Sunday, July 25, 2010

Righteousness and Wickedness

Dr. Bruce Waltke was the guest speaker in my church's Sunday service today, and his sermon was on Proverbs 1:1-7. He explained that in the book of Proverbs, righteousness means to disadvantage yourself in order to advantage others. Wickedness means to advantage yourself by disadvantaging others. He gave this illustration. Let's say he wants his students to write a research paper that requires the use of an out-of-print book. The library only has one copy of that book. A wicked student would borrow out that book, write the research paper, and try to get an A. He doesn't care that the other students won't get A's. A righteous student would be concerned about whether the other students get access to that book and get A's.

Another example of wickedness would be to not clean up after yourself. Still another example would be to cut in ahead of others when driving in a traffic jam.

Secular society tells us that in order to get ahead, we need to advantage ourselves in all the ways that we can. The Bible teaches us to do the opposite. In fact, the cross is ultimate example of this, where Jesus disadvantaged Himself by dying on the cross in order to advantage us sinners, so that we who believe may have eternal life in His name.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Theological Differences Among Christians

If the apostle John were still alive today, there would be no major theological differences among Christians today to the extent that we have now. After careful exegesis of Scripture, if Christians still disagree on some secondary doctrine, they could have asked John and settle the matter once and for all. Alternatively, if God had allowed angels to preach and teach, then that would settle many theological issues too. After all, the angels were alive back in the first century to see if Christians at that time baptized their infants. They were alive when Paul preached in his missionary journeys, and many of the sermons were not recorded in the book of Acts. Having full mastery of biblical languages and untainted by sin, the angels are probably better theologians than the more knowledgeable preachers today.

Instead, God has chosen to reach people with the gospel through people. Not only that, He has chosen not to intervene when pious Christians disagree on various issues ranging from baptism to communion to election to the sign gifts to the extent of the atonement. He has chosen not to send an apostle or angel to the 21st century church to resolve modern theological differences.

The Old Testament saints did not have this problem when the prophets were alive, at least not to the extent that we have. If anybody was interested, they could go to Ezekiel and asked him if election of individuals to salvation was conditional or unconditional. Even without the revelations of the New Testament, Ezekiel might be able to answer this question better than many of us because he knew the LORD's tone of voice with which He spoke when he wrote, "For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!" (Ezekiel 18:32).

Believers in the early church certainly did not have this problem, because they could ask the apostles verbally or at least write a letter to them. The Corinthian believers wrote a letter to Paul asking him questions that were of interest to them, such as eating food sacrificed to idols. Paul wrote a letter in reply, answering their questions and more.

During the seven-year tribulation period, the Two Witnesses (whom I believe are Moses and Elijah) can answer questions and reconcile theological differences among believers who came to faith after the Rapture of the Church.

Non-glorified saints in the Millennial Reign of Christ will not have this problem, because they could ask Jesus Himself or any of His apostles.

Our situation for the past 1900+ years is unique because no apostle is alive to resolve theological differences. We are left with the Bible. When we as godly Christians who believe the infallibility of Scripture disagree on what Scripture meant, we must do so charitably, being careful to distinguish primary doctrines from secondary ones.

Job had not read the book of Job when calamity struck him, so he did not know of God's conversations with Satan behind the scenes, where God commended Job as one who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:8, 2:3). When God answered him out of the storm, He did not tell him about His conversations with Satan. Even after God restored Job and gave him twice of what he had, he did not find out why God allowed calamity to strike. Job did not know the answer, but he knew the One who does. It was only after he died that he found out what took place.

Likewise, we do not have all the answers, but we know the God who does. As for why God did not keep apostle John alive to spare us all this confusion, I do not know, but God has His reasons. We Christians may disagree charitably, but we live in the eager expectation that we will live eternally with the Lord and with one another, and all our disagreements will be resolved.