Saturday, October 21, 2017

Smiracles

This post ties into three recent ones on continuationism and making normative the Macedonian call (parts one and two).  I've written on this in the past too (here).  I've also written on the leading of the Spirit [here] (and that might not be all; it was a quick look).  Here are six parts on a related subject.  Here is the seventh part after the six on the related subject.  And here's something on what's normative in Acts.  I've also written on this issue as related to prayer.

I have a friend, whose brother-in-law on regular occasions, when something nice happens in his life, exclaims, "smiracle," short for "it's a miracle."  Smiracle.  His package arrived a day early.  Smiracle.  An old friend shows up at his door.  Smiracle.  He remembers an address.  Smiracle.  It was supposed to rain, and it didn't.  Smiracle.

Smiracle reminds me of the overuse of "awesome."  Maybe ten years ago or so, almost everyone was using awesome to describe some of the most mundane.  Snow day at school.  Awesome.  Sticking a skate board move.  Awesome.  Grandparents picked up and grandpa gives his grandson a high five with an accompanying, "Awesome!"  Awe was no longer reserved for God.  Evangelical congregations used it for God, but with little to no sense of awe.

It's not theologically correct now to reject a use of the word miracle.  You can't justify denying someone his miracle.  You should just be happy.  It means, here's someone who thinks God has done something.  Accept it.  He's giving God credit.  In the contemporary system, it's far worse to repudiate a miracle than it is to pervert the usage.  It's, you know, OK that people don't know what it means.  There's a lot they don't know.  This one isn't a big deal.

If anything can be a miracle, then nothing is a miracle.  When something is a miracle and when it is not then become indistinguishable.  The classification of a circumstance as a miracle becomes completely subjective.  The experience authenticates a person's spirituality as evidence of God's working in his life.  The problem is, it's not a miracle.  It's called one and then depended upon as spiritual confirmation.

What is the beef about smiracles?  Two words are translated miracle in the New Testament (Thomas Ross has written on this), dunamis some and usually semeion.   Someone can just look this up.  It's no great expertise on my part.  The latter is also translated, "sign."  In the English (KJV), miracle or miracles is found 37 times.  Five are Old Testament.  Of the 32 in the New Testament, 9 are dunamis and 23 are semeion.  A miracle is a sign.  Sometimes the word miracle refers to a type of sign and other times, it is a sign.  In the New Testament I would differentiate walking on water or feeding the 5,000 from speaking in tongues and the gift of healing.

Salvation is never called a miracle in scripture. Never.  You may say, I'll call it one anyway.  OK, but the Bible doesn't call it one.  No matter.  You call it one.  The reason.  It is!!  Why?   It is!!  One of the better arguments I've ever heard for salvation being a miracle is, "So you're saying that salvation isn't a miracle?"  If you say, "No," that means you think that salvation is a work or something that is just natural, not of God.  It's argument by insult.  I said it's one of the better arguments though.  You can't argue from scripture.

Everything that happens on earth in one sense is supernatural.  By Jesus all things consist.  God holds everything together.  So that means everything in that sense is supernatural.  Even on the natural and supernatural, we have designated only certain events or circumstances as supernatural, operating outside of natural laws.  If I fall from a cliff and go down, that's natural, but if I go up, that's supernatural.

Miracle is an English word.  It translates mainly semeion, which is also translated, "sign."  When "sign" is translated "miracle," it is still a "sign."  Semeion occurs 77 times in the New Testament.  "Sign" is found 30 times in the New Testament (KJV) and "signs," 23.  If you add the times semeion is translated "miracle," that about covers the translation of the word in the English (KJV).

Tell-tale in the usage of semeion is one in Hebrews 2:3-4:
3  How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
Also interesting in these two verses is that you can see "signs" and "miracles."  According to Greek grammar, these two verses tell us that "signs" and "miracles" have ceased or ended.  They are no more.  "Was confirmed" is an aorist passive verb.  The aorist says that the confirmation of signs, wonders, and miracles was completed in the past.  The confirmation of the words of the Lord and those who heard him is completed.

1 Corinthians was written around AD50 and Hebrews around AD63-64, thirteen or fourteen years later.  You can read that signs were wrapping up in 1 Corinthians.  They were done by the time Hebrews rolled around.  Between 1 Corinthians and Hebrews the confirmation process of the words of Jesus and the Apostles was completed.

So someone says, salvation is a miracle.  That means that miracles were not done by the time Hebrews was written, therefore, contradicting Hebrews, or countering the Word of God.  What Hebrews says then according to this claim would be wrong, saying, "No, miracles are still today, as seen in salvation."  Hebrews 2:3-4 say they are done, so how do I know or why do I say miracles continue today?  Basically because I say so or because I want them to, as part of my wish fulfillment.

Your salvation is supernatural.  It is of God.  It isn't a miracle.  It isn't a sign.  God worked for you to be saved, if you are saved.  There may have been some amazing circumstances.  You could call those the providence of God.  None of it was a miracle.  When we blur these terms, we don't help.  We hurt.  We should stop and be more precise or accurate.  There are bad consequences for not doing so.

Signs have a very narrow purpose.  They authenticate, confirm, or validate the words of God or the prophets or apostles who speaks those words.  Since the canon is complete, we don't need more validation or confirmation or authentication.  Miracles -- signs -- have ceased.  My friend, Pastor Dave Mallinak, disagrees:
Our world is a miracle, and a continual sign to unbelievers of the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-3; Romans 1:20). We miss some of the miracles of the created world because it is a miracle on a large scale.
Dave is saying that our world is a miracle and a sign. This abuses the meaning of signs in the New Testament, rendering them meaningless.  God reveals Himself through creation, no doubt, but His creation isn't a sign.  This is a blatant corruption of signs.  With all due respect, it's not his only problem in only those two sentences (there are too many for me to deal with in his whole post at this time).  Unbelievers don't need signs to understand God through creation.  Creation isn't a sign.  It is itself the revelation of God Himself.

Psalm 19 and Romans 1 say that what God reveals through creation, He reveals to everyone.  No one misses, as Dave says above, what God reveals through creation, which is why the revelation is general revelation, general in its audience.  Everyone understands it.  No one misses it.

Turning such things as the whole world itself or creation into a sign doesn't mark anything.  It doesn't mark anything.  It's not a sign of anything.  It's putting black against a black backdrop, white against a white backdrop, sprinkling dirt on top of dirt.  There isn't anything unique enough to it to call it a sign, that is, a miracle.

I've already laid out in my previous posts the issues that come with continuationism of whatever variety.  We really do need to confine ourselves to scripture for our doctrine.  More could be said there.  Smiracle is no exception.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Islam: Modernist or Rationalist Critique

Islam is on the way to being the largest world religion, as husbands and wives in Christendom disobey the Biblical pattern to have as many children as possible (Psalm 127:5) while Muslims have many children.  Are you equipped to evangelize Muslims?  How much do you know about the history of Islam?  I believe the content in the pamphlet The Testimony of the Quran to the Bible (also available in Arabic here) is very useful, and would commend it for use in Biblical Baptist churches (see the Word document here.)  I also thought it was worth mentioning what the results of rationalistic, modernistic, or higher critical theory to the Quran leads to.  Tom Holland has an easy to understand video with useful information:
The video approaches the Quran from a secular, rationalistic perspective and contains some (unjustified) digs at the Bible, but it demonstrates that the sources for Islam are late and unreliable.  Indeed, the sources are weak enough that a rational person can even make the case the Muhammad did not exist.  While I am not convinced that he did not exist--I think he definitely did for reasons such as those explicated by David Wood below--the Quranic and other Islamic material has serious problems with reliability.  The debates below demonstrate these facts (of course, the music in the debates is not endorsed, nor are the authors, etc.):
(Note: Robert Spenser in this video convincingly wins this debate with the Muslims over whether Muhammad existed or not, but that does not mean that his conclusion is correct.)  Better reasons, for those who do not accept the god of Islam as the real God, to conclude that Muhammad did exist, while still demonstrating the unreliability of the Islamic sources, can be found in this debate between Robert Spenser and David Wood:
Christians should be aware of what the application of rationalistic skepticism to the Quran leads to in terms of history, because:
1.) Unlike with the Bible, the Quran was not a product of Divine intervention, so there are much better reasons for higher critical analysis to be correct.
2.) Muslims argue against Christianity by borrowing from higher criticism, but were they to apply the same sort of criticism to their own religion they would find theirs melts away in a way that Biblical Christianity does not do so in fact.
Thus, I commend the videos above to you, to assist you in proclaiming the gospel and tearing down spiritual strongholds with Muslims.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Is the Macedonian Call Normative for Missions Today? Part Two

Part One

Before I begin part two, I want to draw your attention to a series on the call that two others and myself did at Jackhammer several years ago (my parts one, two, three, and four).  Those will be helpful to get some more scriptural thinking than in these two posts.

In part one, I said, no, to the question of the title, among other things.

Maybe you're thinking, and I hope not, that it doesn't make any difference that someone hears a voice in his head and says it's God talking to him.  Your thought could be, as long as the stuff he hears doesn't change any doctrine and he wants to do something good, what difference should it make?  That seems about par for the course in Christianity today, where close and even much further away than close, actually does count.

Could you consider that Paul and the apostles and the era in which they operated were unique?  That's fine.  We are not ripped off today.  We have completed scripture and a long time of having sorted through it.  We don't need apostles.  We don't have apostles.  We are not operating in apostolic fashion any more.  It isn't lesser that we are.

Making the Macedonian call normative for today in missions does change doctrine, several doctrines in fact, and it is very dangerous in a number of different ways.

Not in any order of significance, one, the one with the "call" receives further and new revelation from God.  This isn't scripture, but it is being counted as having that authority.  This corrupts the doctrine of scripture.  Scripture, special revelation from God, is complete and sufficient.  We don't need any more and we're not getting any more.  The canon closed with the book of Revelation.  We call that the last book of the Bible.

Two, the signs of the Holy Spirit validated the apostles and scripture.  The Holy Spirit is finished confirming the Word of God.  This attributes something to the Holy Spirit that He isn't still doing.  Another common addition to the revelation from God is some sort of validation of a softer variety than what the apostles received.  Men point to these authenticating events or phenomena as how they know the voice is from God.  They would deny them as signs, but they very often still are (if not always) relied upon as signs.

True spirituality should be judged by scripture.  This "call" and its authentication have become faux evidence of the unique spirituality.  A person hearing from God is very connected to God, and this is a major way, albeit unscriptural, that folks are now judging spirituality.

Three, it messes up the biblical understanding of call.  Almost exclusively, call relates to salvation.  If you are called, you are saved.  Instead of being called meaning salvation, it has become in a wide swath of evangelicalism more associated with the voice in the head.

Four, it replaces the actual means by which someone knows what to do in the realms of the unwritten will of God or the individual will of God.  Men rely on these ways of conceiving of the will of God. Five, it undermines Christian liberty, because someone has the liberty to go somewhere as a missionary without having this extra-scriptural experience.  Six, it can be used to excuse man's will as God's will.  Even if it is permissible, it is said to be God's will, when it really is man's will.

Other problems ensue with the application of the call to missions.

One, unqualified men often become qualified by a call.  Two, men wish to go somewhere they shouldn't go, but they get to go now, because the call can't be refused.  I understand that for one, some churches expect qualifications too, but I've seen this work very often to qualify the unqualified.  For two, churches also will refuse, but again I've seen many instances where they are not.  A Filipino wants to move back to the Philippines except with full support and American money will go a long ways in Manila.

I don't want you to get me wrong.  Many who are "called" are also qualified and going somewhere they should.  They get there and do a good job for the most part.  The gospel is preached, new converts trained, churches started.  When they succeed in biblical fashion, the call isn't the reason.  It shouldn't get any of the credit.

On the other hand, I've met men, very well meaning, who should stay and help in their church.  They don't need to be out on their own.  They need direct supervision from a pastor.  They are so eager, but they are not equipped to do it.  Spurred by some combination of emotionalism, false doctrine, and wish fulfillment, they hear the voice, and say, yes, to it.  They spend years writing bad to mediocre to good mission letters, take photos, and embrace their call.  I'm not saying they're not trying.  Some are.  They just weren't cut out for it.

Three, men waiting for the call don't do missions.  They haven't received it.  It's like waiting to speak in tongues.  There are people out there who try to and want to, and can't.  No one actually is speaking in tongues, actual languages, and they are honest about it.  A lot of men could be evangelizing somewhere full time, sent out by a church, but they still haven't been called.  As much as some shouldn't be out there as a missionary, some should be, but they haven't heard the voice in the head.  Or, they hear voices in their head and are willing to admit they are just voices in their head.  They still haven't been called, so they are not somewhere evangelizing, when they are very qualified to do so.

All of us need to sort through the relationship of the Old Testament to the New, the Gospels to Acts,  and the Epistles to the Gospels and Acts.  There is a fundamental hermeneutical error that arises from a departure from historical, biblical theology, that provides the basis for making the Macedonian call normative for today.  I ask that you take this into full consideration.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reflecting on My White Privilege

I am planning to writing further in the related series, "Making the Macedonian Call Normative in Missions Today" and "You Know You're a Continuationist When...," so stay tuned for those.  Meanwhile, there's this.

Out of accession to popular culture, I want to take a moment to reflect on my white privilege. I can encourage other people by admitting that my life has been easier because of my skin color.  I have to start with my father, who grew up in the rural upper midwest without electricity or indoor plumbing.  All the heat and cooking for the house was in a black pot belly stove in their kitchen.  Neither of his parents had a college degree.  He was limited in school activities by the requirements of living on the family farm, including milking the cows every day before daybreak.  He was placed in special education class while in junior high.

In another cold midwestern state, my mother was the oldest child and grew up in an apartment above a bar.  Her dad was a drunk and her mother died of cancer when she was eight years old, at which time she started to keep the house and raise her younger brother.  Her father remarried a woman, a heavily medicated chainsmoker, adding three more children to my mom's responsibilities.

My father and mother married at eighteen while my dad worked graveyard shift at a local factory.  He worked that same shift for 17 years, my entire early childhood until 12 years of age, at which time my  family moved for my dad to go to Bible college.  There he was a full time student, his working two minimum wage jobs and my mom at a lunch counter downtown.  We lived in government subsidized housing.  We bought a Chevy Vega for eighty dollars, which had a hole in the floor through which we could see the road and exhaust blew into the car.  The next vehicle was a Volkswagon with five adults and no heat.  We took turns scraping ice and frost off the inside of the windshield.

Our family moved from government subsidized housing to something a little more than a shack besides the railroad tracks, literally on the other side of the tracks.  We had a dug out basement with crumbling walls, where was our shower, a pipe sticking out of the wall, with a floor of deteriorating concrete.

White privilege.  I understand, it's a weightless knapsack of assets and resources I was given when I was born white.  Actually, no.

A key to my childhood is that I didn't think about privilege at all.  I never knew I didn't have it good.  I did have it good. No one told me I didn't.  I thought I did.  I was breathing. I lived in a free country.  I believed in Jesus Christ.  I had a home in heaven.  I owned a Bible in English.  We made ends meet.  We survived.   Whatever the stuff we had or didn't have wasn't important.

Everyone today is privileged if he grows up in the United States -- red and yellow, black and white.  It is still a land of opportunity.  Giving people even another impression is one of the worst things you could do to him. Even though some have it better than others, it doesn't have to stay that way.  Even if it is true, you can be happy that someone has it better than you.  That person is not holding you back -- be happy for him.

Everyone will still have trials and tribulations, face opposition.  Even if the playing field is slanted in some way, it doesn't help anyone to tell him that.  That's just the way it is in a sin-cursed world.  Some are born on third base and others have to touch all four bases.  What someone needs to hear is, you can do it.  You can make it.  You can succeed.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Take all of the energy dedicated to self-pity, wrap it in a ball, and send in the direction of a solution.

What should be required reading for schools is Up From Slavery, the autobiography of Booker T. Washington (the kindle edition is 60 cents).  If I gave it a sub title it could be, Build a Better Brick, which is what Washington drilled into the students at Tuskegee.  He didn't invoke white privilege.  He said, you build a better brick.  If you do, people will buy it.  That's still what people need to hear, and not the alternative message of W. E. B DuBuois that sent crowds flooding to congregate around Washington D.C.

God created a world of potential and of exponential growth.  In a few generations, one seed results in stalks of corn covering the face of the planet. It's not a zero sum game.  Somebody else's gain is not my loss.  There's more than enough for all of us.  Most important is the grace of God.  Psalm 37:25, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Abiding in Christ: What Does it Mean? part 1 of 9, Word Study

What does it mean to abide in Christ? John 15, and other texts of Scripture, clearly teach that abiding in Christ is extremely important.  To understand this essential, but too often misunderstood Biblical teaching, we are going to look at the New Testament references where the Greek word meno, translated "abide," appears in Scripture.  We will also look at background to John 15, and then exegete the passage in John 15.  May God use this study to help believers to abide more deeply and sweetly in Christ as they understand what it means to do so.
 
Note in the texts below that a sense of "remain," "endure," "persevere," or something of the sort is clear in many of the texts with the Greek word meno, "abide."
Mt 10:11 And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.
Mt 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
Mt 26:38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
Here “remain/stay” is the sense as well. Consider that this text contains an identical imperative to that in John 15. The disciples were to stay there, while, v. 39, Christ went away from them a little farther. The word, of itself, does not indicate that fellowship with Him is involved in remaining/abiding/staying. Note that the Lord rebuked them for not “watching” (v. 40ff.) but not for not “tarrying” with Him, for they did stay there instead of going somewhere else, although they certainly had no sort of living fellowship with the Lord, for they were asleep.
Mr 6:10 And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.
Here “remain/stay” in the sense of “dwell” is the idea. This use also is not one of living fellowship; one does not have fellowship with a house.
Mr 14:34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.
Lu 1:56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
Mary remained/stayed/lived in Elizabeth’s house. Certainly Mary and Elizabeth had good fellowship, but they were both abiding in Elizabeth’s house, not abiding in one another. Note the last part of the verse.
Lu 8:27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
The man stayed/remained in the tombs, rather than in houses. No fellowship aspect appears in this usage either.
Lu 9:4 And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.
Here also, the command was to remain/stay in the house. Here, as in many of the previous references, location is in view.
Lu 10:7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.
The preachers were to remain/stay in this house while they were in that city, rather than moving from one house to another and exploiting everyone’s hospitality.
Lu 19:5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.
The Lord Jesus was going to remain/stay in Zacchaeus’ house. The Savior would be his guest that day. Certainly fellowship would go on, but this fact is not required by the word itself.
Lu 24:29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
Both the command and the fulfillment are to remain/stay with someone, to continue in his physical presence.
Joh 1:32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
Here, and in v. 33, meno indicates a location. In v. 32 the Spirit came to abide on the Lord, and in v. 33 the Holy Ghost continued to remain on the Savior.
Joh 1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
Joh 1:38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
Here meno is equivalent to remain/stay. The two disciples asked the Lord Jesus what house He was staying in.
Joh 1:39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
The uses in v. 39 are like those in v. 38; they remained/stayed with the Lord. Surely the disciples had fellowship with Christ while they stayed with Him, but this result is not involved in the verb meno on its own.
Joh 2:12 After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.
The people specified in the text remained or stayed in the city.
Joh 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
The wrath of God stays or remains upon the unbelieving one.
Joh 4:40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.
The Samaritans asked the Lord to remain/stay with them, and so He did.
Joh 5:38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.
Here, when the Word remains or stays in one, it produces effects (although perhaps the statement that the Word did not remain in them is simply an affirmation of their ignorance of Scripture entirely, explaining hence the command of v. 39). See 8:31, where endurance in the belief and practice of the Word is indicated. Enduring obedience is associated with love for God, v. 42.
Joh 6:27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
Spiritual food will continue/remain/endure/abide, unlike physical bread, which will perish. In relation to John 15, note that here meno is even rendered endure. The Online Bible version of Thayer’s Greek Lexicon provides the following statistics for the translation of meno: KJV – abide 61, remain 16, dwell 15, continue 11, tarry 9, endure 3, misc 5; 120 (total).
Joh 6:56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
Here it looks like the spiritual union of remaining or staying in Christ, en Christo, is in view. The one who has spiritual fellowship with Christ, who believes in Him, who eats His flesh and drinks His blood, is in Christ, and Christ is in him. The spiritual union here would, based on other passages of Scripture, be unbreakable; one cannot be in Christ and then no longer be so. There is no command here to remain in the en Christo position; it is a declarative statement. It looks like, contextually, this statement is something like, “He that believes in Me, remains in Me, and I in him.”
Joh 7:9 When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.
The Lord remained/stayed in Galilee.
Joh 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
Christ commands the believing Jews to remain or stay in His Word. This appears to be perseverance in obedience to it. The verse does not establish any mystical idea in abiding. This is not to say that God does not do great things by His Spirit in His people through the Word, nor does it deny that He does in fact hold glorious communion with them (1 John 1:3); it is simply dealing with the much narrower question of whether John 8:31 proves that He does these things. One should note as well that this verse is a statement that only those who, having received a new nature by grace, continue to follow the Lord are truly converted; the verse does not make a distinction between some sort of higher Christian life as a disciple versus a lower “Christian” life of perpetual carnality is in view, rather than a distinction between the saved and the lost. Those who do not continue and are not “disciples indeed” do not “know the truth” and are not “free” (8:31-32). All believers know the truth, and no unbelievers know the truth (John 1:1714:61717:1719; and this knowledge leads to a changed life as its certain result: “Every one that is of the truth heareth [Christ’s] voice,” John 18:37; and consequently becomes a true worshipper (John 4:23-24), follows Christ (John 10:27), and “doeth truth . . . that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:21). Furthermore, in the immediate context of John 8:31-32 (namely, in v. 36), and everywhere else in the New Testament, being made “free” is an event that takes place at the moment of regeneration (John 8:3236Romans 6:18228:221Galatians 5:1). While the believer is to renew his discipleship daily (Luke 9:23), the call of the Lord Jesus, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34) is a call to repentance and faith, to conversion: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it [eternally in hell]; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake [repent of his sin and his own life and way] and the gospel’s, the same shall save it [will go to heaven]” (Mark 8:35). Those who do not become disciples lose their own souls eternally in the lake of fire (Mark 8:36). While there can certainly be false or unsaved disciples (John 8:316:66) just like there can be false believers (John 2:23-25; cf. 3:1-21), every true believer is a true disciple, and every true disciple is a true believer.
The Lord Jesus Himself, who knew that He was speaking to true converts (John 8:30-31), gave them assurance based on the evidence of the new birth and new nature (John 8:31—a certainty in every truly converted person, John 17:17). How much the more should His people, who do not know infallibly what has gone on within a professed convert, follow His practice! Believers must not give assurance to those who claim conversion but manifest no change of life.
Joh 8:35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
The servant does not remain or stay in the house, but the Son does.
Joh 9:41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
The Lord Jesus tells those who oppose Him that their sins were remaining or staying upon them.
Joh 10:40 And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.
Christ remained or stayed in a location beyond Jordan where John had at first baptized.
Joh 11:6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
Joh 12:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
The grain of wheat remains or stays on its own.
Joh 12:34 The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?
The Christ remains or stays to rule forever.
Joh 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
The believer will no longer remain in darkness, but will be in the light instead.
Joh 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
The Father has a position of being in the Son, and the Son is in the Father (see also v. 11). It is certain that the Father and Son have an ineffably deep fellowship, but what in the text indicates that “dwelleth” specifies this fellowship, rather than representing the ontological indwelling, the interpenetration of the three Persons in the Trinity?
Joh 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
The Spirit would come to remain/stay with the saints forever. See also v. 17.
Joh 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwellethwith you, and shall be in you.
Here the Spirit is known because He dwells with, and shall be in, the saints. Dwelling or abiding is not synonymous with being known, but the Spirit’s indwelling is the cause of fellowship. This verse does establish an explicit connection between fellowship and indwelling for the inward work of the Spirit. Perhaps a parallel to this in the earlier texts is found where the Lord Jesus stayed in someone’s house; fellowship on that account would be a definite result. So knowing the Spirit because He dwells within is established here. “Ye know Him, because He dwelleth with you, and shall be dwelling in you.” The Lord does not use meno of the relation of the Spirit within the Christian here; the Spirit who at that time was “with” them dwelt or abode with them; at the coming day when He would be within them, He would at that time dwell in them. The verse also supports the conclusion that believers also know the Father and the Son because both of them similarly dwell in the saints; cf. vv. 20, 23. Note the present tense use of meno in John 14:17.
Joh 14:25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
While still remaining or continuing with the disciples on the earth, Christ said these things to them.
 
See the complete study on meno or "abiding," which includes the passages not only in the KJV but also in the Greek NT (not present in this series of blog posts), by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

You Know You're a Continuationist When....

Continuationism is a belief that the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit continue to and in the present age, such as miracles, tongues, healing, and prophecy. Continuationism is the opposite of cessationism.  How bad is continuationism?  Is it even a big deal?  Scripture says it is.  I say it is.  Most say, not so much.

Evangelicals don't separate from continuationists, that I know of.  They might write books about and hold conferences on them, but they don't separate.  They do the equivalent of the little dog that yaps and yaps when you get close to its front lawn, that you know won't bite you, so you're not afraid.

Let's say that continuationism is a deal breaker for a separatist, independent Baptist.  It actually is for me and our church.  How do I know who is a continuationist? Some continuationists wear the tag.  Others don't even know it, so they wouldn't say they are.  Others deny continuationism, but believe and practice continuationism, all the while continuing to state their denial.

In contemporary theology, continuationists are categorized as either hard or soft continuationists, or just continuationists or soft ones.  I've found that the soft ones may deny or not deny that they are continuationists.  The ones who deny almost always say they don't believe in speaking in tongues or the gift of healing, so they aren't and can't be continuationists, if they know what it is.  I've found them many times to say they aren't Charismatic without understanding that they believe very similarly to  or even identical to Charismatics.

At least among independent Baptists, fundamental Baptists, and even unaffiliated Baptists, I have recognized that the soft continuationism is supposed to be accepted or at least ignored.  You may not like it, but if you were to separate from it, you would be seen as unnecessarily divisive, some type of enemy of unity.  What am I talking about?

I want to describe the characteristics I have often seen and see.  They don't mirror the extreme form of Charismaticism, but they are often in principle the same.  The soft continuationists modify the sign gifts into some lesser type, the same as the Charismatic movement, except with reduced manifestations or ramifications.  For someone who wants Charismaticism, it's there, but for the person who doesn't want it, the sign gifts are denied. The soft continuationists have straddled to some degree being and not being Charismatic by offering continuationism in a less extreme form.

On soft continuationism, I know there are those who are the face of it, like John Piper and Wayne Grudem.  However, what I have seen and see close up and in person is continuationism among independent Baptists.  I'm going to describe what I see there.  Maybe you're not an independent Baptist and you see the same among Southern Baptists and others.

PROPHECY

God is done speaking to us, but there are many different ways that independent Baptists "receive" extra-scriptural revelation.  They don't call it prophecy.  They don't equate it with scripture.  There is an ambiguity to it that allows for deniability but still with God speaking to someone outside of scripture.  Here's what I hear on a pretty regular basis.

"God gave me this new method or strategy."  "God told me what to preach."  "God told me to build this building."  "I prayed about it and God told me."  "God gave me this message."  "God gave me special insight."  "God called me to go to...." "God told me how to do this."  Sometimes less clear words are used, like "God moved me, "God put it within my heart," or "God has burdened me with."

One additional way that I hear that God speaks is through a particular interpretation of a passage.  Someone says the Spirit told him what a passage says, which is referred to as the teaching or illumination of the Holy Spirit.  The interpretation doesn't come through a normal means of study, but through someone impressed in the brain separate from study.  I've found that very often, and it shouldn't be surprising, that this teaching or understanding was wrong.

What you know is that God gave some kind of information either with a voice in the head, a feeling, or a vision.  Somebody knows something that he didn't know before.  God's stamp of authority is upon it, because it came from Him.

MIRACLES

Miracle is a common word thrown around by independent Baptists.  What they say is a miracle might just be the providence of God.  I'm fine with providence, because everything is either caused or allowed by God.  However, it isn't a sign.  A miracle is a sign.  These signs have ceased, so whatever it is, it isn't a miracle.  God works in the normal affairs of men, but miracles are not being produced.

Some might ask, what about salvation?  Isn't that a miracle?  It isn't.  God saves people, but that isn't a miracle.  Every work of God is not a miracle.  A miracle is very particular, but this has been generalized and brought along even by independent Baptists.

These "miracles" are treated like signs by independent Baptists.  They mean God is working in some unique way that gives them credibility.  It causes people to expect miracles.

HEALING

I don't know of an independent Baptist that believes in the gift of healing, but prayer has become a means by which someone has that gift.  The Lord Jesus and the apostles and prophets could pray for healing and receive it as a part of their gift.  However, we are not promised that people will be healed.  Prayer is still seen as a means of physical healing.

What I've noticed is that certain diseases get prayer and others don't.  For instance, blindness doesn't receive prayer.  If God is doing the healing, blind people can get their sight.  This kind of selectivity isn't seen in the Bible for signs.  If it's of God, it isn't limited.

Like signs, the prayer healing intends to validate a church.  People expect it from a church, want it from a church, so a church should have it at its disposal.  Even if people are not healed 75% of the time, the prayer healing is still an important church method.

SUPERNATURAL MANIFESTATIONS

This last one is the most subjective and perhaps the most important of the ones I've listed.  At Pentecost, there was the wind and the flames.  You won't get those from independent Baptists, but you'll get a feeling or atmosphere in the midst.  It often arises in a preaching and musical style, producing a mood, aura, impression, or spirit.  The preaching itself might be unscriptural, but the style supersedes that.  God is working and the demonstration is seen through these subjective, external stimuli.  Corinth has the same problem in the ecstasy that accompanied what they thought they were receiving from God (cf. 1 Cor 12:1-3).

The equivalent of firing people up for a pep rally is not a necessary condition for the Holy Spirit to fulfill His ministry, promised by Jesus and the Apostles.  A big reaction to particular styles doesn't authenticate them as the Holy Spirit.  Some of what I'm talking about relate to the wrong understanding of conviction.  Conviction is what occurs when someone has been proven guilty.  Conviction isn't a feeling.  Someone can be convinced of his guilt and not feel anything.

When a particular method works, this is attributed to God.  "Dozens or hundreds were saved."  This is pointing to a "Pentecost" style revival.  When the Holy Spirit is really working, a lot of people are saved.  This is a supernatural, powerful working that overcomes resistance to the message being delivered.  A majority of these people didn't get saved.

If a big crowd gathers or lots of people walk an aisle, men take that as a sign that God is prevailing or working in the situation.  If very few show up, God didn't either.  These effects are pointed to as a basis for a church being "alive" versus being "dead."  A dead church is one where these external effects, actually produced by men, are missing.  They are not biblical means of discernment, but they are given greater authority for discernment the biblical means.

FAKE SIGNS

Most independent Baptists are very dependent upon the fake signs I listed above.  They are the cues given to their churches that everything is OK.  If these were missing, the people would think something is wrong.  Since they are expected, they must continue.  In most independent Baptist churches, if a church announced these were no longer going to play a role in the church, it would cause a massive split.  A large chunk of the congregation would move to somewhere where they would continue to experience these fake signs.

to be continued