Book Review: Multiply: Disciples making Disciples by Francis Chan

“Multiply” by Francis Chan is a well-written, engaging book on an overview of the Bible story.  As Francis continues to minister to thousands of people around the world, he has provided an excellent volume to establish the story line for new believers to Christianity and Jesus Christ.  It is written so that anyone can read and understand the thrust of the message.

What is especially helpful in the book are the three parts preceding the overview of the Old and New Testaments.  The first part describes “Living as a Disciple Maker” and highlights from the beginning our responsibility to Jesus Christ to grow and make disciples ourselves.  The second part describes “Living as the Church” and the importance of life in the church, especially when the church is filled with imperfect people.  The third part describes “How to Study the Bible” and gives excellent principles of how to study and prayerfully obey it.

The last two sections cover an overview of the Old and New Testaments.  He works through important aspects of each Testament in God’s story of creation, fall and redemption.  His gospel presentation is clear; his emphasis on the sin failure of man is evident.  And he ensures God is glorified as the only means of redemption from man’s fallen state.

I appreciate how in the section on “How to Study the Bible” and specifically “Studying Logically,” he emphasizes interpreting Scripture by finding the plain meaning of the text.  He wisely places emphasis on the context and understanding the difference between interpretation and application.  His next two portions define “Find the plain meaning” and “Take the Bible Literally.” (pp. 129-133)  I agree with him completely.  These are accurate tools for interpretation. 

However, it doesn’t appear that he does that in his overview of the Old and New Testaments.  For example, it appears he takes the prophecies of Ezekiel 36, which he identifies given to Israel, but applies them directly to believers in the Church (pp. 279-280).  Those are prophecies given to Israel and will be fulfilled with Israel when the Lord comes back at the Second Coming.  There is truth about how the Holy Spirit will transform hearts of unbelievers in the Church Age, but not in fulfillment of Ezekiel 36.  Another example is identifying Jesus’ return at the Second Coming to be the end of the world (p. 316-318).  If a person looks for the plain meaning and interprets literally, Jesus’ return at the Second Coming precedes a thousand year millennium, which Francis does not identify.  Francis graciously identifies differences in end time perspectives (p. 317), but he takes a symbolic view of interpretation for many things rather than take a plain, literal interpretation. 

With that being said, Chan’s passion for discipleship and reaching the world for Christ is almost unparalleled.  I am convicted in reading this volume and pray that I might also seek to reach the world for Christ to the extent or manner that Francis Chan has.

Book Review: Day of War by Cliff Graham

”Day of War” by Cliff Graham is the first book of the “Lion of War Series” describing the mighty men of Israel during the time of David’s rise to rulership as king.  Cliff Graham is a chaplain in the US Army National Guard and has traveled to Israel in his study of history, geography, military tactics and culture.  It is an intensely well-written novel of heroic proportions.  Details are graphically laid out to engage the heart of any man who accepts the cost of gaining freedom for his people.

David is not the main character in this book, Benaiah is.  Benaiah, who is seeking to bury his troubled past, joins with the disgruntled warriors to fend off the Philistines and gain protection from King Saul’s insane jealousy.  Descriptions drip with vivid color and conversations project the heart of Benaiah seeking to gain battle status and accomplishment with David.

There are several books set out to grab the heart of men.  This book purposes to walk closely with Scripture to amplify the context of men seeking to honor the Lord and protect their women in King David’s day. This book, and likely the series, is destined to be made into an epic theater presentation.

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.

 

 

 

Explaining Divine History – Part 4

            There is no way I can fully explain divine history.  God is infinite and He transcends both time and space.  Our finite minds will never fully comprehend divine history.  But I can seek to explain human history from God’s perspective.  That is the purpose of this series.

            We’ve looked at 1) salvation is the same throughout history; 2) Scripture must be interpreted by a literal historico-grammatical approach and 3) God’s promises given to Israel in the Old Testament were unconditional and yet to be fulfilled.  This segment briefly explains the beginning and time of the church.

            The church began after the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit described in Acts 2.  God’s organization of the church in Acts 2 established the beginning of the Bride of Christ, which will be raptured to heaven for the wedding supper of the Lamb.  The first usage of the word “church” is found in Matt 16:18 where Jesus promises that He will [future] build His church.  It is future tense meaning that the church had not yet started.

            Some people say the church began in Abraham’s tent.  The Jewish nation began with Abraham, but not the church.  The Jewish nation began with God’s covenant to Abraham called the Abrahamic Covenant.  This has yet to be fulfilled and will be fulfilled when the Lord returns at the Second Advent.

            Some people say the church replaces Israel.  Any person who trusts in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross becomes a part of the Body of Christ.  There is no difference of race in the Body of Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal. 3:28).  But racial Jews will continue to live scattered around the world during the Church Age.  They were broken off from the root (Rom. 11:19).  However, sometime in the future, at the conclusion of the Church Age, the nation of Israel will be grafted back in (Rom. 11: 24-26).  The grafting process begins shortly after the rapture of the church, during the Tribulation and will be seen in its healing fullness at the Second Advent.

            It’s interesting that the last mention of the word “church” is in Revelation 3.  That is because the church is raptured to heaven (1 Thes. 4:13-17) for the wedding supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-9).  The church, the Bride of Christ, will be joined to Jesus and the Lord ushers in the Millennial rule at the Second Advent (Zech. 14:4-11; Rev. 20:1-6). 

            The church is a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9).  Israel was family of God; the church is  royal family of God, because it is the Bride of the King of Kings. 

            How then should we live?  Holy, with fervency and always seeking to depend solely on the Lord’s Word by His Spirit.  We should live with a focus on eternity rather than any kind of attachment to the world.  We should live as royal ambassadors trying to reach others with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is the church.

            The fifth segment addresses the background of the completed canon of Scripture.

Explaining Divine History – Part 3

            I used to consider history dull and boring.  When I grew up, I realized how fascinating it is.  I also learned that the more I learn from history, I just MIGHT not repeat it.  How do you look at history?

            This short series, called “Explaining Divine History,” is seeking to establish fundamental truths in order to understand Divine History.  Part one stated that Salvation was, is and will always be the same.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).  For those who lived prior to Jesus Christ, it was the same, although they did not have the same revelation as we have in the completed canon of Scripture, so they trusted God in His revealed provision for redemption. 

Part two briefly described the biblical method of interpretation.  If you follow a “Literal Historico-grammatical” approach to biblical interpretation, you’ll establish one correct interpretation in the context of the entire Bible to harmonize all of Scripture.

      Part three isolates God’s promises to Israel.  In brief, we need to understand, “God’s promises to Israel were not merely nice words to make His people feel special, but unconditional, eternal and literal promises to the nation of Israel that have yet to be fulfilled.”  These promises were 1) unconditional covenants that depend on the integrity of God, not the fickleness of people.  What God said, He meant and He will ensure the covenants are fulfilled.  They are 2) eternal in that they are not subject to “the Old Testament period,” but now do not apply.  And they are 3) literal in that they will be literally fulfilled and we don’t need to spiritualize them to satisfy some narrow theological perspective.

When God promised Abraham a land, a seed and a blessing in Genesis 12:1-3, He wasn’t joking.  That Covenant called the Abrahamic Covenant was amplified in the Palestinian Covenant (Deut. 30:1-10) for the land, the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:12-16) for the seed and the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34) for the blessing.  If Israel is now scattered and God has formed a new spiritual species in the church (2 Cor. 5:17), then how do we know covenant fulfillment must still take place?  Ezekiel explains this.

Ezekiel explains what has happened to Israel and what God will do for Israel.  This should not be symbolically interpreted.  A good student should ask, “What is the natural interpretation of the Scripture?”  Ezekiel 36:17-19 explains that God “scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the countries.”  That didn’t happen when the Northern Kingdom was taken captive in B.C. 722 (2 Kings 17:23) or when the Southern Kingdom was taken into exile in B.C. 586 (2 Kings 25).  Israel was scattered among the nations after 70 A.D. when the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.  The Jews continue to be scattered among the nations to this day.

God continues to demonstrate great concern for His people.  Jewish nonbelievers are greatly blessed, except when they come under persecution (Ezek 36:20-21).  Israel is not preserved as a nation or race because of how great she is, but for His name’s sake (Ezek 36:22-23).  God promises to take the Jews out of the countries (Ezek 36:24).  He declares He will cleanse them from their sin (of rebellion, independence and indifference) (Ezek 36:25).  He will regenerate them and put His Spirit in them to walk in His ways (Ezek. 36:26-27).  That has not been done yet in Israel’s history.  Furthermore, they will dwell in the land that God gave their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ezek 36:28).  That is the fulfillment of the Palestinian Covenant. 

God didn’t record these verses to be symbolically interpreted.  God didn’t promise this to Israel to give them some warm fluffy promise that wouldn’t happen.  God wrote these words for a purpose and it explains divine history.  God is not done with the nation of Israel.

The next installment will deal with the beginning and organization of the church.

Explaining Divine History – Part 2

             In Part one of Explaining Divine History, one must realize there was one way of salvation.  That way of salvation was understood according to what God revealed to man at his point in history.  To Adam and Eve, God revealed the first gospel message in Genesis 3:15.  The seed of the woman would crush the seed of Satan and all rebellion would be paid for satisfying the righteousness of God.  Later, Abraham believed God would provide through His promise that a seed (child) would be born that would remove the penalty for sin.  Salvation by faith is the consistent requirement and is found only in God’s provision through Jesus Christ.  It was fully revealed and explained in the completed canon of Scripture.

            So how do you interpret that canon of Scripture to get one clear interpretation?  There is one interpretation and many applications.  In order to understand that one clear interpretation, the student of Scripture must follow a “Literal Historico-grammatical” approach to interpreting.  That means he looks at the literal or natural view of what the passage is saying. Secondly, he looks at the history surrounding the Scripture as it was written in that culture by that author to that audience.  And thirdly, he looks at the words and the arrangement of the words to get the correct interpretation.  A correct interpretation must be done from the Hebrew and Chaldean in the Old Testament and Greek from the New Testament.  Another word used to describe interpretation is “hermeneutics.” 

Why is this important?  Please note the following principles. The divinely inspired Bible must be interpreted based on a “literal historico-grammatical” approach (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

·         God means what He says and says what He means.  Any apparent problem merely needs careful study to understand God’s unity of truth so that there are no contradictions.

·         God speaks through different authors using their education, personality and background. You can tell by their letters that many different personalities, educational training and backgrounds were used in the writings.

·         God speaks through different forms of literature that must be interpreted based on that type of literature.

o   Narrative literature must have consistency in historical accounts.

o   Poetry must consider rules of symmetry, parallelism, creativity and contrast.

o   Epistles must be considered regarding the audience and application.

o   Eschatology must be considered related to other eschatological passages.

·         The literal interpretation is made unless the context dictates that the words or phrases are used as a metaphor or another figure of speech Dan. 9:26; Zech 6:12.

·         The Bible must be interpreted as a united whole, because it has one divine author 2 Pet. 1:20-21

·         Scripture must be interpreted to include both the Sovereign purposes of God and the free will of Man  John 3:16

            Because God is the author of Scripture, there can be no contradictions in the original manuscripts recorded by the human authors.  Those human authors were “carried along” (2 Peter. 1:20-21), so that God’s complete thought toward man was recorded for man without destroying the literary style, vocabulary or background of the human authors in the original manuscripts.  Where there seems to be a contradiction, it is necessary to compare Scripture with Scripture.  Where difficult passages are found, the natural reading of Scripture is used in that genre of literature.  Too many theological systems impose their theology on the Scripture rather than taking the natural or normal reading of the Scripture.

The next installment will describe that God’s promises to Israel were not nice words, but literal promises to the nation of Israel and have yet to be fulfilled.

Explaining Divine History – Part 1

            The greatest adventure in life is submitting to God in order to understand His Word to us.  There is really nothing more exciting than reading what our Divine Holy God gave to us recorded in Scripture.  It is everything God wants us to know about life, salvation and our walk with Him.   There are many things we do to search for excitement, entertainment and outside interests.  But nothing – nothing – compares to the eternal significance of God’s holy Word to us!

            This is an eleven part series to explain how God administrates human history.  God did far more than orchestrate a perfect creation, watch the fall of man in the Garden of Eden and then try to redeem His people throughout the rest of Scripture.  There is far more going on.  There are several principles that must be understood.  The first is related to God’s mechanism for deliverance from His wrath or what we call salvation.  Notice the principles below:

        There is, and always was, one way of salvation  John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Gen. 3:15; 15:6

·         Salvation was never achieved through keeping the Mosaic or any other law. Rom. 3:28; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; 3:11,24

      ·         God does all the work at salvation and man does not do anything John 1:12-13

·         There is nothing man can do for the salvation gift Eph. 2:8-9

·         Man’s part is to believe, accept what Jesus has done for him on the cross, then God simultaneously regenerates the human spirit for salvation John 3:16; Titus 3:5.

          There is only one way of salvation and that is through Jesus Christ – what He did for man on the cross.  There is no other name under heaven that has been given to man than Jesus Christ.  For in the reality of His name – that He was both God and man – He satisfied the perfect righteousness of God and by dying on the cross, He paid the penalty for our sins and He removed the barrier that existed between God and man.  From the beginning, man believed in the revelation that was given to Him that God’s promise of salvation was all sufficient and by trusting in that all sufficient payment, man would have redemption.  That redemption is found only in the shed blood of Christ – His death on the cross.

             The next installment will describe the hermeneutic, or method of interpretation, for understanding God’s Word in order to understand God’s so great plan of salvation.