Matt Postiff's Blog

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Posted by Matt Postiff September 17, 2018 under Theology  Bible Texts 

In certain circles of Christianity, we are often reminded that "there is none good, no not one."

And that is true, by God's perfect standard of Good. But in fact there are people whom God has deemed to call good because His salvation has made them good.

There is Barnabas, who "was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith" (Acts 11:24).

"There was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man" (Lk. 23:50).

There is a class of good men of whom Jesus spoke: "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things" (Matt. 12:35).

This is like the passage that says, "a good man obtains favor from the LORD" (Prov. 12:2) and "a good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children"(Prov. 13:22; see also 14:14).

There is Job, who "was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil." (Job 1:1).

Yet another was Cornelius. Others reported of him that "he is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people" (Acts 10:22).

Another was "Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there" (Acts 22:12).

Abraham was called "God's friend" (James 2:23), and we cannot imagine God having a "friend" who is bad!

David was a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22).

Zacharias and Elizabeth "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1:6).

So, there are no good people in one sense. But there are a few good people in another sense. May God multiply that tribe.

Posted by Matt Postiff September 6, 2018 under Theology  Bible Texts 

The question from a church member today was somewhat involved, but it had to do with the reality of ghosts, whether deceased human spirits can roam outside of their proper abode (Heaven or Hell), and the difference between Hades and Hell.

Here is what I wrote in reply:

1. Sheol is a Hebrew word for "grave." That was seen by the Old Testament believer as the entry-way into the world of the dead. Both believers and unbelievers went to Sheol (Psalm 16:10, Jonah 2:2, Isaiah 14:11).

2. When a believer died in Old Testament times, his body was placed in the grave, and his soul went to Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22). He cannot return to the land of the living, even as a ghost or spirit.

3. When an unbeliever died Old Testament times, his body was placed in the grave, and his soul went to Hades (Luke 16:23). Hades has a climate like Hell. He could not return to the land of the living. Therefore, "ghosts" as they are commonly known do not exist. He cannot cross the great gap between Hades and Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:26).

4. Today, when a believer dies, his body is placed in the grave, and his soul goes immediately up to heaven = paradise, not (in this present age) to Abraham's bosom. They cannot come back to "haunt" the living. They will be resurrected at the rapture or just before the millennial kingdom (1 Thess. 4:13-18, Daniel 12:2-3), and always be with Christ, in the new heaven and new earth.

5. Today, when an unbeliever dies, his body is placed in the grave, and his soul goes immediately to Hades, same as #3 above. He is stuck there until...

6. At the great white throne judgment, his soul and body are rejoined (resurrected) and he is judged (Revelation 20:11-15). Then he is cast into the lake of fire (= Hell) because he did not trust Christ.

7. Notice in Revelation 20:14 that Hades and Hell are two different things (one is thrown into the other!). That is almost always misunderstood by people today. Hades will be emptied out, and Hell will be filled with those people. As mentioned above, the climate of both places is basically the same (hot). It is my understanding that there is technically no one in Hell today. All unbelievers are in Hades. The first residents of Hell will be the beast and false prophet (Revelation 19:20). Not even Satan is in Hell. We know this, because the Bible says that he roams about like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). But he will go there (Revelation 20:10) after the millennial kingdom of Christ. Only then will all unbelievers go there (Revelation 20:15).

8. Are there "spirits" today? Yes. They are not "ghosts" as commonly thought, that is, the spirits of departed people. Rather, there are good angels and bad angels (= demons). And like Satan, the demons do roam about and do stuff in the world, and try to frustrate God's purposes and people. We can't see them; they are very stealthy; we can't even diagnose for sure when someone is afflicted with a demon. But that is OK, because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). We can pray for people who are acting weird and ask God to save them. Typically demonic influence is far worse in cultures given over to paganism, witchcraft, voodoo, and the like. Christian-ized cultures are not as affected. Our culture was more Christian-ized in years past; it is becoming more paganized today. So, we will be seeing an increase in demonic activity.

9. Reiterate: those in Hades cannot come and go from earth. They are confined in punishment. And since no one is in Hell yet, they can't come and go from earth either. Those in heaven don't come and go from earth either. Here's why: What kind of heaven would it be if the people there could come back and see all the sin and evil and disasters that are happening here? It wouldn't be very joyful, would it? To make it even more clear, remember that the Bible says that absent from the body is present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). If you are present with the Lord (in heaven) that means you don't roam around in other places (the earth).

Posted by Matt Postiff August 13, 2018 under Theology 

Another short article that collects a few thoughts. Maybe they will be helpful to you.

1. God knows you.

2. You can know God (and in fact already do).

3. How? Through creation (Romans 1:19-20); through Jesus (John 14:8-9); and through the Bible as a whole.

4. Why is it important to know God? Because God says that we are to be holy as He is holy--so we must have some knowledge of Him. But this is impossible in and of ourselves because of our sin, so we must also know Jesus, who can take away our sin (1 John 3:5).

5. Trust in the name of the Lord, and rely upon God (Isaiah 50:10). Return to the Lord, and He will have mercy (Isaiah 55:7).

Posted by Matt Postiff August 13, 2018 under Church 

Just some random thoughts for you:

What do you value in your church? Do you treasure the people?

Coming to listen to the sermon is NOT membership.

Is your partnership (= membership) in your church a meaningful one?

1 Timothy and Titus, among other NT books, advocate a church ordered in a certain fashion, with pastor(s) and deacons. Is your corporate spiritual life carried out in such a body? (Hint: a parachurch organization such as on campus, or a Bible study fellowship, is not a church.)

Posted by Matt Postiff August 6, 2018 under Theology 

Today's question:

If all Jews will be resurrected and enter the kingdom as Ezekiel 37:1-14 seems to indicate, then why should we evangelize Jews?

Before we dismiss the question on grounds that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born again (which is true), we should pause and read Ezekiel 37:11-12. There, the Lord explains the vision in 37:1-10 about the dry bones. The bones represent the whole house of Israel, which will be resurrected from their graves, and they will be brought into the land of Israel. God will put His Spirit in them, and they will live (verse 14).

Does this mean that every Israelite who has ever lived will be blessed to enter the kingdom of Messiah and share in eternal life? If we couple this with Romans 11:25-27 and Zechariah 12:10-14, we might think we can make a case for the universal salvation of all Jews, regardless of their faith toward Messiah (or God, as they knew Him in the Old Testament). This all then sounds like there may be some kind of dual covenant salvation, with one way of salvation for Gentiles, and a different way for Jews.

Let me be clear that I do NOT believe like that.

I refer you to Ezekiel 20:33-38. When the Bible says that "and so all Israel will be saved," (Romans 11:25-27), the Ezekiel passage cautions us that this is not an "automatic pass" for all Jews. Verse 38 says, "I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD."

We can be certain of this: Paul is not saying that all Jews will be saved because of their Jewishness, regardless of their response to the Messiah. It is true that there will be a mass conversion of living Jews at the time of Christ's return, but evidently there will be some holdouts (rebels), who will be purged out of the nation as judgment for their unfaithfulness to God.

As for those Jewish people who die prior to the second coming, there is no second chance, post-mortem evangel, or "automatic pass" by which they will be resurrected to eternal life even though they rejected Jesus Christ. This is because they are not all Israel who are from Israel (Romans 9:6). That is to say, just because someone descends from Israel doesn't mean that they share the faith of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And since they don't have the faith, they don't share in eternal life. They don't share in real "Israel-ness" as God defines it, that is, as a combination of Jewishness and faithfulness.

So, there remains a great incentive to evangelize Jews, just as we need to evangelize Gentiles. All are under sin; all are guilty before God: both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 3:9).

Posted by Matt Postiff July 5, 2018 under Theology  Bible Texts 

Today's question comes from one of our young people:

Was Paul an apostle, and considered one of the twelve? How could he be if he did not see the Lord like the others?

I tried to keep the answer brief, so I didn't cite all the verses. But here it is: First, there were 12 apostles. But Judas was a bad apple, and wasn't genuine. So, after he betrayed the Lord, there were 11. Then after Jesus ascended to heaven, the 11 picked Matthias to become the new 12th apostle. He had been with them throughout Jesus' ministry and saw all the things they did.

Now, as for Paul, he definitely was an apostle (1 Timothy 2:7). But he is number 13. His selection was different than the others, because he saw the Lord on the road to Damascus after Jesus had already gone back to heaven (Acts 9:3-7, 17). He saw Jesus at other times too (Acts 22:18, probably also 2 Corinthians 12:4). He received the good news directly from the Lord (Galatians 1:12). His ministry was also somewhat unique, for God sent him to the Gentiles to preach Christ (Romans 11:13).

Posted by Matt Postiff June 28, 2018 under Theology  Bible Texts 

Last evening, Pastor John O'Dell taught our church family about the suffering of Christ on the cross from Matthew 27:45-46. The message was not recorded, but we captured the following points from his lesson. Christ's suffering on the cross...

  1. demonstrates the depth of God's love.
  2. demonstrates the vileness of sin.
  3. demonstrates the severity of God's judgment on sin.
  4. demonstrates the deceitfulness of the human heart, with regard to the people who witnessed His torture and suffering, yet were unmoved (Jeremiah 17:9).
  5. shows that believers will not be forsaken, because Jesus was forsaken for them.

Posted by Matt Postiff June 22, 2018 under Interpretation  Theology  Bible Texts 

How shall we interpret James 4:1-10? The entire book of James seems to be directed toward believers, at least generally so. But there is some very strong language in chapter 4 that seems to indicate readers who were heavy into sin, so much so that they might seem like unbelievers:

  • Wars
  • Fights
  • Desire for pleasure
  • Lust
  • Murder
  • Covet
  • Not asking God
  • Asking amiss
  • Spending on personal pleasures
  • Adulterers
  • Friendship with the world
  • Enmity with God
  • Spirit that yearns jealously
  • Proud
  • Sinners
  • Double-minded

This sounds suspiciously like the worldly wisdom mentioned in James 3:14-16. Where does this stuff come from? James identifies the source in verse 1: an internal heart problem where desires for pleasure are in control of the person's behavior.

Whether this is a description of a believer or not, none of this is good or acceptable. If a member of the church behaved consistently like this and without repentance, what would the church do? It would have to conclude that the person is not acting like a believer should act. It should then call the person to repent. The call would look something like this:

  • Submit to God
  • Resist the Devil
  • Draw near to God
  • Cleanse your hands
  • Purify your heart
  • Lament
  • Mourn
  • Weep
  • Turn laughter into mourning
  • Turn joy into gloom
  • Humble yourself before God

If the person responds properly with humble repentance, all will be well. If the person does not, then they are giving off strong evidence that they are not genuine in their profession of faith.

Posted by Matt Postiff June 7, 2018 under Theology 

A quick thought. I was just reading someone who said regarding the structure of the Bible, "There are two testaments; no one questions that."

And I won't question it. But I will ask a related question: When does the New Testament actually begin? The easy answer is "the book of Matthew." But of course, Matthew was written somewhat after the events it records were over. So maybe we should be more precise and say something like "at the incarnation."

But is even that answer correct? I don't think it is so simple. In Matthew 10:5-6, the Lord commissioned the disciples to take the kingdom-at-hand message to the house of Israel. He specifically told them not to go to Gentiles or Samaritans. This certainly doesn't sound New Testament-ish.

Matthew 11:13 says, "all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John [the Baptist]." I take it that Jesus is classifying John as an Old Testament prophet. He is the last of those prophets. He is certainly a transitional figure as he called the nation to be prepared for the coming one. But his close ties to the Old Testament and his prophetic calling for repentance supports the notion that the "New Testament" doesn't really start with the ministry of John.

In Matthew 23:2-3, Jesus said, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do." It is clear that Jesus is telling the people, even at this late date in His ministry, that they are responsible to keep the law of Moses and submit to the authority of even its errant administrators. This is not a New Testament mindset. I can't imagine Paul saying those same words in light of Romans 6 and the New Testament situation in which he existed.

So when did the New Testament begin? We might place it at the great "It is finished" recorded in John 19:30, or at the subsequent resurrection of Christ, or at the giving of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. Or, better yet, how about at Pentecost with the full coming of the Spirit's new ministry after the Lord's assigned "wait in Jerusalem" period was over (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1)? This birth of the church seems to mark the real starting point of the new era. We call that the New Testament era. We will leave for another time a discussion of precisely how the church relates to the New Covenant that gives our New Testament its name.

Posted by Matt Postiff June 4, 2018 under Interpretation  Kingdom of God 

Today's question:

What does it mean in Matthew 11:12 that the kingdom of heaven suffered violence, and the violent take it by force?

Here is the text from three modern English translations:

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matt. 11:12 NKJV)

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. (Matt. 11:12 NIV-2011)

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. (Matt. 11:12 NIV-1984)

Initially, I find it interesting to note that the 2011 NIV changed the 1984 NIV translation, albeit with a footnote mentioning the earlier translation.

A careful study of three key words in the verse seem to me to be determinative that the NKJV and NIV-2011 are in fact correct.

The verb "suffers violence" is a passive verb that seems to follow BDAG's first definition, namely to inflict violence on, dominate; or, in the passive, to be afflicted with violence or to be dominated. The second semantic domain, "to gain an objective by force" seems only to fit in a triumphalist interpretation of the verse and the kingdom of God. The problem with this interpretation is that the kingdom of God is not, at Matthew 11, in triumphant mode. It is being rejected by many in the nation of Israel, and its leaders. By chapter 12, it is clear that the leaders want nothing to do with Jesus and His kingdom announcement; and in chapter 13, the Lord adopts the parable method of teaching in order to conceal truth from the unbelieving in his audiences.

The noun "violent" (really, "violent ones" or "violent men") is a fine translation, and most modern English versions render it this way. Unfortunately, this is a hapax, but given the negative things happening to the kingdom proclamation in Matthew at this point, the connotation is not good. Violent people are doing something bad to the kingdom.

The next verb, "take it" or "have been raiding it" fits this negative connotation. The verb is harpadzo, the same verb used for the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. It means to seize, steal, kidnap, snatch, to (attempt) to take control of something. Of course at the rapture, the snatching up of believers is a good thing. But it doesn't seem so here with the kingdom. The national leaders of Israel have been and will continue to attempt to shut up the kingdom of heaven to potential entrants (Matthew 23:13). They are, by their actions, effectively taking the kingdom away from the generation present during Jesus' public ministry. They would soon kill John the Baptist, and not long after, they would kill Jesus as well. The murder of John the Baptist puts him squarely in the line of prophets in the Old Testament, which often suffered similar fates at the hands of the rebellious houses of Israel and Judah throughout Old Testament history.

In addition to the above, it is important to consider that believers are not well described with words such as "violent" and "seize."

The parallel passage in Luke 16:16 presents somewhat of a difficulty for this view, but perhaps Jesus said something in addition to what Matthew 11:12 records. And I think it could be argued that instead of "everyone is pressing into it," a valid translation would be "everyone is (trying to) dominate it." It it obvious that not everyone is trying to enter the kingdom, for there are a large number of people who are rejecting Jesus' teachings. But neither is everyone trying to destroy the kingdom either. Perhaps pessimistically, I assume that there were more who were against Jesus and His kingdom than for it; in that case, everyone would be a bit of a hyperbole, meaning "basically everyone is against it."

For full disclosure, let us hear the opposing viewpoint from John MacArthur in his study Bible:

But the kingdom can never be subdued or opposed by human violence. Notice that where Matthew says, "the violent take it by force," Luke has "everyone is pressing into it" (Luke 16:16). So the sense of this verse may be rendered this way: "The kingdom presses ahead relentlessly, and only the relentless press their way into it." Thus again Christ is magnifying the difficulty of entering the kingdom..."

In response, I would say that the kingdom was in fact opposed by human violence. Humans killed its first messenger—John the Baptist. They also killed its second messenger—Jesus Christ. They did much the same to the apostles. This happened because God permitted it to be so for His own good purposes, not because it was out of His control. In the end the kingdom cannot be opposed, but along the way, it in fact has been opposed.

In addition, MacArthur lets Luke 16:16 control the interpretation of Matthew 11:12, whereas I advocate for the reverse.

In the big picture there is little difference in our theology of the kingdom, at least in its future manifestation, for I agree that the kingdom will eventually take over the whole earth--not in a postmillennial way, but suddenly when Christ returns. And the way of entry is narrow into this kingdom. We can learn this much from a synthesis of other Bible texts. I'm convinced that we don't learn it from Matthew 11:12.

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.

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