Jefferson Vann – The Desert Snake

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15 KJV).

Early in his Gospel, John revealed that Jesus’ life would be the light for humanity (1:4). But he does not immediately unpack that statement theologically. He begins to do so in chapter 3. Nicodemus, who is a theologian, comes to Jesus at night for a conversation on spiritual matters. At that point in his life, Nicodemus could be called a success. He probably felt that he had as good a chance as anyone of getting on God’s good side – and earning his salvation, simply as a result of his theological knowledge. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus knew the Torah. He had become an expert on the books of Moses.

To continue reading Jefferson Vann’s article, click here.

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Nick Batzig – The Genesis of Theology

For those who have decided to go back to Genesis at the beginning of 2018 as you restart your Bible reading plan, here are a few theological themes that emerge when we meditate on the opening two chapters of the Bible in light of the fullness of biblical revelation:

A Theology of Creation and New Creation

“The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” These are some of the very first words in Scripture. With each creative word, the Holy Spirit was animating what the Father had ordained and the Son had spoken into existence. The Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit is the life-producing agent of the Godhead. The Psalmist says, “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the earth” (Ps. 104:30). The importance of the Spirit’s role in creation is understood as we consider His role in the work of the new creation.

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Charles Spurgeon – Death and Life: The Wage and the Gift

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

In the fifth chapter of this Epistle, Paul had shown at considerable length our justification from sin through the righteousness of Jesus Christ our Savior. Our apostle goes on to speak of our sanctification in Christ; that as by the righteousness of Christ we have been delivered from the guilt and penalty of sin, so by the power and life of Christ in us we are delivered from the dominion of sin, so as not to live any longer therein. His object is to show that true servants of God cannot live in sin; that by reason of our newness of life in Christ, it is not possible that we should continue to yield our members instruments unto iniquity. We have passed out of the realm of death. We have come into the domain of life, and, therefore, we must act according to that life. And that life being in its essence pure, holy and heavenly, we must proceed from righteousness unto holiness.

Whilst he is driving at this argument, our apostle incidentally lets fall the text which may be regarded as a Christian proverb, a golden sentence, a divine statement of truth worthy to be written across the sky. As Jesus said of the woman who anointed Him to His burial, “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her” (Matt. 26:13); so I may say, “Wheresoever the gospel is preached, there shall this golden sentence, which the apostle has let fall, be repeated as a proof of his clearness in the faith.” Here you have both the essence of the Gospel, and a statement of that misery from which the Gospel delivers all who believe. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

First, it will be my painful duty to dwell for a while upon death as the wages of sin; and then, more joyfully, we shall close our morning’s meditation by considering eternal life as the gift of God.

To continue reading Charles Spurgeon’s book, click here.

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Michael Boling – Justification

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INTRODUCTION
The issue of justification has had a lasting influence on the Christian understanding of the topic of salvation and its relationship to eternal security. Biblical scholars have developed numerous stances on this theological understanding often resulting in a situation which has left many believers pondering the precise application of justification in their Christian walk. Perhaps the best known debate over this topic was that between Martin Luther and the Roman Catholic Church and encapsulated in Luther’s statement “this is the true meaning of Christianity, that we are justified by faith in Christ, not by the works of the Law.” It was this understanding of justification which launched the Protestant Reformation and a return to the New Testament understanding of the relationship of faith and works.

The exegetical foundation reinstituted by Martin Luther guides most theologians today in their search for a more comprehensive understanding of this immeasurable theological issue. A proper understanding of the meaning, roots and application of justification by faith is obligatory in order to properly live out a vibrant and fruitful Christian life in equilibrium with the expectation of eternal security. Justification is the underpinning upon which the believer in Christ can have assurance in the forgiveness of sin and everlasting reception by a sovereign God.

DEFINITION
Justification can be defined as “the judicial act of God by which, on account of Christ, to whom the sinner is united by faith, he declares that sinner to be no longer exposed to the penalty of the law, but to be restored.” Further exposition on the root meaning of this term can be determined through an understanding of the Greek word for justification used in the New Testament. The judicial and legal terminology that is appropriated to dikaiōma is evident from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Strong notes that dikaiōma “uniformly, or with only a single exception, signifies, not to make righteous, but to declare just, or free from guilt and exposure to punishment.” In a similar stratum of interpretation, theologian George Stevens denotes that “justification is certainly in Paul an actus forensis, a decree of exemption from penalty and of acceptance into God’s favor.” Continue reading “Michael Boling – Justification”

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Michael Bieleski – Soul in the New Testament

In the New Testament the word “soul” is sometimes used to translate the Greek word psuche. However, psuche is also translated by other words as well. For example, it is translated about forty times1) in the New Testament as ‘life’ or ‘lives’. Jesus says that we are not to worry about our life which suggests the present life experienced in bodily form.2

Therefore, understanding the way in which such words are translated has important implications. Sometimes the same Greek word is translated by different English words. Sometimes the same English word is used to translate different Greek words in different contexts. Sometimes an English word remains even though it could be replaced by a more effective equivalent. The task of the translator is to find a word that matches the intent of the writer by taking into account the context in which that word is found.

To continue reading Michael Bieleski’s article, click here.

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Glenn Peoples – What is Conditional Immortality?

“Conditional Immortality” is an unfortunately cumbersome piece of jargon that refers to a fairly simple belief: That human beings are mortal, and can only receive immortality on the condition that God gives it to them as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ.

It begins with an understanding of the nature of humanity as revealed in Scripture. According to the Genesis account the first man was formed out of the dust of the ground, then God breathed life into him and he became a living soul (Gen 2:7).

dust + breath of life = living soul

The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh, which has been variously translated as being, life, soul, creature, etc. but is never equivalent to the Greek/Platonic concept of the soul as an immaterial invisible immortal being, and instead refers to us as whole beings, and to the various aspects of our being such as heart, strength etc. (In fact the KJV translates nephesh in 44 different ways!) The same word is used for the animals (e.g. Gen 1:21,24 “living creatures” = living “Souls”). Thus conditional immortality regards each human as a unit, a soul, comprised of the dust of the earth and the life-giving breath of God, and not as a combination of two or three separate entities (body, soul and spirit).

To continue reading Glenn Peoples’ article, click here.

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Peter Grice – The Neglected Doctrines of Resurrection and Bodily Transformation

Today in Protestant circles we still hear a lot about the immortality of the soul, despite this doctrine being passionately rejected by Martin Luther 500 years ago. But we rarely hear of the immortality of the body, an important feature of resurrection, nor do we even hear that much about resurrection in general! Will all rise physically from the dead, like Jesus did—or only the saved? And if all rise in physical bodies, will the bodies of all be fitted with immortality, never to die again — or only those of the saved?

These kinds of questions are essential for assessing any doctrine of salvation and damnation, and yet they are often absent from the hell debate, and from broader discussion. Both heaven and hell are widely seen as ethereal destinations, to be arrived at immediately upon dying. But this truncated version of the biblical schedule of events renders resurrection and final judgment superfluous, even incoherent. Why were the unsaved sent straight to hell before Judgment Day, the very point at which they will be sentenced to hell? And if the saved and the unsaved already reside in the place where they’ll spend eternity, why bring them out? If they are brought out in resurrection, only to be shortly sent back there but this time in a physical form, how can those realms be suited to both physical and nonphysical habitation?

To continue reading Peter Grice’s article, click here.

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Glenn Peoples – Is the Resurrection Necessary?

According to the New Testament, it’s the resurrection or nothing. There is no other way to have any existence after death. This means, among other things, that there is no conscious soul able to survive without a body.

Every Christian who takes a stance on the mind-body issue is going to have to live with the fact that there will be certain “problem texts” in the Bible that appear to conflict with the position they take. As a materialist,1 I think there is a very small number of such texts for a materialist view, and I think there are plausible explanations for all of them (for example Jesus’ words to the criminal on the cross Luke 23:43, or Paul’s expressed hope to depart and be with Christ). What one hopes to do is to settle on a view that has fewer problems than all others, and a view with problems that have an explanation in sight. 1 Corinthians 15 presents a problem for a dualistic view of human beings, and it is a problem that appears to have no solution.

To continue reading Glenn Peoples’ article, click here.

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Chris Loewen – Hypocrisy, Not Hell: The Polemic Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man

The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19–31) is often one of the first to be mentioned as giving explicit details on the nature and geography of hell. Upon closer examination, these assumptions prove to be lacking and evidence pulls us in another direction. Jesus told this story as a condemnation against the Pharisees, after a prolonged controversy with them regarding the rich and poor. This will be shown by analyzing the context of the story within the gospel of Luke, as well as the cultural and sociological context. Also, the parabolic genre of this story will be considered against the background of extra-biblical parallels of Jesus’ time, which will further reveal its authorial intent.

Lukan Context

In the gospel of Luke, as early as chapter eleven, we see Jesus in the controversy with the Pharisees which gives color to the story under question. There, Jesus is invited to dine at a Pharisee’s table and with three “woes” he condemns their traditions and rituals (11:37–44): the way they treat the poor, the double standard of their tithing, and their prideful way of being first-class in society (11:41–43). With their hypocrisy being criticized, the Pharisees are insulted and they push back in an attempt to trap Jesus with his words (11:53–54). Jesus then warns his disciples of the hypocritical “yeast of the Pharisees” (12:1).

To continue reading Chris Loewen’s article, click here.

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Peter Grice – Warned of Sin’s Wages: A Concise Explanation of Death in Genesis 2:17 and Romans 6:23

In Genesis 2:17, God’s warning “you will certainly die” (מֹות תָּמֽוּת) refers to the penalty or consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin, should they disobey God’s command. They had been given the ongoing privilege to “live forever” by accessing the Tree of Life (Gen 3:22 cf. 16), but this would be forfeited and their lives would be cut short by death—death as normally and universally understood; sometimes called “physical death.”

The main objection to this view is that Adam and Eve did not die “in the day” that they ate (Gen 2:17), if in fact ordinary death was in view. But this is to misunderstand the Hebrew idiom, as Walter Kaiser et al. explain:

It is just as naive to insist that the phrase “in the day” means that on that very day death would occur. A little knowledge of the Hebrew idiom will relieve the tension here as well. For example, in 1 Kings 2:37 King Solomon warned a seditious Shimei, “The day you leave [Jerusalem] and cross the Kidron Valley [which is immediately outside the city walls on the east side of the city], you can be sure you will die.” Neither the 1 Kings nor the Genesis text implies immediacy of action on that very same day; instead they point to the certainty of the predicted consequence that would be set in motion by the act initiated on that day. Alternate wordings include at the time when, at that time, now when and the day [when] (see Gen. 5:1; Ex. 6:28; 10:28; 32:34).

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