December 28, 2012 § 4 Comments
“The Bible provides several answers to the question: Why do people lack discernment? The fundamental answer, the will of God, is an unpopular and an unpalatable answer, and modern men will not hear it. The pagan Greeks and Romans had several similar proverbs: “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” Publius Syrius (42 bc) wrote: “Whom Fortune wishes to destroy she first makes mad.” Lycurgus (820 bc) wrote: “When falls on man the anger of the gods/First from his mind they banish understanding.” The seventeenth-century English poet John Dryden echoed these proverbs in The Hind and the Panther (1687): “For those whom God to ruin has designed/He fits for fate, and first destroys their mind.” Removing the pagan meanings from the sayings, we arrive at some pretty sound theology: “Whom God wishes to destroy he first makes foolish.” Or to put it another way, “Whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes undiscerning.” That is exactly what passages such as Romans 1 teach:
They are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind…undiscerning….
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, warned:
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and lying wonders, and all unrighteous decep-tion among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)
The consistent message of the Bible is that God gives knowledge and wisdom to those who are to be saved; and withholds knowledge and wisdom from those who are to be destroyed. Consider these verses:
Then you shall say to them “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold I will fill all the inhabitants of this land—even the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—with drunkenness! And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together,’ says the Lord. ‘I will no more spare nor have mercy, but will destroy them.’ ” (Jeremiah 13:13-14)
With him are wisdom and strength; he has counsel and understanding. If he breaks a thing down, it cannot be rebuilt; if he imprisons a man, there can be no release. If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the Earth. With him are strength and prudence. The deceived and the deceiver are his. He leads counselors away plundered and makes fools of the judges. He loosens the bonds of kings, and binds their waist with a belt. He leads princes away plundered and overthrows the mighty. He deprives the trusted ones of speech and takes away the discernment of the elders. He pours contempt on princes and disarms the mighty…. He takes way the understanding of the chiefs of the people of the Earth, and makes them wander in a pathless wilderness. They grope in the dark without light, and he makes them stagger like a drunken man. (Job 12:13-25)
You have hidden their heart from understanding. … (Job 17:4)
All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The King spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”
While the word was still in the King’s mouth, a voice fell from Heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever he chooses.”
That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.
And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to Heaven, and my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored him who lives forever: For his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the Earth are reputed as nothing; he does according to his will in the army of Heaven and among the inhabitants of the Earth. No one can restrain his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
At the same time my reason returned to me. … (Daniel 4:28-36)
These passages clearly show that discernment is an intellectual function, and that God controls the minds of all men, giving understanding and discernment to those whom he favors, and withholding understanding and discernment from those whom he is punishing.
In Proverbs, it is the man who understands, the man who gets wisdom that lives and prospers; it is the man who does not understand, the foolish man, who dies. God confuses their minds, makes them undiscerning, so that they cannot tell right from wrong, true from false. Discernment is the intellectual ability to judge correctly. To judge is to evaluate a particular (person, group, event, or idea) according to a general principle or standard. To those whom God wishes to save, he gives light; to those whom he wishes to punish, he sends confusion. A typical passage showing that intellectual light is from God is Ephesians 1:15-18:
Therefore I also…do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know….
Another is Ephesians 4:17-23:
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart…. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard him and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus; that you…be renewed in the spirit of your mind….
January 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!
The words of the preacher are not “Peace, peace,”1 but “Vanity of vanities.” His words are not comforting, but they are true: All that is done under the sun will come to ruin, decay, destruction – it is vain. There are some very sobering thoughts that arise in consideration of this portion of verse 2. In the first place, we must note that the task of preaching is not to tickle men’s ears, nor is it to always comfort and soothe the fears of men (though at times this is indeed something we are called to do by the Word); rather, the task of preaching is sometimes a somber one, where we expose the folly of living as though eternity did not await each one of us. Lay up treasures on this earth as we may, yet the end will one day come. We may seek to train our bodies in the same manner as Olympian athletes. And yet – they are still corruptible, subject to death, and our ever-living souls will appear before the throne of Christ to give an account of all that we have done in the body. The words of the preacher must, therefore, be: Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
This is Law, proclaimed by one who has been given the task of speaking God’s Words after Him. Therefore, there is no comfort in the words that expose the nakedness of our true condition. Do we agree with the preacher? Then we may fully thank God for His mercy upon us. Do we not agree with the preacher? Then let us take heed to his words, believe the truth, and repent. All is vanity. Why? For “life is more than food and the body is more than clothing.”2 Hence, our Lord tells the parable of the rich fool who said to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.”3 And to whom our God responded: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you…”4 Note that the words the rich fool uses are those whom the Holy Spirit says that the pagans of Paul’s day used in order to justify their debauchery. He adds another clause, however, and says: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”5 Likewise, the prophet Isaiah records that the apostate Jews of his own day spoke the same way, saying: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”6 And again, Isaiah records the thoughts of the hearts of the apostates when he writes: “Come…let me get wine; let us fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow will be like this day, great beyond measure.”7
The preacher, like Isaiah, Christ Jesus, and Paul the apostle, understood that there is no rest for the wicked, no peace for the wicked – not even in the grave. Unfortunately, many within the professing church twist the doctrine of eternal retribution by appealing to the words of the Preacher in this book. Yet, their error becomes evident when we understand that Solomon is not teaching that after one is dead there is no consciousness of what one has done. Rather, he is teaching that the pursuits of sinful man are vain, for man will one day die – and the only thing he will take with him is his soul, the course of his earthly existence, and every deed he has done under the sun. God does not judge men on the basis of their intellectual, social, physical, monetary, or psychological achievements. God judges men on the basis of His Law. The greatest of which is this: “The Lord our God, the Lord is One,” and, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength…” etc. The first and greatest commandment, therefore, consists of two things one must do properly: (a.)Worship the true God (i.e. the God of Israel, not the gods of the imaginations of men’s hearts), and (b.)Worship Him perfectly and perpetually with the entirety of one’s being.
However, just to be clear, as we’ve already noted, the preacher is not preaching the Gospel; the preacher is preaching the Law. He is bringing men’s minds to come to grips with the fact that their earthly sandcastles of hopes and dreams, aspirations and achievements are dung in the sight of God, if they are not wholly for His glory and His glory alone. Those whom the Lord is calling will see themselves as living vain lives, striving for vain things, searching for things that will not cover the nakedness of their shame but will, like Adam’s fig leaves, gradually lose their color, their vibrancy, their youth, their appeal, shrivel up and crumble to dust. And God will reveal that it is only by faith in Christ that men have life & that life has purpose.
1 Cf. Jer 6:14 & 8:11
2 Matt 6:25
3 Luke 12:19
4 Luke 12:20
5 1st Cor 15:32
6 Isa 22:13b
7 Isa 56:12
September 8, 2011 § 6 Comments
A common argument made by Arminians against the Biblical Doctrine of irresistible grace is both fallacious and absurd, for it (i.)is an appeal to emotion and (ii.)it refutes the Arminian position itself. I’ll briefly demonstrate this logically.
The Arminian Argument
MP: It would be unfair for God to impose His will on free creatures.
Mp: God would never do anything unfair.
C: Therefore, God would never impose His will on free creatures.
The above argument is an appeal to emotion because it does not explain precisely how God’s imposition of His will on supposedly free creatures would be unfair. Instead, it uses the word unfair so as to stack the deck against the Christian who is arguing in favor of the doctrines of grace. On this basis alone, the argument is shown to be fallacious and, therefore, false. However, for the sake of fully demolishing the Arminian notion of Prevenient grace, I’ll take it a step further and show how such a view makes Arminianism itself impossible.
- Arminians believe, as Scripture teaches, that man is born dead in his sins.
- Moreover, they assert that man cannot of his own freedom come to Christ.
- They, however, state that God grants Prevenient grace to all men in order to enable them to come to faith in Christ.
- Thus every man, although born dead in his sins and obstinately opposed to the Gospel, is given the capacity to choose Christ.
- However, this means that all men, regardless of their natural opposition to God, are given something they never asked for, viz. Prevenient grace.
- Therefore, they have Prevenient grace given to them against their will, since they are born dead in their sins and opposed to God and His Gospel.
- Therefore, God’s giving of Prevenient grace, which supposedly enables them to choose to place their faith in Christ, is unfair.
- Therefore, Prevenient grace is an unfair doctrine, for it teaches that God gives enabling grace to those who do not want it.
- Therefore, God imposes His will on free creatures.
- Therefore, Prevenient grace is absurd.
Soli Deo Gloria.
August 12, 2011 § 2 Comments
Who Could Stand?
The psalmist is asking a rhetorical question that elicits a resounding “NONE!” from all who have been shown the depths of their own sinfulness. The Law’s piercing insight into the very heart of man cuts away all self-righteousness when it is used lawfully. We call the lawful use of the Law the second use of the Law, and that is to reveal sin to us, and to shut the mouth of every man who is protesting his case against God. Unfortunately, there are likely many who think that the psalmist is expecting us to try to find who could stand before God if their iniquities were marked by the Lord! Well, even if that were the case we know that there is only One who is in and of Himself essentially holy, Good – God the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ whose righteousness is given freely to all who believe upon His name. It is not a question, then, of whether or not the Lord marks the iniquities of men since, we learn from other passages of Scripture, that He does indeed mark them and keep a record of them. Rather, it is a question of whether or not our sins have been washed away by the precious blood of Christ. For the unbeliever, there is no question about it: God does keep a record of everything wrong that he has done and he will judge him accordingly. However, for the believer God “remembers our sins no more” since Christ has not only fully satisfied Divine wrath in our stead, but He has also lived a perfect life in our place, thereby satisfying the Divine imperatives in our place. Christ has fulfilled the Law in the place of His people; there is nothing left for us to do in order for us to be justified.
The believer alone, therefore, knows the extent of the Law and by his proclamation of his own wretchedness, and by his reaching out to Christ the Only Good and Righteous Man to merit the favor of God, the believer alone establishes the Law. For what else does Paul mean to say when he exhausts the extent of the Law in condemning every single individual, except for Christ, to eternal damnation, but this: That the Law’s establishment is made not by partial obedience but by a full recognition of our complete depravity before God. And is this not what the Lord Jesus meant in the Sermon on the Mount?