Apr 12, 2014

On the Problem of Evil

I fully accept the following citation as an expression of my own thinking.

"However, when one enters the Christian view of reality fully, it is clear that Christian theology has a doctrine of evil—both of its origins in the Fall and of its continuing presence due to sin. Christianity takes evil seriously, and reveals the character and goodness of God in contrast to the evil that grieves him. The Bible also teaches that God has morally sufficient reasons for evil’s present existence,[3] and that he will judge all evil and remove it in the end. Christians are not in a position of being able to claim that they know the purpose behind any and every particular instance of evil, or that the relationship between evil and God’s loving designs is entirely without mystery. Lest we become like Job’s “friends,” we must avoid simplistic explanations or quick justifications for someone’s suffering; rather, we direct them toward to the character of God, who can be trusted, and the truth that he has revealed." ("God and the Problem of Evil" - see here)



Oct 13, 2013

The Fearful & Unbelieving

"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (Rev. 21: 8)

Those who are finally cast into the Lake of Fire and experience the second death are described as being both "fearful" and "unbelieving." Obviously then, those who are saved are not either "fearful" or "unbelieving."

Lest any of those who are true believers lose heart at such a description, let it be known that such descriptions do not assert that true believers never have fears and never unbelief. Every true believer comes to Christ saying "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9: 24)

No Christian has perfect faith. As it was with the apostles at the first, so it is with most disciples that they "are of little faith." (Matt. 6: 30, etc.) After the resurrection we are told by Mark that Christ "appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen." (Mark 16: 14) In the Hebrew epistle we find the Christians being warned about the dangers of unbelief.

"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." (Heb. 3: 12)

Christians are to ever be on guard against having an unbelieving heart and disposition. They are to battle against it, and seek to grow in their faith and confidence in the Lord. Though the Apostle said that "the love of money is the root of all evil" (I Tim. 6: 10), it seems that unbelief is the root of all evil. Why does a man love money? Is it not because he is an unbeliever? How can one disconnect love of money from faith in money? Likewise, how can a man disconnect love for God with faith in God?

Fearfulness is a natural consequence of unbelief just as confidence and lack of fear is a fruit of faith. Well did Solomon say - "In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge." (Prov. 14: 26)

It is impossible to disconnect John's two descriptive participles of "fearful" and "unbelieving" because they naturally go together. Where you find one you will surely find the other. Fearfulness is a natural product of unbelief. Jesus asked some - "Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?" (Mark 4: 40) Notice how Jesus connects "no faith" (unbelief) with being "fearful."

In what ways do we manifest unbelief in our lives?

First, we manifest it by being fearful, by worry and anxiety. Are there not many exhortations in Scripture against it? Do not worry and fear spring from unbelief? Are they not symptoms of unbelief and is unbelief not an evidence of an evil heart? Remember the words "evil heart of unbelief." Did not Jesus tell us not to worry about tomorrow as Christians? Would not doing so be an act of disobedience? Has God not said many times, in addressing his people, "fear not"? Again, to do so would show unbelief and would be an act of disobedience. When we fret and worry, when we sit in fear, are we not distrusting God?

Second, we manifest unbelief when we murmur and complain, and when we curse our circumstances and are angry. When we have strong faith we say "I will fear no evil for thou art with me." (Psa. 23: 4) The Lord also says - "But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil." (Prov. 1: 33) What person does not want to "be quiet from fear of evil"? To be in such a state requires that we increase in our faith and confidence in the Lord. It is the antidote for fear, worry, doubt, and murmuring.

Third, we manifest unbelief in being impatient, in our failing to wait upon the Lord. On the other hand, faith gives us the will and strength to wait and be patient, as well as to persevere.

It is therefore of the highest urgency that Christians constantly ask the Lord to give them increase of faith and to rid them of all unbelief.

When the lost are described as being fearful and unbelieving, it is to be understood that this is what they are characteristically. Further, it is affirmed that the saved are they who are generally and characteristically not so. If we are mostly fearful and unbelieving as professing Christians, then let Rev. 21: 8 be a means of exciting us to come to the Lord and asking him to help rid us of our evil heart of unbelief.

Jul 18, 2013

Hardshellism's Severe Error

Elder Gilbert Beebe, one of the founding fathers of Hardshellism, wrote:

"...the gospel of God our Savior makes no address whatever to dead sinners; it addresses the living, the quickened, and them exclusively." (article titled "Means."  see here)

What a gross error! It makes one think that the Hardshells are reading a different Bible than the rest of us!  Notice these verses:

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."  (Luke 2: 10)

"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."  (Mark 16: 15)

Of course, in their defence, Hardshells like Beebe will define what it means to "preach the Gospel" to a person.  To them, to preach the Gospel to a person is all the same as telling a person that he/she is saved, therefore, to preach the Gospel to every person is to tell every person that he/she is saved.  But, this is not what the Scriptures mean by preaching the Gospel to a person.  To preach the Gospel to every person is to announce to them that each can be saved, because of Christ, IF he/she believes in him and calls upon his name.  Notice these words of Paul:  "But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead."  (Rom. 4: 24)  Notice that the work of Christ being put to one's account is dependent upon "if we believe on him." 

Further, if Beebe is correct in his denial that it is wrong to preach the Gospel to the unsaved, then Christ and his apostles are guilty of error, for it is clear that they preached the Gospel to the unsaved.  This has been shown by me in my series "Addresses to the Lost" and in other numerous articles in the Old Baptist and Baptistgadfly blogs.  Oh that Hardshells could see their error and begin to preach the Gospel to the lost!

Mar 21, 2013

Our Brother Is Gone!

One of my two younger brothers, David Daniel Garrett, who just turned fifty about two weeks ago, has gone to be with the Lord.  He had major surgery on his spine and died today around noon due to a blood clot.  He was a fine Christian man and had premonitions that this was going to happen.  We loved "Danny"!  He is with the Lord and I hope one day to see him again.  Keep us in your prayers.

Jan 22, 2013

Calvinist Extremism

My dear friend Bob L. Ross has written extensively in defense of "altar calls" and answered many of the objections offered by many Calvinists against them.  In this posting I want to join brother Ross in defending them and answering the objections made against them.  In an Internet posting titled "The Altar Call" -  "CONVERTS FREQUENTLY MADE IN RELATION TO PUBLIC INVITATIONS" (see here), brother Ross wrote:

"Perhaps the most popular "whipping boy" of the Reformed Hybrid Calvinist camp of theology is the "altar call" or the "public invitation."

I have often read items critical of public invitations and in most cases they were written by persons whose own conversions were related to public invitations. Some, after their "indoctrination" into the Hybrid Calvinism of the Reformed camp, later say they were saved "despite" the invitation.

Oh, well, it is no marvel that it has been observed that a number of the anti-invitation churches fail to evangelize by any method and thus fail to make converts, their memberships dwindled, and some of them have even closed their doors. They didn't seem to have a "better idea" on how to invite lost men and women to come to Christ and confess Him as Lord and Saviour.

I have written several articles in which I think I have just about replied to every conceivable objection to public invitations, and you can find a number of these articles at this link: Select Writings of Bob L. Ross."

I recommend all to go to the above web page and read Bob's writings on this subject. 

The Sinner's Prayer

"And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."  (Luke 18: 13-14)

Bob points out that the great Calvinist evangelist, Charles Spurgeon, had no qualms with calling upon sinners to pray the sinner's prayer for salvation.  For a sinner who is under conviction of sin, and who is seeking salvation, what better advice to give to such than to pray as did the publican?  For the life of me I cannot comprehend why so many Calvinists decry giving sinners this advice.  Jesus said that the publican "went down to his house justified" after having so prayed.  Certainly sinners must be exhorted to pray such a prayer in earnest, but who can doubt that a sinner who does so will enjoy the same result as did the publican? 

Giving one's heart to the Lord

"My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways."  (Prov. 23: 26)

"And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God."  (II Cor. 8: 5)

Many times I have heard Calvinists decry others for exhorting sinners to give their hearts to Jesus for salvation.  When I have challenged these extreme Calvinists about this ridiculing I have found that they often take the tactic of saying, especially about the words of Solomon, that they are not addressed to the lost, but to those who are already the saved children of God.  Thus, what they are denouncing is the indiscriminate calling upon sinners to give their hearts and lives to Christ.  They think that such exhortations should only be made to those sinners who appear to already be saved.  But, this is simply Hyper Calvinism at its worst.  Some of these extreme Calvinists will decry such an exhortation by saying - "what does Jesus want with your depraved and corrupt heart?"  But, the fact is, no one will ever be saved who has not given himself wholly unto the Lord.  So what if some do this insincerely?  Such is to be expected.  But, this does not invalidate the exhortation itself. 

Inviting Jesus into your heart

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."  (Rev. 3: 20)

Extreme Calvinists decry calling upon sinners to "invite Christ into your heart," thinking that to do such promotes Armnianism.  Yet, this is a non sequiter.  These same Hyper Calvinists will even try to defend themselves by saying that the above words of Christ were addressed to those who were already saved and therefore cannot be used as justification for advising lost sinners to do as Christ bids.  But, the ones Jesus addressed are described as being "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."  Such could not be a better description of a lost soul.  Why would Calvinists deny that there are many lost and unconverted members of the church? 

Some extreme Calvinists will argue the Christ is not knocking on the door of the alien sinner's heart, but on the door of the church, who had locked out Christ.  But, this is not tenable.  First, the exhortation is not to the church as a body but to individuals.  It is to "any man" and "to him."  The singular pronouns "him" and "he" show this to be the case.  Second, the door cannot be the door of the church, but to the door of the individual sinner's heart.  Christ is speaking to the individual sinner, knocking on the door of the sinner's heart.  It is the individual sinner who hears the voice of Christ and opens the door to Christ.  Third, it is not a promise of communion with the church as a group, but with the individual.  "I will come in to him" and "I will sup with him."  Fourth, Christ is viewed as being on the outside, not of the church, but of the sinner's heart and inner being.  Fifth, no individual sinner in the church at Laodicea can open the door of the whole church by obeying the words of Christ.  Christ does not say "if any man will hear my voice and open the door then I will come in to them (the church)," but "in to him."  The focus is on Christ entering the heart of the individual, not his entering into the corporate entity of the church.  I can see no harm in telling sinners who are hearing the voice of Christ and who sense that he is knocking on the door of their hearts, to open their hearts to him with the promise that he will indeed come and dwell in them.

Accepting Christ

"Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed."  (I Peter 2: 7-8)

"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him."  (Col. 2: 6)

I hear extreme Calvinists decrying the practice of calling upon sinners to "accept Christ" for salvation.  There is no essential difference between "receiving" Christ and "accepting" Christ.  In the words of Peter there is the use of the word "disallowed."  To disallow means to reject.  Those who reject Christ are they who do not "allow" him, do not receive him, do not accept him.  On the other hand, those who receive Christ are they who accept and allow Christ.  Disallowing Christ is to disbelieve him, while to allow Christ is to believe him.  Doing the former brings damnation, while doing the latter brings salvation.  Again, there is no denying that this must be done sincerely, but this is no reason to be against calling upon sinners to accept Christ and be saved. 

Easy Believism

"And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."  (Acts 16: 30-31)

If some of my Calvinist brethren had been present on this occasion, they would have accused the Apostle Paul of practicing what they call "easy believism."  If it makes my Calvinist brothers feel better, let them always insist that the sinner do this sincerely and with the heart.  If it makes them feel better, let them warn the sinner that such a believing is more than simple mental assent, that it must be done with full conviction.  Still, nothing is wrong with simply telling sinners that they can be saved by simply believing and trusting in Christ alone for salvation.

It is argued that these kinds of invitations or altar calls are "Arminian," and therefore cannot be acceptable.  It is argued that these kinds of invitations lead to many false professions.  But, are Calvinistic churches free of false professions?  Certainly not.  Has it not been the claim that the success of the preaching of the Gospel depends upon the work of the Spirit making such invitations successful?  Why should we worry about the matter?  The parable of the sower and the seed shows that we should expect there to be fase conversions.  Even the preaching of the Apostles produced such false conversions.  So, no matter how we try to give the invitation, there will always be such.

"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."  (Rev. 22: 17)

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord."  (Acts 3: 19)  

"But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."  (Rom. 10: 8-13)

Here are some examples of how we may invite and call sinners to salvation.  We should tell them that Christ and the church says to them "come."  That is an invitation as well as a command.  We should exhort them that they can be saved "if" they but confess and acknowledge Christ as Lord and Savior.  Our preaching should be filled with such exhortations and no church is going to grow which does not have preaching that is full of them.  We should constantly be calling upon sinners to "repent," and to "convert," and to "call upon the name of the Lord," and to "come" to Jesus for salvation.  Such is not "Arminianism," but if it is, then count me one!

Jan 17, 2013

Gospel Invitations

That the bible contains invitations to men is undeniable. The very word "come" is used perhaps more than two thousand times in scripture. As an example, let us read Isaiah 55: 1-3

"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David."

"You all come to the waters!" That is an invitation, gracious and merciful, and it is extended to all who are "thirsty." Further, all men are "thirsty," in the sense of this text, whether they know it or not.

Some Hyper Calvinists say that the "thirsty" mentioned here in the text, are they who are already spiritually alive because "thirst" is an evidence of "life." Dead men do not thirst, it is argued. But, an investigation of the scriptures relative to this "thirst" will show them that spiritual death, not spiritual life, is what is alluded to by the descriptive word "thirsty."

"Thirsty" is a term denoting our condition outside of Christ, our condition in sin and death. Regeneration, or being born again, on the other hand, is described as a being saved from thirst. Notice these words of Christ:

"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4: 14)

"And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." (John 6: 35)

Notice how Jesus associated being made spiritually alive with drinking the water of life, and with being saved from "thirst," or a "thirsty condition." Salvation is to partake of Christ, his flesh and blood, the bread of life, the water of life. And, how does one drink? Is it not when he believes? When he has Christ and truth revealed to him?

This invitation to the thirsty to come and drink Christ is an invitation to salvation. It is a call to those who have not drunk Christ, and who are therefore lost, to come and drink Christ in order that they may have life.

Thirsty land is dry land, land where there is no moisture, and where there is no moisture there is death and barrenness. The heart that is thirsty has not come to the waters and drank. They are parched in heart and soul. Their mental life is a desert wilderness.

But, it is, of course, more than an invitation. The invitation is in what we call the imperative mood, that is, it is a command to do something, and a command is more than an invitation. The thirsty are urged, exhorted, authoritatively told to do something in order for salvation from thirsty condition.

The invitations of the gospel are nearly always couched in compelling words. Jesus compelled men with his words, even men who did not believe or heed his words. Jesus said that his emissaries were to "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."  (Luke 14: 23) People are compelled with words, words of truth, words of revelation and inspiration, the words of the gospel. Preaching the gospel to sinners involves urging and exhorting them, begging and pleading with them, and commanding them. It also involves persuading sinners. The Holy Spirit persuades through the preaching and teaching of his evangelists. Some are not persuaded, others are, and we know that divine election is the reason.

"King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds." (Acts 26: 28, 29)

The Holy Spirit, through Paul, was in the persuading business, on this occasion. Paul habitually persuaded unbelievers and sinners to become Christians, and be saved in doing so. Notice also how he wants "all who hear me this day" to become Christian and be saved. Surely most who heard Paul testify of the gospel on that day, in Agrippa's court, were unbelievers, were not Christians. Paul indiscriminately called upon his audiences to believe in Christ, to become Christian, and to be saved. He taught, urged, pleaded, commanded, and persuaded men, in the way of salvation.

"Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences." (II Cor. 5: 11)

We have looked now at two passages that use the word "persuade" in relation to gospel preaching. What does it mean to "persuade"? Well, it means to "succeed in causing a person to do or consent to something." It means "to win someone over," or to prevail. It means to "convince" or to "convict" someone about something. It is from the Greek word "patho" from which we get our word "pathology."

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment..."  (John 16: 8)

The word "reprove" here carries the idea of convicting, or convincing, of refuting, of confuting, with the added idea of exposing erroneous belief or conduct. The Holy Spirit does this, and he does it through the medium of his revealed word, or by the truth of the gospel.

"Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." (Titus 1: 9)

It is the Holy Spirit who "exhorts" and "convinces" the gainsayers of the gospel. Who are the gainsayers? Are they not the non Christians? The pagans? The unbelievers? The dead in sin? What does it mean to "gainsay"? It means to "declare false, to deny, to oppose, especially by contradiction."

In the words of our opening text, the Lord says "hear and your soul shall live." Notice then how the words of the invitation are to people who are both thirsty and dead. He is inviting and urging the spiritually dead and thirsty soul to hear the gospel in order that they may "live."

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11: 28-30)

This invitation is similar to the one in Isaiah 55. It is an invitation to lost sinners who are not only parched in spirit, but to those who are weary and depressed with their sinful lives. It is a call to come to Christ made to those who have not come to Christ, to those who are without saving knowledge of Jesus. It is a call to sinners who are slaves to sin to become slaves to Christ, an appeal to change masters and lords.

I see Christ uttering these words of invitation with urging, with pleading, with strong compelling spirit, with persuasion, as did Paul to king Agrippa.

Invitation & call to a wedding feast, Matt. 22:1-10.

"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage." (Matt. 22:1-4)

Notice several important words in this parable concerning the work of evangelists. First, the word "call," secondly, the word "bid," the word "come."

We to invite, urge, plead and beg, exhort, persuade, command, sinners, to come to Jesus for salvation. Our preaching will be filled with addresses to dead lost sinners, as was the preaching of Jesus and the apostles. Of course, Hyper Calvinists will not preach to dead sinners.

Evangelists are like Ezekiel preaching to the dead, dry, thirsty, bones. God asked Ezekiel "can these bones live?" Can they come to life by your preaching them? By your commanding them to "hear the word of the Lord?" Yes, they can, when that word is accompanied by the power of God, by a demonstration of the Spirit. (II Thess. 1: 5)

Who can deny that Jesus was addressing dead sinners in John 5: 40 when he said - "you will not come to me that you might have life"? Notice these words of Paul to the Ephesians.

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." (Matt. 23: 27)

Notice how Christ speaks of the heart condition of dead sinners as being like "dead men's bones," the very kind we read about in the story of Ezekiel and the valley of dry dead bones. We preach to men's hearts, knowing that their hearts are dead to our message, to a valley of dry dead bones, as did Ezekiel. We preach knowing that the word alone cannot effect resurrection and bring life. But, the words of the evangelist, when attended with supernal power of the Holy Spirit, will effectually bring to life the barren soil of men's hearts, bring to life the heart that is like dead dry bones.

"Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." (Eph. 5: 14)

When we preach in the name of Christ to lost dead sinners, we are to command them to believe, to repent, to "arise from among the dead" and live. And, just like Ezekiel, dead sinners come to life by the power of God attending the exhortations.

When Paul said that his "persuading" of men resulted from a knowledge of the "terror of the Lord," he connects preaching with opportunity of salvation from the judgment and terror of the Lord. When Paul witnessed to king Felix, Luke tells us that "he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come," and, specifically, the preaching of the terrible "judgment to come" caused Felix to "tremble."

"Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus..." (Col. 1: 28)

Notice several important points of truth in these words. First, preaching the gospel is the preaching of Christ. If there is no Christ in preaching, then there is no gospel preaching. Second, preaching includes "warnings," warnings to the wicked to flee from the wrath to come, as did John the Baptist. Third, this gospel preaching is directed to "every man." We do not, like the Hyper Calvinists, think it a waste of time to preach to the dead, and therefore only preach to those who are already saved. Fourth, our preaching and teaching to every man is for the purpose of saving every man, or as Paul said, "that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."

When we are warning people of real impending danger, do we not do it in the imperative mood? Do we not say "flee" with a sense of urgency? Do we not say in in compelling words of speech?

"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." (II Cor. 5: 20)

Notice a few things of importance from these words of the apostle. First, evangelists are ambassadors of Christ and his kingdom. They are his representatives and have authority to speak in his name. Second, God speaks through his ambassadors. God beseeches through the ministers of his word. When one is beseeched by a teacher of the word, he should see past the messenger to the one who sent him. We talk a lot about hearing God speak to us and we often leave the impression that this speaking of God to us is only direct speaking. But, most of God's speaking to us is done through his spokesmen, his ambassadors. Third, God not only "beseeches" but he also "prays," or "pleads with," sinners, with those who are not reconciled to God, to be reconciled. Paul is saying to the Corinthians, "I beg you," and "I plead with you," or "I urgently request you."

Jan 16, 2013

Stopping their Mouths

"Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.  For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake."  (Titus 1: 9-12)

"And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake."  (Acts 6: 10) 

"For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist."  (Luke 21: 15)  

"And no man was able to answer him a word..."  (Matt. 22: 46)

Over the past couple years I have had opportunity of stopping the mouths of several Bible teachers regarding errors on Bible doctrine.  In each of the cases to follow I was able to so refute their errors that they were left speechless, were not able to make a rebuttal.  It is my opinion that their not offering any rebuttal or counter argument proved that they could not overcome the evidence which disproved their false doctrine.  Sadly, none repented of their error, which is an amazing thing.  It is hard for me to imagine someone offering proof against something I believe the Bible to teach and which I am unable to rebut and yet continuing to believe my opinion.  But, men become wedded to their false ideas and often not even clear refutation is able to separate them from it.

Example #1

I have argued with those who take the view of Scofield that no one was "born again" before the death of Christ, or before the day of Pentecost.  Though I gave several arguments to disprove this notion, there was one in particular that I kept insisting upon and to which I received no answer, which proved that it could not be answered and that the doctrine was not biblical.  Here is the argument.

In Matthew 16: 16 Peter says "you are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Thus, it is clear that Peter believed that Jesus was the Christ prior to the death of Christ.  What is the condition of one who believes that Jesus is the Christ?  John wrote:  "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." (I John 5: 1)  Thus, it is clear that Peter was born of God before the death of Christ.

Example #2

I have argued with those who are Sabellians/Modalists, who believe that the Father and the Son are the same person.  Again, though I offered numerous arguments to disprove this false idea, I focused on one which never got an answer, which was proof that the gainsayers mouths were stopped and that their error was exposed.  Modalists argue that Jesus' statement "I and my Father are one" (John 10: 30) means "I and my Father are the same person."  Yet, I cited the words of Jesus - "that they may be one, as we are." (John 17: 11, 22)  Thus, if Jesus and the Father being "one" means they are the same person, then all the saved will ultimately become one person!  The Modalists presented with this refutation could not offer a rebuttal.

Example #3

I have argued with those who say that God does not know everything, particularly the sins God has pardoned.  They argue that God does not know everything, but only knows all he wants to know, and affirming that God does not know certain things because he does not want to know them.  Thus, when verses were cited that say that God knows all things (I John 3: 20) , they at least make a rebuttal saying that it simply means God knows all he wants to know.  But, they will argue that the Bible says that God will no longer "remember" our sins once they are forgiven (Heb. 8: 12), which to them means that God will no longer have any knowledge of them, and thus cannot be said to know all things.  In refuting this interpretation I cited these words of Paul:

"Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief."  (I Tim. 1: 13)

Obviously God, who was inspiring Paul to write these words, had not lost knowledge of the fact that Paul had sinned even though he had forgiven Paul and promised not to "remember" his sins.  When God says he will not "remember" our sins it does not mean that he becomes ignorant of them, but that he will no longer bring them up.  It is a legal erasure.  I cannot get those who argue that God loses knowledge of our sins when he pardons them to respond to this, which again is proof that they cannot and that their interpretation has been disproven.

Example #4

I have argued with those who say that "demons" are not intelligent living creatures but simply false ideas or false doctrines.  Though I presented numerous arguments against this view, there is one argument that always leaves those who argue this position speechless.  I cite them these words:

"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils (demons) also believe, and tremble."  (James 2: 19) 

False doctrines cannot "believe"!  Only intelligent beings can know and believe!  Again, my opponents were left speechless!

It is important that we all become "skilled in the word of righteousness" (Heb. 5: 13) and that we know how to stop the mouths of the gainsayers and false teachers. 

Jan 14, 2013

Sealed by the Spirit

"Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." (II Cor. 1: 21, 22)

There are four things that the apostle says that God was doing, or had done, to the Corinthian believers.  They are anointing, sealing, pledging, and stablishing

He first mentions the stablishing of believers.  That work was still going on in the life of those believers, for it is in the present tense.  The Greek word for "stablisheth" means "confirmation of a bargain."  Paul is looking at the salvation of the believer under the typology of contracts and covenants.  God has made a promise and given a pledge. 

"Stablish" is also translated "confirm."  To confirm something means "to support or establish the certainty or validity of; verify."  And the word "establish" means "to place or settle in a secure position or condition," to "install."  It also means "to make firm or secure."  It also means "to introduce and put into force," and "to prove the validity or truth of something."  It literally means to "certify." 

Paul pictures God as continuously confirming his covenant with believers.  So we read in Dan. 9: 27 - "he shall confirm the covenant."  "Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto...And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect."  (Gal. 3: 15, 17)

"...the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."  (I Cor. 1: 6-8)

The way the Lord confirms believers is by confirming the testimony in them.  Now, the word confirmed, bebaioō in Greek, is the same word translated "stablish" and is a legal term used in a courtroom context. It means to authenticate, or to make reliable, to clearly show that something is true, to put beyond doubt or dispute.  It involves the providing of a guarantee, a certifying.  Making an oath is one way that a thing may be established in law.  Wrote Paul:

"For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us."  (Heb. 6: 16-18)

God made promise to believers before the world began but he also confirms his promise when he saves them.  And, to confirm that promise, he swears to them, makes an oath to them.  Salvation involves a legal transaction.  God enters into covenant or makes a deal with us based upon the work of Christ.  How the Lord confirms his promises to the believer is by the witness of his word and Spirit in their hearts and consciences.  Paul says that the purpose of God's oath, of his confirming and establishing of believers, is to "put an end to all strife," to put an end to all doubt and uncertainty, to all conflict.

The stablishing or confirming of the believer, which results from God's anointing and sealing the believer, has for its purpose the removing of doubt, and removing legal objections, and also for giving a "strong consolation" and "refuge," or place of safety, to the believer, for strengthening hope and expectation.   

This work of confirming and establishing the believer is an ongoing work in the lives of believers. Not only does Paul say that God is presently stablishing believers but says that this is the result of his having previously "anointed" the believer.  This anointing takes place when one is saved, born again, or regenerated.   John wrote of this when he wrote:

"But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things."  (I John 2: 20)

"But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."  (vs. 27)

The word unction means to anoint, a ceremony for consecrating one into office, such as priests and kings experienced when being inaugurated.  In the Old Testament this anointing was done with oil and oil is a symbol for the Holy Spirit.  This oil was mixed with spices, spices which are symbols of the gifts and graces of God.  We read of how God "anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power."  Further, to be anointed implies a prior choice.  God anoints those who he chooses.  Thus, we read in scripture of king Cyrus who was anointed and chosen by God for performing a mission service for the Lord.  (Isa. 45: 1)  But, not only are people anointed, but so are things.  Thus, in scripture we read of monuments being anointed and of God anointing the most holy place. 

This anointing or unction signifies that the believer is gifted with the indwelling Spirit of God and is what brings saving faith and understanding.  It is the reason why believers "know all things."  Not, that they literally know everything, but they know the reason or purpose of all things, which is the glory of God through Christ.  God's people are priests and kings and as such they are anointed.

Paul says that this anointing or giving of the Spirit is an "earnest," a downpayment or pledge, a way of gauranteeing the fulfillment of his promise and contractual obligations.  By the use of the word "earnest" there is allusion to real estate or mercantile agreements. 

Are the words stablish, anoint, and pledge somehow connected?  God anointed us with the oil of the Spirit and in doing so gave us a pledge of a future inheritance.  Are these terms not all related to the idea of a covenant or contract, to a legal transaction?  Lawyers speak of legal establishment, or to establish something in law.  The anointing and pledging were the means for the stablishing.  But, not only is the legal nature of the work of salvation in a believer demonstrated by the terms anointing, pledging, and stablishing, but also by the word "sealed."

Legal documents are always affixed with a seal.  In deeds the word "seal" is now placed beside the line where one puts his signature.  Sealing is not restricted to legal transactions, but they are an integral part of them.  Certainly justification is a strictly legal term and Paul no doubt has justification in mind when he speaks of the believer being established in law.  When the Lord saves his people he at the same time justifies them and makes promises to them, and enters into covenant with them.  He makes an oath to them.  And this oath and promise has God's own seal affixed to it.  Redemption is also a legal term.  Before we talk more fully about this sealing, let us notice a couple other passages where Paul speaks of this divine sealing.  Further, even the idea of anointing cannot be divorced from a legal context seeing that installing men in governmental office is a legal ceremony. 

"And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." (Eph. 4: 30)

Paul says that this sealing is with a view to "the day of redemption."  Redemption is a mercantile term and literally means to buy back, or to repurchase.  Pawn shops may well be called "redemption houses."  You go to a pawn shop and you exchange goods for money but with a "right of redemption," that is, with a right to buy it back at a certain specified period of time upon specified conditions.  In Israel God had instituted laws concerning redemption.  We read in scripture of the "right of redemption." 

"Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it."  (Jer. 32: 7)

If I hock my watch at a pawn shop, not just anyone can come and redeem it.  Only I can do that or only the one who has the pawn ticket can do so.  The one who is designated as having the "right" to redeem my watch is the Redeemer. 

In both I Cor. 1 and Eph. 4 sealing is connected with redemption, and with receiving the earnest or pledge of the promised inheritance. 

"And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances." (Jer. 32: 10)

Notice also these words:

"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."  (Eph. 1: 13, 14)

What is meant by the Ephesian believers being "sealed with that holy Spirit of promise"? The answer to this question can only come by 1) looking for information in the context that would help one to understand what Paul has in mind by the term, and 2) looking at the general teaching of the scriptures on the nature and purpose of "seals" and "signets." 

"sphragis" (seal)
"sphragizō" (sealed) - to set a seal upon, mark with a seal, to seal

When we speak of God's confirming or stablishing of believers as a result of his anointing and sealing of believers we think of these words of the Lord to his covenant people in Isaiah 10: 27.

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing." 

Because of the anointing God lifts the burdens and delivers from slavery.  Because of God's anointing, which is the result of his choice, God's people are established in liberty.

Believers are marked with the signet of God. A signet is a seal or personal mark of indentification. Cattle ranchers call their seals "brands." Each cattle owner had his own brand, his own symbol, his own mark, his own seal. Kings often wore their seals on rings and would use them for sealing documents.  Throughout the O.T. we read of "the engravings of a signet."

Letters and documents are sealed.  Regeneration is described as being the work of God in writing a letter on the heart of believers.

"But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people."  (Jer. 31: 33)

God says that he will write his covenant in the hearts of his people.  Paul also speaks of this.

"Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart."  (II Cor. 3: 3)

To this writing upon the heart God affixes his seal.  He attests the writing.  Confirms it.  Authenticates and certifies it.  All agreements in Israel were to be attested by a signature and a seal.  This is true of redemption and marriage agreements.  When believers enter into a marriage covenant with the Lord, the covenant is written in the heart and sealed with the signature of the Lord.

Is this "sealing" progressive and linear, or, like regeneration, an instantaneous once for all action? Is this sealing a part of regeneration or an experience that comes after regeneration has been completed?

In Eph. 1: 14 -  "Ye were sealed" - First aorist passive indicative of spragizw, old verb, to set a seal on one as a mark or stamp.  "After you heard" is from a Greek aorist participle. akouō = heard.

Since the main verb “you were sealed” (esphragisthēte) is the aorist passive of sphragizō (“to seal”), we should understand that the sealing is simultaneous with the hearing and believing.

Both the ESV and the NRSV translate this “when” not “after.” Therefore, the sealing of the believer by the Holy Spirit occurs simultaneously with hearing the gospel and believing.

When the bridegroom in the Song of Solomon expresses to his beloved his desire that she give her love to him alone, he uses the figure of a seal of ownership. He asks that she put him “like a seal over your heart, Like a seal on your arm” (Song 8:6 NASB). He mentions love and jealousy as the reason for his request. She is to be sealed exclusively to him. Thus, sealing serves the purpose of confirming ownership.

PROTECTION

Sealing also refers to the protection of property in the Scriptures. Sealing protects items from tampering, and makes them safe and secure.

"So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch."  (Matt. 27: 66)

When the Lord saves his people and the Spirit takes possession of them, he seals their hearts and sets a watch upon their souls.

"And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel."  (Dan. 6: 17)

"And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season."  (Rev. 20: 3)

"He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm."  (Psa. 105: 14, 15)

AUTHENTICATION & Certification

The seal also serves as proof of identity. It is put with a signature or in place of it in letters, agreements and private or public instructions. As such, circumcision, as a seal, authenticates, certifies, and attests to the veracity of the inward faith that Abraham possessed and believers possess (Rom 4:11). 

The image of sealing also refers to God’s approval (John 3:33; 6:27; 1 Cor. 9:2). Thus we speak of a product or document having a "Seal of approval."

"Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his." (II Tim. 2: 19)

"He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true." (John 3: 33)

AUTHORIZATION

Since seals served as proof of identity and ownership, they also convey the authorization of the seal owner. This custom is well attested in Scripture.  Therefore, sealing also conveys the authority of the owner of the seal.

Goods were sealed as a guarantee indicating not only ownership but also the correctness of the contents.

In the Hellenistic world, a man’s seal, a carved insignia pressed in wax, had legal significance. Stamped on possessions the seal indicated ownership and served as a ward against theft. On a document, the seal authenticated the message it contained, and symbolized the full authority of the person who sent it. Further, a sealed document could be opened only by the one to whom it was addressed.

"Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples."  (Isa. 8: 16)

"He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true." (John 3: 33)

Authenticate it.  Confirm it.  Certify it.  Attest to it.  Impress it upon my disciples. 

"Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed."  (John 6: 27)

Making Impression

Seals make impressions on the paper and God's seal makes an impression upon the heart of the believer.

Misc. Verses and What They Show

"...the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed." (John 6: 27)

"...the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord." (I Cor. 9: 2)

With what has been discovered about the nature and purpose of sealing in Scripture, it is much easier to see all that is involved in such verses.

Conclusion

Salvation is having the image of Christ stamped upon the heart, soul, and mind.

Dagg on Regeneration

John L. Dagg wrote the following on "Regeneration" (Section IV in his "Manual of theology," Volumes 1-2 - See here).  In his analysis of the biblical teaching on this subject he rejects the "word alone" view commonly taught by the Campbellites, and the "Spirit alone" view commonly taught by the Hardshells.  The following are some of his comments (emphasis mine - SG).

"Various forms of expression are employed in the Scriptures, to denote the change of heart; and they signify it with various shades of meaning. It is taking away the heart of stone, and giving a heart of flesh; giving a new heart; putting the law in the heart; quickening or making alive; a resurrection from the dead; an illumination; a conversion, or turning back to God. So great is the change produced, that the subject of it is called a new creature..." (pg. 277)

"The change is moral."

"The production of love in the heart by the Holy Spirit, is the regeneration, or the new birth."

"We know, from the Holy Scriptures, that God employs his truth in the regeneration of the soul. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." Love to God necessarily implies knowledge of God, and this knowledge it is the province of truth to impart."

"The term regeneration is sometimes used in a comprehensive sense, as including the whole formation of the Christian character. At other times it is used for the first production of divine love in the heart. In the latter sense, the work is instantaneous."

Note:  It is true that theologians make a distinction between broad and narrow regeneration, but not so in Scripture.  The Scriptures define regeneration as the same as conversion, the point where a person receives Christ and the Gospel.  It is not certain whether Dagg is affirming that the term "regeneration" is used in more than one sense in Scripture or in theological works.

"But, in his own time and manner, God, the Holy Spirit, makes the word effectual in producing a new affection in the soul: and, when the first movement of love to God exists, the first throb of spiritual life commences."

"Faith is necessary to the Christian character; and must therefore precede regeneration, when this is understood in its widest sense. Even in the restricted sense, in which it denotes the beginning of the spiritual life, faith, in the sense in which James uses the term, may precede. But a faith which exists before the beginning of spiritual life, cannot be a living faith."

Note:  It seems that Dagg, like others, would say that faith and regeneration are concurrent and that it is of no use to argue which is first, seeing one cannot exist without the other.

"This change, by which true love to God is produced, results from the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, accompanying his word, and making it effectual."

Note:  Here Dagg appropriately argues that the work of regeneration is both immediate and mediate. 

"The doctrine of the Holy Spirit's direct influence, is a fundamental truth of the gospel dispensation. That Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, and completed the great work for which he assumed our nature, is a truth that lies at the foundation of Christianity. The gospel reveals to us the Spirit as well as the Son. When about to leave the world, Jesus promised another Comforter, who should dwell with his disciples for ever. The Holy Spirit, as God, had always been in the world: but he was now to be present by a peculiar manifestation and operation. This manifestation and operation attended the ministry of the Word on the day of Pentecost, and the gospel has always been the sword of the Spirit, the instrument with which ho operates in the fulfilment of his office for which he has come into the world, in answer to the prayer of Christ." (pg. 282)

"That philosophy which shuts God out of his creation, and substitutes laws of nature for his ever-present influence and operation, stands ready to deny the doctrine of the Holy Spirit's direct influence. It admits not the possibility of any influence, but that which the means employed naturally tend to produce. But means have no natural efficiency apart from the will of God. By the will of God, the truth has its regenerating and sanctifying power; for he works in us to will and to do, according to his pleasure."

Note:  Here Dagg asserts that the "word alone" cannot regenerate but requires the power of the Spirit to make the word effectual. 

"He is pleased to work with means; and he employs the truth as his instrument of operation. This instrument he wields at his pleasure, and he renders it effectual by his divine power: "My word shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." By the ordinary providence of God, the Bible operates in the world, and influences the minds of men: but this providence equally existed in the former dispensation, in which the oracles of God were possessed by the Israelites, but held by them in unrighteousness. An influence above the ordinary providence of God is needed, to the regeneration of the soul."

Jan 1, 2013

Post Tribulation Rapture IX

As I have mentioned in a previous posting, the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13 is a powerful argument against the idea that the rapture will take place before the destruction of the wicked and before the end of the age.

Reese wrote (emphasis mine - SG):

"Returning now to Matthew 13:39, it is certain that, when our Lord says "the harvest is the consummation of the age," He means that the wheat will be gathered and the tares burned at the time of His Coming in glory. This obvious truth, however, overthrows the theory that the saints will be gathered seven or more years before the End of the Age.

But if anything was lacking to refute pre-tribs explanation of the parable, it is found in their treatment of the burning of the tares. The wording of the parable, "Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn" (v. 30), and the words of the Lord’s interpretation (vv. 41-43), that professors are gathered for judgment at the same crisis as the transfiguration of the righteous, naturally caused great embarrassment to men who separated them by several years; for it is a favorite feature of the system that the Rapture will be secret, and that mere professors will be ignorant of the Lord’s Coming. How, therefore, could the hard fact of the bundling of the tares at the crisis of the gathering of the wheat be explained to suit the theorists’ system? Nothing was easier; in his Matthew (p. 278), Kelly explained it away altogether. He gravely proposes that the bundling of the tares infers to a mere providential work on the part of the angels, among the ungodly; these will be gathered into "worldly association" some time prior to the Rapture!

Lastly, the pre-trib theory of a rapture some years before the End of the Age is refuted by the closing verse of our Lord’s interpretation: "Then (tote, at that time) shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (v. 43).

Here, as we have already seen, we find that at the very time that the ungodly are rooted out of Christ’s Kingdom and judged, the resurrection and glorification of the righteous take place; for the shining forth of the saints has no reference to a previous concealment of the saints in heaven, but to their transfiguration at the resurrection of the just. Matthew 13:43 is a clear reference to Daniel 12:2-3, which speaks of resurrection.

In view of the hopeless breakdown of Darby’s and Kelly’s interpretation of the Parable of the Tares, it is not to be wondered at that some advocates of the new theories of the Advent should have come to see the need of a new apologetic in reference to it. The exegesis that prevailed for seventy years amongst all the greatest of pre-trib teachers, as well as the rank and file, was seen to be not danger-proof. In particular, it was felt among the new theorists that, if the gathering of the wheat in the parable signified the Rapture of the saints, then the new theories on the Second Coming could not be true; this point was at last clearly seen and admitted. What was to be done, therefore, to save the new doctrine? for the idea of giving up the theories as erroneous seems never to be entertained, such is the obloquy (humiliation) the alternative view inspires. The new plan is simple. It denies that the Parable of the Tares has reference to Christendom; denies that the gathering of the wheat refers to the Rapture of the saints. The parable will have its fulfillment only after the Church has been raptured, when, ex hypothesi, the Jewish Remnant takes up the work of evangelizing the world. Bullinger, with praiseworthy consistency, rules all the parables of Matthew 13 out of court, so far as the Church is concerned. The fact that they were found in one of the Four Gospels precluded any reference to the Church. Had they been written in one of Paul’s Epistles to the Body of Christ the case would have been different.'

The view that Reese refers to is that held by Dispensationalists like J. Dwight Pentecost.  It is their favorite tactic to deal with all texts that contradict their pre-trib rapture view by saying that such passages do not apply to any other than to Israel or to the "Jewish Remnant."  Such views even lead Dispensationalists to affirm that the whole old testament is only for Jews, that the Gospel of Matthew, especially the sermon on the mount, is not for any other than for the Jews.  All this however is ludicrous and I hope to have a series in the new future dealing with these errors of Dispensationalism.

Reese continues:

"Other teachers, however, like Gaebelein, in his Matthew, hand over to the Jewish Remnant only such of the parables of Matthew 13 as do not square with their novel theories. The Parables of the Tares and the Drag Net, which are specially inconvenient, are referred to the period, ex hypothesi, between the Rapture and the millennium.

It would take us too far afield to go into these Remnant theories now, and as the whole Remnant hypothesis will come before us on another occasion, the fiction of their supposed preaching had better be deferred as well. One or two remarks for the present will suffice. First, not a word of evidence is produced to support the assertion that the Parable of the Tares belongs to the Remnant. Such a body is not so much as hinted at in the whole course of Matthew 13. The real reason why this Remnant theory is produced at this juncture is clear to all candid minds. Read naturally the Parable of the Tares spells midnight to the new theories on the Second Coming, and so it is denied that the Parable has reference to the Church.

That the parable has reference to the present dispensation is clear from the fact that the Lord says "the harvest is the end of the age," that is, of the age that we now live in; for the idea of another evil age succeeding this one is a mere figment of Gaebelein’s imagination; the age, according to Scripture, that succeeds this present Age, is the millennium.

It is no wonder that the advocates of pre-trib theories of the Advent do not feel happy before the Parable of the Tares; no wonder they are in complete disarray amongst themselves in trying to make the words of the Lord, "let both grow together until the harvest," and, "the harvest is the end of the age," square with the theory that the tares and wheat do not so grow together, and that the harvest is not the End of the Age, but some years before it. Hence the fact that the most unnatural expedients are resorted to avoid the natural sense of Christ’s gracious words. To put the Four Gospels from us, to invent another secret harvest; to bring in the Jewish Remnant and rob us of precious promises; to reduce to thin air the binding of the tares; to make Antichrist rise after the End of the Age; to make the End of the Age a new age altogether—these are held as proof of a special enlightenment, and of "rightly dividing the word of truth." But to teach the obvious truth that the Parable of the Tares locates the gathering of Christians at the End of the Age, when false professors are judged—this is viewed as confusion, and the work of the Enemy.

Many people will entertain the following conclusion about the Parable of the Tares: when writers like Darby, Kelly, Newberry and Scofield insist that the gathering of the wheat signifies the muster of the saints at Christ’s Coming they do so because the natural reading of the words compels them so to interpret it. And when writers like Bullinger, Gaebelein and Miss Habershon insist that the wheat is so gathered at the very End of the Age, when Christ appears in His glory, they do so because that is the natural force of the Lord’s words, "the harvest is the end of the age." Now both sets of writers are right in what they affirm: Darby, Kelly, Newberry, and Scofield in that the gathering of the wheat signifies the Rapture of the Church: Bullinger, Gaebelein and Miss Habershon in that the gathering of the wheat is located by the Lord Jesus at the End of the Age, when He comes forth in His power and majesty, and establishes His Kingdom. Matthew 13:47-50 (R. V. mg.)."

The Dispensationalist view that "the wheat" excludes Christians, excludes all the saved of this present age, is an invention designed to do away with the argument, yet the argument is too strong to be laid aside in this manner.  The Dispensationalist has no grounds for limiting the significance of "the wheat" to Jewish believers after the present age has come.  Are Christians not children of God, children of the kingdom?

Reese continued:

"Another parable of Christendom reads as follows:

The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was filled, they drew up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but the bad they cast away. So shall it be in the consummation of the age the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the righteous, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth.

There is no need to deal with this parable at length, because it obviously stands or falls with that of the Tares. It is fitting to note, however, that here again the separation of believers and professors takes place "at the consummation of the age." As in the Parable of the Tares wheat and tares "grow together until the harvest," so here, good and bad fish—representing the true and the false in Christendom—remain together until the separation at the consummation of the Age. When that time comes the faithful will be rewarded with the glory of Christ and His Kingdom; the false will be cast out into unquenchable fire. This, be it noted, at the same crisis."  (CHAPTER VI-THE PARABLE OF THE TARES AND THE WHEAT)

According to the text, who is "severed" from who?  Are the righteous severed from the wicked or are the wicked severed from the righteous?  The text is clear - "sever the wicked from among the righteous."  In a previous posting it was shown how many pre-tribbers misrepresent the words of Jesus when he said, in regard to his coming, "two shall be in the field and one shall be taken and another left." (See Matt. 24: 37-41 and this posting)  The one taken is not the righteous, but the wicked, just as in the days of the flood when the deluge took away the "ungodly," leaving only the righteous.