The Other Martin of the German Reformation: Martin Bucer

Speaking of Reformed “dead guys”, there are some who are not only dead but forgotten. And that is our loss. Some who come to mind are Martin Bucer, David Pareus and Matthius Flaccius. Bucer, the other “Martin” of the German Reformation, was right there with Luther, Zwingli and Melanchthon through most of those frenzied early decades of the continental Reformation.

He was at times befriended, at other times distrusted, by the more famous Martin. His “problem” was that he wanted the various factions of the Reformers to be unified in the face of opposition from both State and from Rome. At times he was too pragmatic, like when he (along with Melanchthon and Luther, however) assured their local leader – I think it was Philip the Confessor – that he could have a second wife! And citing the Old Testament as precedent! But he later repented of this.

Where Bucer really shines IMO is in his carrying over his work into England, having been banished from Strasburg (along with his partner, Paul Fagius) for not going along with the compromise of 1548 with Roman Catholics (It was officially called the “Augsburg Interim”, but the name is not the thing).

It was in England that Edward VI, young heir of Henry VIII, eager to put God’s truth into action, asked him for help in carrying along true Reformed principles in the kingdom newly entrusted to him. The last, best labor that Bucer brought out for this young king was his “De Regno Christi” (“The Kingdom of Christ”). Shortly afterward he died. Bucer’s fellow-fugitive, Fagius, also died about this same time (of the plague, I believe). Unfortunately Edward died also, very soon afterwards. He died young, being replaced (after a tragic interim) with the vicious “Bloody Mary”, who promptly disinterred the bones of both Bucer and Fagius.

God’s purposes and working are truly beyond our understanding. Here was the opportunity for the German Reformation to bear wonderful fruit in England. But instead – after just a couple years – all of these, the advisors and the regal advisee – died. And [ Cue music]…along comes Mary!

But God knows what He’s doing.

As far as Bucer’s writings is concerned, Brittanica Encyclopaedia tells us “The definitive edition of the collected works of Bucer is now in progress”. I look forward to that.

Some sources that may interest you printed and online (read with discernment):

Written:
“The British Josiah”, N.A. Woychuk, 2001 (SMF Press)

Online:
Martin Bucer | Biography, Influence, & Legacy
http://www.tlogical.net/biobucer.htm
David Pareus – Wikipedia
http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/martin_bucer.htm
http://chi.gospelcom.net/…/2002/10/daily-10-21-2002.shtml
Google Books (English Synopsis of Bucer’s Latin Commentary on John)
http://www.reformationucc.org/…/martin-bucer-a…/
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Martin Bucer

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Thinking About God

Have you ever stopped to consider that how we think of God affects our lives in every way?
“I was afraid of you“, said the wicked servant to his master (who represents God in this parable) in the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 19). Then he acted accordingly by burying the gifts that his Master gave him and turned away from him in fear and distrust.

We know that God does not hear sinners…”, said the ignorant experts of religion in John 9 and missed the opportunity to turn from their dead religion to the Righteous One who (whether they believed it or not) did come to seek lost sinners.

This is your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt“, affirmed Aaron, pointing to the Golden Calf (Exodus 32: 4). They had yet to realize just how different their God was from the other “gods”!

But then there are those who did think rightly about God and came to know Him:

Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”, Abraham reasoned (Genesis 18:25). He knew that God would not…could not be unjust in anything that He did.

I know that my Redeemer lives“, Job insisted (Job 19:25) and wasn’t shaken in his faith by the sudden tragedy of the loss of his family and possessions.

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…”. This is how Moses learned to think of God. Read the whole passage from Exodus 34: 5 – 7.

“To whom shall we go?: was Peter’s response when Christ asked if they, too, would desert Him. Peter added, “You have the words of eternal life.”

The life of Christ in the New Testament shows us God in the flesh.
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…..I am in the Father and the Father is in me.
(John 14: 9 – 11)

Why is it important to think rightly about God?
Think about this question a bit. Don’t give the first answer that comes to mind. Considering the witness of all those mentioned above, to think rightly about God, to understand and believe in who He really is leads to eternal life! Can you see why this is crucial for every one of us?

This is life eternal that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (The words of Christ Himself in John 17: 3).

But it may be that, far from really knowing and far from even thinking about eternal life, you are afraid of God. Maybe you are putting off dealing with Him till the last possible minute. Maybe your conscience convinces you that you can never be close to Him, or trust Him.

Let me tell you some Good News!

God does hear the prayer of sinners.

Christ did come into this world to save those who are aware of their sins and shortcomings.

In fact there is no other way to God the Father but through His Son, Jesus Christ. (Read Acts 4: 12)

Do you want to be right with God? Then consider this verse:
If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7: 37 – 38)

Believe the Good News that Christ died for your sins. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (Jas. 4: 8)

Maybe you feel that you’ve done so many things wrong in your life that surely God would want nothing to do with you. But that is exactly the attitude to have when you come to God! Christ promised, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9: 13)

Do you want to know that your sins are forgiven? Do you want to have a new start in this life and the promise of eternal life? Do you want to learn to know God as your Lord and Friend? Then pray to Him in your own words, confessing your sin to Him. Ask Jesus Christ to come into your life and change you from the inside out.

Believe in God’s wonderful promises and you will begin to discover a new life of joy, meaning and purpose. Then ask God to lead you to fellow Christians. And read your Bible to grow in faith. Remember Peter’s words:

“To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

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I Pledge Allegiance to …

I once taught in a school that started every day with the Pledge of Allegiance. For many of the students, in Paul Simon’s words, it was merely a Pledge of Allegiance “to the wall”. I do not believe that we should have this pledge any more. Not that I am Anti-American, but pro-American (as far as allegiance to an earthly country is called for).

Side note: In this school we also pledged allegiance to the Texas flag. Imagine the divided devotion of pledgers should Texas ever secede from the Union!

Question to those of you who argue for the Pledge of Allegiance: Which one of the writers of the Federalist Papers would have supported this pledge – an innovation of centuries later? Or which of the other founding fathers would have supported it?

Another reason I am against even having a pledge is that it is all symbol and no substance. Instead of wasting time forcing students to mouth words for which they have no understanding or frame of reference why not focus more on teaching the Constitution (warts and all) and writings like the Federalist Papers? Why not teach, carefully and honestly, a history of our country, including both high and low points, examples exemplary as well as those cautionary?

Of course, this is what I tried to do with my students when I was in Texas – teaching, carefully and honestly, a history of our country, including both high and low points – instead of teaching from a simplistic, supposedly Christian, textbook. And the result was my being forced out of the school.

A kind of funny memory I have from this school (which still has lots of good memories for me). I was teaching American history and going off script (that is, not sticking to the textbook talking points) about US involvement in the Philippine War over a century ago, the title of the chapter something like “Reaching for Glory”. As I was highlighting several unsavory events that our military was involved in a student in the front row raised his hand. He asked me, “Are you a Christian?“And with a straight face too. In the minds of many of these junior high kids everything involving our armed forces is necessarily an extension of our Christianity.

Maybe for them the pledge makes perfect sense. A Shibboleth for our times. The American Eagle flying in midheaven with an eternal gospel of democracy for the world. Maybe for them the two allegiances are fused into one – Americanity.

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Who was the Man of Sin?

And what about “Antichrist” usually termed “THE Antichrist”?

First of all the Bible does not explicitly state there is an Antichrist (singular). According to John this may have been a confusion already in his time:

18, Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
19, They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Notice that not only John corrects a misunderstanding but that he also uses the present tense. The presence of many antichrists show that, at the time of this writing, AD 61-62, it was already “the last hour” (YLT)*

The falling away is the apostasy of the Jews who had previously professed the faith. Their defection was not immediately apparent, just like tares among wheat are not immediately obvious. What made it the “last days” was a persistent and long-lasting turning away from the truth. And these lands, Judea and through much of the Diaspora, had great exposure to the Truth, Those finally settling down into a hatred for the New Wine were exactly the people these later epistles (John, Jude, Peter, Pastorals) are addressed to.

The Man of Sin possibly could be Nero. That would fit the description pretty well.He certainly was a moral mess. But his sinful life was fairly well hidden at first. This was partly because of the better influences of his mother and wife, and his teachers Seneca and Burrus. But after a few years the real Nero came out. In a few years he killed all these people. It might very well be that Seneca was the restrainer that Paul had in mind in 2 Thess. 2:7:

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”

Another possibility (more likely, I think) is Eleazar Ben Ananias. He gained the ascendancy in the Temple when he killed his own father, Ananias of Acts 22. He would have been the restraining influence. Interestingly, Paul had said eight years earlier, “God is about to strike you, you whitewashed wall!” It was right after the death of the father that the son “went off on a nut”. You can read all about it in Josephus.

NOTE: According to some we have been in the last days – and last hour – for almost 2 thousand years. Does that make sense? The whole period of the Jewish Dispensation, from Sinai to the 1st century AD, is only 1,500 years.

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The Heavens and Earth: Matt. 5:18 in Covenant Context


“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled”.Matthew 5:18

We bring so much of our own worldview into Scripture that we have a hard time understanding Bible terminology. And many churches today do not help the situation. They are New Testament churches – in the worst sense. They teach the New Testament as a stand-alone revelation, disconnected from the foundational background that gives meaning to much of the New Testament.

Case in point is the “heaven and the earth”. No, “heaven and earth” do not exist today. Not the “heaven and earth” that Jesus was speaking about in Matt. 5:18. Those heavens and earth refer to the Jewish dispensation.

“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: “I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me;”Isaiah 1:1-2

Now, is God speaking to all of the Earth here? Is He speaking to the heavens? No. He is speaking to Israel; according to context, to “Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah”.

“But I am the LORD your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared; The LORD of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You
are My people.'”Isaiah 51:15-16

When did God create the Heavens and Earth? According to this passage it was after He divided the Red Sea. Notice the tenses – “That I may plant…” No, I am not denying the physical creation as described in Genesis 1, but that is not the topic here. And – once again, focusing on this passage in Isaiah – what were the
accompanying results?

1. The planting of the heavens,
2. The laying of the foundations of the earth, and
3. The saying to Zion, “You are My people”.


It is this “heavens and earth” Jesus is referring to in Matt. 5:18.

Peter, writing three decades later, but still before the Parousia, describes this same heavens and earth:

“But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter. 3:7

Peter is looking forward to the time that Isaiah had written of:

“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” Isaiah 65:17

Peter looked forward to an event that we now look back on. An event whose present reality we are blessed with. But once again, most have a hard time appreciating the context of Christ’s, Peter’s, and Isaiah’s words because we are so attuned to our own understanding of the phrase “heavens and earth”, not the Scriptural intent.

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Faith and FAITH: Studies in the Gospel of John

In reading John’s Gospel I have been seeing some interesting verses about faith; that there are, at least, two levels of faith. In describing both of these faiths John often just uses the regular word, PISTIS. Yet only the second level proves to have been real and saving faith. The first faith is one that is common to all believers (but which they graduate through) but also to others who prove later to be obvious unbelievers.

Here are some verses from John that seem to imply the two forms, or phases, of faith. Some are admittedly implicit, but others are quite clear.

John 8:30- 33
Verse 30 states explicitly that “many believed in Him” as he spoke to them. But what did Jesus tell these “believers”? (30- 31)

“If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” These “believers” still needed to be free. They still had to know the truth. How did they respond to this statement of Jesus? (31) They refuted Him. Later in the chapter they grossly insult Christ (41, 48) and try to stone Him (59). These “believers” became reprobate, and were the worse off for having heard Jesus.

John 6:61- 64
Nothing like a good meal to stimulate discussion. And this was a miraculous one! The 5000 were fed miraculously by the Bread of Life – and (v. 15) they wanted to make the Breadmaker king! But the important detail here is that they had made a confession about Christ (14) and expressed a desire to “work the works of God” (28). They showed a certain amount of belief – though this chapter never calls them believers. But Jesus tells them that the true work of God is true belief (29). But within this group of 5000 (those who go from being well-fed to “fed up”) there is a second smaller group, called “disciples” (60). When Christ spoke pointedly about our need to “eat His flesh” and “drink His blood”, or else we have no life in us (53) and that he is the living Bread (58) they no longer walked with Him (6:66 – an easily memorized verse number!). They had walked with Christ, listened to Him, probably even spoke approvingly to others about Him – and now they desert Him when He discloses the very foundation of their professed new life!

John 4:50, 53
Here is a happier example. The nobleman come to Jesus and asks for Christ to heal his son. Jesus tells Hm to go, and that his son lives (50). The man “believed the word”. But when he went home and actually saw the healing, and the exact timing of it (precisely at the moment of Christ’s speaking) he “believed” – again (33), “and his whole household”. The first belief was somewhat akin to the well-fed 5000 to their “Wonder bread”, but this second one has all the marks of true faith.

John 16:30- 33
Jesus speaks here to His own eleven disciples. After a tenuous confession from them (30) Jesus probes them (31), “Do you now believe?” and adds “The hour is coming …in which… you will leave me alone…”. So their faith here needs work. They assumed more confidence than they had, as events proved. We may confess the sweetest allegiance with lips but Jesus, the Heart-knower (KARDIAGNOSTES) knows what is in us to a fault. We are better off confessing than impressing.

Here are some other verses worth looking into:
John 4:42: The Samaritans believed first on the mere account of a woman who seemed to them decidedly untrustworthy. The second belief came from an encounter with Christ Himself.

John 12:42- 43 is about the rulers who believed in Christ, but never confessed Him out of fear of the Pharisees. This level of faith can’t be saving (see 43).

See also John 20:31.

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Old Testament: Eschatology or Christology?​


Of course, the correct answer to the question is: Both. There is both eschatology and Christology in the Old Testament. But the reason why I write this article is to point out an overlooked point. Many passages that we were taught as referring to the “end times” or the “Tribulation Period” (the quotes around those terms will be explained later) actually refer to Christ.


The problem with much of today’s futurist theology is that it muddies insight into many of the passages that refer to Christ and His work through His church. Major passages in Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah, etc. have been switched around from Messianic promises to Anti-christian prophecies and sensational (and fictional!) scenarios. In short: the main message of the Old Testament is Christ, not Antichrist. ​ A possible concession from some readers is that, although most of Old Testament prophecy pointed to Christ and the time of the Gospel, there are also double fulfilments, the latter fulfillment still to come in our time. Some readers have told me that Joel’s prophecy is like this, being fulfilled both in Acts 2 and in modern times. But this is not proven from Scripture. Yes, there are double prophecies. Isa. 7:14, for example, does have double fulfillment. But here is an important difference between the modern view of double prophecies and the Bible’s: If there is a double fulfillment, it is so that the lesser fulfillment can point to the greater fulfillment – in Christ. Most Old Testament prophecy points to Christ, to his earthly ministry, Incarnation, ministry, Calvary, resurrection, as well as to his post-ascension work as Prophet, Priest and King.


Here is the real danger of bad eschatology: Because it requires validating verses from the Bible it has no choice but to take away and neutralize many promises that speak of Christ and pour totally foreign meaning into them. By doing this they are actually dismissing their Christ-honoring purpose. The Old Testament is full of reference to Christ, and many of us miss the huge majority of these references. That is why Jesus said to the two disciples, Luke 24:25-27:


“O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”


And then he provided an important clue as to how to view the Old Testament:


“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”


The Old Testament, from Moses to all the prophets speak of “things concerning” Christ. Daniel is a prophet. Many of the passages which sensational authors are “seeing” as end-time events, Antichrist, final showdowns, etc – are actually speaking of Christ.


How many modern authors and preachers have mangled Daniel 9! Only years after being a Christian did I discover what most Christians used to always know: The Prince who is to come is Christ, not Antichrist. The Covenant that is confirmed with the many is the New Covenant in Christ. The sacrifice and offering was brought to an end when He said “It is finished!”
No wonder that the post 1st-century Jewish Rabbis drew a dark line around this chapter (as well as Isaiah 53) – it witnessed too forthrightly of their Messiah!


Many of us just need to take a moratorium from reading eschatological thrillers and junky tracts and seriously dive into Scripture – and cleanse, cleanse, cleanse away all the accumulated scum of man’s teaching that has built up in our minds.


Once the difference between what the Bible says and what John Hagee, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, John Macarthur – or any other system-driven teacher says become apparent you will be amazed at how clearly and how strongly God’s Word speaks of Christ.
Christ’s admonition to the Jews in John 5:46 also comes to mind:


“For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.”


“But”, you might counter “what about Israel? It seems that you are also doing away with many of God’s promises to His covenant people. This is replacement theology.” Israel as a nation served it’s purpose, just the same way their religion served it’s purpose.They were tools that God used. They were to point to Christ and the Cross. Once that was done, then going back to Judaism – in any form – is as much idolatry as as worshiping Nehushtan, that thing of brass (brazen serpent).


Does this do away with Israel as nation? Well, yes, in a very real sense it does. It does away with that , the erstwhile covenant-nation, in order to give the believers among that nation something infinitely better: new life in Christ (see Acts 15:11; Eph. 2:11-22). The Israel of God, the inner wall of partition having been done away in Christ, rejoices in their Messiah. This is not replacement, but fulfillment theology.


God was never interested in any land. He was “interested” in those whom He set His love on from the beginning, the elect, from both Jews and Gentiles, 1 Peter 1:2; Eph. 1:4. It was never about the land. That is just the sort of lower view that Isaiah 55 tries to correct (“My thoughts are higher than your thoughts”). The Jews (both ancient and many modern, as well as many Dispensationalists) fix their focus on the temple, the people, the Law and “this holy place” (Acts 6:13-14; John 2:18- 21; Acts 21:27- 28) . But Christ speaks rather of the Temple of His body, the church, the heavenly Jerusalem, the New Covenant and the holy nations of priests and kings – Christians! There will never ever again be a holy place. We have the promise of Christ on that, John 4:19-24.


I had a hard time, at first, in accepting this view because it went against my desire for a literal reading of the Bible. I was taught – maybe you were too – that those who see Scripture as being mainly “spiritual” are also those who “allegorize away” the “plain meaning” of Scripture – and head down the slippery slope of outright denial and unbelief. But to my relief, the opposite seemed to happen: Once I recognized the spiritual nature of Scripture it opened it up so much more to an understanding of Christ.


For many, “spiritual” is almost a pejorative word, but it really is the key to understanding God’s Word. Those who have had similar experiences know what I am talking about. People need to get back to reading their Bibles, purposefully, like they are studying for a test (which they are), diligently, interestedly (not perfunctorily), and lovingly. We need, not to be spoon-fed and path-led by pastors, goose-bumped by authors, but built up by Truth – Christ. We need to search out the Word of God like Diogenes with his lantern. He is still searching, but we have found our Honest Man. We need to read God’s Word this way. And we all need to encourage each other to do this, and to keep doing it. That is where the real preparation comes from.


As we drawn nearer to God He draws nearer to us, engracing us to live right.

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You can’t live the New Life with the Old Wife!

Wait a second. This is not marriage counseling but an important practical theological truth.

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery…”

Luke 16:14-18. This verse 18 in itself seems very clear, but what is odd – at first sight, at least – is the place we find this verse. Consider the whole context:

  1. Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.
  2. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
  3. “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.
  4. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.
  5. “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Does verse 18 have any connection to the previous passage? For that matter, does it have any connection to the verses that follow afterward? Either way, it seems to be an orphan; the idea of divorce and remarriage not fitting anywhere else in the context of which this verse is in the middle. Many commentators have picked up on this incongruity – and then proceeded to find some way to make the fit. A few even suggest that the verse has no place here, but was added by an unskillful later redactor.

It is true that God’s commands and restrictions concerning verse are an example of the law mentioned in verse 17, yet the incongruity and question remains: Why just single this one command out?

I believe that Christ, once again, is speaking spiritually – just as He did of the temple and of leaven in the previous examples. I believe that He is speaking of spiritual divorce in this passage, not a physical, personal one. A good cross-reference, I believe, is Romans 7:1-6:

  1. Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?
  2. For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.
  3. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.
  4. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
  5. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
  6. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

In these last two passages, Romans and Luke, we have identical terms: Law, divorce, wife, adultery. I believe that the application is the same in both, both referring to spiritual adultery.

Paul told the Roman Jews that they were married to the Law, and that their marriage was for life. We have been set free from the law by death. It was literally “till death do us part”. That is exactly what happened; death – Christ’s death on the cross – is what killed the believing Jews – and us. New life in Christ means first that the old life – as the old wife – died. That first marriage was a tough, exacting one. There was no satisfying the requirements of that marriage. Thank God that all things are new and old things are passed away!

Now, both Jesus and Paul warn against the absolute sin of living the new life with the old wife: Law. According to Jesus every “jot and tittle” of the Law must be followed. According to Paul we are “adulteresses” if we try to live as if we were married to Christ yet still serving under the “dominion” of that old slave-driving first wife.

But once the demands of the Law are past, through death, Hebrews 9:16-17, the new life of the New Covenant come into effect. To try to live the new life the old way is adultery – and futile. To recognize the death of all that is the key to wholeheartedly living the new life.

There are several passages like the above, which do not seem to neatly follow from the previous context. I believe too many run too readily to commentaries and study Bibles. There is a place for these, but they should not be the first thing we consult. A better course would be to first study out the passages yourself, mixing prayer with perseverance, knowing that, just as God is one, so is His Word.

It is in these seeming discrepancies that we often find most welcome and encouraging treasures.

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The Historical Blessedness and Present (and Future) Irrelevance of Jewishness


Rom. 3:1-2:
“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of
circumcision?
Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed
the oracles of God.”


Rom. 10:12-13:
“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the
same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”


We often tend to shy away from what appear to us as Bible contradictions. Though we assume that there is a reconciliation we tend to move on to other less difficult passages. But it is in these surface contradictions that we very often have important truth brought to focus.


Consider these two passages in Romans. In the first being a Jew is deemed an “advantage”. In the second there seems to be no advantage. How are these two to be reconciled? The answer, as always in these cases, is to look more closely at the text. The chief advantage for the Jew in Romans 3 is that they had the “oracles of God”. This is, of course, the Old Testament, the inspired writings that pointed Jews to, and prepared Jews for, the long-promised Messiah. This advantage ended when the purpose ended.


In the second passage we see that there is no difference between Jew or non-Jew (here, “Greek”, standing for all the rest of the Gentiles). The passage goes on to say that God will respond to those in both groups who call upon Him.


Have you noticed a key difference in both of these passages? One looks to the past,
“unto them were committed (past tense) the oracles of God.”
The other looks to the future,


“For whosoever shall call (future tense) upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (future).”


Of course, the future here is not, strictly speaking, our future; the calling [on the name of Jesus] – and the saving – of verse 13 were already happening in the time of the New Testament.


Here is a strange development: Much of Futurism does not follow this Scriptural principle. Instead many of them view Jewishness as a future (and present) advantage. They see this advantage eventually crystallizing into, among other things, reenactments of Temple sacrifices and rituals, reimposing of Levitical separations. By contrast, this same group, downplays or neglects the Jews’ historical advantage, the Oracles of God.


If they would have truly appreciated the first they would not have falsely construed the second. Not understanding properly the Old Testament, seeing its relation to the New, they do not recognize the divine deprecation of an instrument that, however blessed in it’s time, no longer has specific purpose. Both Gentiles and Jews, the Israel of God, have gone on to the better, prepared place their mutual Messiah had promised.


This is not anti-Semitism. It is realized Semitism!

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All Israel will be Saved: Romans 11:26



Did you catch the misquote in the title? No? Just wait, we will get to that.

This passage is one of the most (deservedly) famous of verses in the Bible. I don’t know how many sermons I have heard, books and web sites read, over the years that made good – or ill – use of these words in Romans 11:26.

THE POPULAR VIEW: FUTURE MASS CONVERSION OF NATIONAL ISRAEL
The most usual interpretation that I heard takes into account the verse before:

“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” Rom. 11:25

The most-common explanation of the passage is that at the time of Paul’s writing and up through our time God had switched His attention from His chosen people (national Israel) and turned it more fully on the Gentiles – all those who are not Jews. In order to flesh out this scenario other presumably related verses are pressed into service, most notably Zechariah 12:10 and Revelation 1:7:

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” Zech. 12:10

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. “ Rev. 1:7

The popular view as taught by two dispensationalists: John Macarthur and John Piper:

“So, what [Paul, in Romans 9] is saying is, Israel was set aside, yes, temporarily and partially. And in their setting aside, the riches was turned to the Gentiles. After the Gentiles fullness has come in, after the church is complete (that’s what that means) God will go back and redeem Israel. Zechariah tells us exactly how. He says, “They will look on Him whom they have pierced and they will mourn for Him as an only son.” That is an indication that their salvation comes about directly as a relationship of their focus on Jesus Christ. At that point, they will be saved. And, then He will fulfill His covenant, verse 27, He will take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, now, they have become enemies for your sake. In other words, their setting aside affected the salvation of the Gentiles. But, as touching the election, in other words, in God’s eternal purpose, they are the beloved for the Father’s sake, for God cannot change His covenant. His gifts and callings are without repentance, and so, He will bring them back. There is no question that He will bring them back. But, the bringing back has to be around the truth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Macarthur, 1980

Original page here: http://www.biblebb.com/files/macqa/1301-Q-14.htm

Closer to the gist of the text are Piper‘s comments:

“The apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 that Christians “wait for [God’s] Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Jesus is the “the Deliverer” (ton heruomenon) from God’s wrath to come. The closest parallel in the New Testament to this word “Deliverer” is found in Romans 11:26, where Paul describes how “all Israel” will be saved. Verse 26: “And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer (ho heruomenos) will come from Zion [meaning Jerusalem or the heavenly Jerusalem], he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.

“So we see that this Deliverer is Jesus Christ. He is the one who will save “all Israel,” and his salvation will be from “the wrath to come.” And the way he will do it is by “banishing ungodliness from the people,” as we see in verse 26: “He will banish ungodliness from Jacob”—that is, from all Israel. And he will forgive their sins. Verse 27: “And this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” So Israel will be saved when Jesus Christ, the deliverer, comes from Zion and (1) takes away the ungodliness—that is, the hardening—from Israel and replaces it with faith [recall verse 23, “if they do not continue in their unbelief , they will be grafted in”), and so (2) their sins will be forgiven, and (3) they will be grafted in to the tree of salvation and promise as one people with the Gentiles who believe in Jesus.

…”Now how is this going to happen? I don’t know the details, but it seems to me that Paul does mean that in connection with the second coming of Christ there will be a great turning of Israel to Christ. Just how it works, I don’t know. But I find certain prophecies very suggestive. For example, Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” And Isaiah 6:8, “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children.” And Matthew 23:39, where Jesus says to the hardened nation: “I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

“I don’t want to go beyond what is clear. So I say that I am not sure about the precise when and how of Israel’s conversion. But that it is coming and that it will be given by Jesus Christ, the deliverer who banishes ungodliness and forgives sins—of that I feel sure.
Original page here: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2004/164_All_Israel_Will_Be_Saved/

Both of these explanations have much in common. Both link together Old Testament prophecies with still-future fulfillment. Piper seems more careful to acknowledge his unsureness on just how this could possibly play out, yet nevertheless ends with certainty that the Dispensational scenario will indeed play out just as envisioned.

PROBLEMS WITH THE POPULAR VIEW

But is this the correct view? Will there be this extraordinary national conversion of Israel sometime in the future? Biblically there are several problems that come up. As we consider and deal with these problems, a better interpretation, hopefully, begins to present itself.

TEXTUAL PROBLEMS
Did you find the misquote? The problem is not in the words, but in the sentence itself. By quoting this phrase – “All Israel will be saved.” – all together like that, the impression is given that the original was one small sentence. Well, in the Bible the sentence is much more involved. And this makes a big difference.

Here is the whole sentence:


“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.” Romans 11:25 – 27

In my Greek New Testament from the beginning of verse 25 to the end of verse 27 (the quotation from Isaiah) is all one sentence. Let us work outward from our main sentence – or what we perhaps thought was a sentence! We now have: “…and so all Israel will be saved,”. “And so” can better be interpreted as “and in this way” or “and thus”. This already makes a difference because now we have to ask: In what way? The answer is twofold: both before and after the phrase. This from an earlier article of mine:
“Context: This is where many, many translations and paraphrases do us a great disservice. How? Well, they effectively isolate “All Israel shall be saved” from the rest of the sentence! Did you know that the original sentence extends both before and after that more famous sound bite? The NIV and others especially separate the previous thought, cutting the sentence up. The sentence should read:

“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and so [that is, in this manner] all Israel will be saved…”

There are two clarifications as to all of Israel’s being saved.
A. It will be “in this manner” – the manner just described in the previous phrase: It will consist of both Jew and Gentile, the latter taking advantage of a blindness of the former. These two groups, Jews and Gentiles will thus make up the total number of the redeemed, the Israel of God.

B. It will be “as it is written” – according to the two passages cited by Paul. This brings us down to the third hermeneutic principle.”

A CLOSER LOOK AT “Until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in
This phrase (Greek ACHRIS HOU) that is translated here by the word “until” can also be translated “while”. See Acts 27:33, Heb. 3:13: “but exhort one another daily, while [not, until] it is called “Today,””. So, if this interpretation is correct, the idea would be that, while part of Israel is being blinded, at the same time the Gentiles are being saved. The result of this will be that all of Israel (those who are inwardly Jews, the “Israel of God”) will be saved. I admit that a number of writers who generally have the same position as I do on Israel do not have, however, have this particular view on the word “until”. At any rate, I offer it for your consideration.

PROPHETIC PROBLEM
Whenever a prophecy from the Old Testament is written about, and when possible fulfillment of the same prophecy is put forth then, it seems to me that our attention should first be given to any passage in the New testament that claims to fulfill the prophecy. Am I being unreasonable in saying this? If we have a prophecy given – and then later in the Bible we are told “Here is the fulfillment.” shouldn’t that at least be touched upon?

Well, this is exactly what Macarthur and Piper did – or rather, didn’t do:


They both brought up Zechariah’s “They look on Me whom they pierced” (Zech. 12:10), posit Revelation 1:7 as the fulfillment – yet make no mention of John 19: 36 – 37, where the Bible says clearly that this is the fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10. Here is the passage in John, Note the underlined parts:

33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced. John 19:33 – 37

Two Scripture were fulfilled here. The one that concerns us is that second one. My question is: Why did Piper and Macarthur – and most futurists, for that matter – pass over this stated fulfillment in silence? They ought to have at least dealt with the passage, even if they believed in a double fulfillment. The fact that they made no mention of this fulfillment casts doubt upon the validity of their interpretation. We cannot ignore Scripture because it doesn’t fit our system. If John was inspired to say Zech. 12:10 was fulfilled at Calvary how dare we say otherwise?

DEFINITION PROBLEM: What is a Jew?
This a more serious problem for the opposition to contend with. Paul had already disclosed his definition of what a Jew was. Romans 2:28 – 29:

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Romans 2:28 – 29

So, many who were physically Jewish, were not really Jewish in the most meaningful sense. Additionally, in Gal. 3:26 – 29, Paul shakes up the very foundation of nationalistic Judaism by proclaiming to the Gentile Galatians …

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Gal. 3:26 – 29

There is both subtraction and addition going on here, spiritually speaking; Many who pride themselves on their Jewishness are not really Jews, spiritually speaking. On the other hand, many who were total strangers – and often treated as such by physical Jews – are now included in the commonwealth of Messianic promise and divine grace. What a turnaround this is!

THEMATIC PROBLEM
An additional and related problem is Paul’s – and the Bible’s – repeated theme, in Romans 2 and elsewhere, that there is no lasting spiritual advantage in being a Jew. God is not a “respecter of persons”. God, Jesus said, is able to raise up from the very stones “sons of Abraham“. Being a Jew was (past tense) only advantageous insofar as they were able to put to use the oracles of God (Rom. 3:2) in that that transition period of the New Testament times to embrace the New Covenant. Those who were noble, like the believing Bereans of Acts 17:11, compared those Old Testament oracles with Paul’s preaching and made the saving connection.

Not only was the Jewishness of the 1st century Israel not a spiritual advantage it became, because of their hardening themselves to the Gospel light, a damning liability. Their ritual acts and words were witnesses against themselves. By the time of the Book of Revelation they had become those “who say they are Jews, but are not” and the “synagogue of Satan”!

The point of all this is that it would be very inconsistent for all of this to change in the future for all of the Jews to saved en mass. They cannot be the synagogue of Satan in Revelation, all the while being “beloved for the sake of the fathers(Rom. 11:28). God cannot deny Himself, neither will He alter His calling of those He has chosen. This brings us to the last objection.

CONSISTENCY PROBLEM
This has to with both the nature of the Gospel, once-delivered to the saints, and to the very nature of God. Jude 3 makes an important statement concerning the Gospel:
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 3


Our salvation is a common salvation – not as in ordinary, but as in being in common. We all share the same salvation.

Our faith – the Faith of Christianity – was once for all time delivered to all Christians (‘the saints”). The perfect tense means that the results of the action, once accomplished, is permanent.

Believing that there would be a different kind of faith in the future for the mass of Jews supposedly who will come to be saved, and a salvation other than our common salvation, is contradicting the Word of God. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

Faith will always come by hearing of the Word proclaimed.
Faith will never – never – come by seeing Christ’s nail prints as He comes in the skies. If they don’t mourn now because of their offenses against God’s holiness, in common with all Christians, they will not mourn then when they are given an object lesson of their unbelief.

If they disbelieve the Word now, they will not be persuaded then by a sign. No sign will be given.

This brings us to Luke 16. The rich man in Christ’s account, after a life of ignoring God, woke up in the torment of the next life. For the first time – too late – he is awakened to his spiritual condition. He also is concerned for his brothers still living. He pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus from the dead to warn them so that they won’t share in this torment. Abraham answers that his brothers “have Moses and the prophets [today this would include more: “They have the whole Word of God”] let them hear them.” But the rich man realizes this would not be sufficient. Verse 30 – 31 complete the account:

“And he [the rich man] said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”

The last words of Abraham to the rich Jew will be my last point in this article: There is no better, or other means of coming into the Kingdom than by Christ, the Word of Life. If we do not believe the words in the Bible we have no other way to be saved. Neither will the Jews, either now or anytime in the future.

For God to save the entirety of Jews living at some point in the future would require for Him to give them an opportunity that he did not give to the rich man’s brothers. If God would do this, the rich man would have had cause to bitterly complain that God was being unfair to him.

They
were not given a sign.
They were not given a glimpse of someone warning them from the dead.
And neither will future Jews be given any such advantage.

GOSPEL 2.0?
The interpretation of Romans 11:26 that sees all of Israel in some future point of time being saved has serious and insuperable problems. That interpretation does not at all best explain the context of the verse or the passage. It ignores entirely Paul’s assertion concerning the true spiritual nature of Israel and, consequently, Jews. It overlooks Paul’s application of the cross-references in Isaiah, as well as the nature of spiritual Zion.

Even more seriously, this view would rewrite, for a certain favored future group of fortunate saints-to-be, the very nature of the Gospel. Yet, because God has made certain assurances to us concerning this Gospel and the way of salvation, the integrity of God Himself would be called into question – if there truly would be this anomalous imagined future move of God, entirely at odds with His promises to us..

Positively stated, these problems all disappear when we realize that God is currently building His Kingdom, the Zion of God, of Jews and Gentiles enjoying our common salvation. Because all those of faith are sons and daughters of Abraham they also inherit the promise given through Christ.

These promises are all attained through faith.
We read them.
The Spirit of Christ opens our eyes.
We believe them.
We live in them, rejoice in them.
Hallelujah. They are ours forever.
All the promises of God are Yes and Amen in Christ Jesus,

2 Cor. 1:20.
There are no other promises, either looked for or needed.

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