"Nothing more impressive than an intellectual and spiritual approach to seeking truth and a willingness to embrace it unconditionally."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pentecost Prevails

I am blessed to have one of the greatest Apostolic evangelists as my father. He may not be as flashy as most, but he is the most diligent man of prayer that I have ever known. As a result of great prayer, he is a man of great faith. I never cease to be amazed at his walk with God.

He has revolutionized more churches, saints and ministries than life will ever reveal. While he has preached his share of conferences, it is not his claim to fame. When a pastor calls my father for revival he only wants two things: 1 Someone to help promote a real spirit of pray in his assembly. 2 Someone who can move sinners and help pray them through.

On another blog at some later time I will share some of the incredible stories about my father and his revivals, but I post this blog only to share that in 2009 he saw about 219 people receive that baptism of the Holy Ghost. He saw 48 in one revival and 65 in another! If you have not heard my father preach or had him to your church, if you are a pastor, you owe it to yourself to so do.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Zell Miller's 2004 RNC Speech

video

Temptations of Christ

The crux of the impeccability vs. peccability debate centers on the nature of Christ’s temptations. This is true primarily from the perspective of the peccability view. The “temptation argument” is the only affirmative argument of merit from the peccability camp. If not for the temptation passages there would be no debate.

So, the purpose of this post is to address the temptation passages and to demonstrate that they are in no way incompatible with the impeccability view. I will deal with each of the temptation texts and demonstrate how they fall short of proving the peccability view.

The premise of the temptation argument is, if Christ could not fail then his temptations are meaningless. They argue that the possibility of failure is inherent in temptation. To the peccability camp, temptation and possibility of failure cannot be divorced. I will provide a remonstration of this view both grammatically and scripturally.

Is the view that the possibility of failure is inherent in temptation correct? The grammatical answer is, no! There is not a single definition of πειράζω (pierazo), the Greek word for temptation, that necessitates this inherent possibility of failure.

From G3984; to test (objectively), that is, endeavor, scrutinize, entice, discipline: - assay, examine, go about, prove, tempt (-er), try.” James Strong

to try whether a thing can be done” J. H. Thayer

to attempt, endeavour” J. H. Thayer

to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quantity, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself” J. H. Thayer

to try, attempt, assay” W.E. Vine

These are only a small sample of Greek scholarship, yet among the greatest and reflective of all. The redundancy of quoting every scholar would bore the reader as well as be impractical. As you can see, there is nothing in these definitions that indicates a necessity of possible failure for temptation to be real. I think the definition that best illustrates my point is Thayer when he says, “to try whether a thing can be done.” This is an absurd definition if possibility is inherent.

In all reality the burden of proof is on the shoulders of the peccability camp to prove that temptation must have the possibility of success to be real. They cannot do it grammatically, theologically, or otherwise. If one claims that “X” is true, the burden of proof is on their shoulders. In the matter of temptation the burden is most assuredly more than they can bear.

Let us take a look at the individual passages used by the impeccability camp to prove their claims about the temptations of Christ.

For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18 KJV

This verse is often cited as proof that Jesus was tempted by sin and therefore the possibility of his failing exists. Is that really what the verse proves? I shall illustrate that the verse speaks nothing to Christ being tempted to sin, but to the Cross. Let us look at the text!

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:9-10, 14-18 KJV

As you can see, the entire context of the chapter is about the suffering of Christ on the cross. This is not a text demonstrating Christ’s suffering as a result of a temptation to commit sin; rather that the suffering of the Cross was a test that he endured. This verse is not saying that temptation to sin caused suffering, but that the suffering was a test to him. For proof I quote Vincent.

Ἐν ᾧ is not inasmuch as, but means in that which. Ἐν ᾧ πέπονθεν qualifies πειρασθείς, explaining in what the temptation consisted, namely, in suffering.” Vincent’s Word Studies


This text demonstrates that the experience of Christ suffering on the cross, and thereby being tested, enables him to more sympathetically indentify with those who are tested no matter what their test may be. There is nothing in the context of this verse that alludes to Christ being tempted to sin. In short, I deny that Hebrews 2: 18 is a text that teaches Christ was tempted with sin.

The second temptation passage that is pointed to is Hebrews 4:15. The peccability camp points to this text to claim that “Christ was tempted like we are tempted.” I will concede, if only for arguments sake, that this text teaches he was tempted with sin. The peccability camp argues that Jesus could not be tempted the way we are tempted if he could not sin like we can sin. Is this the claim made by the text? I say no! Please keep in mind that the burden of proof is on the shoulders of those who argue that the temptations text prove Jesus could sin. All I have to do is show that the texts do not conclusively prove what the peccability camp says that they do to disarm the argument.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15 KJV

Nothing in the text says, either explicitly or implicitly, that Christ’s temptation experience was identical to ours in every way, including possibility of sinning. Yet, this is the very argument that is made by the peccability view. The terms used in the text demonstrate this is not necessarily true. The phrase “touched with the feeling” is a perfect example. It comes from the Greek συμπαθέω (sumpatheo), or as some translations better render it, sympathize (see EMTV, ESV, Murdock, YLT & others). His sympathizing with our condition does not necessitate that he has an identical experience with us.

For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” Hebrews 10:34 KJV

Here the writer of Hebrews (Paul) says to “ye,” the entire receiving audience of this Epistle, that they had compassion (sumpatheo) on him in his bonds. It is impossible to assume that all of the “ye” had also been in prison like Paul, therefore they had not experienced all he had the way he had, yet they could all sympathize with him in his situation. It is probably unnecessary to point out that this is the only other place, apart from Hebrews 4:15, that “sumpatheo” is use; therefore it is impossible to grammatically insist on a definition in Hebrews 4:15 that means something more than it does in Hebrews 10:34. It cannot be proven that Christ feeling our infirmities means he had an identical experience, i.e. being tempted with sin with the possibility of sinning.

Next we must address, “but was in all points tempted like as we are.” The peccability camp argues from this text that Jesus experience d every temptation that we have experienced with the same ability to fail. Most argue that Jesus was tempted by each specific sin in order to be able to equally indentify with all. He was tempted by sexual lust, by stealing, lying and every other sin. Is this really what the text is teaching? I think you will find this absurd when you consider the true nature of temptation. What is absolutely necessary for temptation to be effectual? This is illustrated by James in a profound way.

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” James 1:14-15 KJV

James argues that temptation occurs when a man is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. So, until one is drawn away and enticed, there has been no temptation that can cause its conception and bring forth or give birth to sin. The question at this point that must be answered by the peccability view is, was Jesus ever drawn away by a desire for sin? Where is the verse that teaches either by example or direct statement that Jesus ever had a desire in him for things that were sinful? In my opinion if you cannot do that, then you cannot begin to substantiate your pitiful premise of a peccable Christ.

The metaphors that were used by James give incredible insight into the true nature of temptation. I want to bring to your attention the Greek phrases for “drawn away” and “enticed”. The Greek for these words are essential to proper perspective on what James is illustrating.

DRAWN AWAY

Only here in New Testament. This and the following word are metaphors from hunting and fishing. Drawn away, as beasts are enticed from a safecovert into a place beset with snares.” Vincent’s Word Studies

“metaphorically lure forth: in hunting and fishing as game is lured from its hiding place, so man by lure is allured from the safety of self-restraint to sin.” J.H. Thayer

ENTICED

“As a fish with bait.” Vincent’s Word Studies

“to bait, catch by a bait” J.H. Thayer

The point that James is making with theses incredible metaphors is that for temptation to be real there has to be a desire for the things by which one is tempted in order for it to be effectual or successful . If the fish has no appetite for the bait (temptation) that the fisherman (tempter) is attempting to lure him with, the fish will not respond. The fisherman can dangle it in front of the fist all day long, yet if the fish has no appetite for it, the fisherman cannot catch the fish.

The fact that the fisherman cast the bait is proof that the fish is being tempted WITH the bait, yet the fish may or may not be tempted BY the bait. There is a distinct difference in being tempted WITH something and being tempted BY something. We must keep this distinction in mind. So, from the Fisherman’s perspective he is tempting, but from the fish’s perspective he may not be tempted at all. The temptation that is successful, according to James, must be the one where the fish is tempted BY the bait, and not just WITH the bait. There must be internal desire!

With this divinely inspired illustration in view, one must ask himself, did Jesus have appetite for the sin bait? Was there anything in Christ that desired sin? I think the scriptural answer is resounding and emphatically NO! On what do I base this position?

“Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” John 14:30 KJV

What does the phrase “hath nothing in me” mean? Notice what appears to be nearly unanimous consent among scholarship.

“There is in me no principle or feeling that accords with his, and nothing, therefore, by which he can prevail. Temptation has only power because there are some principles in us which accord with the designs of the tempter, and which may be excited by presenting corresponding objects until our virtue be overcome. Where there is no such propensity, temptation has no power. As the principles of Jesus were wholly on the side of virtue, the meaning here may be that, though he had the natural appetites of man, his virtue was so supreme that Satan “had nothing in him” which could constitute any danger that he would be led into sin, and that there was no fear of the result of the conflict before him.” Albert Barnes

“or as some copies read it, "shall find nothing in me;" or as others, "hath nothing to find in me;" Christ had no sin in him, which can be said of none but him.” John Gill

“nothing to fasten on” Jamieson, Fausset, Brown

Should one of us make such a claim we would rightfully and immediately be derided as a fool. Surely none, save the impeccable Christ, qualifies to say, “the prince of this world…hath nothing in me.” This same thought is found in this specific temptation text, Hebrews 4:15. The phrase used in the text is “without sin.” I will not belabor this point, but I will give you one quote for consideration.

“Greek,choris,” “separate from sin” (Heb_7:26). If the Greek “aneu” had been used, sin would have been regarded as the object absent from Christ the subject; but choris here implies that Christ, the subject, is regarded as separated from sin the object [Tittmann]. Thus, throughout His temptations in their origin, process, and result, sin had nothing in Him; He was apart and separate from it [Alford].” Jamieson, Fausset, Brown

The answer must then be that Jesus, while knowing how we feel when we are tempted with sin, had nothing in him that desired sin and therefore it was impossible for lust to conceive and bring for sin. Jesus did not have what it took to conceive sin, that is desire for it, therefore without conception, giving birth to sin would have been impossible.

Being “in all points tempted likes as we are” was fulfilled in the wilderness. He was tempted in all points, categorically and not individually.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 1 John 2:16 KJV

Each of these three categories of temptation were fulfilled in the wilderness, which is the only model for the temptations of Christ that we have available to us. Further proof of this is found in the wilderness text.

“And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.” Luke 4:13 KJV

“The verb συντελέσας, from σύν, together, and τελέω, to accomplish, means to bring to one end together; hence to bring to an end utterly. Better therefore as Rev., completed. The temptations formed a complete cycle, so that it could afterward be said of Jesus that “he was in all points tried like as we are” (Heb_4:15).” Vincent’s Word Studies

Therefore, “tempted in all points like we are,” was fulfilled in the wilderness. Some argue, though I cannot say at this point I completely agree, that in the wilderness is found Christ only temptation so far as sin is concerned.

Three Little Prigs: By Todd Nance

The Three Little Prigs[1]

Once upon a time there were three little prigs: Cuthbert, Porter, and Bertram. They had lived very contentedly with their parent’s strong faith but the time had come for the three brothers to forge a faith of their own. Prayer, blessing, and warning graced their departure: beware Slew the circuit-riding wolf: a very ingenious and dangerous enemy, who by “hook or crook” was not above attacking fledgling faith.

Cuthbert, the youngest, launched out crying, “Do something- even if it’s wrong!” His parent’s rules made leaving home easy. “I‘ll keep the basics,” he said, “but take away the needless barriers of separation that keep good people out.” Anything old or established was intolerable to him; he meditated listening to Everything is Beautiful on his CD player. He did not attack separation, he just no longer mentioned it and the line of distinction disappeared.

Cuthbert attempted a noble goal: his faith would make room for everyone. Crisis and convenience shaped his theology. He built with straw: soft, inoffensive, and flexible. Now Porter, the elder brother, decided his parents had allowed too much liberty and set out to build a better cage.

Porter measured everything: his dependability, his faithfulness, his prayers, and his Bible reading with a journal, a public journal. He also tallied every offense, every lack of spirituality in his brothers (he had a long record of Cuthbert), and every favor rendered. He also had a problem with “spasms:” In some of the most unusual situations his knee would jerk. For him theology was simple: black or white, gray was a liberal color.

Porter’s motto was, “Better safe than sorry.” Being skeptical and paranoid of anything new, Porter avoided risk. In his private (?) devotions he listened to Hold the Fort on his eight- track tape. So Porter built his faith of sticks: stiff, hard, and brittle.

Then there was the middle child Bertram. He was adventurous but not experimental; he thought for himself, but he was not super bright like his brothers. He couldn’t even make the simplest decision without a “season of prayer.”Bertram would not cut corners; he took the best of his training, mixed personal victories and built his own faith; this was his faith and he wanted it right. He knew false doctrine was not the only kind of heresy; it could be teaching part of the truth for the whole truth. He also noticed that specialized faiths did not last long. For him balance was the operative word. Bertram built his faith: Jesus Christ his foundation; Holiness and Love his message.

Soon after the brothers were settled into their faiths, a lone dark stranger sauntered into town. He smirked and pulled at his goatee as drapes pulled, doors slammed, and streets cleared. The whole town knew Slew the wolf, and he was on the prowl. Slew had long since given up huffing and puffing and blowing houses down. “Doctrinal breezes” were now his weapon of choice. “Winds of doctrine” are not all harsh; some are soothing, enticing, deadly, and quite effective.

Slew paid Cuthbert a formal visit. “Some things are not important,” Slew suggested. “We shouldn’t be so narrow about the way we dress, the places we go, the things we see, and the people we fellowship.” Cuthbert began to wonder if anything really mattered. With wafting promises of crowds, Cuthbert tried it all. The Word of God was de-emphasized (anyone can say what one means in twenty minutes) and music became center stage; after all, the letter killeth, the Spirit giveth life.

Gimmicks propped up church attendance; with drama and talent replacing the Holy Spirit. They did mention Jesus but evangelism was preeminent. “Winning the lost at any cost” became Cuthbert’s mantra. When last seen, Cuthbert’s fellowship looked, acted, and believed the same values as the world. Who was winning whom? Slew chuckled as he roasted Cuthbert’s faith with the straw trimmings left behind; it was a short feast.

Porter lasted longer out of sheer stubbornness, but Slew was patient. After several failed attempts, Slew found something that worked on Porter. Was everyone who called himself a brother truly worthy of his fellowship? Porter decided to narrow his fellowship so he could be “holy.” Because his righteousness was self-righteousness, he lost his peace; joy soon followed. Even evangelism (a former favorite pastime) became drudgery: it was too difficult to skin the fish before he got them in the boat. He was not just trying to live above sin but above his brethren. This self-imposed pressure began to take its toll; sticks began to “snap” until his faith was in shambles.

His pile of broken sticks looked amazingly like Cuthbert’s and burnt just as fast. With Cuthbert joining the world and Porter joining the monastic “Order of Bitter Critics,” Slew aimed for Bertram’s faith. Slew tried his best, and Bertram learned firsthand that Slew was a very crafty opponent indeed. Bertram did stumble a time or two, repented, but never caved. He anchored himself in the way of holiness and reached out to the lost. Commands and promises equally offered he presented Jesus and balance kept Slew away.

Cuthbert and Porter never did come around to Bertram’s faith. And Slew is still available to push the fringe believer in the wrong direction. But plain, sure-footed Bertram is still living for God- because of balance. Balance does not win titles or praise; balance just keeps a person saved. And like a well-balanced tire, a balanced faith will last a long time and the ride is smoother.



[1] prig (1), noun. a person who is too particular about speech and manners, and prides himself on being better than others. Ex. A prig is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions (George Eliot).

1 priggish, adjective. too particular about doing right in things that show outwardly; priding oneself on being better than others. (World Book Dictionary, 1998).

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Jesus: He Shall Not Fail

This Messianic text was brought to my attention by a friend of mine and I thought that I would share it with all of you. For those of you who are not familiar with the theological term Impeccability, it is the Christological view that teaches that Christ could not sin. There are many facets to this debate, but I am going to focus on only one aspect of the debate, and only one text for this short post. The text of interest for this post is:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. 4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. 5 Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: 6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” Isaiah 42:1-7 KJV

I want to particularly highlight a couple phrases from the above messianic text. I will not take the time to articulate all the nuances of this prophecy. The LORD says, “
He shall not fail nor be discouraged.” By divine decree it was declared Messiah shall not fail. This answers perfectly the question posed by the Peccability view, "why would Satan tempt Jesus if he knew he could not sin?" I ask this question of the Peccability advocates, "why would Satan temp Jesus if he knew he would not sin?" For all practical purposes, both would be an equal waste of time.

This prophecy makes it abundantly clear that Jesus would not sin during his fleshly sojourn. If you argue that Jesus could have sinned, then you must argue that God’s promise that Messiah would not fail was incredible. You must also argue that the preservation promised to Messiah that he would “
hold his hand and keep him” is equally incredible. It was the predestined promise of Jehovah that “He shall not fail." The Peccability view from the prophetic perspective would proudly and presumptuously predict, “He MIGHT Fail.” Yes, I know that is a lot or words in one sentence to start with a P, but I am to lazy to rewrite it.