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Posted by Matt Postiff January 11, 2021 under Society  Bible Texts 

I was reading this morning:

2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

In the last few years, it has become a "thing" that people are busybodies (meddlers) through social media. Some—maybe you?—spend tremendous amounts of time browsing and commenting and liking and hash-tagging and sharing and so on. They want to know all the news. Meanwhile, their life work goes undone. The house is unkempt, the outdoor work is undone, the job is not done faithfully, sleep patterns become irregular, church is not attended much less served, and so on. It is very easy to fall into this kind of laziness. Fight against the tendency and pick up your other tasks.

I may be writing with a little bit of hyperbole, but you get the point. Be challenged by this word if you need to be, and get your body busy about what God has called you to do. Spend a whole lot less time on Facebook, Twitter, Nextdoor, and whatever other similar platforms are out there.

Posted by Matt Postiff December 28, 2020 under Bible Texts 

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 2021. This year, the schedules start on 1/3 (or 1/4 for Monday-Friday plans) 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:

Posted by Matt Postiff November 19, 2020 under Theology 

Strange things are going on these days with COVID and the recent election. On a broader scale, the troubles in the world, the evil and lawlessness that abounds, and the like, may get you down. But do not forget, dear friends, God is still working:

  1. To teach us more about Himself, that He is sovereign and administers His Universe as He sees fit, not as we see fit! Just like He taught Job, he instructs us.
  2. To guide us to trust more in God, like He taught Paul. 2 Cor. 1:9.
  3. To equip us to comfort others, as He did for the Corinthians. 2 Cor. 1:3-4.
  4. To help us to strengthen our fellow believers, like Peter. Luke 22:32.
  5. To bring honor to Himself, as He has appointed the wicked for the day of judgment and to rescue the godly from wickedness. Rom 9:21-23. 2 Peter 2:9.
  6. To point us to a heavenly country, that is, a world with a heavenly origin, like Abraham and Sarah and their forefathers. Heb. 11:16.
  7. To prove our faith and love for God is genuine—to us and to others. 1 Peter 1:7. Like Jesus in His temptation (Mat. 4, Luke 4). Or like Abraham in his test with Isaac (Heb. 11:17).
  8. To increase our endurance, patience, perseverance, like the believers from the 12 tribes scattered through the world. James 1:3.
  9. To redirect our hope, as the Romans learned. Romans 5:3-5.
  10. To remind us of the end of things, like Asaph. Psalm 73:17.
  11. To keep us humble, like He did for Paul. 2 Cor. 12:2, 4, 7-10.
  12. To make us more holy, like the Hebrew Christians. Hebrews 12:10-11.
  13. To bring a good outcome for His children. God is working all things together for good. Rom. 8:28.

Posted by Matt Postiff November 16, 2020 under Theology 

A person I do not know asked through this website for help to find a free grace church in the area. This gave me an opportunity to write a little warning that free grace theology undercuts the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For example, free grace theology eliminates the call to repentance over sin. It wrongly teaches that salvation by faith alone means that repentance is not part of the saving response to the gospel. Yet the Scriptures are clear that true saving faith is repentant faith.

  • Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 4:17
  • Repent, and believe in the gospel Mark 1:15
  • Repent therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out Acts 3:19
  • Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life Acts 11:18
  • commands all men everywhere to repent Acts 17:30
  • Paul "declared...that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" Acts 26:20
  • Not knowing the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4
  • n humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance so that they may know the truth. 2 Timothy 2:25
  • The foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God Hebrews 6:1
  • The Lord...not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance 2 Peter 3:9

Free grace downplays the transformation that happens after faith, which always results in some fruit such as sound doctrine and good works. The idea of faith in Free Grace theology emphasizes facts and information (the intellect) and de-emphasizes the decision and trust aspects of faith (assent, will and trust). This can give believers in the free grace churches a false assurance of salvation, which is very dangerous. How does it do this? It comforts people who are living in habitual sin, that if they have made a profession of faith in Christ, "believing" the facts that He died and rose again, they are saved. Yet the evidence in their life points in the direction that they have not truly experienced the saving grace of God. Even the demons believe...(James 2:19).

Finally, free grace theology gives very strained interpretations of some passages of the Bible. I wrote about one such interpretation, in which the author proposes that some Christians will enter the kingdom of heaven but not actually "inherit" the kingdom of heaven. This is wrong. I write about it here.

I hope this is helpful to you. May the Lord richly bless you.

Posted by Matt Postiff November 13, 2020 under Bible Texts 

In Acts 13:20, an interpretive question comes up about the 450 year time span. Does it refer to the period of the time in Egypt, the wandering, and the conquest of the land, as the NASB seems to indicate? Or does the period of time refer to the time of the judges, as the KJV indicates? The problem with the latter is that the period of the judges is only about 327 years, according to John Whitcomb's analysis.

There is a difference in the Greek of Acts 13:20, where the three-word phrase "and after this" is earlier in the Greek majority text (MT) than it is in the Nestle-Aland text (NA28). Perhaps you could say it is "transposed" with the phrase "about 450 years"

NA28 literal rendering = About 450 years. And after this He gave judges until Samuel the prophet.

MT and TR literal rendering = And after this, about 450 years, He gave judges until Samuel the prophet.

Importantly, note that the KJV does not quite follow the literal rendering I give above. It says,

KJV = And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

Notice that KJV moves the "450 years" phrase even later in the verse than the MT word order. It puts it AFTER the word "judges," but in all Greek texts, 450 years occurs BEFORE the word judges.

Perhaps I could resuscitate the NKJV/KJV by translating a bit more in word-for-word order this way:

And after that--about 450 years--he gave them judges...

The KJV has obfuscated things even more than the Greek text transposition necessitates. My "fix" to the KJV is admittedly somewhat strained, as it is basically saying this:

And after that stuff--about 450 years of it--he gave them judges...

My suggestion is that the KJV translation is the problem—not so much the Greek text underlying it. This means that we need not charge that there is a terrible error in the Greek text underlying the KJV. There is a different word order, yes. But an irreconcilable error? Not quite. A different solution to the problem is to recognize the KJV has translated the words in an unhappy order which makes the chronology confused, and then to offer a paraphrase that addresses the chronology problem in a somewhat plausible fashion.

I am not saying this to support a KJVO viewpoint, because I most definitely do not hold that view. In fact, I think the KJV can be charged with an error in its translation here. However, I believe my suggestion is more fair to the Greek text. However you take it, the 450 years must apply to the time in Egypt through the conquest, not the time of the judges. My explanation is also more plausible than this one, which says that the 450 years does cover the period of the judges, and Moses was the first judge!

Posted by Matt Postiff October 28, 2020 under Theology  Church  Eschatology  Kingdom of God  Israel 

I have enjoyed auditing a class on the doctrine of Israel at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary with Dr. Mark Snoeberger and Dr. Sam Dawson. Just now I am reading Forsaking Israel: How it Happened and Why It Matters by Larry Pettegrew and company at Shepherds Seminary.

The thought occurred to me that God has had a people from ancient times in order to glorify His name. Said another way, God must have a people to bring honor to himself. Should the people He chose (Deut. 7:6-8) disappear from the earth, it would appear to the peoples of the world that that people's God was no more significant than all the other deities of extinct people groups. But the Triune God is no temporal phenom. He is eternal and thus must have a people for all eternity to show forth His glory. That people, Israel, will be re-constituted as a glorious nation in order to bring glory to God (Ezekiel 36:22-23). God will be vindicated through the means of the existence of a human people group.

Contained in the paragraph above is an argument as to why Israel cannot disappear or be "replaced." So what is the place then of the church? God's keeping of the people of Israel is, in the words of Isaiah 49:6, too small a thing to proclaim the glories of our God and His Messiah. Therefore, God will choose out from the entire world another people—the church— to further glorify the Messiah. The benefit of this to people will be not only "salvation to the ends of the earth" but also an expanded understanding of the infinite glory of God. The benefit to God will be an expanded base from which His excellencies may be known by the angelic and human realms.

It is not enough that God should have one people. He deserves more glory. He will have two peoples, one from the past age and one from the present. And then, there will be an expansion of both groups in the millennial kingdom, to the praise of the glory of God's grace.

How are these two peoples related to God? The only way possible: through Jesus Christ! Are they forever distinct? YES, in the sense that a Gentile is never a Jew and a Jew is never a Gentile. Physical lineage is what it is. But this distinctness does not undercut the completely harmonious, happy existence of saved Israel and the saved Church throughout the upcoming millennial kingdom. Different, yet united. Distinct, yet without discrimination.

Posted by Matt Postiff October 7, 2020 under Society 

Following are some definitions of terms that I have been hearing a lot lately. I thought I should do some research to learn more about them so as to be able to describe them better in conversation and preaching. These definitions are somewhat objective, but my values do peek through. For that, I am not apologetic!

Anti-racism on the surface seems to be as one definition suggests, "the policy or practice of opposing racism and promoting racial tolerance" [Oxford Languages via Google]. However, policy or belief is not enough. If you are not actively involved in dismantling racist systems, then you are not anti-racist, according to the modern adaptation of the definition. "Anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably." This definition makes a sudden shift from race to power. Notice that they say that systems and policies and attitudes are changed—not to remove racism but with the goal to redistribute power. In this view, racism and power are integrally tied together. Practically, this means reducing the power of the white majority race and increasing the power of minority races.

Cancel culture is defined as "the practice of withdrawing support for (or canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive". It is normally associated with a company or individual being swamped by critical social media posts on Twitter and Facebook. A targeted person of this technique may end up losing their job as a punishment or offering of atonement for whatever objectionable sin was done. It is a technique used to enforce political correctness and to ridicule unpopular opinions.

Communism is a political philosophy which promotes class war as a means to remove private ownership and capitalist economics. In addition, communism is directly opposed to religious freedom, Christianity, and freedom of thought in general. See socialism.

Critical Race Theory According to a paper by Nicholas Hartlep, Critical Race Theory: An Examination of its Past, Present, and Future Implications, "There are five major components or tenets of CRT: (1) the notion that racism is ordinary and not aberrational; (2) the idea of an interest convergence; (3) the social construction of race; (4) the idea of storytelling and counter-storytelling; and (5) the notion that whites have actually been recipients of civil rights legislation." Interest convergence is the idea that where the interests of whites are improved by working on racial progress, they will participate. Beyond that, they will not, since their interests and the interests of the minorities diverge after that point. The above definition misses a key component of CRT, however, because CRT emphasizes the concepts of race, law, and power. Whites, it is supposed, have constructed law in such a way as to maintain their power. Structures of society are responsible for causing race problems (not individuals); therefore structures must be changed.

The Cultural revolution was, historically, the movement under Mao Zedong to expand Communism by removing capitalist and traditional elements from society. In this philosophy, rebellion was justified. Many Chinese people died. There is a modern movement afoot in the west to accomplish a very similar outcome. It advertises as "progressive" and is socialist and communist in ideology.

Identity Politics was the idea that groups that share certain characteristics like race, religion, social class, etc. gather into alliances to protect their interests. However, the phrase is presently used to denote an approach to politics, particularly by the Democratic Party, that emphasizes constituent groups based on certain characteristics, usually race or social status (black, poor, Hispanic, oppressed, LGBTQ, transgender, illegal aliens, etc.). The grievances of each group are the central focus of political activity. This is contrasted to an approach that wishes to see the constituency as one large group (citizens, American, the melting pot idea, etc.)

Intersectionality An explanation of how various social categorizations overlap or combine to create advantage or disadvantage. For example, it is supposed that generally, a white person has privilege over other categories. A white male has an even higher privilege level because of the intersection of the two traits. A black LGBTQ female is very disadvantaged because of the intersection of three social categories that are each disadvantaged. The idea of proponents is to eliminate advantage and elevate the disadvantaged. It seems that no distinction is made between immutable characteristics (white, black, male, female) and mutable characteristics (LGBTQ, illegal alien).

Micro-aggression Something done by one person to another which is alleged to be an indirect, subtle or even unintentional form of discrimination against a minority [Oxford Languages via Google]. The word "aggression" is important to note, as such behavior is seen by proponents as being a form of violence. In the case of an unintentional or even completely innocent statement, there seems to be an oversensitivity and refusal to overlook what would otherwise be a harmless statement.

Neo-marxism An extension of "regular old Marxism" with new philosophies such as critical theory. A philosophy of governance and culture that uses social justice, racism, and other issues defined in this glossary as levers to gain power.

Oppressor vs. oppressed The philosophies described in this glossary are obsessed with the notion that society is made up of oppressors and the oppressed. For justice to prevail, the oppressed must throw off the oppressor (or, the oppressor must voluntarily step down). This is often advocated by any means that are available, including actual physical violence and thievery. This is connected to the cultural revolution as a way to right the oppressed categories, but will inevitably put another group into the oppressed category.

Socialism is a political and economic structure where the means of production and distribution are owned and regulated by the community, not privately. Socialism is typically one step away from full-fledged communism.

Social Justice A type of justice that is concerned not with crime or moral right and wrong, but rather with the distribution of wealth, privilege, opportunities, power, and the like.

SJW = Social Justice Warrior A person who actively promotes social justice (progressive) views.

Woke Adjective describing someone who is alert to injustice in society, especially racism [Oxford Languages via Google]. Someone who is naive to such issues would not be "woke." Someone who knows about such issues but does not actively campaign for the progressive agenda is also considered to be un-woke.

1619 Project "The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative."

One comment: the rapid change of language by addition of new phrases indicates that rapid cultural change is happening. The language is adapting to express new ways of thinking. Media and academic institutions, especial high schools and colleges, are at the forefront of this effort to change the culture.

Update: Answers in Genesis just wrote a helpful article on Critical Race Theory, which also comes some of the other terms defined above.

Posted by Matt Postiff September 4, 2020 under Theology 

Christians believe that we can alleviate but not eliminate poverty. Why? The Bible tells us that there will always be poor people.

For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good. —Jesus in Mark 14:7, also recorded in Matthew 26:11 and John 12:8.
For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.' —Moses in Deut. 15:11.

You might wonder why this is. The pandemic reality of sin, the sin nature in every human, total depravity, and the fallenness of the world make some level of poverty inevitable. Natural disaster can bring poverty. Your own sin can cause you to become poor. Or, the oppressive sins of others can cause you to become or remain poor. These effects can carry on across generations. This is harsh, but it is reality.

To assert that humanity can solve the problem entirely—whether through change in government structure, improvement in government policy, or benevolence—is to set yourself against the words of God.

On the other hand, to make efforts to help the poor in substantial ways, not enabling ways, is pleasing to God.

Posted by Matt Postiff August 26, 2020 under Interpretation  Preaching 

There are probably many definitions of expository preaching out there, but let me give you mine:

Expository preaching is that method of preaching where a portion of the Bible text is explained and applied. Its goal for the audience is understanding and obedience.

To expand just a bit: The pastor carefully studies the text of Scripture in order to clearly explain the text and show how its truths can be applied to the audience. The pastor aims for the audience to actually understand what he has explained, and obey how the text should be applied. Explaining should lead to understanding, and application should lead to obedience.

In normal usage, the phrases "expository preaching" and "expositional preaching" refer to the same thing. Attempts to distinguish these two phrases seem unnecessarily picky.

Posted by Matt Postiff August 21, 2020 under Theology  Bible Texts  Sanctification 

Many have wondered what is the key to Christian sanctification. One answer that is often given is "obedience to the Bible." While alone it is not enough--for obedience must be by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit--it is crucial to the Christian life.

I say that while setting aside the currently popular "anti-legalism" philosophy that decries any call for obedience as a legalistic approach to earn merit with God. Christians understand intuitively that obeying God's word is a good thing, and that you cannot earn merit by doing so: it is the work of Christ that washes our sin away and provides ALL the merit God requires to be saved from eternal punishment.

Supporting the emphasis on obeying God are the following texts that I collected in a recent reading of the New Testament text:

Matthew 7:24-27 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."

Matthew 28:20 "Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

Luke 6:46-49 "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say? 47 Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49 But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great."

Luke 8:21 "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it."

John 13:17 "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."

James 1:22-25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

1 John 3:10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

Revelation 1:3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

Remember, before you can embark on a life of obedience regarding the works God has ordained for you to do, you need to "do" the work of belief:

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

For a very similar topic see this blog post from a few years ago.

Posted by Matt Postiff August 20, 2020 under Theology  Bible Texts 

Just an observation:

Matt. 13:39 "The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.

Matt. 13:40 "Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.

Matt. 13:49 "So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just...

Matt. 24:3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

Matt. 28:20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

The Bible's teaching in these contexts is clear: we are in an age or time period, and the end of that age will bring some significant events--a separation followed by a judgment, and Christ's second coming. The Lord promises to be with His people throughout the age until its end--at which point He will come back. We are not in the kingdom yet, but we do await the beginning of that kingdom, when Christ will consolidate His rule by removing all rebels at the end of the age, and blessing His people with entrance into His glorious society with its perfect government.

Posted by Matt Postiff August 19, 2020 under Theology 
"Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" Job 2:10

Job had received good from God, and now was facing adversity. His point is that if we accept the good, we should also accept the trials, since both are the design and purpose of God for our lives.

But a "reverse thought" came to my attention because of a couple of circumstances that I observe people are facing. This reverse thought is not the normal way to look at the verse in its context. Normally the challenge is to accept adversity because it is hard. Accepting good is usually easy. But that is not always the case.

On occasion, we may hesitate to accept a good thing from God, as if we do not deserve it, or it is too good, or it is better than someone else has, or we have a false humility about ourselves, or whatever. Have you ever had that feeling? "This situation is too good for me; it is too good to be true; I don't deserve it; God is too kind; etc." Certainly we must guard against covetousness and a focus on worldly prosperity and materialism. But at the same time, God delights also to give good gifts to His children. The best of these gifts awaits us in the heavenly dwelling. Meanwhile...God gives some nice things along the way in this life.

Job thankfully accepted the good things from God. "Shall we indeed accept good from God?" YES, we should. Be thankful for whatever good that God designs for your life right now. Remember, "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17). Learn in whatever state -- whether you abound or are in need -- to be gratefully content (Phil. 4:12).

So, application: if God seems to be providing some good thing for you, thank Him, take it, and make the best use of it you can. Use it to serve the Lord and serve your brothers and sisters around you. But at the same time, work on discerning whether the "good" is truly from the hand of God, or from somewhere else, in which case you should not take it!

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