Matt Postiff's Blog

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Posted by Matt Postiff February 12, 2019 under Bible Texts 

There is a fascinating little passage in Acts 16:6-10 that mentions the Spirit of God prohibiting Paul and his team from ministering the gospel in certain areas. Prior to this, Paul and Silas had been visiting churches planted during their first missionary tour though southern Asia Minor. They were joined by Timothy as they ministered in Derbe, Lystra, and surrounding cities. The team then wished to head west toward what was known as Asia (the region where Ephesus is), but the text says the Holy Spirit forbade them from going there. Then they turned their sights northeast toward Bithynia, but the Spirit also prevented them from going there.

So the question posted to me was this: why not minister in those locations? The people there needed Christ just as much as the others, right? The prohibition/lack of permission doesn't seem in accord with the Great Commission, which directs believers to preach the gospel to every nation.

The fact is that the text does does not tell us. So, was it:

  • not the right time?
  • too dangerous?
  • like the Lord's command to the 12 not to minister in Samaria or in Gentile places, but only to Israelites (Matthew 10:5)?
  • less urgent than something else?

Since the text doesn't tell us explicitly, we need not speculate further. But the text does tell us that there was an urgent need in another place. That was made known via special revelation (a dream/vision). The team concluded that the Lord was using the vision to guide them to cross over into Europe and preach the gospel there. We know from later in the chapter that a business-woman and a corrections official needed to hear the gospel and be saved. A church had to be started in that place, the city of Philippi. A slave girl who was being trafficked because of her demon possession had to be rescued from her oppressors. The Lord was readying the people there and was about to open their hearts to the message of Christ.

As I read the passage again this morning, I pondered the notion that in ministry, timing is important. This doesn't mean we are in a rush, but sometimes the "iron is hot" and work needs to be done about it. Sometimes there are people who are in a needy state "right now" and need our attention. For those needs, the time is now.

It also illustrates a point that life and ministry is not something that is always going to present open doors. This should not discourage us. We must keep on going, and pressing into new areas and new directions, and we must stay keen about the circumstances and facts of what is going on around us. Since we don't have special revelation today, we must rely on godly wisdom gained from Scripture, and godly counsel from others who have gained such wisdom, so that we can ascertain which direction to move.

There is another entire question, and that is how did the Spirit communicate this prohibition to Paul and the missionary team? It seems to be special revelation, but did it have a providential component as well? We will leave that for another post sometime.

Listen to the sermon where I covered this passage.


Posted by Matt Postiff February 7, 2019 under Theology  Music 

A couple of weeks back, I asked the congregation if anyone would like to search our hymnal to find as many "Triune" hymns as they could find. That is, hymns that refer to all three members of the Trinity. This was timely because we have been going through a series on Sunday evenings on the Christian teaching of the Trinity. One of our members came up with this list (page number in Rejoice Hymns):

  • I will Praise Him (5)
  • Father, I Adore You (repetitive, 6)
  • Come Thou, Almighty King (9)
  • Doxology (14)
  • Glorify Thy Name (repetitive, 16)
  • Holy God, we Praise Thy Name (37)
  • Be Thou Exalted (57)
  • Praise Ye the Triune God (66)
  • God is Holy (83)
  • Holy, Holy, Holy (85)
  • Holy is the Lord (89)
  • Saved by the Blood (375)
  • Eternal Father, Strong to Save (518)
  • Glory Be to the Father (572, 573)
  • The Church's One Foundation (575)

Enjoy these hymns as you praise our great God!


Posted by Matt Postiff January 24, 2019 under Society 

You may have read in history how various cultures have handled "unwanted" babies. One common technique was to use exposure in the elements to kill a baby. Cold, dehydration, or hunger were used to kill the baby, probably out of sight and the sound of the cries of the little one. How cruel and barbaric such murder was.

Human society has not progressed at all over the centuries. I woke up this morning to learn that the New York State Senate passed the so-called reproductive health act that provides for abortion up to the last minute of a pregnancy, abortion by lethal injection, abortion by non-physicians, adding abortion to the NY constitution, and repeal of protection for babies who survive abortions. Murderers cannot be punished by lethal injection in New York, but babies can be?!

The representatives in the senate were clapping after passage of the bill in celebration. Governor Cuomo had the World Trade Center spire lit in pink color to celebrate this abomination. Wasn't that building built after the previous version was destroyed and thousands died on 9/11/2001? So now it is used as a monument to celebrate more death? My fellow Christians, the heart of man is desperately wicked. We knew that, of course, but it is not encouraging to see how brazen they are in their evil.

Once the left started glorifying abortion as a sacred right there was only one place this could end up. Now everyone can see how dark hearted and twisted their thinking is. People who hold back in condemning this to avoid conflict or discomfort are copping out. There’s no excuse. —David Limbaugh, January 23, 2019 Tweet

Yes, Christians condemn infanticide. We condemn abortion. If that condemnation brings conflict, so be it.

In better news, new Ohio governor Mike DeWine said that he would sign the heartbeat bill, which will prohibit abortions from about 6 weeks after conception. That's still not perfect, but much better.


Posted by Matt Postiff January 6, 2019 under Theology 

Occasionally I see folks searching for a chart of the dispensations and Google refers them to an old document that was on our site. Here is that document:

Dispensation Chart PDF

Dispensation Chart Word document

A more helpful document that is the fruit of more of my study on the topic is also available:

Dispensation Chart PDF

Dispensation Chart Libre Office format

This one does not focus on the seven dispensations or the relationship to the covenants, but rather gives attention to the essential elements or sine qua non of the dispensational approach to Scripture.


Posted by Matt Postiff December 31, 2018 under Theology 

I am reading James C. Petty's book Step by Step, a book about divine guidance. Years ago, I read a similar book by Garry Friesen and J. Robin Maxson entitled Decision Making and the Will of God. How do the teachings espoused by these two authors compare?

The big picture that both authors describe involves three views of God's will, which I will boil down to two. The first is the traditional and charismatic view, which says that there is the sovereign will of God, which is not revealed. Then there is the moral will of God, which is revealed in Scripture in God's commands, wisdom, prohibitions, etc. And thirdly, there is the specific or individual will of God, which relates to God's plan for each individual. It is not revealed in the Bible, but can be accessed by some other means, whether circumstances, impressions, direct communication from heaven, etc.

The second is the wisdom view of God's will. This view agrees with the first two types of God's will above, but does not agree with the third "individual will of God." In the third view, there is no such thing as an 'individual will' of God that is distinct from the moral and sovereign wills of God.

It is my understanding that Petty and Friesen are in basic agreement with one another, because both teach the wisdom view of God's will. Both books are very valuable in guiding someone through what can be a deeply concerning issue for those who are in the midst of making major life decisions.

Let's see if my understanding agrees with direct quotations from the two books I mentioned above. Petty writes:

Garry Friesen has done an excellent study on whether there is such a thing as a personal will of God. He has also provided a definition of this popular notion (Friesen, 1980, 35): 'God's Individual will is that ideal, detailed life-plan which God has uniquely designed for each believer.' This plan is not contained in Scripture either explicitly or implicitly.

Friesen rightly points out that this view underlies the 'Bull's eye' theory of the will of God. He uses the picture of a target to show how the moral will relates to the individual will of God. God's moral will is seen as a circular target. Our decisions are like arrows we shot at the target, seeking to hit God's will. Inside hte circle are all the lawful choices. Outside the target are all options that are always sinful. If you miss the target, your decision is sin against God and contradicts the moral law.

The individual will of God is seen as the bull's eye on the target. That is the 'will' we seek to discover (hit) for guidance. If we miss the bull's eye but hit within the target area, we are not in sin--but we are missing God's best for us....We are then said to be outside the individual will of God, but still within his moral will (Petty, p. 97).
Friesen has made an enormous contribution in exposing the unbiblical concept of the 'individual will of God' (Petty, p. 105).

From this, we can see that Petty agrees with Friesen's critique of the individual will of God view. Petty definitely takes the wisdom view:

The concept of an individual will separate from God's moral will is thus not scriptural. Despite its popularity, this concept should be rejected. What is often called the 'individual will of God' should be seen simply as the application of God's commands and character to the specifics of our lives. It is not a separate and distinct (nonmoral) sense of God's will.

To sum up, God has a secret, sovereign plan for each of us that orders each detail of our lives. God also has a revealed, moral will for us that is summarized in the Great Commandment and has implications, preferences, and directions for extensive areas in each life. The wisdom we seek in divine guidance is God's moral will applied to the believer's life. Guidance is discerning God's moral and spiritual preferences as they apply to our life situations. It is not a detailed plan to be discovered or communicated by God in extra-scriptural communications (Petty, p. 101).

And now to Friesen:

The expression will of God is used in the Bible in two ways. God's sovereign will is His secret plan that determines everything that happens in the universe. God's moral will consists of the revealed commands in the Bible that teach how people out to believe and live.

To these biblical usages (moral and sovereign wills), the traditional view has added a third. It is commonly taught that for each person, God has an individual will—an ideal, detailed life-plan for each person. In this traditional view, the key to decision making is to discover God's individual will, and then do it...

By contrast, the emphasis of Scripture is on God's moral will. In fact, the Bible reveals nothing of an 'individual will' governing each decision.(Friesen, p. 115).

Both Friesen and Petty believe that Scripture describes the will of God under two headings—the sovereign will and the moral will. Both criticize the traditional/charismatic view of the individual "bull's eye" view of God's will. Both say that Scripture does not teach this individual will.


Posted by Matt Postiff December 28, 2018 under Theology 

The well-known statement in the model prayer reads like this:

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:13, Luke 11:4).

It has lately been the subject of some controversy. One person asked me this: "How can the Catholic church rewrite the Lord's prayer?"

First of all, let us reaffirm that we can pray that portion of the prayer verbatim if we so desire, from the text of our English version. God knows what He meant when He inspired the text, and the genuine believer intuitively knows what the text means.

After all, God is able to deliver His godly ones from temptation (2 Peter 2:9).

Even more importantly, the Bible makes it clear that God never God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. (James 1:13). What does this mean? It means that God does not solicit anyone to an evil thought or deed. Such is impossible because of God's nature. That truth must be held together with a complementary truth, that God does allow situations to arise in which our faithfulness to Him is tested. But it is our own flesh, the world, and the devil that allure us to do evil when a test arises.

When we do face temptation, God promises to make a way for us to "escape" the temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). That could be through changing or removing the circumstances or helping us remain faithful in the circumstances.

As for the Catholic Pope "changing the Lord's prayer," the following quote from the Salt Lake Tribune is instructive:

The words in the Lord’s Prayer that ask, "Lead us not into temptation," can cause confusion, Francis said. To make it clear that God would not lead anybody toward sin, the pope suggested a better translation of the Greek prayer from the New Testament would be something along the lines of, "Do not let us fall into temptation." (www.sltrib.com)

I appreciate that the Pope is trying to help people not make the mistake of assuming God could tempt us to sin. So let us give credit where it is due. His solution, however, is not great. The Greek verb does not at all mean to "fall" into temptation. It means to cause someone to enter a certain condition. And even if the verb did mean to fall, that doesn't really solve the problem because then we might surmise that God does cause us to fall into sin, or culpably permit us to do the same. While God does permit all that occurs in the world, He does not actively cause sin. The mystery of that may be beyond our ability to comprehend, but it is an accurate statement of Biblical teaching on the subject.

Any way you try to say this can be misinterpreted. So just remember: in this prayer, you are asking the Lord to help you not to sin, in whatever way He knows how.

The bottom line is this: a true believer does not want to sin. He doesn't want to get close to the edge or be in places where he may be overwhelmed and fall into sin. Following the model prayer, he can and should pray that the Lord will deliver him from tempting situations, and deliver him from himself. The prayer in no way suggests that it is God who tries to get us to sin. The prayer is asking God to keep us AWAY from such situations! Indeed, God can providentially orchestrate our days to restrain sin in our lives, and to help us to avoid tempting situations. May He do that, and may we do our diligent part as well.


Posted by Matt Postiff December 10, 2018 under Theology 

Here is the annual set of Bible reading schedules that you have become accustomed to seeing here. The dates are adjusted on these to match the beginning of the weeks for 2019. Some of the schedules encourage you to start on 12/30 or 12/31 depending on if the schedule starts on a Sunday or a Monday.

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

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

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


Posted by Matt Postiff December 7, 2018 under Bible Texts  Family 

In Job 1:5, we learn that Job expressed his godliness by offering burnt sacrifices for each of his children. He was concerned that his children had sinned against God, and he wanted to do something about it. Before the time of Christ, and before the time of the Levitical priests in Israel, the role of priest fell to the patriarch of the family. Job was carrying out this role as family priest.

Parents today can demonstrate godliness by doing something like this for their children. Obviously the application of animal sacrifice has run its course and is now obsolete. But we can certainly be sensitive to the possibility that our children may have sinned and not dealt properly with it. In fact, our children may not know practically how to deal with sin. We must instruct them in this. We should pray for them regularly. We should do what we can to sanctify our children, that is, set them apart for God and godliness by example and by directive in their behavior.

The extra blessings that we possess today (Bible, churches, pastors, etc.) do not exempt us as parents from teaching our children. The Law of Moses explicitly taught the Jewish people to instruct their children constantly about the things of God. It seems to go without saying that the same principle applies to Christians today, even though we are not under the specific regulations of the Mosaic Law.

As I studied this, I wondered how I could implement the principle here with respect to my own children. I have sometimes prayed for my kids, having in my mind a thought like Job had in 1:5, but with the uncomfortable knowledge that no forgiveness would be extended by God without the child's own repentance.

So what is the point of us doing “priestly” activities today for others such as our children? There is no other mediator between God and men but the man Christ Jesus, so how can I as a parent be a kind of mediator, praying prayers that my children should pray, or offering confession that they should offer?

In the first place, I don't believe that God despises this parental prayer: "Lord, please forgive my children their sins." God can answer this heart cry, though not in a direct fashion. God won’t forgive the child merely for your prayer's sake, as if your prayer is of sufficient merit. But God hears the faithful and fervent prayer of the righteous parent, and answer by bringing the attitude of repentance to the child and thus forgiving the child through the normal means of confession and repentance on the basis of the blood of Christ.

Secondly, you can make that prayer more direct by asking God to grant repentance and forgiveness of sins to your offspring. God can do that—in fact, that is the business that God is in today as He calls sinners to Himself. Salvation is not an accident. It depends completely on the grace of God. God uses means, such as parental instruction, and church ministry, to accomplish it. But it comes through repentant faith, which is a gracious gift of God. Let us ask God for it for our children.

Third, you can express confession for your own sins in raising your children, which may be reflected in some measure in their own misdeeds. Perhaps you have erred in teaching them, or erred in your example, in such a way that has misled them and been a factor causing their sin. That doesn’t exempt them from responsibility or liability toward God, but it can be a factor.

Regarding the matter of interceding for adults in a sacrificial context as Job did in 42:8-9, that is similar to above. We cannot do this directly today. But we can pray for those who have sinned and ask the Lord to help them see their sin. We can direct them as to how to deal appropriately with their sin by appealing to God through Christ about it.


Posted by Matt Postiff November 1, 2018 under Church  Gospel 

This post may be most helpful to our friends who hold reformed theology. It has to do with the Old Testament revelation concerning the gospel and the church.

I believe that some people may not be observing an important difference indicated in the words of the apostle Paul in two sections of Scripture. Here they are:

...the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord...Romans 1:1-3
...the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery...which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel...Ephesians 3:2-6

In short, Paul is saying that the gospel of Christ was revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures, but that another truth—of Gentiles as fellow heirs, as part of the same body, and as partakers of God's promises—was not revealed there.

I think there may be a tendency to conflate the two. We see promises about Christ and we see promises about Gentiles in some connection with Christ. We automatically connect those to "church" even though Paul does not. He sees the two ideas as distinct enough that he can say one was revealed and one was not.

The distinction between gospel and church is fairly clear today. If for no other reason, we can see it in some of our friends who want to enjoy Christ's gospel, but not Christ's church. They are wrong to do this, of course, but the distinction is real nonetheless. It is true that the church partakes of Christ through the gospel, that is, the church builds on top of the gospel.

The gospel was quite clearly portrayed in the Old Testament (see Isaiah 53 for instance). The church, however, was not clearly portrayed. Don't mix the two, as if the revelation of one entails and makes clear the other. It does not, certainly not in Paul's mind.


Posted by Matt Postiff October 28, 2018 under Sanctification 

A dear friend in ministry, Mal Borden, gave me these two thoughts a while ago, and I just found them written down in some notes I kept.

#1: I cannot really control myself, but God will enable me to be controlled, and I can trust God to give me that ability.

#2: Perseverance is progress not derailed by trials or by time. It is not giving up or in for the sake of usefulness to Christ.


Posted by Matt Postiff October 26, 2018 under Society  Bible Texts 

I was reading in Acts 13 this morning, and came across this:

But Elymas the sorcerer...withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith (Acts 13:8).

Bad idea. The apostle Paul had to remove that barrier to the gospel, and he had supernatural abilities to do so. Elymas ended up being blind for an undetermined length of time.

This brought to my attention how seriously God takes it when someone attempts to keep others from the Christian faith. God hates that. And He will punish it.

Some other examples: Matthew 11:12, 19:13-14, 23:13; Acts 13:45; 1 Thessalonians 2:16.

So, all of you out there in society who are inclined to meddle in the faith-business of others--whether you are atheist or communist or whatever--please mind your own business. This advice is for your own good. If you are trying to keep children from learning the Christian faith so that they can make up their own mind, you are doing an awful disservice to them. Be aware that God takes note.

Maybe you are a parent and you don't want your kids to get "too involved" in Christianity. Maybe you want them to have a nice career instead of going into ministry or missions. Take care what you are doing!


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

We are often reminded that "there is none good, no not one." And that is true because of God's perfect standard of good. Nevertheless, God wants us to be good, and He is busy about transforming His people into good people.

Years ago, the former pastor of our church, known to some of you reading this, would routinely ask people how they were doing. You would think nothing of it, because it seemed to be the start of a routine conversation. “I’m good,” you would answer. “Wait a minute!” Pastor would reply with a loud voice. “The Bible says there is none good, no not one!” It was a real “gotcha” which worked because of the turn on the word ‘good’ in which it is being used in two different senses—one sense in your response and a different sense in Romans 3:12.

But in fact there are people whom God has deemed to call good because His salvation has made them good. His Word records a number of examples:

  • 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 (of Arimathea), a council member, a good and just man" (Lk. 23:50).
  • There was another Joseph, betrothed to Mary, who was a just man (Matthew 1:19).
  • 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 and repeated several other times).
  • 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). His Old Testament faith was completed as he believed in the Jewish Messiah.
  • 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). 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).
  • Phoebe was a servant of the church in Cenchrea who was a helper of many (Romans 16:1-2).
  • There are Priscilla and Aquila, and many others mentioned in Romans 16.

It is God’s business to turn people who are not good into people are who are. Justification declares us to be righteous based on the righteousness of another, so we are “good” in the estimation of God as He sees us in Christ. More than that, the initial gift of regeneration makes us into new people. This gives us the basic equipment we need to be genuinely good in practice. Through the ongoing process of sanctification, God gradually transforms us so that we become something different than we were. God is working to transform our behavior, our minds, our character, our attitudes, and everything about us so that we become good, like His Son. Yes, God is working to change our personalities—not to eliminate the beautiful diversity that distinguishes us from one another, but to progressively eradicate those sinful parts of our personalities until we reach glory.

Goodness is a gift from God. It is a communication of His infinite goodness to finite creatures. It is not something we work up to, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. I am so thankful for that. But what to do when we fail to be good? We often fall short. Some temptation grabs hold of us. Some emotions or words come out which are contrary to the Spirit’s influence. We behave inappropriately.

In our failures, the ancient sage Job is a great example. God tells us that He was a good man. But even Job got off track when he spoke out of turn against God. In Job 40:3-5 and 42:1-6, Job admitted that he was wrong. He repented in dust and ashes. Then God declared that Job spoke what was right, and accepted him (42:7-9). Thanks to God that He is merciful to those with a contrite heart and a broken spirit.

The somewhat paradoxical truth of the situation is this: for a person to be godly, he must repent when he sins. Said another way, a good person responds to sin in her life by changing her mind about that sin, confessing it to the Lord and asking for help to avoid it in the future. The righteous repent. The unrighteous do not repent. Repentance is a mark of the righteous. Of course, a person who never sinned would never need repentance. But that is not our lot—not until after the rapture. And so, for us to be like Christ, we have to do something that Christ never had to do, and that is repent!

Take courage, dear friends! When you stumble, express to God that contrition that you know He loves. Be broken over sin, and God will receive your penitent prayer with openness, mercy, and grace.

The disciples asked the Lord if there were few who would be saved. The answer was, in short, yes. The door is narrow, and the way is difficult. The Lord wants a few good men. You probably know this phrase from the advertising slogan of the U.S. Marines. The phrase is known from 1799 (1779 by some accounts), when Captain William Jones advertised for “a few good men” to serve on the ship called Providence. That message has stuck for over 200 years. There is something special about being one of the “few,” especially when those few are good.

There are no good people in one sense. But, there are a few good people in another sense. May God multiply that tribe. May you all be “good ministers of Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 4:6) and “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).

This article is cross-posted at dbts.edu/blog and at the Southern Sentinel..

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