Drinking Deeply

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 12:54 PM

Reading Deeply

It's been a while since I've put one of these up, mostly because I haven't really been surfing the blog-world quite as much as I used to. But there have been a number of things that have caught my eye.

Theologica highlights the "Dawkins delusion," applying the same skepticism that Richard Dawkins has been applying to the Christian faith and discovering that Dawkins was probably a delusion. Read the original that inspired it too.

An article on the SBC Baptist Press points out that "Inerrancy isn't enough"
It is not enough to trot out the usual statements about the importance of inerrancy and expository preaching. While these are laudable expressions of orthodoxy and practice, the reality remains that the mere mention of these words now too easily evokes expected agreement and adulation (a good hearty “Amen” in Baptistspeak), but little application and practice in pulpits and Sunday School classrooms.
Pulpit Magazine puts out daily posts that are always very informative and encouraging (not to mention convicting!) Here's one I liked Daily destroying sin

I rarely check Boundless webzine, but it seems to have some very good articles up.
Thabiti Anyabwile wrote "How Not to Lose Your Faith in College," containing some very good advice, stuff that I wish I heard coming in, and Carolyn McCulley wrote " The Hindrance of a Hint" and the importance of being clear with out intentions in relationships. (Yeah, yeah, still thinking relationships. You'd think one would get over that eventually)

Here are some notes from R.C. Sproul's sermon given at the Desiring God pastor's conference on the Holiness and Justice. Wow.

Here's my favorite picture from Resolved.

I've also stumbled across some very useful Greek resources.

Dan Phillips started asking if we knew Greek and is filling it with reflections from reading Greek. It's really cool to read alongside and certainly an encouragement for me to keep reading my Greek!

The Calvinist Gadfly (which is retiring) has two good posts on studying Greek, here and here.

Triablogue also has an excellent post on how to teach yourself Greek. It's pretty intense though.

Bookwise, I've been reading a few books. Justification of God by Piper (Excellent read, especially now I can understand the Greek he's pulling out. Very insightful on what Paul and the Bible means when it speaks of "the righteousness of God") and Pray with Your Eyes Open by Richard Pratt Jr. (Diagrams are for children, but very insightful as well), as well as Calvin's Commentary on John(good stuff!). I've picked up a few books from Resolved, but haven't had time to get to them yet, so hopefully that'll be in the future.

Blog of the day is mochapress, a group blog started by me and some friends from Resolved. Hopefully we'll figure out what we're doing, but for now read Eric's testimony (that'll take you till next week or so =p).

Oh, and if you're still here, check out the new design at monergism.com

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 8:39 PM

TULIP (18) - Jesus saves!

I thought Continuing on the defense of TULIP, we're in (L)imited Atonement now, which I think is best defended as the simple statement that "Jesus saves!"

To rephrase, those whom Jesus dies for, He saves. Completely and utterly. No ifs, ands, ors, or buts. Obviously this is closely related to (U)nconditional election, as it is simply stating pointing out that people aren't saved by something they bring to the table, but rather by what Christ has done.

"Jesus saves!" is in opposition to the statement that might be offered up by those who believe in a universal atonement that "Jesus' death makes salvation possible to all who accept." Of course, this statement certainly is true from one perspective, if we affirm that those who accept have their hearts opened by the sovereign working of God (Irresistible grace anyone?).

Enough of throwing terms around. Let me defend the fact that Jesus' death secures salvation for those whom He died for, and the limited nature of His atonement will be established (as we don't agree with universalism).

Isaiah 53

4Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53 is our classic "suffering servant" passage. C.J. Mahaney gave an excellent sermon on this text at Resolved (Have I raved about it enough yet?), and I just wanted to highlight one aspect of it.

Notice that in the text, there's no mention of potential. Everything is accomplished action.

Jesus has borne our griefs, carried our sorrows, was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, his chastisement brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
... and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

This language isn't saying that Jesus made possible salvation, it's saying that those he died for, those he was crushed for, those he bore God's wrath for, are healed.

tetelestai! (John 19:30) It is finished! Those that Christ has died for are healed. Are forgiven. Are bought. Perfected. Of course, this isn't separated from the rest of what Christ does as well. Those that Christ dies for will be given the gift of life, faith (through which they have justification), will persevere (we'll get to that), and all of this is sealed and accomplished by God. Jesus saves!

Another passage that is similar

Hebrews 10

11And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

v.14) By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

This offering isn't just a "maybe" but it's a "Yes and Amen!" Jesus' death perfects us. It saves.

And that's the story of the atonement. Jesus saves those he dies for. Not all people are saved. therefore, Jesus didn't die for all people. []

Two more things to address for this subpoint - "Is there biblical evidence that Jesus didn't die for everyone?" and the inconsistency of 4-point Calvinism.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007 at 11:55 PM

Cheap Christians

Some of you may have noticed that when I post links to books that I review, I often post a link not to Amazon but rather to monergism (which just got a new site upgrade, check it out!). The prices are slightly higher in cases, but I do believe that monergism is well worth the investment, especially in light of all the services it has provided in mining the internet for articles that are informative, encouraging, and convicting. I have to say that without monergism, it would have been nearly impossible for me to be where I am right now, as my spiritual growth would be stunted, my defense of the Gospel flimsy, and my taste of Christ superficial.

Let me make one additional point on a related note. As someone who does not come from a particularly wealthy family, I have not had the liberty to afford many of the things that I wanted. Growing up in a Chinese (immigrant) household, I also picked up an inclination to be stingy with my money. When I became a Christian, that habit did not change. I still haven't actually gone shopping for a new wardrobe in a long time. I currently have enough clothing to last me exactly one week and a day (and that's if I wear everything that I own, and repeat a few pairs of pants) and then I need to do laundry. I have one pair of tennis shoes. My cleats are hand-me-ups from my brother. If you search through my drawers, you'll find them mostly empty. For the most part, the only time I get new things (backpack and flip flops come to mind) is when someone gives them to me. That's how I've always lived and I'm fine with that.

The instinct for me has always been to look at books and see where I can get them for the cheapest price. For the most part, that means Amazon.com, though there's also an excellent book search site called addall. But when it comes to buying Christian books I buy them from monergism.

Why?

1) Because part of seeking first God's Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) is that we encourage and support (financially as needed) those who are doing the same. (Philippians 4:10-19)

2) Because if I put "saving money" at the top priority of my list, I sit dangerously close to finding evil close at hand. (1 Timothy 6:10)

3) Wealth is not ultimate, God is. We can use worldly wealth to obtain eternal friends (Luke 16:1-9)

4) Workers deserve their wages. (1 Corinthians 9:7-12) See also my series on tithing.

Let's be shrewd with all that God has given us. Let's not waste money, tossing it about carelessly as if it didn't matter. There is a grain of wisdom in Solomon's words about money being the answer to everything (Ecclesiastes 10:19). Money is what has allowed me to be here at Stanford and money is what allowed me to go to Resolved.

But let's not consider money (and saving it) the highest priority. We save it for a reason. And that reason is God and His Kingdom.

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at 2:21 PM

Lord's Day 20

Question 53. What dost thou believe concerning the Holy Ghost?

Answer: First, that he is true and coeternal God with the Father and the Son; (a) secondly, that he is also given me, (b) to make me by a true faith, partaker of Christ and all his benefits, (c) that he may comfort me (d) and abide with me for ever. (e)

(a) 1 John 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. Gen.1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Isa.48:16 Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me. 1 Cor.3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 1 Cor.6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? Acts 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Acts 5:4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. (b) Gal.4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Matt.28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Matt.28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. 2 Cor.1:21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 2 Cor.1:22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. Eph.1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (c) Gal.3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 1 Pet.1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. 1 Cor.6:17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. (d) Acts 9:31 Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: (e) John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 1 Pet.4:14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007 at 4:33 PM

Resolved Audio online

Oh, in case you don't believe me when I say it was awesome (in the fullest sense of the word - Awe-inspiring). Check it out for yourself. I'm waiting for them to open up registration for the next one is so I can buy tickets =D

Resolved audio

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Friday, February 23, 2007 at 12:58 PM

Quotables

Steve Lawson wrapped up his sermon on the cost of discipleship at Resolved by reading this quote from an African pastor who was threatened with death if he did not renounce Christ.

“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed, the die has been cast, I have stepped over the line, the decision has been made- I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed vision, worldly talking, cheap giving & dwarfed goals.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I won’t give up, shut up, let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up for the cause of Jesus Christ.

I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till everyone knows, work till He stops me & when He comes for His own, He will have no trouble recognizing me because my banner will have been clear.”

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Thursday, February 22, 2007 at 11:23 PM

TULIP (17) - Limited Atonement

This is quite possibly the most difficult point for most people to swallow about the Doctrines of Grace.

I'm going to reproduce a post on this that I did a while back along with my definition as just a way of setting the stage.

Definition from my first post on TULIP:

Christ's death secures salvation for the elect (those that God has chosen). Those that He died for have their sins forgiven. The word “Limited” refers to the extent of the atonement (Christ's death). If Christ's death secures salvation, then the fact that someone isn't saved means that Christ didn't die for them. (Limited carries a negative connotation, which is unfortunate)

My repost:

Someone asked me to explain the 5 points of Calvinism today (wahoo!), and as I got to "L" - Limited Atonement they got that little look on their face that said "what? How can that possibly be biblical?" When I say that Limited Atonement basically says that "God didn't send Christ for everyone " immediately the response is, "what? I thought God loved everyone?"

My response in brief:

I guess "limited" emphasizes the wrong aspect that it's really supposed to illustrate. While I would say that God didn't send Christ to die for everyone, the point I would emphasize would not be the "scope" (how many people it's applied to), but rather the "extent" (how much the death accomplishes). The point of saying that God didn't send Christ to die for everyone is to finish that statement with a positive one: Those that Christ died for are saved. Completely and irrevocably. Christ's death secures the salvation of those He died for. There isn't anything else that a person must do. The death of Christ upon the cross completely covers and removes all sin from a person and places Christ's perfect righteousness upon that person.

Thus a "Calvinist" limits Christ's death in one way (who Christ dies for), but has a much bigger picture of what Christ's death accomplishes: the salvation of each and every single one of those that God has chosen. A "synergist" removes the limit on Christ's death in one way, saying that Christ died for everyone, but places that limit on another aspect: Christ's death is only sufficient to save those who have faith.

Yeah, "Limited Atonement" maybe could be replaced with "Definite Atonement" to clear up the confusion, but TUDIP doesn't quite sound so good as a TULIP =)

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at 10:33 AM

Resolved Reflections

Wow. It's hard to write this, simply because I don't think I can do Resolved and the impact it had upon me justice. But of course, I'm not content to merely confess my inability and do nothing about it, so I'm going to write all that I can think of in reflections.

Resolved was awe-inspiring. Having gone last year, I expected much, and it delivered and then more. The preaching was stupendous (that's such a poor word for such a grand thing). It opened the eyes, exalted God, crushed the heart, transformed the person. After each message, I was left with the feeling that I was full. I was convicted of my sins and Christ was so big. It couldn't get much better. And the next message would shatter all those illusions that I had finally grasped God by convicting me anew, making God bigger, exalting Christ higher. If you would permit me to make a joke, I felt like I got saved like 9 times there.

Hebrews 4:12
12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The preachers thundered for 12 some hours, standing upon God's Word, preaching on justification (Romans 5), the supremacy of Christ (Hebrews 1), the foolishness of the cross (1 Cor. 1-2), the pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18), the suffering servant (Isaiah 53), God is the Gospel (misc.), Humility (1 Cor. 4), and God and missions (misc.). The texts were all very familiar, but each time the preacher would go up there, I was left wondering if I had even read the texts before, it was so new and so convicting. I was convicted of sins upon sins, and encouraged to go to the Cross over and over again.

Steve Lawson in particular (if I have to pick a favorite, though they were all amazing) was compelling. Proclaiming the sovereignty and the supremacy of God, his talks were not only enlightening but convicting. They crushed the heart repeatedly and pointed me to my only hope in life, Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:18
18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
It felt like a taste of heaven, where Christ is worshiped in spirit and in truth, where our knowledge of Christ just got bigger and bigger with each passing day.

And the fellowship was so sweet. People talked about God hour after hour. At lunch, at dinner, on the car rides, walking around. It was something that I've tasted so infrequently I definitely got the "let's put up tents and worship" feeling. Sheer delight to worship with brothers and sisters who are all passionate and convicted for the cause of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. The sound of thousands of voices lifted up to exalt Jesus Christ was... priceless.

The music was great. We sang a lot of redone hymns, a lot of contemporary songs, and all of it was packed theologically. In particular, I greatly appreciated how many of the songs ended not just with the cross and what Jesus had done, but pointed us to that final day, when we will worship in glory. Such a good reminder, something I greatly treasured.

And finally, the people I came down with were a delight to be with. The car rides driving down to LA and back up were filled with thought-provoking and engaging conversation. Questions were asked and answers were offered. What an encouragement of faith!

Some random thoughts to wrap up:

1) The conference began and ended with a call to serve the local church, and I pray and hope that that's what I'll be able to do. It was a delight to hear these preachers who have had dozens of years of preaching under their belt, but it certainly is no burden to come back here to Stanford, where I do actually get solid biblical preaching every week. Praise the Lord for such a blessing!

2) Born out of the convictions of Resolved, me and a group of guys have started a group blog. Check it out: mochapress.blogspot.com Lord willing, we'll be able to encourage one another in the faith.

3) My desperate prayer is that I would not only be a hearer of the Word, but a doer as well. I would appreciate your prayers on my behalf in that regard. There is much that I have been convicted of and have needed to repent of, pray that it would not be looking in the mirror and forgetting.

4) The audio will be online free (soon I hope!). I'm also tempted to buy the audio from the first year. Next year will be June 13-16, 2008 in Palm Springs, which I think coincides with graduation. I'm glad I'm graduating this year so I don't have to make the difficult decision of choosing to walk or to go hear God proclaimed. The theme is "Heaven and Hell."

5) Check out Challies' reflections. I had the pleasure to meet him and say hello (but then I felt awkward so I rand off to play frisbee).

6) Somehow I managed to get into one of the photo galleries for resolved again. Check it out

I look really happy. I think I was trying to figure out if I wanted to do a weird face and then decided to smile and he caught me halfway through.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 10:09 AM

Who is going to Resolved?

Booyeah. Would you like to meet up? Drop an email (mcsheu@gmail.co) and we'll exchange contact info.

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Monday, February 12, 2007 at 8:25 PM

TULIP (16) - Double Predestination

I'm going to take the previous lack of response to indicate a lack of interest either way, so I'm going to go ahead and address a difficult topic. It's difficult because it goes against our natural intuition and sense of fairness rather than because it's unclear. That topic is double predestination, not only has God before the foundation of the world chosen some people for mercy, but also chosen others for wrath. The Westminster Confession of Faith states it this way in chapter 3.7 on God's Eternal Decrees:

VII. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praised of His glorious justice.

How do we know this? Well, first off it follows logically. If God chooses some before the foundation of the world, God must also be rejecting the rest before the foundation of the world. It isn't as if he chooses some and then decides to let the rest figure out where they're going on their own. He knows all things about all people, and his selection of some necessarily entail the rejection of the rest.

But of course "where's the Scripture?" Well, let's go back to Romans 9.

Before they had done anything good or bad, not because of works, God loved Jacob and hated Esau. All this was done in order that "God's purpose of election might continue."
10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Paul continues right after that bold claim to respond to the common objection that we as fallen humans often have, "But this is not fair on God's part." He turns and says that it is God's will whether to have mercy or not, and He can choose to have mercy or he can choose to harden, all in accordance to His free will. It does not depend upon human will or exertion, but upon God who has mercy.
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, [2] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Why does God do this? Why does God prepare some for mercy and others for destruction and wrath? (notice it doesn't say that some are prepared for mercy and others prepare themselves) One reason God does this is for the manifestation of His own glory to those He has chosen: "desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power...in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy."
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
God created vessels for destruction so that we, the elect, may know His justice, His wrath, and His mercy, all to the praise of His glorious grace. He has mercy on whom He'll have mercy and He hardens whom He'll harden, all for His glory and to His praise.

See also: Hell is not a place where God is not.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 10:21 PM

Lord's Day 19

Question 50. Why is it added, "and sitteth at the right hand of God"?

Answer: Because Christ is ascended into heaven for this end, that he might appear as head of his church, (a) by whom the Father governs all things. (b)

Question 51. What profit is this glory of Christ, our head, unto us?

Answer: First, that by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members; (a) and then that by his power he defends and preserves us against all enemies. (b)

Question 52. What comfort is it to thee that "Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead"?

Answer: That in all my sorrows and persecutions, with uplifted head I look for the very same person, who before offered himself for my sake, to the tribunal of God, and has removed all curse from me, to come as judge from heaven: (a) who shall cast all his and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, (b) but shall translate me with all his chosen ones to himself, into heavenly joys and glory. (c)

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Friday, February 09, 2007 at 6:16 PM

TULIP (15) - Edom I hated and Israel I loved?

I need subscripts...

I don't know if ts intended to just bring up the question to get me posting, but basically he posted the following comment, which leads me directly to what I was intending to post on next.
But isn't Paul talking about Jews and Gentiles in this chapter? He's talking about nations, not individuals.
When I've brought up Romans 9 to people who have disagreed with my interpretation affirming the unconditional nature of God's election, the chief objection is that the passage is speaking of national election, that of Israel and Edom. They would reference Malachi 1, which is where Jacob and Esau are spoken of.

Malachi 1:

1The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.[a]

2"I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have you loved us?" "Is not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob 3but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert." 4If Edom says, "We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins," the LORD of hosts says, "They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called 'the wicked country,' and 'the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.'" 5Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, "Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!"
Now, there is a case for God speaking of nations here. He moves from speaking of Esau and Jacob to Edom and Israel. But this case is by no means airtight. It is entirely possible that God hated Jacob and Esau as individuals, and as a result, their seed are cursed as well.

But anyways, the objection of national election is one that I think can (must?) be dealt with in Romans 9 directly.

My answer to the objection that God is speaking of nations and not individuals is that national election is the problem, not the solution.

Romans 9:1-5
1I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit-- 2that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,[a] my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
See my previous post on the problem. Paul is dealing with the issue of why his kinsmen are cut off from the mercy of God. After all, weren't they God's chosen people? Didn't they have the promises and the covenants, the adoptions and the patriarchs? What went wrong? How can Paul now say that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8) if it is so clear that the Jews are separated from the love of God?

Romans 9:6-13
6But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son." 10And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call-- 12she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
Paul's answer to the problem isn't that "God loves Israel as a nation," his answer is that "Not all Israel is Israel," with the two examples being his proof. God chose to love Isaac and not to love Ishmael (at least, not in the covenant-making sense). In the same way, before they had born, before they had done anything good or bad, God says "the older will serve the younger...Jacob I loved and Esau I hated." The case for national election ignores the problem that Paul is wrestling with altogether.

I'm debating whether or not to finish up Romans 9, or at least address the objection that Paul addresses, or just to move on to (L). This series of blogposts was intended to span maybe a quarter, but now I doubt if I'll finish it by the end of two. Votes in the comments encouraged.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007 at 4:13 PM

Dietary Laws

This was an interesting discussion with a friend, so I thought it would be worthwhile to post my thoughts on it.

We were discussing the validity of the OT laws and the specific case of dietary laws came up.

I had actually previously posted on this topic a while ago, but the question came up of when exactly were the dietary laws abolished.

While it probably does not have too much direct impact on how we live our lives as most everyone agrees that the dietary laws are abolished right now, but as the knowledge of God is of inherent worth even if it doesn't have a direct application right now (Jeremiah 9:23-24), I'm going to give my answer and reasoning.

Ephesians 2:13-16
13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
I believe that the dietary laws were abolished with the death of Christ. As I previously posted, dietary laws were one of the means by which Israel was set off from the rest of the nations, and with the fulfillment of the prophecy that Gentiles are now brought into the fold, those laws have now passed away.

The other possibility we were talking about was that Jesus abolished it not with his death, but sometime during his life. The argument for this is Mark 7:14-23
14And he called the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him."[e] 17And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?"[f] (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
v. 19 here is key - "In saying this, Jesus declared all foods 'clean.' "

Briefly (and I'm still open to change on this), I think the phrase "clean" here isn't referring to ceremonial cleanliness, but rather addressing the legalistic nature of the Pharisees, which had progressed to the point where they were saying some foods were intrinsicly evil or wrong. In contrast to that, Jesus is pointing out that matter isn't evil or wrong, but rather it's disobedience that is evil and wrong. Eating foods made someone unclean not because the food was unclean, but because it was an act of disobedience to God.

That said, I do see a strong argument for viewing clean here as ceremonially clean, so maybe a mediating position would be that some of the OT ceremonial laws started passing away during Jesus' ministry and found their final abolishment in His death?

Evidence for this possibility would be in the very next passage (hmmm!) where the blessings start to overflow upon the Gentile woman.

Mark 7:24-30
24And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon.[g] And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25But immediately a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27And he said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 28But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." 29And he said to her, "For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter." 30And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
I didn't notice that until just now. What do you guys think? Maybe Jesus abolishes the dietary laws as a sign that the blessings are starting to overflow into the Gentiles, and we have a first evidence of this right after?

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007 at 9:06 PM

More troubles with IE

I have just been informed by ts that my blog is not displaying properly in IE7. Honestly, I have no idea what's going on, because it was working fine before. Maybe something to do with the switch to blogger-beta. Maybe I accidentally deleted a line of code somewhere. I'm not entirely sure. But if someone knows how to fix it (as I don't) it would be much appreciated.

And let me use this post to make yet another plug for mozilla, if just to be able to read my blog posts =D

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Saturday, February 03, 2007 at 5:05 PM

TULIP (14) - Not all Israel are Israel

In my previous post I sought to establish the problem that Paul is dealing with in Romans 9 (I'm on my way to using that passage to establish unconditional election). In short, Paul is dealing with the question, "Has God's Word failed? If nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39), how come the Jews are currently distant from Christ? They were given the "adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises" (Romans 9:4-5). How is it possible for us to believe God when it the Jews, God's chosen people, have fallen away?

Romans 9:6-13
6It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned."[b] 8In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. 9For this was how the promise was stated: "At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son."[c]

10Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12not by works but by him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger."[d] 13Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."[e]
Paul answers no, God's word has not failed. Not all who are descended from Israel (ethnically Jew) are Israel (God's chosen people). He then proceeds to cite two examples of this: Isaac and Ishmael and Jacob and Esau.

With Isaac and Ishmael, even though at the time Ishmael had already been born, Isaac was the one with whom the promises were made about. Verses 7-9 are referring to Genesis 17, where God promises Abraham a son and establishes the covenant with him. Though God hears Abraham's prayer for Ishmael, he doesn't establish his promise through Ishmael, but rather through Isaac, giving Paul his first example that not all of ethnic Israel is spiritual Israel.

Romans 9:8 "In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring."

The second example is the clearest cut. One might say "well, that's because Ishmael was not descendant from Sarah that he was not part of God's promise." Paul's second example of Jacob and Esau, puts all those issues to rest, presenting God as one that chooses some of Israel for Israel and some of Israel to not be in Israel.

Romans 9:10-13
10Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12not by works but by him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger."[d] 13Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."[e]
They have the same father and mother. They start on level grounds to all other observers. But Paul writes that one was of Israel and the other was not, "in order that God's purpose in election might stand." Jacob and Esau were going to be differentiated, not by who their parents were (v.10), not by what they had done or would do (v. 11), but by God's choice. So that His purpose in election would stand He would love Jacob and hate Esau.

This is our unconditional election. Before we are born, before we had done anything good or bad, God chose us. (Eph. 1:4-5) It was not our faith to come that was the determining factor, but God and God alone decides who ends up having faith, and who does not.

Our response, as to all things about God, is praise. How amazing is it that long before I thought of choosing God, He chose me?

Romans 11:33-36
33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[i] knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?"[j]
35"Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?"[k]
36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007 at 3:33 PM

TULIP (13) - My kinsmen are accursed!

This is part 1 in my attempt at utilizing Romans 9 to defend an unconditional election. As it is a passage that is hotly disputed, I wanted to take the time to do it well (or at least... better). I aim to establish the problem that Paul is dealing with in Romans 9. I plan to establish that Paul is dealing with eternal matters in order to lay the foundation for Paul's defense of God in the later verses of Romans 9.

The title of this post is drawn from a sermon I read of John Piper on Romans 9. The title sums up Paul's problem appropriately. Much of the material here is dependent upon Piper's sermon on Romans 9 (which is also fleshed out a great deal in his book "A Justification of God")

Romans 9:1-5
1I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, [1] my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
The problem that Paul is dealing with as he opens up chapter 9 of the book of Romans is simply that his kinsmen are accursed (anathema) - separated from God and foreigners to the Gospel.

Paul is filled with "great sorrow and unceasing anguish." He wishes that he himself could be accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his brothers. But this is a wish that cannot be fulfilled as he just finished Romans 8 with a proclamation that nothing can separate him from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39). Neither height, nor depth... not even Paul can separate himself from the love of Christ.

In fact, the problem follows directly from that passage. The Israelites have (v. 4-5) "the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises... the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ." They were God's chosen people! The promises, the adoption, the glory, the covenants... all those things were promised by God for Israel, but now it seems that they are cut off from the grace of God. Indeed, the "name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles because of [the Jews]" (Romans 2:24). Israel has stumbled over the stumbling block.

So Paul turns from the praise and worship in delighting in the security of Christ Jesus to the difficult question of "what happened to Israel? Why aren't they secure in Christ? If they had the adoption, the promises, the covenants, what separated them from the love of God?"

These questions lead us, the hearers, to wonder, "has the word of God failed? Doesn't God keep his promises?" (see Romans 9:6) and lead Paul to an extended defense of God and His sovereignty in election.

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