Thursday, April 28, 2016

evangelicalbible.com – The Place to Buy Quality Bibles

The best place I have found to buy quality Bibles is evangelicalbible.com, which carries Bibles from Cambridge University Press, Crossway Bibles, the Trinitarian Bible Society, and the Lockman Foundation. It is also the exclusive distributor of Schuyler Bible Publishers and the official U.S. distributor of R.L. Allan Bibles, which many regard to be the best leather-bound Bibles available. I have personally been very impressed with Schuyler, however, having owned both a Schuyler Single Column Paragraph NKJV Bible (in brown goatskin) and a Schuyler Quentel NKJV (a red letter edition in black goatskin). Both are outstanding, high quality Bibles, and I would highly recommend them. Schuyler also offers the KJV, ESV, NASB, and NLT versions. As the webpage at evangelicalbible.com states, "Schuyler Bibles are printed and bound in the Netherlands in one of the finest book binderies in Europe, Jongbloed. All Schuyler Bibles use only the finest materials in crafting its Bibles. From paper to natural grain Goatskin – the Schuyler label has determined to carve out a niche which will establish it as a unique label among Bible publishers." For those of you who may not yet heard of Schuyler Bible Publishers, here is the information from their website:
SCHUYLER (pronounced Sky-ler) is the family name of the founder of Schuyler Bibles. Schuyler has its origin in the Dutch  “schuilen” which means “shelter.” “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1) Schuyler Bible Publishers have been at the center of the high end Bible market for the past 12 years. Schuyler has quickly established its name as among the preeminent Bible publishers. Schuyler has published the English Standard Version, (ESV), the New King James Version (NKJV), the King James Version (KJV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the New Living Translation (NLT).
Schuyler Bibles has had one simple mission – to produce Bibles whose quality extends to  both Printing and Binding.  Often customers are forced to choose between the two. We decided to produce Bibles with the best of both worlds. Paper quality, legibility and  binding come together to produce the best crafted Bibles available.Schuyler Bibles all have the following characteristics: 
A.  All are printed in the Netherlands. 
B.  All have natural grain Goatskin. 
C.  All have Smyth sewn bindings.  
D.  All have perimeter stitching.
If you are looking to buy a high quality Bible for yourself or for a loved one, I highly recommend evangelicalbible.com, and I hope you will give Schuyler Bible Publishers a good look as well.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Biblical Reflections Before Brain Surgery by Brian Borgman

Below is a sermon entitled "Biblical Reflections Before Brain Surgery." It is a message preached by Brain Borgman, a pastor at Grace Community Church in Minden, Nevada, as he anticipates undergoing brain surgery this week on Wednesday.

I highly recommend listening to the message. It contains Scriptural encouragement from a man who has walked with our Lord Jesus for a long time and who wants us to benefit from how our Lord has been shepherding him through this difficult trial. If you have been going through trials of your own, as I have been, you will find it especially helpful. I also ask the readers to pray for our brother Brian, for his family, and for his church.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

To Eat or Not to Eat?

I didn’t ever think I would read a book on the theology of food; but after reading “To Eat or Not to Eat?” by Curtis Knapp, I not only can say that I have, but I can say that I really enjoyed it. What I like best about the book is that the author is thoroughly Scriptural and balanced. If you are wanting to know more about this subject, or if you know someone who is easily swayed by those who wants to make whole foods the 13th spiritual discipline of the Christian faith, then I warmly recommend this book to you.   

Here is the book's description, and here is where you can order it. 

In a day in which concerns about health and nutrition abound, various experts have emerged to offer us dietary prescriptions. Some use the Bible to reinforce their dietary “commandments,” but have they rightly interpreted God’s Word? The postion of this book is that they have not, and that their teaching – which the author calls “Nutritianity” – are dangerous.

Nutritianity is a “religion” of dietary laws that subtly encourages us to worship our bodies and promises purity, long life and “salvation” from disease through proper nutrition. Christianity, on the other hand, is a religion commanding us to worship the one true God and showing us how to have salvation and abundant life in Jesus Christ. The two religions are diametrically opposed, but both claim the Bible as a textbook.

What does the Bible really say about food? Are there certain foods God does not want me to eat? The author addresses these questions and more in the hopes of helping Christians enjoy the liberty God has given them.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

2016 "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll Update

Three months ago we began a poll on the blog. If you identify yourself as a Reformed Baptist and you haven't already taken part in the poll, please check out the "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll on the right sidebar on this page (the red box with white type). The intention is to run the poll for one year with an interest in how the Reformed Baptist community might answer this question. I have given four options for answers that I think basically sum up the various groups or individuals that I have found to be using the term. Here are the four possible answers:
To regard oneself as a Reformed Baptist, one must ...

1) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology.

2) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology.

3) adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility).

4) adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689.
Thus far surprisingly few of the blog's readers have taken part in the poll. I am not sure why there have not yet been more who have answered, but I have communicated with some who have held off due to a desire to think about it more carefully before answering. I think this is a good thing. Here are the results thus far:
14% say that one must adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

30% say that one must adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

41% say that one must adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility) in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

15% say that one must adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689 in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.
Again, if you haven't yet taken part in the poll, please do so. You may read more about the poll here in order to understand better why it is phrased as it is.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Mark 10:13-16 – The Children of the Kingdom (Teaching Outline)

Introduction: Kent Hughes refers to a letter dated June 17, 1 BC, that is written from a man named Hilaron to his wife, Alis, concerning the birth of a child. The letter says, “If it was a male child, let it live; if it was a female, cast it out” (Mark, Vol. 2, p. 55). This refers to the practice of leaving infants to die of exposure if unwanted for any reason, a practice that was not outlawed in Roman law until A.D. 375 (Ibid., p. 55).

David Garland says of the perspective on children in the ancient world that, “The ancient world did not have a romantic notion of children. Children added nothing to the family's economy or honor and did not count. In the Greco-Roman world one could literally throw children away by exposing unwanted infants at birth. The unscrupulous would collect exposed children and raise them to be gladiators or prostitutes and even disfigure them to enhance their value as beggars” (NIV Application Commentary on Mark, p. 385).

In our own culture, we can see an atmosphere developing that is becoming more like the ancient Greco-Roman world all the time. Although the exposure of infants is not very often practiced, the equally repugnant practice of abortion is rampant. The exploitation of children is becoming more and more common as well. And this doesn't even take into account the way that children – if desired in the first place – are being harmed by the break up of about half of the marriages in this country.

In today's passage, however, we will see that Jesus had a very different view of children than so many people had either in the first century world or in our own twenty-first century world. Not only did He accept children with love, but He also heightened their status by using them as an example for all to follow if they wish to enter into the Kingdom of God. As we examine His treatment of children in this passage, we will see that: 1) We should accept children the way Jesus does, and 2) We should accept Jesus the way children do.

I. We Should Accept Children the Way Jesus Does

We will pick up this theme beginning in verse 13.
NKJ  Mark 10:13 Then they brought little children [παιδίον, paidíon] to Him, that He might touch [ἅπτω] them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
The Greek word translated “little children” in the New King James Version is paidíon, a word that may refer not only to a small child but also occasionally to an infant (Friberg #20312, BibleWorks). In this instance we know that many of these small children being brought to Jesus were indeed infants, because Luke indicates this in his parallel account:
NKJ  Luke 18:15a Then they also brought infants [βρέφος, bréphos] to Him that He might touch [ἅπτω] them ….
We are told in both accounts that the children were brought to Jesus so that He might “touch” them. This expression refers to the practice among the Jews of the blessing of children accompanied by the laying on of hands, a tradition that dated all the way back to Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 27:18-29; 48:14). That this is what is being sought from our Lord Jesus is brought out even more clearly in Matthew's parallel account, which says that, “little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray …. ” (Matt. 19:13a). It is also made explicit later in Mark's account, when we see that Jesus does, in fact, respond to the parents' bringing their children to Him by placing His hands on them and blessing them (vs. 16).

We are not told why the disciples rebuked those who were bringing their children to Jesus. Perhaps they were just trying to give Him a chance to rest. Whatever their motivations may have been, however, Jesus' response to them will show that they were definitely not concerned for the children as they should have been. For they obviously didn't feel that they were important enough to trouble Jesus with them. We see Jesus' reaction in first part of the next verse.
NKJ  Mark 10:14a But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased [ἀγανακτέω, aganaktéō] and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”
The Greek word translated “greatly displeased” in the New King James Version means to “be indignant against what is assumed to be wrong, [to] be aroused, indignant, [or] angry” (BAGD3). Thus, Jesus' response is righteous anger toward what He sees as a grievous wrong done to these children, who are being kept from the blessing their parents desire for them and that He Himself obviously desires for them as well. Jesus' strong reaction is also evidenced by His emphatic statement (without the connective and in the Greek text): “Let the children come to me; do not forbid them!”

It is interesting that Jesus describes the children who are being “brought” (vs. 13) as coming to Him. This is no doubt due to the children's simple acceptance of Jesus, especially as examples of the proper approach to Christ. This will be the focus of our attention later. For now we will direct our attention to Jesus' acceptance of the children. As I have already pointed out, this acceptance may be further seen in verse 16, so let's jump down to that verse for a moment.
NKJ  Mark 10:16 And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed [Impf. Act. Ind. > κατευλογέω, kateulogéō; Byz = Impf. Act. Ind. > εὐλογέω, eulogéō] them.
Jesus shows His love for children not only through words and the granting of a blessing to them through the laying on of His hands, but by tenderly and affectionately taking them up in His own arms. What a strong a contrast to the disciples' attitude!

The Greek text translated “blessed” here is quite informative in two respects.

First, the usual word meaning to bless is eulogéō, but the word used by Mark here is kateulogéō, which adds the preposition katá to the verb eulogéō with an intensifying effect. Thus the Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament says that Jesus “blessed them fervently, in no perfunctory way, but with emphasis” (p. 116).

Second, the tense of the verb (imperfect) indicates in this context that Jesus was taking each child into His arms and blessing them one by one. William Hendriksen suggests that the verse would best be translated, “And having taken them in his arms He tenderly blessed them one by one, laying His hands upon them” (BNTC, e-Sword). In other words, Jesus didn't just quickly touch each child as they were carried by Him. Rather He made time to spend with each of these children in order show His grace and love toward them individually. 

Application: In a culture that is becoming increasingly apathetic in its attitude toward children, it is especially important for us to learn from the example Jesus set for His disciples in this passage. Perhaps we should ask ourselves some questions like: Do I find myself becoming grieved or filled with righteous anger when I see children abused or ignored? If so, is it a genuine fruit of the Holy Spirit that leads to action? Do I try to make time for the children God puts in my path, in order to demonstrate the grace of God toward them and to be a blessing to them? Do I take time to listen to children when they try to speak to me, or do I have the attitude of so many that “children are to be seen and not heard”? Do I seek ways to show genuine affection to my own children and to the children of others?

David Garland also has some helpful insights for the application of this text to our lives when he writes:
Jesus commends children to his disciples. They are to extend loving care for them and not to block them off as insignificant. Our attitude toward the value of children surfaces in how we care for the facilities for children in the church, in how much of the budget is designated for their care and training, in how we integrate them into our worship. Do they appear in worship only as cute performers who sing their song and then are shuttled off out of sight and earshot so that they cannot disturb what we regard as more important – our own quiet worship? (NIV Application Commentary on Mark, p. 392)
I am proud of Immanuel Baptist Church in this area, since we welcome our children into our time of worship. I am also glad that there is the yearly trip taken by some in our church to witness to poor and under-privileged children in rural Mississippi. I am also especially glad that God has given us so many children to help through our Children Desiring God and youth ministries. Jesus' example makes me want to pray more for them and to renew my resolve and determination that our church shall continue such ministry, ministry which can be demanding and stressful at times. I want to encourage you all to join with me today in such a renewal of purpose, whether God has led you to be directly involved in these ministries or not. For even if you are not one of the workers, you can still make it a point to pray more consistently for these children and for our ministry to them. You can also join me in praying that the children who are with us in our worship services will grow thereby in their knowledge of God and their faith in Him. Whatever role God has given each of us with the children He brings into our lives, let us not forget Jesus' example recorded for us in this passage. And with that, having thus seen how we should accept children the way Jesus did, let's turn our attention to our next major point.

II. We Should Accept Jesus the Way Children Do

We will pick up this theme in the last part of verse 14.
NKJ  Mark 10:14b Let the little children [παιδίον, paidíon] come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.
When our Lord says, “of such is the kingdom of God,” He teaches that children exemplify qualities that are inherent in those who are a part of the Kingdom of God. It should not surprise us, then, when we find that children are often more receptive to the Gospel message than are adults. As Charles Spurgeon put it:
I will say broadly that I have more confidence in the spiritual life of the children that I have received into this church than I have in the spiritual condition of the adults thus received. I will go even further than that, and say that I have usually found a clearer knowledge of the Gospel and a warmer love to Christ in the child-converts than in the man-converts. I will even astonish you still more by saying that I have sometimes met with a deeper spiritual experience in children of ten or twelve than I have in certain persons of fifty or sixty. (As cited by Kent Hughes, Mark, Vol. 2, p. 58)
I don't think Jesus would have been at all surprised to hear such things, especially in light of what He went on to say.
NKJ  Mark 10:15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means [οὐ μὴ] enter it.
We have seen in verse 14 that Jesus taught that little children exemplify the kind of persons who make up the Kingdom of God, and now in verse 15 we find His very strong statement that unless one is in some way “as a little child,” he will “by no means” enter the Kingdom. But what does He mean by this? In what way(s) must we be like little children in order to enter the kingdom? I would suggest that there are a couple of things that stand out in the context.

First, we have read in verse 13 about children who were brought to Jesus. They were thus dependent upon those who brought them. This is especially true of the smaller children and infants who were completely helpless without their parents. These children serve as examples of those who cannot do anything in their own effort to receive a blessing from Jesus. It isn't through anything that they have done that they are blessed. This means that we, too, must recognize our dependence upon Jesus for His gracious blessing. We must see that we are powerless to help ourselves and simply rely on Jesus as the one who can bless us with salvation through His loving work on our behalf.

Second, in verse 15 Jesus has specifically asserted that we are to be like little children in the way that we receive the Kingdom. Isn't it true that little children are usually much more open to the reception of a gift than adults are? William Hendriksen offers the following illustration of this point:
The gold pieces were piled up on the outside windowsill. 'Take one,' said the sign. All day long people passed by thinking, 'this fellow can't fool me.' Evening fell, and the owner was about to remove the pile. But just before he did, a child came by, read the sign, and calmly, without the least hesitancy, took one! (BNTC, e-Sword)
Application: We all always need to be like little children as we approach God, coming to Him as those who are helpless without Him and who are completely open to the reception of the gift of salvation and His continued grace in our lives.

Conclusion: I would like to conclude with a final word first for those who have trusted in Christ and then for those who haven't.

For those of us who already know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, let us repent today of any of the ways in which we have failed to accept and love children as Jesus did. And let us pray also for a renewal of childlike faith in our own hearts.

For those who have not yet bowed the knee to Jesus as Lord and Savior, I encourage you to acknowledge your spiritual helplessness before God and to simply receive the free gift of eternal life that He offers you through His Son Jesus Christ. For unless you receive His Kingdom – His sovereign rule – as a little child, there is no way you will ever enter the Kingdom!

Let us never forget that Jesus is able to save persons of any age, and His incarnation and growth as one who is fully human, while maintaining His divine nature, demonstrates this clearly as well. In fact, Irenaeus, in his second century work entitled Against Heresies, taught well on this subject and is deserving of lengthy quotation:
Being thirty years old when He came to be baptized, and then possessing the full age of a Master, He came to Jerusalem, so that He might be properly acknowledged by all as a Master. For He did not seem one thing while He was another, as those affirm who describe Him as being a man only in appearance; but what He was, that He also appeared to be. Being a Master, therefore, He also possessed the age of a Master, not despising or evading any condition of humanity, nor setting aside in Himself that law which He had appointed for the human race, but sanctifying every age, by that period corresponding to it which belonged to Himself. For He came to save all through means of Himself – all, I say, who through Him are born again to God – infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men. He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age, being at the same time made to them an example of piety, righteousness, and submission; a youth for youths, becoming an example to youths, and thus sanctifying them for the Lord …. ” (II, XXII, 4)
I implore you today, no matter what age you are, to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as a little child. Will you trust that He died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead so that you might have the free gift of forgiveness and everlasting life?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Welcoming Bob Gonzales to the Blog

I am happy to welcome Bob Gonzales to the blog. He has served as a pastor of three Baptist congregations and has been the Academic Dean and a professor of Reformed Baptist Seminary since 2005. He also serves as an adjunct Professor of Old Testament Studies for Midwest Center of Theological Studies. He has a Master of Arts degree (M.A.) in Theology and a Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University. He is the author of Where Sin Abounds: the Spread of Sin and the Curse in Genesis with Special Focus on the Patriarchal Narratives (a must read in my opinion), and a contributor to the Reformed Baptist Theological Review, The Founders Journal, and Westminster Theological Journal.

Bob also has his own excellent personal blog entitled It Is Written. I look forward to any future contributions he may wish to make to this blog as well.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mark 16:1-8 – Jesus' Resurrection Brings Hope (Teaching Outline)

Introduction: The renowned Evangelical theologian Carl F. H. Henry once said of Jesus that “He planted the only durable rumor of hope amid the widespread despair of a hopeless world” (As cited by Ray Stedman, A Rumor of Hope: The Good News of Easter, p, 24).

This statement may sound a bit odd to many of us because we so often think of rumors as gossip that is at least mostly untrue. But, of course, not all rumors are untrue. For example, I am reminded of my service in the Navy, when I and my shipmates would hear rumors about where the ship was going next, or about some training exercise coming up, or about some difficult or dangerous situation that awaited us. Yet no matter how often the officers would tell us not to pay any attention to such rumors, it was uncanny how often the rumors were actually true!

In the same way, we shall read about where the rumor of Jesus' resurrection began. We shall also see that it is a true rumor and that it is indeed – as Carl Henry put it – “a rumor of hope”!
NKJ  Mark 16:1 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
Observe that these women were coming “that they might anoint Him.” They clearly expected to find Jesus' dead body at the tomb, in spite of Jesus' repeated promise that He would rise from the dead on the third day. For example:
NKJ  Mark 8:31-32a And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke this word openly.
NKJ  Mark 9:31 For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.”
NKJ  Mark 10:32-34 Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: 33 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; 34 and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”
To be sure, most of this teaching was done among the Twelve, but we have every reason to believe that He said the same things to His other followers as well (a fact confirmed by the angel's words in Luke's account – Luke 24:5-7). Sadly, however, we see in the text before us that the women clearly were not expecting to find that Jesus had risen from the dead. They had no hope that they would see Him alive again. But they nevertheless showed remarkable devotion, for they spent money to buy spices – which would not have been cheap – and they came to anoint Jesus' body even though it would have begun to decompose rapidly in the climate of Jerusalem.

Their devotion is also seen in their going to the tomb early in the morning, as the next verse indicates. 
NKJ  Mark 16:2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.
Mark has already informed us that the women did not come to the tomb sooner because they had to wait for the Sabbath to end before they could buy the appropriate spices. But he is sure to report that they came just as soon as they could.

Application: Even though we do not always trust in the Lord's promises as fully as we should, and even though the immediate future may even appear hopeless to us, we can be encouraged that Christ will work in our lives – as we will see that He worked in the lives of these women – if we remain devoted to Him and available. After all, these women may not have trusted in Jesus' promise of resurrection as they should have, but they clearly did remain devoted to him, and they were there!
NKJ  Mark 16:3 And they said among themselves, "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?"
Not only did these women come with the low expectations of a weak faith, but they hadn't even planned out how they were going to get into the tomb to anoint Jesus' body. The stone would have been so large that it would have required a number of strong men to move it. Perhaps in their grief and dismay, they simply weren't thinking clearly.

Application: What about those of us here this morning? Are there some here today that are going through difficult times that feel confusing and hopeless? That have a hard time even looking far enough ahead to plan as they should? If there are any here today whose struggles feel so overwhelming to them, then you are among those who need to have a revelation of hope today. You need to be reminded of the hope that we have in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Look with me again to see how, as the women in our text approach the tomb, they will see the first indication that a whole new life awaits them!
NKJ  Mark 16:4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away -- for it was very large.
Apparently, as they were discussing their dilemma about the stone on their way to the tomb, they looked up as they approached and saw that it had already been moved. I wonder what would have been going through their minds as they came up to the open entrance of the tomb? Were they relieved that they didn't have to move the stone? Were they wondering if someone else was already in the tomb? Were they beginning to worry that the body may have been moved?

We don't know what they were thinking, but we can imagine that many thoughts were going through their troubled minds … except for one thought … the thought that Jesus had, in fact, risen from the dead! We can only imagine their surprise, then, when they entered the tomb and and encountered a revelation from God that would change their lives forever!
NKJ  Mark 16:5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed [ἐκθαμβέω, ekthambéō].
Although Mark doesn't explicitly say that this young man is an angel of the Lord, his description of the white apparel and the revelation delivered by him in the following verses leaves no doubt that he is, indeed, an angel. This is confirmed by Matthew:
NKJ  Matthew 28:1-5a Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid ….”
The appearance of this angelic being also helps to explain the alarm of the women upon entering the tomb, although, as we will see, the absence of Jesus' body contributed much to this reaction!

The Greek word translated alarmedekthambéō – is a very strong word. The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature gives this definition: “… to be moved to a relatively intense emotional state because of something causing great surprise or perplexity … [to] be amazed … [to] be overwhelmed … [to] be alarmed... [or to] be distressed” (#2359, BibleWorks).

The word ekthambéō is used only by Mark in the New Testament, who appears to reserve its usage for special occasions of great spiritual significance.

This reminds me of how a brother once told me that he doesn't like to use the word awesome except with reference to God. To be sure, it is an overused word these days, overused and cheapened almost to the point of being meaningless. One thinks, for example, of the surfer dude describing an “awesome wave.” This is why I suspect that Mark would appreciate that brother's thinking, for he has done a similar thing with this Greek word ekthambéō. As I have already said, he is the only New Testament author to use this particular word, and he appears to reserve its usage only for special occasions of great spiritual significance. In fact, it is found only three other times in the Gospel of Mark. Let's take a few minutes to briefly examine each of these instances.

First, there is the instance when the crowd saw Jesus after the Transfiguration:
NKJ  Mark 9:14-15 And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. 15 Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed [ἐκθαμβέω, ekthambéō], and running to Him, greeted Him. [Jesus showed up in the nick of time!]
Second, there is the instance when Jesus was troubled in Gethsemane:
NKJ  Mark 14:32-34 Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled [ἐκθαμβέω, ekthambéō] and deeply distressed. 34 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”
Third, it is used again in the next verse here in chapter 16:
NKJ  Mark 16:6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed [ἐκθαμβέω, ekthambéō]. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid [τίθημι] Him.”
The angel's tender words, “Do not be alarmed,” followed by an explanation of what happened to Jesus' body, seems to presuppose that their alarm was at least in part due to the fact that the body they sought was not there. The angel points out that they were seeking the crucified Jesus, who had been buried a few days before, but that they should be seeking the risen Jesus! Since they had not believed the promise of His resurrection as they should have, the angel thus stresses that the promise had indeed been fulfilled.

The angel even calls their attention to the place where the body of Jesus had previously been laid, where the women had actually seen Him buried the preceding Friday. Remember, for example:
NKJ  Mark 15:40-41 There were also women looking on from afar [watching the crucifixion of Jesus], among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, 41 who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.
NKJ  Mark 15:47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid [τίθημι].
The angel is making sure that these women, who had followed the events of the death and burial of Jesus so closely, have all the facts clearly in their minds, for they are called upon to be the first human witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus, as we see in the next verse.
NKJ  Mark 16:7 But go, tell His disciples – and Peter – that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.
The women had not expected the resurrection, but they still got to be the first witnesses to it. And now the angel gives these women a divine commission to be the first witnesses to tell others about the resurrection of Christ, something else they surely did not expect!

As a matter of fact, women were not eligible as witnesses in Jewish culture, as the first century Jewish historian Josephus made clear in his Antiquities of the Jews:
But let not a single witness be credited, but three, or two at the least, and those such whose testimony is confirmed by their good lives. But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex.  Nor let servants be admitted to give testimony, on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment. But if any one be believed to have borne false witness, let him, when he is convicted, suffer all the very same punishments which he against whom he bore witness was to have suffered. (4.8.15, “The Polity Settled By Moses; and How He Disappeared from Among Mankind”)
This is yet another reason we see the trustworthiness of the Gospel accounts, for in that culture they surely wouldn't have recorded that women were the first witness if it were not true. Yet the women are commanded to go tell “the disciples – and Peter.” Note that these same men who had abandoned Jesus and fled in fear are still called His disciples. And see how Peter – who failed most of all – is singled out as one who is to see Jesus risen from the dead.

Application: Praise the Lord that His ability to use us does not depend on our faithfulness, but on His faithfulness! Nothing, not even our failures or the weakness of our faith, “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

The angel then tells the women that “He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” This also was something that Jesus had foretold before His death on the cross:
NKJ  Mark 14:27-28 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: 'I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' 28 But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
As Coty Pinckney has aptly said of this text:
Suppose I promise to give you a million dollars Monday at noon, and then a thousand dollars Tuesday at noon. You might have reason to doubt my promise – particularly if you could see my bank balance! But suppose I manage to fulfill the promise on Monday – you get the million dollars! What do you expect to happen on Tuesday? If I fulfilled the promise to give you a million dollars on Monday, surely I’ll give you the thousand dollars on Tuesday! You will have no doubt! I’ve kept the hard promise – surely I’ll keep the easier one.
Think, now: Isn’t the promise to rise from the dead the hardest promise to keep anyone has ever made? Jesus kept the hard promise. He lived up to His word. Shouldn’t we then believe the rest of His words, and trust Him to be speaking truthfully? He’s fulfilled the million-dollar promise – surely He’ll fulfill all the thousand dollar promises He made. (Online sermon on Mark 15:40-16:8, entitled “Just As He Said”)
Such were the kinds of lesson these women would learn from this amazing event, but probably not until they had some time to reflect upon it. As we will see in the next verse, they were initially too afraid to do anything but flee from the scene.
NKJ  Mark 16:8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid [φοβέω, phobéō].
Here Mark highlights the fear of the women at having seen the angel and at having been given such an important commission. Again he uses a word that he has often used at other times throughout his Gospel to highlight fear in response to Divine revelation or action. For example:
After Jesus calmed the stormy sea: NKJ  Mark 4:41 And they feared exceedingly [φοβέω, phobéō], and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
After Jesus cast a legion of demons out of a man in Gadara: NKJ  Mark 5:15 Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid [φοβέω, phobéō].
After a woman had been healed from her bleeding: NKJ  Mark 5:33 But the woman, fearing [φοβέω, phobéō] and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.
After the disciples saw Jesus walking on water: NKJ  Mark 6:49-50 And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid [φοβέω, phobéō].”
After witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus: NKJ  Mark 9:2-6 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4 And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” – 6 because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid [ἔκφοβος, ékphobos, “pert. to being intensely afraid, terrified” (BAGD3 #2452, BibleWorks)].
Now, getting back to the women in chapter 16, we know that after some time they did go and tell the other disciples as the angel had commanded them, since both Matthew (28:8) and Luke (24:8-12) tell us that they did. And Mark himself tells us in verses 9-11 that Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples.

But Mark wants us to know that they were initially paralyzed by their fear. Although he doesn't go into detail about the exact reason(s) for their fear, we can conclude from his usage of the same term elsewhere in his Gospel that their fear was at least in part due to the fact that they had experienced a Divine revelation from a messenger of God and were apparently still in shock over the event. But it is also possible that they were afraid for other reasons as well, such as fear that they might not be believed when they told others what the angel had said to them. If this was the case, it wasn't an irrational fear, since Mark tells us that the other disciples did not, in fact, believe them, at least not at first (vs. 11).

But notice that, in spite of their fear, Mark doesn't in any way indicate that these women themselves were disbelieving. In fact, one can only conclude that it was their faith that overcame their fear and eventually led them to go and tell the others what they had seen and heard.

Conclusion: Application: What can we learn from their example? Well, it seems to me that we can see here how faith can be mixed with fear and still be genuine. Perhaps you are one who has felt fear at hearing what God says in His Word and what He commands you to do. Perhaps you have even been afraid to tell others about your risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps you have even begun to doubt your own faith at times.

Well, just know this, that being afraid doesn't mean you have no faith, even if it may indicate a weak faith. The real question for you is this: Will you allow your fears to conquer your faith, or will your faith win out in the end? Perhaps what you do when you leave here today with the Gospel message concerning the risen Lord will tell the tale. Will you go out in faith to tell others? Will you trust the Lord to be with you and to enable you?

If you question whether your faith is strong enough, then perhaps you should learn a lesson from another incident recorded in Mark. When a certain father approached Jesus and asked for help for his demonized son, “Jesus said to him, 'If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.' Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'” (9:23-24).

You may question whether you have the faith to obey the command you have been given to tell others about Jesus, but do you have enough faith to cry out to Jesus and ask Him to help your weakness? If so, then you have enough faith to overcome your fears as these women did on the morning of Jesus' resurrection.

For those of you who may not yet have trusted in the Lord Jesus for salvation, I encourage you to hear the words of Scripture and believe.
NKJ  Romans 10:8-11 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

Monday, March 21, 2016

Gender Ideology Harms Children Says the American College of Pediatricians

Recently The American College of Pediatricians published an article entitled Gender Ideology Harms Children, in which they list eight points to back up their claims. Here are the first three points:
The American College of Pediatricians urges educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex. Facts – not ideology – determine reality.

1. Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait: “XY” and “XX” are genetic markers of health – not genetic markers of a disorder. The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident. The exceedingly rare disorders of sex development (DSDs), including but not limited to testicular feminization and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, are all medically identifiable deviations from the sexual binary norm, and are rightly recognized as disorders of human design. Individuals with DSDs do not constitute a third sex.

2. No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex. Gender (an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female) is a sociological and psychological concept; not an objective biological one. No one is born with an awareness of themselves as male or female; this awareness develops over time and, like all developmental processes, may be derailed by a child’s subjective perceptions, relationships, and adverse experiences from infancy forward. People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.

3. A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such. These children suffer from gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria (GD), formerly listed as Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a recognized mental disorder in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V). The psychodynamic and social learning theories of GD/GID have never been disproved.
You can read the rest of the article, together with the references supporting the claims, here. They have also announced in the article that this is only "a temporary statement with references" and that "a full statement will be published in summer 2016."

We Christians who hold to sola Scriptura are of course not surprised to hear of these dangers, for we know that "God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Gen. 1:27 NKJ). We also know -- despite the well-intentioned point made above -- that people are "born with an awareness of themselves as male or female" but that they "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18 NKJ). We thus know that inherent sin, together with a sinful environment which encourages it, are what leads leads to gender confusion. However, we must pray that more people in our culture begin to think clearly about the real dangers of ignoring the notion that "facts – not ideology – determine reality."

Friday, March 18, 2016

Mark 15:33-34 – Jesus Was Not Separated From the Father on the Cross (Teaching Outline)

Introduction: The website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association offers the following answer answer to the question, Did God really forsake Jesus when He was dying on the cross?:
Jesus’ cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) has puzzled many. Jesus is actually quoting the opening line of Psalm 22 and using it to express His deep agony on the cross. He is suffering the penalty for our sin, in our place.
The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). Death includes two dimensions—physical and spiritual. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of the spirit from God. Since Jesus was dying for our sin as our substitute, He was experiencing the agony of separation from His Father. It was the agony of hell.
There is an unfathomable mystery here. Jesus was both God and man united in one divine Person. He could not suffer and die with respect to His deity, but He could suffer the agony of separation from the Father and actually die physically with respect to His humanity. And He did, that we might, through repentance from sin and faith in Him as our Savior and Lord, be forgiven of our sin and reconciled with God.
Frankly, I am not at all satisfied with this answer, because I think it is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, I think it creates a Christological problem in that it supposes that Jesus could be completely separated from God the Father in His humanity and even suffer spiritual death, while at the same time being united with Him in His deity. But this seems to deny the important point that Jesus was both fully God and fully man in one person. To be sure, there are certain things we must say about Jesus with respect only to His divine nature – such as when we describe Him as omniscient or omnipresent. And there are certain things we must say about Jesus with respect only to His human nature – such as when we describe Him as tired or hungry or tempted by sin. But there are also certain things we must say about Jesus as a person – such as when we describe Him as loving or righteous. This is because, if we said that He was sinful in His humanity, we would also be saying He was a sinful person, since He was only one person – albeit with two natures – and we could thus not avoid impugning His character as God. So I am concerned that we are treading on dangerous ground if we say that He could be separated from God even if only in terms of His humanity, because this would imply separation not only from God the Father but also from Himself as God, since God the Father and God the Son are forever one and are inseparable (e.g. John 1:1-3).

I am glad that the staff of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association correctly assert that “there is an unfathomable mystery” in our understanding of how “Jesus was both God and man united in one divine Person,” but they clearly don't think it is a mystery that He is such a Person. So why adopt an interpretation that seems to clearly undermine this assertion?

Second, although they correctly assert that Jesus was citing “the opening line of Psalm 22 and using it to express His deep agony on the cross,” they fail to appreciate fully the significance of this citation. For had they fully appreciated why Jesus cited the opening line of Psalm 22, then they would not have asserted that He was separated from God the Father.

At any rate, I hope to show you this morning what I think is a better interpretation of this text. And, in order to better understand this cry of Jesus from the cross, we will examine first the context of the cry, and then the meaning of the cry.

I. The Context of the Cry

We find the immediate context of the cry in verse 33.
NKJ  Mark 15:33 Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
Mark specifies that there was a darkness over the whole land beginning at “the sixth hour,” which was noon, when the sun was directly overhead and the day was typically at its brightest. He then says that this darkness was over the whole land until “the ninth hour,” which was 3:00 in the afternoon. Clearly, then, he wants us to see that this was a miraculous event and thus a sign from God.

But if this darkness constitutes some kind of sign from God, then what does it mean? I think a look at a couple of Old Testament passages will help to shed some light on the meaning of this darkness. Consider, for example, the words of judgment spoken through the prophet Amos:
NKJ  Amos 8:9-10 “And it shall come to pass in that day [the Day of the Lord, recall 5:8],” says the Lord GOD, “That I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight; 10 I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist, and baldness on every head; I will make it like mourning for an only son, and its end like a bitter day.”
Clearly a miraculous darkness in the middle of the day would be a sign of God's judgment, wouldn't it? In this case it would signify the judgment of the Day of the LORD.

However, there is an even earlier and, perhaps, an even more significant Scripture to take into account here. Consider the account of the ninth plague that God brought upon Egypt, when a deep darkness enveloped the entire land just prior to the tenth plague and the institution of the first Passover:
NKJ  Exodus 10:21-23 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
This plague was then followed by the tenth plague, when all the firstborn in the land of Egypt were killed, but God instituted the first Passover in order to protect His people who trusted in Him for their salvation. Even so, when Jesus “our Passover” – as Paul later calls Him (1 Cor. 5:7) – was killed at the time of the Passover celebration in Jerusalem, the miraculous darkness during the brightest part of the day seems to indicate the wrath of God upon the people who were killing Jesus and upon Jesus Himself as He bore the wrath of God for His people.

So we see that darkness over the land is a sign of God's judgment. But, as we also know, instead of God's wrath being poured out on those who deserved it, it was poured out on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who “Himself is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2; 4:10). And this leads us to our next point.

II. The Meaning of the Cry

We will examine the meaning of the cry as we consider verse 34.
NKJ  Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
There are at least a couple of things we can say about the meaning of this cry.

First, it is a cry of anguish.

In order to understand more clearly what was going on when Jesus uttered this cry, it is important to remember the anguish with which Jesus looked forward to the cross when He prayed in Gethsemane the night before:
NKJ  Mark 14:32-36 Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” 35 He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. 36 And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”
When Jesus asked for the “cup” to be removed from Him – a cup which made Him “exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” – He was recalling the Old Testament imagery of the cup of God's wrath. For example:
NKJ  Isaiah 51:17 Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem, You who have drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of His fury; you have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, and drained it out.
This is the kind of thing Jesus meant to say when He referred to the cup He was about to have poured out upon Him on the cross. And thus, when He cried out with a loud voice and said “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He was describing the experience of the wrath of God being poured out upon Him, the one about whom the Father had previously said, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (1:11).

But, lest we wrongly think that the Father is now somehow displeased with His beloved Son, we must remember that He was pleased with the Son even as His wrath was poured out upon Him for us, for even in this the Son was willingly obeying the Father's plan. Remember what the LORD said in the famous Suffering Servant Song of Isaiah 53:
NKJ  Isaiah 53:10-12 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
So, although what actually happened on the cross is in many ways a mystery to us, surely we can say that Jesus' anguished cry that He was forsaken by the Father means at least that He now experienced the wrath of God that was due to us for our sins. This acceptance by Jesus of the wrath of God for our sins is what the Apostle Paul later referred to as propitiation:
NKJ  Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation [a sacrifice that assuages the wrath of God] by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
This is why Paul later says in the same Epistle to the Romans:
NKJ  Romans 5:8-10 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
It is also why Paul could say to the Thessalonian believers:
NKJ 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
So, Jesus cried out in anguish as He bore the Father's wrath for our sins, and this too was pleasing to the Father, who was not separated from Him but looked upon Him and was satisfied with His offering. For Jesus willingly did this as a part of His Father's gracious plan to save us, which leads us to our next point.

Second, it is a cry of faith.

Observe that – even while crying out, “Why have you forsaken me?” – Jesus still refers to God with the twofold, “My God, My God.” He is not separated from Him but rather prays to Him and trusts in Him even as He bears His wrath for our sins. Even on the cross, as He was experiencing the cup of God's wrath being poured out upon Him in our place, an event that we could never really understand or describe, Jesus still had a relationship with the Father, and trusted in the Father, whose plan He was carrying out. This may further be seen when we remember that Jesus was actually quoting Scripture with these words! For, as I have already pointed out, Jesus was citing the opening line of Psalm 22, an important Messianic psalm:
NKJ  Psalm 22:1 “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?”
Thus, Jesus was indicating the anguish of being without His Father's help while on the cross, but this does not mean that He was separated from the Father, as we may see if we read the rest of the psalm, which is what Jesus was inviting the hearers to do when He cited the first line. In a day when there were no chapter and verse divisions in the Scriptures, it was a way of bringing to mind a particular passage. So let's briefly look at some of the passage Jesus so desperately wanted us to think about. For example:
NKJ  Psalm 22:14-21 I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. 16 For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; 17 I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. 18 They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots. 19 But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me! 20 Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog. 21 Save Me from the lion's mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me.
Jesus' allusion to this Psalm demonstrated that He was acutely aware that He was fulfilling the Father's plan, and that He trusted in that plan. Indeed, it expressed His assurance that the Father heard Him even while He was hanging on the cross and suffering for our sins. As a matter of fact, Luke tells us that the last thing Jesus said before He died was a prayer to His Father:
NKJ  Luke 23:44-46 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit.'” Having said this, He breathed His last.
But, turning back to Psalm 22 for a moment, we will see that Jesus was filled with a desire that His Father be glorified through his death on the cross:
NKJ  Psalm 22:22-24 I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You. 23 You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard.
You see, Jesus knew that, even while He was experiencing an agony beyond description on the cross, His Father would be glorified through it, for He had not hidden His face from Him but was satisfied with what He did and was pleased with Him as He did it, just as Isaiah prophesied that He would be.

Conclusion: I hope, then, that you can see that Jesus was not separated from the Father as He died in our place on the cross. Instead He was working together with the Father, fulfilling the Father's plan, to bear our sins and provide salvation for us fully and freely. This is why those of us who have trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior need not fear God's wrath, for Jesus is our Shepherd and Guardian. As the apostle Peter said, “[He] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:24-25).

Friday, March 11, 2016

2016 "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll Update

Two months ago we began a poll on the blog. If you identify yourself as a Reformed Baptist and you haven't already taken part in the poll, please check out the "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll on the right sidebar on this page (the red box with white type). The intention is to run the poll for one year with an interest in how the Reformed Baptist community might answer this question. I have given four options for answers that I think basically sum up the various groups or individuals that I have found to be using the term. Here are the four possible answers:
To regard oneself as a Reformed Baptist, one must ...

1) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology.

2) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology.

3) adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility).

4) adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689.
Thus far surprisingly few of the blog's readers have taken part in the poll. I am not sure why there have not yet been more who have answered, but I have communicated with some who have held off due to a desire to think about it more carefully before answering. I think this is a good thing. Here are the results thus far:
12% say that one must adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

30% say that one must adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

39% say that one must adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility) in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

19% say that one must adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689 in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.
Again, if you haven't yet taken part in the poll, please do so. You may read more about the poll here in order to understand better why it is phrased as it is.