Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Standards for Choosing Leaders


While the standards that have been set for Elders and deacons are high, we should have high standards for all of us in Christian service, but especially those in leadership capacity. There are some people who might say that it is unfair for us to hold such a high standard toward those who are not officially listed in Scripture. I would say however, that if you are going to be in any type of leadership role your character must be examined and your maturity in Christ thoroughly evaluated. Because you are no longer only representing yourself in your Christian walk you have now taken on the name of an organization that may have a great community presence and glorifies the name of Christ.

By setting the standards of leadership inside the church to highest capacity, it helps to ensure that there are godly men and women who are in the proper roles. This does not mean that there will not be times when someone may seem like the perfect candidate on paper; while in actuality their personality does not mesh well with the rest of the team. It should also be noted that Paul was mainly describing the roles of men in the church forms of leadership; we could ask “What are the rules for women?” The rules for women should not be any different with the exception of things that speak of being the husband of one wife, she should be the wife of one husband.

Even with all of the safeguards in place you still have guarantee that there will be a successful ministry to take place. However, by using the criteria set forth in Scripture you are setting yourself up to be more successful than if you went merely by your gut or your own collection of pre-requisites. It is our job to trust that God has given us these qualifications to meet in order to be effective leaders in the body as well as make an impact in the community.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Check us out on Facebook

Stop by and like our page on Facebook. We are always looking for more supporters of the ministry, and right now if we can get 50 likes on our Facebook page we will be giving away some great resources to a lucky winner. So stop by and give us a like http://www.facebook.com/SalvationIsFreeMinistries and don't forget to tell your friends about the blog and sign up to follow it also.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Trusting Leaders


            It would be easy to say that the culture we live in has bred us to not trust one another, because someone is always out to get one over on you. I would dare to say that it has to do with the fact that we are all totally depraved people and without Christ we cannot dare trust ourselves. In chapter 7 of Romans the Apostle Paul summed up the struggle we face when he said,

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:15-20 ESV)

This makes it extremely difficult to trust those who are in leadership positions because we have no certainty that they have our best interest in mind when they are making their decisions. While in his book Being Leaders Aubrey Malphurs claims that it will usually take up to five years to trust a new leader. It is this writers humble opinion that this period does not have to be anywhere near that length. If you enter into a situation with new leadership you can determine their character within a matter of months to a year. Are they self-serving? Or do they sacrifice some comfort on their part for the greater good?
 Over years of working in different environments I have noticed that the bosses who are willing to show someone how to do the job more efficiently or even in the correct manner without being brash or degrading get more respect which in return breeds trust. Humility is another key to the character of the leader that will always play an important role. If our Lord can take on the lowest place in the house to demonstrate His heart, what makes us any better?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Is Christian Leadership only for the Church?


More often than not when someone hears the term Christian Leader they automatically assume that the person being referenced to has a place of authority in the church. This should not be the case, because any person who calls themselves a Christian and is in a role of leadership is therefore a Christian leader.  The kind of leader we are should be based upon our character stemming from our relationship with Christ so others can see the difference in our leadership style. Christ himself said that we are salt and light, in the Gospel of Matthew he says, ‘“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”’ (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)
As far as a personal experience goes there are not many work place experiences I can recall. I since becoming a Christian ten years ago I have many different jobs but not in a leadership role. The best thing that I can think of is when I was running my advertising business with my best friend. We started out with the goal to offer affordable advertising, while maintaining integrity in the industry. As we began to gain more clientele my partner stopped focusing on pleasing God and only wanted to make money. After several months of bad decisions and continued loss, which I would attribute to our  lack of focus on God and a downward economy, I left him the run the company on his own. Since then I have felt my life become more pleasing to Jesus, He has allowed me to finish my BS in Religion and  now working on my MDiv.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review of Steven Furtick's Greater


I recently finished reading Greater by Steven Furtick. I really enjoyed reading his first book Sun Stand Still, and was really looking forward to reading this work. After I read the work I was a little disappointed. I did not take away as much from this book as I did his first. I guess that if I had never read his previous work I would have enjoyed this one much more.
            Furtick’s book was not difficult to read by any stretch of the imagination, as a seminary student I do a ton of reading, and I was able to read his work at a slow leisurely pace in a few days, (if I had wanted to I could have read it in a day). He is trying to stretch your faith and get you to put in to practice trusting God for your life. There is more than one occasion that as I read the book he came across as a self help guru more than a mega-church pastor. He based the majority of this work off of the life of Elisha the young up and comer following Elijah.
            Through out certain parts of the book Furtick’s battle cry is burn the plows, meaning leave your escape plan in ashes; move onto what God has in store for you and  leave no way to go back to your old life. He exhorts us to trust God that faith is never wasted; even at times it seems our prayers go unanswered. I would recommend this book as an encouragement to those looking to strive for something more, but it was not my favorite work I have read this year. Per federal law I received a copy of this book in exchange for my review. If you would like to read the first chapter for free follow this link: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/blog/2012/04/01/sneak-peek-greater-by-steven-furtick/.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fleece Praying


Take a position on "fleece" praying; is it correct in the Church Age?  Should it be taught to congregations?  Is it a lack of faith if "fleece" praying is employed?

While it may appear to some that Earley is advocating fleece praying, if we take a closer look at the context of this quote, we come to understand that he is advocating for specific prayer. I for one do not believe that we should do fleece praying because that is asking God to prove himself when he owes us no proof. When the Pharisees and Sadducees wanted a sign from Christ, He told them, “         He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.” (Matthew 16:2-4 ESV)

We should however teach those under our charge to pray specific prayers seeking the will of God. In James four he tells his audience that “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:2-3 ESV) We in fact should be asking because when we ask in accordance to Gods will it is a good thing. In the garden of Gethsemane Christ prayed that the cup would pass before me, however not my will but your will be done (Matt. 26:39) Also, in 1 John 5:14-15 we know that if we ask those things according to His will He hears us.

It is hard to answer if it is a lack of faith if fleece praying is employed. I say yes and no; let me explain. It is a lack of faith in ourselves and the relationship that we have with God. Paul tells us, “…for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV) Therefore is we are walking by faith and our sense of the Spirit is at a high level we should be able to sense what he wants us to do. John MacArthur and Kevin DeYoung both have books about seeking God’s will for your life without having mysterious revelations. I do not believe that we have a lack of faith in God when we pray a fleece prayer, we do not trust ourselves enough therefore are seeking validation. We should not continually implement fleece prayers, but grow ourselves and those around us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord; that way we can know what He is guiding us to do.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Critique on Select Chapters from Charles Spurgeon's Lectures to my Students


Summary
            Charles Spurgeon in his work Lectures to My Students covers a wide range of material that is important to any man considering entering into the ministry. His work ranges from the need for us to have our own salvation securely in place all the way to how we conduct our daily conversation with those around us. As we read through the material we can notice a theme that appears, Spurgeon not only covers things that are of importance when dealing with sermons and our time in the pulpit, he covers the focus of our hearts.
            Spurgeon advocates for us to be extremely dependent upon prayer no matter if it’s during worship or our own private time with God. He believes our lives should be a continuous out pouring of prayer, he says, “I take it that as a minister he is always praying. Whenever his mind turns to his work, whether he is in it or out of it, he ejaculates a petition, sending up his holy desires as well-directed arrows to the skies. He is not always in the act of prayer but he lives in the spirit of it.” (Spurgeon 2010, 43)
            Spurgeon gives advice about how we should handle the text of our sermons. He tells us that we should not be afraid to spiritualize the text sometimes, but when we do we must do it with extreme caution. He warns us, “Within limit, my brethren, be not afraid to spiritualize, or to take singular texts. Continue to look out passages of Scripture, and not only give their plain meaning, as you are bound to do, but also draw from them meanings which may not lie upon their surface.” (Spurgeon 2010, 101)The most important part of our sermon must be the clear presentation of the Gospel. He says, “Brethren, first and above all things, keep to plain evangelical doctrines; whatever else you do or do not preach, be sure incessantly to bring forth the soul-saving truth of Christ and him crucified.” (Spurgeon 2010, 79) While we are presenting the gospel we must do it in manner that does not show this life we live according to Christ as drab or dull, but full of life. Because Christ himself told us, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”(John 10:10b ESV) If we cannot be excited by this then neither will our hearers. Spurgeon says, “It is not the order of nature that rivers should run uphill, and it does not often happen that zeal rises from the pew to the pulpit.” (Spurgeon 2010, 326)

Critique and Evaluation
This text was highly enjoyable to read as a student, and as someone looking to pursue a career as a full-time pastor. His insights are invaluable for anyone doing ministry. When he spoke of people complaining of the want of zeal being the most zealous (Spurgeon 2010, 332), this was inspirational. Another area he touched on was how ministers can sometimes become so cold to those around them because all they chose to do is be with God, but forget to be with people. He tells us, “Take care, also, to be on most familiar terms with those whose souls are committed to your care. Stand in the stream and fish. Many preachers are utterly ignorant as to how the bulk of the people are living; they are at home among books, but quite at sea among men.” (Spurgeon 2010, 337)
Spurgeon did well in his section on ministerial progress when he exclaimed, “In our modes of speech we should aim at being ‘all things to all men.’ He is the greatest master of oratory who is able to address any class of people in a manner suitable to their condition, and likely to touch their hearts.” (Spurgeon 2010, 223) The point he is making is a good one, if we are able to adjust our mode of presentation but not the meaning we become more effective than if we present the material the same way no matter where we are.   In the text he warns against praying too long, which can happen sometimes just as a desire to seem pious. His warning reads, “It is necessary in prayer to draw near unto God, but it is not required of you to prolong your speech till everyone is longing to hear the word ‘Amen.’”
One of the most difficult sections, yet instructive, dealt with the call to ministry. He says, “That which finally evidences a proper call, is a correspondent opening in providence, by a gradual train of circumstance pointing out the means, the time, the place of actually entering upon the work.” My question is how long must we wait for that evidence to appear? Do you have to be called as pastor of a church, or can you begin leading a Bible study to be affirmed? Because he says elsewhere that to be a pastor you must also posses the ability to teach others (Spurgeon 2010, 29).

Personal Application
This text is one that I believe I will look back over time and again in the future. It impacted me in ways that are not easy to describe, there were points in the text that brought doubt about my path in life; then there were times I had great joy about the things I could see the Lord lining up, or doing as Spurgeon was describing them. I have long felt called to become a pastor and questioned the Lord about this because things never seemed to fall in to place for this calling on my life. However, when I read these words I was comforted, “This desire should be one that continues with us, a passion which bears the test of trial, a longing from which it is quite impossible for us to escape, though we may have tried to do so; a desire, in fact which grows more intense with the lapse of years, until it becomes a yearning, a pinning, a famishing to proclaim the Word.” (Spurgeon 2010, 29) After reading this my heart leaped for joy because it described my situation perfectly.
Another area that spoke to my heart dealt with our ordinary conversation. While most men can afford to casually allow a conversation to slip in to ungodliness we must always be watchful of what we say. Spurgeon says, “…a minister, wherever he is, is a minister, and should recollect that he is on duty. A policeman or a soldier may be off duty, but a minister never is.” (Spurgeon 2010, 172) By realizing that I am always on duty then we may use our general conversation as a means of change, because the one person I am speaking with could come to know the Lord through our general conversation and never have stepped foot inside of a church. (Spurgeon 2010, 179)
It was also encouraging to me to read that he was a fan of expository preaching because I tend to enjoy that much more than general topical preaching. These words offered me great encouragement for my current ministry and future service, “I am sure that no preaching will last so long, or build up a church so well, as the expository.” (Spurgeon 2010, 218) Lastly, and far be it from least, was the reminder that we are not just tending after the sheep in the flock , but searching for the lost one to bring back into the fold. He struck a nerve when he said, “In many instances ministerial success is traceable almost entirely to an intense zeal, a consuming passion for souls, and an eager enthusiasm in the cause of God, and we believe that in every case, other things being equal, men prosper in the divine service in proportion as their hearts are blazing with holy love.” (Spurgeon 2010, 325)

Bibliography

Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. Letcures to My Students. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC, 2010.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Top Five Task for Pastors


            When one hears the question, “What are the top five tasks of a pastor?” they may think to themselves that is an easy question to answer. Let’s really think about that for a minute, it is not asking what five things keep a pastor busy; but what are the five most important tasks of a pastor?  In order for any man to be a pastor, he must first and foremost have saving knowledge of who our Lord Jesus Christ is; not only that, but there should be some maturity in his walk. Paul tells Timothy regarding men who would be overseers or pastors that, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:6 ESV)
            As pastors we should also follow the pattern laid out for us by the men of Acts 6. While it is a noble task to serve others they knew theirs to be a higher calling. “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4 ESV) As ministers of the Word, we must be spending time in personal study and prayer. If Christ is our model and went off to be alone and pray, are we any better than he? No, He also studied the Scriptures which is what we must do in order to be effective ministers of the word. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul tell Timothy preach the word and to be ready in season and out of season. How can Timothy keep this charge if he is not spending his time in the word and prayer? In order to be an effective pastor you also have to be an effective teacher. If you lack the ability to teach, then your calling in life may not be that of a pastor. Our teaching must not be of any thing we wish it to be, it must be sound doctrine (Titus 1:9).
            It seems to me that another important task of a pastor is to be recognizing potential leaders for the church and training them as such. As a pastor we should be able to recognize the qualities in a man that would make him eligible for the position. Paul instructs Timothy on this very issue when he says, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2 ESV) In doing this we will continue to ensure that the sound doctrine Paul spoke to Titus about is being passed on in proper manner.
            Last and far be it from least, we should all love. It is the greatest symbol of a Christian and while pastors are not super Christians we are often examined more closely than the normal believer. We know that we are to love God, our neighbors as ourselves, and one another as Christ loved us. We love because He first loved us and gave himself us for us. (Rom 5:8) If we lack the ability to love then we cannot bring people to Christ which is what the greatest goal of any pastor should be, to see souls saved

Monday, August 20, 2012

Charismatic Theology


Introduction
            Have you ever heard of the phrase charismatic theology? Does anything in particular come to mind when you think of it? Charismatic theology is a very interesting theology indeed. The need to study charismatic theology has grown over the last half century, since it began to emerge in the middle of the 20th century. While studying charismatic theology we must understand where its roots lay, the major tenants of its theology, some of the more drastic off shoots of its theology, and the major players (pastors, theologians, etc.) in the formation of this theology (and its subsets). By the time we conclude our study of this subject, we should be able to argue whether charismatic theology is biblical and historical, or is it heretical and merely a modern phenomenon. At either cost charismatic theology should not be taken lightly because there are many true followers of Christ who hold to a view on each side of the issue.
The Roots of Charismatic Theology
            When we try to understand charismatic theology we should go back to the beginning, and for most that would be the early church. When I say the early church I am not referring to the church around the enlightenment, but the first believers during or just after the time of Christ. John Drane in his work Introducing the New Testament says, “The story of the earliest church in Jerusalem shows that it too began with a charismatic understanding of its own life.”[1]  After the emphasis on the early church and its charismatic gifts we do not hear much of them until the early part of the twentieth century, with the beginning of the Pentecostal church. The Pentecostal church has its beginning with Charles Parham who founded a bible college in Topeka, Kansas in 1900 and by 1901 had closed its doors.[2] It would be on the first day of 1901 that one of his students Agnes Ozman would begin speaking in tongues. In 1906 in Los Angles, William Seymour would have one of the greatest impacts on the Christian community since the reformation. Seymour would lead what has become known as the Azuza Street Revival, teaching that after a believer’s conversion that there is a “second-baptism” of the Holy Spirit, and the evidence of this new baptism was speaking in tongues. During this revival, “people shrieked and shouted, danced, fell over and, most of all, babbled incomprehensibly in tongues. This happened at three services a day, seven days a week, for three years.”[3] Because of the nature of these gifts and their behaviors, traditional “Pentecostals” did not find a place in the traditional church system, which lead them to start their own.[4]
            The technical beginning of the Charismatic Renewal Movement that would take place in 1960 with an Episcopal priest named Dennis Bennett in Van Nuys, CA.[5] One of the biggest things that distinguishes the Charismatic Renewal Movement from the Pentecostal church is that they have never felt the need to separate themselves from traditional denominations. Elwell points out, “Hence today the charismatic movement, despite its “classical” parentage, exists almost totally outside official Pentecostal denominations.”[6] Since there are differences between the two types of theology, we will be well suited in taking a closer look at them.

The Differences in Theology
            Most people might assume, since the Charismatic Renewal Movement has its roots in Pentecostal theology, there would be no demarcation of the two. And in making that assumption you would be wrong! Most scholars are willing to recognize that while there are many similarities there are also distinctions between the two. Paul Enns writes, “Theologically, Pentecostals subscribe to “a work of grace subsequent to conversion in which Spirit baptism is evidenced by glossolalia” (speaking in tongues). Charismatics do not necessarily teach a second work of grace by the evidence of speaking in tongues.”[7] In knowing this, there is another group of believers who go a step farther know as the Third Wave; this group of believers chooses to be distinct from Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Renewal Movement, by operating in their own congregations in a more moderated approach.[8]
            F.L. Cross in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines Pentecostal theology in this way,
Its adherents emphasize the corporate element in worship (often marked by great spontaneity) and lay special stress on the practice of the gifts listed in 1 Cor. and recorded in Acts (e.g. speaking in tongues or ‘*glossolalia’, prophecy, divine [*spiritual] healing, and *exorcism), and on possession of these gifts by all true believers. Most of them claim that the ‘power’ to exercise these gifts is given initially in an experience known as ‘*baptism in the Holy Spirit’, usually regarded as distinct from conversion and from sacramental (or water) *Baptism, and the movement came to be distinguished by the claim (first made in 1900) that ‘Spirit baptism’ is normally signified by the recipient’s breaking into tongues.[9]

            One major tenant that both Pentecostals and charismatics seem to share is there are two “blessings” of the Holy Spirit. Most scholars agree that the both parties believe that a sign of receiving the baptism of the Spirit is speaking in tongues. MacArthur says, “Most charismatics define Spirit baptism as post salvation, second blessing experience that adds something vital to what Christians receive at salvation.”[10]
A. Baptism of the Holy Spirit
            While we have seen that both charismatics and Pentecostals believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit what exactly is it?  What did the early church believe about it? One of the first arguments we will hear from those in favor of the baptism of the Spirit comes from the baptism of Christ himself. The first question that arises from this argument is, “If all believers who are baptized with the Holy Spirit speak in tongues after their baptism, why didn’t Christ?”  The phrase baptism of the Holy Spirit is often defined as an event that occurs after salvation in which the Holy Spirit descends upon a believer. According to Gregg Allison this event is supposedly, “typified by enthusiastic devotion to Jesus Christ and possessing a tireless energy for evangelism and missions, Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement have turned the church’s attention to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.”[11] Another argument often heard in favor of the baptism of the Holy Spirit deals with the day of Pentecost, and events that took place before hand as Wayne Grudem points out, “It is true that the disciples were “born again” long before Pentecost, and in fact probably long before Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit in John 20:22.” [12] Some try to use this as an argument that the Lord always intended for there to be the reception of the Spirit and then the baptism at a later date. What they often fail to realize is that the Lord told them the Spirit could not come until the Lord had returned unto the Father (John 15:26). Grudem in his footnote (13) on this text explains how this could have very well been a foreshadowing of the day of Pentecost. With that being known we can better understand what he means when he says, “…we must realize that the day of Pentecost is much more than an individual event in the lives of Jesus’ disciples and those with them. The day of Pentecost was the point of transition between the old covenant work and ministry of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.” [13] While many charismatics believe that all the gifts are still in effect for today, one of the most talked about and the most easily abused is the gift of tongues.
B. The Issue of Speaking in Tongues
            Of all the different theological topics that come into play when dealing with the Pentecostal and charismatic movement, tongues has to be one of the most highly debated issues around. According to David Dockery,
Many scholars would agree that tongues are ecstatic utterances. Another interpretation is that the tongues in NT days referred to foreign languages. Some charismatic Christians want to make this gift normative for all Christians. Other interpreters believe that the gift of tongues ceased in the NT era. Some interpreters see tongues as a gift for some Christians as a way to remind the whole body of Christ of the need to use human emotion as a way of developing spiritually.[14]

It seems that Dockery has read a majority of continuist materials because throughout my research there have been a number of authors on either side of the issue, each with their own valid points.
How would you explain to a person what “speaking in tongues” is, who has never heard the phrase used before? Elwell gives us a great definition, “Speaking in tongues is generally understood to be communication with God in language that is other than one known to the speaker. A person does the speaking—that is, he freely uses his vocal apparatus—but it is claimed that the Holy Spirit gives utterance. It is viewed as transcendent speech by the enabling of the Holy Spirit.” Dr. Grudem and Pastor MacArthur have whole chapters in their works referenced in this essay dealing with the issue of tongues. Dr. Grudem is a proponent of what is known as the “third wave” and believes that tongues along with the other grace gifts are still in effect today.
However, Pastor MacArthur is of the cessationist camp that believes all of the miraculous gifts have ceased since the completion of the canon of the Bible.  While Pentecostals claim that everyone who claims to be a Christian should speak in tongues and cessationist claim that all the grace gifts have ceased some is not most charismatics tend to be more toward the middle ground on this argument. Enns writes, “While some Pentecostals emphasize that speaking in tongues is necessary as evidence of the reception of the Holy Spirit, charismatics tend to deemphasize the importance of tongues. Chuck Smith states, “We certainly are not advocating that everyone speak in tongues.”[15]

C. Scripture vs. Experience
            One of the hardest things to reconcile for members of the Pentecostal or charismatic tradition is the authority of Scripture in their walk. MacArthur says that, “there are only two basic approaches to biblical truth. One is the historical, objective approach, which emphasizes God’s action toward men and women as taught in Scripture. The other is the personal, subjective approach, which emphasizes the human experience of God.”[16]  Patti Gallagher Mansfield in her work As By A New Pentecost, has very little scriptural support for start of the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the Catholic church, it is primarily a large gathering of stories of experience, whether hers or her companions. MacArthur feels that, “both the Pentecostal and charismatic movements of today are based on experience, emotion, phenomena, and feelings.”[17] All while suppressing the authority of Scripture.  Mark Cartledge emphasizes the experience of God when he says, “Later charismatics relativized this by speaking of more frequent ‘encounters’ with the Holy Spirit as part of the ongoing life of the believer. Therefore charismatics expect God toe revaeal his glory in worship, to answer prayer, to perform miracles, to speak directly by means of dreams, visions and prophecy.”[18]
            Gregg Allison, quotes Wayne Grudem on the sufficiency and authority of Scripture while legitimizing ongoing prophetic revelation.
(1)the encouragement that comes from knowing “that everything God wants to tell us about [any particular doctrinal issue or personal situation] is to be found in Scripture”; (2) the reassurance “that God does not require us to believe anything about himself or his redemptive work which is not found in Scripture”; (3) the reminder “that nothing is sin which is not forbidden by Scripture (either explicitly or by implication)”; and (4) the comfort “that nothing is required of us by God that is not commanded in Scripture (either explicitly or by implication).”[19]

While experience has a place in every part of our lives we must never allow it to become a greater authority than Scripture.  Peter Hocken suggests that we keep a place open for the Spirit to speak and for us to be more flexible to hear him and follow his promptings[20].
Charismatic Sub-Sect
            The largest and most popular sub-sect of charismatic theology has to be the prosperity gospel, also called neo-pentecostalism. As Cheryl M. Peterson says, “Neo-Pentecostalism can be distinguished from earlier Pentecostal movements by its global character and its message of prosperity.”[21] The prosperity gospel is also known as the health and wealth movement. It promises that if you love God with all you heart he will hear your prayers, heal you from every disease and you have no reason to be poor. It seems that most of the biggest names in Televangelism are all preachers of the prosperity gospel. Most of us have all heard of Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, and Joel Osteen, just to name a few. According to Enns, Kenneth Copeland completely denies the incarnation of Jesus and especially his deity; “Copeland states, “This man—Jesus was a carbon copy of the one who walked through the Garden of Eden…. He never made the assertion that He was the Most High God. In fact, He told is disciple that the Father God was greater and mightier than He (John 14:28). Why didn’t Jesus openly proclaim Himself as God during His 33 years on earth? For one single reason: He hadn’t come to earth as God, he’d come as man.”[22] How absurd is this comment because, “    Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9 ESV)
            The health and wealth movement teaches that Jesus not only died for our sins but to allow us to have a life free from sickness and poverty.[23] Why would Jesus who spoke about money on so many different occasions guarantee that we would have a life full of financial prosperity? Was in not the Lord himself who told the rich young ruler to go and sell everything he owned, or did he not mention that birds had nest and foxes had holes but the Son of Man had no place to lay his head?   When it comes to the theology of the health and wealth movement we must denounce all that it stands for because, as Enns exclaims
They demean the precious name of Christ, denying that he claimed deity, teaching that he was dragged into hell and had to be born again and then claiming that they themselves are gods. The prosperity people focus on this world and the things in this world, encouraging covetousness and worldliness. Jesus and the Scriptures speak clearly about the believer’s relationship to the world (John 15:18-19; 1 John 2:15-17).
     To demean Christ and to exalt man to deity is heretical and blasphemous. The health and wealth movement stands outside of historic, biblical Christianity and must be rejected. It is not Christian.

There will be some who will try to refute the examination of this sub-sect of the charismatic movement, saying that we are being too harsh on its propagators. However, we must beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing that penetrate the flock to cause harm.

Conclusion
            Through out this study I have attempted to present a balanced and biblical view of charismatic theology. It is my understanding that the grace gifts have not fully ceased, but unlike many Pentecostals and charismatics; there is no need for a “second blessing”, or the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We are all endowed with the gifts we have to nurture and allow the Spirit to reveal them to us. As Paul reminded the Corinthian believers not all have the same gifts, and we should appreciated the gifts given to us, because we are all important to the body.
            While we may want to have our experiences rule in our lives, we must remember that the highest authority we have in our lives is the Bible and if our experiences do not line up Scripture then we have done something wrong. Never be afraid to examine the things you are learning from the Bible the same way the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). And if what you are learning requires change, allow the Spirit to make that change in you for your good. I will end on this note from Mark Cartledge, “Charismatic theology invites change at the levels of affection, behavior and belief. However, it is always the Holy Spirit who is the true agent of such transformation.”[24]






Bibliography
Allison, Gregg R. Histiorical Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
Cartledge, Mark. "Charismatic theology: approaches and themes." Journal Of Beliefs & Values: Studies In Religion & Education 25, no. 2 (August 2004): 177-190. Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed July 3, 2012).
--- "PRACTICAL THEOLOGY AND CHARISMATIC SPIRITUALITY: DIALECTICS IN THE SPIRIT." Journal Of Pentecostal Theology 10, no. 2 (April 2002): 93. Religion and Philosophy Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed August 17, 2012).
Cross, F. L. and Elizabeth A. Livingstone. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. rev. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Dockery, David S., Trent C. Butler, Christopher L. Church et al. Holman Bible Handbook. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992.
Elwell, Water A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids,MI: BakerAcademic, 2001.
Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008.
Galli, Mark and Ted Olsen. 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianty Volume II: The Reformation to the Present Day. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
Hill, Jonathan. Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.
Hocken, Peter. "Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies." sagepub.com. June 25, 2010. http://trn.sagepub.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/content/27/3/162.full.pdf+html (accessed August 17, 2012).
MacArthur, John. Charismatic Chaos. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Mansfield, Patti Gallagher. As By A New Pentecost:The Dramaitic Beginning of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Steubenville: Franciscan University Press, 1992.
Peterson, Cheryl M. "Pneumatology and the cross: the challenge of neo-Pentecostalism to Lutheran theology." Dialog 50, no. 2 (June 1, 2011): 133-142. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 25, 2012).


[1] John William Drane, Introducing the New Testament, Completely rev. and updated. (Oxford: Lion Publishing plc, 2000), 393.
[2]John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992) 37.
[3]Jonathan Hill, Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006)452.
[4] Water A.Elwell,ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. (Grand Rapids,MI: BakerAcademic, 2001) 220.
[5] Ibid,220.
[6] Ibid., 220.
[7] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology.( Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008)673.
[8] Ibid, 673.
[9] F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. rev. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1262.
[10] MacArthur, Charismatic, 21.
[11]Gregg R. Allison, (Histiorical Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011)447.

[12] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 769.
[13] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 770.
[14] David S. Dockery, Trent C. Butler, Christopher L. Church et al., Holman Bible Handbook (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 692.
[15] Enns, Moody Handbook, 675.
[16] MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, 36.
[17] Ibid., 40.
[18] Mark Cartledge, "PRACTICAL THEOLOGY AND CHARISMATIC SPIRITUALITY: DIALECTICS IN THE SPIRIT." Journal Of Pentecostal Theology 10, no. 2 (April 2002): 93. Religion and Philosophy Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed August 17, 2012) 107.

[19] Allison, Historical Theology, 161.
[20]Peter Hocken, "Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies." sagepub.com. June 25, 2010. http://trn.sagepub.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/content/27/3/162.full.pdf+html (accessed August 17, 2012)167.
[21] Cheryl M.Peterson, "Pneumatology and the cross: the challenge of neo-Pentecostalism to Lutheran theology." Dialog 50, no. 2 (June 1, 2011): 133-142. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 25, 2012)133.
[22] Enns, Moody Handbook, 679.
[23] Ibid., 680.
[24] Cartledge, Practical Theology, 108.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Intertestamental Period


Introduction
            When reading through the Bible have you noticed the section called the Intertestamental Period? Neither have I, but it is there between the books of Malachi and Matthew. This time is often referred to as the “silent years” because there was no prophetic voice; however this time was anything but quiet.[1] This time would encompass the prophecies of Daniel and the different nations that would come to rule over the people of Israel. Throughout this paper two terms may be used interchangeably, they are Intertestamental period and Second Temple period.
            During this time there is some debate about how the periods should be divided. For the purpose of this paper we will not be looking at the Babylonian Period or the Persian rule. We will be focusing on several periods in particular, they are: the Greek, Ptolemaic, Seleucid or Syrian, Self rule and Roman/Herodian. By better understanding these periods we can have a clearer picture of the religious and political landscape Jesus entered into.
The Greek Period
            This period of history kicks into full gear after the death of Phillip of Macedon. After his death his twenty year old son Alexander III (the Great), took up his mantle to Hellenize the entire world. Most scholars make it a point to mention that Alexander trained under Aristotle and had the finest education a man of his time could have. “Alexander inherited from Phillip an aggressive attitude and a keen military skill: his education provided him with a deep appreciation for Hellenistic ideals, and his military training gave him the courage and skills to conquer the empire before him.”[2]  This empire also consisted of a great number of Jews that spread across the entire kingdom. David Dockery gives a great overview of how Jewish life was impacting the empire that Alexander was taking control of. Dockery says,
At the time of Alexander’s rise to power, the Jews were living under the rule of the Persian Empire. Aramaic had become the common language in Palestine. The dispersion of the Jews had already begun. There were significant populations of Jews not only in Babylon and Egypt but also in the major cities of the Mediterranean world also. The numbers of Jews in these cities increased significantly during the period between the Testaments.[3]
Alexander had a great military mind; he would defeat Asia Minor, Phoenicia, Palestine, Egypt, Babylonia, Tyre and Gaza. With all of his conquest, Alexander would achieve what his major goal was, to Hellenize his entire empire. And with that hellenization “Koine Greek became the common language of the eastern Mediterranean. Koine means common or profane. It was not refined, classical Greek but Greek as learned and spoken by those who were not native Greeks. Koine Greek later became the language of the New Testament.”[4] There is a small discrepancy on whether or not Alexander was 32 or 33 when he actually died. K√∂stenberger points out that after Alexander had conquered as far as the Indus River he returned to Persia, where he would catch a fever and die at the age of 33, and it only took him 13 years to conquer his empire.[5] Gaebelein points out that after Alexander’s death his “empire was divided into more than twenty satrapies”[6], and would eventually be divided among his generals called the diadochi. The land would be divided with Ptolemy I Soter taking control of Egypt; the Seleucids had Syria; Lysimachus controlled Asia Minor; Cassander ruled Greece. Palestine first came under the jurisdiction of the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy in about 320 BC.[7]
The Ptolemaic Period
            This period is one of the shorter mentioned, but it still has some very important implications for the Jewish people. Dockery informs us of some of the foundations laid in Palestine under the Ptolemies,
 Palestine experienced a century of relatively peaceful development. Political independence, self-sufficiency, prominence, and leadership were the dominant motives for the political conduct of the successors. They sought the greatest measure of economic self-sufficiency as a basis for political independence. They established economic and social patterns that continued into the New Testament period. The parables of Jesus—with their large landowners, tenants, stewards, money lenders, day laborers, tax collectors, grain speculation, and land leasing—must be understood against the background of the economic structures developed by the Ptolemies.[8]
Ptolemy wanted to regain control over Palestine, after losing it to Antigonus in 311 B.C. which gave full control of Asia Minor to him. According to Gaebelien,
In 301 B.C., however, Antigonus was was killed in a decisive battle as Ipsus in Phrygia….Ptolemy had not taken part in the battle; so it was decided to give it to Seleucus, but Ptolemy forestalled Seleucus and took possession of Lower Syria, Palestine, and Phoenicia south of the River Eleutherus. This caused a lasting contention between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic houses.[9]
To show the complete hatred the Seleucids and Ptolmies had for one another comes from the fact that they had no less than four major wars against each other. The Seleucids would finally gain control over Palestine in 198 until 63 B.C. when the Romans gained control.[10] One other very interesting point about the Ptolemies, is that every ruler in Egypt up until around 30 AD used the name “Ptolemy” regardless of their actual descent.[11] While the Jews may have experienced some peace under the Ptolemaic rule all that would change when the Seleucids take control of the region.
The Seleucid or Syrian Period
It would be during this time period that one of the most notorious rulers would emerge Antiochus IV. Long before he would assume control of the Syrian kingdom, he would be sent to Rome as a hostage, as part of a treaty. While he was being held hostage “Antiochus III was succeeded by his second son Seleucus IV Philopator in 187 B.C. He attempted unsuccessfully to rob the temple via his chief minister Heliodorus (2 Macc 3:7; cf also Dan 11:20).”[12] Not long after the murder of his brother Antiochus IV was released by the Romans and he went to seek help from the Pergamon king killed Helidorus and assumed control of the Syrian kingdom.
“Antiochus was marked by his exile. In Rome he had recognized the power of Roman authority. He never opposed Rome. In Athens he had drunk deeply of the spirit of Hellenism. He supported the Greek cults and games and became a proponent of Hellenistic culture. He was also unpredictable, however, and had little knowledge of or respect for Jewish beliefs.”[13] He became so enamoured with Greek culture that he encouraged people to worship him as the bodily form of the God Zeus; he would even give himself the name Epiphanes, meaning, “the manifest god”, his enemies would start to call him “Epimanes” or “madman”.[14] Antiochus had set his sights on ruling Egypt, expecting little fight from the Ptolemies, but that is not what he got. According to Brand, “He was proclaimed king of Egypt, but when he returned the following year to take control of the land, the Romans confronted him and told him to leave Egypt. Knowing the power of Rome, he returned home.” [15] 
You may be asking yourself what made this man so horrible, according to the Jews, a lot of things. He started by instituting a ban on possessing the Torah, allowing circumcision, the festivals, and even offerings to Yahweh. That is not all however he would go even farther by erecting a statue of Zeus in the temple and then sacrificing a pig on the altar.[16]  He would commit further atrocities by crucifying mothers with their newly circumcised children hanging around their necks.[17] The last straw came in 166 B.C. when Antiochus ordered that each village was to erect a heathen altar and demanded that heathen sacrifices be made.[18]
The Period of Self-Rule
After the demands were made that heathen sacrifices were to be made one priest could take no more and refused to follow orders. This old priest was a man named Mattathias, he refused to do the sacrifice and when another Jew offered to do it he murdered him and the man who gave the order. This would be the first strike in what would become known as the Maccabean  Revolt.  Mattathias tore down the altar and fled with his five sons (John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, and Johnathan. These men would find great support from a group of extremely pious Jews known as the Hasidim. “The Hasidim made up the major part of his army. These men were devoutly committed to religious freedom. They were dedicated to obedience to the law and to the worship of God.[19] While everything may have started with Mattathias, it would be his middle son Judas (often called Maccabeus meaning “hammerlike”)[20]that would take the forefront and lead his people from guerilla warfare to well planned battles.[21] In just under three years Judas’ military might lead him to recapture Jerusalem. Gabelein says that,
Judas had regained the entire country. He marched on Jerusalem an occupied all of it accept the Acra. He restored the temple, selected priest who had remained faithful, destroyed the altar of the Olympian Zeus, and built a new one. Exactly three years after its desecration (on Chislev 25), the temple with its altar was rededicated and the daily sacrifices began (1 Macc 4:36-59; 2 Macc 10:1-8). This marked the beginning of the Jewish Feast of Dedication or Lights (Hebrew Hanukkah).[22]

With the confidence Judas had gained from previous victories he sought to have more land and power. At the onset he did not face much opposition because Antiochus IV had already died. After Lysias learned that Philip was on his way to try and take the kingdom he eagerly made peace with Judas, and this marked the beginning of the Jews gaining their freedom. “In 161 B.C. Judas led his dwindling forces against a vastly superior Syrian army and was killed in battle.” [23]
After the death of Judas, his younger brother Jonathan took control of the nation. According to Evans, “Jonathan achieved more by diplomacy than by warfare, cooperating with Alexander Balas and fostering alliances with Rome and allegedly even with Sparta.”[24] While a casual reading of that statement may not mean much Dockery opens it up even more with this explanation,
In 152 B.C. Alexander Balas, who was contending with Demetrius I for the Syrian throne, appointed Jonathan as high priest. This appointment of one of the Maccabee brothers, who were from a priestly family but were not descendants of Zadok, to the office of high priest by one of the descendants of Antiochus Epiphanes is surely one of the ironies of history. It shows, however, how the high priesthood had been increasingly politicized in the intervening years. By this means Jonathan became the political, religious, and military leader of the Jews and an appointee of the Seleucid Empire.[25]
Jonathan would eventually be killed by Tryphon out of fear of his success in the nation. After the murder of Jonathan, Simon would be the last of Judas’ brothers who would assume control of the nation as high priest. According to some he is known as the first Hasmonean ruler while for others his son John Hyrcanus I is the first. During his rule Simon would align himself with Demetrius II with the condition that Judea was completely free. “Since Demetrius no longer controlled the southern parts of the Syrian empire, he gave Simon complete exemption from past and future taxation (142 B.C.). The yoke of the Gentiles over Israel had been removed for the first time since the Babylonian captivity….”[26] While Simon was the one who finally brought freedom to the nation of Israel he would face as similar fate as the rest of his brothers; he would die a violent death; except his was at the hands of his son-in-law.[27]
After the death of Simon his son John Hyrcanus I assumed his role as high priest and chief civil leader. Not long after he assumed control the Syrian empire exerted control over Judea, and Hyrcanus would work out a treaty that would allow Jerusalem to be left without a garrison within its limits.[28] Once Hyrcanus was settled he began to expand his borders, he conquered Medeba in Transjordan, then Shechem and Mt Gerizim, he would destroy the Samaritan temple.[29]
Following Hyrcanus’ rule things became more volatile even amongst family members to the point that they were murdering and mutilating one another to get the position that they wanted.
The Roman and Herodian Period
Once Pompey came in and lead Aristobulus away this was the mark that the seventy-nine years of self rule had come to an end; and the Romans were now in charge. Even though Hyrcanus II had been reinstated as high priest he had become nothing more than a puppet king, controlled by Antipater. “Shortly before he was poisoned to death in 43 B.C., Antipater appointed his sons as governors: Phasel, governor of Judea; and Herod, governor of Galilee.”[30]
Herod was a very feared man and for good reason, he would kill anyone he felt would try and betray him. He was so psychotic that he had his own family murdered. In knowing this it makes it much easier to see how he could have issued a decree that all newborn males under the age of two be murdered. One thing that may be found surprising is that, “Herod proved himself an efficient administrator on behalf of Rome. He kept the peace among a people who were hard to rule. To be sure, he was a cruel and merciless man. Yet he was generous, using his own funds to feed the people during a time of famine. He never got over the execution of Mariamne, the wife he loved above all others. His grief led to mental and emotional problems.[31]  Herod  was also a master architect, “about 24 B.C. Herod built a royal palace and built or rebuilt many fortresses and Gentile temples, including the rebuilding of Straton’s Tower, renamed Caesarea. His greatest building was the temple in Jerusalem, begun c. 20 B.C….”[32] It should also be noted that the temple was finished in 64 AD before its final destruction in 70AD when Rome destroyed the city.
Conclusion
As you can see while this period of time may have had no prophets to speak for the Lord there was a group of men who would sit down quietly and allow their God to be made a mockery of. This period is full of political and religious turmoil that lead up to and even continued through the times of Jesus Christ himself. So while it may not be found in Scripture expressly, this period of history plays a very important role in the beginning of Christianity. Because had none of these things happened Israel may have never been awaiting their messiah so anxiously as they were. We have seen what greed and jealousy can do to a nation and to individual men. We have also seen what a small group of men who stick to their convictions is capable of accomplishing. It is my hope that this essay has blessed you and allowed you to better understand the religious and political climate of Palestine some 2,000 years ago.



Bibliography

Dockery, David S., Trent C. Butler, Christopher L. Church et al. Holman Bible Handbook. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992.
Evans, Craig A., and Stanley E. Porter. Dictionary of the New Testament Background. Downers Grove: IVP, 200.
Gaebelien, Frank E., ed. The Expositor's Bible Commentary-General OT & NT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.
Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Edited by Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.
 Ironside, H. A. The Four Hundred Silent Years (from Malachi to Matthew). New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1914.
Kostenberger, Andreas J., L. Scott Kellum, Charles L. Quarles. The Craddle, The Cross, and the Crown. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2009.


[1] Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum, Charles L. Quarles. (The Craddle, The Cross, and the Crown. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2009) 59.

[2] Ibid., 65-66.
[3] David S. Dockery, Trent C. Butler, Christopher L. Church et al., Holman Bible Handbook (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 505.
[4] Ibid., 505.
[5] Köstenberger, The Cradle, 66.
[6] Frank E.Gaebelien ed., (The Expositor's Bible Commentary-General OT & NT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979)181.
[7] Kostenberger, The Cradle, 67..
[8] David, Holman Bible, 506.
[9] Gaebelein, Expositors, 181.
[10] Ibid., 183.
[11] Kostenberger, The Cradle, 67.
[12] Gaeblein, Expositor’s, 183.
[13] Dockery, Holman), 507.
[14] Gaeblein, Expositor’s, 183.
[15] Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 830.
[16] Kostenberger, The Cradle, 69.
[17] Ibid., 70.
[18] Gabelein, Expositor’s, 184.
[19] Holman Brand, 830-31.
[20] Craig A.Evans, and Stanley E. Porter. (Dictionary of the New Testament Background. Downers Grove: IVP, 2000) 439.
[21] Gabelein, Expositor’s, 185.
[22] Ibid., 185.
[23] Dockery, Holman, 508.
[24] Evans, Dictionary,440.
[25] Dockery, Holman, 508.
[26] Gabelein, Expositor’s, 186.
[27] Evans, Dictionary, 440.
[28] Ibid., 440.
[29] Gabelein, Expositor’s, 187.
[30] Dockery, Holman, 513.
[31] Holman,Brand, 833.
[32] Gabelein, Expositor’s,191.