Monday, September 5, 2016

Guest Post: God of Jacob, God of Israel Pt2

By Dave Hunt

Last month we noted that the only true God, the Creator of the universe and all things therein—the God of the Bible—has linked His name with and tied His integrity to Israel. Yet many evangelicals, including well-known leaders, insist that Israel is of no significance to God any longer, having been cut off for rejecting Christ and now having been replaced by the church. There are even groups (not only among white supremacists or cults such as Herbert W. Armstrong’s die-hard followers today) who persist in the ridiculous theory that the “Ten Lost Tribes” of Israel migrated to the British Isles and that therefore all those of British descent are the true Jews today. Some go so far as to say that all of the “white races” are the true Jews—as though not only England but all of Europe and Russia was uninhabited wasteland until these remnants of the “Ten Lost Tribes” settled there.
We have proved that the ten tribes taken to Assyria (2 Ki:17:6-23) were not “lost” but make up most of those called Jews today (see 2 Chr 34,35; Q&A Nov ’92, May ’96). Far from Israel being cut off, hundreds of prophecies foretell Israel’s importance in world affairs in the last days, the attack of all the world against her at Armageddon, her rescue by the Messiah, and her glorious final restoration in the Millennial Kingdom. Nor is there ever a reference to Israel anywhere in Scripture that could possibly be interpreted as meaning the British Isles or the British people, much less the “white races”!
Most of the more than 2,000 references to Israel or Israelites in the Bible and the thousands of prophecies (already fulfilled or yet to be fulfilled) pertain to the historical land of Israel in the Middle East, whose boundaries are clearly described (Gn 15:18-21), or to the people who lived there for nearly 2,300 years, were cast out under God’s judgment, and will be brought back by God so that not one ethnic Jew will be left outside Israel (Ezk 39:27-29).
We know who the Jews are today by DNA testing. The Israeli Immigrant Liaison Bureau requires DNA tests where there is some question as to the authenticity of claimed Jewish ancestry. Such tests would draw a complete blank if applied to the average person of British descent, and prove British-Israelism to be utter folly. No other ethnic group without its own land and scattered around the world for more than 2,000 years has or could maintain its DNA identity as have the Jews.
It is not important to know who is an American, German, Arab, Greek, et al. In contrast, it is vital to know who is a Jew. Why? About 70 percent of the pages of Scripture are taken up in recounting Israel’s history and prophesying her future: her continued and unrepentant rebellion against God, His reluctant and long-delayed but finally severe discipline (the worst of which is yet to come), the Jews’ worldwide dispersion, their re-gathering from all over the world back into their own land in the Last Days, hundreds of prophecies concerning Israel’s present key role in world affairs, of her greatest trial just ahead (Jer:30:7) when two-thirds of all Jews on earth will be killed (Zec:13:8,9), and of her final restoration under the Messiah (Zec 12-14). Unquestionably, Israel is the major subject of God’s Holy Word. To be wrong about Israel is therefore to be wrong on almost everything in the Bible.
The One whom the Bible 203 times calls “the God of Israel” has sworn by an everlasting covenant that Israel, three times called the “apple” of His eye (Dt 32:10; Lam:2:18Zec:2:8), will never cease to exist as a nation : “Therefore fear thou not...O Israel...though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I...will not leave thee altogether unpunished” (Jer:30:10-11). “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the city [Jerusalem] shall be built...it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever” (Jer:31:38-40). The language could not be clearer here and throughout God’s Holy Word.
These and hundreds of other promises from God to Israel recorded in Scripture are a sharp rebuke to those such as Hank Hanegraaff, D. James Kennedy, R.C. Sproul, et al., who teach that the church has replaced Israel. “Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day...moon...and...stars...by night...if those ordinances depart from before me...then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever...” (Jer:31:35-36); “While the earth remaineth...day and night shall not cease” (Gn 8:22); “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger...and I will bring them again unto this place [Israel], and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God...so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them” (Jer:32:37-42).
 Israel has failed to fulfill her calling to be an example to the world of holiness in dedication to God (Lv 20:22-24, 26; Dt 6:4-5; 7:6, etc.). While there are many believing Israelis, some even within the military, Israel today as a whole remains as wicked and godless as America and the rest of the nations. God’s “chosen people,” living once again in the Promised Land in fulfillment of many specific biblical prophecies, refuse to honor in their daily lives the God of their fathers who has brought them there. Even in the present distress related to Gaza and Lebanon, the vast majority of Israelis trust in their own arms and determination instead of trusting the only One who can protect them and has promised to do so.
The triumph of tiny Israel in every war and against impossible odds is admitted by many in the IDF as defying ordinary explanation. Military officers giving pep talks to new recruits often tell of amazing events they have witnessed in past wars, but rarely is God’s intervention hinted at, even when no other explanation would be possible. Israel as a whole has not yet been humbled to the point of acknowledging what the Psalmist prophesied: “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say...when men rose up against us: then they had swallowed us up quick.... Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth....Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps:124:1,2,6,8). At Armageddon, however, this prophecy will become a reality to all who survive.
In contrast, Britain, along with America, will be among those “all nations” that God will gather and destroy at Armageddon (Jer:30:11; Jl 3:2;Zec:12:9, 14:2, etc.) for their mistreatment of Israel, and especially for dividing His land. In fact, Britain played a key role in robbing Israel of its land and giving most of it to the Arabs for oil. Both Britain and America have betrayed Israel many times, and the U.S. State Department and British Foreign Service have opposed Israel from the beginning, as we document in Judgment Day . Those facts alone prove the lie of British Israelism.
So why would God faithfully help faithless Israel? He makes it clear to Israel from the very beginning, “...because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out...from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt...” (Dt 7:8). As we noted last month, referring to her ultimate restoration and blessing (which He has promised through the Messiah), the God of Israel declares: “Thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen...be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel...I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it” (Ezk 36:22,32,36, etc.). In spite of Israel’s present disregard of Him, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Ex 3:15,16 and ten other places in the Bible) is fulfilling His promises to those patriarchs through their descendants—and the day is coming when all Israel who survive Armageddon will believe.
Most Jews worldwide await the Messiah’s first coming, unaware that He already came and was rejected and crucified. Jesus warned the Jews, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (Jn:5:43). Tragically, it will take Armageddon for the surviving Jews to repent, turn to the God of Israel, and embrace the One who comes in His Father’s name. In that greatest distress ever faced by Israel, God declares that the one-third whom He will bring alive “through the fire...refine[d] as silver is refined...as gold is tried [shall] call on my name, and I will hear them” (Zec:13:8,9).
When they see with their own eyes the Messiah come to rescue them, and discover to their shame who He is, “...they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him...a great mourning in Jerusalem...” (Zec:12:10-14). Why such extreme sorrow at being rescued by the Messiah? The God of Israel declares: “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced” (12:10)!
At Armageddon, when Yahweh comes to the rescue, He reveals Himself as the One whom Israel has pierced! Pierced?! When and how could Israel pierce the One who told Moses, “there shall no man see me, and live” (Ex 33:20)? God, “a Spirit” (Jn:4:24), cannot be pierced—but the Messiah coming as a man could be. Jesus, who fulfilled every Messianic prophecy, was pierced on the cross. Why was He crucified? For claiming to be God (Jn:10:30-33)!
Yahweh is speaking in the first person, yet two persons seem to be involved: “...they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him ....” This him seems to be another person—and yet He must also be Yahweh! Is Yahweh two persons? In fact, He declares Himself to be three in one! Consider this: “I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I...” (Is 48:16). Surely the one speaking must be God because He has been speaking from the very beginning. Yet He adds, “The Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me” (Ibid.). Here we encounter God, the Lord God, and the Spirit of God.
Could this be what the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle John to write, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”? Surely this One called the “Word,” who existed from the beginning and is God, must be the same God to whom Isaiah refers who speaks from the beginning.
But the similarities in these two verses don’t end there. Both raise almost identical questions. In Isaiah, how can God be sent by God; and in John, how can God be with God? There is only one solution: the Messiah must be God. When Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (Jn:10:30), the Jews accused Him of blasphemy. When they picked up stones, Jesus asked why they wanted to kill Him. Their instant reply was, “for blasphemy...thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (vv. 31-33). For the Messiah to declare His deity was the ultimate heresy, worthy of death? No!
According to the Hebrew prophets, the Messiah had to be God and, at the same time, the Son of God. If God has a Son, who Himself is God and one with His Father, that would dissolve the rabbis’ objections. We encounter God’s Son a number of times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Speaking prophetically, the Psalmist presents God as declaring of one who is to come, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee” (Ps:2:7). Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who deny Christ’s deity take this as referring to Christ’s birth on earth as the beginning of His existence. That cannot be the case, however, because God speaks of His Son as already existing and warns a God-defying world, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry....Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (v 12).
That the Son of God already existed before His incarnation is clear from a number of other statements by the Hebrew prophets. Solomon quotes the prophet Agur asking this question: “Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment?” The obvious answer is “God.” Then he asks, “what is his son’s name...” (Prv 30:4), proving that the Son of God already existed at that time. Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego were cast into a huge furnace so hot that the flames killed those who threw them into it. Nebuchadnezzar, astonished to see these three Hebrews walking alive in the flames, observes another with them and in wonder exclaims, “the fourth is like the Son of God” (Dn 3:25)!
While promising salvation through the coming Messiah, Yahweh repeatedly declared that He himself was the only Savior: “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior” (Is 43:11); “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Is 45:22). And yet this salvation goes to “the ends of the earth” by another who must Himself be God and the Messiah: “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Is 49:6). Of whom does God speak?
Unquestionably, the Hebrew prophets all agree that God exists as a tri-unity: three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) but one God—and that in the Messiah He becomes man without ceasing to be God. Christ’s claims that He was God and man, and one with His Father, agree with the prophets. Isaiah declared: “For unto us a child is born...” (Is 9:6). This refers to His humanity, derived, as foretold, from His virgin mother, Mary: the “seed” of the woman (Gn 3:15). But Isaiah adds, “unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder....Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David...” (Is 9:6,7). Surely the Son given must be the already-existing Son of God—and He must be the Messiah, because He will rule on David’s throne.
But Isaiah declares that the Messiah is God! His name is “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God.” And He is also “The everlasting Father.” Here is the same mystery: God is both Father and Son, and He alone is the Messiah! Most Jews still refuse to recognize this identity of the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” This is one place where they agree with their bitterest enemies, the Muslims. The Qur’an condemns to hell anyone who believes in the Trinity (Sur 5:72-74)!
So the fact that Yahweh has come as a man who was pierced to the death, resurrected, and will return to rescue Israel at Armageddon is in perfect agreement with the Hebrew prophets. When Israel sees her God in this form coming to her rescue, it will be painfully clear that He has been to earth before, where He was rejected and pierced to the death. So Jesus was only echoing the prophets when He said to the inhabitants of Jerusalem as He was being “brought as a lamb to the slaughter” (Is 53:7) on the way to the Cross: “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt 23:39). At last they will understand “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”—and “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom:11:26)!
TBC
Hunt, Dave. (2016, September 1). God of Jacob, God of Israel Part Two. thebereancall.org. Retrieved September 5, 2016 from http://www.thebereancall.org/content/god-jacob-god-israel-part-two



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Guest Post: God of Jacob, God of Israel Pt1

By Dave Hunt
According to the latest Fox News polls updated June 26, 2006 (other polls basically agree), “fully 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God”; only 5 percent say they don’t, while the remaining 3 percent are not sure [ed. note: the numbers have not changed substantially today]. In How We Believe , Michael Shermer, director of the Skeptics Society and publisher of Skeptic magazine, claims that “Never in history have so many, and such a high percentage of the [American] population, believed in God. Not only is God not dead as Nietzche proclaimed, but he has never been more alive.”
This statistic, however, is not as encouraging as it sounds. When we ask what respondents mean by “god,” very few believe in—much less know— the God of the Bible . Yet belief in a false god is no better and could be even worse than believing in no God. For many, “God” is simply a “higher power.” Higher than what? Power ? What kind? And how could a “power” of any kind have the infinite intelligence (or anyintelligence) to design the atom, the universe, imprint the written instructions in a coded language on DNA for constructing and operating every cell, and create intelligent, personal beings with a moral conscience and a passion for purpose?
The very thought of a “power” creating anything is ridiculous! Then why is belief in a “power” so appealing? Did the Star Wars slogan, “May the Force be with you,” have that much influence? It went a long way toward changing movie fans’ thinking, especially among American youth. Of course, this has always been a popular idea because a power/force can’t impose moral laws, demand obedience, or judge and punish anyone—instead, it can be used for one’s own ends. Clearly, the true God who created us for a purpose holds mankind responsible for creation’s witness to His existence and for obedience to the moral laws He has implanted in every conscience (Rom:1:18-25; 2:14-16). He will not be used .
Furthermore, just as human beings are jealous of their individual identities, obviously the true God would insist on being properly identified. He will neither reveal Himself to, nor enter into a relationship with, anyone who will not acknowledge Him as He truly is. Nor will He look with broad-minded favor on those who call Him a “higher power.” To do so is an insult to the true God! The God of the Bible (whose existence we have infallibly proved in prior articles) declares to wayward Israel, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer:29:13). Those who hope to find a god that suits their imagination will not find the true God.
It is common sense that the true God would only reveal Himself to sincere and earnest seekers who want to know Him in truth in order to obey Him. The first prerequisite to knowing God is the willingness—indeed, the passion—to know Him as He really is, not as one imagines or would like Him to be. It is no less idolatry to create an imaginary god in one’s mind than to make one out of clay, wood, or stone. So, who is the true God who proves Himself by unfailingly foretelling the future in the Bible?
As we have seen in past articles, the Bible identifies Him as “the God of Israel” 203 times, “the God of Jacob” 28 times, “the God of Abraham” 17 times, and “the God of Isaac” 13 times. Never is He called the “God of any other ethnic group.” These designations are foundational to everything the Bible teaches, including the very character of God. To profess to believe in God and at the same time to hold a prejudice against God’s chosen people, the Jews, or against Israel, which turns these clear biblical identifications into meaningless titles, casts doubt upon whether one really knows the true God.
In His refutation of the Sadducees’ denial of the resurrection, Christ’s primary argument was based upon God’s statement to Moses: “I AM...the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob...this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Ex 3:14-15). Clearly, this was the identity of the true God then; it is now and will be forever. God never changes.
Notice Christ’s reasoning: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God....[H]ave ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mt 22:29-32).
Christ is saying that if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will not live eternally through a resurrection, then it would be a mockery for God to be identified with them eternally. He would be the God of, and have identified Himself with, beings of limited existence—scarcely a blip in eternity. To be called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, if they no longer existed, would demean God.
If the nation of Israel is dead, or has been replaced by the church and does not have an eternal future, then the very term “God of Israel” would not be to God’s glory but a slur upon His character in view of His many promises that Israel would never cease to exist. Yet that is the position taken by those who say that Israel has been replaced by the church. In The Last Disciple (p. 88), Hank Hanegraaff has a key character say, “The covenant between God and Israel was broken with the rejection of His Son.”
Hank gives no explanation how an “everlasting covenant” could ever be broken, nor how Israel’s rejection of Christ could break a covenant that was not conditional upon her accepting Him, for which there were never any conditions Israel had to fulfill, and which God said He would bring to completion in the last days.
Indeed, at the same time that God promises eternal blessings to Israel in a full restoration in the last days, He also recites her unfaithfulness to Him without a hint that the many sins of Israel and the Jewish people would be any deterrent to His fulfilling all of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:
"...the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them...the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever....I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen...be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel...in the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities....For I will...gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land...and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the Lord....I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it." (Dt 1:8; Jer:7:7; Ezk 36:11, 22-26, 32-36)
Here again, as elsewhere (as we have said), it is quite clear that there are no conditions for Israel to fulfill, but God will, for the integrity of His name, fulfill every promise in spite of Israel’s rebellion against Him. Furthermore, the prophets foretold that the Messiah would be rejected by Israel and crucified, yet in all of those prophecies there is never a suggestion that because of this rejection God would break His everlasting covenant with Israel. The covenant was made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—not with their descendants (Gn 12:1-3; 15:7, 18-21; 17:7-8, 19, 21; 26; 28:13; 1 Ch 16:14-18, etc.); it was never conditioned upon the obedience of their descendants, and therefore could not possibly be broken by anything those descendants did or failed to do. It is a slap in the eternal God’s face to say that Israel has been replaced!
Scripture records literally hundreds of promises from God that Israel as a nation would never cease to exist (Jer:31:35-37, etc.). These cannot be annulled even by God himself. To do so would make Him a liar. Nor can they be spiritualized away as though the land of Canaan, which became the land of Israel, could simply mean the heavenly inheritance of the church.
It is irrefutable that Israel once possessed a physical, historical land that was given to her by God’s eternal decree. It is equally an historical fact that she was expelled from this land by God himself for her rebellion. And it is no less an historical fact that Israel became a nation once again, May 14, 1948, and that millions of Jews have since returned to that Promised Land from more than 100 countries, just as Scripture foretold. This can be nothing less than the beginnings of God’s promised restoration of Israel so that her latter end would be better than her beginning. A very few of God’s many promises follow:
"Unto thy seed will I give this land...forever...from the river of Egypt unto the...river Euphrates....I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee...for an everlasting covenant.... And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed...all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession...for unto thee [Isaac], and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father...the land whereon thou liest, to thee [Jacob] will I give it, and to thy seed.
"Be ye mindful always of his covenant...which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; and hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant....Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance...."(Gn 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:7,8; 26:3; 28:13; 1 Ch 16:14-18)
Citing the hatred of Israel’s neighbors at that time, Psalm:83:3,4 foretells the Muslims’ openly and oft-stated plan to wipe Israel off the map: “They have taken crafty counsel against thy people....Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation....” In the same effort to destroy her, Christian denominations have initiated a boycott against companies that do business with Israel. Replacement theologians such as D. James Kennedy, R.C. Sproul, and many others allied with them have rejected modern Israel as of any significance in the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In “An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel,” they declare:
The inheritance promises that God gave to Abraham...do not apply to any particular ethnic group, but to the church of Jesus Christ, the true Israel....The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the “Holy Land” cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua. [See Judgment Day, pp. 276-77]
An everlasting covenant fulfilled under Joshua, who only lived 110 years?! Hundreds of “promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament” had not even been foretold by Israel’s prophets until centuries after Joshua died! Even the prophecies made by Moses during the lifetime of Joshua that Israel would sin and be cast out of the land were not fulfilled “under Joshua.” This declaration by Kennedy, Sproul, et al., is such a defiance of the God of Israel that one finds it unbelievable coming from biblical “scholars”! Here is the Word of the Lord:
"Therefore, behold, the days come saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, the Lord liveth which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt [in Joshua’s day]; But, the Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country [Russia et al.], and from all countries whither I had driven them...."(Jer:23:7-8)
This is being fulfilled in our day. When God told Moses that He would destroy Israel and make of him a great nation, Moses reasoned with God that He would be going back on His Word if He did that, and His critics would say that He was not able to keep His promises. If even one failed, it would reflect on all His other promises. (Ex 32:9-14). Yet today, growing numbers of those who claim to be Christians are declaring that God’s eternal covenant with Israel has been annulled!
If the everlasting covenant that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob swore to these patriarchs of Israel is not kept, then God has denied Himself. The same holds true for the literally hundreds of promises God has made that He would restore Israel fully to her land. If just one fails, then God has denied Himself and is not worthy of our trust. Here are a few of the many that could be cited:
"As a shepherd seeketh out his flock...so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered...and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel...in a good pasture....I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away...therefore, will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey....I will set up one shepherd over them...even my servant David [i.e., the Messiah]....And I the Lord will be their God...there shall be showers of blessing...they shall be safe in their land...no more be a prey to the heathen...none shall make them afraid...And...I will...do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the Lord...neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the people any more...for I will...gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land...that I have given unto Jacob...and I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes...and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore...."(Ezk 34:12-16, 22-28; 36:11, 15, 24, 27; 37:25-28)
If “everlasting,” concerning Israel, doesn’t mean everlasting , then how can we trust the promise in John:3:16 of everlasting life to those who believe on Christ? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel, is the only true God. The Messiah promised to Israel by Jewish prophets of God came 2,000 years ago. He is the Savior of all who believe on Him as the one who, in fulfillment of what the Hebrew prophets foretold, died for the sins of the world, rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father’s right hand. He is coming in power and glory to punish the world for its abuse of His people Israel and to rule the world from David’s throne in Jerusalem. Let us stand firm on the truth of Scripture and preach the true gospel of God, to the Jew first, then to the Gentile.
TBC
Hunt, Dave. (2016, August 1). God of Jacob, God of Israel - Part One. thebereancall.org. Retrieved August 2, 2016 from http://www.thebereancall.org/content/god-jacob-god-israel-part-one-0



Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Guest Post: How Then Shall We Live?

By: T. A. McMahon
The Bible is an amazing book. Although this is certainly true, it’s also a huge understatement. All accolades fall short; no adjectives come close. Yet that should hardly be surprising since God is the author. As we’ve written elsewhere, the Bible is God’s direct communication to mankind. And since He is infinite, apart from His Word there’s no way that finite man can know in truth anything beyond God’s general attributes that are revealed in creation (Rom:1:20). Everyone can surmise that the material world, from the sweeping expanse of the universe to the intricate complexity of a cell, could not have created itself. A Designer had to have been involved, and the Designer must have attributes of astonishing intelligence, power, and presence. Observation and logic are enough to lead anyone to that conclusion.
On the other hand, the specifics regarding God’s character, as well as His purpose and plan for those whom He created, cannot be arrived at through human opinions, speculations, and guesses. Finite man is basically clueless when it comes to the specifics, which is a major reason why there are so many different religious beliefs and practices in the world. God must inform humanity about things it cannot figure out, which He has done clearly through the Scriptures. One of those things (which is the focus of this article) is the way that a biblical Christian, one who has believed the gospel for salvation and desires to obey the instructions of God’s Word, should go about living his life.
The Bible is sometimes referred to as the “Manufacturer’s Handbook,” which is a good description regarding the overall content of Scripture. However, not too many people care to read instruction manuals. This attitude doesn’t serve them well when it comes to the functioning of their latest kitchen appliance or video entertainment device, leading to the inevitable frustration of “why isn’t it working?” The same attitude regarding the Bible will cause a believer to reach that exasperation stage and far worse. As Proverbs states in two verses: “There is a waywhich seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (14:12; 16:25; emphasis added). “Death,” in this case, means separation from God. In those areas of a believer’s life where he hasn’t looked to the Scriptures for God’s instruction, he has to supply his own ideas. That causes him to go his own way, thus separating him from God’s “way.” The “end thereof” ultimately leads to a condition that at best is devoid of God’s grace and at worst is destructive physically and spiritually.
Recently I’ve been reading the Apostle Peter’s Epistles and found the first chapter in his second letter to be a compact volume of God’s instruction for believers as well as a great exhortation to do what it says. Though it’s not God’s full counsel regarding His instructions for everyone who claims to follow Jesus, it’s an excellent self-evaluation piece for us to consider, no matter our degree of maturity in Christ.
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as, they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter:1:1-21)
These are indeed God’s words, relayed by His Holy Spirit, and written through the human instrument whom He chose to pen them, Simon Peter. Although Peter was gloriously transformed at Pentecost from the hit-or-miss Peter we read about in the Scriptures prior to that event, these were God’s words and not Peter’s own ideas but expressed through Peter’s manner of communication. This is made clear at the end of the chapter but needs to be underscored at the beginning: the declarations are from God himself.
Verses one through four assure us that Jesus is God and that He has supplied believers in Him with precious faith through the knowledge of Him, empowering us with all things that pertain unto life and godliness. “All things” means all things. That phrase asserts the sufficiency of God’s Word. What source other than God could supply anything that pertains to life and godliness? There is no other source. What Jesus has fully supplied enables every believer in Him to join in His divine moral nature, His godliness. As we are reminded in 1 Peter:1:15-16: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of [conduct]; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” That is the only way that the sinful, lustful corruption of the world can be overcome.
If, as His Word proclaims, the Lord has given us all that is necessary for us to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to Him, what then is our part? This involves a willingness to do what He has instructed. That answer may seem obvious, but it is either resisted or avoided by many Christians today. Verses five through seven of 2 Peter 1 exhort the believer to cultivate what our Lord has provided, helping our faith to grow. For a mature faith to flourish, we must add virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, i.e., love. Love, of course, is the chief quality of godliness and must superintend all of God’s promises.
Too often we read those words and blow past them as if they were simply platitudes or spiritual clich├ęs. On the contrary, there aren’t many verses that are more practical in their fruitfulness. If we will only put them into practice, “they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter:1:8). This, by the way, is not “head knowledge” but knowledge that produces godly fruit. Those individuals who miss that, for whatever reasons, the Scripture characterizes as blind and forgetful as to what Jesus has already done for them by paying for their sins.
Some Christian writers have addressed their concern over the lack of good works produced by those who claim to follow Jesus. Sadly that is a reality of our day. However, a few authors have sought to correct that condition by teaching that true believers who lack good works will receive temporary punishment at the judgment seat of Christ where rewards are bestowed. No. That is an error and is not supported by Scripture; moreover, it creates a Roman Catholic-type of Purgatory, which involves the expiation of sin by the individual himself. It’s also a denial of Christ’s full payment for our sins, i.e., the gospel. What has been referred to as the Bema Seat of Christ for rewards and losses has nothing to do with the sins of believers. Jesus will judge our works by rewarding those endeavors that have eternal value and dismissing those that are worthless (1 Corinthians:3:13-15).
Second Peter 1:10-11 is an exhortation to diligently fulfill the ministry, the works, and the purpose that the Lord has called us to. Our willingness to do just that is a guarantee of spiritual fruitfulness: “For if you do these things, ye shall never fall.” It also encourages us to press forward earnestly that upon entrance into heaven we may hear those wonderful words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew:25:21).
Peter knew from the Lord that he was close to the time of his death, and his heart was to remind fellow believers of the things he had taught that would cause them to grow in the faith. To that end, he gives us some insight regarding a glorious event that he, James, and John had witnessed. Even beyond Peter’s personal preview of Jesus being glorified (as He will be again when He returns), the teaching stresses the foundation to all that he had written above. In conclusion, he notes that what he is relating was a fact of history, and that he was an eyewitness of what he saw, heard, and felt on the Mount of Transfiguration. Be assured that in our present times when the experiential has become the guiding authority of most people’s lives, both in the world and in the church, no one has had an experience like that (2 Peter:1:16-21).
Peter, James, and John saw Jesus glorified before their very eyes. It was no altered state of consciousness, no visualization, no conjured-up imagery produced by some contemplative, Eastern mystical method. It was a God-produced reality. None of those who teach that God cannot be known by the senses, the intellect, or the written Word but can only be experienced, have ever, nor could ever, produce such an extraordinary event. Moreover, what they do produce through their occult methodologies is fake—if not a direct demonic deception.
Peter certainly acknowledges the amazing experience on the Mount. But then he says, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” (verse 19). Why, however, should we accept as true the personal, subjective experience that Peter described? Some modern so-called Bible scholars consider it a myth. It would definitely be questionable except for the fact that Peter’s experience is documented in the Word of God, and according to Jesus, “Thy word is truth” (John:17:17). Furthermore, the true experience is supported by “a more sure word of prophecy,” and we are exhorted to “take heed” to God’s written Word. Believers are certainly privileged to have experiences in the Lord, but those experiences must never take the place of nor diminish the authority of Scripture.
As wonderful as spiritual experiences can be, they are personal and subjective and are a byproduct of a believer’s relationship with the Lord. They lack the objective basis for one to discern whether or not they are true. For example, a Christian friend relates how the Holy Spirit was leading him in a certain situation. Although that experience was consistent with Scripture as a principle, yet because of its subjective nature, one can’t really verify that it was indeed Holy Spirit led. In some cases, the situation may be so contrary to the Word of God that it can be readily dismissed as not of the Lord.
Scripture, on the other hand, is objective. It is a believer’s plumbline against which he is to determine what he believes or is being taught. As Isaiah wrote, “To the law and to the testimony [God’s Word]: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (8:20).
Peter concludes the chapter by underscoring the fact that prophecy (meaning the written words of Scripture) did not originate from man (himself included), but the words came through chosen men of God who wrote them down as they were given by the Holy Spirit. Numerous other verses confirm this, including 1 Thessalonians:2:13: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
So, we have the words of God ! My hope is that everyone who has just read that sentence will take the significance of it to heart. God has given us His words ! And, as we’ve noted here in Peter’s second Epistle as one example, His Word contains instructions for every follower of Jesus Christ that we all must obey if we are to be fruitful and productive in our lives as believers. There is no other way to please God.
TBC
McMahon, T.A.. (2016, July 1). How Then Shall We Live?. thebereancall.org. Retrieved July 5, 2016 from http://www.thebereancall.org/content/how-then-shall-we-live