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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Looking Back…Looking Ahead

Two years have gone by and so much have happened along the road that I am travelling. But one thing I have known for sure, my Lord Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” and therefore, I have strength and hope. Thank you Lord!

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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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This is a very great burden to some earnest people. They go from convention to convention, from one speaker to another, notebook in hand, so eager to get the blessing (as they term it) and often thinking more of the rapture of the gift than of the person of the Giver.  And because they hear others having experiences that they know not, they carry heavy burdens of disappointment and self-reproach.

Equally well might a child in kindergarten fret because he is not entered in the higher classes of the school.  But why should he worry about his future progress?  His one business is to acquire the lessons set him by his teacher.  When those are learned it will be for the teacher to teach his pupil more and to advance him to positions where quicker progress may be made.  Lord Jesus sets before us day by day, leaving Him to lead us into the fuller knowledge and love of God.

Thomas was one of the dull pupils in our Master’s school.  He could not see what was clear to all beside. But instead of chiding him and leaving him to grope in the dark, the Master paid him a special visit and made the glad fact of His resurrection so simple that the doubter was able to rejoice with the rest.  Don’t worry about your dullness; it will only mean that the dear Master will give you longer and more personal attention.  Mothers give more pains to the sickly, weak, and slow among the children.

 

This is the 2nd excerpt taken from F. B. Meyer’s book on The Secret of Guidance, under the section on Burdens, and What to Do With Them – EmmausTrekker

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By Jay Rogers, from The Apologetics Group

The usual answer to this question is that it was adjusted, like many Church feast days, to coincide with the pagan feast days, this one being the winter solstice. This is a convenient explanation, but the exact date of December 25th is for another reason entirely. It was proposed by several of the church fathers beginning in the second century, far too early for the “pagan copycat” thesis to be valid. To explain how the church fathers arrived at this date, we need to examine first the date of John the Baptist’s conception as told in Luke.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah (Luke 1:5).

According to 1 Chronicles 24:7-19, King David had divided the priests into 24 divisions who took turns serving in the Temple. During their service they lived in the Temple and were separated from their wives and children. Each order served for a period of eight days twice a year. The priests of the course of Abijah served during the 10th and 24th weeks of the Jewish year. Luke goes on to recount how the angel Gabriel appeared to Zecharias while he was serving in the Temple.

So it was that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:8-15).

Note here that “the whole multitude of the people” (i.e., the whole nation of Israel) was present outside the Temple. Some have attempted to reconstruct the weeks of service according to Josephus’ account in Antiquities 7:14:7, which relates that the first division, the division of Jehoiarib, was on duty when Jerusalem was destroyed on August 5, AD 70. Using this date as an anchor, the eighth division of Abijah would serve two times in the year, one of them being in late September. However, it is uncertain if these allotments began on exactly the same day of the year, since there would be four extra weeks to account for at the end of the year. But there were only two times in the year when the “whole multitude of the people” of Israel was required to be in Jerusalem worshiping at the Temple. These were the fall and spring feast days. John’s vision apparently occurred on one of the high feast days, the church fathers thought it was the Day of Atonement, and then John returned to his home immediately after that.

So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived (Luke 1:23, 24).

Since “the hill country of Judea,” where Elizabeth lived according to Luke 1:39;65, is no more than a day’s journey from Jerusalem, the conception of John the Baptist must have occurred soon after that. Several of the Church fathers noticed this correspondence and made the inference that John must have been conceived shortly after the Day of Atonement, which usually falls in September. In fact, the church father John Chrysostom thought that Zecharias was actually the Jewish High Priest because he was in the Holy Place on the Day of Atonement, which in 6 BC fell on September 22nd. So September 24th was calculated as the date of John’s conception. The birth of John occurred exactly nine months later on June 24th. Since Jesus was conceived six months after John, various dates around this time, December 25th, January 2nd and 6th were given by various church fathers and each of these have been celebrated as the Nativity of Jesus. In fact, the Eastern Orthodox Church has always used January 6th as the date of Christmas.

If John was conceived during one of the spring feasts — Passover or Pentecost, which were the other two times in the year when the “whole multitude of the people” of Israel was required to be in Jerusalem — then we would have winter birth for John and a summer birth for Jesus.

Notwithstanding, the Day of Atonement fits well as an anchor date because it points to a winter birthday for Christ. Josephus notes that Herod died shortly before the Passover in 4 BC, which began on April 11th of that year. This gives several months for the events surrounding the Nativity and fits the narrative accounts of both Matthew and Luke.

We should not be dogmatic about the exact day. However, we can use December 25th as the anchor date. This date helps explain several events recorded in the nativity accounts and is important for establishing a timeline that supports the historicity of the Gospels.

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by Andy Naselli

D. A. Carson preached on “The Purpose of the Parables” from Matthew 13:10-17, 34-35 in chapel at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on October 29, 2009. Here are some notes:

Why did Jesus tell stories and use parables? Three answers are common.

  1. Jesus told stories because he used them as illustrations. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense of Matthew 13:11–12.
  2. Jesus told stories because he favored the enigmatic, thought-provoking, and open-ended rather than truths, propositions, and narrow-minded, modernist, foundationalist stuff like that. But it doesn’t take much reading of the Gospels to realize how many different genres Jesus actually preached in. For example, he preached using wisdom literature, apocalyptic, laments, exposition of OT texts, extended discourses, proverbs, beatitudes, one-liners, non-narratival extended metaphors, dialogue, and provocative questions. Further, Matthew 13:34–35 suggests that Jesus is trying to disclose something to them.
  3. Jesus used parables in order to hide things from the non-elect, to mask the truth. Yes, there is an element of that, but Matthew 13:34–35 suggests that Jesus is trying to disclose something to them.

So why did Jesus use parables? The text suggests two reasons.

  1. Jesus tells parables because, in line with Scripture, his message blinds, deafens, and hardens (Matthew 13:11–15). Matthew 13:14–15 quotes Isaiah 6:9–10 because Isaiah’s commission points forward and finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus himself. There are some audiences to whom you preach where the preaching of the word guarantees that they will not hear. Cf. John 8:45: “Because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” Sometimes the truth itself elicits unbelief because people are so corrupt that the truth is repulsive. Cf. Acts 5:41. When people insult you, don’t get defensive. Don’t get angry. Don’t get even. Rejoice! You’re in! You’re in this long line, this trajectory, that culminates in Jesus himself. There are some people who will not believe, and if you speak the truth, you will cause them not to believe.
  2. Jesus tells parables because, in line with Scripture, his message reveals things hidden in Scripture (Matthew 13:34–35). Matthew 13:35 quotes Psalm 78:2. The Jews of Jesus’ day did not have a category for a crucified Messiah, but those categories are in the OT. Jesus refers to “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 13:11). A “mystery” in the NT does not refer to a “Whodunit?” It occurs 27 or 28 times in the NT and almost always is bound up with things hidden in the past in Scripture but now disclosed in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. “They’re there, but I’m going to reveal to you what has been hidden. The pieces are already there.” Hence, Matthew 13:16–17, 52.

Three Pastoral Reflections

  1. We should gain wonder in worship where there is a fresh grasp of how God has put the Bible together. The Bible is not a collection of arbitrary proof-texts. The more you dig into it, the more you unpack its simplicity and profundity.
  2. We should gain gratitude and humility for the gift of seeing the truth about Jesus and his gospel. We are just as perverse as others. We should never tire of being overwhelmed by the sheer privilege of grace in our lives.
  3. We should gain discretion in witness where there is a hostile environment.

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13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. – Mark 10:13-16

This pericope is a fitting follow-up after the Lord taught about the sanctity of marriage. In a God-fearing Jewish household, the marriage vows are held in high esteem for it is the will of God that when a man and a woman are joined together, no human authority can ever dissolve it. It is in this same household that the Law of YHWH is held in the highest esteem for their very lives revolve in the revealed will of God.  Included in this God-centered life is the instruction to teach them children in the way of the Lord at every opportunity daily.  Here we also seize the fact that a sanctified marriage is a good ground for planting the children into the knowledge and presence of the Lord. Not only are the parents to grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ but their marriage should also display the reality of His presence when husbands love their wives as Jesus love the church and when wives submit to their husbands as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-32).

Receiving ChildrenAnd so we have here a continuing stream of children being brought to the Lord.  We are not told who are bringing these children, but it is obvious that whoever is leading them to Him, whether a father, a mother, a sibling or guardian, desired his blessings upon the children. A parallel story in Matthew 19:13 reveal the intention to have blessings conferred to the children.  Greater possibility still is that they bring their children to Him because they understand – how much, we do not know – who Jesus is – someone who can confer heavenly blessing, whether they perceive Him to be a prophet or the Messiah or the Son of God. That fact is still unknown here but the overwhelming evidence of His ministry has provided them a good amount of understanding on His close relationship to Yahweh. Remember how people are; they would protect their children more than themselves when a stranger is involved. But to them Jesus in not a stranger anymore but are convinced that He is indeed a ‘man of God’ as evidenced by their desire for Him to confer the good blessing of God.

It is a common practice among the Jews to lay their hands on the head of those whom they will confer blessing, especially from since the time of the patriarchs in Genesis. But we know here that the children are up for the greatest conferring of God’s blessing for this one comes from the Lord who spoke to patriarchs themselves. Oh, if all Israel knew, that place at that moment would have been filled with all their children! Matthew Henry comments that this conferring of blessings upon children is a revealed will of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah 44:3 “…I will pour out my Spirit upon your offspring, my blessings upon your descendants”.

Having this in mind, it is no wonder why the Lord would be indignant (Greek eganaktesen – deep emotion, pained emotion) when the disciples rebuked those who were bringing the children to the Lord. This is not an isolated indignation. Another incident in Matthew 21:15 when the children as they shouted ‘Hosanna, hosanna’ to Jesus were rebuked by people who presume to know more about God – the Pharisees!  These children were rejoicing that the Savior has come; perhaps the very children who were brought to Him that Mark has now written about. In truth, Jesus is the only source of their blessing from God and to hinder them that privilege is to prevent them from coming to God himself. At their tender age, they do not know how, but as they are taught the knowledge of God, they will themselves have the privilege later on to come on their own.  It is the desire of God therefore that children at the youngest of age be brought to Him.  The young Israelite is taught the Law, Prophets and Psalms on all occasion that a child should build his or her entire life centered on the true God.  This particular moment was the greatest opportunity for them to see and hear whom that was spoken to them by their parents from the very pages of the Old Testament scriptures. And to hinder them caused deep, pained emotions for the Lord who loves them. Love is evident by what He said, that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

The secular world understands that people are best indoctrinated while they are young. The Chinese communist leader, Mao Zhedong (or Mao Tse Tung – more familiarly), once instructed the nation to catch the mind and heart of the Chinese people while they’re young – to indoctrinate them with Maoist communism in their childhood years. Even MTV, in one of its infomercial, in a sinister kind of way, mentioned the importance of grabbing their viewers at a tender age because that is the greatest time of influence.  Would the children then be rather exposed to corrupting influences of man’s sinful activities? Jesus forbids it so and would have the little ones know Him from a tender age.

Let the children therefore come to the knowledge of Christ Jesus and God’s saving grace while they are young. No hindrances should be spared for this one great privilege for any Christian adult to bless their children with.

Proceeding now to verse 15, careful reading of it allows us to see an important shift in the focus of the statement of the Lord, yet it provides us a heavenly truth with regards to how we should welcome Him. Sometimes when we read a particular section in God’s word, presuppositions are injected into what is being read resulting to a failure to comprehend properly. In this particular verse, there can be failure of the reader to see the shift from ‘children to whom the kingdom of God belongs’ to ‘the kingdom of God to be received like the way children were received by the Lord’unhindered.

Yes, there should not be barriers or obstacles in receiving the Lord. The parallel of Jesus and the kingdom of God is established here. To receive the kingdom of God is to receive Jesus Christ. Nothing should be placed as a hindrance in between the Lord and children in particular, and all men in general.

Verse 16 now continues and as all hindrances now removed, Jesus proceeds to bless the children. He blessed them not only by His prayer but by showing to them Himself.

Observe then that this narrative is set between two other stories: the teaching on marriage and its sanctity (Mark 10:1-12), and then the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27).  In both pericopes, hindrances were the contributors of the discontinuing of what should be. 

  • In marriage, a hindrance such as infidelity committed by one of the partners would result to the discontinuing of the marriage. From the very beginning it is ordained that marriage should not be broken for it runs contrary to the expressed will of God. In order for a disobedient heart not to further hardened, divorce was allowed but each divorcee are never to remarry until one of the partners die for this is the only acceptable means to God for a remarriage.  To contradict God in this matter and marry another person while the divorced partner is still alive is to fall into the sin of adultery – consequently putting the idol of ‘self’ in place of God (this is the very essence of the Ten Commandments where the breaking of commandment nos. 4-10 is ultimately breaking commandment no. 1-3).
  • In the next pericope of the rich young ruler, it can be perceived also to be the amplification of the narrative about children coming to Christ.  This time it is a rich person coming to Jesus and asking how he should inherit the kingdom of heaven. Yet his desire is prevented by the very statements he was asserting about himself to the Lord.  I will discuss this in another post but to be sure another hindrance this story was preventing a union between Lord and himself.

And it is no coincidence either the pericope on marriage and this narrative was taught in one sweep for many times in the Scripture the union between God and his people is represented by the metaphor of a marriage that cannot happen when there are hindrances nor can be dissolved what God has already joined.  Although I use the word ‘hindrance’ here often, one thing is true, whatever that hindrance be, is definitely considered sinful for it rubs against the will of God. 

Suffice it for us to understand that no hindrances must be placed in between the kingdom of God and ourselves.  Encouraging as this may sound, it is unfortunate that the reality is that we always have something that hinders us from receiving Him.  It is called sin. And like the disciples we hinder.  Who then can be saved? The answer of the Lord is still the same, “with man it is impossible, but with God nothing is impossible” (Mark 10:27).

Going back to the verses that we are particularly studying here, Christian parents primarily are conferred by God the responsibility of telling their children who Jesus Christ is at whatever age they are in.  All Christians are by extension conferred this responsibility for all children.  We take all what is possibly necessary to bring to them the Gospel and at the same time, protect them from the corrupting influences of the world. Also, let us be careful in teaching them.  Many times, we do teach them that by obeying commandments they go to heaven without perhaps realizing that we put a false gospel as a hindrance. And many times, like the disciples who prevented the children to be brought to Jesus, we presume to know the Lord’s mind when we say things that the Scriptures have not instructed us to say or do.  We should teach them that Jesus is their only means of their salvation, the One who paid with His life so that they will be at peace with God, and this promise is their blessing.  And because it is so, they are supposed to be taught to receive Him, to receive Him by faith, to entrust their lives to Him alone – to do all these without any hindrances for the Lord says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. And they would not know until we bring the Gospel to them and pray to the Lord for their salvation.

As a footnote, let this be a means of joy to parents who have lost young children whether in disease or mishaps, that as Jesus explicitly says, that children belong to the Kingdom of God. Not that the children are sinless for also in them is the seed of Adam, a sinful nature, but rather it is a gracious blessing conferred by the Lord Jesus Christ to them. This is also an encouraging truth for me for I have a sister with Down’s syndrome who will never know her left from her right, nor will she comprehend the fullness of her blessings in Christ.  Yet while she is still alive, we endeavor to teach her through biblical songs and stories about God’s salvation through Christ. And when she gives praise to the Lord, it is the most wonderful sight and sound to behold from her. To God be the glory!

 

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JOHN 1:9-13

9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

There is an english saying, ‘call a spade, spade’ – I don’t recall if I have this in the Filipino vernacular but there are variations with the same thought. Simply put, it means that we should avoid euphemism, be straightforward, use blunt or plain language (i).  Consequently, ‘if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, swims like a duck, quack like a duck, then it must be a duck.’

Today, I went to visit my weblog; I opened the WordPress home page and typed Ralph Venning on the search box. I have a posted one of his quotes, clicked on my article and as soon as I was directed to my own post via this method, I saw that article titles were automatically generated at the bottom of the post. I blogged before cautioning everyone who might chance upon these links to be discerning and reject what is error-ridden. Then there is an article entitled “John MacArthur’s heresy on Predestination”. I proceeded to follow the link in order to get to the article (to view the full article, please click this link: http://onetruegod.wordpress.com/2008/08/28/john-macarthurs-heresy-on-predestination/) and after reading the post, I just sighed with dismay as the article began with this sentence, and I quote, “Pastor John MacArthur is a dangerous man, because he subtly has introduced many damnable heresies into the church—none more hideous than his denial of the redeeming power of the literal physical blood of Jesus Christ.” Then 2 sentences later, he wrote, “And to no surprise, as a Calvinist, MacArthur teaches that a lost sinner cannot be saved unless God first chooses him or her.”

Before I proceed, I must admit that such serious accusations exist on both camps – Calvinists and Arminians – and I pray that Christians from both sides of this theological divide would be more careful in pronouncing whether one is a heretic or not. It is good to question one’s stance on a doctrine but to call one as a heretic simply because he does not concur with another’s perception of what he thinks the Scripture says lacks the necessary care the Scripture itself demands.  Now, before I forget all together, I just want to be clear that someone is considered heretic if his doctrine does not conform, at the very least, to the essentials of Christianity. And one essential of the faith is that God saves by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. Whether one is a calvinist or arminian or an amyraldian, salvation by grace through faith in the biblical Jesus Christ is still the means with fruit that bears witness to the reality of that faith. James’ epistle to the church is clear about that, even Paul, when we read Ephesians 2:8-10 fully (yes, verse 10, which begins with ‘for’, cannot be divorced from verses 8-9).

Concerning  the article in focus, the original writer, David J. Stewart, responded to John MacArthur’s explanation of Acts 13:48 by firstly using John 1:12. It is from this context that I find it necessary to refresh myself on John 1:12 (and hopefully you, the reader of this blog) and see what the verse is really saying.

I took verses 9-12 because it forms a more coherent understanding of verse 12. Let us observe the following points:

  • (v.9) Referred to as the Word originally introduced in verse 1 and following, Jesus Christ is the One who brings the light of truth into a person originally in darkness. Everyone who has that light of truth did not receive it from anyone, nor can in himself generate that truth. Rather, Jesus is the sole source and giver of truth (light) and was announced to be coming into the world.
  • (v.10) Jesus came into the world that He has made, through His incarnation (taking human form through the virgin birth) but no one received Him for who He truly is – God who created all things.
  • (v.11) Jesus came to the nation of Israel who should have expected Him as they are the custodian of the oracles of God through the Law and the Prophets wherein His arrival have been announced in various ways over many centuries. But they, as a nation, did not welcome Him as they should have – the Messiah of the Lord. We can infer at this point, that their very rejection is the evidence proving that people born into the world are born with the darkness of the soul brought by the fall (from verse 9).
  • (v.12) Now there were some who received Him, as who He truly is – God and Messiah, and to these particular people, Jesus gave the ‘exousian’ (ESV uses ‘right’, KJV uses ‘power’) to become children of God. Dominion is also another meaning of exousian.
  • (v. 13) continued from verse 12, points to the supernatural means how one can have the ability to receive Jesus and obtain the right/power to become a child of God.

Now, David J. Steward pronounced that John MacArthur is wrong (and heretic) by teaching among other things that it is God who must choose first before one can choose to believe in Jesus Christ. Although there are numerous verses and pericopes that will support the fact of God’s predestinating work prior human response, let us be fair and contend with him by the particular verse he used – John 1:12.

Indeed if I look at verse 12, apart from the surrounding verses, I will have to arrive at the same conclusion that the right of becoming a child of God depended on my receiving and believing Jesus Christ. As most Arminians would argue, it’s the plain reading of the text. However, the verse is not the sole text of the chapter and context is primary in interpreting the text – this is where Arminians and Calvinists agree, theoretically. Actual application is, at times, found wanting.

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Notice however that verse 12 and 13 form a complete sentence. Here we observe the following:

  • The first half of the sentence (v.12) tell us that all who did receive and believed in Jesus – to these were given the right/power to become children.
  • The second half of the sentence (v.13) tells us something about those who did receive and believed in Jesus, and were given the right/power to become children – that they were not born (by the will) of man but born (by the will) of God.

Adding the second half of the sentence changes the perspective. You might say I am putting something into the verse to change that perspective. But that can also be said to those who would say that the person must choose first before they are saved (as the writer of the article said). His statement is, honestly speaking, a bit tricky and I will explain why hereunder with hopes that you can follow me.

  • For sure God requires, in fact He commands, a person to repent and believe in Jesus as a part of the process of salvation. Peter preached to the Jews and said that they have to repent and believe the Lord Jesus Christ in Acts 2 (also in Paul’s preaching in Acts 17).
  • If I were to be more meticulous about human actions concerning salvation, the chronology of the action verbs (received-believed) is illogical for both arminians and calvinist, because both groups demand that a person believes first then receives. The Greek sentence (verse 12) is odoi de elabon auton edoken autous exousian tekna theou genesthai tois pisteouosin eis to onoma auton oi [word for word: but as many as received him he gave to them the authority children of God to be, to those that believe on name his (i)]
  • Having said this, the second part of the sentence (v. 13) must contribute to the meaning and even the grammatical structure of the first half (v.12). This reveals that a person (who received and believed) is born of God not by man. This has nothing to do with physical birth. This must be spiritual in nature – that man cannot give birth to himself spiritually only God can.
  • But verse 12 is grammatically not an explicit command to the person to repent and believe – to think so is to import thoughts from other parts of the Scriptures and impose those thoughts into the verse. May I propose then that the verse can be rightly perceived as a statement of being – something that one already has ( the right given by Jesus) and the ensuing proof thereof (having received and believed in Him).
  • Now if man is by nature spiritually dead, how in the world can he trust Jesus without a prior spiritual work of God first happening – in this case, spiritual re-birth (born of God)? Unless this question is properly answered theologically by the Arminian, I certainly will argue for and in behalf of the Calvinist who says that God must choose the sinner first and give him spiritual birth before he can choose Jesus Christ. Further why would one spiritually dead person choose Jesus and another spiritual dead person does not – what does the first one have that the second one does not have?
  • The arminian will always say believe and then you will be born again while the calvinist will say that God will cause the new birth (born again) to happen first before a person believes.
  • In fact if I will simply get into the flow of thought of verses 9 to 13, it will naturally flow towards the fact that God must work His power in a spiritually dead man first to bring him to spiritual re-birth before this man will trust the Lord Jesus Christ.

David J. Stewart did not do his refutation by solely using the same verse that John MacArthur used (Acts 13:48). To prove Mr. MacArthur wrong, Mr. Steward should be able to exegete Acts 13:48 properly in order to argue against Mr. MacArthur’s position. Instead, Mr. Stewart imported John 1:12 which, in truth, is quite devastating to his arminian position.

When Mr. Stewart attempted to exegete Acts 13:48, he has made some serious errors through questions like: Do you think that God chooses evil men to kill the innocent? [He was refering to Hitler’s killing of the Jews based on his understanding of the word “ordained” used in both Acts 13:48 (tetagmenoi) and Romans 13:1 (tetagmenai)]? First error is he assumed that the Greek word used in both verses assumes that God cannot use evil men to accomplish His purpose. Second, he assumed that all Jews were innocent. Innocence does not mean sinlessness. Jesus was killed by evil men – a will of God to fulfill His glorious purpose, that is redemption. Through the hands of evil men was the Innocent One murdered on the cross. Much of Mr. Stewart’s arguments are weak at best, and lack understanding of the biblically revealed human condition at worst. I recommend one reads his article (linked above) with solid biblical backing in order to discern whether Mr. Stewart is right or wrong in his analogies and conclusions.

All of the above then would help me arrive in concluding that David J. Stewart is incorrect and John MacArthur has done his homework well albeit originally using a different verse. I would also conclude that Mr. Stewart is not careful in his exegesis of the John 1:12. And more importantly, I would conclude that Mr. Stewart did not exercise utmost caution and restraint before pronouncing that John MacArthur has been heretical in his views on predestination. Worse still, I believe Mr. Stewart has slandered Mr. MacArthur and needs to repent publicly as he publicly slandered Mr. MacArthur. And if I have insinuated or even remotely hinted that Mr. Steward is a slanderer, then yes he is….Just calling a spade, spade!

 

(i) World Wide Words: Spade; Michael Quinion writes on  international English words from a British viewpoint

(ii) Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, based on the Majority Text, by George Ricker Berry

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