A blog about everything about teaching the Bible. "And still I will show you a more excellent way..." (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Power of Beliefs (Christ Our Creed, Part 2)

The Lord has called all who would follow Him into the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) to “speak the same thing” (1 Corinthians 1:10) as our “common confession” (1 Timothy 3:16 NAS): the gospel of Christ in truth; the only hope for a lost and dying world.

The Bible teaches Christians to have unity in belief and doctrine. On the one hand, Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10) appeals for utter agreement in “mind” (i.e. understanding) and “judgment” (rendered “opinion” in several translations), and Jesus (John 17:17ff) petitions the Father to help us be sanctified in the truth, and united to the same degree the Father and He are united. That is complete unity! Therefore, we ought to always think of the unity of all believers in all aspects of spirituality as a genuine goal. If it is not reachable previous to the Lord’s return it is not because the Lord has asked for the impossible, but because people are always going to be at different levels in their growth. Jesus will complete the unity of all true believers at his return, but until then we must constantly pray and study and then teach and correct all men until we attain that unity the Lord desires (Ephesians 4:13). This must be done with love and great patience (Ephesians 4:15; 2 Timothy 2:24-25, 4:2).

On the other hand, with all love, having exhausted every patient effort to settle the dispute otherwise, when a brother or sister stubbornly persists in spreading false doctrine or behaving in a way that is inconsistent with Christian belief, he or she must be expelled from the congregation (Romans 16:17-18; 1Corinthians 5:11-13; 2Thessalonians 3:14-15; Titus 3:10-11). Such an act of “church discipline” is born of love, desiring the repentance of the sinful one, and the protection of the weak. Let every Christian beware of reacting against a disagreeing brother hastily, or in anger (Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 4:26, 31; Colossians 3:8; James 1:19-20), remember to handle disagreements as discreetly as possible for as long as possible (Proverbs 3:21, 5:2, 8:12), and follow the Lord’s proper order (Matthew 18:15-17). While we can always patiently endure the misunderstandings of those less mature in the faith than ourselves (as we seek the patience of those more mature than we), we cannot have unity with bold, impenitent proclaimers and practitioners of that which is against Christian belief as revealed through Christ in the Scriptures. Remember, we are not trying to “be right,” or “win arguments” for pride’s sake, so always give the one with whom you may have a disagreement the space to consider the situation and change his mind with his dignity intact. 

(Excerpt from That You May Grow Thereby, Vol.3, by Tim Mitchell and Joshua Pappas. Available from Gospel Advocate, Mars Hill, DeHoff, and 21st Century Christian Bookstores.)

Christ Our Creed (Part 1)

The Apostles' Creed reads: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; the third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

The “Apostle’s Creed” did not originate with an apostle, but was compiled by men living in the Second Century (A.D.) as a statement of their understanding of apostolic doctrine. The term “catholic church,” at that time, simply referred to the universal church; not to the denomination now known by that name. With these facts in mind (so long as we understand that Mary was not a perpetual virgin) we can agree with the doctrine of the so-called Apostles’ Creed. Yet, we can only agree with it because it is consistent with Scripture. It cannot stand on its own authority. We need to learn about creeds and identify the creed by which true Christians may “test all things” (1Thessalonians 5:21).

Webster’s defines creed- “a brief authoritative formula of religious belief; a set of fundamental beliefs; also a guiding principle.” When we speak of our creed, we’re talking about a standard of right and wrong—what we believe, obey, and live by. We are also speaking about the way we live it out—that guiding principle—how we obey and live. We must have a creed! Everyone in the world lives by some creed, even if it is the creed of anarchy. Children prove our need for a creed in the natural longing for rules, boundaries and consequences that God gives them. As moral creatures we must be able to determine right from wrong objectively, and for that we need a solid, unchangeable statement of belief.

Statements of belief drafted by a man or group of men can serve a good purpose as long as everyone remembers the source and treats them accordingly. It is when men view their own formulated creeds as having authority above that of flawed men that it becomes a tool of evil. Over the next few weeks we hope to identify a basic authoritative statement of belief, and learn how to keep our own statements of it and others’ statements of their beliefs in check. 

(Excerpt from That You May Grow Thereby, Vol.3, by Tim Mitchell and Joshua Pappas. Available through Gospel Advocate, Mars Hill, and 21st Century Christian Bookstores.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Islamic Justice?

“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land… As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime...” [The Kindle Qur'an (Definitive English Edition), Islamic Studies Press, Surah 5].

The above passage is an example of Islamic justice from the Qur’an. I think it says a lot about the spirit in Islam. I’m convinced it’s evidence God didn’t write the book. God is just. He neither allows the guilty to go unpunished, nor to be punished above what his crimes demand. The death sentence for crimes like murder is undeniably just. I’m not arguing with that, but crucifixion? Cutting off opposite hands and feet? This is justice? Seems pagan to me, but the Old Law had it’s stoning, so even though I think there are important differences, I’ll tread lightly so as not to seem hypocritical.

The maiming of thieves is another matter entirely. How is it just to maim a man who did not maim his victim? If he took possessions, justice requires he restore them (with restitution to account for what the victim would have gained through use of the missing stuff). To cripple him is not a balancing of the scales. I’m sorry, it’s injustice. The Bible calls for no such barbarism! Even when the Law of Moses called for “an eye for an eye” it was not a literal call for maiming one’s fellow man. Martin Pritikin wrote, “An ‘eye for an eye,’ …was never understood to call for actual maiming of an offender. Rather, it required monetary compensation for the value of the victim’s lost eye. Likewise, although the Torah is replete with offenses that carry the death penalty, Jewish law contained so many evidentiary and procedural safeguards for criminal defendants that it rarely authorized a court to carry out an execution. In Jewish law, restitution, rehabilitation, and atonement (something akin to spiritual rehabilitation in Jewish philosophy)—and not retribution—were the primary purposes of criminal punishment” (Cardozo Law Review, Vol.28:2, 2006). Well said! I’ll stick with Biblical justice, especially since for the faithful it was fully satisfied by the death of Jesus making grace the power behind true religion. Not retribution. 

Now, a more pressing question: What constitutes “waging war against Allah and His Messenger”? Seem a little open to interpretation to you?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Anti-Christian Qur'an

In Sura 4, starting in verse 157, the Qur’an says, “They said (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah.’ But they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.” Later in the same sura it says, “Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him... Say not "Trinity.” Desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah. Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son.” [All quotes from, The Kindle Qur'an (Definitive English Edition).]

The above passages contradict what we read in the gospels. For instance, perhaps the most widely known Bible passage, John 3:16, says Jesus is God’s “only-begotten,” or “one-of-a-kind Son.” All four gospels describe the scene of Christ’s death on the cross. Matthew says he “yielded up his spirit,” and Joseph “took the body… and laid it in his own new tomb.” Mark 15 says Jesus “breathed his last” and “was dead.” Luke confirms Matthew and Mark. John wrote, “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.” (19:32-35). There’s no doubt what the gospels say. The Qur’an denies the gospel, and then says in Sura 5, “O People of the Book! [A description of Jews and Christians -JLP] Ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord."

This is a contradiction that proves the Qur’an isn’t God’s word. Muslim apologists will try to defend the Qur’an by saying the Gospels have been corrupted over the years—that the Qur’an supports what the Gospels said before they were corrupted, but that can’t be right because it argues against what the Gospels plainly say, while on the other hand saying we ought to stand fast upon that gospel ground! If the death, burial, and resurrection isn’t that gospel ground what is it? We have no evidence at all that there was ever an earlier gospel that was corrupted. The Qur’an makes no sense at all about this, while the Gospels make perfect sense. A final word, John wrote in his first epistle, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life” (1John 2:22-25).  The Qur’an is anti-Christian, and only in the Son is there eternal life!