Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Pleasure of God in the Gospel of His Son

This message was preached on September 6, 2009, at the Guinavah Campground amphitheater. "For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight." (Colossians 1:19-22) Contrary to what we might feel, God does not reluctantly forgive sins but He is pleased and full of joy to reconcile His enemies unto Himself. It pleased the Lord to crush His Son for our sakes, and when we apprehend this wonderful knowledge of God's good pleasure in the gospel, our hearts will be liberated and our lives transformed. Listen below:

Eli Brayley - The Pleasure of God in the Gospel of His Son

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Acts 8:26-38 - A Baptism Message

This is the transcript of a message that was given at the baptism of a dear friend of mine.

"And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him." - Acts 8:26-38


There are many baptism accounts in the book of Acts that I could have chosen to speak from, but I chose to speak from this one because it’s so simple, and yet so complete, in its testimony of what the gospel is, and what baptism is.

This passage tells us the story of a man’s salvation. I’d like you to notice three things about the man in this story:

1) That it was God who pursued this man, and that if God had not pursued him he would not have been saved. Philip was sent on a divine appointment into the desert to meet this man, a place where he would not have naturally gone. Had God not sent Philip, the man would have returned to Ethiopia in ignorance of God’s salvation and would more than likely have perished in his sins.

2) That this man was truly religious, and yet unsaved. He had just visited Jerusalem, the city of God, to worship God. This verse reveals to us that he was a proselyte, a Gentile, who, like many, had joined himself to the Jews in recognition that the one true God of all was also the God of Israel. He had gone to the right place at the right time, and yet still remained ignorant of the salvation of God through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. An onlooker may have thought this man was alright, but God sent Philip to him because he was not alright. His life was still unredeemed, and the wrath of God still hung over his head because he, like every one else, was a sinner. “There is none righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10). Whether you are Jew or Gentile, religious or irreligious, you are a sinner, and until you come to faith in Jesus Christ, you stand eternally condemned before God. You may, like the Ethiopian, go to church and worship God and do all the right things, but be just as unsaved and in peril as he.

3) He read the Scriptures, but did not understand them, and was humble enough to admit that and to ask for help in understanding them. He read the Scriptures, but that was not enough. In order for a person to be saved they must believe in Christ, and in order for them to believe in Christ they must first understand who He is and what exactly He did for them. That is why Philip asked the question: “Do you understand what you are reading?” And it is important that we ask ourselves that same question. Sure you may own a Bible and have read it your whole life, but if you do not understand what you are reading, your faith and your hope of salvation may be completely erroneous and therefore useless. We must “know whom we have believed”.

Now it tells us what place the Ethiopian was reading from. The text of Scripture that he was reading was from the 53rd chapter of the Prophet Isaiah: the most profound Messianic prophecy in all of the Old Testament. In it describes the death of Christ on behalf of the sins of his people: Isaiah 53:5-12. It is from this very text that Philip opens his mouth and preaches Christ to the Ethiopian. It doesn’t tell us what Philip’s sermon was, because that is unnecessary. He preached Christ, and we know what the preaching of Christ is, not merely because it has already been shown to us before in the book of Acts, but because of the marvelous text that He is preaching from: Isaiah 53. To preach Isaiah 53 is to preach Christ, and vice versa. I can tell you it went something like this:

Jesus of Nazareth, whom you heard all about while you were in Jerusalem, is the man spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. He is the Holy One of God, the Messiah and Savior whom God promised would come and save us from our sins. You see, all people everywhere have gone astray from God, like sheep, and have sinned, falling short of God’s standard of righteousness, so that we all deserve to die. The punishment for sin is to be accursed, eternally separated from God, and to suffer forever in a place of fiery torment. The requirement to be received into eternal life is to be righteous, and in the sight of God no one is righteous. For God to declare a person as righteous they would have to have no sin, or else God would be unjust, a compromiser, and turn a blind eye to sin. Since no one is righteous, all are in need of the Savior. God so loved the world that He sent His Son Jesus into the world to die in the place of sinners and bear their sins on their behalf. Christ Himself said, “The Son of man has come to give His life a ransom for many.” He was cut off, but not for Himself. “All we like sheep have gone astray, each one of us has turned to our own way, but the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus died upon a cross and paid for the sins of the world, then He rose from the dead the third day proving that He is the Son of the God and that He has atoned for sin by the sacrifice of Himself! Because the Lord laid upon Him our iniquity, it no longer is counted against those who believe, and they are freed from sin, forgiven and justified in God’s sight. Through Christ’s death, God can look upon sinners and declare them fully righteous in His sight, and therefore all those who believe are saved from eternal death and are given the gift of eternal life. That is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

It must have been quite a sight to see that wealthy and regal black man listening in the chariot to a poor and haggard Jewish man, but that day the royal treasurer of Ethiopia believed the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and was gloriously saved from his sins! Jesus said, “Verily, verily I say unto you, he that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (1 John 5:1) The Ethiopian was miraculously born again by the Spirit of God, who opened his heart to receive the Word and gave him the faith to believe!

See now this beautiful picture. They come upon some water along the way. The Ethiopian asks this significant question which we may learn from: “What doth hinder me from being baptized?” An interesting, but helpful way to phrase the question! “The answer, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The only condition: to believe. To believe the record that Jesus is the Christ, the one of whom Isaiah spoke of. The one through whom comes the forgiveness of sins, by His death. He is baptized.

There are only two Christian ordinances in the New Testament: the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Both are symbolic: the one represents Christ’s body and blood that was given for us for the remission of sins: what happened to Him. The other represents the individual’s new birth and union with Christ: what happened to the individual. Both are given to us by God for explanation, for reference, for remembrance. Both focus on the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins, but neither of them actually contributes to that work. As we take communion, we recognize the sacrifice Christ made for us to pay for our sins, when He gave up His life. When we are baptized, we recognize the individual’s participation by faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, how that in Christ, the sinner is dead to sin by the body of Christ and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Baptism is a confession. It is not a step to exaltation and glory, but of humility. The believer acknowledges that he or she is a sinner who deserves to die, and that Christ died that death for them. But it is also a recognition of hope, that as Christ has died and put away our sins as far as the east is from the west, so has He risen, and we have risen with Him to newness of life before God. We are forever justified, saved and possessors of eternal life. Death has no more dominion!

This is what Bethanie is doing in obedience to the Lord today. She is not doing this to tell everyone how great a person she is, or to earn points with God, or to get her sins forgiven. She is confessing to everyone that she is a sinner, but that her sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus the Christ who died for her at Calvary, just as Isaiah 53 foretold. This is a day of remembrance and celebration for what Jesus, our Victor, has freely done for her. To God alone be all the glory. Amen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

7 Arguments Atheists Can't Use

"The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." - Psalm 14:1


An atheist, as the wordsmith Noah Webster so aptly defined, is one who disbelieves in and denies the existence of a God, and every now and again a person will find himself in the company of one or more of these kinds of people. Of atheism, here is the outrageous thing: there is not one viable argument which can be given by the atheist to support the disbelief in or denial of the existence of a God. Their position is entirely assumed apart from any reasonable basis. Of course, the atheist will deny such a charge, though it was C.H. Spurgeon who reminded us, "Skepticism is no very great achievement. Nothing is easier than to doubt. A man of moderate ability or learning can doubt more than the wisest men believe. Faith demands knowledge, for it is an intelligent grace, able and anxious to justify itself; but infidelity is not required to give a reason for the doubt that is in it." (The Clue of the Maze, p. 19) As a Christian, I am writing from the faith in the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible, and I have compiled several of the most common arguments that atheists use to support their atheism in order to show how none of them are viable arguments against the existence of God.


1. Evolution

Probably the most common argument used by atheists in recent years to disprove the existence of God is an appeal to the theory of evolution - somehow they think that if evolution is true it follows that God does not exist, but such an argument is completely worthless. Though I myself ardently reject the theory of evolution, there are numerous Christians and non-Christians who see theistic evolution as an entirely tenable explanation of creation. That is the belief that God designed and had a part to play in the evolutionary process. In fact, I would argue that one would have to believe in theistic evolution if one was to believe in evolution at all. Were the theory of evolution true, the thought that the present state of things should have come about by chance is so utterly impossible and beyond all sensible hope that it is nothing short of miraculous. If evolution were true, either God had an active part to play in it or we must throw rationality to the wind. The fact that there are many theistic evolutionists in this world today (who are the only reasonable evolutionists) reveals that the atheistic argument that evolution disproves God is ridiculous, null and void.


2. The "Problem" of Evil

It is argued that because evil exists, God doesn't exist. However, the exact opposite is true: Because evil exists, it proves that God exists. Were it true that there was no God, and that everything in the universe had an impersonal, naturalistic beginning, then evil wouldn't exist at all. Evil is a moral word, and morality has no place in an impersonal, naturalistic universe. Whatever is, is, and whatever is, is not deviant but totally natural. In such a universe murder isn't wrong, it just hurts. Kidnapping children to use them as sex slaves isn't wicked; it's not even twisted. However, to talk like this is nonsense because every human being inherently knows evil exists, and every human experience proves the opposite. Even the atheist knows evil exists because he argues that the existence of evil disproves the existence of God! The existence of evil proves conclusively that we live in a personal universe that was created by a moral God. The "problem" of evil is really the atheist's problem, not the theist's.

That both evil and God exist is also not a problem for the Christian, for the Bible explains why God allows evil to exist, and how God has not turned a blind eye to evil but has condemned it conclusively and will judge it eternally. Therefore this poses no problem. But even if someone chose to reject the Biblical testimony concerning the existence of both evil and God, they still have no grounds to deny the existence of a God simply because evil exists. There is another valid option (though not a convincing one), and that is that an evil God exists. Whatever someone might choose, there is no grounds for atheism by an appeal to evil.


3. Hume's Argument Against Miracles

Another common argument atheists use against the existence of God, and against all things supernatural, is taken from David Hume's argumentation against miracles, or against anything out of the "ordinary". Hume argued, basically, that miracles were "a violation of natural law" and anything that might be purported as a violation of natural law (or anything out of the ordinary) needed such an incredible amount of evidence in order to be believed that he essentially ruled out all possibility of believing anything "supernatural".

But here a few preliminary questions are in order: What is "ordinary"? If indeed God exists, would not God be a part of the ordinary? As even an atheist once told me, "If God exists then anything He does in our world is technically not supernatural but perfectly natural, though we may personally not be accustomed to it." Also, who said a miracle was a "violation" of natural law? Today it has been generally agreed in the philosophical debate that Hume was wrong in his definition of miracle, which seriously undermines his entire argument (see Hume's Abject Failure by John Earman, PhD, Princeton). A miracle is not a violation of natural law but is wholly consistent with natural law, once one takes into consideration God. Therefore, in a theistic worldview, there is nothing so unusual about a miracle that would set it apart in a category making it hopeless to prove. The simple testimony of a miracle is just as valid as the simple testimony of anything else.

Suppose a miracle from God really did happen, and suppose it was in fact witnessed by several people (the number is irrelevant). In Hume's thinking, no one would ever be able to believe the witnesses even though the event actually happened, and thus the world is robbed of exceedingly priceless knowledge. Any epistemology that does not allow for the simple testimony of true events should be re-evaluated as obstructive and insufficient.

Finally, regardless of how untenable Hume's argument is, it contributes nothing to the disbelief in a God, for it concerns miracles, and Deism is still an option. Therefore it should not be used by atheists to support atheism. Meanwhile, the perpetual tide of miraculous testimony still genuinely attests to the existence of the personal God.


4. God is a Crutch

It is frequently stated by atheists that people only believe in God because God serves them as a crutch; something to help or comfort them because of their weakness or need. Of course, there are several obvious reasons why this argument is totally invalid.

First of all, regardless whether or not God helps and comforts people, the existence of God does not depend upon someone liking or not liking God to be there. We could point out the absurdity of the reverse, that since atheists believe that God does not exist, and draw a certain amount of comfort from that, it follows that God must exist. This reasoning is just as ridiculous when applied to the theist. That the existence of God is indeed a comforting reality for believers serves nothing to disprove God, and what shall we say about people who believe in God and yet draw no comfort from it?

The thing is, in order for people to draw comfort from God, they must first believe that there is a God to draw comfort from - there must be some reason why they feel they can call out to a God who will help them. They have faith, and their faith must have a basis, or else there would be no faith. Speaking for Christians, we do not believe in God, as the atheist suggests, because God is a crutch for us. That is no basis. We believe in God because of the uniform testimony of creation, Scripture and human experience. It is because we believe in God (and the Judeo-Christian God at that) that we are able to draw comfort from Him, and not the other way around. Therefore the atheist who argues in this fashion misses the whole point and puts the cart before the horse.

The truth is, believing in God brings with it a certain amount of discomfort. If we believe Biblical revelation, for example, we must believe that God is a consuming fire - a holy and just judge who will punish the ungodly with everlasting destruction. That includes our lost friends, family members and even ourselves before salvation. We must acknowledge that our sinful passions are unacceptable, though we enjoy them so much. We must also face the ridicule and oftentimes persecution that comes with believing the message of Christ crucified. In all reality, to become a Christian is not to take up a crutch but to take up a cross. "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Matt. 16:24-25) I should think, rather, that it is the atheist who finds a crutch in disbelieving the existence of God when all the evidence is finally weighed.


5. Religious Crimes

Another argument put forth, usually in a last ditch effort by the atheist to make his tottering position seem tolerable, is that because so many crimes have been committed in the name of God it must therefore follow that God does not exist, and that religion is false. But when we speak of crime, we are speaking of immorality, and immorality only exists as far as God exists, and immorality is immoral only because it is a transgression of the law of God. There actually can be no "religious crimes" without the existence of God.

Furthermore, it is not religion, true religion, nor God, that commit these crimes, but so-called "religious" people who themselves violate the very idea of religion by their crimes. We must also consider the immeasurable good that faith in God has caused in the world, as well as the immense evil this world has seen on account of denying God. It is always some form of godlessness that is the source of all sin, whether it be categorized as "religious" or atheistic.


6. If God Had No Beginning, Why Not the Universe?

Sometimes it is argued that if theists can say God has always existed, then atheists can equally say the universe has always existed. Whatever one believes, something has had to have always existed, because everything that currently is could not have come from nothing. The thought alone is staggering to both theist and atheist alike. Christians affirm the Scriptural revelation that God has always existed as God, and that at one definite point God created the universe from nothing. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) This verse refers to the beginning of the universe, not the beginning of God. It is the beginning of our history, and it is remarkable that such an ancient sentence holds such profound meaning today. But is it true that if Christians can say God has always existed, so atheists can say the universe has always existed?

The answer is no. As much as atheists would like to believe it, the demise of this argument is that the more we learn about the universe, the more we learn that the universe in fact had a beginning. Scientific research has advanced leaps and bounds in the area of physics, astronomy and cosmology in the last 100 years, and as it has, the truth of Genesis 1:1 has proven itself to be accurate: that is, that there was in fact a beginning to the universe. Christians believed that the universe had a beginning for thousands of years despite the fact that the dominate belief in the ancient and pre-modern world was that the universe was a constant. Today, however, modern science has completely turned the tables. "[Today], the dominant idea of cosmology is that the universe had a beginning." (Dr. Adam Frank, University of Rochester) "The scientific evidence is now overwhelming that the universe began with a "Big Bang"... the Big Bang theory is the most widely accepted theory of the creation of the universe." (Dr. van der Pluijm, University of Michigan) "All the evidence seems to indicate, that the universe has not existed forever, but that it had a beginning... This is probably the most remarkable discovery of modern cosmology." (Stephen Hawking, University of Cambridge)

Therefore, because modern science is revealing the fact that the universe did in fact have a beginning, this argument cannot be used. It is up to the atheist to first prove that the universe did not have a beginning - a belief contrary to the scientific evidence. Nothing comes from nothing, so if the universe had a beginning, as the ancient Scripture declares, it is one of the greatest proofs for the existence of God. Besides, even if the universe had always existed, how does that prove atheism anyway?


7. The Belief in God is Unfalsifiable

Lastly, it is often objected by atheists that the belief in God is a belief that is unfalsifiable, that is, that you cannot disprove it even if it were false, and therefore anyone who believes in God exercises a purely unscientific faith which should not be recognized. They compare believing in God to believing in leprechauns or unicorns, or, to the unfalsifiable claim, "Everything just grew double in size... Prove me wrong!" So they compare this with the theistic assertion, "God exists... Prove me wrong!" But is this really the case with theism? Is this a valid objection leveled against the belief in God?

This argument would be valid if it were accurately and faithfully representing the theist's position, which it is not. Accusing theists of making unfalsifiable claims is just one of the many thoughtless strawmen that atheists have invented to dismiss the belief in God. Despite what some may say, people all over the world believe in God because they have reason for doing so, and it is because they have a reason for doing so that the belief may be disproved and falsified. Since any belief stands upon some argument, destroy the argument and you destroy the belief. Any belief that does not stand upon an argument should indeed be rejected as unintelligent, but such is not the case with theism.

If a man says, "Unicorns exist", one need only ask him the reason for him saying so. If he gives some empirical evidence, like, "I saw one in the zoo", one simply needs to go to the zoo and ask if they have ever had a unicorn there. If he rather says, "Because the great spirit of the unicorn spoke to me", one can investigate whether he is lying, or whether he is mad. But if it is found that he is neither lying, nor mad, and whatever other facts necessarily precede or follow this premise add up, it would be reasonable to believe him. The point is, his assertion may be falsified. Likewise, the belief that God exists does not stand alone without any reasonable basis - ask a Christian sometime why he or she believes in God. If an atheist wishes to falsify the claim, he ought to go about answering the evidence rather than use such an argument as the strawman in question.


Conclusion: I Don't Want There to Be a God

I have learned that the source of all atheism springs from the heart, and not the brain. Atheism is not an intellectual position, but a dogmatic faith cloaked in intellectual jargon - else why do atheists argue so feverishly? Why do the emotions rise so? It is because they do not want there to be a God. It is because of what believing in God would mean, and that is something they are not willing to face. "The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, They have done abominable works..." (Psalm 14:1) History tells the story of thousands of atheists who have bowed their knees in repentant faith before the Lord God of heaven and earth. Was it because they suddenly gave up their intellect? Most certainly not! Was it not rather because they submitted their wills to the sovereign will of the true and living God? As long as the heart rages against God no amount of reasoning will stop the infinite flow of irrational arguments proceeding from a fool, but all arguments will cease once the heart is still.

To my dear atheist friends: not wanting God to be there does not change the fact that He is there, and as long as you continue to fight against God you are only hurting yourself and others.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Wrath of God

This message was preached on August 30th, 2009, at Valley Church in Smithfield, Utah. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." (Romans 1:18) Foundational to the gospel as well as to the whole Bible, the reality of the wrath of God has almost become a thing of embarrassment for many Christians, but if we do not know God as the God revealed in Scripture - a God of wrath - then we really do not know God at all. God's wrath is as much a divine perfection as His love, and therefore it is something marvelous for us to rejoice in. Listen below:

Eli Brayley - The Wrath of God

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rejoice in the Lord!

This message was preached at Cache Valley Bible Fellowship in North Logan, Utah, on June 28, 2009. "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord!" (Philippians 3:1) As Christians we are commanded to rejoice in the Lord, and it is not only right and fitting to worship God for the marvelous things He has wrought for us in Christ, but it is also "safe." Because false teachers abound who would seduce us away from the truth of the gospel, our greatest safety is in offering unceasing thankfulness and praise to the One True God who has saved us by His grace to serve Him without fear! Listen below:

Eli Brayley - Rejoice in the Lord!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The God of All Grace

Eli, I've been really struggling to come to grips with my own salvation and what it means to be saved by grace through faith and not of ourselves. Scripture on one hand talks as if we're saved entirely by God and we can be entirely passive while God amazingly saves our souls. On the other hand though, it talks as if it's dependent on us and our salvation is gained by us. I just can't come to grips with this.


Brother,

I have shared your struggle, and there are answers, though let us remember that God has hidden his wisdom in a mystery that can only be revealed to men by the Spirit, so if we find ourselves wrestling with questions and difficulties it should not surprise us - it should drive us to our knees for grace to help us in our time of need. We are needy people who are entirely dependent on the Spirit. Nothing is by our might, but by God's Spirit alone. Those who know this groan, and those who don't deceive themselves with vain confidence.

Ephesians 2:8 is simple, as it was meant to be. "For by grace are ye saved through faith." Grace is how we are saved. Faith is the instrument by which grace save us. Swallowing is what brings bread down to my stomach, but swallowing does not fill me. Bread is what fills my stomach and gives nutrients to my body, though without swallowing I would never benefit from the bread. Likewise, faith does not save us, though grace comes to us through faith. If all we had was faith we would still be totally condemned, for as long as the law stands against us faith avails nothing, because all that would count is whether we kept the law (see Romans 4:14-16). Therefore, there must something that faith brings to save us. As Romans 5:1-2 shows us, faith brings us into the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that by faith we believe unto righteousness - the perfect righteousness of Jesus that is not ours, yet is accounted as ours. I think you know this already. This is the grace that the apostle is talking about in Ephesians 2:8 which saves us. Any man who is saved by grace must first believe in order to access that grace. That is what the preachers of the gospel do: they present the grace of Christ - the gift of righteousness - to people (the bread of heaven), and then they command them to believe (swallow). God commands/invites/beseeches everyone to believe, and the Bible refers to faith as "the obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5, 16:26), because by believing they obey God. "Obeying the gospel" (2 Thess. 1:8; 2 Pet. 4:17) is believing the good news of peace in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:13). This obedience of faith is repentance. A person turns away from whatever other thing he was believing and submits to the righteousness of God in Christ for salvation (Romans 10:3). Repentance is believing God: turning to God by faith in Christ, acknowledging that you are a sinner who cannot save yourself and submitting to/receiving the gift of imputed righteousness through Christ. You never find Paul in the book of Romans talk about repentance as if it were a turning away from a sinful lifestyle (not because we don't want to but because we cannot for justification!). Such a concept is not once mentioned! He affirms again and again that ungodly men are at once justified by faith in Christ: "But to him who works not, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted [Gr: unto] righteousness." (Romans 4:5) Faith is simple, easy, effortless - it is not a work; it is a rest from work and is simply trusting in the promise of Another (Hebrews 6:17-18). Faith is what receives the promise of grace, and grace does all the saving. But if it's so easy, why don't more people believe?

Ephesians 2:8 does not end there, however, for Paul reveals to us something further about faith: "...and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." The only "that" that Paul could be talking about here is faith. He wouldn't even need to attach this additional clause were the issues of regeneration and election not even real - the verse would have been perfectly complete and coherent: "For by grace are you saved through faith: not of works lest any man should boast." Nor is Paul, by this second clause, simply restating the first part of the verse, for the "and" let's us know that he is not restating but adding to what he has said. But why add this extra phrase then, Paul? What are you getting at? Why did you need to say that: isn't it within the ability of every man to believe? Paul is not bringing in any shockingly new concept, for already in the letter he has spoken of election and regeneration in the prior chapter and half. But here he must bring it up again. A point of clarification is necessary.

The problem of belief/unbelief has nothing to do with ability or inability but with the heart. Every man has Christ offered to him, and God does not mock men with the gospel. He does not offer them life only to taunt them since they actually have no ability to receive it. May such a thought be removed far from us! God offers to all men the gift of righteousness freely and every man has the ability to choose whether they will receive it or reject it, thus making all men accountable for their choice. Men do not burn in hell because God rejected them but because they rejected God, and hell is a place where their guilt will be keenly known. No one will accuse God of not being merciful, for "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13) They did not believe, and therefore they are lost. But the reality is, as is revealed to us in the Scriptures and by the Holy Spirit, is that not one (and there are no exceptions) will obey God and believe as He commands them to. Though all most certainly can, none will, thus adding guilt upon guilt. The issue is not ability, but unwillingness: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matthew 23:27) "All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." (Romans 10:21; see also Isaiah 28:12, 30:15, Jer. 29:19) It is in this recognition of the basic depravity of man (not that man cannot do any good, but that man will not do that good which is required of him) that we learn that the only hope for man is in the electing mercy of God, who "quickens whom He will" (John 5:21) and "has mercy on whom He will have mercy" (Romans 9:15). The promise of the new covenant is unlike the old covenant, which depended on us writing the laws on our hearts (Deut. 6:6-9). In the new covenant God alone is the one who takes away our old hearts of stone and gives us new ones; He puts His fear into our hearts and He does all the writing, all the saving and all the keeping. (Read Hebrews 8:6-12 carefully and ask yourself: "With whom was fault found in the old covenant? Who does what in the new covenant?") God will do that which we would not do ourselves. He circumcises our hearts so that we respond to His voice and believe on Christ. He takes away our unwillingness so that we willingly take refuge under His wing. Everyone who comes to Christ must first be drawn by the Father (John 6:65). Whoever hears God's word and believes must first be born of God (regenerated/quickened) by the Spirit (John 8:47; 1 John 4:5-6, 5:1). By this all the glory and work of salvation is actually God's, even though from a "street level" it may not seem that way. It appears as if the man was simply willing to believe... and in truth he was! But it was because of God. And so we give God the glory whenever we are willing and obedient (Philippians 2:13; 1 Cor. 4:7; Acts 13:48, 16:14), and whenever we are not willing or obedient it is we who are to blame. The mercy of God is what makes the difference, and God is not under obligation to prevent us from sinning, but He shall be praised when He does. Glory to God who has mercy on hardened rebellious sinners who otherwise would kick against the goads all the way to hell!

This almost always causes offense or fear, for we feel much safer when we are in control. It is more acceptable and comfortable to be an Arminian, but if we only knew the depths of rebellion that is in our own hearts, we would fear if the lot was in our hands! A dear sister cried, "Oh, if it is up to me I know I will not be saved!" We also fear that God will not choose us because we are still so gripped by self-righteousness: "God won't choose me because I'm too bad of a sinner. He elects those who are better than I." What a lie! God delights in saving sinners, and you are a sinner, and He has already invited you! Pour out your complaint before Him, for He is merciful and will never be accused of being unmerciful. Call out to God for salvation from yourself. Cry to Him: "God, circumcise my heart and take away my unwillingness! I need you to believe you!" That God is able to save unwilling sinners is the greatest of all wonders the Arminian knows nothing about. What a comfort to know that Jesus Christ died on the cross also for unbelief and unwillingness, for they too are sins - perhaps the very worst. And He died for our sins. There is hope for real sinners.

So grace is multifaceted: we are saved by grace, the grace of the imputed righteousness of Christ unto all who believe (Ephesians 2:8a). But we are also saved by grace, in that God's grace comes to us even before we believe, it meets us at our deadness, and gives the gift of faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, by (grace ye are saved;)" (Ephesians 2:5). Have you ever noticed that... that twice in this chapter it mentions we are saved by grace? But one refers to the gift of righteousness, and the other to the gift of regeneration. Both are by the grace of God, who is "the God of all grace" (1 Peter 5:10). Where would any of us be were it not for the relentless, pursuing, lavishing grace of God?

I love you brother. Hang in there, and put all your hope fully in the grace of our mighty God.

Yours sincerely,
-Eli

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Does Baptism Wash Away Our Sins?

The following letter was written to a sister in Christ who asked me a question concerning a teaching she had heard: that baptism washes away sins.


Hello M-----,

No, I strongly disagree with that statement. God has forgiven us of our sins, and yet we still need to bury them? By baptism? That's absurd. If what he says is true, that we, as Christians, carry sins around like garbage and need to put them in the garbage can by baptism, does that mean you need to be baptized again and again every time you sin? The Mormon's Sunday sacrament would suggest this. Mormons essentially renew their baptism every week and believe that they are washing away their sins by doing so. This is folly, and ignorant of God’s salvation.

No matter how you slice it, there is only one way that sins are forgiven: that is through the death of Jesus Christ. Water does not remit sin, blood does. And not any blood, but only the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Our sins are not forgiven only to continue to defile us. Our sins are "removed as far as the east is from the west" through the blood of Jesus. (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14) "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." (Rev. 1:5) "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matt. 26:28) It is unnecessary to go through the whole Bible to prove this point; there is no question that remission of sins comes to us solely through the death of Christ - by the blood of the new covenant.

Therefore, we must recognize that wherever the remission of sins is mentioned in Scripture it is directly connected to the death of Christ the Lamb of God, though there be no actual mention of His death in the text itself. For example, when we read in the Old Testament, "Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah." (Psalm 85:2), we see that no mention of Jesus is made, but we know without a doubt that Jesus is in direct view. How are their sins forgiven? How will God cover their sins? By the Messianic sacrifice. It need not be mentioned for us to understand. Another example, "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins." (Acts 13:38) We know that, though the death of Christ is not mentioned in this text, it is unmistakably connected. The forgiveness of sins comes to us "through this man" because of his atoning death on the cross. It need not be mentioned for us to understand. Wherever the remission of sins is spoken of, there we must also read between the lines the unspoken basis for that remission: the death of Christ (not create some new and unheard of basis of which the Scriptures know nothing about).

Water does not remit sins. We are not washed from our inward corruptions by external purifications! Shall we attempt to go back under the law of rituals and purifyings which could do nothing to cleanse a guilty conscience? Do we honestly think that a poor stricken conscience that is burdened by the guilt of sin will be satisfied to hear that a water baptism has purified it before God? No! There's no sound basis for relieving the conscience in that. Such external rituals cannot bring peace to a guilt-ridden soul. "Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9:9-14) Only the death of Christ, satisfying the just demands of the law on our behalf, declaring and upholding the righteousness of God, can bring peace. By this only can a man rest assured that the forgiveness of sins is offered to him lawfully and without presumption.

The misunderstanding is cleared up when we realize that water baptism, though nothing in and of itself, is the believers’ act of public identification with the one who died for their sins. Baptism was practiced before New Testament times - it was practiced when a Gentile would convert to Judaism. It was a means of identifying himself with the people of Israel and doing away with his old heathenish identity. The former life had passed away; dead and buried. This was the imagery of baptism. True New Testament baptism conveys a much deeper spiritual meaning. A person is spiritually born again and created anew in Christ. The old Adamic identity is crucified with Christ; dead and buried. The believer is quickened together with Christ to new identity in Him. All this is demonstrated by water baptism, a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of a believer with Christ.

In Acts 2:38, Peter's message to the international group of Jews who had gathered to witness the holy commotion which had occurred during Pentecost, was for them to believe that Jesus is the Messiah whose death and resurrection was the fulfillment of prophecy... prophecy that foretold of the suffering servant who would be put to death for the justification of sinners (Isaiah 53). This message was central to all the early Christian preaching: "But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." (Acts 3:18-19) Peter's message, and ours today, are the same: repent and be converted (turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and put your faith and trust in Him) and your sins will be forgiven through His atoning blood. Baptism, like the Gentile's baptism, is an act of conversion, though it in and of itself is nothing but an image or act which correlates to a true inward reality. The remission of sins does not come from the water of baptism, but by faith in the vicarious death of the suffering servant. Where remission is, there always is the death of Jesus Christ. Though the picture and imagery of baptism is used in Scripture as a means for explanation of the spiritual death and quickening of the individual in Christ, and baptism itself as a convenient reference point for conversion, it is always and only the blood of Jesus, applied by faith alone, that is the sole basis for the forgiveness of sins.

Because the basis of forgiveness is the blood of eternal covenant, the death of the Lamb of God has a once-and-for-all effect that is permanent and unchangeable. "For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." (Heb. 10:14) No repetition, no renewal. "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Heb. 8:12) Now that's an unshakable promise!

I hope this is helpful for you, M-----. May the Lord bless you,
Yours,
-Eli

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Potter's Power Over the Clay

This message was preached on October 5, 2008 at Valley Church in Smithfield, Utah. "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" Delivered with much "fear and trembling", this sermon is an exegesis of Romans 9:14-29 and an examination of the God's sovereign election in salvation. There is so much misunderstanding and confusion that surrounds the issue of election, and my hope is that this message will clear much of that away. The Church must not be ashamed of, or apologize for, God, and one of the greatest hindrances to our coming into the fullness of the stature of Christ is our failure to embrace this essential God glorifying truth: that salvation is all of God and not of man. Listen below:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Come Unto Me, All Ye That Labor

The following is a response to an article entitled, "Keeping the Commandments and Enduring to the End" which quoted Matthew 11:28-30 after teaching that a person must "retain the remission of sins" by persistent obedience to the law and commandments of God. It cried for an answer.

Hi Ben, my name is Eli. I have a few comments about your article.

You quoted Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

When Jesus said this, the last thing in His mind was the L.D.S. plan of salvation. In fact, the gospel of Mormonism is not easy... it is impossible, giving no rest to those who follow it. Jesus really meant, "Come unto me and I will give you rest." However, in Mormonism, coming unto Jesus means work, work, work.

When a person comes to Jesus in Mormonism, they must come by a strict requirement of repentance and obedience; a person must be worthy to come to Jesus. Even the definition of faith in L.D.S. doctrine is: "Having such trust in Christ that we obey whatever he commands. There is no faith where there is no obedience." (Gospel Principles, p.118) Spencer Kimball said, "Faith involves doing everything we can." (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p.205) "We have to work at it." (ibid.) No rest here.

In Mormonism, a person must be worthy to be baptized. Repentance precedes all the blessings in the L.D.S. religion. Nothing comes for nothing, as you yourself have written. Joseph Smith taught: "All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins . . . shall be received by baptism into his church." (D&C Section 20:37) What is repentance? As taught by Smith himself and the L.D.S. Church, repentance is only repentance if there is a complete forsaking of sin. "By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them." (D&C 58:42-43) I know that you know this.

There is nothing easy about Mormonism. The opposite is true: Mormonism is impossible. The Jesus of Mormonism speaks with a soft, kind voice but asks for the impossible. He lays heavy burdens on men's shoulders which they are not able to carry.

And no Mormon can make an excuse, such as, "He knows I will fail." "He only asks me to try." "He knows I'm only human." The late President Spencer W. Kimball said concerning these excuses: "There is one crucial test of repentance. This is the abandonment of the sin... The saving power does not extend to him who merely wants to change his life... Nor is repentance complete when one merely tries to abandon sin... To 'try' is weak. To 'do the best I can' is not strong. We must do better than we can." (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 163-165)

Kimball is not being untrue to Mormon Scripture. 1 Nephi 3:7 removes any excuse from people who say what the Lord asks is too hard, too difficult: "For I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." Therefore, whatever God commands He expects you to do, and you have no excuse for not doing it. Your best IS obedience. All that you can do IS all that God commands.

So the Mormon gospel isn't good news for sinners. Grace comes at a cost. Forgiveness requires work. The atonement cannot be received without repentance: "We accept Christ's atonement by repenting of our sins..." (Gospel Principles, p. 75) If you don't repent of all your sins, which even the Mormon Jesus said, "won't be easy, but it will be possible", then you haven't received the atonement and you are still lost and will perish in your sins.

Ben, have you repented of all your sins? If not, you have not accepted the atonement, your baptism is disqualified, and you will perish.

There is no excuse you can give, because the only reason you don't obey is because you don't exercise your free agency to obey, showing that you really have no faith, or real intent. As a Mormon, doesn't that concern you?

I've never met a Mormon who has repented. Mormons are trying to repent, but repentance isn't repentance until it's repentance. All Mormons are striving, not resting. The Jesus of Mormonism gives men a heavy yoke of labor which they continually fail to bear.

But the true Jesus of the Bible actually meant what He said when He said:

"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

The true gospel of Jesus Christ liberates us from striving to earn the impossible. Christ actually frees us from our own work and labors. "For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works." (Hebrews 4:10) The good news of the gospel is that because we could not do any work for God (for all our righteousnesses are filthy rags in God's sight, Isaiah 64:6), Jesus Christ gave His life on the cross so that we could be fully forgiven and accepted by God through His shed blood and that alone. The New Testament teaches us that God promises eternal life freely to all those who simply receive Christ by faith. The moment a sinner believes on Christ alone, and ceases working, they are considered 100% righteous before God:

"Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted unto righteousness." (Romans 4:4-5)

Wow! That is rest! Christians have rested in the finished work of Christ for them and have to do no works at all for their justification (being made righteous before God). Now they are free to serve God with thanksgiving and joy, not for hire! They are fully forgiven by the blood of Jesus (Colossians 1:13-14). "Having forgiven you all trespasses." (Colossians 2:13) None of their sins are anymore counted against them (Romans 4:6-8)! Eternal life is theirs! No separation from Heavenly Father!

That is how much God truly loves. Consider this example: Suppose you have a house that is entirely unpainted. The house represents your righteousness, and to the extend that it is painted is the extend that you are righteous. God doesn't "love" you insofar that He gives you a paint brush and a paint-can so that you can get to work painting your house (as in Mormonism). He loves you so much that He paints the whole house for you! For Mormons, the atonement of Christ is a means to WORK. But for Christians, the atonement of Christ is a means to REST, just as the Bible says.

Ben, Mormonism does not offer rest. The forgiveness of your sins is solely dependent on your personal obedience day by day, as you yourself have written. You have to work to "retain" the forgiveness of sins! The true rest Jesus gives is final because it does not depend on our works but upon Christ alone. The righteousness that He gives by virtue of Himself is steadfast and unchanging. The day you come to Jesus is the day you will understand His rest.

Ben, I pray that you would become overwhelmed with the heavy burden of Mormonism, realize that you are a vile sinner who disobeys God, that you would cry out to the real Jesus for deliverance from hopeless striving, and come to understand that it is only through the shed blood of Christ alone that you can be right with God.

Sincerely yours,
With loving concern,
-Eli

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Sonidos Extranos Del Campamento Pretribulacional

A brother from Mexico felt led to translate this article, "Strange Sounds from the Pretribulational Camp", into Spanish since there are very little resources on the end times in the Spanish language and pretribulationism seems to be dominating the Mexican churches. May God bless this translation for His truth's sake.


SONIDOS EXTRAÑOS DEL CAMPAMENTO PRETRIBULACIONAL
Por Eli Brayley

“Y si la trompeta diere sonido incierto, ¿quién se preparará para la batalla?”
1 Corintios 14:8

Nunca deja de asombrarme como la enseñanza de un rapto pretribulacional puede sacar conclusiones tan fantásticas de pasajes bíblicos tan directos. Alguien comprometido a un estudio honesto y objetivo de las interpretaciones presentadas por los defensores de la pretribulación, no puede pero notar las discrepancias flagrantes que inevitablemente surgen entre la supuesta doctrina y las inspiradas Escrituras. Un destacado teólogo alemán francamente declaró: “El pretribulacionismo debe ser refutado como una distorsión peligrosa de la escatología del Nuevo Testamento.”

Es mi intención, en este artículo, hablar de unas de las discrepancias escriturales más obvias que resultan de mantener una posición pretribulacional, con el fin de que los que lean las siguientes palabras puedan considerar la singularidad y error de esta doctrina del siglo XIX.

UNA SEGUNDA VENIDA ANTES DE LA SEGUNDA VENIDA

“Así también Cristo fue ofrecido una sola vez para llevar los pecados de muchos; y aparecerá por segunda vez, sin relación con el pecado, para salvar a los que le esperan.”
(Hebreos 9:28)

El término “Segunda Venida” en realidad nunca se encuentra en la Biblia, aunque el concepto ciertamente está ahí, así como la palabra “trinidad” no se encuentra en la Biblia; sin embargo, el concepto sin duda se encuentra en ella. Aunque el versículo mencionado arriba es el único que usa la palabra “segunda” en conexión con la futura venida del Señor, la creencia de que Jesús regresará a la tierra una segunda vez llena el Antiguo y Nuevo Testamento. Jesús anunció a sus discípulos la noche antes de ser crucificado: “…vendré otra vez, y os tomaré a mí mismo, para que donde yo estoy, vosotros también estéis” (Juan 14:3). De la misma manera, el ángel les anunció en el Monte de Olivos justo después que Cristo ascendió: “Este mismo Jesús, que ha sido tomado de vosotros al cielo, así vendrá como le habéis visto ir al cielo (Hechos 1:11). La expectación de los apóstoles era que Jesús regresaría una segunda vez a la tierra de la misma manera en que él ascendió. Esto se muestra por el testimonio continuo y unánime de ellos con respeto a la venida de Cristo:

Pablo: Porque el Señor mismo con voz de mando, con voz de arcángel, y con trompeta de Dios, descenderá del cielo; y los muertos en Cristo resucitarán primero. Luego nosotros los que vivimos, los que hayamos quedado, seremos arrebatados juntamente con ellos en las nubes para recibir al Señor en el aire, y así estaremos siempre con el Señor.”
(1 Tesalonicenses 4:16-17)

Pedro: “Pero el día del Señor vendrá como ladrón en la noche; en el cual los cielos pasarán con grande estruendo, y los elementos ardiendo serán deshechos, y la tierra y las obras que en ella hay serán quemadas. Puesto que todas estas cosas han de ser deshechas, ¡cómo no debéis vosotros andar en santa y piadosa manera de vivir, esperando y apresurándoos para la venida del día de Dios, en el cual los cielos, encendiéndose, serán deshechos, y los elementos, siendo quemados, se fundirán!
(2 Pedro 3:10-12)

Juan: He aquí que viene con las nubes, y todo ojo le verá, y los que le traspasaron; y todos los linajes de la tierra harán lamentación por él. Sí, amén.
(Apocalipsis 1:7)

Noten que la expresión apostólica es simplemente la manifestación gloriosa y completa de nuestro Señor Jesús, y no distinguen entre dos. La razón por la cual nunca hacen distinciones entre la “segunda venida” y una “venida secreta pretribulacional” es porque ninguna dualidad de “venidas” existía en su doctrina. Los apóstoles enseñaban, simple y sencillamente, que Jesucristo vendría de nuevo.

En contraste, si los pretribulacionistas quieren permanecer consistentes con su teología, deben creer en tres venidas de Cristo, un concepto totalmente extraño a las enseñanzas del Nuevo Testamento. Ni Jesús ni los apóstoles jamás enseñaron tal cosa. Para evitar la vergüenza de tal conclusión, los pretribulacionistas tratan de retener la expresión “Segunda Venida de Cristo” mientras al mismo tiempo creer en una venida anterior a ella. No lo pueden tener de ambas maneras. Si dicen que el “rapto secreto” NO es una “venida”, descalifican todos los versículos que han usado para respaldar un rapto pretribulacional donde se usa la palabra “venida” (ve 1 Corintios 15:23, 1 Tesalonicenses 4:15, por ejemplo). Si dicen que el “rapto secreto” SI es una “venida”, entonces deben creer en tres venidas, y por lo tanto no tiene sentido lógico alguno mantener la expresión “la Segunda Venida de Cristo” para describir la manifestación final y gloriosa de Cristo.

UNA ÚLTIMA TROMPETA ANTES DE LA ÚLTIMA TROMPETA

“He aquí, os digo un misterio: No todos dormiremos; pero todos seremos transformados, en un momento, en un abrir y cerrar de ojos, a la final trompeta; porque se tocará la trompeta, y los muertos serán resucitados incorruptibles, y nosotros seremos transformados.”
(1 Corintios 15:51-52)

Uno de los versículos pretribulacionales más populares de la Biblia es 1 Corintios 15:51-52, citado arriba, ¡y sin embargo esta Escritura es de hecho uno de los argumentos más fuertes CONTRA el pretribulacionismo!

El contexto de este versículo está hablando de una resurrección de los muertos cuando Jesús venga. Pablo dice en versículos 22 y 23: “Porque así como en Adán todos mueren, también en Cristo todos serán vivificados. Pero cada uno en su debido orden: Cristo, las primicias; luego los que son de Cristo, en su venida(Noten de nuevo que no hay una distinción entre la segunda venida y una venida pretribulacional…solo “su venida”). La clave para interpretar cuando esta transformación ocurre (como si ya no fuera obvia) es la declaración: “a la final trompeta”. ¿Pero cuál es la trompeta final y donde se encuentra en las Escrituras?

No es difícil descubrir que la trompeta final de la cual habla la Biblia ocurre al final de los tiempos cuando Jesús regresa a la tierra en gran poder y gloria con todos sus santos ángeles. En las palabras mismas de nuestro Señor, dirigidas a los apóstoles en el discurso del monte de los Olivos, es declarado: E inmediatamente después de la tribulación de aquellos días, el sol se oscurecerá, y la luna no dará su resplandor, y las estrellas caerán del cielo, y las potencias de los cielos serán conmovidas. Entonces aparecerá la señal del Hijo del Hombre en el cielo; y entonces lamentarán todas las tribus de la tierra, y verán al Hijo del Hombre viniendo sobre las nubes del cielo, con poder y gran gloria. Y enviará sus ángeles con gran voz de trompeta, y juntarán a sus escogidos, de los cuatro vientos, desde un extremo del cielo hasta el otro(Mateo 24:29-31). La última trompeta y el juntar de los escogidos son sinónimos. Cuando la trompeta suena, indica a los cosechadores que deben ir y separar el trigo de la cizaña. Una sencilla comparación entre Mateo 24:29-31, 1 Tesalonicenses 4:13-18 y 1 Corintios 15:51-52 claramente revela el tiempo y la naturaleza de la última trompeta: su tiempo vendrá cuando Cristo venga al final de la gran tribulación; su naturaleza es que instiga el rapto, o juntar, de los santos. Después del evento descrito en Mateo 24:29-31, nunca más se profetiza que vendrá otra trompeta.

Por lo tanto, si los pretribulacionistas están usando 1 Corintios 15:51-52 para respaldar la idea de un rapto antes de la manifestación gloriosa de Mateo 24:29-31, se encuentran con dilema irreconciliable. ¿Cómo puede un rapto anterior tener la última trompeta si otra trompeta tiene que ser sonada al final de la gran tribulación? ¿Cómo puede 1 Corintios 15:51-52 estar hablando de alguna otra cosa sino la venida final de nuestro Salvador Jesucristo, como su contexto claramente muestra? O el versículo 52 verdaderamente está hablando de la última trompeta, o Pablo estaba terriblemente equivocado.

UNA PRIMERA RESURRECCIÓN ANTES DE LA PRIMERA RESURRECCIÓN

“Y vi tronos, y se sentaron sobre ellos los que recibieron facultad de juzgar; y vi las almas de los decapitados por causa del testimonio de Jesús y por la palabra de Dios, los que no habían adorado a la bestia ni a su imagen, y que no recibieron la marca en sus frentes ni en sus manos; y vivieron y reinaron con Cristo mil años. Pero los otros muertos no volvieron a vivir hasta que se cumplieron mil años. Esta es la primera resurrección. Bienaventurado y santo el que tiene parte en la primera resurrección; la segunda muerte no tiene potestad sobre éstos, sino que serán sacerdotes de Dios y de Cristo, y reinarán con él mil años.
(Apocalipsis 20:4-6)

La última discrepancia que examinaremos involucra la resurrección de los muertos, la cual doctrina es un principio elemental según Hebreos 6:1-2. Nuestro texto arriba claramente muestra que la primera resurrección toma lugar al final de la gran tribulación cuando Jesús regresa en gloria. Cristo regresa a la tierra y destruye al anticristo al final del capítulo 19 y los que son resucitados sufrieron grandemente bajo la ira de la bestia. Pero noten también que la primera resurrección no es exclusiva a solo los que pasaron por la gran tribulación; no, incluye todos los santos de Dios de todas las generaciones. Juan ve a todos los que sufrieron por causa de la Palabra, y declara en versículo 6: “Bienaventurado y santo el que tiene parte en la primera resurrección; la segunda muerte no tiene potestad sobre éstos, sino que serán sacerdotes de Dios y de Cristo, y reinarán con él mil años.” Esto es escrito para todos los creyentes, ya que todos somos “reyes y sacerdotes” para Dios porque “nos amó, y nos lavó de nuestros pecados con su sangre” (Apocalipsis 1:5-6). “Y cantaban un nuevo cántico, diciendo: Digno eres de tomar el libro y de abrir sus sellos; porque tú fuiste inmolado, y con tu sangre nos has redimido para Dios, de todo linaje y lengua y pueblo y nación; y nos has hecho para nuestro Dios reyes y sacerdotes, y reinaremos sobre la tierra(Apocalipsis 5:9-10). El requisito para que la muerte segunda no tenga poder sobre ti es tomar parte en la primera resurrección. Todos los creyentes lograrán esto por la gracia de Dios.

A través de toda la Biblia solo hay una resurrección que los cristianos son prometidos e recibir. Ya hemos visto 1 Corintios 15:23. Jesús dijo en Juan 6:54: “El que come mi carne y bebe mi sangre, tiene vida eterna; y yo le resucitaré en el día postrero.” Él repite esta expresión “en el día postrero” cuatro veces en capítulo 6 para que nadie este confundido de cuando la resurrección ocurrirá. Si creemos en una resurrección secreta que toma lugar antes del último día entonces no estamos siguiendo la clara enseñanza de Jesucristo, nuestra Piedra Angular.

O Juan estaba correcto en decir que esta es la primera resurrección o los pretribulacionistas tienen la razón en decir que no lo es, y que hay una resurrección anterior en la venida secreta antes de la tribulación. ¡Qué locura! No hay ni una sola Escritura que respalda tal idea.

VERDAD O CONJETURA: TÚ DECIDE

En este pequeño artículo hemos brevemente examinado cómo la teoría de la pretribulación requiere 1) una venida, 2) un rapto y 3) una resurrección antes del tiempo claramente señalado en las Santas Escrituras. Depende de los pretribulacionistas en decidir si van o no a continuar tratando de exprimir la Palabra de Dios a través del filtro de la conjetura parcial, o si simplemente creerán la Biblia tal y como está escrita. En las palabras del difunto W.J. Erdman, el tercer pastor de Moody Church en Chicago que una vez fue un pretribulacionista y un editor de la Biblia de Referencia Scofield, antes de que “mas estudio de las Escrituras” le convencieran de lo contrario, dijo: “Mejor es la decepción de la verdad que las lindas pero falsas promesas del error.”

“Procura con diligencia presentarte a Dios aprobado, como obrero que no tiene de qué avergonzarse, que usa bien la palabra de verdad.”
(2 Timoteo 2:15)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Justice and Mercy

Eli, I was writing a paper in my Mythology class, and I was comparing/contrasting the Christian God with the Greek ones. Now, I wanted to say that God showed his willingness to satisfy the demands of justice and those of mercy in the atonement. Is that an accurate thing to say, or is that a strictly Mormon idea?

This view is presented by the Mormons most candidly in the story of "The Mediator" which I'm sure you're familiar with. God is represented as a loan shark who demands his debtor to pay him back what he owes. The debtor begs God for mercy but the reply goes something like: "No, because then justice wouldn't be satisfied." Jesus is represented as a friend who who has mercy on the debtor and pays God the debt, but then turns around to the thankful friend with these shocking words: "Now you must pay me back. It won't be easy, but it will be possible." And the lesson of the story is, both mercy and justice are "satisfied". Except the story doesn't explain what happens when the debtor can't pay his new debt to Jesus...

One can easily be fooled into thinking that this is the same as the Biblical view of the atonement, but it is definitely not. As we've talked before, it is important to see that it is God the Father who extends mercy to mankind by sending His Son. Christ obeyed the Father by going to the cross. Jesus did not step between man and God as the "good cop", but as the obedient servant of His Father.

It is true that justice demanded satisfaction, but it is not like a loan that needs to be payed back, but an offense that needs to be punished. A loan can be refinanced (which is what the Mormon Jesus does), but a crime cannot. Man has broken God's law, and the law which demands death must be fulfilled. In actuality, that punishment must take place is more about the vindication of God's holiness than a mere legal detail. If God doesn't punish sin, as He said He would, then He becomes a liar and an unrighteous judge. God's character is at stake in judgment (a theme throughout the whole Bible... "Will not the God of all the earth do right?") So when we see it in this light, we see that punishment is inevitable for all of us as true as God is God; but the beautiful thing is this: that God, because of the sacrifice of Christ, is totally satisfied and therefore freely forgives the pleading sinner of all His crimes without ever demanding a payback! "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8:12) Payback would be unthinkable!

Unlike Mormonism, God does not have a necessity to be merciful. There needs no "satisfaction of mercy". However, God, out of the great love which He has for mankind, chose to be merciful in sending His Son, and in this His mercy and grace is truly magnificent in the fact that it was NOT out of necessity but out of love. The cross of Christ, which is what reconciles sinful men to a holy God, is the demonstration of God's pure mercy and love towards the world. That He died for the sins of sinful, undeserving and death-sentenced sinners is what constitutes his love: for men scarcely die for good men, and they might dare to die for their friends and family, but God shows us how different and greater His love is from ours, in that while we were His enemies, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). So the fact that His mercy is surprising is what makes it so glorious. Grace that isn't surprising isn't grace. If it is born of necessity then it really is just a job.

There is no God like Jehovah!
Yours,
-Eli

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What is the Gospel?

People need to hear of the old liberating power of the gospel, which saves sinners and sets them right with God. We do not preach a new thing but the timeless crucified Savior Who will never change, though the world and its trends come and go like the tide.

ROMANS 1:14-18

Rom 1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

Rom 1:15 So as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Rom 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written. The just by faith shall live.
Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men."

Paul shows us that the gospel is for all people in every place and for all time. He makes this immense statement: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes..."

Question: Why was Paul not ashamed of the gospel?
Answer: Because it is powerful; it is the power of God unto salvation.

The gospel, and it alone, though the world despises and ridicules it, is the only power [force, ability, strength] in heaven and on earth that can save men. If any man, Jew or Gentile, ancient or modern, is to be saved, it must be by the gospel, for there is nothing else in heaven or on earth that is able to save them. "There is no other 'detergent' that can remove this kind of stain, and though the world mock the look of it, I'm not ashamed, because this is the only thing that works, and nothing else! You can laugh at it and hate it, but it will cleanse the stain. You can ridicule the gospel, and mock me it's preacher, but I will preach on without shame, because the gospel, and this alone, is the only power in the whole world that can save sinners."

Question: Why is the gospel powerful? Why is it the power of God unto salvation?
Answer: Because in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.

Why and how does the gospel save? What is it's power? The answer is explicitly given in verse 17. The reason that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation is because in it, and in it alone, is the righteousness of God revealed. The righteousness of God is shown to sinful men through the gospel, and it is the righteousness of God that saves us. What is the righteousness of God that is shown in the gospel? Later in the Book of Romans Paul explains that this is the righteousness that God has provided, in Christ, for undeserving sinners (Rom. 3:21-30, 5:15-21). In other words, what is revealed to men in the gospel is God's gift of righteousness in Christ that is ours for the taking by faith, ("from faith to faith" means "faith from first to last", or, "totally by faith alone"). Paul introduces us to "the righteousness of God by faith" by contrasting it with the "righteousness of the law": "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe." (Rom. 
3:21-22) This is exactly why the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, for it reveals to men the only way for them to be righteous before God: not by their own works, obedience and good works, but by faith in Jesus Christ. When a sinner places his trust in Jesus Christ and the atoning sacrifice that He made on his behalf, righteousness is given "unto" or "upon" him, and he is declared to be righteous in the sight of God. All the righteousness a man needs to be right with God was secured by the blood of Christ on the cross - who died for our sins, paying the just penalty our sins deserve - and by believing in Christ a person receives that free gift of righteousness. Believers are righteous before God, and will pass judgment day with flying colors to live with God forever. Paul points out that God had affirmed this all before in the prophets: "The just [or righteous] by faith shall live." The gospel saves because the gospel makes men righteous before God.

Question: Why do men need righteousness?
Answer: Because the wrath of God is against all the unrighteousness of men.

Verse 18 explains the universal need of salvation by righteousness. We do not need saving from a boring life. We do not need saving from drowning in a lake. We do not need saving from emptiness or poverty. What all men, everywhere, in every age of time need, is saving from the wrath of God. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all the unrighteousness and ungodliness of men..." Paul goes on to show that every single person, without any exception, is an offender against God and is justly condemned to die under the righteous wrath of God. God punishes unrighteousness, and all men are unrighteous. "There is none righteous, no not one" (Rom. 3:10) "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." (Rom. 3:20) If this is the case, what then can save them? How can man be righteous and thereby saved from the wrath of God? Not by our own good works. Not by prayers. Not by penance. There is only one thing that has the power to save sinners! It is the only thing that can make people righteous: the gospel of Jesus Christ! The Lord Jesus Christ died on a cross and paid the price for our sins, condemning unrighteousness in His body, and having risen from the dead, He freely offers righteousness to all who believe. Righteousness is the whole issue of salvation: God is righteous, and a person must be righteous to live in accordance with Him. All unrighteousness is impartially condemned by God, and because all are unrighteous, all are condemned. How then shall man and God be reconciled? Through the gospel of Jesus Christ! Here only is the way of reconciliation known and effected. Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins so that all who believe will be declared righteous in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Peter 3:18, 1 John 2:1-2) This is the gospel, and it alone is the power of God to save sinners.

Here lies the simplicity of the gospel, and we must never forget it or replace it. The Church needs to shamelessly point men and women to the only place where they can go to be saved from the wrath of God. That is to Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Let us remember that what is truly needful isn't new doctrines and better programs and ear-tickling prophesies, promising people things that God never promised; but only one thing is needful, and that is the declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world of unrighteousness condemned by God. But I think a further question is necessary at this point:

Question: Why did God even provide the gospel?
Answer: Because God so loved the world.

The gospel reveals to us that God loves sinners, and He loves them so much that He gave His only begotten Son to die for them. If we withhold preaching the gospel to people because we are ashamed of its message, or don't want to offend, or would rather preach something more acceptable and inoffensive, we are actually robbing men and women of the true knowledge of the love of God in Christ Jesus, and robbing God of the glory He is worthy of. We are robbing both men and God by not preaching the gospel. This is why it is so important that we first of all understand the gospel, that we might preach it boldly as we ought. Consider what is at stake.

Let us who are Christians, as debtors with the apostle Paul, declare with timeless conviction, for God and man's sake: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ."

If you are not a Christian, the question you must face is:

Question: Will you believe or disbelieve the gospel of Christ that has just been explained to you?

Answer: ...