A Time to Trust

Joshua was the new leader in Israel following the death of Moses (Josh. 1:2).  Joshua was to bring the people across the Jordan into the land that God had promised Moses and their forefathers to give to them.  We read about the people crossing the Jordan River in Joshua 3-4.  Joshua tells the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant to walk into the Jordan River and when their feet hit the river’s edge God would stop the river upstream from flowing so that they could cross over (remember Ex. 14).  The priests revealed a deep trust by doing so especially since it was the time of harvest which meant, “the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest” (Josh. 3:15).  The Jordan was not calm, but moving rapidly, it was not low, but overflowing, it was not a smooth, but covered bushes and jungle growth.

They cross over safely and then Joshua is given this command from the LORD, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time” (Josh. 5:2).  Now back in Genesis 34 we read about Shechem raping Dinah, Jacob’s daughter (vv. 2, 5).  When the brothers hear about it they deceive Shechem and his father and tell them to have all the males circumcised so they can intermarry.  They agree and on the third day after all the males were circumcised, “when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males” (Gen 34:25).

Here in Genesis 34 Shechem and the men with him felt secure, but they were far from secure as Simeon and Levi attacked them for treating their sister like a prostitute (v. 31).  Israel has just crossed a raging river, one that no one else would try to cross, and they are now in the land of promise.  And the first command they are given is to circumcise the males, for the younger generation, who did not die in the wilderness (Josh. 5:5), had not been circumcised by their rebellious fathers.  Wouldn’t this be safer on the other side of the raging Jordan River then in enemy territory?  For as there was a recovery time for Shechem and his men, there would be a recovery time for the men of Israel too (Josh. 5:8), when they would be sore.  They would be an easy target for the kings of the Amorites and the kings of the Canaanites, just as Simeon and Levi took advantage of the situation before them.

Joshua and the people of Israel trusted in the LORD.  They trusted in the reports that they had received about the people of land having their hearts melted (2:9, 11, 24; 5:1).  And rather than being overtaken, since the LORD protected His people, they instead ate the produce of the land that year (5:11-12).

When our feelings about a situation seem to be telling us one thing, but God’s word says the opposite, we must take God at His word.  Our feelings can be deceived and lead us astray, but our trust in the LORD should never waver.  Of course this is easier said than done at times.  So we remember what God has told us.  God loves His children, those who are in Christ, and so we trust, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32).

Resource Highlight – For a good exposition of Joshua that is very accessible for all readers check out: No Falling Words by: Dale Ralph Davis

“Y” is for Yahweh

“Y” is for Yahweh.  This is the personal name of God Himself.  Maybe you are wondering, “If it is God’s personal name, then why don’t we see it in Scripture?”  It actually appears in Scripture more than 6,800 times!  Now you might be wondering if we are reading the same Bible.  In our English Bibles the name Yahweh appears most frequently as, LORD.  This is to distinguish it from the word, Lord.  You can see the word is the same in English but distinguished by the use of all capitals in the first example and a capital “L” with lower case “ord” in the second.  The reason for this is that they translate two different Hebrew words.

A Quick Grammatical Look

The Hebrew word for Yahweh consist of the Hebrew consonants yhwh (yod-he-waw-he), and is called the Tetragrammaton, because of it contains four letters, hence YHWH.  It has been regarded as the most sacred name of God, and in fact, the incommunicable name.  Jews feared speaking the name because Lev. 24:16 says, “Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”  So when the Jews read the Scriptures whenever they came upon those four consonants, YHWH, they would say ‘Adonai or ‘Elohim.  ‘Adonai is translated in English as “Lord” like we already looked at above and ’Elohim is translated as “God” most often.  ’Adonai or “Lord” is a title of God referring to His absolute sovereignty over creation.  It is an exalted title of God.  In the Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint or LXX) the translators substituted kurios which means “Lord,” with the divine name YHWH.  It is likely for these reasons why most English translations translate YHWH “LORD.”

Jehovah, a familiar name for God to English readers at least, is not actually a Hebrew word found in Scripture.  Ancient Hebrew when written did not use vowels but the appropriate vowel sounds were passed on orally.  The divine name YHWH (the four consonants) received the vowels from ‘Adonai with a couple consonant changes to get the name Jehovah.  It is highly unlikely that this is the correct pronunciation of the name of God.

Meaning of God’s Name

Let’s transition away from some of the grammatical and technical side of the name of God and focus on its meaning.  What does this name reveal about God and His character?  For this is the far greater questions.  Exodus 3:13-14 is crucial for understanding the meaning of the divine name, YHWH.  It is here in Exodus 3 that God appears to Moses in a burning bush as Moses cares for his father-in-law’s flock (vv. 1, 4).  The LORD (YHWH) tells Moses what He is about to do in delivering His people from the hand of the Egyptians and He is going to use Moses (vv. 7-8, 10).  Moses is uncertain, and will come up with a lot of excuses not to go (Ex. 4).  But here in Exodus 3:13-14 we read, “Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”  A number of things are revealed about the name YHWH from the explanation here in Ex. 3:14 where God says, “I am who I am.”  There is a variety of explanations of what this name means including: (1) that God is self-existent and therefore not dependent on anything else for His own existence; (2) that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists; (3) that God is immutable in His being and character and thus is not in the process of becoming something different from what He is; (4) that God is eternal in His existence (ESV Study Bible, 149).  Then we should look in the context where God speaks these words to Moses and it is in promising to be with him as God uses Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage.  YHWH is telling Moses that He will be for the people in Moses’ day what He was for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in that He is faithful to His covenant (see Ex. 3:6, 16).

While there are lots of passages we could look at since the name of God is used so frequently in the OT let’s stick to the book of Exodus.  In Exodus 20 we find the giving of the Ten Commandments.  But before God lays out each of those commandments there is a prologue you might say.  Exodus 20:2 says, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Within this verse we learn a number of things about Yahweh’s relation to the people of Israel.  First, Yahweh has a personal relationship with the people.  He is “the LORD your God” (emphasis mine).  Second, Yahweh is a God of grace for it was He who “brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Certainly much more is wrapped up in what the divine name Yahweh tells us about His character.  But it amazing to think that the Holy One, who is so high and exalted, is willing to be in relationship with those who put their faith in Jesus Christ.  That He lavished grace upon us who were His enemies from birth.  All praise and honor belong to Yahweh alone!

“N” is for New Heaven & New Earth

“N” is for new heaven and new earth.  We read these words in Revelation 21, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (vv. 1-2, 5a).  Life in the new heaven and new earth will be something new to us.  For Jesus says that he is making “all things new” (v. 5a).  For Jesus said in v. 4, “[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Every believer looks forward to a day when tears, hurt, pain, and death itself is no more.  In fact even creation itself looks forward to such a day.  Paul writes in Romans 8:20-21, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  Creation “was subjected to futility” because of the sin of Adam and Eve.  Their disobedience had grave and far reaching consequences not only on themselves and their posterity but on creation as well.  The Lord had created everything and declared it to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31) but when Adam and Eve sinned their relationship to God, to each other, to creation, and to themselves was negatively impacted.

While we do not know as much as we might like to about the new heavens and new earth we can be certain that it will be “very good” (cf. 2 Pt. 3:11-13).  For not only will things like death, mourning, crying, and pain be no more but far better still believers will be with the Lord.  The new heavens and new earth is a description of a renewed creation in which believers will dwell with the Lord following the final judgment.  “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’” (Rev. 21:3).

As a quick review, while we do not know everything about the new heaven and new earth we know what won’t be there (death, mourning, pain), we know who will be there (the Lord Jesus and believers), and we also know what state believers will be in.  By looking at the new heavens and new earth we have fast forwarded to the end of eschatology (study of the end times or last things).  So looking back briefly will help us better understand the state believers will be in when we are in the new heavens and new earth.

In 1 Cor. 15 we learn of the Christian hope.  The common understanding is that the full Christian hope is when I die my body is buried and my soul goes to be with the Lord in heaven.  It is hard to talk about the Christian hope in its fullness without making it sound like that doesn’t matter.  Paul says in Phil. 1, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (v. 23a) to which I echo a hearty, “Amen!”  But the Christian hope is not merely that we depart from our bodies and go to be with the Lord but that our departed souls will one day be reunited with our resurrected bodies at the last trumpet when Christ returns (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-52).  What Rev. 21 makes clear is that heaven will come down to us.  “We don’t hope merely for the day when we go to live with God, but ultimately for that final day when God comes to live with us” (Wittmer, Heaven is a Place on Earth, 17).  We read in 1 Cor. 15, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 53-57).  Death still hurts now because it is a present reminder of the effects of the Fall and sin in our world and in our own hearts.  But when our souls and bodies are reunited at Christ coming death will lose its sting and be no more because death and Hades will be cast into the lake of fire followed by those whose names are not written in the book of life (cf. Rev. 20:14-15).  Revelation 21:6-8 says, “And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.’”

What are we to do right now?  “To paraphrase Abraham Kuyper, we must diligently labor to bring every square inch of human existence beneath the lordship of the Christ who proclaims, ‘It’s mine!’”  (Wittmer, 198).  We should strive to see everything of this creation subject to the lordship of Christ and look forward to that day, and our hope, when soul AND body are with our Lord forever!  Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Tuesday Tunes

This week’s Tuesday Tunes is brought to you by Sojourn. The title is May Your Power Rest on Me. Paul writes in 2 Cor. 12, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (vv. 7-10). Enjoy!

“L” is for Lordship Salvation

“L” is for Lordship Salvation.  While the development of this exact phrase is more recent, in the scope of the history of the church, the particular focus of it is clearly articulated in Scripture.  No need to translate any Greek or Latin phrases this week since both words are pretty straightforward.  The idea behind Lordship Salvation is that submitting to Christ as Lord goes hand-in-hand with trusting Christ as Savior.  The opposite of Lordship Salvation would be “easy-believism,” or the idea that salvation comes through acknowledgment of certain facts.  In this week’s blog we will first see where Lordship Salvation can be found in the Gospels and Epistles.  Then we will see how we ought to go about our evangelism with this understanding since the churches mission after all is to make disciples (see Matt. 28:18-20).

A Look in the Gospels

Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13-14).  A little later in Matthew 7 Jesus says that not everyone who calls Him Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven (vv. 21-23).  This is shocking to easy-believism advocates since merely calling Jesus Lord is good enough and submission to Him as such is not required.   Move beyond the Sermon on the Mount and you see throughout the Gospels Jesus taught that there is a high cost to discipleship (cf. Matt. 8:19-22; 10:37-39; Mark 8:34-9:1; Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-33).  Luke 9:62, among others, stresses total commitment, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Compare this total commitment to those advocates of easy-believism who say you can cling to your sin and the Savior at the same time.  Or reject Christ Lordship over your life and not surrender to Him.  They will accuse advocates of Lordship Salvation that they teach salvation by works.  This most certainly is not the case.  For salvation is by grace alone, not of works (cf. Eph. 2:8-10).  Believers are saved without any good fruit to offer and before their faith produces good fruit.  Nevertheless biblical (thus genuine) faith will inevitably lead to a changed life.  And clear examples of this can be seen in the Epistles.

A Look in the Epistles

Advocates of easy-believism would look at 1 Cor. 3:1 as a verse that supports their view.  Paul writes, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.”  Paul, says easy-believism advocates, is telling the Corinthians that they are under the dominion of sin which is why it says, “people of the flesh” while still being “infants of Christ.”  What would they say about Paul’s words to the same church when he says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17)?  Not to mention the countless times Paul speaks of putting to death the old man or the old man being crucified with Christ (cf. Rom. 6:5-14; 8:12-13; Gal. 5:16-24; Eph. 4:17-32; Col. 3:5-17).  Paul says that we are not to go on sinning so that grace may abound because we died to sin (cf. Rom. 6:1-4).

When Paul describes the Corinthians as “people of the flesh” he is not saying Christ can be your Savior and not your Lord.  Paul is speaking of the ongoing struggle with sin in the life of a believer.  A new believer, an “infant,” will show more fleshy (aka sinful) characteristics than one who has matured in the faith.  The mature believer doesn’t “arrive” during his or her earthly life but continues to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Pt. 3:18).

How Do I Approach Evangelism?

The holes and weaknesses to easy-believism are hopefully clear at this point though certainly many more could be stated.  I know for most of you reading this you would agree that trying to separate Christ as Lord and Christ as Savior is foolish.  For to put your faith in Him as Savior is to submit to Him as your Lord for you have been bought at a price, His blood.  So why, you might wonder, the focus on Lordship Salvation this week?  John MacArthur answers that well for us: “This issue is not a trivial one. In fact, how could any issue be more important? The gospel that is presented to unbelievers has eternal ramifications. If it is the true gospel, it can direct men and women into the everlasting kingdom. If it is a corrupted message, it can give unsaved people false hope while consigning them to eternal damnation. This is not merely a matter for theologians to discuss and debate and speculate about. This is an issue that every single pastor and lay person must understand in order that the gospel may be rightly proclaimed to all the nations.”

What message are you communicating when you share the good news of Jesus Christ?  We may say we are advocates of Lordship Salvation, but does our message include repentance?  Or do we speak about a personal relationship that can be yours by faith, either failing to mention repentance or grouping it under faith as a mere synonym (like easy-believism advocates do)?

When Paul speaks to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 he shares with them, “how I did not shrink back from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 20-21).  Repentance and faith go together but they are not the same thing.  As MacArthur points out, “The gospel call presupposes that sinners must repent of their sin and yield to Christ’s authority.”  Repenting of sins means acknowledging I am a sinner and in need of salvation.  Thus we look to Christ as Savior and by the help of the Holy Spirit, who has been given to believers, we have a desire and ability to obey God and submit to Christ’s lordship.  And submit we must.

“K” is for Kenosis Theory

“K” is for Kenosis Theory.  Never heard of it?  Well it is a teaching that came about in the late 19th, early 20th centuries.  It is also a teaching that has numerous holes in it and was flawed from its start.  The main thrust of the kenosis theory is based on the interpretation of a phrase found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  “Kenosis” is taken from the Greek verb “κενόω” which means “empty” and is translated in Phil. 2:7 where Paul, speaking of Christ, says “He emptied Himself” (ESV, NASB) or “He made Himself of no reputation” (KJV).

Kenosis Theorist – Argument & Reasoning

A simple understanding of the kenosis theory says that Christ gave up some of His divine attributes while He was on earth.  The reasoning behind this was to say the Son of God had to renounce some of His divine qualities otherwise He was not fully human.  Louis Berkhof, Reformed pastor and teacher, points out that this theory found favor amongst Lutherans particularly “to denote the self-limitation, not of the Logos (or Word, see John 1:1-18), but of the God-man, whereby He, in the interest of His humiliation, laid aside the actual use of His divine attributes” (Systematic Theology, 327).  The most common attributes it is thought the Son of God laid aside are His omnipotence (all-powerful), omniscience (all-knowing), and omnipresence (all-present or present everywhere).  One passage often cited is Mark 13:32 which says, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  The reason for this, the kenosis theory advocates would say, is because the Son of God gave up His omniscience, His ability to know.

The theory of one, Bishop Gore of England, tried to give Christ a free pass and explain why our Lord was ignorant of what nineteenth-century higher critics deemed as errors in the OT.  Jesus did not know certain errors found in the OT like we do now.  This connects with what Wayne Grudem says the reasoning for this new theory was not a better understanding of the text of Phil. 2:7, or any passage for that matter, but increasing discomfort among the modern rational and scientific people to believe that Jesus Christ was fully human and fully God at the same time (Systematic Theology, 551).  It’s just absurd they thought.

The main problem is that the text with which these theorist derive their understanding does not support them in any way.  In fact, the context (and immediate context at that) points to the meaning Paul had here.  It also lacks support from any of the churches teachers for the first 1,800 years which is usually dangerous territory to step into.  How can we say that the man Jesus Christ was fully God if He lacked some qualities of deity?  The kenosis theory ultimately denies the full deity of Jesus Christ making Him less than fully God and thus denying that He is 100% God and 100% man.  Two natures in one person (see Athanasian Creed).

A Look at Philippians 2:7

Phil. 2:1-6, “1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.”

At the beginning of this chapter Paul is seeking to persuade the Philippian believers to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (v. 3).  What does humility look like?  The prime example of humility is found in Jesus. Though Jesus was God He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (v. 6).  Jesus could have told others to bow before Him for He is the God of the universe.  However, Jesus resolved to do nothing but the Father’s will while on earth (see John 5:19, 30; 6:38; 8:28-29).  Jesus was not going to go about receiving the glory due Him, as God the Son, outside of the Father’s set purposes and plan.  This is where we begin to grasp our understanding of “emptied Himself” (v. 7).  For the rest of the verse does not say, “but emptied Himself, by giving up certain divine attributes” but rather says, “but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”  Thus the real kenosis was not so much a “giving up” as a “taking on.”  God incarnate.  The Son of God became man not for His best interest but for the best interest of others.  We are to do likewise (v. 4).

By way of summary, Paul is stating that Jesus did not command His divine privilege, what was rightfully His as God, namely receiving glory, but rather took the form of a servant and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (v. 8).  Jesus followed His Father’s will perfectly and thus He was raised on the third day and given a name that is above every name (v. 9).  This finds agreement elsewhere in Scripture.  Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5, emphasis added).  Also 2 Cor. 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”  This verse also points out the privilege and honor Jesus deserved to receive yet temporarily gave up for us.

Looking back at an earlier reference, how do we understand verses like Mark 13:32?  One commentator writes, “…for Jesus does not claim the prerogatives of divine Sonship apart from complete obedience to the Father’s will but rather forsakes claims and calculations in favor of humble confidence in the Father’s will” (James Edwards, Mark, 407).  The Father had not revealed the exact time to the Son while He was on earth and Jesus was confident to trust in His Father’s will, and we know Jesus followed the Father’s will even to the point of death by crucifixion.

Concluding Remark

An important lesson for us is whenever points of Christian doctrine are being interpreted more from an empirical standpoint or based on my experiences rather than from the direct teachings of Scripture, errors like this are certain to follow, all dangerous (just some more dangerous than others).