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Posted by Matt Postiff August 8, 2019 under Theology  Bible Texts 

Today's question:

David was a man after God's own heart, right? So can I sin—even in ways like David—and count on God's forgiveness? Aren't I forgiven all my sins: past, present, and future?

This question has recurred over the years of my pastoral ministry. Let me address it in this forum, with the hope that it will be a help to someone out there with this misguided thinking.

First of all, the kind of thinking expressed by the question is not the kind of thinking that a true believer expresses. The true believer understands his sinfulness and hates sin. He wants to depart from evil and do good. He wants to please the Lord. He doesn't want to "count on" the forgiveness of God as a cover for the flesh. He wants to make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts. If he does fall into sin, he repents and feels terrible about it. Whether the person who asked the question truly thought that as a "way of life" kind of thinking, I do not know. But I do know that it is an unbelieving pattern of thinking and indicates a big problem.

Second, the person asking the question doesn't understand that God judged David severely for his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. Consider how God evaluated and how God judged David:

2 Samuel 11:27: "But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD."

2 Samuel 12:14: "By this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme."

2 Samuel 12:14: "The child also who is born to you shall surely die." That in fact occurred and is recorded in 2 Samuel 12:19.

2 Samuel 12:10: "The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me."

2 Samuel 12:11: "I will raise up adversity against you from your own house."

And now, observe what history records:

2 Samuel 13: Amnon raped Tamar. Both are children of David. Subsequently, Absalom, another son, murders Amnon.

2 Samuel 15: Absalom rebels against his father and stages a coup. David has to leave Jerusalem and live in the wilderness. As David left the city, Shimei cursed him (16:5-14).

2 Samuel 16:22: "So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel."

2 Samuel 18: Absalom is killed. David's grief now extends to three of his children who have been either killed or raped.

2 Samuel 20: Sheba rebels against David's kingdom.

2 Samuel 24: David fell into pride and took a census of the nation of Israel. God punished him and thousands of his people died. He had that on his conscience all his days.

2 Kings 1: Adonijah presumed to take the kingdom from David and David's appointed successor, Solomon. The priest Abiathar joined him in the rebellion. In chapter 3, Joab was executed and Abiathar exiled.

Hopefully it is obvious that David's sin had far-reaching consequences. If that is the kind of thing you want to go through, be my guest. I trust you will choose the wise route and desire to live righteously before God.


Posted by Matt Postiff July 16, 2019 under Theology  Bible Texts  Apologetics  Gospel 

During an examination of Acts 17:2-3, I thought to connect it back to Isaiah 53 (a significant section of "the scriptures"). Paul was using the Scriptures to demonstrate that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again. Then he connected those prophecies to the actual historical happenings in the life of Jesus of Nazareth to show his audience the need to believe in Christ.

When I took a look at Isaiah, here is what I found (verses quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted):

Isaiah 52:14 As many were astonished at you; His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more htan the sons of men. Mark 15:19 Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him...Matthew 27:26 and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.
Isaiah 52:15 So shall He sprinkle many nations 1 Peter 1:1-2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. (See also Hebrews 10:22.)
Isaiah 52:15 For that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. Romans 15:20-21 And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man's foundation, but as it is written: "To whom He was not announced, they shall see; and those who have not heard shall understand." (Rom. 15:21 NKJ)
Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed our report? Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?"
Isaiah 53:1 And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? John 12:37-38 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?"
Isaiah 53:4 Surely He has born our griefs, and carried our sorrows. Matthew 8:16-17 When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: "He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses."
Isaiah 53:5 He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. 1 Peter 2:24 Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.
Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. 1 Peter 2:25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth Matthew 26:62-63 And the high priest arose and said to Him, "Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?" But Jesus kept silent.
Isaiah 53:9 And He made his grave...with the rich in His death. Matthew 27:57, 60 Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph...and laid [the body of Jesus] in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb...
Isaiah 53:9 because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. 1 Peter 2:22 Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.
Isaiah 53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him. Genesis 3:15 He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.
Isaiah 53:11 By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Acts 13:38-39 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 "and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Isaiah 53:12 ...and He was numbered with the transgressors... Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' For what is written about me has its fulfillment." (ESV)

The apostle was showing that Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead. Isaiah 53 does this. It focuses on the suffering. But it also teaches the resurrection because it says that God will prolong the days of His servant (Isaiah 53:10), and He will give Him a portion with the great and spoil with the strong (Isaiah 53:12). These things clearly imply that He must come to life again in order to receive these blessings.


Posted by Matt Postiff May 30, 2019 under Theology  Death  Eschatology 

Today's question is an interesting one:

I have a question about names written in the Lamb's Book of Life. It was my understanding that our names are added to the Book of Life when we accept Jesus' atonement for our sin natures (i.e., saved by grace through faith). But some verses seem to indicate that all people are in the Book of Life until they reject that God-designed provision. These texts include Exodus 32:33, Deuteronomy 29:20, Psalm 69:28, Isaiah 48:19, and Revelation 3:5.

The first book is the "book of the living" which is mentioned in Psalm 69:28. It is poetic way of referring to the census or list of all people who are alive at a given time. So, to wipe someone out of that book is a very poetic or euphemistic way of saying that the person would be killed. In other words, they would be "cut off out of the land of the living." Other phrases express the same thing. For example, Deut. 29:20 says that someone will be blotted out from under heaven. This means that they will be killed. Isaiah 48:19 is a bit different because it is used in a corporate way to refer to the offspring of Israel (48:1, 12). The "cutting off" is the same as above, that is, ceasing to exist on the earth. With this background, we can better understand Exodus 32:32-33 in which Moses wishes to die physically. If the Lord will not forgive Israel, Moses prefers death to life. This idea is found mostly in the Old Testament.

The alert reader may remember a similar case in Romans 9:2-3. There, Paul says that he wishes he could be accursed from Christ for his Israelite brothers, that they might come to faith in Messiah. This does not necessarily include the idea of physical death (at least, immediately). The real focus is on spiritual separation from Christ. That is, if it were possible, Paul would trade his salvation for theirs. Paul would have his name erased from the book of the saved so they could get theirs put into that book. And that is the second book, to which we now turn.

The second book is the Lamb's book of life. This is revealed mainly in the New Testament (but see Daniel 12:1) and is not the same as the first book. The book of life is the registry of all the redeemed of all ages, whether in the church age, Tribulation, Kingdom, or Old Testament period.

I'm not big on emphasizing that there is an actual codex/book in heaven, made with paper and cardboard and glued at the spine, that has a huge list of names in it. But in effect we can think of it that way. God knows that list of names intuitively and instantaneously, and the reason for that is that He has graciously chosen to bestow eternal life on each person listed in the book. Passages that refer to this book are Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 20:15, 21:27, and 22:19.

Of these, several passages offer difficulties to the Bible reader. Revelation 3:5 says, "I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life." I take this not to say that names will be or can be erased, but that they will NOT be erased! Most people read this and believe that there is a possibility of erasure, particularly if you fail to "overcome." I don't read it that way, and I believe that it is an Arminian tendency to emphasize the erasure view. Overcomers (by faith, 1 John 5:4) will never lose their salvation. They will never be erased from the book.

Revelation 13:8 attaches the phrase "from the foundation of the world" to "the lamb that was slain." This is a good interpretation based on the word order, but it can be understood to refer to the names of the people not in the book of life. Revelation 17:8 makes it clear that "from the foundation of the world" is associated with the names not written in the book of life. The point is this: there are names that are NEVER written in the Lamb's book of life. In other words, there are people whose names have never appeared in there. By implication, (1) those names cannot be erased, since they have never been present; and (2) there must be names in the book which have been present since the foundation of the world.

Revelation 22:19 is another passage that indicates the possibility of a name being taken away from the book of life. But there are major textual transmission problems at this point in the Textus Receptus (and thus the English KJV and NKJV translations). The correct text is not "book of life" but "tree of life." (Why? The critical text AND the vast majority of Greek manuscripts say "tree of life.") Reading it as "tree of life" eliminates the only other verse in the Bible that could suggest a person's name can be removed from the book of life. The "removal" is simply a statement of judgment—if you mess with God's book, God will see to it that you have no share in the tree of life = basically heaven.

To summarize: the "erasure" view is that the names of all humans who ever exist are written in the book of life from the start, and names are erased as people die without exercising faith in Christ. One problem with this view is that there is no text that clearly says names WILL be erased. Furthermore, Revelation 17:8 tells us plainly that there are some names which are not written in the book ever. Therefore, we could also call this the "start full" view, but it fails at Revelation 17:8.

Then there is the "start empty" view. It would seem to make more sense to have zero names in the Lamb's book of life at the beginning—because we are all sinners deserving of eternal punishment from birth, our names don't deserve to be there. One's name could be added when one comes to faith in Christ. I think that is a very common understanding. But even that doesn't work, because it seems there are some names that are present in the book from the foundation of the world, and some that are not (see above explanation).

Neither the "start empty" nor the "start full" views of the book of life work.

Think about this very important related issue. Who has the power to put a name in or out of the book of life? If your answer is "people" then you will likely have a start-full or start-empty view. You are reflecting the idea that salvation not only involves a person's participation, but it is ultimately based on that person's choice. If your answer is "God," then you have an entirely different perspective. Then you are saying that salvation is ultimately based on God's choice. The latter better fits the Biblical revelation--God is the author of the book of life.

But since God knows everything and in fact has decreed everything to come to pass as it does, He never has to make edits to His book. Consequently, I understand that names are not ever added or subtracted from the book of life. The names were set down there from before the foundation of the world and that list is fixed and inviolable for all eternity. It is the list of those known as the elect. Some of them have already come to faith, and some shall come in the future, but all will eventually come to faith while they are alive. (I believe that even infants who die in infancy are listed in this book, and God graciously regenerates them so they can partake in the eternal kingdom. But I digress into an area of some debate among theologians.) The impossibility of erasure reflects the doctrine of eternal security. The impossibility of addition means that people who are not elect won't be saved. This may sound harsh, but follow the next paragraphs.

Now, who are the elect? I don't know, and no one but God knows. Well, we can know if someone comes to genuine faith, and we can know about ourselves if we are believers. We do know there those whom God has graciously chosen to bless with salvation because of certain clear texts of the Bible (2 Thess. 2:13, 1 Thess. 1:4, 2 Timothy 2:10, Titus 1:1, and others). But as for the billions of people on the planet, we cannot know who the elect ones are in advance. Consequently, we preach the gospel widely, praying to reach people who will respond. Ultimately we won't know who is elect until after the fact. God knows the elect before the fact.

If there is someone who genuinely wants to get saved, and is afraid they are not elect, I would quickly disabuse them of that thinking by telling them that God commands us to repent and believe the gospel. If you do that, you are saved, and thus prove that you were listed in the book. From the human perspective, since we don't and can't know who is "in" and who is "out," we should not worry about who is in the book, and instead focus on obeying God, and everything will be fine. This goes for evangelism too. Our job is not to figure out if someone is elect. Our job is to proclaim the gospel.


Posted by Matt Postiff May 23, 2019 under Theology  Sanctification 

For those of us familiar with kitchen equipment, think of a kitchen strainer or colander. Picture pouring some boiled vegetables or noodles in it. What you don't want is filtered out, and what you want to keep stays in the strainer.

For those of us who are mechanically inclined, think of an oil filter in an internal combustion engine. Picture it as the engine is operating, with the oil pump pushing oil into the filter through the center hole, through the filter media, and out. What is left in the filter is the larger dirt particles. What flows out is cleaner engine oil, so that it can more effectively protect the rest of the engine against wear and damage.

In both cases, the filter removes what is unwanted (water, dirt) and keeps what is wanted, "purifying" the filtered substance from whatever is undesirable.

The Bible uses a similar word-picture, but instead of filter it is a bridle. "If anyone among you thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue...this one's religion is useless." (James 1:26)

The bridle serves a similar purpose as the filter. It constrains what is unwanted from coming out of the mouth, and allows to come out of the mouth that which is desirable. The desirable qualities are love, kindness, encouragement, truthfulness, admonishment, graciousness, edification, warning, and teaching. What is removed is useless, mean, destructive, deceitful, coarse, profane, discouraging, untruthful, etc.

The bridle is a figure of speech that refers to control. It is especially appropriate because in a horse, the bridle is put in the mouth to control the horse's movements. In our case, the bridle represents that the mind is to control the speech so that what comes out is filtered. The bad is removed and what remains is the good.

So how is your bridle...er, filter...working these days? Does it need to be changed so that what comes out of your mouth in every conversation is pure and honorable in the sight of God?


Posted by Matt Postiff April 30, 2019 under Theology  Death 

In my seminar on death and dying, section 8 is about cremation. Because the question about cremation comes up frequently, I reproduce the section below.

Introduction: He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab.

Deut. 34:6 records the burial of Moses. It tells us that Moses was buried by God in the valley in the land of Moab. His grave was concealed so that no one knew where it was. We can speculate this was done purposely to avoid future generations turning Moses’ grave into an idolatrous stumbling block. But for this lesson, the point is that God buried Moses. So is burial the biblical way to dispose of a dead body, or are there other ways, particularly cremation?

This lesson will argue in favor of burial as the best way to dispose of a corpse. I will not say that cremation is an outright sin, for there are a few instances in the Bible where it is used, but it should not be the general practice. Furthermore, you may have had a relative cremated while not understanding all the principles that may be raised in this lesson. Do not think you are being condemned in these notes for doing that.

In preparation for this lesson, I found very helpful a paper delivered in 2006 at the Rice Lectures at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. The paper is entitled “Is it Better to Bury or to Burn? A Biblical Perspective on Cremation and Christianity in Western Culture” by Dr. Rodney J. Decker, who was at the time Professor of Greek and New Testament at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. This esteemed servant of God is now with the Lord.

The Question

In the whole issue of death and dying, a very common question is this one: “Is it OK to cremate?” But not much is written on the subject from a conservative Christian perspective. Decker reports that very few books on ethics even address the topic. Davis’s book Evangelical Ethics which I happen to have on my shelf does not have the subject listed in the index.

One importance of Deuteronomy 34:6 is that it shows how God preferred to dispose of a dead body. This would immediately seem to give priority to burial, but the question is somewhat more complicated than that. Let’s look at a few issues to clarify how we as Christians should think about burial and cremation.

The Culture and Cremation

Generally cremation is practiced when there is less knowledge of and belief in the Bible. Consider cremation in other religions: Hinduism and Indian belief as well as Buddhism all practice cremation. In these eastern religions, the burning is supposed to release the spirit of the person and prepare it for reincarnation. Buddha was cremated and his example is followed down to today. Confucianism initially did not allow cremation but later forms did allow it. Cremation is associated generally with non-Christian spirituality.

Burial was a cultural practice for Jews and early Christians, whether Jew or Gentile. That does not make it right or wrong per se. Furthermore, the Christian sub-culture with burial developed in various places around the world in the face of the pagan systems that it lived within, including the use of cremation. Christians lived—and died—differently than the pagans around them.

The first phase of the history of cremation in America is connected to liberal Christian belief, Masons, Unitarians, and atheists. A second phase was a pragmatic phase, including the building of many crematories and perfecting methods. The cremation rate was about 5% by the late 1960s. Funeral directors had the upper hand in the market of disposing dead bodies, because bodies were cosmetically altered to make them look more natural.

The third phase of cremation in America is from the 1960s until now, and it has been affected by the counter-culture movement (which often did the opposite of what was traditional), Vatican II (which allowed cremation in 1963 for Catholics), and the exposure of funeral industry practices. Cremation became an economic and commodity issue instead of just a religious one. Environmentalism also plays a role in the recent history of cremation (it is claimed to be better for the environment). The cremation rate today in the United States (2010) is about 30%. By 2025, it is projected to be about 43%.

Cremation and burial are contrasted and promoted by the popular books and movies Star Wars (cremation of the Jedi heroes) and Lord of the Rings (burial for the good guys and cremation for the bad guys).

The Bible and Cremation

Does the Bible encourage cremation? No. There are no passages that encourage cremation.

Does the Bible allow for cremation? Yes, but only in extreme circumstances. Thus cremation cannot be called a sin in every case, but in some cases it is. 1 Samuel 31:8-13 tells of the burning of Saul and his sons after their bodies were recovered from the Philistines. They were probably terribly decomposed and mutilated. This is a war-situation and not a normal civilian situation with regard to handling of dead bodies. Furthermore, 2 Samuel 2:5 shows that this was considered a kindness to treat the bodies the way they did—perhaps to avoid further desecration by the enemy. Finally, note that after the burning, the bones were buried, so burial was still done. 2 Samuel 21:14 shows that the bones were re-buried much later. Amos 2:1-3 and 6:8-10 also mention cremation—the first one as an atrocity and the second as a necessary way to dispose of a massive quantity of bodies. These are the only references to disposal of a body by cremation in the Bible.

There are some other references to murder or attempted murder by burning. See, for instance, Judges 15:6 and Daniel 3.

There are three passages where people are burned in judgment, so the primary emphasis is not on disposal of a body but rather on judgment. Leviticus 10:1-2 is the first, where Nadab and Abihu were killed by fire for offering “strange” or unauthorized or profane fire. Evidently they were drunk when performing tabernacle service and did not follow the proper procedures (Lev. 10:9). Numbers 16, particularly verse 35, recounts how fire came out from the LORD and consumed Korah and his co-conspirators. Joshua 7:25 is the third passage, which tells of the stoning and subsequent burning of Achan for his sin of covetousness and not obeying the “ban” put on the spoils of Jericho. In Joshua 6:24 the city was burned after killing of its inhabitants. This burning was used to implement the ban of 6:17. Achan was burned, in a sense, to complete this destruction of the city and all its inhabitants and spoils. In a sense, all these objects of judgment were cremated.

The other times that bodies were burned was in human sacrifice (2 Kings 17:17; Jer. 7:30-31; 2 Chron. 28:3; forbidden in Deut. 12:31; Lev. 18:21). There is obviously no connection to cremation with these examples.

So, the practice of cremation is not endorsed by the Scriptures.

The Bible and Burial

Many clear examples show that the normal Biblical practice is burial. Jesus was buried, and it was prophesied to be so (Psalm 16:10, Isa 53:9). Lazarus was buried (John 11:39). Sarah was buried (Gen. 23:19). Abraham likewise was interred (Gen. 25:10). Jacob was buried (Gen. 49:29). Many of the kings were buried too (e.g., 2 Kings 23:30 regarding Josiah).

Do the Bible and Biblical example encourage burial? Yes. This is a pattern in the narration of what happened, but does not explicitly teach that burial is the only method allowed to dispose of a body. To solidify our understanding, we have to examine the Bible’s teaching on subjects related to the body and human nature and future.

Biblical Theology and Cremation

This category is called out separately from the previous category because these are ideas put together from systematic theology and not directly from texts in the Bible.

The Connection with the Image of God

We believe it is important to treat the human body with dignity and respect because it is part of God’s creation of man in the image of God. We do not honor the body by itself, but we show respect for the whole person and the person’s memory, of which the body is a part.

Note that the burning of bodies, such as in the trash dump in the Valley of Hinnom (Isaiah 30:33, 66:24, Mark 9:48), is a sign of reproach and shame. Bodies left out for the dogs and vultures (2 Kings 9:36-37, Jer. 34:20), or even hung on a tree, indicated a curse on such people (Deut. 21:23, Joshua 8:29; cf. Acts 5:30, 10:39, Gal. 3:13). Such were not dignified or proper treatment of the body. Additionally, the symbolism of fire is not usually good. It is sometimes connected with purification, but more often it is connected with contempt, with judgment, and with Hades or Hell.

If you are a materialist or believe in nihilism, then cremation is natural. That is because a materialist believes all of life is just matter and there is no “image of God.” The mind and spirit are just molecules and chemicals and electricity and so forth. When we die, we just cease to exist. The natural thing for such a person would be to elect to be cremated.

If you view the spirit as the “real person,” then you will be more likely to accept cremation because the body is not relevant after death. If you believe that the body is a part of the image of God, then burial will be the acceptable way to dispose of the corpse.

What method of disposal is most dignified? Does active burning and destruction best honor the image of God in man? Or does allowing the natural process to decompose the body seem a better method?

The Unity of the Human Body and Spirit

A person is not just his spiritual part, nor is he just his material part. Both together make a human being according to Genesis 2:7. Furthermore, the natural state of human existence in this life and in Heaven or Hell is an embodied existence. All will be resurrected at one time or another (1 Cor. 15:22, Rev. 20:12). The state of the spirit being “naked” at death (2 Cor. 5:3-4) is not normal, and it is only temporary. Because both are part of the human, the body should not be treated as irrelevant.

At a funeral, I almost always say that the old tent (2 Peter 1:14) is not being put away forever, but will be resurrected according to 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess. 4:13-18 and many other passages. It is common to hear the phrase that “Grandma so-and-so is not here at the funeral, she is in heaven.” But the reality is, a part of her is down here, and her spirit is in heaven. Obviously, her conscious existence is not down here; it is in heaven. But that body is her body. It belongs to her.

If instead you believe that a person possesses a body instead of the body being an integral part of the person, then cremation will not be a problem for you.

The Connection with Resurrection

Does the Christian’s future hope have anything to do with how to dispose of the body? Yes. Just like baptism by immersion in water symbolizes death and resurrection with Christ, so burial follows the teaching of Paul in 1 Cor. 15 about being planted and raised. Burning and grinding up a body does not seem coordinate with planting and the hope of a future imminent resurrection.

The question arises as to how God will resurrect a cremated or otherwise destroyed body. This is no problem for the omnipotent God, who will resurrect our bodies so they have a substantial identity with our bodies before we died. As to the question of the precise molecules he uses, we do not need to concern ourselves with that. Our bodies are always changing with old cells dying and new ones being formed. And, our resurrected bodies are like plants compared to the seeds that were planted in death. Seeds and plants obviously have differences, but they are inextricably linked. We cannot object to cremation on the basis that it will somehow prevent us from being resurrected because that is just not the case. Our objection has to come from other reasons, which we have discussed already.

Summary of Theological Issues

When the many burial narratives are connected to theological issues of the image of God, the unity of the human personality, and resurrection, the narrative is strengthened so that it gives direction about what we should do—burial.

Other Issues

Organ donation is not a sin and is up to the discretion of the person before they die, or family of the person who has just died. It does not prevent the rapture or resurrection in any way.

Someone may be inclined to donate their body to science. This is a noble goal, since the person probably wishes to help their fellow humans have less pain and suffering. I could not say that it would be a sinful decision. From what I have heard, bodies that are donated are treated with a certain dignity, though whatever is done to the body in terms of anatomy or other studies may be less than dignified. For instance, at the University of Michigan Medical School, there is a memorial service for families after the bodies are "used."

Conclusion

What is the best way to display our Christian convictions about honoring the image of God, about following the Biblical example, and about picturing a future resurrection hope? Cremation seems to fall short in all these areas. A more wise approach is to follow the example of burial.

Decisions should not be reduced only to economics. Otherwise, cremation would win every time since it is cheaper. We should decide things based on the Bible and on the glory of God.


Posted by Matt Postiff April 9, 2019 under Society 

For sake of clarity, let me state up front that I am very strongly opposed to abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Consequently, I am not personally tolerant to the practice of abortion, and I don't look favorably upon those who practice it or promote it. I'm concerned for their eternal souls, for they too will be raised from the dead and face the judgment of God. Therefore, although I can't find abortion tolerable, I have a compassion for those who think it is OK, and those who promote it as a positive good, because their thoughts are darkened. They are not thinking right, and I hope they won't find that out at the judgment seat of God—when it is too late.

But putting that all aside for the moment, let us think about our society. It is, on the whole, tolerant of abortion. It allows babies to be killed, and increasingly so, even up to the moment of birth, or even after birth, as recent news has shown.

I would argue that since the society is tolerant of abortion, which has the irreversible effect of stopping the beating heart of a creature of the homo sapiens species, that logically our society should be willing to tolerate a number of other things. The most liberal among our society, since they tolerate the ending of the life of a baby, should be able to easily tolerate lesser things like:

  • Christians preaching the gospel;
  • Christians refusing to support gay marriage;
  • Christians refusing to support transgender practice;
  • Christians refusing to use state-mandated language such as certain pronouns, lest they face jailtime;
  • So-called victimless crimes like drug possession and use;
  • Churches and other religious organizations refusing to hire those who don't agree with them;
  • Constitutional carry of guns;
  • Harvesting of sea turtle eggs;
  • Killing of deer to reduce herd population;
  • Having a Bible in the public school library;
  • Inviting a Christian pastor to talk about his job and beliefs in a public school;
  • Public schools sending children to the Ark Encounter in and Creation Museum in Kentucky;
  • Unlicensed hairdressers;
  • Home schooling;
  • Circumcision;
  • Families who want to live in a patriarchal arrangement;
  • Skepticism about vaccinations or refusal to do some vaccinations (what's the worst that can happen?);
  • Racist speech;
  • Preaching against other religions and sexual sins (such as homosexuality, heterosexual or homosexual lust, fornication, pornography, pedophilia, and bestiality).

I could go through this list and tell you some things I'm for and other things I'm very much against, and yet others that I'm a little on the fence about. My views on these issues flow from a different presuppositional foundation than that of the liberal--a high degree of respect for life, among other things. But that's not my point here. The point is that someone who supports abortion should be fine with all the the above things which have far lesser consequences than the ending of a human life. Otherwise, he (or she!) is morally and logically inconsistent.


Posted by Matt Postiff April 9, 2019 under Bible Texts 

Here is today's question:

I’m reading through first Kings, and am clear in the first half of the chapter but am starting to get lost in chapter 20. Why did King Ahab make a pact with the evil king Ben-Hadad. And why did a prophet ask to be stricken?

The implication of 1 Kings 20:13, 22, and 28 is that God promised the king of Israel (Ahab) to defeat the entire Syrian army, including their leader Ben-Hadad. God had appointed this troubler of Israel, Ben-Hadad, to destruction, much like Jericho was devoted to total destruction in Joshua 6-7. The Hebrew term for such a "ban" or destruction is herem.

Why did Ahab make a treaty with Ben-Hadad instead of destroying him? Sin. More specifically, the sin of pride. He wanted to continue to be known as merciful (v. 31). What Ahab did was not worth what Israel got in return--they got cities taken by Ben-Hadad's father returned, and a marketplace in Damascus. To get that stuff, Ahab disobeyed God's instructions to him. He was told God would give the army into his hand; he was told to make plans to fight against the army in the coming spring season; and he was to be God's agent to defeat the arrogant Syrians who thought God was a God of the hills only, not the valleys. But he refused to finish the job. Without punishing the Syrian king, he was basically letting the nation go (even though many foot soldiers died).

Ahab's sin is like that of Jehoshaphat of Judah (1 Kings 22). The latter got himself mixed up with wicked Ahab when he should not have. All too often, the people of Israel "went down to Egypt" for help instead of just following the Lord their God (see Isaiah 30:1-5).

The prophet asked to be stricken to make his "costume" as a soldier more realistic. He was disguised because otherwise the king would have recognized him as a well-known prophet, and would immediately have suspected something before the prophet could make his point. His point was made by way of a fictional story, to show the king that someone who is entrusted to do something as important as he was (with Ben-Hadad) was not going to avoid consequences for his failure to carry out his duty. The only punishment fit for such a sin was a punishment that was commensurate with the crime--the life of the king and the people of Israel in place of the life of Ben-Hadad.

Somewhat parenthetically, 1 Kings 20:35-36 show that obedience to a man of God was required even if it meant doing something fairly strange, such as inflicting a wound upon him. Because the neighbor would not obey, there was a penalty for that too. The severity of the penalty was probably due to the fact that the neighbor knew the man was a prophet and that he should obey him as one who was giving the word of God. It is unlikely he walked up to a random stranger and interacted with him this way.


Posted by Matt Postiff February 27, 2019 under Theology  Cults, Etc. 

Part 4.

The fifth and final reason, for now at least, that I do not subscribe to SDA teachings, is that the writings of Ellen G. White are not equal to Scripture.

Ellen G. White (1827–1915) was a key figure in the formation of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Her writings hold enormous influence in the church, approaching the influence of Scripture, if not equal to it. The attention given to a single human author is typical of a cult or cult-like religious institution and should cause immediate skepticism among those who are evaluating the movement.

Furthermore, her writings were based on many hundreds of dreams and visions that she claimed were from God. For instance: “I am instructed that I am the Lord's messenger; that He called me in my youth to be His messenger, to receive His word, and to give a clear and decided message in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Although she says she never laid claim to be a prophet, this is the meaning of what she believed about herself and what she told others.

White wrote that "old Jerusalem never would be built up." This was understood, among other things, to mean that there would be no rebuilt Jerusalem in the millennial period of history. This is clearly a false teaching, as we know from Ezekiel and other prophecies that Jerusalem will be a focal point of the future kingdom of Christ on earth.

It is impossible for those who hold to the cessation of prophetic and other revelatory gifts to agree with her on the matter of her revelations. According to 1 Corinthians 13:8 revelatory gifts were soon to cease around the time of the Apostle Paul. The gifts have not reappeared, and will not do so until around the time of the return of Christ. In other words, whatever Mrs. White received was not from God above. It was from her own imagination, or from below. It certainly is not be a valid addition to Scripture, for anything more added to Scripture brings the curse of Revelation 22:18. And if the material of her writing is in complete agreement with Scripture, then it is superfluous and not in fact new revelation at all.

In conclusion, I agree that the principle of resting one day in seven is important. But Christians are not bound by law to keep a Saturday Sabbath.

Commemorating the resurrection of Christ is also important. But neither day is a matter of judgment or condemnation among God’s people.


Posted by Matt Postiff February 26, 2019 under Theology  Cults, Etc. 

Part 3.

A fourth reason that I am not an SDA is that historic Christian practice has been to worship on the first day of the week.

Traditionally, the church has always worshipped on Sunday, following the New Testament example. This was always a clear point of distinction between the Christians and the Jews.

Sunday worship can be demonstrated as the practice of the first, second, and third centuries A.D. Clearly, as we have shown in the earlier posts, there was Sunday worship in the middle of the first century. This easily predates the claim that Sunday worship started in Rome in the third century.

Early on, some Christian groups began to interpret Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath” that replaced the Jewish Saturday Sabbath. We do not agree with this approach, as it invalidly mixes two categories—Law and Church—that should be kept separate. Some churches observed the Saturday Sabbath, though this practice has waned. But in practice, this Saturday and Sunday sabbath carries over in the "weekend" of western cultures. We treat both Saturday and Sunday as special days...the normal work-week is from Monday through Friday, and Saturday and Sunday are off days so that Jews and Christians can worship unfettered by the normal weekly schedule. Secularists simply take them as days off to do what they want, which is a form of rest from their normal work pattern.

On March 3, 321 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine I decreed that Sunday would be the day of rest. For Bible Christians, however, this is irrelevant. We take our direction from Scripture, not from secular sources.

Some Christians in history worshipped on Saturday night, following the Jewish pattern that the day opens with the evening prior.

Part 5.


Posted by Matt Postiff February 25, 2019 under Theology  Cults, Etc. 

Part 2.

The third reason that I am not an SDA is that the Bible's teaching is that the Mosaic Law has been fulfilled.

The Law was given through Moses to the people of Israel. It was not given to Gentiles. Still, the Law is an expression of the holiness of God. But when Christ came, He came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). And that He did, so that those who are in Christ also fulfill the Law by virtue of being in Him (Gal. 6:2).

As a result, the Christian is not under the Law of Moses. All Christians know this intuitively because we do not keep kosher, or offer sacrifices at the (non-existent) Jerusalem temple. Christ set aside the food laws (Mark 7:19) and became the one final sacrifice for sins for all time (Hebrews 10:10). We do not travel to Jerusalem three times annually to worship God (John 4:21). The “perpetual statutes” of the offerings, priesthood, and showbread are not operational today, showing that they were not meant forever, but only for as long as God is working with the nation of Israel (Exodus 29:9; Lev. 3:17, 24:9; Numbers 19:21). Presently, the nation is under divine chastisement and will be until the millennial kingdom, when some of these rituals will be reinstituted, although in modified form.

This includes the Sabbath law. It is no longer in force and is not a matter over which one Christian is allowed to judge another. Three texts justify this conclusion. The first is Colossians 1:16 which says, “So let no one judge you…regarding…sabbaths.” I am not permitted to view myself as condemned by someone who disagrees about the proper practice of the Sabbath. In fact, I take the text to indicate that I can push back against such a judgment. The second text is Romans 14:4-5. There, the apostle teaches us that we are not to judge other servants of God. They will stand or fall before their own master, not before us. A Seventh-Day Adventist is stepping out of bounds to adjudicate a non-Sabbatarian believer to be a sinner because he does not worship on Saturday. Some people regard one day more sacred than another, and others every day alike. Each has to be fully convinced in his own mind. The third text is Galatians 5:18, which explicitly says that we are not under the law, but instead are guided by the Holy Spirit. The present age, which some call the church age or the age of the Spirit, is characterized by a new regime of the Holy Spirit, instead of a regime of a written and burdensome code that no one successfully kept or could keep, except for Jesus.

As circumcision was a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, so the Sabbath was a sign of the Mosaic covenant. We are not under that covenant now (1 Cor. 9:20; Romans 6:14-15) and therefore keeping the sign is not necessary for us.

Finally, to put yourself or others under the Law is to transgress the principle of Galatians 3:10. If you wish to keep the law in one point, you must keep the entire law, lest you bring upon yourself the curse mentioned in that verse. Relying upon the works of the law is a losing proposition, for by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified (Rom. 3:20).

Part 4.


Posted by Matt Postiff February 25, 2019 under Theology  Cults, Etc. 

Part 1.

The second reason that I do not adhere to the SDA interpretation of the faith is the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus to the Christian faith.

The apostles led the early church to worship on the first day of the week because the resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred on that day. As shown above, that one-time event happened on the first day of the week after the Passover holy days. This great event is the lynch-pin of the Christian faith. Without it, there is no Christianity (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). It is entirely fitting, therefore, to worship Christ on that day each week, and thus to give Christ the first part of our week.

The original creation took six days and God rested on the seventh. The new creation began on the eighth day, so to speak, that is, the first day of the following week. Christians faithfully commemorate “Easter” each and every week they worship on the first day.

Part 3.


Posted by Matt Postiff February 25, 2019 under Theology  Cults, Etc. 

I read a tract some time ago as to why a Seventh Day Adventist worships on Saturday. My first response to this is the Apostolic example of worshipping on the first day of the week.

1. The resurrection of Christ occurred on the first day of the week. All of the gospels are careful to note this timing: Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1, 19.

2. The disciples’ practice was to come together to break bread on the first day of the week. This was in the city of Troas in approximately 56 A.D. This was nearly a quarter century (25 years) after Jesus died and rose. Church practice had some time to settle by this point, and they were worshipping on the first day. Note that breaking bread together likely refers to the Lord’s Table service, which is worship. In any case, they met in the evening to hear preaching of the Word.

3. Around the same year, the church in Corinth evidently met on the first day of the week. This was when the apostle Paul instructed them to set aside money so that there would be money saved up for Paul’s arrival (1 Corinthians 16:2).

4. This first day of the week was also known as the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10). This was as late as 95 A.D., or more than 60 years (two generations) after the resurrection of Christ. The apostle John noted this day by the name of the Lord.

Part 2.

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