Category Archives: Hermeneutics

Preterism by any other name would be “Olivetian”….ism

Preterism by any other name would still be Olivetian

To what extent is every Christian Olivetian? To the extent that one attributes fulfillment of one kind or another to the Olivet Discourse. The so-called Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25 is often misunderstood by many Christians today. On the one hand, this is due to the heavy influence of dispensational theology; on the other hand, it is due to a lack of familiarity with the Bible. Dispen-sational theolgy has so infiltrated the evangelical church that many who would eschew much of the fallacious teachings are still affected by the residual fallout. For instance, ask yourself this: is there any chance of an imminent return by Jesus? Or this: does the Bible teach that Jesus could come back at any time to end the world as we know it? Many Christians believe so, but this is not biblical. The Bible teaches no such thing and yet many who would deny the main tennents of dispensationalism hold on to this one. Regardless of whether or not one is dispensational or reformed in one’s eschatology, there are certain occurrances in the first century which are fulfillments of Jesus’ words in this famous address and so to that extent, many do acknowledge first century fulfillments and are thus, Olivetian.

So, every Christian is somewhat Olivetian because there is something within the speech of Jesus in Matthew’s record that a person will see fulfilled within the first century. It might not be fulfillment in toto, but there is fulfillment to some degree. The basest fulfillment is the destruction of the temple and nearly everyone will concede to that: Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple and within the timeline he demarcated, it happened. What many do not realise is that the entirety of Jesus’ words in the discourse were also fulfilled within that same time frame and is given escathological meaning in the destruction of the temple. Everything Jesus promised in Matthew 24-25 has come to pass. If one does not acknowledge that, it is due to the two causes mentioned above. This essay will seek to establish that every thing after the Olivet Discourse is about the Olivet Discourse (OD).

The New Testament is not an isolated record of events that do not follow what has been anticipated by the Old. Now, that might seem a bit elementary to say, but there are many issues addressed in the New that must take the Olivet Discourse into account. And so, everything after the OD is about the OD. For instance, the four Gospels are followed by the Acts of the Apostles but how many who teach it see it as an expression and application of the Olivet Discourse?

Too many treat the NT as a new paradigm without any ties outside of the redemptive work of Christ. True, the NT does explain the death of Christ in terms of fulfilling the OT expectation, but then no one seems to give any heed to the parameters set by Jesus in the OD. Some generically do attribute and acknowledge that there are passages that must be taken as having first century relevance; consider, for instance, the book of Hebrews. Not only does this epistle elaborate on the finished work of Christ in surpassing the levitical system, but the ramifactions of this supercession find their meaning in the OD. This sheds light on the warnings in Hebrews against unbelief and reverting back to the Egypt that is the Old Covenant system. The OD has been uttered and therefore everything after it is coloured by its tenents. Everything.

The fundamental principle laid out in the OD is that of Jesus’ return to end the age and judge the temple. His presence as the King who rules the world is anticipated in every NT epistle and when those expectations are expressed, it is in terms of imminency. The book of Hebrews is a crucial epistle for the supremancy of Christ over all things “passing away” (Heb 8:13) and there are many ill treated passages wherein an exclusive first century intrepretation is traded for a generic trans-historical one.

So that, when we read, therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking…

We are not hearing Paul give generic warnings against not listening to the gospel. It matters that the author uses the first person plural. One must ask, what does Paul mean when he says, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great deliverance? He is talking about the Olivet Discourse and the judgment coming upon the old world in the destruction of it in the Temple.Or take the last statement above. What is the world to come that is mentioned? It might help to know that the Greek is specific here, too. The language is more immediate than the ESV intimates. It is more akin to this: For it was not to angels that God subjected the oikumene about to come, of which we are speaking. Notice the “about to” nature of the statement. This happens in the NT epistles more than is translated.

Lastly, consider this well-known and quoted verse: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Again, this is not some generic proof text for having to go to church. The day drawing near is not the “final return of Christ” at any moment that many take this to be. The judgment day coming is the one Jesus presented in Matthew 24 and 25.

In the Acts of the Apostles there are many occurrences within its narrative that relate to the OD and yet many who preach through it do not emphasize its genetic dependence upon the Gospels in one crucial aspect. Luke does narrate what many denote as the “beginnings of the early church,” but they then go no further as if general principles of growing pains are all that are to be gleaned from story. Again, generalities are to be garnered appropriately, but if the radical influence of the OD is misunderstood and misapplied, the rest of the NT will be read with grievous consequences.

TO BE CONTINUED

PaedoCommunion

The Benefits of Paedocommunion, pt. 1

Take this at face value: communion or the celebration of what Jesus reforms and Paul calls the supper is a ritual of the body of Christ; and as a ritual it is set apart from others as a ritual with a caveat. It is also set apart from other rites in that it is the only ritual which excludes the baptized children of the church. Other rituals wherein baptized children may participate are baptism, prayer, singing, study and being instructed in the weekly worship of the church. It is within this context that this essay is limited. This essay seeks to critique this practice and argue (if not demonstrate) that including all baptized members of Christ’s church in the celebration of the supper is not only for the good of the church, but it is also of her essence.

No other ritual has an overt maledictory warning affixed to it. This does not mean that other biblical and Christian rites do not have consequences for their abuse; rather, the consequences for such abuses are understood by inference. Such is not the case for communion. The Apostle Paul declares that abusing the Lord’s Supper is detrimental to one’s health, both temporal (some are sick) and fatal (some sleep). Whether or not the supper is detrimental in these ways depends upon the participant’s posture during the celebration itself. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes,

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some sleep. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

This essay will not seek to exegete the text in its entirety but will assert certain deductions for the reader to consider. Note only this, the author of this essay assumes that Paul’s addressing this particular issue is notably limited to this particular church in its particular historical context. What this means is that Paul’s words are not primarily prescriptive for all of church history but for this first century body. Note well, this does not mean it has no application, only that it’s original context and intent is primarily concerned with the first century zeitgeist.

To begin with, from the text above one can see that Paul declares that there is a wrong and a right way to eat and drink the supper and Paul calls this an unworthy manner. What this is not is this. Eating the supper in an unworthy manner in the context does not mean eating it as an unbeliever. That might happen, but that is not what Paul is dealing with here. It also does not mean eating the supper in ignorance of its significance. Yet, sadly, this is very often how the table is fenced. What this error is can be seen by considering how Paul addresses the Corinthians’ practice in the first century.

Paul addresses his hearers with corrective words saying first of all that their coming together as a church is not in unity but in division. Paul uses sarcasm and irony to make his point when he says that these divisions are necessary in order to prove who is genuine and who is not. One might well think of James’ words to his hearers when he addresses the rich abusing the poor in his letter making the same point. Were James to use sarcasm, he might well say that the rich debasing the poor is necessary and good in order to recognize who is genuine among you. It is sarcasm because it actually is not good to make social distinctions in the body; it is ironic because in actuality their behavior proves the opposite—their victims are the genuine ones.

The first issue Paul deals with then is disunity amongst the members of the body. There is disunity in the Corinthian church because when they come together to celebrate the supper eating is done in seclusion and drinking is done in excess. Both aspects of the supper, eating and drinking, are in view here. In eating, there is to be no isolation from the rest of the body: each goes ahead with his own meal…another goes hungry. In drinking of the cup there is intoxication: another gets drunk. As said before, this essay is a simple presentation of the text, so this will not be a laborious argument. If these are the two primary foci of Paul’s rebuke, let us apply it to today’s church experience in the supper.

To begin with, in today’s celebration of the supper there is hardly enough bread for anyone to get his fill and if anyone were hungry he would go away the same because the portions are miniscule. Secondly, regarding drunkenness in the cup…. Need more be said? 90% of the church uses grape juice and even when churches obey Christ and use wine, the portions are so microscopic no one could get drunk. Briefly, here we encounter an entirely different milieu than the early church. Today’s church is not in the same situation as that of the early.

The second issue Paul addresses is that of committing this principle of disunity. Note his focus. If his focus is on disunity and he addresses participants regarding their violating a principle, what is the remedy? Paul exhorts his hearers to remedy the situation by examining whether or not they are in violation of disunity. This is the needed area of focus by the worshipper. Paul’s words in vv. 27ff are not to be isolated from his previous points. When Paul says, let a man examine himself, of what is the man to examine himself?

Today’s churches apply the text in this way. They call for all believers prior to partaking to examine whether there is any sin of which they are not repentant. They call for believers to examine their hearts to make sure they are not at odds with any other believer. They call for all worshippers to examine whether or not they understand what the supper is all about; that is, they are to examine whether or not they know what the bread and wine signify. These are basically the parameters of the call to examination. But this begs the question as to whether or not this is to what Paul was referring. Not only this, but in churches where confession is a part of the liturgy these violations are dealt with early in the service. When it comes time for the supper, all sins are already confessed and repented of. Who needs to examine himself again?

Since these churches believe that this is what Paul was referring to, it is the responsibility of each believer to ensure that he is not violating Paul’s warning and is able to examine himself accordingly. Taken this way, then, these churches seek to “help” others not violate Paul by determining who is able or not able to examine and discern. Taken this way, these churches esteem young children as powerless to apply Paul’s words. Since children cannot adequately examine themselves, they are not to participate. And since Paul so sternly warns and the consequences are so dire, the leaders of the church must guard against and provide protection for those who might violate this mandate (notice Paul never mandates this).

This effort is thoughtful and it is very important to help others keep from sinning, but regarding this issue, it is a non-sequitor. That is, it does not follow that children are to be kept from participating in the supper because more than likely they are not mature enough to apply Paul’s words as the elders understand them to be. It does not follow precisely because of that which Paul is concerned. Children ought not to be barred from the table until they are able to examine themselves and discern the body (or bread and the wine as they take it) because that is not what Paul is worried about. What Paul is concerned with in this text is social distortion; what Paul is concerned with here is active prejudice; what Paul is worried about is excluding those who belong. In a simple twist of irony, these avid men are actually making divisions among the body that Christ would oppose. One might argue that were paedocommunion the issue of Corinth, Paul would say that they are not discerning the body rightly or that they are guilty of the body and blood.

This essay will assert that Paul does not have exclusion of children in view here unless they are in danger of violating the principle of disunity. Said another way, the discernment Paul requires is simply the opposite of what Peter was doing when he refused to eat with Gentiles. He was not discerning the body rightly. When Paul calls for the examiner to discern the body, he is not expecting the participant to explain the difference between the Roman Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran, and modern evangelical view of the supper. While this might be an application of what Paul was saying, it was not his primary concern. Paul moves fast and furious as he speaks of bread, wine, body, and blood. This sacrificial language is in reference to the elements of the meal and are the basis for unity in the body.

In the passage in view, when Paul wants to refer to the bread and the wine he does so by their nomenclature: bread and wine. When Paul calls for the man to discern, he calls for him to discern the body. This essay’s position is that the body with which Paul is concerned follows from his previous argument of making distinctions and divisions in the church body. What this means is that the positive side of the supper is unity: Jew and Gentile are united; rich and poor are united; old and young are united. The bread is from multiple grains and the wine from multiple grapes but there is one loaf. To divide any of these groups is to ask for judgement.

In conclusion, this essay argues that children are not in the interest of Paul. There is no way to bring a charge of disunity and division against children in the church unless they are doing as they see and if that is the case, don’t fall asleep!

PaedoFaith

Every child born to baptized members of a Christian church is bound to be baptized by order of covenant structures. There is so much theology behind why Christians do what they do that very often the ins-and-outs are not always thought through. That is, Christians very often do things for the right reasons without exactly knowing why. Conversely, many Christian parents fail to do certain things for the same reason: they know not what they “do not” do. Christians who do not baptize their children are in disobedience to their covenant King. But this negligence is no more a gross rebellion than Christian churches that exclude children from communion requiring first that they have a conversion experience.

Conversion for non-covenant members is not the same as that of covenant children; nor is it necessary to require the same of covenant children. In fact, it is antithetical to the nature of the covenant. Christian children of the covenant are only made to be such by baptism. It is not so that natural birth makes a child of the covenant; baptism and baptism alone does this. This has important implications for gross misunderstandings about the sign. First and foremost, what happens to a child born to Christian parents who dies in infancy or before faith can be lived? The Bible doesn’t answer this question, but everyone (including the Baptist) expects God to be merciful and save the child. But this has nothing to do with the sign in and of itself. One might think of Paul’s argument in Romans 4 about Abraham’s being the father of Jew and Gentile faith: one has the sign and the other doesn’t but both are saved. The sign of baptism (precisely like the sign of circumcision) is for entrance into the covenant as an ordained priest for Kingdom service.

Baptism is not salvific in the sense that 95% of Christianity intimates. Baptism is initiation into the covenant and that is all it is (now, to be sure, there are benefits to being a member). Baptism means what it means and its meaning is the same for the infant as it is for the adult. Whatever baptism means for a newly converted unbeliever, it means exactly the same for the baby of Christian parents. Baptism, then, is a new creation ordinance for Paul tells us that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation and baptism is entrance into that new world order. Faith is the only thing that saves, but baptism is the only way into covenant. Salvation is covenantal in nature and only intends to communicate salvation when the subject of baptism lives in accordance with and by faith. This does not exclude infants who cannot exhibit faith as an adult can for baptism is never essentially a man’s expression of faith in God; but rather and ultimately, it is the very act and word of God toward the subject receiving the sacrament. There are differences in the subjects, yes, but there is absolutely no difference in the message to either subject.

The message of the Gospel communicated in full to the subject is the very word of God depicted in the act of baptism and this message is two-fold; on the one hand, it is benediction while on the other hand it is malediction. Baptism holds out for the subject both the hope of resurrection and the threat of no resurrection. The determining factor for the outcome is faith. Will the subject live by faith or not? The call to Christian parents is to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. And yet, this discipleship is done with duplicity regardless of whether or not it is intentional. To be sure, it is not intentional. Nonetheless, it is done in duplicity when children are raised to believe and live by faith and yet are required to have a conversion experience like a pagan. Again, we have said it above in one way but we will say it in a new and startling way here: the conversion of a child happens when he is baptized.

New birth and its various synonyms are clearly declared by Jesus to depend upon two things from God: water and the Spirit. Baptism is not man’s word to God but God’s word to man.

Right now counts 4ever

The Benefits of Believing the Bible

Or

How Postmillennialism will change your life

Why believe something if it has no impact on one’s life? Everything a person believes plays some role in how he lives, moves and has his being. Is God sovereign? That has its impact. Is Jesus reigning king over the nations right now, not just the church? Is the kingdom of God lived out by “merely” redeeming culture or is it actually built and grown by WorldWideJesusDomination (WWJD)?

Premillennialism is escapist and ineffectual in its eschatology. If Jesus can come back at any time (whether or not one assents to this conclusion), there becomes no reason to invest in redeeming culture in any sense of the word. Of course, this all presupposes that redeeming the culture remotely is even a Christian’s responsibility. A PreM worldview is not a “this-world” perspective because it sees the salvation of a person’s soul and escaping hell as pre-eminent. In this eschatology Jesus is only King over the church and practically speaking has no role to play, per se, in the governing of the nations.

Premillennialism and Amillennialism are bedfellows in these senses. They believe Jesus presently is King only over the church; and they allow for Christians to participate in “secular” callings of politics or art if that is what one feels led by the Lord to do. But this is just an option and not an obligation. Amillenialism is a step out from the PreM position in that it sees the calling of the Christian to make an impact on culture and not merely “go to heaven” when he dies. However, the role of redeeming culture in this worldview is still only an aspect of evangelism and only has an impetus on those who “feel led by the Lord” to be evangelists.

Post-millennialism offers a more robust view of Jesus’ kingship and call to the world.

PreM AMill Preterist/ PostM
PreterismAD 70 means nothing. Jesus’ words in Matt 24 are still future and the rest of the NT’s language of judgement is exclusively final judgement.

Kingdom view:

Jews have a future hope of restoration as a nation

Spiritual only.

Entirely future.

Jesus has no rule over the nations in any fashion.

PreterismAD 70 happened and there are NT passages that relate to it, but for the most part all passages on judgement are final judgement references.

Kingdom view:

Jews [might] have a future hope of restoration as a nation

Spiritual only.

Entirely future.

Jesus rules over the nations as much as he rules over the atoms and stars. That is, he is sovereign and in control of all things.

PreterismAD 70 not only happened but is what the whole NT is about beginning with Matt.1 and ending Rev22. Jesus came to receive the kingdom from God and establish and promote his reign over all the nations (see Psalm 2 as a foundation for how Matt 28.19 is carried out). It is the calling of all Christians to proclaim that rule and reign wherever they find themselves. Salvation from hell is a derivative benefit but not the focus. Redemption of the whole life is the focus. Redeeming culture is not just a good idea and an option, but it is the very way the kingdom grows and conquers the world.

It’s not just about how one maintains his family or work or play. It is about announcing the rule and reign of Christ even over the lives of his neighbors and calling them to willingly serve that Kingdom and King. It looks like this.

Your life ultimately counts for nothing without Christ. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords right here, right now and your posture toward him determines whether or not you are his enemy or his subject. Read Psalm 2 and declare which you are. Are you a person who rages against the reign of the King or do you take refuge in him?”
That’s it. That kind of calling is right-here-right-now-worldly. The afterlife is a derivative (try to find even one verse in the NT where the focus is on going to heaven when one dies). Notice how the NT is NEVER concerned with dying and going to heaven. It’s exclusively ABOUT living within the realm of life under Christ and being raised to a new life in the resurrection of the dead.

Regardless of whether or not God will annihilate the wicked(!) or consign them to hell, he calls you to live your life under his Law for his glory, your good and the good of others.

So how does this change one’s life? How is it beneficial to believe the Bible? Without defending this premise: everything one believes affects how one lives. Postmillennialism is a right-here, right-now kind of religion—a “right now counts forever,” to quote a man. Postmillennialism is more of the gospel than the other views and as everyone in the church will assert, the gospel changes lives.

A work in progress

Heaven: the destination that many people look forward to when they die. The question to ask is Was heaven always the destination for man? For many people heaven is just that and it seems that earth is just a conduit to a truer reality. A man’s life is lived on earth and then when he dies, he continues to exist without a body; and if he is a Christian, he is awaiting the resurrection. Regardless, after the resurrection, he is still destined to remain in heaven. This view of life and thereafter, however, assumes certain truths that will be examined here.

In a particular vein of theology in Christianity, we are in the age of the church awaiting a future age of the restoration of God’s plan with the nation of Israel. This hiatus according to some is unnatural at best and incorrect at worst and it demonstrates God’s altering his direction when the actions of men intervene. This is not to say that man’s actions overrule God but that in God’s kindness he allows men to make choices and those choices effect the future. In the system of theology mentioned above, Israel during Jesus’ time chose to reject him and thereby redirected God’s plan for the future. What we have called the age of the church was not originally in God’s plan but has now come into effect because God’s allows men to make choices.

Had Israel not crucified the promised Messiah, what would have happened? What would the first century have looked like? Would Isaiah’s hopeful prophecy been inaugurated? What would the following millennia looked like? Where would we be today? Would the swords turned into plowshares still exist? Would there be perpetual peace on earth? Alas, the choices of men: intervening historical contingencies.

We have laid the groundwork now to consider what role heaven placed in the original plan of God for man. If death is the result of man’s free action to obey or disobey God and if God’s original intent was that man would obey and live and not die…. Do you feel the weightiness of the query? Is it not a question worth asking?

Had man not chosen death over life, and were death not a natural course of life, what would history have looked like? Would Adam and Noah still be alive? Would over-population actually be something about which to worry? Or would man have translated from this life on earth to an heavenly one? But even to assert that last musing, assumes translation at all. Why ask the question? It is asked because we are told that there was a man who did not die, but was taken by God.

Enoch, we are told, walked with God and was not for God took him and this after a lengthy treatise on the sin of all men leading to death in Genesis 5. Every man prior to Enoch dies and death is the result of sin, but Enoch doesn’t die. It seems we can say that he was translated from earth to heaven. But this merely begs the question again—do men go to heaven when they die? When Abel was slain by his brother, was he immediately in the presence of God only awaiting the resurrection of his body in the remote future? Why was Enoch taken? Where was he taken? Is his being taken a model for us to consider when we ask about what reality lies ahead regarding death and thereafter?

What if heaven were actually the destination for all men as glorified men? What if earth was truly a place of maturity where man is born, grows wise and then when appropriately wisened, he is taken off the scene in an Enoch-like translation? What if heaven really will be where we spend eternity? We are back to the beginning; back to where most people are in their thinking but do not really understand why they are correct.

to be continued…

Flotsam and jetsam

Who can name earth shattering changes in the way people looked at the world when what was thought to be true was shown to be mistaken?

This is gonna be like that for some of you. If what we look at tonight is real, then much of what you know about your Bible is going to change.

“Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.”

It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.

C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night: And Other Essays, p.97

A pagan wrote an essay called Why I am not a Christian agrees with Lewis and says that the main reason he is not a Christian is b/c Jesus was wrong.

Jesus was either wrong or he was not. Jesus prophesied the end of the world within the lifetime of his apostles and it either happened or he is a false teacher. It will not do for us to make his words timeless by saying that he predicted the end of the world and since the world is still here, it must still be future. No, Jesus clearly declared that what he was talking about was only 40 years away.

DISCLAIMER:

Pay as much attention to what I say as to what I do not say. If I did not say X, then don’t say I did. Something I say might elicit a question or conclusion in your mind, but if I do not say it then I didn’t say it. And of course you may ask as many questions as you like.

Do you know God’s favourite game? Hide-and-seek. He loves to hide things and watch us look for them, knowing that in the looking, we are becoming more and more wise. Proverbs 25:2

In what languages is the Bible written? Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and SYMBOLISH.

How much of the Bible is applicable to us today? Do you know why this is the case?

Is Genesis relevant? Numbers? Daniel?

The relevance of the Bible is not due to the fact that it predicts the future and if the future is still future it is relevant. So, if there is nothing future for us, does this remove the relevance?

Prophecy and covenant theology are two peas in a pod: the one flows out of the other and both are intended to shape and direct history, not even merely “predict” it.

Do you know why not everyone ought to be a SS teacher? B/c not everyone knows enough to be safe; everyone knows just enough to be dangerous.

I remember as a child thinking and having it repeated by some other child: If Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned, would we all still be naked…giggle, snort, guffaw? Depending on how one answers that question will determine whether or not that one ought to be a teacher (now, this is a bit overstated, but nonetheless, teachers ought to have more a foundation off from which to jump). One might well guess the next childish question: will we all be naked in heaven? Or, why were Adam and Eve naked? What are we supposed to take from that? The Bible doesn’t have a running commentary to explain everything it says. But there is an answer and it isn’t immediately evident from the story itself; the answer comes from the greater story of which we have only scratched the surface.

Let’s start with a little pop quiz:

Are things either true or false?

Can you know one thing for sure to be more true than another?

Did God create the world or was it the BB?

Did Noah take two of every animal on the ark?

Was Moses put into the river Nile?

Did Jesus rise from the dead?

Is God trinity? Must he be? Can he not be?

Is Jesus God and man?

Does church have to be on a Sunday?

Is Calvinism or Arminianism correct?

Are infants to be baptized or not?

Is communion supposed to be wine or not?

Does God still have a plan for Israel or not?

Is Jesus King of the Church or of the nations?

If what I say next is right, then it is something that must needs affect our reading of the NT. It might not make sense at first, but when it is considered and accepted…everything will change.

What is the single most important event in the [first century] world? Note I did not ask what was the single most event in the NT. The single most important event in the first century was the vindication of Jesus in the destruction of Jerusalem. Why do I say that? I say it b/c as prophet, Jesus utters a promise that either proves he is a true messenger from God or not. If Jerusalem did not Fall, Jesus is not true. It is b/c the words of Jesus concerning Jerusalem in his Olivet discourse were the words of a messenger of the covenant: a covenant lawsuit wherein the husband lays accusation against his wife and calls her to task for her harlotry. What is the difference between a harlot and a whore? The first one is married and the second one is not. Terms are important and hold great weight. Israel is a harlot and she has rejected her husband who took on flesh to woo his bride.

If we believe a thing to be true or false, we will live in a certain way b/c of that belief. What we believe matters, no matter how slight a thing it is. Don’t let anyone tell you that doctrine (that is, anything the Bible teaches about God and man) divides and all you need is Jesus. Whoever tells you that is…

Doctrine doesn’t divide. Angry people divide. People who do not want to think divide. Everything we believe is doctrine: God, man, creation, Jesus, etc. There must be peace when we disagree to be sure, b/c God in his providence has not seen fit to make everyone agree on all points in the Bible; but that does not mean that particular truths in the Bible are both/and; there is no both/and, there is only either/or. Either the entire NT is preparation for Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem in AD 70 to destroy it for killing him and raping his bride or it is not. And if he did return as he promised, what does that mean?

The judgement that Jesus foretold in his Olivet discourse was not only a judgement against Israel but also against the whole of creation in a true biblical sense: the oikumene as well as the bride of Yahweh. The economy is the system of government at the time of the NT which was Rome. This model of the world began with Daniel’s Man of Earthen Metal. The statue in the vision is made of the same material as the tabernacle. What does this require as we consider its meaning? We must ask what the tabernacle was in all its fullness.

Daniel’s prophetic work established a new heavens and earth wherein the gentile nations were set up to be the governing lights over the world or oikumene. This is the world that existed when Jesus came on the scene. Since Daniel the ruling authorities had converted to the faith and were blessing the people of God. As long as this continued, all would be well until God changed the structure by establishing the Son of Man as supreme authority over the world. And this Jesus claimed for himself before his ascension.

Very often the Bible doesn’t explain what it means by what it says b/c it expects the reader already to know what is going on and not have to play catch up.

Symbolism: numbers are symbols, some of which are these. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and derivatives thereof.

A covenant isn’t ever broken per se. It is, rather, enacted and this can either be positive or negative.

On baptism, again…

The Baptist’s point, “only a mature person can be instructed as a disciple” precludes infants as such because there is no cognizant response. This is a false dilemma and a straw man. The paedobaptist position is rather, “Who better to be the subject of teaching all that Christ has taught but infant-like children?” Our position is presuppositional as we assume (not that all children are saved) but that the nature of the covenant demands that children of believers are raised as believers. A Reformed Baptist’s claim to be covenantal in his hermeneutic is undone here and it is his position that the new covenant is only made up of true believers that prevents his affirmation of infants as the subject of baptism. It is, then, the nature of the covenant which is at stake. If the nature of the covenant is primarily soteriological, then his position is tenable. However, that is not the case. The nature of the covenant is not soteriological but generational. It is the nature of the covenant to presuppose that the children of believers will be raised to procure, promote and propagate the faith. This does not ensure that all will be saved, nor does it mean baptism ipso facto saves. The meaning of baptism is ordinal. It is an ordination ritual wherein the proper subjects of the rite are laid hold of by the Master of the covenant for service in his kingdom. Whether or not those subjects do this by faith is a whole other matter.

Again, a Baptist makes a straw man when he says that it is contrary to John 1.12 to baptize infants b/c only those born of God are sons of God and baptizing infants is man’s work and John 1.12 says it is not by will of man that makes a person a son of God. This is not a tenable argument and it is not the paedobaptist position. John says, “But as many as received him, he gave them the authority to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name, who, neither by blood nor by the desire of the flesh nor by the will of man but born of God.” As a paedobaptist, I affirm all of this in John’s gospel. It is not my presupposition to baptize my children based on their being my children (born of blood, nor my desire, nor my will). It is my presupposition to baptize my children because God requires it in the nature of the covenant (but born of God). Baptising infants is not man’s desire or will (which is what Baptists assert); it is God’s will.

Whom does God expect to be baptized? Believers and their children. The Baptist asserts more than he wills to. If baptism is God’s action, then it is God’s will and not man’s. If, therefore, God has ordained that his Spirit works in and through and with water, then it is non-sense to assert that when a man baptizes, he is forcing God’s hand. It is God who is forcing the hand. He says to baptize and he says what that action means.

It is interesting to note that the Bible is not a store house of proof texts. John 1.12, 13 are not isolated words. They follow what John has been saying heretofore: Jesus came to his own (the Jews) and even the world (the Jews) did not receive him. The reader must ask, “Why does John say what he says in vv. 12, 13?” Against whom is he speaking when he delineates not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh, nor of the will of man? Answer this and his point has nothing to do with baptism’s subject per se.

Picture this: a youth who was baptized as an infant grows up not following the Lord. At a point in his life he hears John 1.12, 13 and understands that he must receive Jesus by faith. So he does. What of it? Does this negate his baptism? No. Soteriology is only a fraction of the meaning of baptism. Baptism is not merely about being saved but it is merely about service to God and that by faith. This youth is simply now living out the calling placed on him at his baptism: the fear of Jesus is the beginning of knowledge. To wit, do I hope my children never read John 1 because it is a proof text against paedobaptism? No. I hope they read it because it is a proof text for faith in Christ.

One Baptist refers to Eph.2 8,9 and says that grace must be freely given to be grace according to this: for by grace you have been saved, not by baptism….” Right here, he shows his hand and he gives the game away. The reformed, covenantal position is not that baptism saves and it never was. Baptism does not save apart from faith. Baptism is a means to an end whose end is either destruction or salvation. The whole debate is now defunct because a Baptist is arguing for a position untenable by covenantal standards. Were I arguing with him I would have to retort, “Hey, wait-a-minute. That’s not what I believe. Against whom did you think you were arguing?”

The Baptist is right to point out that Noah’s flood and the Exodus have nothing to do with baptism….per se. They do have to do with covenant theology, however. Baptism depends upon covenant theology, not the other way around. Paul says that all who went with Moses out of Egypt were “saved?” No. He says that they all were baptized in the cloud. Well, what does this mean. What ever it means, it is covenantal, not propositional soteriology.

Think about this conversation.

Father: Son, do you think you are saved?

Son: Yes.

Father: How do you know?

Son: Jesus is my priest, King-prophet and I have been baptized into his name.

Father: Does baptism save?

Son: Why are you asking me this question? Are you trying to trick me? This is a non-sequitor, Dad. Asking if baptism saves is like asking if praying saves (which it does) or if taking communion saves (which it does). Nothing we do saves us; only God saves and that by faith. Baptism is a means to an end and it was begun in me when I was an infant.

Father: So, what does it mean that you are baptized?

Son: Positively, it means that God has laid claim on me and that I am his and that I am allied to Jesus who is my priest, King-prophet. I have been buried with Christ and that I have put on Christ; it means that my sins are forgiven and that I have been circumcised with Christ. It means that I have been washed in regeneration by the Spirit. All of these things the Bible says are mine by baptism and I believe them to be true. Negatively, without faith, all of that is undone and instead of life I am consigned to death.

Baptists make much of the aspect of “faith” regarding intellect and awareness. That is, faith requires understanding a proposition and if there is little to no understanding, then, there is no basis for baptism. This begs the question. Is faith to be measured out by a certain level of intellect? Is faith merely cognizance? If so, is there a test for meeting this level? Of the following who is the proper subject of baptism? A three year old? A five year old? A nine year old? A 15 year old? A 23 year old? A forty year old? It must be conceded that all will have differing levels of maturity regarding what they are able to know and express. A 40 year old will certainly know more than a 3 year old. Does this preclude the three year old from baptism? If not, then what must the three year old “know”? Faith is much more robust than that. Faith is not merely intellectual but also relational. Faith is not merely trust and belief and knowledge; it is an allegiance, a relationship, a way of living. This allows for an infant to be allied to Christ in the same way a 40 year old is; both are called to “kiss the Son (faith), lest he be angry with you and you die in your way; blessed are all those who take refuge (faith) in him.