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Archive for April, 2010

I am fascinated with Oshea Davis’ take on the sovereignty of God and the issue of evil in one of the forums at Facebook. He was kind enough to synthesize his comments, which I later understood to be a portion of the discourse in the book ‘Divine Decrees’ based on the Sermons of Jonathan Edwards.  Davis is the editor of this book. 

To embark on a study on this topic, I took the liberty to start research on the same subject and arrived first to a lengthy and scholarly article at Monergism.com written by William G. T. Shedd.  A section in the afore-mentioned article is appended hereunder which, I believe, is vital in the understanding of the issue.  To read the full article, please follow this link. My prayer is to be enriched further on the glorious subject of the sovereignty of God. And through His Son and my Lord – Jesus Christ – am I utterly thankful that none of the minutest details of my life were ever out of His sovereign hands even before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-14)

-EmmausTrekker-

 

Characteristics of the Divine Decree (excerpt from William G. T. Shedd’s article The Divine Decrees)

 
The following characteristics mark the divine decree:
1.      The divine decree is founded in wisdom. This is implied in saying that God’s purpose is “according to the counsel (boulēn) of his will” (Eph. 1:11). There is nothing irrational or capricious in God’s determination. There may be much in it that passes human comprehension and is inexplicable to the finite mind, because the divine decree covers infinite space and everlasting time; but it all springs out of infinite wisdom. The “counsel” of the divine mind does not mean any reception of knowledge ab extra, by observation or comparison or advisement with others; but it denotes God’s wise insight and knowledge, in the light of which he forms his determination. It is possible, also, that there is a reference in the language to the intercommunion and correspondence of the three persons in the Godhead: “The counsel of the Lord stands forever” (Ps. 33:11); “with him is wisdom and strength; he has counsel and understanding” (Job 12:13); “the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand” (Prov. 19:21); “he has done all things well” (Mark 7:37); “God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).
2.      The divine decree is eternal: “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning” (Acts 15:18); “the kingdom was prepared from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34); “he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4); “God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Cor. 2:7); “the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8); Christ as a sacrifice “was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20). This characteristic has been defined in what has been said under attributes respecting the simultaneousness and successionlessness of the eternal, as distinguished from the gradations and sequences of the temporal.
3.      The divine decree is universal. It includes “whatsoever comes to pass,” be it physical or moral, good or evil: “He works all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:10–11); “known unto God are all his works from the beginning” (Acts 15:18; Prov. 16:33; Dan. 4:34–35; Matt. 10:29–30; Acts 17:26; Job 14:5; Isa. 46:10):
(a) The good actions of men: “Created unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10);
(b) the wicked actions of men: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23; 4:27–28; Ps. 76:10; Prov. 16:4);
(c) so-called accidental events: “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Prov. 16:33; Gen. 45:8; 50:20); “a bone of him shall not be broken” (John 20:36; Ps. 34:20; Exod. 12:46; Num. 9:12);
(d) the means as well as the end: “God has chosen you to salvation, through sanctification (en hagiasmō) of the Spirit” (2 Thess. 2:13); “he has chosen us that we should be holy” (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:2); “elect through sanctification of the Spirit” (Acts 27:24, 31):
The same divine purpose which determines any event determines that event as produced by its causes, promoted by its means, depending on its conditions, and followed by its results. Things do not come to pass in a state of isolation; neither were they predetermined so to come to pass. In other words, God’s purpose embraces the means along with the end, the cause along with the effect, the condition along with the result or issue suspended upon it; the order, relations, and dependences of all events, as no less essential to the divine plan than the events themselves. With reference to the salvation of the elect, the purpose of God is not only that they shall be saved, but that they shall believe, repent, and persevere in faith and holiness in order to salvation. —Crawford, Fatherhood of God, 426
(e) the time of every man’s death: “his days are determined” (Job 14:5); “the measure of my days” (Ps. 39:4); the Jews could not kill Christ “because his hour was not yet come” (John 7:30). It is objected that fifteen years were added to Hezekiah’s life after the prophet had said, “Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live” (Isa. 38:1, 5). But this assertion of the prophet was not a statement of the divine decree, but of the nature of his disease, which was mortal had not God miraculously interposed.
4.      The divine decree is immutable. There is no defect in God in knowledge, power, and veracity. His decree cannot therefore be changed because of a mistake of ignorance or of inability to carry out his decree or of unfaithfulness to his purpose: “He is in one mind, and who shall turn him?” (Job 23:13); “my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46:10). The immutability of the divine decree is consistent with the liberty of man’s will: “God ordains whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature; nor is the liberty, or contingency, of second causes taken away, but rather established” (Westminster Confession 3.1). This is the doctrine of Christ. He asserts that his own crucifixion was a voluntary act of man and also decreed by God: “They have done unto Elijah whatsoever they pleased (hosa ēthelēsan): likewise shall the Son of Man suffer them” (Matt. 17:12); “the Son of Man goes as it was determined (hōrismenon), but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed” (Luke 22:22). In Acts 2:23 it is said that Christ was “delivered by the determinate counsel of God” and “by wicked hands was crucified and slain.”
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In one of the leading Philippine internet dailies, the leader (or ‘pastor’ as people refer to) of a popular religious group in the country hosted a sumptuous gathering for ‘presidentiables’ in the forthcoming elections in May 2010. Everyone was hoping to hear whom he will endorse as the country’s next president. But he decided to withhold it, claiming that he needed more time to pray (and pray) so that he will clearly hear the will of the Father (referring to God). To read the full article, please follow this link

The Inquirer writes: 

Earlier, Quiboloy said in a statement that he was still waiting for the clear sign from heaven on who had been chosen by God to lead the country. According to the pastor, all he has been seeing are cloudy visions, which he says might signal chaotic elections. It is His will that we have leaders, in particular a President, who is willing to give up his or her life for our country, so that our people will prosper. That is the kind of President that the Almighty Father is looking for. It is that revelation I am waiting for,” said Quiboloy. Choosing a candidate for President and Vice President in the May 10 elections is not mine to make, it is the Father’s choice. My personal preferences in this matter, and as an ordinary person, a regular citizen of the Philippines, I do admit I have my own, take a back seat to the Almighty Father’s wishes. As His Appointed Son, I carry out His will,” he added.

His presidential endorsement is never my concern but notice how he called himself the “Appointed Son” of God. I have heard this claim in the past but it is only now that I have any proof. The other troubling (yet expected) fact is that his group boasts of  4 million members in the Philippines alone (plus another 2 million internationally).

Now why should this be a concern can only be answered by a portion of the sermon on the Mount of Olives by the Lord Jesus who is the true Law Giver. Many times in the sermon you will read the Lord Jesus saying, “you have heard…but I say to you”. Moses, in Mt. Sinai, received the Law from God, but the Lord Jesus, as the true Law Giver, referred to the Law and expounded its depth of meaning to His hearers at the Mount of Olives. Let’s now refer to Matthew 7:7-22 below:

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

May I note here the original texts do not have sub-headings which were conveniently inserted in modern translations, and I took the liberty to remove them (except the verse numbers for reference purposes). This will allow us to have good view of context. I would endeavor to go through this section step by step and hopefully, come to the place of  understanding  the difference between the narrow gate-wide gate and hard way-easy way comparisons. Thereafter, grasping the flow of thought leading to identify what kind of false prophets here are being referred to.

The Father’s Good Gift to His Children (verses 7-12). Following through short and indepth exposition on a series of commands pertaining to a righteous way of life, the Lord introduced verses 7-12 regarding the privilege of asking God, and God’s willingness to give the good gifts to His adopted children in Christ (specifically those who believed and received the Lord Jesus Christ referred to as ‘His disciples’). Many Christians commonly refer to these verses as the prayer for needs because of the example given. However, the prayer transcends the physical and indeed helps us comprehend that our most vital needs are spiritual which the Father will never deny – that His disciples be enabled and sustained in doing what is good and lawful to others. No wonder you will ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened – all certainties and assurance that the prayer will definitely be answered.

Narrow Gate and the Hard Way (verse 13-14). Interpretations often point to the Lord Jesus as the narrow gate and that is definitely true. However, the “narrow way”  is at times neglected or misunderstood.  The narrow way represents that kind of life that God requires of His people. Still having the prayer in verses 7-11 in view,  despite the difficult narrow way, the gift of the Father to every disciple who would ask of Him must be the grace for obedience and unity of heart to heed His commands. It is the will of God for anyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior would  also have this same Jesus Christ as Lord. God has made this Jesus as both Christ and Lord (Acts 2:36), which was gloriously demonstrated by His resurrection on the third day following His death at the cross.

One of today’s problems in evangelism is what is called “easy believism”. Faith in Jesus Christ includes these following essentials of the faith: He is the Son of  God who came into this world and born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, propitiated for the sins of the people chosen by God at the cross while imputing His righteousness on them at the same time, resurrecting on the third day and ascending to heaven sitting at the right hand, to come again as judge all living and dead. All these facts are to be received by faith alone. But this kind of faith  is not alone and has fruits of good works – the evidence of a righteous walk that God has prepared for His redeemed people before the foundation of the world. Those who insist that faith is believing devoid of any resulting evidence of a repentant life falls in the error of ‘easy believism’.

Now I need to be careful of what I have just written so as not to fall on the other end of the ditch – legalism. This is where salvation is not by faith alone, but by faith plus works which the apostle Paul outrightly condemns. He asked the Galatians, “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law of by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3). It must be clear that God desires those who have trusted in Jesus for salvation also have His Son as Lord. The difference lies with what obedience really is – obedience as a result, not the means, of salvation that is by faith in Christ alone.

Wide Gate and the Easy Way. Considering a major issue in the context of the entire sermon, the contrast is made between what the scribes and Pharisees do and teach versus what Jesus is saying. He said that unless one exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, no one can enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20). The one wrong notion is to think, by default, the scribes and Pharisees are righteous. On the contrary, they are not since they have rejected the Lord of Righteousness – Jesus, nor can they be made righteous by following the Law (when one law is broken, the entire Law is broken). To exceed their righteousness is gained by believing in Christ who perfectly obeyed the Law (what is called ‘positional righteousness’- see 2 Corinthians 5:21) and displayed in obedience to Him (‘practical righteousness’).

A gate is defined as an opening in a wall or fence, or the frame or door that closes a gate (ref: Merriam Webster). Applying the first meaning which fits the flow of thought, the gate is wide because there are many teachers with teachings what is contrary to Christ. Partnered with this wide gate is the easy way. The way definitely becomes easy because the Law of God is re-intrepreted to suit the desires of men rather than God. Many popular so-called Christian groups today have diluted, edited, relativized and compromised the word of God. They have become ‘user-friendly’ – give what the people want so that they will keep on coming to church. The term ‘seeker-sensitive’ has been coined for this kind of groups. In one particular case, the Word of God has been redefined altogether like the Emergence Christianity (a.k.a. Emergent Church or Progressive Christianity).

The False Prophet (Verse 15-20). A prophet essentially has similar function with the scribes and Pharisees. Although biblical prophets foretold the future in the past, their primary function was to reinforce the Law. They called to Israel to obey and warn them of disobedience and its serious consequences. The scribes and Pharisees were the ‘caretakers’ of the written Word in scrolls and are to expound the entire counsel of God as well. Instead they had their way of setting aside God’s commands by their traditions. Here, the disciples were warned on false prophets (essentially‘scribes’ used in Mark 12:38, Luke 20:46). They guard the wide gate and teach the wide way – as inferred, these are anything that is contrary to Christ and what He taught. Jesus said thay can be recognized by their fruits – anything that will be a curse (represented by thorns and thistles; echoes from the curse on man in Genesis) but the false prophets will use their charming ways and deceitful kindness (sheep’s clothing) to deceive people. This is basically the outward character of a false prophet – they look warm and endearing but will feed thorns and thistles to the people (examples are best-selling books such as “Purpose Driven Life” and “Your Best Life Now”).

Secondly, the people who follow are essentially the false prophet’s fruit. Goats crave for goat food. Goats eat anything. Sheeps eat only what is in the pasture of the Lord – His Word. The Lord said that when His sheeps hear another voice other than His, they will run away from that.

(Verse 21-23) It will be these false prophets/shepherds/teachers and their disciples that will be denied by Lord and will be judged as workers of lawlessness since they have trusted in a false prophet and teachings that are not in accord with the whole counsel of God resulting to a life that is unacceptable to God.

Unmasking the Wolf.   Apollo Quiboloy is a false prophet who claimed that he is the Appointed Son of God – usurping the place that rightfully belongs to the Only Begotten Son – Jesus Christ. He is the guardian of the wide gate and the easy way.

He teaches doctrines that are not in keeping with what the Lord has proclaimed.  He assumes that God’s will is to put a president who will bring prosperity to the Philippines. What is his basis for this audacious claim when I consider that many people in my country have turned a deaf ear to the Gospel in pursuit of worldly riches. Don’t misconstrue but I do care for our poor and hope that government leaders would do more to alleviate their condition. But what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? No wonder Jesus commanded His disciples to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and not be like pagans whose preoccupation is materially-oriented. He also explicitly denies the three distinct Persons of the One God: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. On top of this, he is a purveyor of an old heresy called Modalism, that is, one God three modes of operation.He is a mystic who relies on “revelations” supposedly coming from God instead of the clarity of Scriptures.

He is a wolf in sheeps clothing with his respectable and caring appearance to his flock but have only set the cursed way for them. The millions of people who have believed him are now traversing the easy way that leads to destruction,  to be revealed on the last day unless they heed the Gospel and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” – 2 Corinthians 11:14-15

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WIRED FOR INTIMACY How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain

Reviewed 03/01/2010 by Tim Challies.

Recommended. An investigation of the brain’s role in pornography addiction without the “my brain made me do it” defense.

I read recently of a researcher who wanted to study the effects of pornography on young adult males. He carefully built the structure for the study, determining how he would compare young men who had experienced pornography with a control group comprised of those who had never come into contact it. Tragically this researcher had to cancel his study. He found that he was unable to put together a control group; he could not find young men who had not discovered pornography. The experiment was impossible to conduct.

That is the kind of society we live in today, a society that is absolutely overwhelmed with pornography. The lure of porn is almost irresistible, particularly to young men. If the devil wanted to find a way of destroying young men, of impacting the ability for men to relate properly to women, of disrupting families and hardening hearts, he could hardly do better than this.

Much has been written in recent years about pornography. But new to store shelves is a book that is different from all the others, at least all of the other books targeted at a Christian audience. William Struthers’ Wired for Intimacy looks not primarily to the heart but to the brain. He shows how the male brain is hard-wired for intimacy and relationships and how pornography affects the male brain. He says

Men seem to be wired in such a way that pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their brains and has a long-lasting effect on their thoughts and lives…When we better understand the devastating spiritual, psychological, social and biological reality of how pornography violates our unique position in God’s creation, we will be better able to minister to those who have been wounded by it.

What he provides is a well-rounded understanding of how pornography affects men. He looks beyond the usual–beyond the moral and ethical and legal and even spiritual. He shows that pornography is also a physical matter, “rooted in the biological intricacies of our sexual design.” Though there is value in books that look from the other angles,

calls to pray harder, move the computer to the living room and get plugged into an accountability group only go so far. They come across as hollow to many men whose brains have been altered and rewired by their experiences with pornography. They have trained their brains to respond sexually to the pornography they consume.

Though there is value in reading this entire book, the heart of the book is the brain. In one chapter right in the middle of the book Struthers provides a primer on the brain and shows both how sexuality is hard-wired into the brain and how pornography can disrupt that God-given capacity. He shows that in many ways the male brain is built as an ideal receiver for pornography; the capacity of the brain to pursue intimacy with a wife is very easily disrupted and perverted by a desire to look at pornography. The wiring that ought to be used to pursue intimacy with one woman can easily be disrupted and used to pursue a kind of false intimacy with an endless succession of women. Men who have become consumed with pornography will have to admit with the author that

they have unknowingly created a neurological circuit that imprisons their ability to see women rightly as created in God’s image. Repeated exposure to pornography creates a one-way neurological superhighway where a man’s mental life is over-sexualized and narrowed. It is hemmed in on either side by high containment walls making escape nearly impossible.

What Struthers both claims and (at least to my mind) proves is that looking at pornography and acting out to it creates neural pathways that disrupt the “normal” pathways. As pornography use and acting out to it become habitual, the pathways become more and more pronounced and, therefore, more difficult to overcome. Soon a man has rewired his brain in such a way that true intimacy becomes a challenge. Pornography addiction and sexual compulsion is built in the brain and involves “the visual system (looking at porn), the motor system (masturbating), the sensory system (genital stimulation) and neurological effect of orgasm (sexual euphoria from opiates, addictive dopamine in the nucleus accumbens and reduced fear in the amygdale). They have now begun to store this pattern as a reinforced neurological habit.” Seeing how he gets here and seeing how the various parts of the brain work together to make a man desire sexual fulfillment is well worth the price of the book.

The author’s work in showing how the brain can be rewired (and miswired) through pornography is undoubtedly the most important contribution of the book. But I found great benefit in looking at his description of the sexual nature of the brain outside the context of pornography. Here we see how God has fearfully and wonderfully constructed human sexuality and has deeply integrated it into the inner workings of the brain. This section proves that a man’s desire to make love to his wife is not purely psychological or even mental, but something that is deeply neurological. I hardly even know how to describe it except to urge you to read this book and discover it for yourself. You will stand amazed at what God has done.

Before I close let me say that some Christians may be tempted to assume that Struthers will defend men who look at pornography claiming that “their brains made them do it.” But this is not at all the case. While the male brain does predispose men to be drawn to nudity and drawn to images of sexuality, this does not provide an excuse for indulging. To the contrary, it challenges men to be exceedingly careful about what they view and it makes them doubly responsible before God for images they’ve consumed. The implications of the neurological basis for human sexuality call men to purity before God in a whole new way.

Wired for Intimacy is a book we need. With pornography increasingly reaching epidemic proportions, this book helps us understand it at a whole new level. And it calls us to deal with human sexuality in a way that acknowledges all of its dimensions–moral, ethical, psychological, spiritual and physical. I give Wired for Intimacy my highest recommendation.

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(Original post at Monergism)

 

To one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” – Romans 4:5

How is the Christian to see himself in this world? “Simul iustus et peccator” – “At the same time righteous and a sinner”. Justification is forensic. In Christ, we are declared, counted or reckoned to be righteous when God imputes the righteousness of Christ (an “alien righteousness”) to our account. Christ’s righteousness ascribed to the redeemed individual without their personal merit. We are declared righteous in Christ, it is imputed to us — it is counted as ours … not infused in us. We are counted righteous in God’s eyes because of Christ. But this does not make us righteous in ourselves. That will only happen at our glorification when Christ transforms these bodies to be sealed in righteousness. Justifying righteousness is something which always resides in the Person of Christ alone. The imputation of this “alien” righteousness is the only means by which man can be acceptable to God. As long as the Christian lives, he is guilty in himself, but “in Christ” he is righteous and accounted precious.

The Council of Trent itself reveals that Rome considered Luther’s simul iustus et peccator to be a most serious threat to the traditional teaching of the Catholic church. The Roman Church contended that “justification” means making a man righteous in his own person. The Catholic reasons, “How can God pronounce a man to be righteous in His sight unless he is actually righteous?” He therefore thinks that a man must be born again and transformed before he can have right standing with God. In this system of thought, a man can have no real assurance of justification, for he can never be sure whether the Holy Spirit has made him righteous enough to be accepted of God.

Righteousness through Christ is called an “alien” righteousness because it did not generate from us. It is not our righteousness; it is his. It is an alien righteousness because it came from without, and now it is in a foreign land. It does not belong here; it is an alien righteousness. In Latin we call it simul iustus et peccator: simul, simultaneously; iustus, just; et, and; peccator, sinful. That is me – simultaneously righteous and sinful. That is my contribution to salvation — my sin! At the same time that I am a sinner, God sees me as righteous because of the blood of Jesus Christ. That is the message of outreach — it is the message of salvation.

Righteousness comes in two ways: coram deo (righteousness before God) and coram hominibus (before man). Instead of a development in righteousness based in the person, or an infusion of merit from the saints, a person is judged righteous before God because of the works of Christ. But,absent the perspective of God and the righteousness of Christ, based on one’s own merit—a Christian still looks like a sinner. The declaration involves God imputing to the believer’s “balance sheet” or account the alien righteousness of Christ. The believer is not declared righteous by virtue of his own merit, but on the basis of the merit of Christ. When united to Him, it is justification which becomes the foundation upon which the believer can stand with confidence coram dei. The believer has no cause to fear in the presence of God because of His acquittal. The believer has only and always to look to the finished work of Christ on the Cross and hear God’s declaration, “You are accepted.” Because of justification the believer does not fear God’s rejection because of the sin still present in his/her life. God does not look at the sin in our life except through the work of Christ. This tension is resolved in the Incarnate Christ, crucified and now risen for the life of the world.

Eternal life is Christ dwelling in His righteousness in the soul of the justified person. So eternal life is union with Jesus Christ. And the word for that union with him is faith. The sinners comes to him, rests in him, trusts in him, is one with him, abides with him; and this is life because it never ends. The united soul abides in the Vine eternally. Weakness, sin, proneness to sin never brings separation, but only the Father’s pruning, which cements the union even and ever tighter.

The Judge of all the earth declares us “not guilty” when we believe because Christ was pronounced “guilty” for us on the cross. We are not first made righteous, then declared righteous; we are declared righteous by grace through faith in Christ, then made righteous! When we believe, God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us ‘as if’ it were our own. However, it is HIS righteousness, that is why Paul says in Romans 1:17 that there is a righteousness that has been revealed from God, a righteousness not of our own, but a righteousness revealed from God and freely given to those who do not work, but to those who believe. In light of the goodness and graciousness of God who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, we should daily repent of our own self-righteousness (our works), The words imply a declaration and pronouncement from the divine court of the believer’s right standing with God. “Justification” in itself does not mean a change in the man, but a declaration of how he appears in God’s sight.

Through faith we run to Christ and hold fast to Him, who satisfied the law on our behalf (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:10-13). In this way we are accounted righteous in the sight of God through faith alone, without doing the works of the law. We are simul iustus et peccator.

Luther recognized that even in a state of regeneration the believer still lives in the world and still in fact does commit acts of sin. There is no attempt to redefine sin to make it anything less than what it is. Rather there is a stark recognition of the dialectic of the Christian’s acceptance before God and the fact that he still sins. Luther’s phrase to describe this condition was that the state of the Christian between regeneration and ultimate glorification is simul iustus et peccator, at once just (or justified) and sinner. This is not a condition that will ever be transcended in this life. Rather, the believer must always rely on the finished work of Christ for his/her acceptance before God.

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While doing my short post on Facebook regarding the 10/40 Window, I googled articles that pertains to this topic and saw a link with an internationally recognized magazine. Of course, my first thoughts were, “hey this is a good source, this particular source is known for reliable journalism” – maybe….

The article has in its opening paragraph “the three Abrahamic faiths” and then another article writes “reconciling the three Abrahamic faiths”. At first instance, I am tempted to nod my head and give my approval to the term and the intention to reconcile.  However, a few moments later and after some thought it dawned on me that the term “three Abrahamic faiths” is some kind of an oxymoron (Merriam Webster definition: a combination of contradictory or incongruous words).  That’s it!  I find joining “three” and “Abrahamic faiths” contradictory.

The three groups referred here are Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Now, I do not profess to be an expert on the last two but I will try to put forward here how the Bible defines “Abrahamic faith”, in a briefest way possible, and then we will work out our conclusion from there.

Grammatically, we can understand the term “Abrahamic faith” as the “faith of Abraham”. It may also mean the content of faith which finds its root in Abraham. Let us therefore proceed with what the biblical Scriptures say:

The Promise: In Genesis 11, God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldea and made a unilateral covenant with him. By the time he reached 100 years old and with a wife, Sarah whose womb is past childbearing capability, it was an impossible for them to have a child.  God, with whom nothing is impossible, promised them a son. The Old Testament records that Abraham has 3 sets of children: Ishmael from Hagar their Egyptian servant, Isaac from his wife Sarah, and after Sarah’s death, six addtional boys (Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah) from his last wife Keturah. Yet God calls Isaac as Abraham’s only son (Genesis 21:15). Each time God mentions the promise, it is always to “Abraham and his offspring” – not offsprings. Genesis 21:12 narrates to us what God spoke to Abraham, “…for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” God then promised that from this offspring shall all the nations be blessed (Genesis 22:18).  Clearly, not all of the 3 sets of sons mentioned above  was the term “offspring” meant for. Neither was it meant exclusively to Isaac as the final fulfillment of the promise. History proves that not all the nations today were blessed through all of Abraham’s sons.  The “offspring” here must refer to someone coming in the future from the lineage of Abraham and Isaac.

Not by Genealogy: Now if it were a matter of genealogy beginning with Abraham then Isaac followed by Jacob, then at this point the forgone conclusion would be to point to the Jewish nation as blessed – that is hardly “all nations”.  During one of the confrontation of the prophet John the Baptist with the religious elders of Israel, he rebuked them, saying, “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9: Luke 3:8).  They presumed to be inheritors of the kingdom of God by virtue of genealogy and national identity while rejecting the call to repent and be baptized as John prepared the way of the coming of the Lord as prophesied in the Old Testament. By extension, neither was the religion of Judaism, with all its modifications done by the Pharisees, the kind of faith that connects a person to Abraham’s faith. This is not to negate Israel and Judaism altogether for still, it is through this nation and religious system shall the promised offspring come. However, national identity is not the means to be linked to Abraham’s faith.

Through this Offspring: By the time the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write the Roman and Galatian epistles, the fulfilment of that promise to Abraham is revealed.  In his letter to the believers in Galatia, he wrote the following:

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…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.” – (Galatians 3:16, 26-29)

The enscripturated Word of God in the Bible streamlines the Abrahim faith to Christianity.  I do not refer to “Christianity” as a generic term but the kind that adheres exclusively the centrality of Jesus Christ as expressed in the whole counsel of God. Although the message is exclusive, the message is universally proclaimed – it is intended for all nations to hear and believe. Jesus is the promised offspring and all those who put their faith in Him becomes spiritually connected to Abraham.

In order for the Gospel of Christ to travel beyond the borders of one nation, the historian Dr. Luke, as carried by the Holy Spirit, wrote in the New Testament concerning Jesus Christ:

Then He said to them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” – (Luke 24:44-47)

Only One Way: Based on these, there are not three Abrahamic faiths nor are there three faiths that can trace their unity with Abraham. Rather, only the faith that comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ is the true Abrahamic faith.  The remaining two major religions cannot accurately make their claim to Abraham’s faith. Otherwise, we will end with “one God, different ways” – now that is another oxymoron!

 

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