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Saturday, January 11, 2020

The good and bad angelic realms - a summary

Image result for Angels
Introduction:

The Psalmist notes in Psalm 148:1-5

“Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! 2 Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! 3 Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light! 4 Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created.” 

The late Baptist theologian Augustus Hopkins Strong notes about the importance of studying angels: 

“The doctrine of angels affords a barrier against the false conception of this world as including the whole spiritual universe.  Earth is only part of a larger organism.  As Christianity has united Jew and Gentile, so hereafter will it blend our own and other orders of creation."

Whenever anyone explores the various creatures in the Bible’s presentation of the supernatural realm such a study is called: “angelology”. Broadly speaking, the "good guys" in angelology represent varying orders of spiritual creatures, ranging from the highest level called, "the Divine Council (see Psalm 82, "sons of God") to that of a middle tier of beings known as, "Cherubim", "Seraphim" and "the watchers", to the third tier of every other spiritual being known simply as: "angels". This assortment of "good" spiritual beings populate God's invisible kingdom. 

       On the bad-side we have two other subheadings known as: “Satanology”, or the examination of Satan (his being, rebellion and work) and “demonology” (that is, the various ranks of spiritual beings). Satan and all the various sort of malevolent spiritual beings  populate the parasitic "kingdom of darkness". Below we have a chart that depicts the Biblical supernatural realm. Notice that in the diagram, angels occupy the third or lowest tier of the spiritual creatures in God’s invisible kingdom. 
     In what remains, I want to offer a brief account of the angels as they are portrayed in the Bible. I hope this summary edifies and equips readers with a better working understanding of the Biblical doctrine of angels (known, as noted above, by the term: "angeology").

1. Angels are created beings.

       We can note first, that like the other spiritual beings in the Biblical supernatural realm, angels are created beings.  Psalm 148:5 notes that the angels were created by the command of God, just like the visible universe, stars, planets, life and humanity. Hebrews 1:7, quoting Psalm 104:4, states: “And of the angels He says,

“Who makes His angels winds, And His ministers a flame of fire.” From what we can discern from Job 38:1-7, the entire supernatural realm was created by God on either days 2 or 3 in the creative week. 

2. There are Good and Bad Angels

     When God originally created the angelic realm, they were all good. The creation of the supernatural realm was followed by the cosmic rebellion of Lucifer, which in turn influenced other spiritual beings to become the fallen angels (Isaiah 14:12-20; Ezekiel 28:13-19; Revelation 12:4). Some of those fallen angels are chained and some roam freely between here and the heavenly realms (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6; Ephesians 6:10-11). Thankfully, there are 2/3 of the heavenly angels faithfully serving God and His people (1 Timothy 5:21; Hebrews 1:14).

3. Angels are powerful beings

     Angels are dramatically powerful beings.  In 2 Kings 19:35 we read: “Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead.”  Revelation 9:13-21 records a future time when God will release four angels to kill 1/3 of humanity in the judgment of The Great Tribulation.

4. Good Angels aid God’s people

     Is it scriptural to say that angels are deployed by God to aid Christians in their walk of faith? Absolutely! Consider Psalm 91:11 "For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways." Old Testament saints had angels assist them (Genesis 18; Psalm 37:4; Daniel 10:11). We see angelic aid of Jesus and other believers in the New Testament (Matthew 4:11; Matthew 26:53; Luke 22:43; Acts 12:6-8; Acts 27:23-24). Without a doubt, Christians today can still experience angelic assistance when they least expect it (Hebrews 1:14; 13:2). 

     Scripture reveals how angels can protect believers (2 Kings 6; Psalm 34:7; 91:11 Hebrews 1:14); help in grasping God’s truth (Psalm 68:7; Matthew 28:5-7; Acts 1:9-11; Luke 2:14) and point to Christ’s deity (Psalm 68:17; Daniel 7:10-13; Matthew 28). The Book of Revelation illustrates how angels aid believers. It contains roughly 25% of the 300 times we find mention of the good angels in the Bible. Often, the Book of Revelation describes angels announcing something or explaining to John the meaning of the various visions. 

Final thought of application:

    Today's post was intended to offer a brief treatment of the subject of angels. We noted the following:

1. Angels are created beings.
2. There are good and bad angels.
3. Angels are powerful beings.
4. Good angels aid God's people.

     The eighteenth-century preacher John Wesley once wrote the following about angels: 

"They may assist us in our search after truth, remove many doubts and difficulties, throw light on what was before dark and obscure, and confirm us in the truth that is after godliness. They may warn us of evil in disguise; and place what is good, in a clear, strong light. They may gently move our will to embrace what is good, and fly from that which is evil. They may, many times, quicken our dull affections, increase our holy hope or filial fear, and assist us more ardently to love Him who has first loved us."

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The heavenly spiritual beings that point us to God

Image result for stained glass windows
Isaiah 6:1-3 "In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”

Ezekiel 10:20-21 "These are the living beings that I saw beneath the God of Israel by the river Chebar; so I knew that they were cherubim. 21 Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and beneath their wings was the form of human hands."

Introduction: 

The late theologian J. Hampton Keathley, III wrote an article on the purpose of studying the supernatural beings we find in the Bible (the article is found online at: https://bible.org/article/angelology-doctrine-angels). In that article we read:

“The fact that God has created a realm of personal beings other than mankind is a fitting topic for systematic theological studies for it naturally broadens our understanding of God, of what He is doing, and how He works in the universe.”

      Today we want to dive further into identifying what the Bible teaches about various orders of spiritual beings that populate the supernatural realm of Heaven, God’s throne room and which affect activities here on earth.

1. Cherubim. 

      We find Cherubim roughly sixty places in 13 books of the Bible. As noted in our last session, we could liken Cherubim as a sort of “secret service” to God. A brief summary of what the Cherubim do follows below.

a. Cherubim first appear in Genesis 3:24“So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” Cherubim as an order of spiritual beings defend the honor of God. Consequently, their presence, more-often-than-not, signified God’s holiness in judgment. 

b. The revelation of Cherubim extends into God’s design of the first Jewish worship center – the Tabernacle. Moses writes in Exodus 25:18, “You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat.” Almost ten other passages in Exodus speak of Cherubim occurring in the metal work and fabric embroidery of the tabernacle’s design. God was communicating through the design of the tabernacle that He wanted to meet with His people, and they with Him (see Exodus 25:22).  

c. By the days of King David, Cherubim were closely identified with the throne of God – a short-handed way of describing God’s Divine presence and authority. In 2 Samuel 6:2 we read: “And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim.” 

d. The prophet Ezekiel affords us the most detail description of Cherubim in Ezekiel 10:20-21, “These are the living beings that I saw beneath the God of Israel by the river Chebar; so I knew that they were cherubim. 21 Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and beneath their wings was the form of human hands.” As a final thought about Cherubim, we find them mentioned in the descriptions of the ark of the covenant in Hebrews 9:5 and the heavenly worship scene of Revelation 4-5. 

2. Seraphim. 

     Theologian Lewis Sperry Chafer describes the Seraphim from his series on “Angelogy” (that is, “the study of angels”): “The Seraphim title speaks of unceasing worship, their ministry of purification, and their humility.” These spiritual beings are defined by the Hebrew noun “seraph”, which literally means, “burning one”. Isaiah 6:2-3 is the key Bible passage that mentions these specific creatures: “Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” The only other passage that we may find Seraphim (some would classify them as similar to the “Cherubim”, opinions vary) is in Revelation 4:8.  Seraphim function like stained-glass windows in a mighty cathedral – pointing our attention to the source of their existence – God Himself!

3. Archangels. 

     There is only one archangel mentioned in the Biblical text, namely, “Michael” (see Daniel 10,12; Jude 1:9; Revelation 12:7). Michael’s power and abilities exceed that of regular angels. In Revelation 12:7-9a we get an idea of Michael’s power: “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, 8 and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down….”. 

4. Watchers.

For the sake of completeness, the Book of Daniel mentions what are called: “The Watchers”. We only find these beings in three verses of the entire Bible (Daniel 4:13,17,23).  The execution of God’s decree came through what Daniel 4:17 describes as: “the decree of the watchers” -  “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes And sets over it the lowliest of men.” These “watchers” are perhaps among the most mysterious and least known of all the spiritual beings we encounter in the Bible. Most English translations will either translate the underlying Aramaic term as “watchers” or insert the term “angelic” alongside “watchers”. I won’t go into all the details of the wider background of Daniel that we can use as clues to their identity – only to say that “the watchers” are associated somehow with God’s throne and the announcing of his decrees. 

Closing thoughts:

We’ve considered four different classifications of spiritual beings that occupy various rankings in the Bible's portrayal of the supernatural realm. Time nor space does not permit comment on the remaining beings that the Bible collectively refers to as: "angels". The angels are another order of spiritual beings that, like their higher-order spiritual counterparts, function to point us to God. I will close with the following note of application from theologian Wayne Grudem: 

“As angels find it their highest joy to praise God continuously, should we not also delight each day to sing God’s praise, counting this as the highest and most worthy use of our time and our greatest joy?”

Monday, December 30, 2019

How to be more spiritually healthy in the upcoming year

Image result for christian spiritual health

Titus 1:1-3 Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, 3 but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior

Introduction:

     What is meant when we talk of healthy churches or healthy Christianity? A healthy church, or Christian, has the following traits: they prioritize God, pray, place others first, prize scripture and have a passion for evangelism. What can you and I do, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, to become more spiritually healthy in the upcoming new year? Today we will offer the following answers to this question by noting that the primary trait of Christian spiritual health is when we focus on God. Below we will spell out what it takes to focus our attention on the Lord.

1. Live a life sensitive to God.          Titus 1:1,4

      If we make it our business to focus on God, it will cost us much. Our world and culture are certainly not interested in our spiritual health. We will battle distraction, disappointment and discouragements in our quest to focus on God - yet, the effort will be well worth it! When it comes to the individual Christian life or church life, God uses testings of all sorts to make us stronger in our faith. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 reminds us: 

"For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

      When Paul wrote his short letter to Titus, he was urging him to finish up the work that he (Paul) had begun on that island (see Titus 1:5). The island of Crete is a tenth of the size of the state of New York, yet, it was a considerably difficult work. As any survey of the Titus 1:10-16 will discover, Paul and Titus both had their work cut out for them. Nevertheless, Titus had a proven track record of focusing on God in tough situations.

     Titus' life evidenced a sensitivity to God.  We find 12 or so references to him in the New Testament. We know he was used greatly by God in sorting out the mess Paul dealt with at the church of Corinth. In surveying those letters of Paul, we find a couple examples of how Titus cultivated a sensitivity to God. 

a. He refreshed the souls of others

2 Corinthians 7:6 "But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus."

b. He resolved to influence others for God. 

2 Corinthians 8:16 "But thanks be to God who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus."

      Clearly Titus was a spiritually healthy Christian, called by God to leverage such influence upon other believers. As I was reading the little letter written by Jude, Jesus' half-brother at the end of the New Testament, I found a recipe for cultivating sensitivity to God. Let me cite the text first, then give you the recipe. The text in question is found in
Jude 1:20-21 

"But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life." 

     Whenever I read that text, I wrote down the following recipe for cultivating sensitivity to God: pursue His word + prayer + practice your faith + put your focus on Christ’s 2nd coming = greater spiritual sensitivity. If we will but consider Titus' example and Jude's words, we will become a more spiritually healthy people and thus, churches. In addition to having a greater sensitivity to God, spiritually healthy people and churches do something else when attempting to focus on God.

2. Lean on the Sovereignty of God.
    Titus 1:1-2
    
    When we speak of, "God's Sovereignty", we refer to the right He has to have authority over our lives, history and everything. A high view of God, in proportion to a lower view of ourselves, will yield a proper view of everything else. Leaning on God's Sovereignty means I'm trusting Him with the outcomes as I put forth the effort to obey. Psalm 103:19 gives a wonderful description of God's Sovereignty: "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all." Romans 11:36 is my favorite passage in the Bible, since it speaks of how far His Sovereignty extends: 

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

      We can note God's Sovereignty operating in the first two verses of Paul's short letter to Titus.

a. Titus 1:1, “Paul  and apostle”. Sovereignty in sending the Gospel. 

       Paul identifies himself as an "apostle", a "sent one". God sends those that communicate the Gospel to those who need to hear it. Romans 10:14-15 states this truth of God's Sovereignty in the sending of the Gospel: 

"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

b. Titus 1:1b Sovereignty in saving faith. 

      We see side-by-side, the necessity of faith to receive the Gospel and God’s Sovereign choosing. The Southern Baptist doctrinal statement, Baptist Faith and Message 2000, notes the following of what we see in Titus 1:1 whenever Paul speaks of doing what he does, "for the faith of those chosen of God" , 

"Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility."

       The Bible consistently places both God's Sovereignty in salvation beside mankind's need to respond in faith to that salvation. We find the doctrine of election in roughly 100 spots in the Bible. For example, Abraham was chosen by God and called to be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-7; 18:19). Yet, we also find in Abraham's journey with God that: "he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness" (see Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3). 

      Within Abraham's own family, we find God choosing Isaac, the younger, over Ishmael, the oldest son (Genesis 17:19). We find that when Isaac had his twin boys, Jacob and Esau, it was Jacob God chose, rather than Esau (Malachi 1:2). Yet, in both Isaac's life and Jacob's, there was a necessary moment where they each needed to respond to God's saving call by faith (Isaac in Genesis 22 and Jacob in Genesis 28). 

      God's Sovereignty in salvation is continued on in the New Testament, with the accompanying response of faith following. Jesus told his disciples in John 15:16 - "You did not choose me, but I chose you." We find of course in that same chapter of John 15 Jesus' repeated emphasis of "abiding in Him", which is another way of exercising trust or faith in Him. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 we read:

"But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." 

     Affirming reliance upon God's Sovereignty gives the Christian, and churches, more reason to actually do evangelism. The Apostle Paul was told in Acts 18:9-11 

"And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” 11 And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them."

      The underlined phrase in Acts 18:10 tells us that God already was at work in specific people in Corinth whom had not yet believed. God didn't tell Paul who they were. Thus, Paul knew that he and his fellow workers needed to share the Gospel with everyone, while trusting God for the results. Although we may not know how God's Sovereignty and human responsibility exactly fit together, all we know is "that they fit together". We are to exercise ourselves in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, corporate worship and evangelism as prescribed to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. Thankfully, such activities are never in vain, since the goals of such efforts are designed by God, and the results are completely in His hands. We can have a greater level of spiritual health in the upcoming year when we focus on God by developing a greater sensitivity to Him and leaning on His Sovereignty. There is one more thought to consider before we close out today, namely.....

3. Look to the scriptures revealed        by God.    Titus 1:3-4

As Paul states to Titus in Titus 1:3-4,

"but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior, 4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior."

       Paul reminds Titus, and us, that God's Word, the Bible, is the source of not only Christian salvation, but continued growth in sanctification. Put another way, the preaching of the Word of God, week after week, year after year, decade after decade, is aimed at saving the lost and feeding the saints. We read of the importance of looking to the scriptures for our spiritual health in other key passages. Romans 10:17 tells us: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Or again, Romans 15:4 

"For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

    We also find Paul reminding another young pastor, Timothy, of the central place the Word of God is to occupy in the spiritual well-being of his life and the people to whom he serves in 1 Timothy 4:16, 

"Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you." 

     The Apostle Peter underscores the necessity of scripture for spiritual health in 1 Peter 1:23-25, 

"for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off, 25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you."

Closing thoughts:

    As we close out today's post, we have expressed how important it is for spiritually healthy Christians and churches to focus on God. We suggested three practices to accomplish greater spiritual health in the upcoming new year:

1. Live a life sensitive to God.
2. Lean on the Sovereignty of God.
3. Look to the scripture revealed by          God.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Four reasons for Jesus' virgin-birth

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Luke 1:35 "The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God."

Galatians 4:4-5 "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."

Introduction:

      Have you ever received a gift that you didn't know what to do with once you had received it?  Some gifts are that way. Whenever we consider the sending of the Son of God – the Lord Jesus Christ – His virgin-birth was the greatest gift ever given. Sadly, very few people grasp why God the Father sent the Son into the world to become man for us. So, why did the Son of God come into our world through the virgin birth? What spiritual significance did it have? Why does it matter to you? Today’s post will center on answering these questions.  

1. Foundational to human salvation - 
    Luke 1:26-31.
    
    We read in Genesis 3:15

“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”  

     The victory of Jesus over Satan was never in question, since it was predicted He would, “bruise the serpent’s head”. Matthew 1:21 points us to the identity of the “seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:15, 

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 

     What the virgin birth achieved was the bringing-in of the Savior to accomplish the foundation of human salvation. But notice another reason for the virgin birth…

2. Fulfillment of prophecy - Luke 1:32- 
    33.

     J. Barton Payne’s, “Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy”, lists 127 prophecies fulfilled by Jesus in the course of His first coming. God’s prophetic plan included both good and ill decisions in the bringing about of His prophetic purposes. The question before us is this, “how would God deal with what otherwise would had been a major conflict in His prophetic plan?” 

     Prophecies in the Old Testament describe how God would bring about an ultimate descendant from David’s bloodline to sit on Israel’s throne. Yet, we also read of how one of David’s descendants sinned so badly that God cursed that very bloodline. Jeremiah writes in Jeremiah 22:30

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Write this man down childless, A man who will not prosper in his days; For no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.’” 

     In Joseph’s lineage, recorded in Matthew 1, we find the dreaded cursed-man, Jeconiah, that we read about in Jeremiah (see Matt 1:11). The value of Joseph’s bloodline was to provide legal proof that Jesus had rights to the throne of Israel. However, because of Jeconiah, this otherwise legal bloodline was also cursed. Thankfully, God had already “fool-proofed” the plan of salvation in both its historical, spiritual and prophetic portions. Joseph would not be the biological father of Jesus’ humanity. 

     However, Luke’s Gospel informs us that Mary was also a descendant of King David, reckoned by way of a different descendant of David, hence, a non-cursed bloodline. The virgin birth ensured Jesus’ humanity would both legally make Him heir to the throne while Mary’s made him biologically an heir to the throne. Only in Christ can all conflict cease, and thus, fulfill every prophecy. But notice a third reason for the virgin birth…

3. Fundamental to Jesus’ mission -            Luke 1:34-35.

    The prophet Micah wrote the following words over six-centuries prior to Jesus’ coming in Micah 5:2

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” 

     Jesus had a mission that required Him, as truly God, to also be, truly man. Other Old Testament scriptures allude to the pending virgin-birth, as we find in Jeremiah 31:22

“How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter? For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth—A woman will encompass a man.” 

     Indeed, the one “encompassed by a woman” with respect to his humanity would also be eternally Divine. Jesus came to live, to die, to rise from the dead and ascend into Heaven. His mission was clear: pay the price for sin, defeat Satan and become the mediator between God and His people (see Luke 19:10; 1 John 3:8; 1 Timothy 2:5). But now let’s consider a fourth reason for the virgin birth…

4. Forwards us to the cross - Luke 1:36-
    38

     Luke 1:37 has an angel responding to Mary in her question of how she, as a virgin, to bring forth the Son of God in human flesh with the following statement: “nothing is impossible with God”. That word, “impossible”, as it appears in the original Greek text, occurs only one other place in the entire New Testament - Luke 18:26-27. Luke 18:26-27 reads this way, 

“They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” 

       Shortly after Jesus spoke those words to His disciples, He then made a prediction about His pending death and crucifixion within a span of a few verses. Notice how God’s ability to bring about the virgin-birth conception is tied directly to the salvation He would accomplish through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Preachers of old have well said: “the shadow of calvary ever falls on the cradle at Bethlehem.” 

Closing thoughts:

So today we have learned four reasons for the virgin birth:

1. Foundation to human salvation
2. Fulfilled prophecy
3. Foundational to Jesus’ mission
4. Forwards us to the cross

Thank the Lord for the greatest gift that could ever be given – Himself as the Person of the Son, taking unto Himself a true, human nature, through the virgin-birth-conception. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The glory of God's attributes

Image result for rays of the sun
1 Timothy 6:16 "who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen."

Purpose of today’s post:

      Today’s post will focus upon God’s “attributes”. If you were to take out your license, you would find basic descriptions or “attributes” about yourself. An attribute is a trait which designates a person or object. We can use a little phrase to summarize this part of our discussion, “what God is”. In the course of this post, we’ll use two categories for talking about God’s attributes: 

1. God’s “communicable attributes”      
    (traits He shares with us).

2. God's “incommunicable attributes” 
   (traits unique to God and unshared 
   with creatures). 

    In Exodus 34:1-8, God revealed to Moses “what He is” – listing His attributes – resulting in Moses’ promptness to worship Him. 

Thinking about the God that reveals Himself
    
    Four truths stand out about our physical world: it could had been different than what it is and, it had a beginning, the cause to our universe must exist and, there must be a cause to our world that had no beginning. These ideas direct us to starting points for thinking of God. This God has made known what was otherwise unknown to His creatures in activities called, “revelation”. Below we consider two types of revelation.

God is the kind of God that reveals Himself generally in creation and specifically in scripture and through Jesus Christ.

    Biblical passages such as Psalm 19:1-6 and Romans 1:18-20 and 2:14-15 describe how God reveals or “unveils” truths about Himself through all He has created and our human consciences. Such revelation from God through the created realm is what we call: “general revelation”. The task of drawing-out thoughts and assembling them together to describe what we see from such “general revelation” is called: “natural theology”.  All human beings, regardless of where they live or what they believe, have such “in-built” knowledge about God (see Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:20-21). General revelation, shining upon the reason of man with such an innate knowledge about God, reveals the following attributes:

1. God is spirit or immaterial, non-
    physical (Acts 17:25-30).         

2. God is invisible (Romans 1:20).

3. God is incomprehensible yet 
    knowable (Job 11:7-8).

4. God is omnipotent or all-powerful 
    (Romans 1:20).

5. God is good, the source of moral 
    values and duties (Matthew 5:45; 
    Romans 2:14-15).

6. God is Personal, since a mind is 
    required to make a world that is 
    understandable (Psalm 8:1-4).

7. God is transcendent, or beyond the 
   creation as to His Divine life      
   Jeremiah 23:24).

8. God is immanent, or is “near” in the  
    sense of us have no ability to escape 
    Him (139:1-7).

9. God is just, placing us as moral 
    creatures in obligation to Himself 
    (Romans 1:18-19).

10. God is the Creator, eternal, 
     unending, making all that is made 
     from nothing (1 Corinthians 8:6).

    God’s attributes or “perfections” are known intuitively by all people. Sadly, like a pressed-down spring, mankind “suppresses” what He knows, living in spiritual-denial. Often in moral situations, mankind’s knowledge of God will “slip-out”, betraying his claims to ignorance. This is “what God is” at the level of general revelation. Both scripture and Christ are collectively termed: “special revelation”, meaning, there is “specific revelation” God has given of Himself in them. In addition to the above perfections, the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ speak of other truths concerning God.

1. God is Holy, set apart in a unique 
    way from everything (Psalm 99; 
    Isaiah 6).

2. God is good, that is, He is most 
    excellent in and of Himself (Psalm 
    136; Mark 10:18).

3. God is self-sufficient, independent, 
    or what Bible teachers call, “aseity” 
    (Isaiah 43:10-
    11; 44:6).

4. God is love, that is, He is self-giving 
    of Himself for others enjoyment (1 
    John 4:8).

5. God is merciful, not giving to us 
    what we otherwise deserve (James 
    5:11).

6. God is gracious, giving us what we 
    don’t deserve (Titus 2:11-12).

7. God is long-suffering, withholding 
    wrath to give room for repentance 
    (2 Peter 3:9)

8. God is jealous, that is, He is 
    passionate for His character to be 
    upheld (Exodus 34:14).

9. God is wrath, which means He 
    constantly opposes sin (Nahum 1:2;
    Romans 1:18).


10. God is One, unified in His being 
      and attributes (Deuteronomy 6:4-
      5).

11. God is Sovereign, exercising His 
     comprehensive right-to-reign over 
     all things (Psalm 103:20; Romans 
     11:36).

12. God is wise, exercising His 
      knowledge and power to bring 
      about the most excellent 
      ends by the most appropriate 
      means (1 Timothy 6:16). 

13. God is immutable, that is, He is 
      unchanging in His essence (Mal. 
      3:6; Heb. 13:8).


      Author J.I. Packer notes on page 18 of his classic book, “Knowing God”: “How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is demanding but simple. It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.”

Applications for your life:

1. Take time this month to look up the 
    passages listed with the above 
    attributes. Use them in prayer and 
    watch how your prayers become 
    more focused.

2. Pray God would use general 
    revelation to shed new light into the 
    hearts of your unsaved loved-ones, 
    friends, co-workers, so they would 
    have a readiness for the special 
    revelation of His Word.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The eternal God and the supernatural realm

Image result for eternal god"
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."  

Introduction:

   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?

Image result for stained glass windows"
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."

Introduction:

     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!