Reformation Day Is Like Christmas (At Least For Reformed Bloggers)

Reformation Day

Pastors must feel a sense of panic each December, knowing they’ll need to preach Christmas sermons the Sunday before Christmas as well as Christmas Eve. How can they find a fresh angle? What can they say that pastors haven’t said for centuries on end? How do they keep their congregations from becoming jaded to the wonder of Christ’s Incarnation?

As a blogger, I believe I empathize with their plight. Before starting The Outspoken TULIP, I maintained another blog for  nine years, giving me a total of twelve years and three months doing this ministry. Around Christmastime, I panic a little myself. What can I add to the conversation that’s different from my Christmas blog posts lying in my archives? And how can my articles complement, rather than parrot, those of my fellow Christian bloggers?

Today I feel the same sort of panic. It’s Reformation Day, and I am Read More »

Pointing Fingers, Naming Names And Condemning False Teachers Isn’t All There Is To Discernment

Burning False TeachersYeah, I get it. Evangelicals flock to popular false teachers because few pastors identify these false teachers clearly. Furthermore, the leaders of far too many women’s “Bible” study groups use material from evangelical celebrities who routinely mishandle God’s Word. Certainly, we need to be deeply concerned.

John MacArthur often says that the biggest problem in the church today is the incredible lack of discernment. Even churches with solid pastors who rightly handle the Word of God have people who listen to radio teachers known for compromising truth. Women in doctrinally sound churches persist in claiming that God spoke to them personally.

So I definitely see the need for discernment bloggers. In fact, the Lord used several discernment blogs to Read More »

According To Scripture: Study #16 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

As I predicated last Monday, I’m a little bleery-eyed from watching the Red Sox win the World Series last night. But I won’t let that stop me from writing about something far more exciting and glorious!

So let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 as a whole, and then examine the first four verses of the passage.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)

At last, Paul moves from giving proofs for bodily resurrection to giving reasons for changed bodies as well as briefly explaining the wonderful process of that change. As Barnes writes, the Lord changes our bodies because it is indispensable that He do so.

Since our earthly bodies suffer from the corrupting influences of sin, he explains in verse 50, they lack the capacity to function in the incorruptible realm. Earlier verses have already made this point. In our present state of weakness and decay, it’s unthinkable that we should inherit an incorruptible kingdom.

When Paul says he will tell them a mystery in verse 51, he by all means does not mean secret knowledge for the spiritually elite! Rather, he’s turning the tables on the Gnostics, informing them that he knows something that their secret wisdom evidently hasn’t taught them. This knowledge was hidden from previous generations, but Christ has revealed it.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, he declares this same mystery, affirming that he received it “by the word of the Lord.” Their reason, which they prided themselves on, never would have reached the conclusion that we will be changed. Yet 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 teaches precisely that promise.

This promise, however, is not about the resurrection of the dead. It is about the rapture of living Christians. The comment that we shall not all sleep makes this point clear. Therefore, the implications of Christ’s resurrection take on an added dimension that the Corinthian Gnostics hadn’t considered.

Verse 52 offers further details on the transformation of our bodies. The last trumpet that Paul mentions signals the close of our earthly existence and the beginning of our eternal life in resurrected bodies. At that glorious moment, the dead will be raised in the imperishable bodies that Paul has been describing throughout this chapter. But in addition to their resurrection, the living will be changed.

Both miracles will occur instantaneously. The transformation of our bodies in the rapture will be as instantaneous as a wink, which the Greek word translated as “twinkling” denotes. Christ’s Second Corning will be sudden, surprising us like (to borrow Peter’s phrase in 2 Peter 3:10) a thief in the night. Paul describes this moment in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. We can look forward to this moment with joyful anticipation!

Perhaps we best understand the concept of a perishable body putting on the imperishable in verse 53 by looking at 2 Corinthians 5:2-4. As Christians, we know that there’s so much more than this present life offers.

As earlier verses have indicated, our earthly bodies, being corrupted by the effects of sin, simply aren’t suited for eternal life in the perfect new heavens and new earth. Consequently, we must be clothed in new, imperishable bodies.

What a wonderful thing to contemplate this week! And as we finish our study next Monday, we’ll see a victory that makes the World Series look downright boring.

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The Man Of God’s Own Choosing

Martin Luther arguably set the Protestant Reformation in motion, a fact that hardly needs to be stated. But his most famous hymn perhaps expresses his confidence in Christ as Christians fought to return the Church to true Biblical faith and practice.

As you listen to this hymn, please notice the emphasis on Christ as the One Who would defeat the powers of evil. This marvelous truth applies just as much in the battle for truth today as it did at the height of the Reformation. It also applies to our personal battles against sin.

God is our mighty fortress. Christ Jesus is the Man He chooses to win the battle. We can’t trust in our own ability to overcome Satan and his evil devices, but we can fully depend on the Lord to establish His kingdom.

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Saturday Sampler: October 21 — October 27

Saturday Sampler graphic

Most evangelicals I know don’t seem to understand the significance of Reformation Day (October 31). Praise God for Michelle Lesley, who explains its importance in The Mailbag: What is Reformation Day? Please don’t ignore this blog post. And don’t ignore the Reformation.

Women like being in control. But, as Jessica Pigg writes in Biblical Woman, we need to make sure we’re Building for Eternity rather than for ourselves.

What does it mean to glorify God? Over on The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge answers that question with three challenging examples. You might be surprised and intrigued by what he has to say.

Praise God for John Divito’s marvelous article, Living the Cessationist Life, written for Founders Ministry! As a former Charismatic who loves the Holy Spirit, I wish all my Charismatic friends understood these things about Him.

Maybe Leslie A’s When It’s Time to Reap hits home for me because I turned 65 last month.  But it sure wouldn’t hurt younger women to consider the Biblical wisdom she dispenses. Her Growing 4 Life blog features many helpful posts on how to live in ways that honor the Lord.

I’ve written a lot this week about the importance of thinking critically and Biblically. By writing The Brains God Gave You, SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God encourages me that I’m not alone in seeing the need for Christians to evaluate things more thoroughly.

Living in the Greater Boston Area has familiarized me with the name of Anne Hutchinson, and I knew her theology was less than Blblical. But Elizabeth Prata really enriches our understanding of the damage a rebellious woman can do in Puritan Wives: Anne Hutchinson – Screeching usurper, or passionate devotee? And if you’re tempted to think an essay about a 17th Century New England woman has no relevance to current Christian controversies, remember that Elizabeth calls her blog The End Time for a reason. Who does Anne Hutchinson remind you of?

Go to The Domain for Truth to read SlimJim’s excellent article, Physical Beauty without Good Works is Dead. If you’re a single gal, read this as an encouragement. If you’re a mom to teenage or college age boys, have them read it. Several times. Until it oozes out of their pores! Did I mention it’s an excellent article?

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The Five Solas of the Protestant Deformation

As we approach the 501st Reformation Day this coming Wednesday, Michelle Lesley’s clever and insightful post deserves our attention.

Michelle Lesley

Originally published September 15, 2017

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. October 31, 2017 will commemorate the date in 1517 when Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 theses – a list of grievances against the Catholic church for unbiblical doctrines and practices – to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther’s calls for reform spread quickly throughout Europe, inspiring the likes of church fathers Ulrich Zwingli (Zurich), John Calvin (Geneva), and John Knox (Scotland) to join the effort in their own locales. As they worked to address the issues raised in Luther’s document, these men codified what we know today as the “Five Solas of the Reformation,” the basis of Protestant church doctrine. The five solas are:

1. Sola Scriptura– Scripture alone is the basis for all church doctrine, belief, and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

2. Sola Gratia

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Throwback Thursday: No Need To Choose

Originally posted on October 21, 2015, this article seems even more relevant now.

Cross and Bible 3A few years ago, someone scolded me on Facebook for holding to the “dead letter of a book” rather than enjoying a “living relationship” with God through His Spirit. I thought of her reprimand a couple days ago when one of Tim Challies’ links to a Kindle deal providentially misdirected me to Tom Olson’s January 22, 2015 blog post, Is It Possible for Christians to Idolize the Bible?

Olson produced helpful arguments as he reasoned from 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21 (please read both verses). He maintains that Scripture is breathed out from the Holy Spirit. That being the case, it makes little sense when people try to represent Scripture and the Spirit as being mutually exclusive (as my Facebook critic suggested). Olson explained that God’s Word, as given through the agency of the Spirit, facilitates our relationship with God.

Consider the primary descriptions of Scripture from the Bible itself:

  • All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)

Add to this that one of the favored names of Jesus Christ is “The Word,” and you have a Trinitarian testimony that the Bible is not divorced from the Godhead, but is the tangible work of the Trinity in perfect harmony speaking to us.

Simply put, the Bible is the voice of God. The Father breathes out the Word. The Son is the Word incarnate. The Holy Spirit carried along the biblical authors so that they would speak “from God”. The Bible is the voice of God – not just the red letters – the whole Bible. As such, the question “Is it possible for Christians to idolize the Bible?” is inaccurate, because it forces us to drive a false wedge between God and his voice. Prioritizing God’s voice is prioritizing God, and thus prioritizing his voice cannot be thought of as idolatry.

Please know, I get it. The Scriptures and Jesus Christ are different entities. The Bible and the Spirit are unique from one another. But that does not mean we can or should treat them as such, divorcing them from one another.

So why did my love for and reliance on the Bible’s authority offend the woman on Facebook? I can’t judge her motives for certain, nor should I try to do so, but I can think of two possible reasons. Usually, people who accuse Christians of bibliolatry operate from one of two positions.

The less prevalent of the two (I hope) comes from a desire to accommodate sin without outright rejecting God. If we can minimize Scripture’s authority by hearing from “God” as we imagine Him, perhaps we can wiggle out of some demands that the Bible imposes on us. Maybe translators made mistakes, or maybe culture has advanced beyond the antiquated notions of the prophets and apostles. Surely God wouldn’t confine His expectations of us to a 2000-year-old book!

Typically, however, the people who make that accusation believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to people directly. They do agree that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, and they’ll even say that it’s the final authority for Christians. Furthermore, they actually do wish to live in obedience to its precepts. But they also insist that “relationship” with Jesus must extend beyond the Bible through personal communication from Him. They want to feel His presence and to believe that they have unique relationships with Him.

Yet His Word does retain its authority and it is able to speak to us personally.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

As we read these precious Spirit-breathed words, He shows us how they apply to us in the 21st Century. Far from being a dead book, the Bible overflows with more treasures than we know what to do with! In holding the Bible in high esteem, we use it as a vehicle to worship its Author in spirit and in truth.

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Jesus As The First And Greatest Being Created By God?

Have  you seen The State of Theology survey put out by Ligonier and LifeWay (strange bedfellows) last week? While not the most scientific poll ever conducted, most of its findings probably reflect the general spiritual condition in the United States of America.

Warning: This blog post starts out a little dry, but fairly soon you’ll be screaming, “Yo mama — Read More »

What You Think Doesn’t Matter, But It Matters That You Think

Twisting ScriptureLongtime readers have read this story before, but I want to tell it again in a slightly different context. In my freshman year of college, I took a Shakespeare class.

My Shakespeare professor scowled as I told him what the passage he’d set before our class meant to me personally. He found my comment entirely too subjective, and therefore not acceptable in the context of scholarly discussion. I tried to appeal to a 1974 mindset by explaining that my Bible Study group used that method to interpret Scripture, but he wouldn’t consider such a perspective. “What matters is not what what the passage says to you,” he explained, “but what Shakespeare intended when he wrote the play.”

That incident sobered me, teaching me one of the most important lessons in my Christian life. All too often, professing Christians read the Bible with the expectation that they can arrive at a personal, subjective interpretation. Just as I showed disrespect to Shakespeare by presuming that I could make his plays and sonnets say whatever I imagined them to say, so we show disrespect to the Holy Spirit by conforming His Word to our personal experiences and biases.

What you and I think Scripture says to us personally may be vastly different from what the Lord intended when His Spirit inspired the Old and New Testament writers to record His Word. We dare not treat it like a piece of putty that we can stretch and mold according to our preferences and ideas.

19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ~~2 Peter 1:19-21 (ESV)

So, interpreting God’s Word isn’t determined by our subjective thoughts and opinions. What we think it says must be subordinated to what the Holy Spirit purposes it to mean.

Having said that, reading and obeying the Bible requires us to think Biblically. Rather than viewing verses as isolated fragments, we need understand Scripture as a whole. Interpreting Scripture, it turns out, takes the same kind of analytical thought that I learned to utilize in studying literature and art.

My Shakespeare professor taught me to analyze a play’s passage by examining its use of language, its historical context and (more importantly) to the context of the play itself. Additionally, it helped to study how people used certain words in 16th Century England, as well as knowing some biographical information about The Bard himself. Finally, familiarity with literary history offered insight.

Understanding Shakespeare’s intent, in other words, took work. But it could be done. And I had to do the same work in studying Homer, Virgil, Malory, Chaucer, Donne, Byron, Browning, Frost and all the writers in between. In art history, I had to do the same with Leonardo, Michelangelo and Carravargio.

How much more should Christians study Scripture in order to understand what the Lord says through it. Engaging our minds is mandatory in order to rightly understand God’s Word. As I’ll show you in my next blog post, however, a large number of evangelicals fail to use their minds in talking about God.

Imposing your opinions on Scripture is infinitely worse than imposing them on a few Shakespearean couplets. But perhaps we make such impositions precisely because we don’t bother to think carefully about what we read. It doesn’t matter what we think any given verse means to us personally,  but it matters a great deal that we think carefully about what God’s Word really means.

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According To Scripture: Study #15 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Before we get going on the five (yes, I’m serious — five) verses we’ll study today, let me remind any gentlemen reading that these Bible Studies are intended exclusively for women. Unless you are my husband, an elder from First Baptist Church Weymouth Massachusetts or vetting me before recommending this blog to your wife, please don’t cause me to violate 1 Timothy 2:12. Thanks!

Are they gone, ladies? Okay. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s read our passage and then talk about verses 45-49.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. ~~1 Corinthians 15:42-49 (ESV)

In verse 45, we see a new turn in Paul’s defense of bodily resurrection. Having taught the differences between our earthly bodies and our resurrection bodies, Paul goes on to contrast the first Adam with Christ (the last Adam). He uses these terms to denote that Adam and Christ are the two representative heads of humanity. He already hinted at this concept in verse 22.

Referring to Genesis 2:7, he reminds them that the first Adam became a living being when God breathed life into him. This first Adam, however, also introduced death to all mankind (Romans 5:14) even while being the first human to receive God’s breath of life.

In contrast, Christ (the last Adam) gives eternal life. John 1:4 says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” According to Matthew Henry,  John 5:21 shows us that both the Father and the Son give life. Paul’s comment about the second Adam being a life-giving spirit demonstrates this claim.

Paul deems it entirely reasonable, in verse 46, that our natural, decaying bodies should precede our spiritual, imperishable bodies, just as the seed precedes the fully developed plant. As Matthew Henry puts it, “If the first Adam could communicate to us natural and animal bodies, cannot the second Adam make our bodies spiritual ones?”

We might apply this principle in our walks with the Lord. Christians put away the natural inclination towards sin in favor of putting on Christlike characteristics. See Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22-24 and Colossians 3:9-10.

Paul tells us in verse 47 that Adam quite literally came from the earth, as Genesis 2:7 and Genesis 3:19 testify. As such, he had a corruptible nature that all of us inherited. In Adam, our present bodies are destined to return to the earth.

In contrast, Christ is of heavenly origin, as we learn in John 3:13 and John 3:31. Paul calls Him the second Man because of His reversal of Adam’s curse on humanity. Since Christ is heavenly, His physical body is suited for heaven. Therefore, those who are in Him will likewise be given bodies suited for heaven.

Paul elaborates on this point in verse 48 by saying that all of Adam’s descendants share his earthly nature. Interestingly, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown tie this statement in to our need to be born again (John 3:6-7). Apart from Christ, our bodies are prone to decay.

In contrast (again drawing from Jamieson, Fausset and Brown), regenerated people will have bodies like the resurrected Lord’s (Philippians 3:20-21). The second Adam assures us that He will fit us for eternity with Him!

Paul reaches the pinnacle of his argument in verse 49. Like our natural forefather Adam, we have bodies that are weakened (see Romans 5:17a). As Barnes puts it, our earthly bodies are “subject to sickness, frailty, sorrow, and death.”

But in Christ, our resurrection bodies will shed the limitations we inherited from Adam. Like our resurrected Lord, we will have incorruptible bodies that are free both from sin itself and from its consequences. 1 John 3:2 promises that, even though we don’t know specific details concerning our resurrection bodies, we have the assurance that they will be like His.

Join me next Monday as we begin the final section of 1 Corinthians 15. I may be a little bleery-eyed from watching the Red Sox win the World Series, but I look forward to studying a far greater event — our bodies being changed “in the twinkling of an eye.”

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