Islam and the Gospel

I have started teaching a series on world religions to a group of teens at church and last night we focused on Islam. As I was preparing for the study I could not help but think of the horrors of 9/11 and what we have seen in the last decade with ISIS and other terror groups. And, of course, there is always the threat of what is Iran going to do with their push for nuclear weapons?

It prompted me to think about what we should do? How can we best reach Muslims for the kingdom?

I think that far too often we try to come up with creative ways to evangelize. We think of strategies, we think of programs, we think of what might be useful. What can we do to reach these people? Where should we reach them? What should we say, or better yet, what should we not say?

When we ask all of these questions, I believe it hinders our mission. It holds us back. The Bible does not instruct us to come up with all of these programs and ideas. What does the bible actually say? It says to GO. It says to teach what we have been taught. (Matthew 28:18-19)

In Scripture, we do not see them coming up with strategies, programs, materials, etc. No, we see them going out and preaching the untainted Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is what we should do. That is our calling. The Gospel is enough. I firmly believe that. We don’t need to dress it up, it will cut like a two-edged sword just as it is (Hebrews 4:12).

So let’s go. Get out of the planning rooms. Get out of the meetings. Just go and preach the Gospel!

Book Review: 40 Questions About Arminianism

UPDATE: After some discussion and review, I have re-read the book and have a new review with a much different outlook. Please know that below is my original review and no longer my stance on the book. My new review is available at this link.

The soteriological battles of Arminianism versus Calvinism have been raging since the 16th Century. In reality, they have been going longer than that, but the two positions seem to focus on John Calvin and Jacob Arminius. J. Matthew Pinson’s new book seeks to answer 40 Questions About Arminianism.

For a Calvinist, such as myself, I was excited to read a book that claims to answer questions about Arminianism. I was hoping to find something new that I did not know and to find solid explanations for the position of the opposing theological viewpoint. If that is what you are seeking, this book is not for you.

The back cover of the book claims that, “J. Matthew Pinson combines solid historical research with biblical and doctrinal position to address the following questions and more…” But this is hardly the case. Instead, the book is just a hit piece on caricatures of Calvinism. Many things are taken out of context and twisted in order to prop up Pinson’s points. Yes, there are some speckling of Arminian positions in the book, but just as much of the book focuses on Calvinism as it does Arminianism.

But the idea that the book speaks with historical and doctrinal precision is laughable at best. No greater example of this can be seen than on page 120 of the paperback edition. Pinson writes, “Consistent Calvinists get so far from the consensus of the church catholic on this doctrine that many Calvinists do not hold to limited atonement.” This is a quotation that is made as a statement of fact. But Pinson writes in the footnote, “While I have no hard data on this…” Anyone who makes a statement of fact and then relates in a footnote that there is no evidence for the statement of fact does not deserve to be taken seriously in the arena in which they debate.

Many other Scripture references are taken out of context in order to prove the Arminian viewpoint and downplay Calvinism’s doctrinal accuracy. One clear example of this is on his pointing to John 12:32 to say that Christ will draw all mean, meaning individuals, to himself. But a clear look at the context of this passage shows that he is referring to people groups, Jew and Gentile, and not individuals.

As stated before, if you are looking for a book that explains Arminian theology and letting that stand on its own, this is not a book for you. I do not recommend this resource to any diligent student of the Word for reasons put forth and generously give this book one out of five stars.

I was provided a free copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Let’s Talk About John 3:16

John 3:16 is one of the most quoted and most beloved verses in all of Scripture. It is a defining verse that gives hope for humanity. Whoever believes in Christ will not perish. This is an amazing verse of strength, glory, and victory. But this verse is also misused regularly.

It is often stated that John 3:16 is definitive proof that God loves everyone equally and wants to save every individual. Further, it is argued that it means Christ died for the sins of every individual. However, none of these assertions are reality.

First, John 3:16 does not actually address who Christ died for directly. It only says that Christ came because of God’s love for the world and that those who believe in him will not perish. It states nothing about the extent of the atonement other than that those who believe will receive it.

But does John 3:16 say that God loves all with a “saving” love? I do not see how one can argue that from this text. Verses 17 and 18 negate this idea. They state that those who do not believe have been condemned already. They already stand condemned. They will not be saved. God has not chosen them to be saved. If God had a “saving” love for every individual, every individual would be saved. To believe otherwise would say that God cannot accomplish His will.

The idea that there is no predestination, that there is no election, is to say that God leaves everything to chance. We do not find that anywhere in Scripture. No, God chose and will save those who he has chosen. There are others that He has chosen not to save. That is what Scripture teaches.

Is this a hard pill to swallow? In some ways, yes. But in other ways it should be extremely comforting to know that God is saving anyone at all when we all deserve Hell fire.

Book Review: The Septuagint

The Greek Old Testament, often referred to as the Septuagint, is a useful tool in Bible Study. But do we really understand the Greek Old Testament, where it came from, and how it should be used? Gregory Lanier and William Ross seek to answer these questions in their book, The Septuagint: What It Is and Why It Matters.

As a Theology major, I always have had some familiarity with the Septuagint. However, what I have found by reading this book is that I really knew very little about it. What Lanier and Ross have put together is an amazing history of the Greek Old Testament and explaining some myths and misconceptions about the document. For example, it is not a single document, rather, it is a collection of documents.

The book carefully lays out what the Septuagint is, and what it is not. It explains the texts behind the collection of works and why they matter. It also goes into great detail as to where these works came from and how the work, overall, was developed.

The book also examines whether or not the Septuagint should be an authority for Christians today. The conclusion is that the Septuagint is useful for study, but the Hebrew texts should be preferred.

For those who are wanting a primer on what the Greek Old Testament is, this is the book for you. It is informative, easy, and enjoyable to read. If you do not want to read the entire book but would like a quick overview of the Septuagint and the areas explored within the book you can simply read the Appendix, “Ten Key Questions About the Septuagint.”

This book is an excellent resource for any serious student of the Old Testament, and I give it four out of five stars.

I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Who Seeks God?

One of the classic arguments against election and predestination is the argument that we have free will and we all have the opportunity to come to God. But is that really true? This depends. It depends on what you mean by free will. Let’s look at what the Bible says about who will seek God.

First, let’s talk about free will. What is it? If by free will you mean every man is free to choose what he desires then, yes, I agree, there is free will. But if you mean that we have an equal choice with no influence or determiners then no, we do not have free will.

Does this align with Scripture? Yes. The proponents of free will, the humanistic definition of free will, suggest that people come to Christ on their own free will. They make this choice all by themselves. The problem is, Scripture says otherwise. Romans 3 clearly tells us that nobody seeks God.

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.

Romans 3:10-11 English Standard Version

Nobody comes to Christ on their own. They, that is we humans, in our natural state do not want God. We want to be left in our sin in our own ways. That is the reality of the human condition.

Jesus told us that nobody comes to him without the Father (John 6:65). The Father has to grant someone to come to the Son. It is the Father who has decided who will be saved, not us. We don’t want it. Jesus also said that the Father must draw the individual to him (John 6:44). The word for draw, literally means to haul or drag. It’s not a simple, “come to me” and we follow suit. It is something God has to change within us.

So is there free will? Again, that depends on how you define free will, but nobody comes to God without God.

Book Review: Reprobation and God’s Sovereignty

Reprobation is a term often misunderstood and misused. It is a term that is full of emotions being the other side of predestination. The damnation of real people who are not of the elect of God. It is a tough doctrine but one that must be carefully studied and understood. When properly understood, it gives glory to God as we see his majesty in his holiness and justice. But what about the human objections? What about the hardness of this doctrine? Peter Sammons has the answers in his new book Reprobation and God’s Sovereignty: Rediscovering a Biblical Doctrine.

Sammons does an excellent job of explaining the doctrine of reprobation in great detail. He goes to great lengths to not only provide scriptural support, but also, painstakingly demonstrates through the history of the church exactly what this doctrine means and how it is to be used and understood. But he does not stop there.

The doctrine of Reprobation has many emotions bundled with it that lead to objections of fatalism, or an unloving God, or a God who is actually the author of evil. Sammons takes these objections one by one and meticulously details the proper responses to these objections that are largely unfounded and purely emotional pleas.

The book is full of excellent footnotes that provide readers many sources to further explore the doctrine and objections. Sammons also includes appendixes that show the detail of what is contained within the covers of the book with scriptural support and arguments. Also included are topics and areas for further study as you go deeper into this doctrine and the doctrines that connect to Reprobation.

The book is an easy read and enjoyable, not overly technical. I give this book five out of five stars for excellent research, great sources, wonderful exposition, and easy readability. This book is a must have for anyone studying the topic of salvation.

I was given a copy of this book free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Not Willing That Any Should Perish?

I often hear the argument from non-Calvinists that God is not willing that any should perish and therefore Reformed Doctrine is 100% wrong. But is it truly the case that God is not willing that any individual perish? Is it really his will that all would go to heaven and be saved? No, it is not. There are many problems with this suggestion, and we shall examine a few now.

First, let’s deal with the major elephant in the room. If God desired and, in fact, willed, that every person, individual, be saved, then all would be saved. But we know that is not the case at all. There are too many verses to name that talk about the damned being forever separated from God in Hell. So, if people are going to Hell, and they are, then either God does not will that everyone be saved, or he is too weak to accomplish his will. I choose the former.

Now, let’s deal with the not willing that any should perish idea. Where does this come from? The verse used to prop up this false idea is 2 Peter 3:9.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Pet. 3:9 (ESV)

If you take this verse out of context, as the non-Calvinist tends to do, and quickly read the verse without careful examination, then yes, you will probably come to the conclusion that God wants all to be saved and have nobody perish. But that is not what this verse states.

The verse states that the Lord is patient towards you. Who are the you? Who are these any that God does not want to perish? Context gives us the answer. If you look at chapter 3 in verses 1, 8, 14, 15, and 17, you see this is written to the beloved. That is, people who are already saved, the elect. That is who the you in verse 9 refers to. The you are the elect.

God is not willing that any of the elect, not all individuals, should perish. This is consistent with the rest of Scripture. God is the one who chooses who will be saved, not man (Romans 9:16, John 1:12-13).

That’s What Christmas is All About!

As we are in the height of the Christmas season, I think back each year about the true meaning of Christmas. Yes, we have the lights, the gifts, the toys, the FOOD, the wonderful Christmas music. We have parades and parties. We have candlelight services and Christmas plays. But what is Christmas all about? What is the real significance?

It may surprise you that I am not going to say it is not about Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in a manger. That is certainly the main focus of what we remember, but that is not the real meaning and significance of Christmas. That scene is only a small part.

In fact, I do not even focus on Luke 2 at all for the underlying meaning of Christmas. I actually focus on John 1:14.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 ESV

The focus of Christmas is that God the Son took on flesh and became a man. He came into this sinful world to dwell among the wicked human race. He came to live a life that would end in tremendous suffering, pain, and death.

Christ came into this world to die for those who would believe in Him. To save them. To give them eternal life. To keep them from depths of Hell.

That is what we celebrate at Christmas. So, while we have all of our fun with our parties, movies, food, lights, presents, and everything else that goes with Christmas, let’s not forget what the real celebration is all about. After all, in the words of Linus Van Pelt, “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.”

Will Roe v. Wade Be Overturned?

Yesterday the country was in a stir over a case being heard by the Supreme Court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. Pro-Life conservatives see this as a legitimate chance to finally undo the damage caused by Roe v. Wade back in the ’70s.

But for Christians, this should not even be a debate. All people are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). We are unique among creation. We are the crown jewel of creation in the eyes of the Lord. That does not mean we are perfect, no, we have perverted God’s creation with sin. But there is something to be said about the sanctity of life. Psalm 139 says that God crafted us in our mother’s womb. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. That is not just something a mother gets to destroy because of convenience.

The idea that abortion is about women’s health is shameful, sinful, and wrong. Abortion is about the murder of innocent life. People can try and justify it all they want. But at the end of the day, it is murder. It is a premeditated, intentional, often violent, killing of a human being. It is the most heinous of acts. The situation does not matter. It does not matter if the mother made bad choices or if she was the victim of equally heinous circumstances, she does not have the God-given right to kill an innocent child. Period.

These truths are reality no matter what a court or a legislative body decides.

Christians are hopeful that abortion in this country is stamped out. But even if it is not outlawed legally, we must continue to call abortion what it is, murder. We must continue to support the women who feel like that is their only option by giving them alternatives. We need to be willing to support financially, to adopt, to foster, and to help in any way we can so the unborn can live their lives, a true God-given right.