Drinking Deeply

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 3:15 PM

Which Bible translation to use?

So sometimes someone asks me via email (and by sometimes I mean once) which Bible translation to go with.

There are some excellent resources online that help us distinguish what makes a good translation and what may be better left on the shelf.

Bible Research has been particularly useful for myself.

But as for me, to summarize, there are probably a few questions to ask:

What translation philosophy?

In general translations lie upon a nice spectrum from "paraphrase" to "literal." Some translations prefer "thought for thought" where the thoughts underlying the text is translated rather than the words. Others prefer "word for word." Since every translation is in a sense an interpretation, there is interpretation in all translations, even the most "literal" ones.

As a whole, the more paraphrasic (new word!) a Bible is, the easier it is to read straightforwardly. The danger of course is that the more paraphrasing going on, the greater the possibilities of introducing a concept into a text that is foreign or eliminating a concept that is biblical.

The big benefit of a more literal translation is fairly obvious: closer adherance to the original words reduces that possibility (but it is still there). Another side benefit is the ability to look across various literal translations (KJV, ESV, NASB etc) and see what other translators have done with a specific word, with a thought for thought that is a bit difficult. The English words we are reading may not have a direct Hebrew/Greek equivelent.

Of course, the tradeoff is that some passages are difficult to understand because of the inconsistency in the grammer structure. There are also a great number of phrases in the Bible that require commentary to clarify what it means. (I'm thinking particularly of girding the loins of the mind).

Ultimately it boils down to "What are you looking for?" For a study Bible where you want to dig individually into verses to understand Paul's closely reasoned arguments and the direct literary word parallels in the OT, a literal translation might be your best bet, for a Bible that you want to keep on your bedside for reading casually simply to gain big pictures of the entire Bible, maybe it would be easier to go with a thought for thought.

Another question that one probably should ask is "What translation is preached out of on Sundays?" It is incredibly difficult to follow a pastor who is doing a word study in a particular verse if you don't even have that word in your thought for thought Bible!

One final note: the King James Version is not inspired or especially preserved by God. Many of the arguments about this don't really hold up to a simple question "Why did God preserve an English translation but not any other language?" If you enjoy the KJV for it's literary style, or because you prefer the translation philosophy, go with it. But if you think that all other translations are heretical and wrong, you should talk to James White.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 3:29 PM


So today at church we sang "Undignified" - by David Crowder Band. //edit - original by Matt Redman//end-edit

Picture a Korean (some Chinese), (Reformed) Presbyterian Church singing this:
I will dance
I will sing
To be mad
For my King
Nothing Lord
Is hindering
This passion in my soul

And I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Some may say
It's foolishness
But I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Leave my pride
By my side
And I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Some may say
It's foolishness
But I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Than this

La, la, la, la, la, HEY!
La, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, HEY!
La, la, la, la, la

It's all for You my Lord!
I thought it was ironic. But it got me to thinking.

1) Is the concept biblical? I don't see any Apostles jumping up and down and singing their hearts out. Did Jesus encourage this sort of thing? Our only example of something like this is David's dance before the Tabernacle. Is that to be normative? What do you guys think?

The song also doesn't quite understand what "foolishness" in the Bible refers to. The cross is foolishness because the unbelieving generation doesn't understand it, God hasn't opened their eyes, it's not foolishness because people look silly. To outsiders yes, the Christian faith is completely incomprehensible. Who can imagine worshipping someone who was crucified at the hands of men? But at the same time, it is no excuse to look silly and stupid.

2) A completely unrelated topic, how much of music should be hypocritical? When we sing "I lift my hands" "I dance" "I sing." It surly is a lie if we're not actually doing it right? But at the same time, it is entirely plausible to use lyrics as a confession, to say "I wish I was like this, make me like this." In fact, that is probably how I approach most Psalms that talk about meditating upon God's Word day and night and the like. I simply just don't do it and I make it a prayer to seek it. (Though oftentimes I wonder if I'm not just rationalizing it away, change seems to slow that I do feel like I'm acting hypocritically when I read those passages and am like "oh I need to be doing this" and I do it a little and forget).

3) Whatever the case, worship should be done in accordance to how God prescribes. Check out this excellent series of posts done by a worship leader (who was a former pastor).

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at 1:35 PM

Acts 2:42-43

Acts 2

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.

The pastor asked an excellent question today.

"Are we living a life that instills awe in the people around us?"

Devotion to teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and the prayers.

devotion, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer

As a side question, how does awe come through these actions?

Does anyone else see the promise that God will perform many wonders and signs through our devotion to these? Maybe not the healings and tongues that people speak of, but yes the greatest miracle of all: the raising of the dead.

v. 47 And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006 at 7:45 PM

Romans 8:28

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good

I love this passage. It was brought up on Friday, and it sticks with me.

Some thoughts:

1) The text may say that "all things work together for good," but the variant reading (if it's truly part of the text or not) reminds us of one beautiful point, that this isn't a diestic God that we worship. Anything that happens is because of and caused by God. Now the beauty of the passage is that God's loving and just ways have ensured that all things work together for the good of those who love God.

2) This isn't just a promise that says "don't worry, something bad happened, but God will turn it for good," but it's a promise that God is working what seems to be bad to us for good. This isn't a God that is not in control of things, that He constantly needs to adapt His plans to what's going on and turning things around. No, it is a God who has planned the ends from the beginning and every point in between.

3) The speaker pointed to Joseph's words in Genesis 50:20) As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Joseph is speaking to his brothers, referring to when they meant evil against him by throwing him into a cistern and selling him as a slave. What does he say? "You meant evil, but God meant it for good."

The text doesn't say "you meant evil, but God turned it for good." God meant it for good. He, being sovereign, included even what others mean as evil, for good.

Now, to head off an objection, this doesn't mean that we can go and do anything and rationalize it by saying "God is meaning it for good, so I won't be held responsible." Yes, God is actively using everything for His glory, but no, that doesn't mean we won't be held responsible for our actions. We are held responsible because God is holding us responsible. Did Joseph's brothers get punished for their sins? If they died outside of a saving faith in Christ (and we probably need to define what that means, being that they lived prior to Christ), then yes, they will get their due. Joseph's words only referred to his response. "Vengeance is mine, I will repay" declares the Lord. And implicit in Joseph's words was that trust. He didn't need repayment because he knew God would take it. In this hope he forgave his brothers. In this hope he loved those who had cursed him. In a complete trust of a loving and just God, he loved.

4) But the promise in Romans 8:28 is so much stronger than just a "God works all things for good," it's a "for those who love God... all things work for good." Not just God's glory here, but for us as well. It is good for us. Why? Because the Bible tells me so. We can turn to God in the midst of suffering, in the midst of depression, in the midst of everything and say, "God is working all things for my good."

This is not a prosperity gospel. This isn't good according to the world. This is good according to God. And what other definition would we want? Do we not want the perfectly just, righteous, and perfect God in control of everything?

5) Finally, this passage comes implied with a restriction on its promise. This promise is not for everyone. It is in fact only for those that God has called according to His purpose. For the non-elect, there is nothing but wrath and judgment in store. Even if it looks like they are being materially blessed and everything, it is all for absolutely nothing. No, that's a lie, it's all for the elect's good.

This could not be any clearer than in Psalm 73
1Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
The wicked were prospering! How injust of God! How could He do this? Why? He is good to Israel!

But reading on we find:
16But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.

All of a sudden the Psalmist found insight. What is it that he discovered? The end of the wicked:

18Truly you set them in slippery places;

you make them fall to ruin.
19How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
The end of the wicked is destruction. They are destroyed in a moment, swept away by terrors. Now, as a side note, sometimes great suffering is used by God to bring the elect into maturity - by bringing them to such a point of despair that they turn to Him.

This Psalm isn't about that occasion. This is clear from v. 17, which tells of their "end."

No, this psalm is about the destruction of the wicked. Swept away, despised, demolished.

The psalmist ends:

27For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

This is a warning to those who are far off, and a promise for those who are near. Even if we suffer, it is good to be near God, because the consequences of forsaking Him are dire. Let us tell of all His works.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006 at 10:47 AM

IE problems

So apparently the sidebar cuts off on my template on IE, preventing you from scrolling down.

This is somewhat annoying, and I honestly have little idea how to fix it. I suspect it may be an unclosed tag somewhere in my links (because that's the only aspect of the sidebar I modify), but any help on this would be appreciated. I can email you my template if you want.

Sorry to my readers.

PS, switch to firefox. The extensions rock.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2006 at 2:18 PM

More than conquerors

Romans 8 is such a beautiful chapter.

Far and away my favorite, and one thing that always catches me is the statement, "37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

And I got to thinking...

What makes us "more than conquerors" ?

It certainly sounds pretty cool. A conqueror was victorious, was powerful, was mighty, and somehow we were "more" than that.

But then I thought about the context:

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written,

"For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord

And then I thought, "there isn't really much conqueroring going on here." We're being killed, regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. We will be facing famine, nakedness, danger, and sword... and it doesn't really say that we will overcome all of them. Rather, it seems to be saying that we will endure through all of them. That we will not necessarily break apart the bonds of slavery, but we will endure them, and in doing so, eventually break them.

Thinking about similar passages, we see the same thing. Philippians 4:10-13 (as I posted previously) doesn't seem to be about brute power but rather endurance in Christ. In a similar way, Paul's bold claim in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 that "when I am weak, then I am strong" isn't as much about his ability and strength, but rather God's in Paul's weakness.

So the point of this? Maybe "more than conquerers" refers to our lack rather than our ability to conquer. Thoughts?

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Monday, February 20, 2006 at 3:24 PM

Teach the children

One of the most beautiful things I see around me is parents taking an interest in their child's spiritual development. Twice this year I have had the blessing to meet with someone who asking about Stanford and it's religious life. Both times they brought along their father and it was such an encouragement. Not only was the kid interested in how the Christian faith was a part of Stanford, but it was clear that this interest comes from a father figure who loves the Lord and seeks to glorify Him by raising children for Him.

In a similar way, I have seen great fruits at my home church, where the people I've had the blessing to learn from and serve alongside have all been children of parents who fear the Lord and pass on that reverance to their children.

These are all reminders of God's promise that He works through families. This promise is for you and your children and all those who are far off. That through the faithful discipleship relationship that He established in the family, He will call His people.

I'm not saying that those born into Christian families will automatically become Christians, but I'm reflecting on how true it is that God promises that He will work through families.

Psalm 78:1-8

1Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
4We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.

5He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
8and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Teach your children! That they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God! That they would not repeat the mistakes we make, the mistakes that turn us away from God.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006 at 8:20 PM

The Love of God

Fighting another battle, this came to mind. Call it an "impression" if you will.

But whatever you believe, praise God for music. It sticks in our heads and allows us to access some beautiful and God glorifying words.


The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.


O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.


Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.


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at 6:00 PM

Lords day 3

Q. Did God create people so wicked and perverse?
A. No. God created them good and in God's own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that they might truly know God their creator, love God with all their heart, and live with God in eternal happiness for God's praise and glory.

Q. What is the source of this corruption of human nature?
A. The fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise. This fall has so poisoned our nature that we are all conceived and born in a sinful condition.

Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?
A. Yes, unless we are born again by the Spirit of God.


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Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 10:42 AM

Book Review: Convergence

Just finished "Convergence: Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist" by Sam Storms.

1) The end of the book was pretty good. He made some excellent points that I would wholeheartedly agree with. One directed at the Charismatic camp, on how important solid exegesis is, and the danger of neglecting the gifts of teaching, preaching, and understanding is. The second directed at the Calvinist camp, how there should be a Christian affection and emotion. He quoted Jonathan Edwards on this case (a cessationalist), but I feel like he's imputing to the "emotional" terms something more than the terms actually mean in Scripture. I would have liked to see biblical defense of a difficult topic in this area. Whatever the case, it was worth reading.

2) That said, I really disliked the first couple chapters of the book and was almost going to put it down. It is a personal testimony of Sam Storms and his journeys as a Calvinist to the charismatic side of things. Its focus seemed to be completely upon the experiential and the emotional rather than the intellect. I think one of the reasons I was not a big fan of it was that I felt like he was trying to convince me by personal experience to embrace his Charismatic leanings. I, expecting him to adhere to his Sola Scriptura foundations, read on, expecting that he would make a biblical defense of all that he talks about.

3) The audience of the book is very fuzzy. At times I feel like he's writing directly to me, pointing out my beliefs and what that means, and contrasting it with a Charismatic's beliefs. He calls the book "Convergence," but things never converged for me, mostly because I felt like he was trying to convince me by sheer experience. Neither was he trying to convince a Charismatic of the doctrines of grace. (Which seems impossible to "experience")

4) Dr. Storms is spot on with his description of how I view things (though I would deny that I was a cessationalist). Focus is on the intellect, focus on the message. Spirit's primary work is through illumination, not revelation (now). Yet I would also say that I am not a cessationalist, simply because I have not been convinced by Scripture of that position. But yet he does not address why that is incorrect (or correct), he simply states the opposing Charismatic position and moves on: focus on the emotion, focus on the worship (music) response. Spirit's primary work is through miraculous signs.

5) I don't agree with Dr. Storms in many of his criticisms of the non-charismatic viewpoint. He likes to talk about "feeling the presence of God" a great deal, but I am unconvinced that just because we can "feel the presence of God," that it necessarily means a) the "presence of God" is there, and b) "feeling the presence of God" is to be encouraged. I see no biblical support for a "presence of God" that is to be sought for and prayed for in the manner he is referring to.

(As a side note, I would pray for God to be present by sending His Spirit to illuminate our hearts. I find that to be biblical and sound)

6) Yet his criticsms of the charismatic viewpoint are, in my opinion, exactly what I would say. Excesses, abuses, refusal to study Scripture, drawing away from the authority of Scripture, drawing away from an emphasis on the intellect. He rightly rebukes Charismatics for their tendency to get too caught up in the moment and forget what Scripture says.

7) Along the same lines, his criticism of the cessationalist response (which is to abolish tongues and prophecy) is, in my mind, biblical. He points out that the correct response to "these gifts are being abused" is not "we should not have these gifts," but rather "these gifts need to be under control and regulated." Yet this criticism comes with one core presupposition: these gifts are still in existence. It will fall on deaf ears to those who are convinced from Scripture that the gifts described in Scripture are no longer in effect. I suspect had I read this book six months ago it would have fallen on deaf ears.

In short, I am in major agreement with Tim Challies and his review (which I read in brief prior to reading the book), though he comes across as much harsher than I would (I think because he has much firmer beliefs.) I am not a cessationalist because for the most part I have been unconvinced by the cessationalist arguments. Yet I see little evidence that the gifts that people are talking about now are the ones spoken of in Scripture. This is definitely a topic I want to continue learning about.

My recommendation: Could do better


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Thursday, February 16, 2006 at 10:57 PM

Romans 8

One of the greatest things I enjoy is the simple reading of God's Word aloud.

Try this passage for size, it's quite possibly my favorite:

Romans 8
31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written,

"For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I feel like I can almost imagine the passion that drove Paul when he wrote these words, reading it often drives me to tears. Tears of conviction because I often lack the confidence portrayed in these words. Tears of gratitude, that in spite of that, it is Christ Jesus who sits at the right hand of God interceeding on my behalf. Tears of sadness, that trials await and will have to be suffered. Tears of joy, that these trials will never seperate us from the love of God.

Here am I, regarded a sheep to be slaughtered, but made more than a conqueror through Christ. Think about that for a second. We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered... good for nothing but death. We are being killed all day long. But in all these things, in persecutions, in trials, in tribulations, in distress, in famine, we are more than conquerers. In trial I am more than a conqueror. In famine I am more than a conqueror. In persecution I am more than a conqueror.

Someone once claimed that the source of our "more than conquerors" was the "we." In all honesty, this came as a side note in a talk on unity, and I am all for a Christian unity (let us recall that the greatest mark of the unity of man was the Tower of Babel), but this was a gross misuse of one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture.

No, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Do not forget this. If we're trapped on a island surrounded by cannibals while we struggle to share the Gospel, we are still more than conquerors through him who loved us. If we are the only Christian on a trip into pagan city where there is no access to a church, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. If we are rejected by our family and disowned, we are more than conquerors through him how loved us. Do not forget the power of Christ. It is His love that's called us. His love that saves us. His love that preserves us. His love that acts for His Glory.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006 at 2:59 PM

Joy in suffering

Two beautiful pictures of joy in suffering, living it out. One by a pastor I look up to (and sometimes wonder if I idolize), John Piper posts on his battle with cancer. Another one by a (I presume) lay person who I never met and only heard on the phone while I was at Resolved, where I was moved to tears at the depths of compassion and trust in this man's life. I emailed him and today received a response. An excerpt of his email, sent in response to people who emailed him after Resolved:
I want to say "Thank you" for taking time to encourage me so much. God has used you in my heart to encourage me and remind me to trust in His sovereignty. There have been many times since my hospitalization that I have miserably failed to trust. Fear, doubt, selfishness and pride have taken over at times but he is so faithful to forgive me and strengthen me. I am so glad that the Lord allowed me to encourage some of you at Resolved and I am looking forward to meeting you face to face if the Lord wills. I wish I could say that everything you heard from me on the phone was true, but I feel like I need to let all of you know that I was doing my best to speak Truth but my own heart falls away from that so easy. I am sure "some" (all) of you know what I am talking about. I am glad that we are all in this war together (1 Peter 2:11; 1 Timothy 6:12)!
A simple confession of dependence by a man after God's glory. I pray and hope that God would grant me the faith to face my mistakes and to delight in weakness.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006 at 9:44 AM

Rethinking memory verses: Eph. 2:8-10

Along the lines of the spiritual giftings (which will come with the Convergence review), here is an example of where I think the Spirit is actively working in my life today. Not that it's an example of how holy I am or anything (oh hey look! the Holy Spirit is working in me!) but just a day to day example of how I believe the Spirit is working and speaking today, in myself and in others.

During my quiet time today, I was reading through Ephesians 2:1-10, which I love so I'll quote it here.
1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
But today, one thing jumped out at me, and I attribute it to the workings of the Holy Spirit in illuminating the text to grant me deeper understanding and insight into God's Word.

Eph. 2:8-10 reads:
8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
For some reason, I had always understood verse 10 to be a warning against taking "salvation by grace alone" too far, namely that Christians are to bear fruit in the form of good works, with a secondary warning to remember "but those fruits are prepared beforehand for us by God." Now, I still believe that view is biblical and is found elsewhere in Scripture, but something caused me to think again about that view of this text.

Today the word "For" at the beginning of verse 10 jumped out at me. "hmm, 'for' means 'because' ...what is Paul giving a reason for?"

"not a result of works so that no one may boast..." Why can't anyone boast in their works? "because we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

And suddenly I understood. The passage isn't really encouraging us to do good works because God created us for them, the passage was giving a reason why good works don't contribute to our salvation - namely that good works can't contribute because it is God who provides the good works for us to walk in, so we get no credit in doing good works.

Now, included in these good works that no one can boast in is the realization of it in this passage (which I would claim to be a good work, since it leads to a greater knowledge of God's revelation). Thus I cannot boast in this insight as if it were mine, but it is rightfully God's, prepared beforehand for me to walk in.

To God be the Glory forever and ever.

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Monday, February 13, 2006 at 4:37 PM

Reading Deeply

Some more posts, some of them older, some of them newer.

In the midst of all this "End of the Spear" controversy, Tom Ascol has a story of how the gospel can be shared with those who are in the midst of homosexuality. Praise God for men like this.

David Wayne posts on how not to respond to the issue of homosexuality, as well as how godly men are responding to it today.

David Wayne also addresses how churches today seem to be assuming that the sinners are actually sinless, and gives some suggestions for how to get back on track, the Biblical track.

Dan Edelen posts on 21 steps to a 21st century church. As someone who someone mentioned was "against all program driven things," this is one program I would love to see my church get on.

The Christian Courier addresses the Imprecatory Psalms.

Dan Phillips, one of the members of team pyro, has started a series on interpreting proverbs. Excellent stuff.

RazorsKiss posts an excellent post on defining faith and how faith is not "unjustified and blind belief"

Blog of the post would be one of a few new group blogs: Together for the Gospel, which is a combination of 4 people I respect a great deal.

Bookwise I've been reading Sam Storm's Convergence (on Charismatics and Calvinists) and a commentary on Job by Steve Lawson. Convergence review will come more in depth in the future, but for now, Job has been excellent. As someone who often feels like he has the answers, it was incredibly convicting to see how Job's friends mishandled the truth and a more proper way to do counseling.


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Sunday, February 12, 2006 at 1:36 PM

Tithing (4)

All my planned posts on tithing are complete:

Tithing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

A few things that we all do agree on with tithing, whether or not we believe it is an obligation or not.

1) Christians are to be known for their generosity and support of one another, even at cost to themselves.

The widow in Luke 21 is commended for giving out of her need:

1Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3And he said, "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

The churches at Macedonia are commended for giving out of their need, and generously at that, in 2 Corinthians 8:

1We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, 4begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints-- 5and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7But as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you--see that you excel in this act of grace also.

The rich are urged to give generously, as they have received much in 1 Timothy 6

17As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

2) Giving is done joyfully.

2 Corinthians 9 points us to the simple fact that God loves a cheerful giver.

7Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

3) Giving is done as an act of worship and devotion to God.

Jesus encourages us to give as an act of sacrifice, to store our treasures in heaven in Luke 12

33Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

4) We should not be asking "is 10% enough" but we should be asking "how can I continue to support the church which has given me so much?"

Finally, a quote from Jim Elliot:

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

The world is the Lord's and all is His. Glory to the Lord in the highest.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006 at 2:36 PM

Tithing (3)

All my planned posts on tithing are complete:

Tithing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

There seem to be two underlying questions at play here, and I'll try to summarize the questions for my readers. It seems we have been approaching things backwards, so I will be cutting and pasting a little bit, to put the questions in a more logical order than a chronological one.

1) Is the OT Law still a moral obligation?
2) Is tithing part of the OT moral Law or has it passed away with the Levitical priesthood?

If the OT Law is no longer a moral obligation, then the fact that tithing was taught under the OT is now irrelevant and has been wiped away.

If it is, we must answer the second question.

Puritan Belief writes:

(quoting me)
> Wait a moment here. Are you claiming that we are not commanded to perform
> justice? To have mercy? To practice steadfast love?
> No, I am sure you didn't get this from what was said. I was saying that the
> but now that Jesus has appeared TITHING is abolished and replaced with a
> more excellent way (See my blog). If you want to do some of the ordinances
> related to keeping the LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD such as tithing that Jesus
> fullfilled and hence go back under the old covenant then you would need to
> complete all of them not just tithing eg not just the 10 commandments but
> all the ordinances which spoke against us. EG this is an impossibility as
> was discovered by Israel and all who were under the law then and even those
> who are trying to live under it now. (Everyone but the sanctified)

We both agree here that the Levitical priesthood laws (ceremonial laws) have passed away (that is clear from Hebrews 7). What we are discussing is if the moral commands of Scripture (Like the 10 commandments) have passed away as well. I don't know of your personal convictions on this, but it does sound as if you are claiming they have by your next few sentences.

> For the sanctified are NOT UNDER THE LAW but under Christ. (many scriptures
> to back this statement up)

We agree that if one is to be saved by the keeping of the Law, one must keep the whole law. Where it looks like we disagree here is if the Law is still an obligation upon the NT Christian. I've made it a point to say that we are not looking to justify ourselves before God on the basis of our tithe, and I will say again that tithing is just like loving God. It is part of the commands of the Law, and we ought to obey it, and it's only in view of the cross that we are able to do so joyfully as God intended.

You have said over and over that we are not under law but we are under Christ. Once again I am saying that "under law" is "under the condemnation of the law" and not "under the obligation of the law." After getting through the curse of the law in Romans 7, Paul opens up Romans 8 joyfully "Therefore there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus." This is what I believe the "under law" refers to, the condemnation of the law. I believe that the law is still binding upon our consciences and that a Christian is sinning when he doesn't obey the law, but I deny that the law has any more power to condemn those who are in Christ.

If you deny that the "under law" refers to "under the condemnation of the law" I would request a passage with corresponding interpretation that dictates that it is "under the obligation" of the law. And we both agree that the ceremonial and the civic laws have passed away, what we are discussing is the moral aspects of it.

Thus I would say that the moral law is still applicable.

> I have been debating this topic through email and comments for a while now
> and are now going to move on as it is wearing me down. (Law has a way of
> doing this)
> I will continue to answer your questions if you can meet me on this one
> challenge. (Not reading and commenting on your blog on other topics of
> course)
> Have you throughout your whole life fulfilled tithing?
> Condition: I am not talking just your income I am talking everything. Every
> week, every asset on a weekly basis never failing once. Eg like mint cummon
> etc. From the time you were born until now? On everything?
> I will come out straight and say this I FAIL MISERABLY

In answer to your question, I would say no, I have not obeyed the tithing laws completely, but by the grace of God, He is molding me to obey him more completely as time goes on. This means I am able to more freely give in a growing knowledge that I have received so much.

You asked one question, I would ask mine:

Do you believe one of God's elect, after being regenerated and born from above, can sin?

I would say "yes, he sins when he disobeys God's commands."

> Nowhere does it say Abraham tithed to Melchizedek for once and for all.
> 1. Abraham was not commanded to tithe, he did it voluntarily.

1) It doesn't say anything about Abraham's tithe as voluntary. Examining Hebrews 7 and Genesis 14 there is no evidence either way. To claim one or the other is to read our own interpretation into the text.

> 2. He tithed the spoils of his warfare, not his income. He was already rich
> in livestock and goods, but was never commanded to tithe, and never did
> tithe, as far as the scriptures say.

2a) This is debatable as well. The Hebrews 7 passage says he tithed of "the spoils." The Genesis 14 says "a tenth of everything." It might be that the spoils includes all that he conquered but he was just recovering things for Lot, so did the 1/10th come from Lot's wealth? It might be that the Genesis 14 "everything" refers to every "spoil." This may be decidable, but it certainly requires some textual references and exegesis to back it up.

2b) Just because Scripture does not record a regular tithing habit does not imply that he did not regularly tithe. Scripture does not record a regular "burnt offering" habit, but from Abraham's (and Isaac's) behavior in Genesis 22 it seems that they are both familiar with what a burnt offering is, what it required, and how to go about it. This lends strong evidence that they did it in a somewhat regular manner, yet Scripture does not record a command nor a habit.

In the same way, I feel it is unfair to claim that Abraham did not tithe regularly. In fact, the evidence might be in favor of Abraham's regular tithing on the basis that Scripture does not record a command by Melchizedek. Otherwise how would Abraham know what to do?

> 3. He tithed those spoils of war only one time.

3) You repeat the conclusion that I disagree with. The text does not say "only one time." Nor does it say "once for all."

> Also Yes it does say that his tithe was sufficient for all the future
> tithes.


> And as I may so say, Livi also who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham
> This was because when Abraham tithed it was evidently because the sacrifice
> Jesus was to make was once and for all hence the reason why Melchisedec
> bought --you guessed it-- bread and wine.

The fact that Levi paid tithes through Abraham is a demonstration of the superiority of the Melchizedek priesthood. If this means the abolishment of the tithe, you have yet to demonstrate it. I would say that the passage tells us that even those who are priests (today's pastors and elders) are to tithe.



"Is tithing part of the Levitical priesthood laws (ceremonial) or is it a moral law?"

I have been arguing that tithing is a moral obligation rather than a ceremonial law, and I have pointed to 1 Cor. 9 and 1 Timothy 6 and Matthew 23 where Paul and Jesus give explicit commands about tithing (or devoting money we earn and sharing it with those who teach us).

I also pointed out that Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, and there is no evidence in the text that this was a "once and for all" tithe. The argument that Levi paid tithes through Abraham is only part of the superiority of the priesthood rather than a completion of the tithe.

Puritan Belief - Thank you for the continued dialogue on this, and I'm hoping we can continue it.

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Friday, February 10, 2006 at 11:53 PM

Tithing (2)

All my planned posts on tithing are complete:

Tithing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Responding to the comment left by Puritan Belief, it got really long so I decided to put it in another post:

On 2/10/06, Puritan Belief wrote:
> Thank you for putting your thoughts down. I to have gained so much from
> reading through your blog and the extra studies you sent me by email.

> The post I did on "why tithing is wrong" is not something that I rushed
> into. It is something that I have been working through for over 2 years now.
> Men far older then myself in the Lord have shown me the errors in tithing.
> And the freedom that comes from GIVING under the NEW COVENANT.

The freedom is not that of "freely giving" but it is that of "freely obeying." In short, the spirit has set us free from the condemnation of the Law and has also given us a new heart that we may obey the law, where previously we were slaves to sin and free from righteousness. Now we are slaves to righteousness, slaves of obedience to God. Obedience is found in following God's laws. I'm not saying that we are justified before God for this, but that we may now, under the New Covenant, freely obey in thankfulness.

Romans 12:1-2 illustrates this perfectly:
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
"In view of God's mercy" - Remembering what God has done for us, He's saved us, rescued us from the sin that condemns us, adopted us as His own, given us all good things.

How do we respond to this? "Offer your bodies as living sacrifices" - We offer all of who we are for God. We live for Him. We think for Him. We eat and drink for Him. Soli Deo Gloria

"This is your spiritual act of worship" - This is how we are commanded to worship God.

It is in view of the cross that we can obey the command to offer up to God what is rightfully His. We are not trying to earn our salvation, nor are we trying to please God, for both of these are already done, we are striving to "work our our salvation in fear and trembling." We are striving, in view of God's completed work on the cross, to follow Him.

> Please read some of my responses at Puritan Belief as they deal with a lot
> of what has been said here.
> You based that the tithe should be kept using a verse I also used.
> "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill
> and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and
> mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the
> others."
> The Pharisees are most certainly trying to justify themselves by the Law of
> Moses here and you and I both know this as did Jesus which is why he
> responded. Look Tithing is easy (even though I bet EVEN THEY never
> fulfilled tithing as I am sure you haven't either) Then he loads them up
> with having to complete the whole law including Justice and Mercy of which
> they fail miserably. To say that we Christians under the covenant of His
> blood should be following all the Laws such as the Pharisees is something
> that I know you aren't doing otherwise for one you wouldn't have time to be
> writing a blog.

Wait a moment here. Are you claiming that we are not commanded to perform justice? To have mercy? To practice steadfast love? There is a different issue at play if that is what you are claiming. You're absolutely right that if keeping the law was the condition for my salvation, I would never pass, but that is what the Cross is about. A completion of the law on my behalf with His righteousness imputed to me, to enable me to obey Him more and more in my war against sin.

If we are no longer under law, then there is no longer any sin. For what is sin other than a transgression against God's commandments?

My emphasis of the passage was that the Pharisees are commanded to remember the greater commands, yet still remembering the lesser ones as well. Tithing is the example used, and tithing is a "lesser" command upon us as well.

> Hebrews 7 makes it clear that Abraham tithed to Melchizidek because it was
> sufficient and done ONCE. Hence it was fulfilled and FINISHED. Not to show
> that we should do it. It then follows that because of Abraham tithe the
> LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD could tithe for it says "Livi also, who receiveth
> tithes, payed tithes in Abraham."

Where does it say that the tithe is finished? The emphasis of the passage was the superiority of Christ's priesthood and not on the abolishment of the tithe. Even Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek (we are spelling it differently, I think that's interesting =p). It doesn't put the emphasis upon the completion of the tithe, but rather on the authority of Melchizedek and the superiority of that priesthood over that of the Aaronic. Nowhere does it say Abraham tithed to Melchizedek for once and for all.

> Now if you still think that it is for us then I say what you should do is
> stop tithing right now and next time you win some money or someone gives you
> something then tithe just from your bounty and ONLY ONCE then you have done
> as Abraham has done. For he never tithed from his own income only of the
> spoils of war and only once.

Where is this in the text? It said that that tithe was out of the bounty. No where does it say that that tithe was the only one ever. (of course, since the Levitical priesthood had not been established we probably can say that he never tithed to the Levites, but I am pointing out that the emphasis of the passage is not upon the sufficiency of one tithe, but upon the supremacy of Christ. It seems entirely possible that Abraham could have been tithing to those that served his household as men of God. Or not, but we don't know.)

> Next I think it obvious that there are many Ordinances that the levitical
> priesthood and Israel did which you don't. May I point out that the
> Levitical priesthood is finished all together for it was not sufficient.

Yes, that is the question I asked myself. The question it leads to is "did the tithe originate with the Levitical priesthood?" I pointed to the fact that Melchizedek received tithes to say "no." The laws pertaining to the Levitical priesthood have passed away, but the laws pertaining to Christian living have not.

> Now you ended by telling me that the Law is Good. I agree with this fully.
> But first let me tell you that I am not under Moses law next I am not trying
> to complete all its ordinances for I have found a more excellent way and it
> is the way of Jesus. For he became every curse for me that the law demanded.
> I am his slave and slave to righteousness. Does this mean that I start
> murdering stealing etc... GOD FORBID

I think we do need to take a step back here, because now our disagreement is over the application of the Mosaic law. You are stating that the Mosaic law is no longer binding upon us. I disagree. I do agree that we cannot obey the Mosaic law enough for salvation (for that is perfection). But I do not agree that the Mosaic law is no longer upon us.

The cross has freed us from the condemnation of the law, and given us a heart of flesh that allows us to obey God in freedom. I believe that the Mosaic law is still binding upon us, but that God has given a heart to now obey it. That is Christian freedom.

> Now this proves a point I am not calling you foolish.
> Are ye so foolish, having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by
> the flesh.
> I will say to you exactly what Jesus said when people boast in tithing.
> Tithing is good...as long as you are fulfilling all the other tenants of
> the law and never transgress from even one. (Not just 10 commandments I am
> talking ordinances as well)

No one is claiming that we are being perfected by the flesh. No one is claiming that our works allow us to come before God. This is what Paul is rebuking: the fact that Peter gave in to the circumcision party. They are the party that claimed that one had to be circumcised in order to be saved. I am not saying that we must tithe in order to be saved. That is works based righteousness and exactly what Paul is rebuking.

> Next all the great verses you gave from 1 Corinthians 9 & 1 Timothy 5 are

I think I agree with you here. I'm not saying that one can give abundantly with a wrong heart and still be "obeying" God.

> I will leave it here, and you are welcome to the last say on this issue.

Finally, and I think Doug pointed this out excellently in the comment on the previous post, 10% is not specified in the NT, but it is a general standard that is used in the OT. Sometimes there is more, but it seems that 10% is the standard. No one is saying "If you're not giving 10% of your gross, you're not saved" here. I am merely saying that the moral commands of the Bible still require us to share all things with those who teach us, and the tithe is part of that, and a good guideline for this is 10%.

Whatever the case is, I think we can both agree that we as Christians should be marked by giving in abundance, giving while in need, and giving even beyond our means. We should not be asking "how closely can we keep the law without breaking it," nor should we be approaching it with pride saying "I am tithing xx% of my income!" but rather we act in humility, remembering that all the earth is the Lord's and our giving of 10% (or more) is our way of remembering that it is God who owns it, and it is God who provides it, and we are giving it as proper wages due to those that labor for us, our ministers of the Word.

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at 1:07 PM


All my planned posts on tithing are complete:

Tithing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

This post is written in response to Puritan Belief's post against tithing.

I. Positive presentation for tithing
II. Response to the arguments presented in Puritan Belief's post.

Let me preface this by saying that Puritan Belief keeps an excellent blog with many insightful posts, as well as excellent "history" posts looking at how some of the heroes of the faith came to Christ and lived out their faith. Check out the blog, it's pretty cool.

I. Positive presentation for tithing.

It cannot be denied that tithing was required and taught in the OT:

Malachi 3
6"For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, 'How shall we return?' 8Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How have we robbed you?' In your tithes and contributions. 9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.
The question is: "Is tithing taught and required in the NT?" Notice that I am actually taking an even stronger position. In all reality, the burden of proof is on those who oppose tithing because they need to prove that the NT negates tithing (for if it didn't, then tithing should still in all respects be in force from the OT.)

Never the less, we do have explicit commands in the NT for the giving of the congregation to those who teach. The number 10% is not mentioned, but command to give is still there.

1 Corinthians 9:

3This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife,[a] as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

Here, Paul is defending his ministry from his accusors. The implied accusation is "Paul isn't being supported, he's not a real apostle." What does Paul say here? First, he defends the rights of a teacher. He has the right to eat and drink. He has the right to take a believing wife. He has a right to refrain from working for a living.

Stop there. Paul has a right to refrain from working for a living. Recall that Paul is writing this letter to a church that he planted. Paul is talking about his rights as the person who planted the church, and he is claiming a right of support. They as a church ought to support Paul financially so that he does not have to work for a living. Paul gives his reason: "I've planted the vineyard (your church), I deserve a share in the fruits." Lest you think that he's talking about some spiritual gift, Paul continues:
8Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9For it is written in the Law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain." Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Paul has sown spiritual things, and now deserves to reap material things. This is a rightful claim that others have upon the church of Corinth (presuably the elders), and one that Paul has even more. This right of Paul presents an obligation on the church to provide. This is an onus not on just the collective "church at Corinth" but upon the people of the church. They are to share their material benefits because they have been blessed spiritually.

In the same way, we as Christians, as we are learning from those who are teaching us (our pastors) are to share our material blessings (tithe) with them. What does this mean? It means that we are under compulsion.

Using the same argument Paul states in 1 Timothy 5:
17Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages."
Elders who rule well should be considered worthy of double honor. What does double honor mean here? The very next verse makes it clear that this honor is pay. Elders who rule well are to be worthy of double pay. This is a command to Timothy in running the church, but it is also a command to us. If we have received abundantly, then we are to give even more abundantly.

Finally, we have Jesus' words in Matthew 23:23)

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Woe to the Pharisees for they tithe but neglect the weightier matters of the law. But this serves also to reaffirm the necessity of the tithe, for Jesus continues: Thes you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. What are we not to neglect? Tithing. Yes, there are more important things than the tithe. But that doesn't mean that tithing is no longer commanded for the NT believers. Jesus doesn't say "tithe as you feel compelled," no, he says not to neglect the tithe while remembering justice mercy and faithfulness. What is this tithe? The tithe that was required of the Pharisees in the OT and thus by extension, of us in the NT.

All of what we have is God's, the tithe is just a giving of what is already God's to him. All of what we have is God's in an ordinary way, so we will give 10% in a special way to represent it.

II. Responding to objections:

1) Tithing is abused by corrupt and greedy ministers.

I mention this only to set it aside. This is irrelevant to the point. Even if we said that we didn't have to give to those who are greedy and corrupt, it is often much more the case that the pastor is competent. For every corrupt and greedy minister there are dozens if not hundreds of corrupt and greedy Christians.

2) Jesus is from the order of Melchizedek, which abolished the tithe.

This argument comes from Hebrews 7.

Namely, that the order of Melchizedek is higher than that of Levi.

But what does that prove? Does it prove the abolishment of the tithe? No, rather it demonstrates the abolishment of the laws of the Levitical priesthood. The laws that do not pertain to the levitical priesthood are still completely in effect. We are still commanded to not murder. We are still commanded to love God, to love our neighbors.

The question then becomes "were tithes part of the Levitical priesthood or were they practiced as part of the Melchizedek one too?"

The answer is obvious for the passage refers to the fact that Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek. Tithing was thus a part of the Melchizedek priesthood as well, and thus is part of it today, with Jesus Christ as our high priest and intercessor.

3) Requiring tithing brings people under the curse of the Law.

I fear this betrays a misunderstanding of the curse of the Law. The curse of the law was condemnation. The law is good (Romans 7:12), let us not forget that. Requiring people to tithe is the same as requiring them not to murder. With the cross of Jesus Christ we are freed from the curse, because we are now able to tithe freely and willingly, because we now have the Spirit of God.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006 at 1:34 PM

Defining Free (3)

One last thought that I included in a comment to my previous post, but I thought worthy of a seperate post.

As I think I now see it (and this will reverse what I said previously) the reason some people prefer the term "compatabilist free will" is because they are operating under the same assumption that the Arminian does: That responsibility (which is taught in Scripture) requires "free will."

To put this in probably the strongest form, imagine a scenario where I am walking down the street. All of a sudden a masked man jumps out of the alleyway and points a gun at me, telling me that I would have to drive him and his friend to a bank and then drive them away after the robbed it. The sad deed is done, and they ditch me somewhere, where the police catches up to me. Under the law, since I drove the getaway car, I am supposed to be charged with some crime, lets call it "cooperating with bad people in bad ways" crime. (since I don't know any legal terms)

Now, I would say "I didn't choose to do this. I didn't have free will. He forced me to do it with a gun. It would be injust for you to charge me with this crime since I did not do it on my own choice."

Great right? Perfect analogy with how God works right? If we don't have "free will," then we cannot be held responsible.

Unfortunately not.

1) The control being ascribed to God by a Calvinist is much stronger than that of a masked gunman. With the gunman you still have your thoughts, you still can choose not to drive the car (though you may be shot), you can still rebel. With God, He created us, He sustains us, He controls our very thoughts. There is no idea of rebelling unless God places it there. There is no movement unless God does it. God is more than just a mere puppetmaster as well. He not only controls our movement, but He formed our past as well. He hand crafted us and knows us far better than we know ourselves. There are no surprises with God. Thus the analogy is tooweak.

2) This is in fact the question raised up in Romans 9: "19You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?""

Why does God fault us? How can He hold us responsible? For who can resist His will?

The answer is simple: 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?

You, O man, cannot question God. He is our very definition of justice. He is our very definition of good. God holds us responsible because He holds us responsible and no one can stay His hand. This is a righteous act by definition and to ask any other is to question God.

Responsibility does not presuppose free will. God is sovereign, and man is not free (in the sense that he can do anything outside of God's sovereign will and decree).

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006 at 7:43 PM

Defining "Free" (2)

The traditional Reformed response to Libertarian Free will (as described last post) is "compatibilist free will":

Defined from monergism:

Compatibilism is the belief that we make choices for a reason, that the will is not independent of the person and we will always choose what we want (Deut 30:16,17,19; Matt 17:12; James 1:14). It means that we can act freely (without coercion), not independent from God or free from our desires, but free to act according to our desires and nature. In other words, a self-determining will (to chose to act as we please) is compatible with determinism. The Scripture itself testifies that

“…no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:42-45)

Figtrees, of necessity, grow figs, not thorns. According to Jesus, then, nature produces a necessary result or fruit at the exclusion of something else. One cannot produce a result that is contrary to nature. While libertarians uphold the philosophy that “choice without sufficient cause” is what makes one responsible, the compatibilist, on the other hand, looks to Scripture which testifies that it is because our choices have motives and desires that moral responsibility is actually established. Responsibility requires that our acts, of necessity, be intentional, as I will further demonstrate later in the essay.

Compatabilists gain their name from the claim that "free will is compatible" with God's sovereignty. Man is "free to choose according to his desires." Where the will is limited is not in the choice, but in the desires. Natural man does not come to God, but it is God who comes to him. If God changes one's heart (removing a heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh, raising us from the dead, opening our eyes), then he will bear fruit in keeping with the changed heart, coming to repentance, faith, and glorification.

A quick note on this:

1) This is entirely biblical as I understand it.

2) The "compatibilist" aspect of it strikes me as a compromise. "Well, you don't really have free will as you define it, but if we change the definition, then you have free will." Of course this isn't a problem if we are open about it, but it seems to cause unnecesary trouble. "Why are you changing the definition?" "Well, because you wanted the term "free will.""

3) The chief question of "where do the desires come from?" should still be answered: "Everything is given to us sovereignly by God, to the praise of His glory." There is no room for "rogue molecules." Every action, thought, and will is all in accordance to our desires, and all of these are completely under the sovereign hand of God.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006 at 12:23 PM

Defining "free"

I'm going to try to define the Arminian interpretation of "free" as best as I am able, so here we go:

Merriam Webster states that "free will" is

"freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention"

Eric left the comment stating:

"Free from God ordering the universe such that it is (objectively, if not subjectively) determined which way we will choose when faced with a choice. "Free" less in the sense of "emancipated" as of "given free rein." Free to choose actions (or more precisely free to will), not free to choose consequences."

Arminius states:

“He has determined to save believers by grace; that is, by a mild and gentle suasion, convenient or adapted to their free-will, not by an omnipotent action or motion, which would be subject neither to their will, nor to their ability either of resistance or of will” (Jacob Arminius, An Examination of the Treatise of William Perkins Concerning the Order and Mode of Predestination). In resistance or of will” (Jacob Arminius, An Examination of the Treatise of William Perkins Concerning the Order and Mode of Predestination).

Another friend once stated that "God can make someone appear in the river with the priest about to perform the baptismal rights and everything, He can give them 99% faith, but that last 1% must come from them."

Now, apart from the idea of baptism = salvation, we have one unifying theme in all these definitions:

"free" (to the non-Calvinist) means not only the ability of choice, but the spark of ability uninfluenced by God (and for that matter, all of the natural world that has been put into place by God) that is able to make the decision for one thing or another.

I was going to use this point to launch into an explanation of why I don't believe this view is Biblical, but then I figured I probably won't be able to keep up with posting more on it.

I'll just quote one of many silver bullet verses and a logical argument why I would use this to deny free will.

John 6:44

44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

**edit got my sentence messed up here. Thanks Jeff for pointing that out**

"No one can come unless the Father draws him" logically implies:

"If he can come to me then the Father draws him"

But we cannot stop there, for there's a second half to this verse: "And I will raise him up on the last day." Now the question is, "who is 'him' ?" here.

1) Those that can come
2) Those that cannot come
3) the Father

2 and 3 are indefensible. Christ will not raise up those who cannot come. Nor is Christ raising up God on the last day (since the immediate context of the passage points to Christ raising up all believers).

Our only choice is to say "Those that can come will be raised up on the last day."

What does that leave us with?

A) If the person can come, then the Father draws him.
B) Those who can come will be raised up on the last day

Now, those who defend "free will" will claim that "all people can come." (that decision made apart from God) But this results in, from this verse, "all people will be raised up on the last day," which is indefensible from the rest of the Bible.

Logic and John 6:44 - Monergism.com

John 6 - James White.

For a response to those proposing "free grace" (once saved always saved), Evan May has done a treatment of John 6 as well.

We'll touch on compatabilist free will eventually too

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at 8:11 AM

quick thought (2)

Someone just mentioned to me that most people treat Satan as if he were omnipresent (everywhere). He pointed out that Satan is an angel, and does not have the properties of God. While Satan's minions may be able to influence everywhere, Satan himself does not have that power.

I thought that was an excellent point.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006 at 8:19 PM

A quick thought

I feel like I have a lot to post about, but haven't worked up the motivation.

A quick thought though, especially after watching the Superbowl and seeing all these commercials for "Gray's anatomy" come up.

1) The superbowl seemed to be focused upon "reliving the past." They had a collection of past superbowl MVPs walk by at the beginning. They had the rolling stones play at the halftime show... but all of these people were people that no one really remembers anymore (except a few). I guess there are people that still like the rolling stones... but really, these are people who's accomplishments are done once... and then quickly forgotten.

What will be remembered forever though?

Matthew 26:6-13

6Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? 9For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor." 10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her."

The things we do today for men will pass away as men pass away, but the things done for God (which are graciously given by God Himself [Eph. 2:10]) will be remembered forever.

2) TV shows are interesting. Some of them seem to always continually remind me of the depravity of man. People who are seeking after a continual joy found in relationships, in physical acts, in addiction, in excitement... but all these things are so... worthless!

I am reminded of Screwtape's advice to young Wormwood in C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters" where he says (paraphrasing) "the key to a man's soul is an ever increasing desire for an ever diminishing pleasure."

Dear world,

Christ is the well. Christ is the living water. Drink and you will never be thirsty again. You have sought after false idols, unfulfilled dreams, and worthless things. I beg of you, turn and repent!

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006 at 3:44 PM

Local church

I've been thinking a lot about the local church. ("free" will come late Lord willing, aka, if He wills that I not be lazy)

An excerpt from my journal:
I always wonder what it would be like to be at John Piper's church, or John Macarthur's church, or C.J. Mahaney's, or 's church. But I've also realized for a large part that I do have a church, a body of believers who are dedicated to the glory of God, the edification of saints, and pastors who faithfully preach the Word, who rightly divide the Word of truth, who preach the Gospel. What else could I ask for? Praise the Lord.
Here's to the local church, and to the God of all heavens and all power. Praise be to His name!

Psalm 136:

1Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
3Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

4to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

10to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
11and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
12with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
13to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
14and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
15but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
16to him who led his people through the wilderness,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

17to him who struck down great kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
18and killed mighty kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
19Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
20and Og, king of Bashan,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
21and gave their land as a heritage,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
22a heritage to Israel his servant,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

23It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
24and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
25he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

26Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.


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