Saturday, January 31, 2009

Judicial Forgiveness and Parental Forgiveness - Part 2

I shall continue with my comments on John MacArthur's article entitled "If We Confess Our Sins" (paragraphs of the article are reproduced in blue, followed by my comments):


The Bible clearly teaches that Christians should seek forgiveness.
Consider this:
     In each one of the penitential psalms (Pss. 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143), the psalmist is demonstrating the heart of a justified believer when he seeks forgiveness. In each case the psalmist is already a believer, fully forgiven.

The psalmist was not, as John MacArthur claims, a believer and fully forgiven . David was under the Law which means that when you do wrong, you expect punishment from God for the Law says that blessings will be showered on you when you keep it but curses will come upon you when you break it (Deuteronomy 28). That is why David has to beg for God's mercy to withhold the curses that he deserves, which he expressed in Psalm 6, 38, 51, 143.


Psalm 6:1-2
1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.

2
Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.

Psalm 38:1-4

1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.

2 For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me.

3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
my bones have no soundness because of my sin.

4 My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear.

Psalm 51:1-3

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

Psalm 143: 1-2

1 O LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.

2 Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.


This burden of being under the Law is also reflected in Psalm 143:2 where David says "no one living is righteous before you" for the Law does not provide for the removal of sins but only the covering of sins "because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4).

David longed for the day when his sins are not held against him as he says in Psalm 32:2 - Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.

This is what we have in Christ! Christ has made the old covenant of the Law obsolete and established for us a new covenant in which God remembers our sins no more (Hebrews 10:9-17), so why do we insist on reminding God of our sins by constantly confessing them? David himself says in Psalm 143:3 "If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?"


 In the gospels, Christ taught believers to ask the Father to forgive their sins (Matt. 6:12; Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4). Some of those to whom He spoke were already born again.
 In 1 John 1, the verb tenses show that confession and forgiveness should be a continuous experience. Verse 7 literally reads, "The blood of Jesus His Son keeps cleansing us from all sin," and verse 9 likewise says, "If we are continually confessing our sins." Those to whom John wrote were already fully forgiven believers (cf. 5:13).


In the gospels, all those whom Jesus taught to ask the Father for forgiveness were not born again because Jesus had not yet died on the cross. You can only be born again AFTER Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. I have dealt with this issue in detail in Part 1, so I shall not repeat myself here.

While 1 John 5 was written to fully forgiven believers, 1 John 1 was not written to them (please read Part 1 for a detailed explanation).

For a proper context, we cannot read 1 John 1:9 on its own - we have to read it together with vv6-8. John is using parallel arguments where v6 is contrasted with v7, and v8 is contrasted with v9. v6 and v8 is talking about the non-believer (although he claims to be a believer) while v7 and v9 is talking about the true believer.

1 John 1:6-9 (NLT)
6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.


1John 1:9 is not telling the believer to keep confessing sins. It is telling the non-believer to acknowledge that he has sin and confess his sins, then he will receive God's forgiveness and will be cleansed from all unrighteousness.

I am not knowledgeable at all on Greek verb tenses but if 1 John 1:7 says "The blood of Jesus His Son keeps cleansing us from all sin", that means we are being cleaned at all times.

As an analogy, I see 1 John 1:7 as a picture of the true believer standing under a waterfall with the water falling down on him all the time, keeping him clean all the time, dirt (i.e. sin) cannot stick to him.

1 John 1:9 is saying that when the non-believer who claims to have no sin (v8), finally admits he is dirty i.e. he has sin and confesses his sins, he steps under the waterfall (i.e. becomes a true believer) and enjoys the continuous cleansing from the water falling down on him.

It is a one-time act of stepping under the waterfall, a one-time change of mind from claiming to have no sin to acknowledging and confessing sins, a one-time change of status from non-believer to true believer.


(to be continued)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Judicial Forgiveness and Parental Forgiveness - Part 1

I had an exchange of views with another fellow Christian on another blog regarding forgiveness, and he (or she coz I could only see the pseudonym) believes that we need to keep confessing our sins for God's parental forgiveness although we are already judicially forgiven.

(?_?) ... are you confused too? I didn't know what he was talking about and asked him for scripture to explain his view. However, as is common with all these "theological" Christians, instead of bible verses, he referred me to articles by famous "theologians" such as John MacArthur and Pastor John Piper.

Today, I shall tackle the article by John MacArthur entitled "If We Confess Our Sins" (which can be found here). For your convenience, I shall reproduce his article paragraphs by paragraphs (in
blue) together with my comments on them.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness – 1 John 1:9.

That is one of the first verses many new Christians memorize–and rightly so. It holds forth the comforting promise of forgiveness and cleansing for all of us who have struggled with guilt in this sin-stained world. Yet there are some today who, because they fail to comprehend the extent of divine forgiveness, deny the clear teaching of 1 John 1:9 and teach other to do the same. They say that to pray for forgiveness reveals unbelief. After all, a healthy Christian doesn't experience guilt because he understands Christ's total forgiveness. Why seek forgiveness when you already have it?

However, their guilt-free brand of Christianity not only burdens guilty people with more guilt, but also strips away the only means to alleviate the guilt of sin–confession. Rather than helping Christians draw near to God, they are reinforcing the barrier of sin that interrupts their relationship with God. But that's not the end of the story.


I have explained before in my previous posts how 1 John 1:9 has been misinterpreted (see here and here). The first chapter of 1 John was not written to Christians. It was meant for those who subscribe to the Greek idea that man is separated into body and spirit, and salvation is meant for only the spirit but not the body since the body is matter and will not be resurrected. As they believe the body and spirit are separate, they think that whatever evil they commit is committed by only the body and not the spirit, and therefore they have no sin since the spirit cannot sin.

1 John 1:9 tells these people to recognize and admit that they have sins, and God will be faithful and just to forgive them. Take note that after 1 John 1, John starts off 1 John 2 with "My little children ..." which implies that he is addressing fellow Christians from chapter 2 onwards, not chapter 1.

In contrast, take a look at 1 John 1:1-3 (NKJV) -
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Notice that v3 says "that you also may have fellowship with us" which means that John is talking to those people who do not have fellowship with him and the other believers yet, i.e. those people are not believers.

John continues in vv5-6 -
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

John is telling these people that they cannot claim to be believers and that they do not practice the truth because their so-called "belief" does not recognize sin. This is confirmed in 1 John 1:8 -
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Then John follows up in 1 John 1:9 telling them to admit that they have sin.

John MacArthur says that the only means to alleviate the guilt of sin is confession. Where are the scripture references to back this up? What does the bible really say about the guilt of sin?

Hebrews 10:1-3 (NKJV)
1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.

Hebrews 10:2 says that once purified, we would have no more consciousness of sins! How then are we purified? Through the once for all blood sacrifice of Christ - Hebrews 10:11-14 -
11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Christ's blood, unlike the blood of bulls and goats, does not cover our sins. Nay, more than that, his blood takes away our sins and therefore we should have no more consciousness of sins or in John MacArthur's words, "guilt of sin". When we understand this truth,
"we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus." (Hebrews 10:19)

In fact, it is precisely this concept of judicial and parental forgiveness as advocated by John MacArthur that is "
reinforcing the barrier of sin that interrupts their relationship with God" because it constantly reminds you of your sins and the need to confess them.

(to be continued ...)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Is Prince Harry A Prince?

Prince Harry (pic left), the younger son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, has been in the news lately and quite a few times in the recent past as a result of some of his antics.

Prince Harry has had to apologize for his latest gaffe of calling a fellow trainee soldier "Paki" (a racist term that is associated with violence against Pakistani immigrants in Britain) and calling another soldier wearing a camouflage scarf on his head "raghead" (an offensive term for Arabs) in a private video which was leaked to the public.

Prince Harry was hailed as a hero after his secret 10-week frontline stint in Afghanistan became public knowledge in February last year. It was a refreshing change from the regular news of his scandals: underage drinking, cannabis smoking, drunken nightclub outings and wearing a swastika to a fancy dress party.

However, all that goodwill has been washed down the drain with the recent revelation of his racist remarks (which, in fairness to him, were meant as playful terms of endearment for his comrade in arms). He has been branded a yob (British slang for a bad-mannered aggressive youth), foolish and ignorant, and faced calls to leave the army - in short, his behaviour is unbecoming of a prince.
(source: TVNZ)

After reading about all the scandals in which Prince Harry got involved, let me ask you the reader: "Is Prince Harry a prince?" The short answer - Yes!

Why is Prince Harry still a prince when his behaviour is so "unprincely"? This is because Prince Harry's status of prince and third-in-line to the throne has got absolutely nothing to do with his behaviour. It has everything to do with his birth; Prince Harry was born a prince. It has everything to do with the fact that his father is Prince Charles.

Similarly, the moment we were born into this world, we were sinners. We were sinners not because we sinned; we were sinners simply because we were born of Adam. In the same way, the moment we are born again, we are saints - the righteousness of God in Christ. We are righteous not because of what we do; we are righteous simply because we are born again of Christ.

Romans 5:18-19 (NLT)
18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.
19
Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.


Some Christians, through erroneous preaching, believe that they can lose their salvation if they do not live holy lives. They have been taught that the moment they received Christ as Lord and Saviour, they received their salvation as "imputed righteousness" but after that they need to have "practical righteousness" i.e. live holy lives, usually by trying to keep the Law, in order to maintain their salvation.

I absolutely disagree with this illogical "theology". Romans 5:18-19 shows very clearly that our "sinnership" as well as our righteousness have got absolutely nothing to do with our behaviour. It has everything to do with the disobedience of Adam and the obedience of Christ.

Using the analogy of Prince Harry, we are princes even if our behaviour is unbecoming of a prince. Our behaviour can change (as evidenced by Prince Harry risking his life for his country on the frontline in Afghanistan) but our status remains constant.

As we discover and understand who we truly are in Christ through reading the scriptures and listening to anointed preaching , the Holy Spirit will do a work in us and help us to conform to the image of Christ.

Romans 8:29 (NKJV)
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Divine Appointment

Yesterday, my recently-discovered ex-neighbour Kevin paid me a CNY visit. Originally, I told him to come between 12noon to 3pm but he turned up earlier around 10+ am. My family was still sleeping at that time (we had a late night ;-)) and Kevin graciously agreed to meet me at the void deck of my block.

We sat around a stone table and were happily sharing away about the grace gospel and antinomianism when we noticed an older gentleman hovering around and observing us with a little smile on his face. I was thinking that this must be a Christian brother as I felt that his smile was a knowing smile. I caught his eye and with a wide smile on his face he asked, "Are you Christians?" I said yes and we shook hands and exchanged CNY greetings. I asked him, "Which church are you from?"

"New Creation Church." came the reply. Whoa! I know NCC has a lot of members but what are the chances of meeting a fellow church member at a void deck on the morning of the second day of Chinese New Year? This must be God!

A spirit of kinship was immediately established and Bro Charlie Ng sat down and started sharing his Christian journey. He was saved at NCC seven years ago. He is 65 years now (but looks at least 5 years younger, praise God!) and a taxi-driver for the last few years.

He shared with us how God started to turn his life around at the age of 58 and now he is debt free and healthy, with seven grand children. He shared on how he depends on the leading of the Holy Spirit when driving the cab (eg. when to wait at Changi Airport for passengers and when not to) and when sharing the gospel. Bro Charlie has led over a hundred passengers to Christ in his humble cab!

Bro Charlie was sharing away when he suddenly stopped and called out to an old man who was just passing by. The old man stopped and Bro Charlie handed him a red packet. The old man didn't want to take the red packet but Bro Charlie insisted and told him God's blessing was printed on the red packet (which is produced and sold by NCC). The old man accepted it with a smile and nodded his head when Bro Charlie asked him whether he has stopped smoking.

Actually Bro Charlie knew the old man. I also recognize the old man as he lives a few floors above my flat and earns a living by roaming around our housing estate, scavenging for tin cans and cardboard boxes and other stuff that people threw away to sell to the recycling company.

Bro Charlie told us that he saw this old man around the neighbourhood late one night. Bro Charlie approached him and asked him for a tin can. He was reluctant because it took a lot effort for him to find it. However, he was finally persuaded to hand over a tin can, and Bro Charlie stuffed a few currency notes into the can opening before handing the can back to him again. The old man was very surprised at Bro Charlie's gesture and let down his guard and chatted with Bro Charlie. Bro Charlie then advised him to quit smoking and not squander away his very hard-earned money on costly cigarettes.

This really warmed my heart and opened my eyes to how to share the gospel. Often times, many Christians (including me) want to immediately "sell" Jesus to non-Christians and expect them to see the truth straight away. However, Bro Charlie has shown that sometimes great patience is required. We need to first let non-Christians see Christ in us by our loving and caring. Then when the right time comes along, we can share the gospel message with them as the Spirit leads based on the mutual trust that has been established.

Bro Charlie has been a Christian for only the last seven years but what great wisdom he has compared to some of us who have been Christians for many years. Truly, I see the grace of God in him and if I may say so, truly a great example of a Christ-centered antinomian!


Afternote:
After Bro Charlie left, Kevin came up to my home and upon his request, I showed him how easy it was to set up a blog and Kevin proved this by posting his very first article today! The title - "Divine Appointment" ;-)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dear Anonymous (26Jan2009_0533hrs)

A fellow Christian (I guess) brother or sister (I can't even guess because he/she did not leave a name) commented on my article, "Confess Your Sins To Be Forgiven (1)" on 26Jan09:

Matthew 6:14,15

18:23-35(34,35)-unforgiving servant

James 5:15.....And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; AND IF HE HAVE COMITTED SINS, THEY SHALL BE FORGIVEN HIM

1Jn 1:9 Prov. 28:13
Heb. 10:26-29 1Pet. 1:9,10

January 26, 2009 5:33 AM


Since the kind bro/sis did not say anything at all but chose to merely list those verses, I cannot reasonably know what his/her viewpoint actually is. However, after reading those verses, I think maybe he/she does not agree with I wrote in the article i.e. all our sins - past, present and future - have been forgiven and therefore we do not need to keep confessing our sins in order to be forgiven.

Nevertheless, I will try to tackle those verses listed and see how they fit into my article:

********************************************************************

Matthew 6:14,15 (NIV)
14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 18: 34-35 (vv23-35: parable of the unforgiving servant)
34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”


The passage of Matt 18:23-35 records Jesus' telling of the parable of the unforgiving servant, and serves to illustrate the same point made in Matthew 6:14-15, that is, you have to forgive others so that your Heavenly Father will forgive you. It should be noted that those words by Jesus were recorded in the book of Matthew which was written to the Jews who were under the Law.

The Law is all about man doing his part first and then God will do his part, therefore when Jesus spoke to the Jews before his finished work on the cross, he spoke to them in the context of the Law which means that you have to forgive others first before God forgives you.

However after his death and resurrection, Jesus taught through Paul in Colossians 3:13 that we forgive others because we have been forgiven - "Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others."

We are now like the debtor that Jesus mentioned in another parable in Luke 7 - we love much because we have been forgiven much.

Luke 7:41-43 (NASB)
41"A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
42
"When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?"
43
Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have judged correctly."

********************************************************************

James 5:15
(NASB)
and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.


Let's look at the above verse in its context - James 5:14-16:

14Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;

15and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

16Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

I am not sure what point Ms Anonymous is trying to make by quoting James 5:15. The context of James 5:15 is about praying for the sick by the elders of the church. The verses seem to suggest that certain cases of illness may be the consequence of sins committed against others, and together with the healing, the sick person also receives his forgiveness from the elders when they pray over him. Therefore, v16 says confess your sins to one another, not confess to God as they pray over one another for healing.

I must admit that I am not totally clear about the meaning of the above verses but one thing that is clear is that v16 does not say confess your sins to God but says confess to one another.

********************************************************************

Prov. 28:13 (NIV)

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

The above verse does not specifically say "whoever confesses to God". I believe the verse does not refer to God because the first part of the verse says "He who conceals his sins". How can we conceal our sins from our all-seeing God who knows everything? We can only attempt to conceal our sins from our fellow humankind.

Therefore, my interpretation of the verse is that when a person who has committed wrongs against others, if instead of trying to conceal those sins, he confesses and renounces his sins to them, he will be able to obtain mercy from them.

********************************************************************

Heb. 10:26-29 (NKJV)

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?


The book of Hebrews is actually an epistle written to address the Jews as Hebrews 1:1 refers the reader to "our forefathers" - "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,"

The context of Hebrews 10 is the revealing of the truth of Christ’s sacrifice for sins once for all to the Jews (i.e. Hebrews).

What “sin willfully” in Hebrews 10:26 means is that after the Jews have received the knowledge of the truth of Christ’s sacrifice, they still reject this truth and stick to the animal sacrifices under the Law. By doing so, they are then sinning willfully.

Since Christ is the once for all sacrifice, the animal sacrifices cannot save them ("there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins"), what they can look forward to will then only be “a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”

Therefore, v29 in the above passage is not referring to Christians but rather the Jews who still want to cling on to Judaism and reject Christ's blood as their ultimate sacrifice for sins, and thus "insulted the Spirit of grace".

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1Pet. 1:9-10 (NKJV)
9receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,


Again, I am not sure what point Ms Anonymous is trying to make by quoting the above verses. What I can see in v10 is that our salvation is by grace. Amen!

********************************************************************

Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy Lunar New Year


Hi everybody, I'm taking a break from blogging to recharge my batteries and enjoy a Happy Lunar New Year.


I wish you all a
year filled with an abundance of grace, joy and peace!



恭喜發財
新年快樂


(by the way, the pic on the left was taken with my "brand new" 9-megapixel camera)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lessons From Sending My Digicam For Repair

I sent my 8-megapixel digital camera in for repair last month. As it was less than a year old and still under warranty, I did not expect to pay any repair charges. A few hours after I dropped off my camera, the technician called me back and informed me that it could not be economically repaired because the circuit board was badly corroded and corrosion is not covered under the warranty.

I was very upset and told the technician that I was very disappointed with his brand of cameras which can be so easily spoilt even though I seldom used it and had taken good care of it. The technician told me that the camera must have come into contact with water but he would try his best to salvage the camera.

Later, I asked my son, who was the last person to use the camera, whether he had dropped it into water. He confessed that after his school excursion, he had actually dumped his schools shorts with the camera inside the pocket into a pail of soapy water meant for soaking dirty laundry.

Immediately, I prayed to God for his unmerited favour. I asked God to please repair my camera free of charge even though I don't deserve it because the camera was spoilt due to my son's carelessness. One week later, the technician called me back to inform me that he had repaired my camera by changing the circuit board, free of charge out of goodwill. Praise God for his unmerited favour! ---> Lesson No. 1

2 days ago, I went to the technical office to collect my camera. The technician again stressed to me that the corrosion damage is not covered under warranty but he changed the circuit board free of charge for me. I thanked him (and God in my heart) again for his kindness.

The technician switched on the camera to demonstrate that the camera is now functional and then pointing to the LCD screenviewer of the camera he said,"See, in fact I am giving you a brand new camera because I have upgraded it from the original 8-megapixel to a brand new 9-megapixel circuit board." Whoa! This is a demonstration of exactly what Pastor Lian preached last Sunday - God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20) ---> Lesson No. 2

If the technician did not tell me about it, I would not have known that effectively I had upgraded my old 8-megapixel digicam to a brand new 9-megapixel one because externally, the camera looks exactly the same as before.

Similarly, we need more and more preachers like Pastor Prince who tell us that after we have received Christ, we are no longer our old selves - our old corroded circuit boards have been removed and replaced with brand new higher grade circuit boards! Externally we still look like our same old selves (although in time that will also change, from glory to more glory) but effectively we are a new creation, the righteousness of God in Christ! (2 Cor 5:21) ---> Lesson No. 3

Finally, the most important lesson of all is this: never, Never, NEVER, NEVER dump your camera into a pail of water! ---> Lesson No. 4

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Teaser - What's wrong with this picture?


Malcolm got it right (see his comment) - the "CNY Gift" in the above advertisement is not really a gift because you have to top up $100 to the $899 CNY WOW price (i.e. you have to pay $999) to receive the "gift".

Check out Dictionary.com's definition for gift:
1. something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.
2. the act of giving.
3. something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned: Those extra points he got in the game were a total gift.
4. a special ability or capacity; natural endowment; talent: the gift of saying the right thing at the right time.
–verb (used with object)
5. to present with as a gift; bestow gifts upon; endow with.
6. to present (someone) with a gift: just the thing to gift the newlyweds.

Of particular relevance to our discussion today is definitions 1 and 3. Notice that a gift requires no payment at all from the recipient and it is given voluntarily by the giver i.e. a gift is free.

Looking at the above advertisement, the discerning consumer will know that the "CNY Gift" of a laser printer is not really a gift; it is merely a discount given on the laser printer - therefore it is not a truly fantastic deal.

Perhaps because we are so used to this type of "not-so-fantastic deal" so commonly offered by the world, we cannot bring ourselves to believe it when we hear of the truly fantastic deal offered by God.

When we hear that God has already forgiven ALL our sins - past, present and future - we say,"Heresy! How can that be? Does that mean we can sin all we want and still go to heaven?" Actually, yes you can! (please read this article before you suffer a heart attack from all the indignance welling up inside you)

When we hear that God will not ever get angry with us anymore even when we sin, we say,"Heresy! How can that be? Does that mean we can sin all we want and God will not punish us?" Actually, yes you can because God exacted all the punishment meant for us on Jesus at the cross. (again, please read this article before you suffer a heart attack from all the indignance welling up inside you)

We accept it as normal when we hear preachers say we must sacrifice, we must give up something to God, we must do this, we must do that ... but when we hear that there is nothing for us to do except to believe, we say,"Heresy! This is just an excuse for lazy Christians!"

What does the bible say?

Romans 6:23 (NLT)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:17 (NLT)
For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Romans 4:4-5 (NLT)
When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

John 3:16 (NLT)
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.


The advertiser saw nothing wrong with the above advertisement and published it because we all have been conditioned to accept that we have to pay a price (albeit sometimes a subsidised price as in the case of the laser printer) for everything.

Yes, I agree that is true but get this into your head, my fellow Christians: the price for the gift has been paid by the giver, the receiver does NOT have to pay! God paid for our salvation by giving His only Son, Jesus.

Our God is not a cheapskate - if He expects payment from you, then it is not a gift.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

ANTINOMIANISM

Rev Peter Koh, the then senior pastor of Paya Lebar Methodist Church published an article entitled 
"Salvation Made Easy? A Look Into Antinomianism" in his church magazine, "The Beacon". The following are my comments on that article:


My Comments (1)

My Comments (2)

My Comments (3)

My Comments (4)

My Comments (5)

My Comments (6)

My Comments (7)

My Comments (Conclusion)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Antinomianism - Conclusion

Before I begin my concluding comments, let me reiterate my stand which I have established in earlier posts.  Firstly, I am a Christ-centered antinomian as defined by J.I Packer in his book, Concise Theology i.e. I am united with Christ, I am in Christ and God sees no sin in me as He sees me through Christ.  Secondly, the other five categories of antinomians as defined by J.I Packer are not true Christians.  Therefore, my following comments are made from the view-point of Christ-centered antinomianism.

After reviewing the whole article, I think the writer is trying to make the following points:
  1. A Christian is justified by grace through faith alone but he needs the moral law of God as a guide to holy conduct.
  2. A Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit who enables him to obey the moral law of God.
  3. Keeping the law is the sure evidence of a Christian who is justified by grace through faith alone.
  4. Antinomianism is a doctrine that preaches lawlessness and that you can go to heaven while sinning to your heart's content which therefore encourages a Christian to sin.
I think the writer is sadly mistaken and I'm afraid many others too fall into the same trap because of the following the reasons:


I. The Writer Esteems The Law Lightly

What? How can one who believes that Christians need the law as a guide for holy conduct be considered as esteeming the law lightly?  This is precisely why I say he is esteeming the law lightly; he has reduced the law to a mere code of conduct.

The writer does not understand that the law is a covenant between God and man (Exodus 19:5).  It is a covenant that promises great blessings if you keep it and severe punishment if you violate it. God himself esteems this covenant greatly - God's heart wants to bless but He is bound by the covenant to curse if the law is violated - and knowing that man definitely cannot keep the covenant i.e. obey the law, He incorporated blood sacrifices to cover all the trespasses of the law.
  
The law is a single intergrated system, a single covenant which God has cut with man. The law cannot be broken down to various components such as "moral law" and "ceremonial law", etc and viewed independently.   
 
The writer, as do many others as well, reasons that Jesus' sacrifice has replaced the blood sacrifices i.e. "ceremonial law" and therefore we can now try to keep the "moral law" because we no longer need to fear punishment in case of failure since Jesus has taken care of that.

This line of reasoning is flawed.  Firstly, the very nature of law is that for a law to have an effect (i.e. people will obey the law), it has to come attached with punishment as a consequence of failure to obey.  

Let's say the Singapore government announces that all fines imposed for exceeding the speed limit on the first day of Chinese New Year will be waived, then effectively the government is saying that the law governing speed limits has been suspended for that day. Similarly, if you say Jesus has taken care of the punishment for violating the law, then effectively there is no more law to keep.

Take a look at Romans 5:13 (HSCB) - In fact, sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to one's account when there is no law.  

The verse says that when there is no law, sin is not charged to one's account i.e. you don't have to pay any penalty for sin since you are not breaking any law. However, from another angle you can also say that when sin is not charged to one's account i.e. you don't have to pay any penalty for sin, there is in reality no law at all.

Secondly, Jesus' once for all time sacrifice on the cross replaces the whole covenant, not just "ceremonial law" as the writer believes. I have said before that the law is a single covenant and hence cannot be divided up into individual components which can be replaced individually. Jesus' sacrifice cancels the old covenant of the law and establishes a new covenant of grace.

Hebrews 10 : 8-10 (NLT)
8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.      

This leads me to my second point:


II. The Writer Esteems Jesus Lightly

I say the writer esteems Jesus lightly because he puts Jesus on the same level of bulls and goats. While Hebrews 10:9 says that Jesus' sacrifice has abolished the law and thereby put into effect a new covenant, one founded on better promises (Hebrews 8:6), the writer sees Jesus' sacrifice as merely taking the place of bulls and goats.  

Hebrews 10:12-14 (NLT)
12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand13 There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. 14 For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.

God fully esteems Jesus and his finished work on the cross, and seats Jesus in the place of honour at His right hand.  Jesus' one offering FOREVER MADE PERFECT us who are BEING made holy.  We are forever made perfect in God's eyes, which is why I can boldly say, "Yes, I can sin all I want and yet go to heaven!"

Before you start pointing an accusing finger at me, please take note that I did NOT say,"I want to sin all I can".  I said,"I can sin all I want".  Can you see the difference?

Since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!  God's grace teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Romans 6:15, Titus 2:12)

Although I do sin now and then, I do not want to sin - in fact, I want to do good but because of the flesh, I do not do what I want and end up doing what I hate.  Sounds familiar? Paul says the same thing in Romans 7:15 - I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 

This struggle to holy conduct is an ongoing process as it says in Hebrews 10:14 - we are "being made holy."  We are already made perfect through Jesus but we are constantly being made holy.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to help us do that.

This leads me to the third point:


III. The Writer Esteems The Holy Spirit Lightly

The writer says that we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit to obey the law.  I say the life-giving Holy Spirit does not enable us to obey the law for the just requirement of the law has been fully satisifed for us through Christ.  The Holy Spirit frees us from the power of sin!

Romans 8:1-4 (NLT)
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
 

God says He will put His laws in our hearts, and will write them on our minds (Hebrews 10:16).  What exactly are the laws that He put in our hearts? Romans 5:5 says "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit". Therefore, the Holy Spirit helps us to love with God's love and teaches us how to do it (John 14:26).

The law says thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not lie, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt murder but Jesus simply says, "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you." (Matthew 7:12) Love does no wrong to others so love fulfills the requirements of the law (Romans 13:10).  The Holy Spirit teaches us how to love.


IV. The Writer Does Not See What God Sees

Reading the article, I keep seeing the same refrain in various guises:
"You lose nothing while you are on your way to heaven. You can be lawless and go to heaven."

"So the believer is therefore able to violate God's law. lt makes no difference to God. But that is all pure nonsense, isn't it?"

"The moral law of God is not our guide to holy conduct. In fact, we probably must demonstrate that we are orthodox, that we believe in salvation by grace through faith, by violating God's law."

"They taught this "salvation made easy" idea, that you can go to heaven while sinning to your heart's content as you live in this world!"

"The preachers are telling them, "You can be a Christian and sin." Everybody likes that, because there is pleasure in sin. Everyone is interested in it."

"These teachers were teaching that it was okay to sin to your heart's content. You were still saved."


The writer, by all the above statements, is doing what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 5:16 as evaluating others from a human point of view.  He does not see what God sees.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says that "anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" God sees us as a new creation, the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The writer still sees us (including himself?) as our old selves, ready to dive into sin at every opportunity.  He does not see that we no longer live according to the sinful nature but walk according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4).  He does not see that we have died to sin and therefore no longer live in it (Romans 6:2).

The writer does not see that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4)


Conclusion

In conclusion, let me say that keeping the law is NOT the sure evidence of a Christian who is justified by grace through faith alone.  LOVE is the evidence of a Christian who is justified by grace through faith alone.  John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, recorded what Jesus said in John 13:35 - "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Finally, let me leave a word of caution for all those who insist that they want to observe the law:

Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people. (Deut 9:6)

You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! (Acts 7:51)

Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. (Deut 10:16)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Antinomianism - Comments (7)

I shall continue with my comments of a few more of the scripture references in the antinomianism article.

Take heed of 1 John 2:18-19 that says, "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us." In other words, antinomians are antichrists. These were antinomian leaders, antinomian teachers, and they were kicked out. They were disciplined. They were sent out from the church of Jesus Christ in order that the church is kept pure. Antinomianism is a heresy!

I don't know how the writer is able to make the leap from the reading of the above verses to the conclusion that antinomians are antichrists.  To be honest, I don't know how to explain who "the many antichrists" are just from reading the above verses.

Nevertheless, how can antinomians be labeled as antichrists since at the beginning of his article, the writer has very clearly defined antinomianism as being "against the law" and hence antinomians are those who are "anti-law", rather than "anti-christ.". 

The writer referred to J.I Packer's categorization of "Christ-centered Antinomianism" which defined such antinomians as those who believe that they are in Christ and God sees no sin in them as He sees them through Christ.  I wonder how a Christ-centered antinomian can be in Christ and yet be antichrist at the same time.   

Perhaps the writer is referring to the other categories of antinomians which I have established in my earlier posts (see here and here) that they cannot be considered as Christians but judging from the spirit of his writing, I think the writer intended to include Christ-centered antinomians as well.


Furthermore in 1 John 3:7, John says, "Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray." Friends, antinomianism is not the way of God. It is wandering away from the straight path that God has revealed to us, which is the path of righteousness. "He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." There were teachers and leaders in New Testament churches who were heretics. They taught this "salvation made easy" idea, that you can go to heaven while sinning to your heart's content as you live in this world!

The same thing was said in 2 Peter. 2 Peter, like Jude, was written to combat this heresy of antinomianism. In 2 Peter 2:19, we read: "They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity - for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him." This was the essence of their teaching. No wonder churches, especially those that only preach grace, are filled with people. The preachers are telling them, "You can be a Christian and sin." Everybody likes that, because there is pleasure in sin. Everyone is interested in it.


1 John 3:7 just says simply,"do not let ANYONE lead you astray".  I think that "anyone" also includes the writer himself.  The writer says that there were teachers and leaders in NT churches who were heretics teaching "salvation made easy", that you can go to heaven while sinning to your heart's content.

I have dealt in depth with this "you can go to heaven while sinning to your heart's content" issue in an earlier post so I will just briefly address it here.  The key word to take note here is not "sinning" but rather "heart".  When a Christ-centered antinomian's heart is full of Jesus, that heart will not be thinking of sinning to its content.  In fact, he will want to do what is right, just like Paul in Romans 7:15 (NLT): I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.  

However, I want to highlight that Paul was more concerned about the church re-embracing the law after receiving Christ, even to the extent of confronting Peter:

Galatians 2:11-21 (NIV)
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

Galatians 3:1-3 (NIV)
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

Paul has consistently argued against observing the law after we have been made righteous before God through faith in Christ.  Paul has also stated consistently that when he says there is no need to observe the law, he is not promoting sin (Gal 2:17, Rom 6:1-2,15, Titus 2:11-12).


What is God saying to people who practice antinomianism? 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." What does Revelation 21: 8 say? "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

The writer indicated that he is quoting 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 but the quotation within the quotation marks actually quote only v9 and v10; the writer left out v11, intentionally or a genuine mistake?

Let's take a look at the full quotation with v11 (which I have highlighted in bold) included :

9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 

When you read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 in context, v11 shows that Paul was not talking to "people who practice antinomianism".  Paul was addressing the whole Corinthian church. In v11, Paul said, "that is what some of you were"  i.e. some of the people used to be sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers , etc but they were no longer like that because they had been washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Paul is telling the Corinthian church to stop those evil acts since they have been justified in Christ.  They are to live out new lives as the righteousness of God, and not live their old lives again.  Paul repeated this theme in his second letter to the Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 5:15-17 (NLT)
15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 
16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 
17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

The writer also quotes Revelation 21:8 to imply that antinomians are "the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars" who will go to hell.  And rightly so, if  you consider those other categories of antinomians whom I have established earlier are not really Christians at all.  However, Christ-centered antinomians are true Christians and we (I say "we" because I consider myself to be a Christ-centered antinomian) will be in heaven. 

The writer assumes that those who say they do not need to observe the law as a guide to holy life (ie. "people who practice antinomianism") are embracing license to sin and will descend into a sinful lifestyle.  He is doing exactly what Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:16 - evaluating others from a human point of view.  He does not see what God sees - we are the righteousness of God in Christ! (2 Corinthians 5:21)