Munus Triplex: Christ as Prophet, Priest and King

Text: Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Christ in His offices of Prophet, Priest and King meets our desperate need for trusted guidance, a sufficient sacrifice under His Kingly reign.

Concerning God’s Eternal Decrees

Mike Riccardi is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master’s Seminary. In an article entitled “I Will Surely Tell of the Decree of the Lord” he writes:

In numerous passages throughout the Bible, His “plan” (Ps 33:11; Acts 2:23), His “counsel” (Eph 1:11), “good pleasure” (Isa 46:10), or “will” (Eph 1:5). In one way or another, each of these designations refer to what theologians call God’s decree. The Westminster Confession famously characterizes describes God’s decree as follows: “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”

So in those instances where Scripture speaks of God’s purpose, plan, counsel, pleasure, or will, these passages are referring to the divine decree by which God, before the creation of time, determined to bring about all things that were to happen in time. John Piper, summarizing God’s decree, says, “He has designed from all eternity, and is infallibly forming, with every event, a magnificent mosaic of redemptive history” (Desiring God, 40). This helpful summary presents three characteristics of God’s decree that succinctly encapsulate the teaching of Scripture: God’s decree is eternal, immutable, and exhaustive.

God’s Decree is Eternal and Unconditional

First, Scripture presents God’s decree as having been determined before the creation of time, and thus it is said to be eternal.

David praises God because all his days were ordained and written in God’s book before any one of them came to pass (Ps 139:16).

God’s election of individuals to salvation is said to have occurred “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4); cf. Matt 25:34); 1 Tim 1:9). Continue reading

Inerrancy Defended

Robert M. Bowman Jr. (born 1957) is an American Evangelical Christian theologian specializing in the study of apologetics. In an article (here) he writes:

Kyle Roberts, a theologian at United Theological Seminary and a former evangelical, has written a blog article on Patheos entitled “Seven Problems with Inerrancy.” Roberts is an example of a growing number of theologians who argue that we should retain faith in Jesus Christ and even confess Scripture to be “inspired” or “the Word of God” while rejecting the belief that Scripture is inerrant. In this response, I will point out seven problems with Roberts’s position.

inerrantView of Scripture in Christianity – Inspiration, Inerrancy, Infallibility

Note that I will not be arguing for the existence of God, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, or even the status of the books of the Bible as Scripture in this article. I am addressing the views of people who affirm these things but deny the inerrancy of Scripture. My contention is that those who affirm those basic elements of Christianity are being inconsistent if they do not also accept the inerrancy of Scripture. I offer seven reasons in support of this conclusion.

1. Jesus Christ believed that Scripture is inerrant.

In an essay of over 1,700 words, Roberts offers various criticisms—actually far more than seven—of belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, yet he never addresses or even mentions the question of what Jesus Christ thought on the matter. This omission is quite common among Christian critics of inerrancy.

These critics often insist that Christ, not Scripture, is the central focus of Christian faith. Roberts, for example, asserts that “the Bible creates an occasion for us to narratively engage the story of Jesus–but it is the living Jesus that is the goal.”

Fair enough. Evangelicals certainly affirm that Jesus is the central focus and subject of Scripture, including the Old Testament, and that its goal is to lead us to faith in Jesus, as Jesus himself taught (Luke 24:27, 44-47; John 5:39-40). However, if we are serious about following Jesus Christ, we must accept his view of Scripture.

Just as evangelicals accept Christ’s claim that all of the Scripture is centered on him, they also accept Christ’s view that Scripture is the unerring Word of God.[1]

To learn how Jesus viewed Scripture, we must consult the most reliable sources of historical information about Jesus’ teachings and actions—the Gospels in the New Testament. A progressive or liberal Christian who believes that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave as reported in the canonical Gospels presumably would be willing to consult the Gospels at least as valuable sources of information about what Jesus said and did. When we do this, we discover that Jesus clearly accepted the conventional Jewish belief, taught especially by the Pharisees, that Scripture is unerring revelation from God.

Near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount—which progressive and liberal Christians often assert epitomizes what it means to follow Jesus—we find that Jesus said the following:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17-18).

That is a clear articulation of the traditional ancient Jewish view of Scripture as verbally inspired by God. The rest of the Gospels consistently attest that Jesus held this view.

Thus, that Jesus held to the inerrancy of Scripture is as certain as any fact about his teaching. If we were to reject the Gospels’ testimony as to Jesus’ view of Scripture, we would have no basis for knowing anything about Jesus’ teaching. An atheist or agnostic might be able to accept this conclusion, but it makes no sense for progressive Christians, most of whom speak very highly in particular of the Sermon on the Mount, to reject what the Gospels report concerning Jesus’ view of Scripture.

2. Christian non-inerrantists ignore or distort nearly two millennia of Christian affirmations of the absolute truth of Scripture.

Critics of inerrancy commonly allege that it is supposedly of recent vintage in the history of Christianity. We are often told that inerrancy is a distinctively modern theory of the nature of Scripture driven by Enlightenment rationalism. For example, the fifth objection that Roberts gives to inerrancy is that it “is simply too modernistic and ‘objectivist’ in orientation.” If that were true, it would be grounds for at least questioning the idea of inerrancy. However, it’s simply not true. Consider what just three of the greatest figures in church history said on the subject:

It is to the canonical Scriptures alone that I am bound to yield such implicit subjection as to follow their teaching, without admitting the slightest suspicion that in them any mistake or any statement intended to mislead could find a place.

Augustine of Hippo: “It is to the canonical Scriptures alone that I am bound to yield such implicit subjection as to follow their teaching, without admitting the slightest suspicion that in them any mistake or any statement intended to mislead could find a place” (Letters 82.3).

Thomas Aquinas: “Only to those books or writings which are called canonical have I learnt to pay such honour that I firmly believe that none of their authors have erred in composing them” (Summa theologiae 1a.1.8).

Martin Luther: “Everyone knows that at times they have [the early church fathers] erred as men will; therefore, I am ready to trust them only when they prove their opinions from Scripture, which has never erred” (Weimarer Ausgabe, 7:315). Continue reading

Assessing Rome and its Doctrine

Leonardo de Chirico pastors a Reformed Church in the heart of Rome, Italy. His talks here are helpful summaries regarding some of the major divisions between the Protestant and Roman Catholic faiths.

Why are some evangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism? What is attractive about Roman Catholicism? What are the differences between what Roman Catholics and evangelicals believe? Are the differences substantial? This talk explores and evaluates why evangelicals find Catholicism appealing, clarifies important differences and helps evangelicals better understand their own identity.

Is the Roman Catholic Gospel the “same” or “another” Gospel? On the one hand, there is an apparent “common orthodoxy” presumably based on common understanding of the gospel; on the other, there is a profound difference on the meaning of its basic words (e.g. Christ, the church, grace, faith, salvation, etc.). This talk explores the contours of the Gospel as they emerge from the long tradition of the Roman Catholic Church and provides an evangelical assessment of the Roman Catholic Gospel as far as its biblical and apologetic significance are concerned.

Why are Roman Catholics so enamored with Mary? Why did Pope John Paul II cry out to Mary when he was shot? How is it that Mariology is a major feature in both traditional and present-day Roman Catholicism? Where did Mariology come from and what is theologically at stake in it? This talk answers these questions and highlights the need for a biblical reformation in Mariology.

In his recently published book A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Papacy, Leonardo de Chirico considers the individuals who have filled the position as pope and how the Roman Catholic Church has defined their role. He also provides evangelicals with insight into the ecumenical significance of the Papacy and its prospects in our global world. This discussion evaluates the book and continues the dialogue on the Papacy with input from a number of evangelical leaders.

Head Coverings and Consistency

Benjamin L. Merkle serves as professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is the author or co-author of numerous books, including Why Elders? A Biblical and Practical Guide for Church Members (Kregel, 2009) and 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons (Kregel, 2007). In an article entitled “Should Women Wear Head Coverings?” he writes:

Many complementarians build their case for rejecting women elders/pastors on Paul’s argument from creation in 1 Timothy 2:13–14. Paul’s prohibition cannot be culturally limited, they argue, since the apostle doesn’t argue from culture but from creation. He argues from the order of creation (“For Adam was formed first, then Eve”) and from the order of accountability in creation (“Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived”). Based on Paul’s inspired reasoning, then, complementarians conclude women may not “teach or have authority over men” (v. 12) in the context of the local church.

But can’t this reasoning also be applied to 1 Corinthians 11:8–9, where Paul makes a similar argument from creation to bolster his position? In the context of 1 Corinthians 11, he demonstrates that women need to have their heads covered while praying or prophesying. To prove his point, he argues from creation, saying that the woman was created from man (“For man was not made from woman, but woman from man”) and for man (“Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man”). Isn’t it inconsistent to reject Paul’s appeal for women to wear head coverings while affirming his command for women not to teach or have authority over men, since in both contexts Paul uses virtually the same (creation-related) reasoning?

This apparent inconsistency is raised by Craig Keener when he writes, “Although many churches would use arguments [from the order of creation] to demand the subordination of women in all cultures, very few accept Paul’s arguments [in 1 Cor. 11] as valid for covering women’s heads in all cultures. . . . We take the argument as transculturally applicable in one case [1 Tim. 2], but not so in the other [1 Cor. 11]. This seems very strange indeed.”

A closer examination of the two texts, however, shows it’s consistent to reject the need for women to wear head coverings (1 Cor. 11) while affirming they are not to teach or have authority over men (1 Tim. 2). The reason for this distinction is that in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul only indirectly uses the argument from creation to affirm head coverings for women. The direct application of his reasoning is to show that creation affirms gender and role distinctions between men and women. Therefore, Paul’s argument from creation which demonstrates men and women are distinct cannot be culturally relegated. The application of this principle (i.e., head coverings), then, can and does change with culture. In contrast, the argument from creation in 1 Timothy 2 applies directly to Paul’s prohibition, and therefore is not culturally conditioned. Continue reading

The Preacher’s Reading Habits

weaverSteve Weaver (Ph.D., SBTS) serves as the senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, Puritan, Baptist: Hercules Collins (1647-1702) and Particular Baptist Identity in Early Modern England (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015). In an article entitled “Standing on the shoulders of giants: The preacher and his books” he writes:

One of my favorite quotes is from Sir Isaac Newton, discoverer of the law of gravity. In a letter to Robert Hooke on February 5, 1676, Newton wrote, “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Newton saw farther than anyone had before, precisely because he was willing to learn from those who had gone before him. Just imagine what life would be like if all anyone ever knew was the knowledge they accumulated on their own. There would be no electricity, no light bulb, no telephone, no computers, no cars, no airplanes, no space travel, and, gasp, no iPhone.

But because men learned from those who had gone before, these inventions and many more were possible. Sadly, many preachers like to work in an anti-intellectual vacuum, gleaning nothing from the God-gifted men who have gone before them. God has especially equipped the body of Christ with teachers, evangelist, and pastors. I thank God for men like Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Augustine, Anselm, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Newton, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and a host of others, who are, without a doubt, God’s gifts to the church. By studying the writings of these gifted men, we are enabled to “stand on their shoulders.”

The Word on reading

I believe that there is actually a biblical admonition to learn from others found in Ephesians 4:11-13 where Paul explains how the resurrected and ascended Christ has gifted his church.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

I don’t think what Paul said here applies only to those living in our contemporary generation. Nor do I believe that it only applies to those in the same location. The church universal is much larger than our local congregation. It extends to all those saints, past and present, from east to west who have placed their hope in Christ and his sacrificial atonement. Therefore, the teachers, evangelists, and pastors from whom we have the privilege of learning stretch across the 2,000 years of church history (chronologically) and from pole to pole (geographically). In order to access this rich heritage, we need to read books.

Baptists and books

Historically, Baptists have recognized the importance of learning from the works of others. In his book on pastoral ministry, The Temple Repair’d, the seventeenth-century English Baptist pastor Hercules Collins provided his readers with a list of recommend books. Furthermore, when young men in his Wapping church expressed a desire to begin preaching, they were provided with key biblical and theological works. Collins believed that ministers must labor in their study of the Word of God because of the exalted nature of their work as ministers. Commenting on 2 Timothy 2:15, he wrote,

“We should study to be good workmen because our work is of the highest nature. Men that work among jewels and precious Stones ought to be very knowing of their business. A minister’s work is a great work, a holy work, a heavenly work. Hence the Apostle says “Who is sufficient for these things?” O how great a work is this! What man, what angel is sufficient to preach the gospel as they ought to preach it! You work for the highest end, the glory of God, and the good of immortal souls. You are for the beating down of the kingdom of the devil, and enlarging and exalting Christ’s kingdom.”

Do not be idle and lazy in the things of God Continue reading

Posts on Reprobation

Lee Gatiss is Director of Church Society, adjunct lecturer at Wales Evangelical School of Theology, and Research Fellow of the Jonathan Edwards Centre Africa at the University of the Free State, South Africa. He has put together a series of blog posts on the subject of Reprobation at Reformation21. They are interesting reads for sure:

I was interested to see that TGC have launched in Australia. I hope and pray it will be a great support and encouragement to gospel-minded people down under.

On their shiney new website, there is an article posted two days ago on the great Anglican theologian, W.H. Griffith Thomas by my friend and birthday buddy, Michael Jensen.

One of the things Griffith Thomas says, and which for some reason Michael chose to zero in on in his summary of the man, is that there is no mention of the darker side of predestination in the Anglican formularies. Or as WHGT put it when commenting on Article 17 of The Thirty-nine Articles, “There is no reference to Reprobation or Preterition, neither of which is part of the Church of England doctrine.”

Now, I don’t especially like talking about this sort of thing. It can be difficult pastorally, and you always have to hedge everything around with qualifications and asides to guard against misunderstandings. And there isn’t a consensus even amongst the more Reformed type of evangelicals about how precisely to formulate this sort of thing. So it isn’t something I personally would choose to bring up if I was trying to build a coalition around central gospel truths. I would pass over it.

All that being said, it is a little disconcerting to read this sort of thing, and to be told that “there are scant Scriptures that might be said to teach a doctrine of reprobation.” OK, so Article 17 does not explicitly cite:

1 Peter 2:8, “[those who do not believe] stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”

2 Peter 2:12, “But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction.”

Jude 4, “certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Revelation 17:8, “the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world…”

But in such scriptures, the doctrine of reprobation does seem to many interpreters to surface in a most remarkable way. If it doesn’t, if there is some other explanation for what these verses say, then perhaps we ought to be educated on that, rather than them simply being dismissed as “scant.” They are, after all, about as scant as the number of verses directly addressing practising homosexuality, or whether you should marry a non-Christian.

We don’t usually accept the argument that “where number of verses addressing a subject is small, dismiss the doctrine,” or call it “mysterious,” or say there is “no reference” to it. After all, how many times does God need to say something for us to listen? Continue reading