of those things to provide His special revelation to mankind.  A simple example of this would be how an author might use a pen to write down a letter to a loved one.  No doubt God is the ultimate author of Scripture and He used human authors to write it down.  Any human author must do a few things.  The writer must first have a purpose for the letter and choose a pen to write with.  The purpose does not change in the letter but the way it is described will.  The pen itself may look different.  The ink may be black, red, blue, purple, or green for example.  The tip of the pen may be fine or bold in how it lays down the ink.  The pen is simply the tool or instrument the author uses to write with.  Depending on the pen things seem different.  Flaws the pen has may show through at times like ink blots but the authors intended message is never diminished.  In that instance the reader should recognize that the pen is fallible but the author was not. In terms of Scripture God may well be proving that very thing as He used fallible men to write.  Obviously their faults are perfectly used by a perfect God to provide His intended message.  Readers of Scripture need to know that they should not rely on the man but on the God who is ultimately writing the 66 books of the Bible. Believers should not follow David, Paul, Peter, or anyone else used to write Scripture.  Believers follow the God who used those men as instruments in his mighty hand!

            God used various men as instruments to write Scripture with the purpose of revealing Himself more specifically and the redemptive history of mankind.  God is the one who makes 2 Timothy 3:16 and every other passage true.  He used a combination of divine and human elements as He inspired the human instruments of His revelation (Erickson, p. 175) It is God who breathed out the message to the chosen men who then by God’s inspiration used their own characteristics to write the information down.

 By the providence of God Paul was educated by Gamaliel who was highly trained in the law of God.  The training Paul had was used by God to not only help him recognize the importance of the law but also to eventually help him know the law is not what saves a person from the wrath of God.  Paul’s zeal to keep the law of God was turned into a zeal to also preach the grace of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  His passion oozes into the writings as he called himself a slave of Christ in Romans chapter 1.  His education helped him be a great apologist for the faith as he contended against the pagan gods of Athens in Acts 17:23.  He knew the “unknown God” that they didn’t.  They had many gods and wanted to make sure they didn’t offend any of them so they made sure to include the God they might not know yet. Paul had the education to walk them through their depravity and show them the one and only God that saves people from sin.

It is also noticed that these writers are shown asking for forgiveness of sin such as David in Psalm 51.  The great men are also shown to be nothing as they fail to live up to their faith such as Peter.  Peter denied Christ three times after Jesus was taken into custody.  If a person was to create a religion for the sake of a religion it would be unwise to make the trusted writers look like weaklings.  Paul seems to lack understanding if he had baptized more than a couple people.  God does not want the readers focused on the human writer but on His own redemptive work.  Paul was used by God to show this in 1 Cor. 1:13-16.  A readers focus should not be on the work of the Apostle because it was Jesus who completed the law like no human being could.  The Holy Spirit was provided to apply that work to the life of people which included the human authors of the books.  In terms of redemptive history, the human beings are insignificant but their characteristics are helpful in understanding the depraved weakness of mankind as a whole.

References

Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.

Rogland, Robert. Romans a Study Manual. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1988.

Ryrie, Charles. Basic Theology. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999.

Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1948.

A Summary of My Beliefs

I confess belief in the following:

The Bible: Is Gods inspired, without error, and totally trustworthy. There is no other source of God’’s special revelation to mankind. We must believe and obey what it teaches.

God:  There is only one true and living God who is a spirit that cannot be seen by man.  He is personal and beyond comprehension.  God is perfectly holy, just, loving, merciful, self-sufficient and not bound by space and time.  There are three “person” in the Godhead who are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The persons of the Trinity are not subordinate to one another in their essential being.  However in the logical order of existence the Father is first, the Son second, and the Holy Spirit third.  The Father generates the Son (Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5), and the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and Son (Rom 8:9; Jn. 15:26; 16:7).  This order reflects itself in the work of redemption. He has attributes that are not common to any creature such as being Omnipresent.  Which is to say present at all times in every point of space with His whole being.  He is Omniscient which is He knows all things. God is Omnipotent which is He is all powerful. He is without passions in the sense of ebbing and flowing feelings.  He is fixed, peaceful, calm, and unchangeable. God is incomprehensible in that he cannot be completely or exhaustively known. God does have characteristics granted to creatures; especially his moral attributes.

Creation: All three members of the Trinity were active in creation which happened in literal, sequential, 24-hour days. God created all things out of nothing and is sovereign over all thing in the heavens and the earth.  God is the source of all things.  He is active in His creation by sustaining and governing all things according to His eternal holy will.  His purposes, works, and commands are holy. God is worthy of worship from mankind.  Because man is made in the image of God all human life is valuable from conception. Creation manifests Gods glory. 

Mankind and Sin:  Despite Gods sovereignty over all things he does not excuse human responsibility. God has foreordained everything that comes to pass, yet God is not the author of sin.  Man’s will is not forced and secondary causes are real.  Due to His sovereignty God’s foreordination of all things is not an act of carrying out whatever he foresees will happen anyway. The Godhead agreed to make man in their image.  God the Father planned all things.  God the Son produced the plan and God the Holy Spirit applies the work of the Son to mankind. Because Adam the first man sinned all mankind is corrupt by nature.  From Adam godly unity in mans spirit died and all his generations are born dead in their spirit to the things of God.  This means mankind is dead in sin and subject to the holy wrath of God.  God provided a covenant of grace that sinners can be regenerated, receive forgiveness of sin and have eternal life through faith in Jesus the Christ.  Faith in this Savior has saved people in all ages both Old and New Testament times.  God has predestined some to eternal life and by grace changes their nature through regeneration of their spirit.  He permits the rest to remain in their lost condition living out their natural will to rebel (Rom 9:22-23; Mt. 24:22; Mk. 13:27; Rom. 11:7; II Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; I Peter 1:1; Acts 13:48; Jn. 6:37; 10:27-29; 6:39, 44, 65; 17:6,9).

God the Son:  The Son by His own will submitted to the plan of the Father to take upon himself a human body and a suitable nature that was able to be tempted.  As prophesied in Scripture He was born in the lineage of king David which goes back to Adam.  Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the human virgin Mary. Like no other, Jesus lived a sinless life and purposefully died on the cross at the hands of sinners in order to pay the penalty for sin which is death.  Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of God on all sin and is able to unite sinners to God by faith.  Jesus died, was buried, and is risen alive in bodily form.  He ascended bodily into heaven and currently sits at the right hand of the Father ruling and reigning over his kingdom (the church) as Lord.  He will return the same way he left.  He is coming to judge the living and the dead in one final event.  Jesus will separate believers from unbelievers sending the wicked to eternal punishment and his people into eternal life with glorious resurrected bodies.  Believers will glorify and enjoy God forever.

Believers:  Believers are all the elect who God sovereignly predestined prior to the foundation of the world to be effectually drawn to Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit when they hear the gospel. No person chooses God but when these hear the gospel they believe in Christ and are declared righteous by God (1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1,4,5; Rom. 9:11-16; Acts 13:48).  God imputes the righteousness of Jesus Christ to the person and they are immediately adopted as children of God.  This regeneration means the Holy Spirit dwells in them giving them new desires to increasingly glorify God by behaving righteously.  They repent of sins at conversion and afterwards.  They are now able to do good works that are intended to glorify God as a fruit of their faith.  These people are not able to persevere to the end of life on their own but are kept by God through the work of the Holy Spirit. This makes their salvation sure because once God begins this work in them He is sure to finish it. Our assurance of salvation is not based on our feeble humanly hold on Christ but on Gods sure grip on the believer (John 10:28)

Life of a Believer:  Believers desire to please God by being diligent to make their calling and election sure.  By the grace of God they desire to be obedient to His moral law which is summarized in the Ten Commandments.  Believers do this because they love the God who has saved them.  They desire to hate the things God hates and love the things God loves.  They desire to be obedient in all things but fail and must rely on the work of Jesus to cover their sin so that they are able to stand before God and be saved.  Man fails in obedience in many areas which include making up their own moral code and idols that suit their idea of God.  A believer is to follow the Word of God in all matters of faith and worship.

The Church:  The Church is the people of God from all ages. In Acts 7:38 Stephen refers to the Old Testament people of God as the ἐκκλησίᾳ (ekklēsia) which is translated congregation, church, and assembly.  All true believers are part of the church of Jesus Christ by faith.  Members are to gather together on Sunday in order to glorify and worship God by praying, hearing the Word read and preached, singing psalms and hymns, and receiving sacraments.  Under the old covenant with Israel the Sabbath day was extremely strict but when Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, things changed.  From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, [the Sabbath] was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath. The original Sabbath was pictured as having no end due to not continuing the “evening and morning” structure of the other days. So, it is now that due to Christ there is no end to our rest in His finished work which is celebrated on the Lords Day until the consummation of time(Ex. 19; Hebrews 8:13; Matt. 11:28; Heb. 4:10). The church is to be orderly as God is orderly in all things according to the prescription of God in Scripture.  This earthly church is to be led by males who are to preach, rule, administer sacraments such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper according to Scripture.  Baptism is for the children of believers just as circumcision was in the Old Testament. These leaders must also discipline members who are negligent in doctrine or life out of love for their soul and to the glory of God. As for the Lord’s Supper Christ is spiritually present.

Sinful Desire

Isaiah 14: 13-14 lays out 5 sinful desires sinners have.

“For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”

  • The desire is to sit in God’s dwelling place: “I will ascend into heaven”
  • The desire to dwell in God’s sphere of dwelling: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds”
  • The desire to be our own government: “I will exalt my throne”
  • The desire to be on God’s judgement seat: “I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north” (also Psalm 75: 5-6 God is the one who executes judgment v.7)
  • The desire to possess God’s authority or position of ruling and reigning: “I will be like the most High.” (also Gen. 14:9 notice all the kings in position of ruling and reigning)

Chapter 14 is about God restoring Israel and we see them taunting their former Babylonian captors. In the taunt I can’t help but notice Babylons sin is being exposed. Sinful man wants God’s place and authority without the real God in it.  They want to be a people of, by, and for themselves.  Tied to that is their desire to be rulers over themselves so that they can bless themselves with what so ever they desire.  This seems to be a timeless sin because we see it in what some people call Christianity today. We see it in the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity gospel. Unfortunately, it is popular with people around the world.  It is a name it and claim it religion that reduces God and increases man so that they can use God to get whatever seems fair to them.

What should things be like for a Christian? A real Christian’s desire should be to worship God as He sits in authority over all things in His dwelling place. Christians know God is far above anything we could imagine ourselves to be and know He is deserving of our worship. We know that if a Christian had the type of authority God has we would mess things up. We are not all knowing and everywhere present. Praise God that he is in control of every molecule in existence. He is in control of all things that happen, even pandemics. Praise God that He has provided the Holy Spirit to change our desires to serve rather than to be served as a person of high rank or supremacy over others. Praise God!

I don't want to sin

Paul says in Romans 7:15 “I am not practicing what I would like to do but I am doing the very thing I hate.”

1 Peter 5:8, 2 Corinthians 11:3, ESV, Holy Spirit, overcoming sin, Paul, Romans 7:15, Sin

As a Christian, I have God-given guilt and shame when I sin. I hate it that I do not glorify God with everything I do. At the same time, when I sin, I do it with full knowledge I am sinning. That is rebellion against my LORD! I want to stop sinning. So, what does the Bible say about it?

1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” As I read this, I notice that I need to be clear-headed. 2 Cor. 11:3 says, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” This means my thoughts can be led astray by myself or others.

I need to be watchful of my own weaknesses, such as a lack of self-control. 1 Cor. 7:5 says, “…so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” Examining myself, as well as the nomenclature of the process of sin, is a must. James 1:14 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Desire comes before temptation, and these things come before sin. I cannot be tempted by something that I do not first desire inwardly. So, it is not simply Satan who is my adversary, but also the sin nature that I was born with.

Desire exists when something is lacking. This sense of lack can be real or perceived. My real lack of belief that God will always provide is the beginning of the sin process. When I think I lack something, I am failing to believe in the security of God’s provision of all things. From my sense of lack, I begin a desire to take control of the real or perceived lack. Now is when temptation raises its ugly head and it pushes me to seek out a ‘fix’ for the issue. When I fail to resist all these things, sin takes hold and I act on the ‘fix’ I have devised for myself.

If I want to fight sin, I have to fight the desires of my natural self and that of Satan. The Holy Spirit was given to the Christian by Christ to create new desires within my heart. I must believe God will and is doing this good work in me. He is my security and safety where I lack nothing! Temptation dies on the vine because the desires given by the Holy Spirit will produce fruit, as I focus on God instead of myself. At all times, I must embrace the working of the Holy Spirit in me who is applying the salvation Jesus produced by His work.

Although I am a sinner, I am a sinner saved by grace. God is the author and finisher of my salvation and has given me the Holy Spirit to overcome all things. If I am a Christian, I will be able to overcome sin more and more, but not totally due to the remnant of my sin nature. I am a new creation in Jesus Christ and gladly rely on the work of God in me to overcome. My responsibility is to continuously examine myself and marinate myself in the Word of God humbly recognizing God provided the victory.

If you are like me, we have the liberty to live in unity with God because of Jesus and should want nothing more than to glorify God in all we do. Lets stay sober minded and watchful regarding our desires. Embrace God’s hatred of sin and apply it in our lives through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit and second blessings??

Acts 8:5-17

People in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements believe there is a second blessing experience that follows conversion.  They use Acts chapter 8:5-17 as a proof text to say that the Bible teaches a second blessing that happens post-conversion.  Generally, the second blessing they are looking for is the ability to speak in tongues and many will claim that if you cannot do it you must not be saved. They will claim that people in the early church were saved yet had not received the Holy Spirit immediately upon being saved. Due to their understanding of the passage they expect all Christians should expect the gift of the Holy Spirit at a later time.  However, this passage is not prescriptive to all Christians in every age and they fail to understand the Holy Spirit.

            There are general steps used to interpret narrative texts and are useful in all of Scripture.  A person should look at the immediate context of the text.  They should look for a specific didactic teaching in it and look for clear support in the extended context.  Christians should not be making doctrinal declarations based on a single verse or narrative but look at all the clear passages in the Bible to help with proper exegesis of the immediate text they are dealing with.

            Acts 8:5-17 appears to suggest a Christian should expect a “second blessing” because the people appear to have not yet received the Holy Spirit. This passage does not clearly teach a Christian will be saved and then receive the Holy Spirit at a later time.  To understand this text a person needs to look for a specific didactic teaching within it and if it is not there one must look for the clear support elsewhere in the Bible.  There is nothing within the text to suggest it must be the model regarding the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  However, there are plenty of descriptions of what to expect regarding the Holy Spirit elsewhere in the Bible.

            The Bible describes at least four blessings of the Holy Spirit.  This is not to say a Christian needs to look for a four stage method of being saved.  The first of the four blessings described is the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” which was a historical once for all time redemptive event.  This redemptive event happened at Pentecost which was on a Sunday and where the Holy Spirit was poured out on the entire body of Christ’s church (Acts 1:5; Mark 1:8). This is an event which does not serve as a didactic model of salvation nor will it be repeated.[1]  In other words Christians should not expect any such thing as strong winds or flames when they are saved.

            The blessing of the Holy Spirit is also a one-time personal event that happens at the conversion of a believer.  This is the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38; 10:45). God provides all a person needs in this gift at conversion.  Once God begins a work in a person He does not fail to sanctify them.  A Christian can be sure God will not abandon them or remove the gift of the Holy Spirit once they have been placed in the body of Christ as a believer.

            Then there is the “filling of the Holy Spirit” in which a believer will receive at various times in their daily lives and at various levels from a little bit to a lot.  This filling of the Holy Spirit is used by God to strengthen a person for the things they are facing and absolutely for the work God has for them to do.  For example a person may want to witness to a person and they pray for God to strengthen them for the job.  It could be that the person is in need of comfort by the Holy Spirit due to a death in the family. Bottom line is a Christian should expect to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

            Then of course there is the state of being “full of the Spirit”.  This is more a state of spiritual maturity and the appropriate state of being all Christian should desire to be in (Deut. 34:9; Acts 6:3, 5; 7:55; 11:24).

            Our passage describes what had happened to those people but is not prescriptive to all Christians in every instance.  Christians should not look for a “second blessing” as if God did not give them what they needed to be saved in the first place with the “gift of the Holy Spirit” at conversion. Because God always works in the life of a Christian a believer should expect various things as a result of Pentecost and of course the receipt of the “gift of the Holy Spirit” at conversion. Sinning Christians will not always be “filled with the Spirit” because of sin.  That is to say they will not always be up to the task for a job or to overcome suffering because they have pushed God away with sin. This is not to say a person will lose their salvation but it is to say our sin gets in the way of being closer to God. Finally, Christian’s should always strive to be full of the Spirit in that they should be growing in spiritual maturity because sanctification is a continuing process over the lifetime of the believer.

References

Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

Gaffin, Richard B. Perspectives on Pentecost. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1979.

The Fall of Adam

Man is a unit of two ingredients which are material and immaterial.  The material is the body and the immaterial the spirit. Both are required to be a complete person. Spiritual death is being spiritually blind and rebellious to the truth of God.  Perhaps more specific would be to say it is a spiritual separation from fellowship with God because the person is at enmity with God.  Genesis 3:8 may well be the best example of this separation because man “hid themselves” from God. God had told man that they would die if they ate from the forbidden tree.  However, they did not physically die immediately afterwards.  This must then mean that it was an immediate spiritual death but a future material body death.

Prior to the fall into sin man was in a state of innocence before God because they had never broken God’s law.  Herman Bavinck said that “the Old Testament says little of the original state of integrity (Bavinck, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2011, 317.).  Adam and Eve understood the law of God because not only did God command them not to eat of the tree but they knew the consequence of breaking the law.  God told them they would die if they ate of it.  Had they continued to obey God they would have remained in fellowship with Him but they disobeyed and fell out of relationship.  God is a Spirit and you cannot be in fellowship with Him when you are spiritually dead.  Adam and Eve spiritually died when they disobeyed God.  They became spiritually alienated to God because they had corrupted themselves and were now unable to bring themselves back into the relationship because of it. Ephesians 4:18 mentions man being spiritually alienated. John 3:5-7; 6:63 reveal man is not able to restore themselves outside of the work of God because they are spiritually dead. 

It seems the spirit of Adam and Eve still existed but it was now in a state of deadness to a spiritual relationship. Chapter 3 of Genesis says they purposefully hid themselves from God. God exhibited grace when He came (sovereignly) looking for them.  In essence the gospel can be seen here. God went after the sinner and convicted them of the sin they had committed by exposing the decision they had made. Because God loved them he mercifully saved them yet disciplined them. He sovereignly separated the will of Eve toward Satan when He said there would be enmity or hatred between them. She would no longer want to listen to Satan but to God.  Even so, sin would still be present because she would still have a passion for Adam.  In other word’s she would in essence covet Adams spiritual authority in the family and desire to rule her husband (Ryrie, Charles. Basic Theology. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999, 235).  God’s mercy is further seen in that He made a promise to restore all things through the seed of the woman despite sin.  God promised to send a savior who is of course the payment for sin. The thing they did not know was the true love of God and by doing this God was revealing something about Himself.  Adam and Eve had never suffered because sin was not in the world yet.  Once sin entered the world God would now mature mankind’s understanding of Himself. That is to say Adam and Eve would know more fully the concepts of God’s justice and love.  God’s children now see the justice and love of God through the work of the savior, Jesus Christ.

Louis Berkhof talked about the term “original sin” and basically says that this term does not mean God created man as a sinner (Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996, 244.).  In fact, 1 Corinthians 11:7 refers to humans being “the image and glory of God” originally. Since Adam sinned all mankind is born with a corrupt flesh and spirit.  Every person since that time has inherited the sin.  This means everyone will physically die at some point and is born spiritually dead unless God comes looking for them, convicts them of sin, and gives them a new spirit that will love Him.  This does no harm to the notion of freewill.  Because of Adam’s sin, man’s will, is in rebellion to God and God must provide a new nature to a person.  This new nature exercises a new will that wants to be in obedience to God.  God chose to save Adam and Eve.  He chooses who belongs to him and leaves others to continue in their own will/spiritual deadness.  God is just to destroy sinners and did so to men, women, and children in the Bible.  Continued spiritual deadness results in eternal disunity from God.  The gift of eternal life is offered to everyone but narrow is the gate to heaven.  It comes only through Jesus Christ the life giver. Call out to him and you will be saved.