Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Potter’s House: Romans 13:12-14; Overcoming Sin

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 31, 2014

HF Potters House (2)

Romans 13:12-14 – The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

This will complete Chapter 13 in our Romans series. Today, we take a break from my perpetual drumbeat of justification and focus on the crux of sanctification: overcoming sin. Justification is God’s declaration about who we are—we are righteous—not just positionally, but personally. Sanctification is not a living out of justification; it is a living out of our righteousness that resulted in being justified. While there is no law in justification, sanctification fulfils the law.

As we see in the verses here, sanctification is a call to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The law (all of Scripture), informs our sanctification, and also informs us that it has no part in justification. The law informs us that it is a ministry of death for the unbelieving, but the law of the Spirit—the law of liberty for those who believe. Salvation calls for the death of the former person so the law of sin and death will no longer be valid (Romans 7:1-6). Before we followed Christ, Death was our spouse, and the law was the marriage covenant (Ibid). But we died with Christ so we could be resurrected to new life with Him. Now, we live by the “law of the Spirit of Life” (Rom 8:2).

We must understand that a major affront to salvation is the idea that the “law of the Spirit of life” and the “law of sin and death” are not two different relationships to the same law, but two different realms. Hence, we are merely transformed from the realm of the law to the realm of the Spirit. This is indicative of Protestantism’s Gnostic roots, and makes antinomianism feasible to the unlearned en masse in our day. I myself have heard many in our day teach that sin is a natural law like gravity, and therefore, manifestations of righteousness are a supernatural act of God that we merely experience by faith alone. We remain in the sin realm, keep in mind: the “transformation” of salvation is only the ability to experience the other realm “by faith.” And what is faith? Faith is a gift that is like an eye that only sees outward. To the degree that we “see” the depths of the gospel (our sin as set against God’s holiness), righteousness is manifested in the spirit realm, and we can observe/experience those manifestations from the sin realm that we are enslaved to. Regardless of all of the bemoaning and whining about Rick Warren in Reformed circles, anyone like him who holds to Gnostic Christianity will always be part of the Reformed clan:

This week we’re talking about developing the eyes of faith. When you are spiritually reborn, God opens your spiritual eyes and this enables you to see His work all around you and to see the many opportunities He places before you.

God will also open your spiritual ears, so you will be able to hear what people are really saying instead of what you think they are saying. When Jesus comes into your life, God opens a whole set of spiritual senses that help you see life from His point of view.

Let me give you a simple example of how this works. Have you ever been reading the Bible and, as you read a verse, it just pops out and you think, ‘Wow, I never saw that before!’ Even though you’ve read that verse fifteen times, you’d never seen the truth that just popped out for you.

What happened? God just opened your spiritual eyes.

Now, as I mentioned yesterday, there are some basic steps you must complete in order to develop the eyes of faith, in order to live life by faith, and you need to live by faith or you will never be able to complete the destiny God has planned out for you (Rick Warren: Developing the eyes of faith – Step Two; January 04,  2011 | purposedriven .com).

Notice that the Christian life must be lived “by faith” [“alone” always omitted for purposes of nuance], and is merely a matter of “see[ing]” and not DOING. The “flesh” is also interpreted as the sin realm that we are enslaved to. So, the law as Scripture serves to do nothing but show us our sinfulness as ones trapped and enslaved to the sin realm, and as we see this more and more in Scripture, our gratitude for God’s grace is enhanced and we experience the joy of the spirit realm which we are totally separate from. We cannot walk in it—we can only experience it. The payoff is exceeding joy in the midst of whatever life brings our way, after all, we are enslaved/trapped in this realm, and everything that happens to us is a narrative set against God’s holy realm. Hence, tragedy only brings glory to God. If you google “eyes of faith,” you can find much information about this mystic approach to life. As I have stated many times before, the theological journal of the Australian Forum is invaluable in clarifying these Reformed concepts.

In their illustration the truly spiritual man only looks outward, while believing that we are in a realm that we can participate in leads to a “sea of subjectivism.” The “sea of subjectivism” motto is one of the truisms that launched the present-day New Calvinist movement and that concept was unique to the Australian Forum as noted by John H. Armstrong in his well-traveled essay, Sola Fide: Does it Really Matter?

As teachers and those who communicate God’s truth in Evangelical circles, do we know how people interpret our use of the words, law, flesh, sin, and righteousness? Do they assume we are speaking of realms and the characteristics of those realms? Do they assume the law is a narrative about God’s holiness and the evil of man only?

As people, how do we really view change? It is interesting that Christ primarily framed His gospel call in regard to change. Clearly, His gospel was a call to change—it was the “gospel of the kingdom” Matt 4:23. In Matthew 5:1-7:29 we are shown exactly what His messages were comprised of in the Sermon on the Mount. It was a call to live a certain way—it is a message of change. We do not change for salvation, but salvation is a call to change. Salvation is for people who want to change. It is in the verses at hand here today: “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” We don’t put on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, we simply believe that faith alone cancels works for justification, but frees us to change. It is a call to use the law lawfully:

1Timothy 1:5 – The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

When Paul wrote of those who teach the law, he never meant to say that this refers to an endeavor to keep the law truthfully along with the spirit of the law. What do I mean by, “the spirit of the law”? Well, it means that we not only abstain from adultery, but we also abstain from fantasizing about adulterous affairs with others, or sins of the heart. God sent the flood on the world because “every intention of the thoughts of his [mankind] heart was only evil continually.” When Paul wrote of those propagating law-based salvation, it always refers to a dumbed down version of the law or a law edited by the traditions of men.

A lawful use of the law refers to TRUTH, or an accurate rendering of the full counsel of God resulting in “sound doctrine.” In John 17:17 Christ states that we are sanctified with the truth, and 2Thessolonians 2;10 reveals the fact that being saved comes part and parcel with loving the truth. Again, this doesn’t save us, but is rather a natural result of the new birth:

understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient…in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted (Ibid)… on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus (Romans 2:16).

Keeping the law can’t save us, but being saved will result in “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” It will result in keeping the law lawfully. “Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” involves doing so according to the truth.

What does Paul mean by, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand”? This probably speaks to the fact that the Lord’s return is imminent in this age. The next event on the prophetic timeline is the tribulation period, and that time period is marked by specific events separated by days. In this age, the Lord’s return is to be expected at any time, and it is a rapturing up of His people to meet Him in the air. The end of the tribulation is the coming of Christ to establish His kingdom on earth. We are to conduct our Christian lives according to the fact that Christ could return at any time.

What we are to be doing is stated: “So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” The armor of light is the whole armor of God:

Ephesians 6:10 – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

We are in a spiritual warfare, and like all warfare, you must be well prepared to win the battle. Sanctification is a many-faceted endeavor that entails preparation and readiness. We must be about doing “everything” not just, “seeing and hearing” while waiting for whatever Christ might manifest for us in the spiritual realm. We are active and called on to participate in real change:  “So then let us cast off the works of darkness.” We will return to Ephesians for some explanation here as well:

Ephesians 4:20 – That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

We are to put off the old “self” and put on the new…what? “self.” What does “new” mean? What does “self” mean? What does, “old” mean? This is real change. This is the putting off and putting on process spoken of throughout the Bible. Obviously, this process brings about change. Of course, the Gnostic naysayers will say, “Yes, but it is not ‘real and lasting change’” while they deny that people can change at all. We can change, and this passage reveals how.

The putting off and putting on dynamic of change is absolutely massive in the Bible. I would like to add to our lesson with a word study that constitutes the first thing I have ever perceived as having value coming out of the Neo-Calvinist camp. It is a word study by Justin Taylor regarding this dynamic.* Of course, it is interpreted via the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event prism.

This is Calvin’s Sabbath rest sanctification where God preordains our good works as manifested in the spirit realm and only experienced by us. This is achieved by gospel contemplationism that merely opens our eyes to what God is manifesting in the spirit realm. The “flesh” isn’t the “old self,” it is a realm that we are enslaved to. Hence, as we have discussed before, it is the Pharisees were really, really good at keeping the law paradigm. Therefore, since we must have a righteousness that exceeds theirs, the perfect obedience of Christ must be manifested to our experience through gospel contemplationism.

This is the very relaxing of the law theology that Jesus warned against. Obviously, if Jesus kept/keeps the law for us, diligence in doing so is not a priority for us. All of the imperatives in the Bible, or in this case putting off and putting on, are meant to frustrate us in our attempts to keep the law. The theory holds that Jesus pummeled us with commands to show us that we are unable to keep them. In Reformed circles this is referred to as holding a counselee’s hand to the fire of the law until they beg for mercy. Nevertheless, Taylor’s word study can be used for our good benefit.*

Next, we have an illustration by Dr. Jay Adams that lists verses that have the put off put on dynamic within the context of a passage.** You can read those passages and ascertain  what the put off and the put on are.**

Next, we have an impressive list of put on and put off that are inferred by separate imperatives. This is the dreaded Do’s and Don’ts list so often maligned in our day.***

But the key is knowing the following: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Bingo—sin makes its appeal through the desires, or if you will, emotions. That appeal comes from the old self which resides in our mortality, or flesh. We also see this in the Ephesians passage: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.”

Remember that Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful lust.” So, I want to add here that older saints do have a change advantage because old age has weakened their bodies. Strong emotions and desires are weaker. But in either case, the strength of the desire measures the strength of the temptation:

James 1:14 – But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Therefore, sinful desires are intensified and strengthened when given “provision” :

g4307. πρόνοια pronoia; from 4306; forethought, i. e. provident care or supply:— providence, provision.

Do you want to hate sin? Do you know that Christians can learn to love and also learn to hate? We will learn to love and treasure what we invest our heart in: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” “Let love be genuine, hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Do’s and Don’ts? No, this isn’t about do’s  and don’ts, this is about giving provisions to sinful desires—this is about learning to love good and hate evil—this is about proper investment. Can you now see what the relaxing of the law in sanctification will do? It will, according to James, bring forth fruits of death which is still possible because we are in these mortal bodies.

And in the final analysis, God is robbed of glory (Matthew 5: 13-16). As Christians, we must define who we are and how spiritual warfare is waged. We are righteous, and we can change, and God is behind us with the help of Himself, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Endnotes

*I’ve been intrigued by Paul’s idea of “putting on” and “putting off,” and wanted to investigate a little further.

The Greek word ἐνδύω is usually used in the Gospels for putting on or wearing clothes (Matt. 6:25; 22:11; 27:31; Mark 1:6; 6:9; 15:20; Luke 8:27; 15:22; cf. Acts 12:21). John uses the term the same way in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:13; 15:6; 19:14), though it’s clear there that the clothing is also symbolic of purity and righteousness. The only exception to the normal use in the Synoptics is that before his ascension Jesus instructed his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high.”

The apostle Paul seems to pick up this metaphorical use, and he runs with it in a variety of ways.

Those in Christ have already put on Christ.

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

Those in Christ are commanded to put on Christ.

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:14).

Those in Christ have already put on the new self/man.

“[You] have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10).

Those in Christ are instructed to put on the new self/man.

“[Your were taught] to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

Those in Christ are to put on the whole armor of God.

“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12).

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. . . . Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:11, 14).

“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8).

Those in Christ are to put on love and other virtues.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12).

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14).

Those in Christ have perishable, mortal bodies that will one day put on imperishable, immortal, heavenly bodies.

“For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:33).

“For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (2 Cor. 5:2).

Paul—as well as other NT writers—also express the flip side of “putting off” (ἀποτίθημι), the non-metaphorical use of which can be used of removing clothing (cf. Acts 7:58).

Those in Christ have already put off the old self/man.

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices” (Col. 3:9).

Those in Christ are instructed to put off the old self/man.

“[You were taught] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires” (Eph. 4:22).

Those in Christ are to put away all sin and vice.

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25).

“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12).

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).

“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Pet. 2:1).

~ Online source: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/06/08/putting-on-christ-putting-off-sin/

~ Comments: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/06/08/putting-on-christ-putting-off-sin/?comments#comments

**

Eph 4:25

Eph 4:28

Eph 4:29

Eph 4:31-32

Psalm 1

Gal 5:19-23

3Jn 11

Heb 10:25

1Pet 3:9

Matt 16:24

1Thess 1:9

1Pet 1:14-15

1Pet 2:11-12

1Pet 4:2

1Pet 5:2

1Pet 5:3-6

Rom 12:16

Rom 12:21

Rom13:12

Rom 14:17

Rom 15:1-2

Gal 6:3-4

Gal 6:8

Eph 5:4

Eph 5:11

Eph 5:18

Eph 6:4

Phil 2:3

Phil 2:21

Phil 3:3

Phil 4:6

Col 3:2

Col 3:5-10

1Thess 5:6

1Thess 5:15

1Tim 4:7

1Tim 6:11

1Tim 6:17

2Tim 1:17

Titus 2:11-12

James 1:22

1Pet 2:1-2

1Jn 3:18

1Jn 4:18

Acts 18:9

~ Jay E. Adams: Principles and Practices of Biblical Counseling; Institute for Biblical Studies, pp. 22-24.

***

Put-Off                                                               Put-On

Adultery                                                              Marital fidelity

Anger                                                                  Self-control

Argumentative/Quarrelsome                               Gentle Answer/Peace & Accord

Astrology                                                            Worship of God

Bad Companions                                                Godly Associations

Bitterness                                                            Tender hearted, forgiving

Blameshifting                                                      Responsibility

Bodily harm                                                        Glorify God in body

Burying talents                                                    Developing abilities

Boasting (conceit)                                               Esteeming others

Careless Talk                                                       Edifying Words

Carnal Entertainment                                          Please God

Cheating                                                              Honesty

Covetousness                                                      Contentment

Critical spirit                                                       Kindness

Complacency                                                      Zeal

Complaining                                                        Gratefulness

Depression                                                          Hope in God

Discontent                                                           Contentment

Disobedience                                                      Obedience

Disrespect for authority                                      Honor authority

Dissatisfaction                                                                Satisfaction

Divisive                                                               Peacemaker

Drunkenness                                                       Abstinence, self-control

Easily irritated                                                    Not easily provoked

Envious                                                               Rejoice with Others

Evil speaking                                                       Good report

Evil thoughts                                                       Pure thoughts

Favoritism                                                           Fairness

Faultfinding                                                        Patience

Feeling Oriented                                                 Commandment Oriented

Flirtation                                                             Gentle, quiet spirit

Fleshly music                                                      Edifying music

Following the crowd                                           God-fearing

Fornication                                                          Abstinence

Gambling                                                            Good stewardship

Gluttony                                                              Discipline

Gossip                                                                Edifying speech

Greed                                                                  Contentment

Guilt                                                                    Confession

Hatred                                                                Love

Homosexuality                                                    Moral purity

Hypocrisy                                                            Sincerity

Idle words                                                           Bridle tongue

Idolatry                                                               Worship God only

Immodest dress                                                   Modesty

Impatience                                                          Patience

Impulsive                                                            Thoughtfulness

Inferiority                                                            Position in Christ

Incest                                                                  Moral purity

Irritation to others                                               Preferring in love

Irresponsibility (family/work)                            Responsibility

Irreverence in church                                          Reverence

Inhospitable                                                        Hospitable

Insensitive                                                           Compassion

Jealousy                                                               Trust

Judging                                                               Let God search my heart

Left first Love                                                                Fervent devotion

Lack of rejoicing                                                 Rejoice

Lack of moderation                                            Temperance

Laziness                                                              Diligence

Losing temper                                                    Self-control

Love of money/greed                                          Love God

Lust                                                                     Pure desires

Lying                                                                   Speak truth

Masturbation                                                       Sanctification

Menpleasing                                                        Please God

Moral impurity                                                    Moral purity

Murder                                                                            Love

Murmuring/complaining                                      Praise

Neglect of Bible study                                        Bible study/meditation

No burden for the lost                                                    Compassion/witnessing

Opinionated                                                        Slow to Speak

Pleasure Seeker                                                   Enjoy God’s Pleasures

Pornography                                                        Pure thoughts

Prayerlessness                                                    Praying

Pride                                                                    Humility

Procrastination                                                    Diligence

Profanity                                                             Pure speech

Preferential treatment                                        Love neighbor as self

Presumption on the future                                   Trust God’s will

Rebellion                                                              Submission

Retaliation                                                            Return good for evil

Selfishness                                                           Self denial

Self Pity                                                               Faith

Slothfulness                                                         Wholeheartedness

Smoking                                                               God’s Temple

Status Seeker                                                       Servants Heart

Stealing                                                                Work/giving

Stinginess                                                             Generosity

Strife/contention                                                  Peace

Stubbornness                                                        Brokenness

Temporal values                                                   Eternal value

Unbelief                                                               Faith

Undisciplined                                                       Self-Control

Unfaithfulness                                                                 Faithfulness

Unforgiving spirit                                                Heart Forgiveness

Ungratefulness                                                     Gratefulness

Undependable                                                     Trustworthy

Unloving                                                              Serve Others

Vindictive                                                            Bless Your Enemy

Witchcraft/Horoscopes                                        Worship of God

Worldly entertainment                                         Spiritual pursuits

Worry/fear                                                            Trust

Wrath                                                                   Soft answer

Wrong friends                                                     Godly friends

Wrong motives                                                     Spiritual motives

~ Online source includes links to specific verses: http://www.gatewaybiblicalcounseling.org/resources/putoffputonlist.htm

Books by Paul M. Dohse Sr.

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 29, 2014

Excerpt from tomorrow’s message: Romans 13:8.

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 4, 2014

Potters House logo 2“Learning and obeying truth is the only way to love God and His people. What we have today is a lot of discussion about loving each other without the knowledge to do so. Love among the doctrinally illiterate is an oxymoron. Replacing the hard work of discipleship in the church with love bombing is an epidemic. Undoubtedly, the main point of this message focuses on the paramount importance of the law in sanctification for effectively loving each other. Devaluing the law in sanctification is the very essence of antinomianism, and Christ said that the hearts of many will wax cold in the last days ‘because of anomia.’ And we are in those days.”

~ Sanctification: The Love Side of the Law; Romans 13:8 

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Confident Study of the Scriptures

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 1, 2013

Taking Back the Bible from Christian Academia: Confident Study of the Scriptures

Part One      

The Apostolic Church’s greatest nemesis was Gnosticism. An understanding of how Greek philosophy influenced the landscape of that day is critical to understanding what was behind many things written by the Apostles and Christ. Greek philosophy was the driving force behind Gnosticism, and it was predicated on an elitist academia who were supposedly the gatekeepers of truth and wisdom. Supposedly, these were the enlightened minority who should necessarily lead or rule over the unenlightened masses. They were, and still are responsible for repackaging the “deep” things of God so that the unenlightened masses can use it in some way to cope with life. In religious circles we call this, “orthodoxy.” In secular circles we call this, “Psychology.” Those who cope rather than overcome are always the shadows of orthodoxy.

Enlightenment was a pedigree that you were born into; predetermined by the universe, gods, or God Himself. Hence, formal schools were mostly populated by the affluent to prepare them to lead or rule over the unenlightened masses. It’s very little different today as most pastors are graduates from universities that the majority of people can’t afford. Ability to obtain a degree from a noted seminary is part and parcel with being qualified to be a pastor (even if you are a pedophile). Pastoral search committees immediately toss resumes that are anything less than a Master’s degree. Lay pastors are seen as a lower class of leaders and are paid accordingly. They are seen as necessary for churches who can’t afford the “real deal.” This whole tradition, at least in Western culture, began with Plato’s Academy. The Academy is really the foundation that all seminaries are built on. They follow the secular pattern of Western culture.

This was the elitist atmosphere in Judea when Christ showed up. God’s people were sheep without shepherds and living on a heavy/steady diet of orthodoxy. Jesus called it “the traditions of men.” Jesus came and circumvented the whole elitist construct which often invoked, “By what authority do you teach these things?” Christ never contacted or checked in with the formal academia of that time; they had to come to Him as Nicodemus did in the darkness of night. He was “the teacher of Israel” which probably means he was among the most prominent. It is also interesting to note that his name means “power over the people” which is the same idea as the Nicolaitan movement of that day which was primarily a Gnostic movement. That name means “power over the laity.”

Jesus took God’s truth directly to the people. He cut out the middleman so-to-speak. This was revolutionary. This is EXACTLY what the apostle John was addressing in 1John when he wrote “you have no need for anyone to teach you.” He wasn’t excluding the need for teachers, he was excluding orthodoxy. He was excluding a dumbed-down version of “God’s truth” by the elite for the consumption of the supposedly unenlightened masses. And that is exactly what John was contending against. 1John refutes several teachings that were Gnostic ideas permeating the church in that day. Christ mentions the Nicolaitans specifically in His seven letters to the churches. Historically, they were known to be of the Gnostic school of thought.

Furthermore, the Bible always addresses God’s people as a whole and not the leadership specifically. The New Testament epistles always address the whole congregation. This is very telling. The Bereans searched the Scriptures themselves to verify the teachings of the apostle Paul and were called “honorable” for doing so. This is very telling as well.

Christ’s methods of teaching and approach had built-in opposition to the whole elitist caste system. He himself was not formally educated; the foundation of His assembly was built with men who were uneducated—they were the blue collar working class of that society. In the same way the elitists taught mysteries that the common people could not understand, He taught mysteries and parables to the common people that the elitists could not understand. More than likely the apostle Paul delighted in saying, “Behold, I show you a mystery.” That was turnabout play, mysteries were not revealed to the common people in that day.

Christian media and education is a multi-billion dollar business. History has never seen a country like America endowed with the same gargantuan Christian education system. Yet, Christians in this country are woefully dumbed-down and propagandized with European traditions and superstition. Our seminaries merely parrot European orthodoxy and their penchant for dumbed-down congregants. Yet, Europe’s history and societal woes in no way recommends itself for an example to follow. Those who know European history are dumbfounded that the Reformers and Puritans could be posed as religious heroes. American Protestantism is basically the European model that has never embraced the priesthood of believers.

This tradition translates into Christians consuming a mass of “Christian” information via published books, novels, movies, Christian radio, the internet, and TV/cable programs. Christians do not read and study the Bible for themselves. If they did, Christian media would not be a multi-billion dollar business. Instead of the Information Age and its tools being used to show ourselves approved, we use it to saturate our minds with the opinions of others. This is orthodoxy on steroids. It makes Paul’s “ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth” the understatement of the ages. This point can be solidified by the mere observation that the Information Age has not put seminaries out of business. Why? Because Christian academia is not a teacher—it’s an authority.

This is a Segway for getting to my first point. The Bible must be returned to its proper place as the only authority in the church. We must obey God rather than man. The idea that making a book the authority in some way demeans God’s splendor is a metaphysical sleight of hand. To use the idea that God should not be minimized to the exegesis of a book is to praise God for being so awesome that we cannot really know anything about Him. “He’s not a precept, He’s a person,” etc., add nausea. Worship becomes a celebration of subjectivity as a way to praise God. God was way ahead of this little game:

Psalm 138:2 – I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name (KVJ).

Apparently, the concept of praising God’s glory above anything earthy like mere words written on a page annoyed Christ to some degree:

Luke 11:27 – As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

While God reminds us that indeed His thoughts are above our thoughts, He insists that we not lean on our own understanding; hence, we may assume we can understand the alternative. We are clearly responsible before God for objective truth, and no one will give an account for our own lives but us. Listen to whom you will, but you are personally responsible for what you believe. Does a book seem a little earthy and unspiritual to you? Well, they are present at the White Throne Judgment, and judgment will be rendered according to what is “written in the books.” In the book of Revelation we see that Christ instructed John to “write” what he saw. We also read Christ’s warning to not add or take away any words from the book.

That’s where confident Bible study begins. We must trust it as God’s sole authority. But why a book? The answer is so easy that we readily miss it. God created reality as we now know it, and that reality is interpreted through words. To comprehend any present reality, it must be described by words. God spoke the world into existence with words. We know light as light because He defined it by the word “light.” God instructed Adam to name the animals with words. Animals can only be defined by such names. If we see an animal that we are completely unfamiliar with, we ask, “What is it?” Words describe general reality and particular reality. One may also ask, “What kind of animal is that?” Words interpret reality. God’s Law is interpreted by words; so, it stands to reason that His enemies will want to interpret truth/reality in some other way. This is where philosophy can lead us to more understanding or death. We must remember that words mean things.

The points so far can be argued from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. The audience was the spiritual peasantry of the day. Yet, the hermeneutic for that sermon can be found in the following:

Matthew 5:1 – Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

He “taught” them. As my Grandmother might have said, They got a learnin’. That means they had everything they needed to understand what Jesus wanted them to know. The sermon is to be taken on face value. The words mean what they mean. This audience is NOT the spiritual elite of that day. Jesus ends the sermon by saying the application of those words to life will result in said life being built on a sturdy foundation. The sermon sought to change their lives. It taught them how to think, how to worship, how to pray, and how to act. At the end, they were astonished that he taught these things without the authority of men.

This is first and foremost: to know that God’s word is to us, that it is our sole authority, that we are solely responsible to know it and obey it, and next, that God has sustained its original intent and meaning.

Perhaps one reason Christians do not read their Bibles very much is because we have been taught that we can’t really understand it. Many Reformed churches teach their parishioners that Bible reading merely flavors or prepares their hearts for what they must learn from the elders:

You think, perhaps, that [you] can fill up the other half of the plate with personal study, devotions, or quiet times, or a radio program. Beloved, you cannot. Scripture is relatively quiet on such practices. But on preaching, the case is clear and strong. Neglect preaching and neglect your soul (Dr. Devon Berry: Clearcreek Chapel .org archives; How to Listen to a Sermon)….

The text here implies that there was an interactive nature between three entities: The preacher, the hearers, and the Word. Note this cycle: Paul, from the Word, delivers words. The Bereans, from Paul’s words, go to the Word. The Word cycles from God, through the preacher, to the people, back to the Word, and this, verse 12 tells us, produced belief in the God of the Word. An important thing to note is that this happened daily – suggesting a regular interaction between preaching, personal study, and the Word. The Bereans eagerly prepared by paralleling their own Bible reading and study with Paul’s preaching. So a good preparation for the public preaching of the Word is the private consumption of the Word. It will be the seasoning that brings out the flavor – salt on your French fries, if you will (Ibid.)

Such a statement is indicative of Reformed thought and should raise the ire of a child. Yet, American Christians are so dumbed-down that they listen to such without even blinking.

Therefore, few Christian fathers in America think they are qualified to teach their family the Bible. Oddly, this is not the sentiment in faiths like Islam and many cults. Is their growth, as opposed to the decline of Christianity, due to the offering of something objective? Tragically, many married couples that have been Christians for years seek counsel for what they should already know. Often, this counseling makes the situation worse because it comes from those who didn’t teach them the full counsel of God to begin with. Few parishioners are aware of their pastor’s epistemology. There is no concern for how their elders approach God’s word because the pastor himself is the authority. That’s the problem.

Moreover, we must be confident that God has sustained the Bible’s intent and meaning. Christ’s very mandate to the church was the following: go to all nations with the authority of His word and teach everyone to observe it and keep it. It may then be assumed that He has superintended the Bible and its canonicity. Yet, God involves us in the process. He has promised us that the truth will be available for those who seek it, but we must study to show ourselves approved. That study involves hard labor in all areas of epistemology. We must insist that God has made objective truth available to man for its primary purpose: “everything we need for life and godliness.” It may not tell you how to fix cars, but it will certainly teach you how to be an auto mechanic who pleases God.

This may entail a strong endeavor to gain knowledge of the skill apart from the Bible in order to fulfill the biblical mandate. I think you get the message; God gave us an extraordinary instrument known as a “brain.” We are to use it, not download the thoughts of others with a mindless flash drive. You will be held responsible for the actions that the downloaded information produces. You are responsible, not the source who fed you the information. Christians need to start reading the ingredient labels on the cans. You are to work out your OWN salvation with trembling and fear. Each person will be judged according to their OWN work. Being judged by our works is synonymous with being judged by what we choose to believe. We best not let others make that choice for us. To do so is to let others determine our eternal destiny. Perhaps there is not a greater measure of insanity; seeking for others to think for you. They will not stand in for you before God, why in the world would you let them think for you?

Taking Back the Bible from Christian Academia: Confident Study of the Scriptures; Part Two

Let us now look at some basic principles for learning. Although the Bible is full of mysteries, allegory, and parables (but mostly objective truth), these are all for the purpose of teaching you something. God is not a God of confusion. Those mysteries belong to us:

1Corinthians 3:19 – For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

And….

Luke 10:21 – In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

Again, this was turnabout. Instead of the elitists controlling the wisdom, God was delivering it directly to the people and keeping it from the “wise” which is most often used by the Bible authors pejoratively.

The primary problem at Corinth was dependence on world philosophy. And frankly, that’s exactly what’s wrong with the church today. Commentary on the Bible is immeasurable. Again, the industry that interprets our Bibles for us is a multi-billion dollar business. This isn’t how the biblical teachers taught. The citations of outside sources to make specific points to be applied to life are completely non-existent in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t borrow any wisdom from the world at all. In a few places, it’s used for examples of bad behavior and false teachings, but the Bible is its own source for any positive truth or revelation. Christ and the apostles only cited other Biblical authors.  All books of the Old Testament are cited except Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Christ quoted from twenty-four Old Testament books.

So, know that the Bible is written to you, know that you can understand it, know that you are responsible to properly understand it and teach it to others (MATT 5:19 ff.), and interpret the Bible with the Bible. The Bible has 42 authors; their writings should be your commentaries. That’s 42 commentaries which is plenty of commentary for any library. The biblical writers make their points via other Bible authors exclusively. To be honest with you, I got rid of all my Bible commentaries. The only one I have left is MacArthur’s Bible commentary and I only kept it because of its extensive cross-referencing. I put little stock in MacArthur’s opinions as he is no longer trustworthy and has become a follower of men. But again, I find his extensive cross-referencing useful.

As far as interpretation by the commentaries of other Bible authors, you can find online resources that list Old Testament quotes in the New Testament. When a New Testament writer cites an Old Testament text, you can then read those passages in order to gain understanding in regard to the point that the New Testament writer was making.

Remember these basic principles as well: application to life (obedience) leads to more understanding, and remember that God communicates in a straightforward manner and doesn’t want confusion, but rather edification (1COR 14). God’s goal is edification. His people die for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). Also pay close attention to what’s being stated. The Holy Spirit is not like us who often write things with a goal for volume rather than substance. Remember those literature assignments in school that had to be 3000 words? That’s not how the Holy Spirit writes. Every word of God is for life (Matt 4:4), and ALL Scripture is profitable for equipping (2TIM 3:16,17). Be patient as learning wisdom for life from the Scriptures is a lifelong endeavor. Do not be too concerned with what you don’t understand for now, it will come with time and diligent study. Seeds of future understanding are being planted in your mind and God’s word will not return void.

Therefore, when you read or study your Bible, look for the plain sense of the text. If you decide to study a particular book or epistle, read through it a couple of times thoughtfully and make note of what it is plainly stating. Then make note of other Scriptures cited by the author and read those as well; they are commentaries on what you are reading. Paul cites the Old Testament about 41 times in the book of Romans. Those passages should be read as commentaries and for further clarification.

Before we move on let me note that one of the most powerful tools for understanding is daily Bible reading. An overall flavor of biblical content is extremely important and probably efficacious for discernment. If you don’t do anything else, partake in daily Bible reading.

Parabiblical information is an aid. However, Susan and I have gleaned things from the book of Romans that we have never been taught before and are life transforming; this happened without any research in regard to historical background or customs of that time in Rome. Our study of Romans has included little information apart from the book itself. But if you do use parabiblical aids this is key: as far as historical background, customs, or philosophies that might be alluded to in the particular text that you are studying, use secular sources that don’t have theological axes to grind. This assures that the source isn’t seeing something in the history that they want to see.

For topical study, do not, I repeat, do not buy a Christian book on the subject. More than likely it will be eisegetical rather than exegetical. Get a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and look up the key words and read all of the verses for yourself in context. I would also recommend Naves Topical Bible which will list Scriptures that address the subject you want to study. Buying a Christian book on the subject gets back to others thinking for us. How telling that this ministry continues to hear complaints that Sunday schools and Bible studies are usually conducted from recently published books that are the present-day Reformed rage.

Now let’s look at the all-important issue of translations. The Old Testament is pretty straight forward as it was overseen by the Jews. The New Testament has been attended to with far less anti-eisegesis. Nevertheless the multitudes of different translations and TYPES of translations offer an awesome resource for us. If there is any commentary worth more than the Bible authors (and there is not), it is the translations. New Testament translations offer the opinions of hundreds of Greek scholars. Some translations are literal word by best English word translations (literal translations; ie., the KJV). Other translations, known as paraphrases, attempt to show the ideas or intent behind the Greek words. You can look at all of the varying opinions, and determine which ones fit the context and what other Bible texts teach about the same issue or subject.

Then there are the expanded translations by Greek scholars. These are very interesting. These expand Bible sentences to reflect the Greek moods and tenses in the best and most accurate English words. An example of this would be Kenneth S. Wuest’s expanded translation of the New Testament.

Now let’s discuss the manuscripts that these translations come from. The original writings are gone; eg., the actual letter that the Romans held in their hands or the early copies thereof. Translations are taken from manuscripts which are composed of ancient fragments. These fragments may be actual copies of the original and also based on ancient commentaries that rehearse Bible verses such as the writings of the early church fathers. Most English translations come from either the Received Text or the Critical Text. These are manuscripts based on differing sources of fragments and other ancient texts. And there is a difference. The Critical Text has 2,886 fewer words than the Received Text, and calls into question the validity of 41 verses found in it. In other words, some translations exclude words and in some cases entire verses that are in dispute. Sources that document these differences can be found, once again, ONLINE!

Another problem with the New Testament as far as English translations are concerned is that most of our English translations came from the Reformers. In fact, Chapters and verses were first used in the Geneva Bible which was a Calvinist study Bible. It’s the Bible that arrived in America on the Mayflower, and in the true spirit of the Reformation, it was the law in Scotland that every household of means was required to purchase one. Progressive Justification was the doctrine/gospel of the Reformation, and bias towards that doctrine permeates the English translations, particularly in regard to tenses. Clearly, in the aforementioned manuscript texts mentioned, there is a difference in many verses between salvation as past and present continuous.

In regard to these discrepancies, it is up to us to study in order to show ourselves approved. God doesn’t do it all for us. He superintended the transmission of the Bible while allowing freewill. And by the way, the Bible documents its own transmission (There are books that document the historical transmission of the Bible as well). Did you know that? In my own daily Bible reading I see references to this in many different ways, which brings me to another learning tip and the significance of daily Bible reading. That would be the BIBLE NOTEBOOK. This is some form of the Bible in a notebook with tabulated sections. Sections can be divided into subjects of interest, and as you see references in your daily Bible reading, you compile those references in the appropriate section. One can also use the same process to document Reformed aberrations that favor the false gospel of progressive justification which is perpetual resalvation and perseverance by faith alone in sanctification. These discrepancies are going to be found primarily in the ESV, but are also prevalent in many other translations.

This brings me to yet another tip regarding Bible Study software: you can jettison the catalogue process by using Bible study software that will do comprehensive word searches in all translations. Let’s say that transmission of the Bible is your interest. You can search key words like, “word,” “book,” “write,” etc., and then read those verses in context.

(As an aside, a basic observation in the category of transmission that can be made is that words can be written down by many different means on many different materials and are difficult to control unlike electronic data).

Lastly, because of the internet, you can also research lesser known translations such as the Aramaic/Hebrew New Testament. The argument here is that Greek was a vehicle, but not the vernacular of the people who wrote the New Testament. In other words, the Greek may not properly transmit the Hebrew mindset and what they meant by certain phrases etc. This brings us to the importance of systematic theology.

All of these considerations must work together with the fact that the Scriptures are written systematically. There is a method; doctrines, covenants, etc. make this clear. Obviously, it is more than fair to say that the tabernacle was a systematic theology. Creation was done systematically. Ever heard of the “Solar System”? We see a system in the book of Revelation: seals, trumpets, woes, methods, documents, timelines, and specific places. God is a God of order. This is the importance of systematic theology and its elements: justification; sanctification; imputation; Christology; Pneumatology; anthropology; hamartiology; soteriology; ecclesiology; angelology; eschatology; etc. The fact that systematic theology is not taught in the churches is scandalous and indicative of Protestant control mania.

There are many considerations and schools that make a complete picture of truth. A word in a translation that in some way contradicts sound soteriology must be suspect and investigated. I recommend Cambron’s Bible Doctrines: Beliefs That Matter and Barackman’s first edition of Practical Christian Theology. Avoid the other three additions as he gravitated toward radical aspects of Reformed theology after the first addition. Obviously, John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is a systematic theology and has been greatly expanded upon for contemporary use by Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way. This systematic theology will determine the interpretive outcomes of a whole generation of pastors.

The next point is eschatology as part of this vast biblical system. The study of last things is critical to showing how the Bible all fits together, especially in regard to soteriology. Old Testament and New Testament eschatology fits together for the making of one picture showing how covenants fit together with God’s plan of salvation. A lack of emphasis on eschatology has had a catastrophic effect on the church. To minimize eschatology is to deprive God’s people of hope, and a wealth of spiritual information. For one, consider that J. Burton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy catalogues 737 prophecies that are either fulfilled or reiterated in the other texts by different authors writing hundreds of years apart. As we have observed here at the Potters House, eschatology also fits the plan of salvation in regard to judgments and resurrections as one would expect to be the case. Eschatology is vital for a proper understanding of the Scriptures. In regard to pastors who deemphasize eschatology, mark them and flee from them.

In regard to the question of the best Bible study software, you can consider software that has the elements we have discussed in this study. However, I would recommend Olive Tree online software, and it is very inexpensive. It has the most important feature, a word search engine. It will do a comprehensive English word search, but it will also do a Greek word search. This enables you to see how a Greek word is used in other passages—this is very telling in regard to the original intent behind the word. Also, if you do an English word search for a certain word in both the New Testament and Old Testament, you can see what the Hebrew counterpart is to the Greek and vice versa. You can get many different translations, and if you hover over any word with your mouse, the Greek or Hebrew word will appear with its definition. If a definition is not available, it’s an English filler for the purpose of flow and readability.

And don’t forget Google. Google is an extremely powerful search engine. It is also virtual world knowledge connected to virtual mind. What do I mean by that? If you want to recall something you read in the Bible several years ago but you don’t remember where it is in the Bible or even the exact wording, all you have to do is Google the fragment or the idea and a link to an article about it will appear. A wealth of information regarding any subject can be called up in seconds. And thoughts such as, “I wonder if the Bible talks about that?” can be answered in seconds. Merely Google the thought and a vast amount of information will appear. I am convinced that the final form of the final kingdom that will rule the Earth in the last days has feet of iron mixed with clay because of the Information Age. Tyranny is only effective to the degree that it can control information. This is why our founding fathers were pro education and information. This is why they proliferated information of all kinds with aggressive intentionality.

The dumbing down of America is no accident—it is the road to tyranny. The dumbing down of the Protestant church is no accident—it has always been predicated on tyranny and always will be unless Christians take back our Bible.

Whatever Happened to Sanctification?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 1, 2013
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