Book Review: An Examination of Dispensationalism by William E. Cox

It’s obvious that William Cox loves the Lord and is personally committed to rightly divide the Word of Truth from his perspective.  He no doubt understands salvation, grace, the holiness of God and wants to do what is right.  According to Cox, he used to believe in Dispensationalism, but laid it aside for Reformed Theology. According to him, he says he saw too many inconsistencies in Dispensationalism.  His argument seems to be to expose the “bad” character of Darby as the “founder” of Dispensationalism and thus declare Dispensationalism as wrong. Continue reading

Truth: Rapture and Tribulation Part 1

This is Part 1 of 6 parts describing the Rapture and Tribulation generalities. A friend asked me about the Rapture and End Times, so here is my response to him. Parts 2-6 will be posted on succeeding days.

The End Times: Rapture and Tribulation

Where is this world going? What will happen in the end times? I had a friend ask me about the Rapture and the End Times, so here is a brief response to his question. Continue reading

Truth: Doctrine of Election

Doctrine of Election

 

God has three types of knowledge. They are all a part of the knowledge of God and the distinctions help us understand election.

First, He has self-knowledge; He knows Himself. In His dialogue with Moses, “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel,`I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:14)

Secondly, God is omniscient, which means He is all-knowing.  God knows the actual and the possible, especially in relation to His creatures. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13)

And thirdly, God has foreknowledge, which is His acknowledgement of what is in the Decree of God.  David recorded in his famous Psalm 139,

For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.  O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
 2You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.
 3You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.
 4For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
 5You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.
 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. (Ps. 139:1-6)

This foreknowledge of God means every minute detail is completely known in eternity past. Every minute detail is in the mind of God, therefore the future is clear. God’s knowledge is not subject to change, development, or reasoning. God’s omniscience fed into the decree the actual facts. The decree is fixed, but does not fix. God’s foreknowledge is a printout of those elect ones. The elect ones experientially become elect at salvation. The elect ones are elect from eternity past.

Election depends on God’s sovereign application of the free will of man to God’s plan. John wrote, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Election becomes experientially real at the point of salvation. Election was made in eternity past as Paul writes, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (2 Thes. 2:13)  God chose, or elected, every believer through means of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work that happens at the moment of salvation.  Paul also writes, “[God], who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, (2 Tim. 1:9)  There was nothing we could do for salvation.  That is why faith is non-meritorious, that is, there is no merit for man.  God does all the work through Jesus; we just accept that work on our behalf.  The choice is to humbly accept the work, rather than think we can do or become something of value on our own before God.  We cannot.  We can only accept what God has done on our behalf.

Scripture teaches Unlimited Atonement.  There are many passages that declare God’s unconditional sin payment for the human race by the blood of Jesus.  For example,

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

John Calvin says of this verse: “He uses the word sin in the singular number for any kind of iniquity; as if he had said that every kind of unrighteousness which alienates men from God is taken away by Christ. And when he says the sin of the world, he extends this favor indiscriminately to the whole human race.” Additional verses in support of Unlimited Atonement are:

 

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
(Rom. 5:6)

 

3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:3-4)

And,

5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, (1 Tim. 2:5-6)

 

For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. (1 Tim. 4:10)

 

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9)

 

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 Jn. 2:2)

 

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. (1 Jn. 4:14)

 

It would seem these are very clear that Jesus’ death was a substitution for the entire world – all the ungodly – those who would believe and those who would not.

Therefore, all members of the human race are potentially elect by the Father under the concept of Unlimited Atonement.  Paul writes, “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Tim. 2:10) The Greek grammar is important here.  The phrase, “that they also may obtain” is a hina + subjunctive of tugchano- which means it is optional and dependent on man’s volition—man’s choice. Paul did not exclude anyone from this choice.  Just above, we saw from 2 Peter 3:9 that the Lord was “not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” Some people will say that those whom God calls will be saved. So in this verse if God wishes for all to be saved, is God’s wish different from God’s call? If God wishes for something, would not that happen if He wanted it to happen?  Could God wish for something and it not happen?  It would not, if God allowed for His glory man’s choice to enter into the picture.

Election is the present and future possession of every believer. Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. (John 15:16) On his own, man would not choose God.  If it were not for the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, every man would turn from God.  It is only those to whom God calls and convicts, which is everyone, do they have an opportunity to make a choice.  The saving is not of anything on man’s part.  He only makes a non-meritorious decision, selfish as it may be, to receive the gift of salvation.  He does this by faith.  His purpose then becomes bearing fruit.  Paul states our purpose after salvation, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (Col. 3:12)  Once we are saved, our focus becomes bearing fruit for Jesus’ sake.  That becomes a life-long pursuit of sanctification, because of our position in Christ.

Every believer shares the election of Christ through positional sanctification. Even Jesus is elect, according to Isaiah, Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.” (Is. 42:1)  Jesus, however, is not elect as we are.  He was chosen to be the sin-Bearer and our Substitute. All those in the church of Corinth were believers as Paul writes, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours… But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God– and righteousness and sanctification and redemption… (1 Cor. 1:2,30)  We are sanctified in Christ and as we grow in our relation with Jesus Christ we become experientially sanctified. 

We can trust God in everything that He takes us through for our sanctification. Paul writes, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose… He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”(Rom 8:28, 32)  Why can we trust Him?  He chose us, elected us, from the foundation of the world, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” (Eph. 1:4)

This means that of the 1000 other decrees God could have chosen He chose one where you would believe in Christ (if you have). Give thanks to Him! It means that God is sovereignly in control of all history, not that He directly controls all history, because we cannot say God directs sin.  That would be contrary to the character of God.  However, He does allow sin in His permissive will and chose the decree in which there is sin.  That decree allows many wicked things to occur, which exposes the wicked evil that is in the world and ultimately reveals that only when God is in direct control, is there serenity and calm. What do you remember about the love of God?

           God gives and God corrects (1 John 4:9-10; Heb. 12:5-6). It means I share in the destiny of Christ, I share His election.  That is confident expectation of what lies ahead and is reason for us not to become frustrated about what we face now. It means every person may be elect, therefore we are under obligation to witness and give the gospel at every opportunity.  Are you taking advantage of the opportunity?

Question: Are Sign Gifts operational today?

Question: Are Sign Gifts operational today?

 

Many good students of Scripture will rest on 1 Cor. 13:10, when it comes to answering the question whether the sign gifts are available today or not.  Basically, the perfect [the Bible] has been completed, so the partial [sign gifts] are removed. It is a valid thought process, but likely not the best supported interpretation of that passage.  There are many well-thought-out reasons why this simplistic approach is not a correct interpretation.  There are much better reasons taking into consider the context of 1 Corinthians 12-14, within which 1 Corinthians 13:10 is found and other explanation. 

For example, in the context of Ephesians 2:20, the gifts of apostle and prophets were the foundation for the building structure of the church.  Those gifts ceased during that first century foundational era with the completion of the canon of Scripture. However, you cannot argue the sign gifts have ceased because of that passage. 

There are other passages like Philippians 2:26-27 and 2 Timothy 4:20, in which Paul was present with very sick co-laborers in the gospel.  Paul, who had healed others, gave no indication that he was able to heal again as he did in Malta (Acts 28: 8,9).  Is it possible that God took away the gift of healing from Paul?  If so, why?  Was the purpose for which Paul had the gift of healing now completed?   

Much of church history shows a vacuum of sign gifts until the beginning of the 1900s.  It was in the modern Charismatic movement in Los Angeles, California, in 1904, when the power seemed to be restored.  Yet with all the writing, there have been objective investigations to verify the veracity of “the miracles.”  The dead were not raised, the lame were not healed.  The blind did not receive sight.  The modern tongues movements seemed to be questioned because modern tongues are a repetition of a small number of phrases, in contrast to the biblical examples of Acts 2 and 10. The miraculous do not match the miracles presented in the New Testament.

I’m very open to the presence of sign gifts, but I see that with the provision of greater amounts of the canon or “measurement” of Scripture, sign gifts were not recorded as in the initial apostolic days of beginning the church.  The reason may be because of the purpose of sign gifts.  The reason is the same reason as any of the miracles in Scripture.   

God allowed miracles in order to draw attention to the truth.  Moses was one who worked many miracles (Ex. 4:1-5)

Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say,`The LORD has not appeared to you.'”
 2 So the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A rod.”
 3 And He said, “Cast it on the ground.” So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.
 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail ” (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand),
 5“that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”  (Ex. 4:1-5)

God gave Moses miraculous powers, so “that they may believe that the Lord God…has appeared to you.” (Ex. 4:5).  God also worked the plagues and other miracles to give the entire nation of Israel reason to trust God was speaking through Moses. God gave Elijah miraculous powers, so Israel would believe God appeared to Elijah and was speaking through Him. 

God also worked miracles through Jesus, so the people would be attracted to Him and believe His words.  After Jesus fed 5000, people came back for more.  Sometimes when you give people what they want, they only want what they want rather than the truth, so Jesus didn’t give them more food.   

During one of the Passovers, Jesus had 5000 men and their families, who needed to eat.  Jesus directed the disciples to feed them (John 6: 4-10). They recognized they could make the provision, so God used the opportunity to reveal His ability to provide through Jesus and they should listen to Jesus. Jesus fed the people and an abundance was recovered (John 6: 11-13).  Those who saw the “sign” recognized Jesus as “the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  But when Jesus perceived the people were going to “take Him by force to make Him king, He departed…”(John 6: 15)  Jesus knew they only wanted Him to be a Bread King, not a Suffering Messiah Savior, so He withdrew from letting the “sign gift” or “miracle” from being a distraction.  The importance was the message, not the sign.  The sign was to lead to the message – Jesus Christ, sent from God for the world. 

If the message is clearly communicated in Scripture, are sign gifts needed today?  Jesus told the account of the rich man and Lazarus and how the rich man wanted Lazarus to go back to the world to tell the rich man’s brothers that they must repent.  The rich man was counting on the miracle of someone coming back from the dead waking his brothers up from their complacency,

27 “Then he said, `I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house,
 28 `for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’
 29“Abraham said to him, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’
 30“And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
 31“But he said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'” (Luke 16:27-31)

Abraham was very clear, [“If they don’t believe what was written, they will not believe.”] The issue of the sign gifts is not having a great miracle.  The issue of the sign gifts is to draw attention to the truth of the Word.  If the Word is completed today, then is there a need for sign gifts?  I’m open to explanations, but I’ve found explanations for present activity wanting for substance.  

Maybe you have some Scriptural support that God is using sign gifts today.  I know they will begin again during the Tribulation and the Millennium, but I’m not seeing the need today.  Could God use sign gifts in primitive places?  I’ve heard some experiences that seem plausible.  I know God can do what He wants to do.  If He puts Himself in a box during this dispensation and restricts them because of the completed canon, I cannot change that.  Let us dialogue for unity and peace.  Let us also ensure we rely on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to live godly lives in the discussion process.  We want to follow the excellent words:

In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.  We should strive for unity in the sphere of love as we pursue the truth.
 

Explaining Divine History – Part 6

The previous five parts have established a foundation for understanding Divine History.   Part one noted a consistent means of salvation throughout history. Secondly, Scripture must be interpreted by a literal historico-grammatical interpretation approach. Thirdly, God’s promises to Israel in the Old Testament were unconditional and are yet to be fulfilled. Fourthly, the church began on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and not before.  Fifthly, the only way to understand God’s plan is to know the completed canon of Scripture.  This sixth segment identifies that man is born spiritually dead and how he is able to receive salvation.

Man is born separated from God in a helpless and hopeless condition (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).  He is spiritually dead.  There is nothing he can do to gain acceptance before God unless God reveals Himself to man and man chooses to trust in God’s revealed will for salvation.  Note the following principles:

·         Man is born in sin and he possesses his body of sin until death or the rapture Rom. 6:6, 12;  7:24; 1 Cor. 15:51-57.  The body of the unbeliever will control his life in sin, because the unbeliever cannot please God in any way.  Even the body of the believer retains the sin nature and causes a battle in the soul of the believer who trusts in Jesus Christ. That body of sin will tempt him to sin unless he is totally dependent on God’s Spirit, which Scripture calls the filling of the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

·         Spiritually, he is not able to please, to satisfy, or to approach God in any way because of his sin and God cannot look upon sin Gen. 2:16,17; Rom. 3:9-10; Eph. 2:1-3.  Man is spiritually dead.  The unbeliever cannot understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14) and cannot satisfy the righteousness of God from his works (Is. 64:6).

·         The unbeliever does have faith, because many trust in other gods, themselves or some system of doing to gain an afterlife Acts 17:18-23.   The unbeliever does not trust by faith in the right object of salvation. The unbeliever trusts in many things just like a believer, like flying in an airplane, but rejects trusting in the divine provision of Christ’s shed blood for atonement.

·         The unbeliever cannot understand the things of God apart from God’s convicting ministry John 16:8-11; 1 Cor. 2:14.  The unbeliever’s spirit is dead, therefore it will reject any revelation from or conviction of God’s revelation.

·         God provides the way of salvation through Christ’s death Rom. 5:8.  Even in the rejection of man, God provides that way because of His love.  God’s love is not dependent on a proper response.  God’s love acts regardless of the response.  Our godly love is only in response to His love for us (1 John 4:19).

·         God the Holy Spirit convicts of the whole world of sin, righteousness and judgment John 16:8-11.  The conviction is made to the entire world.  Conviction is necessary for man to see his lost state and separation from God.  Conviction allows for rejection.  God is bigger than some people think.  God handles the rejection of some people, likely a majority of people, because His love is infinite and He gives regardless of whether man responds to the conviction, or not.  God’s conviction shows that God’s grace provision is sufficient, but not necessarily efficient.  God allows man to reject God’s provision.  Rejection requires the Justice of God to leave man in condemnation and the ultimate consequence of the Lake of Fire.

·         Man can be saved by faith alone in Christ alone by God’s grace Eph. 2:8-9.  God provides the way of salvation through Christ’s death on the cross for the sins of the world.  Man must exercise faith in Jesus Christ.  God the Holy Spirit then takes that spark of faith and regenerates the  human spirit so it can relate with the infinite God (Titus 3:5). 

·         Man is redeemed from sin by the precious blood of Jesus Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:18-19.  Man can do nothing for salvation.  Faith becomes the spark, choice, or decision God then takes to carry the man from spiritual deadness to spiritual life.

·         When man exercises faith in Christ, he is only saved when the Holy Spirit regenerates him, not because of the decision made John 1:12-13; Tit. 3:5.  Man’s faith does not save him, but without faith man is not saved.  God does not force the issue.  God could force the issue, but then free will would not be involved.  God allows the human response to be the point where God sovereignly regenerates man to spiritual life.

·         God is not obligated to man regardless of what man does; God is only obligated to Himself and His Word Rom. 9:14-16.  God is no respecter of persons.  He does respect His own perfect character.

Man is born spiritually dead.  Through God’s conviction, which is the only way man could understand that he needs salvation and is the only way man could understand what he needs to do for salvation, man chooses to reject or accept God’s plan.  Man could not be saved unless God draws Him.  He could not understand unless God revealed Himself.  When man understands and humbles himself in totally dependence on the mercy of God, God obligates Himself to His character and regenerates man according to divine will.

Explaining Divine History – Part 5

 We human beings are pretty proud of ourselves.  We have been able to take a little two inch by five inch by one quarter inch box and communicate with each other and websites all over the world.  We have at our fingertips information, relationships, and resources never before available.  We’re pretty proud of ourselves!  Yet none of that compares to the miracle that God performs for us.

The miracle of God is that He communicates to us.  We, His creatures, rejected God in the Garden of Eden, prior to the flood, at the Tower of Babel, at the incarnation of Christ and we will reveal our rejection of Him prior to His return and even at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.  It’s a miracle of God’s mercy that He communicates to us from His holiness.

There is no way that we could ever understand God unless He revealed Himself to us.  Because He is infinite and we are finite, He had to reveal Himself to us in ways and language that we could understand.  It would be impossible for man to understand the infinity of God’s person and purpose.  So God revealed Himself in nature we call General Revelation and He revealed Himself in Jesus and Scripture we call Special Revelation.  We can only learn about some aspects of God in General Revelation (Romans 1:18-20).  We needed Special Revelation to understand God’s plan for man.

Here’s the key to understanding God’s plan:

God’s divine plan can only be fully understood by the completed canon of Scripture.  It is from progressive revelation over a period of 1500 years by 40 authors that God’s Administration of History can be fully understood.

As was stated under “Explaining Divine History – Part 2” the Bible must be interpreted with a literal  historico-grammatical approach to interpretation.  Some people develop their theology and then use various forms of interpretation to make Scripture fit that theology.  Please refer back to that segment for a clarification of biblical interpretation.  What we need to understand is that God’s plan and history will only be understood by the completed canon of Scripture and then only when it is harmonized in, through and by means of all Scripture.  Leave the world behind and study God’s Word and you’ll understand Divine History.