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February 2004, Volume IX, Issue 22


Scripture Twisting (3)

II Peter 3:15-16 tells us two ways in which false teachers twist the Scriptures. First they abuse the "hard" places, the texts that many do not understand, and then they make the easier text conform to their twisting of the harder text. This corrupt method is widespread today. For example, regarding election and reprobation, people should start with Romans 9 and Ephesians 1, chapters directly addressing the subject. Instead, Scripture twisters find some hard verses here or there and build their theory on it. Then they torture Ephesians 1 and Romans 9 to fit with their view. John Wesley’s commentary on Romans 9 is a good example of this.

Second, the Scripture twisters play biblical writers and books off against each other. Peter states that he and Paul taught the same thing (II Peter 3:15), for there were some who challenged this. Also Peter places Paul’s (inspired) writings on a par with the OT (15-16), for there were some who challenged this too. Many today are at the same wicked craft. Like Marcion, a heretic in the early church, they believe that the OT teaches a lower deity than the NT. Others teach that Paul’s theology differs from Christ’s teaching in the four gospel accounts. It is increasingly popular to say that there are various NT theologies—those of Paul, Peter, John, the author to the Hebrews, etc.—and that these theologies contradict each other. These spiritually "unlearned and unstable" men twist the Scriptures "unto their own destruction" (16) when they allege that the NT (or OT) writers belie each other. For, while it is true that the various inspired penmen have different approaches and styles, God’s Word is one, a revelation of the unity of His one Being and the product of the one divine Breath (the Holy Spirit) who teaches the one "wisdom" (15) of God in Jesus Christ. A more subtle lie is that biblical theology (a study of the doctrine of the various biblical books or authors) makes systematic theology (an integrated presentation of the whole body of biblical doctrines) unnecessary. This springs from doubt about the possibility of absolute truth, especially in the form of a Worldview which gives the "big picture."

Scripture twisting is in evidence today in many ways. Have you not heard people defend their drunkenness with a garbled reference to I Timothy 5:23: "use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities?" This verse may be used to defend the lawfulness of taking alcoholic drinks in moderation (Eph. 5:18) but it is grossly abused to defend drunkenness. In I Timothy 5:23, wine is used not for intoxication but for medicinal purposes: "for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities." Moreover it says, "use a little wine" and not a lot of wine. Rev. Stewart


Unfulfilled Prophecies (2)

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know that word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him (Deut. 18:20-22).

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 gives a test by which the believer is to judge prophets: the word of a true prophet comes to pass, but the word of a false prophet does not. A reader asked how this squares with Jeremiah 18:7-10 and Jonah 3:4, 10. Last time we looked at the idea of God’s "repentance"—a subject mentioned in both these texts—and considered God’s repenting and granting Hezekiah 15 more years.

God also repented that He had made Saul king. This was a pedagogical means to teach Israel that the king of their choice was wrong and would bring only trouble, while the king of God’s choice (David, and finally Christ) would bring blessing.

So it is with prophecies of God’s judgments. The Word of God which comes with threats of judgments is always accompanied with the command to repent and believe in Christ. This was true in the case of Jonah’s preaching in Nineveh as well. And the gospel always says that those who repent and believe in Christ will not perish, but have everlasting life. God says, "Sin deserves hell, and I will destroy the sinner." But He adds the promise: "I will save those who believe and repent."

God ties judgment with unbelief and blessing with faith. This is proclaimed in Jeremiah 18:7-10 and in true preaching. But God also sovereignly works out His counsel so that He uses both the threats and the promises of the gospel to save and to harden—as He did in Nineveh, and as He does throughout history.

I am constrained to make an additional comment or two on Deuteronomy 18:20-22, which is quoted above. These words were spoken in the old dispensation. They were spoken to Israel; they were spoken during a time when prophecy was a way in which God revealed Himself to His people. At the time these words in Deuteronomy were spoken, there was no written Word of God; and for another fifteen hundred years the written Word of God would not be completed. The Israelites needed, therefore, to have some standard by which they could judge whether a prophet was indeed bringing the Word of God. This standard God gave them.

It is necessary to emphasize this because the fact is that since the time of the completion of the canon of Scripture, we no longer need this standard of judging. The Scriptures are now the sole standard by which we are to judge whether any "prophet" speaks the Word of God or whether he brings his own word.

We must remember that until the outpouring of the Spirit (and for a time in the apostolic church before the completion of the Scriptures), the office of prophet was held by men who were called to that extraordinary office by God and anointed with oil as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. They were God’s prophets who spoke the Word of God. They had many imitators who claimed to speak the Word of God. Israel was given a standard to judge between the two.

But with the outpouring of the Spirit, all God’s people become prophets. This is clear from Peter’s Pentecost sermon in which he quotes the prophecy of Joel: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy" (Acts 2:17-18).

All God’s people are now prophets. But God’s people do not hold that office in order that they may predict the future. There is no need of this any more. We have the full revelation of God in His Word and we are, in our "prophesying," limited to what Scripture says. This is true of ministers, elders, deacons, and all the people of God. By the Spirit, they prophesy when they speak what Scripture says. Then and then only do they speak the Word of God.

Have we then no standard by which we may judge prophecy? Indeed, yes! We may know whether anyone speaks the Word of God by comparing what he or she says with Scripture. We are able to judge because we too are prophets and know the Scriptures.

No one may predict the future beyond the Scriptures. Many attempt to do this in our day. Many try to predict the time of Christ’s coming and are even so brazen as to specify a date. They deceive many. This is evil and will be punished by God.

Scripture says many things about the future, and what Scripture says, we may say. Indeed, we must say what Scripture says. But beyond Scripture we may not go. An example would be the scriptural teaching concerning the Antichrist. Scripture tells us that he will surely come just before Christ’s return. Scripture tells us a great deal about him, but it does not specifically identify him, and we do wrong if we attempt to do that which Scripture does not do. We may not say, for example, that the present pope is the Antichrist. We would have done wrong if, prior to World War II, we said that Hitler, or Stalin, was the Antichrist. The spirit of Antichrist was/is in these men; they have many of the marks of Antichrist; they are antichrists; but they are not the Antichrist.

It is our calling to say only what Scripture says; we may be sure that if we live close to Scripture, we will identify him when he finally appears, because Scripture tells us many things he will do. Prof. Hanko

The Lukewarm Church (2)

Last time we considered Christ’s description of the condition of the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:15-17) as background for a text abused in favour of Arminianism: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (20).

There are at least three errors in the popular misconception. (1) Christ, it is said, knocks at the door of the sinner’s heart earnestly desiring admission—the error of the free offer, that God wants to save everybody. (2) Christ knocks on everybody’s heart yearning for admission trying all He can to get the sinner to open to him—resistible grace condemned in the third/fourth heads of the Canons of Dordt. (3) Thus the salvation of the sinner rests ultimately on his free will—that proud, old Pelagian heresy.

All this betrays a false conception of the sinner. The apostle declares, "There is none that seeketh after God" (Rom. 3:11) and "the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (8:7), so how can a sinner embrace Christ without almighty, sovereign grace? And how could a minister with any understanding of the Scriptures ever preach free will? Does he not know the depravity of the human heart, his own included? Christ has just been describing the fallen nature of man. He is spiritually "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17)—five adjectives, heaped up one after another, each one a hammer blow to any good in man without sovereign grace!

Along with this goes a lie about Christ Himself. He is presented as a poor beggar begging admission into the heart of the sinner. And if the sinner won’t open to Him, He walks away sad without fellowship and shelter. Thus Arminianism makes a begging bowl out of the Son of God. But verse 17 describes fallen man as the beggar ("poor") who is "naked," "wretched" and "miserable"—and not the glorious Son of God! He is "the Amen, the faithful and true witness" (14). Christ’s witness is that fallen man is a beggar (17). This is the faithful witness preachers must give. Teaching some native ability in man is an unfaithful and false witness, and God will punish for it! Christ’s witness of Himself is that He is "the beginning of the creation of God" (14)—the source and author of the entire universe (John 1:1; Col. 1:15-17)—and the One seated with His Father on His throne (22). He is not a beggar but the great Creator and King!

Christ is the One possessing and exercising "the key of David ... that openeth, and and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth" (Rev. 3:7). He is the priest-king (Ps. 110:1, 4) who makes His people "willing in the day of [His] power" (3). He is the One who opens hearts so that His elect attend to the preaching of the Word (Acts 16:14). Thus the implied calling in Revelation 3:20 to "hear" Christ’s voice and to "open the door" teaches us man’s duty and not man’s natural ability.

Now that the Arminian view is ruled out, we shall consider the positive explanation of Revelation 3:20 next time (DV). Rev. Stewart

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