Luke 12:35 Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.
Complete the Thought (CTT)
When quoting scripture it is vitally important that we not pluck small segments out of context. Sometimes that means reading the verses leading up to the quoted text… many times it involves reading on beyond the quoted text. Sound doctrine demands we check our cliches, church-isms, and quick-quotes against the whole of scriptures, lest we deceive ourselves and those who follow.
Today I’d like to take a look at a commonly used rebuke in social media whenever someone posts an image of God or old icons from the early church depicting Jesus, or even a crucifix. The rebuke being a claim that the post was a 2CV, or 2nd Commandment Violation. So, what does this mean?
This is a reference to a numbering of the 10 commandments common to the Reformed tradition and most Protestant denominations. By that numbering, the 2nd Commandment is “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” or usually shortened to “You shall not make any graven images”. The argument usually follows the line of reasoning that any image that might be of God or might be worshiped as an idol constitutes a breaking of this commandment, regardless of how the image is actually being used. There are varying definitions of what constitutes a 2CV, but in the extreme sense, any paintings, drawings, carvings, statues, etc. are forbidden by the 2nd Commandment.
Lutherans don’t follow this numbering of the 10 Commandments so a “2CV” for a Lutheran would be breaking of the Commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” This leads to some confusion in communication between Lutherans and Protestants. So, let’s look at the Commandments themselves rather than the list/numbering found in a denomination’s Catechism or Confessions. For that, we’ll turn to Exodus 20:1-21 without the verses numbered.
Exodus 20:1-21 (ESV)
And God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
Now, the ESV editors also insert line breaks. But if we look at the words themselves, we don’t see any numbering. I don’t read Hebrew or Greek so we cannot discuss this passage linguistically. But we can look at the context of what is written. Both traditions start numbering the Commandments at “You shall have no other gods before me.”
In the images above, I’ve highlighted the verses surrounding what is called the 2nd Commandment by those using the 2CV rebuke. Here is where Lutherans (and others) see a problem with isolating verse 4 as its own Commandment. The context of verses 2-6 is all on the same topic… the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before (or besides) me”. So we treat v2-6 as all part of the 1st Commandment and consider verse 7 as the start of the 2nd. I’ve run across folks who allege that Rome and Lutherans number the Commandments so they can “skip the second commandment” to protect their graven images. This is simply untrue, particularly given how we teach the commandments. It is true that at the time of the Reformation, Rome was in grave error of several forms of idolatry, but their numbering of the Commandments wasn’t born of these errors. Rome’s numbering comes from the early Church fathers and Luther pulled from the early church as well, so Lutherans didn’t pull from Rome, we both pull from St. Augustine’s work. I believe most Protestants pull from Origen. Historicity alone cannot determine which is “more right”, which is why we started by examining the Scriptures in context.
So is it a direct violation of the 1st or 2nd Commandment to depict Christ or the Holy Trinity in a drawing or sculpture?
I cannot see that as the focus of Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5. The focus is on idolatry, the worshiping of idols as gods. An argument can be made that under the Mosaic covenant, the idols themselves were idolatry. Under the New Covenant, we have a clearer picture of the sin of idolatry and realize that we are guilty of the sin of idolatry when we allow anything to rise above God in our hearts, even without physical idols, and that we are far more guilty of this sin than any of us can imagine. So, under the New Covenant, we need to carefully examine the purpose of such depictions of the Triune God of Scripture to ensure that it is indeed pointing the observer to the One True God, not to worship of the depiction as god. Discernment is needed here. Now, not all depictions of Christ are sound, some are quite blasphemous. The blasphemy should be targeted and rebuked. I don’t recommend getting stuck on a blanket prohibition of drawings/depictions in hopes of making your rebuke irrefutable.
But the commandment says not to make ANY graven image of ANYTHING!
If we allow that verse to be lifted out of its context, this might be a fair argument. But it becomes highly problematic both in its immediate context and in the instructions God gives Moses for the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-27), which included several graven/woven images of cherubim. God commanded Moses to craft a fiery serpent on a pole (Numbers 21) for the Children of Israel to look at for healing from the deadly snake bites. That bronze image had to later be destroyed because the people later set it up as an idol they had named and made sacrifices to (2 Kings 18). So, we see the heart of the matter is the worship of a false god. Idolatry is found in the heart of the idolators, not in the substance of the idol. The idol itself is nothing (1 Cor 8), but in worshiping the idol, pagans are worshiping demons (1 Cor 10). This is breaking the first and greatest commandment:
Matthew 22:36-38 (ESV) “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
Deuteronomy 6:5 (ESV) You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Since someone might stumble due to a depiction of the Triune God, we should ban all of them!
No, the answer to sin isn’t more law; rather, it is the clear preaching of the Gospel. God’s Law doesn’t grant the power to keep it, a man-made law is infinitely worse. The New Testament makes it clear that no one keeps the law but Christ and that salvation is by Grace through Faith, not by works of the Law. Your accuser might claim to be (or speaking out of concern for) a weaker brother/sister.
1 Corinthians 8:4-13 (ESV) Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Speak in truth with the brother/sister with all patience, humility, and kindness. If it is something you’ve posted deliberately on their wall or in their feed, remove it. If they are demanding you remove it from your own social media, kindly decline when the depiction is intended to benefit other neighbors. Need to exercise discernment here on a case-by-case basis.
When someone charges you with 2CV! do try to give it a best possible construction, that the individual is trying to uphold the Law as he/she has been taught. Might there have been something idolatrous in what you shared? Temper your initial response (and offense) in order to gauge the level of knowledge or understanding possessed by your accuser. Above all, do everything to the Glory of God.
Our catechisms are helpful in training up disciples. We need to know our catechisms well enough to identify where they summarize Scripture and how they’ve done so. The numbering of the 10 commandments is such a summary. Be willing and able to return to the Scriptures when dealing with differences in confessions.
Jude 24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
If you’ve missed the news over the weekend, the LORD be praised! If you didn’t miss the news, then you’ve heard about the rioting in D.C. mislabeled a “protest” and the miserably named “DC Women’s March” which was a vulgar, progressivist, demonstration attacking the unborn and rejecting pro-life women. By all accounts it was a disgrace. Police had to respond to the rioters with non-lethal force. Several arrests were made.
Sadly, this garbage filled most of social media throughout the weekend, and I saw professing Christians commenting in all directions. Today, let us look at what Scripture says to the Church regarding so-called “civil disobedience”.
Romans 13:1-7 (ESV) | Submission to the Authorities
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. When the Police stepped in to punish the lawless acts of the rioters, they did a good thing. They served their neighbors in their vocations by being a terror to bad conduct. They served their neighbor in their vocations as God’s servant for our good. That they did so using non-lethal means is a mercy and extension of grace to the lawless. The law of the land in the United States affirms “the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”, but there is no right to destroy public and private property. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are not to engage in such lawlessness. Heed Scripture’s warning that if you do wrong, be afraid, for [the governing authority] does not bear the sword in vain. Remember, Paul penned this under the rule of Emperor Nero, so don’t try to make an appeal to the culture.
DC Women’s March?
I sure hope my brothers and sisters in Christ aren’t participating or championing this vulgar display over the weekend. There was nothing praiseworthy in this murderous (pro-abortion) and scandalous demonstration. What does Scripture say?
Titus 2 (ESV) | Teach Sound Doctrine
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
Working at home. I’d like to comment on this one, because I know that the vast majority of western households are dual-income homes. I don’t think this is a ban on women having a vocation in addition to “housewife”; rather, this is to indicate that our primary vocations are in service of the home. Mothers and housewives are nearly irreplaceable in the home, whereas outside the home you are easily replaced for the sake of business. Similarly, fathers and husbands are nearly irreplaceable in the home, but easily replaced outside of the home. The focus of this is on the work at home. Lydia of Thyatira was a seller of purple goods (Acts 16), she had a vocation outside the home, but it did not replace her vocation at home. Most homes were family businesses in those days, we see Aquila and Priscilla were tentmakers by trade, they worked together in trade. Paul stayed with them and also worked with them in their trade (Acts 18). Is it a sin for a woman to work outside of the home? No, unless she is neglecting her duties to her husband, children, and home. Is a man in sin for staying at home? No, unless he isn’t working or he is neglecting his duties to his wife and children. note: earning a paycheck is not the sole definition of “working”.
Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Here, again, we see no room for the Church to engage in lawlessness and public displays of vulgarity.
But there has to be an exception to the rule!
Sadly, it is often the case that those who focus on finding the exception to the rule do so because they have no intention of obeying the rule. In scripture we might see cases that seem to present exceptions to the rule, but when we look more closely we’ll see that such cases are being misrepresented as exceptions.
Acts 4:13-22 (ESV) Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
Acts 5:12-18 (ESV) Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.
These rulers were corrupt and hostile to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They commanded the Apostles in opposition to Christ’s commandment to them to preach and to baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Their response to the council is often touted as an exception to the rule of submission to authorities. But notice, later on when they continue preaching in Solomon’s Portico and performing signs and miracles in the Name of Jesus, they were arrested and thrown into prison. The charge against them was unjust, and remained so for they submitted to their arrest and gave no further cause for punishment, that the Word of God may not be reviled, and that their opponent might be put to shame. God delivers them from jail in this case, but that is not guaranteed to happen every time. Paul wrote many of his letters while wrongfully imprisoned. Most of the Apostles died as martyrs, wrongfully punished for the sake of the Gospel. They submitted to the authorities, and they honored their calling in Christ to preach the Word. So is our charge as Christ’s Church.
The church isn’t called to produce “social change” or to somehow force pagan governments to bend the knee to Christ. Christ will do that Himself when He returns in glory to judge both the Living and the Dead. Despite what our society praises in the unholy sacrament of “civil disobedience”, the Church has no such call. Here in the United States, we are given some room to resist tyranny and to hold our government accountable. There is a process in place for just such actions. There are also those within this government charged with defending and protecting the U.S. Constitution from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. This is their vocation and their good works of service to their neighbor. Outside of these vocations, we submit to the authorities and we place our trust in God alone.
Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
It has been a while since our last Completing the Thought (CTT) post so I thought we might do one this week. Normally, I try to post these on Mondays, but this past Monday was a Holiday so I thought we’d knock this out today. I Recently received an email from a reader via the Contact Us regarding a song we Disapproved in our DiM series. While the complaint is one that is commonly shared, I truly appreciated the reader’s attempt to make a Biblical argument. Let’s take a look at the referenced text and examine it in context to see what the Apostle Paul was writing.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” I think you are reading too much into this song and video. If this song catches the interest of a young person and it leads them to the Lord they can be instructed in the faith after salvation. Like Paul she is reaching out to all…
The portion of scripture being referenced is 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. In this first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul is writing to a church that is suffering from divisions of men by ethnic differences, social status differences, financial difference, and various examples of fleshly indulgences (abusing the spiritual gifts, sexual immorality, drunkenness at the Lord’s Supper). It’s all one letter and Paul is dealing with a lot of things at once, but Paul isn’t writing to unbelievers, he’s writing to the Church in Corinth. I’m going to be quoting portions of the text, but if you feel I’ve taken anything out of context, by all means call me on it.
1 Corinthians 1:1-3 (ESV)
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
After a bit of greeting, Paul makes clear the purpose of this letter.
1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (ESV) | Divisions in the Church
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
I highlighted what Paul is saying is his primary calling, to preach the gospel of Christ. He isn’t saying he wasn’t supposed to be baptizing (because he did baptize and baptism is an integral part of the Great Commission); rather, he is clearly stating that he was sent to preach the gospel. He also points out that he does so without words of eloquent wisdom so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power, that by distracting folks into admiring his eloquent speech rather than the Gospel of Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (ESV) | Christ the Wisdom and Power of God
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
This is an important point here that I believe the Apostle Paul will be reflecting back to in chapters 8 and 9. Paul preaches the Gospel plainly. The Word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but for the Church (us who are being saved) it is the power of God. So, throughout the letter, Paul is going to be addressing various divisions and distractions from the Gospel, from the Word of the cross, that are taking root within the Church. Now, with this introduction to the letter fresh in our minds, let us jump ahead to Chapter 8.
1 Corinthians 8 (ESV) | Food Offered to Idols
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Why are we talking about food offered to Idols? Because this is one of the key factor in one of the major divisions within the early church, the division between Jew and Gentile believers. Paul’s letter to the Galatians addresses the Judaizing heresy, and the first Apostolic Council was regarding Gentile believers and which rules they should follow. Notice Paul’s focus throughout this discussion of food. Again, he’s talking about fellow believers, brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, and his concern is the Gospel. We know that since idols are false the foods offered to them have no real significance, for we know who God is. However, not everyone has this clear understanding, so to one whose conscience is bound to avoiding foods offered to false gods, it would be a sin to burden his conscience by consuming such food. Paul goes on to say that even though he is free to eat of any food, for food does not commend us to God, for the sake of his brother he’d commit to never eating meat. Paul isn’t just addressing the Gentiles here, he’s making the argument wide enough for the believing Jews who also cannot yet see their freedom from the strict dietary laws of the Mosaic covenant. Paul is teaching them they are free in Christ to eat whatever they like, but they are also told not to abuse their freedoms and sin against their brothers. Now, let’s get to the next chapter.
1 Corinthians 9:1-12 (ESV) | Paul Surrenders His Rights
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.
Now Paul is really driving home his point here. This is definitely a one-up on the matter of food and drink, and it goes to his vocation as Apostle of Jesus Christ and his right to drawing his living (food, drink, shelter) from preaching the Gospel. Paul has the right to ask for provisions from the church to whom he is an Apostle of Jesus Christ, yet he has declined these rights in their case and worked on the side to pay for his provisions so as to not put an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ. Let’s continue reading through the rest of the chapter. I’ll continue highlighting the mention of the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 9:13-27 (ESV)
Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Wow, such an awesome passage. Now, the underlined portion is the part that was quoted to me in the email. Here, we do see Paul addressing the preaching of the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles who are not yet believers “so that i might win more of them”. Indeed, to the Jew Paul became as a Jew. What does this mean? Well, in the context of all that he’s been writing, Paul would go to the synagogues and follow the Mosaic Laws (and even submit to the Traditions of the Elders like ceremonial washings and the like) so as not to become a hindrance to the preaching of the Gospel of Christ in their synagogues. Though he is free from the Mosaic Law and under the Law of Christ, these Traditions of the Elders are of no real value, Paul would observe the temple traditions so that they might listen to the Gospel he preached concerning Christ, so that by all means he might save some. Similarly, Paul would drop the Traditions of the Elders, and the strict dietary laws of the Mosaic covenant when he went into the Gentile market places to preach the Gospel of Christ, so that the Gentiles might be willing to listen to him. The unbelieving Gentiles knew full well who the Jews were, and that they were considered lesser beings because they were Gentiles. What remains constant in all of this, however, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul preached the Gospel. He was sent to preach the Gospel of Christ, and in that he was a servant to all, regardless of their status.
Indeed, we should become all things to all people so that we may not become a hindrance to the preaching of the Gospel. But we cannot use this logic to somehow rationalize the masking of the Gospel. Whenever a preacher claims to give a sermon and fails to preach both Law and Gospel, he is failing his duty. There is no validity in trying to say “I become all things to all people so that I might save some” as justification for failing to preach Law and Gospel.
In the DiM post that was being referenced, we disapproved the song due to a failure to present the Gospel. That is what we are looking for primarily in these DiM posts to grant a song an Approved rating. The song had other problems with it, which made gave it a Disapproved rating. The artist doing that song was not being like the Apostle Paul. It was just an 80s-inspired pop song with unclear theology.
If you’d like to contact us regarding this or any other post, please feel free to visit our Contact Us page and share your thoughts. I’ll try to respond in a timely fashion, not always in the form of a blog post.
Jude 24-25 (ESV)
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Have you ever been listening to a sermon about tithing or fundraising or about our need to proclaim and declare prosperity because we serve a God who owns the “cattle on a thousand hills”? What does that phrase mean? Where does it come from? How does it relate to me? Well, today, we’ll take a look at this portion of a verse and then we’ll examine its context. We’ll find Biblical answers to all of these questions, and I’ll try to address some of its abuses.
The partial quote comes from the second half of Psalm 50:10.
Psalm 50:10 (ESV) For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
Interesting verse, but this isn’t a proverb, comes from a Psalm. So let’s read the Psalm and confirm who is speaking to whom, and what the topic of this conversation is.
Psalm 50 (ESV) | God Himself Is Judge
A Psalm of Asaph.
50 The Mighty One, God the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.
3 Our God comes; he does not keep silence;
before him is a devouring fire,
around him a mighty tempest.
4 He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
Okay, so far we have the LORD God who who speaks and summons the earth that He may judge His people. Let’s continue to see what He is saying.
5 “Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge! Selah
7 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt offerings are continually before me.
9 I will not accept a bull from your house
or goats from your folds.
10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
Interesting. The phrase we are examining today finds itself among several references to the fact that God is in-fact God, and that everything belongs to Him already. Who is God speaking to? Those who made a covenant with God by sacrifice, those under the Mosaic covenant. God declares that He will testify against Israel, for He is their God. God does not rebuke them for their sacrifices, their burnt offerings are continually before him, but notice he shifts immediately by saing He will not accept a bull from the house of Israel, nor goats from her fields. He owns every beast of the forest, all the birds of the hills and all that moves in the field. This reference to “a thousand hills” isn’t to be taken as a literal 1,000 hills, as if there could be cattle on the 1001st hill that didn’t belog to God, God is saying He owns them all. But where is this going? Is this headed toward a health, wealth, and prosperity teaching?
12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
Israel was not the only nation whose worship included animal sacrifice, they were just the only nation who worshiped the LORD God. The pagans (consider the Egpytian gods, and later the Greek and Roman gods) sacrificed to idols and false gods, for their gods had to be fed, served, nourished, and appeased. Here, God is reminding Israel that He did not require these blood sacrifices for His sake, and even if He could hunger, He wouldn’t look to us for His sustinence. God doesn’t need your permission nor your cooperation, the world an everything in it belongs to Him. The notion that God has need of us in any way is a purely pagan one. The sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant are part of their current covenant, but more importantly they point ahead to the Last Sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Christ, the Son of the Living God.
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
What does it mean to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving? It first requires faith that it is God who has provided for your needs, that it is God who has saved you. For this definition I’m borrowing heavily from Hebrews 11:4-6. Both Cain and Abel brought sacrifices, but Abel found favor in the eyes of the LORD by faith. But now we get to the judgment against the people. Remember, their observance of the animal sacrifices under the Law isn’t why God is pronouncing judgment on Israel, so let’s look at what has been missing.
16 But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
18 If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
and you keep company with adulterers.
19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother’s son.
21 These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
Verse 16 hits Israel of the day, and today’s prosperity false-teachers, right between the eyes. You don’t get to demand that God keep His promises “according to the Law” in response to your faithless attempts at keeping the Law. God plainly lists how Israel falls short of the Law. Sure they keep the outward works of the sacrifices, but the lack faith, therefore their gestures are not pleasing to God. Notice how it’s beeing worded, you cast My Words behind you… you who forget God. A good cross-reference for this Psalm can be found in Isaiah 1 where, again, God is calling out Judah for her lack of faith despite the multitude of sacrifices. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.
This thanksgiving is a fruit of faith in God’s Word, for apart from faith in God’s Word we do not give thanks to God. As we examine our lives according to the 10 Commandments, we see that we fall woefully short of these today. As we examine the sins pointed out in the Psalm above, we see that we fall in that very same category. We sin. We are not under the Mosaic covenant, so where does that leave us? We look to the cross of Jesus Christ, and we believe in His finished work on the cross. We offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for the body and blood of His son, Jesus Christ, received by Grace through faith.
So how does this Psalm 50 reference apply to us? We don’t feed God by our sacrifices, He feeds us by His Word. This passage in no way points to our temporal prosperity.
Whenever someone pulls out the description of God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, know that the Psalmist is declaring God to be God of all things, the whole earth, all of creation and all that is in it. If the invoking of this description of God isn’t focusing on giving thanks to God for our salvation, be careful… it’s probably being lifted out of its context. This isn’t a “do more good works” text. God isn’t rebuking Israel for their lack of good works; rather, for their lack of faith.
Romans 16:24-27 (ESV)
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Last week, I saw the following headline from theBlaze pop up on my Facebook feed:
Christian Rocker Comes Out as Gay:
‘I’ve Tried My Whole Life to Be Straight’
Naturally, I was curious as to who this “Christian Rocker” was and wanted to know how the CCM Industry would spin it. After some searching, I realized that this poor young man’s crisis of faith had already published previously, and the community should have picked up on several warning signs. What we have here isn’t a sound Christian suddenly performing a 180º turn, merely the revealing of an unbeliever’s unrepentance. Today, I want to focus your attention more on the Contemporary “Christian” Music (CCM) industry than on the man, Trey Pearson and his rebellion.
That article from the Blaze is mostly a rehash of the original interview posted here. The interview’s title is “A Modern Gospel”, but it isn’t a modern gospel, it’s a false one. Some heartbreaking quotes:
…“I’m gay, and one of the only people who knows is my wife.”…
…“Most of us reach at least one pivotal moment in our lives that better defines who we are. These last several months have been the hardest—but also have ended up being the most freeing months—of my life. To make an extremely long story short, I have come to be able to admit to myself, and to my family, that I am gay.”…
…“There is a weight that has been lifted, and I have never felt so free. I cannot even believe the joy and lightness I feel from being able to accept myself, and love myself, for who I truly am … but I have also lost some of the closest people in my life. I have felt betrayal by people I loved a lot, and cared so much about.”…
…“I’m starting over in so many ways. It is freeing, but it’s also starting out lonely”…
In the article, we see Trey fully fixated on himself while taking shots at Christians for not treating him the way he thinks he should be treated. Really, Trey? You’re leaving your wife. Your wife is no longer your wife, you’ve made her out to be merely part of what you’ve now decided isn’t the real you. Rather than resist sin, you’ve decided to identify by it, and expect others to accept your sin as something that should be embraced, celebrated, and even loved. The “joy and lightness” you’re describing now is no more substantial than the adrenaline high most get from doing something they know is wrong. This isn’t freedom, it is bondage to sin. This hedonistic gospel is no gospel at all. There is no life in it, only death. Let’s turn quickly to Paul’s comments regarding sin in his letter to the Romans, a rather hedonistic society in its day even by modern standards.
Romans 6:15-23 (ESV) | Slaves to Righteousness
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So you see, Paul points out the hard truth of the so-called “freedom” trey is currently experiencing… it’s a freedom in regards to righteousness, meaning that giving yourself over into slavery of sin is to rid yourself of all righteousness. We have no righteousness of our own, so we must become slaves to righteousness by faith in the Righteous One, Our LORD Jesus Christ. In denying the Law of God (specifically that sexual immorality is sin), he’s cut himself off from the very Gospel of God, forgiveness from the sin he refuses to acknowledge as sin. What we see here is a man who is still firmly planted in Romans 1.
Romans 1:18-32 (ESV) | God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Which leads us to the focus of this discussion here. Yes, Trey is in unbelief and I pray the Holy Spirit open his eyes to the Truth, that Trey’s hardened heart and stiffened neck against the Truth of God be softened. But Trey has a platform that the CCM Industry has built for him, and that our godless society is capitalizing on. Check out this troubling segment of the View.
A wife and two children, and all he can think about is himself and his passions. He put all of his faith into his ability to “be something he wasn’t”. Folks, that isn’t the Gospel. The Object of saving faith is NOT our ability to uphold the Law. The Object of our faith is Christ Jesus.
I will concede one point… in part. If the visible church keeps preaching sanctification as a choice we make, it’s teaching the wrong thing. The Law clearly pronounces homosexuality as sin. Abominable sin. As sinful human being, sinless perfection is outside of our reach and beyond our strength to attain in this life on our own. Repentance is a daily act of faith, not a one-time contract that relies on your sanctified perfection to maintain. We must encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with same-sex attraction to continue bearing the fruit of repentance, just as we who struggle with heterosexually immoral temptations need to. Your secret addition to pornography is no less abominable than their same-sex attraction, in the eyes of God they are both sexual immorality, sexual sin, on par with Idolatry, and punishable by death. And they are both covered, paid in full, by the Perfect atoning sacrifice of our LORD Jesus Christ on the cross. Repent, and be forgiven in Jesus’ Name. Take up your cross, die to self, and follow Christ daily. There will come a day when at last we will be free of this sinful, fallen flesh, and we will be given new bodies in the Resurrection. Until then, the righteous live by Faith, not by their own works.
The CCM Problem
As I mentioned earlier, I found an older article from 2013 (Sojourners link) that should have raised several warning flags concerning Trey Pearson and the CCM Industry. That it didn’t indicates that the majority of the Visible church is sleeping or flat-out derelict in their duty to preach sound doctrine and to hold CCM (and themselves) accountable. If you have some time, read through the interview… it is quite telling of the problems within the CCM Industry and with Trey’s theology. These issues, even if Trey can’t speak for the entire industry perfectly, are clearly driving forces behind why so many of our DiM posts end up in disapprovals and warnings. The industry is deeply flawed, and the Church is blindly eating it all up. Let’s look at some of the more damning quotes in the SOJO article:
SOJO: What about the industry surprised you?
Trey: I have been in the industry for 11 years full time, so that’s a bit of a loaded question! I was pretty naive coming into the industry. I assumed everyone there was just trying to make great art, to glorify God. But it was more than that. I thought that what these musicians were doing was somehow sacred, distinct from the “secular” music that other artists were producing. That is what I had been taught as a teenager, by people that were really influential in my life.
I didn’t realize how much the industry was geared toward soccer moms, who support Christian radio. I didn’t realize how many people in the industry had really different views on what it meant to follow God, or just flat out didn’t seem to care. The Christian music industry has the same struggles with drugs, sex and power as the secular music business. [emphasis mine]
The Christian Radio stations are inextricably linked to the Industry machine. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be lulled into the lie that they are simply dealing with the hand they are dealt from the recording studios. It matters who they target with their marketing for “business partners”, it matters that they claim to proclaim the Gospel while promoting and playing mostly ear-tickling pablum. Trey goes on to lament the art that is lacking in the CCM Industry.
The formula of CCM started with them knowing how to sell to the adult contemporary (AC) format. About a decade ago, worship music became really popular, and it has pretty much melded with that AC format. There are some slight differences at times, but it is all geared to be cool enough to make a soccer mom think that it’s edgy, and yet not be too controversial. What is intriguing to me is that you will almost never find someone making art in the rest of the music industry, trying to become an “adult contemporary” artist. You will see Top 40 [pop artists] cross over some of their songs to AC, but all the artists at the top of those mainstream AC charts right now are Rihanna, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, and Justin Timberlake. That’s a far cry from an industry that pushes young people into trying to make Christian AC music, that never ends up being about the art, but just fitting in the right formulaic words like “grace,” “saved,” “Jesus,” and trust me, they have them. And it never leads to good art. No offense to the artists that are ruling Christian music, but it’s just not at the peak of the creative music spectrum…
…Generally, only messages of certainty and positivity are promoted and accepted within Christian AC and worship music communities. It is next to impossible to create art that has transparency and honesty, expressing doubt, and vulnerability. You can see those things all throughout Scripture, but the system in place to sell albums has a very narrow view of belief that they want to promote to their consumers.
So, in these answers we are starting to see more of Trey’s theology, but we are also seeing that the CCM formula is centered on entertaining the Adult Contemporary market rather than on sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The standard isn’t God’s Word, it’s what they think they can get away with to be comfortably edgy and at least nominally orthodox (using the formulaic words he cited). Seriously though, Trey just included the Name that is above all Names in his list of “formulaic words” as a bad thing because it hinders art.
Do you see Trey’s theology emerging a bit here? Might you be inclined to guess at who he’s been listening to, and learning from? Any chance it’s a faithful exegete?
SOJO: Talk about the authors and others who started opening your eyes to other ways of thinking about God.
Trey: The biggest influence that made an impact on making me rethink the sacred vs. secular divide, and on understanding that everything is spiritual, was Rob Bell. He helped me realize again that everything that is good is from God. I stopped believing in Christian music or Christian events or anything else described as a “Christian” that didn’t seem intent on following Jesus.
I’m all for a group of Christians coming together to try to make an impact in people’s lives for the Kingdom of God. I just believe there are better ways to go about it. If you believe that everything that is good is from God, it starts to really change your perspective on how all of this works. Rob was sort of a gateway for me to other authors that have had huge impacts on me like Dallas Willard, N.T. Wright, Jurgen Moltmann, Walter Brueggemann, and many more. [emphasis mine]
I pray the LORD soften Trey’s heart and grant him saving faith and repentance. I pray for his wife and children, for that they might find Faith, Hope, and Restoration in Christ alone. I pray that the Church wake up and start taking their charge to keep the Faith, to keep the Word of God. Dear Christian, do the work of a Berean. Examine your doctrine with an open Bible, to see if it is good. Ensure that your local church faithfully preaches the Word of God, both Law and Gospel unapologetically. Exercise Biblical discernment in what you are listening to, purchasing online, and reading.. particularly those things that claim to be “Christian”. Hold your local CCM Radio stations accountable. They raise funds claiming to be a Christian ministry… is it true? Do they proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ? or are they merely an entertainment platform for a CCM industry looking to make a buck.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV) | Preach the Word
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
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