“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet."--Matthew 5:13

Friday, April 29, 2011

Libertinism and Antinomianism

Libertinism comes from the word "libertine", defined by Miriam-Webster's Dictionary as "a freethinker especially in religious matters" and "a person who is unrestrained in convention or morality". Libertines typically think outside the box. They do not like to be bound by rules or traditions.

Theological libertines argue that they are not bound by the law of God, but are under grace. They cite  Romans 6:14 as the verse supporting their philosophy. "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." Libertines interpret this verse as meaning that God has given them grace to do whatever they want. Since we are no longer bound by the law, libertines claim that we do not have to live up to God's standards because He has given us grace and will continue to give us grace.

Libertinism coincides with antinomianism. Antinomianism, a term coined by Martin Luther, is a belief that existing religious laws are no longer applicable. Antinomians are against all religious laws and restrictions.

While some aspects of the law, such as blood sacrifices, food restrictions, and worship on the seventh day, may be inapplicable for us today, there is a further application to laws such as these. While we are not required to offer blood sacrifices to the Lord, He does require us to be genuine in our worship of Him. This includes offering Him the best of ourselves. Furthermore, God's moral laws are never optional. For example, the Ten Commandments are not optional. These important commands, while given to old covenant Israel, should be kept by us today. Also, we should never ignore anything that the Lord says. Everything in His Word is applicable to us and is included for a specific reason.

Antinomianism is very much alive today, and can occur in different forms. For example, antinomians and libertines believe that grace allows total freedom. Romans 6:1-14 notes that Christians should not take advantage of the grace that God has given us by intentionally sinning. How can we be alive in Christ, but still live in sin? We are no longer enslaved to sin, but have been bought out of slavery by the blood of Christ. We should present our bodies as instruments for God, not instruments for sin. The fact that we are now under grace, instead of the law, should cause us to strive for holiness. I Peter 2:16 also says that we are free to live as people who have been redeemed, but we should not use our freedom as an excuse to sin.

Another example of antinomianism is what R.C. Sproul calls, "Gnostic Spiritualism". This form of libertinism says that there is a secret knowledge of the Spirit that can contradict the will of God. For example, a husband might say that God told him to divorce his wife and marry someone else. A serial killer might say that he heard God tell him to kill someone. The Holy Spirit will never tell someone to do something that is contrary to God's laws.

A further form of antinomianism is when people find loopholes in the law of God. They would argue that certain behaviors are excused because the Bible does not specifically condemn them. To this, we must ask, but does the Bible condone them?

Libertines and antinomians misconstrue the Bible to serve their own selfish purposes. May we carefully read and reflect on what the Lord's Word says. Pray that you will not abuse the grace He has given you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

According to dictionary.com, theological legalism is defined as "the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws." Jesus accused the Pharisees of legalism. They were known for misconstruing the law for their own purposes. They were also extremely judgmental of those who did not hold to the same convictions. Furthermore, they were known for taking God's word out of context. Even though we have been redeemed from the law, legalism is still alive today.

Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees, by Gustave Dore
Modern legalism takes on many different forms. First, legalism is taking God's laws and commands out of context. Some of God's laws were written for specific purposes. While it is true that all scripture is given to benefit all believers, some laws were given for specific reasons. For example, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that women should have their heads covered when praying and worshiping in the church, and should not cut their hair too short. The Corinthian women apparently had a rebellious spirit. They did not want to submit to the male authority in the church. The women seemed to rebel by intentionally cutting their hair too short. Legalists take this verse out of context by saying that it is imperative that women have their heads covered by either a hat or some kind of material covering at all times while in the presence of males. Paul merely meant that women are never to have a rebellious spirit in worship. They were, and still are, to submit to male authority in the church.

Another form of legalism is when we make our personal opinions and convictions law by placing them on the same level as divine revelation. It is honorable to have convictions and beliefs. But when those beliefs are not found in the Bible, we must never pass them off as part of God's law. Furthermore, we should never judge those who go against our convictions when they are not necessarily condemned by God. We should not impose our unfounded and self-proclaimed beliefs on others when they are not backed biblically.

A third form of legalism includes adding rules to the Bible. The pharisees were guilty of this, and the Lord called them out on it (Mark 7:1-13). Legalists today say that partaking of certain pleasures are in themselves sinful. For example, modern legalists are more likely to add rules to the Bible that includes, but not limited to, the prohibition of dancing and movie theater attendance; music preference; and Bible preference. These pleasures are not in and of themselves sinful. God has created everything for man's enjoyment. However, these things become sinful when man uses them to disobey God's specific commands.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Two Thoughts on Jesus' Post-Resurrection Appearances

After reading through John's resurrection account this weekend, two thoughts struck me regarding Christ's post-resurrection appearances.

Resurrection of Christ by Noel Coypel, 1700
The first thought I had regarding the post-resurrection appearances was that the Lord intentionally blinded the eyes of those who saw Him. Jesus' first post-resurrection appearance was to Mary Magdalene at the tomb. She had spent a considerable amount of time with Jesus before he had died. She known Him well, but yet she did not recognize Him. Also, when Jesus walked on the road with His disciples, they did not recognize Him, neither did anyone whom they may have passed on the road. Furthermore, Jesus appeared at the edge of the shore while His disciples were in the boat fishing. Only after they had pulled in a miraculous catch did they realize that the man on the shore was their savior.

Why would His followers, who had spent so much time with Jesus ministering day in and day out, be unable to recognize their friend? One explanation is that they could have been skeptical about His resurrection. John writes that the discples were grieved to the point that they had forgotten Jesus' promise to rise from the dead. They also may not have believed Him. Secondly, the disciples may have been supernaturally hindered from recognizing their Lord (Luke 24:16). The Holy Spirit did not allow the disciples to recognize the Lord right away. Also, the resurrection had caused a change in Jesus' appearance (I Cor 15:35-49). Jesus' body had been glorified. It was no longer material, but had undergone a process of glorification, one that we too will experience in heaven.

Jesus appears to Mary, by Rembrandt
The second thought I had regarding Jesus' post-resurrection appearances was the lack of faith that Thomas had exhibited. Thomas had not been present when Jesus appeared to His disciples in the upper room. When the disciples told Thomas about Jesus' appearance, he said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25). Thomas sought a sign, instead of trusting in faith. Faith, and the testimony of reliable witnesses, was not enough for him. He had to see Jesus to believe that He was alive. Fortunately for Thomas, the Lord appeared to him eight days later, proving that He was in fact alive. May we never be a doubting Thomas. We should be those who rely entirely on faith, not on signs and wonders. The Lord's people are marked by faith in the unseen (Hebrews 11:1-3).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Purchased By His Blood

I have purchasing power. When I go shopping, I use a form of currency to purchase a product. Every country has their own form of currency. In America, we use the dollar. The dollars I use to purchase items have either been earned or given to me. Depending on its worth and quality, I may have to use more currency to buy an item.

Christ also has purchasing power. But the price of Christ's purchase never fluctuates. His purchase is the same price, albeit a mighty expensive one.

Calvary by Paolo Veronese
What did Christ purchase? Acts 20:28 states that Christ purchased the church. He purchased His people out of bondage from sin.

What did Christ purchase with? Christ's purchase was made by His blood and His atoning death on the cross (Acts 20:28). Christ's payment was so expensive that it cost Him His life. The blood of a righteous substitute was necessary for His people to be made clean.

Those that Christ purchased now belong to Him. Since He paid the price with His blood, His people have become heirs with Him (Romans 8:17). His people were once slaves to sin. But Christ set them free by His blood on the cross. He payed the price for His elect, when it was impossible for them to make the payment. By Christ's blood, His people are free (Ephesians 1:7).

Furthermore, Christ's payment lasts forever (Hebrews 7:25). Since Christ died for sin, nothing can separate His people from the love and grace of God (Romans 8:39). Nothing can snatch God's people out of His hand (John 10:29). They are His forever.

No matter how much money I have, my purchasing power is weak compared to the payment that Christ has made. Try to make it a point to remember His eternal payment as we celebrate His death this Friday.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Atonement

The Crucifixion, by Vouet, 1622
In keeping with the remembrance of Passion week, I have decided to focus specifically on Christ's atoning work on the cross.

There are several views of Christ's atonement. The first view says that Christ died for all people who ever lived, and who ever will live. This view is called universalism. It asserts that all people will go to heaven, since we know that we are saved by His work on the cross (Isaiah 53:5). This view contrary to scripture. Over and over again in scripture, God says that the wicked will be punished in eternal damnation. Furthermore, there are numerous calls to repent.

The second view of the atonement (which is most popular among Evangelicals) says that Christ died for all, but a work of faith and repentance must be added on the part of the believer. The implication for this is also contrary to scripture. This view asserts that Christ died for all people, but that those people must also have faith and show repentance. The basic fallacy of this view is that it adds to Christ's work of atonement. This is salvation by works.
The third view of the atonement states that Christ's death was infinite, but was offered only to those whom God had graciously chosen beforehand. This is the Reformed view of limited atonement. Despite its attack by Fundamental Evangelicals, is backed by ample scriptural proof.

God graciously chose those for whom Christ would die. John 6:37-40 says that God leads His elect to faith, and that Jesus will raise up all that the Father has given Him. In Romans 8:28-30, Paul wrote that God's elect have a specifically ordained purpose; God has chosen the objects of His saving love; and only those called by God have been justified by Christ. Paul also wrote, in Ephesians 1:3-10, that Christ makes holy those for whom He died. In love, He has adopted His elect, who were previously estranged due to sin. Redemption can only come through Christ.

Christ died for only those whom God graciously chose. Christ died specifically for "us", the elect. "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Romans 5:8-10). Christ saved His people from the wrath of God. The elect were once enemies of God, but Christ saved them and brought them reconciliation with God. In Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote that Christ represented His people in both His death and resurrection. Finally, Jesus prayed specifically for those whom He would redeem (John 17:9;20).

Knowing that God chose His elect and that He sent His Son to die specifically for them has brought assurance and humility to the hearts of believers. The doctrine of limited atonement should not cause the believer to be arrogant, but should bring a spirit of humility, knowing that they were once enemies of God, but have now been cleansed and brought to reconciliation by Christ's blood.

Monday, April 4, 2011

John Calvin's Letter to Rob Bell

John Calvin 1509-1564
John Calvin wrote many letters throughout his life, many of which were long exhortations. Oftentimes, he would write to correct someone who was in error. The following letter was written to Laelius Socinus, a man who had once embraced the Reformation principles, but had begun to fall away. He is the founder of Socinianism, a heresy that blended skepticism and humanism. Socinus acted like a Christian, but basically denied everything that Christianity stands for. Had the "Emergent Church" existed in his time, Socinus would have definitively been sympathetic toward their cause, since he questioned everything about the faith, instead of asserting anything. For this reason, I have entitled this entry, "John Calvin's Letter to Rob Bell", because Rob Bell seems to question, not just the culture, institution, and traditions of Christianity, but he seems to also question the very foundation of our faith: the Word of God. In his latest book, Love wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell asserts that all will go to Heaven. He asks the same old worn-out question of why a loving God would send someone to hell. I have inserted Rob Bell's name for Socinus.

Calvin's letter is as follows:
"Certainly no one can be more averse to paradox than I am, and in subleties I find no delight at all. Yet nothing shall ever hinder me from opnely avowing what I have learned form the Word of God; for nothing but what is useful is taught in the school of this master. It is my only guide, and to acquiesce in its plain doctrines shall be my constant rule of wisdom. [I wish] that you also...Pastor Bell would learn to regulate your powers with the same moderation! You have no reason tro expect a reply from me so long as you bring forward those monstrous questions. If you are gratified by floating among those airy speculations, pertmit me, I beseech you, an humble disciple of Christ, to meditate on those things which tend towards the buidng up of my faith. And indeed I shall hereafter follow out my wishes in silence, that you may not be troubled by me. And in truth I am very grieved that the fine talents with which God has endowed you, should be occupied not only with what is vain and fruitless, but that they should also be injured by pernicious figments...Unless you correct in time this itching after investingation, it is to be feared you will bring upon yourself severe suffering. I should be cruel towards you did I treat with a show of indulgence what I believe to be a very dangerous error. I should prefer, accordingly, offending you a little at present by my severity, rather than allow you to indulge unchecked in the fascinating allurements of curiosity. The time will come, I hope, when you will rejoice in having been so violently admonished."

Calvin's letter from: Parsons, Burk. John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2008. Print. pgs. 206-07

Friday, April 1, 2011

Thoughts on Exodus: Moses' Four Objections to God's Call

When God came to Moses in the burning bush, He told Moses that He wanted him to go back to Egypt to lead the Israelites into a land in which God had given them. Moses responded with four objections as to his disqualifications for this service.

1. "Who am I that I should go" (3:11).
Moses claimed that he was a "nobody". God responded, "I will be with you" (12).

2. Moses stated that he did not know God's name (13). God responded by telling Moses to say, "I AM has sent me" (14). The people were to know God by that name.

3. "They will not believe me or listen to my voice" (4:1).
God responded by saying that He would give Moses power to perform miracles in His name (2-9).

4. "I am slow of speech and of tongue" (10). Moses claimed that he had a speech impediment. He implied that this definitely disqualified him to speak in front of Pharaoh.
God first responds by asking a series of rhetorical questions. “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" (11-12). Then the Lord says that He will guide Moses speech. The Lord promised that He would give Moses the right words to say. Throughout all of Moses' complaints, the Lord remained patient with him.

After all these reassurances of the Lord's provision, Moses still objected to God's call (13). Finally, God became angry with Moses' lack of faith. He allowed Moses' brother Aaron to help Moses with his speeches to Pharaoh and to the Israelites. When God calls, we should not make excuses as to our lack of qualification. God has created each of us with a purpose to bring glory unto Himself.