Who is Lord?

31 July 2018
( by Jim Williams ©)

In 1970, a musical called “Jesus Christ, Superstar” was released. It took the country by storm, bringing in a lot of money and praise from believers and non-believers alike. Most people were really taken with its music and its pseudo-theology. Some believers saw it differently, calling it blasphemy. I’ve kept that thought in mind through the years, wondering what was blasphemous, and what made that call a good one.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice concocted a musical masterpiece, the music still sticks with me. Sounding mostly like Webber’s style, it has some memorable melodies in it, for sure. But there is this question, the asking of which explains itself: “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, who are you, what have you sacrificed?” Good question! Jesus polled his disciples the very same first question in a conversation with his disciples: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matthew 16:13-17).

Peter answers the question correctly, and Jesus commends him, adding that Peter knew that because the Holy Spirit had told him so, not people. People didn’t know! Many years after the play was released, there was an interview with Tim Rice, one of the collaborators.

He explained that the piece was written from Judas Iscariot’s perspective. THAT EXPLAINS THE QUESTION! Judas had been the treasurer among the disciples, removing him from suspicion as being the betrayer, even at the Upper Room discourse. Jesus made him treasurer, so he was never thought of as not having Jesus’ best interests at heart. The disciples would have prevented him from betraying Jesus at the slightest thought of it, but as Jesus himself said, he did it “so Scripture could be fulfilled.”

We hear Yvonne Elliman singing the lyric “he’s just a man” in her song. THAT was the thought about him among people in His day, except those who had been forgiven and healed. The world refused Him as He presented himself, as Lord. To this day, the TV networks forbid the mention of His name in reference to God in their programming, because they go along with the idea.

Jesus being Healer is an easy concept to grasp, but healer BECAUSE he is God? That takes the Holy Spirit to say in a heart. It only happens when the heart is willing to accept it. The world never will, count on it. Peter, the character in this play, sings a whole litany of reasons and insights why Jesus as God didn’t make any sense, in that time, or this. “Israel in 4BC had no mass communication” is one line that sticks in memory. His manner and methods were madness to the world. The character and chorus sing out the question out of pure exasperation, coming from their logic as they do—”Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, who are you? What have you sacrificed?” They call him Superstar, because Lord was not a term they would accept for him. It rendered them accountable to give Him his due, and they knew it. Despite His miracles and His claims, they still would not go there.

Jesus Christ Superstar is a magnificent expression of worldly acclaim, because he was only a superstar to them. So, who is HE to you?

Rescuing Verses . . . Woman Caught in Adultery

© Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw (3 September 2018)

After 40 years of ministry in various churches, I have often heard people say that Jesus changed the law regarding the penalty for adultery. Here is the passage:

3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:3-11 ESV)

The passage is not in the earliest manuscripts. There are over 5,700 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, though most of them are short and do not include the whole New Testament, and 900 of those manuscripts include these verses.

If the woman was caught in the act, so was the man. How could the woman be judged and not the man? Of course, that did not mean the woman was innocent. We hear constantly on the news that Hazel Woman or Jack Man was caught doing something but only one was charged. The conclusion often is that if both are not changed then both go free. But that is illogical to the core. If three men murder someone, but only two have sufficient evidence to be charged, does that mean the two should go free also? Should we let the two go free because we cannot find enough evidence to convict the third one? If we cannot convict all, does that mean we must not convict any? That is ridiculous on the face of it.

Others say that Jesus relaxed His Old Testament law. The Old Testament required execution for adultery in some cases: “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 20:10 NKJ).

Moreover, the Old Testament law is a revelation of the character of God and cannot change: “You shall be holy; for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44-45; 1 Peter 1:16; NKJ). It is clear, therefore, that if God is unchangeable, and the law is a revelation of His holy character, then His law cannot change. But that did not mean that every case of sex outside marriage required the death penalty (see Deut. 22:13-30).

Notice that Jesus did not challenge Moses’ law, its holiness, or the penalty for adultery; rather, He supported it. He instituted formal proceedings against her when He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Here is one passage He probably had in mind: “The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you” (Deut. 17:7 NKJ; see also Lev. 24:24; Deut. 19:18-19; 22:22). We see that Jesus, in keeping with the law given above, required the witnesses to cast the first stone. This would make them back up their testimonies to death. Being a witness was a very serious matter.

Again, the witnesses were required to be innocent of the sin they were accusing someone else of committing. It was not any sin that someone must be guilty of but the sin in question, in this case, adultery. If being sinful of any sin whatsoever disqualified anyone from being a witness, no one would ever be such, for all humans are sinful.

When Jesus carefully applied the law, He saw that all the accusers had gone. Since there were no witnesses innocent of the same crime, the formal procedure had to stop. Jesus said,

9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:9-11 ESV)

There could be no formal accusation and no conviction if the witnesses were gone! The sin she was not to commit anymore was adultery.

 

Conclusion

Assuming John 7:53-8:11 is genuine (and I do), we see that Jesus followed the law. He could not compromise His own holy character by saying, in effect, stoning for adultery was too harsh in My law; therefore, I’ll lower the standard. There shall be no more stoning for adultery. He required the witnesses to be innocent of the same crime and to demonstrate their innocence by throwing the first stones. Let us NEVER put a division between the Old Testament and the New Testament as if there were two gods, an Old Testament one who was harsh and a New Testament one who was loving and kind. That would be idolatry. AMEN. Ω

Rescuing Verses . . . “He will slay me, I have no hope” (Job 13:15)

“He will slay me; I will have no hope. Yet my ways I will defend to His face.”

In the summer of 1976 which I spent translating Hebrew, I was working on the second reading of Job (a most difficult book to translate!), and I came across this verse. I had always heard it translated “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him.”

The problem is what words in the text do we translate. If we translate what is actually written, we have ‎(לֹא)  “I will have no hope” or perhaps better, “I have no hope.” If we translate the other word that is there (actually in the margin), we have “I will have hope.” Clue: for hundreds of years, following the KJV, translations have rendered the verse: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” This is popular, and if you want to sell Bibles, don’t change favorite verses. It seems to me that the Hebrew is clear that we should translate it as I have in the heading above.

So what is Job’s point? All through Job’s book he is challenging God to meet with him and explain why he is being so sorely chastised. He cannot understand it. He does not deserve it. The Bible is full of verses that present the idea that we suffer because we deserve it and are delivered because of our righteousness. But in Job we see the righteous suffering, and does that not make life hopeless? Who can have hope when he is chastised even when doing righteousness? How does Job’s suffering help us if even the righteous suffer?

When I was about four years old, my grandmother put me on a bus to go see my Aunt Blanch across town. She was waiting for me at the bus stop, and as soon as we got to her house, I said, “Ok, it is time for a devotion.” I took my Bible and told the story of Job chapters one and two. I could not read and had the Bible upside down. But these two chapters, for some reason (Read my little book, Why Is God Always Late?) were my favorite chapters where we read that “while he was yet speaking” another catastrophe happened to Job as his children were killed and his possessions taken. Why did this happen? Job’s “friends” said he deserved it, for God only judged someone who had sinned. Thus, Job must have sinned. And while it is true that we do often suffer because of our personal sins—it is not always. Enter Job. Here we see extreme suffering, for apparently no reason. Job then laments:

“He will slay me; I will have no hope. Yet my ways I will defend to His face.”

God never chastised Job for being honest with the LORD. This is a statement of despair, which we all have from time to time. Many times in my earthly sojourn I’ve run back to Job, and though Job did not sin at first, he did later:

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)

So why did Job suffer? Who began the contest between Job and Satan? It was the LORD! He challenged Satan to consider that His servant Job who loved Him unconditionally, and Satan challenged Him to take away his possessions and his children and then he would curse God. The LORD gave Satan limited authority to test Job for apparently no reason. Job never knew what the context was all about, and then in despair, Job says:

“He will slay me; I will have no hope. Yet my ways I will defend to His face.”

Have you ever felt that way? Surely you have, and it is not wrong to complain to God, who already knows. But Job demonstrates that God Almighty was in control from beginning to end, which gives us great hope:

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13 NKJ). AMEN.Ω

 

In the Triune God We Trust

(Article and picture used by permission.)
(26 July 2018)

R. J. Rushdoony

Theologian, philosopher, writer, dedicated his life to the scriptures. Here is his article from many decades ago:

 

The men of our times have no right to complain of the developing problems and crises of our world. When men trust in civil government rather than in God, they will always get more statist power in their lives and less of God’s power. When men trust in controls rather than freedom, they will get more controls unto slavery and less freedom.

What men trust in becomes the power over their lives, and the god a man worships is known by what a man trusts. Our coins still read, “In God we trust,” but men address their hopes and prayers to the national and state capitols and then wonder why God abandons them.

St. Paul declared, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Harvest time is approaching for our age.

Men have sown unbelief, debt-living, a trust in what civil government can do for them rather than faith in God. They have looked to politicians for salvation rather than to Jesus Christ, and they have paid their taxes to the state and neglected their tithes to the Lord. They have given their children everything except godly nurture, and they have been rich to themselves and poor to God. Now, as they begin to see the harvest developing, they ask blindly, “Where did I go wrong?”

They want a harvest of blessings they never sowed for, and they want a Sabbath peace and rest they have always defiled, and they wonder at the results because they are blinded by their sins.

The house without foundations is destined to collapse in the storms of history, whereas the life built upon the rock of ages, Jesus Christ, will emerge secure and strong.

Look to your foundations. What is your life founded on? Where is your trust? Your life depends on it. AMEN.

 

Taken from A Word in Season: Daily Messages on the Faith for All of Life, Vol. 3. Get the complete 7-volume set and SAVE now during our Summer Sale! 15% Off + FREE Shipping (US only).

Love Is Commitment

(The Rev. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw, Th.D.)
(10 July 2018)

A man came to me once and wanted to divorce his wife because he said that he just did not love her anymore. He fell in love with her and then fell out of love, and it was not his fault. We talk a lot about love in Christianity, and rightly so for the Bible says “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Let us consider love by discovering what God’s love is like.

We are called to be Christians in order to share God’s love with others, and though we shall never reach perfection in this life, nevertheless we must strive to demonstrate His love. God did not “fall” in love with us, for we were unlovely, sinful, rebellious creatures who hated Him, but God chose to love us. Then, He made a commitment to us by sending His Son to die for our sins. This commitment was unconditional, which is to say, we did not merit His grace and love. Moreover, He accepts us just as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way. In other words, His love has holiness so that He accepts us as we are so He can make us into what we should be: morally holy like Christ. Let us briefly consider each of these aspects in our relationships with others.

First, love is a choice we make, not an emotion that is forced out of us. Like God, we are to do good to others regardless of how they treat us. God commands us even to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), which means we control our own love, not that someone else does.

Second, God has put us in various relationships such as marriage and church. In these relationships, we take vows of commitment to make the relationships work, which further means the commitment is more important than our personal rights or feelings. Thus, we will not pick others apart in the relationship to find something wrong that will strain the relationship, but we shall build them up. In a church, it is easy—and all too often done—to find something wrong with others. When we do this, we assume the moral high ground, we create an atmosphere of discontent, and we can even cause others to take up our “cause.”

Third, we are to accept people unconditionally, which means they do not have to perform to be accepted. We should, of course, expect people to change over time, but we must be patient with them, as God is with us. The next time you’re at church, look around. What do you see? You see misfits, sinful, imperfect people at every stage of growth in the Christian life, and you’ll see hypocrites—everyone one of them is this way, including you! You’ll see teens who are immature and worldly, and you’ll see teens who are walking with the Lord. You’ll see adults who are late in life and full of themselves, and you’ll see other adults mature in Christ. The church is not a place for perfect people, but God’s hospital for sin sick people who need God’s grace and who need one another. But we are called to be committed to them, to choose to love them, to accept them as they are, to make the relationships work. We are called to love people without requiring them to merit our love by being lovely.

Finally, we are to desire God’s holiness for each person, for our spouses and for those in the church. The goal of all love is holiness of life as defined in Holy Scripture. We should never be satisfied with the current state of each person, but diligently seek to help each along the path of growth in keeping God’s commandments, such as the Ten Commandments. But the way to do this is not by dissecting people, not by beating them up with gossip, not by demanding that they do things our way, not by rejecting them. If we reject those who are genuine Christians who hold to the faith, we are in effect saying that we are just too holy to be associated with those who are so far beneath us, which is an arrogant stance.

In all relationships there comes a time of testing the mettle, when we shall see what we are made of, whether we can love or not, or whether we will demand perfection, our own brand of perfection, as a condition to maintain the commitment. Our love—or lack thereof—for others reveals more about ourselves than it does about others. A new church, a new pastor at a church, or a new marriage, will be tested. Can they be like Christ and love His way, can they choose to make the commitment to love unconditionally, to pursue holiness, but in the midst of imperfection? Can they love unconditionally but without compromising God’s commandments? Can they make it work because they know they are sinners also, considering themselves first before they attack someone else? By the grace of God, we can! AMEN.

 

 

 

Rescuing verses . . . “Do not call anyone on earth your father” (Matthew 23:9)

© by The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D., 2017

In my denomination, even though we are Protestant, the tendency is for parishioners to call the pastors “father”.  Sometimes the verse above is quoted against saying “father” to pastors. Sometimes they say that is Roman Catholic. I can dispatch the last objection quickly. Roman Catholics also believe in the Trinity; does that make it wrong?

Now for saying the word “father” to pastors allegedly being wrong. First, consider the other verses connected with Matthew 23:9:

“But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matt. 23:8-10 NKJ)

Second, notice that if it wrong to say “father”, then also we must not call anyone “teacher”. Should we address our human fathers as “male parental unit”? Or, how about this version of the Fifth Commandment: “Honor your male ‘parental being’ and your mother.” The idea in context is that such people should not want personal glory in the position of authority. They are in authority to serve, not to be served. Notice how the Lord Jesus characterized such people:

“They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues,  greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men,’Rabbi, Rabbi.'” (Matt. 23:6-7 NKJ)

Third, the problem is not with the word itself, but with wanting personal recognition and self-glory. Notice what the Apostle Paul said about being a spiritual father:

“I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” (1 Cor. 4:14-15 NKJ)

Paul stated that he only was their father in the gospel, for he had “begotten” them.

Finally, in 1-2 Timothy and Titus, Paul referred to Timothy and Titus as a “true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2); “a beloved son” (2 Tim. 1:2); “to Titus, a true son in our common faith” (Titus 1:4).

Thus, we conclude that saying “father” is not the problem; indeed, it is encouraged by Paul. Rather, the word “father” was being misused, lording it over others, and seeking vainglory, but when one uses his gifts for the good of the church, not seeking vainglory, he is blessed. AMEN 

Crisis Regarding Christ

© by The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D., 2017

(Please consider sending the link to this article to others, at no charge.)

Some years ago a preacher visited my church while on vacation. After the Sunday School class, during which I was teaching on various “Christian” cults, he said, “In my church we have no creed but Christ.” I responded, “Which Christ? The one of the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, the word-faith movement, or of the ancient creeds?” Today we have a crisis regarding Christ because we no longer value truth.

The historic Church has always assumed that there was truth and error, not just opinions. It was zealous to maintain the truth about the Son as revealed in Holy Scripture. It was not tolerant (the politically correct word today) of error concerning Christ, though they could be tolerant of other things. The Church came together on several occasions in ecumenical councils to proclaim the Gospel, the truth about Christ, writing doctrinal statements that were considered binding on all Christians. We have creeds that summarize those councils, such as the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. (The Athanasian Creed is my favorite.) The Church realized that faith was only as good as its object, and the object of faith (Christ) only as good as the content about Him. And from that day to now, those councils, especially the Council of Chalcedon, have been considered by all branches of Christendom—Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodoxy—to be the epitome of orthodoxy regarding the person of Christ. During the greatest revival in the history of the Church, the Reformation, the Reformers did not challenge Chalcedon’s teaching that Christ was fully God, fully man yet sinless, one person, and no mixture of the two natures of divinity and humanity (John 1:1-3, 14; 5:28; 10:30; Col. 1:15ff; 2:9; Heb. 1:1ff; etc). That was bedrock.

Unfortunately, today is different. The ambiance of this age is ripe for heresy since personal opinion is considered to be more important than truth, especially truth from the past. The Church has become obsessed with making people feel comfortable, not with truth. (Indeed, some preachers build large congregations by not preaching on sin or other “controversial” matters.) The Church has devolved into a radical egalitarianism, and truth has been reduced to its lowest common denominator. Now each individual—with or without his Bible—will decide for himself what truth is.

In contrast to the heresies, the early fathers understood that Christology was at the heart of redemption, that who Christ was determined whether man was redeemed or not. Their constant watchword was “what is not assumed [in the incarnation] is not redeemed.” Thus, if Christ had not assumed full humanity (sin excepted), we would have no redemption.

This worked the other way also. The early Church fathers recognized that if Christ had not been fully God and functioning fully as God (contra word-faith leaders who deny that the Son of God used His divine attributes on earth), there could be no reconciliation of God and man, Christ would have had no infinite merit to what He had done, but only the work of a man. At the Council of Ephesus, therefore, the fathers clearly stated in A.D. 431: “If any man shall say that the one Lord Jesus Christ was glorified by the Holy Spirit, so that He used through Him a power not His own and from Him received power against unclean spirits and power to work miracles before men and shall not rather confess that it was His own Spirit through which He worked these divine signs; let him be anathema” (emphasis added).

Anything less than one who functioned fully as man and fully as God in one Person could not die for our sins. He had to be man to die. He had to be God to give infinite value to His work. He had to be one person to bring God and man together, bringing the acts of God and man together as one act. The two natures of God and man could not be mingled, making Him less than God or more than man. If Christ had not been God or had not functioned as God while on earth, we would have the acts of a man and of the Holy Spirit through Him—separate acts of two persons—but that would have been no different than the prophets of old who had the Holy Spirit in them. No, Christ functioned fully as man and as God in one person, thus uniting His work of redemption as one work of the God-man.

Today we have many heresies. There are those who deny the deity of Christ altogether. Then there are others who deny that the Son functioned as God while on earth. Indeed, in the word-faith teaching, man can be a god and create his own providence by audible words spoken in the air. In their view, God and Man are so completely separated in Christ that He only functioned by the Holy Spirit on earth, not by His own divine nature also. Since there is really no union of God and Man in Jesus, according to them, there is no  reconciliation of man with God in one person. Thus, salvation is eliminated. If Christ is only a creature, or only functioned as a creature on earth, God is not revealed, but a wholly unknown being. Thus, God is eliminated.

If there was ever a need for a second Reformation, it is today, and this Reformation must begin where the first one did: with the Church’s stand for truth and with the Christ of the Councils and of the Bible. We must not invent a new “Jesus” for each succeeding generation, but proclaim the old, revealed Jesus, who never changes (Heb. 13:8). The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church that proclaims Christ as the Son of God! AMEN. Ω