Thursday, 25 August 2011

Stoicism in the Face of Poverty is Not Always Godly

A Facebook Friend of mine posted this on his Wall. I learned that poverty is judgment, and therefore a false-piety and stoicism in poverty is not godly, but rather it is a failure to take ethical responsibility for the cause of one's situation. Stoicism in the face of persecution is godly - but it isn't godly to tolerate poverty. The godly response is to deal with the cause! Demand prosperity!

"(James 5:7-9)-In Rushdoony's commentary regarding James' epistle, he writes: "Instability marks a time of judgment, and therefore in both vv. 7 and 8 patience is urged. James knows that living in an age of crisis is painfully difficult. His letter never deludes us into thinking that it is an easy thing to go through times of upheaval and judgment. We are never told that a pseudo-piety can enable to survive like Stoics in a time of destruction. Jeremiah's Lamentations, for one, militates against the idea that Stoicism is Godly.
James urges patience because the conclusion of God's judgments is good, however painful. In a sinful world, God's judgments are necessary, and they are, in their conclusions, a blessing. Patience means that our perspective is not existential but providential. We know by God's grace His purposes for His Kingdom, for history, and for us. Patience can be a mark of grace, a trust in God's purposes, and a knowledge that "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

Patience means recognizing that there can be no peace without judgment. Peace without justice would be no more than hell, an unchanging and everlasting state of evil. History is a series of judgments to prepare the way for the new creation. However difficult and painful, these judgments are to be welcomed." ~ Rousas John Rushdoony, Hebrews, James and Jude: Judgment, p. 196-197

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Explanatory Notes I Corinthians 14

1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

If the sole purpose for which the gift of tongues was given was so that unbelieving foreigners could hear their own language and become convinced, then it could never have happened that "no man understandeth him".

A tongue was not said to be invalidated just because no man understood it. Rather, even if no man understood it, he who spoke in an unknown tongue was regarded as nonetheless genuinely speaking to God.

3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

There was still a purpose and a benefit even when a tongue was unknown - but the benefit was personal, not public.

5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

Speaking in tongues was something that any believer could potentially do, or else Paul wouldn't have desired it for all of them.

6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?

8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.

11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

Paul's issue was not about the genuineness or otherwise of their gifts, nor with their zeal for them - his issue was only that they express the gifts with better motives and in the most profitable manner.

13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.

The speaker himself did not understand the tongue, or else he would not have needed to pray that he may interpret.

Often no-one in the immediate audience understood it either, or else the speaker would not have needed to pray that he might interpret.

There was nothing invalid with the tongues being spoken even when no-one in the immediate audience understood it - but there was a greater corporate benefit to be had by interpreting the tongues.

14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

Praying in tongues was a valid way to pray with one's spirit.

Tongues were able to be used for private prayer, not only for a public sign.

Praying in an unknown tongue exercised one's spirit, but not one's mind. (Man is spirit, soul and body - Thessalonians).

15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

Paul said, "I will" - that was an act of volition - he could speak in tongues, or alternatively, with his understanding - at will.

The choice was the speaker's whether or not he exercised his spirit exclusively or his understanding also in prayer.

Speaking in tongues was able to be employed not only as a sign - but also for all the purposes for which singing could be employed.

Although praying with his spirit, that is, in tongues, was a valid way to pray or sing, Paul said that he would choose rather to pray or sing with his understanding when in public.

16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?

To "bless" was another purpose for which speaking in tongues could be employed. The uses of speaking in tongues were not limited to its purpose as a sign.

17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

Speaking, praying, singing, blessing and giving thanks were each activities that could be done validly in tongues even when the tongue was unknown.

"...verily thou givest thanks well..." meant that performing such activities in an unknwon tongue was regarded as good, acceptable and perfect as a personal activity, despite being unbeneficial to the public if performed in public.

18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:

Not only in public, but also privately. There was a private use for speaking, praying, singing, blessing and giving thanks in tongues - the purpose of tongues was not limited to being a public sign only.

19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

There was a public as well as a private use for tongues.

20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.

22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

Paul doesn't specify Jewish unbelievers - but unbelievers generally.

He does not mean that a tongue must always be understood by the immediate audience, in order to function as a sign.

How could tongues ever be a sign to unbelievers if unbelievers were shielded from hearing tongues? It was okay to let unbelievers hear tongues.

23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

"...the whole church...come together into one place..." That does not describe merely a mid-week meeting, or a once-in-a-year camp-meeting - it described the main, regular gathering of the church. There was a place for the regular manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit during the principal gathering of the local church!

"...will they not say that ye are mad?" Evidently the tongues were often unknown, or else if all spake with tongues and unbelievers came in and always heard their own languages as on the day of Pentecost, they wouldn't say they were mad, but instead, they would all hear their own language and be amazed. So it was often not the case that tongues were understood.

Obviously it was not often the case even in the early church that unbelievers heard tongue-speakers in their own languages, like what happened on the Day of Pentecost. It was more common that tongues were unknown and that interpretation was required. Otherwise why would the gift of "the interpretation of tongues" have been needed in the Church?

It would have been mad for everyone in a gathering to think any benefit could have been derived through addressing the whole gathering in unknown tongues. If a group carried-on doing that, of course visitors could rightly have questioned their mental health. Nevertheless Paul never denied the validity of the tongues per se - only the manner in which the gift was being expressed.

24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

There was nothing wrong with the tongues - only that the objective should be corporate edification, not personal edification - unless it was spoken privately.

27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.

It seems that tongues were more often than not unknown - because here Paul seems to assume that an interpreter might often be required. If the purpose of tongues was always so that foreign unbelieving visitors could hear their own language, then there would never have been a need for the supernatural gift of "the interpretation of tongues" (I Cor.12: ).

If addressing a congregation in tongues, during a regular church service, two or three speakers is enough. But in times of a general outpouring of the Spirit, such as on the day of Pentecost, at Samaria, in Cornelius' household, and at Ephesus, everyone was filled at once and spoke with tongues - there were more than two or three speakers, but no-one was addressing the congregation per se. That is not indecent nor disorderly.

28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

The tongue was no less valid despite no-one understanding it - or else Paul would not have encouraged the speaker of such tongues to continue speaking to himself and to God.

Speaking to yourself and to God in tongues was a valid use of speaking in tongues. The usefulness of tongues was not limited to being a public sign.

If no interpreter was present, and the speaker himself did not interpret, then no-one would have understood the tongue - and yet, the tongue was still considered valid.

29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

Notice that while a prophecy could be judged, a tongue could be interpreted - demonstrating that the tongue was indeed unknown by anyone in the immediate audience.

30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.

31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.

32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.

39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

If the Corinthians' tongues had been Pagan and false, Paul would not have told them not to forbid anyone to speak with tongues. Here he endorses the validity of their tongues.

40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

But it was not considered indecent nor disorderly when 120 were filled with the Spirit and spoke with tongues on the day of Pentecost; when the entire city of Samaria received the Holy Ghost at once; when many in Corenelius' household were filled with the Spirit and spoke with tongues, even interrupting Peter's sermon to do so; nor when 12 disciples were filled with the Spirit and spoke with tongues and prophesied at Ephesus. Those scenarios were not inconsistent with Paul's advice here in I Cor.14. Both scenarios are different, and both scenarios are valid, decent and orderly.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Some Oft-Overlooked Facts About the Church at Corinth

These background facts will help put Paul's advice about spiritual gifts in context.

1. The Corinthian congregation is described as the Church of God (I Cor.1:1); God's husbandry, God's building (3:9). They belonged to Christ (3:23). They had been sanctified in Christ Jesus (1:2). They were saints (1:2). They were in Christ - they had been made wise, righteous, sanctified and redeemed (1:30).

Paul had spent longer in Corinth than in many other places, because the Lord Jesus had told him that He had much people in that city (Acts 18:10,11). Jesus had much people in that city!

In fact, Paul planned to visit them three times; and the great confidence Paul showed in the Corinthians inspired other ministers to be diligent to visit them also (8:22, IICor.8:22). Some other respected ministers became eager of their own accord to visit them because they saw such value in them - even without needing to be sent by Paul (II Cor.8:16,17).

During Paul's time with them, the Corinthians had heard a thorough presentation of the Gospel (2:1-2). Paul had sown spiritual things among them (9:11). A solid foundation had been laid in the church (3:10). The Corinthians had become beloved sons (4:14).

Paul brought them up in an environment where they not only heard the Word, but also saw genuine demonstrations of the Spirit and of power, which confirmed the Gospel (2:4).

Despite the past some of the Corinthians had, they had been washed, sanctified, and justified (6:11). They had also come to realize idolatry was nothing (chapter 8).

They were in genuine fellowship with the rest of the body of Christ (1:2) The churches in Asia saluted them; other recognized ministers besides Paul saluted them much in the Lord - all the brethren greeted them (16:19,20).

They were actively acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus Christ (1:2). God's continued grace and peace was extended towards them (1:3). Paul was continually thankful for the grace they had received by Jesus Christ (1:4).

They were enriched by Jesus Christ in EVERYTHING - in ALL utterance, in ALL knowledge (1:5). They were living confirmations of Christ's testimony (1:6). They came behind in NO GIFT (1:7). They were experiencing truth as revealed by the Spirit of God (2:10). They had received NOT the spirit that came from the world, but the Spirit that came from God (2:12).

Some of them were commended for their zeal for spiritual gifts (14:12). They were already exercising the gifts of tongues, interpretation and prophecy, at least.

They were Paul's work in the Lord, a more clear seal of his apostleship than was any other church (9:1,2). They were thoroughly intertwined and inseparable from Paul spiritually and emotionally (II Cor. 2:3). They had become partakers with Paul of the sufferings of Christ (II Cor.1:7). They helped and prayed for Paul's ministry (1:11). Paul was their joy, and they were Paul's joy - in the day of the Lord (1:14).

As such, Paul felt assured of a good future for them (1: 8). Paul's hope of them was steadfast (II Cor.1:7).

2. Paul heard there were divisions and contentions among them (1:11) - but he only partly believed it (11:18). He realized they were still babes, carnal and not always behaving spiritually (3:3).

Paul's main concern was that he had heard there was an individual among them who had committed fornication (5:1). Others had also (II Cor.12:21). Some were getting drunk at mealtimes.

It seems some who were exercising genuine spiritual gifts were doing so with an inadequate understanding of their significance and without understanding how best to express them during a church-service (I Cor.12-14).

While highly commending them in every way, Paul wrote to them primarily to instruct them concerning the one, wicked individual in their midst - but also to warn them all against fornication, idolatry, taking brothers to court, against false ideas about the resurrection, and any activities or ideas that cause division, including inadequate ideas about ministers and about spiritual gifts and their expression.

He wrote to them because he knew they would be obedient in all things. He repeated his confidence in them.

3. Paul sent Titus to them. They received Titus with fear and trembling (verse 15). They were obedient (7:15). They became really careful, clear, indignant, fearful, with vehement desire, even revengeful, about being obedient to God and to Paul. In all things they were clear in this matter - the main matter of Paul's letter (7:11).

The Corinthians filled Paul with comfort by their responsiveness. Great was Paul's glorying of them (7:4). He boasted of them (7:14). Paul had confidence in them in all things (verse 16). They abounded in EVERYTHING - in faith, utterance, knwledge and in all diligence, and in their love for Paul's ministry-team (8:7).

In his second letter, Paul stated that if he didn't repeat certain things, it was not because those things were no longer relevant, or that they had ceased - it was only because he didn't want to hurt their feelings by repeating them. He said they had cleared themselves of the matter.

He did repeat some instructions, and urged continued obedience. He mentioned that some individuals might not yet have repented. He warned against receiving a wrong teacher or a wrong spirit. But his tone was one of continual confidence - even boasting - in them.

He planned a third visit - and other ministers even became eager to visit them after seeing Paul's great confidence in them.

Conclusion: In regard to spiritual gifts, Paul commended the Corinthians for desiring and for having spiritual gifts - he did not say they were operating in false Pagan tongues - he said the opposite - he commended them. He said they should not forbid to speak with tongues. He said they could even continue to pray privately in tongues if no interpreter was present. He only wanted them to understand spiritual gifts better; to be motivated more nobly; and to express them more beneficially.

That advice is still relevant to us today.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Should Non-Cessationists Clear-Out Hospitals?

Some people ask, "If the gifts of healings have not ceased, then why don't you prove it by going and emptying out all the hospitals?"

Or they taunt, "Why was so-and-so not healed?"

Even in Bible times, someone who had the gifts of healings did not always minister healing to a sick person when he encountered sick folk.

I think there is a common misconception about the gifts of healings, on the part of many charismatics and non-charismatics alike today: and that is the misconception that the gifts of healings in Bible-times meant that every sick person everywhere was always ministered to no matter what, with the gifts of healings. But even in Bible times, those who had the gifts of healings did not always minister those gifts to the sick everytime they encountered a sick person. And yet somehow it is expected that if the gifts of healings are present today, there ought not to be a single sick person remaining!

Nor did the gifts of healings, in Bible-times, mean that the person ministering those gifts was already or always healed himself.

For example, Abraham's prayer healed an entire city's womenfolk of barrenness, yet his own wife was still barren.

Elisha, who did double the number of miracles as Elijah, himself died of a sickness - but even so his bones still were able to cause a corpse to be raised.

There were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elias, but only a single Gentile received healing - not a single Jew was ministered to, using the gifts of healings.

Jesus could no no mighty works in His hometown of Nazareth, even though they taunted Him to do so - and He marveled at their unbelief.

Only one invalid was healed at the pool, as far as we are told - even though there were a great many impotent folk lying there.

Jesus rose a number of people from the dead. I'm sure many more than that had died. But Jesus didn't raise them all.

Peter healed all the sick in Jerusalem. Why had Jesus not already healed them when He Himself was in Jerusalem?

Most of Jesus' mighty works were done in certain cities. Why not in every city?

In a certain city, it was granted to Paul that notable miralces would be done by his hands, even through handkerchiefs. Why not in every city?

At Lystra, a crippled individual was healed. Was he the only sick person in the entire city? But Paul saw that he had faith to be healed.

Philip healed people that had palsies, and who were crippled. Were those the only two diseases in the entire city of Samaria? Why aren't we told of other healings, if there were other healings?

Trophimus and Timothy were not instantly healed - and yet in the same approximate era, Epaphroditus did recover, for the Lord had mercy on him, said Paul.

So if someone today still is not yet made whole, a similar scenario could have happened even in Bible times when Elijah, Elisha, the Lord Jesus, Peter and Paul were around, when the gifts of healings were definitely around. So it isn't in and of itself proof of cessationism.

For those who want to look for it, there are numerous examples today of sick people who have been ministered to in the Name of Jesus by the laying on of hands who miraculously and instantly recovered.