Thursday, December 5, 2019

The eternal God and the supernatural realm

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Psalm 90:1-2  "Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."  


   Today's post aims to introduce readers to a Biblical view of the supernatural realm. In order to begin, we must first consider the nature, attributes and identity of God. Below are a series of thoughts which serve to pull together such a consideration. May this post raise our awareness of God's supernatural power and presence. 

1. Scriptures and definition of the eternal God and supernatural.

       As we begin to consider the supernatural realm, we must begin with the only being that is eternal by nature - God. God is eternal. As we consider this first heading under “eternity”, we can refer to God’s existence by the phrase: "that God is". Hebrews 11:6 expresses: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Eternity is foundational to thinking about God (see Romans 1:20; Colossians 1:16-17; 1 Timothy 1:17).

      We could define eternity as: "without beginning, without end, fullness of being without the limitations of time." Passages such as Psalm 90:2; 102:25; Isaiah 57:15; John 1:1-3; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Timothy 6:16; Rev. 4:8 speak to us of God's eternity.  Boethius, a 6th century Christian thinker, defines eternity as: 

“the complete, simultaneous and perfect possession of everlasting life.” 

In thinking about: "that God is", i.e., His existence, other related perfections fill out our basic idea about God.

1. There is God’s Divine "immensity", that perfection dealing with God's relationship to space as He being in it and beyond it (see 1 Kings 8:27; Acts 17:25-30).

2. There is Divine infinity, speaking of the endless extent of the Divine nature. Paul speaks of God's Divine power or omnipotence in Romans 1:20.

3. God being a spiritual, immaterial being, per Jesus' words in John 4:24.

4. God as a Personal being that creates, Genesis 1:1; 33:6; 1 Cor 8:6; 2 Peter 3

Ways to think about God’s Divine eternity and the supernatural realm.

      New Testament passages such as Colossians 1:16-17 and Hebrews 1 speak of “God” and “everything else”. The “everything else” refers to creation. Creation is divided up into two distinct and somewhat interactive realms: “visible” and “invisible”. The “invisible” realm is another way of talking about “the supernatural realm”, as it refers to an unseen part creation (God of course is His own, separate, uncreated reality apart from creation). God of course is deemed “invisible” (1 Timothy 1:17), spiritual (John 4:24) and personal (Acts 17:25-30). He differs by the fact He is without beginning (Psalm 90; 102; Revelation 4:8) and self-existing apart from and prior to creation (Isaiah 44:6; 43:10-11). There is an illustration I can think of to approach the otherwise incomprehensible truth God’s Divine eternity and His relationship to the supernatural.

Illustration: God and “everything else”
“God” <--∞ --> “angelic realm, humans, cats, wooly-worms, amoebas, atoms”

The little sign separating God and everything else is the infinity sign. No matter whether a creature is an archangel or the smallest of smallest things, there lies an infinite, qualitative distance between the created realm and God. For God to communicate to us by revelation is an act of grace on His part. 

Where we get this notion of divine eternity?

1. Scripture.

2. The beginning of the universe

For the universe to have begun, it needed its origin in a cause that is without beginning. Moreover, for there to be a finite universe, produced by an eternal being, the eternal being had to have had a will and and a mind (since the infinite cause, God, brought about a finite effect, the universe).

3. The attributes of God

Consideration of God's attributes demonstrate this most essential perfection of eternity. Omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence and other perfections require a God that is not bounded by time.

Take-aways for your life.

1. What we learned today. As we close this post, we note that reference to the phrase: "that God is" means His existence. Eternity was defined as: "without beginning, without end, fulness of being without the limitations of time." Standard arguments for God’s existence bolster this claim of Divine eternity, since they show that the finite realm of creation requires a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, infinitely powerful, all present mind with a will we call: "God"

2. We need greater awareness of the supernatural realm

A.W. Tozer once remarked about God’s Divine eternity and the supernatural realm’s relevance to our lives:2. “A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it. God Himself is here waiting our response to His Presence. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon upon its reality.”

3. How we live day-to-day

Giving time to think about God’s eternity lifts our focus from the horizontal, visible world of our five senses to that of the “stuff” that drives us to worship. To realize that we live out our daily lives and spiritual lives before a holy, eternal God to whom we are accountable, and that, in the Person of the Son, came as “God with us” to be “man for us”, ought to sharpen our awareness of Him.

4. Strengthening our prayer lives

When we pray, we ought to think of prayer as “the greatest adventure”, since we are treading into the very foothills of God’s eternal presence. We could say far more, but let us live this week in light of this truth that God, is, eternal.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

How much does God know?

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Isaiah 41:21-23 “Present your case,” the Lord says. “Bring forward your strong arguments,” The King of Jacob says. 22 Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; As for the former events, declare what they were, That we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming;
23 Declare the things that are going to come afterward, That we may know that you are gods; Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together. 24 Behold, you are of no account, And your work amounts to nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination."


     God's Divine omniscience refers to His ability to know any and all true facts about everything. This is staggering to think about. The above opening text from Isaiah 41 has God issuing a challenge to "wanna-be" gods or idols that, in reality, are not deities at all. God alone is omniscient. The 19th century theologians Charles Hodge writes in Volume 1 of his "Systematic Theology":  

"We pray to a God who, we believe, knows our state and wants, who hears what we say, and who is able to meet our necessities".

Hodge lists the following scriptures which elevate to our attention God's omniscience: Psalm 104:9; 139:1,2,12; 147:5; Proverbs. 15:3,11; Ezekiel 11:5; Matthew 10:30; Acts 15:8; Hebrews 4:13. This is the God of sacred scripture! Psalm 147:5 states most plainly: 

"Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite."

      So how much does God know? How is it that God knows what He knows? We can attempt to approach an answer by considering typical ways that theologians describe Divine omniscience as revealed in the Bible.

1. God's self-knowledge.

     Jesus makes the following statement in Matthew 11:27 - 

"All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."

     Let Jesus' words sink in for just a moment. God, by nature and definition, is infinite (Psalm 90:1-2). The Person of the Father, by nature, is God. We understand from Moses in Deuteronomy 32:8 that the Father knows all things, including the future of the nations. The Son comprehends the Father, which tells us that the Son is as much God as the Father is God, since no other creature - angel or man - can comprehend all that God is (see Isaiah 6:2-3; 1 Timothy 6:16). This self-knowledge of God is expressed by the Father and the Son in their full comprehension of one another. The Spirit too expresses this same sort of unending omniscience, comprehending the Son (John 14:26) and the Father (Romans 8:26; 11:33-35). 

2. God's knowledge of all things that "could be", or "natural knowledge".

       God's comprehension of Himself is a knowledge that takes into view the boundless vistas of "what He is" and "how He is" as God. In our definition of omniscience offered earlier, God's knowledge of, "any and all true facts about everything", begins with Himself. However, what about all those things outside of Himself? How much does God know about those things which He could make or did make. In the mind of God, all things are known directly and all-at -once. Furthermore, God's knowledge includes all things that could possibly be. Put another way, in God's mind, He knew all possible versions of history that "could-had-been" had He decided to bring anyone of them into reality. 

      This aspect of God's knowledge, whereby He knows all things that "could-be", is what we call His "natural knowledge". The reason for this is that all possible outcomes of every event, time and person, are as much known by Him as those same things that did come about in this version of time known as creation. 

      We know God knows what is "possible-to-know" by the sheer amount of predictive prophecy in the Bible. According to J. Barton Payne's, "Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy - The complete guide to scriptural predictions and their fulfillment", we find a total of 395 predicted fulfilled prophecies about 12 different nations and various events and 127 fulfilled prophecies centering about the life of Christ. H.A. Ironside aptly refers to predictive prophecy as a form of, "prehistory", meaning that, in the mind of God, the predicted event is already a "done-deal". For God to know with certainty the potential outcomes of future events gives us but the tip of the iceberg to what all lies in His natural knowledge of "things-that-could-be". 

3. God's knowledge of "all-things-that-are" or actual knowledge.

     God's omniscience includes knowledge of Himself and all those things that "could-had-been". But now, what can we note of God's knowledge of our actual world? As all possibilities were present in God's Divine mind, He decreed out of those innumerable possibilities that one version of history which He would bring about in His creation of time and space (see Romans 11:36; Ephesians 1:11). We refer to God's omniscience of our actual world as His, "actual" knowledge or sometimes by the designation, "free-knowledge". Theologian William G.T. Shedd summarizes God's actual knowledge:

"The divine decree is formed in eternity, but executed in time. There are sequences in the execution, but not in the formation of God’s eternal purpose."

     Shedd gives an example of how God's decree to bring about all He knew "could-be" to "what came to be" by Christ Himself:

"There were thirty-three years between the actual incarnation and the actual crucifixion, but not between the decree that the Logos should be incarnate and the decree that he should be crucified. In the divine decree, Christ was simultaneously because eternally incarnate and crucified: “The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 14:8). Hence divine decrees, in reference to God, are one single act only." 

       What always blows my mind is to realize that in one act, God knew what "could be", and thus decreed the one possibility out of those many to be our world. In sum, God does not decree our world because He looked ahead to a so-called "tunnel of time" independent of Himself, but instead, knows all about our world by what He decreed from the vastness of His omniscience. You and I require many successive thoughts in our planning. Truly, God's omniscience is staggering. He thinks it all in "one shot". Let me briefly mention one more category sometimes mentioned by theologians when it comes to answering the question: "how much does God know?"

4. God's knowledge of "what we would do if in different circumstances" or "middle knowledge".

       If we consider God's "natural knowledge" of all things that "could-be" as a first logical moment in God's mind, then His decree precedes the second logical moment to bring about our version of history or, "all things that are". Some Christian thinkers are convinced that the standard, theological account I outlined above doesn't go far enough. 

     In the 16th century, a brilliant man by the name of Luis de Molina proposed that there is a "middle logical moment" or type of knowledge in God's mind between His "natural" and "actual knowledge". According to Molina, whenever God chose to create the world, He took seriously the free-will decisions of His creatures. He foresaw what they "would do" if in a potential set of circumstances. Surprisingly, there are a number of scriptures that seem to support this alleged notion of "middle-knowledge" (1 Samuel 13:13-14; Jeremiah 38:17-18; Matthew 11:21-23; 1 Corinthians 2:8, just to list several). According to Molina, as God was decreeing to create, He included what his creatures "would do", and, by considering the purpose He so designed to take place, God brought about our version of history.

       So for example, in 1 Corinthians 2:8, Paul notes that if the Romans and Jews had comprehended that Jesus was really "God in the flesh", then they would not had crucified Him. For those influenced by Molina's view, this represents an example of an alternative version of history that could had come about if the perpetrators of Christ's crucifixion would had known differently, and thus evidence for God's middle knowledge. Although such a version of history was "possible" in God's omniscience, yet, it was not "feasible", since God rather chose to bring about our version of history with the cross (see Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28). 

        I won't say much more on this point, since I find it mostly convincing yet, also see why some would find it more speculative than anything. To summarize, we can portray the above four headings of God's omniscience as follows:

natural knowledge-(middle knowledge?)-decree---actual knowledge of our world

Closing thoughts

      In today's post we considered the question: how much does God know? We explored the Biblical teaching on the subject of Divine omniscience. We defined omniscience as, "knowing any and all true facts about everything". We noted that God first comprehends all things about Himself as scripture teaches from the activities between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We then noted how God's Divine omniscience includes His natural knowledge, that is, knowledge of all things that "could possibly be". We then discovered that out of all the innumerable possibilities in God's mind, God decreed to bring about our world, thus demonstrating His "actual knowledge" of our world, which includes exhaustive, direct knowledge of all times, places, and people. Lastly, we considered whether or not God included people's decisions in His plans, or what theologians call, "middle-knowledge". 

     To borrow and paraphrase an illustration from the 5th century Christian thinker, Augustine, I feel like  a little boy who thinks He has grasped the ocean by dipping a cup into it and exclaiming to his parents:
"I've scooped up the ocean". This little post has submerged itself into the vastness of God's omniscience. This is but a small cup, which I hope, causes us to be in awe of our amazing God!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Questions to ask when in pursuit of knowing God

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Jeremiah 9:23-24 Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.


     The prophet Jeremiah urges upon us the purpose of life: "knowing God". I have found that whenever approaching any subject, it is important to ask the right questions. Frankly, none of us can think too much about God. The problem with our church world and the world in general is that we think much more about ourselves, less about others and lesser still about God. I would hope that the questions I list below may contribute toward the reversal of the problem. May we think most about God, more about others and lastly about ourselves. So, what questions might we ask when in pursuit of knowing God?

1. What is God like?

2. How is it that God exists?

3. How can we know God exists?

4. Who is God?

5. How can we personally know God?

       Theology is defined as: "the study of God". The five above questions occupy the first and most important area of theology called: "Theology Proper", due to God as the "first" or "proper" beginning point of theology. If you and I don't have our thoughts of God right, everything else will drift. 

       The first question: "What is God like?", deals with God's being or "what He is". The second question, "How is it that God exists?", deals with God's attributes, or those perfections which express "that He is in virtue of what He is". The third question, "how can we know God exists?", address theistic arguments that explore various evidences for God's existence. The fourth question, "Who is God?", concerns how one experiences Him. Then the final question, "How can we personally know God?", centers on experiencing God in saving faith and discovering His identity through the scriptures - an identity expressed by the doctrines of the Trinity, Christ (also called "Christology") and the Holy Spirit (also called "Pneumatology). 

Closing thought:

       Remember, the depth of our heart's devotion in worship to God can go no deeper than our minds willingness to think more highly of God. To God be the glory! 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The rich meanings of believer's baptism in the New Testament

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Colossians 2:11-12 "and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead."

The practice of New Testament baptism is rich in meaning. The target of today's post is to explore the spiritual realities pictured by this important practice in the life of the church as prescribed by our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Unfolding the rich meaning of the New Testament ordinance of water baptism
Whenever one thinks about the sheer number of texts devoted to baptism, we find the following numbers testify to the importance of it.

1. 22 New Testament passages speak of the act of water baptism, whether it was being performed in the early church or was included in the instructions of an apostle or an associate of an apostle.

2. 8 New Testament passages serve to unfold the meaning and richness of this very important practice of Christ's church.

3. Of the above referenced passages, there are eight I will devote the remainder of this post to explaining and applying baptism's significance, since they serve to expound its importance.
a. Baptism is a command. Matthew 28:18-20
Baptism is a command of the Lord Jesus Christ, and points to the meaning of discipleship and the Great Commission. This command of Jesus expresses that baptism is for those who have by grace through faith believed on Jesus Christ and thus are disciples. This is why baptism, at least in Baptist circles, is called: "credo baptism" or "believer's baptism".

b. Baptism is a convert's public            association with Christ. Acts 19:5

Baptism includes the idea of having associated oneself with Jesus Christ, hence the phrase: "baptized in the name of Jesus".

c. Baptism identifies with Christ's 
    death, burial and 
    resurrection. Romans 6:3-4

Baptism speaks of having identified oneself with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. The word "baptism" itself comes from a verb and corresponding noun that, unless otherwise prohibited by context, speaks of immersion or dipping of the candidate into water. This text is one we can point out in understanding the proper mode of baptism.

d. Baptism by water pictures the 
    new convert's baptism by the 
    Holy Spirit at conversion, 
    whereby the Spirit unites us to 
    Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

The baptism here refers to the Holy Spirit connecting the new believer to Jesus Christ. Thus, Spirit baptism is an event which occurs at salvation, rather than some subsequent "second work of grace" done by the Spirit after salvation. Just as a baptismal candidate is "united" to the water by his or her immersion, so it is with the Spirit's work of uniting us to Christ in salvation. An example of this usage of baptism is found in 1 Corinthians 10:2, which reads - "and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." The Hebrews who crossed the Red Sea were led by the pillar of cloud - a manifestation of the presence of God or a "theophany". The historic Exodus from Egypt and the Red Sea crossing was meant to convey that these people were no longer united to Pharaoh, but to their leader Moses and ultimately, to Yahweh which redeemed them by His hand. 

e. Baptism pictures how the  
    believer is clothed in Christ's     righteousness. Galatians 3:27

Water baptism also communicates the idea of someone who has been "clothed" with Christ - His life, character and nature. The two doctrines which describe the believer's new position before God are justification and adoption. In justification, God legally declares the sinner, at saving faith, to be "just-as-if" they never sinned, hence, crediting them with the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:24; 4:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21). In adoption, the sinner is simultaneously set right with God in a relational sense, transferring from enmity to sonship with God (John 5:24; Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 4:4-6; Ephesians 2:5-6; 1 Peter 2:11-12). We know Galatians 3:27 teaches baptism's portrayal of these two truths by how it relates just a few verses back to Galatians 3:23-26, where justification and adoption are mentioned.  

f. Baptism pictures the believer's 
   prior installation into the body of 
   Christ by the Holy Spirit. 
   Ephesians 4:5

The Spirit's baptism of the new convert into Christ at conversion, along with water baptism following conversion, infer that both have a logical relationship to one another.  Water baptism signifies or "points beyond itself" to a preexisting reality in the life of the new convert, whereby the Holy Spirit installed them into Christ at conversion by His work of spiritual baptism.  In experience and scripture, they are two distinct events in terms of sequence. Thus, people do not get water baptized to get saved. Instead, they get water baptized because they have been born again. 

g. Baptism portrays how the 
    believer has forsook the world 
    for Jesus. Colossians 2:12

Baptism communicates that the person being baptized has turned their back on the world and former way of life as a result of God's prior working of saving faith in their life through the Gospel. Circumcision was a rite in the Old Testament that pictured a saint's identification with God's Covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and New Testament Baptism signifies the New Testament saint's tie of faith with Jesus Christ. Some well meaning and Godly people attempt to build the practice of infant baptism from texts such as these, however we do not see one example of infant baptism being practiced by the church nor apostles in the New Testament.

h. Baptism includes the believer's 
    public profession of faith. 1 
    Peter 3:21

Baptism is not something done to get saved, but rather something one does because they were saved. It is the pledging to God of a good conscience and thus, a public profession of one's prior faith to a group of witnesses.

How Southern Baptists understand the act, meaning and mode of Jesus' ordinance of water Baptism

It is so important to derive our understanding of any doctrine or practice from the scriptures - which constitutes our final authority of faith and practice. In looking at the Southern Baptist's understanding of water baptism, one can compare the following statement in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 to the above scriptures:

"Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper."

Closing thoughts

The BFM 2000 appears consistent with the Biblical evidence for communicating the rich meaning of water baptism as so given by Jesus to His church. As always, the final court of appeal is the scripture. Baptism in the New Testament is rich in meaning. It pictures and communicates the richness of the Gospel, the scriptures, the Christian life and Christ Himself. May this post be used of the Lord today to bring clarity to the discussion, understanding and practice of believer's baptism. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Exploring Two-Adam theology in the New Testament letters

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Romans 5:19-21 "For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."


How does the first man created by God - Adam - help shed light on the role and identity of Jesus Christ? The New Testament answers this question. Today's post wants to briefly consider how the New Testament letters of Paul and others utilize "Two-Adam theology". When I say "Two-Adam theology", I refer to the comparison between the historic Adam (i.e. "First Adam") and Jesus (i.e. "Second Adam"). 

Where does Paul refer to Jesus as the "New Adam" or "Second Adam"

Various locations in the New Testament bring out explicit comparison between the historic Adam or "first Adam" and Jesus Christ - i.e - the "Second Adam" (sometimes called "Last Adam") -  Romans 5:12-21 and portions within 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 1 Corinthians 15:45-48 are the key texts in Paul's letter. In the Romans text, Adam is referred to as a "type" or a pre-figured, prophetic imagery of Jesus in Romans 5:14. When we arrive in 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus is referred to as the "last Adam" in 15:45 and "second man" or "second Adam" in 15:47. 

How "Two-Adam" theology  highlights core Christian truths

Paul's point in comparing Jesus and Adam is to also highlight two core Christian doctrines - justification by faith, Christ's resurrection and the Christian life. 

1. The doctrine of justification by faith and the "two-Adam" theology

The doctrine of "justification by faith" is concerned with how Christ's accomplished work in the cross and from His resurrection are credited to the sinner at saving faith. Such "crediting" is described by Paul in Romans 4 and Galatians 3-4 as "imputation". When we speak about "imputation", we refer to the work of another credited to my account. The means by which Christ's life, death and resurrection are "credited" or "imputed" is by "faith". In saving faith, the sinner responds to God's gracious calling and receives all that Jesus worked on their behalf. Romans 5:1-11 summarizes all of the blessings flowing from justification by faith - peace with God, access to God, hope in God and love from God. 

When we consider how Adam's sin is passed down from one generation to the next, we find his sin, his shame and his transgression "credited" or "imputed" to all humanity. The disobedience, guilt and failure of Adam was "imputed" to all of his posterity (see Genesis 3:16-19; Job 31:33; Romans 5:12-21). Many older writers refer to how Christ, in effect, "undid" what the first Adam had done. 

2. Christ's resurrection and "two-Adam" theology

Concerning the second major doctrine illustrated by the Adam and Jesus comparison, we find that 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 15:45-48 emphasize the resurrection. Perhaps the one verse that brings home the power of this comparison between Adam and Christ, the "first Adam" and "the last or second Adam", is 1 Corinthians 15:22 - 

"For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive." 

The first Adam's choice - disobedience and breaking of God's original covenant with him - resulted in God's divine curse, universal death and humanity's separation from God. The second Adam's choices - perfect obedience and completion of that first covenant of obedience and inauguration of the New Covenant of grace in His blood - results in blessing, life and reconciliation. Death flows from the spring of the first Adam's bloodline. Resurrected life issues forth from the Second Adam. 

3. How the Christian life is illustrated by this "two-Adam" comparison
As one dives into this pool of Divine revelation on "the First Adam" and "Second Adam", we quickly find ourselves swimming from the shallow end to the ever deepening side. The central doctrines of justification by faith and resurrection are chief among Christian truths highlighted by this "two-Adam" theology. However, other truths connected to the practical, everyday, Christian life find illumination as well. We will list two of them: believer's baptism and the Christian's growth in sanctification.

A. The meaning of believer's baptism

Once a person has trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the first major step of Christian obedience involves following through in believer's baptism or immersion into water as replaying the events of Christ's death, burial and resurrection. This important act has as its backdrop the Old Adam/New Adam or Second Adam theology. Romans 6:4-6 states for example: 

"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin." 

The "old-self" refers to who I once was "in Adam". The "new-self" describes who I am in Christ - the second Adam. 

Or again, Colossians 2:13-14 - 

"When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." 

Jesus as the "New Adam" grants to the believer a new identity. Baptism pictures the reality of having been transferred from what we were in the first Adam to who we are called to be in Jesus Christ. All of this, of course, can only occur by grace alone through faith alone, with baptism being a subsequent, post-conversion act of obedience by the Christian convert. 

B. The Christian's need to put off the "old man" and put on the "new man" in the daily exercise of sanctification

Colossians 3 really speaks to the necessity of every Christian to "put off" and "put on". Christians are to forsake "the old, former way of life" from which they were saved and embrace their new found identity in Jesus by way of "putting on the new man". Colossians 3:9-10 - 

"Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him." The parallel of these thoughts is found in Ephesians 4:20-24 - 

"But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."

The Apostle Peter, I would argue, hints at this comparison of Jesus as the second Adam in one of his letters. For example, Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:17-21 - 

"knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God." 

Peter's ongoing discussion then of how "all flesh is grass" (quoting from Isaiah 40:6ff) echoes the fact that original Adam was a man created from the dust of the ground (see Genesis 2:7). 

Closing thoughts

Today's post was designed to explore the "two-Adam" theology of the New Testament letters of Paul and others. By reading Paul's comparisons of Jesus and Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, we come to understand four major truths pertinent to Christian identity.

1. Justification by Faith 

2. Christ's resurrection

These first two truths are fundamental to the whole of the Christian faith. The next two truths, illuminated by the "two-Adams" theology, have to do with the fundamentals of Christian living....

3. Believer's Baptism

4. Continuing growth in sanctification 

Monday, July 1, 2019

God's general revelation, special revelation and the fate of the unevangelized

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Psalm 19:1 “The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth His handiwork.

Psalm 19:7 “The Law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul”

John 1:18 “….He has explained Him”.

Colossians 1:16-17 "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."

Introduction: I've got a secret to tell you

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Have you ever had a conversation with someone that divulges a secret they have kept hidden for a long time? Prior to their disclosure, you are unaware of what is on their mind. However, upon their telling you the whole secret, you now have access to that which was previously hidden. Sometimes people will use the term "revelation" to describe the full disclosure of secrets.

When we speak about how God has made Himself or His will known to human beings, we refer to such an act as "revelation". Revelation, in its simplest meaning, refers to an "unveiling". For instance, the final book in the New Testament is called by the mysterious sounding title - "The Apocalypse". The term "apocalypse" derives from the same-sounding Greek noun which indicates the unveiling of something previously hidden. Such ideas convey the broad definition of God's revelation of Himself. 

The infinite God, creator of Heaven and Earth, has made available and accessible certain information about Himself in creation and conscience, which Bible teachers call "general revelation". This same God, who being the Creator, is also the Redeemer, and has disclosed specifics about His will and saving intentions in the Old and New Testament scriptures, which Bible teachers refer to as "special revelation". 

What God does through general and special revelation

One of my favorite designations for the Bible is “God’s Book”. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 begins its first article with these words: 

“The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man.” 

The remainder of the article emphasizes how God is the central character and focal point of sacred scripture. The BFM 2000 describes God as the Bible’s “Author”. 

Further reading yields that by the principles of the Bible, God “judges” men’s hearts. Finally, all scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of Divine revelation. In as much as the Bible is “God’s Book”, we need to also know the “God of the Book”. The above verses tell us three main truths about this God: 

1. His existence is revealed in the external world and the moral realm
(i.e. "general revelation").

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2. He expresses Himself in scripture 
(i.e. "special revelation").

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3. He is explained through Jesus Christ. (i.e. "fullness of revelation through God's special revelation").

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All three of the above points consider how God as Creator is revealed by the general revelation of creation and the conscience; special revelation in the Bible and the fullness of revelation in Jesus Christ. 

Unpacking general revelation

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What kind of God is this God? Undoubtedly we have the special revelation of scripture and the fullness of revelation in Jesus Christ to tell us the specifics about God. However, we also understand that God has expressed Himself in a general, non-redemptive form of revelation that Bible teachers call "general revelation". Why is this term "general revelation" used? The specific knowledge about God (His power, nature and goodness) is accessible to anyone, everywhere who has a heart open to truth. Such revelation about God is discerned through the external physical world and the internal moral intuitions of the human conscience.  

With the increasing tides of secularism and spiritualism, the God of the Bible needs to be explained for what and Who He truly is, the One All-Good, All powerful God. The exercise of discerning God's nature and characteristics from His general revelation in the external world and the moral realm is called "natural theology". 

Prophets of the Old Testament like David in Psalm 8 and 19 and the New Testament Apostles like Paul in Acts 14 and 17 argued for the existence and nature of the true God from observations gleaned from general revelation. Their strategy was to engage their audiences with information they already had about God. Romans 1:18-20 and 2:14 state that all men born into this world have an inherent knowledge of God's  power and moral character. Thus, the pattern of beginning with God's general revelation and the insights of natural theology is one that is advocated by the Bible.

How God can use general revelation to prepare humbled hearts to respond positively to the Gospel

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General revelation, though a non-redemptive form of God's revelation, can nevertheless prepare the human heart for reception of the "brighter-light" of God's special revelation, the Bible, and the fullness of His revelation disclosed through the Bible - Jesus Christ. Passages such as Romans 1:18-31 tell us that none can complain before God on judgment day that they didn't have a chance to know Him, since general moral and eternal qualities of God were revealed to them from general revelation. If such persons were to respond positively to the "lesser-light" of general revelation, then God would already have a Christ-follower ready to meet them with the redemptive special revelation of the Gospel. 

Acts 10 is a wonderful example of how God uses general revelation to prepare the human heart for the time they will hear more fully God's redemptive purposes toward them. The man in question is named "Cornelius". Acts 10:1-16 indicates that Cornelius was a "God-fearer", indicating that, at bare-minimum, He had responded positively to God's general revelation. What follows in the remainder of Acts 10 is the arrival of the Apostle Peter to bring to Cornelius and his household the specific, redemptive revelation of God from the scriptures, as well as the fullness of revelation revealed by the death and resurrection of Christ. 

The Holy Spirit brought conviction through Peter's message and the majority of his listeners were gloriously converted. If Cornelius had turned away from the lesser-light of God's general revelation, then he would had demonstrated his lack of willingness and readiness for God's special revelation. Salvation is all of God, and the rejection of the Gospel is all of man. 

Closing thoughts

Today we looked at the concept of God's revelation of Himself and how He makes Himself known through what is termed: "general revelation". We also touched briefly on two other terms: "special revelation", which is God's identity and redemptive-will through the scriptures and the full-revelation of Himself in Jesus shining forth from the Biblical text. By keeping in mind such distinctions, we can begin to explain how God deals with people who may have never heard of Jesus' name. No one can ever say they were dealt with unfairly by God (Romans 2:4-16). All those who respond to the Gospel call of salvation can only say they were dealt with graciously by God (Acts 16:14; Ephesians 2:8-9; James 1:18). All people who persist in their rejection of the Gospel can never charge God as unmerciful, since they had enough information from general revelation to elicit a forward direction toward Him (Romans 1:18-31). Only the Holy Spirit can open the heart, unstop the ears, take the blinders off the eyes and raise from spiritual death the sinner's will so moved to see, hear and sense the Savior calling them to Himself (John 1:12-13; 16:8-12). The Savior who was moving in the shadows of life in the course of seeing God's general revelation desires to dispel those shadows so that they can run toward Him, the focus of God's special revelation (John 1:9; Titus 2:11-12). 

Friday, June 28, 2019

God and all things

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Romans 11:36-12:2 "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

Note: Readers can also read this post on my new blog site -

Introduction: I don't want to be another goldfish

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I used to own a goldfish. As I watched the fish swim, it would stare blankly, unaware of the water that was sustaining it. The fish was fed by me. If there had been no aquarium, the fish would have died. Like that fish, many Christians carry on their day with hardly a second thought about God, His being and attributes. The great Dutch thelogian Abraham Kuyper once noted: "there is not one square inch of space that Christ cannot say "mine!" I don't want to remain ignorant of God's presence like a goldfish. Instead, I need His grace to cultivate a heightened awareness of His all pervading reality.

There is the Creator and His creation. There is the Redeemer and those whom He came to redeem. Any possibility we have of knowing God, or even knowing about God, is totally due to the gracious efforts He initiates. Knowing God is the chief purpose of life. With those thoughts in mind, is it a wonder how we could put anything in God's place? Yet, we often do. The late author A.W. Tozer writes in his classic book, "The Pursuit of God":

"The world of sense intrudes upon our attention day and night for the whole of our lifetime. It is clamorous, insistent and self-demonstrating. It does not appeal to our faith, it is here, assaulting our five senses, demanding to be accepted as real and final. But sin has clouded the lenses of our hearts that we cannot see that reality, the City of God, shining around us. The world of senses triumphs. The visible becomes the enemy of the invisible, the temporal of the eternal."

Tozer then concludes:

"At the root of the Christian life lies belief in the invisible. The object of the Christian's faith is unseen reality."
This first post aims to stir our thoughts toward cultivating a greater awareness of God's all-surpassing presence. 

God's infinite presence is the majesty which stirs the believer to live for Him

Reflection upon Romans 11:36-12:2 gives us a way to understand how the Christian is to live in the presence of God. Older writers often talked about living in God''s presence by the Latin phrase "Coram Dei", which referred to heightened awareness of God's activity within them and through them. 

God's omnipresence, we could say, is His "infinite presence" which influences all points in the universe, even the universe itself. All things - time, space, people - are present to God. To illustrate, picture a man at the supper table. He has before him a plate and all the utensils. He can reach out and affect anyone of those objects, since they're all in front of him.

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All of creation is before the living God. Not only do all things lay before Him, God also is present at every place and moment in history and space. Theologians refer to this aspect of God's omnipresence as His immensity, which is referred to in the Bible (1 Kings 8:22-23; Acts 17:26-28). God's presence suffuses the fabric of time and space while keeping Himself distinct and separate from it (i.e. another aspect, God's transcendence, Psalm 46:10; 1 Timothy 6:16).

What I've described marks the first step in cultivating a greater awareness of God - namely what we could call His "infinite presence". He is the ultimate, living, only, Personal, uncreated reality that is identified as three persons - Father, Son And Spirit (Matthew 28:20; 2 Corinthians 13:14).

This infinite presence of God is the majesty which stirs the heart to want to know God. When I focus on God''s infinite presence in Romans 11:36, the verse leaps off the page. This one verse of Romans 11:36 is a Bible within the Bible. Note the words of the verse:

1. "from Him" - that is, God the creator.
"through Him", that is, Christ the redeemer".

2. "to Him", that is, Christ our soon coming King.

3. "to Him be glory for ever, amen", that is, the Triune God's work of concluding history. 

The entire canon of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, finds its summary in Romans 11:36. So God''s infinite presence is the majesty which stirs the heart to know God. Let''s now consider how we go from knowing God to living for Him.

God's indwelling presence motivates the believer to live for Him

When we transition to Romans 12:1-2, we find the command to present our bodies as living sacrifices. Paul is beginning to discuss what we could call God's "indwelling presence" in the Christian. Here we see the Christian presented as a living sacrifice, much like those sacrifices brought into the temple at Jerusalem in Paul's day. They were brought for presentation to God to express worship. Those sacrificial animals were set apart. The result? Death. The sacrifice left the world of the living to give its life to point the way to the Author of all things. 

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The sweet aroma that wafted its way throughout the temple would remind worshipers of their purpose for living - to know God. The Christian is a living sacrifice (see Ephesians 5:1-2). He or she is to voluntarily come. The remainder of Romans 12:1-2 commands not only action, but surrender. Just as Jesus went willingly to the cross to give His life on our behalf, we too are to follow in His steps (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 2:21).
We find the command in the passive voice: "be transformed by the renewing of our minds". 

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Too often we are tempted to "be conformed to this world". Passivity in the things of the flesh leads to swift spiritual decline. We find too often the tendency to put things in cruise control and let the world dictate our agenda. God''s indwelling presence in the Christian as the Person of the Holy Spirit urges that we exchange worldly passivity to surrender to His leading.
What does it look like when the Christian follows through in surrender to the Spirit's indwelling presence? Paul supplies the answer in Ephesians 4:20-24 -

"if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

As one reads Romans 12:1-2, the urgency to be transformed by the "renewing of the mind" is heightened. Renewal of one's mind entails the combination of spiritual and moral transformation. The Christian is passive, in one sense, yielding to the Spirit's inner working. Yet, at the same time, the Christian is actively participating with the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 2:12-13; 2 Peter 1:4-11).

How God's infinite and indwelling presence work in the believer's life to increase a sensitivity to Him.

So as we head down the homestretch of today's post, lets put together what we have said about God, all things and how we increase our awareness of Him by His grace. The two headings we considered had to do with what we call God's "infinite presence" and "indwelling presence". At salvation, the Spirit of God comes to indwell the Christian (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20). Christians are described as the temple of the living God, both individually and corporately (Romans 6:4-12; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; Ephesians 3; 1 Peter 2:4-11). 

God's infinite presence, accessible to anyone, manifests in its more obvious expression by the indwelling of the Person of the Holy Spirit in Christians (see John 14:16-18; 15:26-27). Only by the Spirit can one test or prove that good, acceptable and perfect will of God (i.e. the scriptures, see 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Hebrews 4:12).

Closing thoughts

Today's post featured Romans 11:36-12:2. We noted how God's presence can be understood by two headings: His infinite presence (i.e. omni-presence) and His indwelling presence (i.e. the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian). The presence of God, by the Person of the Spirit in the Christian, enlightens them to their spiritual identity. The Spirit's enlightening work also empowers such persons to live out the will of God found in the Word of God. Such truths alert us to the pervading reality of God's desire to work in and through every Christian His powerful and mighty presence. There is God and all things. May we, as part of "all other things", look to and live for God that is overall and through all things.