Category Archives: Balanced Bible Doctrine Resource Library

Solid, Balanced, Bible Doctrinal Commentaries, Resources, Articles and Links. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Jesus Christ: The Word Became Flesh

Jesus Christ: The Word Became Flesh

September 12, 2014

By Joel Beeke

It would be disastrous to only affirm the deity of Jesus Christ, ignoring that the divine “Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The Scriptures affirm equally that Christ was both divine and human. For the Christian, Christ’s humanity holds tremendous significance, beyond even the supreme necessity of salvation. Indeed, as John Flavel notes regarding this doctrine, we can lay the world upon it.

Christ in His divine nature assumed humanity. This means He took upon Himself a nature that was truly human. He remained what He was (divine) while He took to Himself that which He had not yet been (human). He became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh in all respects, yet without sin.

The Scriptures reveal Christ’s real human nature from birth to burial.

He was born (Luke 2:7).

He grew to maturity (Luke 2:40).

He was hungry (Luke 4:2).

He labored (John 5:17).

He was tired and slept (Luke 8:23).

He ate and drank (Luke 24:42–43).

He was sorrowful and wept (Mark 14:34).

He experienced pain and suffering (Luke 22:44) both in body and soul (Matt. 26:38; 1 Peter 2:24).

He died (Mark 15:37) and was buried (v. 45–46).

There are at least six reasons why Christ had to become truly man:

1. To meet the demand of God’s righteousness that the nature which had sinned must also be the nature to pay for sin.

2. To be able to suffer and die for His elect.

3. To be able to be our self-sacrificing and sympathetic High Priest.

4. To be subject to the law in His obedience.

5. To be our nearest Kinsman to redeem us.

6. To be the Second Adam who restores us from our fall.

There are many applications of Christ’s incarnation for the believer. John Flavel in volume one of his Works outlines several of these affections for Christ the believer experiences.

Adoration. “Adore the love of the Father, and the Son, who bid so high for your souls.” Flavel notes that the love of God is expressed chiefly in this: that Christ took upon Himself the form of a servant and became obedient unto death. The Father so earnestly “willed our salvation, that he was content to degrade the darling of his soul to so vile and contemptible a state” as humanity. The Son became of no reputation—“how astonishing is the love of Christ, that would make such a stoop as this to exalt us!”

Wonder. Gaze at the wisdom of God at devising such a means for His people’s salvation. This even “chains the eyes of angels and men to itself” as unimaginable. That the Word should become flesh, and dwell among us—“oh, how wisely is the method of our recovery laid!”

Delight. Taste the “incomparable sweetness” of Christianity that allows us to rest our “trembling consciences” upon a sure foundation. Though the misery of His state and the distress of His soul overwhelms him, the believer can safely rely on the incarnation. Christ united His divine person with our flesh; “hence it is easy to imagine what worth and value must be in that blood; and how eternal love, springing forth triumphantly from it, flourishes into pardon, grace, and peace.”

Consolation. Assuming a human nature and experiencing the suffering and misery of humanity, Christ is now touched with the feelings of our infirmities (Heb. 4:15). He is a merciful High Priest (Heb. 2:17–18). Flavel writes: “God and man in one person! Oh! Thrice happy conjunction! As man, he is full of an experimental sense of our infirmities, wants, and burdens; and, as God, he can support and supply them all.”

Happiness. Christ’s incarnation was to bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). “Hence we see, to what a height God intends to build up the happiness of man, in that he hath laid the foundation thereof so deep, in the incarnation of his own Son.” The soul of man joys in salvation, but the body also will be glorified. Christ assumed the flesh to demonstrate “how God intends to honour and exalt it” in eternity.

Comfort. Flavel concludes with this last point: “How wonderful a comfort is it, that he who dwells in our flesh is God?” The struggling Christian can say: “But let me be a sinner, and worse than the chief of sinners, yea, a guilty devil, I am sure my well-beloved is God, and my Christ is God. And when I say my Christ is God, I have said all things, I can say no more. I [wish] I could build as much on this, My Christ is God, as it would bear: I might lay all the world upon it.”

http://www.joelbeeke.org/2014/09/jesus-christ-the-word-became-flesh/

Jesus Christ: The Word Became Flesh

Jesus Christ: The Word Became Flesh

September 12, 2014

By Joel Beeke

It would be disastrous to only affirm the deity of Jesus Christ, ignoring that the divine “Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The Scriptures affirm equally that Christ was both divine and human. For the Christian, Christ’s humanity holds tremendous significance, beyond even the supreme necessity of salvation. Indeed, as John Flavel notes regarding this doctrine, we can lay the world upon it.

Christ in His divine nature assumed humanity. This means He took upon Himself a nature that was truly human. He remained what He was (divine) while He took to Himself that which He had not yet been (human). He became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh in all respects, yet without sin.

The Scriptures reveal Christ’s real human nature from birth to burial.

He was born (Luke 2:7).

He grew to maturity (Luke 2:40).

He was hungry (Luke 4:2).

He labored (John 5:17).

He was tired and slept (Luke 8:23).

He ate and drank (Luke 24:42–43).

He was sorrowful and wept (Mark 14:34).

He experienced pain and suffering (Luke 22:44) both in body and soul (Matt. 26:38; 1 Peter 2:24).

He died (Mark 15:37) and was buried (v. 45–46).

There are at least six reasons why Christ had to become truly man:

1. To meet the demand of God’s righteousness that the nature which had sinned must also be the nature to pay for sin.

2. To be able to suffer and die for His elect.

3. To be able to be our self-sacrificing and sympathetic High Priest.

4. To be subject to the law in His obedience.

5. To be our nearest Kinsman to redeem us.

6. To be the Second Adam who restores us from our fall.

There are many applications of Christ’s incarnation for the believer. John Flavel in volume one of his Works outlines several of these affections for Christ the believer experiences.

Adoration. “Adore the love of the Father, and the Son, who bid so high for your souls.” Flavel notes that the love of God is expressed chiefly in this: that Christ took upon Himself the form of a servant and became obedient unto death. The Father so earnestly “willed our salvation, that he was content to degrade the darling of his soul to so vile and contemptible a state” as humanity. The Son became of no reputation—“how astonishing is the love of Christ, that would make such a stoop as this to exalt us!”

Wonder. Gaze at the wisdom of God at devising such a means for His people’s salvation. This even “chains the eyes of angels and men to itself” as unimaginable. That the Word should become flesh, and dwell among us—“oh, how wisely is the method of our recovery laid!”

Delight. Taste the “incomparable sweetness” of Christianity that allows us to rest our “trembling consciences” upon a sure foundation. Though the misery of His state and the distress of His soul overwhelms him, the believer can safely rely on the incarnation. Christ united His divine person with our flesh; “hence it is easy to imagine what worth and value must be in that blood; and how eternal love, springing forth triumphantly from it, flourishes into pardon, grace, and peace.”

Consolation. Assuming a human nature and experiencing the suffering and misery of humanity, Christ is now touched with the feelings of our infirmities (Heb. 4:15). He is a merciful High Priest (Heb. 2:17–18). Flavel writes: “God and man in one person! Oh! Thrice happy conjunction! As man, he is full of an experimental sense of our infirmities, wants, and burdens; and, as God, he can support and supply them all.”

Happiness. Christ’s incarnation was to bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). “Hence we see, to what a height God intends to build up the happiness of man, in that he hath laid the foundation thereof so deep, in the incarnation of his own Son.” The soul of man joys in salvation, but the body also will be glorified. Christ assumed the flesh to demonstrate “how God intends to honour and exalt it” in eternity.

Comfort. Flavel concludes with this last point: “How wonderful a comfort is it, that he who dwells in our flesh is God?” The struggling Christian can say: “But let me be a sinner, and worse than the chief of sinners, yea, a guilty devil, I am sure my well-beloved is God, and my Christ is God. And when I say my Christ is God, I have said all things, I can say no more. I [wish] I could build as much on this, My Christ is God, as it would bear: I might lay all the world upon it.”

http://www.joelbeeke.org/2014/09/jesus-christ-the-word-became-flesh/

Did Christ go to hell after he died?

Did Christ go to hell after he died?

August 5, 2014

by Lyndon Unger

On my personal blog, and through e-mail, I sometimes get reader requests for posts. People often have interesting questions about a wide variety of issues, and I do what I can to try to tackle reader questions when I can. One of my relatives sent me a question a little over a year ago, and seeing that I had the same question boiling around in my mind many years ago (before I figured it out), I’m thought I’d tackle it and clear up what is a somewhat common question.

The question has to do with whether or not Jesus went to Hell after the cross and why the Apostle’s Creed reads that Christ “descended into hell” (descendit ad inferna). The problem is confounded in that not only does the phrase appear in the Apostles Creed, but it also is arguably insinuated in Acts 2:25-31 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), Romans 10:6-7Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), Ephesians 4:7-10 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 1 Peter 3:18-20 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) and 1 Peter 4:6 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) (though due to time I won’t tackle the biblical texts but rather leave that to people who have already done a far superior job to my possible offerings).[1] So how do we unpack this idea and figure out what is going on in the Apostles’ Creed?

Well, let’s start with the Apostles Creed itself. The Apostles Creed is unlike the Nicene Creed or the Chalcedonian Definition in that it wasn’t a creed written by a church council but rather a summary statement of belief that evolved from a Roman Baptismal formula in the 2nd century and was expanded and edited for roughly 5 centuries. The phrase “descended into hell” didn’t become a standard element of the Apostle’s Creed until at least the mid 7th century.[2] The first recorded occurrence of the phrase “descended into hell” appears in the version of the creed used in the church in Aquileia that is commented upon by Rufinus in his Commentary on the Apostle’s Creed (written around 404 AD). A digital and searchable copy of Rufinus’ work is here and he writes on the phrase “descended into hell”, saying:

Those who have handed down the Creed to us have most carefully specified the time at which these things were done, namely, ” under Pontius Pilate,” so that the tradition of these things should never in any respect vary, as though being vague or uncertain. Yet it should be known that the Creed of the Roman Church does not include the words ” He descended into Hell,” nor is this clause found in the Churches of the East. The meaning of the phrase, however seems to be the same as that of the words “He was buried.” (page 26)

So, even in Rufinus’ day there were multiple versions of the creed, some of which did not include the phrase, and even when it was included the phrase “descended into hell” was understood to refer to the grave. One reason for this would be that in the Old Testament, the place of the dead was called by the Hebrew term “She’ol”, which had a wide semantic range that included the place of post-mortem suffering, the place of post-mortem blessing, and the grave itself. In the day of Rufinus, She’ol was translated into Latin as inferna.[3] The person reading the Latin Old Testament (known as the Vulgate) would regularly see inferna used as the term referring the both the place in which the bodies of the dead were placed, as well as the place to which dead people went, and it would have been a relatively common term in the Latin Old Testament (She’ol occurs 65 times in the Hebrew Old Testament).

So, I’ll cut the Apostle’s Creed discussion short here since, well, that essentially answers the question. Now admittedly there’s lots of scholarly ink spilled here on which Early Church Fathers thought that Christ descended into Hell itself, whether or not they thought of inferna as “the grave” or something else, and what Christ did while in the inferna. This whole debate is interesting, but I’d suggest that the weight of the evidence clearly lies in favor of the understanding of Rufinus; that Christ’s descending into hell simply is another way of restating that he actually, physically died (and consequently was actually, physically resurrected).

In lieu of my rather long posts in my responses to Dr. Michael Brown’s book Authentic Fire, I thought I’d shift gears and toss something short and sweet up for you all!

You’re welcome!

[1] These passages are all thoroughly dealt with by Wayne Grudem and he convincingly argues the conclusion that the idea of Christ’s descent into Hell is nowhere to be found in the scripture. Wayne Grudem, “He Did Not Descend Into Hell: A Plea for Following Scripture instead of the Apostles Creed”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 34 no. 1 (March 1991), 103-113. Also, for a comprehensive take on 1 Peter 3:18-20Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) (the main text that people appeal to for biblical support on this question), one should pick up William Kelly’s book Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, which goes through all 22 competing interpretations of 1 Peter 3:18-20Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) and gives the passage an exhaustive treatment.

[2] Michael D. Williams, “He Descended Into Hell? An Issue of Confessional Integrity” Presbyterion 25 no 2 (Fall 1999), 82.

[3] James F. Kay, “He Descended Into Hell,” Word & World 31 no 1 (Winter 2011), 19.

http://thecripplegate.com/did-christ-go-to-hell-after-he-died/

Did Christ go to hell after he died?

Did Christ go to hell after he died?

August 5, 2014

by Lyndon Unger

On my personal blog, and through e-mail, I sometimes get reader requests for posts. People often have interesting questions about a wide variety of issues, and I do what I can to try to tackle reader questions when I can. One of my relatives sent me a question a little over a year ago, and seeing that I had the same question boiling around in my mind many years ago (before I figured it out), I’m thought I’d tackle it and clear up what is a somewhat common question.

The question has to do with whether or not Jesus went to Hell after the cross and why the Apostle’s Creed reads that Christ “descended into hell” (descendit ad inferna). The problem is confounded in that not only does the phrase appear in the Apostles Creed, but it also is arguably insinuated in Acts 2:25-31 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), Romans 10:6-7Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), Ephesians 4:7-10 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 1 Peter 3:18-20 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) and 1 Peter 4:6 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) (though due to time I won’t tackle the biblical texts but rather leave that to people who have already done a far superior job to my possible offerings).[1] So how do we unpack this idea and figure out what is going on in the Apostles’ Creed?

Well, let’s start with the Apostles Creed itself. The Apostles Creed is unlike the Nicene Creed or the Chalcedonian Definition in that it wasn’t a creed written by a church council but rather a summary statement of belief that evolved from a Roman Baptismal formula in the 2nd century and was expanded and edited for roughly 5 centuries. The phrase “descended into hell” didn’t become a standard element of the Apostle’s Creed until at least the mid 7th century.[2] The first recorded occurrence of the phrase “descended into hell” appears in the version of the creed used in the church in Aquileia that is commented upon by Rufinus in his Commentary on the Apostle’s Creed (written around 404 AD). A digital and searchable copy of Rufinus’ work is here and he writes on the phrase “descended into hell”, saying:

Those who have handed down the Creed to us have most carefully specified the time at which these things were done, namely, ” under Pontius Pilate,” so that the tradition of these things should never in any respect vary, as though being vague or uncertain. Yet it should be known that the Creed of the Roman Church does not include the words ” He descended into Hell,” nor is this clause found in the Churches of the East. The meaning of the phrase, however seems to be the same as that of the words “He was buried.” (page 26)

So, even in Rufinus’ day there were multiple versions of the creed, some of which did not include the phrase, and even when it was included the phrase “descended into hell” was understood to refer to the grave. One reason for this would be that in the Old Testament, the place of the dead was called by the Hebrew term “She’ol”, which had a wide semantic range that included the place of post-mortem suffering, the place of post-mortem blessing, and the grave itself. In the day of Rufinus, She’ol was translated into Latin as inferna.[3] The person reading the Latin Old Testament (known as the Vulgate) would regularly see inferna used as the term referring the both the place in which the bodies of the dead were placed, as well as the place to which dead people went, and it would have been a relatively common term in the Latin Old Testament (She’ol occurs 65 times in the Hebrew Old Testament).

So, I’ll cut the Apostle’s Creed discussion short here since, well, that essentially answers the question. Now admittedly there’s lots of scholarly ink spilled here on which Early Church Fathers thought that Christ descended into Hell itself, whether or not they thought of inferna as “the grave” or something else, and what Christ did while in the inferna. This whole debate is interesting, but I’d suggest that the weight of the evidence clearly lies in favor of the understanding of Rufinus; that Christ’s descending into hell simply is another way of restating that he actually, physically died (and consequently was actually, physically resurrected).

In lieu of my rather long posts in my responses to Dr. Michael Brown’s book Authentic Fire, I thought I’d shift gears and toss something short and sweet up for you all!

You’re welcome!

[1] These passages are all thoroughly dealt with by Wayne Grudem and he convincingly argues the conclusion that the idea of Christ’s descent into Hell is nowhere to be found in the scripture. Wayne Grudem, “He Did Not Descend Into Hell: A Plea for Following Scripture instead of the Apostles Creed”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 34 no. 1 (March 1991), 103-113. Also, for a comprehensive take on 1 Peter 3:18-20Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) (the main text that people appeal to for biblical support on this question), one should pick up William Kelly’s book Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, which goes through all 22 competing interpretations of 1 Peter 3:18-20Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) and gives the passage an exhaustive treatment.

[2] Michael D. Williams, “He Descended Into Hell? An Issue of Confessional Integrity” Presbyterion 25 no 2 (Fall 1999), 82.

[3] James F. Kay, “He Descended Into Hell,” Word & World 31 no 1 (Winter 2011), 19.

http://thecripplegate.com/did-christ-go-to-hell-after-he-died/

Battalogeo and a Heavenly Prayer Language

Battalogeo and a Heavenly Prayer Language

July 30, 2014

by Eric Davis

I remember the first few times hearing about a heavenly prayer language. Some called it praying, or speaking, in tongues. Not long after coming to faith in Christ, a group of friends took me to a few meetings where this would be happening. We gathered in homes, the forest, and a local church to experience these supposed, Holy-Spirit-induced prayers. What I witnessed was fairly similar: various individuals caught in a trance-like state, speaking, or praying (I wasn’t sure), out loud using non-language noises in somewhat of a repeated fashion. The prayers/noises sounded something like, “Hasha-batta, kala-hasha, nashta-kala, hasha-batta..”

Subsequent to that, others reported that they were having similar experiences during private prayer to God. They said that the Holy Spirit gave them an ability to pray in non-language sounds as a means of infusing their prayers, and encouraged me to seek this out. About one year later, I observed some of the same, a supposed Holy-Spirit-infused prayer language, while attending one of the largest, and most well-known charismatic churches in the nation. These were some of my first experiences with this prayer language phenomena. I soon discovered that it is a widely practiced phenomena (in various forms) both inside and outside Christendom.

I, like many, began to ask: Is this prayer phenomena in Scripture? And, if so, what does Scripture say about it?

Today’s post will not attempt to exhaustively answer those questions. Nate Busenitz has thoroughly demonstrated( http://thecripplegate.com/are-tongues-real-languages/ ) for example, that the gift of “tongues” was the miraculous ability to speak a previously unlearned foreign language during the foundation, apostolic days of the church. Additionally, it’s been shown that Scripture does not support the idea of an angelic language or multiple different kinds of spiritual gifts called tongues. ( http://thecripplegate.com/sam-storms-and-two-types-of-tongues/ )

Instead, this post will briefly look at the idea of praying in a supposed Spirit-induced, heavenly and/or angelic prayer language as it pertains to prayer. To do so, we will look at one verse: “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt 6:7Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

The word translated “meaningless repetition,” is from the Greek verb, battalogeo. Similar to the TDNT (1:597), A.T. Robertson comments that the word carries the idea of “stammerers who repeat the words,” “babbling or chattering,” “empty repetition” (Matt 6:6 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). John Nolland says it’s the idea of the repetition of either intelligible or unintelligible sounds in order to multiply effectiveness (Quoted by Osborne, Matthew, 226). Many commentators agree that the prefix, “batta,” is onomatopoetic. In other words, the prefix sounds similar to the thing it describes: prayers sounding something like, “batta, batta.” Being onomatopoetic does not mean that the word exhaustively covers everything which it describes, but the general idea.

Christ prohibits praying in such a way for two reasons. First, because it is characteristic of Gentiles (Matt 6:7Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Praying in a way that piles up language, or non-language, unintelligible, or babbling sounds is prayer characteristic of those who do not know God. Second, because our heavenly Father already knows what we need before we think to pray about it (Matt 6:8 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

What are some examples of babbling prayer, characteristic of the Gentiles?

We could talk about Buddhist prayer wheels, the Roman Catholic practice of prayer candles, Ave Maria’s and Pater Noster’s, and prayers of the Rosary, for example. We could also discuss the Greek culture in which similar things were observed (and what the Apostle Paul corrects in 1 Corinthians 12-14). At various points in Phaedrus, for example, Socrates is praising the idea of ecstatic mania. A form of non-language, ecstatic prayer was reported to have been practiced through out-of-their-mind, ecstatic oracalers at Delphi and Dodona. (http://sparks.eserver.org/books/plato-phaedrus.pdf, 7). Many more examples could be cited of ancient and contemporary pagan practice.

But more to the point: When Christ forbids such prayer, we would have to include the popular idea of speaking in tongues as a private or heavenly prayer language. As it pertains to the idea of a Spirit-given prayer language, whether heavenly, angelic, or something else, Christ’s command is clarifying: God’s people are not to pray in such a way that resembles babbling repetition of sounds, whether they are supposed to be intelligible or not. He forbids the act of praying in a way, for example, that would resemble a prayer in the form of, “Batta, batta.” Instead, biblical prayer is to have normal, human intelligibility.

In prayer, we need not seek anything beyond simple language expression. Thus, we need not feel the need to rev up our spiritual engine in order to perform at some higher level. We need not seek supposed higher blessings or baptisms of the Spirit to attain elevated spiritual experience so that God takes notice or we perceive ourselves on a higher plane. Christian prayer is simply a natural, genuine, intelligible communication to God.

As such, prayer is something available to every single one of God’s people: those eloquent in speech, those not; those who have much to say, those who do not; those with many degrees, those with none; the young, the old, and of every language and articulateness.

Eight brief, closing remarks are needed.

First, the biblical spiritual gift often associated with a tongues-type prayer language is better called “languages.” The biblical gift of languages was the miraculous ability to speak an unlearned language that is known by others for the purpose of exalting Christ and building up others during the foundational, apostolic era of the church. This gift ceased with the apostolic era in the first century as the church foundation was established in Christ’s progressive building of the church (Matt 16:18 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

Second, there are various arguments against this position. For example, on one occasion I was faced with an argument along these lines: “I’ve seen/experienced the speaking in tongues as a prayer language. You cannot say it did not happen. It did happen, therefore, it’s something we should pursue. If I experience it, you cannot deny it. I see a giraffe out my window, for example, you cannot tell me it’s not a giraffe.”

But the argument fails on the grounds that experience is superior to Scripture. The unspoken reasoning is: “I saw/experienced/heard X, therefore, X is true and should be pursued as a practice of our faith.” But the biblical reasoning must go: “Though I saw/experienced/heard X, I must rigorously test it up against a hermeneutically sound interpretation of Scripture. If X conflicts, it is X that is abandoned as a practice of our faith, not Scripture. Scripture alone is the authority.” Put another way for the sake of argument: “I think I saw a giraffe. Scripture says that giraffes do not exist. Therefore, I saw something, but it was not a giraffe.”

Though we may experience interesting spiritual phenomena, if it is not supported by a sound interpretation of Scripture, then it is not to be pursued as something of the Christian faith.

Third, many who practice this do not suppose they’re engaging in a Gentile/pagan practice (Matt 6:7 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Instead, they presume to feel close to God. However, regardless of feeling, Scripture, not feelings, determines true spirituality and what closeness to God means. But we can go to Scripture to learn how to express closeness to God. In portions of the Psalms, for example, we can observe some of the most profound, genuine experiences of closeness to God. As such, they are expressed and inspired in normal, intelligible, human language.

Fourth, some have said, “But the practice of a private, heavenly, or angelic, prayer language is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 14.” But in that passage, the Apostle is correcting non-language, unintelligible utterance and the abuse of the language gift.

Fifth, an additional argument goes: “This private tongues prayer language is not hurting anyone. It’s between me and God, therefore, what’s the problem?” But, we are not to justify an act on whether or not we perceive benefit or injury. An action is right or wrong on the basis of God’s word. If God’s word forbids something, then we are to follow in step, for his glory and his honor, regardless of how we perceive it may or may not hurt others, or how it may or may not make us feel.

Sixth, some suppose that the Holy Spirit is giving them profound words; words of heaven which are too spiritually superior for known human language. But there are no more profound words given by the Holy Spirit than what he has already given us in God-given, sacred Scripture in normal, human intelligibility. If someone desires to pray and speak lofty, spiritual words to God, we have the Psalms, for example, which contain many model prayers expressing profound love for God. On top of that, every single word in the 150 Psalms was inspired in an intelligible language by the Holy Spirit (normal intelligibility, with noun-verb-object, structure). Furthermore, when we observe the prayers of Scripture (i.e. 1 Kings 8, John 17), in every instance, whether Christ or others, individuals are praying in normal, human intelligibility.

Similarly, there is no instance of a heavenly-type prayer language in Scripture. If such a thing were to exist, we would expect to observe it in various charged moments of redemptive history, such as Jesus in his emotional high priestly prayer of John 17 or his distraught prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane or David upon hearing the Davidic Covenant or Psalm 119 or Lamentations, to name a few examples. But we do not. And we can rest confident that the most profound expressions of worship to God are to be done in God-given, human languages with normal intelligibility.

Seventh, being created in the image of God is telling. From the dawn of creation, we notice that one of humanity’s image-bearing attributes is rational, intelligible language. The first humans interact with God in their pre-Fall state using that God-given gift. We can expect, as observed all the way to Christ’s incarnation and into heaven, that intelligible language will be the way to interact with God.

Eighth, the question often goes: “If this is not from God, then from where does this phenomena originate?” Perhaps the power of the flesh showing itself in an individual wanting a memorable spiritual experience. Or, perhaps, an individual wanting to be close to God, but mistaking what that looks like. And in some cases, we must not rule out Satan (2 Cor 11:14-15 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

So, though we might practice speaking in tongues as a private, heavenly language, such a thing is not from God since Scripture does not support it. Thus, it is not to be pursued by believers. In fact, the ideas of things like non-language prayer, heavenly language prayer, or prayer sounding something like, “Batta, batta,” is what Christ forbids, in part, because it characterizes the pagans who do not know God.

As Charles Quarles writes: “Although many modern Christians address God in an ecstatic [COLOR=Olive]‘prayer language,’ the practice has no root in the teaching or example of Jesus. Jesus seems to have viewed such practices in paganism as inappropriate for his disciples”[/COLOR] (Sermon on the Mount, 184).

Finally, think of it this way. Picture yourself standing in front of Christ seated on his throne in heaven. What would you say? We would be on our knees, humbled, in awe, in worship, saying, if we could say anything at all, something like, “Oh Lord! Thank you! Thank you for dying on the cross! I love you!”

We would not begin speaking to him in a non-language babble. Let’s remember that prayer is the great privilege of speaking to His Majesty; the risen Christ who is seated on his throne in heaven, reigning as our Sovereign Lord. We are not physically there. But we get to speak to him nonetheless. This is to be an action of humbled, human intelligibility.

So let’s enjoy communing with our good God in prayer. We can simply, and reverently, speak to him with simple language. Doing so ascends to the highest form of spirituality.

http://thecripplegate.com/battalogeo-and-a-private-heavenly-prayer-language/

Battalogeo and a Heavenly Prayer Language

Battalogeo and a Heavenly Prayer Language

July 30, 2014

by Eric Davis

I remember the first few times hearing about a heavenly prayer language. Some called it praying, or speaking, in tongues. Not long after coming to faith in Christ, a group of friends took me to a few meetings where this would be happening. We gathered in homes, the forest, and a local church to experience these supposed, Holy-Spirit-induced prayers. What I witnessed was fairly similar: various individuals caught in a trance-like state, speaking, or praying (I wasn’t sure), out loud using non-language noises in somewhat of a repeated fashion. The prayers/noises sounded something like, “Hasha-batta, kala-hasha, nashta-kala, hasha-batta..”

Subsequent to that, others reported that they were having similar experiences during private prayer to God. They said that the Holy Spirit gave them an ability to pray in non-language sounds as a means of infusing their prayers, and encouraged me to seek this out. About one year later, I observed some of the same, a supposed Holy-Spirit-infused prayer language, while attending one of the largest, and most well-known charismatic churches in the nation. These were some of my first experiences with this prayer language phenomena. I soon discovered that it is a widely practiced phenomena (in various forms) both inside and outside Christendom.

I, like many, began to ask: Is this prayer phenomena in Scripture? And, if so, what does Scripture say about it?

Today’s post will not attempt to exhaustively answer those questions. Nate Busenitz has thoroughly demonstrated( http://thecripplegate.com/are-tongues-real-languages/ ) for example, that the gift of “tongues” was the miraculous ability to speak a previously unlearned foreign language during the foundation, apostolic days of the church. Additionally, it’s been shown that Scripture does not support the idea of an angelic language or multiple different kinds of spiritual gifts called tongues. ( http://thecripplegate.com/sam-storms-and-two-types-of-tongues/ )

Instead, this post will briefly look at the idea of praying in a supposed Spirit-induced, heavenly and/or angelic prayer language as it pertains to prayer. To do so, we will look at one verse: “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt 6:7Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

The word translated “meaningless repetition,” is from the Greek verb, battalogeo. Similar to the TDNT (1:597), A.T. Robertson comments that the word carries the idea of “stammerers who repeat the words,” “babbling or chattering,” “empty repetition” (Matt 6:6 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). John Nolland says it’s the idea of the repetition of either intelligible or unintelligible sounds in order to multiply effectiveness (Quoted by Osborne, Matthew, 226). Many commentators agree that the prefix, “batta,” is onomatopoetic. In other words, the prefix sounds similar to the thing it describes: prayers sounding something like, “batta, batta.” Being onomatopoetic does not mean that the word exhaustively covers everything which it describes, but the general idea.

Christ prohibits praying in such a way for two reasons. First, because it is characteristic of Gentiles (Matt 6:7Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Praying in a way that piles up language, or non-language, unintelligible, or babbling sounds is prayer characteristic of those who do not know God. Second, because our heavenly Father already knows what we need before we think to pray about it (Matt 6:8 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

What are some examples of babbling prayer, characteristic of the Gentiles?

We could talk about Buddhist prayer wheels, the Roman Catholic practice of prayer candles, Ave Maria’s and Pater Noster’s, and prayers of the Rosary, for example. We could also discuss the Greek culture in which similar things were observed (and what the Apostle Paul corrects in 1 Corinthians 12-14). At various points in Phaedrus, for example, Socrates is praising the idea of ecstatic mania. A form of non-language, ecstatic prayer was reported to have been practiced through out-of-their-mind, ecstatic oracalers at Delphi and Dodona. (http://sparks.eserver.org/books/plato-phaedrus.pdf, 7). Many more examples could be cited of ancient and contemporary pagan practice.

But more to the point: When Christ forbids such prayer, we would have to include the popular idea of speaking in tongues as a private or heavenly prayer language. As it pertains to the idea of a Spirit-given prayer language, whether heavenly, angelic, or something else, Christ’s command is clarifying: God’s people are not to pray in such a way that resembles babbling repetition of sounds, whether they are supposed to be intelligible or not. He forbids the act of praying in a way, for example, that would resemble a prayer in the form of, “Batta, batta.” Instead, biblical prayer is to have normal, human intelligibility.

In prayer, we need not seek anything beyond simple language expression. Thus, we need not feel the need to rev up our spiritual engine in order to perform at some higher level. We need not seek supposed higher blessings or baptisms of the Spirit to attain elevated spiritual experience so that God takes notice or we perceive ourselves on a higher plane. Christian prayer is simply a natural, genuine, intelligible communication to God.

As such, prayer is something available to every single one of God’s people: those eloquent in speech, those not; those who have much to say, those who do not; those with many degrees, those with none; the young, the old, and of every language and articulateness.

Eight brief, closing remarks are needed.

First, the biblical spiritual gift often associated with a tongues-type prayer language is better called “languages.” The biblical gift of languages was the miraculous ability to speak an unlearned language that is known by others for the purpose of exalting Christ and building up others during the foundational, apostolic era of the church. This gift ceased with the apostolic era in the first century as the church foundation was established in Christ’s progressive building of the church (Matt 16:18 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

Second, there are various arguments against this position. For example, on one occasion I was faced with an argument along these lines: “I’ve seen/experienced the speaking in tongues as a prayer language. You cannot say it did not happen. It did happen, therefore, it’s something we should pursue. If I experience it, you cannot deny it. I see a giraffe out my window, for example, you cannot tell me it’s not a giraffe.”

But the argument fails on the grounds that experience is superior to Scripture. The unspoken reasoning is: “I saw/experienced/heard X, therefore, X is true and should be pursued as a practice of our faith.” But the biblical reasoning must go: “Though I saw/experienced/heard X, I must rigorously test it up against a hermeneutically sound interpretation of Scripture. If X conflicts, it is X that is abandoned as a practice of our faith, not Scripture. Scripture alone is the authority.” Put another way for the sake of argument: “I think I saw a giraffe. Scripture says that giraffes do not exist. Therefore, I saw something, but it was not a giraffe.”

Though we may experience interesting spiritual phenomena, if it is not supported by a sound interpretation of Scripture, then it is not to be pursued as something of the Christian faith.

Third, many who practice this do not suppose they’re engaging in a Gentile/pagan practice (Matt 6:7 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Instead, they presume to feel close to God. However, regardless of feeling, Scripture, not feelings, determines true spirituality and what closeness to God means. But we can go to Scripture to learn how to express closeness to God. In portions of the Psalms, for example, we can observe some of the most profound, genuine experiences of closeness to God. As such, they are expressed and inspired in normal, intelligible, human language.

Fourth, some have said, “But the practice of a private, heavenly, or angelic, prayer language is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 14.” But in that passage, the Apostle is correcting non-language, unintelligible utterance and the abuse of the language gift.

Fifth, an additional argument goes: “This private tongues prayer language is not hurting anyone. It’s between me and God, therefore, what’s the problem?” But, we are not to justify an act on whether or not we perceive benefit or injury. An action is right or wrong on the basis of God’s word. If God’s word forbids something, then we are to follow in step, for his glory and his honor, regardless of how we perceive it may or may not hurt others, or how it may or may not make us feel.

Sixth, some suppose that the Holy Spirit is giving them profound words; words of heaven which are too spiritually superior for known human language. But there are no more profound words given by the Holy Spirit than what he has already given us in God-given, sacred Scripture in normal, human intelligibility. If someone desires to pray and speak lofty, spiritual words to God, we have the Psalms, for example, which contain many model prayers expressing profound love for God. On top of that, every single word in the 150 Psalms was inspired in an intelligible language by the Holy Spirit (normal intelligibility, with noun-verb-object, structure). Furthermore, when we observe the prayers of Scripture (i.e. 1 Kings 8, John 17), in every instance, whether Christ or others, individuals are praying in normal, human intelligibility.

Similarly, there is no instance of a heavenly-type prayer language in Scripture. If such a thing were to exist, we would expect to observe it in various charged moments of redemptive history, such as Jesus in his emotional high priestly prayer of John 17 or his distraught prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane or David upon hearing the Davidic Covenant or Psalm 119 or Lamentations, to name a few examples. But we do not. And we can rest confident that the most profound expressions of worship to God are to be done in God-given, human languages with normal intelligibility.

Seventh, being created in the image of God is telling. From the dawn of creation, we notice that one of humanity’s image-bearing attributes is rational, intelligible language. The first humans interact with God in their pre-Fall state using that God-given gift. We can expect, as observed all the way to Christ’s incarnation and into heaven, that intelligible language will be the way to interact with God.

Eighth, the question often goes: “If this is not from God, then from where does this phenomena originate?” Perhaps the power of the flesh showing itself in an individual wanting a memorable spiritual experience. Or, perhaps, an individual wanting to be close to God, but mistaking what that looks like. And in some cases, we must not rule out Satan (2 Cor 11:14-15 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

So, though we might practice speaking in tongues as a private, heavenly language, such a thing is not from God since Scripture does not support it. Thus, it is not to be pursued by believers. In fact, the ideas of things like non-language prayer, heavenly language prayer, or prayer sounding something like, “Batta, batta,” is what Christ forbids, in part, because it characterizes the pagans who do not know God.

As Charles Quarles writes: “Although many modern Christians address God in an ecstatic [COLOR=Olive]‘prayer language,’ the practice has no root in the teaching or example of Jesus. Jesus seems to have viewed such practices in paganism as inappropriate for his disciples”[/COLOR] (Sermon on the Mount, 184).

Finally, think of it this way. Picture yourself standing in front of Christ seated on his throne in heaven. What would you say? We would be on our knees, humbled, in awe, in worship, saying, if we could say anything at all, something like, “Oh Lord! Thank you! Thank you for dying on the cross! I love you!”

We would not begin speaking to him in a non-language babble. Let’s remember that prayer is the great privilege of speaking to His Majesty; the risen Christ who is seated on his throne in heaven, reigning as our Sovereign Lord. We are not physically there. But we get to speak to him nonetheless. This is to be an action of humbled, human intelligibility.

So let’s enjoy communing with our good God in prayer. We can simply, and reverently, speak to him with simple language. Doing so ascends to the highest form of spirituality.

http://thecripplegate.com/battalogeo-and-a-private-heavenly-prayer-language/

The Doctrine of Election and the result of rejecting it

The Doctrine of Election and the result of rejecting it

Posted on May 15, 2014

by Mike Ratliff

20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (Romans 9:20-21 ESV)

I was a teenager in the 1960’s. My generation, the Baby-Boomers, are known for their rebellion against authority. I was no flaming radical, but like most in my generation, I did question the right of those in positions of authority over me. However, I enlisted in the US Navy in 1973 and quickly found out what submission to authority was really all about. All through boot camp and data processing training in the Navy, I discovered how important it was to obey commands and work under the authority of those over me. This hit home to me in a big way when I went to fire fighting school as part of my basic training in San Diego.

I was the Company Yeoman so, like the other petty officers in our company, I was a nozzle-man for one of the main teams. My team was chosen to be one of two that would fight a simulated boiler-room fire. We wore no breathing gear. All the protection we had were some rubberized raincoats with a cowel-like hood. We sat on bleachers as our instructor told us what was going to happen. Two teams would enter the boiler room from opposite sides. We would work together to put out the fire that was actually burning oil that covered the bilge water that was below the grating on which we would work. I was put on the nozzle and the rest of my team held the hose one behind the other as our instructor grabbed the nozzle by the other handle. The fire was started, the alarm rang, and we entered the building.

This was the first time I had ever been that close to a serious fire in an enclosed structure. I remember being totally surprised by how difficult it was to breathe. Our instructor and the one on the other team had us open the nozzles up to force the oil that was burning to be pushed to one spot where it could be extinguished. We were to sweep our hoses from side to side, working together like this we made short work of it. However, just as it looked like we had it all under control, the flames increased in magnitude to the point that those of us on the nozzles were cut off from the exits. I remember feeling like I was about to pass out from lack of oxygen. My instructor and I were coughing and gasping for air. The heat was bad and I could not breathe without filling my lungs with the smoke. This seemed to go on forever, but I think it was only about 30 seconds or so when our instructor blew a whistle he had around his neck. This was the signal for the fire to be foamed out, which happened immediately.

The instructor helped me sweep the nozzle from side to side to wash the foam out of the bilge. It seemed very difficult for us, but after a few minutes, he had me shut off the nozzle. I turned around and then understood why it was so difficult. All of my “team” had abandoned the hose when the fire flared up. It was just the instructor and I on the nozzle. He helped me drag the hose back out of the building. My “team” was gathered at the door surrounded by instructors. They would not look at either of us. A Corpsman came and looked at both of us. I had minor burns on my face, but my hands were okay. My instructor and I had black faces and hands, which was from the smoke I suppose.

It turned out that someone had mistakenly turned on the switch to ventilate the smoke from the simulator while the fire was still burning as we worked. This caused it to flare up uncontrollably. My “team” had dropped the hose and fled. As I was taken to be cleaned up, I saw that my “team” was going to have to go through it again. I was excused from all further exercises. My Company Commander came over to me and asked to look at my hands. I showed them to him and he said that as long as I could still write and, therefore, function as his Yeoman then that was all he cared about. Of course, he smiled when he said it. Some men simply cannot express certain emotions. :glasses10:

The example above of my “experience” on authority in fire fighting school in Navy boot camp back in 1973 was to show what happens when “men” are not submitted to the authority that is over them. The one who turned on the ventilator as we fought the fire endangered the lives of two nozzle teams and two instructors. My “teammates” who fled when the fire got too hot revealed that they would not follow instructions when things became crucial. We could have used their help in trying to control that nozzle, which wanted to jump all over the place. I learned that even when we do what we are supposed to do in submission to the authority over us, things could still get rough.

Our ultimate authority is God. He is sovereign. God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three members of the Godhead works together in our salvation, which the Apostle Paul lays out for us very clearly in Ephesians 1. The Work of the Father is expressed in our election in vv3-6, the Work of the Son is expressed in our redemption in vv7-12, and the Work of the Spirit in our protection in vv13,14.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)

The word “chose” in v4 above is the Greek word εξελεξατο, which means, “to choose for oneself.” The grammatical form of this verb usage here enforces this. It is in aorist tense, infinitive mood, and middle voice, which refer to a non-continuous action for or concerning oneself. In other words, God selected His children for Himself, for His glory. The doctrine of election is emphasized throughout Sacred Scripture (Deut. 7:6; Is. 45:4; John 6:44; Acts 13:48; Rom 8:29; 9:11; 1 Thess. 1:3,4;2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim 2:10). God chose His children by Himself and for Himself to the praise of His own glory (vv6, 12, 14). However, for those who become incensed at this clear and direct interpretation of these verses, this does not mean that this nullifies man’s responsibility to believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour (Matthew 3:1,2; 4:17; John 5:40).

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:7-12 ESV)

In these verses, we have the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Our predestination is to be conformed to the image of the Son. Why? It is all to the praise of God’s glory. All in Christ are called to be submitted to God’s authority through the Son. We don’t “choose” this like we are shopping and must choose to be Christian or Hindu or whatever. No, we are elected and effectually called by God. However, in our religiosity, there is a form of Christianity that is not valid. It is all according to the designs and will of the men who are running it. It has nothing to do with the true Church, which is made up of those elected and called by God. These are reserved and preserved by God and will not bow the knee to these false forms of Jesus that are man-made.

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV)

Here we have the role of the Holy Spirit in our salvation. He seals us in Christ. He is the guarantee of our inheritance. All in Christ will persevere to the end because of this. Those who appear to be genuine, but fall away were not sealed nor did they receive this guarantee.

In these passages from Ephesians 1 we have who we really are and how we got that way and why we will continue. We are blessed v3, chosen v4, predestined v5, adopted v5, accepted v6, redeemed v7, forgiven v7, enlightened vv8-9, given an inheritance v11, sealed v13, and assured v14. I find that the more I study the sovereignty of God that I am even more assured, more joyful, more firm in my convictions, and am filled with an overwhelming desire to bring Him glory and to shine the light of these truths into the hearts of all of His children that they may see who they really are in Him.

We are Christians because of what God has done. Not one of us were chosen because of any merit or actions on our part (Ephesians 2:1-10). No, we are in Christ because He did all that is required to make sure that we would believe at the proper time and thus be justified and forgiven. He has sealed us and preserves us. What a blessing!

Soli Deo Gloria!

http://mikeratliff.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/the-doctrine-of-election-and-the-result-of-rejecting-it/

The Case for Cessationism Stands

The Case for Cessationism Stands

Monday, May 05, 2014

by Tom Pennington

Pastor-Teacher, Countryside Bible Church, Southlake, Texas

When Grace to You asked me to present the biblical case for cessationism at the Strange Fire conference last October, I was excited about the opportunity. Although I am a convinced cessationist and had addressed this issue with my own congregation, I spent several months studying the Scripture and reading the relevant literature on both sides of this contentious issue. But it wasn’t long before my initial euphoria turned to discouragement.

The problem was not (as some continuationists argue) because there is insufficient biblical evidence for cessationism to preach on for an hour. My problem was the sheer extravagance of biblical material. I was faced with a difficult decision between equally tempting choices: to spend the hour I was given developing one argument or to present a brief summary of the primary arguments. Both choices were fraught with slippery slopes and gaping chasms. If I concentrated on one argument, the uninformed on both sides of the issue would race to the conclusion that cessationism is a tune with only one string and one note. But if I tried to cover all the main arguments, I would have to leave crucial points and counterpoints on the cutting-room floor, appearing to leave holes in an argument that has none. If you listened to my message at Strange Fire:

http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/TM13-7/a-case-for-cessationism-tom-pennington

, you know that I eventually opted for the lesser of two evils—the second.

In light of the difficulty of that decision, I have been fascinated by the responses to the biblical case I presented. Cessationists have written to say that the conference strengthened their confidence in the Scripture. I have heard from practicing charismatics who had been told there are no biblical arguments for cessationism but who were troubled by what they saw in their churches. In God’s providence they listened to Strange Fire, the truth they heard resonated with their hearts, and they have since left the charismatic movement for good.

Frankly, much of the online opposition has been all heat and no light. Some critiques have been so apparently self-defeating that they neither require nor deserve a reasoned response. Among the mostly gracious and careful responses to the case for cessationism, Andrew Wilson’s critique stands out. Several on both sides of the issue have suggested I respond to the issues he raised. So that is what I will do here.

Surprisingly, Wilson devotes the first half of his critique to defending the common arguments for continuationism that I mentioned in passing in my introduction. First, he quotes the arguments as Tim Challies summarized them, and then he defends them. So I will quote Challies’s summaries and the key portions of Wilson’s critique.

(1) The New Testament doesn’t say they [miraculous gifts] have ceased. But then again, it doesn’t say that they won’t either.

Wilson responds:

The burden of proof is firmly on the shoulders of the one who would place a break at the end of the New Testament period, for the simple reason that, throughout Scripture, substantial changes in the way God communicates with people—and cessationism posits a substantial change… —are clearly communicated.

But there were, in fact, two huge changes at the end of the New Testament period—changes that even most charismatics (including Wilson) admit can be discerned from the New Testament but that are not clearly announced in one clarion passage. Those two changes are (1) the end of the unique apostolate and (2) the end of canonical revelation. When charismatics state their case against cessationism as Wilson does, they unintentionally also surrender the field to apostolic succession and ongoing canonical revelation.

(2) 1 Corinthians 13:10 – they [continuationists] say this means that only when Christ returns will the partial gifts of tongues and prophecies cease. This implies that the gifts continue. But this is an uncertain interpretation.

To this argument Wilson responds:

The charismatic case here [1 Corinthians 13:10] is immensely strong (and the overwhelming scholarly consensus in the commentaries would confirm this). For Paul, the imperfect (prophecy, tongues, knowledge) will cease at the arrival of the perfect (the return of Christ, when we shall see him face to face). Not much uncertainty there.

That is a case of both overstatement and misdirection. It is overstatement because a survey of commentaries will reveal as many as ten possible interpretations of what “the perfect” is. It is misdirection in that charismatics ignore that for most of church history this text was used primarily to argue against the continuation of the miraculous gifts. I freely admit that some cessationists have tried to make this text bear too much weight. But it is equally true that many charismatics, including Wilson in the quote above, try to make it bear too much weight in their defense.

(3) The New Testament speaks only of the church age, and so, [continuationists] argue, the gifts that began the church age should continue throughout it. They say we artificially divide it between apostolic and post-apostolic eras. But they do this, too, by not believing that the apostolic office still continues.

Wilson writes:

Actually, a huge number of charismatics don’t believe this at all. Many believe, for reasons outlined in my recent article in JETS, that even in the New Testament period there were eyewitness apostles (the twelve, Paul, James) and people who never witnessed the resurrection but were referred to as apostles anyway (Apollos, very likely Barnabas, Silas, possibly Timothy, and so on), and that while the eyewitness category ceased with Paul, the other category didn’t.

Here, I confess, I was personally disappointed in Wilson. His comments reveal either that he just read the paraphrased version of my message on Tim Challies’s site or that he was careless—either of which is troubling in a person of his intelligence and education.

If he had listened to my complete message or read the transcript, he would have known that I acknowledged that most charismatics don’t believe there are eyewitness apostles today. That was my point. I specifically said that unless charismatics believe that there are apostles today at the same level as Peter and Paul—and most charismatics don’t—they also divide the church age. And they relegate at least apostleship solely to the apostolic era. They have become de facto cessationists—at least in part.

Positing a second tier of apostles as some do (which ignores any nontechnical, nontitular sense of the word apostolos in the New Testament) doesn’t change the point. In fact, their protest proves the point. There was a marked difference between the apostolic and postapostolic eras. And by agreeing that the most significant mark of the age of the apostles—the men Jesus Himself appointed and called to be His official proxies—ceased, charismatics tacitly accept one of the key tenets of cessationism.

(4) 500 million professing Christians who claim charismatic experiences can’t all be wrong. But if we accept this, then logically we should accept the miracles attested to by one billion Catholics in the world. The truth is that 500 million-plus people can be wrong.

Wilson responds:

This is not really a fair representation of any responsible charismatic argument. Of course billions of people can be wrong: billions of people do not believe the gospel, and virtually no charismatic would contest that. A fairer representation would be to say that, in order to explain the enormous number of miraculous experiences testified to by charismatics . . . a cessationist has to resort to an awful lot of accusations of fraud, deliberate deceit and delusion amongst some extremely level-headed, critical and theologically informed individuals.

My statement is not only a fair representation of responsible charismatic argument, it is a very common—albeit informal—argument of reputable charismatic authors and scholars, as well as laymen. To appeal as Wilson does to what he calls the “enormous number of miraculous experiences testified to by charismatics” only reinforces my point. We have to accuse more than a billion Roman Catholics of “fraud, deliberate deceit and delusion” to reject their “miracles,” yet that is exactly what the church has always done—and what I suspect Wilson himself does. If charismatics want to argue that sheer numbers lend credibility to their “miracles,” they have to own the weakness that comes with this argument.

After spending half of his critique on the arguments continuationists use to defend their position, to which I devoted less than five minutes, Wilson comes to the primary arguments I presented.

I began by defining cessationism. Cessationists believe it is neither the Spirit’s plan nor His normal pattern to distribute miraculous spiritual gifts to Christians and churches today as He did in the time of the apostles. Those gifts ceased being normative with the apostles. In Scripture we find at least seven arguments that the miraculous gifts have ceased. Again, since Wilson quotes Challies’s summary of my points, I will as well.

(1) The unique role of miracles. There were only three primary periods in which God worked miracles through unique men. The first was with Moses; the second was during the ministries of Elijah and Elisha; the third was with Christ and his apostles. The primary purpose of miracles has always been to establish the credibility of one who speaks the word of God—not just any teacher, but those who had been given direct words by God.

Wilson writes:

[I]The crucial word here, which appears twice and is somewhat mysterious on both occasions, is [I]“primary.” Where in the Bible does it say that the miracles of Moses, Elijah or Elisha are more “primary” than those of Joshua (opening the Jordan and stopping the sun in its tracks isn’t bad), or Samuel (who had the odd prophecy), or David or Solomon, or Isaiah, or Daniel, or for that matter any of the canonical prophets (who, by [COLOR=Blue]Pennington’s definition, are exercising miraculous gifts)?[/COLOR][/I][/I]

First of all, the point is not about God’s working miracles directly—something He did as He chose in both Old and New Testament history. Instead, the focus was on those epochs in redemptive history when God chose to give men the capacity to work miracles. There is a difference between God’s giving Moses the capacity to perform miracles and God’s directly giving Samson superhuman strength. Samson used the strength God gave him, but he never performed a miracle. And prophecy is a miraculous gift because God miraculously reveals His truth to a man. But the prophet is not performing a miracle.

When you examine the biblical record, it is clear that there were three main time periods when there were miracle-working men. Again, Wilson apparently didn’t listen to my message or read the transcript, because the first period I mentioned was not that of Moses but that of “Moses and Joshua.” And although God performed miracles directly during the ministries of Samuel, David, Isaiah, and Daniel, where is the biblical evidence that they were given miracle-working power in the way Moses and Joshua or Elijah and Elisha were? Create a comprehensive list of miracles performed by men in Scripture—not those performed by God directly—and the resulting list will support the point. In thousands of years of human history, there were only about two hundred years in which God empowered men to work miracles. And even during those years, miracles were not common, everyday events.

Wilson adds:

Where does it say that the “primary” purpose of a miracle is always to establish the credibility of the one who speaks the word of God? One might have thought the primary purpose of the exodus was to lead Israel out of slavery, and the primary purpose of the fall of Jericho was to defeat God’s enemies, and the primary purpose of the destruction of the Assyrians was to preserve Jerusalem, and so on. And even if the “primary” purpose of all miracles was authenticating a preacher, which cannot be shown, it would by no means indicate that this was the only purpose.

When God granted Moses—the first human miracle worker—the power to work miracles, He gave Moses only one reason: “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you” (Exodus 4:5). I provided a number of other examples throughout the Scripture to demonstrate that God’s primary purpose in giving men power to work miracles was to validate them as His messengers. Of course, God used Moses’ miracles to free Israel from Egyptian bondage. But why did God give miracle-working capacity to Moses, rather than simply free the Israelites Himself? According to God’s own statement, it was to validate His messenger. At Sinai, no one doubted that Moses spoke for God. Look up the other references I cited and you will find exactly the same pattern.

(2) The end of the gift of apostleship. In two places in the New Testament Paul refers to the apostles as one of the gifts Christ gave his church (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4).

Most Christians, including most evangelical charismatics, agree that there are no more apostles like the twelve or like Paul. So at least one New Testament gift—the gift of apostleship—has ceased. That means there is a significant difference in the work of the Spirit between the time of the apostles and today, because one of the most miraculous displays of the Spirit disappeared with the passing of the apostolic age. Once you agree that there are no apostles today at the same level with Peter and Paul, you have admitted there was a major change in the gifting of the Spirit between the Apostolic Age and the post-apostolic age. The one New Testament gift most frequently associated with miracles—the gift of apostleship—ceased.

Wilson responds:

This argument takes us nowhere: all agree that the eyewitness apostles have ceased, and all agree that (say) pastors and teachers have not ceased. Only if we can show that all New Testament miracles, prophecies, tongues and healings came via apostles—which is patently not the case—would this hold any water at all.

Here, Wilson’s argument isn’t clear, but he seems to be relying on an article he wrote for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS) in which he argues for a two-tier approach to apostleship. He maintains that the Twelve, Paul, and several others were “eyewitness apostles,” and those have ceased. But there are lower level apostles who are the Spirit’s ongoing gift to the church.

Wilson concludes his JETS article with this:

Within conservative evangelicalism, it has become commonplace to divide the apostolate into two, neat types. There are the Apostles (capital “A”) of Jesus Christ, comprising the twelve, James, Barnabas, possibly Silas, and then finally Paul: eyewitnesses of the resurrection, officers of the church, personally commissioned by Jesus, and with the capacity to write or authorise the scriptures, pioneer into new areas, lay foundations in churches, and exercise authority over them. Then there are the apostles (lower case “a”) of the churches, including Andronicus, Junia, Epaphroditus, the brothers of 2 Cor 8:23, and possibly Timothy: messengers that were sent out among the churches, but with no eyewitness appearances or commission from Jesus, and without the capacity to write Scripture, pioneer, lay foundations or exercise authority over churches. On this view, although there is occasional debate (as to which category, say, Eph 4:11 should correspond to), it is theoretically possible to dig up every occurrence of the word apostolos and put it squarely into one of these two categories.

The view that Wilson rejects above is not merely the common view of “conservative evangelicalism.” It is the understanding of historic Christianity and even of many charismatic theologians. Wilson finishes his JETS article by saying that a possible reference to Apollos as an apostle in 1 Corinthians 4:9 (which the entire article argues for but never proves) “may . . . suggest that, according to Paul, although the appearances of the risen Jesus ceased with Paul’s encounter on the Damascus road, the apostoloi did not” (emphasis added). In other words, maybe there is another office in the church—Apostle, Second-Class—that continued after the death of the Paul and the twelve.

The weight of proving this novel idea falls on charismatics. Wilson’s conclusion that the best evidence he can muster “may suggest” a two-tiered apostolate is hardly enough to overturn two millennia of Spirit-enabled interpretation. The argument for cessationism based on the end of the gift of apostleship stands.

(3) The foundational nature of the New Testament apostles and prophets. The New Testament identifies the apostles and prophets as the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20-22). In the context, it is clear that Paul is referring here not to Old Testament prophets but to New Testament prophets. Once the apostles and prophets finished their role in laying the foundation of the church, their gifts were completed.

Wilson:

This [argument] runs aground on the sandbanks of Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-14 in particular, in which it is assumed that local churches experience prophecy in their meetings, yet without such prophecy serving as foundational for the church for all time, or being written down in the canon. Clearly, there is a foundational role for the apostles and prophets of whom Paul speaks in Ephesians (2:20; 3:6), but this in no way implies either that all prophecy has now ceased, or (obviously) that tongues or healings have now ceased.

Most charismatics admit that the New Testament [I]“prophets of whom Paul speaks in Ephesians [/I](2:20; 3:6)” play “a foundational role.” But then without any clear scriptural support, they assume that the prophecy mentioned in Romans and 1 Corinthians must be lower level prophecies. However, if there are not two levels of prophecy—which remains unproven—then Ephesians 2 is definitive. Both the apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church, and their roles were never intended to last.

(4) The nature of the New Testament miraculous gifts. If the Spirit was still moving as he was in the first century, then you would expect that the gifts would be of the same type. Consider the speaking of tongues. At Pentecost, the languages spoken were already existing, understandable languages. The New Testament gift was speaking in a known language and dialect, not an ecstatic language like you see people speaking in today. Prophecies (which were then infallible) and healings are also different in character today from the NT period.

Wilson writes:

Again, this hits serious problems when it comes to 1 Corinthians 12-14, which scholars widely agree refers to ecstatic speech rather than known earthly languages, and to prophetic revelation which needs to be weighed or judged, rather than instantly being added to the infallible canon of scripture.

Contrary to what Wilson implies, there are many scholarly works and commentaries that do not support the view that 1 Corinthians 14 refers to ecstatic speech. But even more important is the analogy of Scripture. When Luke wrote the book of Acts, he knew what Paul had written six or seven years earlier in 1 Corinthians 14. Moreover, Luke knew what was actually happening in the church in Corinth. Yet without any caveat, Luke defines speaking in tongues as “we hear them speak in our own language” or our own dialect (Acts 2:7-8).

Wilson:

To say, further, that healings are different in character is to beg the question: there are numerous testimonies out there (I have heard many personally) of blind eyes seeing, deaf ears opening, the lame walking and even the dead being raised, unless one prejudges the veracity of such testimonies by assuming cessationism (or, of course, naturalism).

It is important to remember that all Christians believe God can cause blind eyes to see, open deaf ears, and even cause the lame to walk again. But the key issue is whether God still distributes to people the miraculous ability to heal others. When it comes to the supposed modern miraculous gift of healing, there are always “testimonies out there” and those who believe them “have heard many personally.” But there are rarely firsthand accounts, and there is never verifiable evidence of the miraculous gift of healing—much less of the ability to raise the dead!

(5) The testimony of church history. The practice of apostolic gifts declines even during the lifetimes of the apostles. Even in the written books of the New Testament, the miraculous gifts are mentioned less as the date of their writing gets later. After the New Testament era, we see the miraculous gifts cease. John Chrysostom and Augustine speak of their ceasing.

Wilson:

There are two errors here. The first is that miracles are mentioned less in New Testament books that are written later; the book of Acts is certainly written after the books of 1 Thessalonians and James, and very probably after the other Paulines and Petrines, yet contains far more miracles (and John, among the latest books, has one or two miracles in it as well!).

I was not speaking of the working of miracles by the apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12) as Wilson seems to imply, but rather of the miraculous gifts given to individual Christians other than the apostles. When you trace the practice of the miraculous gifts by those other than the apostles against a time line of New Testament history and its letters, you will find that the miraculous gifts decline in their mention and use even during the apostolic period.

Wilson continues:

The second [error] is that we see the miraculous gifts cease after the New Testament; again, this begs the question by assuming that subsequent accounts of and responses to miraculous or prophetic activity, from the Didache and the Montanists onwards, are inaccurate or exaggerated. . . . In any case, this sort of argument—that, since something gradually disappeared from the church over the course of the first two or three centuries, it must therefore be invalid—should strike any five sola Protestant as providing several hostages to fortune.”

Many scholars believe the original version of the Didache was probably written during the apostolic age, so it proves nothing about the continuation of the miraculous gifts after the time of the apostles. There are scattered reports of the miraculous throughout church history, but many of them are connected to groups and leaders whose doctrine was seriously aberrant in some way. And in spite of Tertullian’s connection to the Montanists, the church eventually spoke with one voice against them.

The consistent testimony of the church’s key leaders is that the miraculous and revelatory spiritual gifts ended with the Apostolic Age—they didn’t “gradually disappear” over several centuries. I provided a sampling of quotes from across church history as proof. John MacArthur cites many others in his book Strange Fire. The consistent testimony of the Christian church’s key leaders across church history poses a huge problem for our continuationist friends. As Sinclair Ferguson expressed it, continuationism provides no convincing theological explanation for the disappearance of certain gifts during most of church history.

(6) The sufficiency of Scripture. The Spirit speaks only in and through the inspired Word. He [I]doesn’t call and direct his people through subjective messages and modern day bestsellers. His word is external to us and objective.[/I]

Wilson responds:

This is not so much an argument for cessationism as a restatement of it. Suffice it to say that James and Paul, to mention just two apostles, envisage Christians being given wisdom by God, experiencing the Spirit crying out “Abba!” in their hearts, and being given spontaneous revelation during church meetings, none of which conflict with their high view of the scriptures.”

I intentionally did not develop this point, because I knew Steve Lawson planned to address this issue in his message on sola Scriptura. You can listen to or read Steve’s excellent defense here:http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/TM13-12/the-puritan-commitment-to-sola-scriptura-steve-lawson

[B] (7)[/B] The New Testament governed the miraculous gifts. Whenever the New Testament gift of tongues was to be practiced, there were specific rules that were to be followed. There was to be order and structure, as well as an interpreter. Paul also lays down rules for prophets and prophecy. Tragically most charismatic practice today clearly disregards these commands. The result is not a work of the spirit but of the flesh.

Wilson writes:

I’m not qualified to comment on whether this is true of “most” charismatics, rather than “some,” but to the extent that this is true, I wholeheartedly agree with [COLOR=Blue]Pennington that miraculous gifts need to be governed and practiced wisely, in line with the New Testament. Clearly, however, this is not an argument against using charismatic gifts—it is an argument against using charismatic gifts badly.[/COLOR]

To his credit, Wilson decries the unbiblical practice of the charismatic gifts. And I would agree that there are a few charismatic churches making valiant efforts at following Paul’s directives. But he is too well read and informed not to know that charismatics claim to be 500 million strong. Of that number, more than 125 million are Roman Catholics who have embraced a false gospel. And of the remaining number, even charismatic writers estimate that close to 40 percent of the 500 million are involved with the prosperity gospel (other estimates have the percentage as high as 90 percent). Add in the huge audiences watching charismatic television programs and services where the biblical directives are not followed, and far more than 50 percent of a movement that claims to be a work of the Spirit is either preaching a damning gospel or completely disregarding the Spirit’s clear New Testament commands regarding practice of the gifts. That is more than a few charismatics behaving badly. Instead, it demonstrates that the movement as a whole can claim neither the Scripture nor the Spirit.

Wilson concludes his critique: “I think that the cessationist position is biblically distorted, theologically confused and historically exaggerated.” Sadly, it is the charismatic position that is out of step with the Scripture, with historic theology, and with the key figures of evangelical church history. The biblical case for cessationism still stands.

If you want to read more on charismatic issues, see the brief bibliography below.

A Brief Bibliography of Books Arguing for Cessationism

John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos.

John MacArthur, Strange Fire.

Samuel Waldron, To Be Continued?.

[Best brief work on the issue for laymen]

Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit.

[Best work on the role of the Holy Spirit, and a helpful defense of cessationism]

Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. Perspectives on Pentecost.

[Recommended]

B.B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles.

[Classic historical defense of the end of the miraculous but not a biblical defense; recommended]

Robert Reymond, What About Continuing Revelations and Miracles in the Presbyterian Church Today?

[Recommended; deals primarily with the gift of tongues but also addresses the issue of cessation; out of print]

Larry Pettigrew, The New Covenant Ministry of the Holy Spirit.

[Helpful work on the roles of the Spirit in the Old Testament & New Testament; section on cessation and tongues is helpful]

Walter Chantry, Signs of the Apostles.

[Helpful but a bit dated]

Robert Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts.

[Great exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14]

Robert Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement.

R.C. Sproul, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit.

Arthur Johnson, Faith Misguided: Exposing the Dangers of Mysticism.

Graham Cole, He Who Gives Life: the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

http://www.gty.org/blog/B140505

Sam Storms and Two Types of Tongues

Sam Storms and Two Types of Tongues

February 25, 2014

by Nathan Busenitz

In last week’s post, we introduced a series about the gift of tongues. Cessationists generally define the gift of tongues as the supernatural ability to speak authentic foreign languages that the speaker had not previously learned. Continuationists, by contrast, erally allow for the possibility that the gift produces speech that does not correspond to any human language. The question we are asking in this series is whether or not that possibility is biblically warranted.

Does the Gift of Tongues Produce Non-Human Languages?

Most continuationists acknowledge that modern tongues-speech predominately consists of something other than human foreign languages.

Of course, some continuationists point to anecdotal evidence to claim that modern glossolalia (tongues-speaking) can sometimes consist of human languages. But even supporters of modern tongues, like George P. Wood of the Assemblies of God, admit the infrequency of such reported occurrences. After commenting on alleged accounts “where one person spoke in a tongue that a second person recognized as a human language,” Wood is quick to state: “Admittedly, such occurrences are rare” (from his review of Strange Fire, published Jan. 13, 2014).

Such occurrences are so rare, in fact, that continuationist claims about modern glossolalia producing real human languages remain unconvincing to everyone outside the charismatic movement (including both Christians and non-Christians). As we saw in the previous post, professional linguists (like William Samarin of the University of Toronto) who study glossolalia have concluded that it “fundamentally is not language.” D. A. Carson, himself a non-cessationist, represents an objective assessment of the evidence when he writes: “Modern tongues are lexically uncommunicative and the few instances of reported modern xenoglossia [speaking foreign languages] are so poorly attested that no weight can be laid on them” (Showing the Spirit, 84).

The evidence, or lack thereof, leaves continuationists like Sam Storms in the necessary position of contending that modern tongues-speaking is legitimate, even if it does not consist of genuine human languages. According to Storms, the gift of tongues in New Testament times did not always express itself in human language either. In his 2012 book, The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, Storms gives nine reasons why tongues were not necessarily human languages. His arguments are typical of other continuationist authors, and as such provide a representative sampling of the continuationist position.

Storms’ chapter on tongues (chapter 9 in the book) begins by asking the very question we are asking in this blog series. He writes, “Are tongues human languages? This is a key question for those who say the gift of tongues has ceased for today” (p. 179). After distinguishing the cessationist position from that of the continuationist, Storms reiterates the heart of the issue: “Is it true that ‘all tongues in the New Testament were human language’?” (ibid.).

Storms, of course, answers that question in the negative, which brings us to his first reason for concluding that tongues in the New Testament were not necessarily human languages.

Continuationist Argument 1: The manifestation of tongues described in Acts 2 is not the only kind of tongues described in the New Testament.

There is no question that the tongues in Acts 2 consisted of authentic foreign languages. Luke states, in Acts 2:4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Luke continues in vv. 9–11 to list some 16 different languages and dialects that were spoken.

Storms readily admits that the tongues described in Acts 2 were human foreign languages. But he proceeds to argue that this is the only place in the New Testament where that was true. To quote Storms:

Acts 2 is the only text in the New Testament where tongues-speech consists of foreign languages to previously known by the speaker. This is an important text, yet there is no reason to think Acts 2, rather than, say, 1 Corinthians 14, is the standard by which all occurrences of tongues-speech must be judged

(p. 180).

Storms’ view—that there are two types of tongues in the New Testament (only one of which consisted of human languages)—is fairly common among continuationists. As Adrian Warnock once explained on his blog: “One thing that most of us [continuationists] agree on is that there are different kinds of tongues. . . . I think it is fair to say that the tongues of 1 Corinthians are different from those of Acts 2.

But does the biblical evidence allow for this distinction? More specifically, is the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians categorically different than the gift described in Acts? I certainly don’t believe so.

Here are seven observations from the biblical text that indicate the gift of tongues is the same in both Acts and 1 Corinthians:

1. Same Terminology: In both Acts and 1 Corinthians 12–14, the same words are used to describe the gift of tongues. Both Luke and Paul repeatedly describe the phenomena using the combination of laleo (“to speak”) and glossa (“languages”) (Acts 2:4, 11; 10:46; 19:6; 1 Cor. 12:10, 28; 13:1, 8; 14:2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 18, 19, 22, 23, 26, 27, 39).

2. Same Description (as languages): In both Acts and 1 Corinthians 12–14, the gift of tongues is directly associated with foreign languages. In Acts 2, foreign languages are clearly in view, and Luke lists a number of them in vv. 9–11. In 1 Corinthians 14:10–11, Paul associates tongues with the “many kinds of languages in the world.” Moreover, Paul’s reference to Isaiah 28:11–12 in 1 Cor. 14:21 supports the notion that he has foreign languages in mind.

We might add that the gift of interpretation confirms that the nature of tongues in 1 Corinthians consisted of authentic foreign languages (cf. 1 Cor. 12:10; 14:5, 13). On the day of Pentecost, Jewish pilgrims from various parts of the world did not need an interpreter to understand the languages that were being spoken. But in the congregation in Corinth, an interpreter was needed so that anyone who did not understand the language being spoken could be edified. As Norman Geisler explains: “The fact that the tongues of which Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians could be ‘interpreted’ shows that it was a meaningful language. Otherwise it would not be an ‘interpretation’ but a creation of the meaning. So the gift of ‘interpretation’ (1 Corinthians 12:30; 14:5, 13) supports the fact that tongues were a real language that could be translated for the benefit of all by this special gift of interpretation.”

3. Same Source (the Holy Spirit): In both Acts and 1 Corinthians 12–14, the gift of tongues was given by the Holy Spirit. The miraculous tongues in Acts were directly related to the working of the Holy Spirit (2:4, 18; 10:44–46; 19:6). In fact, tongue-speaking is evidence of having received the “gift” (dorea) of the Holy Spirit (10:45). As in Acts, the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians was directly related to the working of the Holy Spirit (12:1, 7, 11, etc.). Similarly, the gift of tongues is an evidence (or “manifestation”) of having received the Holy Spirit (12:7).

4. Same Recipients (both apostles and non-apostles): In both Acts and 1 Corinthians 12–14, the gift of tongues was experienced by both apostles and non-apostles. On the Day of Pentecost it involved all of those gathered in the Upper Room. In Acts 11:15–17 (and 15:8), Peter explains that the experience of Acts 10 was the same as that of Acts 2, even noting that Cornelius and his household had received the same gift as the apostles on the Day of Pentecost. In 1 Corinthians, Paul, as an apostle, possessed the gift of tongues (14:18). Yet he recognized that there were non-apostles in the Corinthian church who also possessed the gift.

5. Same Sign (to unbelievers): In both Acts and 1 Corinthians 12–14, the gift of tongues was given as a sign to the nation of Israel that God was now working through the Jew-Gentile church. In Acts, it is presented as a sign for unbelieving Jews (2:5, 12, 14, 19). In 1 Corinthians, as in Acts, the gift of tongues was a sign for unbelieving Jews (14:21–22; cf. Is. 28:11). Thus, the Corinthian use of tongues was a sign just as the apostles’ use of tongues was a sign on the day of Pentecost.

6. Same Connection (to prophecy): In the book of Acts, the gift of tongues is closely connected with prophecy (2:16–18; 19:6) and with other signs that the Apostles were performing (2:43). In 1 Corinthians, as in Acts, the gift of tongues is closely connected with prophecy (all throughout 12–14). Interestingly, continuationists contend that the gift of prophecy in Acts is the same as the gift of prophecy in 1 Corinthians. Only the gift of tongues gets redefined.

7. Same Reaction (from unbelievers): In Acts 2, some of the unbelieving Jews at Pentecost accused the apostles of being drunk when they heard them speaking in other tongues (languages which those particular Jews did not understand). Similar to Acts, in 1 Corinthians, Paul states that unbelievers will accuse the Corinthians of being mad [not unlike “drunk”] if their tongues are not interpreted (14:23), and are therefore not understood by the hearer.

Added to this is the fact that Luke (the author of Acts) was a close associate of Paul (the writer of 1 Corinthians), and wrote under Paul’s apostolic authority. Moreover, the book of Acts was written after the first epistle to the Corinthians. It is unlikely, then, that Luke would have used the exact same terminology as Paul if he understood there to be an essential difference between the two gifts (especially since such could lead to even greater confusion about the gifts — a confusion which plagued the Corinthian church).

There is also the issue of sound hermeneutics: In interpreting the Bible, we use the clearer passage to help us understand the less-clear passage. In this case Acts 2 is the clearer passage. So it is appropriate to allow our understanding of Acts to inform our interpretation of 1 Corinthians. Author Gerhard Hasel put it this way:

There is but one clear and definitive passage in the New Testament which unambiguously defines “speaking in tongues” and that is Acts 2. If Acts 2 is allowed to stand as it reads, then “tongues” are known, intelligible languages, spoken by those who received the gift of the Holy Spirit and understood by people who came from the various areas of the ancient world to Jerusalem. We may raise a question of sound interpretation. Would it not be sound methodologically to go from the known definition and the clear passage in the New Testament to the less clear and more difficult passage in interpretation? Should an interpreter in this situation attempt to interpret the more difficult passage of 1 Cor 12–14 in light of the clearer passage of Acts 2? Is this not a sound approach?

And, as we noted in last week’s post, the church historically equated the tongues of Acts with the tongues of Corinth.

Conclusion: The biblical (and historical) evidence leads us to conclude that there is only one gift of tongues, and (based on its description in Acts 2) it consisted of authentic foreign languages that the speaker had not previously learned (Mark 16:17; Acts 2:4, 8–11; 10:47; 11:17). Storms’ claim that the tongues of Acts 2 were categorically different than the tongues of 1 Corinthians falls short.

To quote again from D. A. Carson:

If [Paul] knew of the details of Pentecost (a currently unpopular opinion in the scholarly world, but in my view eminently defensible), his understanding of tongues must have been shaped to some extent by that event. Certainly tongues in Acts exercise some different functions from those in 1 Corinthians; but there is no substantial evidence that suggests Paul thought the two were essentially different. We have established high probability, I think, that Paul believed the tongues about which he wrote in 1 Corinthians were cognitive.

(Showing the Spirit, 83).

Such a conclusion has significant ramifications for contemporary charismatics: when they acknowledge that the modern form of tongues-speaking does not involve actual foreign languages, they are simultaneously acknowledging that their contemporary experience does not have any New Testament precedent.

(We plan to continue this series next week.)

http://thecripplegate.com/sam-storms-and-two-types-of-tongues/

John MacArthur, justification and sanctification

John MacArthur, justification and sanctification

January 31, 2014

The Lordship Salvation controversy in the 1990s happened quite some time ago. In that controversy, Pastor John MacArthur wrote a book The Gospel According to Jesus against the growing antinomianism in Dispensational Fundamentalism, notably against Dispensationalists like Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges. MacArthur’s target was the idea that a person can just have Jesus as Savior while denying Him as Lord. In other words, American revivalism, combined with a baster*ized version of the doctrines of Assurance of salvation and of the Perseverance of the Saints in Dispensationalism, resulted in the production of a mangled doctrine often termed “Once Saved, Always Saved” (OSAS) or “Eternal Security.” In this doctrine, once someone professed to have faith, as indicated by a tick in the response slip at a revival meeting or going up for an altar call, that person is saved for certain. In its most extreme version, OSAS teaches that a person after he prayed the Sinners’ Prayer can apostatize later and even deny Christ, but he is still saved regardless of what he does afterwards, since he at ONE time in his life indicated faith in Christ. This “carnal Christian” however loses out on his reward, and, according to Charles Stanley, they will be in the “outer darkness” in the suburbs of heaven, a lesser hell situated within the vicinity of heaven itself.

This background is crucial to understand the context in which MacArthur was in when he wrote The Gospel According to Jesus. Some time later as the Lordship Salvation Controversy was still raging, a group of Reformed theologians like Dr. Michael Horton decided to write a response in the book Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation. In that book, the Reformed theologians faulted both camps of the debate. The error of the non-Lordship camp was their reduction of faith to one of mere assent, while the fault of the Lordship camp was a subtle confusion of justification and sanctification. They acknowledged at that time that MacArthur did listen to some of their concerns.

In 2008, Zondervan put out a revised and expanded anniversary edition of MacArthur’s book The Gospel According to Jesus. That book puts forwards his more advanced understanding of the issue, and corrected various errant phrases in his earlier editions. MacArthur it seemed has corrected whatever errors and loose phrases there were in the book when it was initially published, and it is this version that should be examined as to what MacArthur now believes to be the truth.

The question now is this: Does MacArthur still confuse justification and sanctification? I do not think so, and I will look at one section to show why this is the case. We must remember that we are to understand a person’s position in the context in which he is writing it in, and not impute our meanings of what we thinks he says into his text, and thus misrepresent his position.

One section in which MacArthur deals with the demands of Christ is seen in his exposition of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. He is accused of stating that the rich young ruler could earn salvation by actually doing good works. In the revised and expanded anniversary edition, here are some relevant excerpts in which MacArthur expounded the passage:

Many readers of Matthew 19 have taken the young man to task for his question. They say his mistake was in asking, “What good thing shall I do?” In other works, he has a works-oriented mind-set. And of course, it is true he was attuned to a religion based on works. He had been raise in a Pharisaic system of tradition. He was trained to think of religion as a system to earn divine favor. But with all that in his background, he asked a fair question. …

After all, there is something we have to do to inherit eternal life: we have to believe. This man’s question was not much different from the question of the multitudes in John 6:28: “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered these people with a simple and straightforward reply: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent” (v. 29).

But this is where the story takes an extraordinary turn. Jesus’ answer to this young man seems preposterous: …

Strictly speaking, Jesus’ answer was correct. If a person could keep the law all his life and never violate a single jot or tittle, he would be perfect, sinless (cf. James 2:10). But no one except the Savior alone is like that; we are born in sin (Ps. 51:5). To suggest that the law is a means to eternal life clouds the issue of faith. … (p. 94)

Finally, Jesus gave him the ultimate test: “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matt. 19:21). This challenged his claim to having kept the law. …

The ultimate test was whether this man would obey the Lord. Jesus was not teaching salvation by philanthropy. He was not saying it is possible to buy eternal life with charity. … The Lord was putting His finer on the very nerve of this man’s existence. Knowing where his heart was, He said, “Unless I can be the highest authority in your life, there is no salvation for you.” By placing Himself alongside the man’s wealth and demanding that he made the choice, our Lord revealed the true state of the young man’s heart.

The rich young ruler failed the rest. He was not willing to acknowledge Jesus as sovereign Lord over his life… It seems he really did want eternal life, but he was unwilling to come the way Jesus specified — the way of confessing his sin and surrendering to Jesus’ lordship. In other words, he remained in unbelief. (pp. 97-8)

Salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). This is the consistent and unambiguous teaching of Scripture. But people with genuine faith do not refuse to acknowledge their sinfulness. They sense that they have offended the holiness of God. They do not reject the lordship of Christ. They desire Him more than the things of this world. Real faith lacks none of these attributes. Saving faith does not recoil from the demand to forsake sin and self and follow Jesus Christ at all costs. Those who find His terms unacceptable cannot come at all. He will not barter away His right to be Lord.

If we learn anything from the account of the rich young ruler, it is the truth that although salvation is a blessed gift from God, Christ will not give it to one whose hands are filled with other things. Those who are not willing to turn from sin, possessions, false religion, or selfishness will find they cannot turn to Christ in faith. (p. 99)

When we look at the excerpts, we note here that MacArthur is not saying that people have to do something to be saved, or that the rich young ruler needs to do something to merit salvation. Rather, the request is to expose the failure of the rich young ruler to keep the Law, as he had claimed to do. That MacArthur is not teaching justification by faithfulness can be seen in the phrase he used that “our Lord revealed the true state of the young man’s heart” (p. 98). Any work done in repentance is evidentiary of the state of the man’s heart, not part of what contributes to their justification. That such is the correct interpretation is seen in the slightly later phrase that the rich young ruler “remained in unbelief” (p. 98).

Faith is normally described as consisting of cognition, assent and trust. Interpreting MacArthur’s exposition using this three-fold description of faith shows us that MacArthur exposited the rich young ruler as not trusting in Christ. He did not trust in Christ, depicted by MacArthur as not “confessing his sins and surrendering to Jesus’ lordship” (p. 98). It is not that the act of repentance or selling all he had will contribute to his justification, but rather that the failure to do that shows he has not the true faith that will evidence itself in works of repentance.

MacArthur probably did use language that confuses justification and sanctification in his earlier editions. The issue to be addressed now is whether he seems to have realized his mistakes in expression and made the necessary corrections, which he seems to have since there is nothing wrong with the exposition in this edition. This should make us see that MacArthur did not confuse justification and sanctification. Furthermore, the errors previously made were not intentional but a result of the polemics he was using against the Dispensational antinomians. That MacArthur responded positively and changed the questionable phrases shows us that any errors made were unintentional. Seeing the book in the context of the controversy it had both spawned and addressed, it should be clear that MacArthur did not confuse justification and sanctification in substance, and in his latest revised edition he also did not confuse justification and sanctification in form.

http://puritanreformed.blogspot.com/2014/01/john-macarthur-justification-and.html