Matt Postiff's Blog

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Posted by Matt Postiff August 1, 2017 under Kingdom of God 

Here is today's question, responding to the belief that the kingdom of God is future to the church age:

How we do explain Colossians 1:13, Romans 14:17, 1 Corinthians 4:20, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, etc?

Colossians 1:13 indicates that our citizenship has been transferred from the domain/kingdom of darkness to the domain/kingdom of Christ. We are therefore citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). So, our citizenship has changed, but our location has not changed. We still live in this earth, and Jesus is absent from this earth. His kingdom will come with Him when he returns. Remember--we are strangers/foreigners/pilgrims in this life.

Romans 14:17 teaches that because our citizenship has changed, our conduct should match the conduct of a good kingdom citizen, even as we live here in this place while we wait for the kingdom. In other words, our future living arrangements and our present change of citizenship must affect our present conduct.

1 Corinthians 4:20. Earlier in the chapter, v. 8, Paul criticized the Corinthians for their attitude. They acted as if they were "kings already." They were not, because they were not in the kingdom. If the Corinthians were in fact reigning in the kingdom at that time, Paul would not be suffering the hunger and persecution that he was suffering! Their boastful attitude consisted of words. But Paul, who was an apostolic representative of the King, had "kingdom power" that was more than mere words.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 has the same idea as Col. 1:13 and Romans 14:17. God calls (present tense) us into His kingdom. Therefore we should walk as good citizens.

A good source to read on this question is Alva McClain, Greatness of the Kingdom, chapter 25, p. 431-441. He points out that many times in the epistles, the kingdom is spoken of as coming in the future. For example, "If we endure, we shall also reign (future) with him" (2 Timothy 2:12).

In summary, the future kingdom has important effects on present church life, but church life is not equal to kingdom life. God is using the church in the present age to call and prepare citizens of His future kingdom.

Posted by Matt Postiff July 24, 2017 under Theology  Bible Texts 

I believe that people are totally depraved, meaning that sin has thoroughly affected every aspect of every person's being--mind, soul, spirit, heart, will, inclinations, etc. This doesn't mean that every person does every bad thing they can--but they could. As a corollary to this, man is unable to save himself. This is why salvation must be of the Lord. In this way, Jonah's helplessness is a perfect picture of our own predicament (Jonah 2:9). Salvation cannot originate in man.

Total depravity implies total inability. Man is helpless and therefore salvation requires God to step in and do some drastic things in order to illuminate, regenerate, forgive, cleanse, justify, and therefore save a person. Note that total depravity is not precisely the same thing as total inability, but they are tightly inter-related.

But why do I--and why should you--believe this? Simply stated, the plain meaning of several Scriptures demand this understanding. Study the following verses:

Ephesians 2:1 says that apart from salvation, every person is dead in sin. The same is taught in Ephesians 2:5. Theologically, spiritual death implies inability to do spiritual good.

Colossians 2:13 teaches that we were dead in our transgressions and the uncircumcision of our flesh. Again, death implies inability to do good spiritual things--like repenting or believing.

Romans 8:7 is clear that the mind controlled by the flesh is at enmity with God and does not submit to God's law.

The same verse goes on to say that the fleshly mind cannot submit--it is unable to submit--to God's law. This is one of the clearest statements of inability.

John 6:44 says that no one is able to come to Jesus unless the Father pulls/drags/draws him.

John 8:47 says that those who are "of God" hear what God says. The reason that someone does not hear is that they do not belong to God (see also John 10:26 and 1 John 4:6).

John 6:65 teaches that no one is able to come to Jesus unless the Father has allowed him to come.

In John 8:43, Jesus rhetorically asks why the unbeliever does not understand what He is saying. He immediately gives the answer: "because you are unable to listen to my word."

1 Corinthians 2:14 is very clear that the natural (unsaved) man does not receive or welcome the things of the Spirit of God because they are foolishness to him. Even worse, he is unable to know them, because those things are discerned by means of the Holy Spirit.

Luke 12:25 says that we cannot add a single hour to our life by worry. If we cannot do a small thing like add to our lifespan, Jesus asks, why should we worry about anything else? By extension, if we are unable to do that small thing, how can we think we are able to save ourselves, or even start the process of salvation, which is far harder than extending the span of our physical lives?

Luke 13:24 says that many will try to enter the narrow gate, but will not be strong enough to do so--they will not be able.

It bears emphasizing that the word unable that is used in several verses above (Luke 12:26, John 6:44, 6:65, 8:43; Romans 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14) refers to the fact that the person does not possess the capability to do something.

So, because the unsaved sinner is unable to save himself, where does the ability to be saved come from? It does not come from man, or nature, or anywhere in creation. It can only come from one source--God. So, if you are unsaved, simply cry out to God to save you. That's all you can do. In fact, without God opening your eyes to your need, you won't even get that far.

Posted by Matt Postiff July 20, 2017 under Theology  Bible Texts 

Should we practice so-called "friendship evangelism"?

As I understand it, the common ways that it is practiced can easily lead to unbiblical practices. I can summarize the problems this way: sometimes there is too much friendship; sometimes there is too little evangelism; and sometimes there is the wrong amount of both!

Sometimes friendship evangelism has too much friendship, and other times it has too little evangelism.

We have to be careful. Friendliness does not a gospel presentation make. It does not convince anyone of the truth about Christ. It does not even communicate the truth about Christ, which can only be done by proclaiming the propositional truth of the gospel from Scripture. And, this approach ignores the many examples in Scripture of what I will call "cold turkey evangelism" where Jesus and/or the apostles happened upon someone and told them of the need and provision of God's salvation before befriending them.

Even worse is that many times, the friendship centers around entertainment or social interests and doesn't get around to talking about the gospel very much. This is the approach of "live well and that's enough" or "live well and they will ask you about your faith." They might ask, or they might not. And living well by itself doesn't cut it.

In addition, friendship with worldly people can lead us into friendship with the world, which is the opposite of what we are called to be (James 4:4).

But I don't think we should throw out the entire idea that the phrase "friendship evangelism" evokes when we hear it. Our gospel witness should be friendly, loving, and winsome. And, after all, Jesus was a "friend" of tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34). I want to be like that every day of the week!

If you have time, here is another helpful article you can read.

Posted by Matt Postiff July 20, 2017 under Society 

On a lighter note...I need some nice soil for my garden, so I did a quick Google search for where I could buy dirt in my neighborhood. Here is what came up:

Google Search results

Meijer is a good possibility for bagged topsoil, but I need a larger quantity. Check out the second and third options. Avon is not dirt, but it's not even close to what I'm looking for. As for the third option, need I say more?

Posted by Matt Postiff July 19, 2017 under Theology  Bible Texts  Eschatology 

For just about a year, our church has had the privilege of getting to know Pastor Malcolm Borden. A 1959 graduate of Dallas Seminary, he has been blessed with many ministry opportunities over the years. Circumstances recently brought him to Ann Arbor where he joined our church for the past year. Now, he has to move to a retirement facility nearer to his family, so he will be leaving Ann Arbor.

This occasion prompted us to republish his master's thesis that was finished in May 1959. Because it was typewritten, it was not accessible to a larger audience. We are hopeful that with this digital edition, more people will be able to access this short book and the key idea it contains: that God's grace will be operative during the future Tribulation period. The Tribulation will not be a period solely consisting of judgment; it will also evidence God's grace toward individual Jews, individual Gentiles, and the nation of Israel corporately.

You can access the thesis in two formats: .docx and .pdf

Grace in the Tribulation, by Malcolm Borden (Master's Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1959, 57 pp.) (docx, pdf)

Thanks Pastor Mal, and we will miss you!

Posted by Matt Postiff July 18, 2017 under Theology  Church 

Should I give a tithe? NO.

The tithe, or 10%, was a law in the Old Testament. Christians are not subject to that law today. This becomes even more clear when you realize that the tithe in the Old Testament era was not a single tithe, but multiple different ones. Further, in the Old Testament there were legally required tithes, and then there were offerings. The New Testament never legislates 10%. It directs a grace-based approach in giving, more like the free-will offerings in the Old Testament and not at all like the legally required tithes.

To make a longer story shorter, your offerings should be offered willingly, sacrificially, generously, proportionally, and joyously (2 Corinthians 8-9). And you might decide that in your budget, 10% works well. But that is a fairly arbitrary number...maybe 9% or 15% or 17% fits and helps you to accomplish the goals for your giving that Paul sets forth in 2 Corinthians.

Should the church give a tithe of its offerings to missions? NO.

Well, it could do so if it determines that works well for it in the particular situation it finds itself. But it does not need to do that to follow any Biblical command.

Should I promise to give before I have the money? NO.

Some have called this "tithing in faith." It is more commonly called "faith-promise" giving. 2 Corinthians 8:12 is explicit here: "it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have." In other words, do not make a promise like this: "I promise to give $X00 dollars every month toward missions." You simply do not know if you will have that money to give. You could be injured or lose your job or an emergency could arise. Instead, when you receive income, take a look at what you have, and give out of that amount. If you receive a regular salary, then it is fully acceptable to plan this giving in advance using a budget, but you should not vow to do so since you do not know the future.

Must the church wait until it has a certain amount before it gives any money to missions? NO.

Since I was just speaking about budgets, a church needs to have a budget. The leadership should know to a certain extent how much they normally take in offerings per month and per year, and then they can make conservative plans based on that. Then, a plan to use that money should be formulated. That plan should focus on the Great Commission responsibility of the church.

Suppose the church would like to take on the responsibility of supporting a missionary at $300 per month. That's a nice goal, but maybe that is a bit aggressive at the present size and financial health of the church's offerings. So maybe back down to $200 per month. Still, the church does NOT need to have $2400 in the bank already to support the missionary. Why? Because: the church, when it takes on a missionary, is not making an irreversible vow to support the missionary forever. It is understood that the money can only be sent as the church is able. It may need to quit due to unforseen circumstances. The church must give proper attention to the grace of giving and careful budgeting, and this will reduce the future possibility of having to drop support to a missionary.

Should the church support a missionary while our pastor is financially struggling? NO.

The pastor is the first "missionary" supported by the church. You might object by saying, "He's a pastor, not a missionary!" That neglects the fact that both missionaries and pastors are agents charged by God with fulfilling the Great Commission. One does so overseas, say, and the other does so locally. There is no appreciable difference because of location.

Of course, the definition of "struggling financially" has to be answered by the church leadership and the church itself. but if the pastor is making significantly below what an average middle-class family is making in your locale, then there is a problem. It is not a virtue to "keep the pastor poor," which is just a way in which the congregation tries to lead, control, and lord it over the pastor.

What about multiple priorities? No problem! Big line items in your church budget may include your building expenses, your pastor, and a missionary. If after a while you find that you have some more income than you budgeted for, then adjust the budget so that you split the extra between your priorities. You might not be able to fully fund the building project or the pastor or the missionary, but make a reasonable attempt to allocate the resources God gives you to accomplish His purposes. The church leadership and the church body are to be good stewards over their collected resources. You cannot just sit on money without a purpose.

Does this type of giving include faith at all? YES.

I get the feeling sometimes that some people believe if you are not "edgy" enough in your budgeting, or if you have a budget, then you are not spiritual and not exercising enough faith. My take on that kind of approach is simply this: faith does not require foolishness. If you have 10 people in your church and you think you can support 10 missionaries and your pastor, you have a serious lack of wisdom—not a superb amount of faith! Similarly, if your budget is $4000 per month and you want to support a missionary for $1000, you very likely need to re-evaluate the wisdom of that idea. Faith does not put God to the test. If God has given you a certain amount of income, be happy and thankful. Work hard to use the finances effectively and see more people saved who can provide further finances.

So what exactly is the difference between giving in faith versus presuming upon God? Faith consists of belief in God and, as a corollary, obedience to His Word. It is not defined by how outlandish your hopes may be for your budget. I believe faith-promise giving is presuming that God will give you a certain amount in the future when you are not promised that He will do that. I believe that a typical middle-class person giving 90% of their salary every payday is presumptuous, because they have responsibilities to feed their family and carry their own load which they will be unable to fulfill with that kind of giving. In other words, faith is always realistic even at the same time that it trusts in God.

An individual designs and executes his giving plan in faith when he trusts that God will provide his every need, and gives in January expecting that God will provide the needs in February even though he doesn't have the money in hand just yet. He may even have—if he can—a three-month emergency savings account in case the Lord has other plans.

Similarly, a church designs and executes its budget in faith when the leadership and the body trusts that God will provide through their own giving enough to meet the needs of the church in upcoming months. They don't have December's money in hand yet, but they plan to keep on going for the Lord, and continue supporting missionaries and their pastor and other needs each month prior to December.

A couple of audio resources. In 2015 I delivered a couple of short Bible studies on tithing. They are available here:

The Tithe, part 1

The Tithe, part 2

Posted by Matt Postiff July 12, 2017 under Interpretation  Theology  Bible Texts 

For some years, but especially since his passing away, we have been working on a project to scan (but not OCR!) the sermon notes of Dr. Raymond H. Saxe, our church's founding pastor. The result is available here. The sermons are indexed by the Bible passage that they cover.

There are almost 1200 sermons, covering much of the Old and New Testaments. We believe there are more "extant manuscripts" but we are working on finding them. This is a difficult task because he ministered in Ann Arbor from 1963 until 2006. If you have any that we do not have, we would welcome you to send us a copy or help us scan it into the computer to add it to this collection.

These notes may be a helpful resource for you for personal study, ideas in your own sermon preparation, or as a basis of research into either the theology of Dallas Theological Seminary graduates, or Chaferian dispensationalism. Dr. Saxe was a student of Lewis Sperry Chafer in the 1940s at Dallas Seminary, and used the KJV Scofield Bible for his entire ministry.

Dr. Saxe had two earned doctorates (Dallas Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), as well as other advanced degrees. His beliefs and ministry could be characterized this way: Biblical, conservative, evangelical, dispensational, moderately Calvinistic, pro-Israel, expositional, with a strong emphasis on Bible teaching, favorable to the majority text and textus receptus, and somewhat baptistic.

Posted by Matt Postiff July 4, 2017 under Family 

Part 3: Raising Children: The Schedule and Church

Both extremes of scheduling (none or rigid) can lead to families not attending to a more important schedule—that of the church. God commands that we faithfully participate in the ministry of our local church. A parent who raises a child without a schedule may find that the child's normal self-set rhythm does not coincide with the church schedule. I may be overly pessimistic, but the spiritual element of a child's sinfulness, laziness, and Satan's use of any distractions that can be used to keep a family from attending church will contribute to this situation. Some Christian parents have found that Sundays are the worst day of the week in terms of what can go wrong to prevent us from getting to church.

Don't allow your child's schedule to override God's schedule.

On the other hand, a rigid schedule that is set without regard for the church meetings can conflict with God's command for church attendance. If the child's bedtime is 7:30pm, and church doesn't get out until then or later on Wednesday night or Sunday night, well then church has to be disposed of. Thus, the child's schedule, which is not found in Scripture, has overridden God's schedule, which is found in Scripture. Bedtime has become more important than church. Obviously the church shouldn't be purposefully difficult by scheduling meetings at the worst possible times, but reasonable waking-hour times for services are in the purview of the church leadership as it works with the assembly, and should be followed as much as possible by the members of the church who have promised to support the ministry with, among other things, their attendance.

So, to schedule or not to schedule? Yes: schedule, because a child needs structure in order to grow into a normal life that meshes well with the culture in which he or she is being raised. And yes, because a child needs time boundaries to develop his or her moral character. But do not set a rigid schedule. Do not be worried that a child will be ruined if she misses a half-hour of sleep or has to sleep in one day. Teach the child in age-appropriate ways that sometimes sacrificing personal comfort is a necessary part of life.

Posted by Matt Postiff June 22, 2017 under Family 

Part 2: Raising Children: A Schedule is Needed

So, to schedule or not to schedule? When it comes to your young child's life, the answer is yes to both questions. But I should give some more explanation, since that answer is ambiguous.

First, some kind of basic schedule is necessary for a child. Some structure in the life of a child is needed. Why? Life in general, and life in our culture in particular, runs according to a schedule. Generally, people sleep at night, so babies need to be taught to sleep then as well. School runs according to a schedule. Church meetings happen at certain times. Doctor visits and formal entertainment, television and radio all run according to a schedule. Life is not "free form," and since childhood is preparing a young person for adult life, parents must begin to train the child to live in an adult world.

The parents are the only ones who can set that structure or "impose" it. A child is unwise (Prov. 22:15) and, on top of that, is sinful (Psalm 51:5). The little one does not know what is truly good for him—whether it comes to diet, how long to watch TV or play video games, when to train on the toilet, when to do homework, etc.

Time boundaries are a form of moral boundary.

Time boundaries are a form of moral boundary. We teach children manners, right from wrong, and good attitudes. We must also teach them boundaries with regard to time. The time boundary relates to the very important issues of the child's self-control, discipline, and control of selfishness. Certain things in life have to be done. They are not always (or even often) the most exciting, fun, or desirable things, but they need to be tended to nonetheless. And sometimes, it has to be at a certain time.

Posted by Matt Postiff June 21, 2017 under Family 

Part 1: Raising Children: Extremes in Scheduling

The Scriptures do not teach what kind of schedule a parent should set for his or her child. But as with any idea, raising children according to a schedule can be taken to extremes that are clearly unbiblical. Let's take a couple examples that happen in real life:

There are two extremes that parents can fall into with respect to using a schedule to raise their children.

Extreme #1: No Schedule. The child is allowed to set his or her own sleep and eating schedule. Naps are not at a set schedule and may go late into the afternoon, causing the child to not want to go to bed at a decent hour in the evening. The child may sleep in late. If the child is cranky during the later part of the day, the parent may fear what happens if the child is awakened early on a particular day, thus prohibiting getting "up and at" the day. Late nights affect the family by reducing the amount of time that the husband and wife can spend together in the evening. The child effectively runs the home, or at least the life of the mom in the home.

Extreme #2: A Rigid Schedule. The child is given a strict schedule and the parents are afraid to allow any variation. Bedtime is at 7:30pm; rising is at a certain time; nap or quiet time has to be at such and such time. There are problems with this approach. Although life has schedule to it, no one could argue that the schedule is fixed. Staying up late on Friday night, sleeping in Saturday and Sunday morning (before church), getting up earlier Monday through Friday, handling special events, doing something special during the week: all these create wrinkles in a "perfectly smooth" schedule.

Posted by Matt Postiff June 18, 2017 under Bible Texts  Translation 

Today's question:

With Prov 12:26 I am surprised how much the translations differ. What do you think would be the best translation and what do you think is the most likely meaning of this verse?

You have entered into a bit of the difficulty of translating concise Hebrew, especially without much context like we have in the Proverbs.

In my judgment, NKJV, NIV, and NET have it right. The HCSB is OK.

ESV and NASB don't seem right. I understand where they get "guide" and the overall idea of their translation, but the the second word is not correctly translated as "to his neighbor." The prefix on that word is more like "from," so it is more like "from his neighbor" or "out of his neighbor." There seems to be a careful "spying out" of who the good friends are, chose from among the whole lot of neighbors you could choose from.

The KJV seems to be the worst of the bunch. "More excellent" leans heavily upon that same prefix on the second word. There is a Hebrew idiom that uses that kind of construction to indicate a comparative idea (better than, more excellent than). But if a man has another righteous neighbor, this comparison would not work.

The verse seems to be saying "The way of the wicked misleads, but the righteous search out their neighbor for the wicked way so that the righteous are not mislead."

This is generally right. The way of the wicked is an errant path, and the righteous person wants to avoid that path, so they remain attentive to their associations.

Posted by Matt Postiff June 9, 2017 under Interpretation  Bible Texts 

I recently was asked a question raised by an article that claimed to be able to figure out the date of 1948 for Israel's restoration using a mathematical prophecy in Ezekiel 4. It uses a multiplier that it calls the prophetic '7X' factor.

I get jumpy when I see stuff like this. (I think I picked up that phrase from Dr. Rolland McCune at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, but I may have a faulty memory on that.) Here are some problems:

1. Hermeneutics. How does the normal reader figure this out from the text of Scripture? It is not at all clear!

2. Mathematics. There is a judgment period of 430 years. The authors multiply 360 of those years by seven, but they do not multiply the rest (70) by seven. Why not?

3. Eschatology. Israel is not entirely gathered into the land today, nor since 1948 has that been true. Even worse, those who are gathered there remain almost entirely in unbelief.

4. Interpretation. The article assumes "awon" = punishment, but it can also signify the acts for which punishment is due, that is, the iniquity that brought about the punishment. In the NKJV, Ezekiel is lying on his side for 390 years, representing the years of Israel's sin (northern kingdom), probably computed backwards in time to the start of their ill behavior in the kingdom. The forty years would be the same kind of thing, but for the southern kingdom of Judah. In this interpretation, the years would not be looking forward to restoration, but looking backward to the reason for their punishment by Babylon.

I believe Israel is in the land again now because they have to be there in order to be scattered again during the Tribulation.

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