Confident Evangelism: Roman Catholicism

Here is Week 6: A Confident Answer to Roman Catholicism.

The issue between the Reformation and Roman Catholicism is deeply complex, and easily overwhelming. Many Protestants and Romanists choose to wave away the differences between us as if we’re the same (we’re not), some choose to treat the other as an intractable enemy; but here in the lonely middle, some of us have a desire to find understanding, have evangelistic conversation, and to see them come to a saving knowledge of Christ in His true gospel. What’s your strategy for talking to the Romanist? Continue reading

Justin Martyr on Israel, Jews, Christians, and the Old and New Covenants

The second-century saw a young Christianity getting her legs, and forming a more catholic, firm identity as the new covenant people. I recently researched early second-century father Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, a Jewish philosopher. The debate is representative of the friction between Jews of Judaism and the Christian Church. Fascinating in its depth, the dispute between them is revealing for Christians today who are seeking to learn more of their roots… in other words, the early fathers have a value that we must mine out and share with one another if we are to survive the vapid, materialistic Western culture pervading the American version of Christianity.

The following is my recent seminary paper reviewing the Dialogue. I encourage you to read it all, and to look up the references. If you’re like me, you need some depth and history behind your Christian life. Grace to all of you who love the Lord Jesus, our new Lawgiver.

Introduction: The Relationship between Israel and the Early Church

The early Church believed itself to have inherited the Old Testament promises given throughout the Old Testament narrative to ethnic Israel. Extant apologetic works from the first few centuries prominently feature Christians arguing that the new covenant was the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, both for Jew and Gentile. The Church after the ascension “regarded itself as a continuation and development of Judaism,” and so the second-century Apologists like Justin Martyr examined the relationship between the old and new covenants.[1] In Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, his contention was that Christianity was the natural continuation of Judaism as branch is to root (c.f. Rom. 11:17-18).[2]

Continue reading

Beautiful Atonement: Prophesy Good Friday

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

For this Good Friday, it is only appropriate to call upon the greatest Old Testament prophecy about Jesus. Isaiah chapter 52:13-53:12 is the beautiful picture of the suffering Servant of Yahweh, the One who would be crushed for our iniquities.

Written 700 years before the first Good Friday, Isaiah had the honor of spelling out the means of God’s redemption of Israel. He would lay on Jesus the iniquity of us all.

Read with me the bare naked words of this prophecy, and read them aloud if possible. Read them slowly, with contemplation… and if you have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, read with gratitude. If you have not, here is proof that the Bible is supernatural, for how did a man write these words 700 years before they came true? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized for the remission of sins.

I’ve included just a few words in the text [in brackets] which clarify a few obscure terms.

Rejoice.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (NKJV)

13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently;
He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
14 Just as many were astonished at you,
So His visage[face] was marred more than any man,
And His form more than the sons of men;
15 So shall He sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths at Him;
For what had not been told them they shall see,
And what they had not heard they shall consider.

1 Who has believed our report?

And to whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness[beauty];
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement[punishment] for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And Yahweh has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

10 Yet it pleased Yahweh to crush Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of Yahweh shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.

Good Friday

Glory to the Name of Jesus! Suffering Lamb of God! Died He for me, that I may live, and died He to bring me close to Him!

The cross of Jesus is precious because by it we get Jesus forever.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Jesus Claims to be God: Prophesy Fridays

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy (that’s sarcasm, folks), so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to light up your life.

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God.

Picking on Poor Old Mark

One of the more intense opponents of Christianity is Bart Ehrman, a prolific author and scholar of the Bible. Ehrman works tirelessly to disabuse Christians of the notion that the Bible is a reliable historical record of anything that actually happened in first-century Palestine. In his critique of the four Gospels, Ehrman (along with the majority of modern scholarship) notes that the Gospel of Mark appears to be the earliest of the four. A part of this conclusion is the “underdeveloped” Christology of Mark – in other words, Mark sees a rather plain, human Jesus. Mark’s Jesus, according to Ehrman, is a man, nothing more, and perhaps had some extraordinary signs surrounding his ministry, but by the time the Gospel of John is written decades later, the plain-Jane Jesus of Mark has been morphed into a God.

For Ehrman and his ilk, the true Jesus was more like the one found in Mark than anywhere else. I have even watched as Muslim critics of Christianity have begun to take up Ehrman’s arguments against the historicity of the Gospels on this very basis.

shabir allyShabir Ally, a gentleman from Canada, in debating against Dr. James White, used Ehrman’s theory of a developing Christology from Mark through John to try and debunk any true witness to Jesus’ deity in the Gospel accounts. Never mind that if Shabir and the modern Muslim apologists used the same exact critical tools against the Quran, that it would be even more so than the Bible vulnerable to being debunked… but that’s another story.

So, are they right? Does Mark present the more authentic Jesus? I mean, being authentic is the greatest virtue of our age, and being a fake the worst sin, right?

Jesus Sets the Record Straight

Without delving into a major critical response to Ehrman/Ally, I must say that their thesis is empty. Even if we allow that Mark is the earliest account of Jesus’ life and ministry, there is no less the deity of Christ here than in the other two synoptic Gospels.

Let me give you one clear example (among many) of the witness of Jesus’ deity in Mark, and then a clear fulfillment of a key prophetic picture from the Old Testament (because it is Prophesy Friday after all).

A Clear Example of Jesus’ Godhood

A paralytic guy needed to be healed, and he knew Jesus could do it. His friends brought him out to see Jesus, but instead of just *shazam* healing the man, Jesus says “Son, your sins are forgiven you” (Mark 2:5b NKJV).

Now, the folks in the house knew exactly what kind of claim that was, “and some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?'” (Mark 2:6-7).

Got it? Every Jew knows that only God forgives sins.

Also, note that the scribes were reasoning in their hearts – not out loud. Watch this.

But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic,“I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:8-12)

Jesus did not shy away from the claim to be God in flesh. He proved it.

Jesus Claims to be Fulfilling Prophecy

He isn’t done. A few years and 12 chapters later, the high priest is interrogating Jesus, who has been arrested and is facing charges of.. blasphemy. So he snarls at Jesus “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14:61b).Trial

He doesn’t really think it possible that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) – it’s a question meant to lead to execution. The answer, however, is not that of an intimidated man. He isn’t scared of death, or the authority of the high priest.

Jesus said, “I am…”

Step 1: use the designation that belongs to God alone. Exodus 3:14.

“…and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power,”

Step 2: claim to be the divine figure from Psalm 110:1 who has the rightful place of authority at the right hand of God.

“…and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Step 3: claim to be the figure from Daniel 7:13-14 who inherits the universe as His own creation and right. Claim to be the Son of Man who was prophesied over 500 years before – the One who stands above the creation as its Master. Jesus was not afraid to die for the truth.

-Cue the wrath of the little inquisitor-

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?”

And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.

Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands (Mark 14:63-65).

Now that is a Man who knows His identity. He is not trembling before the opinions of His enemies. He has no hesitation to claim the divine rights He has always owned, from all eternity. He has no problem claiming that the Bible is all about Himself. Do you know Him?

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Even the Idolatrous Egyptians are Being Converted! Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far.

 

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

You live(d) in Egypt, right?

Yes, kids, and the sunsets in Alexandria were glorious.

OK… well we were wondering, dear Uncle: what message finally got through to the Egyptian people to turn their hearts and minds away from the false gods of their ancestors?

Well…

Does Scripture tell of anyone who was pierced in hands and feet or hung upon a tree at all, and by means of a cross perfected his sacrifice for the salvation of all? It was not Abraham, for he died in his bed, as did also Isaac and Jacob. Moses and Aaron died in the mountain, and David ended his days in his house, without anybody having plotted against him. Certainly he had been sought by Saul, but he was preserved unharmed.

Again Isaiah was sawn asunder, but he was not hung on a tree. Jeremiah was shamefully used, but he did not die under condemnation. Ezekiel suffered, but he did so, not on behalf of the people, but only to signify to them what was going to happen. Moreover, all these even when they suffered were but men, like other men; but He Whom the Scriptures declare to suffer on behalf of all is called not merely man but Life of all, although in point of fact He did share our human nature.

“You shall see your Life hanging before your eyes,”

they say, and

“Who shall declare of what lineage He comes?”

With all the saints we can trace their descent from the beginning, and see exactly how each came to be; but the Divine Word maintains that we cannot declare the lineage of Him Who is the Life. Who is it, then, of Whom Holy Writ (Scripture) thus speaks? Who is there so great that even the prophets foretell of Him such mighty things? There is indeed no one in the Scriptures at all, save the common Savior of all, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. He it is that proceeded from a virgin, and appeared as man on earth, He it is Whose earthly lineage cannot be declared, because He alone derives His body from no human father, but from a virgin alone.

We can trace the paternal descent of David and Moses and of all the patriarchs. But with the Savior we cannot do so, for it was He Himself Who caused the star to announce His bodily birth, and it was fitting that the Word, when He came down from heaven, should have His sign in heaven too, and fitting that the King of creation on His coming forth should be visibly recognized by all the world.

He was actually born in Judea, yet men from Persia came to worship Him. He it is Who won victory from His demon foes and trophies from the idolaters even before His bodily appearing—namely, all the heathen who from every region have abjured the tradition of their fathers and the false worship of idols and are now placing their hope in Christ and transferring their allegiance to Him.

The thing is happening before our very eyes, here in Egypt; and thereby another prophecy is fulfilled, for at no other time have the Egyptians ceased from their false worship save when the Lord of all, riding as on a cloud, came down here in the body and brought the error of idols to nothing, and won over everybody to Himself and through Himself to the Father.

He it is Who was crucified with the sun and moon as witnesses; and by His death salvation has come to all men, and all creation has been redeemed. He is the Life of all, and He it is Who like a sheep gave up His own body to death, His life for ours and our salvation.

Ancient gospel, ancient Savior, same gospel for us, same Savior who saves Egyptians also saves all… The universal Word of Life!

My favorite uncle.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Scads of Gospel Power: Prophecy Fridays

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy (that’s sarcasm, folks), so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to light up your life.

Red Pepper

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God. Today I am going to recap the posts I’ve written in this series so far. I’m so entirely excited about Prophesy Fridays so far – it is some of my best writing I have done in over a year of blogging.

I could really use your words of feedback, support, or challenge if you disagree with something. I put a lot of work into this series, and have little indication if it is beneficial to anyone! So check them out…

Jesus Drops in on Samson’s Parents

Isaiah sees the Atonement 740 Years Out

The God of Israel will be Pierced

Poetic, Prophetic King David and Blind (Tour) Guides

Staycation in Babylon and Glimpsing the New Covenant

Maybe pick one of these and read it carefully – I hope the people of the Lord Jesus are fed and drawn to Him through these posts.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thanks for reading,

-Adam

Staycation in Babylon and Glimpsing the New Covenant: Prophesy Fridays

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy (that’s sarcasm, folks), so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to light up your life.

Red Peppers

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God. This is going to be a heavy dose today, so strap on your thinking caps!

Today we’re going to visit with Ezekiel – a man who was carried off to Babylon in 597 BC when the Hebrew kingdom of Judah was dismantled by mighty Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon – Emperor of the Middle Eastern peoples. Ezekiel’s prophecy is graphic, gritty, and at some points difficult to interpret. Jewish men traditionally were not to read it until they turned 30 because of the horrific nature of some of the pictures, and because of the sexually explicit imagery used to describe the spiritual whoredom of Judah and Israel (ch. 23).

It is a prophecy of disorientation and devastation, and in the midst of the events of the book, word reaches Ezekiel that Jerusalem has been destroyed (586 BC). At that point, Ezekiel begins to receive a new type of prophetic word: reorientation and restoration for the descendants of the Babylonian exiles. On this turn in the narrative, Charles Dyer writes

During these final years Ezekiel was ministering in Babylon, predicting the coming collapse of Jerusalem. His message fell on deaf ears till word of the city’s destruction was received in Babylon. The fall of the city prompted a change in Ezekiel’s prophetic message. Before Jerusalem fell, Ezekiel’s message focused on Judah’s forthcoming destruction because of her sin. After Jerusalem’s fall, Ezekiel’s message centered on Judah’s future restoration. [1]

Ezekiel

I give you all that information in order to provide context for what I want to highlight today. As Ezekiel begins his staycation in Babylon, he is given a hopeful prophecy for the future restoration of his nation… yet the prophecy of the restored Israel would grow and expand into the inclusion of the Church of Jesus Christ (as is the nature of much Old Testament prophecy).

Through the destruction of old Jerusalem, Ezekiel becomes a prophet for the New Jerusalem – the New Covenant in Jesus Christ and the better promises given to all who are in Him. Want to see a glimpse of it? If you read carefully and follow my thinking, I know you will be blessed like I’ve been.

We only have space for a very small slice of Ezekiel’s prophecy, as it is dense and difficult, but a small slice is enough to get a ton of Christ.

Chapter 34, Verses Wow through Hallelujah

Written around 580 BC, keep in mind Ezekiel is writing what God is giving him to write – and he is writing to the generations of Jews who will suffer through exile in Babylon… but because they are the words of the all-knowing God who is outside of time, they are also words that foreshadow a greater restoration, one which will include the entire world!

After condemning the leaders of the Jewish nation for failing to shepherd the people according to the covenant, Yahweh declares Himself to be the true shepherd (Ez. 34:11-13 NKJV):

11 For thus says Yahweh God “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.”

What’s that? 600 years later, Jesus said “I am the Good Shepherd” John 10:11, and also

And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16).

Do you see the connection? Let’s look back at Ezekiel 34 –

12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.

That dark and cloudy day was first of all referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile, but that dark day can also refer to the thousands of years where there was no hope for the Gentiles. They were born, lived, and died in spiritual darkness as the fallen sons and daughters of Adam. Jesus, as the Word of Yahweh in Ezekiel 34, claims He will seek out His people in every nation.

13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country.

When He finds us, He restores us – both Jews and Gentiles! We are all feeding on the goodness of the “land” of Israel, metaphorically speaking – we are all within the covenant blessings spoken to Abraham… because of and in Christ!

But wait, there’s more. You may not be convinced of the connection between Ezekiel’s prophecy and Jesus. Look further as Yahweh through Ezekiel reprimands the Hebrew people who have despised the good gifts of God… but with the appropriate New Covenant lens, we see it was actually Jesus they trampled. Read this and think of Jesus’ trial, mocking, and crucifixion (Ez. 34:17-19):

17 ‘And as for you, O My flock, thus says Yahweh God: “Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.

(Read about how Jesus claims that power in Matthew 25).

18 Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture—and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet?

This is a picture of how Jesus was treaded down and trampled by His nation. Ezekiel’s contemporaries had similarly despised the good gift of God’s covenant and favor to them, but look then at this:

19 And as for My flock, they eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet.”

Oh my. Yahweh makes a difference here between His flock and the people of Ezekiel’s nation. In other words, the people of Ezekiel’s time are excluded from the flock of Yahweh – excluded and cursed by their breaking of the covenant. They have treaded and trampled God’s gift, but His flock will eat and drink from that very trampled gift.

Do you see the prophetic power here? He’s talking about you and me in the New Covenant – those in Jesus Christ which for Ezekiel would be another 600 years in the future!

Look carefully at it: what is it the Church eats and drinks? What else but the broken body and blood of the Lamb?Communion Our communion supper! Our Jesus, coming to us in the bread and the wine, offering His saving benefits to His flock!

Even More Clear

Ezekiel continues to speak the Word of Yahweh, and Jesus becomes crystal clear in the passage:

23 I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, Yahweh, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, Yahweh, have spoken.

Just so there is no confusion about who it is that is at the head of all these blessings. Just so we’re clear, oh Israel, who will be your King and benefactor. This is an echoing of Yahweh’s promises to David that his own offspring would sit on the throne of the covenant nation forever, from 2 Samuel 7:16.

But realize something about Ezekiel writing this Word from God in 580 BC: David had been dead and moldering for over 400 years, so when Yahweh declares that David will be His shepherd and servant to rule His people Israel, He is speaking of David’s descendant.

And here’s the last piece of the puzzle. In 70 AD when the Romans wrecked the temple and destroyed the Jewish nation (again), all of the family records of the Jews were lost. After that time, no one can say for certain which person belongs to which family or tribe. What Jew today can be crowned as the Son of David? Not one. There is no line from David to the present day Jew, and so that Shepherd and Prince who will be ruler over the New Covenant, restored nation… had to have lived and been revealed before 70 AD. And since there was no restored Davidic kingdom at that time, there is only one possibility left: that Shepherd, King, and servant of Yahweh did not stay dead, rose from the earth into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father, waiting to return again to earth and consummate His visible rule over all people. The great Shepherd of Israel and Son of David is alive and ready to be revealed in His majestic reign, just as promised.

For now, He is reigning until the Father places all His enemies under His feet. He is the King of Zion. He is the Son of David. He is the Lamb slain for His flock – and He is coming back to rule the earth in judgment and power. He is the fulfillment of these, and many other prophetic pictures in Ezekiel. Read it for yourself!

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

[1] Charles H. Dyer, Ezekiel, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old Testament, 1226.