Saturday, July 31, 2010

Christ, the Firstborn of All Creation

Tomorrow morning (if the Lord allows) I will be leading the breaking of the bread service at my church. Traditionally one of the Brothers will stand to describe an aspect of Christ and then the Brethren will discuss it.

Here are the notes I've prepared for tomorrow. Perhaps they will be of some value here.

Christ, the Firstborn of all creation.

Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

Which is much like as the end of the Eph 1. The exaltation of Christ, the recognition of His preeminence which is to say His superiority over everything.

But Paul’s presentation of Christ’s preeminence is how it is effective for our redemption and our confidence in the fact of it, again this is stated in Rev 1 where it is Christ’s preeminence and faithfulness that establishes the reality of our redemption.

The term Firstborn relates to us in the nature of value. Traditionally, the firstborn son has a special place in a family throughout history. When Israel was captive in Egypt God described the value of Israel as that of His firstborn, Exo 4:22 and killed all the firstborn of Egypt the night of the Passover.

Exo 31:2 states that the firstborn, both of animal and man belongs to Yahweh. Traditionally the firstborn was to have privilege, responsibility, and blessing from a father but this was not a matter of law.

If a firstborn is faithful, then the father of the family will bless his son. The term “double portion” for the inheritance of the firstborn comes from. Deut 21:15-17 But privilege and blessing could be lost if the firstborn were not faithful. Like Rueben lost the status of firstborn of Jacob after he slept with his father’s concubine Gen 35; 49:4; So Jacob bestowed the status of firstborn to Judah. 1 Chron 5:1-2

But the thing about being firstborn is not only that you are preeminent over the family but that you bear responsibility for the family. To provide, to redeem, and what’s more while the rest of the family gets mercy, the firstborn gets justice. This is dramatically shown in the Exodus of Israel from Egypt with the Passover. All the firstborn were sentenced to death, with the only escape being the blood of the lamb. Redemption is how God freed Israel and it is how He frees every sinner who is covered by the blood of the Lamb throughout History.

And our redemption by the Blood of Christ is dependent on both that it happened, and that He was an acceptable sacrifice - that He was worthy. Christ had to be faithful in order to redeem us, and because He was faithful unto death on the cross we have confidence in our redemption because it was promised by the Father to the Son.

Heb 12:2 speaking of why we should confidently continue on in Him reads;

2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

And the Joy set before Him is found in Isa 53:10-12 Where we read that it pleased the Lord to bruise Him and that He made His soul an offering for sin. We read the joy from the end of the 10th verse to the beginning of the 12th

He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul,
and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,

The joy set before Christ was that people, like us, would be saved and the end of the 12th verse shows us why God is promising this;

Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

When Christ had accomplished all this at the Cross the Father called Him to ascend to Heaven, with the promise that He would finish the plan of History and you can read that in Psa 110 which starts with;

Psa. 110:1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”

So we see all of this in Heb 12:2

2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

So we’re gathered here this morning to remember that Christ, the faithful witness, the very image of the invisible God has given His body, shed His blood on our behalf dying for our sins, all for the joy set before Him by God the Father and did in fact raise from the dead and is right now sitting at the right hand of the Father.

He was obedient, even unto death on the Cross and He is the firstborn of all creation, the preeminent One, who is the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only but for the sins of the whole world, which is to say all creation. And because of this, the Father has given Him the Joy which was set before Him - His redeemed ones, those saved by Grace through faith in Him. Today we remember why we have confidence in our redemption; He was faithful, worthy and accepted, so we will ever be thankful and worship Him.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Assurance of Salvation and 1st John

I've been reading and listening to "tests" of people's salvation based on 1st John for years... like many of you no doubt have. Right now I'm working on an article for On My Walk about these tests. However, recently Glenn of the Wisdom and Knowledge blog emailed me to say hi. Our short conversation has born great fruit!!! For I found a wonderful article about this trendy subject at a website linked from his blog.

Pastor Jeremy M. Thomas of Fredricksburg Bible Church has written a wonderful article about the assurance of our Salvation that the Apostle John offers in his 1st Epistle. You can read the full thing here.

The full article is most worthy of study, but here is a bit of what you'll read;

1Jn 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

The words these things have been taken as referring to many different sections of the epistle (1:1-5:12, 5:1-12; 5:6-12). A very popular view, and the way you have probably been taught, is to see these things as referring back to the entire contents of the epistle. Those who hold this view imagine that this one verse gives the entire purpose of John’s epistle. The reason they do this is because they are confused about what John’s argument is so they resort to comparing 1 John to John’s gospel to help them find the argument. When scholars do this they read the Gospel of John and fasten in on John 20:31 as the purpose of John’s gospel, “…these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” Then they say that John’s 1st epistle is like John’s gospel in that the purpose of John’s first epistle is found at the end of 1 John in chapter 5:13. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” So, they use this supposed correlation of John putting his purpose at the end of his letters to stake their case for John’s entire purpose of 1st John. And they interpret 5:13 to mean “I have written to you who CLAIM to BELIEVE”. Maybe you do believe maybe you don’t believe but these things are written “in order that you may find out if you really believe or not.” In other words the first epistle of John is full of “Tests for Salvation”. That is, tests to see whether you really have eternal life? And that’s what 1 John is supposedly all about. Are you really a believer? Do you really have eternal life? If you pass these tests then you are a true believer. If not your not really a believer. So, these people are saying that John’s intention was to write a letter to a mixed group of believers and unbelievers so they could find out by going through these tests if they were believers or not.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

James 2 From The Text

This post has been years in the making. This is the fullest explanation of the challenging passage of Scripture known as James 2:14-26 that I've ever attempted.

When I read Dr. Fred Lybrand’s book “Back To Faith” I learned many valuable things, not the least of which includes these two very important points;

All theology should be challenged with vigour and integrity.

James 2 doesn’t have to be interpreted with “tension.”

I could make this a very long post by arguing against positions I’ve come to realize are not accurately derived from the Text… but I’m tired of debate and argument. I believe I’ve spent too much time discussing the falseness of false doctrine. So today, let’s just cut to the chase, get what I believe to be the truth out and you can evaluate it with me if you so desire.

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

These two questions asked in succession drive the thinking of the people being asked – even us today. What does it profit? The only benefit is Salvation. This is why James asks immediately “Can faith save him?” He’s asking about faith without works. What is the profit of faith without works? Can it save us?

The answer is YES! We'll see that the expected answer here is actually yes, not no, because of the argument of the Objector in verse 18. However, even without James' objector we can answer yes and supply our defence from Romans chapters 3 thru 5, particularly Romans 4:5-6

5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

And Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Then we see James answer the question of profit.

15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

In verse 17 James makes it clear that faith without works can do nothing in this situation, it is unprofitable. James calls it “nekros” which means it is like a dead body, which can do nothing.

Now here is where I will make a dramatic departure from many of the teachings you may be familiar with. Truth be told, my eyes were opened to this next point by Dr. Fred Lybrand, and for this I am beyond thankful!

Next James makes up an argument that he suspects his listeners will have. These next words are an OBJECTION to what he has been teaching. It is MOST IMPORTANT to track with who is speaking so as to know whose faith and whose works are being referenced. I've color coded the conversations below. The blue means the person indicated is James, and the green is the objector. So for example if it is "you" and it is blue then James is the "you" being spoken of.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

The someone objecting to James says to James “You have faith, and I have works” The objector challenges James to show his (James') faith without works. At this point many will put the words of verse 19 in the mouth of James. I don’t want to teach on falsehoods too much, but this is SUCH a stumbling block that I absolutely must address it. Imagine the following conversation.

You James have faith, and I Kevin have works. Show me your faith James, without your works and I Kevin will show you my faith by my works!

It is often claimed that this is James' reply to his Objector;

You Kevin believe that there is one God, you do well. Even the demons believe and tremble! Do you want to be shown that faith without works is dead?

Such a conversation makes no sense, as I was willing to show James my faith by my works.. and then James accuses me of having a dead faith without works?

Here’s how the conversation really goes, if we loose the grip our theology has on the Text;

The objector saysYou James have faith, and I Kevin have works. Show me your faith James without your works and I will show you my faith by my works. You James believe that there is one God. You do well! Even the demons believe and tremble!”

To which James replies;

20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

In our conversation this would read as;

“But do you Kevin want to know, oh foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”

It’s interesting that the word dead here is argos, or useless, idle, or lazy, but what's most important however is that James calls the OBJECTOR a fool.

Why? Because the objector thought works are the demonstration of the kind of faith that results in Eternal Salvation, or "true saving faith." He’s tying works to the justification that he shows demons do not have. Their belief in God doesn’t save them, so it can’t save us. That’s the OBJECTOR’s point, and his argument against the assumed answer of "yes" to James' question "Can faith alone save him?"

James is teaching that faith that saves is apart from works, exactly the same as Paul taught. The objector, objects and James uses the objection to make his point clear.

James then demonstrates faith and works result in two different justifications, and only work together to bring about maturity.

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.

The event of Abraham offering Isaac took place at least 25 years after Abraham was saved, as we see here that Abraham was called righteous by God because of his faith, in Gen 15:6 where there were absolutely no works in view, only assurance. And then his faith worked together with his works to perfect his faith. The action perfected his trust of God. Also at the same time, God’s faithfulness (not Abraham’s) demonstrated that he was a friend of God.

Think of this, do people know that I consider you a friend (you're seen as a friend of Kevin) because you do things for me, are submitted to me, or even because you trust me? Or do they see that you are a friend of mine when they see me care for you?

So we see two different types of justifications here. We see that God called Abraham righteous on the basis of faith, and people called him a friend of God based on God’s faithfulness, justifying the claim of 2Chron 20:7

24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

The Greek word monos translated “only” in the NKJV is also translated “alone” in some other translations.

If it is an Adjective then it means “alone” and is modifying the word faith, to say “faith alone” or "faith all by it’s self." This would have a single justification in view, that could not be accomplished by faith all by it’s self.

If however the word is an Adverb then it is modifying the word justified and so there are two justifications in view; one by works, and the other by faith.

Turns out, that it is an Adverb as can be seen here.

Since monos is an Adverb in the Greek a better translation of James 2:24 would be;

“You see then that a man is not only justified by faith, but also justified by works.”

Because, this verse is about is two different justifications, not works and faith together in order to accomplish one single justification.

25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

Likewise Rahab’s faith became profitable when she added a good work to her faith, and she was also justified before men the same way that Abraham was. However, her work had nothing to do with her Eternal Salvation, nor did it prove she was saved, or prove that she had "true saving faith."

She was saved by the faith she confessed, as we can read from her own words from Joshua 2:8-11

8 Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9 and said to the men: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

Moving on in James, we come to the second most misunderstood verse of this chapter.

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Finally James shows that faith without works is like a dead body again. However this too is a point where theology often drives interpretation instead of the other way around. You’ve probably heard the same explanation of this verse explained along the lines of this:

“A living, breathing, moving body shows that the spirit is within it so the two are inseparable like faith and works.”

This equates works with the moving of the body, and the hidden spirit within with faith. This equation is used to show that works prove true saving faith, just like a moving body proves there truly is a spirit in the body.

However, as Dr. Lybrand describes in his book Back To Faith the problem is that James equates the body with faith, and the spirit with works. Just the opposite of how we have so often heard this verse explained. It is actually the works which animate the faith. The spirit is the works, and the body is the faith. Read the passage again and you’ll see it.

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

In James' analogy the Body = faith and the spirit = works.

This is not showing the reality of a true saving faith being present by the fact the body is moving, it is demonstrating how faith is animated by works, the same way the body is animated by the spirit. Faith is brought to perfection by adding works to it, as we read happened to Abraham in verse 22. His faith was dead, not animated, not profitable until he added works. Then his faith was animated and grew to perfection. Not becoming, or being demonstrated as real, for it was real even without the works. The works made it profitable, and grew it to perfection.

In Conclusion

James is speaking of the perfecting of faith, not the reality of it. He calls the claim of there being only one justification – that results in Eternal Salvation, through a "true saving faith" that is demonstrated by works which men can see – FOOLISH.

James details the two justifications. One before God that is by faith alone, and another before men that is by works.

He makes the teaching practical by showing the profit of putting works with your faith is the perfecting of your faith, or your maturity. It is this maturity that can be seen by others, not the reality of your faith. Through works one is used by God, and there will be reward for this at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which is in focus earlier in the chapter.

There is no "tension" between what Paul wrote in Romans chapters 3 thru 5, and what James wrote in James 2. The only tension is between what the Text says and what some Theology says.

I hope there will be comments and discussion. I'm not interested in heated debates, but cool headed examination is most welcome.

NOTE: For an excellent examination of the relationship between faith and works please pick up a copy of Back To Faith by Dr. Fred Lybrand.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Preaching - In Accordance With The Scriptures

My Pastor has been teaching through the book of Acts verse by verse. We're up to chapter 13 and he asked me to teach from Acts 13:13-41. It's a long passage, and of course my passion for the Gospel led me to teach more than was absolutely needed. :)

This was preached at Colby Drive Bible Chapel on July 4th, 2010. Please note there was a fan cycling back and forth blowing on my microphone, and this has been mixed to be part of the audio resource library for TCC, the ministry I serve God through.

Here are the passages I used in the order I used them (there are a couple of references missed here);


Jer 18:1-6

1Cor 15:3-4

1Cor 15:12-19


Acts 13:13-17

Exodus 6:6

Acts 13:18-19

Deut 7:1-2

Deut 7:6-11

Acts 13:20-22

1Sam 13:13-14

Deut 17:14-20

Acts 13:23

2Sam 7:12-16

Acts 13:24-25

Acts 13:26-27

Dan 9:24-27

Luke 3:1

Acts 13:28

Isa 53:10

Rom 3:21-26

Acts 13:29

Deut 21:22-23

Isa 53:9

Acts 13:30-31

Ps 16:8-10

Ps 30:3

Ps 41:10

Hos 6:2

1Cor 15:6

Acts 13:32-33

Ps 2:7

2Sam 7:14

Heb 1:5-6

Acts 13:34

2Sam 22:51

Ps 89:19-37

Isa 55:3

Acts 13:35-36

Acts 13:38-39

Exo 20:1-17

Ezk 18:20

Isa 53:6

Isa 55:1-3

Acts 13:40-41

Closing Prayer

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Preparing to preach in the Potter's hands

So I'm almost done my preparations to preach on Acts 13:13-41 tomorrow. I have been amazingly edified, and astoundingly humbled by the process. Paul's sermon is purely brilliant. He shows that Jesus is the Christ and that the Gospel was in fact in accordance with the scriptures with a determined and relentless argument that could only be denied by the hardest of hearts.

I've done what is possible for me to prepare. I've felt led to this point, and the Pastors and Elders approached me to bring this message. I did not ask for it. The passage is dead on for my own personal bent and passions.

So here is where I'm at;

Jeremiah 18:1-6
1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: 2 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!

All that is left to be seen is if this is a process by which He is moulding me to preach, or to show me that I'm not crafted in His hands for that purpose. Like I said, I've done what is possible for me to do. Everything is in His hands.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Messianic Prophecies

I've been making use of this webpage as I prepare to preach on Acts 13:13-41 and I have found it so edifying that I just had to share.