Monday, February 13, 2012

The Church - Is it the New Israel?

Eph. 1:9-12
9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. (NASB)

Why would someone want the Church to be the New Israel? There are just as many theologians who say the Church is the New Israel as there are not, and each side has Biblical proof for their position. This is not an "Eternal" position (i.e., salvation acceptance of which there can be no variation) as a class member clarified Sunday. This is a "Propositional" doctrine in that we can have opposing views. For the sake of this discussion we will take the position that the Church is not the New Israel - the Church is simply the Church or as Paul presents it in Ephesians "the mystery".

The first question about the supplanting of the Church on Israel is why did Paul in Eph. 1:3 say our blessings are "in the heavenly places"? The earth for Christians is not "the final destination" as some day we will be Raptured. Paul focuses on "the heavenly places" throughout Ephesians as recorded in Eph. 1:20, 2:6, 3:10 and 6:12.

The Question that we must ask ourselves when approaching the Prosperity Gospel movement must be:

Did Jesus Christ brutally die on the Cross for our happiness, for our bank account, for our (fill in the blank)? Is it God's will for us to be "Happy" or "Joyful"? James 1:2-3 has an answer, I think:

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (NASB)

Or 1 Pet 1:6

6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, (NASB)

Somehow, to me at least, "trials" and "endurance" do not speak to the Prosperity Gospel. The verse that causes me the greatest concern about the Prosperity Gospel from the Scriptures is 2 Tim. 4:3-4:

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (NASB)

Now I will step down from my "Soap Box" and return to Paul's words in Ephesians. In verse 10 Paul says, "with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times". Throughout Scripture we read of various "administrations" of God as evidenced with His dealings in the lives of men and women in the time of Noah as compared to the times of the Apostle John (especially with regard to God's revelations). We also read of God's progressive revealing the scope of His communication to us in the Law as opposed to Grace. Lastly we read of the significant different interaction of the Holy Spirit with believers in that throughout the Old Testament the Holy Spirit "came upon" someone (not everyone) as opposed the the "indwelling" of the Holy Spirit within each believer today.

Eph. 1:14 gives us a purpose to all with "to the praise of His glory". The question for us: Is the "Golden Thread" of Scripture about man's salvation or God's glory? A favorite verse for me is Ps. 21:5

5 His glory is great through Your salvation,
Splendor and majesty You place upon him. (NASB)

We continue to be like the Berean Christians of Acts 17 in that we are discerning "the false prophets" of 2 Pet. 2:1-4 and knowing that our citizenship is not here on earth (we are not Israel) but in heaven as told to us in Phil. 3:20-21:

20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (NASB)

Providence - 1 Cor. 4:7
Necessity - Eph. 2:8-9
Freedom - Gen. 3:21
Negativity - Matt. 8:5-13
Maturity - Phil. 4:6-8

Opinions Welcomed and C'ya Sunday

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Predestined to Have Free Will

Eph. 1:4-5 - 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will - the focus will be on "predestined".

Previously we read about "by the will of God" and Providence. In addition to God's Eternal Will and His Will for the Universe, God has a Will for us in that:

1. He Created us
2. He Redeemed us
3. He Forgave us
4. He Gifted us
5. He Set us Apart (unique, saints)

Now we read that God "chose us before the foundations of the world" and "He predestined us to adoption". How we think about God is the single, most significant determinate of our lives. As Christians we incorporate into our "becoming" God's sovereignty, His Providence:

11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. - 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 NASB

Additionally we know Biblically that God created us with a Free Will (Genesis 2:7), and we are responsible for our choices as written in Romans 5:19 -
"19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous."

How does Predestination work? Predestined (a word not used in today's vernacular) means to determine or plan ahead of time, we also get the word "ordain" from this. In our modern language we use this concept in real estate with surveying and setting legal boundaries to a parcel of land.
The highest form of God's Love is His giving us Freedom. What does this mean - God's Grace is not irresistible but is persuasive not coercive. Free Will predestined in the creation of us before the foundations of time means that we have the ability to choose otherwise.

Two examples of this ability to choose are Jesus in the Garden just prior to his crucifixion, and Judas Iscariot with his betrayal at the Last Supper. Jesus answer of "not My will by Thy will be done" is found in Luke 22:41-44. Judas' answer is found philosophically in that God before the foundations of the earth (predestination) knew that Judas would exercise his free will to betray Jesus. God did not coerce nor cause Judas to betray. How does this work? As a parent I knew that my son when he was born would some day speed and break the law when he got his drivers license, thereby get a traffic ticket. I "foreknew" this, but more importantly my foreknowledge did not cause my son to speed and break the law.

St. Augustine wrote that "if there is no free will there would be no Hell" and as such evil is the miss-use of freedom.Therefore one is not Predestined to Hell but to Freedom. Biblically we are given the ability to obey God and to participate in His timeline of history, just as we are given the ability to chose to be a slave to the culture. We can chose the actuality of performing God's work (to know God's will and then do God's will) and no longer be a slave to our selfishness (see Romans 1:18-26).

God determined before the foundations of the world His plan of creating man with Free Will, therefore because God is Love (1 John 4:16) this Free Will Plan must be Good by Necessity. By Necessity I mean God's plan is not random but intentional. That intentional plan is to mature us while on earth.

Providence - God provides everything - creator of all
Necessity - There is no arbitrary (i.e., fate), then there must be an order (the best possible way)
Freedom - The best possible world means to be free means to be free to choose the wrong thing
Negativity - Choosing the wrong thing has harmful effects on us and those around
Maturity - Choosing to do the right response in the mist of negative stuff produces maturity

Providence - 1 Cor. 4:7
Necessity - Eph. 2:8-9
Freedom - Gen. 3:21
Negativity - Matt. 8:5-13
Maturity - Phil. 4:6-8

C'ya Sunday

Providence - Does God Provide?

Eph. 1:1 - Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus - the focus will be on: "by the will of God".

The Christian life is about becoming a mature person in a relationship with Jesus Christ. In becoming a Life of Balance we need a foundational understanding of God or our “house” will be built on shaky grounds. Our faith must be a working faith and not simply an academic one, so that we may build a strong "home". As Jesus taught His Disciples:

47 Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:47-50 NASB

Providence - "by the will of God" (God's Provide-ance) is the simple answer to the question asked by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 4:7 - "And what do you have that you did not receive?" More specifically, Providence is the external work "by which all the creatures God has made are preserved, governed, guided, and directed" (John Gill, A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, pg. 277). The question of God's Providence is eloquently presented in the following movie clip from Fiddler on the Roof made in 1971. This clip is of Chaim Topol playing the Jewish peasant character called "Tevye" asking of God about Providence:
The 1st of 5 Foundational Keys to Understanding a Biblically Balanced Life is acknowledging God the Father being the Architect’s Survey Plot of our new Christian Home (our metaphor for life). To accomplish a survey of the land to build a home on, the surveyor use mathematics, physics, and engineering. A Biblically Balanced Life is based on the will of God and not on the ambitions of man. This brings us to our First and Second Presuppositions of Life (everyone, including Atheists have presuppositions about life):

1. The existence of The (not "a") Biblical God

2. The Biblical God has revealed Himself to man (as recorded in the Bible)
  • General Revelation - Acts 14:14-17
  • Special Revelation - Hebrews 1:1; 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:15
  • Personal Revelation - John 1:18; Hebrews 1:2; Luke 24:44-45
From our presuppositions we can build our "Home".

Providence - God provides everything - creator of all
Necessity - There is no arbitrary (i.e., fate), then there must be an order (the best possible way)
Freedom - The best possible world means to be free means to be free to choose the wrong thing
Negativity - Choosing the wrong thing has harmful effects on us and those around
Maturity - Choosing to do the right response in the mist of negative stuff produces maturity

Providence - 1 Cor. 4:7
Necessity - Eph. 2:8-9
Freedom - Gen. 3:21
Negativity - Matt. 8:5-13
Maturity - Phil. 4:6-8

Theological Question/Thought: Are We Predestined to have Free Will?
C'ya Sunday

Ephesians - A Study in Christian Maturity

The first Sunday of 2012 the ABF began our most adventurous study to date:

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians

We will approach his Letter asking the question, “How do I adjust my life to be Biblically Balanced today in the 21st Century?” The purpose of our study is to receive from the Word of God information on becoming a mature person (Paul’s metaphor of walking) in Christ. Paul gives us the foundational principles of God’s Providence which are key to understanding the Biblically Balanced Life. With the foundation set, Paul then gives us the requirements for a Balanced Life. Our focus will be as Paul states in chapter 4:1

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”

The following information is from the study I did of Ephesians in Seminary, and as such it will come across when you read it as somewhat academic. However it is good information for background.

The church at Ephesus was founded in the early 50s by the Apostle Paul on his 2nd missionary journey, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila, whom he left behind to build the church (Acts 18:18-21). Ephesus was a major “Metroplex” (as is the DFW area) and commanded the main highway between east and west. Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians while in prison in Rome in the early 60s. This letter is profound in that Paul writes about the Church, Individual Maturity (his metaphor of “walking”), and the Holy Spirit’s guarantee of God’s promises. The responsibility is on us individually not corporately (the elimination of distinction between Jew and Gentile).

An outline of the Book of Ephesians is as follows:

Ephesians – God’s Providential Plan for Believers to Discover Maturity

I. God’s Providential Plan for Gentiles - Eph. 1:1 – 2:22

A. The Trinity's Actions are the Key to the Plan – Eph. 1:1-18
B. Paul prays for their Comprehension – Eph. 1:19-23
C. Salvation is by Grace not Works – Eph. 2:1-10
D. Gentiles through Jesus Christ are the Way – Eph. 2:11-22

II. Paul’s Life is an Example – Eph. 3:1-21

III. The Christian’s Pursuit of his/her Lifework – Eph. 4:1 – 5:15

A. Walk in a Manor Worthy – Eph 4:1-10
B. Who Equips the Saints – Eph. 4:11-16
C. Renewing of the Mind is Key to Maturity – Eph. 4:17-32
D. Being Mature Requires Work – Eph. 5:1-15

IV. Family Joy and Responsibility – Eph. 5:17 – 6:9

A. A Family Submitting to One Another – Eph. 5:17-21
B. Wife’s Relation to her Husband – Eph. 5:22-24
C. Husband’s Relation to his Wife – Eph. 5:24-33
D. Children’s Relations to Parents – Eph. 6:1-4
E. Servants and Masters Relations – Eph. 6:5-9

V. Spiritual Warfare – Eph. 6:10-17

VI. Prayer and Paul’s Personal Requests – Eph. 6:18-24

The overriding significance of Ephesians is Paul’s interpretation, explanation, and clarification of the previously “classified” (the modern vernacular of his use of the word “mystery”) program of God’s inclusion of the Gentiles into His Providential plan. Ephesians “declassifies” God’s plan of having the “Church” bring hope to the world as the nation of Israel is now “on hold” during this dispensation. Additionally, Paul gives specific instructions for the Christian’s personal lifework along with his/her family which is pleasing to God. Lastly, Paul informs the believer that, unlike the physical Jewish worship and blessings of the Old Testament, the Christian struggles and blessings will not just be physical but, more critically, spiritual.

Hope this information is helpful.

Theological Question/Thought: Are Predestination & Free Will opposites?

C'ya Sunday