Monday, October 30, 2006

Sand Theology

Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27

24“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26“Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27“The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

This pivotal passage at the end of the sermon on the mount demonstrates how Jesus spoke with authority. Jesus always highly prized his words. Note these passagses:
  • John 8:31 "abide in my words" truly disciples of mine ( love is not the only thing that determines one to be a disciple)
  • John 12:48 "rejects me and receives not my words" has a judge, the word I have spoken
  • Luke 9:26 whoever is "ashamed of Me and of My words," I will be ashamed
  • Matt. 24:35 my "words" will not pass away
  • John 6:63 the "words" I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
  • John 8:47 “He who is of God hears the words of God"
  • John 10:24 “He who does not love Me does not keep My words"
  • John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."

Jesus made a distinction between a wise man who heard his words and acted upon them and the foolish man who heard his words and did not act upon them. I used to think that the difference was between action and inaction, but both the wise and the foolish did something--they both built houses.

If we were to look at those houses, they would appear similar in many respects. Both were likely comfortable. The one on sand wouldn't last, no matter how lovely or comfortable. It may have hand several conveniences, but it did not please God.

People often fool themselves into thinking that what pleases them also pleases God. Unless one builds on rock, however, by listening to and heeding the words of Jesus, one is destined for a "great fall."

When I have taught a person the gospel of Jesus, that one is to believe, repent, confess Christ, and obey the Lord in baptism, I have taught what Jesus taught. Jesus said, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16)

Faith + repentance + confession of Christ + baptism (Immersion in water) --> salvation

Some are taught

repentance + faith alone --> salvation and baptism comes later

Others are taught

sprinkled as infant --> salvation and faith and repentance later

Most of the time people see the difference between the first circumstance and the latter two. They realize that the first is built on rock, and the others are not.

The same might be said for the teaching about music in worship.

I can read in Scripture about the need to sing, about congregations singing from the hearts, giving praise and adoration to God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 13:15).

I cannot read anywhere in the New Testament where churches used instruments of music to praise God.

Now if the infant sprinkling and faith only doctrines are sand because they are not in the words of Jesus, why isn't adding the instrument also not sand?



Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hypothetical Theology

The Lord speaks with clarity in his commandments and instructions. Paul said that he wrote in such a way that when the Ephesians read, they could understand his insight (Eph. 3:4).

But men have the tendency to ask questions where there is no knowledge. “Did Adam have a belly button?” “How many rooms were on the ark?” “What does ‘baptism for the dead’ mean?” Questions are good when they lead us to grow and to test ourselves.

There are, however, questions some use to press the issue of “situational truth.” Situational truth is somewhat like situational ethics. It is truth tied to a situation. While situationists freely admit that the general truth is settled, they use the “situational” question in order to find a theological loophole. In a religiously pluralistic society, situational questions open the door to approve contradictory and unauthorized beliefs and practices.

One asks, “If a tree falls on a man who is on his way to the baptistery, will he still be saved?”

Asking such a hypothetical, situational question is usually designed to take away the force of such passages as Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; and Acts 22:16. The question is inherently divisive, for the question divides men in heart. Some, speaking from the heart, will say the man is saved. Others will recall the words of Jesus in John 3:5 that require baptism for entrance into the kingdom. The love of God is pitted against his righteousness. The heart often creates its own myopia.

The more serious problem arises when people take their preferred answer a step further. Their myopia turns into general truth that conflicts with the clear teaching of Scripture. They reason that if the man upon whom the tree falls is saved, then anyone can be saved apart from baptism. Now it is no longer "situational." The situational, hypothetical, answer becomes the new rule for all.

I am reminded of the conversation Jesus had with Peter on the shores of Galilee after his resurrection. He predicted Peter’s death. In John 21:21-22 So Peter seeing him (the apostle John) said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

Sometimes questions about others get in the way of our own obedience. The question for each of us is not so much what Jesus will do with others but whether we ourselves have become obedient to God’s will. Whether a person upon whom a tree falls is saved or lost will not make a difference in whether or not God requires baptism of me. I must answer the requirement for myself.

Now if I put off my own obedience to the gospel, appealing to a “tree falling” situation will hardly excuse me on the last day. If I teach that one is saved at the point of faith prior to baptism, appealing to the “tree falling” situation will not excuse the error of my false teaching. Why? Because rather than listening to what God has instructed, I am appealing to an assumed answer to a “situational” question to justify my behavior. Such a theological approach is suspect. It is sand theology, based on emotional judgments rather than the clear teaching of God. Testing of God’s grace is risky, far removed from “making our calling and election sure.”

The devil knew how to make a situation work for him. He used situational thinking to tempt Jesus.

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matt. 4:5-7)

If you can compose the situation, you can often manipulate the outcome you desire rather than accept the one God desires. You may think God (and others) don't notice, but this is mistaken. Jesus saw through the strategy of the devil, and so can we.

"Do you really think a godly person will be lost if he uses the instrument?"

David meant well when he sent the ox-cart for the ark of the covenant, but meaning well doesn't change error into obedience.
Nadab and Abihu meant well when they sought to offer incense, but meaning well doesn't change strange fire into authorized fire.
The Pharisees meant well when they scrupulously washed their hands according to the ritual, but meaning well doesn't turn a human tradition into a godly instruction.

Jesus did not argue against his Father with situational truth; nor did the Holy Spirit; and neither should we.

Hypothetical Theology is loophole religion, sand theology, designed to excuse rebellion and human religion.

Let's stay away from it.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Nadab and Abihu

Before you read any further, I would like to suggest that you stop now, friend, and read Leviticus chapters 8 and 9--yes both chapters.

Okay, now that you have read these chapters. I want you to key in on the phrase:
"just as the LORD had commanded Moses." In various forms, you'll find the phrase found ten times in the two chapters, wherein God was dedicating the tabernacle.

Doing things right mattered. After offering sacrifices and preparing the tabernacle, Lev. 9:23-24 says:

Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

This is the setting for Nadab and Abihu, who had worn the linen and offered the sacrifices "just as the Lord had commanded" for several days.

Their offering of "strange" fire (unauthorized fire in ESV and NIV), was something the Lord had not commanded. They thought that one up on their own and acted on their own initiative.

God's response was to consume them with fire--fire that came from the presence of the Lord.

The Lord said through Moses, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified (treated as holy, NASB), and before all the people I will be glorified.’

God took personal offense at the unauthorized offering. Offering something strange was treating Him as common, not holy. Their acting on of their own initative did not glorify God. They may have had good intentions; but God was not glorified by their doing their own thing.

Some folks who think telling this story amounts to legalism and who have made grace appear to allow presumption (which David calls great transgression in Psalm 19) point to Eleazar and Ithamar, who had lost their brothers.

In their grief, they did not eat the sin offering that day. Should they have? Yes. Did they? No, it burned uneaten. The blood was not brought into the holy place.

When Aaron explained, "When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the LORD?” Aaron realized that his heavy heart would not allow him to eat this offering with a proper heart. He felt it better not to eat than to render to God an inappropriate heart in his eating. This explanation seemed good in Moses' sight. No more was said about it.

God is certainly a God of compassion, mercy and grace; Moses aceepted the explanation. To find God's understanding in a time of great loss is understandable. To knowingly, willfully act without authority is quite another.

Does one example of grace open the door for presumption and disregard? Some make the mistake here of thinking that it is easier to get forgiveness than it is to obey; but such a view may be presumptuous. It is one thing to explain under some extreme circumstances why one cannot fulfill his duty; it is another to presume upon the grace of God.

Nadab and Abihu, Uzzah, Saul, Ahaz, and Uzziah all learned that one has no right to act without authorization.

Jeremiah spoke of some prophets who in their hearts were sure they were speaking for the Lord. "Thus saith the Lord..." was part of their prophecies. The only problem is that the Lord did not say those things. It never entered into God's mind to say those things. They dreamed them up--spoke from their own imagination. "They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD." “I did not send these prophets, But they ran. I did not speak to them, But they prophesied." “Then as for the prophet or the priest or the people who say, ‘The oracle of the LORD,’ I will bring punishment upon that man and his household." (see Jer. 23:16-40) Acting without authority is dishonoring to God and exceedingly sinful.

Paul noted how some ate the Lord Supper unworthily (1 Cor. 11:23-32), not discerning the Lord's body and thus incurring judgment. Their hearts and minds did not focus on the Lord but on the fusses brewing over the behavior of their brothers. Some were weak and sick, many were spiritually asleep. God wanted right hearts with right action. I would think that it would be better not to partake at all than to partake unworthily--not honoring God and treating Christ as holy. This is more parallel to Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar than Nadab and Abihu. While Moses accepted Aaron's explanation, neither Moses nor Aaron expected this to be the case the next time they had a sin offering to sacrifice. It is one thing to forgive a diversion over extreme circumstances; it is another to act like God didn't care whether he was obeyed or not. The counsel of presuming on the grace of God couldn't be more destestable.

This is a different thing than presumptuously acting on one's own initiative. The difference is that in Nadab and Abihu's case, they acted without authority and innovated their own offering. They acted without a command at all. In the second situation, the brothers acted out of soorow, respecting the commandment so much that they would not eat with an improper heart.

Loophole religion, presuming we can continue to act where we have no authority, is sand theology. Those who counsel sand theology will see their house stand for a time; but the wind will blow and the rain will come. Their counsel will be so regretted. Sand theology is thinking I can do whatever I please and face no consequences. Sad, sad.

Grace ought to lead us to listen and build on a rock, to love enough to heed. Grace builds faith and careful desire to please--not presumptuous innovation. We must not presume upon grace and try the Lord.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Jesus and the Father

In discussing Jesus and the silence of the Scriptures, one must have not only an understanding of what the Law itself asks of those who are under the Law, but also how Jesus has treated that Law.

The Scriptures assert without exception the sinlessness of Jesus (Heb. 4:14-16; 1 Peter 2:21-24). Had Jesus sinned, He could not have been the perfect Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

As one studies through the Law of Moses, especially as Moses reviews in the book of Deuteronomy, one is easily and often struck with the conscientiousness demanded of those who are in the covenant God made at Sinai. Jesus was a Jew and lived his entire earthly life under that covenant. The concept of keeping the law carefully is found some 27 times (NASB; 31 times in the NIV) in the book of Deuteronomy alone. That concept can also be seen in Joshua and frequently in the assessment of the Jewish kings in Kings and Chronicles. Careful obedience to the Law was extremely important. If your God told you something that many times, you would conclude that He meant it.

The object of the stipulations in the covenant was the maintenance of a true and living relationship with the Lord of the covenant. “To break the commandments was to disrupt the relationship of love; when there was no love there could be no covenant.”[i] One kept the commandments carefully as a means of showing loving commitment and pure devotion to Yahweh. Walter C. Kaiser noted that the “ancient mind fastened on the outward acts revealing the inward state, while the modern mind goes directly to the internal condition.”[ii] Modern man tends to focus on merely the feelings of devotion and ignore the form; yet the Scriptures do not adopt such a position. Whether one follows the form reveals whether one has the appropriate internal condition.
[i]Craigie, pp. 42,43.

[ii]Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Academie Books, 1978), p. 112, quoting G. A. Cooke, "The Book of Ezekiel," in International Critical
Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1967), p. 199.

In Deuteronomy, careful obedience and loving obedience are closely linked with fearing God, a major theme. Carefulness showed love and reverence. There was none of this notion that reverent obedience was loveless or that loving obedience could be careless or presumptuous. These concepts are often blended in the same commandments and exhortations.

Gunther Warnke further describes the use of the term yare’ in Deuteronomy in his study of phobeo in the LXX:[1]
In Deuteronomic and Deuteronomic lit., esp. Dt. itself, “to fear God” occurs in a series of formulae which demand piety orientated to the Deuteronomic Law. Fearing God can be a result of hearing and learning God’s Word, Dt. 4:10, or keeping the commandments of Yahweh, 8:6, but it can also be equated with the demand to hear Yahweh’s voice, 13:5, or to serve Yahweh, 6:13; 10:12,20; 13:5; or to tread His way, 8:6, etc., so that this fear is not just demanded but can also be learned as a statute or commandment, Dt. 14:22f.; 17:19. The combining of two other words with “fear,” namely “to love” and “to cling to,” Dt. 10:12,20; 13:5, makes possible a broader understanding of the content of fearing God, esp. since what is said about yare’ applies to “loving” and “clinging,” and the terms are more or less interchangeable. Since, however, the norms of the conduct to God and man described by these words can be expressed in the Law, fearing God along with loving God is not just a basic attitude but amounts to the observance of moral and cultic demands.
[1]Gunther Warnke, "phobeo," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Friedrich, trans. Geoffry Bromiley, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1974), IX:201.

The concept of carefulness is derived from the Hebrew verb, shamar, which is found 44 times in Deuteronomy. John E. Hartley in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament describes the term:
The basic idea of the root is “to exercise great care over.” This meaning can be seen to underlie the various semantic modifications seen in the verb: In combination with other verbs the meaning is “do carefully or diligently.” Deut. 11:32, “Be careful (i.e., perform carefully) all the statutes and ordinances,” and in Num. 23:12, “speak carefully and faithfully.”
Secondly it expresses the careful attention to be paid to the obligations of a covenant, to laws, statutes, etc.[i]
[i]John E. Hartley, "shamar," TWOT II:939.

The careful, conscientious, observance of the laws was an attitude Israel was to manifest in the actual doing of the commandments, statutes and ordinances. It was not considered legalism but loving to be zealous in keeping the laws. The words of the law were to be pressed upon their hearts.[i] Careful obedience in the context of loving God is emphasized in 6:3-5; 11:22; 30:15,16. One should be careful not to confuse the conscientious observance of the Law with the over-scrupulous abuses of the hypocrites of the New Testament.[ii] “Carefulness” is not a license for self-made religion or innovative legislation. Carefulness does all that an ordinance requires and does not assume that it can add new requirements.
[i]Taking the commandments to "heart" is commanded four times in Deuteronomy: 4:39,40; 6:5-9; 11:18; 32:46. The word "heart" is found 46 times in Deuteronomy. The phrase "with all your heart" occurs nine times: 4:29; 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 26:16; 30:2,6,10.

[ii]Notice Jesus’ opposition to the hypocrisy of the Jews, who manipulated Scripture and whose hearts were far from God (Matt. 15:1-14).

Two other concepts come out of Deuteronomy: first, there is a need to keep all the commandments (32 times emphasized in the book).

Second, there is the concept Moses emphasizes remarkably well--the need for accuracy in one's obedience to God. The vocabulary of Deuteronomy also shows that God expected His people to act just “as the Lord commanded.” The Pentateuch uses the phrase 69 times, 12 of which are in commandments. The remaining 57 uses are confirmations that the people of God did as they were instructed.[1] Moses instructs the people seven times in Deuteronomy to do “just as the Lord commanded.”[2] This persistent emphasis on precision can be seen in Deut. 24:8:
In cases of a skin affection be most careful to do exactly as the levitical priests instruct you. Take care to do as I have commanded them.
The English Standard Version here says, “As I commanded them, so you shall be careful to do.” The emphasis on keeping the specific details carefully and exactly must not be overlooked when one considers the kind of response God desires from His people. Moses had already instructed the priests how to respond to leprosy in Leviticus 13-14. His later instruction in Deuteronomy was to exhort the people to “diligently observe” the legislation already in existence.[3] Once given, the consistent teaching of Scripture is to fulfill faithfully and accurately what has already been taught. It is significant that Jesus in cleansing the leper counseled them to show themselves to the priest and to make an offering as a testimony to them, “just as Moses commanded.”[4]
Another significant phrase arises in acting “according to” the instruction, commandment, ordinance, statute or word of the Lord. This phrase is found 43 times in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.[5] Deut. 17:9-11 demonstrates the covenantal precision God desires from Israel:
When they have announced to you the verdict in the case, you shall carry out the verdict that is announced to you from that place that the Lord chose, observing scrupulously all their instructions to you. You shall act in accordance with the instructions given you and the ruling handed down to you; you must not deviate from the verdict that they announce to you either to the right or to the left.
Carefulness and accuracy in keeping the verdict of the priests was crucially important. Disregarding that instruction demonstrated a presumption that carried the death penalty (17:12,13). If the presumptuous disregard for human verdicts carried a death penalty, how much greater offense in God’s eyes was the presumptuous disregard for His own statutes and laws.
The phrase describing going “to the right or to the left” is found five times in Deuteronomy and is built upon the example of Israel’s promise to King Sihon of Heshbon to “keep strictly to the highway, turning off neither to the right or to the left.”[6] Four times Moses exhorts the people to stay within the revealed commandment in order to avoid entanglement with idolatry.[7] The people could not survive on the land should they forsake God by deviation:
Be careful, then, to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. Do not turn aside to the right or to the left: follow only the path that the Lord your God has enjoined upon you, so that you may thrive and that it may go well with you, and that you may long endure in the land you are to possess. (5:29,30 JPS or Tanakh)
God has never permitted deviation from His revealed will.[viii] He expects those who follow Him to conscientiously follow the strait and narrow way (Matt. 7:13-14). Other phrases that attest this same concept include “walk in His ways,”[ix] “turn from the way,”[x] and “turn aside from the commandment.”[xi]
[1]Ex. 7:6,10,20; 12:28,50; 16:34; 34:4; 39:1,5,7,21,26,29,31,43; 40:19,21,23,25,27,29,32; Lev. 8:4,5,9,13,17,21,29,31; 9:7,10,21; 16:34; 24:23; Num. 1:19; 2:33; 3:16,42,51; 36:10; Deut. 1:19; 6:25; 10:5; 34:9. In addition to the phrase "just as the Lord commanded," are the confirming statements "so they did": Ex 7:10; 12:28; 16:34; 39:43; Lev. 16:34; Num. 1:19; 8:20,22; 9:5; 17:11; 20:9; and "thus they did": Ex. 7:6; 29:35; Lev. 8:36; 24:23; Num. 1:54; 2:34; 17:11. See also Lev. 8:36; 9:16; 10:7.

[2]Deut. 4:5; 5:12,16,32; 12:21; 20:17; 24:8. Other Penteteuchal passages include Ex. 29:35; 34:18; Lev. 10:15,18; Num. 26:4.

[3]Craigie, Deuteronomy, p. 308.

[4]Luke 5:14. Cf. Matt. 8:14; Mark 1:44.

[5]Ex. 17:1; 29:35; 31:11; 36:1; 38:21; 39:32,42; 40:16; Lev. 5:10; 9:16; 10:7; Num. 1:54; 2:34; 3:16; 4:37,41,45,49; 8:20; 9:3,5,12,14,20,23; 10:13; 15:24; 29:18,21,24,27,30,33,37,40; 36:5; Deut. 1:3; 17:11; 24:8; 26:13,14; 30:2; 31:5. See also Josh. 1:7,8.

[6]Deut. 2:27; 5:32; 17:11,20; 28:14. See also Josh. 1:7; 23:6,7; 2 Sam. 14:19; 2 Kings 22:2; Prov. 4:26,27; Isa. 30:18-22; 2 Pet. 2:15; Matt. 7:13,14; Luke 13:23,24. Cf. Wilhelm Michaelis, "hodos," TDNT V:42-114, esp. 51,52.

[7]Craigie, p. 338.

[viii]Some think they have found an exception to this principle in Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Chron. 30:18-19, "May the good Lord pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary (NASB)." While the Lord heard Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people, one should not presume that the people of Israel could continue with their disobedience. Because Hezekiah prayed, God pardoned. “Pardon” implies the presence of sin. Continued presuming upon the grace of God to cover acting outside the rules leads to the loss of any blessing. “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26-27 NASB).

[ix]Deut. 5:33 (NIV); 8:6; 10:12; 11:22; 13:5; 19:9; 26:17; 28:9; 30:16.

[x]Deut. 9:12,16; 11:28; 31:29 (in association with idolatry).

[xi]Deut. 17:20

To suggest that Jesus lived under the covenant in any other way than lovingly, reverently, carefully, completely, and accurately is to accuse Him of sin. I dare not.

Where does Jesus fit in all this:

Jesus said something that was very important on the night of the Passover. Hear thes words from John 14:31: "but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here." (NASB, cf. ESV, GWT and NIV) A closer examination of these words in Greek, show their close ties to Deuteronomic phrases found in the LXX: "just as the Father commands, even so I do."

Jesus showed this same scrupulousness in John 12:48-50, and I am thankful that he did. Had Jesus not carefully, accurately, lovingly, and completely revealed the truth of God's will and teaching for our lives, we might well live in confusion.

Jesus never acted outside the will of His Father. Jesus never acted on his own authority or initiative. Jesus always did that which was pleasing to the Father (John 8:28-29).

To suggest then, that Jesus set aside all of this and followed Rabbinic traditions that nullified the word of God is to assume, no to presume, too much.

The weakness of the wine argument is that one must take extra-Biblical understandings from suspect Rabbinic writings (even Edersheim admits that it is difficult to know how much of the tradition was practiced in the days of Jesus). This understanding also assumes that all the "people of the land" worshiped like the most scrupulous Pharisees. It further ignores the strong stance the Lord himself took against humanly-devised traditions (the traidition of the elders in Matthew 15:1-14).

One can be very logical if one is able to set the terms leading to the conclusion. The problem is that one must read the Rabbinic writings into the premises to come out with the conclusion that Jesus drank four cups of wine. Such eisegesis, reading into the text what is not there, will always lead to whatever the author wants to be the conclusion. The problem, however, is that the conclusion may not be true, because the premises are not true. The premises are altered with assumptions. If the premises are not true, the conclusion will be false and the argument invalid. Such is the case here.

If anyone would like a copy of my paper "Reponse Hermeneutics," dealing with obedience in Deuteronomy, please send me an email:

I will also send this to so that it can be posted.

I hope this little study is helpful to you.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Postmodern Mindset

When the postmodernist, who is so involved with openness and new mindsets, is called into question, he often responds with condemnation. He can be angrey and cruel. He believes that anyone who calls his unwillingness to judge into question has himself broken the great taboo of our time: judgmentalism. It is interesting that the postmodernist feels quite self-assured that his condemnation of those who speak out against sin is fully justified. It never occurs to the postmodernist that he assumes the right to do the very thing he is so against.

Nor does the postmodernist realize that by dismissing firm convictions, he is himself severing the body. It is truth in the gospel that holds us together. When that truth is treated as if it were optional and an accommodation to the times rushes in with disrespect to God's holy instructions, then he has created the wedge that splits the log. Faithful Christians who love God and his word grieve at the humanly devised forms of worship now seemingly thrust upon us. We are told tht we shall lose out, that we cannot grow if indeed we do not rid ourselves of CENI. We are told that if we object to the progressives, we are crude and dull-witted. We should not call people back to restore New Testament Christianity, we ought to open up to all the new forms of Christianity without question.

For our part, we shall remain with the teaching of Jesus, which also identifies us as disciples and gives us true freedom (John 8:31-32).

Jesus was killed for speaking out against the abuses of the priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees.

A close study of the epistles Paul wrote to the Romans, the Galatians, and the Corinthians shows his heartache at the false apostles and the Judaizers who perverted the gospel of Christ in order to bind their human traditions on the Gentile Christians. They said all kinds of unkind things in opposition to Paul.

If we alienate for speaking the truth, then we are not alone (John 6:60-66; Gal. 4:16).

for the cause of truth and righteousness,

Spineless Urijah

Ahaz was a wicked king of Judah. He offered his son in the fire. "And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree" (2 Kings 16:1-4). Rezin and Pekah challenged him in war, besieging Jerusalem. Rather than call on God, as Isaiah encouraged him, he summoned help from to Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria. Ahaz gave temple treasures to Tiglath and promised servitude. Tiglath came to the rescue, and God was forgotten.

Ahaz went up to Damascus to see Tiglath. While he was there Ahaz saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it and burned his burnt offering and his grain offering and poured his drink offering and threw the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. And the bronze altar that was before the Lord he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the Lord, and put it on the north side of his altar. And King Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, “On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. And throw on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice, but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.” Uriah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded. (2 Kings 16:10-16 ESV. Note that the NASB uses Urijah, while ESV uses Uriah.) Here is an addition, plain and simple, unauthorized, presumptuous, and exceedingly sinful.

Ahaz was wicked; Urijah knew his wickedness. When the king ordered a new altar and set aside God's bronze altar, spineless priest Urijah went right along with him. The king was wicked, but the priest should have known better and should have maintained the integrity of the temple. He could have said no the Ahaz; he never even lifted his voice in protest to the shameless altar of Ahaz.

There is another priest, whom we can respect and should imitate his faith.

When Uzziah became strong and his heart proud, he acted corruptly and was unfaithful to the Lord his God, " for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the LORD, valiant men. They opposed Uzziah the king and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the LORD God.” But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense. Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the LORD had smitten him. King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the LORD" (2 Chron. 26:16-21).

Azariah was God's man and a faithful priest; Urijah the priest cowardly gave in Ahaz's self-made religion. He was perhaps more unfaithful to God than Ahaz, because he never lifted his voice against the sin. Whether you sacrifice on your own initiative or you add your own altar or add an instrument, you become unfaithful. When you are unwilling to speak against sin and presumption, you become just as guilty. Are you an Azariah or a Urijah?

Oh, by the way, Hezekiah cleansed the temple of Ahaz's unclean things (2 Chron. 29:5-13) and restored the utensils that Ahaz threw out. I wonder if indeed there are some things today that ought to be thrown out of God's holy place. Hezekiah and Azariah showed faithfulness by saying no to self-made religion.

for more see:



Friday, October 13, 2006

More on Roast Lamb

Wolves work in packs. Since my response to my critic, he has sent all kinds of people out of the woodwork to trouble me. First, he called me a legalist. (is that an ad hominem argument?) When I responded that he wanted to introduce the instrument, he explained, "Indeed, my own personal preference, and I have asserted this repeatedly over the years, is for a cappella expressions of praise and devotion. I have no desire whatsoever to introduce instrumental accompaniment into the church; nor do I have any desire whatsoever to condemn those who choose to use it."

Here is an example of postmodern thinking: "I prefer my way but won't condemn those who prefer otherwise." Ted Kennedy says he opposes abortion but won't condemn a woman who chooses to abort. Hmmm?

Myself, I don't think the subject is up for preferences. Jesus is King and Lord; only He has the right to "prefer." The church is not a democracy. You and I don't have a vote. The unanimous evidence of Jesus, the church, and the Scriptures supports only a cappella singing. There is no evidence for instruments of music in our worship of God.

There is as much Scriptural support for instrumental music in worship as there is using roast lamb in the Lord's Supper. One might argue like some, "Now roast lamb was present when the LS was instituted. Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29). Wouldn't eating roast lamb touch our hearts and remind us of what Jesus did for us? I like roast lamb. I could draw closer to God eating roast lamb in addition to the bread and cup."

All the above arguments don't matter. Jesus did not command us to eat roast lamb in the Lord's Supper, and we have no example of the church using lamb in the Supper. Further, there is no implication in Scripture that they used lamb to remember the body and blood of the Lord.

If we granted the four cups of wine argument, we could also allow in roast lamb. We could allow in purgatory, polygamy, gambling, a clerical priesthood, a pope, and many other things on the same grounds. We could open the door to self-made religion completely, because silence doesn't prohibit anything--according to some.

Saul felt free to offer a sacrifice at Gilgal. He also felt free to offer up sacrifices instead of utterly destroying the Amalakites animals. Self-made religion.

Ahaz felt free to build an altar and move God's altar to the side. Urijah the priest apparently didn't condemn it, because he built it for Ahaz. Hezekiah tore it down and removed all the unclean things Ahaz brought into the temple.

Jesus opposed self-made religion and the traditions of men. He knew that humanly-devised worship practices would be uprooted (Matt. 15:1-14). As far as his own life, Jesus never acted on his own authority but always did the will of the Father (John 5:17, 30; 8:28-32; 12:48-50; 14:31). To suggest that Jesus used wine to fulfill the instructions of the Passover is to deny what Jesus said he would not do.

Quoting Rabbinc literature is not helpful here, since Jesus did not live his life according to Rabbinic teaching. He taught that obeying the teachings of men rendered worship vain.

Jesus used the fruit of the vine in his instituting the Lord's Supper. That is why it was there! That is where the fruit of the vine takes on religious significance. It reminds us of his blood shed for our sins. Jesus used this cup in fulfillment of His Father's instructions for the new covenant and the new kingdom, not as a means of fulfilling the Passover.

The presence of the wine is incidental, since Jews had wine at their formal meals. They also had plates and bowls, tables and cushions. None of this has anything to do with Exodus 12; it has everything to do with eating a meal.

Now, where is the specific evidence that Jesus himself states he is using the cup to observe the Passover? Don't quote Rabbinic tradition. Jesus didn't live by that.

Having wine at the feast is no different than my having a glass of water at the pulpit. Now who would suggest that the glass of water is a means to worship God? No one. What is the water for? To keep my throat from drying out. Just because they had fruit of the wine present doesn't mean they considered it as a means of fulfilling the passover meal. Most people can see the difference between an incidental and an addition. Apparently, others don't or won't.

Using instruments of music in the worship of the church is an unwarranted, unauthorized, humanly devised act. It is presumptuous and goes beyond the teaching of Scripture. To suggest that Jesus practiced anything humanly-devised, when the Scriptures condemn such presumption is to suggest that Jesus did not obey the Father's will. I would hate to be guilty of saying such a thing about my Lord.

The hermeneutic of staying with the word and not going beyond is clear in Scripture. Jesus practiced this hermeneutic. So should we.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Roast Lamb and Four Cups of Wine

Apparently my article in the October 2006 issue of the Spiritual Sword struck a nerve with some who are sold on getting the instrument into the church and who oppose the idea of prohibitive silence. One brother has challenged me personally to answer his hobby argument.

For some time he has talked loud and long about the four cups of wine that were compulsory for Jews to drink at the Passover feast. That Jesus drank fruit of the vine at the Feast is undeniable (Matt. 26:28-29). Jesus used this cup to commemorate his blood, which was shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Whether it was COMPULSORY for Jesus to drink FOUR cups of wine at the Passover feast is, however, an assumption. Hastings Dictionary, Edershem and ISBE can tell you what they discovered in the Rabbinic tradition. They can tell you how the Jews in Jesus day observed the Passover, but Jesus was not a Pharisee. We have no reason to believe that Jesus bound himself in the traditions of the Rabbis.

Matthew 15:1-14 makes it very clear that Jesus did not bind himself with the self-made religion of the Pharisees in the hand-washing ritual. Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath did not give in to their human, legalistic laws related the Sabbath. Jesus was hated by the Pharisees because he refused to play their legalistic games. Interestingly, our critic in order to promote his views of silence makes Jesus subject to their legalism. There is no evidence that Jesus lived by the oral torah or Jewish Rabbinic tradition. All evidence points to his opposition to their presumptuous practices. He condemned their kind of judging.

The critic of the recent Spiritual Sword issue has called its authors "legalistic patternists." While I readily agree that the Lord has given us patterns for the church in our worship, I do not regard listening to and obeying the Lord (without adding to or taking away from his instructions) as legalism. Obedience is not legalism; legalism is making one's own laws and binding them on others as the Pharissees did.

The Pharisees were involved in going beyond the instructions to make their own laws and rituals. Like the critic of the Spiritual Sword issue, they felt free to press everyone into their own mold of self-made religion and attack others who do not agree with them.

Why was wine present at the Passover? Was it to fulfill the traditions? Was it compulsory for Jesus to drink Four Cups of Wine? Perhaps it is helpful to see a completely different side of things that is far more realistic.

The Jews who made drinking wine compulsory to observe the Passover were wrong to do so. They were binding their practices. Jesus knew what the command of Exodus 12 was.

But having a beverage to drink at a formal meal, a beverage that did not have a religious significance is no different than having lights or having cushions. Jews had wine at every formal meal, just like they had plates and bowls.

As far as the situation with Jesus and the disciples observing this Passover, Jesus is the one who gives religious significance to the wine. There is no evidence that he is drinking it in order to fulfill Rabbinic tradition. There is no evidence that Jesus gave any religious significance to the Passover wine. What he spoke about was related to his death--not the Passover.

By the way, Jews normally reclined at every formal meal. They ate in haste in Exodus with the idea of leaving the next morning. The disciples at the Passover weren't leaving on a journey.

When this critic can show that Jesus was caught up in Rabbinic tradition, he may have something to say. As it is, all he can do is talk about the way Jews engaged in man-made traditions. Jesus in Matthew 15 and Mark 7 understood Isaiah:

And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7“You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”

Jesus separated traditions of men from the word of God. He did not confuse them.

for the truth,


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

God's Answers to Life's Questions

"God's Answers" is the television program offered by Concord Rd. and airing in the Nashville, Tennessee market. The program has a potential audience of 2.5 million and shows throughout middle-Tennessee on cable television. It also shows to many of my friends in south-central Kentucky.

Can you help? We have an opportunity to enlarge our broadcast to the Knoxville market. It will cost us about $12,000 to do so. We need to raise the funds in order to do this. Concord Rd. is paying for the production costs and airing in Nashville by itself. We need your help to expand. If we raise an additional $12,000 we can expand also into the Louisville, KY, market. We need your help to get the gospel out. This money will allow us to air the program weekly for a year!

Will you help us sow the seed of the Kingdom?

If you have seen the program and would like to view it, you can see it or download transcripts at this web address:

As you think of budgets and gifts and opportunities, don't overlook this marvelous opportunity to get the gospel out to millions.

If you would like more information about this, please email me at

Thanks and God bless,

The Book Seeking True Unity is Ready!

If you would like to have a copy of this book, you can order one at:

You might also see some of my articles there. I hope you will order the book and read it thoroughly. It has five lessons and is designed for use in a class.

I am so honored to be linked with my brethren on this project:

Dale Jenkins, Jeff A. Jenkins, Steve Higginbotham, Mike Green and Mike Baker

I also thank the elders of the Horse Cave Church of Christ in Horse Cave, KY, for their generous support of this project!

May God bless these brothers who love the truth and love the Lord Jesus Christ and the real unity for which He prayed.