Monday, March 01, 2021

Are We Living in the Last Days? The Right Approach to Biblical Prophecy

The Bible is a prophetic book.  That alone is an amazing statement, because it is the only prophetic book in the world, since it is the only one written by God.  Prophecy has a lot of purposes, a major one being a validation that that the Bible is in fact the Word of God.  As you open the New Testament, it is easy to see the importance of prophecy all over it.  God wants us to take it seriously.

The first page of the New Testament in Matthew, a genealogy, is related to prophecy, because the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants are prophetic.  The genealogy proves that Jesus is a fulfillment of those predictions.  Then you get the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy that says that Jesus is a fulfillment of that.  Then you have the magi setting off looking for the Messiah based upon what?  Prophecy.  Then there are four wondrous prophecies in four different geographical location in the second half of Matthew 2 that confirm who Jesus is.  Matthew 3 talks about John the Baptist, himself another fulfillment of prophecy.

When Peter preaches on the Day of Pentecost, almost every point he makes relies on prophecy.  When the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs, what is that?  It is a fulfillment of the prophecy of John the Baptist, Acts 1:5, which is repeated by Jesus before He ascends into heaven.  When the unbelievers mock what's happening in Acts, Peter defends it with what?  Prophecy.  He refers to Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:17-21 to kick off his sermon there, explaining to the audience what's going on.  He starts:

15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God

It is such an unusual, outlying event, outside of the norm for comprehension, Peter makes the connection to the Old Testament.  This gigantic crowd wasn't all drunken.  This is what Joel was talking about, and Peter says that what was occurring there on the Day of Pentecost was "in the last days."  Generally, when people say, "We're in the last days," they mean something different than what Peter says, so that becomes confusing.  Peter's usage of the last days is the correct usage and it's what we should imitate.

We're not waiting for the last days.  We're already in them.  Peter was saying that he and his audience were in them.  1 John 2:18 says,

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

"Last days" or "last time," which is the same terminology, is ironically a terminology from Old Testament prophecy.  That's what is supposed to get us up to speed is the Old Testament usage.  Here are some places:

Isaiah 2:2, And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

Jeremiah 23:20, The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.

Ezekiel 38:8, After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.

Daniel 10:14, Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.

To the Jews, the last days were the Messianic era, when the Messiah had come and was in operation.  To God, this began when Jesus came the first time.  This launched the last days.  It's also why Peter can be using a passage with amazing astronomical events and say they are referring to the Day of Pentecost, when those things didn't take place.  What they experienced on the Day of Pentecost, I like to call the "sample pack."  It's like when you go to Costco and you taste a sample, so that you'll be receptive of the whole box.

The last days had arrived, because Jesus had arrived with the accompanying miracles, wonders, and signs.  The ones on the Day of Pentecost are in the same program as those that will appear when Christ undoes the seals during the seventieth week of Daniel, what we refer to as the seven years of tribulation.  What the audience in Acts 2 understood as the Messianic age, that Joel was prophesying, was already started.  This was the prefulfillment of that with the ultimate fulfillment later.  In one sense, it's all the same event with book ends, Jesus coming as Savior and then Jesus coming as Judge.

The magi were anticipating the coming of Jesus.  Believers today should be anticipating the second coming.  How do you interpret what you read in the prophetic passages?  Look at all of the prophecy of scripture and compare.  The prophecies will give you clues.  Revelation is symbolic language, as revealed in the first verse with the word, "signified."  Prophecy uses symbolism, but that isn't freedom to treat it like your Gumby doll.

If God can do astronomical events, like He will according to Joel 2, then He can do the smaller, albeit plainly divine, ones of Acts 2.  That's the push-back and explanation from Peter.  These things are occurring because we are already in the last days.

I believe we are meant to look for the fulfillment of prophesies that haven't been fulfilled.  We are required to be scriptural with this and not to speculate.  If we are speculating, we should say we're speculating.  When someone asks, do you think we're in the last days, they are meaning something other than what that phrase means.  I don't like to give them an answer that reaffirms their wrong view.  A better question is, do you think that some of what we see happening portend to unfulfilled prophesies from scripture?  I say, yes.

Let me give you an example.  Revelation 13:17 says,
And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
I think it is good to make an application of this with what we see happening today.  The world economy will be centrally controlled in a totalitarian way.  We can look today how this might be applied.  We can see it can happen.  That is a good application of that above verse.   How does one man control everyone?  Can technology give this capacity?  We should point to that, look at the contemporary examples.  That doesn't contradict what I see New Testament authors do with Old Testament prophecy.

Prophecy in scripture is real.  We should take it literally.  That doesn't mean we don't take the symbolism into consideration.  We do.  We understand the symbolism based on comparing every passage with every other passage of the Bible.  It gives us enough clues to understand.  This is hard to be understood like Peter said about Paul's prophetic passages (2 Peter 3:16).  It can be understood though.  As preachers or teachers in the church, we should want people to understand the prophecy and how the yet unfulfilled parts should be understood.

We should oppose globalism, because it looks like the one world government and church of the antichrist.  There is a tension here.  If we really want the Lord's return, perhaps we could hasten it by supporting the one world government.  The elimination of borders is a contemporary issue that relates to prophecy.  We should use prophecy to make that application.  This is right thinking.  This is a good use of the Word of God.

Let me give you two more examples.  The Apostle Peter prophesies how the world will end in 2 Peter 3:10.  That's how it will end.  This results in my denying the contemporary climate change teaching.  That is an application to the world we live in, based on what Peter said.  It says a lot more than that, but we shouldn't ignore it.

The culture of the United States and then the world is deteriorating.  This looks like a trajectory toward total apostasy.  It has affected a hearing of the gospel.  Let's be honest.  When Isaiah went to preach to apostate Israel, he couldn't get a hearing.  We are in similar times.  These are times like Noah was in.  Man is of the same nature he's been since the fall.  We can say that we're getting closer to the end, because we see this trajectory.  We don't want it.  We're still being faithful, but we've got to make the application.  People need to know.

Much more could be said.  We don't want to stretch scripture beyond what it's saying, and in that sense, just use scripture.  We should preach what the Bible says and apply it, including the prophetic passages.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Future of This Blog

I mentioned to you that I was moving to a new location.  I would have liked the name, What Is Truth for the html, which wasn't available, I think for obvious reasons, so I just went with kentbrandenburg.com (or https://kentbrandenburg.com) because that's sort of the address here.  For the next month we will post here and there.  Then we will start announcing that we're done here.  We will keep this site up, just let it sit here, but all new posts will appear at the new site.  We're doing this because blogspot is owned by one of the tech titans, who is involved in censoring.

This blog just sitting here available with nothing added is very much like what we still have with the blog I wrote at for awhile over ten years ago, Jackhammer.  All our articles are still there.  The ones I wrote are in the index here.  They will be indexed at the new site too though.

What Is Truth will still exist at a new site.  kentbrandenbug.blogspot.com will have no new material added after about a month from now.  Thanks.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Luther and Zwingle on the Lord’s Supper, part 4 of 4

The quotation below from H. Merle D’Aubigné, History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century in part 1, concerning the Colloquy of Marburg, is continued.  Examination of parts 1-3 above should have made the Lutheran and Zwinglian positions clear.  Please note below that Luther thought that it was essential to salvation to hold his position that one literally eats Christ’s body in the Lord’s Supper, and for that reason he was unwilling to call the Reformed true Christians, while the Reformed did not think that Luther’s doctrine kept him from salvation.  While Zwingli’s arguments in parts 1-3 were far stronger than Luther’s, in this matter Luther was correct that it did not make sense for the Reformed to want to unite with the Lutherans when they had such a striking disagreement, although Luther was terribly wrong in holding that his heretical position on the Lord’s Supper was essential for salvation.


Note as well that baptism did NOT separate the Lutherans and the Reformed.  Luther’s doctrine of baptismal regeneration was not a problem to the Reformed.  One should not be surprised to read Calvin making statements such as:



We assert that the whole guilt of sin is taken away in baptism … Nothing is plainer than this doctrine” (John Calvin, 1547 Antidote to the Council of Trent, Reply to the 1st Decree of the 5th Session).  Calvin elsewhere wrote:  “men are regenerated by baptism” (Second Defense of the Pious and Orthodox Faith Concerning the Sacraments, in Answer to the Calumnies of Joachim Westphal, 2:222).  Rejection of baptismal regeneration as a false gospel—the Biblical truth embraced by the Anabaptists of the 16th century—was, sadly, just about as far away from the Reformed as it was from the Lutherans.


To continue the quotation:


Philip of Hesse had all along shown the most constant attention, and each one imagined him to be on his side. “I would rather place my trust in the simple words of Christ, than in the subtle thoughts of man,” was a remark he made according to Jonas; but Zwingle affirmed that this prince entertained the same opinions as himself, although with regard to certain persons he dissembled the change. …

A final meeting took place, and undoubtedly the [allegedly universal] Church has seldom witnessed one of greater solemnity. Luther and Zwingle, Saxony and Switzerland, met for the last time. The sweating sickness was carrying off men around them by thousands; Charles the Fifth and the pope were uniting in Italy; Ferdinand and the Roman Catholic princes were preparing to tear in pieces the Protest of Spires; the thunder-cloud became more threatening every day; union alone seemed capable of saving the Protestants, and the hour of departure was about to strike—an hour that would separate them perhaps for ever.

“Let us confess our union in all things in which we agree,” said Zwingle; “and as for the rest, let us remember that we are brothers. There will never be peace between the churches if, while we maintain the grand doctrine of salvation by faith, we cannot differ on secondary points.” …

“Yes, yes!” exclaimed the landgrave; “you agree! Give then a testimony of your unity, and hristian one another as brothers.”—“There is no one upon earth with whom I more desire to be united, than with you,” said Zwingle, approaching the Wittemberg doctors. Œcolampadius, Bucer, and Hedio said the same.

“Acknowledge them! Acknowledge them as brothers!” continued the landgrave. Their hearts were moved; they were on the eve of unity: Zwingle, bursting into tears, in the presence of the prince, the courtiers, and divines (it is Luther himself who records this), approached Luther, and held out his hand. The two families of the Reformation were about to be united: long quarrels were about to be stifled in their cradle; but Luther rejected the hand that was offered him: “You have a different spirit from ours,” said he. These words communicated to the Swiss, as it were, an electric shock. Their hearts sunk each time Luther repeated them, and he did so frequently. He himself is our informant.

A brief consultation took place among the Wittemberg doctors. Luther, Melancthon, Agricola, Brentz, Jonas, and Osiander, conferred together. Convinced that their peculiar doctrine on the eucharist was essential to salvation, they considered all those who rejected it as without the pale of the faith. “What folly!” said Melancthon, who afterwards nearly coincided with Zwingle’s sentiments: “they condemn us. And yet they desire we should consider them as our brothers!” “What versatility!” added Brentz: “they accused us but lately of worshipping a bread-god, and they now ask for communion with us!” Then, turning towards Zwingle and his friends, the Wittembergers said: “You do not belong to the communion of the Christian Church; we cannot acknowledge you as brethren!”

The Swiss were far from partaking of this … spirit. “We think,” said Bucer, “that your doctrine strikes at the glory of Jesus Christ, who now reigns at the right hand of the Father. But seeing that in all things you acknowledge your dependence on the Lord, we look at your conscience, which compels you to receive the doctrine you profess, and we do not doubt that you belong to Christ.”

“And we,” said Luther—“we declare to you once more that our conscience opposes our receiving you as brethren.”—“If such is the case,” replied Bucer, “it would be folly to ask it.”

“I am exceedingly astonished that you wish to consider me as your brother,” pursued Luther. “It shows clearly that you do not attach much importance to your own doctrine.” … Luther remained like a rock, to the landgrave’s great indignation. The Hessian divines, Kraft, Lambert, Snepf, Lonicer, and Melander, united their exertions to those of the prince.

Luther was staggered, and conferred anew with his colleagues. “Let us beware,” said he to his friends, “of wiping our noses too roughly, lest blood should come.”

Then turning to Zwingle and Œcolampadius, they said: “We acknowledge you as friends; we do not consider you as brothers and members of Christ’s Church. But we do not exclude you from that universal charity which we owe even to our enemies.”

The hearts of Zwingle, Œcolampadius, and Bucer, were ready to burst, for this concession was almost a new insult. “Let us carefully avoid all harsh and violent words and writings,” said they; “and let each one defend himself without railing.” … It was desirable to confirm this important result by a report. “We must let the hristian world know,” said the landgrave, “that, except the manner of the presence of the body and blood in the eucharist, you are agreed in all the articles of faith.” [Note that the Reformed agreed that the body and blood were present, just spiritually present.  Neither side held to the Anabaptist position that the Supper was simply a memorial.] This was resolved on; but who should be charged with drawing up the paper? All eyes were turned upon Luther. The Swiss themselves appealed to his impartiality.

Luther retired to his closet, lost in thought, uneasy, and finding the task very difficult. “On the one hand,” said he, “I should like to spare their weakness; but, on the other, I would not in the least degree strike at the holy doctrine of Christ.” He did not know how to set about it, and his anguish increased. He got free at last. “I will draw up the articles,” said he, “in the most accurate manner. Do I not know that whatever I may write, they will never sign them?” Erelong fifteen articles were committed to paper, and Luther, holding them in his hand, repaired to the theologians of the two parties. …

Luther took his paper, and reading the first article, said:

“First, we believe that there is one sole, true, and natural God, creator of heaven and earth and of all creatures; and that this same God, one in essence and in nature, is three-fold in person, that is to say, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as was declared in the Nicene Council, and as all the Christian Church professes.

To this the Swiss gave their assent.

They were agreed also on the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ; on his death and resurrection, on original sin, justification by faith, the operation of the Holy Ghost and of the Word of God, baptism, good works, confession, civil order, and tradition.

Thus far all were united. The Wittembergers could not recover from their astonishment. … But the moment was come that would separate them. Luther had kept till the last the article on the Eucharist.

The reformer resumed:

“We all believe with regard to the Lord’s Supper, that it ought to be celebrated in both kinds, according to the primitive institution; that the mass is not a work by which a Christian obtains pardon for another man, whether dead or alive; that the sacrament of the altar is the sacrament of the very body and very blood of Jesus Christ; and that the spiritual manducation of this body and blood is specially necessary to every true Christian.”

It was now the turn of the Swiss to be astonished. Luther continued:

“In like manner, as to the use of the sacrament, we are agreed that, like the Word, it was ordained of Almighty God, in order that weak consciences might be excited by the Holy Ghost to faith and charity.”

The joy of the Swiss was redoubled. Luther continued: “And although at present we are not agreed on the question whether the real body and blood of Christ are corporeally present in the bread and wine, yet both the interested parties shall cherish more and more a truly Christian charity for one another, so far as conscience permits; and we will all earnestly implore the Lord to condescend by his Spirit to confirm us in the sound doctrine.”

The Swiss obtained what they had asked: unity in diversity. It was immediately resolved to hold a solemn meeting for the signature of the articles.

They were read over again. Œcolampadius, Zwingle, Bucer, and Hedio, signed them first on one copy; while Luther, Melancthon, Jonas, Osiander, Brentz, and Agricola, wrote their names on the other; both parties then subscribed the copy of their adversaries, and this important document was sent to the press.

Thus the Reformation had made a sensible step at Marburg. …

All,—Romanists and [Protestants], Saxons and Swiss,—admitted the presence, and even the real presence of Christ; but here was the essential point of separation: Is this presence effected by the faith of the communicant, or by the opus operatum of the priest? The germs of Popery, Sacerdotalism, Puseyism, are inevitably contained in this latter thesis. If it is maintained that a wicked priest (as has been said) operates this real presence of Christ by three words, we enter the church of the pope. … After the Marburg conference, the controversy became more moderate.

There was another advantage. The [Protestant] divines at Marburg marked with one accord their separation from the Papacy. Zwingle was not without fear (unfounded, no doubt) with regard to Luther: these fears were dispersed. “Now that we are agreed,” said he, “the Papists will no longer hope that Luther will ever be one of them.” The Marburg articles were the first bulwark erected in common by the reformers against Rome. (J. H. Merle D’Aubigné, History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century, trans. Henry Beveridge and H. White, vol. 4, Collin’s Select Library [Glasgow: R. Groombridge & Sons, 1862], 76–92.)


-TDR 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Cancel Culture and Religious Persecution

Everyone should cancel something.  I remember canceling my subscription to Sports Illustrated when it started publishing the swimsuit issue.  I understand the marketing aspect of that issue.  Sports Illustrated can make more money with the issue than without, so they're willing to lose the lesser number of subscribers for the greater number.  Sports Illustrated could stay in business.  This isn't canceling Sports Illustrated.  They stay in business.  I've canceled it, because it's the right thing to do.

Amazon, the behemoth corporation, canceled a book by Ryan T. Anderson, that was published three years ago.  Joe Biden becomes president and Anderson's book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, is canceled.  Amazon suddenly wouldn't allow it on.  I understand, he can sell the book, but Amazon doesn't own the internet.  In particular, Amazon cancels a book, which isn't politically correct.  It cancels a point of view closer to a biblical view.  Silencing a biblical point of view we would understand as persecution.

When you read the book of Acts and look at the history of persecution, you can see a rising trajectory.  In Acts 2, opponents of the truth mocked the believers as drunk with new wine (Acts 2:13).  Mockery is a root level persecution, but it also portends of things to come.  We're already to mockery in this country.  It's hard to make an exact comparison, because Rome and Palestine were not democracies or republics.

More than ever people think you're silly for being a Christian.  You see the look in their faces.  This is especially in the big cities, the blue areas.  It's everywhere though especially related to true biblical Christianity.  If you dress modest, carry a Bible, so that they know you're a Christian, you are marginalized, excluded, and unfriended.

Second in Acts 4 was threatening.  Authorities threatened the disciples about talking.  Evangelism is more difficult.  The Covid-19 has affected this.  People are more emboldened to say you can' talk to someone about the Lord if he doesn't want it.  I understand the laws about trespassing.  I've been kicked out of two apartment complexes and threatened at another housing complex.  We still have opportunities.  I've noticed a difference, that's what I'm saying.

The third step was imprisonment.  This is when the government punishes someone.  That's happened too.  I would compare this to government policy even short of throwing someone into jail like what occurred with Peter and John in Acts 4.  This is the man in Colorado who wouldn't bake a cake.  This is a child punished in the public school for saying a biblical truth.  This is the outlawing of biblical child discipline.  This is the exclusion of biblical doctrine in the state schools.

Fourth in Acts 5 was beating.  Peter and John were beaten for their testimony for Christ.  Peter and John of course rejoiced because they were counted worthy to suffer for His name.  The government is punishing people, but not with actual physical punishment.  However, there is a threat of unofficial physical punishment for those who stand for the truth.

Fifth is the killing of first Stephen in Acts 7 and then James in Acts 12.  Before that, Jesus was crucified.  I think we're a ways off from being put to death in the United States for preaching Christ.  Maybe that won't even come until the Antichrist reveals himself.  Right now you'd be killed still in several other countries and the United States does not have a policy of standing for those people.

Cancel culture is religious persecution.  It's not at the level of beating and death, but it is in that trajectory, as seen in the book of Acts.

Friday, February 19, 2021

A Great Hymn

 376 Friend. 8.7.7.7.

ONE there is above all others,

Well deserves the name of Friend;

His is love beyond a brother’s,

Costly, free, and knows no end:

They who once His kindness prove,

Find it everlasting love.

Which of all our friends to save us,

Could or would have shed their blood;

But our Jesus died to have us

Reconciled in Him to God:

This was boundless love indeed!

Jesus is a friend in need.

When He lived on earth abasèd,

Friend of sinners was His name;

Now above all glory raisèd,

He rejoices in the same;

Still He calls them brethren, friends,

And to all their wants attends.

Oh for grace our hearts to soften!

Teach us, Lord, at length to love!

We, alas! forget too often

What a friend we have above:

But when home our souls are brought,

We shall love Thee as we ought.

John Newton, 1779.


 C. H. Spurgeon, Our Own Hymn Book: A Collection of Psalms and Hymns for Public, Social and Private Worship (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1883).

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Giving Food and Money to the Homeless

I was talking to a man this week who said he wanted to be in a church that gave feet to the love of Jesus, something like that.  His example was that this church, which he joined, even though he didn’t like its doctrine, helped the homeless.  The homeless is a relatively new term in the history of our country.  Why are there so many who are homeless?  Who are the homeless?  What should churches do?  What responsibility should they take?

We live in a day when it is important to understand what is “good” and what is really a “help.”  Just because a man might say it’s good does not mean that it is, and just because he says it is a help does not mean that it is a help.  The key is that we must be discerning.  We must determine our answer to this question by means of the Word of God, and not by a societal norm.

Man is by nature deceived.  At least forty times in the Bible we are warned about being deceived.  Eve was deceived by Satan, and Satan is the great deceiver.  The ways of man are the ways of death, and God tells us not to lean on our own understanding.

Help is alright.  Scripture calls God a Helper (Hebrews 13:6).  Eve was a help to Adam (Genesis 2:18).  One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that edify the church is “helps” (1 Corinthians 12:28).   Also, God wants us to do good. The terminology, “do good,” is found 26 times in the Bible.  However, in Isaiah 5:20, people will call evil good, and good evil.  Someone can be deceived about what good is.  In Romans 7:21, Paul says, “when I would do good, evil is present with me.”      Just because someone says something is a help and it is good doesn’t meant that it is.

Proverbs 3:27 says, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.”  At the same time, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 say, “21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.”  Things must be proven as to whether they are good and not evil.

God is the definition of good.  Seven times scripture says, “the Lord is good.”  Psalm 52:1 says, “the goodness of God endureth continually.”  Whatever God’s Word says about anything is good: any person or any situation.

For instance, one might think it is always good to pray for someone.  1 John 5:16 says, “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.”  God doesn’t want everyone prayed for.  It’s not always good.  It doesn’t always help.

Is benevolence always good?  1 Corinthians 13:3 shows that not if done for selfish reasons.  Proverbs 11:4 shows that benevolence is not good if intended to make one righteous, because riches do not profit in the day of wrath.  Is suffering itself bad?  Genesis 50:20 says that with Joseph, God meant it to me for good.  Is sickness bad?  John 11:4 says that this sickness is to the glory of God.  We can’t assume that all suffering and all sickness is bad.  God uses sickness and suffering.  It’s not always right to alleviate either.

When it comes to helping people, it’s not always good or always a help to give someone something.  The lazy should not be given anything.  Laziness is self-imposed bondage (Proverbs 12:24).  Giving the lazy person something is to reward laziness, so that you get more laziness.  The lazy are neglectful (Ecclesiastes 10:18) and unproductive (Matthew 25:26-30).  God won’t give to the lazy and we should follow God.

Scripture shows that God brings famine on the wicked (Deuteronomy 28:15, 33, 38, 42, 51; Ezekiel 5:17, 30:12; Jeremiah 8:13).  God doesn’t keep giving good crops to a nation that is wicked.  The wicked people don’t learn not to be wicked by being wicked without repentance.  God gets the attention through the famine, through the hunger.  Feeding takes away the motive to turn to God.    This principle can and should be applied to the individual as well.  Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” You can tell whether someone is lazy or if he won’t work if he’s in the church.  In the church, this is a matter of church discipline.  Outside the church, you don’t know.

Hunger is a motivation to turn to God.  David wrote in Psalm 37:25, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”  The alternative is also true.  The unrighteous are forsaken and begging for bread. Should they be given bread without being righteous?

The welfare system of Israel in the Old Testament didn’t just give to people.  When you read Ruth, you can see that Boaz left the corners of the field for this widow to reap.  Even the two widows, Naomi and Ruth.  This fits Leviticus 23:22, “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.”  Just giving food for no work is not only not taught in the Bible, but taught against.  How about this?  “I’ll give you a job.”  But it’s not just that.  If this person is not a good worker, should he or she stay employed, and should we reward him for not providing righteous labor?  This would be rewarding wickedness.

All of the reasons that I’ve given above about giving food or money to the homeless relates to the priorities seen in scripture.  1 John 3:17 says, “But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”  This is seeing a “brother” in need.  This isn’t seeing just anyone in need.  Within the church, where the brothers are, there is accountability to why there is this need.  Someone can ask, is it the direct result of sin?  Are we rewarding the sin?  Is it because of laziness?  We can know that through the accountability of a church.

Even in the church, not everyone is taken care of.  Not every widow would be taken care of by a church.  Read 1 Timothy 5.  The priority is that a family takes care of their own family members.  When we give money to someone, when the family should be doing that, then the family is shirking that responsibility.  1 Timothy 5:8, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”

The problems in a society continue because people do not obey God in what He says about these things.  Matthew 4:4 gives a clue.  “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”  The opposite is the expectation to live, to survive without the Word of God.

Say this to a homeless person: “Come to our church, show that you love the Word of God, that you want God, that you want the grace of God, and the church will see that desire and will help you.  God will help you.”  See what the reaction is.  James 4:6 says, “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”  The humble get God’s grace.  God resists the proud.  God will send those who resist His grace to Hell.  Will we make these homeless more comfortable in their pride?  Is this is what God does?

The foolish have wasted opportunities (Proverbs 6:9,10) and brought poverty on themselves (Proverbs 10:4).  This is the drug addict or the boozer.  We first help them get saved.  Jesus provided one meal in John 6, a very sensible, humble meal.  Then He offered His audience the bread of life.  They rejected.  He didn’t keep feeding them.  Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Teach all nations.”  Make disciples.  In the realm of help, making disciples is teaching someone to fish, so to speak, rather than just giving them fish.  God wants followers.  He wants people living for His kingdom.  You don’t get to that goal by feeding them.  You’ve got to expect them to follow first or you are not really helping them.

For the most part, this issue is living like God is right, trusting Him, believing what He says.  It's like when Saul offered the sacrifice and kept Agag and the animals alive in 1 Samuel 13.  He had a better idea than God.  There is a way that seems right to man (Proverbs 14:12).  Someone may ask, "Don't you want to feed the hungry?"  The hungry will be fed forever in the kingdom and eternal state, and eternal satisfaction of hunger is more important than the temporal.  Even on this earth, the real problem isn't solved by giving food.  It might not seem like it, but that is the easy way and the wrong way for reasons described already in this essay.

Most organizations that are about “feeding the hungry,” “giving to the poor,” and “housing the homeless” do not have scriptural quality control.  They don’t care about the biblical principles.  In most ways, they are proud that they are not scriptural or godly.  They are not taking into consideration laziness, wickedness, what’s going on with the family, among other areas addressed above.  They very often cannot because they are tied into a government that requires acceptance or toleration of the sin.  Acceptance, association, and affiliation give accommodation.  Sin is to be reproved and the institutions would not allow sin to be reproved (Ephesians 5:11).  One of the ways they get more funds is through disobedience to what God said.  The best someone can do for a society is do all he can do in a church without association with these organizations.  Why do they not like the church?  Why do they not like righteousness?

It’s good to become individually involved in the lives of other people in a biblical way, one-on-one.  Do what Jesus did.  Do what the apostles did.  Help those people to help people in the same way, so that multiplication occurs.

Especially millennials want to be seen as “helping” the poor.  They often promote themselves before others for doing so.  I’m sure some, albeit few, are well-intentioned.  It brings glory in this culture to be seen to care by giving money for temporal things.  They know you won’t get credit for obeying God.  That’s living by faith.  They are walking by sight, not by faith.  Many of them aren’t true believers themselves.

Everything I’m writing here is true.  Someone isn’t doing good or helping by denying the truth.  It’s also vanity.  It’s a waste of time and energy and resources.  God wants us to be good stewards, faithful and wise stewards (Luke 12:42).

Sunday, February 14, 2021

How Does Natural Law Work in and for Evangelism of the Lost?

Romans 1:18-21 read:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

I'm assuming a lot of you readers know these verses.  According to them though, based on what people know, they will be judged rightly by God, because what they know means that they are without excuse.  At the same time, people are not going to experience the wrath of God's judgment because of ignoring information, but because of ignoring law.  When they knew God, they didn't glorify Him as God and were not thankful unto Him.  Glorifying God as God is represented by various prescriptions, which are laws.  This knowledge isn't a mere bunch of facts.  Bare acknowledgement of God's existence isn't sufficient to avoid the wrath of God.  The judgment and wrath of God is justice for disobeying natural law.

Natural law relates to the theological terminology, general revelation.  "General" is general in audience, that is, everyone knows it, so everyone is responsible for these laws.  Knowing God and glorifying Him as God in Romans 1 means knowing these laws to the extent that someone is responsible for obeying them.  They relate to the revelation of God, so according to His nature.  No one has an excuse for not knowing these.  They're natural to know.  All men are responsible for them.

In my assessment, the natural laws are those most denied, and against which men are most rebellious.  On the other hand, men like what they consider to be their natural rights, like what Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence mentions at the beginning:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

He uses the language, "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," "truths to be self-evident," and "endowed by their Creator."  Natural laws are self-evident truths.

Men know natural laws. They're natural to them, so to deny them, they are at their most rebellious.  The Apostle Paul talks about some of them later in chapter 1.  They rebel against God's natural order, because it clashes with what they want.  It's natural that the woman is the weaker vessel, and women very often don't want to hear that.  The natural order of two parents and children obeying their parents is repulsive to children.

When people think of the Declaration, they especially think, "all men are created equal."  They focus on the word, "equal."  Most often, however, I've noticed that they ignore the first four words, "all men are created."  It is self-evident that "all men are created." Equal, yes, but it is self-evident that man is created by God.  To Jefferson, creation of man carried with it more than sheer existence.  With God as Creator, He s also Lawgiver and then Judge.

I've found when evangelizing lost people that they will still act like they don't know certain things. Since Romans 1 says they really do know, I assume they do.  This is presuppositionalism.  I presuppose people know what is natural to know.  Many of those things people say they don't know, they rely on for enjoying their lives, which is why Jefferson uses "Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness."  People like those things and yet they act as though they've somehow received them by accident.  This is the part in Romans 1:19, "who hold the truth in unrighteousness."  As many of you know, it means they suppress the truth.  The way I put it is that the problem is not intellectual, but volitional.

Romans 1:18-22 assure what is already known by everyone.  I'm saying, you know that everyone knows what Romans 1:18-22 say because those verses say they do.  People can act like they don't know, but you know that they do, so that you don't believe that they don't know.  God says they do know, so they do know.

If someone is suppressing the truth, that means he knows and he is rebelling against what he knows.  In evangelism, you expose the lost on his rebellion.  How do you do that?

When I encounter someone who says he is a scientist, a professing atheist, too uncertain, or just not sure because he says he's not gotten enough proof, I rely on natural law.  I refer to a number of different examples.  "When you look out there at the vast and intricate world, does that look like it all came about by accident?"

I haven't found anyone who likes to be characterized as thinking or believing that everything came about by accident, but if this world isn't an accident, then it is design.  People know this is design.  Scripture says, according to the way I like to put it, that they don't want to have a boss.  The Designer would be their Boss.  They like having their own way, which you can read in the rest of Romans 1 and in 2 Peter.  2 Peter 3 says these scoffers are walking after their own lust.

I continue.  "Everything out there is so complex.  So many occurrences have to be going right at one time, that it is mathematically impossible to be an accident.  It looks like design.  Four or five hundred different circumstances need to be going right for us to even survive.  If just one of those hundreds does not go exactly right, we couldn't survive.  This can't be an accident.  The human body itself is so complicated, the human eye, speech, the operation of the brain, the circulatory system, our heart beat, so many that have to be functioning in just a certain way at one time.  And that's just to survive."

Romans 1:21 says, "Neither were thankful."  "So we breathe God's air, eat the food that comes from a seed growing from the ground, enjoy all of the good things all around on this earth, use all of that, and then just ignore Him."  This is when you can turn to scripture to point rebellion out.  "Romans 1 says that everyone already knows all this and rather than worship and serve the Creator, they serve the creature.  It describes this as not being thankful, being unwilling to give the credit to God, because that acknowledgement would carry with it responsibility.  Next chapter, Romans 2, says the goodness of God leads us to repentance."

The statement of what people know, natural law, aligns with what is written by God in men's hearts as a default position (Romans 2:15).  Pointing out natural law strikes a cord in men's hearts, their conscience then also bearing witness (v. 15).  They feel guilty because of their ungratefulness.

Then I may say, "What we see occurring out in the world also aligns with the Bible.  The history of the world reflects what we see there.  There is a God, we are here because of Him, He has put us here for a particular purpose, we are responsible to Him, and we are going to meet Him someday.  This is what the gospel is about.  God is just, but He also loves us, and the good news is that He wants us to save us.  However, we really do need to be saved."

Since the problem is not an intellectual one, the solution is supernatural.  The volition, the will of a person, must be dealt with scripture.  The Bible is powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and a spiritual weapon to pull down the strongholds in people's minds (2 Corinthians 10:4).

The approach I'm giving you is biblical.  It's what the Apostle Paul did in Acts 17.  It doesn't mean that it will result in your audience either listening or being converted, but it gives people an opportunity, which is what you want.  It might be too late for most.  You don't know.  More than ever, we're living in an age in which natural law is a necessity in an evangelism approach.