Archives For Theology

December 30, 2014

Our Blessed Hope

by Nathan Busenitz

clouds_2I imagine it as a sunny morning with just a few clouds in the sky. What a whirlwind the last few weeks had been. Just six weeks ago, the Lord had been wrongly arrested, falsely accused, and unjustly crucified. Peter and the others thought it was the end, their dreams and expectations dying on the cross that day too.

But then, just three days later, Jesus rose from the grave. In the weeks that followed, He appeared to His disciples on numerous occasions, explaining to them why His death had been necessary as the Savior of the world.

The Lord interacted with His followers for forty days after His resurrection, appearing to as many as five hundred at one time. The resulting anticipation was high because the hope that had died on the cross had risen again — there was no longer any room for doubt.

Nearly six weeks later, Christ assembled His disciples on the Mount of Olives for one last lesson. As they gathered around Him, He instructed them, “You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

And then, He ascended into heaven. Continue Reading…

Christmas eveIt’s Christmas Eve. It’s a time to celebrate what God did. He brought everything together to do what we could not. He brought salvation to undeserving humanity in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ. Like a perfect conductor, God orchestrated all things for the arrival of heaven’s King.

That night, some 2000 years ago, God pulled off a jaw-dropping display of sovereignty. He demonstrated himself the hero as he conducted his plan that he made before creation for the arrival of the God-man. The arrival of the long-ago-promised, long-awaited-Messiah was a stunning demonstration of God’s sovereign love for sinful humanity. Despite the obstacles of humanity’s sin and contrary historical events, God was moved by his own mercy to sovereignly orchestrate history in order to bring us the Christmas Gift; the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

That first Christmas night, God displayed several loving demonstrations of his sovereignty in bringing us the Person of salvation:

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If you had to ask me at age five what my favorite Bible story was, I’d have easily chosen the account of the Little Drummer Boy.

drumWhat’s not to love? A young, impoverished vagabond (no parents are mentioned) follows the Magi to a cozy stable, only to discover that he is the only one who arrives without a gift to bring—at least not one fit for a king. But wait, he has something just as valuable as gold and frankincense: he has his talent. With Mary’s nod of permission and jazz-loving livestock keeping time, he plays his little heart out to an appreciative baby Jesus who smiled at him… he and his drum.

I resonated with the kid’s desire to please God, and empathized with the feeling of inadequacy to do so as well as others, which is why I warmed to the idea that God didn’t expect me to be great, wise, rich, or from the Orient, he just wanted me to do what I could to the best of my ability and for his glory. I can do that!

You can imagine my disillusionment when I discovered (at an age I’m not comfortable admitting here) that the whole narrative was purely apocryphal.

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In my previous posts, I explored the Old Testament usage of “kingdom” as well as the usage of “kingdom” in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament.  Now there remains one final frontier to explore: Jesus’ parables on the kingdom.  I imagine that there will be a fair amount of disagreement here, but these parables need to be understood in the light of two things:

a.  All the previous posts.

b.  The understanding that parables are not meant to communicate all aspects of complex and multifaceted theological concepts.  Parables are simple illustrative stories that serve the purpose of making one main point.  To attempt to pull 15 different ideas, related to five totally separate topics, from a parable is to misunderstand the entire nature of parables in the first place.

These are some notes and thoughts about the kingdom parables in the gospels (which are mostly Matthew).  I hope this blesses, or at least stimulates some thought in those who wildly disagree with me:    Continue Reading…

In my previous post, I explored the New Testament usage of “kingdom”in reference to human empires & reign (national) or Satan’s empire and reign on earth, God’s universal empire and rule, and general/passing references to “kingdom”, “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” in the gospels.  That led to some rather interesting discoveries in various passages of scripture, but the New Testament still has plenty of passages left to explore.  Today, I’ll continue on with the remaining portion of point three.

General/passing references to “kingdom”, “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” outside the gospels

Kingdom of God

Acts 1:3, 6, 8:12, 14:22, 19:8, 20:25, 28:23, 31; Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:20, 6:9-10, 15:24, 50; Gal. 5:20-21; Eph. 5:5; Col. 1:13, 4:11; 1 Thess. 2:12;  2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim.4:1, 18; Heb. 1:8; 12:28; James 2:5; 2 Peter 1:11; Rev.1:6, 9, 5:10, 12:10 Continue Reading…

In my previous post, I explored the Old Testament teaching on the concept of “kingdom” and specifically looked at the promised Davidic kingdom; a kingdom that would be ruled by one of Davids’ descendants in righteousness and be an everlasting kingdom.  I looked at how this kingdom appeared to be established with Solomon but was not, and we saw how Isaiah offered reassurances to Israel that Solomon’s sinfulness in no way negated the certainty of the coming Davidic kingdom.  I also commented on how the expectation of the kingdom was one of a physical, national kingdom that would be centered in Israel but would also be global in scope.

So, when the New Testament era came around, it’s fairly logical to think that this kingdom mentioned in the OT was the expectation, right? Let’s look at the New Testament usages of “kingdom” and explore what is said.  As before, I’ve done this only with an English concordance so this is far from comprehensive or exhaustive, but it’s a definite start.  I list the usages of the word “kingdom” according to their meaning, and I’ve written some notes about references that are either important or may be slightly confusing.  This is going to be a lot to process, so here goes:

The Kingdom: NT Usage -

1. Human empires & reign (national) or Satan’s empire and reign on earth.

HumanKingdom_zps51a0f9a0

Matt. 4:8, 12:25-26, Mark 6:23, 11:10, 13:8, Luke 1:33, 4:5, 11:17-18, 21:10, Heb. 11:33; Rev. 11:15, 26:20. Continue Reading…

Hey kids!  Guess what time it is?

It’s word study time!

excited kid

Two years ago in October 2012, I got mysteriously ill and ended up spending a week in the hospital.  Having nothing to do, being abysmally sick (not really able to eat or sleep), I decided to attempt to read a book on a subject that I had wanted to tackle for a while.  I had wanted to read Alva J. McClain’s book The Greatness of the Kingdom, which is an exhaustive look at the concept of “the kingdom” throughout the entire Bible.  I hadn’t ever really studied the topic in serious depth, so I figured that my illness provided me a perfect opportunity.  The problem was that my office was a horrid mess and my wife couldn’t find the book so I basically decided to do all the study on the topic myself…but that’s a lot of work so I simply did an exhaustive study of the term “kingdom” in the Bible.  I had an English concordance (on my phone) and I looked up every single usage of the word “kingdom” in both the OT and the NT, and started refining my understanding of the kingdom (I had a lot of free time).  I’ll post my findings in the order of Old Testament, New Testament and then kingdom parables.

Why that order?

Well, the reason is not because “the Old Testament comes first” (I tended to previously think of “the kingdom” as essentially a New Testament concept).  I had heard a lot of talk about “the kingdom” in the NT, and I had always been puzzled about something.  When Jesus arrived in Matthew 2:2, he was called “King of the Jews” and in 3:2 his initial message was “repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand”, but the people seemed to know what he was talking about.  They thought that Jesus was the promised king who would establish a promised kingdom, and nobody stopped him and said “hang on a second!  What in the world are you talking about?  Kingdom? What kingdom?”.  In the gospel of Matthew, the “gospel” that Jesus proclaimed was the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, 24:14).  That was the “good news” that Jesus brought to his listeners.

I had never heard anyone explain the setting up of the kingdom promises in the OT, so that seemed to be the logical place to start.  I also decided to treat the New Testament separately from the specific kingdom parables in the gospels for the purpose of limiting the length of the posts and prevent the New Testament post from becoming horribly unwieldy.

Here’s the first installment of my gleanings from my survey of the term “kingdom” in the Bible; this isn’t a comprehensive explanation of the concept, but rather simply the term “kingdom”.  This would only be one step in producing a properly and comprehensively biblical understanding of “kingdom”, but it’s a decent start.  I list the usages of the word “kingdom” according to their meaning, and I’ve written some notes about certain references that are either important or may be slightly confusing: Continue Reading…

NBfb01Christian biography. It’s one of my favorite aspects of studying church history. Hearing how the gospel of God’s grace has transformed the lives of so many throughout the centuries never gets old.

One thing that strikes me is that the circumstances surrounding each conversion are always different, and yet the profound truth of the gospel is always the same. Some, like Athenagoras, came to saving faith while trying to disprove Christianity. Others, like Augustine, lived in wanton rebellion and immorality, until they were tracked down by the Hound of Heaven. Still more, like Luther, desperately sought to earn salvation through their own self-righteous works, finally discovering the gospel of grace and finding the gates of heaven flung open.

Countless stories could be told—from John Bunyan (the reprobate soldier) to John Newton (the slave-trader)—of dramatic conversions in which God’s grace suddenly and visibly arrested the sinner, like Saul on the road to Damascus. Other conversion stories are not as outwardly dramatic, but they are nonetheless equally profound. John Calvin summarized his salvation experience in a simple sentence: “God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life.” Church history weaves together all of these powerful stories of divine grace (both the visibly dramatic and the seemingly subtle) to create a beautiful tapestry testifying to the glory, power, and mercy of God. Continue Reading…

Reformation Day - Nerds497 years ago today, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, kick-starting the Protestant Reformation. Nearly 500 years later, God’s people reserve this day to celebrate the rescue of His Word from the shackles of Roman Catholic tyranny, corruption, and heresy. The glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the sufficient Scriptures had been recovered, and it’s been doing its saving work ever since.

Romans 1:16–17 stands at the heart of the Reformation, especially because of how central it was in Luther’s conversion. Luther speaks of how he had hated the phrase, “the righteousness of God,” because he understood it to be speaking only of God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners. But eventually, he says, “I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.”

Today, as we reflect upon and remember the grace of God that fell upon the world in the Protestant Reformation, I want to reflect upon the Gospel that made it happen—and particularly the concept of righteousness which was so central to the regeneration of the great reformer. And to do that I want to focus on another text that Paul penned, which gives us wonderful insight into the saving righteousness of God. In Philippians 3:9, Paul explains what it means to be found in Christ—namely, “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (NKJV).

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Post Tenebras LuxWith Reformation Day coming up, this is a good time to recall why the Reformers departed from Roman Catholicism. In our day especially, it seems that many Christians have history-amnesia when it comes to the importance of what God did through the Reformers. During the Reformation, great confusion existed regarding what was, and was not, the true church of Christ. Rome had asserted itself as the true church for centuries, and continues to do so today. However, as the Reformers recognized then, Christians must follow in step today by recalling that joining hands with Rome is a departure from Christ.

To be clear, this is not to say that everyone who sits in a Roman Catholic church is not a Christian. What it is saying is that several changes must occur before Roman Catholicism, by the book, can be considered biblical Christianity. And the men and women of the Reformation understood this, hence their necessary break with Rome. In their case, and ours, joining Christ necessitates breaking with Rome and coming under Christ means coming out from under Rome.

Christians will know that it is time to join hands with Rome when it does the following:

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