Matt Postiff's Blog

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Posted by Matt Postiff May 21, 2018 under Theology  Creation 

The simple, "Sunday school" answer to the question is, "God created all things." But this question is a little more particular than that:

We have heard that all three members of the Trinity were responsible for creating the universe. That seems to be the case in the Genesis account. But based on Colossians 1:16, it seems specifically only the Son of God, Jesus, created the world. So who created the universe?

In Genesis, the text says "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (1:1). The next verse adds, "And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters" (1:2). Verse 26 says, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...'" The plural pronouns do tip our thinking in favor of the Trinity, even though the Son is not mentioned specifically here.

Colossians 1:16 focuses specifically upon the Son when it says, "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth..." Hebrews 1:10 quotes the Father speaking to the Son and saying, "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands." John 1:3 is also speaking of the Word-made-flesh, Jesus, and it says, "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made."

To add even some more complexity to the question, Psalm 104:30 attributes a creative role to the Holy Spirit: "You send forth Your Spirit, they are created..."

So who created? The theological resolution is that in all their activity, the Trinity perfectly and harmoniously accomplishes the work that the Triune God does. They together as One plan, decree, create, guide, and sustain all things.

Now, this does not mean that all three of their fingers pressed the "create button" at the same moment. Each member of the Triune God does a particular part or function of the overall task. The preposition through in John 1:3 helps us understand this. It was through the Lord Jesus Christ that God created all things. Said another way, God (the Father) created all things but did so through the agency of the Son. Similar wording is found in Col. 1:16: by Him all things were created.

So there is no contradiction or confusion here. All the members of the Trinity were involved in the creation of the universe, each in their own role. We could think of it in terms of a delegated role. The President did such-and-such thing in international affairs, but it may have been actually accomplished through one of his ambassadors, rather than an act that he himself did.

This is like how God creates new spiritual life in a person who becomes a believer. The Father draws (John 6:44); the Spirit gives life (John 6:63); the Son also gives life (John 5:21). The Father foreknows and chooses (1 Peter 1:1); the Spirit washes and regenerates (Titus 3:5-6); and the Son bears our sin in His body (1 Peter 2:24).

Posted by Matt Postiff May 7, 2018 under General  Interpretation  Theology 

Today's question:

I have heard that there is a chronological Bible in a number of versions. I know little about it. What do you think about a chronological Bible vs the "regular" one? I am concerned about the change. Should I be?

And my response:

I don't own a chronological Bible, but I don't have a problem with the idea of a chronological Bible.

What is a chronological Bible? It presents the contents of the Bible in the order in which the events occurred. So, after you read a certain portion of Acts 20, then you would read Romans, because that's when Paul wrote Romans. Or, since Isaiah ministered to such and such Israelite kings, you would place his prophecies during the narrative of those kings in Kings and Chronicles.

Such a Bible can be helpful to put together the Bible's history, which is important for us to understand things properly. After all, we believe in a *historical*, grammatical, literal principle of interpretation. So, we need to get the history right.

The order of books in the Bible is not inspired. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible's order of books is different than the English Bible's order. I don't lose any sleep over that issue, but it is interesting to know that fact and why.

I have a slight concern if a particular chronological Bible splits a book in pieces and rearranges those pieces into various locations. The reason for the concern is that the Holy Spirit superintended the authors to write the books in a certain order. Splitting sections may have an important contextual impact on the study of certain sections.

As long as the chronological Bible is a supplemental tool in your "study tool box," we need not worry about the above concern.

You don't need a special chronological Bible. You can find a chronological reading schedule and just read your regular Bible in a different order than you normally do.

Posted by Matt Postiff April 28, 2018 under Theology  Eschatology 

Editor's note: I hesitate to attribute words to God, but I mean for this fictional genre to communicate biblical truth in a dire situation. My hope is that someone who is deceived about their own state of grace may read it and be caught up short, and by this means be able to escape their self-deception.

Imagine you are standing before the Lord just after you have breathed your last on earth. You've left behind your family and friends and are standing alone with the Lord.

"Hello. So...why are you here?", He asks.

"I just died, I guess. I think its time for my judgment. I want to come into heaven. There are people there that I want to see."

The Lord replies, "OK. I've been watching you and pondering your case for a long while."

"You have? I thought..."

"Yes, I know what you have been thinking. About believing in Jesus and all that."

"I do!"

The Lord continued, "Indeed, you did believe in Him, after a fashion. But what bothers me is the fruit of your life. It seems to deny that you really knew Jesus."

Anxiety rising, you ask, "What do you mean, Lord? I did a lot of stuff at church, wrote stuff about you, listened to Christian music a lot, and other things."

"I know that too," God replied in a very kind voice. "But there are other things you aren't mentioning. Let me take one area, as an example. Forgiveness has been a tough thing for you, hasn't it? I watched how you treated your spouse and kids. When you did something wrong, you were grateful for their forgiveness because it meant things could go on normally and without much interruption. But when they did something wrong, you were highly critical of them. Not always to their face, mind you. Sometimes it was just in your heart, or in your journal. And sometimes you were right about how wrong they had been."

"But sometimes," He went on, "when they came to you with an apology, asking forgiveness, you didn't listen. Your spouse might have apologized for days afterward. They did that because they were stricken in conscience that they had done wrong. But it didn't matter to you. You said that they shouldn't have wronged you in the first place. It was too late to apologize. And, you complained that they were picking and choosing what to apologize for. You refused to forgive them."

"I admit that. Because they were inconsistent! Their inconsistency just made me mad! It was like they were using me."

"I understand that completely. I see a lot of inconsistency in your life, and it is not pleasing to me either. I sometimes wonder if people who say they believe in Jesus are just using Me."

"But I did believe in Jesus."

"I know you did, but remember, I said that you believed after a fashion. I meant that you believed in a certain kind of way. You knew the fact of who Jesus is and what He did, but there was a key thing missing."

Your anxiety level spiked. "I do believe, Lord. And I'm sorry for not being forgiving like I should have been."

The Lord spoke very directly, "I know that you are trying now to make this right, but it's too late. The damage has been done. I sense that you are just saying you are sorry, but if you really meant it, you would have been sorry back then for your lack of forgiveness toward your family, and you would have changed your behavior in your life long before now. I can tell you are not truly repentant because of what your sin did to Me; nor are you repentant for what the sin did to them. Since I know your heart, it is evident that you are regretful for what the sin is now doing to you. That's not true repentance, which is part of what real faith in Jesus is all about."

Continuing, He said, "Do you remember the parable of the unforgiving servant? What Jesus was trying to teach you was that if you had truly experienced My vast forgiveness toward you, you would be able to forgive others. The fact that you did not extend forgiveness to your penitent family members shows that you didn't understand the whole concept of forgiveness. Unfortunately, you have been very deceived."

Posted by Matt Postiff April 17, 2018 under Society  Gospel 

I was speaking with an elderly Christian lady on Sunday afternoon. She is more than 90 years old. When we spoke about a certain person's Christian salvation story, she expressed the idea using "coming out" language. This person "really came out for the Lord." This struck me as a bit curious given the baggage of that phrase today, but I said nothing about it to her in our conversation.

Afterward, I pondered some more. Obviously, she comes from a generation where "coming out" had nothing to do with the sexual revolution that is going on in the most recent generation. Today, the phrase "come out" refers to an act or time in a person's life where they express that they do not conform to the "assumed" (hetero-) sexual behavior or (birth) gender.

My elderly friend used "coming out" language to refer to someone turning from sin and living for Christ, with even the implication of "coming out" to the church instead of keeping a distance from the church. The connotation was that someone really took a stand for Christ, and became an outspoken Christian.

The LGBTQ movement has borrowed this terminology to express the conversion or change that they feel as they express their behavior and preferences to the world outside of themselves. It is a religious experience for them.

I wondered further if this has implications for "conversion therapy" that has become a hot-button issue these days. If someone "comes out" gay, then should they not also be able to "come out" from their prior "coming out"? In other words, I would think that they should be able to come out as a Christian, and thus leave behind their conformity to the gay or trans lifestyle. Maybe we should call it "deconversion" therapy.

No doubt, some will argue that "coming out" as gay or transgender is simply making a statement as to what the person always has been, so it is not as much a conversion as it is a realization or open expression. I understand the difference. Christian "coming out" is not "expressing what I always have been," for no one starts out life as a true Christian. Christian conversion is miraculous; it is deeply transformative. It is very different than "coming out" as it is used today.

Posted by Matt Postiff April 17, 2018 under Bible Texts  Family 

I taught on the subject of divorce from Mark 10 and related passages this past weekend. I was struck how some of the strongest encouragement to me after the message came from several individuals in our assembly who have experienced divorce, and some of those have been remarried.

I take a very conservative stance on divorce and remarriage. These people were not in the least put off by my teaching, but were 100% in agreement. (I'm sure there were others who weren't--but I did not hear from them!)

One point I take from this is that you can have people in your church who have experienced the horrors of divorce, but that doesn't mean you have to tiptoe around the subject. You know how it is--when you get to Mark 10 or Matthew 19 or 1 Corinthians 7 in your expositional series, you are tempted to skip those sections, or talk in a very milquetoast way. Look—divorce is wrong. Preach against it.

Posted by Matt Postiff April 9, 2018 under Society  Sanctification 

The Christian teaching of submission is very difficult for most people to swallow—even Christians. This is especially so when it has to do with the relationship of wives to their husbands. I recently thought of a way to explain submission that may help you see if you want to follow the Lord in this matter, or if you are not a believer and want to understand better the idea of Christian submission. It is not the Neanderthal, patriarchal thing that you think it is!

In Scripture, the idea is not that an outside person causes you to submit. Instead, the idea is that you subordinate yourself—and gladly so—in obedience to God’s instruction. Submission to an authority figure is an act of obedience to God, which shows love for God and, in turn, appreciation for the authority figure and his/her office. Insubordination is a sin against God, and shows no appreciation for the authority.

It is this way for citizens and their government, or children and their parents and teachers. Those cases are in a sense “easy” because they have to do with relationships where the power distribution is lopsided. The government can put you in jail, and your parents and teachers are, at least early on, much bigger than you are!

But what about situations where the submitting party and the authority party are, roughly speaking, peers—like two adults in the workplace or in marriage?

Let’s think about the example of a workplace. Let us suppose that a conscientious woman employee has a boss who is a nice man. Notice how her submission operates. He asks her to do X, Y, and Z, and she happily jumps into working on those tasks. She doesn’t complain all day about it. She completes the tasks, and then asks for more!

Now, you may object that she doesn’t have much choice because he holds the power of the paycheck over her head. True…except that she can quit and, in many cases in a good economy, get another job without much trouble. But let’s assume further that she is not working just for the money. She is more principled than that, and her work situation is a happy one.

She cheerfully submits herself to her boss. She wants to be helpful, and indeed likes the feeling of being helpful. It makes her feel useful and fulfilled when she submits to her boss. She does so for the good of the company, so that the company can succeed and grow and be even better than it was before she came. She may work to exhaustion many hours per week to carry out this submission fully.

But let us also assume that this same woman has some marital problems at home, though her husband is generally a nice guy. What’s different at 5pm when she goes home? What happened on the commute home that changed her cheerful and fulfilled-by-submission disposition to one that is hard and implacable? Does her happy submission stop because “it’s just her husband” that is asking her to do X, Y, or Z? Does she happily submit to his requests or directives? If not, what’s the difference between work and home? Why can she submit at work, but cannot seem to bring herself to do so at home?

Why is it that wives don’t want to submit to their husbands, but they will submit to their female or male boss every day of the week? They sometimes even do so when the boss has requests that are unreasonable or a waste of time or doesn’t provide the best tools for the job, or whatever other non-ideal circumstances you can think of (kind of like an imperfect husband would be).

I have a partial answer. The flesh and its allies, the world and Satan, have some clever tricks up their sleeves. They can deceive us into being happily submissive to earn the paycheck at work, in a job that we could quit anytime. But they turn around and try to destroy our marriage by making us insubordinate at home in a relationship that we promised (with “vows”) to uphold with all of our might at the wedding ceremony. The important relationship—marriage—is subject to destruction, and the optional relationship—work—is upheld as sacrosanct.

Dear friends, beware of the rebellious spirit in your heart that causes this strange situation.

Posted by Matt Postiff March 13, 2018 under Dispensationalism  Theology  Bible Texts 

In his book Faith Alone, Arnold Fruchtenbaum is explaining the fifth chapter of Galatians regarding the works of the flesh. He writes:

[Paul] points out that people who practise such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. While these works are common among the unsaved, saved people, of course, can also fall into these sins. While all will enter the Messianic Kingdom not all will inherit the Messianic Kingdom, meaning not all will be rewarded and receive a position of honor and glory in the Kingdom. So how we live now does matter and will matter for a thousand years. These works [of the flesh] in believers do not mean that they will not enter the Kingdom, but it does mean that they are not walking on the basis of the newborn human spirit. (Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Faith Alone: The Condition of Our Salvation, Ariel Ministries, 2014, p. 53.)

The distinction between entering and inheriting the kingdom is unheard of among normative dispensationalists and conservative Christians in general. More than that, it is unbiblical. Paul is calling out people who practice the sins of the flesh. People who are idolaters, sorcerers, heretics, murderers, drunks, and so forth will neither enter nor inherit the kingdom of God. In the same way, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 describes these people. They are unsaved. They will not enjoy the kingdom for 1000 years, nor will they enjoy heaven or anything else after they die.

A believer may fall into temporary sin such as some listed in Paul's sin lists. But that is not the same as those who practice such sins, relish in them, never repent of them, and continue to live in them.

In the bigger picture of theology, we need to beware of the three-tiered system of theology that teaches there are (1) unbelieving fleshly people (who don't enter or inherit the kingdom), (2) believing carnal people (who enter but do not inherit?), and (3) believing spiritual people (who enter and inherit?). We must recognize that unbelieving people are fleshly and that is the same as saying they are carnal. Anyone in the so-called carnal state needs to leave that state, as Paul commands. That state is not acceptable because it is exactly the same as the unbelieving=fleshly state. Granted, one may behave carnally for a temporary period of time, but one who lives carnally all the time, with no repentance, shows absolutely no fruit of salvation, despite any of their verbal protestations to the contrary.

There are TWO kinds of people according to Romans 8:5-9. Only one will inherit/enter the kingdom, and heaven. The other will NOT.

Posted by Matt Postiff March 1, 2018 under General  Greek 

If you have older documents that use the GraecaII non-unicode Greek font, you may be interested in a macro that I wrote. It runs in Word 2010 and newer. It takes all GraecaII characters, including accent marks, and converts them to SBLGreek font. SBLGreek is a free Unicode font. The advantage of this is that the old encoding goes away. Another advantage is that multi-character codes, e.g. letters that have a couple of diacritics on them, are transformed into a single unicode character. This will "future proof" your document so that it will not become unusable in the future due to older fonts becoming unavailable. Any Unicode font with Greek support will be able to show the document properly.

Update 5/10/2018: More labor resulted in a second macro that does the same for the SymbolGreekII ASCII (1-byte) font. It converts to SBLGreek as well. This was tested on the entire book of 1 Timothy and works. There are probably some combinations of letters and accents that don't work, so buyer beware! Let me know if you have any troubles with it and I can give an assist.

The macros are available here: GraecaAndSymbolGreekConversionMacro.txt

Download the macro text file first. You may have to right click the link above and instruct your browser to "Save link as..." Go into your Word document, navigate the menu to Developer | Macros, and create a new macro. You will be in the Visual Basic program at this point. Copy the contents of the macro file in the space where you can type code. Make sure you overwrite any code that is already in place. Save the file. Now you can go back to Developer | Macros, select that macro, and run it. Hopefully it will work. On large documents, it may take a few of minutes.

Before running the macro, be aware of where your cursor is, and what text is selected. If some text is selected, the macro will run only on that text. If the cursor is halfway through the document, it will only convert the text after the cursor. You usually will want to de-select all text, and put the cursor at the beginning (Ctrl-Home).

Posted by Matt Postiff February 16, 2018 under Theology  Bible Texts  Apologetics 

I am just completing an expositional series in 2 Peter in our church, and yesterday I delivered a message at the chapel service of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary from Peter's letter. In preparation for the message, I noted that Peter appeals to two witnesses as the basis of his apologetic, that is, his defense of the gospel.

The first of these witnesses is found in 2 Peter 1:16-18. There, Peter flatly denies the charge that he is propagating a clever myth. Rather, he personally eyewitnessed the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. But far more than a mere "experience," Peter has recorded for us a heavenly revelation with apostolic authority. Jesus, God the Father, James, John, Peter, Moses, and Elijah were present at this unveiling of the regal glory of King Jesus. Peter's letter, and all the NT writings, are classed the same way--as apostolic revelation. So Peter's first witness boils down to this: the New Testament of the Bible.

The second of Peter's witnesses is found in 2 Peter 1:19-21. There he writes of the prophetic word that is altogether reliable. It did not originate in man, but rather with the activity of the Holy Spirit superintending the authors of the Old Testament. And that is why it is entirely trustworthy, because it originates with God.

Peter reiterates these two witnesses once again in 2 Peter 3:2:

That you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior...

We have the Old Testament in the mention of the holy prophets, and the New Testament in the phrase "commandment of...the apostles."

By two or three witnesses, let every word be established (Deut. 19:15, Matt. 18:16, 2 Cor. 13:1). You cannot get more reliable witnesses than the Old and New Testaments. The Christian faith is founded upon solid, historical, revealed truth from heaven. There is no reason to abandon it for the speculations and scoffing of men.

Posted by Matt Postiff February 5, 2018 under Theology  Church 

Today's question from a person in our church:

When a person claims to be a believer in Christ and yet refuses to be baptized, how can we as a body of believers take their faith seriously? I know that baptism in itself does not bring salvation, but the refusal to be baptized seems to promote one's own will and desire over that of our Lord.

I am sympathetic to your understanding that the church cannot take that person's profession of faith seriously. While we want to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who professes faith in Christ, we cannot give Christian recognition to such a person through membership, because they are being disobedient to the very first command that the Lord gives them after they are saved. That is why we don't admit such people to membership.

In our constitution, we specify the requirements of membership as follows: regeneration, baptism by immersion after profession of faith, conduct befitting of a Christian, and agreement with constitution and doctrine of the church.

Someone may object this way: "You cannot refuse church membership to one of God's children." I feel like responding this way: "If you can refuse the Lord's command to be baptized, we can refuse your application for membership!" The reality is that the Lord does authorize the church to put people out of membership through the process called church discipline. Since this is the case, we understand that the church must also be able to refuse to grant membership to those who would need to be immediately disciplined.

Posted by Matt Postiff February 2, 2018 under Interpretation  Theology  Bible Texts 

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary has just released its latest recommended book list. I recommend it!

Posted by Matt Postiff January 17, 2018 under Theology  Bible Texts  Eschatology 

I read Tim Challies' article about why he is not dispensational and was interested to find that his defense of amillennialism was basically that it was the position he was taught from youth, and he had not been convinced otherwise since that time.

I believe pretribulational premillennialism most accurately represents the Biblical teaching on God's plan for the future. This view is sometimes called dispensational premillennialism, to distinguish it from historic premillennialism. I have written on it in prior blog posts (here, here, and here).

This view relies on the principle of literal interpretation, in which words are understood according to the plain meaning. This is not the principle used by amillennialism or postmillennialism. And that is not a straw-man charge: consider this quote referenced by Challies regarding the definition of amillennialism:

Allison: "With respect to eschatology, the position that there is no (a-) millennium, or no future thousand-year period of Christ's reign on earth...Key to this position is its nonliteral interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6: Satan’s binding is God’s current restraint of him, enabling the gospel to advance everywhere. Saints who rule are Christians who have died and are now with Christ in heaven. At the end of this present age, Christ will defeat a loosed Satan, ushering in the last judgment, the resurrection, and the new heaven and earth." (The Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms).

Note well that the nonliteral interpretation of Revelation 20 is key to this view. I could never believe such a notion, and so amillennialism is basically dead on arrival when it comes to my doorstep. I argue opposite, that the literal interpretation is key to understanding this portion, and indeed any portion, of the Bible. And in fact, the literal interpretation is feasible. It presents no impossible difficulties.

A critical review of Allison's definition raises several deficiencies in it. First, Satan is not presently bound in any meaningful sense of the term "bound." 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking people to devour. He freely deceives individuals and nations throughout the world.

Second, the gospel has not advanced everywhere: certainly not in closed countries; and even in open countries it is now on the decline. This agrees with the pessimistic view that the Bible presents about mankind and its sin (2 Timothy 3:1, 13; 4:3).

Third, the ruling saints, if they are ruling from heaven, are not doing a very visible or effective job of their rule. There is no territorial realm which they rule over; there are no people they rule over; and their ruling function does not appear to be exercised here on earth. World conditions hardly indicate the uniformity and righteousness that would be present if in fact glorified saints were in charge of things. Furthermore, there seems to be little or nothing that requires ruling in a perfect heaven.

Fourth, Allison says that the saints who rule with Christ had died and are now ruling in heaven. But the text of Revelation is explicit that they "came to life" (CSB, ESV, NAS, NET, NIV). That is, they were resurrected and then reigned with Christ!

Fifth, the kingdom is always portrayed in the Bible as future and earthly. To redefine the rule as present and heavenly is another example of how a nonliteral interpretation does damage to the plain meaning of Scripture. I am aware that this assertion demands proof. That will have to be taken up another time.

Sixth and finally, at least for this brief critique, it needs to be noted that the Bible is explicit that there are (at least) two resurrections. They are separated by a period of 1000 years. There is not one general resurrection.

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