Christianity and theology, Sound Teaching

Biblical Prophets Vs. Today’s Prophets

A couple of days ago, the social media was awash with a prophecy coming from the West Africa, Nigeria in particular. The so-called Prophet TB Joshua predicted the outcome of USA 2016 Elections. He stated that a female candidate would win. This was a reference to Hilary Clinton. However, come early this morning, the “prophecy” has proved to be another false prediction.

Now this is not the first time that prophets in my beautiful and beloved continent have predicted falsely. They are a number of instances that can be cited, but that is beside the point of this post. I am writing mainly to express my concern over some people’s unhealthy fascination with prophets.

Prophets have become so popular in Africa that they are regarded as semi-gods, which is certainly against the Second Commandment. Prophets have also become the elite and one of rich groups of people, monetary wise, at the expense of their poor followers. But this is very different from the picture we see of Biblical prophets both in the Old and New Testament.

The Biblical prophets were often unpopular. Their message was very offensive to those rebelling against God. The Biblical prophets were not crowd-pullers as our “prophets” today. They were not business magnets as the prophets our time. When one was called to be a prophet in the Bible, it often meant putting your life in the harm’s way.

While it was not all glamour and glitter for the Biblical prophets, it’s all a bed of roses for the contemporary “prophets.” The biographies of modern “prophets” stand in sharp contrast to the biographies of Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and John the Baptist just to mention a few examples.

Looking at this fact, one thing is certain: the prophets like those in the Bible no longer exist. Without repeating what I have stated again and again, the ultimate fulfiment of the office of Biblical prophets is found in Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus Christ is the Prophet par excellence. He is the only prophet we need today. In fact, he is not only the Prophet but also the Priest and King forever.

Now back to the prophecy of TB Joshua. His so-called prophecy should bring to mind Deuteronomy 18:20-22:

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’  And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’ when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

Now we know how we should respond to TB Joshua and all the so-called prophets.

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Christianity and theology

Happy 499th Reformation Day!

Happy Reformation Day!

Today we celebrate 499 years since the Protestant Reformation began. We need to thank the Lord for his faithfulness and goodness to his church.

As I was reflecting on the Reformation, I thought of the common saying, “ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (latin for “the church reformed, always reforming”). No doubt this one of the abused sayings in the Church today. Often it has been used to argue that the church needs to keep reforming or changing according to times.

For instance, I heard one arguing for female leadership in the church basing on the phrase. The argument went something like this: the church has been led by male leadership over the centuries, but now it’s time to embrace female leadership because the Church is reformed and always reforming.

What an abuse of this well-meaning phrase. The Church does not reform with times, it reforms with the word. Christ reforms his Church by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word. Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei (the church reformed, always reforming according to the Word of God).

When the Old Testament church was deformed, God used the word to reform it (Nehemiah 8). The Pharisees also deformed the Church with their man made rules and Christ used the word to reform it (Matt. 5:17-20). The same thing happened in the 16th Century. God used his Word to Reform his Church. Reformation without the word is not Reformation at all. If the church is reforming without the Word, it is actually deforming.

Happy Reformation with the Word!

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Sound Teaching

Malawian Presbyterianism: Are We Standing or Falling like PCUSA?

My fellow Presbyterians in Malawi,

Last Thursday, (June 19, 2014), the Presbyterian Church of United States of America (PCUSA) passed a resolution to allow gays or lesbians to marry in church. Now, this has shocked some but I am not really shocked. Why? Because this is just one of the fruits of steps that were taken many years ago beginning from 1920s.

PCUSA through the Auburn Affirmation in 1920s rejected that the Bible is without error (inerrancy of Scripture), the virgin birth of Jesus and his deity, that Christ died on behalf of sinners (substitutionary atonement), bodily resurrection of Christ and authenticity of Christ’s miracles. Jesus’ miracles were said to be myths. The Auburn Confession also declared that Presbyterians in PCUSA must:

• “safeguard liberty of thought and teaching of its ministers”;
• prohibit the restricting of church teaching to rigid interpretations of Scripture and doctrine; and
• refuse to rank ecclesiastical authority or the authority of the Bible above that of the individual Spirit-led conscience. (In other words, man can decide what or what not to believe in the Bible). (http://www.layman.org/Files/how-we-got-here-updated.pdfhttp://www.layman.org/Files/how-we-got-here-updated.pdf).

This declaration led to many things like increased focus on social justice to the extent that salvation, in some cases, is viewed as a mere liberation from poverty and social injustice. This focus on social justice and human rights also led to less emphasis in following the Bible when it comes to the ordination of who is to be a deacon, an elder or a pastor in the church as outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.

From 1990s to date, PCUSA among other things has accepted that gays or lesbians can be members of the church, pastors and elders or deacons and a few days ago it has accepted that gays or lesbians can officially marry in church. Marriage is now no longer between a man and a woman but between “two people.”

Now, we might look at PCUSA and think, “That’s America, it will never happen to the Presbyterianism in Malawi. But “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). The Presbyterian Church in Malawi partners with PCUSA in a number of areas. A good number of PCUSA congregations also have exchange visits with Presbyterian congregations in Malawi.

I wonder and fear if PCUSA will not influence our Presbyterian church or if it has not already influenced it somehow  knowing that bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33). These are my concerns and fears. I believe that all of us including our leaders should ponder on these things lest some years from now, we will also find ourselves in the same place where PCUSA is now.

Thanks for reading. May the Good Lord bless you as you reflect on this post and search the Scriptures to ascertain if these things are so (Acts 17:11).

 

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Christianity and theology

The Bible is The Gospel.

Recently on Facebook, I was involved in a discussion with a friend who argued that the Gospel is different from the Bible. He defined the Bible as the books written by holy men under the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that what they wrote may be trusted and obeyed as God’s Word. On the other hand, the gospel is the news that God who created heavens and earth came into the world as human being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to suffer full punishment and eternal death on behalf of sinners so that they can be forgiven and have eternal life and live in righteousness free from sin and its effects.

He then argued that the Church should focus more on the Gospel  because one can be saved without the Bible but not without the Gospel. I should say, here, that the debate involved lengthy writings which I am unable to include into this article but the above summary really sums up the main argument of my friend.

The Bible is the gospel and the gospel is the Bible. The terms “Gospel” and “Bible” are synonyms. At the center of the Bible or the gospel is Jesus or to borrow the words of Sinclair Ferguson, “Jesus is the heart of the entire Bible.” However, I have often noted that some easily see the gospel in the New Testament more than in the Old Testament.  In this article, therefore, I will endeavor to show the gospel in the Old Testament and by doing that  prove that the entire Bible is the gospel hence we cannot distinguish the gospel from the Bible.

 First, let’s turn to Christ himself who clearly taught that the Old Testament is the gospel.  In Luke 24, Jesus was speaking to his two unbelieving and fearful disciples, Cleopas and his friend, on the walk to Emmaus and the passage states that Christ used the Old Testament to explain the gospel to his disciples.  “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” (Luke 24:27). Please note very well that “Scriptures” in the verse refer to the Old Testament since by this time the New Testament Canon was not yet complete.

 Later Jesus appeared to the eleven Apostles and rebuked them for their lack of faith and said to them: “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled,” (Luke 24:44). Then please note carefully again what Christ says regarding the Old Testament Scriptures in Luke 24:46-47: “Thus it is written that, the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Pause for a moment! Is this not the gospel? And where is it found? Right there in the Old Testament. 

Jesus here is showing us that the “gospel” which my friend described as Christ’s  work of saving sinners and enabling them to live a life of righteousness is found from Genesis to Revelation (now that the New Testament Canon is complete). From the first book of the Bible to the sixty-sixth one, salvation from sin and eternal life of righteousness in Christ is the main teaching, especially, after the fall. 

Secondly, we have a first presentation of the gospel in Genesis 3:15.  God speaks to the Satan in the form of serpent that led our first parents into sin and says: “And I will put enmity between thee (serpent) and the woman (Eve), and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and though shall bruise his heel.” Theologians and Bible Scholars have called this passage “protovangelion” a Greek word for “the first proclamation of the gospel.” From this passage up to Revelation 22:21, the message of the Bible is the gospel that Christ will and has crushed the head of Satan and overcome death and  sin that once conquered our first parents in the Garden of Eden and the fallen man can now live abundant life  in Christ. Jonathan Edwards puts it better when he writes:  

Christ and his redemption are also the great subject of the history of the Old Testament from the beginning all along; and even the history of creation is brought in as an introduction to the history of redemption that immediately follows it. The whole book, both the Old Testament and New, is filled up with the gospel; only with this difference that the Old Testament contains the gospel under a veil, but the New contains it unveiled, so that we may see the glory of the Lord with open face. (The History of Redemption (Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers and Authors Inc.) 164-165).

Thirdly, the fact that the gospel runs throughout the Bible is further confirmed in the fact that the Old Testaments saints were saved through faith in Christ just as we are.  For instance, Abraham, way back in Genesis, was justified by faith in Christ (Romans 4) and in Galatians 3:15, Apostle Paul tells us that Abraham believed because the Gospel was preached to him. Where was the gospel preached to him? Right there in the Old Testament. John Calvin has expounded this truth better and said:

“The old covenant fathers, who were formerly regenerated, obtained this favor through Christ, so that we may say, that it was as it were transferred to them from another source. The power, then, to penetrate into the heart was not inherent in the law, but it was a benefit transferred to the law from the gospel. (John Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations (Grand Rapids, 1950), 4:131).

When you and I open our Bibles, all we ought to see is Jesus because he is the center of the Bible. Jesus is the center of gospel. There is no way one can read the Bible or the Word of God without seeing Jesus on every page because Jesus is the Word (John 1:1-5). Therefore, the gospel and the Bible are not two different things but one. These two words are synonyms and it is impossible to distinguish them. The Old Testament is the Gospel pointing us towards Christ while the New Testament is the Gospel pointing us back to Christ. Both the Old and the New Testaments are the gospel.

Postscript: Heidelberg Catechism  Answer to  Question 19 also clarify that the gospel and the Bible are one thing:

God began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise (Gen. 3:15); later God proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs (Gen. 22:18; 49:10) and prophets (Isa. 53; Jer. 23:5-6; Mic. 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb. 1:1-2)  and foreshadowed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; (Lev. 1-7; John 5:46; Heb. 10:1-10and finally God fulfilled it through his own beloved Son (Rom. 10:4; Gal. 4:4-5; Col. 2:17).

 


 

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Christianity and theology

Mock Weddings: A Mockery to The Institution of Marriage

Mock weddings are increasing getting trendy in Malawi today. These weddings are used mainly for fundraising activities, especially, charity. Perhaps because of the aim behind mock weddings, we tend to switch off our biblical and theological antennas hence we don’t detect that something is wrong with this trend. I will not mince words: mock weddings are unbiblical and dishonoring to God. Please hear me out.

It is important here that we differentiate a wedding anniversary from a mock wedding. There are some married couples who on their wedding anniversary, say a decade, silver jubilee or golden jubilee, go to church and thank God for keeping them together. They then renew their marriage vows and go out to celebrate with family members, friends and others.  I don’t have any problem with this and I don’t think it dishonors God.

However, I have a problem with those who on their wedding anniversary or any other day go to church and pretend as if they are not married and ask a pastor or a minister to officiate their wedding just as the pastor or the minister does with a fiancé (groom) and a fiancée (bride). After that the “newly-married couple” goes out to celebrate with family members, friends and others. This is what is called a mock wedding and indeed it is a mockery to God’s established institution of marriage. I don’t think God is pleased with this. Why am I saying so?

When we go back to creation, we find that God gave marriage (Genesis 2:21-24) as one of the three creation mandates. Others are labor (Genesis 2:15) and rest from labor (Genesis 2:1-3). This goes without saying, therefore, that marriage is very dear to God’s heart. That’s why God reminds us that he hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). In reference to marriage, God also says what he has put together let no one separate (Matthew 19:4- 6). The Bible goes on to liken marriage to the relationship between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:22-32). All these references drive home one point namely: God values marriage very highly and it is dear to His heart hence marriage is holy or sacred.

Now should we take what is holy or what God values very highly and play around with like a cheap toy? Should we really take what is sacred or very dear to God’s heart and use it as a cheap tool of fundraising? God forbid!

Of all the institutions, the Church ought to know how sacred marriage is in God’s eyes hence it should reject and refuse any plans by man to dilute and cheapen what God regards in high esteem. Yet the reality on the ground is otherwise. Churches open their doors to conduct mock weddings. May God forgive and have mercy on us. I believe that we need to repent of this malpractice because if the truth be told a mock wedding is really a mockery to God’s established institution of marriage.

 

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Sound Teaching

Enemies of the Cross

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on thosewho walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame, with the minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:17-18).

Here we come to one of very sad and agonizing passages in the Bible. Apostle Paul gives us two groups of people found in Christianity.  First, they are those who like Paul imitate Christ. The apostle urges believers to follow the example of these people who have their eyes fixed on the cross of Christ.

Secondly, there is a group that Apostle Paul describes as enemies of the cross. Please note, these people are not outside Christianity. They are inside yet they are enemies of the cross. This is a very dangerous group of people because unlike those who are outside Christianity and openly oppose Christ, these people masquerade as Christians and pose like they are working for him yet the truth is otherwise.

The enemies of the cross have often been described as false teachers and false prophets. Now, it’s not funny to label anyone a false teacher or false prophet.  Personally, I hesitate to do so unless basing on the testimony of Scripture I clearly see that one is indeed a false prophet or false teacher since God’s Word assures us that “by their fruits, we shall know them” (Matthew 7:16, 20).

In the above passage, Philippians 3:17, 18, the Scripture describes the destiny as well as three fruits of the enemies of the cross. If these fruits or any of these are present in someone who claims to be a Christian or Christ’s servant, I would not hesitate to say that they are a false teacher or an enemy of the cross. Let every man be a liar but God’s Word alone should declare who the enemies of the cross are.

First, in the passage we see that the end or destiny of the enemies of the cross is destruction.  Friends, this is not a simple matter. No one should treat this matter lightly because it has to do with the wrath of God. The end of all the enemies of the cross is destruction. I shudder at this statement. Who can stand the wrath of God? Recall how God destroyed the entire earth except for Noah and his sons and a few animals and birds (Genesis 7:1- 24). Consider the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:23, 23). “OK, that’s the Old Testament,” someone might say.

Well, think about God’s wrath poured on Ananias and Sapphira for lying to Him (Acts 5:1-11). What about Herod who was struck down by an angel for robbing God of His glory (Acts 12:22, 23)? The New Testament goes further to describe the ultimate destruction of the enemies of the cross in the following way: “in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). This can’t be a light issue; however, that’s what Scripture says is the end of the enemies of the cross. It’s really scary!

Secondly, the enemies of the cross have their belly as their god. They always work hard for their physical satisfaction and not to please God. They use God’s name to acquire and satisfy their wants. When ‘preaching’ what is supreme on their mind is not “Thus says the Lord” rather what will I gain after ‘preaching’ this message. Will people like me more and give me more money and gifts?  They work for their belly and not for God.

Thirdly, the enemies of the cross take glory in their shame. The things that they ought to be ashamed of are the things that they enjoy to do.  Instead of being ashamed that often they make the Bible say what it never meant and mean what it never said, they boast of getting special revelations which no one else can see in the Scripture apart from themselves. Some of the things they claim that Bible says are very shameful indeed.

I once heard of a preacher who told people that God had ordered him to collect a certain amount of money from Christians failing which he will die. This preacher had no shame to say this. Really? Can God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ kill a preacher because he has failed to receive an offering of a certain amount?  The examples are many. You can also consider of preachers who hire bodyguards to protect them even as they stand on the pulpit to preach God’s Word. Surprised? It is happening. Bodyguards around the pulpit to protect a man or woman of God as he/she is ‘sharing God’s Word’. Shameful indeed!

Finally, the passage highlights that enemies of the cross have their minds set on earthly things. “Forget about eternity, live your best life now for heaven is already here” is the mentality of the enemies of the cross. Now, if I can live my best life now here on earth, what will happen to me when I go to be with my Father in glory? At this point I would like to make this bold declaration: Anyone one who claims to serve Christ but doesn’t help God’s people prepare for eternity with Jesus fails in their task and this cap of the enemy of the cross fits them very well.

If truth be told, it is hard and painful to talk about these things. This is really a hard talk but we have to face it any way. The enemies of the cross really exist and by their fruits we know them.  The Bible reminds us not to follow or imitate them. Instead, we should join, imitate and keep our eyes on those who walk according to Christ and His Word. We thank God that by his grace we have such people who seek to honor and glorify Christ always and by the same grace we will follow them, will we not?

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Christianity and theology

Beware of ‘Revelations’!

“Is the truth that which I imagine to be revealed to me by some private communication? Am I to fancy that I enjoy some special Revelation and am I to order my life by voices, dreams and impressions?

Brothers and Sisters, fall not into this common delusion! God’s Word to us is in Holy Scripture. All the Truth that sanctifies men is in God’s Word! Do not listen to those who cry, “Lo here!” and, “Lo there!”

I am plucked by the sleeve almost every day by crazy persons and pretenders who think that they have Revelations from God. One man tells me that God has sent a message to me by him—and I reply, “No, Sir, the Lord knows where I dwell and He is so near to me that He would not need to send to me by you.”

Another man announces, in God’s name, a dogma which, on the face of it, is a lie against the Holy Spirit. He says the Spirit of God told him so-and-so, but we know that the Holy Spirit never contradicts Himself. If your imaginary Revelation is not according to this Word of God, it has no weight with us! And if it is according to this Word, it is no new thing!

Brothers and Sisters, this Bible is enough if the Lord does but use it and quicken it by His Spirit in our hearts. Truth is neither your opinion, nor mine—your message, nor mine! Jesus says, “Your Word is truth.” That which sanctifies men is not only truth, but it is the particular Truth of God which is revealed in God’s Word—“Your Word is truth.” What a blessing it is that all the Truth that is necessary to sanctify us is revealed in the Word of God, so that we have not to expend our energies upon discovering the Truth of God, but may, to our far greater profit, use Revealed Truth for its Divine ends and purposes!

There will be no more Revelations—no more are needed! The Canon is fixed and complete—and he that adds to it shall have added to him the plagues that are written in this Book! What need of more when here is enough for every practical purpose? “Sanctify them through Your truth: Your Word is truth.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon

This Post has been copied fromhttp://www.erictyoung.com

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