Category Archives: Theology

Controversies from conception to crucifixion

The Annunciation by Murillo, 1655–1660, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

(courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer Gear PhD

It is predictable that controversies will be experienced at many levels of society. In Queensland, the State government sacked the ‘entire scandal-plagued Ipswich council after fraud charges’. Similar action was taken when ‘Logan City Council [was] sacked by Queensland’s Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe’.

Remember the controversies surrounding the sacking of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam on 11 November 1975 by Governor-General Sir John Kerr?

Cameron Bancroft caught ball-tampering. Image courtesy SportsRush (24 March 2018).

Could anyone forget the Australian cricket team’s ball-tampering controversy in the Newlands Test, South Africa in 2018?

A very different controversy

This one involved a scandalous conception, a rejection of the child’s adult occupation by his ethnic leaders, and some contemporary church leaders perpetrating these dissensions. The baby born had an aim for life that was out of this world.

This virgin woman, Mary, in first century Israel was betrothed (engaged) to be married to Joseph, of David’s family line, when the angel Gabriel came to her with an outrageous announcement:

Greetings! The Lord is with you; you are very special to him…. You will become pregnant and have a baby boy. You will name him Jesus. He will be great. People will call him the Son of the Most High God, and the Lord God will make him king like his ancestor David. He will rule over the people of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end (Luke 1:28, 31-33).

Mary was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. She became so confused she asked the angel how this could happen to a virgin. The angel’s answer was that the Spirit’s power would make sure the baby born would be holy and called the Son of God. The angel also announced her relative Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age (with John the Baptist). The assurance was that God can do anything (Luke 1:35-37).

The controversies of the conception passages regarding Jesus surround: (1) The ministry of angels, and (2) How God could cause a virgin to conceive a child without sexual intercourse?

Angels were created as, the host, ‘Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them’ (Genesis 2:1). There will be resistance to the notion of angels by those who oppose God’s description of the universe that includes the unseen ministry of these beings. Hebrews 12:22 states there are ‘myriads of angels’ – an innumerable number.

What is the job description of unseen angels? This is not from One Magic Christmas. The biblical view is that ‘all angels are spirits who serve. God sends them to serve those who will receive salvation’ (Hebrews 1:14).

Conception controversy

Imagine a first century woman engaged (betrothed) to be married and she became pregnant without intercourse. Also, this pregnancy was not announced about a woman who would give birth in a comfortable house or in a maternity ward of a local hospital. The son of God would be born to a humble woman in a Bethlehem cow shed that was nothing like an Australian dairy farm milking shed. After birth, he was placed in ‘a box where cattle are fed’ (Luke 2:7).

What does it take to understand and believe in the virgin birth of Christ? Protestant theologian, Wayne Grudem’s, assessment was: “Certainly such a miracle is not too hard for the God who created the universe and everything in it — anyone who affirms that a virgin birth is ‘impossible’ is just confessing his [ or her] own unbelief in the God of the Bible” (1994:532).

Retired Episcopalian, theologically liberal bishop, John Shelby Spong, called ‘an aging maverick’, gave an example of Grudem’s appraisal:

There was no biologically literal virgin birth, no miraculous overcoming of barrenness in the birth of John the Baptist, no angel Gabriel who appeared to Zechariah or to Mary, no deaf muteness, no angelic chorus that peopled the heavens to announce Jesus’ birth to hillside shepherds, no journey to Bethlehem, no presentation or purification in Jerusalem, and no childhood temple story….

All that can be stated definitely is that the echoes of the status of illegitimacy appear to be far stronger in the text than the suggestion that Jesus was Mary’s child by Joseph (Spong 1992:157-158).

Spong_Lecture_DM_01.croppedJohn Shelby Spong 2018 (courtesy The Chautauqua Daily)

That is speculation, a la Spong! Out of the mind of Spong, he produced what Grudem explained — a confession of Spong’s unbelief in the God of the Bible (and the universe). He confirmed this when he wrote, ‘No recognized New Testament scholar, Catholic or Protestant, would today seriously defend the historicity of these [birth] narratives [in the Gospels]’ (Spong 1992:44-45). 

Really? It’s too bad Spong didn’t give an even-handed approach to the historicity of New Testament material and recognition of scholars outside of his liberal theological brand.  Even in Spong’s own generation today, an eminent scholar and professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, Dr.Craig Blomberg (1987) provided verification of The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. I’m confident Spong would reject his scholarship because he is an evangelical.

Image result for photo Craig BlombergBlomberg (1987:255), while acknowledging his was “‘a ‘minority report’ among biblical scholars worldwide”, endorsed the historical veracity of the Gospels:

The gospels may be accepted as trustworthy accounts of what Jesus did and said. One cannot hope to prove the accuracy of every detail on purely historical grounds alone; there is simply not enough data available for that.  But as investigation proceeds, the evidence becomes sufficient for one to declare that what can be checked is accurate, so that it is entirely proper to believe that what cannot be checked is probably accurate as well.  Other conclusions, widespread though they are, seem not to stem from even-handed historical analysis but from religious or philosophical prejudice….

It has been argued here that the gospels must be subjected to the same type of historical scrutiny given to other writings of antiquity but that they can stand up to such scrutiny admirably (1987:254-255)

This affirms C S Lewis’s explanation: ‘One must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important’ (1970:51).

Extraordinary controversy

If we thought the virgin conception was controversial, it is multiplied many times over when discussing God’s prophetic statement of the nature of that conception and birth. Yes, God can, did and does prophesy events. This happened with the virgin conception. In the Old Testament (OT), prophecy referred to a prophet who received divine revelations, as with Moses and Elijah.

I walked into my local pharmacy to deliver scripts a few days ago when I noticed decorations at the entrance, ‘Joy to the World. I commended the pharmacist for supporting the celebration of the birth of Jesus rather than Santa. What has that to do with predictions?

The prophetic controversies

OT Scriptures have created heated discussions over the centuries relating to Jesus’ birth. One of the most prominent is from:

Isaiah 7:14

The controversies are seen in the comparison of two eminent, contemporary Bible translations, the ESVA and the NRSVA:

Flower8‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel’ (ESVA).

 

Flower8‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel’ (NRSVA).

There is a Christmas world of a difference between these two translations. Was this prophesied child, who would be called, Immanuel, born to a ‘young woman’ or ‘a virgin’? The difference has considerable implications. If she were a young woman, it does not guarantee that she was a virgin.

What are the problems with the prophetic passage from Isa. 7:14, which is quoted in Matthew 1:22-23 that has caused so much angst among Bible translators and commentators?

1folder There are two different ways to translate the Hebrew almah – virgin or young woman.

2folder ‘Almah’ does not actually indicate virginity. Don’t jump to conclusions about my statement, as there are other ramifications.

3folder The Matt. 1:22-25 passage is clear from the context that Mary was a virgin: ‘Joseph did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And he named him Jesus’ (v. 25).

4folder ‘Almah’ is not precisely equivalent to virgin or young woman. Congruent with many OT passages, many prefer the translation, ‘young woman of marriageable age’. Most, but not all, OT references to ‘almah’ indicate a virgin (Carson 1984:77).

5folder In about 250 BC, the Hebrews completed the translation of the Hebrew OT into Greek, known as the Septuagint (LXX). The translators, for the Hebrew almah, used the Greek word, parthenos, which is used in Matt. 1:23 and Luke 1:27 for Mary the ‘virgin’. However the LXX translation is about 300 years earlier than the gospel writings. Had the meaning, therefore, changed during these three centuries? An additional OT problem is:

Genesis 34:4 indicates that Dinah is a parthenos (LXX). However, the previous verse affirms that she is not a virgin. Why, then, would one want to translate parthenos in Matthew and Luke as virgin instead of young woman? Virgin is the preferred translation in the Gospels because ‘the overwhelming majority of the occurrences of “parthenos” in both biblical and profane Greek require the rendering ‘virgin’” (Carson 1984:78).

6folder To deal honestly with Isaiah 7:14, we need to examine Isaiah 7:1-9:7 as a unit. In context there is a double fulfillment in Isaiah’s day, with God’s judgement against Judah and Ephraim by the Assyrian armies. The second fulfillment is the coming of the promised Immanuel (God with us) to the virgin Mary.

What’s the big deal for Aussies at Christmas 2019?

Doubters are out there in droves among ordinary people and scholars. Who wants to be associated with a mob of literalists like me, who allegedly concoct a story about a miraculous birth and have perpetrated it for thousands of years?

John Dominic Crossan (1994:17), fellow of the infamous Jesus Seminar, deconstructed the meaning of the virgin birth. This was his reasoning:

The prophecy in Isaiah [7:14] says nothing whatsoever about a virginal conception. It speaks in Hebrew of an almah, a virgin just married but not yet pregnant with her first child. In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures the term almah was translated as parthenos, which in that context meant exactly the same thing — namely a newly married virgin (emphasis in original).

If it doesn’t refer to the virgin birth, to what does it refer? Crossan stated:

I understand the virginal conception of Jesus to be a confessional statement about Jesus’ status and not a biological statement about Mary’s body. It is later faith in Jesus as an adult retrojected mythologically onto Jesus as an infant…. He is not necessarily the firstborn child of Joseph and Mary. He could just as easily be their youngest (1994:23).

Crossan’s theology is radically removed from that of biblical Christianity. He vanquishes anything that reads like a literal interpretation. However, I wouldn’t dare read his many publications (which I’ve read) the way he interprets the Bible. Christianity is in freefall in the writings of Dom Crossan.

The truth of the Christ child matters because the one who came as a sinless baby (not impregnated by sinful Joseph) was here to live and to shed his life’s blood to provide cleansing for sin. Remember he was a Jew who followed the Jewish law for forgiveness of sin – shedding of blood.

The Jesus’ difference

One born through sexual intercourse between a sinful man and a sinful woman produced sinful offspring. Jesus Christ ‘didn’t have any sin. But God made him become sin for us. So we can be made right with God because of what Christ has done for us’ (2 Cor 5:21).

The Bible expressly declares that Jesus was sinless. As a high priest he is able to intercede with God on behalf of people because ‘he is holy, pure and without blame. He isn’t like other people. He does not sin. He is lifted high above the heavens’ (Hebrews 7:26).

At the birth of Jesus, Mary was assured by the angel, ‘The holy one that is born will be called the Son of God’. ‘Holy’ means to be separate and cut off from all that is sinful. God, the Son, cannot tolerate sin but he came to earth as a baby who grew into an adult and was crucified for the sins of the world.

Why should that interest us in Australia for Christmas 2019? Why should the Santa and the reindeer be replaced by a manger scene at Christmas? He brought ‘Joy to the World’ if people are open to receive it.

For Christmas we again celebrate, ‘Oh Holy Night’.

 

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 December 2019.

Image result for clip art nativity lines Mantle clip art christmas mantle with nativity scene image

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1 Peter 3:19: Proclamation to spirits in prison

(image courtesy Himandus.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

1 Peter 3:18-20 reads:

18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water (ESV).

1.  Difficult to interpret

Martin Luther (AD 483 – 1546)[1] made a profound statement about his text in his commentary on 1 Peter:

This is a strange text, and a more obscure passage, perhaps, than any other in the New Testament, for I do not certainly know what St. Peter means. At first sight, the words import as though Christ had preached to the spirits — that is, the souls which were formerly unbelieving at the time Noah was building the ark; but that I cannot understand, I cannot even explain it. There has been no one hitherto who has explained it. Yet if any one is disposed to maintain that Christ, after that He had suffered on the Cross, descended to these souls and preached to them, I will not dispute it. It might bear such a rendering. But I am not confident that St. Peter would say this (Luther 2009, of 1 Peter 3:18-21, emphasis added).

These are among the most difficult verses in the New Testament to interpret. Commentator, D. Edmond Hiebert, observed, ‘Each of the nine words in the original has been differently understood’.[2] They are difficult because of these three questions that need answers:[3]

(a) About whom was Peter speaking when he wrote of the ‘spirits’ to whom Christ made this proclamation (v. 19)?

(b) When did this proclamation happen (v. 19)?

(c) What was the content of the proclamation? Was it a Gospel announcement or something else?

(d) When did these ‘spirits’ fall through disobedience?

Let’s examine some possibilities:

1.1 Christ preached to the dead

Those who interpret ‘the spirits in prison’ this way maintain that during the time between Christ’s death and resurrection he went to the realm of the dead and preached to Noah’s contemporaries:

This group is subdivided by various opinions on the nature of this proclamation. (1) Christ’s soul ministers an offer of salvation to the spirits. (2) He announces condemnation to the unbelievers of Noah’s time. (3) He announces good tidings [good news] to those who had already been saved (Blum 1981:241).

Briefly, let’s look at these 3 views. Firstly,

1.1.1 Christ offers salvation to those in the realm of the dead

This would possibly harmonise with that statement in the Apostles’ Creed:

… He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell….
[4]

In 1 Peter 3:19 it states that Christ ‘went and preached to the spirits in prison’. Does this refer to Jesus’ descent into hell, as in the Apostles’ Creed? Not at all. I haven’t found any biblical evidence for that conclusion. There is no biblical support for Christ between his death and resurrection or between his resurrection and ascension going down to Hades/hell.

Some suggest that Christ in his spirit preached to Noah’s contemporaries. Let’s wait to see what the biblical evidence demonstrates.

1.1.2 Pre-existent Christ and Noah’s generation

The second interpretation maintains that Christ, before he came in the flesh at the Incarnation, ‘preached in the time of Noah to Noah’s sinful generation’ (Blum 1981:241).

1.1.3 Christ proclaimed to the ‘disobedient spirits’

This third interpretation identifies the ‘spirits’ as the fallen angels to whom Christ proclaimed his victory on the cross. When did this proclamation take place? There are two options: (1) During the three days when Jesus descended into Hades, or (2) During his ascension.

This third position seems to be the option that Peter teaches in 1 Peter 3:18-4:6. ‘After Christ’s death, he made a victorious proclamation to the fallen angels’. This is defended and developed in this passage that goes through to 4:6 (Blum 1981:241).

Kistemaker agrees:

Recent commentators teach that the resurrected Christ, during his ascension to heaven, proclaimed to imprisoned spirits his victory over death. The exalted Christ passed through the realm where the fallen angels are kept and proclaimed his triumph over them (Eph 6:12; Col 2:15). This interpretation has met favorable response in Protestant and Roman Catholic circles and is in harmony with the teaching of the Petrine passage and the rest of Scripture (1986:147-148).

See also Barnes’ Notes on 1 Peter 3 for a detailed discussion of v. 19.

2. Take note of these facts

screneRed-small The main purpose of vv 18-22 is stated in v. 18? What is it? ‘For Christ also suffered’ (NIV). This is further emphasised by the preceding verses (vv. 13-17).

screneRed-small  This is the teaching in v. 18 that provides the reason for patient endurance (vv. 13-17).

screneRed-small According to v. 18, ‘to bring you to God’ was the reason for Christ’s death.

2.1 Problems with NIV translation[5]

The NIV translates v. 18 as, ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit’.

screneRed-small The NIV translates Spirit with a capital ‘S’. So, was Jesus’ body crucified and he was made alive ‘in the spirit’, small ‘s’? The ESV, Geneva Bible, LEB, NABRE, NASB, NRSV, and RSV translated as ‘spirit’ with a small ‘s’. Literally the Greek means, ‘Put to death in flesh, made alive in spirit’. Therefore, Blum (1981:242) gives this technical reason for rejecting the NIV translation

To translate one member of the antithesis [body vs spirit] as a dative of sphere or reference and the other as a dative of cause is inconsistent. It is best to take both as datives of reference (or “adverbial” or even “of sphere”) and to translate both “in the sphere of” (Blum (1981:242).

Thus the better translation of v. 18 would be one such as the NRSV, ‘He was put to death in [with reference to] the flesh, but made alive in [with reference to] the spirit’. Thus, grammatically, the small ‘s’ spirit is more consistent than capital ‘S’ Spirit.

3. When was the proclamation made?

Verse 18 says Jesus had been ‘made alive’, so this proclamation took place after his resurrection. I can’t find biblical evidence to support Christ’s ‘descent into hell’ between death and resurrection.

So Jesus must have gone to where these were located. We are not told where it was so we should not speculate. We can’t walk into a room of some confined space and discover these fallen, disembodied spirits.

The same verb, ‘went’, is used in verse 19 as verse 22.

4. What was the content of the proclamation?

Simon Kistemaker quoted Dalton:

What is meant by the word preached? The verb stands by itself, so that we are unable to determine the content of preaching. In brief, only the fact of preaching, not the message, is important. That is, we understand the verb preached to mean that Christ proclaimed victory over his adversaries. In his brevity, Peter refrains from telling us the context of Christ’s proclamation. We would be adding to the text if we should interpret the word preached to signify the preaching of the gospel. “Hence we may suppose with reason that it is the victory of Christ over His adversaries which is emphasized in 3:19, not the conversion or evangelization of the disobedient spirits.”[6]

4.1 The verb used tells something

The usual Greek word ‘to evangelise’ (euangelizw) is not used here but keryssw, which means ‘I proclaim/herald’. So the choice of the latter verb means that Christ came, not to preach the Gospel to spirits. What could that proclamation be?

There are no thoughts of salvation for lost angels in the NT (see Heb 2:16 and 1 Peter 1:12).

4.2 Who are the spirits (in prison)?

This is one of the easier parts to interpret. Verse 20 states ‘they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared’ (ESV). So at the time of Noah, these beings were disobedient and the Flood judgment came.

This judgment of the Flood is a warning to human beings that there is going to be a judgment of the disobedient, unrighteous world at Jesus’ second coming. This is stated in verses such as Matt 24:37-41 (ESV) and 2 Peter 3:3-7 (ESV). Noah’s ark that saved 8 people from the flood waters is a symbol of the salvation available in Christ right now.

First Peter 3:20 states who the ‘spirits’ are. They are those people who ‘formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water’ (ESV).

They were not angelic spirits but the spirits of the disobedient people who died at the time of Noah’s flood.

5. The nature of the prison

Eminent evangelical Lutheran scholar, R C H Lenski wrote of 1 Pet 3:19,

The Scriptures know of only one ‘prison,’ that confines ‘spirits,’ namely, hell, ‘hades,’ ‘the gehenna of the fire’ (Matt. 5:22; 18:9). To call this [prison] the realm of the dead; is to give a strange meaning to the word, ‘prison’ for all the dead are supposed to go into this fictitious place, the realm of the dead. Note 2 Pet. 2:9, 10, in fact all of 2 Pet 3:4-10 (Lenski 1966/2001:163).

(image courtesy Storming the Gates of Hell)

Another commentator wrote: ‘The prison confining the unbelieving spirits is not a reform school, but a penitentiary for life’ (Engelder 1945:381).

It is not clear whether Jesus did the preaching to spirits in prison at the time of Noah or at the time of his Incarnation.[7]

However, the prison refers to Hades and Gehenna/hell. See Prov 27:20; Matt 5:25; Luke 12:58 where ‘prison’ is a type for hell.

In hell, so this is taken, in Proverbs 27:20; compare with Matthew 5:25 Luke 12:58, where prison is mentioned as a type or representation of hell. There are similar expressions in 2 Peter 2:4-5; Jude 1:6.

6. Two main understandings

From the time of the early church fathers until the twenty-first century, there have been two main interpretations of 1 Peter 3:19:[8]

6.1 Firstly, Jesus preached to the departed spirits NOW in prison.

Our Lord, through Noah, preached repentance to the people of Noah’s time. There is no association with the doctrine of ‘descent into hell’ in this interpretation.

6.2 Secondly, what Jesus did when his body was in the grave.

This is the most popular interpretation from the Fathers to Luther and a large number of contemporary interpreters. It is claimed that ‘this is the most natural construction to put on the words “in which also” (i.e. in spirit)’. It is associated with Jesus’ being ‘quickened in spirit’.

So, he went from his death and the spirits were alive when Christ preached to them. His spirit, ‘disengaged from the body’, went to the place of other disembodied spirits and proclaimed certain news. The content of this proclamation was not stated but 1 Peter 4:6 (ESV) points to Gospel preaching:

For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The prison is not ‘a place of safe keeping’ for both good and bad spirits. Although ‘prison’ is used 28 times in the NT, not once is it a place of protection but twice (Rev 18:2) it is used as ‘a cage’.

7. Conclusion

Verses 18-19 demonstrate that Jesus was put to death with reference to the body/flesh and was made alive with reference to his spirit, thus pointing to Christ’s death and resurrection.

The proclamation made is not of the Gospel because of the verb used kerussw (not euangelizw). It is an announcement – maybe of the victory by Jesus – to those unbelievers who did not obey with repentance in the time of Noah. However, the exact content of the proclamation is not stated in the text.

Congolese town crier

Jesus did not descend into Hades and make a Gospel proclamation to the fallen angels. However, he went to the ‘prison’ where deceased spirits were and made an announcement like a town crier would do in the first century.

‘The spirits in prison’ refers to the people who had died and were now in hell/Hades, awaiting judgment. The prison is a representation of hell. However, the people in the ‘prison’ are those who did not repent in Noah’s day and died. Their spirits went Hades.

8. Works consulted

Blum, E. A. 1981, ‘1 Peter’ in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12), Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Engelder, T 1945. The Hades Gospel, Part 2. Concordia Theological Monthly, June, 374-396. Available at: http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/EngelderHadesGospel2.pdf (Accessed 30 October 2019).

Hiebert, D E 1984. First Peter: An Expositional Commentary. Chicago: Moody.

Kistemaker, S J 1986. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude.[9] Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1966/2001. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (© 1966 Augsburg Publishing House).

Luther, 2009. The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude Preached and Explained (Tr. E H Gillett). The Project Gutenberg EBook (online). Available at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/29678/29678-h/29678-h.htm (Accessed 10 September 2019).

9.  Notes

[1] Dates from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2019. s.v. Martin Luther).

[2] Hiebert (1984:226) (in Kistemaker1986:141 n 54).

[3] The first 3 questions were suggested by Blum (1981:341).

[4] Christian Reformed Church 2019. Apostles’ Creed (online). Available at: https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/apostles-creed (Accessed 9 September 2019).

[5] These details are from Blum (1981:242).

[6] Dalton (1964:155) (in Kistemaker1986:142 n 59).

[7] A T Robertson. Available at: https://www.studylight.org/commentary/1-peter/3-19.html (Accessed 30 October 2019).

[8] These 2 points are based on Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers. Available at: ibid.

[9] Note that this commentary does not present continuous numbering but reverts to new numbers with each Bible book. The numbers for Jude are continuous with 1 & 2 Peter.

Lazarus and the Rich Man (illumination from the Codex Aureus of Echternach).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 October 2019.

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By his stripes you are healed

Is it physical healing or eternal salvation?

clip_image002

(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I have a question for all Christians: Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, does this guarantee that Christians who pray for healing will be healed? True or False?

I refer to 1 Peter 2:24 (NASB), ‘He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed’.

This is the prophetic fulfillment of Isa 53:5 (NASB), ‘And by His scourging we are healed’.

I’ve heard it over and over from preachers, mainly in Pentecostal-Charismatic churches: ‘By his stripes you are healed’. Then comes something like this: Those who are sick, please come forward and we’ll pray for you. On the authority of God’s Word, because of Jesus’ suffering he is obliged to heal you. ‘By his stripes you are healed’.

Here are three examples from the Internet of this kind of teaching:

clip_image004Benny Hinn Ministries

gives ‘7 Purposes of Divine Healing’.[1]

This article begins:

God’s will for you to walk in divine health is emphasized throughout His Word.

  • Jesus heals because He is full of compassion.
  • The blood of Jesus was shed to forgive sin and provide healing.

The wonderful English Bible teacher Smith Wigglesworth used to tell about traveling one day in a railway coach. Two others on the train-a mother and daughter-were very sick, so Wigglesworth said to them, “Look, I’ve something in the bag that will cure every case in the world. It has never been known to fail.”

The mother and daughter were quite interested, so the minister went on to tell them about this “remedy.” When they finally asked for a dose, he opened the bag, took out his Bible, and read them the verse that says;

“I am the Lord who healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26).

What a wonderful way to share how the Bible is filled with promises and accounts regarding health and healing for His children.

clip_image004[1]Andrew Wommack Ministries

teach,

Matthew [18:17], under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, substituted the words “infirmities” and “sicknesses” for Isaiah’s words “griefs” and “sorrows.” Indeed, a study of the Hebrew words in Isaiah 53:4 will reveal that they were always speaking of physical healing. The following verse, Isaiah 53:5, makes it very clear that this was speaking of physical healing when Isaiah said, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed”.

Couple this with the example of Jesus healing every single person who came to Him for healing, and the truth that healing is a part of Christ’s atonement is undeniable….

Not all sickness is caused by something we do. Regardless of the reason, however, there is always something we can do about it. We can believe God, and He will heal ALL our diseases (Ex. 15:26, Ps. 103:3).

If it is God’s will to heal all our diseases, why isn’t everyone healed? That’s a simple question with a complex answer.

The bottom line is faith. The prayer of faith saves the sick (James 5:15). Prayer doesn’t save the sick; the prayer of faith saves the sick (Healing & Niki’s Miracle).[2]

I find Wommack’s teaching especially concerning. We’ll examine its biblical authenticity below:

There are a number of keys to seeing the miraculous power of God manifest on a consistent basis. One of the least understood, and therefore seldom practiced, is the fact that healing is under the authority of the believer. God has already provided His healing power and placed it on the inside of every born-again believer. It is up to us to release it. Understanding and using our authority is the key to seeing miracles happen….

I know this goes contrary to popular Christian doctrine. We’re constantly told that it’s not us but God who is the Healer, and I agree with that totally. But, I also believe that God has placed His healing power under our authority, and it is up to us to release it. If we don’t take our authority and become commanders instead of beggars, God’s power will not be released. There needs to be a radical renewing of our thinking on this issue (Our Authority Releases God’s Power, emphasis in original).[3]

Elsewhere Wommack continues his teaching on healing:

Here’s another indispensable basic truth you must know and understand about healing: It’s never God’s will for us to be sick; He wants every person healed every time. That’s nearly-too-good-to-be-true news, but that’s the Gospel (Faith for Healing Is Based on Knowledge, emphasis in original).[4]

Andrew Wommack is an American Charismatic TV evangelist and faith healer now based in Colorado Springs CO.[5]

Is that an accurate teaching of Scripture?

clip_image004[2]Joseph Prince

wrote:

‘Every curse of sickness that was supposed to fall on you fell on Jesus instead. He bore every one of those stripes, so that you can walk in divine health all the days of your life. The price has been paid so that you can rise up and get out of your bed of affliction!’ (By Jesus’ stripes you are healed).[6]

Prince is an evangelist and senior pastor of New Creation Church based in Singapore. His TV program, Destined to Reign, is broadcast in more than 150 countries. He attended the Hillsong Conference 2007 in Sydney.[7]

Is that what the Bible teaches? If so, we should head down to Caboolture Hospital, Qld and then Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital and pray for all the people who are sick. Then they will be able to get out of their bed of sickness without any further help from medical doctors.

If we did that, we may be called nutty or labelled members of a cult. Why?

1. Is physical healing taught in these Scriptures?

Read 1 Peter 2:22-25 (NET):

22 He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls (emphasis added).

Verse 24 is quoted from Isa 53:5 (NET).

The prophecy in Isaiah 53:3-6 reads:

He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him;
he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.

4 But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.

5 He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed.

6 All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him.

How do we decide if it’s physical healing or spiritual healing, i.e. salvation?

The context determines the truth of verse 5 if there is concern over the meaning of a word, in this case, ‘healed’.

1.1  In Isaiah

This verse confirms:

  • He was despised and rejected.
  • He was lifted up for ‘our illnesses’ (‘born our griefs, carried our sorrows’, ESV).
  • Punished, attacked by God; afflicted for something he had done.
  • Wounded for our rebellion,
  • ‘crushed because of our sins’;
  • Endured punishment to make us well;
  • ‘Because of his wounds we have been healed’.

Are those phrases and prophetic predictions referring to physical or spiritual healing?

Verse 6 answers with a thunderous response:

  • Like sheep, we wandered off.
  • We strayed doing our own thing.
  • The Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him. Or as the ESV puts it, ‘the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’.

This confirms that Jesus’ death for sinners was not for physical healing but for salvation – spiritual healing.

1.2  First Peter chapter 2

What do verses 22-25 (ESV) teach us in context?

  • Jesus was not a sinner or deceiver.
  • When he was maligned (insulted ERV; shouted at him & made fun of him NIRV), he didn’t back answer.
  • He suffered without retaliation.
  • Committed himself to God, the judge;
  • He bore our sins in his body on the cross …
  • So we would stop sinning and live righteously. 
  • By his wounds people are healed. That’s how the English reads but the words for ‘his wounds’ or ‘his stripes’ are not plural but singular, tw mwlwpi – the wound. This is the only time this word is used in the NT.
  • The classical Greek writers, Aristotle (384–322 BC) and Plutarch (c. AD 46 –120) used it to mean ‘bruise or bloody wound’. Robertson says that if Peter were ‘writing to slaves who may have received such stripes, Peter’s word is effective’ (Robertson 1933:106).

Why would that wound on Jesus be recorded by Peter is in the singular when we know from other verses that Jesus was mocked, flogged, and crucified. Matt 27:29 (NASB) states, ‘And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head….’ (See also Mark 15:17 and John 19:2, 5).

One commentator stated: This was perhaps ‘suggesting that his body was one massive welt’ (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p. 2357).[8]

Listen to the language from the Gospels:

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‘Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him’ (John 19:1 ESV).

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Jesus predicted that would happen to him. Matt 20: 18-19 (ESV), ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day”.

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 ‘They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head’ (Matt 27:28-30, ESV).

The OT prophesied this would happen to Jesus:

clip_image010(image courtesy Pinterest)[9]

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‘But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed…. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him’ (Isa 53:5, 10a ESV).

Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC), Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher, described crucifixion as “a most cruel and disgusting punishment” and suggested that “the very mention of the cross should be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears”.[10]

 Our sins will not be healed in the future. They were healed. When? By Christ’s death on the cross.

 Theodoret of Cyrus was an early church father who lived AD 393 – 457. He wrote about 1 Peter 2:24, ‘A new and strange method of healing; the doctor suffered the cost, and the sick received the healing’ (in Selwyn 1981:181).

 People were like sheep going astray but now have been turned back.

What kind of healing is stated in this context? Salvation! ‘He was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed’ (Isa 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24-25).

This conclusion is reinforced by:

Image result for clipart star public domain  The verb for ‘you were healed’ that indicates it happened – full stop. You were healed by Christ’s shed blood.[11]

It’s the verb used in James 5:16 (NET), ‘So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness’.

Image result for clipart star public domain  However, in James it is the grammatical mood of doubt:[12] It may happen or may not. You ‘may be healed’.

Image result for clipart star public domain  So it is not a command to God: ‘In the name of Jesus, I command that you heal this person’. It is more like, ‘If it be your will, please raise this person to health’.

Wait a minute. What kind of healing is it in James 5:16? Look at the context.

The answer is found in James 5:14-15:

  Is anyone ill? (sick ESV) It’s an old word that means ‘to be weak (without strength)’…. The use of olive oil was one of the best remedial agencies known to the ancients. They used it internally and externally’ (Robertson 1933:64). See also Matt 10:8.

  Why was it needed for Christians to care for the physically sick? See 1 Thess 5:14 (ERV), ‘We ask you, brothers and sisters, to warn those who will not work. Encourage those who are afraid. Help those who are weak. Be patient with everyone’.

2. A question for you

I ask: ‘In what sense … did Christ “bear” our sins?’

He took the blame for sinners. ‘He suffered the “curse” for them’ (see Deut 21:23 which is quoted in Gal 3:13). That “curse” is separation from God and he ‘endured our penal consequences’ (Selwyn 1981:180).

See the article: What does it mean that “by His stripes you were healed”? (Got Questions)[13]

I have two more issues associated with this topic.

3. Is there a place for divine healing in the contemporary church?

Yes, there is on two accounts:

3.1 Believers do the works of Jesus

Jesus teaches it in John 14:12-14 (NIV) states:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

  Whoever believes in Jesus will be able to do his works (including miracles);

They will do greater things/works because the one person of Jesus will not be here any longer. Many true believers will be scattered around the world.

Whatever believers ask in Jesus’ name he will do to glorify the Father and the Son.

  In context, believers can ask for any of the ‘greater things’ and Jesus ‘will do’ them. Does this open the floodgates to Andrew Wommack’s kind of theology, ‘It’s never God’s will for us to be sick?

Definitely not, because believers asking “in Jesus’ name” means

Prayers that are offered in thorough accord with all that his name stands for (i.e. his name is not used as a magical incantation: cf. 1 Jn. 5:14, and in recognition that the only approach to God those who pray enjoy, their only way to God (cf. vv. 4-6) is Jesus himself (Carson 1991:496).

We pray for a person’s illness and recovery and leave the results with God himself. It’s not a farcical kind of prayer but a realisation that God Almighty is Lord of all and he sovereignly decides what happens through prayer for healing.

3.2 Heresies of Hinn, Wommack and Prince

Some of you may consider my assessment too condemning and rather see me put these three prominent preachers into the category of false teachers rather than teachers of heresy.

What is a heresy?

In NT Greek, the term from which we get the English, ‘heresy’ is hairesis. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek Lexicon (1957:23) states that hairesis means ‘sect, party, school’. It was used of the Sadducees in Acts 5:17; of the Pharisees in Acts 15:5; of the Christians in Acts 24:5. It is used of a heretical sect or those with destructive opinions in 2 Peter 2:1 (‘destructive heresies’ ESV, NIV). This latter verse uses ‘haireseis (plural) of destruction’.

The Lexico/Oxford dictionary gives these meanings of heresy:

(a) ‘Belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine’;

(b) ‘Opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted’ (Lexicon/Oxford Dictionary (2019. s. v. heresy).[14]

From the NT, we see the term, heresy, being used to mean what Paul called strange doctrines, different doctrine, doctrines of demons, and every wind of doctrine (I Timothy 1:3; 4:1; 6:3; Ephesians 4:14). This is in contrast to sound doctrine, our doctrine, the doctrine conforming to godliness, and the doctrine of God (I Timothy 4:6; 6:1,3; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1, 10).

Therefore, I am justified in labelling the teaching on healing by Hinn, Wommack and Prince as heresy as it does not conform to sound doctrine, is a strange, unbiblical doctrine that is contrary to God’s teaching in Scripture.

4. Are these faith healers teaching heresy?

This is why these prominent ‘faith healers’ are promoting heresy.

4.1 Benny Hinn

He used Smith Wigglesworth as an example to support his theology:

‘I am the Lord who healeth thee’ (Exodus 15:26).

What a wonderful way to share how the Bible is filled with promises and accounts regarding health and healing for His children.[15]

What does Exodus 15:26 teach?

This is the context:

22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they travelled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What are we to drink?’

25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you’

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water (Ex 15:22-27 NIV).

Not once in this passage is there a hint that this was a general text for healing of people throughout human history, whether the 20th century with Wigglesworth or the 21st century with Hinn.

This is what it teaches:

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 After crossing the Red Sea and going into the Desert, the Israelites could not find water, only finding bitter water at Marah.

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  The people grumbled against Moses, wanting something to drink.

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 Moses sought the Lord who showed him a piece of wood which he threw into the water and the Israelites were now able to drink it.

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 Then the Lord tested the Israelites: If you listen carefully to the Lord, do what is right towards him, paying attention to his commands, then the Lord will not bring onto the Israelites that diseases inflicted on the Israelites.

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 At this point the Lord gave the reason for saving Israelites from those diseases: ‘For I am the Lord who heals you’.

This passage has nothing whatsoever to do with contemporary healing by Benny Hinn or Smith Wigglesworth. It only applied to the Israelites in specific circumstances.

Hinn has cherry picked a verse to make it say what it does not state. It inflicts his theology on the text and thus promotes his strange heresy of OT Jewish healing for all people.

4.2 Andrew Wommack

This Charismatic preacher is even more extreme. He promotes the heresy that:

 ‘If we don’t take our authority and become commanders instead of beggars, God’s power will not be released. There needs to be a radical renewing of our thinking on this issue’

I have not found a shred of NT or OT evidence to support such an extremist, heretical claim. Jesus said believers would be able to ‘do whatever you ask in my name’ (Jn 14:13) but that is only according to the Father’s will. We cannot command or demand or ‘take our authority’. Human authority is useless in the presence of the sovereign God who answers or refuses to answer human requests.

As for Wommack’s statement,

God has already provided His healing power and placed it on the inside of every born-again believer. It is up to us to release it. Understanding and using our authority is the key to seeing miracles happen.[16]

This is fanciful nonsense that has Charismatic, irrational enthusiasm behind it, but it does not stand up against the Scriptures. Sadly, I need to condemn it a ‘destructive heresy’ (2 Pet 2:1).

I wonder how many Christians have become disillusioned with the faith because of this kind of fake theology. It is fake news with a supposed biblical ‘coating’ of Charismatic gloss.

4.3 Joseph Prince

The pastor of a large church in Singapore has sealed his own heretical fate with this view:

Every curse of sickness that was supposed to fall on you fell on Jesus instead. He bore every one of those stripes, so that you can walk in divine health all the days of your life. The price has been paid so that you can rise up and get out of your bed of affliction![17]

As the above exposition demonstrated, those stripes that Jesus bore were for our salvation – spiritual healing – and not for curing physical illnesses. Poor exegesis by Prince causes him to promote heresy.

5. Does Jesus heal today?

From the dampener I’ve placed on physical healing by my exposition of the biblical texts above, maybe you ask: Has God provided any means for physical healing? Does God perform miracles today?

See my articles:

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  Are Miracles Valuable?

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  Why doesn’t God heal everyone who is prayed for?

Did Jesus promise more physical miracles would continue after he departed from his earthly ministry?

5.1 John 14:12-14

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.

The ‘works’ (erga) available to all believers, that Jesus was doing, ‘cannot legitimately be restricted to deeds of humility (13:15) or acts of love (13:34-35) still less to proclamation of Jesus’ ‘words’ [14:10]. Jesus’ ‘works’ may include more than his miracles; they never exclude them” (Carson 1991:495).

What about ‘greater works’ (v. 12)? To what does it apply? Carson wrote:

Greater works is not a transparent expression. It cannot simply mean more works – i.e. the church will do more things than Jesus did, since it embraces so many people over such a long period of time – since there are perfectly good Greek ways of saying ‘more’, and since in any case the meaning would then be unbearably trite. Nor can greater works mean ‘more spectacular’ or ‘more supernatural’ works: it is hard to imagine works that are more spectacular or supernatural than the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the multiplication of bread and the turning of water into wine.

The clues to the expression’s meaning are two: first, the final clause, because I am going to the Father, and second, the parallel in 5:20: ‘For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these‘ (meizona touton, as in 14:12). The two clues point in the same direction. Jesus’ disciples will perform greater works because he is going to the Father: this cannot mean that they will have greater scope for their activity because he will have faded from the scene and relinquished the turf to them, but that the very basis for their greater works is his going to the Father. Their works become greater precisely because of the new order that has come about consequent on his going to the Father (Carson 1991:495-496, emphasis in original).

Lenski agrees that the present participle of v. 12 refers to the person who continues in this faith. The universality of this designation is demonstrated by the language of ‘whoever believes’. ‘The works that I am doing’ refers to the very works of which Jesus spoke in 14:10-11, i.e. ‘the mighty miracles’, However, Lenski considers that the ‘greater works’ means to ‘convert sinners by God’s grace, carry the gospel to the ends of the earth, save souls for life eternal’; cf. John 4:35-38; 10:16; 12:24 and 32; and the story of the Acts.

He emphasises that Jesus ‘returns to the Father as one having completed his mission, and this it is possible that, with redemption accomplished, the greater works of the gospel of redemption can begin.’ He rejects the meaning ‘that believers today must do miracles such as Jesus and the apostles and others performed in the first church’ (Lenski 1943:988-989).

I’m supportive of Jesus’ teaching that the “works” of Jesus in John 14:12 include his miracles and much more. Don Carson’s words are concise and accurate: ‘Jesus’ “works” may include more than his miracles; they never exclude them’ (Carson 1991:495).

See examples of the continuation of miracles into the fourth century through St Augustine:

Augustine’s last illness: A divine healing encounter

St. Augustine: The leading Church Father who dared to change his mind about divine healing

See further examples of miracles in the time of Augustine in my article: Are Miracles Valuable?

What about verified miracles in the twenty-first century? There are verified accounts of physical healing in Delores Winder with Bill Keith (2009), Surprised by healing.

A few months before writing this article, I experienced severe pain in one of my calf muscles of the leg during the night. The pain was so excruciating I was about to hobble to the phone and call for an ambulance. The Lord prompted me to pray for it and the pain ceased immediately. That’s impossible for anybody else to verify as I was the only one in my bedroom when it happened.

See evidence in: Famed heart doctor tells the dramatic story of how a patient of his was ‘raised from the dead’ after prayer

Steve Stewart explained his experience with the supernatural of God:

I have been asked it in England, New Jersey and Canada: “Why don’t we see the same kind of healing here (in England, the U.S., Canada) as you do in Africa and India?”

I usually respond to this in several ways. First of all, I do see God heal in the same way in the West as in the developing world. I have watched in North America, Europe and Australia as deaf ears were opened, cataracts dissolved, cancer instantly disappeared (verified by doctors), and paralysis and pain have gone.

In my living room, the Lord healed a woman who had been totally blind in one eye for 20 years. He is the same God in Canada as Kenya, in the U.S. as Uganda, in England as India.

Although I have seen the Lord open the ears of nine deaf people—one after another—in North America, in fairness, I would say that although the quality of healing that I see is the same everywhere, the quantity seems higher in the developing world. However, I need to clarify this statement.

It is not that I see more people not being healed when prayed for; it seems to me there are fewer people looking to be healed in the West. (To clarify once again, I am not saying the people on the streets of our cities do not want to be healed; it is just that they are not being asked and therefore do not think of healing as an option in their lives) [Stewart 2014].

5.2 James 5:13-15

This is a clear account of how God offered physical healing or relief from distress to people in the early church:

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil[18] in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven (NLT).

clip_image015 Here in 5:12, people are ‘sick’ or ‘suffering’; also in 5:10. It is not parallel to the English idea of suffering with pain. It places an emphasis on enduring hardship, experiencing adversity or calamity. You’ll appreciate this means more than physical sickness and extends to general trouble and distress (Hiebert 1979:316-317).

For people in such a situation, what should they do?

clip_image015[1]They call for the elders who engage in prayer and anointing with oil in ‘the the name of the Lord’, i.e. because of the power of the Lord.

The NABRE[19] translation makes an excellent comment about this ministry of anointing with oil:

In case of sickness a Christian should ask for the presbyters of the church, i.e., those who have authority in the church (cf. Acts 15:2, 22–23; 1 Tm 5:17; Ti 1:5). They are to pray over the person and anoint with oil; oil was used for medicinal purposes in the ancient world (see Is 1:6; Lk 10:34). In Mk 6:13, the Twelve anoint the sick with oil on their missionary journey. In the name of the Lord: by the power of Jesus Christ’ (Note for James 5:14 NABRE).

It is a well-documented fact that oil was one of the most common medicines of biblical times. See Isaiah 1:6 and Luke 10:34. Josephus (Antiq. XVII, 172 [vi. 5] reports that during his last illness Herod the Great was given a bath in oil in hopes of effecting a cure. The papyri, Philo, Pliny, and the physician Galen all refer to the medicinal use of oil. Galen described it as `the best of all remedies for paralysis” (De Simplicium Medicamentorum Temperamentis 2.10ff). It is evident, then, that James is prescribing prayer and medicine (Burdick 1981:204, emphasis added).

Is this relevant for contemporary Australia and other Western countries? It would be applicable to countries with inadequate medical facilities.

clip_image016‘A priest, a minister and a guru sat discussing the best positions for prayer, while a telephone repairman worked

nearby “Kneeling is definitely the best way to pray,” the priest said.

“No,” said the minister. “I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven.”

“You’re both wrong,” the guru said. “The most effective prayer position is lying down on the floor’.

The repairman could contain himself no longer. “Hey, fellas,” he interrupted. “The best prayin’ I ever did was when I was hangin’ upside down from a telephone pole.” [20]

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clip_image015[2]Who are to pray for the sick or suffering person? They are the presbuteros, i.e. elder, bishop (overseer), and pastor. All three seem to refer to the same office (see Titus 1:5, 7; Acts 20:17, 28; I Peter 5:1-4). These are the church leaders.

However, in James 5:16 we are exhorted to pray for one another:

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results (NLT).

In context, there may be a connection between physical illness and spiritual condition (needing forgiveness).

clip_image015[3]What is ‘a prayer offered in faith’ for healing the sick?

All faith must be ‘in faith’. This is the basis of the Christian life. What’s the point of any prayer if it does not believe fully that God is able to do it?

Faith was the secret of the Lord’s earthly life and gospel: its value, even outside religion, is recognized in some modern psychosomatic medicine. The faith James here has in mind is, of course, both that of the patient and that of the elders, shown in his calling for them and their response to his call (Adamson 1976:198).

clip_image015[4]Does this prayer guarantee healing? Of course not! Answers to prayer are always conditioned on God’s sovereign will that effects what is best for us in our growth in Christ.

See my articles:

sync Should God heal all Christians who pray for healing?

sync DIVINE HEALING: IS IT FOR EVERYONE?

clip_image015[5]What is the connection between physical healing, sins committed, forgiveness and repentance?

Donald Burdick summarised these verses:

The assurance is given that prayer “will make the sick person well.” In the final analysis this is what effects the healing. In answer to “the payer offered in faith,” God uses the medicine to cure the malady. The statement “the Lord will raise him up” means that the sick man will be enabled to get up from his sick bed. If it was sin that occasioned the sickness, “he will be forgiven.” This suggests the possibility that, because of persistence in sin, God sent sickness as a disciplinary agent (cf. 1 Cor 11:30). The conditional clause “if he has sinned” makes it clear that not all sickness is the result of sin (Burdick 1981:204).

6. Conclusion

Benny Hinn, Andrew Wommack and Joseph Prince promote heretical doctrines regarding healing because they maintain positions that are contrary to Scripture and lead to false hope for believers. This fake theology is seen in statements such as, ‘It’s never God’s will for us to be sick; He wants every person healed every time’ (Wommack).

Exegesis and exposition of 1 Peter 2:24-25 and the parallel verses in Isaiah 53 demonstrate that, in context, these narratives deal with Jesus’ punishment of being wounded for the sins of human beings. They don’t teach physical healing but spiritual healing, i.e. salvation.

Scripture provides support for the continuation of the physical healing ministry, based on Jesus’ teaching to his disciples in John 14. Physical healing in association with prayer and medicinal means by church leadership is possible (God willing), based on the teaching of James 5.

7. Works consulted

Adamson, J B 1976. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle of James. F F Bruce (gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[21] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Burdick, D W 1981. James, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol 12, 159-205. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Carson, D A 1991. The Gospel according to John. Leicester, England / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Inter-Varsity Press / William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Hiebert, D E 1979. The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith. Chicago: Moody Press.

Lenski, R C H 1943. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (1943 Lutheran Book Concern; assigned 1961 to Augsburg Publishing House).

Robertson, A T 1933. Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol 6. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Selwyn, E G 1981. Thornapple Commentaries: The First Epistle of St. Peter (The Greek Text), 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Stewart, S 2014. Why Are There More Miracle Healings in Third World Countries? Charisma (online). Available at: https://www.charismamag.com/spirit/supernatural/22521-why-are-there-more-miracle-healings-in-third-world-countries (Accessed 7 September 2019).

Winder, F & Keith, B 2009. Surprised by Healing. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers Inc.

8.   Notes

[1] Benny Hinn Ministries 2019. 7 Purposes of Divine Healing (online). Available at: https://www.bennyhinn.org/your-life/healing/7-purposes-of-divine-healing/ (Accessed 21 August 2019).

[2] Andrew Womack Ministries n.d. Healing & Niki’s Miracle (online). Available at: https://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/healing_niki/ (Accessed 14 August 2019).

[3] Available at: https://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/authority_releases/ (Accessed 6 September 2019).

[4] Available at: https://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/healing_knowledge/ (Accessed 6 September 2019).

[5] Details from Wikipedia 2019. Andrew Wommack (online). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Wommack (Accessed 6 September 2019).

[6] Joseph Prince Ministries 2008-2019. By Jesus’ stripes you are healed (online). Available at: https://www.josephprince.org/blog/daily-grace-inspirations/by-jesus-stripes-you-are-healed (Accessed 14 August 2019).

[7] Details from Wikipedia 2019. Joseph Prince (online). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Prince (Accessed 14 August 2019).

[8] Available HERE (Accessed 12 August 2019).

[9] Available at: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/32299322315108885 (Accessed 6 September 2019).

[10] Cited in Wikipedia 2019. Crucifixion. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion#cite_note-24 (Accessed 13 August 2019).

[11] It is iathete, aorist passive indicative of iaomai, a common verb meaning to heal.

[12] It is aorist, passive, subjunctive.

[13] Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/by-His-stripes-healed.html (Accessed 10 August 2019).

[14] Available at: https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/heresy (Accessed 06 September 2019). Throughout this document I’ll use ‘s.v.’ as an acronym for the Latin ‘sub verba’, i.e. under the word. When I write ‘ s.v. heresy’, it means that you need to go to the reference in the resource to obtain the meaning (here it is Lexico/Oxford Dictionary online) and check the word, ‘heresy’. The abbreviation s. v. is used primarily for dictionary and encyclopaedia entries.

[15] Hinn op. cit.

[16] Wommack op. cit.

[17] Prince op. cit.

[18] ‘In case of sickness a Christian should ask for the presbyters of the church, i.e., those who have authority in the church (cf. Acts 15:2, 22–23; 1 Tm 5:17; Ti 1:5). They are to pray over the person and anoint with oil; oil was used for medicinal purposes in the ancient world (see Is 1:6; Lk 10:34). In Mk 6:13, the Twelve anoint the sick with oil on their missionary journey. In the name of the Lord: by the power of Jesus Christ’ (Note for this verse in NABRE translation).

[19] The NABRE (New American Bible Revised Edition) is a Roman Catholic dynamic equivalence modern translation of the Bible. Please don’t confuse the NAB with the NASB.

[20] Illustration taken from Stone United Methodist Church 2019. Available at: http://www.stoneumc.org/653550 (Accessed 7 September 2019).

[21] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & aug ed 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 September 2019.

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John 6:44: God’s drawing power for salvation

Image result for clipart image No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What does this verse mean? ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day’ (John 6:44 ESV).

1. Questions emerge

  • Does the context of the verse shed any light on understanding?
  • Does God the Father ‘draw’ only some people in his predestination to eternal life?
  • What happens to those who are not drawn? Are they left to be damned?
  • If the person drawn is ‘raised up’ at the last day, what does that mean?

On an Internet Christian forum I met a person with this understanding:

The same people that insist on telling me that “every person without exception” was drawn in John 3, refuse to touch the fact that in John 6:44 everyone drawn comes to Jesus and is raised to eternal life at the last day. I know it does not say “to eternal life” in John 6:44 but what is the point of the verse in its context if God draws and teaches and raises you to eternal damnation? [… and people accuse the God of Calvinism of being a monster.][1]

Does John 6:44 teach what this fellow claims?

2. The context

To gain a perspective on what Jesus was communicating, the context states:

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me — 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life (John 6:41-47 ESV).

  • The Jews confused Jesus metaphorical statement, ‘I am the bread … from heaven’ with Jesus’ being the child of Joseph and Mary whom they knew (vv 41-42).
  • Then he taught that nobody can come to him ‘unless the Father who sent me draws him’ (v 44) and that person will be raised up ‘on the last day’ (v 44).
  • The teaching from the Prophets was that everyone who heard and learned from the Father comes to Jesus (v 45).
  • Only Jesus, the one from God, has seen the Father (v 46).
  • He is teaching about eternal life: ‘whoever believes has eternal life’ (v 47).

3. Who is drawn by God for eternal life?

Go back to John 6:37 to gain some clarity: ‘All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out’ (ESV).

That sounds like it’s done and dusted:

All that the Father gives me will come to me. Jesus’ confidence in the success of his mission is frankly predestinarian….

The flow of the verse is then as follows: All that (a singular neuter is used to refer to the elect collectively) the Father gives to Jesus, as his gift to his Son, will surely come to him; and whoever in fact comes (by virtue of being given by the Father to the Son), Jesus undertakes to keep in, to preserve (Carson 1991:290).

This kind of Calvinistic thinking causes Jacob Gerber to conclude with Carson:

All that the Father gives to the Son will irresistibly come to the Son by the work of the Holy Spirit, and of all those who do come (that is, the entirety of the elect), the Son will unfailingly preserve them, including by raising them up from the dead on the last day. In the Five Points of Calvinism, this doctrine that the Son cannot lose a single one of all whom the Father give to him—including you—is commonly referred to as the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints (Gerber 2017:8)

Really? Carson and Gerber are Calvinistic commentators/writers.

In my view, Gerber has imposed his Calvinistic TULIP (especially the P) onto this text. John 6:37 teaches that …

  • Those chosen by the Father will come to Jesus, and
  • Those who come to Jesus will never be cast out.

But …

4. Are there limitations on God’s drawing power?

Does God choose some for salvation and leave the rest, as Calvinists teach through their TULIP doctrine?

This is taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith (a confession of the Presbyterian & Reformed Churches): (2) WCF 3:3-4 – Some are predestined to eternal life, others foreordained to death; this number is fixed.

4.1   D A Carson’s view

Carson considers that John 6:37 teaches Calvinistic predestination. How does he interpret John 6:44?

The combination of v. 37a and v.44 prove that this ‘drawing’ activity of the Father cannot be reduced to what theologians sometimes call ‘prevenient grace’ dispensed to every individual, for this ‘drawing’ is selective, or else the negative note in v. 44 is meaningless (Carson 1991:393).

So, for him, God’s drawing power is selective, i.e. some are chosen for salvation, which means by application that the rest are chosen by God for damnation. What’s the point of God’s wrath being poured out on people if they have no opportunity to flee from his wrath by which they are damned deterministically?

Image result for image And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myselfHow, then, does Carson interpret John 12:32,? Is it possible for ‘all’ to be drawn when ‘all’ actually  means ‘only some’?

Carson applies a typical Calvinistic technique:

There, (6:44) the focus is on those individuals whom the Father gives to the Son, whom the Son infallibly preserves and raises up at the last day. Here, ‘all men’ reminds the reader of what triggered these statements, viz. the arrival of the Greeks, and means ‘all people without distinction, Jews and Gentiles alike’, not all individuals without exception, since the surrounding context has just established judgment as a major theme (v. 31), a time for distinguishing between those who love their lives (and therefore lose them) and those who hate their lives (and therefore keep them for eternal life, v. 25). The critical event in Jesus’ ministry that sanctions his drawing of all people without distinction, and not Jews only (cf. 10:16; 11:52), is his cross/exaltation, his being ‘lifted up’. This is the implicit answer to the Greeks: the hour has come for him to die and be exalted, and in the wake of that passion/ glorification they will be able to approach him as freely as do the children of the old covenant (Carson 1991:444).

He makes ‘all men’ mean ‘all people without distinction’ and not ‘all individuals without exception’. He uses John 10:16 and 11:52 to support this view.

  • John 10:16 states, ‘And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd’. The context of John 9:40 indicates Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and the ‘other sheep’ indicates non-Jews – all the peoples of the world. Surely Jesus had no need to indicate that his ‘other sheep’ includes all individual Egyptians, Syrians, Ethiopians, Bereans, etc.
  • John 11:52 states, ‘and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad’. The context deals with what followed Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead.

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs (John 11:45-47 ESV).

The immediate context of v. 52 states:

Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death (John 11:49-52).

One man, Jesus, was to die ‘for the people’ and the ‘whole nation should not perish’. What are we to make of the statement that ‘Jesus would die for the nation’ and ‘to gather into one the children of God’ who are scattered’? I can’t see anything here that states clearly that Jesus’ death ‘for the nation’ was not for all the people of the nation.

Let’s check out a Lutheran exegete and commentator:

4.2   R C H Lenski

We’ll look at the disputed verses one at a time. Please refer to the quotation of these verses above.

Verse 37:

  • ‘all that’ refers to the mass of people, ‘each individual’;
  • The neuter ‘him that’ (‘whoever’ ESV) is ‘the neuter singular and is used as an abstract expression and as such sums up the whole mass of believers of all ages and speaks of them as a unit’ (Lenski 1943:463).
  • ‘All believers are regarded as one complete unit’ (Vincent 1887/1946:150).

Lenski considers this passage teaches,

the gift as having been made once for all and now being permanent as such a gift…. For all that the Father “gives to me,” Jesus says, “shall get to me … because the Father’s gift cannot possibly fail…. In v. 39 the perfect tense, “all that he has given to me,” pictures the gift from the viewpoint of the last day when Jesus will appear and will not have lost any part of the gift (Lenski 1887/1946:464).

Lenski’s interpretation of this passage in John 6 seems to be open to contextual interpretation, without Calvinistic imposition:

But in these expressions, “all that the Father gives,” and, “all that he has given” Jesus speaks of all believers of all ages as already being present to the eyes of God, he also thus is giving them to Jesus … There, however, is not a fixed number, in some mysterious way chosen by an absolute decree of God to be such a gift to Jesus. Such an exegesis is wholly dogmatic and carries into what Jesus says a thought that is not contained in his words. On the other hand, equally dogmatic is the view that those who constitute God’s gift to Jesus are not those who in the first place are morally better than the rest, or who at least act better than the rest when the gospel is brought to them. These words of Jesus are without a trace of either predestinarian of synergism.[2] God’s grace is universal. He would give all men to Jesus. The only reason he does not do so is because so many men obdurately refuse to be part of that gift. On the other hand, God’s grace is alone efficacious….

Do they want to be part of this gift, or do they mean to exclude themselves?” (Lenski 1946/1961:464-465).

So, he does not consider John 6 teaches predestination (monergism)[3] or human responsibility (synergism).

Lenski’s interpretation of this chapter is that ‘Him that comes to me’ (‘whoever comes to me’, Jn 6:37 ESV) ‘makes the matter individual, personal, and a voluntary act. The Father’s drawing (v. 44) is one of grace alone, thus it is efficacious, wholly sufficient, able to change the unwilling into the willing, but not by coercion, not irresistibly. Man can obdurately [stubbornly] refuse to come. Yet when he comes he does so only through the blessed power of grace’ (Lenski 1946/1961:465).

John 12:32

‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ (ESV).

Lenski demonstrates that the same ‘drawing power’ of 6:44 (cf. 6:37) also is used here, not for the Father, but for Jesus.

This is the drawing exerted by grace …[4] alike in effectiveness and seriousness for all men, not in any way limited on God’s part. Yet here, as in 6:37; 6:44; 10:16; 11:52, and other connections, Jesus is speaking of this universal and unlimited grace only insofar as it succeeds in actually drawing men from the world to himself. All are alike drawn, but by their perverse obduracy [stubbornness] many nullify all the power of grace and harden themselves in unbelief (Matt. 23:37), while others, in equal sin and guilt, are converted by this same power of grace. Why some are thus lost and others won, all being under the same grace, constitutes a mystery insoluble by our minds, about which we know only this, that those who are lost are lost solely by their own guilt, while those who are won are won solely by divine grace. Jesus is speaking only of the latter when he says, “I will draw all unto me.”

Lenski is careful to point out that this cannot be by irresistible grace because of the totality of Scripture. Matt 23:37 is clear that the stubborn can resist God, ‘’Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (NRSVA)

5. Conclusion

The battles between Calvinism (monergism) and non-Calvinism (e.g. synergism) are seen in exegesis of John 6 and John 12.

The Calvinist interprets 6:37, 44 as referring to predestination of an elect group while the Lutheran exegete provides evidence to counter this irresistible grace view.

I conclude with Lenski that the biblical emphasis is that God provides salvation, extends his grace to all people, but they can be stubborn and resist his offer of salvation.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality (Rom 2:6-11 ESV).

See my related articles:

Image result for clipart single color arrow pointing to right What is the nature of human free will?

Image result for clipart single color arrow pointing to rightCalvinists, free will and a better alternative

Image result for clipart single color arrow pointing to rightCan people choose to reject salvation?

Image result for clipart single color arrow pointing to rightSproul damns Arminianism by association with semi-Pelagianism

6.   Works consulted

Carson, D A 1991. The Gospel according to John. Leicester, England / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Inter-Varsity Press / William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Gerber, J 2017. Chapter 14: The Food of Jesus (online). Available at: https://jacobgerber.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/John-6-22-59.pdf (Accessed

Lenski, R C H 1943. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (1943 Lutheran Book Concern; assigned 1961 to Augsburg Publishing House).

Vincent, M R 1887/1946. Word studies in the New Testament, vol 2: The writings of John. New York City, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons (reprinted 1946. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

7.   Notes


[1] Christianity Board 2019. ‘Total Inability: Gen 1-4’, atpollard#59, 3 September. Available at: https://www.christianityboard.com/threads/total-inability-genesis-1-4.30088/page-3#post-618543 (Accessed 4 September 2019).

[2]Synergism is defined as two or more agents working together to produce a result that is not obtainable independently.  In our natural world there are many synergistic relationships.  The same is true of the spiritual.

From a Biblical perspective this means that God and humanity work together, each contributing their part to produce salvation for the individual.  In other words God will not save a man without the man – God will not save a woman without the woman.  God works with the man, the woman, to produce this glorious salvation.

Synergism is the teaching of the Word of God’ (Biblical Synergism. Accessed 5 September 2019).

[3]Monergism: In regeneration, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ independent of any cooperation from our unregenerated human nature. He quickens us through the outward call cast forth by the preaching of His Word, disarms our innate hostility, removes our blindness, illumines our mind, creates understanding, turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh — giving rise to a delight in His Word — all that we might, with our renewed affections, willingly & gladly embrace Christ’ (What is monergism? Accessed 5 September 2019).

[4] He inserted ‘through the means of grace (Word and Sacrament)’, which I’ve deleted, as I don’t consider that people are drawn to Christ by the means of the Word of God and Sacrament. Instead, they are drawn through the proclamation of the Gospel. See Rom 10:17.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 06 September 2019.

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John 12:32: Jesus’ drawing all people

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

Does Jesus draw all people to the Gospel, anywhere in the world where no Gospel preachers have been in person or nobody has heard the Gospel by radio or any other means?

Reach Beyond (formerly HCJB) gives this as its mission: ‘Reach Beyond is part of a global community committed to reaching unreached people groups with the gospel through the use of dynamic media and high quality programs along with healthcare and community development’.[1]

How can Jesus draw all people to Himself?

1. Meaning of John 12:32

I interacted with a person on a Christian forum who cited a string of biblical references to answer these questions:

  • Can the natural man comprehend the gospel or come to saving knowledge of God on his own?
  • Can men of themselves accept God’s gift of salvation? Do men choose God or come to Him on their own?[2]

My response was: ‘you seem to have missed out one important verse from Jesus: ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ (John 12:32 NIV).[3]

His comeback was: ‘Context directs Jesus is speaking about judgement in this verse. All men will stand before the Judge’. Then he gave these verses of support: John 12:31-32, 37-40, 47-49. His conclusion was:

The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing. It is our commission to be salt and light in this dark world. We continue to give witness and testimony to the glory God has yet to reveal in which we who believe are partakers. We in ourselves are powerless in bringing about belief for in our unbelief the Gospel is folly. Yet in His mercy some do come to belief despite ourselves (sic). God is no respecter of persons, therefore all creeds and colors, all social classes both great and small, people from every nation will come. But none can come unless it is granted by the Father. The Gospel is glory to those who believe, and condemnation to those who do not.
Glory be to God in the highest.
[4]

2. Which judgment?[5]

John 12:31-33 (NIV) states,

‘Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die’.

Krisis (judgment)[6] is spoken of also in John 3:17, 19-21; 5:22-30; 7:24; 8:16. While there will be judgment coming at the consummation of the age, these references that I’ve just given demonstrate that judgment began with Christ’s first coming. Since he is ‘the light of the world’ (John 8:12 NIV), those who follow Jesus will never walk in darkness. The rest walk in darkness – a judgment.

This judgment that Jesus began with his first coming forced a division between those who pursued evil deeds and those who accepted and embraced the light. In a similar fashion, Jesus’ death and resurrection (passion/glorification) draws people to himself (John 12:32 NIV) but it is also demonstrating ‘judgment on this world’ – not the last judgment, but judgment by rejecting the Son, which was rejecting God Himself (see John 5:23 NIV)

Remember the judgment expressed in John 5:24 (NIV), ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life’. This is judgment in this world that was inaugurated by Christ’s death and resurrection and the bringing of eternal life to those who believe.

At the cross, the world thought capital punishment judgment was being passed on Jesus but in the cross, Jesus was passing judgment on the world of sinners who were in rebellion against God.

So, commentator D A Carson, could write about John 12:31 (NIV), as context for John 12:32, ‘Now is the time for judgment on this world’,

Thus Jesus’ passion/glorification signifies judgment both positively and negatively. As far as “the world” is concerned, however, it can only be negative. There can be no further reprieve, for there can be no hope for those who reject the one Person whose death/exaltation is the epiphany of God’s gracious, saving self-disclosure (Carson 1991:443).

Therefore, John 12:32 (NIV) is affirming Jesus’ drawing all people to himself, in a judgment associated with his first coming, and believing or not believing in Him.

clip_image004For a fuller discussion of this verse, in association with verses in John 6, see the article: John 6:44: God’s drawing power for salvation

3.  Works consulted

Carson, D A 1991. The Gospel according to John. Leicester, England / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Inter-Varsity Press / William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

4.  Notes

[1] Reach Beyond Australia 2017. ‘Who we are’. Available at: http://www.reachbeyond.org.au/who-we-are/reach-beyond-australia (Accessed 13 January 2017).

[2] Christianity Board 2017. Total depravity: Is it biblical? Justaname#18. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/23426-total-depravity-is-it-biblical/ (Accessed 13 January 2017).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[4] Ibid., justaname#25.

[5] This is from my post at ibid., OzSpen#26.

[6] Some of these details were from Carson (1991:442-443).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 06 September 2019.

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Peter FitzSimons: It may come back to bite you

 

By Spencer Gear PhD

 

Image result for image freedom of religion

(image courtesy Senn Times)

This article was first published in On Line Opinion, Peter FitzSimons: It may come back to bite you,  6 August 2019.

Who wants freedom of speech folks taking a stand for Israel Folau’s cousin, Josiah, who lost his job at a Roman Catholic College over his anti-Catholic rants?

Disguised support through gritted teeth came from an unexpected source, The Sydney Morning Herald columnist, Peter FitzSimons.

I found his language hostile to his ‘religious friends, my champions of free speech’ who don’t treat Josiah Folau like Israel’s dilemma. FitzSimons was peeved: ‘You were apoplectic with rage at the very idea that Israel Folau could be sacked by Rugby Australia for twice putting up homophobic gibberish’.

His rage continued: ‘You shrieked, outweighed everything else, and his individual “freedom of speech” was so sacrosanct there could be no question of sacking him, even if it did piss off just about the entire rugby community, sponsors et al’.

This got up FitzSimons’ nose so he called for the ‘religious friends’ who opposed Israel Folau’s sacking to get behind Josiah:

‘We really need to hear from you now that Israel Folau’s cousin, Josiah Folau, has, as reported by the Herald, been let go from his casual teaching job at the prestigious Catholic school St Gregory’s College, Campbelltown, only a short time after describing the Catholic Church as “the synagogue of Satan”’.

1.  Is FitzSimons fighting for his enemy?

Seems to me that, without knowing it, he plays right into the hands of those promoting freedom of religion and free speech for employees, employers and other institutions – including the church, synagogue, mosque and other religious organisations.

This is what I have in mind: He has highlighted this important issue of the need for freedom of religion but without realising he is backing that position in his article.

The very thing he advocates – religious friends speaking out against the sacking of Josiah – is the issue that religious institutions across the country are battling to retain. The proposed Religious Discrimination Act in federal parliament is designed to address this matter. I have grave doubts it will concentrate on some concerns by religious institutions.

St Gregory’s College, Campbelltown NSW should have every right to hire staff that support the ethos of the College. When a staff member violates those religious principles, at the school or by promoting them elsewhere, termination of employment should be in order.

Family Voice Australia promotes the view that:

‘Freedom of religion is a pre-eminent international right. It deserves primary recognition and protection. Currently exemptions treat religious freedom as a mere afterthought. This is disrespectful and ungrateful in view of the great work faith-based services and institutions provide. 

‘Since Australia is committed to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, our nation should treat freedom as a positive right and not regard it as a narrow exemption’.

2.  ‘Devil worship’ statement against Roman Catholic Church

Josiah Folau deserves to have his work as tutor and boarding house supervisor concluded. He called the Catholic Church ‘the synagogue of Satan’ and ‘any devout Catholic person IS NOT A SAVED CHRISTIAN WHATSOEVER. Look at Catholic doctrine, almost 100% of it is false and is filled with lies. The blasphemous Catholic mass is a paganistic ritual rooted in heresy, evil and devil worship. Roman Catholicism is masked devil worship’.

Josiah Folau has contradicted the values of the church that employed him. St Greg’s College, if we truly had freedom of religion, should have every right to sack him whether he promoted it at the College or elsewhere.

Whether one agrees with this statement or not, it is contrary to Catholic Church doctrine. He has not upheld the values of a Catholic College.

So, instead of outrage over Josiah Folau’s termination of employment, FitzSimons and his religious friends who champion freedom of religion and free speech (and I’m one of them). We should commend St Greg’s for taking the stand of backing its values and hiring those who support the ethos of the Roman Catholic Church.

It’s time for legislation in Australia that allows all institutions the rights to choose staff based on values of the organisation. These employees should not go public with beliefs that are contrary to those of the employer if one wants to continue employment.

Here, here for Catholic and independent schools being allowed to employ staff to promote their ethics.

FitzSimmons’ complaint disguises the truth of the need in a free society to give all employers and other organisations the choice of a staff person’s values.

Could you imagine a Labor MP or Coalition MP not hiring pro-Labor or Pro-Coalition supporters in their respective local offices?

The bee in FitzSimons’ bonnet about the actions of ‘religious friends’ falls in a heap over Josiah Folau’s sacking. This is because his tirade against religious friends promotes the need for robust freedom of religion and free speech in Australian legislation.

3.  How does sport relate to religion?

I write as a committed evangelical, Protestant Christian who has a high view of the authority of Scripture.

I’ve heard from friend and foe in person or on Internet forums:

4.  What is Scripture’s exhortation?

In spite of folks in the public square wanting religious people to shut up about their faith, that is not what the Scriptures teach. The apostle Paul addressed an issue in the church at Corinth that is just as relevant today: ‘So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Corrie ten BoomTo give glory to God is to honour him with everything Christians do, whether on the job, in your family, and on the sporting field. Put simply, all sports’ people, whether religious or not, see their world, not as a private matter, but through the lens of faith – even secular faith. For me, that is through the lens of Scripture and its teaching.

 

Photo: via The Corrie ten Boom Foundation (Available from: https://www.biography.com/activist/corrie-ten-boom)

This was the faith of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch watchmaker, who along with her sister Betsie, helped many Jews escape from the Nazi Holocaust in World War 2. These Jews were hidden in their house. She wrote about it in her famous book, The Hiding Place. Eventually they were arrested and sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

There was no thought of private Christianity for Corrie and Betsie.

Neither is his Christian faith a secret for former Australian rugby league player, Kevin Naiquama, a Fiji International, who played for the Sydney West Tigers in the NRL. Naiqama was off-contract at the end of 2018 when he departed ‘Wests Tigers to take up a multi-year deal in the English Super League’ (Kevin Naiqama to depart Wests Tigers at season’s end).

He has John 3:16 tattooed on his chest and the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion and the Last Supper on his back.

St Helen’s (UK) wrote of Naiqama: ‘The religious scriptures inked across the chest of St Helens’ new signing Kevin Naiqama are passages from John 3:16 and Romans 10:9, passages which identify one’s faith in Jesus’ (Kevin Naiqama: My God My Land).

Related image  (Kevin Nyiquama, John 3:16 tattooed on chest, courtesy couriermail.com.au)  

Related image

Kevin Nyiquama, tattoo of crucifixion and Last Supper on his back, courtesy dailytelegraph.com.au)

FitzSimons stated: ‘I think we have to go hard on defending Josiah Folau, or risk being made to appear completely ludicrous for our stunning inconsistency’.

You bet we need to ‘go hard’ at it to allow the Catholic College freedom to implement its policies against those who are on staff who oppose their values.

FitzSimons: ‘I said . . . ARE YOU WITH ME???’ Definitely not! To your dismay, Peter, I’m with St Gregory’s College!

 

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 06 August 2019.

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Using Jesus’ resurrection to promote liberal theology

Professor Dr N T Wright vs Retired Archbishop Dr Peter Carnley on Jesus’ resurrection

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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N T Wright Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of St. Andrews; photo courtesy Regent College, Vancouver, Canada

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Former Anglican Archbishop of Perth and Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr Peter Carnley. Image courtesy Wayback Machine, Alia 2002 speaker biographies.

This article responds to parts of Peter Sellick’s[1] article: Two scholars battle it out over the resurrection (On Line Opinion, 26 July 2019).[2] Sellick’s article pits Wright’s conclusions against Carnley’s and sides with Carnley.

I’ve done battle with him on other occasions on On Line Opinion. I’ll use a dialogue format for this interaction, even though the material was covered over several Comments by Peter and me:

Spencer: You object to Wright’s taking ‘the physical view’ of Jesus’ as an historical event to be investigated ‘without the eyes of faith’.
Firstly, Wright took a large portion of his 817pp tome, The Resurrection of the Son of God (RSG), to demonstrate from the biblical text that Jesus’ resurrection was soma, in a physical body.
He concluded:

‘The historian, of whatever persuasion, has no option but to affirm both the empty tomb and the “meetings” with Jesus as “historical events” in all the senses we sketched…. They took place as real events: they were significant events; they are, in the normal sense required by historians, provable events; historians can and should write about them. We cannot account for early Christianity without them’ (Wright 2003:709).

If Jesus’ Resurrection must be perceived through ‘the eyes of faith’ (Peter’s statement), is this a leap of faith or faith founded on the facts of the Resurrection?
Your claim is that Wright,
[3]

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Peter: ‘effectively excludes the activity of the “Spirit as a datum of Easter Faith”’.[4]

Spencer: This is not true. Wright cites a post-biblical passage from the Mishna where it states that ‘saintliness leads to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit leads to the resurrection of the dead’ (RSG 193). He supports ‘all those who are given new, resurrection life by the Spirit’ (RSG 258).[5]

Peter: ‘Wright takes this physical view from the traditions of Israel’.[6]

Spencer: That’s partially true. Wright demonstrates from the NT that Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection because of the use of soma (physical body) to refer to it and the characteristics of a physical being.

Of the Holy Spirit he stated: ‘Paul not only believed that Jesus had been bodily raised from the dead; he believed he knew how it was done, both in the sense of where the power came from (the Spirit of the creator God), and in the sense he knew what the difference was (corruptibility and non-corruptibility) between the body which died on the cross and the body which rose’ (RSG 360).
I have yet to read Carnley.
[7]

You complain about the apparent biblical contradiction re Jesus’ resurrection:

Peter: ‘The maze of biblical texts that deal with the Resurrection, many of which are at cross purposes, even to themselves as to the nature of Jesus’ risen body. For example, the appearance of Jesus in the locked room in John 20:19-28 both affirms the bodily reality of the risen Christ as the one bearing the wounds of crucifixion and, in contradiction, one who can appear and disappear at will.[8]

Spencer: That’s not contradiction unless you have a presupposition that Jesus’ resurrected body had to be the same as the body he had before the crucifixion. N T Wright explains this well, using the term ‘transphysicality’ to describe the nature of the resurrected body – many qualities that were physical (Jesus talked, could be touched, and he ate food) and other qualities in the 2 examples you gave of something beyond the physical, i.e. transphysical.

The same applies on the Emmaus’ Rd with the transphysicality of the resurrected Lord.

It’s not a matter of the two texts wanting it ‘both ways’ – Jesus physical and non-physical. That’s what the biblical texts state. Why can’t you accept that instead of hypothesising your contradiction? It doesn’t exist, except in your presuppositions.[9]

Peter: I feel like I am repeating myself here. How does a physical body that is “more than physical” because it has been made immortal appear and disappear at will and be unrecognised by the disciples on the Emmaus road and to May[10] (sic) in John? And I repeat, how does this physical body ascend to heaven to sit at the right hand of God? One can only believe that the resurrection was physical by ignoring the things that make it unthinkable and thus untransmissible (sic). Certainly, it is important for all the NY[11] (sic) writers to portray the resurrection as physical because the risen Jesus would have to be the crucified one, complete with the wounds of crucifixion of Jesus’ death for any idea of him taking our place can be credited. This lies at the base of our understanding of the incarnation as the kenotic hymn found in Philippians bears witness.

About the Spirit. You object that Wright takes the Spirit seriously but It is interesting that he has to quote the Mishna to do so. Carnley’s reading is that Wright was bound up so tightly with the Biblical Theology School, that has long been abandoned by most scholars, that he could not think that the Jews of Jesus’ time could think otherwise that in the tradition. Most of the NT undermines this approach.

Paul (and Matthew) may have believed that the resurrection was physical, but they were men groping towards the truth as we are and conditioned by their time as we are. The problem here is that you and other fundamentalist readers cannot cope with the fact the bible is an historical document compiled by men seeking the truth in their own lights. The world has changed! We no longer live in their time or see the world as they see it.

As for “transphysicality” that is just speculation. What is the biblical basis for it? It is just an argument invented by Wright to solve a central contradiction to his scheme.
Adam was the man of dust, Jesus became a life-giving spirit.
[12]

Spencer: You are repeating yourself.

How did Jesus’ resurrected physical body appear and disappear? That’s based on the fact it was more than physical. N T Wright’s word, ‘transphysicality’ (which he placed in inverted commas) was a created word that covered the reality of what happened.

Others now use ‘transphysical’, e.g. http://ericweiss.com/the-long-trajectory-10-transphysical-humans.[13]

Peter: ‘Carnley’s reading is that Wright was bound up so tightly with the Biblical Theology School, that has long been abandoned by most scholars’.[14]

Spencer: That seems to be Carnley’s presupposition. I’ll make my judgment after reading his book.

Peter: ‘Paul (and Matthew) may have believed that the resurrection was physical, but they were men groping towards the truth as we are and conditioned by their time as we are’.[15]

Spencer: This demonstrates your low view of biblical authority (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Paul and Matthew were writing God-breathed / inspired Scripture, which you reject by your statement that these 2 writers ‘may have believed’ in a physical resurrection. In his massive body of research, Wright has demonstrated it was a physical resurrection with extra-physical qualities that he called ‘transphysical’.
Peter regarded Paul’s writings as Scripture: Paul’s ‘letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction’ (2 Pet 3:16).
[16]

Peter: ‘The problem here is that you and other fundamentalist readers cannot cope with….’[17]

Spencer: There you go again with your pejorative Appeal to Ridicule Logical Fallacy, http://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/42/Appeal-to-Ridicule.

We cannot have a rational dialogue when you resort to fallacious reasoning like this. I’m an evangelical, born again Christian, just like the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey. Would you call him a ‘fundamentalist’ and put him down like you’ve done to me? Would you call the evangelical Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, a ‘fundamentalist reader’?[18]

Peter: ‘Adam was the man of dust, Jesus became a life-giving spirit’.[19]

Spencer: Do you deny Jesus was a man of human flesh?[20]

Peter: ‘On the authority of the bible. My observation of fundamentalist attitudes to the bible is that they mistake the sign for the thing signified. The bible is the human witness (sign) to the Word (signified). Scripture does not record that the Word became a book, but became flesh in the body of Jesus’.[21]

Spencer: This is false again. You push your presuppositions. God-breathed Scripture is recorded in the Book of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17). This is a fact.

For Paul who wrote this under the inspiration of the Spirit, he referred primarily to the Old Testament Scripture. Where was that contained in the first century? On papyri, parchment, ostraca, etc. God’s revelation was in written form. http://www.josh.org/materials-scribes-used-bible/

We know how the New Testament was transmitted in writing and now you give your opinion:[22]

Peter: ‘The bible is man’s attempt to bear witness to this object’.[23]

Spencer: The Gospel of Luke demolishes your thesis:

‘Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught’ (Luke 1:1-4).

Luke compiled a narrative and wrote an orderly account. He didn’t have an existential experience of faith. He received the messages from eyewitnesses.
Your replies constantly regurgitate your presuppositional bias against the God-breathed written Scripture. I don’t worship the Book of Scripture but God has revealed himself through this Book.
[24]

Peter: ‘My observation of fundamentalist attitudes to the bible’[25].

Spencer: There you go again with your Ad Hominem (Abusive) Logical Fallacy.

If you were to meet the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, now Lord George Carey (whose beliefs are similar to mine), would you label his ‘fundamentalist attitudes to the bible’? How about evangelical Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies? Will you resort to fallacious reasoning with these two evangelical Anglican leaders?[26]

Peter: Yes.[27]

Spencer: You resort to erroneous reasoning to evade dealing with the issues between Evangelicalism and your Liberalism. Therefore, to have a rational conversation with you is impossible. Trying to be rational with irrational reasoning is like jumping the electric fence without getting an electrical shock. It’s nigh impossible to reason with the unreasonable – those who use logical fallacies, like Peter.

You decided not to comment on any other portion of my post than the last question.

It’s unusual for you that you are short of words, especially when your world view is exposed for its weaknesses.[28]

Peter: ‘What you fail to understand is that Evangelicalism is a product of modernity. It is a way of thinking that is completely under the control of the current culture the insists on material evidence’.

Spencer: This is a false assessment. Evangelicalism is a product of the Evangel, the Good News, that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst’ (1 Timothy 1:15).

It is a direct result of Jesus’ command to his disciples:

‘Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:18-20).

Evangelicalism is not a cultural creation but a biblical mandate from Jesus Himself.

Peter: ‘It does not represent mainstream theological thought i.e. the thought of the Church fathers or the doctors of the church’.

Spencer: This is false again. One of the leading Church Fathers, Irenaeus, refuted your statement:

Such, then, are the first principles of the Gospel: that there is one God, the Maker of this universe; He who was also announced by the prophets, and who by Moses set forth the dispensation of the law, — [principles] which proclaim the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ignore any other God or Father except Him. So firm is the ground upon which these Gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these [documents], each one of them endeavours to establish his own peculiar doctrine’ (Against Heresies, Bk 2, 11.7).

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (fourth century) wrote: ‘God chose that man should seek salvation by faith rather than by works, lest anyone should glory in his deeds and thereby incur sin’ (In Ps. 43 Enarr. 14, Explanations of Twelve Psalms of David).

Evangelicalism is not a recent invention. ‘God chose that man should seek salvation by faith rather than by works’ (Ambrose).

Peter: ‘That Wright produces a book that has to resort to made-up concepts’.[29]

Spencer: You gave not one example while you berated N. T. Wright, an eminent historical Jesus’ scholar, with your Ad Hominem (Abusive) Logical Fallacy.[30]

Peter: [They are concepts] fraught with contradictions and as such is unthinkable, demonstrates the basic weakness of this methodology’.[31]

Spencer: Not one example again and it’s a Red Herring fallacy.[32]

Peter: ‘In other words, this is a prime example of the failure of the Evangelical mind. It is no wonder that our secular society would not be caught dead in a church that insists that our intellect be left at the door. This is why I give you a hard time, because you have mistaken belief for faith and have closed the door to anyone who asks the simplest questions’.[33]

Spencer: Some of the finest contemporary scholars are/were Evangelicals: William Lane Craig, D A Carson, R C H Lenski, Norman Geisler, Australian Anglican ancient historian Dr Paul Barnett, the late Anglican Dr Leon Morris, Alister McGrath, Oxford Professor John Lennox, F F Bruce, Carl F H Henry, Gleason Archer, Craig Blomberg, Anglican theologian Graeme Goldsworthy, Lord George Carey, Wayne Grudem, Kenneth Kitchen, Anglican J I Packer, Ravi Zacharias, etc.

Your claim of Evangelicals kicking the intellect out the door commits a straw man fallacy. [34]

Peter: ‘BTW you still have not given me an answer to the question “where are the bones of Jesus”’.[35]

Spencer: Ever heard of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension?? In your worldview you want Jesus’ bones. In my worldview, I accept what the authoritative Scriptures state and you will never find Jesus’ bones on earth – NEVER. He did not rot in the grave.[36]

Peter: Archaeologists could dig up bones that are identified with Jesus. Your whole belief is vulnerable to a fact because it rests on a fact.[37]

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Spencer: If you believed the Scriptures you would not make those confusing statements. There is zero chance that archaeologists will dig up his body because of the biblical details surrounding his Ascension.
Luke recorded it as it happened for Jesus’ ascension:

6 Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

7 He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:6-9 NIV).[38]

Peter: If the bones of Jesus will never be found on earth where are they to be found? The only answer is that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father.[39]

Spencer: The answer is in the above text: ‘He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight’ (Acts 1:9).

It doesn’t state that the spiritual Jesus ascended. ‘He’, the one standing with his disciples, ascended. It was not his spirit that went up into the cloud. You regularly push for an understanding that is beyond what the text states. [40]

This is postmodern reader-response deconstruction where Peter deconstructs the biblical text and imposes his own meaning on it. He does not allow the writer’s intended meaning to shine forth.

Peter: Thus we have the usual problem of the mixture between material and spiritual. Which is it? Is heaven a material place?[41]

Spencer: You don’t like the language of N T Wright that the resurrected Jesus’ body was transphysical. Factually, it was more than physical. And this same Jesus ‘will come back … from heaven’.

We know heaven is a place, based on the testimony of Jesus: ‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2).

For you to even ask if heaven is a ‘material place’ demonstrates you refuse to believe what Jesus said about its being a ‘place’. The ‘rooms’ or ‘mansions’ in John 14:2 are from the transliterated Greek word, mone (pronounced monay) which has the sense of ‘assured residence’ or ‘assured home’.

As for it being a ‘material place’ composed of material from this current universe, we know this will not be a ‘material place’ with materials from this present world. ‘In keeping with his [God’s] promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells’ (2 Pet 3:13).

Eminent Australian Anglican commentator of the Gospel of John, the late Dr Leon Morris, stated:

“My Father’s house” clearly refers to heaven. The meaning of “mansions” is not so clear. It seems better understood as “permanent residences” than as “steps along the way of development”…. “Many” should not be misinterpreted as though it signified for all. “The phrase means that there is room and to spare for all the redeemed in heaven” (Morris 1971:638-639).[42]

Peter: This argument is becoming rather strange. If heaven is a material place then it must take up space in the universe. It is not on earth but must be extraterrestrial. Behind the moon is no good, we have looked. Likewise, anywhere else in the Solar system. Of course, it could be quite a few light-years away in another part of our galaxy. This is my last post on this thread.[43]

Spencer: It is strange because you make it that way. What did Jesus say about heaven? ‘In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2 NRSV).
Jesus did not state it was ‘a material place’. Neither did I.

You are promoting your postmodern, deconstructionist, reader-response hermeneutic again.[44]

Peter decided to quit the conversation at this point.

Conclusion

For details of some of Dr Peter Carnley’s unorthodox theology (not discussed here), see: Peter Carnley.

This communication with the author of the article, Peter Sellick, demonstrates what happens when he rejects the authority of Scripture and invents his own meaning through postmodern, deconstructionist interpretation of the Bible. In this case he had two eminent scholars opposed to each other in regard to Jesus’ resurrection. Even though he compares the theology of Jesus’ resurrection between Carnley and Wright, he essentially defends his and Carnley’s non-bodily resurrection with Wright’s extensive research into the biblical text to support the soma/bodily resurrection.

To that he adds what is not in the text and gives his view of what the text states. It is known as reader-response interpretation that is similar to allegorical interpretation. He doesn’t interpret by gaining the meaning out of the text (exegesis) but imposes his meaning on the text. It also is similar to eisegesis.

It is impossible to reach a solid biblical conclusion with someone who does not deal with a plain, literal meaning of the text. See my article on what literal interpretation means: What is literal interpretation? Literal interpretation incorporates the use of figures of speech.

Works consulted

Morris, L 1971. The gospel according to John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Image result for clipart He Is Risen public domain

(image courtesy Clipart Library)

Notes:


[1] Sellick is ‘an Anglican deacon working in Perth with a background in the biological sciences’. In one of his replies to me (OzSpen) in another article, he claimed to be a follower of Karl Barth but my understanding of contemporary theology places him in realm of liberal theology. You will note his aversion to Evangelical Christianity which, he claims, is for the uneducated.

[2] Occasionally in this interchange I have added material like the content of what Irenaeus stated. The additions are few and they were designed to clarify and amplify a little.

[3] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 1:09:42 PM.

[4] This is a claim in the article to which I respond.

[5] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 1:09:42 PM.

[6] From his article.

[7] Spencer’s comments prior to this were Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 1:09:42 PM, http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20416 (Accessed 31 July 2019).

[8] From his article.

[9] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 4:59:36 PM

[10] Should be ‘many’.

[11] Should be NT as acronym for New Testament.

[12] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[13] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[14] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[15] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[16] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[17] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[18] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[19] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[20] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[21] Posted by Sells, Monday, 29 July 2019 3:12:58 PM.

[22] Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 29 July 2019 7:17:15 PM.

[23] Posted by Sells, Monday, 29 July 2019 3:12:58 PM.

[24] Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 29 July 2019 7:17:15 PM.

[25] Posted by Sells, Monday, 29 July 2019 3:12:58 PM.

[26] Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 29 July 2019 7:17:15 PM,

[27] This was Posted by Sells, Tuesday, 30 July 2019 12:26:43 PM.

[28] Posted by OzSpen, Tuesday, 30 July 2019 5:53:32 PM.

[29] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[30] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[31] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[32] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[33] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[34] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[35] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[36] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[37] Posted by Sells, Thursday, 1 August 2019 11:36:43 AM.

[38] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 1 August 2019 5:59:56 PM.

[39] Posted by Sells, Thursday, 1 August 2019 11:36:43 AM.

[40] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 1 August 2019 5:59:56 PM.

[41] Posted by Sells, Thursday, 1 August 2019 11:36:43 AM.

[42] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 1 August 2019 6:02:11 PM.

[43] Posted by Sells, Friday, 2 August 2019 6:46:02 PM.

[44] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 2 August 2019 7:54:11 PM.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 August 2019.

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Unpacking 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Is trichotomy supported?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Image result for Bible image 1 Thessalonians 5:23

(image courtesy Heartlight)

I examine the controversial verse of 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV): ‘Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’.

On the surface this appears straight forward. People are made of three parts: spirit, soul and body. That’s signed, sealed and delivered. It’s as clear as crystal! Or, is it?

This verse is not an easy one to interpret for some of the following reasons. Are people tripartite beings – body, soul and spirit? Or are they bipartite – body and soul/spirit, with soul and spirit being interchangeable words for a person’s unseen, inner being?

It has caused long hours of study by Bible exegetes over the years. Commentator William Hendriksen gave his researched conclusions in 5 pages of small font in his commentary (Hendriksen & Kistemaker 1955/1983:146-150).

1. Introduction

Through the Judeo-Christian centuries, there have been three main views on the nature of human beings. They are:

1.1 Trichotomy

Human beings consist of body, soul and spirit. This was held by the Greek church fathers and has its origin with the Greek philosopher, Plato. This appears to be the view supported by 1 Thess 5:23. However, it’s the only NT verse I could find that stated this trichotomous view of people.

Kim Riddlebarger’s (2010) assessment was:

With its roots in Plato’s distinction between body and soul, and Aristotle’s further division of soul into “animal” and “rational” elements, the trichotomist notion of human nature as tri-partite is unmistakably Greek and pagan, rather than Hebrew and biblical. As Louis Berkhof notes, “the most familiar but also the crudest form of trichotomy is that which takes the body for the material part of man’s nature, the soul as the principle of animal life, and the spirit as the God-related rational and immortal element in man” (Berkhof 1941:191).

1.2 Dichotomy

Dichotomy means that human beings consist of body and soul/spirit. The immaterial part of a human being is described as either soul or spirit. This is the view of the Latin speaking Western theology in the early centuries of the church.

1.3 Unitarian or unitary

This view ‘rejects any kind of dualism. Man is simply made of the physical stuff of which the body is made. There is no soul, or spirit, or immaterial part of man that is distinct from the body’ (Craig 2009).

Therefore, I will not give a simplistic answer, especially in light of these …

2. Challenging verses

Le Brun, Charles - The Martyrdom of St. Andrew - Google Art Project.jpg(image of martyrdom of St. Andrew, courtesy Commons Wikimedia)

Matt 10:28 (NIV): Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell’. No ‘spirit’ here.

Matt 22:37 (NIV): ‘Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ No ‘spirit’ here.

Mark 8:36 (NLT): ‘And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?’ No ‘spirit’ here.

Mark 12:30 (NIV): ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ No ‘spirit’ here.

Acts 20:10 (NASB): ‘But Paul went down and fell upon him and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life [psuche] is in him.”’ Psuche is rightly translated as ‘life’. The term for ‘spirit’ is not used here.

1 Cor 2:14-15 (NASB), ‘But a natural [psuchikos] man does not accept the things of the Spirit [pneuma] of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually [pneumatikos] appraised. But he who is spiritual [pneumatikos] appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one’.

So, the adjectives based on psuche (soul) and pneuma (spirit) are different in meaning.

1 Cor 7:34 (NIV), ‘An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband’. No ‘soul’ is used here.

Rom 1:9 (NIV), ‘God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you’. No ‘soul’ or ‘body’ here.

Heb 4:12 (NIV): ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’. Soul and spirit are clearly different words and they can be ‘divided’ according to this verse.

What does it mean to penetrate ‘even to dividing soul and spirit’?

1 Pet 3:9 (NIV): ‘After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits….’ No ‘souls’ here.

Rev 8:9 (NASB): ‘and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life [psuche], died; and a third of the ships were destroyed’. No ‘spirit’ here.

3. William Hendricksen’s conclusions

He provides exegesis in his commentary to support this conclusion:

a. The trichotomistic appearance of the passage is considerably reduced as soon as it is seen that the words in dispute are found not in one clause but in two clauses:

hence not: “And may your spirit and soul and body be kept …”

but

“And without flaw may be your spirit,

and your soul-and-body

…………………………….

May it be kept.”

But thus rendering the passage we can do justice to its grammatical syntax and even to its word-order [and may your the spirit, the soul, and the body be preserved (completely) whole].

b. Every trace of trichotomy which still remains can be obliterated in one of these ways:

(1) by considering the word “soul” to have the same meaning as “spirit,” the change from “spirit” to “soul” having been introduced for stylistic reasons. This eliminates trichotomy.

(2) by accepting the position that although both “spirit” and “soul” refer to the same immaterial substance (hence, no trichotomy here either!), this substance is viewed first (in one clause) from the aspect of its relation to God – the “spirit” being man’s power of grasping divine things, his invisible essence viewed as a recipient of divine influences and as an organ of divine worship – ; then, in the next clause, from the aspect of its relation to the lower realm, as the seat of sensations, affections, desires. This could well be the true element in theory e.

If a choice must be made, I would prefer this second alternative. It is in harmony with the distinction between the two words which is present elsewhere (as has been shown). There is also an interesting parallel in a somewhat similar passage, Heb. 4:12, where it is obvious that the two words have distinct meanings.

The main point has been proved, namely, that, either way, every trace of trichotomy has disappeared (Hendriksen & Kistemaker 1955/1984:150).

I have a problem with this kind of explanation as it seems to be a begging the question logical fallacy (circular reasoning) where the non-trichotomous view (dichotomy) is assumed at the beginning and leads to the same non-trichotomous (dichotomous) conclusion.

For a detailed discussion of the difficulties with this verse, see the commentary in Hendriksen & Kistemaker (1955/1985:146-150).

3.1 A better explanation

Let’s look at the Greek construction of 1 Thess 5:23 (transliterated): hagiazw hymeis holoteleskai kai terew hymeis ho pneuma kai ho psyche kai ho swma terew holokleros ...

The literal translation is: ‘and may [the God of peace] sanctify you completely your (the) spirit and the soul and the body be preserved (completely) whole’.

Therefore, the meaning is not to develop support for a trichotomous view of human beings but for a holistic view of people. Lenski explained:

The question is simple: “is man composed of two or of three parts?” In other words, can spirit and soul be divided as soul and body can? A reference to Heb. 4:12 does not establish the affirmative. Man’s material part can be separated from his immaterial part; but the immaterial part cannot be divided; it is not a duality of spirit and soul.

Where, as here [in 1 Thess 5:23], spirit and soul are distinguished, the spirit designates our immaterial part as it is related to God, as being capable of receiving the operations of the Spirit of God and of his Word; while soul (psuche) designates this same immaterial part in its function of animating the body and also as receiving impressions from the body it animates. Death is described as the spirit’s leaving the body and as the soul’s leaving, for it is the sundering of the immaterial from the material (Lenski 1937:366-367).

4. A simpler explanation

Let’s examine Heb 4:12 (NIV): ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’.

This verse states that we can differentiate between a human being’s unseen part and what is seen. But it is not decisive in dividing soul from spirit. From other Scriptures such as 1 Cor 2:14-15 and 1 Thess 5:23 we find the immaterial part of the “spirit” relating to God and are able to discern God’s Spirit and Scripture. The immaterial part, called the “soul” indicates that which relates to life in the body and is associated with perceptions and desires – often carnal.

Also, at death what happens? Is it the soul or spirit that leaves the body?

4.1 At death, the soul leaves the body:

Genesis 35:18 (ESV): ‘And as her [Rachel’s] soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin’.

Matt 10:28 (ESV): ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna].

Rev 6:9 (NIV): ‘When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne’.

4.2 However, the spirit leaves the body at death:

Painting of a ship sinking by the bow, with people rowing a lifeboat in the foreground and other people in the water. Icebergs are visible in the background.(Painting “Untergang der Titanic” by Willy Stower, 1912, ‘ the sinking of the Titanic’, courtesy Wikipedia)

James 2:26 (ESV): ‘For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead’.

Eccl 12:7 (ESV): ‘and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it’.

Luke 23:36 (ESV): ‘Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last’.

Luke 8:54-55 (ESV): ‘But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given to her to eat’.

Is this sending a contradictory message about the naming and function of the immaterial part of a human being? Some verses state the soul leaves the body at death while others take the view the spirit departs from the body. How do we resolve this difficulty?

5. Conclusion

There is enough biblical evidence to indicate that at death the immaterial part (whether named soul or spirit) leaves the body. i.e. the immaterial part leaves the material body to go to the Intermediate State to be with God or separated from God. The biblical data indicate the immaterial part of the human being is called soul or spirit. They are interchangeable words.

The Intermediate State is where all people go at death and it is not the grave. Only the body rots in the grave. See my article, The Intermediate State for believers and unbelievers: Where do they go at death?

John Calvin stated: ‘We, following the whole doctrine of God, will hold for certain that man is composed and consisteth of two parts, that is to say, body and soul’.

Leading apologist, William Lane Craig, in dialogue with a student stated:

When we get to the New Testament, it is indisputable that the language of the New Testament is dualistic throughout. You constantly have the dualism between soul and body, or spirit and body. No one denies that the language of the New Testament is dualistic. The only question is: is this to be taken literally, this dualistic language?

Here I think the answer is that this is meant to be taken literally especially when it concerns the intermediate state of the soul after death. When you have the intermediate state of the dead in Christ described, it is very evident that these persons are still existent, that they are in communion with Christ, and are awaiting the resurrection. In other words, it is exactly the traditional Jewish view that we have attested in the intertestamental Jewish literature.

The only difference is that the souls of the righteous dead are said to be with Christ, not kept in treasuries or chambers or sockets, but rather they have gone to be with Christ. So there is a Christian spin on it, but it is the traditional Jewish dualistic view (Craig 2009).

However, eminent Old Testament scholar, Gleason Archer, wrote of 1 Thess 5:23, ‘Quite clearly, then, the spirit is distinct from the soul, or else these verses add up to tautological nonsense. We therefore conclude that man is not dichotomic (to use the technical theological term) but trichotomic’ (Archer 1982:260).

In spite of Archer’s protestations, the evidence points to the soul and spirit being evidence for the unseen part of human beings.

I find Lenski’s explanation (as above) one of the simplest and soundest I’ve read to explain 1 Thess 5:23 and Heb 4:12,

Where, as here [in 1 Thess 5:23], spirit and soul are distinguished, the spirit designates our immaterial part as it is related to God, as being capable of receiving the operations of the Spirit of God and of his Word; while soul (psuche) designates this same immaterial part in its function of animating the body and also as receiving impressions from the body it animates.

6. Works consulted

Archer, G L 1982. Encyclopedia of Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House). Available online HERE.

Berkhof, L 1941. Systematic theology. London: The Banner of Truth Trust.

Craig, W L 2009. The doctrine of man (Part 5). Reasonable Faith (podcast online), 15 March. Available at: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-1/s1-the-doctrine-of-man/the-doctrine-of-man-part-5/ (Accessed 23 June 2019).

Hendriksen, W & Kistemaker, S J 1955/1984. New Testament Commentary: Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1937. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (1937 and assigned in 1961 by Augsburg Publishing House).

Riddlebarger, K 2010. Trichotomy: A Beachhead for Gnostic Influences. Reformed Perspectives, vol 12, no 47, November 21-27. Available at: https://thirdmill.org/magazine/article.asp?link=http:%5E%5Ethirdmill.org%5Earticles%5Ekim_riddlebarger%5Ekim_riddlebarger.Trichotomy.html&at=Trichotomy. (Accessed 31 July 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 02 August 2019

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Israel Folau teaches false doctrine

Wrong labelling of Folau’s orthodoxy

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(image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In an article in news.com.au (20 July 2019), it was stated:

‘ACL[1] managing director Martyn Iles told the newspaper: “I have never heard from him (Folau) anything which contradicts mainstream Christian belief’” (NZ Herald).

The information in The Sydney Morning Herald was:

In written comments provided to the Herald, Martyn Iles, the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby Group confirmed that he had “never heard” Folau say anything that contradicts mainstream Christian belief.

“That is not to say there is no disagreement – I am sure there is – but some disagreement is normal between Christian denominations,” he said (McClymont & Power 2019).

1. Alarmed by lack of biblical knowledge

I am shocked by the deficiency in understanding of Folau’s theology to place him inside ‘mainstream Christian belief’ when he and his church promote false doctrine that goes back to the third century.

I especially am distressed over a Christian leader’s …

  • Lack of knowledge of Folau’s theology, and this relates to
  • A gap in Martyn Isles’ understanding of historical theology.
  • Overlooking Folau’s false teaching by stating he has ‘never heard’ Folau state anything contradicting mainstream Christian beliefs.

Could it be that Isles is caught up in the freedom of speech / freedom of religion issues and sees this as a test case for Christianity? If so, it pays to gain knowledge before speaking.

I’m reminded of the wisdom in the Book of Proverbs concerning this topic:

Intelligent people are always ready to learn.
Their ears are open for knowledge.

The first to speak in court sounds right—
until the cross-examination begins (
Prov 18:15, 17 NLT).

2. Christian woman disagrees

A Christian woman who visited the Truth of Jesus Christ Church[2] established by Israel Folau’s father, Eni, begs to differ. According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald (Ahillon 2019), she had this experience and made the following assessments:

  • When Folau began inviting young rugby players to his church, this Christian woman became concerned about what was taught.
  • The 30-strong congregation at Kenthurst, Sydney, she said, believes most Christians are going to hell and that includes the ACL donors as well as Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
  • She went along to hear what they were preaching and teaching in Bible studies.
  • She was so disturbed she said, “I honestly do not want my son involved in what I have come to understand is false teachings and counterfeit Christianity. I’ve gone, I’ve checked it out and I would call them an isolated hate group,” the woman told Nine newspapers of her experience attending bible studies at Pastor Eni Folau’s home.
  • Pastor Eni Folau and his 20-year-old nephew, Josiah Folau, told her, “Only we have the truth”.
  • Those not baptised in the Folaus’ way were heading for hell, she said.
  • She continued: Pastor Eni Folau states that people must renounce the evils of their ways, get baptised in the name of Jesus Christ and become “reborn” in water in order to become a “born again believer”.
  • Israel Folau said on Twitter (discussed below) that “if you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again”.
  • The woman said the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, according to cousin Josiah, regarded the [Roman] Catholic Church as “false and filled with lies” and “Any devout Catholic person IS NOT A SAVED CHRISTIAN WHATSOEVER. Look at Catholic doctrine, almost 100% of it is false and is filled with lies,” Josiah wrote to the concerned parent. “The blasphemous Catholic mass is a paganistic ritual rooted in heresy, evil and devil worship” he answered.
  • What about the baptisms of mainstream Christian churches? The baptisms of those who believe in the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are false according to the Folaus and reported by the parent who attended the church.
  • The church opposed women deaconesses and preachers. Josiah Folau said, “If you believe in women preachers, Satan’s got you”.
  • Homosexuality is a sin “worthy of death”.

3. Israel Folau affirmed some of the views stated by the woman.

Take a read of this Twitter post and the replies to see that Israel Folau is not an orthodox, evangelical Christian. I refer to this Twitter feed: Take a read of this thread on Twitter started by Israel Folau @IzzyFolau:[3]

Izzy began:

To be born again you MUST, repent of your sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and then prayed upon asking God to receive the holy spirit. If you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again. John 3:3, 5 Acts 2:38 Acts 19:1-6

2:06 AM – 18 Jan 2018

Indications are that he is a ‘Jesus only’, Oneness Pentecostal, non-trinitarian promoter. This appears to be evident in his statement that people need to repent of their sins, ‘be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ’ and ‘if you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again’.

What is the Jesus Only false teaching?

Jesus Only, movement of believers within Pentecostalism who hold that true baptism can only be “in the name of Jesus” rather than in the name of the Trinity. It began at a Pentecostal camp meeting in California in 1913 when one of the participants, John G. Scheppe, experienced the power of the name of Jesus. Many accepted his revelation, and they found support for their belief in “Jesus Only” baptism in John 3:5 and Acts 2:38. This led to the denial of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity…. (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Jesus Only).

As we’ll see, this rejection of the Trinity was found way before 1913. In the early church under the names of Modalism,[4] Monarchianism,[5] and Sabellianism. It was declared a heresy in the early third century when Sabellius, one of its promoters, was excommunicated from the church because of his modalistic theology (see Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Sabellianism).

3.1 Israel Folau’s unorthodox theology

I’ll pick up his theology as Folau responded to tweets in this Twitter thread:

  • “And the holy spirit is the characteristics or functions of God. But it’s not 3 or the trinity but just him alone”.

This is non-Trinitarian modalism. It was declared a heresy with Sabellius who promoted this view in the third century. It’s like Oneness Pentecostalism today (see Slick n.d.).

Modalism and Monarchianism are two false views of the nature of God and of Jesus Christ that appeared in the second and third centuries AD. A modalist views God as one Person instead of three Persons and believes that the Father, Son, and Spirit are simply different modes or forms of the same divine Person. According to modalism, God can switch among three different manifestations. A Monarchian believes in the unity of God (the Latin word monarchia meant “single rule”) to the point that he denies God’s triune nature. Both modalism and Monarchianism inevitably hold to the doctrine of Patripassianism, the teaching that God the Father suffered on the cross with (or as) the Son, and are closely related to Sabellianism.[6]

  •  Folau: ‘When someone hears the good news of Jesus Christ this is what happens. They believe in him and want to turn away (which is repentance) then comes baptism then laying of hands for the holy spirit. That’s born again!’

What happens with the laying on of hands? Does this bring the Pentecostal baptism of the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues? If this is what Folau refers to, his church’s belief is that a person hears the Gospel, repents, is baptised [in Jesus’ name?], receives the baptism of the Spirit with tongues, and that is the only way a person can be born again.

If this is Folau’s position (and it appears to be), it promotes baptismal regeneration[7] and glossolalist regeneration,[8] both of which are unbiblical and are part of the doctrines of Pentecostal Oneness.

This does not promote orthodox theology but Jesus Only theology.

3.2 False teaching affirmed

As I wrote this article, I became aware of the excellent expose of Folau’s teaching by Tom Richards, ‘Israel Folau’s problem with the Trinity’ (Richards 2019). Richards is a missionary with the Australian Presbyterian World Mission in Vanuatu. Of Folau’s theology, he referred to the tweet that I’ve examined above and assessed Folau’s doctrine of the Trinity which is stated as follows:

Jesus Christ was the vessel of God, God is a spirit. He formed the body of Jesus Christ and was in him. And the holy spirit is the characteristics or functions of God. But it’s not 3 or the Trinity but just him alone. Isaiah 43:10

This is an expression of what is called modalism; a teaching that is nearly as old as the church itself and rejects the Trinity as expressed in the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds. The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Sydney (TOJC) where Folau attends and teaches, has confirmed that they teach that “God is ONE” – meaning that he cannot be understood in any sense as three.

Modalism has taken on different shapes over the course of church history, but collectively these various forms seek to preserve monotheism or the “oneness” of God by expressing the Father, Son and Spirit as “modes” of God. Roughly speaking, this means that in order to achieve certain things, God sometimes works as the Father, sometimes works as the Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit. God the Father is incarnated as God the Son, the Holy Spirit is an active expression of the one God who is spirit (Richards 2019).

In this article, Richards examines five main problems he sees with Oneness theology. I highly recommend the artile.

4. Become a co-belligerent with Izzy

Where does that leave orthodox, evangelical Christian believers and their support or rejection of Izzy’s sacking by Rugby Australia?

If it is an issue of freedom of religion or freedom of speech, I will stand with him as a co-belligerant.

Read what Francis Schaeffer meant by becoming co-belligerents with people who have similar values in certain organisations. I do this when I support Cherish Life, an anti-abortion group that used to be called Right to Life. Although many Roman Catholics are associated with this group, we give common support in opposing the abortion holocaust in Australia / Queensland.

See Daniel Strange’s article, ‘Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend?’ (September 2005).

The Australian Macquarie Dictionary defines the noun, cobelligerent, as ‘a nation, state, or individual that cooperates with, but is not bound by a formal alliance to, another in carrying on war’. As an adjective, it is ‘relating to such a cooperation’ (The Macquarie Dictionary 1997:422-423).

clip_image003Francis Schaeffer (courtesy Wikipedia)

The late Francis Schaeffer defined a co-belligerent this way: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

Politipower provided this explanation:

Co-belligerence, strictly speaking, is waging a war in cooperation with another against a common enemy without a formal alliance. The term co-belligerence indicates remoteness and differences between the co-belligerent parties although jointly pursuing a common objective. In Christianity, it refers to an alliance between denominations, which are normally opposed on doctrinal grounds, for a common social goal.

According to one author, it can be defined as a cultural philosophy that warrants questionable alliances in order to make social impact and change against the moral slippage that plagues our nation — these alliances created and fostered “on the basis of one thing and one thing only – the cause at hand.”[9] A case in point would be conservative evangelicals allying with the Roman Catholic Church in joint efforts to oppose abortion.

Some Christians take issue with a co-belligerence perspective. See Steven J Camp’s article, THE NEW DOWNGRADE…12 dangers of Evangelical Co-Belligerence related to the Manhattan Declaration (Camp 2009). There are dangers in being a co-belligerent, but these are reduced when one focusses on why one is joining with another group with which there may be major differences on other occasions.

This is not a proclamation of salvation through Christ alone and a promotion of Trinitarian Christianity. It is generally associated with cooperating with others on moral and national issues for which they have a common opponent.

Steven J Camp, based on this article, lists 12 dangers of co-belligerence.

These dangers are minimised, in my understanding, when one acknowledges the real purpose of co-belligerence as defined by Francis Schaeffer: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

As a co-belligerent, a person is not joining with people to evangelise them with the Gospel of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ alone. We are joining others for a common cause in dealing with vital cultural issues of public justice in our society.

I join with Izzy Folau for the battle of free speech and freedom of religion in Australia. However, I do NOT support his view of salvation by baptism, laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit, and the teachings of the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, Kenthurst, Sydney, Australia that ‘only we have the truth’ (Josiah Folau). Such a view is cultic, in my understanding.

5. Conclusion

I urge Christian leaders not to present Israel Folau’s theology as evangelical and orthodox. There is information available from Izzy’s writings on Twitter and speaking to the mass media that indicates he’s promoting theology “which contradicts mainstream Christian belief”.

He belongs to a cult that promotes anti-trinitarian, Oneness Pentecostal theology that was deemed a heresy in the church of the third century as Modalism, Monarchianism and Sabellianism.

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(image courtesy christart.com)

6. Works consulted

Ahillon, P 2019. Israel Folau’s tiny congregation could soon be forced to find a new church space to rent after footy star blasted transgender kids in his latest sermon. Daily Mail (online), 17 June. Available at: https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/israel-folaus-tiny-congregation-could-soon-be-forced-to-find-a-new-church-space-to-rent-after-footy-star-blasted-transgender-kids-in-his-latest-sermon/ar-AAD0R5z (Accessed 20 July 2019).

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

McClymont, K & Power, J 2019. Folau’s group’s far from mainstream Christianity, leaders say (online), The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/folau-s-group-s-far-from-mainstream-christianity-leaders-say-20190720-p5292n.html (Accessed 23 July 2019).

news.com.au (from NZ Herald) 2019. Former Wallabies star Israel Folau’s church believes most Christians are going to hell (online), 20 July. Available at https://www.news.com.au/sport/sports-life/former-wallabies-star-israel-folaus-church-believes-most-christians-are-going-to-hell/news-story/7354195b88416ac9e574df9059a605dc (Accessed 20 July 2019).

Richards, T 2019. Israel Folau’s problem with the Trinity. Eternity (online), 20 July. Available at: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/israel-folaus-problem-with-the-trinity/ (Accessed 23 July 2019).

Schaeffer F 1980. Plan for Action: An Action Alternative Handbook for ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H Revell.

Slick, M n.d. What is Oneness Pentecostal theology? CARM (online). Available at: https://christianreformedink.wordpress.com/bad-theology/cults-heresy/what-is-oneness-pentecostal-theology/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

Strange, D 2005. Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend? Jubilee Centre (online), September. Available at: http://www.jubilee-centre.org/co-belligerence-and-common-grace-can-the-enemy-of-my-enemy-be-my-friend-by-daniel-strange/ (Accessed 23 July 2019).

7.  Notes

[1] ACL, the Australian Christian Lobby, ‘is a grassroots movement made up of over 150,000 individuals who [are] seeking to bring a Christian influence to politics. ACL is non-party partisan, non-denominational’. See: https://www.acl.org.au/about (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[2] Folau’s church is based in Kenthurst, Sydney, Australia (Ahillon 2019).

[3] Available at: https://twitter.com/izzyfolau/status/953931675011919872?lang=en (Accessed 23 July 2019).

[4] See: Michael 2013. Is modalism biblical? Youth Apologetics Training (online), 12 June. Available at: http://youthapologeticstraining.com/modalism/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[5] See ‘What is Monarchianism’. Available at: https://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/46673 (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[6] Got Questions 2019. What is modalism / Modalistic Monarchianism? (online) Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/Modalistic-Monarchianism.html (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[7] To refute baptismal regeneration, see my article: Baptism & Salvation: I Peter 3:21. Available at: https://truthchallenge.one/blog/2009/12/29/baptism-salvation-i-peter-321/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[8] See the article, Tongues and baptism for salvation. Let Us Reason Ministries. Available at: http://www.letusreason.org/Onenes15.htm (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[9] The footnote at this point stated: ‘By Steve Camp in the article, The Great Divide’. However, I was unable to locate the primary source for this article.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 July 2019.

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Cricket ball-tampering disease in all of us

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(photo of Cameron Bancroft’s cricket ball-tampering, courtesy thesportsrush.com)

This article first appeared in Australia’s e-journal, On Line Opinion, on 13 April 2018, Cricket ball-tampering disease in all of us.

Steve Smith, Dave Warner and Cameron Bancroft have been banned from first-class cricket for ball-tampering in the fourth test in South Africa, 22-26 March 2018. Smith and Warner were banned from all forms of professional cricket for a year while the penalty was a ban of 9 months for Bancroft.

They could play local grade cricket and engage in coaching around the world but could not engage in professional cricket at any level.

Why did they do it? Smith admitted, “We spoke about it and thought it was a possible way to get an advantage … poor choice and, yeah, we’re deeply regrettable”. Bancroft admitted, ‘I saw an opportunity to potentially use some tape and get some granules from the rough patches of the wicket and try to change the ball condition’.

It is easy to pass this off as a violation of cricket’s rules and not being in ‘the spirit of the game’. Also, there have been other ball-tampering incidents with less punishment than for Smith, Warner and Bancroft.

1.  The bigger problem

I have not read the mainstream media’s diagnosis of what I consider is the greater infection. It runs through many sports. Rugby league uses the sin bin, as do rugby union, basketball, ice hockey, soccer and other sports. A player is sent off the playing field for a time, after breaking rules of the game that are not serious enough to deserve expulsion.

There’s a bigger problem that many journalists will avoid describing because it comes from a Christian worldview. Could you imagine this headline?

2.  ‘We are all infected with the ball-tampering virus.’

This would not be a theme in the mass media’s diagnosis of the cricket crisis as it is an analysis from a Judeo-Christian worldview – and that’s too religious for worldly-wise readers.

Related image(image courtesy Pinterest)

The prophet Jeremiah blamed the inside of all individuals for the problems we see in society: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV) So, the headline should be: ‘A deceitful heart is real problem for Australian cricketers’. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) nails the reason for the crisis not only for cricket, ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’.

It is a major problem for the whole human race. Not one person is exempt from the ball-tampering ‘virus’.

We saw it openly in the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin and Mao’s genocides, terrorism and mass shootings around the world, lies, bullying, theft and adultery. It runs through every human being from infancy to old age.

3.  The cricketers need consequences BUT….

I urge you not to single out the banned Australian cricketers for their deceitful actions. The core problem is devastating for all human beings. The Aussie cricketers provide one more visible example of this evil heart.

This predicament of what is behind ball-tampering runs through us and it springs from the heart. The prophet Jeremiah and the wise man of Proverbs dealt with.…

4.  The heart of the matter

The source of all human difficulties is the total inner being of a person, including reasoning and the will. It’s a comprehensive internal wickedness (depravity) that is the root problem. The heart is more corrupt and incurable – from a human perspective.

You’ll see it with classroom cheats, lies to cover up, bullying, speeding on streets, drugs, crime, violence, terrorism, adultery and sexual abuse. The list goes on and on. Some sports get close to the cause when a severe infraction of rules causes a player to be sin-binned.

(photo of rugby league player sent to the sin bin, courtesy Wikipedia)

Cameron Smith, captain of the Melbourne Storm, experienced it in a Good Friday 2018 match against the Sharks. It was his first sin-binning in a 362 game NRL career for some backchat towards referee Matt Cecchi.

This is a problem that a secular society doesn’t want to diagnose in this way. There are examples on the sporting field and in the law courts. It is a sin problem.

What is sin? According to the Judeo-Christian worldview, it is breaking God’s standards (1 John 3:4-5; Isaiah 64:6).

It runs through all of us – not only criminals, murderers and terrorists.

I, the writer, am infected with the same ‘disease’. I’ve lied to get my own way, had outbursts of anger, and times of withholding certain information. Even though my heart has been changed through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, to my dying day I have to battle this sinful nature within that wants to follow the theme of Frank Sinatra’s song, ‘I did it my way’. But I do have added strength to deal with my sin through God’s power.

5.  Cricketers sought forgiveness

Why would banned cricketers seek forgiveness – a very Christian action – from the cricketing public? There is a solution for those who want to experience radical inner change. It has brought change to Queens and no-hopers, sports people, music superstars, and ordinary folks on the streets or in the country.
Who wants to quit cheating (ball tampering, on exams, work pilfering), lying, deceit and adultery through this radical commitment to Jesus Christ?

It’s for all who seek God’s forgiveness.

When former captain, Steve Smith, arrived back in Australia on 29 March 2018, he said: ‘I am sorry…. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness. I’ve been so privileged and honoured to represent my country and captain the Australian cricket team. Cricket is the greatest game in the world. It’s been my life and I hope it can be again.’

Bancroft explained: ‘It is something I will regret for the rest of my life. All I can do in the short term is ask for forgiveness‘.

Warner: ‘I’m here to take full responsibility for the part I played in this. It’s extremely regrettable. I’m very sorry‘ (31 March 2018).

When Darren Lehmann quit as coach of the Australian cricket team, on 29 March 2018 at Johannesburg, a day prior to the start of the fourth and last test against South Africa, he echoed similar repentant sentiments: ‘I hope the team rebuilds from this and the Australian public finds it in their hearts to forgive these young men and get behind the XI who are going to take the field tomorrow’.

6.  What is forgiveness?

It was a coincidence that these announcements came the day before Good Friday which celebrates the greatest act of sacrifice for sins committed – Jesus’ crucifixion – to provide forgiveness for sin.

To forgive, is to surrender my right to get even with or hurt someone who has hurt me. It means to wipe the slate clean after some sin against me. I am pardoned and the debt is cancelled when I am forgiven. We don’t forgive because the other person deserves forgiveness. We do it out of grace love and mercy.

The Christian worldview maintains we forgive others because God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).

The love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:5 confirms that if God’s unconditional love has changed a person, ‘it keeps no record of being wronged’.

Wouldn’t it be a game changer if Australians so understood the need for loving forgiveness towards the three Australian cricketers that they will return to first-class cricket and no record of their wrong-doing will be kept, to be repeated.

The issue is the sin nature running through all of us and the cricket ball-tampering is one public example that has exploded in coverage through the mass and social media.

7.  Hang on! There are serious objections to your indoctrination.

I anticipate some harsh opposition:

  • That’s only your opinion;
  • You’re forcing your religious view on people;
  • It’s propaganda and you are using the Aussie cricket cheating fiasco to promote your religious fairy tale;
  • How dare you push religion like this!

This originally was an On Line Opinion piece. Such writings uphold the writer’s views. I could address these protests, but that is for another time. For objections to the content of my article seee the ‘Comments’ section. Note some of the logical fallacies used by commentors rather than dealing with the issues I raised.

8.  Telling the truth

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(image courtesy YouTube)

One of the New Testament Greek words for truth or truthfulness is aletheia, which sometimes means true to reality as opposed to mere appearance. As this article has attempted to show, not only the ball-tampering scandal, but all of humanity is contaminated by the sinful nature. That’s the truth, the reality.

A secular society needs to face the music of consequences of a non-religious worldview.

The cricket scandal was played out for most of us to see via the media. What about that stolen exercise book from school, slipping a Mars Bar into your pocket as you pass through the check-out, self-service check-out fraud at supermarkets, lies of convenience, and sexual immorality? Turn on the TV or read newspapers to see examples of crime and violence, killing by speedsters on the roads, mass killings of students in schools or on the streets.

These examples are not exceptions. They are the norm and should be expected because all people have problems with deceitful hearts.

9. The solution

There is a permanent fix for the problem but the solution is very Christian. We need to follow the advice of the newly released persecuted prisoners, Paul and Silas, to the Philippian jailer: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus. Then you and everyone living in your house will be saved’.

Some NRL players are unashamed to display and promote the solution through Jesus Christ’s salvation. Kevin Naiqama of NRL team, Wests Tigers, has tattoos of the Last Supper across his lower back and Jesus Christ’s crucifixion on his upper back. The Bible verses John 3:16 and Romans 10:9 are on his chest.

What is his purpose in doing this? His words were, ‘I want them to identify me with my faith and know that I am a follower of Jesus and not ashamed. It’s my identity‘.

There is a permanent solution to the ‘cricket cheating’ disease infecting all of us. It offers a worldview of a difference.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 April 2018.

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