Your questions about authority and the Bible

So I have been taking your questions by text during the sermons the last two weeks, and the following is related to Galatians 1-2 and the authority of Paul.  The tablet was not connected tot he internet yesterday while in the pulpit, so therefore I didn’t get these questions until after the sermon.  So here we go…

Question #1: “Tell us who the new clean shaven guitar player is today next to Shane.”

Answer: Ummmm, Will cut his hair and trimmed his beard.

Question #2: “We are very new to Grace… How do you join a “home community”?  And what is a home community?  Thanks!!”

Answer: Good question.  If you connect with a Pastor (Jerry, Daniel, or myself) we will get you connected.

Question #3: “Is there a difference, in God’s original design & in heaven, between a husband’s authority over his wife and a man’s authority over a woman?  How does this play out in a fallen world (with varying cultures, throughout the ages, including the early church) and in the church which is pursuing the Kingdom?”

Answer: Great question.  In Scripture, God’s original design for a husband-wife relationship was that Adam was made first and then his wife was made second, and then Adam was given authority from God to name her, meaning he was the leader before the fall (see Genesis 2:18-25).  Notice Adam does not name her “Eve” in chapter 2.  Rather he calls her “woman” meaning she was taken out of “man” (see Genesis (v. 23).  Then sin entered into the equation in Genesis 3.  God laid out the consequences and said to the woman, “…your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you.” (Gen. 3:16b).  This verse was not a prescription from God, but a description of a power struggle that would ensue between a husband-wife relationship as a result of sin.  Notice Adam named his wife “Eve” in Genesis 3:20, implying he still retained authority from God in the relationship.  The above is confirmed throughout the Bible, and specifically in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, in which Paul refers back to Genesis 2-3.  Also, Paul explains headship and authority of a husband related to his wife in 1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:22-33, and 1 Peter 3:1-7.  These New Testament passages were written in a time just like ours, and they make it clear that God has intended for there to be a leadership-followership relationship within marriage.  Ephesians 5:22-33 is the best passage on this subject because it gives straightforward advice for what men typically struggle with and for what women typically struggle with in the husband-wife relationship (i.e., the power-struggle is real going all the way back to Genesis 3:16b).

About women submitting to any man, that is foolishness.  The biblical prescription is for a wife to submit to her “own” husband.  And if you’re not married to him, he is not your husband.

What about the various cultures, throughout the ages, including the early church? Starting with the early church, within the Roman culture of the first century there was a “New Roman Woman” philosophy, which was basically feminism.  Women wanted to throw off the shackles of inequality and act just like men.  For the non-Christian this mean sleeping around, dressing immodestly, speaking one’s mind openly, etc., etc.  Christianity taught that “yes” women and men are 100% equal in Christ, and both are called to a higher morality based on the moral imperatives of Jesus (which includes charity, chastity, kindness, etc.)  And that God is a God of order, not disorder.  Therefore, there are instructions for familial order and order within the church related to who leads.  So Paul wrote about this in the above passages.  Headship does not mean one has a higher value than another.  Headship does not mean abusing or misusing authority.  If you have been watching the AD series on NBC the past few weeks you have seen Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas abuse their authority.  But those are not examples of what God intended, rather those are examples of the result of sin (Gen. 3:16b).  So the biblical and NT mandate is for Christians to follow God’s created order, husbands leading their wives and families by serving them (Eph. 5:25-33), and elders leading the church as servant leaders (1 Timothy 2:11-3:7 and 1 Peter 5:1-4).

Throughout the ages we have seen different cultures display varying degrees of Genesis 3:16b.   In some cultures, men have wrongly suppressed women.  In other cultures, women have had more authority.  The pendulum swings back and forth.  We are currently in a situation more like the middle of the first century AD in Rome.  And so Paul’s letters are relevant to us today.  I believe strongly that one of the reasons our culture is seeing children born out of wedlock and raised in poverty is because our culture gets this one wrong (i.e., we are seeing the effects of Genesis 3:16b).  If we are to turn this around, we need young Christian men and young Christian women to learn about mutual submission out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21) and what this looks like for men (Ephesians 5:25-33) and what this looks like for women (Ephesians 5:22-24).

Question #4: “The catholic church claims to be the true church.  And that Peters authority has been passed down to the Pope.  What (sic) are we not under their authority?”

Answer: We are not under the Pope’s authority for several reasons: first, the various Pope’s in the Roman Catholic Church have elevated Tradition as equal to Scripture.  I use a capital “T” because this is how Catholics view the issue, that Tradition and Papal decrees by the Pope are “infallible” meaning without falsehood and can’t be challenged.  This is a complete farce because it goes against Galatians 1:8-9.  I am not saying every Pope has been wrong, rather there are some Popes who seem to be very Gospel-centric, but for the most part there are Traditions in the Catholic Church that directly contradict the Bible, specially the New Testament, and more specifically the Gospel that Paul and Peter preached.

This idea that Peter passed on Papal authority to his successor is also unproven historically.  This idea more comes from Matthew 16:18 in which Jesus calls Peter the name Cephus, which means “rock” and says, “On this rock I will build my church.”  Catholics have thought this meant on and through Peter and the authority given to him that the church would be built.  But truth be told, if the read the rest of that passage in Matthew 16:13-20 you will find that it is the confession of Peter “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” in Matthew 16:16 that is the rock upon which the Church would be built.  (i.e., when you confess Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God, you become a member of the Church, a building block of the Church).  This was the point of the “Reformers” like Martin Luther and John Calvin.  Thus, when people started read the Bible for the first time that was being translated into their common language of German or English or French, they began to realize the system of the Pope was not biblical and they protested, thus being named “Protestants.”

All the other denominations that came from that were the result of people reading the Bible on their own.  There are literally thousands of different kinds of churches now because people read the Bible and don’t like some aspect of their church and seek a church that agrees with their take on things.  This is both simultaneously a good thing and a bad thing.  It is a good thing because people like Martin Luther wanted to reform the Catholic Church and make it biblical.  It is also bad because people in power who did not want to be biblical were pridefully sticking to Tradition over the Bible and the church divided.

Today, we need to realize the various denominations agree on about 97% of doctrine.  So we have much more in common than not in common.  But what we tend to disagree about are not doctrinal things, but secondary and tertiary issues, some that are cultural, some that are about the way something is presented, some that are personal preferences like music, etc., etc. (i.e., issues that are grey).

I had a professor in seminary who said, “The last thing you should do is go try to form a new denomination or new church, because you will encounter the same problems.  The best thing you can do is go back to your church and try to make it more biblical by meeting with leadership to refine statements of belief and about how things are being communicated and by serving that church community.” (Dr. David Buschart, professor of Theology and Church History).

Question #5: “Romans 13:1 says “there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are from God.”  If that is the case, is it appropriate to oppose any authority despite whether they follow God’s law or not?”

Answer: Another great question.  The idea here is to follow God above all else and to not take personal revenge.  When Romans was written there was not chapter-and-verse (that was added later to help us find things).  Rather, chapter 12 flowed into chapter 13.  At the end of chapter 12 Paul is saying, “don’t seek personal revenge, leave that to God…rather give your enemy something to eat” and then in chapter 13 Paul is describing the authority that is supposed to bring justice, which is government and the sword.  If you watch the AD series on NBC, you see three groups trying to figure out how to deal with an unjust governing authority in Puntius Pilate (this is fairly consistent with history if your read Josephus, etc.).  In this series, the three leaders of three groups are: Caiaphas the High Priest, Boaz a Zealot, and Peter a Christian.

Caiaphas is a corrupt leader seeking to destroy the Christians, stop the Zealots, and make peace with Pilate.

Boaz is trying to lead a revolution using terrorist acts and he is trying to recruit Peter and the Christians to join his cause.

Peter is trying to live by the principles of Romans 12-13. (I hope this show keeps remaining biblical otherwise this post needs to be edited in future.)

So Jesus’ way, and the biblical way is to submit to God first, and governing authorities second.  And by being a good citizen one should not be unjustly harmed.

Now, what about Hitler’s Europe? What about current problems in our culture? If a governing authority wants you to commit some injustice like murder, then you follow God’s law over the governing authority and refuse to commit that crime.  But this needs to be more of a silent protest or a protest using the means of that state to try to reason with the state and governing authorities about why you believe something is wrong.

Question #6: “If we ever question you or the elders authority, how should we go about communicating those questions?”

Answer: There is a biblical process.  Go directly to the pastor or elder you are questioning.  Share your concern.  If you think it was not handled biblically, then ask for a couple more pastors or elders to be in on the discussion.  The elders and pastors have the role of guarding this church and are held accountable as well (Hebrews 13:17 & 1 Timothy 5:17-21).

Question #7: “People argue that because the bible was written by man, it has the potential to have flaws.  We say that they were led by the Holy Spirit so that’s why it’s infallible and God breathed.  But if we argue that we are trying to be led by the Holy Spirit now and still make mistakes, who’s to say that that’s not the same case for anyone who wrote the bible?”

Answer: Another great question.  There are three points I will make to answer your question.

First, in 2 Peter 1:20-21 says, “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  What this means is the Holy Spirit uniquely worked through the speaking and writings of the Prophets and those who wrote the Bible.  Jesus prophesied the Spirit would guide the Apostles in this (John 14:25; 15:26-27; and then after his resurrection in Luke 24:40-49; Acts 1:5-8).  So the writing of Scripture is unique and by the Holy Spirit through humans in all their fallibility.  So the New Testament is of God despite man’s sin.

Second, there were people claiming to have written a letter here or a gospel there.  But these people were writing bad theology or never met Jesus or were flat just making stuff up.

Third, the church considered certain gospels and letters to be original and authoritative.  When the competing letters started being written, the church decided to convene the various bishops in Nicaea to officially recognize what was already considered to be Scripture.  They used a measurement called the “cannon” which had been the measurement from the beginning: (1) it had to be written by an Apostle or his secretary writing on his behalf; (2) it had to be widely used and considered authoritative by a vast majority of the churches; and (3) it had to all agree theologically, historically, etc.

So, after the Apostle John died, the cannon was closed.  There were no more Apostles who were alive who had authority who could write a Gospel or a letter of instruction or prophecy.

Does this mean everything they wrote was authoritative? No.  We know Paul wrote another letter to the Corinthians, but it was not considered authoritative simply because it wasn’t preserved.

How do we know he wrote this extra letter? Because he appeals to it in 2 Corinthians implying he had written a letter between 1 and 2 Corinthians.  So, we conclude even Paul was fallible in things he wrote outside of what has been preserved as Scripture.

Can we write with the same authority today? No.  We can write some really good stuff that can even be Holy Spirit led, convicting, and feel authoritative and even been authoritative, but if it conflicts with the New Testament, we know it is not of God.

So Scripture is the standard and the Holy Spirit will not contradict Himself today.

Question #8: “Aside from the denomination problem, how could they trust Paul after all of the persecution he inflicted against the Christians?”

Answer: Another great question.  I’m guessing we would all feel uncomfortable in a similar situation, but the grace of God was at work through rumors of his preaching the gospel and then 3 years later when Barnabas brought Paul to Peter, Barnabas vouched for him.  So it was a risk on Barnabas’ and Peter’s part.  But that’s what Holy Spirit led people do, they risk to be an encourager.  We know in Acts 9 that Paul’s friends all tried to kill him, so the Christians ushered him away to Tarsus.  That must have been some scene, like a thriller / adventure movie where someone is trying to escape without being harmed.


Your Questions Part 2

Here are some more of your questions from Sunday.  Sorry I am delayed in responding.  I have had a lot to do and may not get to all your questions.

Question #4: “Lutheran, and Luther’s catechism.”

Answer: Luther was right to point people back to the Bible, “Grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone” and he preached “Scripture alone.”  What he meant was that Catholics had added human Tradition with a capital “T” to the Bible, meaning Catholic teaching had equal authority to Scripture.  But human authority does not equal the authority of Scripture.  And Scripture teaches the Gospel is about grace, faith, and Christ’s sufficient work on our behalf to be saved.

A Catechism is a way to summarize theology in a systematic way that is easy for people to remember.  It is like AWANA or Sunday school curriculum, which points you to the Word.  But the Word of God is the authority, not the catechism or AWANA or curriculum.

Question #5: “So once we confess our belief in Christianity, what is our responsibility with respect to works?”

Answer: Confess belief / faith in Christ and now He is your Lord.  Even in Galatians 1:10 Paul uses the words “servant of Christ” by which he literally means Paul thought of himself as a “slave” (doulos) of Christ.  And throughout Paul’s writings he points us to the Lordship of Jesus in our lives.  So we are called to follow Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 28:18-20) in how we live.  But this is not what achieves salvation for us, rather it is an outworking of salvation, evidence of God’s grace changing us to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus.

Question #6: “What is the correct biblical stance on homosexuality?  It feels like a .1% piece of Christianity is preventing an extraordinary amount of people from opening their hearts to the other 99.9%…. it feels like one way or another we could be doing better in our response to this topic as Christians.”

Answer: To get straight to the point from the biblical standpoint – homosexuality and homosexual behavior (in fact any sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman) is incompatible with God’s plan for family and a healthy society.  Jesus condemns adultery, lust, and “pornia” in Matthew 5:27-32 and Matthew 19:4-6 (and other texts).  Pornia is translated “sexual immorality” and in Greek this means any sex outside of man-woman marriage.  When Jesus spoke on this issue, acceptable sexual practice was clearly understood within Judaism at that time.  When Jesus spoke against pornia He was affirming God’s law in the Old Testament (i.e., God’s morals on this subject – see Leviticus 18 on sexual laws).  And more specifically Jesus affirmed marriage was God’s idea and is between a man and a woman by quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 in Matthew 19:4-6.

The capstone on homosexual behavior is when Paul explicitly states (for Gentiles like you and me who might not understand God’s moral standard concerning sex) that God’s wrath is upon those who practice homosexual sin and 32 other sins that are evidence people have turned from God (see Romans 1:18-32).  To be even more clear, Paul explicitly states that anyone who practices homosexuality will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).  Keep in mind heterosexual sex outside man-woman marriage is condemned in those passages plus in Hebrews 13:4, 1 Thess. 4:3-8, 1 Cor. 5, and Revelation 21:8.  In fact, Hebrews 13:4 and 1 Thess. 4:8 specifically say if you reject this you are not rejecting man but God.  Notice also all the other sins condemned here as well (the greedy, swindler, drunkard, liar, etc.)  The big idea of these passages is that if this is your lifestyle, stop (e.g., if greed defines who your are, you are not being transformed by the gospel, so stop being greedy or a swindler or a liar or a sexually immoral person, etc.)  If it is your lifestyle, it will be judged by God.  If it is your lifestyle, it is evidence you have not been changed by Jesus.

So specifically, the lifestyle of homosexuality is incompatible with trusting in Jesus as Lord.  However, there is grace for all sins.  But don’t use grace as a cover for evil (Gal. 5:13-26).  And God is the One who defines what is good and what is evil.

Question # 7: “I have a Jewish friend.  She wonders why we follow some OT laws (moral) but not others.  How can we say that some OT laws are binding and some are not?”

Answer: Jesus is the fulfillment of the law (Matt. 5:17-20) and we are called to follow Jesus interpretation / application of the law, which is found throughout the Gospels (Matthew 28:18-20).  And finally, Acts 15 records the Jerusalem Council (51 AD) in which this was specifically discussed.  A conclusion was made on the subject of what ceremonial / kosher laws to follow (just four: warning about blood, warning about eating strangled animals, no sexual immorality, and don’t eat meat sacrificed to animals – see Acts 15:28-29).  Notice the moral laws in general were not covered (except sexual immorality), because Jesus had already pointed everyone to His teachings on the moral laws (Matt. 28:18-20), so Acts 15 was talking primarily about health issues (which was the purpose of much of the OT ceremonial and kosher laws).

More to come.


Your Questions Part 1

This last Sunday we did something we have never done before; we took live questions through text messaging about the sermon.  The Scripture passage for the day was Galatians 1:6-9, which states:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Here are the questions I was unable to answer and I will attempt to do so now.  I hope to do this every week.  If I do not have a prompt response, it is likely because I needed to research the answer.  So here goes:

Question #1: “What do you think of presenting the “wonderful plan for your life” gospel in this day of Christian beheadings and persecutions instead of first allowing the law as a schoolmaster to introduce the perceived need of forgiveness and then in response lead others to Christ’s grace and redemption.”

Answer: I’m not exactly sure where this question is leading, but I assume the person was suggesting I preach in such a way to compare the “good news” of the “gospel” compared to the bad news of ISIS instead of starting with the Law of the Old Testament being like a “schoolmaster” or “tutor” (Gal. 3:24) to lead us to Jesus and the need for forgiveness.  Please again, forgive me if I don’t understand the question – but my response is yes and yes.

Yes we need to learn about the good news of Jesus and compare it to the bad news of ISIS and let people decide for themselves which one seems most reasonable.  At the same time, yes we need to learn that we are sinners (the point of the Law being a “schoolmaster” or “tutor” to lead us to the conclusion we need grace because we can’t save ourselves) and that we are in need of being saved, rescued, which is the good news of Jesus.

I will be teaching on Islam, the Crusades, and the modern conflict at 9:00am May 3, 10, and 17.

Question #2: “With so many denominations, and so many Bible versions, short of learning Greek & Latin, how can I trust any teacher or teaching?”

Answer: You don’t need Greek or Hebrew.  But you do need three things: (1) You need the Holy Spirit; (2) You need a good translation; and (3) You do need to learn to “exegete” Scripture.

Related to what pastors or teachers to trust, if he doesn’t have a MDiv and is not ordained, then he is less likely to know how to correctly exegete and apply the text (this is not to say an unlearned pastor can’t teach, but his training matters).  The following is how you can measure the teachers authority based on God’s word.  (I.e., you need to self educate to be able to discern for yourself)

About (1) the need for the Holy Spirit, without the Spirit you will never fully understand the Bible (see 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; 2 Peter 1:20-21; and 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:4).

About (2) you can trust the NASB, ESV, NIV, NLT, RSV, HCSB (there are more, but these I know are good).  The difference between the NASB and NIV, for example, has to do with the NASB translators were trying to translate word-for-word, while the NIV translators were trying to translate concept-for-concept.  So the NASB is more difficult to read, while the NIV is more reader friendly.  The difference is a translation verses a summary in today’s English.

About (3) “Exegesis” = this means to draw out of the text the original meaning as was meant for the original audience, and then discern if there is meaningful application for today.  In every sermon I am trying to do this to show you the basics of how to exegete a text and apply it.  And we need to make sure we don’t “eisogete” the text, which means to read our opinion into the Scripture.  To prevent “eisogesis” you need to buy a Bible with a good commentary – a study Bible.  The best study Bibles do not give a slant.  So I recommend in this order: #1 – the Zondervan Study Bible (NASB or NIV); #2 – the Reformation Study Bible (ESV); and #3 – the Ryrie Study Bible (NASB or NIV).  This will help give you the history, the definition of terms, other verses for cross-reference, and how different theologians have applied the text.

About “eisogesis” – DON’T play biblical roulette = randomly turning to a page and then just start reading.  Unless you know how to “exegete” the text, you will automatically “eisogete” the text and miss-apply it to your life.

Last but not least, start in the New Testament with the Gospel of John  Then Romans.  Then the rest of the New Testament.  Then the Old Testament.

Question #3: “Why does God require death as a consequence of sin?”

Answer: good question.  God is Good, Holy (without sin), Just., and all powerful.  These are four (of many) attributes of His character.  Being good means He is the standard of what good is.  Everything is judged by His character of goodness.  And everything is fallen (tainted or corrupted) because of human sin.  Because God is Holy (“Holy” means to be separate from sin), it is impossible for Him to be around sin.  So if He let sin into His presence, He would no longer be Holy.  And being “Just” means He must do justice.  Doing justice doesn’t mean you let sin go.  Sin must be punished.  Death has three meanings: (1) to be separated from God; (2) to die physically; and (3) to enter eternal death.  Adam and Eve sinned resulting in separation from God for all of us.  This was temporary.  Physical death is temporary as well.  Eternal death means you have not submitted to God’s plan to forgive sin, take care of sin in a just way that God planned, and that you prefer to remain in you sin.  The result of this decision is eternal death and separation from God in a place God does not exist.  This place is hell.  In this situation, the consequence is not so much because of actions we have done, but more because a person refused to submit to God’s plan of the sacrifice of His son in your place to take care of the just punishment deserved for sin.

God’s justice means He will always act in accordance with what is just and right.  If God were not just, then He would not be good.  If He were not all powerful, then He could not punish sin and would no longer be able to enact justice.  If He were not good, then in His power He would make mistakes in enacting justice and no longer would be just.

The good news is He is also love, mercy, and therefore found a way to enact justice, remain holy, and be good providing a way to overcome sin and death.

The rest I will try to cover tomorrow.


No Other Gospel

We need to live the Gospel, preach the Gospel, and remind ourselves of the Gospel daily.  The Gospel is simple: God achieved grace for you through the work of Jesus on the cross, which you accept by faith.

In more detail: God created everything (Genesis 1-2); but humans are sinful and our sin pushes God back and is destroying this world (Genesis 3-Malachi 4), but God has been pursuing us since the first sin to restore the relationship (Genesis 3:9ff. & Gen. 12, 15, 18-22, Exodus 1-20, etc.), but we keep pushing back; and so God became a man, lived perfectly (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), and was a sin offering for us on the cross paying the penalty we deserved (1 John 2:1ff. & Galatians 2:20), which provides grace by the work of Christ all the way to death (2 Cor. 5:17)…and then He was raised, redeeming those who trust in Him (end of each Gospel and 1 Cor. 15, Phil 2:5-11) and one day He will fully restore all creation (Rev. 21-22).

We often start with grace and continue with law; which is an affront to God (which I will talk about Sunday).  But we are called to start with grace achieved by Jesus Christ’s work leading up to and on the cross, and we are called to continue with grace.

When you sin, preach grace to yourself!!! The following is a help in how to live the Gospel…

The following is from Center Church by Timothy Keller[1]

Religion Gospel
“I obey; therefore I’m accepted.” “I’m accepted; therefore I obey.”
“Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.” “Motivation is based on grateful joy.”
“I obey God in order to get things from God.” “I obey God to get God—to delight and resemble him.”
“When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends, that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.” “When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle, but I know that while God may allow this for my training, he will exercise his fatherly love within my trial.”
“When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is essential for me to think of myself as a “good person.” Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.” “When I am criticized, I struggle, but it is not essential for me to think of myself as a “good person.” My identity is not built on my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ.”

[1] Timothy Keller, Center Church (Zondervan; Grand Rapids, 2012).  65.