Category Archives: Theology

Give Attention to Your Doctrine

Every once in a while I feel the need to do a little teaching. Keep in mind, many who read this blog do not go to a church, never hear a real pastor preach, nor even read a Bible. This might be the only path through which they choose to accept Biblical truth.

I just finished recording the audio for an upcoming radio broadcast. The text from which I preached was primarily the following:

Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. … Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. – 1Ti 4:13, 16 KJV

One of the greatest challenges for the preacher is to make sure his doctrine is biblical, not based on human desires, such as the desire to only hear what we want to hear. I am reminded of the what Paul told Timothy in his second letter…

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. – 2Ti 4:3-4 KJV

How many people have literally “heaped to themselves” stacks of books, CD’s, cassette tapes, magazines, study guides, and DVD’s from televangelists, conference speakers, and popular authors who preach what scratches the itching ear? People want to hear what makes them feel good, more encouraged, and can lead to a more prosperous, fulfilled life. Therefore, hearing the Word of God is irrelevant, especially if it doesn’t scratch the itch

The challenge, then, is for the sincere man of God to give priority to what is true doctrine, not the doctrine of men. This takes serious study, a willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit, and an understanding that what is of the Lord might not be popular, or desired.

That’s when it’s important to be “instant in season and out of season.” God knows what we need to be spiritually healthy, so “taking heed” to our doctrine must also include the commitment to serve what what’s needed, not simply what we crave.

 

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Pricey Tongue, Worthless Heart

Let’s take a look at the following verse from the tenth chapter of Proverbs.

The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth. – Proverbs 10:20

Contrast

When we look at this verse, it is important for us to remember that there is a comparison/contrast being made. An “opposite parallelism” is being used to make a point that one thing is valuable, while another is worthless.

In this case, it is easy to notice that Solomon is contrasting “the tongue of the just” with “the heart of the wicked.” The tongue of the just person (the words that he speaks) is something beautiful and of great value, while the wicked man’s heart is just the opposite. But if we were to look a little deeper, there is more than meets the eye, or first impressions.

The Heart

What is really being contrasted are the hearts of both the wicked and the just. You see, what comes out of a person’s mouth is directly related to what’s in his heart. Proverbs 16:23 says, “The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.” In the book of James (3:11) we read, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”

Essentially, you can tell what is in a person’s heart by what comes out of his mouth. Jesus said, “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” – Matthew 15:11 (NLT)

Do you like to tell dirty jokes? Then there must be lust in your heart. Do you always talk hateful? Then there is hatred (and maybe murder – see Matthew 5:21-22) in your heart.

Do you ever talk about God? About Jesus? About your love for Him? If not, maybe He’s not in there.

On Display

Do you realize that your heart is on display? No, I don’t mean that your chest cavity is transparent, nor do I mean that everyone can see your bloody, beating heart muscle. That’s sick!

What I do mean to say is that there is no hiding what is in your heart; because your words, the words from your mouth, tell the whole story.

Maybe we should listen to ourselves. Maybe we should ask others to tell us what they hear. Maybe we should be like King David and pray this prayer…

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”– Psalm 19:14

 


The above commentary was first published in my other blog, Proverbial Thought. It can also be found in Proverbial Thought: Your Daily Word of Wisdom from Proverbs (Parson’s Porch, 2014).

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There Is a Robust Response to Calvinism (IF You’ll Listen)

Many of you are Calvinists. I’m not.

Unfortunately, many think that there are no good arguments supporting a traditionalist view. Honestly, even many in my own denomination (SBC) have belittled and mocked the intelligence of those like myself for having not yet been enlightened by the “doctrines of grace.”

Let me put it this way, I know pastors who are more Calvinistic than John Calvin’s signature. These guys can get borderline contentious if you even suggest that Romans 9 and Ephesians 1 might not mean what they think it means (“inconceivable!”). To disagree with their interpretations is akin to attacking their tulip garden with a weed eater – they don’t like it.

However, I have attached video which offers a robust and biblical argument against the doctrine of reprobation as argued from Romans 9.  I am not posting this to start a debate or argument. My purpose is to offer you another perspective of which you may not have heard.

Believe it or not, there are intelligent Bible scholars out there whose names don’t end with Piper, Keller, or Dever 😉 The only thing is that you must be willing to listen.

Just food for thought.

For further reading, below is a link to the article by Dr. Eric Hankins that is the subject of this video. It was originally published in the Journal of Baptist Theology & Ministry

https://soteriology101.com/2018/04/09/romans-9-and-the-calvinist-doctrine-of-reprobation/

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It’s Not That Saturday In the ‘30’s!

It’s Saturday.

That’s probably not a shock to most of you, I bet. If you can log on to a computer, check your email, or read a text, then you are most likely capable of knowing what day of the week it is.

It’s Saturday…just Saturday.

But at least it’s not like that Saturday back in the 30’s – the 0030’s, that is! Back then there were some men and women waking up to a Saturday morning like no other. Their teacher, mentor, leader, and Master had suffered a most horrific death, and now he was in a tomb. This was not the kind of day they expected.

It was Saturday, the Sabbath, and all their hopes and dreams lay cold and lifeless in a sealed grave.

What were they feeling?

How does it feel to go from the top of the world with every expectation of glory, to utter despair and the expectation that at any moment the ones who ripped your leader to shreds could soon find you and do the same?

With despair comes shame, anger, blame, and fear. On what was supposed to be a “day of rest,” hearts must have been restless, tumultuous, and breaking, crumbling to dust.

It must have been a long day, that Saturday.

Have you ever lost someone close, like a parent, a spouse, or a child? Have you ever left the hospital or the morgue, gone home in shock, only to be jolted by the piercing pain of reality when you see your loved one’s possessions?

The day after my father died my mother and sister experienced a moment like that (I wasn’t there, for I wouldn’t go home that night). My dad’s watch had an alarm set – it was the time he was supposed to get up – there was no getting up this time.

How did Jesus’ disciples feel that Saturday night? Their hopes seemed hopeless…their dreams had become a nightmare…the “Way, the Truth, and the Life” now seemed like nothing more than a dead-end road, a lie, and death.

It was Saturday…

But Sunday was coming.

It won’t be long before we will be celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus (April 21).

But what if today we’d take a moment to thank God this Saturday doesn’t have to be like that one back in the 30’s?

Sunday is coming! Rejoice! You don’t have to wait till Easter.

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Do You Hate to Sin?

I hate it when I sin.

Some people hate to get caught, but I wasn’t caught. No one saw or heard or anything – only God.

I hate it when I sin because of the feeling it leaves, the drain on emotions, and the sense of powerlessness that leads to feelings of failure, defeat.

I hate it when I sin because I knew better! I knew better! It’s not like I didn’t know the consequences. It wasn’t like this was something I’d never before encountered. I just walked right into the sin and just committed it, just like it was the natural thing to do.

Oh, but that’s the issue, isn’t it? Nature. That battle between the redeemed and the unredeemed, the spirit and the flesh. How I look forward to the day when this tent in which I dwell is redeemed, also!

I hate it when I sin!

But you may be asking, “Aren’t you a pastor? Aren’t you supposed to be a spiritual and religious leader? How can you be talking about ‘sin’ like this? Won’t it hurt your reputation?”

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8

The Truth is in me. I’m not perfect, just forgiven.

And that’s really why I hate it when I sin; it’s because I know I’m forgiven! Yes, I’m already forgiven! I’ve been saved, justified, reborn, adopted, and have received the righteousness of Christ…and I know a little about what it took for that to happen…

“Forgiven” by Thomas Blackshear

It took the Cross! It took Calvary! It took Jesus bearing my griefs…carrying my sorrows…being stricken and smitten of God…being afflicted…being wounded for MY transgressions…being bruised for MY iniquities…accepting MY chastisement…and taking MY stripes so that I could walk away free (see Isaiah 53:4-5).

He – Jesus – did all that for me…all because of my sin…because He loves me (Romans 5:8).

But you may ask: “If you know you are already forgiven, then what keeps you from going out and sinning all you want?”

Two reasons. First, my “want to” has been changed. Second, it’s like the Apostle Paul said it: the love of Christ constraineth me (2 Corinthians 5:14). The thought of His love for me…what it took to redeem me from sin…to purchase my salvation…what He endured on that cross…the scourging He willingly accepted…it’s like ropes wrapped around me, binding me, “constraining” me.

Nevertheless, there are times when I sin. And I hate it. Romans 7:15-25 just about sums it up.

I thank God that where my sin did abound, grace…OH! What a word!…did much more abound (Romans 5:20)!

Then you may ask: “Well, if there’s more grace than there is sin to forgive, why not just keep sinning so that grace may ‘abound’ even more?”

Read Romans 6, is all I can say.

If you sin just because you can…there’s probably something major you’ve missed along the way. Maybe there’s nothing “constraining” you.

I hate it when I sin.


God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you. – Psalm 51:10-13 CSB

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Corresponding With a Muslim About Jesus

A couple of months ago I was asked to visit (as a guest) a mosque here in Chattanooga. It was not my intention to debate anyone. For that matter, I did my best to avoid conversation. However, there was a man there who had met my daughter the month before and had discussed with her the divinity of Jesus.  When he found out that I was there this time, he came over and began to talk to me. In other words, he started it, not me.

Hammad used to go a Baptist church, but converted to Islam after reading the Quran. Later he wrote The Evidence, a small book meant to prove that Jesus was never crucified and that He never claimed to be God. When he sat down to talk with me, he was amazed to discover that I had actually read his book. He asked, “So, what did you think about it?”

“Honestly,” I replied, “I thought it had a lot of errors in it.”

A little taken aback by my forwardness and honesty, he said, “Oh, really? Like what?”

From that point I began to point out places in his work where he had misapplied Scripture and made unrealistic claims that were obviously contradicted by other passages in the Bible. I told Hammad that if he really wanted his arguments to carry more weight, it might be good for him to better learn the Bible he was trying to discredit and deny.

One particular claim he made was that none of Jesus’ disciples saw him crucified, therefore there were no actual witnesses. That is why, as he explained, Jesus appeared to the disciples – to prove to them that He was alive…that He had not actually been killed.

I said, “However, there were witnesses to the crucifixion, and one of those was an actual disciple. Jesus even spoke to him.”

“Who was that?” he asked.

“John. Jesus spoke to him and told him to take care of his mother, Mary, who was also there,” I replied.

“I’ve never read that before. Where’s it written?” Hamaad asked.

“In the book of John.”

“Really?” he said as he looked a little stunned. “Can you send me that in an email?”

“Sure,” I said. “I would be happy to.”

We agreed to correspond by email, therefore I sent him an email addressing some questions he’d asked. He sent an email in response, attempting to show me where I was wrong, using the Quran to prove it. He then went on to ask me to answer one question, if nothing else: “Where did Jesus ever say, ‘I am God’?”

I responded with two back-to-back emails, the first one dealing with the authority of Scripture, the second being the one I’m including in this post.

Yes, it’s long, but it’s here if you want to read it. Who knows, you might find something interesting in it.

Please pray for Mr. Hamaad. Pray that he will come to a better understanding of the faith that he left, that he will actually come to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior.


Greetings,

In my last email, I primarily focused on one thing: the veracity and authority of the Bible. I hope you understood it was not my intent to be offensive in any way, only to point out the differences between you and me, primarily that we have very different opinions of the Bible and the Quran. I hope it was helpful. It will certainly have a bearing on the subject matter of this email, that’s for sure.

There were some other questions you asked, and there were other issues in your book on which I disagreed, but I guess one question you asked me to address is surely one of the most important: Did Jesus ever claim to be God? It’s along the same line as the question Jesus asked His disciples in Matthew 16:13: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

I am well aware that one of the cornerstones of your faith is the shahada: “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” I’m also aware of John 17:3, a passage Muslims typically use in an attempt to show that Jesus denied being God.

But aside from John 17:3, which could be debated at another time, I believe you issued the challenge to show anywhere in the Bible where Jesus actually spoke the words, “I am God.”  You were confident that I would never be able to provide you with those exact words, and rightfully so, for those exact words are not found in the New Testament.

However, I would like for you to consider the fact that even though Jesus never spoke THOSE exact words, He did say other words that carried the same meaning, thereby supporting the conclusion that Jesus did in fact believe and say that He was Divine, and Muslim interpretation of John 17:3 is out of harmony with the whole of Scripture.

But again, if at this point you are looking only for those three words – “I am God” – then nothing I say will be helpful. If you have already determined that you will reject similar statements that carry the same meaning, then I guess what I’m writing is futile. However, I will do my best to give you an answer to what you requested.

To begin with, I would like to take you back to the Old Testament, back to where the Messiah was foretold. Before Jesus was ever born, he was spoken of in terms that were nothing short of shocking: He would be “God with us.”

In Isaiah 7:14 we read the prophecy that the promised Son would be born of a Virgin and called “Immanuel.”

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

That this verse was speaking of Jesus was confirmed by Matthew when he recorded the words of the angel of the Lord as he comforted Joseph regarding Mary’s pregnancy:

Matthew 1:23 – “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

If Isaiah 7:14 wasn’t clear enough, Isaiah 9:6 states that the coming Messiah “shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Now, stop and think about that verse for just one moment. Who besides God could be called God? There is no other God but God, correct? Who besides God could be called “everlasting”? Even if this verse was not prophetically speaking of Jesus, is there any other person who could fit the bill? Who else besides God is uncreated (“everlasting”)?

Speaking of “everlasting Father,” what is a characteristic of God that no one else can have? There are several attributes that are unique to God (omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, etc.), but just looking at this one thing, only God can be eternal, correct? Only God has existed before time was created. Only God has always been, always in the present, eternal.

You asked me to show anywhere Jesus said, “I am God.” Well, based on the above verses, it would seem, then, that a clear example would be found in John 8:58

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus was clear enough to cause them to pick up stones to kill Him. In the present tense and indicative mood He made it crystal clear He was more than a man, more than a prophet, but actually the eternally existent, the “I am.” What did God say to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14)?

I Am that I Am…

The Pharisees knew exactly what Jesus meant when He said that, and that is why they wanted to kill Him.

Again, I believe that what you wanted from me was to show anywhere in the Bible where Jesus actually made the claim or said the words that He was God, correct? However, would you accept any other verses in the Bible that claim it for Him? For example, there is the classic passage of John 1:1-3. There, Jesus is referred to as the Word of God who was “with” God and “was” God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” – John 1:1-3

You know, many like yourself argue that Jesus was a created human being, not eternal. However, the above verses plainly state that all things were made by Him, and nothing that was made (and that would include any created being) was made without Him. Verse 4 of the same chapter goes even further to make this truth clear: Jesus was not just a man; He was the light and life of all men, which necessitated His pre-existence.

“In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” – John 1:4

And besides the many other places, the Book of Revelation makes it pretty clear Jesus was way more than just another prophet:

Behold, he cometh ewith clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.  I am Alpha and Omega, hthe beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:7-8).[i]

For that matter, it is in Revelation 1:17-18 that we read where Jesus Himself spoke of His death and resurrection: “…Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”[ii]

The “I Am” statements…

Now, if you will notice, just like in the last verse, there are a lot of places where Jesus claimed “I am…” this or “I am…” that.

In seven passages John records the well-known “I Am” sayings where Jesus describes himself using a graphic metaphor: “I am the bread* of life*” (6:35, 41, 48, 51); “I am the light* of the world” (8:12; 9:5); “I am the door of the sheep” (10:7, 9); “I am the good shepherd*” (10:11, 14); “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6); and “I am the true vine*” (15:1, 5).[1]

In each one of these statements Jesus was doing a lot more than illustrating with metaphor; He was declaring fact. Jesus didn’t say that He was just a door, or a way, or a light; He claimed to be THE Door, THE Way, THE Light. He emphatically declared that He was THE Truth and THE Life.

By declaring these things, Jesus was saying that all other “truth” was subordinate to Him. He was saying that there was NO other way – no path, no road, no pilgrimage, no hajj – to God but through Him. But even more, He was declaring that He was more than the One who spoke or demonstrated truth; He WAS Truth! The same applied to all the other “I AM” statements.

The “Truth” Claim…

If Jesus had never once said the exact words “I am God,” He essentially said the very same thing with the “I Am” statements. Why? Let’s just consider the word “truth.”

The Bible does not provide a systematic account of the nature of truth in either its theological or philosophical dimensions. Nevertheless great prominence is given to the idea of truth in Scripture because God is the God of truth (Pss 31:5; 108:4; 146:6) who speaks and judges truly (Pss 57:3; 96:13). God is the God of all truth because he is the Creator, and it is impossible for him to lie (Heb 6:18).[2]

If Jesus had been only a man, there would have been an element of untruth in Him. As a matter of fact, 1 John 1:8-10 states that if we say we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Even worse, if we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and his Word is not in us! How, then, could Jesus have claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)?

What man, even a perfect man, could be the actual embodiment of Truth? Only God, who took on flesh, could claim such a thing and not be a total liar.

Like I said in the last email, all that I’ve just written will carry little weight unless you believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. If you approach it as flawed, misinterpreted, corrupted by men, and superseded by the Quran, then does it really matter what Jesus said? If your only accepted record of Jesus is found in a book that was written long after the Gospels, over 400 years after the last book written by John (around 90 A.D.), what does it matter what Jesus said in the Bible? He could have plainly said “I AM GOD!” a thousand times, but it wouldn’t matter to you, would it?

Think about it… You trust the words of a denier of the divinity of Jesus over the record of His own words and those who actually walked with Him.

The only logical way for you to prove to me that Jesus is not God, or at least that He did not claim to be God, is to show it to me in the cannon of Scripture. And as I have just now written, that will be a difficult challenge, indeed.

Please forgive me if I have in any way offended, for I am not fully versed in what is appropriate and what is inappropriate when discussing Islam with a Muslim. It is my hope that since you came from a Christian background, you can discern my intentions are genuine and in the spirit of love.

I would like to close this email by suggesting you ask for a copy of the late Nabeel Qureshi’s book No God but One: Allah or Jesus? Qureshi was a Muslim who converted to Christianity, but only after he was able to answer for himself the question you have asked me. You might find his perspective enlightening.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to correspond, and happy Thanksgiving!

Respectfully,

Anthony Baker


[1] G. M. Burge, “‘‍I Am‍’ Sayings,” ed. Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 354.

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Truth,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2108.

[i] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Re 1:7–8.

[ii] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Re 1:17–18.

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Just Stomp Me. Selah.

“Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take [it]; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah.” – Psalm 7:5

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. A musical notation calling us to pause, to rest for moment and consider what has just been said. In this verse David asks God to let his enemy “persecute” him and essentially pound him into the earth! Why? Let’s think about it.

Out of Context

Should we read this verse as a stand-alone statement, apart from the context in which it was written, David would appear to have some serious mental problems. Is that what he is telling us to think about?

In this one verse there are three separate actions for which David is asking God to allow.

  1. Let the enemy persecute and take my soul.
  2. Let the enemy tread down (walk all over and stomp on) my life.
  3. Let the enemy lay my honour in the dust.

Why would David ask God to allow these things? Was he crazy? Not hardly.

In Proper Context

When we examine the full context of Psalm 7,  what we see is David crying out to God for deliverance from another one of his enemies, Cush the Benjamite. Evidently Cush had made some serious accusations concerning David’s actions, accusing him of some very bad things.

“O LORD my God, if I have done this: If there is iniquity in my hands, If I have repaid evil to him who was at peace with me, Or have plundered my enemy without cause…” – Psalm 7:3-4 NKJV

Iniquity…doing evil to the one with whom he was at peace…plundering his enemy without cause… What in the world did Cush think David did? We may never know.

However, David was so confident that whatever Cush was accusing him of was a fabrication – a lie – that he was willing to suggest his own destruction should the accusation be true.

Making Application

Are you living in such a way that you could pray with confidence: “Lord, let my enemy destroy me, even drag my soul to hell, should I actually be guilty of whatever he’s accusing me of.”

If not, then maybe we should pray another prayer, one in which David asked God to show him anything that needed changing.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if [there be any] wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24 KJV

I’d say it’s far better to let God do a work on us before our enemy does a number on us.

 

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