Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a worker who has no need to be ashamed,
rightly handling the word of truth.
2 Tim 2:15 ESV

Thinking about what you preach and teach, and believe, can you honestly say that you are doing "your best to present yourself to God as one approved… , rightly handling the word of truth?" Or, are you are "a worker who [is] ashamed?"

This verse is not just a suggestion! "Do your best" is in the imperative mood, hence a command. Therefore, you must do your utmost to "present yourself to God as one approved" by "rightly handling the word of truth?" Of course, the lazy at heart will not take this to heart since it is hard work to comply with the command contained in this verse.

To start your road to recovery, if you haven't treated this command with the respect it deserves, visit:

Hermeneutics I: Need, tools and principles
Hermeneutics II: Different Genres

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Musings on the life and death of Oral Roberts

See what was written by Al Mohler and Fred Butler.

How can we eulogize heresy? How can we eulogize the one that preaches heresy?

Updates: (here are some more)
David A. Porter.
John MacArthur
Ted Olsen

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kigndom People Christmas Giveaway

Christmas is that time of the year when we are supposed to be more concerned with giving than receiving, that is why I would like to give you an opportunity to receive. Of course I said that in jest!

Trevin Wax from the Kingdom People blog has a Christmas giveaway running from today (15 Dec) until Christmas day 2009. You can win Trevin's 10 favourite books of 2009, and also an ESV Study Bible and a copy of Trevin's own upcoming book, Holy Subversion.

To win all of this, hurry over to Trevin's blog by clicking here!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Commentary on R. Scott Clark's Covenantalism

R. K. McGregor Wright, at Christ My Covenant, has been writing a series of blog posts as a commentary on the covenantalism of R. Scott Clark. He has written 26 posts in the series so far.

Note that these posts are in PDF format. Here are the links to each of those 26 posts:
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10
Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15
Part 16 Part 17 Part 18 Part 19 Part 20
Part 21 Part 22 Part 23 Part 24 Part 25
Part 26

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fraudulent gospel of the prosperity preachers – new series by John MacArthur

I have now for years decried the false gospel of the prosperity preachers. People like Kenneth & Gloria Copeland, Jerry Savelle, Paul & Jan Crouch, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Hagin, Joyce Meyer, Fred Price, Creflo Dollar and many more. To find out about the heresy taught by these people, read my blog series written in 2005, Heresies in the church.

John MacArthur has started a new series of blog posts, with the first post on 6 Dec 2009, highlighting the fraud of these heresy preachers. This series may just become a new call to Reformation in the church.

Read the first two blog posts:
A Colossal Fraud
Unholy Trinity

Churches, by being quiet about the wolves in sheep clothing in our midst, are doing a great disservice to the body of Christ.

Stand up and be part of the New Reformation!
Back to the true gospel!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Has Facebook lost meaning? Carl Trueman abusive?

It seems that has been flagged as abusive. I tried to submit another link that I made using, and got the same message. I have been using for some time now and never had problems with it!

I wanted to update my Facebook status this morning, and this is what Facebook told me:


As you can see, all the status is saying is: "Carl Trueman: Celebrating the Death of Meaning - - Very thought provoking!" Now follow the link in my proposed update and tell me if there is anything abusive in the article. Perhaps diehard fans of the paedophile Michael Jackson could find it abusive, which would really stretch the meaning of "abusive."

It seems to me that Facebook is losing its own sense of meaning too! An article like Carl Trueman's gets flagged as abusive, but Facebook groups such as "F*** Jesus Christ" gets to exist without even a slap on the wrist! I searched for the phrase "F*** Jesus Christ" on Facebook, and got 496 hits. There have been many requests to Facebook to close down these outright abusive Facebook groups, but all Facebook can say is that they have a right to their opinion. Don't tell me that groups with such names are only voicing their opinions, because if I say that to someone "F*** you!, it is not just an opinion, it is outright ABUSIVE! There is even a Facebook group with over 243,000 members which is called "DELETE THE GROUP ''F*** Jesus Christ'' IMMEDIATELY!!!!!"

Yet, Carl Trueman's article is abusive to NO ONE, and is flagged as abusive. My question is this: Is there anyone remotely qualified at Facebook to even quantify abusive usage on Facebook? Apparently not!

Of course, Facebook's message does not give me an opportunity to directly request a lift on the ban of this status update. All you see is a hopeless "OK!"

Maybe it is not Carl Trueman's article that is the problem, but the wording of my status update. Ha! Don't be fooled! I decided to remove the link in my status update and I submitted "Carl Trueman: Celebrating the Death of Meaning – test - Very thought provoking!" This time it was accepted, proving that the problem is Carl's article.

So, read Carl's article and tell me if it is abusive. If you do, you are probably a baby like the Facebook users that flagged the article as abusive!

Sorry for that, but flagging Carl Trueman's as abusive is like saying Barack Obama deserved his Nobel Peace Prize! Absolutely ridiculous!

It seems to me like Facebook is truly against free speech, especially from Christians! Isn't it amazing that an entity such as Facebook can infringe on one person's free speech rights while claiming free speech rights?

Does this scenario at Facebook prove its clear bias? You be the judge!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Greg Koukl says "Never Read a Bible Verse"

Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason is doing a video series called "Never Read a Bible Verse series" (which can be found under the STR video tag) in which he is looking at common verses that have been taken out of context and misinterpreted. So far he has done 8 videos in the series.

Part 1 (Jn 8:32)
Part 2 (Mt 7:1)
Part 3 (Col 2:8)
Part 4 (Rom 8:28)
Part 5 (Prov 23:7)
Part 6 (Ps 121:1)
Part 7 (Lk 2:14)
Part 8 (2 Chr 7:14)

To watch the videos, simply click on the different "Part" links above.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas is all about the cross!

Christmas is all about the cross! It is not about Santa, or the buying of gifts, or parties, etc. It is not even for that matter, about the birth of Christ alone! Christmas, or the celebration and commemoration of the birth of Christ, has much greater meaning than all of that!

The fact is that Jesus was born "to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mk 10:45; Mt 20:28) Jesus was "delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God." (Ac 2:23). That plan was for Jesus to come in the flesh, to live a sinless life and finally to pay a ransom for many!

The very reason for the coming of Jesus to this earth was to die on that cross almost 2000 years ago! Do not waste your Christmas with trivialities this year, but rather think of the real reason for Christmas!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Purveyors of the "new" gospel shun the old gospel

kevindeyoung Many times when we listen to what is being preached in churches today, one wonders which Bible Lite they are reading. It just seems that they cut out so much from the Bible that they end up preaching very little of the gospel. They, in fact, preach the "new" gospel! They have emasculated the gospel so much simply to make it less offensive to a world that has gone bonkers with being offended! What is the net effect of this? They are filling their churches with pagans that think they are saved/Christians/going to heaven!

Kevin DeYoung wrote an interesting short analysis (The Gospel Old and New) of this "new" gospel. He spells out this new gospel:

  1. It starts with an apology;
  2. God is seen as only love, like a fictional Santa. Oh, yes! Santa is fictional!
  3. An invitation to join God on His earthly mission;
  4. Eternity simply does not seem all that important.

Kevin gives a couple reason why this "new"  half-baked gospel is so hot:

  1. It is partially true;
  2. It deals with straw men, e.g. street preachers, crusades;
  3. It leads people to believe wrong things;
  4. It is manageable;
  5. It is inspirational;
  6. It is inoffensive.

Read Kevin's blog post to see the detail. It is a sad indictment of the modern church.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Laurence Vance's Critique of James White's "Potter's Freedom"

I was recently pointed to "A Critique of The Potter's Freedom by James White," written by Laurence M. Vance. It can be found online in many locations, almost like it has become the "holy grail" for Arminians against Calvinism.

Due to time constraints I will not give a detailed response to Vance's critique of James White's book, which can be found at Amazon, Aomin, ChristianBook, Kalahari or Augustine Bookroom.

Vance starts off in the first paragraph saying that

"because it is so illustrative of the Calvinists’ continual rehash of their errors, it merits further attention because of its prominent place in the current round of what I call the TULIP Wars."

The only problem with this sentence by Vance is that he never gets to give further attention to the "Calvinists’ continual rehash of their errors!" Sure, he mentions a lot of stuff that he believes are errors, but he never gets to give it "further attention." He only attempts once to provide a sprinkling of exegesis from the passage in Romans 9 concerning the potter and the clay. However, the rest of the critique is made up of assertions and innuendo. Hardly an iron-clad case!

Next, Vance goes off on a tangent of a totally inconsequential nature! He tries to prove how Reformed Baptists are simply Reformed Christians that baptize adults by immersion only. Truly a big deal, wouldn't you say? During this tirade Vance makes a huge deal about the fact that Reformed Theology rejects dispensationalism and premillenialism. He highlights this issue twice in two consecutive paragraphs. Is this one of his litmus tests for true Christianity? Is his level of exclusivity based on eschatology? I personally do not believe in the fabled rapture, nor in dispensationalism, but in New Covenant Theology. I personally believe that using eschatology as a barometer for correct theology is theologically shallow and shows a misunderstanding of the essentials of the gospel.

In Vance's handling of the potter and clay imagery, he lumps a whole lot of Bible passages together as if they all say the same thing, which could not be further than the truth. He makes the reader believe that all these passages concern Israel as a nation. I can't say it better than John Piper at this point, so I'll quote him in reference to Is 29:16:

"The emphasized portion [the Greek from the Septuagint from the 2nd phrase to the end of the verse] is identical to Rom 9:20b but what the πλασμα says is not the same in Paul and Isaiah. This suggests that Paul is not so much citing a text for authority as he is adapting a common metaphor for his own purpose. But should someone want to press for an Old Testament meaning behind Paul's image, the Is 29:16 offers the most probable source. However, here Isaiah is not speaking of the nation as a corporate whole, but of the 'perverted' wise men (cf. 29:14) in Israel, who in their presuming to hide counsel from God, act as if they were God."1

The point is that the different passages that use the potter and clay imagery do not all speak of the nation of Israel as the clay. The clay is represented by almost as many images as there are passages that mention this subject. The only constant between all these passages is that the Potter is absolutely sovereign over the clay. It would do the reader good to read John Piper's book, especially the section that deals with the potter and the clay.2

Moving on, Vance says the following of Calvinists:

"Additionally, because they are hung up on the Reformation, Calvinists have substituted Reformed Theology for the Bible. The final authority for a Calvinist is not the Bible at all, it is Reformed Theology."

If this were true, then every Calvinist would have agreed on every point of Reformed Theology. Vance is setting up a straw man argument with no logic behind it. Does Vance really think that Reformed Theology fell from the sky and that it has become the 'scriptures' of Calvinists? This is truly such a juvenile argument that really warrants no response in actuality. I can say the same of Vance, of Arminius himself! But, where would that get us? Nowhere! To simply dismiss Calvinism with such a statement does not help in the debate. Dismissive attitudes such as that do not engender mutual respect. Of course, we all know that Vance has no respect for "heretics" such as Calvinists. This is what he wrote in his book, "The Other Side of Calvinism." Calling someone a heretic is to view that person as a non-Christian! Vance claims that White is trying in his book to show that Arminianism is opposed to the gospel, at least by implication. However, in one stroke of a pen, Vance has declared in so many words that Calvinists are heretics, meaning that they are not Christians.

Vance's claim that Calvinists have "substituted reformed Theology for the Bible" becomes quite an empty claim when one has a look at the Scripture index of Calvin's Institutes. Calvin's use of Scripture is of the most comprehensive I have ever seen! Loraine Boettner, in his excellent book The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, also shows very comprehensive usage of Scripture! Similarly, Louis Berkhof, in his Systematic Theology has a Scripture index of 22 pages. Last but not least, James White, in his book The Potter's Freedom has a Scripture index of 5 pages. This is hardly proof that Calvinists rely on Reformed Theology and not the Bible. Rather, this points to a solid basis on the Bible for their theology.

Finally, at the end of the second section of Vance's paper, he goes into a diatribe as to why Calvinistic Baptists aren't "real Calvinists" or perhaps only "second-class Calvinists." Why this is so important to him only he will know. The fact is that Calvinistic Baptists and Reformed Christians from Presbyterian and Reformed Church backgrounds are getting along really well! This can be seen in ventures such as Together for the Gospel.

Next Vance goes into "Ten Arguments that Crumble under Scrutiny," ostensibly to disprove James White and his Calvinism.

First, he claims that "White tries to make all Christians either Calvinists or Arminians" and gives the page numbers where White does so. Perhaps Vance missed the point ever so slightly! White is simply talking about the Arminian/Calivinist debate, and he does not classify all Christians in either of these two camps. Remember, White is responding to a very well known Arminian who made many assertions about Calvinism. Hence, he is writing as a Calvinist refuting the claims of an Arminian. For instance, Vance gives page 20 as an example. Yet, on this page White speaks consistently about what Dr. Geisler wrote and how Dr. Geisler is an Arminian. On page 295 White specifically mentions the debate between Arminians and Calvinists. Dr. White set the limits of the discussion as between these two camps. Not once does he even allude to what Vance claims!

The fact that we "continually read of Arminians (p. 147), Arminianism (p. 175), Arminian positions (p. 235), Arminian preachers (p. 231), Arminian exegetes (p. 153), and Arminian views (p. 136)," is quite easily explained. The debate of Dr. White's book covers Martians, Venutians, Calvinists and Arminians! So, since the debate is between Calvinists and Arminians, it makes sense that White will speak of Arminians!

Vance's second point is that "White uses the guilt by association argument (pp. 33, 85, 92, 233)." His point here is that "Calvinists typically associate Arminians with every conceivable heretic or heresy" such as Roman Catholicism "so as to discredit them." Page 33 in Dr. White's book is almost completely taken up by a quote from the Jesuit, Loyola, in his fight against the "heresies" of the Protestant Reformation. There is no mention of Arminianism or any specific Arminian at all on this page! How is this guilt by association?

pottersfreedom On page 85 Dr. White writes:

"The religions of men, Roman Catholicism, and Arminianism, all share one thing in common: the deep desire to maintain the ability of man to control the work of God in salvation and always have the 'final say'"3

This is simply not guilt by association. Dr. White clearly states the reason why he believes Arminianism is wrong.

Dr. White believes that Calvinism/sovereignty of God is the doctrine that came from the Reformation, and one only has to read Martin Luther's "Bondage of the Will" to realize that. Hence, the title of Dr. White's book! The same traits as that of Roman Catholicism, with regards to salvation, also known as synergism (man as co-worker with God in his own salvation) can be seen by Dr. White, as he shows on page 92. As the Reformation was against the Roman church, and Dr. White sees similarities on the issue of salvation between the Roman church and Arminianism, Dr. White sees it fit to want to defend the doctrines so hard fought for during the Reformation. As a result, Dr. White points directly at the issues he has with Arminianism, hence it is not guilt by association.

On page 233 Dr. White has a long paragraph that covers almost the whole page on how Catholicism sees the work of Christ. Then, at the bottom of the page Dr. White starts a section with a 7 line paragraph on historic Arminianism that carries on for 2 more pages in which he doesn't mention Catholicism or even tries to equate Arminianism with Catholicism. There is just no guilt by association here. Again, Dr. White is very direct about his qualms with Arminianism!

Third, Vance makes out as if "White claims that non-Calvinists misrepresent Calvinism." The section on page 21 that Vance points to actually proves the point Vance claims White is making, even if he does no such thing! Vance truly misrepresents White here! Nowhere on page 21 does Dr. White ever make the assertion that non-Calvinists misrepresent Calvinists! What Dr. White claims is that Dr. Norm Geisler misrepresents Calvinists in his book Chosen but Free. To make a blanket statement that White says that non-Calvinists as a group misrepresent Calvinists is categorically false. Vance here does exactly what he claims White is saying. So, in a way Vance proves his own point. He misrepresented Dr. White, a Calvinist! The fact is, however, that many Arminian theologians have gone out of their way to misrepresent Calvinism to their congregations and in their books and on radio.

"Fourth, White exalts God’s sovereignty above His holiness (pp. 41-
44)." Maybe I have a problem with my eyesight, but I could swear that the section is called "The Free and Proper Kingship of God." Now, I don't know about Vance, but when I write and call a section "A," I generally stick to the subject matter pertaining to "A!" The subject matter pertaining to "B" will be dealt with elsewhere! Pages 41-44 of Dr. White's book deal with the subject matter of God's sovereignty, not with God's holiness! This is really an inane complaint by Vance.

Vance also writes that "White relates God’s decrees to Calvinism (p. 45)." I must be blind, but Dr. White does not even mention any derivative of the word "Calvinism" on page 45. The section"The Decrees of the King" starts on this page and all it does is explain the doctrine of the decrees of God.

Grudem explains the decrees of God in short definition form:

"The decrees of God are the eternal plans of God whereby, before the creation of the world, he determined to bring about everything that happens. This doctrine is similar to the doctrine of providence, but here we are thinking of God's decisions before the world was created, rather than his providential acts in time. His providential actions are the outworking of the eternal decrees that he made long ago."[emphasis supplied by the author]4

Vance further writes that "[t]he decrees of God in the Bible do not
relate in any way to salvation." The fact is that salvation is part of God's decrees. King David says that "in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." (Ps 139:16) Is that something God did for David alone, and only in the Old Testament? No! David speaks here of something he knows happens in general. He knows that God has set forth the days of his life and every other person's life and that God is sovereignly in control. Now, if God is in so much control as David says here, that God has written all "the days that were formed for" him in God's book, why would that exclude salvation?

The apostle Paul also makes it clear that salvation is indeed part of the decrees of God:

"(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (8) which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (9) making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (10) as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (11) In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will," (Eph 1:3-11)

Vance also believes that if God only has foreknowledge of those things He has decreed to take place, it is an attack on God's omniscience. If God has decreed all things to take place, what else is there to "foreknow?" The fact is that God's foreknowledge is not mere awareness of what is going to happen sometime in the future.

God's foreknowledge is not as simple as in Tom Cruise's movie, Minority Report, where the police had a machine that could see into the future if crimes would be committed! In this movie the police could then arrest the perp even before he had committed the crime. This is mere passive foreknowledge. This is palm-reader foreknowledge.

We may have foreknowledge that on 25 December of every year it is Christmas. However, God's foreknowledge is not a mere knowing of what will happen in the future. God's foreknowledge is an active knowledge, more akin to God's predestinating work.

"Fifth, White appeals to men (pp. 125-31, 255)." Vance obviously thinks that he is the sharpest pencil in the box, since he needs no-one else to guide him in what he believes. He obviously came to what he believes all by himself on his island paradise. I am sorry for being so facetious here, but this complaint against Calvinism is truly laughable. The fact is that if someone else has said it better, then why not be humble enough to quote from them? We all know that giants of the faith have gone before us. Why not stand on their shoulders to see better? As if our Arminian brothers never read the books of others to gain more understanding. Have you ever seen an Arminian seminary without books?

"Sixth, White appeals to extra-biblical sources like creeds and confessions (pp. 78, 125)." Vance adds to this that "Calvinists often put the words of men above the Scripture." Those crazy Calvinists! Don't they know that they shouldn't have anything to believe in, just look at the Bible? The fact of the matter is that all human beings have creeds that they live by, whether those creeds are in writing or not! It is called a worldview. All that a creed does is to summarize what we believe in. If I ask you what you believe in, are you going to quote me the Bible verbatim or are you going to give me a summary of your beliefs? That is a verbalization of your creed, written or otherwise. How many churches have a statement of faith? That is a creed. A creed is simply a statement of what we believe! For an answer to Vance's claim that Calvinists prefer the words of men over Scripture, see my answer of a similar claim by Vance here.

"Seventh, White uses the standard proof texts: John 6:37, 44; Rom
8:28; 1 Cor 2:14; Acts 13:48; Eph 1:4; 2 Tim 1:9; and Romans 9 (pp. 96, 109, 154, 159, 186, 195, 208, 211, 213). Calvinists never seem to tire of running around the same circuit of verses." And the point being? Maybe we should use non-standard proof texts like Gen 1:1! Oh yes, that does not speak to the subject at hand at all! If I want to make a case for the doctrine of the Trinity, should I use any texts but the standard proof texts? If there is a text that speaks clearly to the case at hand, then use it! It is like saying that we should use something non-standard like a hammer to fasten a bolt! Simply amazing!

"Eighth, White claims that Jesus Christ taught Calvinism (pp. 153-
69). Chapter 7 in White’s book is called 'Jesus Teaches "Extreme Calvinism."' What a better authority to which to refer? Why not just say that to deny Calvinism is to deny Christ?" If you deny the fundamentals of the gospel, yes, then you deny Christ. However, Calvinists do not claim that the ordo salutis is a litmus test for salvation. A person with a wrong ordo salutis may be considered in error, but not a heretic, which puts that person outside the fold of Christianity.

"Ninth, White overwhelms the reader with theological terms (pp. 91-
92). Calvinists are the masters at this tactic." It is so sad that the church no longer knows its terms of theology. What Vance says here is more an indictment of the church at large than of Calvinism. It is not so long ago that many Christians would have understood theological terms. But, with the dumbing down of the church with pop-theology rather than Biblical theology, we get complaints like that levelled by Vance. I am not saying that Vance does not understand these terms, I am sure he does. But when the church does not understand its own historic terminology, one wonders what is being taught from the pulpit!

The thing about theological terms is that they contain a wealth of meaning, and if you need to go through that wealth of meaning each time you write or teach, it could considerably lengthen books and teachings. Just imagine every time you use a word, you first had to explain what it means, i.e. chair.

"Tenth, White … implies that if you are not a Calvinist then you deny salvation by grace (p. 91)." White here makes a comment about Geisler's words which Dr. White quotes: "God's grace works synergistically on free will." About this Dr. White says:

"At the most fundamental level it is a belief that is opposed to the Reformation, and I believe opposed to biblical teaching regarding God, man, and grace."5

Dr. White on this page nowhere says "that if you are not a Calvinist then you deny salvation by grace." What he does say is that synergistic grace, which is dependent on man's volition, is not the grace taught in the Bible.

Still under the tenth point, Vance says that White "implies that a
rejection of Calvinism means that justification by faith must be rejected as well." Let's see what Dr. White actually wrote:

"One cannot claim to stand in harmony with Luther, Zwingli, Bucer, or Calvin without believing both in the doctrine of justification by faith as well as the truth of God's absolute freedom and man's bondage in sin."6

Does this look anything like Vance's claim? This is the only place on the page where justification by faith is mentioned.

Lastly, but still under Vance's tenth point, he writes that White "implies that a denial of Limited Atonement means that the substitutionary nature of the Atonement of Christ is being rejected." This is not at all what Dr. White wrote on page 233! He uses three-quarters of the page to show how even Roman Catholicism limits the "atonement in its effect but not in its scope." Then in the last bit of the page he starts:

"Historic Arminians saw that believing in the idea of substitutionary atonement would not fit with their system of theology. Even though Arminians today may use this terminology, it does not strictly 'belong' to them. Arminian scholar J. Kenneth Grider assert that the idea of 'substitutionary atonement' is foreign to Arminian thinking…"7 [Grider's quote follows in Dr. White's book.]

Without spending lots of time on this point, comparing Dr.White's own words with that of Vance's shows that Vance has a disconnect with his own ideas of what White wrote and what Dr. White actually wrote.

Just to conclude, I would like to refer to Vance's third point. In this point, Vance says that Dr.White claims that non-Calvinists misrepresent Calvinists, and I answered the point there. However, it is clear from what I have shown above that Vance has grossly misrepresented Dr. White in his critique of Dr. White's book.

Instead of an approach of iron sharpens iron, Vance comes in with an unwieldy sledge hammer to pummel Dr. White's words into what Vance thinks Dr. White is saying. It is unfortunate, because there is no real way for a conversation between Vance and Dr. White to start. In my opinion, Vance does not want to start such a conversation, it is easier to for him to sling the mud of misrepresentation at Dr. White.



[1] Piper, John, The Justification of God: An Exegetical & Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23, Second Edition, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 1993.
[2] Ibid., pp183-204
[3] White, James R., The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free, Calvary Press, Amityvile, NY, 2000, p85.
[4] Ibid., pp183-204.
[5] Ibid., p91.
[6] Ibid., p36.
[7] Ibid., p91.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Blaise Pascal on Throwing off the Yoke of God

blaisepascal "Now, what do we gain by hearing it said of a man that he has now thrown off the yoke, that he does not believe there is a God who watches our actions, that he considers himself the sole master of his conduct, and that he thinks he is accountable for it only to himself.? Does he think that he has thus brought us to have henceforth complete confidence in him and to look to him for consolation, advice, and help in every need of life? Do they profess to have delighted us by telling us that they hold our soul to be only a little wind and smoke, especially by telling us this in a haughty and self-satisfied tone of voice? Is this a thing to say gaily? Is it not, on the contrary, a thing to say sadly, as the saddest thing in the world?"
   -- Blaise Pascal, Pensees

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Logos 4 Bible study software released, but a bit pricey

Logos 4 Bible study software has been released. See Dan Phillips' post and Adrian Warnock's post on this.

Now, while this may be an amazing piece of software, here in South Africa it is a ridiculously over-priced piece of software. Of course, I wouldn't mind a sponsor or two for the Logos 4 Gold software package, although, the Platinum edition would be much better! Oh, well! A man can dream! Some men dream of cars. This is what I dream about.

However, for the average salaried South African, and even the above average paid South African, Logos is terribly over-priced. Whether I decide to buy Logos locally or online internationally, it can cost me half or more of my salary for the month. Looking at South Africa, taking a rough guess, probably 98% of people in South Africa cannot afford the Logos software.

It is for this reason that I would recommend a much better priced Bible software package. How about a FREE Bible software package? I thought I'd get your attention!

e-Sword is a free Bible software package for Windows, and has a whole range of translations that can be installed with it for free.

# of free English translation modules 24 (i.e. ESV, ASV, KJV, RV, Geneva, etc)
# of Greek NT modules 6 + a Hebrew NT
# of Hebrew OT modules 2 + Greek OT Septuagint

Latin Vulgate
# of other languages translation modules 47 (i.e. Afrikaans, Arabic, Chinese, German, Italian, etc)
# of Commentary modules 16 (i.e. Matthew Henry, John Gill, Adam Clarke, etc)
# of Bible dictionary modules 14 (i.e. Brown-Driver-Briggs, Easton's, ISBE, Nave's, Strong's, Thayer's, etc)
# of graphics modules 9 (i.e. American Bible Society Maps, NASA, CIA World Factbook, etc
# of devotion modules 5 (i.e. Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, Day-By-Day By Grace, etc)
# of extra modules 16 (i.e. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Works of Josephus, Calvin's Institutes, History of The Christian Church, etc)

As you can see, this is a lot to get for free. This is also what I use. Although it is not completely sufficient when doing original language work (for this I use the original way of books), it really is a good package to use.

So, without throwing your budget out of whack, download e-Sword and you have a lot to work with.

6 Nov 2009 - Mark Penrith has written a short review on e-Sword.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Christians and their holy huddles!

Why is it that Christians love their holy huddles. Some never step outside of their huddles unless they absolutely have to!

This happens even on the internet. First, their was Facebook. Then came the Christian huddle, Faithbook. There was also YouTube, which was followed by GodTube, later renamed to Tangle! Then there was Twitter, which was recently followed by another holy huddle, Christian Chirp. What a corny name!

Jesus said we are "in the world" not "of the world." He did not say that we are not "of the world" and therefore we must make sure to stay away from the world.

I understand that Christians need to interact socially, but when they do it so obviously to cut the world out of that interaction, one would almost wonder if they do not want to spread the gospel at all.

I will probably get flack for this post, but come on, are we really such softies?

Christians have something to say to the world; yet, when we escape to these holy huddles, the world will not hear us!

How to get Christians to pray and read their Bibles again

D.A. Carson gives a short intro into how to get Christians, even pastors, to read their Bibles and pray again.

D. A. Carson on the Gospel and Personal Devotions from CBMW on Vimeo.

D. A. Carson applies the Gospel and the Glory of the transcendent Christ to the Christian life to promote change.

HT: Andrew Smith

Calvinism in Africa

I am subscribed to the email list of Dr. Peter Hammond from Africa Christian Action. A while ago he sent out the following email called CALVINISM in AFRICA.

The history of Calvinism in Africa dates back to the landing of Dutch Governor Jan van Riebeeck in Table Bay (in what became Cape Town) 1652. 

The 16th and 17th centuries were primarily a battle for survival for the Protestants.  During the first century of Protestant history the world powers were Spain and Portugal.  These Roman Catholic empires dominated the seas and the overseas possessions of Europe.  Only after the English defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 did the possibility arise of Protestant missionaries crossing the seas.  As the Dutch and British grew in military and naval strength they were able to challenge the Catholic dominance of the seas and of the new continents.

Under King Philip II of Spain more than 18,000 Protestants were executed in the Netherlands.  At that time Spain was the most powerful country in the world.  Holland was occupied by Spain.  In 1566 Philip II issued a proclamation demanding that all his subjects in the Netherlands accept the decrees made by the Counsel of Trent.  In 1567, to crush the flourishing Protestant faith in Holland, Philip sent in the Duke of Alva who unleashed a reign of terror upon the Dutch Protestants.  In 1568 the Inquisition condemned all 3 million inhabitants of the Netherlands to death as "heretics."

Under the leadership of William Prince of Orange the Dutch Protestants rose up in resistance against Spain.  William of Orange and the courageous Dutch resistance fighters became the inspiration of Protestants worldwide.  The courage and tenacity of these Dutch Davids resisting the Spanish Goliaths attracted admiration and support, particularly from Protestant England. 

Although they were heavily outnumbered, the Dutch succeeded in outmaneuvering the Spanish, especially at sea.  In 1581, the united seven northern provinces of the Netherlands declared independence from Spain.  The Dutch Protestant fight for freedom continued until 1648 when their independence from Spain was finally recognised.  It was just four years later that the once colony of Spain, Holland, was able to send out Jan van Riebeeck to establish a settlement in Table Bay.  The first act of the Dutch Governor upon landing at the Cape in 1652 was to kneel down and pray that this outpost would be for the glory of God, and for the establishment and dissemination of the Reformed Faith throughout Africa. 

This Dutch settlement was later strengthened with an influx of French Huguenot settlers, fleeing from persecution in France.  The Huguenots enriched the Cape with their culture and fervent Reformed Faith, although they willingly assimilated culturally with the Dutch, joining the Dutch Reformed Churches and adopting the Dutch language.
With the arrival of the English at the Cape in 1795 the Church of England, and later Congregational, Presbyterian and Baptist congregations were established in the Cape Colony.  The Scottish Presbyterian Murray family greatly enriched the Dutch Reformed churches particularly through the dynamic ministry of Andrew Murray.  The Cape was blessed with a tremendous spiritual Revival in 1860.  Next year we will be commemorating the 150th Anniversary of this event.
Andrew Murray is still the most prolific author that South Africa has ever produced.  There are more books available in more copies, in more languages, written by Andrew Murray, than by any other South African.
As the pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church in Wellington, Andrew Murray set up the Africa Institute which trained missionaries under the slogan "Afrika vir Christus."  Hundreds of Reformed missionaries were sent throughout Africa from this missionary training college in Wellington.
In 2004, when I was ministering in Nigeria, the Tiv people were celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the arrival of the Reformed Faith amongst their people.  Missionaries from Andrew Murray's Africa Institute in Wellington had come to Eastern Nigeria and by God's grace the entire Tiv tribe had been converted. 
I have come across the graves of Dutch Reformed missionaries from South Africa all over Africa as far afield as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Nigeria and Kenya.
After the Second Anglo Boer War (1899 - 1902) there was a revival of missionary vision in the Dutch Reformed Church and many hundreds of DRC missionaries were sent out throughout Africa and even further afield. 
By God's grace there are many millions of Reformed Christians throughout Africa as a result of the dynamic Dutch settlement established at the Cape in 1652 and through the work of Reformed missionaries such as Dr David Livingstone and Mary Slessor.
Dr. Peter Hammond
Africa Christian Action
PO Box 23632
Cape Town
Tel: 021-689 4481
On Reformation Day, 31 October, a Preparing for a New Reformation Conference will be held in Cape Town.
For more information and for Reformation resources, please visit:;;
Orders can be made through: Christian Liberty Books: P O Box 358, Howard Place, Pinelands, 7450, Cape Town, South Africa; Tel: (021) 689-7478; Email:; Website:

9Marks Nov/Dec 2009 Journal now available

The 9Marks Nov/Dec 2009 Journal is now available (PDF).

This months journal is all about church discipline. Some of the articles in the journal are:

"Don't do it!!"—Why You Shouldn't Practice Church Discipline
Before You Discipline, Teach This First
Those Toxic Non-Attenders
The Preemptive Resignation—A "Get Out of Jail Free" Card?
Grabbing a Dog by its Ears: The Role of Witnesses

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sound of Grace Journal, Issue 162, November 2009 now available!

The Sound of Grace Journal, Issue 162, November 2009 is now available from Sound of Grace.

Note that the journal is in PDF format!

Of particular interest to New Covenant Theology is "Thoughts on Continuity and Discontinuity" by John G. Reisinger on page 7.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Reformation: remembering John Calvin and to continue reforming

Whenever we come to this time of year, we remember Luther hammering his 95 Theses against the door of the Wittenberg church on 31 October 1517. This signalled the start of the Reformation. Not long after that, with the Reformation underway at breakneck speed, The Roman Catholic institution wanted to put a stop to the Reformation by stopping Martin Luther.

This they tried through the Diet of Worms which opened on 22 January 1521. Luther was summoned and he appeared before the Diet on 17 April 1521 after he arrived in Worms on 16 April. It is here that he was presented with copies of his books and asked to recant of his views. He was formally asked by Johan Eck if he was willing to retract his statements in those books whereupon Luther asked for a reprieve to consider his answer. He was given a day for consideration and Luther returned on 18 April to give them his answer.

Luther stood before all and said:

"I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear as day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless, therefore, I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or on plain and clear grounds of reason, so that conscience shall bind me to make acknowledgement of error, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything contrary to conscience… Here I stand. I can do no other. May God help me. Amen."[1]

johncalvin These events launched the Reformation far and wide. Although Calvin was born in 1509 and 25 years younger than Luther, he was to become one of the greatest reformers. Luther and Zwingli were the men of action in the Reformation while Calvin was a refiner of the doctrines of the Reformation.

Calvin was converted somewhere in 1532. Within four years of his conversion, in 1536, Calvin published the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, which was initially intended to be a catechism for the French church. After several editions, the final edition was published in 1559, and had become a fully fledged systematic theology.

Apart from his Institutes, Calvin also wrote commentaries on almost every book of the Bible. The significance of Calvin's work must not be underestimated. Calvin was driven by the study of the Bible and to bring glory to God. He effectively laid the foundation of doctrine for the Reformation, and for all subsequent Reformed systematic theologies.

John Calvin was a theologian, pastor, biblical exegete, and tireless apologist for Reformed Christianity, and ranks among the most important thinkers in church history. His theological works, biblical commentaries, tracts, treatises, sermons, and letters helped establish the Reformation as a legitimate and thriving religious movement throughout Europe. No theologian has been as acclaimed or assailed as much as Calvin. Calvinism has spawned movements and sparked controversy throughout the centuries. Wars have been fought both to defend and destroy it, and its later proponents began political and theological revolutions in Western Europe and America. The breadth and depth of the engagement with his works since they first appeared four centuries ago—and their continuous publication since then—testifies to Calvin’s importance and lasting value for the church today. Thinking Christians from the twenty-first century who ignore Calvin’s writings do so at their own peril.[2]

Due to his writing, Calvin became a sought after man. Even though he became so famous, he remained a humble man. He was truly a theologian through and though. He would rather be studying the Bible and writing on theology than be in the limelight. Yet, he remained in the limelight exactly because of his theological writing. Newly reformed Christians everywhere wanted him to teach them.

It was on his planned route to Strasbourg that he planned to simply overnight in Geneva. William Farel, the reformer in Geneva would have none of it. When Calvin explained that he was only interested in private studies and that he really wanted to go to Strasbourg, Farel unleashed upon Calvin a fiery "imprecation that God would curse [Calvin's] retirement and the tranquillity of the studies which [he] sought, if [he] should withdraw and refuse assistance when the necessity was so urgent. By this imprecation [Calvin] was so stricken with terror that [he] desisted from the journey"[3] he had planned to Strasbourg.

It is here in Geneva that Calvin did most of his work.Calvin taught daily and preached several times a week. Even though he was very sickly, he pressed on daily. Calvin was not afraid of work. Concerning this Beza wrote:

"In the year 1562 it might already be seen that Calvin was hastening with rapid strides to a better world. He ceased not, however, to comfort the afflicted, to exhort, even to preach, and to give lectures. The following year his sufferings so increased that it was difficult to conceive how so weak a body, and exhausted as it had been by labor and sickness, could retain so strong and mighty a spirit. But even now he could not be induced to spare himself; for when he was obliged, against his will, to leave the public duties of his office unfulfilled, he was employed at home, giving advice to those who sought him, or wearing out his amanuenses by dictating to them his works and letters. When we besought him to refrain at least during his sickness from dictating and writing, he answered, ‘Would you that the Lord should find me idle when He comes?’ The year 1564 was the first of his eternal rest, and the beginning for us of a long and justifiable grief."[4]

Calvin was not a monster as some want to paint him. Professor Dorner of Berlin wrote:

"Calvin was equally great in intellect and character, lovely in social life, full of tender sympathy and faithfulness to friends, yielding and forgiving towards personal offenses, but inexorably severe when he saw the honor of God obstinately and malignantly attacked. He combined French fire and practical good sense with German depth and soberness."[5]

Calvin's influence soon stretched all the way to England and Scotland with great men such as John Know indebted to the teachings of Calvin. Calvin pressed on in the Reformation. For Calvin there was no day on which could be said that the Reformation had ended. Calvin felt that the church always had to be reforming. In Calvin's mind, the truth had been corrupted and the church had to move back to the purity of Biblical doctrine. He wrote:

"But how deservedly soever we complain that the doctrine of truth was corrupted, and the whole body of Christianity sullied by numerous blemishes, still our censurers deny that this was cause sufficient for so disturbing the church, and, in a manner, convulsing the whole world."[6]

The need for reformation in the church today, as it was in Calvin's day, is great. The evangelical has largely jettisoned its doctrinal base for more cooperation on different levels. Today, more and more evangelical churches are starting to work together with the Roman Catholic institution as can be seen in the Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) movement. The fact that Rome still teaches the heresies of Trent is completely overlooked.

Further, heresies within the evangelical church abound. Listening to Christian radio stations and walking into Christian book stores will attest that fact. The fact that the books and music of heretics such as Copeland, Hinn, Meyer, Jakes and more are so widely accepted into these radio stations and book stores is alarming! This is why the church still needs reformation today.

The church, with its acceptance of heretics into its fold, is making the Reformation of Luther and Calvin's day void! What were the hardships for in those days if the church simply throws it all away. The church finds itself on the edge of a precipice, and it will take very little to push it over the edge. The church has lost its anchor, and does not know its roots.

The church no longer knows its history and those that ignore history are destined to repeat the same failures of the past!

31 October (every year) is Reformation Day. Don't waste it on trivialities such as "helloweeny," but rather go and rent the DVD of Luther so you can at least get a little hint of what was accomplished on behalf of the church!

[1] Cromarty, Jim, A Mighty Fortress is our God: The Story of Martin Luther, Evangelical Press, Darlington, England, 1998, p205.
[2] Calvin500 Website,
[3] Lindsay, T.M., The Reformation: A Handbook, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, UK, 2006, p75.
[4] CRTA,
[5] Ibid.
[6] Calvin, John, The Necessity of Reforming the Church,

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

John Piper in South Africa Oct 2010!

Dr. John Piper Finally it is happening! Dr. John Piper will be in South Africa in October 2010 for the Rezolution 2010 conference, God willing, which will be held from 15-17 October 2010 at the Sandton Convention Center, Sandton, Johannesburg.

I know that we must not put men on pedestals, but John Piper's teachings have taught me a lot. God has used him tremendously in the lives of many and also in mine!

When it comes to expository preaching, John has an amazing ability to make the Word of God understandable. I really enjoy the clarity with which he teaches. He is my favourite Bible teacher.

John Piper's heart is set on glorifying God, and that comes through in his preaching, teaching and writing!

You will find his sermon, articles and books online at Desiring God. Many of his sermons are available in writing, audio and video for free. Almost all his books are also online FREE!

I cannot emphasize enough how you will be edified through his teaching, and if possible at all, plan now to attend this conference in October 2010. For me, this is way more important for South African Christians than having the World Cup Soccer in South Africa next year. In fact, the soccer is trivial compared to this.

For those on Facebook, the Rezolution2010 Conference also has a Facebook group!

Monday, October 19, 2009

You have to hate someone a lot not to tell them about Jesus

This is the theme of Kevin DeYoung's latest blog post called How Much Do You Have to Hate Somebody to Not Proselytize?

That is a real question for those people who claim to be Christians, yet do not believe or practice what the Bible teaches. However, it is just as much a real question to those who believe the Bible, yet do not practice its teachings.

If Christians, as the people of God, have the only message of salvation, how much responsibility do we not have to tell a world destined for hell about that message of hope and salvation.

But then, we will have to truly believe that their lives are in peril. The question is, how much do we truly believe the Bible when it speaks of the horrors of hell? Are we really convinced that people will go to hell if they do not believe in Christ? I suppose our actions declare our true convictions!

If we do believe what the Bible teaches on eternity, the question whether we love our hell-destined neighbours or not will then clearly come into focus. If we do love our neighbours as much as we claim we do, would we not prove that by taking the only message of salvation to them, in order for them to meet the Lord of life, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ? Would we not do this so that they would escape the fires of hell, at least?

Or, do we hate our neighbours that much that we would rather see them burning in hell before we give them the life altering, soul saving message of Jesus Christ?

The question is, where do you fit in?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Top 15 Must Have Books On Apologetics

Michael Patton wrote a blog post on the Top Fifteen Must Have Books on Apologetics.

There are some good books in the list he gives.

Are there any books you would exclude/include?

Friday, October 02, 2009

For whom the Bell tolls, it tolls for 'evanjellycals'

Evanjellycals, they are everywhere. With men like Rob Bell around, the bell is really tolling for 'evanjellycals.' The term 'evangelical' has completely lost its meaning, and Mr. Bell is not helping the situation at all. Phil Johnson has written a short commentary on Bell's latest interview with The Boston Globe, and well, it seems Mr. Bell is a real evanjellycal clown comedian!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ever thought of the nature of God?

I have recently overhauled my website, Sovereign Truth. As time permits I am adding new articles there. The latest article is called Theology Proper. It is published under the category of Theology/Systematic Theology. I have also published some articles under the category of Theology/Against Heresies. Further, I also published articles under the general category of Studies, which itself also has several other sub-categories.

Anyway, here is a blurp on the article, Theology Proper:
"The great presupposition of theology is the existence of God. Why bother with theology unless we assume that God exists. Even though the existence of God is accepted by faith, faith is based on reliable information. The faith that we have of the existence of God is not a blind faith, but a faith that is based on evidence that stands upon Scripture. Is the Bible reliable as evidence? That can only be answered as one studies the subject of Bibliology. The Bible does not start out with the purpose of proving the existence of God. Rather, it assumes the existence, and gives us His-Story (history) concerning His dealings with man, in effect salvation history."
Come visit Sovereign Truth. I am sure there is something that you might enjoy! I also have a poll that you can answer. The current poll wants to know: How important is theology to you?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

DesiringGod 2009 Calvin Conference now available online!

The DesiringGod 2009 National Conference on John Calvin is now online. The conference is available in written, audio and video!

So, without wasting any more time, visit the conference page and read, listen or watch to our heart's content!

HT: Frank Turk

Monday, September 21, 2009

Between Two Worlds has moved

Between Two Worlds, the blog by Justin Taylor, previously here, has moved. It is now a blog at the Gospel Coalition. If you subscribed to his blog feed before, you will need to subscribe to his new feed.

Happy blogging Justin!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Darwin: The Voyage that Shook the World (trailer)

Creation Ministries International (CMI) has released their long awaited DVD, The Voyage that Shook the World. To order the DVD, simply visit CMI's store.

From The Voyage's website:
"In 1831 a young amateur scientist, Charles Darwin, boarded HMS Beagle on an epic five-year voyage of discovery. His observations and later reflections resulted in a book that profoundly impacted the world.

"2009 marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his ‘Origin of Species’. The Voyage that Shook the World retraces Darwin’s journey, exploring the places and discoveries crucial to the formulation of his Theory of Evolution.

"Filmed in South America, the UK, North America, Australia and Europe, The Voyage features dramatic period recreations and stunning nature cinematography interwoven with scholars sharing their perspectives on the man and the controversy.

"A fascinating and thought provoking opportunity to gain new insight into
The Voyage that Shook the World."

Here is the trailer:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

We must think and proclaim God's truth

"God's words are not simply true in the sense that they conform to some standard of truthfulness outside of God. Rather, they are truth itself; they are the final standard and definition of truth. So, Jesus can say to the Father, 'Your word is truth' (John 17:17). What can be said about the truthfulness of God's knowledge can also be said about God's words, for they are based on his perfect knowledge and accurately reflect that knowledge: God's words are 'truth' in the sense that they are the final standard by which truthfulness is to be judged: whatever conforms to God's own words is true, and what fails top conform to his words is not true...

"In fact, as we begin to think true thoughts about God and creation, thoughts that we learn from Scripture and from allowing Scripture to guide us in our observation and interpretation of the natural world, we begin to think God's own thoughts after him! We can exclaim with the psalmist, 'How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!' (Ps. 139:17)"
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, IVP, Leicester, England, 1994, p196
When you think of God's truth, what comes to mind? Is it something that you deem important, or is it something that you can set aside for the so-called "greater good?" Of course, you will have to ask yourself what the "greater good" is! If it is anything other than the glory of God, then the "greater good" is no good at all. If the "greater good" is anthropocentric, meaning that we have to make the church look good in the eyes of the world, then you see the "greater good" purely through uninformed human eyes!

The first question of the Westminister Shorter Catechism asks the question: "What is the chief end of man?" In plain modern English for those who don't know what this question means: "What is the ultimate purpose of man?" The answer? "Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."

The greater good must always be to glorify God. We must always see glorifying God as the ultimate good. How does this relate to believing and proclaiming the truth?

When we disregard the truth of the gospel, we disregard the glory of God! The glory of God is inherent to who He is. The fact is that truth is also inherent to God. The way we handle God's truth says a lot about us.

Our faith and truth go hand in hand. If our faith is not based on truth, then we believe a lie and our faith is not based on the one true God! We can claim all kinds of relationships and warm fuzzy feelings, but it remains a lie!

God's truth is not something to be fudged to make it more accommodating to people. Where God's truth speaks of His love, we shouldn't make it look other than it is. On the other hand, where God's truth speaks of His wrath, we shouldn't make it easier than it really is. Where the gospel brings offense, we must not lighten the offense. The gospel is an offense to the world as it is. When we work to remove the offense of the gospel, we no longer have the gospel. God's truth diminished, is no truth at all!

As a result, we must hold to ALL God's truth, not just what we prefer to believe.

For more on the importance of truth to God, I have written enough to show how we need to resist error in the church and how we need to stand for the WHOLE truth of God.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Sound of Grace Journal for September now online!

The Sound of Grace Journal for September 2009 is now online!

The contents of this issue are a follows:
Studies in Galatians—Part Twenty-Seven - John G. Reisinger
Become What You Are - A. Blake White
Total Depravity, Total Grace - Steve West
The Beginning and the End - Mike McInnis
The Atonement - John G. Reisinger
The Difference Betwixt the Law and the Gospel - Ralph Erskine

The Old Covenant died with Christ

What does the New Testament mean when it speaks of the Old Covenant? Does it mean an earlier half of the current covenant that is in effect right now? Is it simply an older administration of one covenant that includes an old administration and a new administration of an overarching covenant that is currently in effect? Is it a covenant that was made with Adam and fell away with the covenant that started with Moses?

You see, when you create a double language for things that exist already and change the terms that have already been used by the Bible by giving it new meaning, then you land in foreign territory. The Bible calls the covenant that started with Moses the Old Covenant (not the Old Administration) and the covenant that started with Jesus the New Covenant. By calling the Old Covenant the “old administration” and the New Covenant the “new administration” under one covenant, truth is discarded. By reading the epistle to the Hebrews it is clear that the Bible calls the covenant that was established under Moses with its attendant law, the Ten Commandments, the Old Covenant. It also calls the covenant established by Christ, the New Covenant. So, when it calls the Old Covenant obsolete, it speaks of the covenant that was established with Israel at Mt Sinai.

Ten Commandments

When we speak of the Old Covenant, it becomes almost impossible to separate it from the Ten Commandments. Making a division between the Old Covenant and the Ten Commandments is purely artificial.

What is really interesting about the phrase “Ten Commandments” is that it is only found three times in the Bible (Ex 34:27-28; Dt 4:13; Dt 10:4).

In Ex 34:28 and in Dt 4:13 the Ten Commandments are called the words of the covenant. In Ex 34:28, the Ten Commandments are called “the words of the covenant” and in Dt 4:13, the Ten Commandments are called the covenant itself. The Bible, which is quite able to speak for itself, has established in its own words (the words of God) that the Ten Commandments are the words of the covenant, even the covenant itself. The Ten Commandments are the legal terms of the covenant. Hence, the terms “Ten Commandments,” “covenant” and “words of the covenant” are equivalent terms. By trying to separate these terms from one another and inserting new meaning into them, some have emptied these words of their Biblical, God-given meaning and supplanted these words with non-Biblical meaning. When we do this, do we really believe in Sola Scriptura and the inerrancy of the Bible? Therefore, if we are to use the Bible to speak for itself, we have to conclude that the Ten Commandments are the distinct legal covenant document of the Old Covenant established under Moses (Dt 9:9-11).

What do we learn from Moses’ re-declaration of the Ten Commandments in Dt 5:1-22? We learn, that in fact, Moses made a re-declaration of the covenant that God made with Israel at Horeb. What was this covenant? Once you read this passage you quickly realise that the re-declaration of the covenant is nothing more than the Ten Commandments! The Ten Commandments is the covenant!

What we further learn from the “Ten Commandments” language is that the covenant was made with the nation of Israel alone! (Ex 34:27; Dt 4:13; Dt 5:2-3; 1 Ki 8:9). 2 Chr 6:11 tells us that the covenant, the Ten Commandments written on two tablets of stone, was in the Ark of the Covenant, a covenant that the Lord “made with the people of Israel.” Of course, this passage does not stand alone. In Ex 34:27 the Lord told Moses that in accordance with the words written in the Ten Commandments, the Lord had made a covenant with Israel. Dt 5:2-3 is even more clear. Here Moses declares to Israel that the covenant God had made with them at Horeb was a covenant with them and no one else. To press this point home, in verse 3, Moses makes it clear that even their forefathers were excluded from this covenant. “This covenant is with you! Not with your great-grand-pappy, but with you!”

Did you know that there are two versions of the Ten Commandments, the so-called unchanging, eternal moral law of God, in the Bible (Ex 20:1-17; Dt 5:1-22)? If you did not know that, then it is time you re-read these two passages that declare the Ten Commandments. Seeing that a lot has been written about this already, I will let John Reisinger explain it here!

A question we have to ask ourselves is whether the Old Covenant, of which the Ten Commandments were the legal covenant document, was a covenant of grace. Of course, God showed Israel tremendous favour when He delivered them from the clutches of the Egyptians, but does that act translate to the Old Covenant being a covenant of grace? The fact is that this deliverance was merely a physical deliverance, not a spiritual redemption! No, the covenant made with Israel, of which the Ten Commandments were the words of the covenant, was a conditional, legal, works based covenant which demanded obedience for its promised blessings, and curses for disobedience. Ex 19:5-6 clearly informs us that Israel as a treasured possession of God would only remain so “if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant.” Dt 28:1-68 is even more devastating than the Ex 19 passage! (“if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today…all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you…if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments…then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you…”)

The Ten Commandments were given to an unregenerate people as a legal covenant of blessings and curses, life and death. Israel was a nation of sinners with a small remnant of regenerate believers. Just because God was gracious in giving the covenant, to establish the physical nation of Israel as His people if they obeyed, does not mean that the covenant itself was gracious! Israel’s’ special national status as God’s people was conditional on keeping (or breaking) the Ten Commandments. We know that Israel did not keep the covenant and was eventually cast off as God’s special people (Ex 19:5-6) and we know from 1 Pet 2:9 that the church inherits those very blessings since Christ has kept the covenant in her place.

Synonyms for the Ten Commandments

There are at least five synonyms of the Ten Commandments used in the Bible.

The Ten Commandments, as the summary document under which Israel’s covenant status was established, are sometimes called the “tablets of stone” (Ex 24:12). The “tablets of stone” contained God’s conditional covenant that Israel had to perform (Dt 4:13). The phrase “tablets of stone” is interchangeable with the word “covenant.” This covenant written on tablets of stone is inferior to the covenant written on the heart (2 Cor 3:3).

The Ten Commandments are also known as the “tablets of testimony” (Ex 31:18; 34:29).

The phrase “the testimony” is used more often than any other term or phrase as a synonym for the Ten Commandments (Ex 25:16-17; 40:20). What is interesting about this synonym is that it is a singular term, referring to the Ten Commandments as a covenant document. While the Ten Commandments are also called “testimonies” (Dt 4:45), the Ark of the Covenant is never referred to as the “ark of the testimonies” but to the “Ark of the Testimony” (Ex 25:22), referring to the singular nature of the covenant document in the Ark.

The Ten Commandments are also known as the “words of the covenant” (Ex 34:28), the covenant document of the Old Covenant that God made with Israel, and this was referred to earlier.

Finally, the Ten Commandments are also known as the “tablets of the covenant” (Dt 9:9-15). The entire sacrificial system revolved around the tablets of the covenant, the Ten Commandments (Heb 9:4). The relationship of Israel’s worship and the sacrificial system of the Old Testament were intricately related to the Ten Commandments. All of Israel’s worship with all its sacrifices and laws, rested on the centrality of the Ten Commandments, the “tablets of the covenant.” Without these tablets, and the very “words of the covenant” that were inscribed on them, Israel’s system of worship would have been worthless.

All Old Testament laws became part of the Old Covenant

While the Ten Commandments, clearly portrayed as the “words of the covenant,” were housed inside the Ark of the Covenant as the concise, constitutional law of the covenant, the “book of the covenant” (Jer 34:13-20; 2 Ki 23:21) which were the interpretation and application of the Ten Commandments, lay next to the Ark of the Covenant.

This “book of the covenant,” although separate from the “tablets of the covenant,” was a part of the Old Covenant too. While the Ten Commandments are the summary document of the Old Covenant, the “book of the covenant” is the detailed laws of the Old Covenant. Very much like a constitution and the laws that derive from that constitution. The division of the covenant into moral, civil and ceremonial laws are spurious at best. Jer 34:13-20 makes it clear that these aforementioned so-called divisions of the law, were all considered part of the law of Moses, the Old Covenant.

The “sign” of the Old Covenant

It was customary in Old Testament times for the sign of the covenant to be included in the document that carried the covenant. In the same way, the Old Covenant document, the Ten Commandments, contains its own sign of the covenant.

The sign of the Old Covenant, contained in the “words of the covenant” is the Sabbath (Ex 31:12-18)! In verse 16 we learn that “the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.” Since the Sabbath was the sign of the covenant, the Sabbath stood for the whole of the covenant. Breaking the sign of the covenant, the Sabbath, meant breaking the covenant itself. And when the sign of the covenant was violated, it meant that that person renounced the covenant relationship and only the death penalty was good enough for that violation (Num 15:32-36).

The covenant was made only with Israel, as we learnt from Dt 5:2-3, and the sign of the covenant, the Sabbath, was given to Israel alone. Ex 31:16-17 makes this very clear: “Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath… It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel.” The heart of the Sabbath was to refrain from work and whoever “does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death” (Ex 31:15). The Sabbath was essentially about work and not worship. Ez 20:11-20 backs Moses up that the Sabbath is the sign of the covenant and that it was made with Israel. Here God pronounced His wrath on Israel because they did not keep God’s Sabbaths, making those Sabbaths just as holy as the seventh day Sabbath.

This is important since Col 2:12-17 says that we should not let anyone “pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. The question, of course, is whether the Sabbath (“a Sabbath”) mentioned in verse 16 includes the seventh day Sabbath. “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (vv16-17) The death that Christ died, the curse that He lifted, was not to relieve us from ceremonial laws, so we could eat bacon, but “canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” (v14), the Ten Commandments. What law, or “record of debt,” stood between God and us? Surely you can see that it was not the ceremonial laws, but rather the Ten Commandments! The fact that Paul tells us in verse 13 that “God made [us] alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,” is clear evidence that what Paul had in mind was salvation, and that mere deliverance from ceremonial laws was not what Paul had in mind here, hence, “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” is the Ten Commandments. The basis of our forgiveness is not the removal of any ceremonial or civil laws, but the law that condemns to death, the Ten Commandments.

The list of Sabbaths that Paul refers to here in Colossians is a known list. In Lev 23, the Lord gave Moses the appointed feasts, “holy convocations” in the ESV (“sacred assemblies” in the NIV). This seems to be the only place in Scripture where we can find a list of “Sabbaths.” What is most important about this list of “Sabbaths” is that the very first one mentioned is the seventh day Sabbath. It is rather clear that Paul would have known about this passage, and it is most likely that this is the very passage that Paul alluded to in Col 2. With the seventh day Sabbath making it to the top of this list, it is not possible to separate it from the rest of the Sabbaths. Each of these Sabbaths included the main requirement of the seventh day Sabbath, no work. That means that all these Sabbaths, the seventh day Sabbath included, are similar in nature.

The Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant was so named because the Ten Commandments, the covenant document was housed inside (Ex 25:16; Ex 40:19-20; Dt 10:1-5). The ark of the covenant facilitated sacrificial ministry the Ten Commandments demanded (Heb 9:1-4). Without the Ten Commandments in the ark, the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant would have been based on nothing, since God based it all on His law for the Old Covenant, the Ten Commandments.

Entrance to the presence of the Ark of the Covenant spelt death to anyone until the demands of the tablets of the covenant were fully met. It is for this reason that only the high priest could enter only once a year into the most holy place with sacrificial blood. The demands of the law could only be satisfied by blood, since human beings are incapable of keeping the law perfectly.

The Covenant Document had a Definite Beginning and End

The distinct legal covenant document of the Old Covenant, the Ten Commandments, had its definite beginning on Mt. Sinai when God gave it to Moses (Ex 31:18) to deliver it to Israel with whom alone this covenant was given (Dt 5:2-3). The fact that this covenant, the Ten Commandments (Dt 4:13), was made with Israel alone and not with their forefathers, shows that the Ten Commandments as a covenant document did not exist before, but was established here at Sinai.

Since the first covenant, the Old Covenant, was a covenant of death and “if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.” (Heb 8:7) As a result, the Old Covenant ended with the death of Jesus as our sacrifice. So, “In speaking of a new covenant [not a new administration of an existing covenant], he makes the first one obsolete.” (Heb 8:13) It is in Christ’s death that we are redeemed from the curse of the Law (Gal 3:3-14), the same Law that was abolished in Christ (Eph 2:15).

From this we learn that in the abolishment of the Law and the Old Covenant, the Ten Commandments have served out their purpose as the distinct legal document of the Old Covenant. However, in saying that the Ten Commandments have come to an end, it does not mean that that we can now kill and steal. What it does mean is that we are no longer under the Ten Commandments as a legal document that stands against us. It is not the individual commandments that have been done away with, but the legal document, the covenant document, the tablets of stone. The only commandment that no longer exists is the Sabbath commandment. With the covenant being made obsolete, there is no longer any need to perform this duty, as it was the sign of that old covenant, and without a covenant, the sign has become unnecessary! The fact is that the Sabbath commandment started at Sinai and ended with the death of Christ. No one was ever punished for breaking the Sabbath command before it was given as a commandment at Sinai. Before Sinai, people were punished for all the other commandments, just not for the Sabbath. In the New Testament, all commands have been repeated in one form or another, except the Sabbath command. The Ten Commandments, the Law, as a legal covenant document has ended and is no longer our guardian because Christ has come and we are justified by faith (Gal 3:24-25). The Old Covenant, with its covenant document, the Ten Commandments also came to an end because the priesthood changed (Heb 7:12).

Christ instituted a new covenant “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” (Col 2:14). By dying as a ransom and propitiation under the Old Covenant, the resurrected Christ became the mediator of a New Covenant (Heb 9:15). Christ fulfilled the demands of the Old Covenant on our behalf and has inaugurated a New Covenant in which His blood was shed once for all.

For more on New Covenant Theology, go to NCT Friday: Introduction.

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