A brief explanation of Calvinism TULIP, AKA the Doctrines of Grace.

This is dedicated to a dear friend. I intend this as a brief explanation, and not all will agree with how I explained each point. It is designed for people who have never heard of these ideas before and need a place to start.

The scripture lists that are given are just a few choice verses. There are many more. I would dare to say that the whole testimony of scripture, points to this truth, that God saves, by himself, for himself, and from himself.

Total Depravity

If you have ever asked the question, why do some believe and some do not believe? Total Depravity is the biblical explanation for why people don’t believe. Total Depravity is the understanding that because every human love sin and is a sinner no one can come to God unless God first changes their heart to be inclined to him. People in their natural sinful state hate God and would rather go to Hell than obey Him. God’s act that brings people to believe is sometimes called Regeneration, New Birth, or Born Again.

Romans 3:10-18
Psalm 14:2–3
Mark 7:21–23
Ephesians 2:1–5
Romans 8:7
John 14:17
Isaiah 65:12
Isaiah 64:6
John 6:44

Unconditional Election

The next question is if only God’s regenerating of the heart brings people to believe, who does God regenerate? The answer is in the word election. The elect are those he chose before the beginning of the world. Throughout the New Testament, the word elect is used of believers. God elected every true believer for salvation from before the world was created. Before God created the world, he knew you, loved you, and chose you to believe in him. This is a hard doctrine because it crushed any pride we have in our salvation. Yet many times in the New Testament, the word predestined is used of those that believe. That leads to the question, why did God choose some and not others. That is where the Unconditional comes in. The Bible is very clear that we are all sinners and that not a single one of us deserves to go to heaven. God’s choice is not based on us in any way. He did not choose people because they are better than other people. God’s selection was based on his reasons for his own glory. No person that is a believer can say, God chose me because I am just better. That Bible denies any merit on our part in God’s choices.

Romans 8:29–30
Acts 13:48
Matthew 22:14
Romans 9:11–12
Romans 9:15–18
Ephesians 1:4–6
Isaiah 43:20–21
John 3:3
Revelation 13:8
2 Peter 1:3–4
1 Corinthians 2:7
John 6:44

Limited Atonement

This part of the TULIP is often the one people do not agree with the most. I wouldn’t say I liked it when I first learned of the Doctrines of Grace. However, I am convinced that it is what the Bible teaches now. Jesus died for his people and only his people. The attornment that Jesus made to God for sin was for the people that God had chosen from the beginning of time. It was not meant to be applied to everyone. We want to be clear here that his blood is so valuable that he can cover every sin ever committed. So, we are not talking about ability here, but rather God’s intent. When Jesus died on the cross, it was not just dying for sin in general. He was dying for your sin. His work was intended for and is only applied to the elect of God. Jesus died for his people.

Matthew 1:21
John 3:16–18
John 10:14–16
John 14:21–24
Titus 2:14
John 10:26–27
Psalm 85:2
John 17:9–10
Hebrews 7:25–26
Romans 11:7
Revelation 5:9
John 6:44

Irresistible Grace

The question comes up if God elected these people, and Jesus died for these people, are people just being forced to go to heaven or Hell? The answer is no. No one that genuinely wants God and his heaven will go to Hell, and no one is forced to love God. People are not robots; some have accused the Doctrines of Grace of teaching that people are robots. Just as Total Depravity outline that everyone hates God, no one wants Him. CS Lewis said it this way, “the Gates of Hell are locked from the inside.” (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity) Irresistible Grace explains that when God regenerates a heart, that person comes to God because they genuinely love him and genuinely want to obey and be with Him. I have often said that for a real Christian, heaven is where their beloved Jesus resides. They do love Jesus because God has pulled the darkness from their eyes and given them a new heart. Irresistible Grace is Irresistible because the person does not have any desire to resist it.

Psalm 65:4
John 6:37–39
Romans 11:5–6
2 Timothy 1:9–10
John 1:12–13
Philippians 2:13

Perseverance of the Saints

If you are saved, you will not lose your salvation. If you seem to have lost it, you never had it. Notice, that I used the word will, and not the word cannot. I did not say you cannot lose your salvation, but rather you will not lose it. If it were up to you, you would lose it right now. However, God is not only the one that saves people; he is the one that keeps them. God’s people are not only saved for God; they are kept for God. God chooses them, saves them, and keeps them while they are in the world, then brings them to Him and cloths them in his glory. Salvation is all a work of God, and we call it Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification.

John 5:24
John 6:35–37
Romans 8:35–39
Romans 5:9
Romans 11:29
Ephesians 2:4–6
1 John 3:9
1 John 5:4
Romans 9:6–8
Psalm 37:28
Jeremiah 32:39–40
Hebrews 13:20–21
Philippians 1:6

If you want to see this thread of all these points running through scripture, these passages are an excellent place to start.

Ezekiel 36:16-35
John 3
John 6
John 10
John 17
Romans 3,8-9
Ephesians 1-2:10

Ezekiel 36:16-35 and Ephesians 1-2:10 are my favorites.

Apologetic Methods in Diverse Historical and Contemporary Contexts

          Introduction

            There will not be a detailed definition given here for Neoplatonist, Aristotelian, Modernity, and Post-Modern for the purpose of brevity. The two methods of Apologetics that will be discussed here are best labeled Classical and Evidential. They are born in response to the issues faced by the generations that practiced them. Both are built around the purpose of demonstrating that the Christian faith is reasonable. This, demonstrating that the Christian faith is reasonable, is the primary purpose of apologetics as McGrath explains, “our task is not to be nostalgic about the past, but to deal with the challenges of the present.”[1] It is, as McGrath says, the Christian Apologetic task to be ready to respond to the issues of the culture and bring to bear the truth that God has planted in the world; by applying McGrath’s six step[2] approach, the apologist can faithfully fulfill the scriptural mandate to give an answer for the hope within them.

            Classical Apologetics

           Classically, Classical Apologetics is a philosophical approach to demonstrating the necessity of God for rational thought. The classical apologist will either show that the philosophical musing of their day finds the best explanation in the God of scripture or they will use philosophy to create arguments for the existence of God, such as the teleological argument for God.

Diverse Historical-Cultural Settings

            An argument can be made that the classical approach goes all the way back to Paul in Acts 17. Paul appeals to the altar of “the unknown god”[3] and cites from contemporary philosophers and poets in verse 28 to begin his case for the God of scripture. There are two people in 400 AD. and 1200 AD. that can certainly be called titans of the classical approach.

Influence of the Historical-Cultural Setting

The first is Augustine. Augustine’s day brought challenges from Neoplatonist views of reality that made distinctions between the value of material and immaterial things. William, Edgar, and Scott stated that “Augustine situated the Christian faith within a larger metaphysical [philosophical] system.”[4] Augustine addressed the philosophical issues by appealing to the love of God shown in creation which would “terminates all the controversies of those who inquire into the origin of the world.”[5] This would be called the teleological argument for God. The next person is the angelic doctor Thomas Aquinas. The Prologue to The Summa Theologica states that Aquinas used the works “Aristotle has proved”[6] because “philosophical science treats of all being, even God Himself.”[7]

Primary Themes and Emphases        

As stated previously, Classical Apologetics focuses on the philosophical argumentation for the existence of God. Aquinas is a great example of this because it is rightly stated that Aquinas was able to show that Aristotle’s prime mover was none other than the God of scripture.

         Evidential Apologetics

             Evidential Apologetics can also be linked to Pauline thought in Romans 1. Paul said that the evidence for God is “plain … ever since the creation of the world.”[8] Just as Classical Apologetics dealt with the propagation of philosophical ideas in its day, Evidential Apologetics engaged “modernity … as an appeal to rational argument as the basis”[9] for reasonable faith.

Diverse Historical-Cultural Settings

            As the 1700s dawned, the world embraced the ideas of the enlightenment. Alister McGrath explains the “impact of rationalism on Christian apologetics was the downplaying of any aspects of Christian thought that were seen as “irrational” or “illogical.””[10] In ancient Christian history the physical world and the value of it was in question, however, in the age of modernity it was the metaphysical that was challenged as ideas like Darwinism gave rise to a wholly materialistic worldview.  William, Edgar, and Scott explain that this era is summed up in “René Descartes … dictum Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am)”[11]

Primary Themes and Emphases

            The core of apologetic approach is locating the place of reason within how the human knows God.  A major theme is demonstrating that faith in God is not only reasonable but necessary for relational choices. Perhaps this might be summed up by saying, that if “The heavens declare the glory of God”[12] then it is reasonable that they can be the foundation for proof of his existence.

Influence of the Historical-Cultural Setting

William, Edgar, and Scott explain that the core of the issue was faced by a ““relocation” of reason, from its status as a servant to God’s revelation to its supremacy.” The worldviews like Darwinism that lead to a fully materialistic worldview meant that if an apologist was to find common ground, then they would have to show the inadequacy of a fully materialistic worldview to provide meaningful answers to life’s questions.

           Conclusion: Importance of the Christian Apologetic Task

             It was Frances Schaffer that said, “our responsibility is so to communicate that those who hear the gospel will understand it.”[13] That is the work of an apologist. The gospel is what needs to be communicated. The Christian Apologetic Task is to clear the air of false ideas by showing them to be false. Once all other worldviews are shown to be false, the question will arise, what then is truth? That is a gospel moment. McGrath, explains, “[t]he Great Commission gives every Christian the privilege and responsibility of preaching the Good News.”[14] This is the scriptural mandate to share the hope that resides within.

 

References

[1]. Alister McGrath. 2012. Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 30.

[2]. “understand the faith, understand the audience, communicate with clarity, find points of contact, present the whole gospel, and practice.” Ibid, 35-38.

[3]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 17:23.

[4]. William, Edgar, and Scott Oliphint, eds. 2009. Christian Apologetics, Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader (Volume 1, to 1500). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. 205.

[5]. Augustine of Hippo, “The City of God,” in St. Augustin’s City of God and Christian Doctrine, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 217.

[6]. Saint Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica, ed. Mortimer J. Adler, Philip W. Goetz, and Daniel J. Sullivan, trans. Laurence Shapcote, Second Edition., vol. 17, Great Books of the Western World (Chicago; Auckland; Geneva; London; Madrid; Manila; Paris; Rome; Seoul; Sydney; Tokyo; Toronto: Robert P. Gwinn; Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1990), 3.

[7]. Ibid.

[8]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 1:19–20.

[9]. Alister McGrath. 2012. Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 18.

[10]. Ibid, 28.

[11]. William, Edgar, and Scott Oliphint. 2011. Christian Apologetics Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader (Volume 2, From 1500). 2nd ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. 169

[12]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 19:1.

[13]. Francis A. Schaeffer, Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy (IVP, 1990)). 125.

[14]. Alister McGrath. 2012. Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 13.

 

Bibliography

McGrath, Alister. 2012. Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Saint Thomas Aquinas. The Summa Theologica. Edited by Mortimer J. Adler, Philip W. Goetz, and Daniel J. Sullivan. Translated by Laurence Shapcote. Second Edition. Vol. 17. Great Books of the Western World. Chicago; Auckland; Geneva; London; Madrid; Manila; Paris; Rome; Seoul; Sydney; Tokyo; Toronto: Robert P. Gwinn; Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1990.

Schaeffer, Francis A. Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy. IVP, 1990.

Schaff, Philip, ed. St. Augustin’s City of God and Christian Doctrine. Vol. 2. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887.

William, Edgar, and Scott Oliphint, eds. 2009. Christian Apologetics, Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader (Volume 1, to 1500). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books

William, Edgar, and Scott Oliphint. 2011. Christian Apologetics Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader (Volume 2, From 1500). 2nd ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

The Role of Bishops, Martyrs, and Scripture in Early Christianity

Introduction

   The early church was a period of great changes and God raised up great leaders for this time. The bishops were the men who took point and, often at the cost of their own lives, aimed the church into the future. The issues that had to be dealt with were false teachings, questions of unity, the canon of scripture, and what is the authority for the church to operate. It was the three-fold leadership model that supported the church both as an organization and an institution, and eventually lead the church to the bishops that provided an authoritative canon for their groups, authorized Christian worship by implementation of the sacraments, lived exemplary lives even to martyrdom; in all this it was the ministry of these bishops that set the tone for the churches future and their actions are felt even today.

The Role of the Bishops, Exemplary Leaders, and the Canon of Scripture

   When speaking of the canon, it is important to proceed in thinking of the canon as something designated by God and men of God discover it. Demarest stated that Calvin was convinced that there was no one better to form “right doctrine than ‘a council of true bishops’ guided by the Spirit of Christ.”[1] The councils that recognized the canon were made up of bishops and prominent leaders. However, prior to those councils, there were noncanonical books being written that were full of heresy that the church should be defended from.  Ferguson said that “[t]he Gospel of Peter … was early rejected by church leaders because of its suspected Docetic leanings …”[2] Ferguson statement show that is was the leaders that took on this role, and being the top of a three-fold leadership, the bishops would have been right in the middle of this.

Bishops Authorized Christian Worship.

   The three-fold leadership structure was first articulated by Ignatius where the “bishop (who took the place of God), the presbyters (who symbolized the apostles), and the deacons (who represented the servant Christ).”[3] In the writing of Ignatius the idea that “[a]ll activities (eucharist, baptism, agape) were to be under the bishop, either presided over by him in person.”[4] The purpose of the bishop’s involvement in these was to ensure that unity and order happened in this. There is a biblical precedent for the overseer (ἐπίσκοπος)[5] to be the one who “will … care for God’s church.”[6] The church is both an institution and an organization. Because of this, the bishop’s role in authorizing worship is twofold. For the congregant, the organization, approval of a bishop gives the sense of structure and order that cannot be obtained without that. For the institution, the bishop acts somewhat like a CEO ensuring the authority of the organizations to operate. Ignatius saw this obedience of the congregation to the three-fold leadership as the best method for combating divisiveness.[7] The author of Hebrews would seem to approve Ignatius’ approach when they said, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls …”[8]

Martyrs and Saints Served as Authoritative Examples for Christians to Follow

    The later writings of church historians like Eusebius seem to magnify the martyrdom of early Christians leaders. Ferguson points this out when he quotes Eusebius speaking of Justin Martyr, “Justin in philosopher’s garb served as an ambassador of the word of God.”[9] Justin at his trail appealed to prophecy when he said, “of old the prophets foretold His appearance among men.”[10] The primary way in which this became an authoritative example for Christians to follow is that all the martyr had to do was offer to the Emperor and they could go free.[11] By not capitulating to this command that set the precedent that one could not call both Caesar and Jesus Lord.[12] This standard that was held by these martyrs still held sway even after the persecution ended. When those who had capitulated to the Roman threats tried to rejoin the church later, they were refused re-entrance. In effect, in their staunch refusal to bend to Rome the early martyrs caused capitulation to be the unforgivable sin.

Scripture was Authoritative During this Period of Church History

   There were several references to a canon of scripture before the definitive counsel of Carthage in the 400s.[13] It seems this debate might have been instigated by a Gnostic called Marcion. Ferguson said that though “the catholic church with its creed, canon, and episcopate”[14] were not a direct reaction to Marcion, he had a “considerable”[15] “influence.”[16] There was not a consensus of books in the early canons. For example, Tertullian argued for the inclusion of the Book of Enoch on the basis that it was “published before the deluge.”[17] This highlights the issues about authorship and authenticity that faced the early bishops. However, it is easy to see that all the different canonical list presupposed one thing, God has spoken authoritatively. So, the canon of book accepted by the Bishop of the body at the time functioned as authorities for them. As the process went forward the more and more emphases were placed on apostolic authorship and books that were included in the Jewish canon carried weight as pointed out by Tertullian when he said that the book of Enoch was rejected by many “because it is not admitted into the Jewish canon.”[18]

Conclusion

   God had spoken in Jesus and Jesus had begun the building of his church when he sent his first missionaries. The ones to carry on the work were the bishops who bore the brunt of the difficulties faced in the early church. They took on the canon issues. They took on the unity issues. They took on Rome and they provided living examples of Christ-following. There was no question in the mind of the early church that God had spoken and as non-Christian groups like Marcion and the Dositists began to make claims about God, the issue of which books God had authored became a serious issue. This decision and challenges together with the man that faced them would shape the features of Christianity for millennia.

 

 

Bibliography

[1]. Bruce A Demarest, “The Contemporary Relevance of Christendom’s Creeds,” Themelios 7, no. 2 (1982): 11.

[2]. Ferguson, Everett. 2013. Church History, Volume 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 73.

[3]. Ibid, 55.

[4] Ibid.

[5] ἐπίσκοπος (episkopos), overseer; bishop. Cognate words: ἀλλοτριεπίσκοπος, ἐπισκοπή. The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Logos Bible Software, 2011).

[6]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Ti 3:5.

[7]. Ferguson, Everett. 2013. Church History, Volume 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 55.

[8]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 13:17.

[9]. Ferguson, Everett. 2013. Church History, Volume 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 72.

[10]. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “The Martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs, Justin, Chariton, Charites, Pæon, and Liberianus, Who Suffered at Rome,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, trans. M. Dods, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 305.

[11]. HTH-510 Lecture 2: From Persecution to Toleratio. 2017. Grand Canyon University.

[12] Κύριος (a title for God and for Christ) one who exercises supernatural authority over mankind. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 138.

[13]. Muratorian 200 AD., Origen 250 AD., Eusebius 300 AD.,. Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Updated 2nd ed. Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995. 67

[14]. Ferguson, Everett. 2013. Church History, Volume 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 87.

[15]. Ibid.

[16]. Ibid.

[17]. Tertullian, “On the Apparel of Women,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. S. Thelwall, vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 15.

[18]. Ibid.

Numbers 6:1–21: the law for the Nazirite

Introduction

The word Torah or Law is best understood as “instruction” or “teaching.”[1] The book of Numbers stands right in the middle of the transition from Sinai and, through the 40 years, into the promised land. It begins with instructions for Israel that are to keep them separate from the nations. In the middle of that section falls “the law for the Nazirite.”[2] The Nazirites were people separated for a special season to the Lord. The Nazirite laws fall into the broad category of ceremonial and more specifically into the category of symbolic. In commanding abstinence from grapes, hair cutting, and dead things, with high penalties for failure, the Nazirite laws show that during the time the Nazirite is set apart, they are a symbol of something unseen but vitally important. It is reasonable to think that some people over the years thought of these voluntary vows as a way of bargaining with God; however, for the most part, they were a respected way to show a selfless devotion to God. The Christian must understand these laws as first showing the great importance God places on his people showing his glory to the world by being set apart to him in their love for him.

Determine the context of the passage

Numbers in the Pentateuch

The book of Numbers stands out in the Pentateuch as the transition book. The context of the book of Numbers is transitory as it details the important items that happened between the failure of the people to believe God, resulting in 40 years of wilderness wandering, and their return to the Jordan where Joshua would lead them into the land. The book itself is made up of contrasts between the relation of God in the law, covenant, and the failure of the people considering the light of revelation they had been shown. As R.C. Sproul put it, in the book of Numbers, “[h]uman failures are clearly portrayed and contrasted with the wise measures of the ever-faithful God.”[3]

Within Numbers

            The book of Number is easily divided into four sections. Chapters 1-10 are pre-wilderness instructions, chapters 11-21 are the wilderness travels, chapters 22-25 are the Balaam debacle, and finally chapters 26-36 are preparation for the entry into the promised land.[4] Numbers 6:1–21 sits almost directly in the middle of the wilderness instructions chronologically; the text says that these instructions are given “in the wilderness of Sinai”[5] before the Israelites moved to the Jorden and prepared to enter the land. The chronological point is important to understand that the people had not yet failed in entering the promised land, meaning that when they were given this instruction, they understood them to be about how they would function going forward. The section begins with a census of the people, and proceeds to instruction on Levites, camp arrangement, high priest duties, dealing with the unclean, adultery, Nazirites, and tabernacle maintenance. The necessity for the instructions on camp arrangement proved to be far more timely than anyone at the time knew, because of the 40-year journey ahead.

Genre

            The passage identifies itself as is law[6], but more on that later. Here it is important to note that law passages come with a context of their own. They are distinct from narrative or wisdom texts in that they are instructions of some sort for the carrying out of life as God’s people. The connotation of the law passage is that it is an ongoing instruction that will apply in some way to God’s people and sometimes even more broadly than that.

Identify the kind of law(s) involved

Vogt provides several subcategories for identifying different laws in order to better interpret them.[7] The top three categories are civil, ceremonial, or moral laws. Underneath these categories, the laws can be farther broken down into criminal, case, family, sacrificial, symbolic, sacred calendar, and compassionate. The laws in Numbers 6:1–21 for the “the vow of a Nazirite”[8] are best categorized as ceremonial and symbolic. The large category of ceremonial is appropriate because these instructions are about ritual separation. The instructions include the descriptor that they are for when a person “separates himself to the Lord.”[9]  The symbolic natural of the laws is evident in that many of the forbidden items like wine and being near the dead are not forbidden to those not under the vow. If they were moral or civil considerations, they would have been forbidden to all. The vow and the ritualistic laws are symbolic then of something other. de Hemmer Gudme, puts it this way, “… the performance of the ritual creates and maintains conventions which are representative of this ritual’s semantic universe.”[10] What Gudme is getting at is that the person that would undergo this vow did so in order to affirm something, or be a symbol of something beyond the seen both for themselves and those watching. Furthermore, the Hebrew conjunction כִֽי־, which is often translated if, is used throughout the Pentateuch when the following phrase is a condition or life event. In this Numbers 6:1-21 text this conjunction is used four times with each time detailing with a condition related to the Nazirite’s state. It is again reasonable to conclude that the instructions in this section, because they are conditioned upon the state of the individual as a Nazirite, are not partially moral or civil, but ceremonial in nature.

Determine the nature of the legal requirement

The vow of the Nazirite is a, יַפְלִא֙a לִנְדֹּר֙special vow. The word יַפְלִא֙ means to do something wonderful; to be too difficult; to be unusual.[11] In this case, the context implies unusual is the best translation. The unusual acts are to avoid anything related to grapes, cutting one’s hair and anything dead. Wenham put it this way, “[n]egatively the Nazirites were separated from wine, grape products and dead bodies. Positively they were separated to the Lord.”[12] The commands are started in both the positive form, indicated be the word גַּדֵּ֥ל which means to grow great.[13] This can be thought about as to have successes. Verses 1-8 focus on the positive instructions and verses 9-12 are negative. The word כִֽי־ is used to indicate is a negative. The implication of the negative requirements is that, should the negative happen, the vow maker must start the process again after a period of cleansing. It is important to note that the major cleansing requirement was expected for even the smallest breach of the Nazirite’s vow. In Leviticus 11 the cleansing for a minor event of touching the dead was a washing and they “shall be unclean until the evening.”[14] However, when a Nazirite touched the dead the ritual was a major cleansing requiring 7 days, washing, and a burnt offering, sin offering, peace offering, and grain/drink offerings. Clearly, the legal requirement for the Nazirite was higher because, as Gudme had pointed out, they are a public representation of something unseen. This required holiness was profoundly respected, the Mishnah “Helene the Queen… [who] at the end of the seven years she was made unclean”[15] in her Nazirite vow and had to serve another 7 years.

Describe the purpose of the law in Israel

As the story of Helene the Queen underscores the vow was taken very seriously by those in the subsequent years of the Israelite nationality and even extending into the New Testament story. Since no one was obligated to make the vow of the Nazirites, except perhaps someone like Samson or Samuel, the motivation behind why one would take the vow are very telling for how the ritual applied in Israel. In many instances, a vow was made on a condition. For example, the story of Helene the Queen indicates that she said, “If my son comes home from war whole and in one piece, I shall be a Nazir for seven years.”[16] It seems as if the vow was viewed as an offering to show God the seriousness of one’s request. Hannah, Samuel’s mother, made a similar vow when she said to the Lord, if He “will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”[17] In both cases of Helene the Queen and Hannah, the LORD answered their prayers and the vows were fulfilled. Cartledge points out that “[c]onditional vows were not unique to Israel” in this time.”[18] Indeed, Cartledge goes on to explain that almost all other systems of worship in that day had some form of promissory vow where the vow maker would spend time in service of a god in return for a favor. It is not unseasonable to assume the Israelites had similar understandings of the Nazir[19] vow; however, given the nature of the covenant and the context within the book of Numbers, which time and time again showed God’s favor to an Israel that failed in their duties, Cartledge’s conclusion that the intended purpose within the ceremonial law was for the Nazirite Vows to be “unconditional promises of unselfish devotion.”[20]

Identify applicability of the purpose in a contemporary context

Unselfish devotion is a principle found throughout the Christian corpus in the New Testament. Jesus’ call to love God and people,[21] to lay one’s life down for others,[22] to take up a cross and follow[23] are all examples of selfless devotion. Kirk points out that Paul even after writing a text like Galatians still seems to keep his vows.[24] Kirk jumps to the conclusion that Paul intended his viewers to see some deeper “sociopolitical” purpose for the practice of the Nazirite vow and therefore the Torah as a whole.[25] It is not reasonable to ascribe such intent to Paul’s actions. What can be reasonably said is that Paul did not view the practice of the Nazirite vow outside the scope of what he could do as a Christian.

Throughout the later years the later Christians often connected the idea of asceticism and the Jewish Nazirite. Lahav makes a compelling case that “the idealized image of the Jewish Nazirite was picked up and developed by the early Christian writers, Jerome in particular, to legitimize the practices of contemporary asceticism.”[26] However, perhaps the most applicable use for the Law is what Wilson called “ethical principles of Jesus and the early Christians.”[27] When Peter wrote, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation”[28] he is speaking of a people set apart. The word translated holy “ἅγιον” (hagion) means “holy, set apart, consecrated, dedicated, saints.”[29] It is the same root word used in the Septuagint translation in Numbers 6:2[30] when referring to the one who “separate himself to the Lord.”[31] In Numbers the strenuous way in which the Nazirite must maintain the separation of his vow translated into the Christian application is summed up in another passage of the Pentateuch. That is, “‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’”[32] The Nazirite law shows the Christian how serious it is to be close to God and that, as Jesus said, the world knows him by seeing the Christians actions.[33] After all, who is closer to God than his family?[34]

Conclusion

Indeed, God’s church is intended to show God’s glory. When viewing the Old Testament, especially the ceremonial instructions, the reader must see the principles embedded in the actions. In the case of the Nazirite laws, some may see them as a bargaining tool with God, others as an excuse to remove their responsibility to be in the world, and still others as instructions how to show selfless love to God. Selfless love and separation are the core of the principles in the Nazirite laws and that is how they apply to the modern Christian. James exhorted the believers to “keep oneself unstained from the world.”[35] This is the core principle of Nazirite laws, the Christian is to aspire to live in such a manner that shows them to “be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.”[36]

 

[1] Peter T. Vogt. 2009. Interpreting the Pentateuch: An Exegetical Handbook. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel. 26

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Nu 6:13.

[3]. R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 197.

[4]. Ibid.

[5]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Nu 1:1.

[6]. Numbers 6:21, ESV.

[7]. Peter T. Vogt. 2009. Interpreting the Pentateuch: An Exegetical Handbook. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel. 138-139.

[8]. Numbers 6:1, ESV.

[9]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Nu 6:2.

[10]. Katrine Anne de Hemmer Gudme. “How Should We Read Hebrew Bible Ritual Texts? A Ritualistic Reading of The Law of the Nazirite (Num 6,1-21).” SJOT: Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament23, no. 1 (May 2009): 64–84. doi:10.1080/09018320902853772.

[11]. The Lexham Analytical Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017).

[12]. Gordon J. Wenham, Numbers: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1981), 97–98.

[13]. Ibid.

[14]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Le 11:39.

[15]. Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 435.

[16]. Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 435.

[17]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Sa 1:11.

[18]. Cartledge, Tony W. “Were Nazirite Vows Unconditional.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 51, no. 3 (July 1989): 417.

[19]. Transliteration of the Hebrew word for Nazirite.

[20]. Cartledge, Tony W. “Were Nazirite Vows Unconditional.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 51, no. 3 (July 1989): 422.

[21]. Matthew 22:37-39.

[22]. John 15:13.

[23]. Luke 9:23.

[24] Alexander N. Kirk. “Delivered from the Elements of the World: Atonement, Justification, Mission.” Themelios 42, no. 1 (April 2017): 173–75.

[25] Ibid, 173.

[26]. LAHAV, RINA. 2018. “Christian Asceticism as Seen through the Image of the Jewish Nazirite in Jerome.” Archa Verbi 15 (15): 9.

[27]. Wilson, Alistair I. “Jewish Law in Gentile Churches: Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics.” Themelios 27, no. 2 (Spr 2002): 69.

[28]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:9.

[29]. “Holiness,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[30]. Henry Barclay Swete. The Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1909.

[31]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Nu 6:2.

[32]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Le 10:3.

[33]. John 13:35.

[34]. Ephesians 1:5.

[35]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jas 1:27.

[36]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Php 2:15.

Personal Reflection on Ethical conduct relating to Self-Care, Pastoral Care, Care for the Community, and Caring for one’s Family in safe Boundaries

Personal Code of Ethics

The code of ethics for ministers is the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments. In them is contained everything needed for the minister to be “complete, equipped for every good work.”[1] Any personal code that a minister may develop must be totally in-line with that which is God breathed[2]. Rest, diet, counseling, community outreach, spousal and child care, are all addressed in scripture; a minister must consider each of these things in light of scripture during reflection on ethical action.

Self-Care and Healthy Boundaries

 Resting

Physical Rest

            God rested on the seventh day.[3] This rest of God was “from all his work that he had done.”[4] Setting a schedule with time for rest is part of appropriate selfcare.

Spiritual Rest

Christ made it clear that the weary would find their rest in his yoke and burden.[5] Shubert Spero, says that Israel learned that in the Sabbath rest one could “taste … the goodness of God.”[6] Christ provides rest for the soul through the Holy Spirit and this rest is required on a daily basis. Setting time for resting in the word of God and prayer daily, is part of selfcare.

Eating and Diet

            The body of a Christian was bought with a price[7] and indwelt as a temple of God.[8] The tabernacle and temple of the Old Testament was to be maintained and clean,[9] and so is God’s temple in the New Testament. Health diet and exercise are a part of selfcare.

Pastoral Care and Healthy Boundaries

Pastoral care is the professional duty of the minister[10] and Christ’s call to church leaders.[11] Pastoral care requires attentive care for counseling needs of congregants including male and female. A minister should always remember that he is there to represent God, through Christ like actions, to the people.

Counseling or meeting with Congregants

Male Adult Congregants

For a male minister, counseling with male congregants can be done in private as long as a safe environment can be found.  A minister should never put themselves in any situation were there could be any accusation of misconduct. Settings and policy should be in place personally, and within the organization that the minister represents, to promote a safe counseling environment for the pastor and the congregant.

Female Adult Congregants

            A male pastor should never meet or counsel a female congregant alone or be alone with a female for any reason at any time, other than his wife.[12] Accusations of sexual misconduct would damage all involved and the organization as a whole.

Minor Congregants

A minister needs to be mindful of appearances when meeting with minors. It is advisable to never be alone with a minor of any gender.

Care for the Community and Healthy Boundaries

A minister should have a good report with the members of the community at large.[13] This is accomplished by caring interactions with the community. Through the organization that a minister represents many humanitarian endeavors are possible. However, community care should not be done at a cost to the minister’s organization. Pastoral involvement in the community can produce valuable results: in a study done by Joseph Murphy and Linda Holste, they found that when pastoral care was provided to a community of students their “identification with the school increased.”[14]

Caring for one’s Family using Healthy Boundaries

They two are one flesh[15], husband love your wife as Christ loves the church[16], those who do not take care of their families are worse than nonbelievers[17]; these are just a few statements in the Bible about conduct with family. The minister must exemplify the instructions in scripture of family care and that begins in prioritizing the family.

Care of His Wife

Washing the wife with the word[18] is the spiritual duty of the husband and the minister must prove his ability to do this before he would be qualified for church leadership.[19] Setting time for quality interaction with one spouse is needed for healthy relationships.

Care for His Children

            In the child care the husband must provide training for his children.[20] This training extends to not simply physical disciplines but in spiritual development as well. This is best accomplished by example as modeled in the relationship between husband and wife.

Conclusion

Rest is God sent, food needs to be used with wisdom, counseling is done as the representative of God, and family care involves setting time for family in the word, these are the fundamental bases for ministerial leadership and they are all covered in scripture.

 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

[1]. 2 Tim 3:17, all Bible citations are in ESV unless otherwise noted.

[2]. 2 Tim 3:16

[3]. Gen 2:2

[4]. Gen 2:2

[5]. Matt 11:28-30

[6]. Shubert Spero. “SHABBAT: THREE STAGES IN ISRAEL’S EXPERIENCE.” Jewish Bible Quarterly 32, no. 3. July 2004. 170

[7]. 1 Pet1:18

[8]. 1 Cor 6:19-20

[9]. 1 Chron 23:28

[10]. Joe E. Trull and James E. Carter, Ministerial ethics: moral formation for church leaders. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic. 2004. 33, 37.

[11]. Jn 21:17

[12]. 1 Thes 5:22

[13]. 1 Tim 3:7

[14]. Joseph Murphy and Linda Holste. 2016. “Explaining the effects of communities of pastoral care for students.” Journal Of Educational Research 109, no. 5: 531-540.

[15]. Mar 10:8

[16]. Eph 5:25

[17]. 1 Tim 5:8

[18]. Eph 5:26

[19]. 1 Tim 3:2-4

[20]. Pro 22:6

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Bibliography

Murphy, Joseph, and Linda Holste. 2016. “Explaining the effects of communities of pastoral care for students.Journal Of Educational Research 109, no. 5: 531-540. Social Sciences Citation Index, EBSCOhost (accessed March 7, 2018).

Spero, Shubert. “SHABBAT: THREE STAGES IN ISRAEL’S EXPERIENCE.” Jewish Bible Quarterly 32, no. 3. July 2004. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed March 6, 2018).

Trull, Joe E., and James E. Carter. Ministerial ethics: moral formation for church leaders. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2004.

Think About That Live, S2 EP15: Ancient Manuscripts prove what?

Think About That
Streamed live on Dec 5, 2017

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Think About That Live, S2 Ep8: Responding to a few points made by Tom Pennington

More on Cessationism, responding to a few points made by Tom Pennington.

Response to Las Vegas and Evil
http://www.albertmohler.com/2017/10/03/briefing-10-03-17/#section1

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Think About That, Monday 2-27-17

It was a little hard to talk today because of this cold but this is important so let’s talk about Liberation Theology and Feminist Theology. Because if we are to cast down any thought that stands against the knowledge of God it important to know what those thoughts are.

 

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