Sunday, January 23, 2011

Applying Acts 21?

If you were the Apostle Paul how would you have reacted to what the Church at Jerusalem was practicing? Read what he was told on his arrival in Acts 21:17-25 
17 And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; 21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. 23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. 25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”
Paul was returning to Jerusalem after having preached that if you strive to obey the Law that Christ profits you nothing, and that you are indebted to obey the whole Law. Gal 5:2-3 (for example). What's more he talks about those who compel men become circumcised do so to avoid their own persecution of the Cross of Jesus Christ, that they only want to boast in the fleshly works of men. Gal 6:12-13 He also states that he would rather they cut their own selves off - if you know what he means. Gal 5:12 Yes that is graphic and harsh.

How does Paul react to the news of Jewish Believers being "zealous for the Law"? Well some people have said that Paul made the ultimate compromise... some say he made the biggest mistake of his ministry... some say that Paul recognized that Jewish Believers are not the same as Gentile Believers in that Jewish Believers are still under the Law while the Gentiles never were and are still are not now.

The rest of Acts 21 tells us how he reacted and what ensued. Acts 21:26
26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them
Paul capitulated, and obeyed ceremony and entered the Temple in accordance with the Law. Was Paul recognizing that he was under the Law? No. Was he compromising? Perhaps... but I don't think so. Can there be middle ground between under the Law and not under the Law? Some teachers in the Church divide the Law between ceremony and morality and claim that Christians are under the "moral law" however, here we have Paul obeying ceremonial law. Scripture does not divide the Law any more than Paul did in his actions at Jerusalem.  I don't think it was compromise.

Did he make a mistake? Perhaps an intentional mistake. I think he intentionally became a hypocrite in order to win the hypocrites. I believe Paul became all things to all men that he might win some.  1Cor 9:19-23 And even more so, Paul was acting exactly according to his words and so NOT being a hypocrite. In Rom 9:1-5 Paul says that he could wish that he was himself accursed of Christ, if by such he could win the Jews to Christ.

Was Paul, a Jew still under Law? NO! He explains his, and all Jewish Believers relationship with to the Law when he rebukes Peter, who had been living like a Gentile until some Jewish Believers showed up in Antioch. Gal 2:11-21

11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. 
17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

Jews become like Gentiles when they believe because they have died in Christ, and are dead to the Law.

So was Paul mistaken to go into the Temple the way he did, under Law? No I don't think so. I think he set aside the freedom he had in order that he could win those in bondage. Read the wonderful sermon he was able to preach to the huge crowd that sought to kill him. Acts 22:1-21 I think Paul knew what would go down and used that opportunity to tell them about Christ the Just One, and the true washing away of sins - not just being purified for a moment so that one can enter the Temple.

So what's my point here? 

Well, I want everyone reading to be thinking about how we can do this with our Lordship Salvation Brothers; if they have in fact received the Gospel of Christ 1Cor 15:1-11 before they were swept aside by the wind of this false doctrine.

See while successful Discipleship is not a condition for, or of true Salvation in Christ, it is the very focus of the Epistles of the New Testament. It's interesting that today in church we were studying 1Thess and I think it's the only letter from Paul that doesn't include the correction of grave disorder. The only correction Paul gives is about the reality of our hope in Christ's return being a good thing. So I can say wholly confidently that Discipleship is a HUGE topic in the Bible. We really are supposed to submit to Christ and live holy, and do good works - we really are!

Those in the the bondage of Lordship Salvation see this as a condition for and/or an unavoidable result of salvation because it is so prevalent in the New Testament. So how can we do a better job of giving ourselves the opportunity to preach the washing of sins by the death burial and resurrection of the Jesus Christ the Just?

How can we surrender freedom to win the opportunity to preach freedom? How SHOULD we do this? Can we do this without blaspheming God?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Just finished reading Slave

I've just finished reading John MacArthur's Slave this moment. My first impressions still stand - though some will require some tweeking when I publish my review of the book.

In short, I feel like I've just watched a movie that was promoted to be a summer blockbuster which would win all the awards.. and it turned out to be Transformers 2.

This book is WAY over hyped...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

First Impressions of MacArthur's Slave

Update: Find my final thoughts on Slave here. 

So I've read the Preface and Chapter One of MacArthur's new book Slave. I will of course continue reading the book but I think my first impressions are worthy of being captured here before they are lost in a whatever new thoughts come from exposure to the rest of the work.

MacArthur's pride is NOT my issue with his theology. That being said, one initial reaction to the promotion of the book (See this promo video for example) has been consistent and this sentiment as written by Bruce Bauer in his review at is a great example:

The back paper jacket to the book caught my attention: “A COVER-UP OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS: Centuries ago, English translators perpetrated a fraud in the New Testament, and it’s been purposely hidden and covered up ever since. Your own Bible is probably included in the cover-up!” 
WHAT? Are we to understand that Bible translators for centuries, hundreds if not thousands of highly-trained knowledgeable men of God, have kept a well-guarded secret about the true meaning of the Bible that only NOW Dr. MacArthur will be the one scholar who will bring us the real scoop? 
Is this reaction to the promotional material justified by what is contained in the book? Well this is a tough one to answer - properly. The short answer is yes, but here's the long answer. MacArthur cites two other people who have written on the subject. In 1966 Edwin Yamauchi wrote an article in his own publication the Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society entitled "Slaves of God." MacArthur's inspiration for Slave is the second. Murray J. Harris 1999 book "Slave of Christ" was his reading material on a long flight, and it gave him the idea of the big "cover-up."   So MacArthur doesn't set himself up as the "one scholar" who will save us from the "cover-up."  HOWEVER,  MacArthur sets himself above the Reformers, and all those who have followed in their tradition. He gives them praise and then writes in the Preface:
"Though all those noble theologians in the rich Reformation tradition of gospel truth touched on this matter - no one had pulled the hidden jewel all the way into the sunlight." 
So yes, MacArthur is portraying himself as this one great scholar who is doing for us what the Reformers and their followers never did. Those are big shoes to walk over... but well just because the guy has a big head doesn't mean I can discount his work. That would be the same time of behaviour that he and other Lordship Salvation preachers engage in, and I'll have nothing of it.

So with the sensational stuff out of the way let's get to the real issues!

This early in the book I have come across three practices in his teaching which give me concern.

1. Double speak. Was there an intentional "cover-up" of the meaning of doulos or not? Is MacArthur the saviour of doctrine or just following a long tradition?

In the preface he writes that Harris' Slave of Christ made him:
"realize there had been a centuries-long cover-up by English New Testament translators that had obscured a precious, powerful, and clarifying revelation by the Holy Spirit. Undoubtably, the cover-up was not intentional--at least not initially."
So it wasn't intentional at first but now it is? Then in Chapter One:
"this cover up.....almost seems like a conspiracy"
If it's intentional then then it must be a conspiracy? This double speak on this topic is classic MacArthur. Whether he's talking about how he's going to expose a long hidden truth, which has been spoken about in every generation since the Apostles.... or an intentional world wide cover-up that isn't a conspiracy.... or whatever controversial doctrine he is teaching on - it's all of grace but if you're not working as a slave of Christ you're not really saved.... MacArthur is highly adept at presenting his doctrine in such a way as to give those who follow him quotes which seem orthodox outside of the context of his teaching.

2. Using MacArthur's interpretation to define other's words. This one is a bit hard to explain. In The Gospel According (TGATJ) to Jesus MacArthur would make a claim, offer his reasoning which was never fully convincing and then a few pages later say "Since we know.... then the Apostle Paul meant..." It was down right offensive to me as I read the book. In Slave MacArthur offers stories of the torture and deaths of some martyrs. He notes how the people he talks about would only answer their questioners with "I am a Christian." Over a few pages MacArthur declares that "christian" = "slave of Christ" and then goes on to state that this is what these martyrs were stating.  MacArthur makes it seem as though one person did actually say the words "I am a slave of Christ" but doesn't actually quote the man, nor the question being asked of him, or give any other context.

One interesting example may be hard for some to catch. MacArthur writes:
"In fact, whereas the outside world called them Christians the earliest believers repeated referred to themselves in the New Testament as the Lord's slaves."  
While it is true that several of the writers of the NT used the word "doulos" to describe themselves and their service to Christ - they were not using it as MacArthur describes. These were a few specific people describing their own relationship to the Lord, explaining their purpose and lives. This is not how Christians talked about themselves, it is how Apostles and other men with offices in the Church spoke of themselves - and rightfully so.

3. Using extra-bibilcal reasoning to define what the Bible says. I'm all about the Grammatical Historical Hermeneutic. That being so, MacArthur throws out the context of word usage in the Scriptures and inserts the Greco-Roman view of slavery in it's place.

My first impressions are not all that surprising.

NOTE: I cannot figure out how to give page references because I'm using an eBook version of Slave and reading it on my laptop & iPod.

Update: Find my final thoughts on Slave here. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Purchased 'Slave' on Kindle

So I've purchased John MacArthur's new book Slave on my Kindle account.

I'm going to be taking my time reading it but I'm sure I'll be posting about it soon. Here's a screenshot of the first page after the cover however:

If there is anything good, at all, about this book being published it must simply be that followers can no longer deny that MacArthur preaches a works based salvation.  In the very first paragraph of writing in the book RC Sproul praises the work and states:
"Those who would be His children, must paradoxically be willing to be His slaves." 

Monday, January 10, 2011

First review of MacArthur's new book 'Slave'

UPDATE: Here are my own thoughts about Slave (and here are my first impressions).

In the coming days I intend on discussing how we can, and if we should, follow Paul's example in Acts 21 with our dealings with Brethren who preach the Lordship Salvation message.  Here's the first review I've read of MacArthur's new book 'Slave.'

John MacAthur's New Apostate Book - at the Notes From A Retired Preacher blog. (a repost of Bruce Bauer's review at  I am also going to repost it here. 
Please Note: This review by Bruce Bauer is from: Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ (Hardcover), by John MacArthur

The back paper jacket to the book caught my attention: “A COVER-UP OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS: Centuries ago, English translators perpetrated a fraud in the New Testament, and it’s been purposely hidden and covered up ever since. Your own Bible is probably included in the cover-up!” 
WHAT? Are we to understand that Bible translators for centuries, hundreds if not thousands of highly-trained knowledgeable men of God, have kept a well-guarded secret about the true meaning of the Bible that only NOW Dr. MacArthur will be the one scholar who will bring us the real scoop? 
Yes, this is exactly what the book would have us to believe, that the common Greek term “doulos” has been mistranslated in every major version of the Bible since the earliest of printed Bible translations. According to MacArthur, “doulos” should be translated primarily if not exclusively as “slave.” Most modern translators (NASB, NIV, KJV, NKJV, ESV) as well as common Greek-English lexicons interpret the term in a variety of ways as, “servant,” “slave,” “bond servant,” “bondman,” or “attendant.” MacArthur also states on pp. 29-30 that the proper meaning of the Old Testament’s nearest equivalent term, “‘ebed” has also been hidden by modern translators: 
“The King James Version, for example, never translates ‘ebed as ‘slave’—opting for ‘servant’ or ‘manservant’ the vast majority of the time. But contrast that with the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament from before the time of Christ. It translates ‘ebed with forms of ‘doulos,’ or ‘slave’ more than 400 times!” 
WHAT?? The LXX translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek, NOT to English! So MacArthur is leaping to an inappropriate conclusion about the meaning of the Hebrew in this case.  
My greatest problem with the book was that the author, MacArthur, took the ancient images of slavery and superimposed them onto modern Christianity with the intent to create the notion that our normative relationship with God and our service to God should be that of a slave to a master, instead of that of a child of God responding out of love and gratitude to an omnibenevolent (all loving) Father God. Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba,” Father.” 
With this slave-to-master representation set into place, the author proceeded to promote his standard Lordship Salvation doctrine dressed in new clothes, slave garb. He even used much of the same argumentation that he used in “The Gospel According to Jesus.” And, once again, he freely denigrated and characterized Free Grace theology, especially in chapter five.

Recommended reading: “The Grace Awakening,” by Charles Swindoll

Sunday, January 02, 2011

With some science on the side

Happy New Year everyone!

Here's three notable science stories from recent days which I hope will work together to make a cool point or two.

Is this evidence that we can see the future? -

Experiments with 1,000 volunteer students determined that people can recall words they've been shown in a list of words 53.1% of the time when they will be asked to type the same words in the future. That is to say they are asked to type randomly selected words from the original list they were shown only after they have already demonstrated recall of some of the words from the original list. One might expect a 50/50 result based on pure randomness. The 53.1% rate is interpreted as significant proof of pre-cognition, or seeing the future in some way imperceptible way.

Question: Would a rate of 50% (or 46.9% for that matter) have been interpreted as significant proof that people do not naturally have pre-cognition?

Why the human body temperature is 98.6 degrees F. -

Turns out our body temperature is "perfectly balanced." If it were lower we'd get fungal infections, if it were higher we'd have to constantly eat to maintain the energy requirements.

Question 1: Have we been designed with the perfect temperature or did we only happen to survive because we evolved to have this body temperature?

Question 2: If we evolved to have this temperature, then how? Did we, or rather our ancestor just get it right the first time? See if the temperature wasn't perfectly balanced then the organism COULD NOT have survived. This is sort of like irreducible complexity in that you can't gradually come to the correct temperature. It's right or you're dead.

Why published research findings are often false. -

Uh oh.  The New Yorker is reporting that many well-established, multiply confirmed findings are looking increasingly uncertain. Why is this happening? Apparently John Loannidis (author of Why Most Published Research Findings Are False) says that it is because of "significance chasing" or finding ways to interpret data so that it passes the test of statistical significance. That is the 95% boundary proposed by Ronald Fisher.  "The scientists are so eager to pass this magical test that they start playing around with the numbers trying to find anything that seems worthy." 

Question: Why do we, the very assembly of the Firstborn, allow the unmitigated and implicit trust of scientists to propagate through our society as though it were helpful in any way? The very Scientific Method is based on mistrust of findings! See the graphic above. I wholeheartedly believe in the use of the Scientific Method - I do not believe this even allows for the creation of a new High Priesthood of Scientists.

Happy New Year! How's your Worldview doing?