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Posted by Matt Postiff February 26, 2020 under Theology 

In our series called "Ezekiel for Dummies" we have reached chapter 40. In this chapter, there is a detailed description of a temple structure and function that is not found in the history of Israel up to the present.

The following PDF file has several diagrams of what the temple might look like.


Posted by Matt Postiff February 26, 2020 under Society 

Some Christians have become enamored with the ideas of socialism and even communism. I think this is attributable to four reasons: First, when the terms are left undefined, they seem to describe "kind" and "benevolent" economic systems that will help the poor and raise people out of poverty. They seem equivalent to the good "social programs" in our republic. Second, there is a seeming connection with the early church as described in Acts 2:44-45 which legitimizes these systems in the minds of some Christians. Third, ignorance of the actual, practical results of these economic systems fosters uncritical acceptance. Fourth, these systems are based on a non-Christian view of the nature of humanity which simply will not work in the harsh realities of the real world which is filled with sinners. When these factors are exposed and honestly examined, most true Christians would forcefully reject both economic theories.

Let us begin with some definitions.

socialism, via Merriam-Webster
   1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.
   2 : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property

Going to Google and searching "define socialism" returns this from the "Google" dictionary:

socialism
   a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
   policy or practice based on the political and economic theory of socialism.
   (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of Communism.

Google's definition of communism is as follows:

communism
   a political theory derived from Karl Marx, advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.

In contrast:

capitalism
   an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.

Common ownership is not just theoretical. It is actual. This would look like the government owning and running all utilities like electrical generation, natural gas, etc. It would entail government ownership of all hospitals, schools, factories, etc.

But this is not like what is described in the Bible. Under the theocracy and then monarchy in Israel, for hundreds of years there was private property ownership. This is proven by the fact that there is a command "do not steal." This presupposes private property ownership. The limited taxation through tithing is another proof. There was definitely not common ownership of property or means of production. Even the distribution of land indicates private ownership; the Israelite tribes had perpetual ownership of the sections of land that were their inheritance. Deeds were held; property was bought and sold, etc.

In the New Testament era, the same kind of situation is evident. The apostle Paul tells the Corinthians to give voluntarily to support the poor, and he tells the Roman Christians to pay their taxes. These imply a private property ownership scenario. Support for the poor is praiseworthy because it is optional and carried out by loving Christians. It is not obligatory, for if it were, there would be no reward in it.

Of this fact we can be certain: by the above definitions, socialism and communism are not economic systems that were practiced in the Bible. As for the other three reasons I outlined above, they will have to wait for future articles.


Posted by Matt Postiff February 20, 2020 under Theology 

From time to time the question arises as to whether a believer in the church should support a missionary as an individual, instead of through the church. While I cannot Biblically prohibit the practice of individual supporters, I have encouraged anyone who asks to channel their financial support for missions through the church instead of apart from it. I am aware that many missionaries receive a large percentage of their support from individuals instead of churches, and that some mission agencies direct their missionaries to seek such support. I am not under any delusion that this post will persuade everyone to stop the practice.

Our approach of emphasizing that missionary financial support should come through the local church has several advantages:

  • It allows the entire church the blessing of partnering with and praying for the missionary instead of only a single individual or family partaking of that blessing.
  • It protects the missionary in that when the individual donor is no longer able to give, the church can provide a buffer and continue supporting the missionary. We try to be very conservative with how many missionaries we take on for support so that we do not have to eliminate any from support. You can imagine what happens to a missionary if they get word that such-and-such supporter has died and is no longer sending money monthly. That has a real impact on ministry.
  • It protects the church members when a missionary comes and “tugs at the heart strings” of those who are vulnerable to an emotional type of appeal. More objective factors and a careful evaluation are in order before we support a missionary (see 2 John 8-11).
  • It helps put the emphasis in missions at the local church level, where it should be, instead of at the level of the parachurch group or agency.
  • It protects the donor with the additional “insider knowledge” and expertise of the church’s pastor and deacons to watch over the missionary and his or her sending organization, doctrinal fidelity, philosophy of ministry, and the like.

Posted by Matt Postiff February 8, 2020 under Theology 

I think you would agree that the world is in a bad state. Death, disease, disaster, war, animosity, poverty, and the like ravage our planet with no end in sight. Theft and cheating and greed and the like are ever-present. What is the rescue from such a situation?

With all the world’s wisdom and knowledge, it cannot come up with its own way of salvation. Human wisdom cannot fix man’s sin or provide ultimate rescue from the horrid condition of death and devastation on the face of our planet. Education cannot solve the world’s problems. Money doesn’t fix it. Authoritarianism doesn’t solve it. Reform doesn’t improve it. Psychology cannot repair it. Medicine cannot heal it. Welfare only disguises the problem. All the world’s works-based religions don’t provide victory over rebellion against God. Multiplying legislation provides no hope either, for it only serves to add more sin to the sin we already have.

In fact, not only does the world’s wisdom not fix the human condition, it often makes it worse. Consider the wisdom of the world in its approach to over-population and unwanted people: murdering unborn babies. Billions of them. Or, how about the wisdom of the world in constructing a utopian society: communism. The death toll from that in the last century or so is 100 million. How about the misery under such a governmental system? It takes a resource-rich nation like Venezuela and impoverishes it within a few years. How did fascism work out? This ideology directly led to the deaths of millions in concentration camps and the Second World War. How about secular education? Pushing God out means that worldly educators have to cast about for some fiction to tell their students—like evolution. When you turn away from the true answers and throw God out of the system, all that is left is made up stuff, which is not much different than worshipping a golden calf. It cannot move or speak or do anything.

Where the problem of human wisdom is most acute is in the realm of spiritual/religious matters. The seemingly diverse results of human wisdom have created the world’s hundreds of religious systems. Yet in their supposed diversity, they produce a broadly similar approach to God in which man is sovereign and makes the ultimate decisions about his soul, usually by good works to achieve merit.

Through worldly wisdom, you cannot be saved, you cannot be forgiven, you cannot know God, the world’s problems cannot be fixed—all these are impossible on the strength of human intellect. Human smarts and “righteous” works are but filthy rags before God when it comes to relating to Him. They have their place—but not in boasting. Their proper place is in service to God.

Salvation in all its aspects is available in Christ, despite how the world sees Him and His work. This is to the glory of God in Christ.


Posted by Matt Postiff January 1, 2020 under Theology 

Guest post by Jansen Lorch; adapted from Pastor Van Marsceau (FBCWV)

  1. Approach your sin boldly (Ps. 51:1-13)
  2. Break down relationship barriers – if grudges exist against another person, your spiritual vitality is being sapped (Eph. 4:2)
  3. Check your motives – ministry is not about a name or status, it is not about being noticed, nor just being fed (Eph. 4:16)
  4. Don’t be lazy (Prov. 6:6-11)
  5. Eliminate Unnecessary conflict – don’t let the sun go down on your wrath (Eph. 4:26).
  6. Focus on your attitude – you have influence over the attitude of others, so check your own (Prov. 27:9).
  7. God for gains – invest in the lives of the next generation (2 Tim. 2:1-2)
  8. Have eyes to see and ears to hear – the only way to serve people is to know their needs
  9. Inspect your vessel – clean out the dross (2 Tim. 2:21)
  10. Joyful. Be joyful. Joy is experienced when we rely on the Lord and trust in His Word (Neh. 8:10; Ps. 28:10)
  11. K.I.S.S. – 15 minutes of the Word; 10 minutes in prayer; 5 minutes in silence
  12. Love Unconditionally (Rom. 12:9-10)
  13. Measure twice, cut once – think before you speak and then think again (Prov. 12:18)
  14. Never ask someone to do something that you are not willing to do yourself ( 1 Thess. 1:6)
  15. Organize. – if you don’t write things down you will never remember them.
  16. Pace yourself – don’t measure your abilities and knowledge to others. Just be faithfully obedient in the little things.
  17. Quality time with your significant other or family (1 cor. 13:4-8)
  18. Read a variety of books – Christian disciplines, biblical counseling, theology, etc.
  19. Sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
  20. Teach the truth – don’t back down when attacked (Heb. 10:23
  21. Unplug. – spend a few hours away of social media and praise the Lord for His creation
  22. Visionary – have written goals that you want to make happen this year.
  23. Wise Counsel (Prov. 4:13)
  24. Look Away – (1 Thess. 4:3-7)
  25. Year for intimacy with God (Gal. 2:20)
  26. Zip Code – get to know those around you; the body of Christ

The idea of creating a list from A-Z of leadership qualities for pastoral ministry originated from Pastor Van Marsceau (Fellowship Bible Church,WV), and was given to the students in the Pastoral Ministry class at Appalachian Bible College. This list was recreated by Jansen Lorch, using the original format, to reflect spiritual disciplines and habits that are applicable for all Christians, both for the new year as well as at any point during the year.


Posted by Matt Postiff January 1, 2020 under Theology 

Here is the annual set of Bible reading schedules that you have become accustomed to seeing here. The dates are adjusted on these to match the beginning of the weeks for 2020. This year, the schedules start on 1/5 at the beginning of the first full week of the year. This way, you have a few days to catch up on last year's reading, or get ahead on this year's reading.

Spiritual growth is correlated to Bible input. So, put more Bible into your mind!

Some other reading plans might catch your interest from prior years, easily adaptable to the coming year:

If you would like another schedule that takes you through the entire Bible in the year, and with some chronological ordering in it, check out this schedule from bibleclassmaterial.com. This is from 2017, but it will work for this coming year just about as well.


Posted by Matt Postiff October 21, 2019 under Theology 

Part 1 can be found here.

Romans 10:3-6 For they [Israel] being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man who does those things shall live by them." But the righteousness that is by faith says…

Once again in this text, we see that faith is set over against works as an opposing principle. The law-zealous Jew did not submit to the righteousness of God by belief. Instead, he pursued the righteousness which supposedly is achieved through the works of the law. There is a righteousness that comes from the works of the law, and there is a righteousness that comes by faith. It should be obvious then that works and faith are opposites. Faith is not a work.

What is concerning about the doctrine that "faith is a work" is this: if taken to its logical conclusion in the context of the gospel, the person who believes that doctrine would never be able to say, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." That would be, on their view, the same as saying, "Do this one particular good work [faith], and you will be saved." But that is anathema because no good work done by a sinner is the meritorious cause of salvation. The only work that procures salvation is the one that Jesus Christ did. The faith-is-a-work ‘gospel’ is so careful to avoid works that it removes the only God-ordained condition of salvation, namely, faith.

This form of the gospel is certainly not guilty of addition; but it is guilty of subtraction. In it, faith cannot even be an instrumental cause or channel of salvation, as it is presented so often in Scripture to be. That subtraction changes the gospel from the faith-emphasis given in Scripture: Mark 1:15; John 9:35, 9:38, 11:26, Acts 5:14, 9:42, 11:17, 11:21, 13:12, 13:48, 16:31, 22:19, 26:18; Romans 4:24, 10:9, 10:17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Jude 5 (and many others).

The historical, orthodox understanding of the gospel is that faith is an integral part of the initiation of salvation. However one describes it (logically preceding regeneration, logically following regeneration, or even chronologically following regeneration and inevitable), it is an essential part of the human response to gospel. The Reformation cry of "salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone" is gutted and becomes instead "salvation by grace alone in Christ alone without faith-which-is-a-work." Faith, it seems, may come at some point in the regenerate person’s life, or theoretically it may never be expressed at all. Whatever the case, this is not the gospel of Reformation theology, or covenant theology, or dispensational theology. It is an aberration.


Posted by Matt Postiff October 21, 2019 under Theology  Bible Texts 

Twice recently I have heard about those who teach that faith is a work. One variation is simply that: faith is a work, and so we cannot encourage or exhort people to believe. The second variation is: faith is the first work a person does after regeneration.

But is faith really a work? Most Christians rightly balk at that statement because the Bible clearly contrasts faith with works. Note these Bible passages that demonstrate the contrast: Romans 3:27, 4:5, 9:32; Galatians 2:16, 3:2, 3:5; Hebrews 6:1, 11:33; James 2:14-26.

There are several passages that connect faith with works in the sense that faith produces work. This is how we should understand 1 Thessalonians 1:3 which speaks of the “work of faith.” This phrase does not mean “the work which is faith” as if faith is a genitive of apposition. Rather, it means “the work which is produced by faith,” where the genitive “faith” is a genitive of production or producer. The same is true concerning the “work of faith” in 2 Thess. 1:11.

James 2:14-26 speaks of living faith that produces good works. This shows that faith and works are integrally related to one another. But it is obvious that they are in different categories.

Paul offers an extended passage in his explanation of the gospel in Romans 4:1-6 which teaches very carefully the distinction between faith and works. In it, he argues that Abraham was not justified by works, but that he was justified by faith. Obviously faith and works are of different sorts. Works are associated with debt; faith is associated with grace. Righteousness is accounted to someone apart from works (4:6). Therefore, since righteousness is accounted to those who believe (4:3, 5), belief cannot possibly be a work.

Jesus once responded to the question, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" (John 6:28). It is evident to me that his answer set faith against works when he replied, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:29). You don't work the works of God to be saved—instead, you believe in Christ.

Furthermore, I believe that faith is a gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 can be understood this way. God grants repentance unto life (Acts 11:18), and he also gives His people to believe in Christ (Philippians 1:29). If faith indeed is a gift, it cannot be a work.

Faith is “exercised” by the person who is being saved. There can be no doubt or argument about that. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith in Christ, it is impossible to be saved. We are commanded to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” You might wonder how a dead-in-transgressions sinner can believe. That is a difficult question, mostly resolved by the fact that salvation is a miracle. But what you cannot do is think that the person’s faith is a work that merits God’s grace.

I conclude that whatever faith is and however you might describe it, it is not a work.

References

Article at The Gospel Coalition "Why is Faith Not a Work?"

GotQuestions.org

Part 2 can be found here.


Posted by Matt Postiff October 4, 2019 under FBC 

We learned a couple of days ago that our dear friend Mal Borden went to heaven. He is highly esteemed in our assembly although he only ministered among us for about a year. His obit can be found at Christiansen Funeral Home and some of it is reproduced here:

Rev. Malcolm J. Borden, age 87, of Carson City, passed away Thursday, August 8, 2019 at The Laurels of Carson City. The son of Arthur Clifford & Anna Ruth (Courdre) Borden, he was born on December 24, 1931 in Pemberton, New Jersey.

After briefly serving in the U.S. Army as a Chaplain, he earned his Master's degree in Theology from the Dallas Theological Seminary and was a life long pastor and missionary, retiring from the American Missionary Fellowship. He most recently was a member of the First Baptist Church of St. Johns where he taught Sunday School.

On April 2, 1955, in Valley Stream, New York, he married Beverly Ann Williams and together they raised one son and enjoyed 58 years of marriage until Beverly passed away on September 5, 2013.

A loving husband, father and grandfather, Mal loved his Heavenly Father and enjoyed studying God's Word more than anything. He also enjoyed sharing his knowledge of God's Word through teaching and preaching for over 60 years and taught Sunday School until the age of 87. He shared God's love and God's Word with others right up until the point where he physically could not teach any further.

The family wishes to thank all the friends and relatives that have been a part of Mal's ministry these many years. Through your love and support Pastor Mal was able to have an impact on the lives of so many.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Beverly Borden; his parents; a brother, David; and a sister, Miriam.

Surviving are his son and daughter-in-law, Mark J. & Susan K. Borden of Carson City; two grandsons, Matthew Jay Borden and Timothy James Borden; two brothers, Arthur Borden and Paul Borden; and several nieces and nephews.


Posted by Matt Postiff October 4, 2019 under Theology 

Over and over through recent years I have heard of the Pentecostal doctrine that tongues are a necessary sign of salvation. This is a false teaching and Christians everywhere should repudiate it.

Tongues are definitely not a work that is required to obtain salvation, because no work can ever earn salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Furthermore, the gift of tongues was never the universal sign of salvation even in churches that had the gift available to them (in the first century AD). Therefore tongues cannot be required of all believers today. Follow that logic: if tongues were not required of all believers in the first century, they certainly are not required of all believers today.

How can we know this? From 1 Corinthians 12:30:

Do all have gifts of healings? [Understood "no" answer.] Do all speak with tongues? [Again, understood "no".] Do all interpret? [Once again, "no."]

In each case, the answer to the rhetorical question is clearly "no"; the questions are actually affirmations of truth. What truth? Not everyone was given the gift of healing or tongues or interpretation! Even in the Corinthian church not all people had the gift of tongues. This is because the Spirit sovereignly gives different gifts to each person according to His own will (1 Cor. 2:11) for the profit of the entire body (1 Cor. 12:7). The whole physical body is not an eye! Otherwise there would be no hearing (1 Cor. 12:17). Likewise, the whole church body does not speak in tongues, for if they did, where would the teaching or administration or exhortation be?

The doctrine that "tongues is a necessary evidence of salvation or baptism in the Spirit" is a false doctrine. And it is not a minor error. This is critical to the doctrine of salvation. What more can be required to obtain salvation than the perfect merit of Jesus Christ? And how could we demand an evidence of salvation that not even the apostle Paul demanded of those in a church who i>did have the gift of tongues among them?

Unfortunately, the false teaching surrounding this has confused a lot of people, and redirected their attention from true evidences of salvation, namely sanctification and obedience.


Posted by Matt Postiff October 4, 2019 under Theology  Bible Texts  Evangelism 

Today's question has to do with John 3:5.

Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

The question has to do with how did Nicodemus understood the references to water and the Spirit. Does water have to do with the physical birthing process? Is the water referring to baptism? Is the Spirit referring to tongues? The question arose in discussions with one who holds charismatic doctrine.

If you read the verse, you will see no mention of baptism and tongues. The verse talks about water and Spirit, not baptism and tongues. Yet, I can imagine where the errant ideas come from:

1. water => supposedly equals baptism

2. Spirit => supposedly equals tongues, to some charismatics, a necessary sign of salvation

I can see how water could be equated with baptism, based on the (then) recent history of John the Baptist doing his baptizing ministry. But neither Jesus nor the New Testament suggests that we must be water-baptized in order to be saved. Consider all Old Testament saints, and the "good" thief on the cross next to Jesus. We are water baptized because we are saved, but not the reverse. That is, the statement "we are saved because of water baptism" is false. The Pentecostal believer will make a lengthy case against us from the text in Acts 2:38, but such has been adequately answered in such places as this article by Professor R. Bruce Compton at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.

The second point (Spirit => tongues) is fabricated out of thin air because no place up to this point in Bible history is the Holy Spirit gift of tongues mentioned. The first occurrences is Acts 2, many months after Jesus spoke. There is no way that Nicodemus could have guessed that tongues was the referent of Jesus' words. Tongues were the farthest thing from his mind, and from the mind of our Lord, when He spoke these words.

The truth is that both water and Spirit have Old Testament referents that should have been familiar to Nicodemus. The fact that they were not leads the Lord Jesus to rebuke him for his ignorance (John 3:10). Here it is, with key words bolded:

Ezekiel 36:25-27—"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

Water refers to spiritual cleansing from sin. The water of baptism does not wash away sin in any shape, manner, or form. It is merely a symbol of Spirit baptism and of union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.

The Spirit refers to a ministry that begins at regeneration and continues throughout the life of the believer. The believer's spiritual life is generated and sustained by the Holy Spirit who dwells in him/her.

Jesus is saying "unless one is born of water [=cleansed from sin and thus forgiven] and the Spirit [regeneration, new life and indwelling], he cannot enter the kingdom of God." This is what Christians call the new birth, or "being born again."

Speaking illustratively now, suppose that you come to the door of the kingdom of Christ in the future (Revelation 20). Jesus will not let you inside unless you have been born of water and the Spirit. If you have not been forgiven and regenerated, you will be turned away to an eternity of condemnation in Hell. That is what He is saying to Nicodemus. You must be born again!

John 3:3—Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Posted by Matt Postiff October 2, 2019 under Church 

A pastor friend sent me this some time back in a picture file. I thought I would put it here in text form, hoping it might exhort others as needed.

  1. Don't attend.
  2. If you do attend, arrive late and leave early.
  3. Visit other churches often.
  4. At every church service, ask yourself, "What do I get out of this?"
  5. Never volunteer for anything. Let the pastor do it.
  6. Gossip.
  7. Be critical of the pastor and the musicians.
  8. Don't give, or wait until the end of the tax year to see if you have any extra money.
  9. Don't talk with others or encourage them.
  10. Don't forgive when someone offends you.
  11. Avoid praying for your church.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

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