Archive for February, 2008

Avoid Everything That Appears Evil?

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

My goodness, two posts in one day? After two weeks of silence? What’s gotten into me?!?

So, here’s the issue: Does 1 Thessalonians 5:21 tell us to abstain from everything that even appears evil to some people? That’s how people sometimes read the KJV translation: “Abstain from every appearance of evil.”

In an entry at Parchment and Pen, Dr. Dan Wallace–author of the standard text Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, and chief translator of the New English Translation (with its wonderful footnotes)–explains why it doesn’t. In modern English, it says something closer to “Avoid every form of evil.”

Not only that, but in context, it looks like it’s talking about false teaching & prophecy. The ESV says:

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thes. 5:19-22

“Abstain from every form of evil” is the counterpart to “hold fast to what is good”, and both refer back to “test everything”.

Law vs. Gospel

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

There’s an interesting discussion at the Internet Monk’s blog, based on a recent broadcast of the White Horse Inn. (Links further below.) It’s very meaty and edifying, and is related to some of what I said in my last entry. (OK, so practically everything in theology is connected. But the connection here seemed particularly strong.)

Note: The following intro is sprinkled with links to Scripture references. They’ll pop up in a new window, and I tried to keep them concise (just a couple or a few verses each), so I hope you’ll take the time to open them up as you read–and get the richness of God’s word from the source, rather than just from this faulty conduit.

In the last entry, I mentioned how the Spirit works in God’s children, teaching us that we are sinners, showing us our need, and pointing us to Christ and to what he did for us. When Paul taught about the way that God convicts us of our sin, he emphasized the role that the written Law plays. All of us (even we Gentiles) do have God’s Law written on our hearts, so that we have an instinctive understanding of morality–against which we sin. But Paul says that a function of the written Law is to increase our sin–when we see the written Law, it confronts us with our sin. And not only that, but our rebellious nature is such that when we hear a command, “Don’t do this,” we may be more likely to commit that very sin!

The Law points us to our need, and to our utter inability to satisfy its righteous requirements that are based in the very nature and character of God. So when Christ comes, we fall at his feet, and know that we can only be justified by faith. Apart from our working.

That’s part of the reason that Christians struggle with the awareness of our own sin. The Law teaches us sin more clearly. Sin abounds, so that grace may abound to those who believe. And those who believe are exhorted to present ourselves as slaves to righteousness. But…As his children whom he disciplines, with the Spirit in us moving us to delight in God and his law, we struggle with our sin even more. Realizing the need to assure us in our struggle, Paul wrote Romans 8. In this life, in this unredeemed flesh, the struggle makes us look ahead in hope to the promised renewal of our bodies and all creation. God is our adopted Poppa, he has given us the Spirit to guarantee our inheritance, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, God uses everything that happens to our good, and nothing will separate us from his love. (And notice: In our struggles–both against persecution & suffering and against our own weakness–God promises that he will bring us through. God is moving heaven and earth so that those whom he calls and justifies, he will also sanctify and glorify. And nothing can stop his determined effort! Our security and our perseverance stands in the strength of the Creator God.)

OK, so, that was the introduction. :)

On to the links, with a (much briefer) description of the broadcast and discussion. (more…)

Complacency, Doubt, and Assurance

Monday, February 18th, 2008

The sermon this week at church, the latest in a series on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, dealt with the subject of assurance. The pastor preached from Romans 8, with the central verse 15, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!””.

It got me thinking about a conversation I had a month or so ago, with someone who was not feeling at all assured. And then this morning, the book I’m reading touched on the same topic. So, I’d like to share from the book by Sam Storms, Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’s “Religious Affections”.  I found out about this book by listening to Storms’ appearance on Converse with Scholars, about which Carrie Hunter said, “He discussed the wonderful language Jonathan Edwards used to show how we as believers can see the true marks of the Holy Spirit in our own lives as well as in the lives of others.” I’m enjoying it very much; it’s edifying, concise, and quite readable.

As I was reading this morning, I came to a passage that deals with some elements of the false assurance felt by those whose faith is not authentic, and with why Christians may still struggle with assurance:

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On the Gospel, the Need for Salvation, and Once-Saved-Always-Saved

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

Michael Patton posted on the subject of once-saved-always-saved, discussing the problem of false assurance that some people have based on a memory of “walking the aisle”. It’s personal for him, because his father may have that kind of false assurance. He started by saying, “I have someone who is very close to me who will not be broken. I don’t really know how I desire him to be broken, but conversations with him are always very frustrating.”

In the comments, someone named Scott Gray found that statement disturbing. It smacked of coercion to him. Particularly because he rejects that idea that a relationship with God requires salvation.

I exchanged some comments with him (my username: Jugulum). After I pointed him back to some sermons by the apostles in Acts, he said:

i did read the acts passage you pointed out, but i don’t see much connection to the original post topic. could you explain, please? how do you think the acts text pertains to cmp’s original post?

This morning, I wrote the following response, discussing the nature of the gospel, our need for salvation, some implications for assurance of salvation, and the nature of what Christ did, reconciling the world to himself. (You can go back to get the context, if you like.)

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