Telling Others about Jesus

What does it mean to make disciples who make disciples? Well, it may mean many different things to different people, but it all starts with seeing people in the same way that God sees them. It starts by seeing every person as someone special who’s been created in the image of God. Every individual person has been created in the image of God because God wants to have a relationship with that person.

And we make disciples by being very intentional in all we do, to point others to Jesus. Making disciples who make disciples is primarily about being intentional in all of our actions and in all of our relationships to move people in the direction of being more like Jesus.

We want others and we want ourselves to look and be more like Jesus. Five-weeks, ten-weeks from now, 6-months, 12-months from now, will we be more like Jesus than we are right now? Our friends or co-workers now, who don’t yet know Jesus, will they know more about who Jesus is and why it is worth it to give their whole lives to follow him? Will they know more about that in the weeks and months to come than they do right now?

Here’s a helpful visual. If we were to think of a number line—this number line has positive and negative numbers on it. It’s numbered from a negative 10 all the way to a positive 10. Negative 10 represents someone who is a militant atheist. This person gets aggressive at the very thought of God. That individual represents a negative 10.

A little further up the scale, we have a friend who’s heard the good news about Jesus. She may even be able to explain the good news to us, but she hasn’t yet repented of her sin and trusted in Jesus. She may be represented on the scale at a negative one or two.

Zero is the moment that a person actually comes to faith in Christ.

So, we have a family member who just became a Christian in the last month. She’s so excited to be a Christian, but she doesn’t know what following Jesus looks like. She would be a positive one or positive two.

And then we have someone who has been faithfully following Jesus for decades. He regularly practices spiritual disciplines. He tells others about Jesus. He may be a 7 or an 8 on the scale. [No one actually makes it all the way to positive 10 until we are finally glorified and with Jesus in heaven!]

So, we have this scale. We can all picture the scale in our minds. We may even have friends, family members, and co-workers, who, if we were asked, we could put them at some point along that scale.

Now, our job, in making disciples who make disciples, is to move that person to the right on that scale (toward the higher numbers). Now, it’s extremely important for us to understand that this is ultimately a work of God. “We” don’t do it. God does it. But God uses us as his means to accomplish this. He uses us as we open and share the Word of God with these individuals. He uses us as we are prayerfully dependent on the Holy Spirit to work.

So, for our militant atheist friend who is currently a negative ten, if we could, by God’s grace, get him to the point where he would acknowledge the possibility that a supreme being exists, that would be a win. He’s moved from a negative 10 to a negative 9 or maybe a negative 8. He’s moving in the right direction.

Now, of course, our ultimate goal is present everyone mature in Christ so we should have a godly desire to see this friend actually get to a zero and then to grow in Christ, but it’s still a win for him to move from a negative 10 to a negative 8.

And for our family member who just became a Christian in the last month, by God’s grace, we hope that she’ll move from a positive 1 to a positive 3 in the next twelve months.

We’re making disciples who make disciples by moving people to the right on that scale.

So, I have two questions to leave you with. First, what number would represent where you’re at right now on that scale? Second, if you’re a Christian, what are you doing to help move others (and yourself) to the right on that scale?

If we’re going to make disciples who make disciples, we have to open our Bibles and tell others about Jesus.

When to Stand Your Ground

We’ve all met them. We’ve all met the people who will “fight to the death” over every biblical doctrine—no matter how obscure.

They cry out, “Jude told us that we are to ‘contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints’” (Jude 3b).

Now, please don’t hear me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we should be soft on our doctrine. Who are we to argue against Scripture? After all, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). The Scriptures are “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12). The Scriptures are given to us by God (2 Pet 1:19–21).

Yes, yes. We agree with all of that, but was Jude arguing that we should “fight to the death” over every biblical doctrine—no matter how obscure the doctrine? Are some doctrines more important than others perhaps? Should we weigh the doctrines and contend for those that are most central to the faith?

Several years ago, Albert Mohler, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Kentucky, introduced me to an idea called “theological triage.” I’m not sure if he was the first to write on this, but I learned it from his writing.

Here’s the concept of triage in a more traditional medical sense.

When a medical doctor goes into a hospital emergency room, she may see all types of patients with all manner of injuries. She may see a mother holding her toddler who had cut his forehead open after tripping into the coffee table. She may see a construction worker who broke his arm when a heavy piece of equipment struck his arm. And she may see a middle-aged man who shows no outward signs of injury, but who is complaining of tightness in his chest and a sore left arm.

Her job, as the doctor, is to assess which person needs the most urgent care. Does she choose the toddler whose shirt is stained with blood? Does she choose the burly construction worker who is agonizing in pain as he holds his arm? Or does she choose the man with no “outward” physical symptoms but who is complaining of tightness in his chest?

Most of us know that the doctor will choose that last person first. Why? Because he is experiencing classic symptoms of a heart attack. If he isn’t seen soon, he may die. The other two patients are in pain, but there’s no immediate threat to their life.

This is emergency room triage.

Theological triage works in a similar way. Here’s an example of how this works.

One person is denying the deity of Christ, a second person is arguing for paedobaptism (infant baptism), and a third person is disagreeing over the order of events in the end times (eschatology). In this scenario, you have different levels of theological concern.

The first person is denying doctrines that are central to Christianity itself. The person who denies the deity of Christ isn’t even a Christian. This is a first-level doctrine. This is life and death! This demands a bold response. The gospel itself is at stake here. We must contend earnestly for this doctrine.

The second person is debating a doctrine that would make a difference about where you have your church membership. If you are an avowed paedobaptist, then you shouldn’t join a Baptist church where only credobaptism (believer’s baptism) is practiced. And, likewise, if you’re an avowed credobaptist, then you shouldn’t join a local Presbyterian church and cause a stink when they baptize infants. The Baptists aren’t saying that the Presbyterians aren’t Christians, nor are the Presbyterians saying that the Baptists aren’t Christians. We are both saying that we think the other is wrong in their practice of baptism, but we’re not denying their faith. This is a second-level doctrine.

The third person is debating a doctrine that makes for interesting discussion and lively debate, but it’s not a doctrine that’s central to the gospel. Yes, it’s an important doctrine, but it’s one over which many Bible-believing scholars differ. It should little impact on the polity of the church and the unity of the fellowship. It is a doctrine over which we may differ and still go to the same church.

Not every theological doctrine is a hill on which to die. We should know what we believe and why we believe it. We should rightly handle the Word of God and study it to show ourselves approved. We dare not minimize the importance of doctrine, but we need to show grace to others when we disagree of lesser doctrines.

Pursuing Holiness

Nearly 300 years ago John Wesley came up with over 20 questions that he asked of himself and of everyone whom he was discipling. I’ve narrowed the questions down a bit, but they’re still great questions to ask today about pursuing personal holiness.

BeHoly

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  3. Did the Bible live in me today?
  4. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
  5. Am I enjoying prayer?
  6. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
  7. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  8. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  9. Do I disobey God in anything?
  10. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  11. How do I spend my spare time?
  12. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  13. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  14. Is Christ real to me?

The character of Christians is to reflect the character of their divine Father. How are you doing in the area of personal holiness?

Christian Discipleship

Christian Discipleship

Christian discipleship is the process of making Christian disciples. Discipleship is not a program, a class, a production line, or a Bible study. Discipleship is a work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God through a life-on-life process whereby we serve one another by helping each other progress toward Christlikeness—moving from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity—to reproduce our lives to the third and fourth generations (Rom 8:29; gospel-centered22 Cor 3:18; 2 Tim 2:2). Disciple making is a lifelong process that is marked by progress, not perfection. Disciples are made through gospel-centered worship, gospel-centered community, gospel-centered service, and gospel-centered multiplication.[1]

 

  • All Christians are disciples who are born anew to spiritual life when they choose to follow Jesus.
  • Both the starting point and the goal of spiritual formation and discipleship is transformation to the image of Christ.
  • Together discipleship and spiritual formation provide a full New Testament perspective of the process of growth of Christians.
  • Spiritual formation and discipleship must be biblically and theologically grounded.[2]

 

What does it mean to be a gospel-centered church? Gospel-centered means that the gospel is not simply the entry point into the Christian life but that it is also the foundation and power that shapes all we do as followers of Jesus Christ, both in our daily lives and in our experience as the corporate body of Christ. The gospel is not only the fire that ignites the Christian life, but it is also the fuel that keeps the Christian life going.

Joe Thorn writes, “A gospel-centered church is a church that is about Jesus above everything else. That sounds a little obvious, but when we talk about striving to be and maintain gospel-centrality as a church we are recognizing our tendency to focus on many other things (often good and important things) instead of Jesus. There are really only two options for local churches; they will be gospel-centered, or issue driven.”[3]

For His Glory,

Pastor Brian

[1] These four “gospel-centered” categories are adapted from The Village Church.

[2] Bill Hull, The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006), 39.

[3] Joe Thorn, Gospel Centered

What Are We to Make of Jephthah’s Tragic Vow?

More than one reader, upon finishing Judges 11:29–39, has been overwhelmed by grief from this tragic story. At first glance it appears that Jephthah makes a vow to the Lord to offer as a burnt offering whoever or whatever comes out of his home when he returns home from battle. Specifically, the text reads as follows.

 Judges 11:30–31Jephthah_meets_his_daughter
30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand,
31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”

Even before one reads the rest of the story one might wonder why he would make such a vow, but the story turns to tragedy when Jephthah returns home from a successful battle and his daughter is the one to meet him.

Judges 11:34–35
34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.”

The story concludes with the simple statement,

Judges 11:39–40
39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel
40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

What are we to make of this tragic story? Did Jephthah really make a human sacrifice of his only daughter? Hebrew scholars are divided on this issue. Here are two contrasting opinions.

Daniel Block, who wrote the New American Commentary on Judges and Ruth, believes that Jephthah really did make a human sacrifice of his daughter.

Block argues that Jephthah was trying to manipulate God into providing victory over the Ammonites. Jephthah’s “haggling” with God ultimately backfired on him. Block contends that Jephthah had been combining the various religious beliefs of the region—many of which allowed for human sacrifice—with the Hebrew faith. In short, Jephthah turned out to be pagan instead of pious, and since this was his only child, his lineage was also stamped out through this tragic act.

Another Old Testament scholar, John Sailhamer, however, disagrees with Block. He argues that Jephthah didn’t make a human sacrifice of his daughter, but rather devoted her to the service of the Lord as a perpetual virgin.

In the NIV Compact Bible Commentary Sailhamer writes, “The words of Jephthah in 11:31 should be rendered, ‘whatever comes out of the door . . . will be the Lord’s or I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.’ In other words, Jephthah’s vow contains two parts, dedication to the Lord or burnt offering.”

Sailhamer argues that Jephthah’s vow is textually linked to the vows found in Leviticus 27:1–13. “There are two types of vows here. The first is the dedication of a person to the service of the Lord (Lev 27:1–8); the second is the dedication of an animal for an offering to the Lord (Lev 27:9–13)” (NIV Compact Bible Commentary).

In the second type of these vows, only ceremonially clean animals could be offered to the Lord so, according to the Mosaic law, Jephthah could not have vowed “whatever” came out of his door for a burnt offering.

Sailhamer also makes the argument that the text nowhere states that Jephthah actually made a human sacrifice of his daughter. The text simply states that he did to her as he vowed (11:39).

The skeptic may wonder why Jephthah got so upset when his only daughter came out of the house to meet him. This is a fair question, but the answer lies in the text itself: “She was his only child.”

By dedicating his only daughter as a virgin to lifelong service (and remaining a virgin in that service), he was in effect cutting off his name from the earth. His lineage would end with his daughter. This was the source of his being “brought low” and his “trouble.”

So, what are we to make of Jephthah’s tragic vow? Who is right? Daniel Block or John Sailhamer?

What lessons can we learn from this account? Let me suggest three.

First, no matter which interpretation is correct (I, personally, am a big fan of John Sailhamer and so I side with his interpretation), we can know that God is not the author of evil (3 John 11). Even if we were to take Block’s position, the evil would lie at the feet of Jephthah and his rash vow rather than at the feet of God.

Second, a vow is a promise and so a vow unto the Lord is a promise we make to God. We need to carefully consider the promises we make to God because when we make a promise to God, we are to keep it (Numbers 30:2). Whether it’s a marriage vow made before God or a vow to give a portion of one’s income to the Lord’s work, it is a promise made before the Lord, and we break those promises to our own shame and to our own harm.

Finally, there is one human sacrifice that did happen for which we should all be eternally grateful. And this sacrifice can be attributed to God himself. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God gave his only Son to pay the penalty that we owed so that those who place their trust (faith) in God would not perish but have eternal life. This sacrifice of the Son of God, who was fully God and fully man, was a part of God’s plan from the beginning (see Acts 2:22–24 below).

While the idea of human sacrifice may disturb our 21st Century sensibilities, I, for one, am glad that God loved the world (“the world” includes you and me) enough to give his only Son. Jesus laid down his life willingly for us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

For His Glory,
Pastor Brian

Acts 2:22–24
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—
23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Once Saved Always Saved? by George O’Leary

My brother George O’Leary sent me something he recently wrote. I thought this would be a good forum to share (with his permission).

Once Saved, Always Saved? by George O’LearyOnce saved always saved

O how I’ve struggled with once saved always saved. I know and believe as it says in Romans 10:13 that all who call on the name of the lord shall be saved. I know that “No one can snatch us from our Lords hand” John 10:28-30 (paraphrasing) I know I’ve been sealed and given the Spirit in my heart as a guarantee, 1Corinthians 1:22. I know that it was Grace that saved me and not by works, Ephesians 2:8, 9. And I being a chief sinner like Paul, most definitely know that. I know that I am far from perfect but, I also know that I have been changed. I can absolutely feel it! My family and friends have seen it. I’m not boasting on myself but the changing power of the Holy Spirit when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.

And, I think that is where I have had trouble with once saved always saved. I do not understand how people can accept the finished work of Jesus Christ and continue to live a life that is contrary to the Word of God. Don’t they realize that they have accepted the grace of God and have been freed from sin, death, the grave and a Godless hell. In one very emotional moment, people call out and accept the saving grace of Jesus Christ. A moment that should absolutely instill the desire to change a life bound for heartache and defeat to a life that is freed from the burden of sin and its destruction. Here are my questions; If that is the result of my one time decision, if in that one moment my eternity has been secured, Then why does the God call me to examine myself?(2Corinthians 13:5) Why am I to show myself approved?(2Timothy 2:15) Why am I to walk circumspectly?(Ephesians 5:15)Why am I to attend worship?(Hebrews 10:24, 25) Why am I called to be Holy?(1 Peter 1:16) Why am I to tithe?(Matthew 23:23) Why have I been called to repent?(Luke 13:3)

If after I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord and my eternal life has been secured, are there so many instructions on how to live my life as a follower of Jesus Christ. I accept the sacrifice He made on the cross. I fully believe in His resurrection. I mean even Jesus said “It is finished”. He is my Savior and Lord! I prayed to God to show me what I was missing?? And that’s when it hit me!!

He did finish it. Salvation was secured for the sinner that accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. There is no way to earn it, you can’t steal it, buy it or can anyone other than Jesus provide it for you. It was finished by Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord. Did you hear that? The answer was right there. There is the reason for all the post salvation instructions in our Christian walk. Jesus is my Savior and Lord. There it is again. Let me say it one more time; Jesus is my Savior and Lord. He can’t be one without the other. So many people want to make Him their Savior but do not allow Him to be their Lord. That’s the reason for all the post salvation instructions. For us to make sure that He is, not only our Savior, but our Lord also. For this reason we are to examine ourselves, we are to show ourselves approved, we are to walk circumspectly, we are to not forsake the assembly, we are to edify one another, we are to pray, we are to love, we are to repent and live holy lives set apart from the world because Salvation isn’t a onetime emotional act that changes nothing but your destination!! It is a onetime physical act that changes everything that leads to your final destination…. Those instructions are there for us to know the truth about our salvation. He showed us such grace by paying the sin debt that we could not pay. Oh what grace we have been shown. He Loves us, oh how He loves us. Let us now not forget that we are to love him also. (Matthew 22:37) Search His word for your life’s instructions. They’re there for our benefit.

Pastor Brian said it best a couple of years ago when we were chatting. I voiced my thought about once saved always saved and he said it best, “If saved, always saved. Remember, If we call Him Savior, He must also be our Lord.

What are the 120 years of Genesis 6:3?

     When we read the accounts of our antediluvian (before the Flood) ancestors, we 120 yearsmay be shocked by how long these men lived.

  • Adam — 930-years-old
  • Seth — 912-years-old
  • Enosh — 905-years-old
  • Kenan — 910-years-old
  • Mahalalel — 895-years-old
  • Jared — 962-years-old
  • Enoch — 365-years-old
  • Methuselah — 969-years-old
  • Lamech — 777-years-old

These ages are found in Genesis 5, and, yes, they are “real” years. How was it possible for a person to live multiple centuries? They were able to live multiple centuries not because they had better genes than we have, but because God’s Spirit abode with them (Genesis 6:3).

But then in Genesis 6:3 we read,

“Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.'”

There are a couple of different prominent positions about what these 120 years mean.

First, theologians as prominent as Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin have argued that these 120 years refer to a reprieve of sorts. In other words, the Lord was granting mankind a reprieve of 120 years before he would send the Flood. This is certainly a possible interpretation of this passage.

A second interpretation of this passage, however, is that the 120 years refers to the length of time God was going to allow individuals to live. In other words, individuals would no longer live for centuries (as above), but their lifespan would no longer exceed 120 years.

But, one might object, do we not have accounts of people living more than 120 years even after the Flood? And, yes, we do have such accounts. Noah, for example, lived to be 950-years-old (Genesis 9:29) — and 350 of those years were after the Flood (Genesis 9:28)! And Genesis 11 is full of men who lived multiple centuries. So, can the 120 years possibly refer to the length of an individual’s life? Yes, it can. Let’s keep a couple of important points in mind.

First, just because individuals didn’t immediately start living only 120 years, it doesn’t mean that the process of the shortening of an individual’s lifespan wasn’t in place. Consider, for example, what happened in the Fall. God told Adam and Eve that in the day they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they would surely die (Genesis 2:17, emphasis added). But we learn in Genesis 3:6 that when they in fact ate from the tree, they did not drop dead. Certainly they experienced spiritual death immediately, but physical death proved to be a process. As we saw above, Adam would live to ripe old age of 930-years-old.

And, second, we also need to keep in mind that the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) was written as one piece of literature. God’s statement in Genesis 6:3, “his days shall be 120 years,” isn’t brought to fulfillment until the conclusion of the Pentateuch.

John Sailhamer writes,

“In keeping with this point, the author continues to show the ages of the men of the book and notes that generally their ages grow increasingly shorter (cf. 11:10-26). It is only at the close of the Pentateuch that we finally reach an individual who is specifically mentioned as dying at the age of 120 years, Moses, who was in the wilderness and who died as a result of unbelief and divine punishment (Num 20) — he died though he was still in good strength (Deut 34:7)” (page 77).

With the Flood, the process of the shortening of an individual’s lifespan had begun. One hundred twenty years would be the limit.

For His Glory,

Pastor Brian

 

Context Is King

In my last post I addressed the “sons of God” from the perspective of Genesis Context is king6:1-4. But what about the phrase “sons of God” as it is found in other biblical texts. For example, who are the “sons of God” in Job 1:6; 2:1; and 38:7? This is an important question, but first a quick word about biblical interpretation (hermeneutics) .

One basic principle of biblical interpretation is to allow the clearer passages in the Bible to interpret the less clear passages in the Bible. In other words, as we saw in my last post about “sons of God,” the sons of God in Genesis 6 are not likely angels since the Scriptures explicitly teach that angels neither marry nor are they given in marriage (Matthew 22:30).

But there is a second principle of biblical interpretation that is also important. Context is king. Just as a realtor cries out, “Location, location, location,” so, too, when we read the Bible, we ought to cry out, “Context, context, context.” In other words, just because a word or phrase is translated or means one thing in one passage, it does not follow that the same word or phrase means the same thing in another passage. We must allow the context of the passage determine its meaning, and when the context isn’t clear, we allow passages that are clearer to help us understand. Allow me to illustrate with some English sentences.

“The board of directors voted to approve the new project.”

“We need to board up the windows before the hurricane makes landfall.”

These are just two simple examples of how the word “board” can be used in a sentence. No native English reader would think that these two uses of the word “board” were referring to the same thing. It’s the same word, but the context determines its meaning. Now, back to our discussion about “sons of God.”

The phrase “sons of God” is used a total of five times in the Old Testament and five times in the New Testament. Here are the verses (all verses are from the ESV). [NOTE: There is one textual variant in Deuteronomy 32:8 that is translated in the ESV as “sons of God.” All other major translations have “sons of Israel.”]

Genesis 6:2 “the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.”

Genesis 6:4 “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.”

Job 1:6 “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.”

Job 2:1 “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD.”

Job 38:7 “when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Luke 20:36 “for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

Romans 8:14 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Romans 8:19 “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”

Galatians 3:26 “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

The context of some of these passages tell us straightforwardly that the “sons of God” are Christians (e.g., Romans 8:14 and Galatians 3:26) or at least human beings (Genesis 6:2, 4) while the context of other passages indicates that the “sons of God” are something other than Christians or humans beings (e.g., Job 1:6; 2:1). Job is clearly saying that these “sons of God” are a type of angelic being.

So, when reading your Bible, always remember! CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT! As D. A. Carson has said, “A text without a context becomes a pretext for a proof text!”

For His Glory,

Pastor Brian

 

Who Are the “Sons of God”?

Anyone who reads Genesis 6 will ask themselves the question, “Who are these nephilim‘sons of God’?” Most English translations of the Bible simply translate the Hebrew as “sons of God,” but some translations add to the confusion by not only translating the Hebrew, but also interpreting the Hebrew in their translations. Consider the following translations of Genesis 6:1-4.

English Standard Version (ESV)
1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

Contemporary English Version (CEV)
1-2 More and more people were born, until finally they spread all over the earth. Some of their daughters were so beautiful that supernatural beings came down and married the ones they wanted. 3 Then the Lord said, “I won’t let my life-giving breath remain in anyone forever. No one will live for more than one hundred twenty years.” 4 The children of the supernatural beings who had married these women became famous heroes and warriors. They were called Nephilim and lived on the earth at that time and even later.

The ESV and the CEV use different methods of translation. The ESV falls into the formal equivalence camp and the CEV falls into the dynamic (or functional) equivalence camp. (For more on the difference between formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence see here.)

A close look at these two translations lets the reader immediately see the issue. Are the “sons of God” (ESV) really “supernatural beings” (CEV)? So who are these “sons of God”?

According to John Sailhamer, who is a recognized expert on the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament, which includes Genesis), the “sons of God” have been understood three different ways historically.

First, the “sons of God” could be angels. This view is not widely held since it appears to contradict Jesus’ own words that angels do not marry (see Matthew 22:30). Second, the sons of God” could be royalty.  Or, third, the “sons of God” could be pious men from the line of Seth.

But Sailhamer writes,

All such interpretations, however, originate from the assumption that vv. 1-4 are an introduction to the account of the Flood and are therefore to be understood as the cause of the Flood. If, on the other hand, we read vv. 1-4 as the summary of chapter 5, there is little to arouse our suspicion that the events recounted are anything out of the ordinary. As a summary of the preceding chapter, this little narrative is a reminder that the sons and daughters of Adam had greatly increased in number, had married, and had continued to have children. The impression it gives is that of an interlude, a calm before the storm.
[John Sailhamer, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, volume 2, 76.]

So, these “sons of God” are not “supernatural beings.” They are the extraordinary men (i.e., the men of renown) who lived from the time of Adam until the time of the Flood.

For His Glory,

Pastor Brian

What does Genesis 1 tell us about creation?

When we think about how the universe came into being, Francis Schaeffer, inGenesis 1 Genesis in Space and Time, argued that there are basically four options.

  1. Once there was absolutely nothing, and now there is something.
  2. Everything began with an impersonal something.
  3. Everything began with a personal something.
  4. There is and always has been something.

Genesis 1 gives us a great deal of information about creation. For the purposes of this post, we will define creation as follows. God created the entire universe out of nothing; it was originally very good; and he created it to glorify himself.

What is the relationship between Scripture and the findings of modern science?

Many people (both Christians and non-Christians) argue that modern science and Scripture cannot be reconciled with one another, but, as Schaeffer wrote, there is no final conflict between modern scientific findings and Scripture. All truth is ultimately God’s truth so when Scripture and science are properly understood, there will be no final conflict.

How might we reconcile the appearance of great age in the universe (i.e., billions of years) that modern science asserts with the relatively young age of the universe (i.e., thousands of years) that many Bible students believe? [NOTE: This is not to say that all Christians believe in a young earth.]

Many Christians disagree about the age of the earth, but in our disagreements, we must be careful not to adopt a theory of origin that would be incompatible with a high view of Scripture. For example, theories such as the “Big Bang,” Darwinian Evolution, and even Theistic Evolution must be rejected by those who hold a high view of Scripture.

So, what then are some theories of origin that still allow for a high view of Scripture?

“Old Earth” Theories of Creation

Here are two theories of origin that account for an “old earth.” The purpose of this blog is not to “expose” the strengths or weaknesses of any of these theories. There are other resources that do this quite well.

First, we have the “Gap” Theory. No, I’m not talking about the clothing store from the 1980s! In its most basic form, the gap theory suggests that there is lengthy (think billions of years) gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 (or between Genesis 1:2 and 1:3). This lengthy period of time would account for the ancient fossil record and the carbon-dating of the world.

According to this theory, this would also allow for the time when Satan and his angels rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven. During this “gap,” Satan and his angels rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven. During this period the earth underwent great cataclysm and was left “formless and void” (Genesis 1:2). God then re-created and reconstituted the earth in six literal days that are described in the rest of Genesis 1.

Second, there is the day-age theory. According the day-age theory, again in its most basic form, the “days” mentioned in Genesis 1 are not six 24-hour days but rather each of these “days” represent a lengthy period of time (think millions or billions of years). During each phase of creation God created what Genesis 1 said was being created on that day.

“Young Earth” Theories of Creation

Here are two theories that account for a “young earth.” Again, the purpose here is not to highlight the strengths and weakness of each of these theories.

First, some people argue that God created everything with with the appearance of age. For example, God created Adam and Eve as fully grown adults. This theory is sometimes called Mature Creationism. So, according the this theory, the apparent age of the earth is just that — it’s only an “appearance.” Those holding this theory would say that God created the fossils as fossils to give the appearance of age.

Second, there is the Flood Geology Theory. This theory would argue that the flood described in Genesis 6-8 would have been so cataclysmic that it would be impossible to use many of our modern dating processes to get an accurate picture of how old the earth is. For example, the age of some fossils is determined by the layer of rock in which they are found. Flood Geology Theory would say that the various layers of rock are unreliable because the flood would have disrupted the various layers.

Either “Old Earth” or “Young Earth” Theories

Finally, there are two theories that can be used to argue for either an “old earth” or a “young earth.”

First, there is the Literary Framework Theory. This theory would argue that the purpose of Genesis 1 was not to describe God’s process of creation, but rather, Genesis 1 actually has a literary framework. Days 1, 2, and 3 are the “form” of creation, and days 4, 5, and 6 are the “filling” of creation. For example, day one of creation corresponds to day four of creation since day one separates the day and night and on day four the sun and moon are set to govern the day and night. Day two corresponds to day five. On day two God separates the sky and the sea and on day five God creates sky animals and sea animals. And day three and day six correspond to one another. On day three God separates the land and sea, and on day six God creates the land animals and human beings.

Second, there is the  Historic Creationism (Preformative) Theory. According to this theory, Genesis 1:1-2 is about God creating the entire universe, and then Genesis 1:3-2:4 is about God preparing the “land” for human habitation and flourishing. This view is propounded by John Sailhamer in his book, Genesis Unbound.

These are a few of the various viewpoints about the creation of the universe. I hope this brief overview has been helpful.

For His Glory,

Pastor Brian