The Best Exegetical Case for No Divorce

What Christian can disagree with these basic statements?

  1. All men will be judged by the law, and condemned miserably for their constant failure of it.
  2. This absolute standard holds except for those who have been completely separated from the law by the work of Christ.

Don’t we all agree on this? We’re in great trouble with no way out. Only Christ can save us. Without Him, we are doomed by the law.

For professing Christians, there should be nothing controversial here. And Paul the apostle feels a great necessity to press this point on the Roman believers. How can he do that? What will he say to cement in their minds these most basic, unquestionable truths? Is there a basic metaphor that everyone could immediately relate to? A picture cannot be easily forgotten, or misunderstood—it’s worth a thousand words.

God is a Rock—unshakeable, unmoved, eternal. He is a Shepherd—full of love for His sheep. Wisdom is a prudent young lady—making life wonderful and pleasing for a young man who listens.

What does Paul use with the Romans? Marriage: We had been married to the law. “The law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives” (Rom. 7:1). How can I understand this “dominion” (KJV) or this “jurisdiction” (NASB)? The Holy Spirit uses marriage, and no woman can be separated from her marriage except by death (Rom. 7:2). The first words of 7:3 are logical consequences: “So then.” It logically follows that if a woman cannot be free from her husband without death, then she cannot be remarried without death either.

Based on that, you were made to die to the Law so that you might be married to another, even Jesus Christ. You could not have been joined to Christ without having been freed from your first union.

Are there two ways to be freed? Are there multiple possible options whereby a man can come out from under condemnation? Is there any Savior beside our Lord? Did He not take the title Lord because He is the exclusive Way, Truth, and Life?

How could you press these truths on new believers? Very simply by showing them the picture of marriage, but only if marriage has no options for divorce.

It is very common to allow Christians to divorce if their spouse was unfaithful according to Matt. 5:32 or 19:9. But Romans 7:1-4 is a very clear passage that should be used to interpret the less clear phrase recorded by Matthew.

Regarding divorce and remarriage, I cannot think of a clearer statement in Scripture than Romans 7:1-4. We all agree with Paul’s theology and illustration in that passage. If we allow believers to divorce, what happens to his main point? Can we say there is only salvation from the law through Christ except for some other cases? May it never be. If Christ alone is our watchword, then the permanence of marriage is a picture of that doctrine.

In the question of divorce and remarriage, there are difficult passages (actually only two difficulties and they are phrases such as “except for fornication”), but the clear should interpret the obscure. The use of marriage to communicate the exclusive power of Christ alone to save from our union to the law in Romans 7:1-4 is a very clear passage.

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Defense of Sola Scriptura

Does the Bible teach that the Bible alone is the highest authority for the Christian? Recently, I heard a debate about Catholicism, and when this question was raised, the Christian struggled to give a good answer. Bible believers may be surprised to see this raised for debate, but they may be even more surprised in their search for a proof text. This doctrine has historically been called Sola Scriptura as the first of the five doctrinal emphases commonly marking the Reformation.

What is the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, the Bible Alone? The Bible is the highest authority for any Christian. There is no church council, no pastor, no priest, no self-styled prophet, no collection of voters, no contemporary leaders whether acting by themselves or in a group, and no modern revelation that can outvote or overwhelm or contradict or correct the words of the Bible.

If you had to give a Bible verse defending this teaching, what would you choose? What the Bible says about itself is so exalted that it must be the final and unrivaled authority. Every verse that shows the Bible being exalted above other sources of authority is a proof text for the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

  1. The new birth comes from Scripture.

“In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth…” James 1:18

Peter follows James in teaching that the Bible produces the new birth (1 Pet. 1:23). This is the power and unique status of the Bible. This Book can produce spiritual life. But the doctrine has a negative: The Bible Alone. John explicitly adds the negative when he says that we are born again not by blood, nor by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man (John 1:12), but by God. Peter and James teach the positive glory of Scripture while John adds the negation of all other agencies on a level with the Bible.

Scripture is unique in that it alone holds the truth that can produce regeneration.

  1. Scripture alone is inspired.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” 2 Timothy 3:16

What can claim such a status outside the Bible? Though Peter’s writings are short, he holds a very high view of Scripture making sure to tell us that the writers were moved along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). On what authority could someone else claim to be moved along by the Spirit like the apostle Peter?

  1. Scripture alone is the source of truth.

“Your word is truth.” John 17:17

The Son of God calls Himself both the Word of God and the Truth, both names which He applies also to the Bible. These titles are not given to apostles, prophets, or elders. We will live blessed lives if mercy and truth are bound to our hearts, but where could we find truth? Peter is rebuked not only by Jesus, but by Paul. Paul calls himself wretched and the first among all the sinners. But Jesus says hearing and obeying His words is a solid foundation. Is anything else exalted like that?

  1. The Spirit inspires lengthy treatments of the high glory of Scripture.

Psalm 119 is a very long production of meditations on the glory of God’s Word. It heals, makes alive, gives wisdom, carries a value greater than all the world’s gold, cleanses from sin, and teaches the fool. But that is not enough, because Psalm 19 though only 14 verses treats the same topic. Would anyone be so unscriptural as to claim that a man can do these things?

Now the things that are claimed for the Bible in these psalms are things of great spiritual authority. Thus, no man or group of men whom David by inspiration refers to as dust (Ps. 103:14), worms (Ps. 22:6), a mere breath (Ps. 39:5), and even dead dogs (1 Sam. 24:14) should occupy the same authority with the Word about which David also told us it is exalted above all things (Ps. 138:2). Did David not see the Word as raised higher than the judgment of all men?

  1. Jesus and the Apostles appeal to Scripture as their authority.

Our Lord opposed Satan and the leaders of the Jews sometimes by quoting Scripture. Can we do better than He? Should we search for a higher court of appeal? But sometimes He brought His doctrines simply from His own intrinsic authority (Matt. 5:22, 28, 32, etc.). Now with the revelation of the prophets, apostles, and the Son of God, should we turn to a group of men or worse still a single man as the final standard?

  1. The Christian church should be uniquely Word centered.

“Preach the Word.” 2 Tim. 4:2

What is this Word that is to be preached by a young man in a relatively new church plant? What else was this young man supposed to teach? Nothing except the revelation given to the apostles by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1 Tim. 4:5, 6, 11, 13, 16; 2 Tim. 2:14-16). How did the first churches judge the words of any teacher? By searching the books they had been given at that time (Acts 17:11). And these observations go through the book of Acts and the epistles so that the Word of God is constantly honored in the early church. Should we place something else in its place?

This list could be longer because the Bible claims that its writings produce spiritual growth (1 Pet. 2:2), preserve the saving doctrines (1 Cor. 15:3-4), and evaluate pastors (Tit. 1:9-11). Any of these 6 sufficiently defend the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, but taken together they form such a vital part of the faith that to remove Sola Scriptura really eviscerates the religion of its Christian content.

And nonetheless, I do not think these reasons are the most persuasive for those who unconvinced. It seems to me that only those who are already convinced by Sola Scriptura will find the previous items compelling. One final reason is the best I can offer to persuade someone who disagrees with this foundational stone in the building.

  1. Only Sola Scriptura produces Bible readers.

Though we cannot know the answers to these questions, they may still serve a very profitable purpose. How many days per week do the people of the world read the Bible? How many minutes per day on average are spent on Bible reading? Should more people read the Bible? Would the world be a better place if more people spent more time reading the Old and New Testaments? If we could know—which we cannot—how many minutes per day any given people group spends reading or meditating or memorizing the Bible, would it be good or bad for that people group’s spiritual, social, psychological, economic, and political health for that number to increase on average? If all the Mexicans on average gave 2 minutes per day to the Bible, would it be good for them if the number went up to 5 minutes? If everyone in Thailand picked up a Bible 1 day per week as an increase from most not even owning a Bible, would there be a parallel and connected decrease in crime, corruption, abortion, divorce, and church growth?

It seems hard for me to think that any one who claims to follow Christ would deny that it would be a significant good, and one much hoped for that more people would look more often at the Bible. Do you call yourself a Christian? How would you feel if your young child or grandchild began spending more time each morning reading the book of Proverbs or the four Gospels? Perhaps there are some atheists who believe that the Bible produces evil results when read more widely, but I cannot imagine any professing believer would say that. I would think that even a small increase in daily Bible reading spread out over a people group of 10 million or more would be a massive religious and social good.

Among the groups of the world that pick up their Bibles most often, and within the groups that read and memorize the Bible more than other groups, what factors raised them from among groups that do not read their Bibles? If many people believed that the Bible had errors they would tend to have less devotion than those who saw it as preserved from error. If many people believed that their prophet could give them an updated revelation of equal authority to the Bible, they would tend to listen to their prophet at least equally to their Bibles. The same could be said for councils, bishops, or popes. The highest authority of a man’s life will always gain more space in his limited affections and time for calculation in spiritual matters.

Every man naturally puts into the daily thoughts and habits of his life that which he raises to the highest level. If his authority is a text, then this will show up like a Muslim placing dua’s (prayers to be repeated) over his doors. Athletes may turn to a winning coach, or businessman to whatever sources they have become convinced of. Those who see the Bible as above all else, will act like all men in raising that Book in their daily lives. Since the Bible is so long and diverse, they will tend to study it more.

When I served as an assistant pastor in Chicago, Illinois from 2001-2004, I had the chance to speak to many Catholics on door-to-door evangelism. Commonly, I would ask at the door, “We are inviting people to Bethel Baptist. Do you have a church home?” Then after a few moments, “Most importantly, if you died, and stood in front of God, how would you know that you could enter Heaven?” My memory wants to say that I never heard a reference to the Bible, but perhaps I did once or twice. Regardless, it was very rare. Over the course of hundreds (maybe thousands) of doors, I did several times meet people from other churches. If they gave answers with the Bible, it was always from a person who attended a church believing in a very high view of Scripture’s authority.

In 2002, I had the chance to pose this question publicly to Cardinal Frances George from the diocese of Chicago at the Evangelicals and Catholics Together symposium held at Wheaton College. When I asked him why Catholics cannot answer the question about going to Heaven, he answered that the magisterium of the church plays an important role in their thinking. The average man will not answer with Scripture on the most fundamental questions of salvation if Sola Scriptura is not taught clearly.

Sola Scriptura simply means to the common man that this Book deserves more thought, more time, more respect, more affection, and more understanding than any other source of information. This is why Baptists read their Bibles more than Catholics. Raise the Bible higher and the people’s habits of reading it will go up as well. Presbyterians who hold to the inerrancy of the Westminster Confession will read their Bibles more than theologically liberal Presbyterians who have rejected the inerrancy of the Confession. In a syllogism it would look like this.

Proposition 1: That which we hold up as the highest authority is that which we will tend to build daily habits around.

Proposition 2: That which we hold up as the highest authority is the Bible.

Conclusion: The Bible is that which we will build daily habits around.

In other words, Sola Scriptura is true because it will make more Bible readers. A family or nation will not read widely without this doctrine. Since we know that is a good thing, then what reason would keep us from thinking more highly of Scripture?

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Godly Men Who Died Young

  1. William Borden, 26—Son of rich businessman, missionary to muslims
  2. Jim Elliot, 28—Missionary, murdered along with 4 of his friends
  3. Conrad Grebel, 28—Godly Baptist killed by reformers
  4. Robert Murray McCheyne, 29—Pastor with unusual devotion and humility
  5. David Brainerd, 29—Missionary, risked his life and saw revival
  6. George Boardman, 30—Missionary to Myanmar, died after baptizing converts
  7. Henry Martyn, 31—Missionary to Iran, brilliant mind
  8. Jonathan Edwards, 54—Unusual mind and godliness, died from vaccination
  9. George Whitefield, 55—Saw thousands converted when he preached
  10. Charles Spurgeon, 57—Perhaps used more than any other Christian

Conclusions

  • God could have prolonged the lives of any or all of these men, but He was pleased to allow their lives to have what we might call “few” days.
  • Such a surprising number of very gifted and godly men died young, that we should not think highly of ourselves or much of our own lives, but rather be very content if only our King is obeyed, and as the essence of sweetness and beauty, is adored.
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More Change Than Same Between the Testaments

If you take up the book of Deuteronomy and read its 7 sermons, perhaps one per day, what themes would be in your mind? Then the next week, what would happen if you read the book of Acts keeping in mind your previous reading of those sermons that Moses gave the children of Israel? Any thoughtful reading would immediately notice important points of both similarity and difference.

The NT speaks commonly about the differences between the Covenants.

In each of these passages below, there are great changes between the old revelation and the new revelation.

    1. Matthew 5:21-48
    2. Matthew 13:35
    3. Matthew 9:16-17
    4. Matthew 17
    5. Matthew 16:18
    6. Matthew 18:15-20
    7. Matthew 21:33-46
    8. Matthew 28:18-20
    9. Acts 2
    10. Acts 10
    11. Acts 13-21
    12. Romans 3-4
    13. Romans 6-7
    14. Romans 11
    15. Romans 13
    16. 1 Corinthians 11:23-31
    17. 2 Corinthians 3
    18. Galatians 3-4
    19. Ephesians 2
    20. Ephesians 3
    21. Colossians 2:14-17
    22. 1 Timothy 2
    23. 1 Timothy 3
    24. Hebrews 4
    25. Hebrews 8
    26. 1 Peter 2:9-10

    The NT promotes categories that are foreign or rare to the OT revelation.

      1. Believers set their hearts on spiritual blessings rather than physical blessings.
      2. A universal invitation is made to all nations rather than one small country alone.
      3. Apostles, pastors, and deacons lead the believers rather than priests, kings, or judges.
      4. Church discipline punishes believers rather than the penalties of the Mosaic law.
      5. Spirit baptism effects all believers permanently in powerful, spiritual ways rather than temporary, physical help offered only to a few believers in the OT.
      6. The Gospel of Jesus Christ dominates the preaching and letters rather than the Law of Moses in the OT.
      7. The weakness of Mosaic revelation mentioned rather than Mosaic revelation only held in honor.
      8. The deity of Christ and the Trinity explicitly and constantly referenced rather than merely the unity of Jehovah.
      9. Persecution promised to the faithful church rather than prosperity promised to the faithful nation of Israel.
      10. Union with Christ including adoption, access, and eternal security is revealed rather than hidden in types and shadows.
      11. Evangelism is a natural habit rather than waiting for the occasional outsider to ask about truth.
      12. The Second Coming of Jesus is a constant theme rather than a mystery.

      Category Changes from Old to New
      OLD: Described as old, first, weak, useless, temporary, shadow, and ministry of death and condemnationNEW: Described as new, second, better, ministry of glory and righteousness
      OLD: Physical blessingsNEW: Spiritual blessings
      OLD: Ethnic IsraelNEW: All nations
      OLD: Priests, kings, and judgesNEW: Apostles, pastors, and deacons
      OLD: Many death penaltiesNEW: Church discipline
      OLD: The Holy Spirit helped a few believers like Samson and SaulNEW: The Holy Spirit permanently and powerfully changes all
      OLD: Preaching emphasizes the Law of MosesNEW: Preaching emphasizes the Gospel
      OLD: The honor of the Mosaic Law consistently upheldNEW: The weakness of the Mosaic Law mentioned
      OLD: The unity of JehovahNEW: The deity of Christ
      OLD: Prosperity promised to the faithfulNEW: Persecution promised to the faithful
      OLD: Union with Christ unknownNEW: Union with Christ revealed
      OLD: Gentiles ask Jews about truthNEW: Confrontational evangelism
      OLD: Silent on the Second ComingNEW: The Second Coming is a constant theme

      Conclusions

      • The NT is the pinnacle of God’s revelation because in it we see His Son most clearly.
      • In the NT He reveals the mysteries that had been kept secret in the OT.
      • Bible translators recognize this when they begin with the NT rather than the OT.
      • Evangelists recognize this when they give out copies of the gospel of John or Romans.
      • If we allow the NT to teach us how to speak in contrast to the OT, we will emphasize words, doctrines, and terms that are not found or are rare in the OT.
      • Unity is definitely assumed by the Lord Jesus and apostles, but words that mean dramatic changes are the regular pattern of their preaching and writing.
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      50 References to the Second Coming

      The Second Coming in the NT

      1. Matt. 16:27
      2. Matt. 19:28
      3. Matt. 23:39
      4. Matt. 24-25
      5. Matt. 26:64
      6. Mark 8:38
      7. Mark 13
      8. Mark 14:62
      9. Luke 12:35-48
      10. Luke 17:20-37
      11. Luke 18:8
      12. Luke 19:13
      13. Luke 21
      14. Luke 22:69
      15. John 14:1-3
      16. John 21:22
      17. Acts 1:11
      18. Acts 3:20
      19. 1 Cor. 1:7
      20. 1 Cor. 4:5
      21. 1 Cor. 11:26
      22. 1 Cor. 15:23
      23. Phil. 3:20-21
      24. Col. 3:4
      25. 1 Thess. 1:10
      26. 1 Thess. 2:19
      27. 1 Thess. 3:13
      28. 1 Thess. 4:13-18
      29. 1 Thess. 5:2-9
      30. 1 Thess. 5:23
      31. 2 Thess. 1:7-10
      32. 2 Thess. 2:1-12
      33. 1 Tim. 6:14
      34. 2 Tim. 4:1, 8
      35. Tit. 2:13
      36. Heb. 9:28
      37. Heb. 10:25, 37
      38. James 5:7-8
      39. 1 Pet. 1:7, 13
      40. 1 Pet. 4:13
      41. 1 Pet. 5:4
      42. 2 Pet. 1:16
      43. 2 Pet. 3:1-15
      44. 1 John 2:28
      45. 1 John 3:2
      46. Jude 14
      47. Rev. 1:7-8
      48. Rev. 2:25
      49. Rev. 3:3
      50. Rev. 3:11
      51. Rev. 16:15
      52. Rev. 19:11-21
      53. Rev. 22:12
      54. Rev. 22:20

      Observations about the NT’s usage of the Second Coming

      1. This doctrine is emphasized by its frequency.
        1. Genre: The Second Coming is mentioned in each of the 4 kinds of literature in the NT.
        2. Author: The Second Coming is mentioned by all 8 of the authors of the NT. Since the atonement in its broadest sense is actually not mentioned in James or Jude, the Second Coming is more common among the NT authors than even atonement.
        3. Verses: The Second Coming is mentioned in roughly 50 individual passages, approximately 300 verses. 35 entire books of the Bible have fewer than 300 verses.
      2. This doctrine is emphasized by being recorded at length numerous times.
        1. The Olivet Discourse (recorded three times)
        2. Luke 12 and 17 record two other extended teachings of Jesus on the Second Coming
        3. Paul’s treatment in 2 Thess. 1-2
        4. Peter’s explanation in 2 Peter 3:1-15
        5. John’s record of the Second Coming in Rev. 19:11-21
        6. Not many other doctrines or events are treated at such length—Atonement, justification by faith, and the deity of Christ perhaps.
      3. This doctrine is emphasized by its placement in Scripture.
        1. A few days before our Lord’s death, the night before our Lord’s death, and during the trial of our Lord, apparently because He thought of this doctrine in close connection to His own death.
        2. In each of the pastoral epistles, apparently so that pastors would remember it.
        3. Closely connected to discussions of false teachers in 2 Peter, 1 John, and Jude, apparently because this is a doctrine commonly distorted and of importance.
        4. At the very end of the Bible, apparently because it culminates the story.
      4. The nature of the doctrine itself demands a special priority for the Second Coming.
        1. It is the end of the Story of the NT.
        2. It is the appearance of the believer’s Highest Hope and Greatest Happiness.
        3. It is the beginning of the final judgments.
      5. The modern church speaks relatively rarely about the Second Coming.
      6. Useful and practical applications are directly connected to this doctrine.
        1. Be ready for judgment.
        2. Hope in hard times.

      Conclusion

      • If we honestly review our hearts, our reflections, our prayers, and the sermons we have heard, we may find a great difference between the emphasis of the NT and our own practice.
      • The Second Coming is a particularly emphasized, important, and useful doctrine of the NT.
      Posted in Orthopathy | Tagged , | 1 Comment

      A High Perspective Of Man

      “What is man, that You remember him? Or the son of man, that You are concerned about him? You have made him for a little while lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And have appointed him over the works of Your hands; You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” Hebrews 2:6-8 quoting Psalm 8:4-6

      David spoke this of himself, but prophetically as Hebrews 2 shows, it was spoken of the Messiah. But what was David’s answer to that question?

      One true answer for David is that he was a highly gifted warrior who could sling a stone without missing under the stress of life and death. As a young man, he could lead warriors into battle and return unharmed repeatedly. He was skilled in music and poetry which means he had a quick mind. He is described as unusually physically attractive in 1 Samuel 16. In short, he was gifted in all categories.

      But when David describes himself he says things like “I am a worm” in Psalm 22, “a dead dog and a flea” when answering Saul. “Who am I?” he repeatedly asks Jehovah in 2 Samuel 7.

      So there appears to be two ways to look at this. David is a giant slayer, but he is also a dead dog. When we glance at men around us, we can see certain similarities, and perhaps gifts whereby we surpass others. We may also be seeing badly and lying to ourselves. What would happen if we rose up and looked down at ourselves the way God sees us?

      Trees, bushes, and even grasses are spread in different sizes and colors throughout the world analogous to the various gifts spread unevenly among men. The oak tree stands above the floral shrub, which stands above grasses. There are so many kinds of mosses and flowers as to nearly parallel the diversity among men with their sizes, shapes, and personalities. One tree is clearly taller than another, yet viewed from the clouds, it appears difficult to see any variation between a tree and grass itself. If we could stand on the moon and look down, who could tell any difference between trees or vegetation at all? The great differences between trees, grasses, and bushes are all lost when seen from the stars. Looking at the differences right now, we are overwhelmed with some as greater and more glorious, but that is only part of the truth. If we could rise up to a bird’s vantage point, or to the clouds, or higher still, suddenly all the botanical kingdom looks very small. In fact, from a certain height, grass might be more visible and even dominant than trees.

      I find this a very helpful way to look at myself and other believers. There may truly be differences among us, but our God is in the Heavens. He holds the earth and its inhabitants in the hollow of His hand. To imagine myself as viewed among all other men from all other times from the vantage of the heavens and eternity is a true and useful way to conceive of the variations within men. Some undoubtedly pass me, and some just as certainly have not received what was given to me, and yet what have we that we did not receive?

      It is more marvelous that anyone’s smallness can be used to glorify the One who sits in the Heavens naming all the stars and taking in all men as so much dust, than it is that anyone’s gifts surpass another’s. Further, it is remarkable that we can so quickly forget this is the real case with all created things and all men.

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      4 Observations on Biblical Preaching from Ahimaaz

      When David is waiting for news about the outcome of the civil war that his son Absalom had started, a young man named Ahimaaz wanted to run from the battlefront with the tidings in 2 Samuel 18:19-32. General Joab refuses Ahimaaz because he did not know the details David wanted to hear about Absalom, and so Cushi was sent instead.

      In the Biblical narratives, the accounts are always briefer than modern historical renditions, and in some important ways, this story shows what Biblical preaching must strive for.

      1. 1. As Ahimaaz burned to speak, so preachers must have an inner affection, zeal, and devotion.

      Ahimaaz offers himself to Joab to do the job. He is not passive, needing to be persuaded, but like Jeremiah in whom the Word of God burned like a fire (Jer. 20:9). After Cushi is sent instead of Ahimaaz, he practically begs to run as well like Barnabas who continues missionary service after Paul chooses Silas. While running, Ahimaaz catches and passes Cushi like Paul who labored more abundantly than every one else (1 Cor. 15:10).

      Godly preaches should have this zeal, and should mourn their lack of devotion and spiritual energy. We ought constantly to pray for ourselves and to be prayed for that we would be strengthened with might by God’s Spirit in our inner men.

      • 2. As Ahimaaz brought Good News, so preachers must bring the message of the New Covenant.

      While we must preach about sin, there ought to be greater emphasis on the love of a dying Savior, the mercy offered by the Father, and the joy of the Holy Spirit. Heaven is a world of love, and our preaching must so paint that picture that none of our hearers would want to forget it.

      “Peace!” burst from Ahimaaz’ lips as he arrived exhausted at David’s feet. Before he rested, the main point was out. “We won. The kingdom is safe.” And what was left unspoken, at least at this point? 20,000 men were lost (18:7). Absalom died (18:15). Joab disobeyed you (18:14). More pointedly, in some ways, this devestation all goes back to David’s sin. And yet, the record does not mention these things.

      There is certainly a place for bad news, total depravity, and the Biblical doctrine of eternal torment, and yet men listening to us preach for years ought to honestly say that we are Gospel preachers—Good News preachers.

      • 3. As Ahimaaz spoke faithfully, so preachers must be accurate in all their speech.

      The enemy has been overcome. They were evil because they attacked king David. All the glory goes to God alone. In these three details, and who knows how much more, Ahimaaz was correct.

      Exaggeration and invention often lead to deception and manipulation stemming from pride and selfish ambition. As such pastors should remember Jonathan Edwards’ Resolution, “Resolved, in narrations never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.” Ahimaaz appears to be a good example of faithful retelling which Christian speech and preaching should follow.

      • 4. As Ahimaaz focused on the most important message, so preachers should choose to emphasize those truths which require more attention.

      He ran without knowing what had happened to Absalom even though he knew what had happened with the war. David cared more about Absalom than all his faithful servants. Where was this weeping for Absalom when he was 2 years old or 10 or 16? But now when the battle has begun, the most important news is what Ahimaaz delivers.

      Our hearers may want to know a great many things about prophecy or miracles or some popular thing in culture, but Ahimaaz’ example urges us to select carefully the doctrines to bring up in public teaching. Our lives force us to think about many earthly matters, and our time for reflection on eternal things is already to small, so preachers should exercise discernment and set the greatest matters before the eyes and ears of the believers.

      Posted in Pastoral | Tagged , | 1 Comment

      All 37 Death Penalties in the Old Testament

      Included on this list

      • Death penalties revealed by God to be enacted by men on other men.

      Not included on this list

      • Death penalties coming from man’s fallible judgment. Eg. Judah and Tamar; Jacob with Laban, etc.
      • Death penalties where God took the life, but did not command government to take the life. Eg. Nadab and Abihu; Uzzah ,etc.

      Legal categories

      • Moral: Laws for all people of all times
      • Civil: Laws for the society of Israel
      • Ceremonial: Laws for the time before the Cross
       First TextCauseOther PassagesLegal category Mor.       Civ.       Cer.
       1.Gen. 9:5-6MurderEx. 21:12, 14; Lev. 24:17 ,21; Num. 35:16, 17, 18, 21, 30; Deut. 19:12XX
       2.Gen. 17:14Rejecting circumcision XX
       3.Ex. 12:15, 19Eating leaven during Passover XX
       4.Ex. 19:12Touching Mount Sinai when God comes down XX
       5.Ex. 21:15Assaulting parents XX
       6.Ex. 21:16Kidnapping or slave tradeDeut. 21:7XX
       7.Ex. 21:17Cursing parentsLev. 20:9XX
       8.Ex. 21:29Negligent homicide XX
       9.Ex. 22:18SorceryLev. 20:6, 27XX
       10.Ex. 22:19BestialityLev. 18:23; 20:15-16XX
       11.Ex. 22:20IdolatryNum. 25:5; Deut. 17:5XX
       12.Ex. 30:33, 38Imitating the anointing oil X
       13.Ex. 31:14, 15Working on the SabbathNum. 15:32-36XXX
       14.Lev. 7:20Eating the sacrifice while uncleanLev. 7:21X
       15.Lev. 7:25Eating the fat of the sacrifice X
       16.Lev. 7:27Eating the blood of the sacrifice X
       17.Lev. 17:4, 9Offering sacrifice without bringing it to Jehovah at the tabernacle Sacrificing to false gods or to your own religion XXX
       18.Lev. 18:6-18IncestLev. 20:11-12, 14, 17xx 
       19.Lev. 18:19Sexual relations during a woman’s cycleLev. 20:18  x
       20.Lev. 18:20AdulteryLev. 20:10; Deut. 22:21, 22, 24xx 
       21.Lev. 18:21Ritual child sacrificeLev. 20:2xx 
       22.Lev. 18:22SodomyLev. 20:13xx 
       23.Lev. 19:8Eating the sacrifice late   x
       24.Lev. 21:9Prostitution of a priest’s daughter xxx
       25.Lev. 22:3Coming to holy things unclean  xx
       26.Lev. 23:29-30Profaning the day of atonement  xx
       27.Lev. 24:14-16Blasphemy xx 
       28.Num. 3:10Joining the priesthood from outside Levi   x
       29.Num. 3:38Coming near the Tabernacle   x
       30.Num. 4:15, 20 May have been a divine judgment, a penalty only enacted by God Himself.Touching or looking on the tools of the Tabernacle when moving them   x
       31.Num. 15:30Presuming on GodDeut. 17:12xX 
       32.Num. 18:7Taking the priest’s office  XX
       33.Num. 19:13, 20Defiling the tabernacle or sanctuary  XX
       34.Deut. 13:5, 9, 15Promoting a false god XX 
       35.Deut. 18:20False prophecy XX 
       36.Deut. 21:21Rebellion against parents XX 
       37.Deut. 22:25Rape XX 

      Conclusions

      • There is no clear division between the traditional 3 categories of the law as moral, civil, and ceremonial. The overlap between these categories is so fluid as to make them inaccurate for understanding the Mosaic law. Covenant Theology needs these 3 categories, and yet they are not accurate.
      • The death penalties of the Mosaic law do not allow for freedom of religion: idolatry, blasphemy, promoting a false god, neglecting the Sabbath, and false prophecy. The NT repeatedly assumes freedom of religion. Therefore, the OT laws cannot control the society in the times of the NT. Theonomy implements these death penalties, and yet it also tries to defend freedom of religion.
      Posted in Hermeneutics, Lists | Tagged , | 3 Comments

      7 Guides for Biblical Preaching from Balaam

      For his decades of obedience, Moses was called the most humble man in the world (Num. 12:3). Three chapters record the story of Balaam in the middle of Moses’ life so that we can see the difference between the two men. Yet Numbers 22-24 has memorable wisdom for a Biblical preacher.

      Balaam is the man who was hired by Moab’s king, Balak to curse Israel just a few months before they enter the promised land. Hired? Balaam never actually curses Israel, and so he does not get his pay for cursing. Three times in a row from different mountains, he blesses Israel according to God’s Word after the Angel of the Lord opens the donkey’s mouth.

      1. Preaching is faithfully conveying God’s Words and intentions.

      “I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me” (Num. 22:8). “I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more” (Num. 22:18). “The word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak” (Num. 22:38).

      In the content or essence of the message invention is not needed or wanted. Balak needs to hear God’s message undiluted and unaltered. For this reason, preachers must spend significant time in reading, questioning, memorizing, and praying from the actual words of Scripture. As we have a book group discussion once per week now through Isaac Watts’ Logic, I am reminded again how the study of clear thinking and definitions will help the preacher to discover the substance and truth of the words God has given.

      2. Neither money nor men may move the message.

      King Balak promises Prophet Balaam honor and money (Num. 22:17-18), and Balaam knows the value of the offer. Biblical preaching does not sway to the left or right based on the promises or threats of powerful politicians or the hope of more tithers. Whether the Cultural Marxists threaten to block you from FaceBook or to sue you, the message of Biblical preaching still rebukes feminists, homosexuals, money lovers, those who divorce the wives of their youth, Muslims, Catholics, and liberal protestants.

      3. Faithful preachers should expect the Divine Spirit to help their preaching.

      “The Spirit of God came upon him [Balaam]” (Num. 24:2). We ought to expect the Spirit to be present changing those who listen to us. Goats ought to be transformed, and the sheep ought to follow the Shepherd more closely. Lack of conversions should weigh on our souls as preachers, and we must not be content with a counterfeit “sinner’s prayer” when we want nothing less than New Life!

      4. Everyone should know what kind of preaching a preacher does.

      Seven times Balaam tells Balak, “Told not I thee saying, ‘All that the Lord speaketh, that I must do?’” Our posture of absolute submission to God and His Word should anger, but not surprise. It should be clear in our website, and the scent should reach any visitor almost before the service. How else will they fall on their faces and say that God is truly present (1 Cor. 15:25)?

      5. Biblical preaching deals with God and His people.

      Balaam blessed Israel 4 times—twice in 23 and twice in 24. Each time, he speaks of God’s mercy and grace to His people, the nation of Israel. His message is not only angering to Balak, but it is largely irrelevant to him. The only way Balak could apply God’s Word to his own situation is if he realized that he was entirely separate from this blessed nation, and then with all his heart he sought to enter Israel in complete submission to Jehovah. The Word of God was otherwise not concerned with this mere king who controlled thousands of people and hordes of wealth.

      6. The world will try to manipulate the preacher to produce a worldly message.

      King Balak is remarkably persistent. He sends the highest elders of his nation (22:15). He offers 21 bulls and 21 rams. He takes him to three different mountains. He stays with Balaam for multiple days. He tempts Balaam repeatedly with worldly honors and wealth.

      The spirit of this age, the god of this world will offer large audiences and a million views to any man who will be willing to deviate from God’s revelation.

      7. A man who has once been a faithful preacher may yet fall terribly.

      In Numbers 31 it is revealed that Balaam was killed by Israel for his ongoing relationship with Balak. The NT records Balaam’s name in 3 different books as an example of false teachers who claim to be Christian. They do some good things. They preach some good sermons. But secretly they loved the world. With these cross references, we see what Balaam’s heart was really like all along. He was not glad or eager to exalt the Word of God. Why did Balak stay with him for 3 successive blessings? The pagan king had reason to believe that this man would change at any moment. And sure enough the next story shows that Balaam did eventually give Balak what he wanted.

      A good sermon may hide an evil serpent. One honest statement of truth may open the door for deceitful lies.

      If women are to be saved by a life submitted to God’s design for them in motherhood (1 Tim. 2:15), then is it any surprise when pastors are saved not by one good sermon, but by preaching that continues in true doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16)?

      Thank you, Father, for giving us this gripping, instructing, and sobering story of Balaam.

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      13 Observations from the Leprosy Laws

      Medical matters occupy 4 chapters in the book of Leviticus from 12-15. What should the church learn from these old covenant laws? Have you ever read these laws and wondered what to do with them?

      Three separate matters are covered including child birth, leprosy, and other infectious situations. The purpose of these laws is to separate the children of Israel from uncleanness (15:31) which theme is not only stated, but also shown by the repeated words priest and clean or unclean. I found 13 observations for the church from these chapters and from them a renewed love for the work of our Savior.

      1. Between the sexes lie a permanent and obvious distinction. Lev. 12:2-5

      For a boy baby, a mother must be unclean 40 days, but for a new daughter she is purified 80 days. Boys are listed first in the passage, and they are marked in their bodies by circumcision. But they are the same in that offerings must be made for both.

      2. Filth spreads more easily than purity. Lev. 13-14

      Nature, time, life, eating, drinking, marriage, and work can bring filth. But purity requires revelation, priests, and sacrifices.

      3. Sin complicates life. Lev. 13-15

      Diseases come from sin. That is the ultimate cause, and in a world without sin, there will be no disease. God has not yet removed all disease because that would decrease our desire to be in a world without sin. Yet because of disease, spawned by sin, we must have a complex set of laws for purity. Life could be as simple as the Garden of Eden with only one law, but sin has ruined it.

      4. Holiness requires constant vigilance. Lev. 13:3, et. al.

      “Look” and words like it are found all through chapters 13 and 14. The patient and the priest must be constantly checking, watching, and looking for any change in condition. Cleanliness before God is not something to be found quickly during the half time of the football game.

      5. Hard times and pain still come to God’s people. Lev. 13:2; 14:34

      Though chosen by God, the Jews still had sickness, pain, and death. In fact, 14:34 says explicitly that God sends leprosy. We live in this painful, complicated world as a constant reminder of sin and the next world.

      6. Clean or unclean are the only two options.

      Those two words are found 91 times in 157 verses. If you are not clean, you must stay separate from the rest of the people until you are. There is no “partly sorted” or “work in progress” or “giving it a good try” status in God’s law.

      7. True judgments are both subjective and objective.

      The law is objective, but it must be applied to people which immediately makes it subjective. In 13:7, “If the scab spreads farther on the skin…” How much farther? What if one edge is a little farther, but the other edge has receded? What if the naked eye cannot tell if it has spread or not? We have the objective Word of God, but it still must be applied subjectively to people. In the NT, a man may not be a pastor unless he is “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2). How skilled must he be? Another from 1 John 3:8-9: A man “who practices sin is of the devil. … No one who is born of God practices sin… he cannot sin…” How much sin shows a man to be a child of Satan? This must be determined subjectively by godly men through the objective Word of God.

      8. Authority is ordained by God.

      The priests were chosen by God from Levi and then from Aaron. They were directed in their clothing, years of service, and actions. Special authority was also given to them to direct the society. 11 of the 12 tribes were not on that level. Most of the families of the tribe of Levi were not on that level. Not all men were equal in their calling, gifts, or station. God placed some on top of others.

      9. Truth is discovered by careful observation.

      Our senses are generally trustworthy. Only a fool would give final or absolute authority to his eyes, ears, nose, or mouth. But as a servant, the senses can do much good for a child of God. Our minds must always consider the evidence brought before our eyes though no Christian gives his eyes the position of King.

      10. The priest is active while the people are passive.

      In chapter 13, the priest is looking and making decisions. In chapter 14, he arranges the sacrifices and offers them. The patient is almost entirely passive. We make the mess, and then the Priest has to repair the damage.

      11. Truth about purity must be revealed. Lev. 12:1; 13:1; 14:1, 33; 15:1

      Who could have thought of the priests? Who could have arranged the sacrifices? God reached down in grace to speak to those whom He called. If He had not come down from Heaven, we could not have known.

      12. Religion influences all areas of life.

      Child birth in chapter 12. Disease in chapters 13 and 14. House buying in chapter 14. A woman’s way of life in chapter 15. And back in chapter 11, the diet of the people of God. There is nothing outside the scope of religion.

      13. Atonement is essential.

      Atonement is necessary after child birth (Lev. 12) and in the case of leprosy (Lev. 14). They cannot be clean without it. They cannot approach God without it. Every man desires cleanliness and spiritual harmony, but these are absolutely impossible without atonement.

      Conclusion

      The world’s religions cannot accept these plain observations. Islam wants no atonement. Buddhism has no absolute truth. Secularism has no place for religion. Hinduism wants no revelation. These chapters quietly build in the mind the necessary structure for the thinking of a NT church member even though the specific laws are not binding on the NT Christian.

      Posted in Hermeneutics, Lists | Tagged , , | 2 Comments