Category Archives: Gospel

…was crucified, dead and buried…

    I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth
    And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord
    Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary
    Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell
    The third day he rose again from the dead
    He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty
    From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead
    I believe in the Holy Ghost
    I believe a holy catholic church; the communion of saints
    The forgiveness of sins
    The resurrection of the body
    And the life everlasting. Amen. [1]

The facts of Christ’s crucifixion are essential to Christian belief. “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried…” (1 Corinthians 15:1–4, ESV) I am not aware of any dispute regarding Jesus’ crucifixion. Even those who deny that Jesus was God, who claim that he was historically only a man, and maybe a Rabbi, generally will accept that he was crucified.

Most scholars in the third quest for the historical Jesus consider the crucifixion indisputable, as do Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan and James Dunn. Although scholars agree on the historicity of the crucifixion, they differ on the reason and context for it, e.g. both E. P. Sanders and Paula Fredriksen support the historicity of the crucifixion, but contend that Jesus did not foretell his own crucifixion, and that his prediction of the crucifixion is a Christian story. Géza Vermes also views the crucifixion as a historical event but believes this was due to Jesus’ challenging of Roman authority. On the other hand, Maurice Casey and John P. Meier state that Jesus did predict his death, and this actually strengthened his followers’ belief in his Resurrection.

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Historical_Jesus

As the above quote would indicate, the dispute about the crucifixion surrounds the historical context and, more importantly, the supernatural aspect of Jesus predicting it. Yet Paul states clearly that the death of Christ was “according to the Scriptures.” The Biblical test is the only one that really matters, unless we want to deny the inspiration of Scripture. (That is one of the amazing supernatural aspects to the Word of God. All Scripture is in harmony and few things are stated that are not repeated throughout.)

Peter is one who clearly states that Christ Jesus predicted his death and that the prophets knew of it by the Holy Spirit. “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10–12, ESV)

Most would agree that the predictions of the death (and resurrection) of Christ throughout the Old Testament are plentiful. Isaiah 53 is a good example.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:3–6, ESV

The death of the Savior was predicted even within the curse from the original fall of Adam and Eve.

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:14–15, ESV

If you rule out the opinions of those who “search for the Historical Jesus,” I am unaware of any Biblical scholar who denies that Jesus was innocent yet crucified, that his crucifixion was the payment required by God’s justice for the forgiveness of sins, and that this is a real act in history with eternal and historical significance.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation [2] by his blood, to be received by faith.

Romans 3:21–25, ESV

Why does the creed include he was dead and buried to crucified? I can suggest two reasons. First, over time, there have developed theories that Jesus did not die, but merely fainted or lost consciousness. Such theories are explanations for the resurrection which being a supernatural event cannot be historical as well.

Thus grew and thus died the theory of the rupture of the heart of Jesus. It is only an evidence that there is no proof in
the hands of the Christians that Jesus died on the cross, and like the drowning man they catch at every straw. But the proof is now complete that Jesus did not die upon the cross, and the tomb at Khan Yar is a living witness of this fact, the truth of which would soon be seen by the world.

The ‘Rupture of the Heart’ Theory of the Death of Jesus, The Review of Religions, May 1905, p. 191.

If you are interested, there are more recent articles that are similar here, here, and here. All of these articles come from the same source. However, they are representative of the overall theory that Jesus did not die on the cross. Yet, each one uses science as a credible proof of their point and they are still speculative at best. The creed takes into account the nature of human sin and it does not allow for theory. Jesus died according to all four gospels and all remaining New Testament writings.

Second, the strongest evidence for the death of Jesus is that he was buried. Mark wrote about the event this way, “And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.” (Mark 15:42–47, ESV)

Even before people thought to argue that Jesus did not die, Mark answers their objection. “Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died.” Those who were crucified with Jesus had their legs broken to hasten the process. As long as someone on the cross still lived, the Roman guards had to stay so that no one could come and save them. Instead of breaking Jesus legs, they thrust a spear in his side. This too was to speed up his death. Speculation that following all of the physical suffering Jesus experienced before the cross did not significantly effect his death, and that the spear thrust itself did not hasten it is foolishness. If he did not die, then there is no Christianity, and I can’t help but wonder if this is the motivation for the argument.

We must note that the creed is not interested in speculation. It is doctrine, the teaching of the Christian Church from the beginning. It is a concise statement telling us what we must believe to be accounted members of the Way. It is truth physiologically and historically with enough evidence to verify it. Paul makes sure that we know there were many witnesses to the resurrected Jesus, and we are told that the disciple Thomas had his doubts answered by touching his wounds. The problem is not evidence, though. It is interpretation, and interpretation of something always begins with what the interpreter brings of his or her self.

The beginning of any belief system is one’s world view. Modern science is rooted in materialism. Modern education is a matter of indoctrination. All of the ideas of mankind begin either with God or no god. One is truth and the other is not. There are no options in-between, no compromises to be made. I believe…

[1] Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed., (Oak Harbor: Lexham Press, 1997).

[2] PROPITIATION, n. propisia´shon. [Fr.; from propitiate.] The act of appeasing wrath and conciliating the favor of an offended person; the act of making propitious. In theology, the atonement or atoning sacrifice offered to God to assuage his wrath and render him propitious to sinners. Christ is the propitiation for the sins of men. Rom. 3. 1 John 2. Noah Webster, Noah Webster’s first edition of An American dictionary of the English language., 2006.

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He Suffered Under Pontius Pilate

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Luke 3:1–3, ESV

Luke, in his gospel, makes the first mention of Pontius Pilate in all of the four gospels. Luke was detail-oriented in all of his writings. All of the gospels place Jesus within historical contexts, but Luke gives us specificity that is easy for us to overlook. I cannot deny that I have read the above passage many times and almost glossed over the names written. However, if we take all of Scripture seriously if all of it is inspired, then to overlook the details is a mistake. This is not to say that every verse in the Bible presents some deep doctrinal significance. The popular use of proof-texting is an example of such a mistake.

Another example is the failure of those who do not study the whole Word of God. Again, I admit that I have avoided whole books, especially in preaching, that are considered either boring or inappropriate. Leviticus and the Song of Solomon come to mind. The mindset is to focus on the “important” books, like Romans, Ephesians, or in the past few decades, the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It takes a deliberate effort to seek the truth on every page of the Scriptures.

So, I found this mention of Pilate and others at the beginning of John’s ministry preparing the way of Christ. Yes, it gives us a good indication of the time John began preaching repentance for sins. However, it also presents the main players in the life, ministry, trial, and death of Jesus. I also find it intriguing that this group of Roman rulers is listed in the context of John proclaiming repentance. There are probably no better examples of sinners in need of the humility of penitence and forgiveness than these. And, they include Jew and Gentile alike.

Luke points to one of these men later in the gospel displaying the depravity of sin.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’”

Luke 13:1–5, ESV

Joel McDurmon writes of this passage, “

The people then immediately prove that they have eyes but see not, and ears but hear not. They do this by pretending they have indeed discerned the times: “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices” (Luke 13:1). These people were up on current events. They knew the times! They knew that the evil Roman Empire was murdering innocent Jews—and defiling their religious rituals, too! (McDurmon, Joel. Jesus v. Jerusalem: A Commentary on Luke 9:51–20:26, Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel. Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2011, p. 38.)

What he does with this passage is first and foremost to place it within the previous context when Jesus tells of his coming in the final judgment (the ending of the Old Covenant making way for the new. This was accomplished in 70 A.D.). Jesus is not simply replying to the desecration of the Jews and their religious rites. What he does is to compare those around him to the Galilean sinners. Jesus focuses on the need for all to repent, or they too will perish. In the end, we know Pilate as a man without a conscience.

We can begin to see why the Creed mentions Christ’s suffering under Pontius Pilate instead of his torment by the Jewish leaders. All of the gospel writers make clear that the crucifixion lies at the Jew’s feet. But they could not kill Jesus. They needed the support of the Roman governor. In addition, Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus worthy of death. What kind of leader is Pilate to condemn Christ to beatings, torture, mockery, and crucifixion despite his innocence? He was the man at the right place in the right time.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law…”

Galatians 4:4, ESV

Such is the work of God. He uses whatever means he chooses to accomplish his purpose. He also prepares those through whom he uses to produce his design. Like many others before him and even more after him, Pontius Pilate is a key link in the chain that fulfills God’s salvation of his people. That does not mitigate Pilate’s general depravity or his particular sins. Throughout Scripture, when God utilizes sinners to bring judgment, they are also judged by God. With one interesting exception. God used the zeal of Saul to disperse those in the church at Jerusalem into the world. However, he then calls Paul to salvation and has him take the gospel to the Gentiles. God can curse, and God can bless. Everyone deserves God’s judgment for their sin. But some are called from their bondage to sin to be freed and cleansed by the one who died on the cross.

The gospel is precisely this good news. How can we keep silent?

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Everything is Racist?

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

Romans 1:28–32 (ESV)

I can’t help but think that all of America has gone mad. Every day, someone somewhere claims that something in normal life is racist. For example, go here. Some of these sources claim to some sort of expertise whether as journalists, politicians, university professors, or theologians. Some of Paul’s inspired words for these people include envy, foolish, heartless, and ruthless. Their baseless claims are slanderous and come from their hatred of God.

One might wonder why the most patriotic citizens in our country came from other countries to seek freedom. Yes, the freedom they celebrate is the same freedom others so easily denigrate. The sad part of our freedom of speech is that so many use it to freely express their inventions of evil, or maybe it’s just their ignorance. So many victims born in the United States!

The liberty so many generations fought and died for is the freedom to work hard in order to provide for family and self. It is the freedom to help others in need and to be self-governing good people. It is the freedom to fail, get up again, and amend our ways. It is the freedom to forgive.

Some people say time changes all things. I say that it is not time that changes things, it is sin that takes all that is good and transforms it into everything that is bad. Freedom to be righteous has become freedom to be self-righteous. Freedom to make one’s way through life has become a desire for a free ride. True caring for the poor or the oppressed has become public theft through illegitimate taxation that people who choose not to be responsible are essentially paid to remain irresponsible.

Ultimately, the greatest deception of sin, in my opinion, is to make us believe that hatred of our condition is actually a love of ourselves. Equal opportunity has become equal outcome whether the outcome is earned or not. When the outcome is desired but not earned, it is tragically wasted. Working for something validates the value of the thing worked for. To receive something for nothing makes the something worth nothing. Liberty that does not cost a weighty price is not liberty. It is merely licentiousness.

God says through Paul that because people refuse to worship God, he gives them up to their own depraved thinking. Apart from submission to the Creator, there is no meaning and no value in anything. So, in the mind of those who deny God the status and glory that is his by right, everything is racist because “of no value, that which is worthless” is the real definition of the word racism. And Americans now reap what Americans have sown.

All value is derivative from the only One who is ultimately valuable, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has endowed his creation with value. This is especially true in regards to human beings, for we are created in God’s image. We were made to reflect the glory of God as mirrors of that glory. The image I see in a mirror is not me, but it is a representation of me. Therefore, we are not Gods but we were made to be representations of him. This explains why animals do not create things of beauty. We can see their beauty as creatures of God’s handiwork, but only human beings write poetry or great symphonies. Only those who bear the image of the creative God are creators of art, architecture, technology, and more. God gives us the raw material and using the knowledge, holiness, and righteousness within us we use this material to create wonderful things.

God’s goodness and grace are displayed in that even humans who refuse in sin to worship God use what God made them to be and create, rule creation, and work for one another. It rains on the righteous and the unrighteous and waters their crops the same. At the same time, the wickedness of the unrighteous is also displayed when they oppress and murder, hate and destroy, cheat and steal. How do we know this? By the reality that God’s love, righteousness, and justice have never completely disappeared from his creation.

Moreover, God entered his creation in Jesus Christ and showed us once again how valuable his creation and his people are. Our value is the very life of Jesus, who was crucified to pay for our sin. His work was finished on the cross which was proven effective by his resurrection from the dead. The good news did not stop there, for, on his coronation day, he ascended to heaven to take his throne and fulfill his rule over the earth. (May the Lord forgive us for no longer celebrating Ascension Day.)

This is why Paul could boldly claim that haters of God deserved to die. He did not say it was our job to kill them, only that they deserved death. Denial of God is the denial of everything that is. Applying this to our country means that making claims of racism where no racism exists is proof of the rejection of God and his creation. Is there such a thing as racism? Has the government of the United States of America done injustice and evil? Yes, but the standard is the one set by the Creator and Law Giver to whom everyone and every institution owes obedience and worship.

Our judgment is not what condemns people, for only Jesus Christ has been given that function. Yet, we are to judge others’ actions so that we can strive to counter their wickedness with righteousness and justice. Please notice that I did not say “social justice.” Social justice is the creation of sinful man. It may be dressed up as God’s justice, but there is no substitute for the real thing. Social justice condemns. God’s justice displays his glory. God’s justice corrects evil, cares for victims of evil, and restores wholeness.

God’s justice has dealt with the injustice of racism. The United States paid a huge price for the lives destroyed by the legalized slave trade. But God’s justice prevailed and slavery was ended. Many black Americans paid a huge price for the Jim Crow laws. But God’s justice prevailed and discrimination was made illegal. In neither of these events did justice happen overnight. Today, there are still some vestiges of discrimination. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ rules from heaven and is recreating the earth according to the New Covenant. Now, as I see it, you can either scream about perceived racism and injustice, you can demand to get something for nothing, or you can actually receive something without cost, the grace of God in salvation from sin, and you can join the reclamation work of the Lord.

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Romans 13:8–10 (ESV)

“…the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17 (ESV)

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I Believe in Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14, NKJV

Throughout the history of the Church, the identity of Christ and the dual nature of Jesus have been disputed. The Apostles’ Creed uses three designations that the orthodox faith requires to be held harmoniously. First, he is the Christ, Greek for the Hebrew term Messiah. Second, he is Jesus, who is to be identified more specifically in the following statements. Third, he is the only begotten Son of God. Each must be believed, not only individually but altogether as descriptive of the one person who is the second member of the Triune God.

During his life on earth, Jesus was both received and rejected as the long-awaited Messiah of the Jewish people. Sadly, even his disciples did not fully comprehend what this meant. When Jesus fed the crowds by Galilee, there were many there who would have made him King of the Jews on the spot. The Messiah was one anointed by God to become King according to the covenant made with David. This does not mean that the Jews understood what was meant, even though the Old Testament prophets expressed it.

David was a conquering king. He defeated Goliath, the Philistines, and Saul who had been disobedient before God. He had been hand-picked by God through the prophet Samuel. Whereas God had warned Israel against a human king, Saul became the proof of the pudding leading the people away from obedience. David was God’s response. He was no less human than Saul, but he was a man after God’s own heart. Despite his failings, the Kingdom of Israel became one of the most powerful in all the world.

Nevertheless, David was not the ultimate king. One was to come after him who would reign over the whole world. When Jesus came to earth, Israel was subjugated by the rule of Rome. The people’s hopes rested in what they believed was the promise of God to rule the world. True enough, but the arrogance of the Jews caused them to believe that they would rule the world as all other conquering empires before them. Time and again, God addressed this pride. His covenant with Abram was that all the people of the world would be blessed through his people. This is a far cry from a promise of domination by force.

One of the curious episodes in the Old Testament is that of the prophet Jonah. I think it is unfortunate that the part about the great fish has overshadowed the theological significance of Jonah’s call to proclaim God’s judgment to the Ninevites. We don’t see why Jonah tried to run from his duty to God until the end of the story. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:1–3, ESV) Jonah was angry with God for being gracious to a heathen nation. Poor Jonah, he had not been trained theologically. He knew God was merciful. The problem is that God was supposed only to be merciful to Israel!

God’s people did not understand. God was merciful to all who would repent. Sadly, Israel did not bow in humble repentance for her sins against God. When exiled, they whined, “O woe to us! God has forsaken us.”

By the waters of Babylon, 
there we sat down and wept, 
when we remembered Zion.  
On the willows there, we hung up our lyres.  
For there our captors required of us songs,  
and our tormentors, mirth, saying, 
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 
How shall we sing the LORD’s song 
in a foreign land?  
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,  
let my right hand forget its skill!  
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,  
if I do not remember you,  
if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!  
Remember, O LORD,  
against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem,  
how they said, “Lay it bare,  
lay it bare, down to its foundations!”  
O daughter of Babylon,  
doomed to be destroyed,  
blessed shall he be who repays you  
with what you have done to us!  
Blessed shall he be  
who takes your little ones  
and dashes them against the rock!” (Psalm 137, ESV)

The Messiah had fed his people, and they sought to make him their King. Jesus had to slip away from them “for it was not yet his time.” Interestingly, the hopes of the people were the reason the Jewish leaders sought to kill Jesus. Their pride had become comfortable in their ruling over the people. It made them feel powerful, and they did not want to share the power they had acquired. Not much has changed over the millennia. Where are the righteous rulers of the people? As Ezekiel wrote, they were too busy eating the green grass and trampling the rest under their feet. They were too busy drinking the fresh water and fouling and muddying it under their feet.

Second, the Messiah is given a name, Jesus. How this came about is told in the gospels, and the creed goes into that soon enough. The fact that one appeared as a mere man claiming to be the Messiah was enough to raise doubt. The purpose of the miracles done by Jesus was to confirm that he was the Messiah sent by God. Jesus rightly pointed out that people seek a sign, but when they are given signs, they still do not believe. Signs are something material, tangible. How can the material prove the spiritual? This is why it is easy for people to con others into believing they have extraordinary powers from God. Ultimately, the false teachers are emperors running around with no clothes. Their riches amount to poverty, and their healings return only death.

An important aspect, though, to Jesus being a man is that he is also God. “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate…” (Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed., (Oak Harbor: Lexham Press, 1997)). The Nicene Creed was a clarification of the statement in the Apostles’ Creed, though they were likely both written about the same time. Later, Chalcedon and the Athanasian Creed clarified the point all the more.

The problem was that men could not seem to wrap their brains around the two natures of Christ, both God, and man, divine and human. It’s not that I cannot relate to the difficulty. I cannot experience divinity, but I know all too well humanity. As much as the councils of the Church attempted to clarify the matter, the heresies of ancient times have continued in one form or another ever since. The term begotten does not mean born, though that is almost always what it means in the human world. In the case of Jesus Christ, though, begotten of the Father means that he proceeds from the Father, not that he was generated by the Father. Jesus was born of a woman, but he was not born of God in the same way. This will get clearer, or fuzzier, for that matter, as we continue with the creed.

However, the matter is not whether Jesus was born or not. The matter is that Jesus Christ is the ONLY Son of God. Yes, “…to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12–13, ESV) We have become children of God, but not begotten children of God. We have been adopted as his children, whereas Jesus is by nature the Son of God. On our best day, we can only claim to be created by God, not begotten of him. We are not deity. The closest we will ever come to deity is to share in our inheritance in Christ Jesus.

So, why all these definitions, details, and splitting of hairs? Because there is only one truth and thousands of lies. If we would know God, then we must know him as he is and as he has revealed himself to us. We don’t dare allow ourselves to create God in our image. We are created in his, and to know who we are, we have to know who he is.

It is not really about what we think we know, for if we are wrong, we can’t honestly believe.

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I Believe in Jesus Christ, 1

The second section of the Apostles’ Creed will take more time to investigate. The foundation of life is in the first: I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Without the knowledge of God as he has revealed himself, there is no life. I read a lot about a Christian World View. I cannot deny such a thing, and I would not even try. However, without the Father, there is nothing to follow.

There are many (too many to know) who believe in a god. Some even acknowledge the creator. Yet only a tiny percentage of those who have faith in God will say that God was revealed to humankind by general and special revelation. General revelation is the creation and the providence of God in caring for and sustaining creation. Special revelation is the Word of God, which includes his words and deeds historically and recorded in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, and the person Jesus Christ.

The Word of God is both the Bible and Christ, and both have been attacked throughout history. To say “I believe in Jesus Christ” has frequently been difficult. This is not because it is hard to believe but because of the persecution from the world that follows. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19, ESV) Opposition to faith in Christ comes from atheists, scientists, politicians, scholars, educators, and even churches. The devious ways to eradicate Christ are the result of original sin. And I don’t use the word devious lightly.

First, I am convinced that many who oppose Christ don’t do it intentionally. They genuinely believe things that they have been taught. If schools refuse to teach creation and replace it with only one option, evolution, what will children believe? However, some intentionally use their scholarship, science, entertainment, and lifestyles to contradict the Word of God, and John has a name for them. “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.” (1 John 2:22, ESV) John does not call one person with international power The Antichrist. He says there are many antichrists, those who lie and deny Jesus.

Therefore, to say “I believe in Jesus Christ” is a dangerous thing to do. The forces of worldliness have made their strides and have become vocal and violent. How did this happen within a nation that was founded on God and Christ? So, second, it is a subtle shift that began with some small things. For example, the beginning of public education was presented as a good thing, and it could have been. Yet, those who initiated it were socialists (though the term was not used at the time), and they knew that to transform the world, they had to indoctrinate the children. Horace Mann advocated for “free” public education with an agenda.

No one did more than he [Mann] to establish in the minds of the American people the conception that education should be universal, non-sectarian, free, and that its aims should be social efficiency, civic virtue, and character, rather than mere learning or the advancement of sectarian ends.

Cubberley, Ellwood P. (1919). Public Education in the United States. p. 167

Non-sectarian means no Jesus Christ. You see, Christ has often been viewed as a myth created by the religious sect called Christianity. It’s not that they wanted to exchange Christian faith for something else, at least in their thinking. But, there is no neutrality possible within a world created by God or came about in any other way. Either you are a Christian, or you are not. Either you profess faith in Jesus Christ, or you do not. Once that distinction is recognized, it becomes clear that the two options are all that is. To believe in Jesus Christ means to not believe in any system of thought that is contrary to Jesus Christ. And when I say contrary to Jesus Christ, just like with God the Father, he must be the Jesus Christ revealed in his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return as recorded in all of Scripture.

Any system of thought that is not Christian is thus of this world. If it is of this world, then it is a creation of the human mind. That is Humanism. Again, as with God the Father, humanism has no basis for its moral claims. There is no foundation for ethics apart from God, who created it all and judged those who came up with the first expression of humanism. And there is no solution to humanism other than Christianity.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Romans 1:16–32, ESV

For me, this is one of the most powerful statements of the gospel in all of the New Testament. It at once presents the way of salvation then details from which people need to be saved. Use any metaphor you like. It all comes out the same. Drowning in the ocean comes to mind, for there is only one way to survive drowning. You must be grabbed and taken from the water and given proper treatment.

Why are we allowing our world to teach our children to drown? I need to re-evaluate my faith in Jesus Christ anytime temptation from humanism arises. I need to become deeper in my commitment and devotion to him. I need to focus on that which is truly good, not what looks good.

He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 3:30–36, ESV

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I Believe…

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:8–9, ESV

The earliest creed of the Church were the words of Christ in Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is the core of the faith. Faith, as 

Paul says is confession and belief. I would say that without belief, there is no possibility of confession. And, without confession, there is no assurance of belief. This is why I believe that it is unlikely a person can claim belief in their salvation apart from their membership and attendance in a church. In the first place, all people believe false things. Belief must be founded upon something, and there is no other foundation than the Word of God. Yes, Jesus is the Word. But he does not walk the earth today as he did in the years from his birth to his death and in his resurrection. So, not willing to leave his Church without his physical presence, he gave us the gift of his authoritative Word in the Scriptures, and nowhere else.

How do we know these things? Because he says so in the Bible: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV) Returning to Paul’s testimony in Romans 10, how can a person believe if he does not hear. Thus, secondly, our understanding of what the Church is and does comes down to hearing and believing. “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded.” (Matthew 28:20, ESV) I conclude that one cannot believe what they do not know, and the way God has provided for this necessity is the preaching and teaching of the Word. Such is done in the Church and not alone. We give heed to the Holy Spirit as giving us understanding, but, this work is not done in a vacuum.

Third, confession is made by the mouth, i.e., speaking. This must be done in a public setting, for there is no profit in confessing to yourself. In the Church, we have been given a fantastic compilation of creeds and confessions that allow us to profess our faith. While it is true that various confessions are not equally helpful, they are, nonetheless, a systematic compendium of the things we are to observe. Being the creation of men, they are not infallible, and they may be altered if necessary. The key, though, is that creeds and confessions are not the work of one person but many. They have origin in the life and history of the church.

One such creed is the Apostles’ Creed. The evidence tells us that this creed was not authored by the Apostles. It is to me highly improbable that the Apostles wrote the creed and never recorded this in all of the New Testament writings. Certainly Luke would have included such an important event in The Acts of the Apostles. Nothing in that book even suggests such an event. Yet, over time, the Apostles’ Creed has been accepted as a brief statement of Apostolic teaching. Going back to Matthew 28, the first act of faith is baptism.

Christ requires baptism. Nowhere in Scripture is the sacrament of baptism with water defined as to how baptism is to be done, so all the disputes over this matter are frivolous wastes of time. Virtually all Christendom recognizes the symbolism of washing away our sins in baptism. And Christ said that baptism is a public profession of faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I would say, though the symbolism may be an assurance for the one being baptized, it is definitely a testimony to the Church that Christ washes away our sin. Every Christian needs this reminder often. Traditionally, prior to the baptism, confession is made of the faith. The most lasting confession for this has been the Apostles’ Creed.

The Creed is a confession that we believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Church is trinitarian at the core. Failure to believe the Trinity is a failure of faith. Included in our faith are statements identifying each member of the Trinity and their work in salvation.

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And (I believe) in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary;

suffered under Pontius Pilate;

was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell;

the third day He rose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,

and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit;

I believe a holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints;

the forgiveness of sins;

the resurrection of the body;

and the life everlasting. Amen.

Daniel R. Hyde, Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims, (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2010), 4.

I have not found a better account that includes the essentials of faith. The creed can be a starting place for the study of the Scriptures. There is a plethora of Biblical information teaching us each point. 

In my next blog, I will begin to address the theology encapsulated in the Apostles’ Creed. However, I encourage every one to become a member in a Christian Church and participate in worship that includes, at least some times, the Confession of the Apostles’ Creed. It reminds us of our faith. It teaches our children about faith. And in the process, we will be transformed into more substantial, wiser Christians.

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Fear

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:7–9, ESV

Fear wants us to give up. That is the easy thing to do. In the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the character George Bailey gets so pressured by a run on the bank that he fears losing the bank altogether. In his fear, he wishes he had never been born. That is the ultimate fear, one that brings us to the edge. George Bailey wishes he had never been born. Others who think they should never be born take it one step farther – suicide. Nihilism is giving up.

Nihilism (ˈnaɪɪˌlɪzəm) n 1 a complete denial of all established authority and institutions. 2 Philosophy. an extreme form of scepticism that systematically rejects all values, belief in existence, the possibility of communication, etc.. 3 a revolutionary doctrine of destruction for its own sake. 4 the practice or promulgation of terrorism. [C19: from Latin nihil nothing + -ISM, on the model of German Nihilismus] ▶ ˈnihilist n or adj ▶ ˌnihilˈistic adj

Collins English Dictionary, 2000.

Reading through this definition of nihilism, I concluded that this is what is being played out in America right now. I’m not claiming that people are running around saying they are nihilists. What I see, though, are the distinct characteristics of nihilism in the actions of many around us. The denial today goes beyond the “denial of all established authority.” It is a claim that all of the values of the past are evil. The word used most often is racist. The idea that all white people are racists because they are white is reason enough to “cancel” them. Thus, we are living in the chaotic waters of “cancel culture.”

Moreover, anyone who listens to the logic of white non-culture (because the whites got all their culture by stealing it from other cultures anyway) is a racist too. Lately, if you support Israel, you are reprimanded for being unsympathetic with Hamas. Nihilistic tendencies are not well thought out, and there is an emphasis on feeling over logic. The Church has been no help in preventing nihilism. Either she has been accused of being an authoritarian tool to manipulate non-white races and subjugate them, or she has joined the bandwagon by focusing self-centered worship focused on how you feel as you are walking out the door.

When I was younger, I couldn’t help wondering how a family could be so kind and encouraging while they were at church yet bicker and argue all the way home. I cannot tell a lie; I was one of them. Almost every time I went with my friend to his church, I was crying toward the end and dying to go forward for the altar call. Feelings don’t last. You can be happy one moment and outraged the next. Listen carefully to the crowd at a professional sporting event. When the home team does something great, there are cheers. A three-point shot goes through the hoop, and the people are thrilled. They didn’t hear the whistle of the referee calling a foul on the shooter. What do you hear then?

Against modern-day conceptions, Christianity is not a religion made by white people to enslave any other people group. Granted, there are many who, years ago, chose to be selective in the passages of the Bible they wanted to read and interpret. But that is no reason to say all people devoted to the Bible’s truths are wrong. Before and after the Civil War, plenty of men owned slaves and even defended this practice from the Bible. We can never forget that the Bible can be sliced up and interpreted almost any way you want. Many unscrupulous people in the church’s history have used the Bible for their personal gain. I think that is why Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42, ESV)

I believe that Paul is saying something similar when he writes to the Christians in Galatia, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows.” No matter what anyone says and no matter what anyone does, there is a consequence. The wisdom of this statement has been used in a shorter version, “You reap what you sow.” You sure do. And so do I. Sometimes we get a taste of the suffering we have caused while we walk this earth. Whatever the case, we will all stand before Christ, ad he will judge our works.

Therefore, the angels could say to God’s people, “Fear not.” You see, if you have given yourself to Christ, he has washed away our sin. How can this be? Indeed, I am as evil as the guy burning down a store enraged about something they never really experienced themselves. I tend not to show it that way, but my heart is the same. There is but one difference, Jesus has reaped what I have sowed. He took the righteous judgment I deserve and nailed it to the cross.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

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Humans and Humanists

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

1 John 1:1–4, ESV

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.

1 John 2:15–18, ESV

I came across something, quite by accident, that made me pause and think. It was an article about the service held for someone who had died and his friends and family, called a Humanist Funeral. I had never heard of this, so I began to search for what a humanist funeral is.

Humanist funerals and memorials are non-religious ceremonies supporting family and friends to mourn and celebrate the person who has died. They focus on the life they led, the relationships they forged, and the legacy they left. They are based on the humanist perspective that every life is individual and valuable.

https://humanism.org.uk/ceremonies/non-religious-funerals/

What caught my attention was that this funeral service is supposed to be non-religious, but the structure closely follows a traditional religious funeral and even ends with “the Committal.” To what or to who is the dead person committed since, for most Humanists, there is no afterlife (yes, there are exceptions, but those who think there may be an afterlife are religious to some degree). Additionally, the service is often aided in preparation and performance by a Humanist Celebrant, trained and certified to undertake the task. Aside from the attempted avoidance of religion and a god, this sounds similar to the Clergy.

Questions began to enter my mind. I know I have read about humanism before, but I never took the time to look into precisely what it is. To do so, I had to go to some authoritative source. Here is what I found on the American Humanist Association web site:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good.

American Humanist Association

Humanism is a democratic and ethical lifestance (sic) which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

Humanists International

With a bit more research, I discovered that Humanists pitch is that religion is acceptable if you want it, but you are wrong to believe it. You can talk about a god if you like, but there is no God. The emphasis is logic and empirical evidence. There is nothing beyond that, including a morality based on societal needs and rational thought.

“Non-believers” do, of course, have many beliefs, though not religious ones. For example, they typically believe that moral feelings are based on treating others as they would wish to be treated (the ‘golden rule’ which antedates all the major world religions)… “Humanist” is used today to mean those who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. (https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/humanism-today/non-religious-beliefs/) A humanist may embrace all or most of the other approaches introduced here, and in addition humanists believe that moral values follow on from human nature and experience in some way. Humanists base their moral principles on reason (which leads them to reject the idea of any supernatural agency), on shared human values and respect for others. They believe that people should work together to improve the quality of life for all and make it more equitable. Humanism is a full philosophy, “life stance” or worldview, rather than being about one aspect of religion, knowledge, or politics.

Hold on there. The ‘golden rule’? I have to challenge that there is no evidence that the golden rule “antedates all the major world religions.” This is quite a statement made with no rational or scientific support. The Golden Rule is religious. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12, ESV). “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8–10, ESV)

The Golden Rule is not pure logic. Without the authority of God the Creator, thus Owner of the universe, there cannot be a morality of the Golden Rule. “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18, ESV, emphasis mine) Logically, without God, everything gets turned on its head. Why love my neighbor if cheating, stealing, or even killing him is to my advantage? What is to say that the morality of a serial killer is less moral than that of the Humanist?

The Humanist, the Agnostic, the Atheist, the Secularist, the Rationalist, and the Skeptic are all the most illogical people. Let’s start with the need for empirical evidence as the foundation for morality. Some things exist that cannot be empirically proved. No one can see or hear the thoughts I have unless I speak or write them or find another way to express them, such as art and music. Nevertheless, those thoughts are as real as I am. Therefore, to exclude things that are not empirical and not existing is not logical.

Then, there is the rational attempt to enforce any morality upon others without some basis for doing so. What the Humanist thinks is reasonable, there can be a multitude that thinks it is unreasonable. Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin thought genocide was reasonable and forced their morality upon whole nations. When they tried to spread their moral righteousness throughout the world, they discovered how many others disagreed. Ultimately, there cannot be any moral judgment apart from a universal foundation and source for morality. In that case, the Humanist can claim to be logical, but there is no logic to their worldview.

No system of morality can be based upon anything other than the order that the one God created. Any attempt to do so is like Eve, who, deceived by the serpent, reached out for the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, which is only God’s right. God has revealed what he wants his created humans to know and to do. So, God is good, and evil is anything that would set itself against God by claiming his goodness is ours to declare by fiat.

Then there is John. He was known as the one beloved by Christ Jesus. The Apostle answers the humanist in so few words. First, the evidence for the existence of God was seen, felt, and heard by all of the Apostles and many of the disciples of Christ. That God was the one who put on his creation and came to live in it. Second, some have and will arise in opposition to Christ, those that John calls antichrist. Any thought, system, worldview that would deny Christ is antichrist. It is evident that Humanists love the world and the things of the world. While so many Humanists celebrate the life and accomplishments of one who has died, I grieve because Humanists are dead already.

There is hope, though. The Gospel is available to them. If only they could see that their worldview keeps them from the promise of life that the God they deny offers them.

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Because I Said So

When I was a child, there were time I pushed the boundaries of logic with my parents. Don’t get me wrong, I was using child like logic that made sense to me. It’s like the kid who keeps asking the question, “Why?” after every explanation. My teachers and parents got frustrated with this tactic and would often try to end the circle by saying, “Because I said so.” If I could get them to this point, I was generally satisfied with myself having driven someone crazy with all my questioning. Not surprisingly, when my children were young, they did the same thing to me and I would catch myself saying, “Because I said so.”

I am significantly older now, and my children are adults with kids of their own. Yet, I have been reflecting on that childish logic. Maybe it is not so childish. The motivation of causing others’ frustration was certainly childish. But the logic is, I believe, sound. To be honest, I have never stopped asking, “Why?” The difference is that now, I really want to know the why of things. Over my lifetime, I have frustrated more people than not with my incessant questioning. Not that I want to over-generalize, but I think there may be two kinds of people: those who want to know as much as they can about this world and life in it, and those who are happy to just go along and accept things as they are. There is no moral judgment in my conclusion.

However, I cannot find satisfaction in the latter. I have to know, and I really have to know the reason. I suspect that those in the latter category are really of the former but have gotten tired of asking or convinced themselves that they really don’t want to know. For example, there are scientists that are so convinced that the theory of evolution is the way things came to be that they act as if it is not a theory at all, but a fact. Their science, then, is not an investigation testing the theory, but a philosophical religion. They mock religion as foolishness and not scientific and are not willing to recognize that their faith in materialism to the exclusion of anything else is a religious posture that needs to ask a lot more questions. In the end, evolutionists must become interested in asking why and less apt to support their theory with further theories. You cannot make the world fit your presuppositions, and neither can I.

In theology, the tactics I am describing are called exegesis and eisegesis. Exegesis required one to put aside their theological convictions and search for what the Bible teaches. Eisegesis reads into the text of Scripture my ideas of what it should mean. No matter how convinced theologians are that the former takes precedence over the latter, actual practice has demonstrated repeatedly that eisegesis is dominant. No one can approach Scripture without doing so within the framework of their presuppositions. However, serious students of Scripture are willing to acknowledge the influence of their world view and intentionally place it on trial seeking the truth.

So, let me get down to brass tacks, so to speak. I attended a Christian college steeped in the world of dispensationalism. I quickly learned that few faculty members were willing to field questions challenging that system of thinking. I also discovered that few pastors I knew were able to respond to such questioning. The whole system of dispensationalism is founded upon the shaky background of one man who popularized it. The first Bible my parents gave me was a Scofield Reference Bible. It didn’t take me long to develop a skepticism of any study Bible or thematic Bible. Human thoughts placed along side of Scripture encourage people to not ask why, but to simply accept as authoritative the conclusions of the notes in the margin. There is no difference, by the way, when people who like their pastor cling to everything they proclaim from the pulpit as the truth of the matter.

Asking questions is not to challenge another’s authority. No matter how studied a pastor is, he is not an authority on the truth. Jesus is the truth. The job of the pastor is to present, as best as he can the Word of God. He should also raise the inquisitiveness of the members of the congregation. Sadly, and I say this as carefully as I can, there are too many pastors enamored by the cult of celebrity and too many congregants desiring to have their ears tickled. You may say that this is just my opinion, but I would then suggest you challenge my thesis with questions that go deep into the where, how, and why I say this. Nevertheless, preaching is a good dose of teaching with application to life. Those who listened to sermons in churches influenced by the Reformation would hear a pastor preach for an hour or more. The sermon would not just be long, but highly detailed with Scripture.

It is my experience that if the entire service is longer than an hour, the pastor is on thin ice. If the message is full of Biblical information, it is called teaching, not preaching. And, if the message is longer than 20 minutes, people in the pews begin to squirm and wiggle because they just can’t sit that long. There are many reasons for this and the issue is more complex that I can go into now, but I wonder if the lack of intention span is partly due to a lack of hunger for knowledge. I never want to preach a “Because I said so” sermon. Popular or not, the truth is infinitely deeper than that.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.”

Psalm 8:3–6, ESV

I love these verses from Psalm 8 because they ask a question that forces self-awareness and deeper truth. “What is man that you are mindful of him?” Why would God care about me? Why should I care about him? Because he created me and has crowned me with glory and honor. Furthermore, he did not do this for me, but for the task he has asked me to do. I was mad to have “dominion over the works of [his] hands.” So have you. Our existence goes back to the ultimate why. Our purpose is to tend and expand the work of God throughout the earth. Fulfilling this purpose brings glory to him.

If I am not willing to ask the deeper questions, the questions that go to the heart of things, then I will never know all that God would have me know. None of us can reach the peak of inquisitiveness in this life. There are two conclusions, then. First, I my current estate, I will never be able to bring God the glory he is due. This is a quality issue, not a quantity one. Why? Because at any point that I stop learning about God and his creation, I stop glorifying him.

Second, the more I grow in the knowledge of Christ, the closer I grow in him, and the more prepared I am for eternal life with him. Humans were made to care for God’s creation. He called this caregiving dominion. We are the highest of his creation hear on earth. We were made to rule the earth. This reign is designed for the glory of God. There is no question that we failed. But Jesus came to pay for our failure, and to restore us to our job. We thus are to restore the glory.

By the way, the knowledge of this comes from our asking followed by our working. Why? Because he made it so.

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Necrocracy

There are a lot of oddities in the world. Well, maybe not so odd when you consider the sin nature within all humanity.

A necrocracy is a government ruled by a dead leader. The Urban Dictionary defines necrocracy, “A system of government whereby the people are governed by the dead.” Now, some claim that North Korea is the only necrocracy in the world today. I haven’t taken the time to thoroughly investigate the claim, but North Korea is the most well-known necrocracy.

In 1950, Kim Il-sung led a revolution in Korea with the intent of establishing a communist government throughout the country. What has become known as the Korean War ended with no victor resulting in the current separation of North and South Korea. Kim Il-sung became the president of the North. Following his death in 1994, power was transferred to Kim Jung-il. But though the power transferred, the title of president did not. Kim Il-sung had created a nation that worshipped him (the demonstrative ego of all tyrants). In 1998, the Constitution of North Korea was re-written so that Kim Il-sung would be the Eternal President and the supreme leader of North Korea even though he had died. Kim Jong-il was made the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly.

Therefore, North Korea is a nation ruled by a dead man making its government a necrocracy. Reflecting on the way things are in North Korea, the government of a necrocracy seemed odd. However, the more I thought about it, the more I came to see that all governments are necrocracies. All governments rely upon the rule of human beings who are polluted by sin. According to the Scriptures, the plight of sin is the condition of being dead. This was the curse for the representative parents of humanity, Adam and Eve. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16–17, ESV)

A popular explanation for this state of death is that humankind has been separated from God. Though true, I think there is more to it. The consequence of sin goes far deeper than mere separation. It involves all of the laws teaching the Jews what clean and unclean are. It involves the actual death of people, tribes, and whole nations. Sin has touched ever aspect of our lives polluting our thinking, perverting our actions, and shattering the image of God within us. Our likeness to God has not disappeared, but it does not control us. The grace of God prevents all of us from acting fully in sin. The degree of evil in humans and civilizations is limited by God’s eternal rule.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Ephesians 2:1–3, ESV

So, the truth is that all human governments are ruled by sin and they all decay. Edward Gibbons’ series of books, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” demonstrates the degeneration inherent in all human endeavors. But there is one government that is not human in origin, neither is it ruled by the dead. The government I speak of is ruled by the One who has risen from the dead, Jesus Christ. By taking upon himself the sin of the world, Jesus reconciled us to God and granted his sheep a new life redeemed and recreated in the image of God. Yes, sin doesn’t always act as if defeated by Christ, but we are assured it has.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:1–2, ESV

The good news is that the King of all kings is the Lord of all lords as he was coronated by his ascension to the throne of God. And a consequence of this state of affairs is that human governments may also find redemption if submitted to Christ. God ordained government to rule the civil affairs of humankind. Government was established to restrain sin and evil natural to sinful people. This is the reason for the civil laws in the Old Testament. The Jews were a people promised to Abraham as a light to all nations. The moral law of God is the foundation of all law, for all creation reflects the nature of God. Apart from this moral foundation, there is no basis for morality at all which is one of the major flaws in evolution.

At least two things arise from the Gospel. First, sin and death have been defeated by Christ, and second, the righteousness of Christ is the requirement for all governments today. Many of our laws reflect God’s moral law, an no matter how much anyone complains that you cannot legislate morality, all legislation by its very nature is about morality. But, rebellion against the reign of Christ always results in the decay of life into death. Always! The farther any government disobeys God’s Law, the closer to extinction it becomes.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Romans 1:21–32, ESV

The spiral of sin as Paul describes is the downward spiral toward extinction, death. Yet, because of the graciousness of God, we have a benevolent King who watches over his own. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16–17, ESV)

My sense that necrocracy is an odd form of government is, therefore, both true and false. The untrue aspect is that necrocracy is the most common form of human government and it has been from the original fall of our first parents. The truth is that there is no need for humans to live under a necrocracy. Necrocracy is odd because if you don’t need to die, why choose death? It all sounds so simple, yet it is not simple at all. If it were merely a matter of choosing to no longer submit to death, everyone would do it. But, just like in North Korea, there is no second option, and all means of discovering a second option is prevented by the state.

Never lose hope! The world once thought that the Soviet Union was a great power for death. The world didn’t believe that the Berlin Wall would ever fall. And, even God’s people to a large degree have missed the Messianic King they sought. Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus Christ does control the world, and the job of his people is to establish his reign throughout the earth.

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