Friday Sermon | “Getting the Picture” by Alistair Begg

2011-alistair-beggToday, I’d like to share a timely sermon by Alistair Begg entitled “Getting the Picture” preached on 13 September, 2015 at Parkside Church.

Biblical prophecy can be confusing and difficult to understand. The apocalyptic images in Daniel 7 communicate truth in a way that is vivid and that can be understood by believers in every age and culture. In this message, Alistair Begg walks us through the terrors of Daniel’s vision to its conclusion: the promise of the Son’s unending dominion. We are reminded that God is the One who sets up and brings down authorities, and He is sovereignly in control of history.

Link to Sermon:  “Getting the Picture” by Alistair Begg
The text for the sermon is Daniel 7.

May the Grace and Peace of God be with you always,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 8:18 – 9:08

bibleLast week, we followed Jesus as he descended from the mountain where He had delivered what is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. What we will see now is Matthew demonstrating how Jesus goes on to fulfill Prophecy of the Messiah as He presents Himself as the Gospel, the one who will fulfill the Law and the Prophets on our behalf. For as we saw in the Sermon on the Mount, we are incapable of keeping the Law on our own. Christ Jesus came to fulfill the Law on our behalf so that His righteousness can be imputed to our account. Matthew will continue to give testimony of Jesus as the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ to his Jewish audience. Why? That they might have faith (Romans 10:17). After the Law was preached, we see Jesus perform miracles and highlight faith. So as we continue in Matthew, key in on the Identity of Jesus, the Authority of Jesus, and the role of Faith.

Identity and Authority of Jesus

Matthew 8:18-34 (ESV)

The Cost of Following Jesus

18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Jesus Calms a Storm

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man. After calming the storm, the men asked “what sort of man is this?” Matthew and Luke key in on this title of Jesus, Son of Man, more than Mark or John did. The focus of each Gospel account is different. Now, there is a lot involved in this title, and for many it seems like a lower title than “Son of God”. The children of Israel consider themselves bearers of the title Sons of God since they are God’s Chosen People. Now, there is a distinction from this general title of sons of God and claiming to be the Son of God as we will see later, for in claiming to be God’s Begotten Son Jesus is claiming equality with God. We aren’t there yet, but Jesus taking the title of Son of Man is no mere turn of phrase. Jesus is already claiming to be the Messiah here, as prophesied in Daniel 7.

Daniel 7:13-18 (ESV) | The Son of Man Is Given Dominion
13 “I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17 ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’

Notice in this prophecy, we have Christ coming with the clouds of heaven and being given dominion and glory and the kingdom… and in its explanation in v18 we see that the saints will receive the kingdom. We do so, In Christ Jesus. The Gospel is on display in Christ’s taking of this label and He will continue to reveal himself to His disciples, the Apostles. And thanks to their work, we now see very clearly the identity and authority of Jesus Christ, amen.

Matthew 8 (cont…) | Jesus Heals Two Men with Demons

28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time? 30 Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. 31 And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs. 32 And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. 33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.

The demons knew exactly the identity of Jesus, and were aware of a specific time that is coming, but had not yet come. Interesting. They knew Him as the Son of God. Notice also that they were fully aware of His authority to cast them out, and begged Him to allow them to go into the pigs. Don’t get distracted with myths, demonology, or other speculative and vain discussion here, focus on what Matthew is conveying. Jesus is the Son of God and He has authority to cast out demons and they know it.

Matthew 9:1-8 (ESV) | Jesus Heals a Paralytic

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

As a point of Christian Apologetics, there is no room to treat Jesus as merely a good teacher or a prophet of God. If Jesus were not the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Messiah, He would have been guilty of blasphemy here. This is where we draw a great deal of confidence in the doctrine of the Trinity. Our sin is against God, and only He has the power to forgive. Jesus is God the Son, and He demonstrated it by means of this miraculous healing. But the point isn’t the healing… though it is miraculous and wonderful, the purpose of the Messiah far exceeds that of temporal healing. He came to forgive sin.

Until Next Week

I look forward to continuing our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, spend some time in the Word with your family and close friends. I pray you are gathering with the saints in an assembly where the Word of God is faithfully and carefully preached, unstained and free from reproach.

1 Timothy 6:13-16 (ESV) 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

March 31, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe which currently sits at #16 at 20theCountdownMagazine.

We’ll continue using this top 20 song list until I find a better list. Your feedback in this would be greatly appreciated.

Today’s song is beautifully sung, and wonderfully (and simply) composed. Overall, it is reminiscent of the writing style of the Psalms, the singer is both calling out to God and confessing that He is the singer’s Salvation. I would have liked to have seen the song progress into more of a corporate understanding of God being our salvation and I really wish the industry as a whole would drop the whole “walking through deep waters” bit (more on that later). All in all, I think this song is fairly helpful for the individual Christian, though it does not preach Law and Gospel so it does not benefit the unbeliever.

VEVO Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLOVE)

I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as Your own

You’re my strength
You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul

Publishing: © 2014 Worship Together Music / KAJE Songs (BMI) (Admin. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com) / Small City Music (APRA) (admin. by Music Services) / Sony/ATV Tree Music Publishing / Upside Down Under (ASCAP) / Ben Davis Publishing / Watershed Music Publishing (BMI) (Admin. By Watershed Music Co.)
Writer(s): Kari Jobe, Marty Sampson, Mia Fieldes, Ben Davis, Grant Pittman, Dustin Sauder, and Austin Davis

Discussion

The first verse paints a picture of persecution, reminiscent of several of the Psalms that call out for help from the Lord God. For the life of me, I don’t know why the industry is fixated on this “walk through deep waters” bit save for following Hillsong’s lead. Perhaps it is just a bit clunky of an attempt to invoke the sense of drowning in one’s circumstance, but we aren’t led to walk into deep water, so why is the singer walking into deep water? We are led through valleys of shadow, which is a good place to round out the first verse. The middle portion reminds me of Nebuchadnezzar’s Furnace. Again, they were thrown into the fire for having stood on the Word of God in opposition to a false god, and idol. Let us look at that story in Daniel 3 first, and then we’ll look at a couple of Psalms to maybe better frame the imagery of this first verse.

Daniel 3:14-28 (ESV) | The Fiery Furnace

14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. Andwho is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so,our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took upShadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.

I copied the whole portion, because the point of this entire narrative isn’t simply that “we can stand in the fire and God will be with us”; rather, that no matter what happens, all is done by God for the Glory of God (Soli Deo Gloria).

Now, let us look to the first portion of Psalm 69 for a framework to deal with the whole deep waters bit.

Psalm 69:1-18 (ESV) | Save Me, O God

To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. Of David.
1 Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
2 I sink in deep mire,
    where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
    and the flood sweeps over me.
3 I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
4 More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
those who attack me with lies.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
5 O God, you know my folly;
    the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
6 Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
O God of Israel.
7 For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
    that dishonor has covered my face.
8 I have become a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my mother’s sons.
9 For zeal for your house has consumed me,
    and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
10 When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting,
it became my reproach.
11 When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
12 I am the talk of those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.
13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
    At an acceptable time, O God,
    in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
14 Deliver me
    from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
    and from the deep waters.
15 Let not the flood sweep over me,
    or the deep swallow me up,
    or the pit close its mouth over me.
16 Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
    according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
17 Hide not your face from your servant;
for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.
18 Draw near to my soul, redeem me;
ransom me because of my enemies!

It’s quite the wonderful Psalm, I do encourage you to read the full Psalm, we’ve only read half of it. Finally, for the closing out of the first verse, we have an allusion to the 23rd Psalm.

Psalm 23 (ESV) | The Lord Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David.
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

The Chorus is simple and straightforward. I am not alone, for God will go before me and will never leave me. The second verse keeps within the framework established in the first. I was really excited to see the lines at the close of the second verse, “Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear“. Amen, what a wonderful confession. The Lord fights our every battle, and It is Finished. There is a wonderful shift in the focus of the song toward the end… a shift from the singer to the Lord.

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as Your own

You’re my strength
You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul

If there were anything else I’d want from the song, is that should this song be incorporated into Sunday Morning worship, as a special or what have you, there should be a switch from the Individual to the Corporate. We are not alone, for there are many members of the Body of Christ.

Romans 12:3-5 (ESV)3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Why We Aren’t Cessationists

If you’ve been following us for some time, you’ll know that while we do preach Biblical discernment in all matters, we firmly assert that we are not cessationists. I think today we should clarify our position a bit so that there is no mystery on where we stand.

We are functionally cessationist while theologically we acknowledge
that God remains Sovereign over His gifts

First, let’s clearly define cessationism. Cessationsim is the assertion that certain gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in the Bible are no longer available or in operation today. That at some point in early church history, they ceased. Sometimes this assertion is tied to dispensationalism, at other times it is simply tied to the Apostles (or those upon whom the Apostles had directly laid their hands). When tied to dispensationalism, the assertion sometimes sounds like, “God doesn’t operate or deal with His people in that way anymore”, and when tied to the Apostles it sounds like, “those where only for a short time as a testimony of the authority given to the Apostles, and now that there are no more Apostles, the need for those gifts has gone away”. These views are held (in general) by both Lutherans (who generally take the Apostolic argument) and Calvinists (who generally take the dispensation argument). Our problem with the assertion of cessation of certain gifts of the Holy Spirit is that it isn’t taught in Scripture. That presents a bit of a problem when one considers Sola Scriptura as a major tenet of the Reformation.

Generally speaking, there is an argument within the cessation camp that pre-supposes a win as its fundamental argument for discernment. The argument is, “God doesn’t speak to people directly anymore; therefore, anyone who claims a direct revelation from God is either lying or deceived”. This is an argument that really should cease. If the Bible declared that God no longer speaks to His people directly, then there would be no further argument. That it doesn’t, means that we should drop this argument or at least demote it from being a foundational presupposition. At best, it is an empirical bias that may motivate an individual to exercise Biblical discernment, but the assertion should really be presented as a bias and not an objective Biblical truth.

Common Proof Texts for Cessation of Gifts

To Seal both Vision and Prophet

Perhaps one of my favorite pastors to listen to, whether it be one of his sermons or his discernment ministry, is Pastor Chris Rosebrough. When it comes to preaching the Word of God and practicing sound Biblical hermeneutics in breaking down bad teaching, I’ve not found anyone better. I haven’t heard him speak on this recently, but in the past on his program I’ve heard this approach taken a few times. This proof comes from Daniel 9:24. Let us start at the beginning of Daniel 9 so we understand the context of this passage.

Daniel 9:1-2 (ESV) 1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Okay, so we have Daniel, one of the exiles who feared the Lord God and was blessed by God and promoted to a leadership position in the realm of the Chaldeans. We see here that as he studied the Scriptures, he perceived the minimum number of years of the exile prophesied by Jeremiah as 70 years. What follows is Daniel’s prayer of repentance for himself and on behalf of Israel. In so doing, Daniel is following the instructions given to Solomon at the completion of the Temple.

2 Chronicles 7:11-22 (ESV) | If My People Pray
11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished.12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’ 19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’”

Solomon and Israel did not obey, and God kept His Word, as He always does. But now that the 70 years had been completed, Daniel sought the Lord in prayer.

Daniel 9:3-5 (ESV)3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.

I encourage you to take some time and read his prayer in full. For now, let us skip to the response from the Lord given to Daniel by messenger, the Angel Gabriel.

Daniel 9:20-27 (ESV) | Gabriel Brings an Answer
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision. 24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Itsend shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

So, our proof text for cessation comes from a Messianic Prophecy. This scripture gets presented as a declaration that when the second Temple is built both vision and prophet are sealed up, which is taken to mean “closed”. The Hebrew words used here can be legitimately interpreted in that light, so there is no point in digging into the roots of the words. There are 2 problems with using this passage, the first is that it comes in a prophecy regarding the Temple and the Anointed One (Messiah or Christ) which points to Jesus. So it is difficult to treat this text as a clear teaching text, because it was a specific message, to Daniel, regarding His plans for Judah and Jerusalem. The second problem is that if we are to take this as a definitive closing of both Prophet and Vision, well, then we have a problem because the New Testament has both visions and prophets revealed by God the Holy Spirit. So, in this text, there is no mechanism for putting this sealed up vision and prophet “on hold” until sometime after the John finishes writing the Book of Revelation on the Isle of Patmos.

This proof-text isn’t always used alone. It is often used in tandem with the following proof text.

But in These Last Days

Many will point to the introduction to the book of Hebrews as the proof that God no longer speaks directly to His people. The argument goes that the author is declaring that while God spoke in many ways to our fathers by the prophets, He now only speaks one way and that is by the Son. Let’s take a look at it.

Hebrews 1 (ESV) | The Supremacy of God’s Son
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
Or again,
“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7 Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
10 And,
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

But is the author making a declaration regarding how God will no longer speak, or is he pointing out that in Christ, the Son of the Living God, we now have something far better than Moses and the Prophets? I believe it is the latter. Why? Well, because this letter is first and foremost a letter to those who are familiar with the Law and the Prophets, but need better understanding and teaching on how Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets and is now our perfect High Priest of a covenant superior to all previous covenants. There is also the matter of a member of the trinity not being included in this intro, namely, God the Holy Spirit. We know that God the Holy Spirit was promised to the Apostles to teach, remind, and grant power and gifts for the edification of the Church. Therefore, if the event that silenced God from speaking directly to His people by prophets was the virgin birth of Jesus, then why are we promised God the Holy Spirit?

Prophecies Will Pass Away; Tongues Will Cease

This one is less often used, but I have seen it so I want to point out the issue with using this one. It comes from 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (ESV) 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

The idea behind using this proof-text is that this passage demonstrates that all of these gifts have a limit. What follows is usually an argument from silence or borrowing from the close of the Book of Revelation to suggest that tongues already ceased once we learned how to understand all of the major spoken languages and that prophecies have ceased since the canon of Scripture is now closed. The problem with using this text in that way is that its primary teaching is to demonstrate the eternal quality of love (a more excellent way). Paul explains that we see in part and prophesy in part but when the perfect comes… ah, Paul did insert a marker. To what is Paul referring here as when the perfect comes? The Return of Jesus Christ Our Lord. And that stands to reason, for once Jesus returns, we’ll have no need of prophecies or tongues or even knowledge, for all will know and bow down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Of this I am quite confident, especially when we consider that the very next chapter is a prescriptive text on the primary gifts of the Holy Spirit that cessationists make off-limits, namely the gifts of Tongues and Prophecy.

Cessationism is Lazy Discernment

It would be very easy to rubber-stamp any claim to a direct revelation from God the Holy Spirit as clearly heretical (and many take that stance).  However, we know that God speaks to everyone through His Written Word, and we know that all scripture is God-breathed. We also know that God will not add to the Law, the Prophets, or Revelation and as such the canon of scripture is closed. We know that if anyone preaches a Gospel that does not agree with the Gospel revealed in Scripture, that person is to be accursed. We know that signs and wonders do not in themselves point to God or His blessing, nor do they prove the existence of an “anointing”. We know this from both the Old Testament Law regarding testing of the Prophets as well as in the New Testament warnings. We also have 1 Corinthians 12-14, we have the Book of Revelation, we have several mentions in Acts of prophets and prophetic words spoken over Timothy.

Biblical Discernment is a Mandate

While I do consider cessationsism to be lazy discernment, what I’ve found in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is that no one exercises discernment beyond their emotions, or what they call “feeling in their spirit that it isn’t right”. They seem to rely only on the Gift of the Holy Spirit listed:

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (ESV) 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

In the KJV, the highlighted portion phrases it “discerning of spirits”. So, they (in my experience) seem to rely on “those with that gift” to practice discernment just as they rely on those with the gift of prophecy to prophesy. In my opinion, that goes beyond lazy and into negligent. I have yet to find an online biblical discernment ministry from a Pentecostal/Charismatic point of view. I have come to believe (granted, by an argument from silence) that the movement(s) actively discourage Biblical discernment ministries and seeks to silence them. The seeker-mergent church actually teaches in their leadership conferences that those who question the pastor (exercise discernment) are wolves and need to be silenced, even going so far as practicing excommunication. Brothers and sisters in Christ, if you are standing on solid, Biblical foundation, there is no need to fear being challenged doctrinally. I’m not saying you have to stop mid-service to entertain a heckler every time, but the standard is Scripture, not the so-called “vision of the pastor”.

The Biggest Problem in Today’s Church

Cessationism is not the biggest doctrinal problem facing today’s Church. A Church that limits itself to only hearing from God the Holy Spirit as He speaks to them through the Written Word of Scripture has in no-way hamstrung itself, for the Word of God (in this case Written) will not return void. Some leaders take cessationism to an unhealthy extreme where they believe it is unbiblical to pray and ask for healing, or for wisdom, knowledge, etc… but in those cases the Scriptures refute their false teaching directly. Where cessationism is hurting the Church, is in its outreach to those who are lost in a sea of mysticism or being tossed about by every wind of doctrine. When one claims to be engaging in Biblical discernment, and starts with an assertion, that person has laid a stumbling block for the individual similar to that taught in 1 Corinthians 8. By all means, take every thought captive and submit it to Christ, and tear down every lofty opinion that raises itself against the knowledge of Christ. Expose the false teacher by his fruit, his false doctrine.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV) 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 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, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

The biggest problem in today’s church, is that we’ve allowed the entertainment culture to supplant the preaching of the Word and sound doctrine. And many have turned away from listening to the truth and wandered off into myths. Mysticism has infiltrated every Christian denomination and many have abandoned the infallibility of Scripture because for too long they’ve ignored (or down-played) its sufficiency.

Not every direct revelation was included in Scripture, in-fact, we have record of some direct-revelation that were specifically prohibited from being recorded or spoken. The problem isn’t when someone says, “the Lord showed me” or “the Lord told me” or even “the Lord spoke to me”… the problem is when what is being claimed as coming from God the Holy Spirit isn’t Biblical. When someone claims “thus saith the Lord” when God has not spoken, that is blasphemy, and the individual is a false prophet. A teacher’s fruit is NOT how much money they raise, or how many disciples they gather; rather, it is their doctrine and what they teach.

In closing, if this is your first time visiting this site and you are worried about our non-cessation stance, here are some links to give a better picture of where we do stand. It could be argued that we are functionally cessationist while theologically we acknowledge that God remains Sovereign over His gifts.

Thank you for reading through to the end. Our desire is to study the Word of God in context, and as free from outside influence as possible, by God’s Grace. If you disagree with us, or feel we’ve missed a clear passage of scripture, do please share either in comments below or by contacting us directly. One final thought, in our understanding and application of Sola Scriptura, we affirm that unless a doctrine can be taught from scripture, it shouldn’t be taught from the pulpit. I don’t mind referencing a commentary or “church father” from time to time to maybe bring a different perspective, but we will not be “teaching” from the extra biblical texts. Sola Scriptura is indeed Scripture Alone. As Alistair Begg puts it, “the plain things are the main things, and the main things are the plain things”.

May the Grace of God be with you today and always,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Context of Christmas: Magi from the east…

Following the Star (artist unknown)

Following the Star (artist unknown)

In the last blog, we walked through a brief overview of the progression of the Nation of Israel from Abraham to the birth of Jesus. The goal of this series is to provide some additional context to the modern celebration of Christmas, a holiday that contemporary Christians have designated to remember and celebrate the virgin-birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In today’s post, I’d like to begin in the Matthew account beginning in Chapter 2:

Matthew 2 (NASB) The Visit of the Magi
2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Here, we have the arrival of “magi from the east”, who came to Jerusalem, looking for the new born King of the Jews. Why would any non-Jew be looking for a new born King of Jews? Given the events of the previous 200 years of Roman rule, how could anyone be looking for a child who is born King? Notice in the passage that the magi quoted the Hebrew prophet, Micah

Micah 5:2 (NASB)
2 “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for
Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”

Micah 1:1 begins with, “1 The word of the Lord which came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.” Remember from the last post that the Nation of Israel was split into 2 kingdoms, Israel in the north whose capital city was Samaria, and Judah in the south whose capital city is Jerusalem. So we have a prophet of God speaking of the impending punishment of Israel and Judah. The Assysrians end up taking Israel and Samaria and scattering its people (the Lost Tribes), leaving Judah for a time.  Judah’s independence is secured largely by the obedience and humility of Josiah, King of Judah (2 Chr 34). Josiah dies in battle, and Judah falls to Egypt and then to Babylon soon after as Josiah’s successors do evil in God’s sight. King Nebuchadnezzar took many Israelites away to Babylon (2 Cor 36:10, 2 Kings 24:12). And that is where I believe we can gain some insight into how these magi could have become aware of Micah.

The Exile

We looked at the exile of Jews into Babylon when we looked at the history of the kings of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar took the very best of Jerusalem into captivity in Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-16). The record in 2 Kings continues in Jerusalem, so instead of going there I’d like to follow those who were taken into captivity:

Daniel 1:6-7 (NASB) 6 Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego.

Now the story of Daniel is an exciting one, filled with great faith, and the mighty Hand of God. It’s a wonderful story. Suffice it to say for this blog that Daniel did well in the Sight of God and found favor in the eyes of King Nebuchadnezzar. Let’s look at what was spoken of Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, Belshazzar:

Daniel 5:11-12a (NASB) 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father, illumination, insight and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him. And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans and diviners. 12 This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar… (emphasis mine)

It is soon after that Daniel is promoted to Third Ruler of the Kingdom. Belshazzar was succeeded by Darius, who is tricked into condemning Daniel to the Lion’s Den. When God spares Daniel of this fate, Darius issues the following decree:

Daniel 6:25-28 (NASB) 25 Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound! 26 I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel;

For He is the living God and enduring forever,
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed,
And His dominion will be forever.
27 “He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth,
Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

28 So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

If you remember from the last post, it was Cyrus the Persian (due to his Zoroastrian beliefs) that would commission the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, sending back many Israelites to their homeland.   God is so awesome. Okay, now here is the part where I share my interpretation of these events and their significance to the Christmas story. I could be wrong here, but I must stress that this is my interpretation of the Scriptures. If my interpretation proves incorrect, that has no bearing on the infallibility of the Scriptures, it just means that I am human. 😉

So, how did the magi learn of Micah?

Given the prevalence of Zoroastrianism in the east, the Chaldeans paid attention to all of the major religions and their gods. Daniel (Beltashazzar), one of the captured Jews, was quickly promoted to “chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans and diviners”. While I cannot point to a specific source, it sure seems that this would fit as a definition of “magi”. Daniel stayed faithful to the One True God and would have shared/taught with them the prophets. I believe it is by this that the magi became aware of Micah.

Okay, but why would they care enough to make the journey into Roman lands?

I believe they remembered the decree of Cyrus. They did not choose to stay in Jerusalem, nor did they bat an eye at being warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod (Matt 2:13), they simply went back home. In their pantheism, they recognized the sign of the birth of the King of the Jews, and searched Him out to worship Him and bring gifts. Did they miss the greater point? Perhaps… the Bible does not follow their walk after this time. Here we have yet another instance of God using pagans to serve His purpose.

Closing thoughts

It pains me to see everyone refer to the magi as “Three wise men”, or whenever I hear the carol “We three kings” sung in a Church setting. Not nearly as much as seeing an endorsement of santa, but I digress. The Bible only lists 3 types of gifts. We don’t know how many came, but it was a long journey. These men were traveling into a very politically tumultuous setting, seeking a newborn king. They were able to gain an audience with Herod… an evil and paranoid governor. It was most likely a very impressive procession with its own security details.

I wish we would do more to keep to the truth of the event, and let go of the all of the extraneous trappings of the holiday.  Much of what is emphasized in popular Christmas celebrations isn’t even remotely Biblical. With respect to the “we three kings” song, imagine if we started treating the Titanic movie (with Leonardo DiCaprio) as an actual account of the events rather than simply a writer’s use of the historical event for a bit of fiction. We can do better than that… as Christians and as stewards of the Gospel… we must do better.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, and it is my prayer that it will have sparked some renewed interest in the Old Testament and the Prophets. May the Lord bless you and keep you this Christmas,

In Him,
FS