Monthly Archives: November 2014

Review: The Temple and the Church’s Mission

The Temple and the Church’s Mission; G.K. Beale

G. K. Beale is the professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He’s well known for his commentary on Revelation (and a shorter one too) and books on the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament [Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament and Handbook of the NT Use of the OT], and a New Testament Biblical Theology.

Beale poses this question as his thesis for TTATCM: If John sees a new heaven and a new earth in Revelation 21.1, what is the ‘holy city, new Jerusalem’ that comes down from heaven? Verse 3 says the dwelling place of God is with man, and in 21.10-22.3 “he sees a city that is garden-like, in the shape of a temple (p. 23). How does John provide an explanation for all this?

Beale proposes that the first temple we see in the Bible is the garden of Eden, for that is where God’s presence is located. God’s command to Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” is seen a a command to expand that garden, thus expanding God’s presence to fill the earth “with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2.14). Everything we see after dealing with the tabernacle and “temple” is thus God expanding His presence across the earth, looking toward the consummation of Revelation 21-22 where His presence fill the entire universe in the New Creation.

Outline (The Pre-Chocolate Milk)

One could think, “How can someone write a 458 (really 379) page book on a biblical theology of the dwelling place of God?” Could anything be more boring than the temple? Have you ever actually read the last third of Exodus (chs 25-31; 35-40)? Or 1 Kings 5-7? Those are the chapters we wish we could avoid when we read our Bibles, yet Beale has written a monster of a book in the NSBT series. Why read this book? As the outline shows, there is plenty to write about on the temple.

Chapter 2; Cosmic Symbolism of Temples in the Old Testament

Israel viewed Israel’s earthly temple to be a symbol of the heavenly cosmic temple (Ps 78.69), and the objects inside it also represented things God made on earth and in the universe (Ex 25.9; Isa. 66.1-2; Heb 8.5; 9.23-24). Beale proceeds into showing why God ‘rested’ on the seventh day, how the importance of that action would come to be known as ‘the Sabbath’ command, and how it is seen in other Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) writings as well (more on that later). We also look at how the tabernacle/temple reflected the first temple in the garden of Eden. The first priest was in the Garden. The “golden lampstand” and precious stones are first found in and around the Garden. Even the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple are decorated with garden-like features.

Chapter 3; The Expanding Purpose of Temples in the Old Testament

How the theme of mankind’s kingly/priestly role of serving God in the temple and the mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” to expand the Garden and thus God’s glory is seen and passed on to the patriarchs in their altar building, to Israel at Mt. Sinai, to David and Solomon at Mt. Moriah, and in how Israel should live post-exile.

Chapter 4; The Expanding End-Time Purpose of Temples in the Old Testament

How the OT authors saw the mandate to expand Eden may mean that even the borders of Israel were to be expanded to the whole world. If God is too big for a physical temple (Isa 66.1-2), where is He supposed to be? This mandate is seen in Numbers 24.5-9, Isaiah 66, Jeremiah 3, Ezekiel, Zechariah 1-2, and in Daniel 2‘s view of an expanding Kingdom (Dan 2.34-35,44-45),   This is a dense chapter (at least with plenty of biblical references) and I’m still excited to go back and look through all of the references again. There is plenty to look through in the book, and even when you’re done, you’re never really done.

Chapter 5; The ‘Already and Not Yet’ Fulfillment of the End-Time Temple in Christ and His People: The Gospels

How Christ is the last Adam and the temple (Jn 1.14, 2.19-21) of New Creation. Beale looks at the significance of the temple veil being torn at Christ’s death, along with the significance of the parable of the vineyard and Jesus as the ‘cornerstone.’ What did Jesus do that pointed to Him being the greater temple? Some examples would be Matt 9.1-8; 16.19; 18.15-20; 28.20. I encourage you to read them yourself and see how they give witness to Jesus being that greater temple, the place of God’s presence.

Chapter 6; The Inauguration of a New Temple in the Book of Acts

How Pentecost relates to Mt. Sinai in Exodus. How does Pentecost fulfill Joel’s prophecy of the latter days? Or the destruction of the old order and the creation of the new? And how does Peter know to interpret it this way? We see how Stephen (Acts 7) and James (Acts 15) views Christ as the temple and New Creation. What is the OT background for the Gentiles’ relationship to Christ’s rebuilt temple seen in Amos 9.11-12, Hos 3.5, and Jeremiah 12.15-16? There’s more there than you ever would have thought.

Chapter 7; The Inauguration of a New Temple in the Epistles of Paul

The use of Paul’s temple imagery in 1 Cor 3, 2 Cor 5-6, Eph 2, Col 2, and what that means for the Church to keep pure as New Creations who are unified in Christ and who bear fruit and increase by proclaiming the gospel to all the world.

Chapter 8; The Temple in 2 Thessalonians 2

The use of Paul’s temple imagery in 2 Thess 2. What do we do with the ‘falling away’ and the ‘man of lawlessness’ who exalts himself in the temple? While many may agree with Beale’s conclusions on most of Paul’s letters, many will also disagree with his conclusions on 2 Thess 2. All I can say on it now is that his case is compelling, and the reader should be willing to wrestle with the text.

Chapter 9; The Inauguration of a New Temple in Hebrews

Brings us to the ‘greater and more complete tabernacle’ which Christ as a priest walked through ‘not made with hands, that is to say not of this creation.’ In an excursus, Beale explains what Acts 7.48-49 tell us about OT ‘handmade’ temples and how this relates to Hebrews.

Chapter 10; The World-Encompassing Temple in Revelation

Reflects the temple in Rev 11.1-4, its background in Zech 4, and a few other texts in Revelation which give us information on the temple of Rev 21-22.

Chapter 11; The Temple in Ezekiel 40-48 and its Relationship to the New Testament

This will be of great interest to many people (which is probably why Beale puts it near the end of his colossus). Will Ezekiel’s temple (chs 40-48) be literal, or is it figurative? Why or why not? Beale gives his reasoning, and if you know anything about Beale, this is a very interesting chapter.

This chapter, more than the chapter on 2 Thess 2, gives reason to wrestle with the text (depending on where your eschatology lies, though all should wrestle with these passages despite which ‘end-time’ view you hold to).

Chapter 12; Theological Conclusions: The Physical Temple as a Foreshadowing of God’s and Christ’s Presence as the True Temple

How the NT interprets the Old (which I found very interesting). What does it mean for John to look back at the OT for descriptions of the New Jerusalem in Rev 21-22? Why is the city made of gold (Rev 21.18)? Why are the ‘unclean’ outside the gates (21.26-27; 22.14-15)? What is the relationship between the old temple and the new? All of this and more is expounded upon in this chapter.

Chapter 13; Practical Reflections on Eden and the Temple for the Church in the Twenty-First Century

Now that we are in Christ, how is the church supposed to live? What does God’s temple do?

The Chocolate Milk

As the size of this review may tell you, I enjoyed this book very much. One might think it would be easy to write a review on a book this size, but the trouble is finding where to start and where to end! There are so many god points that one can only surrender defeat and hope he gets the point across.

Beale hands the reader plenty of scriptural references to back up his points. It’s rare for him to be without scripture. This is immensly helpful, for I’ve read my fair share of books where a point was made yet no scripture was used to back it up (James Jordan’s Through New Eyes, and a few times in Peter Leithart’s A House For My Name). This way, when Beale makes a claim, he backs it up, and the reader can come to their own conclusions without being left in the dark.

I enjoyed that there was even a chapter 13. Beale doesn’t want to fill our heads with only “head knowledge” (although what he does give us at least provides a strong foundation for the unity of the whole Bible, even if one doesn’t agree with everything he says). I was impressed that he gave us some good practical application with his book. Being in Christ, we can be like Christ who resisted testing from Satan (Matt 4; Lk 4), and not be like Adam who allowed sin to reign (Gen 3). He relates the OT to Christians in Christ (the True Israel who completely obeyed) and how we live today. The temple is a house of prayer for all the peoples (Is 56.7)? Then we are to be ‘continually prayerful’ today (p. 398).

ANE Literature

The help Beale gives in comparing and contrasting what the OT biblical authors say to other ANE writings (also the NT authors to other non-canonical church writings) is fantastic. Its point of placement here in my review isn’t so much a critique as it is a tip-off that these sections may be hard to read. However, they are not as frequent as one might expect. Yet I will elaborate a bit on this to show the importance of this in Beale’s book, while hopefully not boring you.

However, reading parts of the Enuma Elish is less thrilling than reading about furniture arrangement in the Tabernacle. So why is it in here? It shows us that the biblical authors weren’t way ahead of their times. While some might say the OT authors copied from the other writings, Beale rejects that notion.

Cajun Example

Let’s say there are two authors who live in Louisiana who are both going to write separate non-fiction books. One lives in and writes about Lafourche parish; the other Bienville parish. Though their stories may be completely different, some parts of the book will still be similar. Concepts of architectural structures, the Louisiania government, the USA government, education, transportation, grocery stores, electronics, etc. Neither of them are borrowing from each other inasmuch as they simply live in the same era of time. Everything looks similar to them. And 1,000 years from now a historian could compare and contrast the two ways of live to show his students how people in Louisiana lived.

What now?

So looking at how the Sumerians and Egyptians viewed the concept of their gods ‘resting’, gives us a clearer idea of how the biblical authors viewed the true God as He rested over creation.

“The pagan religious material suggests further that after God overcame chaos and created the world and after he overcame Israel’s enemies and built the temple, he ‘rested’ as a true sovereign on his throne in contrast to the pretending, false deities whom pagan worshipers believed had done the same”

Beale: 66.

Israel lived in the same time period as other nations. Why would Israel’s day-to-day life be much different than the Sumerian day-to-day life? It’s not like Israel obeyed YHWH and then received iPads for Christmas. Both had temples, both grew crops, and both had to live like everyone else.

The difference between Israel and the other nations is that Israel knew the true God, YHWH. The biblical authors throughout the OT took what He said and they expounded on it as His Self-revelation progressed through the ages.

Recommended?

Though this book is quite dense and academic, I was immensely encouraged by it. Growing up, I always wondered why the biblical authors used the terms they used. In 2 Corinthians 5.1 when Paul says, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” what does “a house not made with hands” mean? Is it simply that God is making our resurrected bodies? This is true, but is there more to it? the subject matter of Paul’s letters is often times the tip of the iceberg, with the rest of the information lying under the surface (and throughout the OT). Beale shows the inter-connections of the New Testament with the Old, giving more confirmation that the Bible really is one unified book. And that even the most seemingly boring of subjects (like the temple) can be one of the most fascinating when viewed in light of Christ’s person and work.

To quote Beale and Clowney,

“While it is true that Christ fulfills what the temple stands for, it is better to say, ‘Christ is the meaning for which the temple existed'”

Beale: 374-75, Clowney: 177.

Lagniappe

Buy It on Amazon

[Special thanks to Chris at IVP UK for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]


“Do we come by faith to God’s word daily, as did Jesus, in order that we may be strengthened increasingly with God’s presence in order to fulfill our task of spreading that presence to others who don’t know Christ? Believers express their identification with Christ’s Adamic kingship when they spread the presence of God by living for Christ and speaking His word and unbelievers accept it, and Satan’s victorious hold on their heart is broken”

– Beale: 396-97.

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Review: Antinomianism


Antinomianism; Mark Jones
Taking a break from Bill Johnson and my critiques on his book When Heaven Invades Earth (such critiques can be found here, here, here, and here), I’ve decided to finally write a review on Mark Jones’ Antinomianism, provided to me by P&R Publishing. One can only hope I remember how to write reviews. Besides Johnson’s book, my last review was Moo’s The Old Testament in the Gospel Passion Narratives on July 19th. So, it really has been a while for me.

And I have been a bit busy. I’m teaching and interning at the Calvary Chapel Bible College in York, UK, where my main duty is to teach 2 Corinthians. Just with that, getting engaged, and sorting through the visa process, things can get a bit hairy. But nonetheless, onwards toward freedom.

What is Antinomianism?

an·ti·no·mi·an;  noun  [an-ti-ˈnō-mē-ən]
Anti- means ‘opposite, against’ and nomos means ‘law.’
“One who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation”. —Merriam-Webster’s dictionary

And That’s a Problem?

All technicalities aside, in antinomian history, the historical debates that have occurred have focused more on specific areas of the Christian life rather than the entire OT law. In fact, Jones says their beliefs are not much different than legalism for “Pharisaic selective obedience is disobedience” (pg. 2).

“Antinomians rejected the idea that the law, accompanied by the Spirit, is a true means of sanctification. It was untenable that God would actually use it in our life in accordance to the Holy Spirit’s work.

“But the antinomians tended not only to ridicule the idea that we must attempt to conform our lives to the pattern of Christ, but also to suggest that any work we perform is not our work but Christ’s” (p. 125).

Our faith and works are gifts from God and lead back to God for His glory. While His promises and justification in our lives do provide assurance, both the gospel and God’s promises include our renovation (i.e., regeneration, continuing good works) which is a ground of assurance for ourselves and for those looking on.

“[T]he key error of antinomianism in all its forms has been to treat our union with Christ as involving in effect some degree of personal absorption into Christ, such that the law as a voice from God no longer speaks to us or of us directly. Thus, with regard to justification, antinomians affirm that God never sees sin in believers; once we are in Christ, whatever our subsequent lapses, he sees at every moment only the flawless righteousness of the Savior’s life on earth, now reckoned as ours” (ix-x).

While I can’t discuss much about that statement (especially the last sentence), we can at least contrive from this that antinomians think that once one is justified in Christ, he is all set and ready to go. Basically, believers don’t need to live a better life because Christ already did it for us. Of course, this poses a problem not only in daily life, but in reading the Bible as a whole (Rom 6.1,22-23; 2 Cor 5.10).

While Christians don’t need to follow the law for their own righteousness, we now have the Holy spirit and can, are able, and should follow God’s commands (Ezek 36.27)! To say we don’t need to because Christ did it all for us is to miss the point of some very important Old Testament prophecies. We have His Spirit, which none of the Old Testament believers possessed consistently, and now, being under the New Covenant, we want to follow God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deut 30.6; Mk 12.30-31).

The Chocolate Milk

Audience

Jones’ audience is “readers [and] particularly pastors” with the goal “to help [them] understand certain tenets of antinomianism, which will allow them to connect the dots, so to speak, in the contemporary scene” (xv-xvi).

He intends his readers to “see, [that] a Reformed understanding of Christ’s person and work—not necessarily more imperatives, though they belong in our preaching—is the true solution to the problem of antinomianism. This issue is above all a pastoral one, and there would be no reason to write a book on such a controversial subject if people’s souls were not at risk. But love for Christ demands that his glory and honor be defended” (xvi).

Jones places a large Christological focus in his book, and what better way to attack the antinomian ideal than to point to Christ and what he has done for us? And I would have to say that Jones does a terrific job at this point. Chapters 2-8 place the emphasis on what Christ has done for us giving us all the more reason to live for Him, rather than to live as Antinomians and think ourselves to always be in the right solely because we are justified.

Of all the chapters, Chapter 9 “Toward a Definition and a Solution” was by far my favourite. One reason was that it was the most readable chapter of the entire book. Where chapters 1-8 evaluate the history of antinomians and their debates with Reformed theologians, Chapter 9 shows some of the intricacies of their doctrine against the Reformed in a compact, yet simple, way. He shows us the antinomian characteristics (having a poor Christology) and then points us to a solution, that being they must “understand and love the person and work of Christ” (p. 128). We as believers, reformed, arminian, baptist, pentecostal, non-denominational, and whichever else you ascribe too, are to always be doing and striving to do the same: understand and love the person and work of Christ.

Jones aims at being gospel-centered. In light of what Christ has done, what does that mean for my life? How should I be living now? He doesn’t simply write a polemic against antinomians, but in the process he shows believers the way to put Christ first and glorify Him as the highest.

Not a History Book

As Christocentric as this book was, it is just as density on historical names, places, and the beliefs of those individuals. I must state that this could be a problem to those readers/pastors who have no knowledge in church history, the reformed tradition, or antinomianism. In Chapter 1 it felt like there was more name-dropping than the Golden Globe Awards. As one continues reading for the next seven chapters, the amount of names doesn’t stop; they merely slow down. This will only be a hindrance if you aren’t familiar with the names (which was the case with me for many of the names).

Jones usually doesn’t give much background on who he’s talking about, and seems to assume that you’ll know too. What’s important is that one does know these names, and if one wants to learn about antinomianism, then one must learn some church history (which seems like they would go together). Or, at least, be ready to look up each person in this book and find out why that was significant.

J.I. Packer (who writes the Foreward) is right to say, “Those with some expertise in post-Reformation Reformed theology are likely to pick up on the subtleties of antinomian thinking that is abroad today” (xii-xiv). For one, one would do well to have some expertise in post-Reformation Reformed theology. But secondly, one would pick up on the subtleties of their thinking in today’s culture as well.

Chapter one shows what historic antinomianism looked like, whereas then after that specific concerns are brought up and looked at. Antinomianism rejected forms of moral law and departed from Reformed Orthodoxy in several ways. We see these ways as Jones moves through his book by looking at the historical events and evaluating the history of antinomianism.

Recommended?

Jones’ work is an excellent one, to say the least. He has certainly done his homework, and really cares for the hearts of believers and antinomians. He doesn’t want believers to slip into antinomianism, thinking that they can live solely on the basis of their justification. But their faith should be shown by their works.

This book will not be for the lay-reader, and perhaps not even to the one who is simply inquisitive of Antinomian beliefs. But to those familiar with (or possessing ‘expertise’ on) church history, or those who have a yearning to know more about what constitutes antinomian beliefs and how it has developed through history, then this book was made for you.

Lagniappe

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: P&R Publishing (November 15, 2013)

[Special thanks to Julia at P&R Publishing for sending me this PDF for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

Buy It on Amazon


“Briefly, apart from the gospel and outside of Christ the law is my enemy and condemns me. Why? Because God is my enemy and condemns me. But with the gospel and in Christ, united to him by faith, the law is no longer my enemy but my friend. Why? Because now God is no longer my enemy but my friend, and the law, his will, the law in its moral core, as reflective of his character and of concerns eternally inherent in his own person and so of what pleases him, is now my friendly guide for life in fellowship with God”

– Richard Gaffin (p. 54).

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Review: When Heaven Invades Earth; Pt IV

When Heaven Invades Earth

This is a continuation of my review series on Bill Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth.
Here you can read my firstsecond, and third posts.

The Spoiled Milk

Pitting Paul Against Pentecost

Johnson describes the scene on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The room was filled with 120 people who spoke and expressed praise in unknown tongues.

“No matter how people interpret Paul’s instruction on the use of spiritual gifts, one thing must be agreed upon: this meeting was entirely directed by the Holy Spirit. The infant Church hadn’t learned enough to try and control God. They hadn’t developed biases over acceptable and unacceptable practices. They had no biblical or experiential grid for what was happening” (p. 162).

What Johnson seems to miss is that there are instances of the Holy Spirit indwelling a leader in the Old Testament (Ex 28.3; Judg 6.34; 11.29; 14.6; 1 Sam 11.6) which did give them a biblical…grid for what was happening. It seems like Johnson may be pitting Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians on the correct use (and not mis-use) of the Holy Spirit’s gifts in the church against what was happening here on the day of Pentecost, a day with no developed biases.’

This may be too ambiguous to say for certain, but it follows with the next quote from Johnson.

“The Church has an unhealthy addiction to perfection: the kind that makes no allowances for messes. This standard [perfection] can only be met by restricting or rejecting the use of the gifts of the Spirit. ‘Let all things be done decently and in order’ [1 Cor. 14.40]. The ‘all things’ of this verse refer to the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, all things must be done before we have the right to discuss order” [pg. 163, Johnson’s emphasis].

So is Johnson pitting Paul’s wanting a decent use of the Spirit over what the Spirit really wants to do? Is he really saying that the Spirit wants to do more, but Paul was uncomfortable with how much the Holy Spirit really wants to do? Is Paul a closet-Baptist and the Spirit a chandelier-swingin’ Pentecostal? Poor Paul! What else is this miserable apostle supposed to do but restrict the church’s use of the Spirit?

Yet this is not the correct way to look at Paul’s command.

What Did Paul Really Say?

Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (1 Cor 1.1; 2 Cor 1.1; Eph 1.1; Col 1.1; 2 Tim 1.1; cf. Rom 1.1; Gal 1.1; Phil 1.1; 1 and 2 Thess 1.1; 1 Tim 1.1; Titus 1.1; Philemon 1.1). He does all in the sight of God (2 Cor 12.19; cf. 2.17; 4.2; 8.21) according to His commands. Paul can be trusted and does all for his church and for the glory of God.

Paul isn’t saying all things must be done before we have the right to discuss order,” but more so, “Let all things that are done be done decently and in order.” It doesn’t mean we should let the Holy Spirit move as He wishes and then decide what we feel most comfortable with. The Corinthians were abusing their spiritual gifts and using them to promote themselves. That’s why the famous ‘love’ chapter (1 Corinthians 13) comes in between chapter 12 (the use of spiritual gifts and being one unified body) and chapter 14 (the correct use of tongues, prophecy, and order).

It’s as if Johnson is saying, “Let’s do whatever we want and then we’ll impose order if there’s something we don’t like.” But if that was the case, it would be like a subcontractor who builds a house before using geometry, tools, and the blueprints to bring perfect order (perhaps like building a house on the sand? [Matt. 7.26]). It would be like writing a book before knowing the rules of grammar (have you read people’s text messages lately?).

Was Paul Confused?

If Paul didn’t like what the Spirit was doing, it would be wrong for him to say (1 Cor 14.33), “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace,” and then a few verses later (14.40) command Corinth to “Let all things be done decently and in order.” Is Paul confused? Is God peaceful but only confusing to him? Can Paul simply not understand what God is doing through His Spirit?

If such is the case, why would these chapters be in our Bible? “Oh, that’s the chapter where Paul doesn’t understand the use of the Spirit, and in that chapter Paul is scared of disorder.” Or maybe, just maybe, Corinth started making up what the Spirit did. In 14.5 Paul says he’d rather the church prophesy than speak in tongues because then the church would be edified. Paul would rather speak five words that his church could understand and be encouraged by than speak ten thousand words in a tongue that no one understands. Many in Corinth were impressed by such grand displays of the Spirit.

Yet what do some people do today? Lie on the floor as dead? Bark? Laugh? Is this some kind of contest? Who does this really edify? We are not animals. The Bible portrays God’s enemies as beasts and wild animals (Dan 4.32-33; 7.3-8,11-12; Rev 12.3; 13.1-2, 11-13). Does the Spirit really want to work in our lives by giving us a god, hearty laugh? No, I do not think so.

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” The Holy Spirit isn’t going to work in a way which promotes disorder, where everyone prophesies at once to promote themselves, and where nobody can hear what is being said. Nobody gains anything from that kind of environment. If you have something to say, you do as you learned all the way back in kindergarten: you wait your turn and let each person speak one at a time.

When God Colors Outside The Lines

“Keeping things tidy has become our great commission” (p. 163). This may be true for many churches, but that’s besides the point. In context, Johnson thinks there should be greater manifestations of the Spirit? And what kinds of manifestations does he have in mind?

In a section in the book titled “When God Colors Outside The Lines” Johnson says, On many occasions laughter has filled a room, bringing healing to broken hearts. Gold dust sometimes covers people’s faces, hands, or clothing during worship or ministry time. Oil sometimes appears on the hands of His people; and it especially happens among children. A wind has come into a room with no open windows, doors, vents, etc. At some locations, believers have seen an actual cloud of His presence appearing over the heads of worshiping people. We’ve also had the fragrance of heaven fill a room. In my own experience the fragrance of heaven filled our car while Beni and I were worshiping on a short trip. It lasted for about 30 minutes, and was a smell that I could actually taste, similar to granules of sugar sprinkled on my tongue. I have seen the small gems that suddenly appeared in peoples hands as they worshiped God. Since early in 1998 we have had feathers fall in our meetings. At first I thought birds were getting into our air conditioning ducts. But then they started falling in other rooms of the church not connected with the same ductwork. They now fall most anywhere we go—airports, homes, restaurants, offices, and the like (p. 141).

Is this how we are to be conformed into the image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ? The Spirit helps us in our weakness by putting oil on our hands? A wind blows through the room? Gold dust, small gems, and angel feathers? This sounds more like a comedy club than anything biblical. It’s on sections like these where I feel I don’t have to say much of anything to disprove it. It should speak for itself. Honestly, I feel Johnson’s whole book should speak for itself.


Doesn’t Examine Motives

Worse yet and strangely enough, Johnson doesn’t examine his motives.

“It may sound strange, but I don’t examine my motives anymore. That’s not my job. I work hard to obey God in everything that I am and do. If I am out to lunch on a matter, it is His job to point that out to me” (p. 140, PDF).

Is it His job? We go about living our daily lives, and it’s His job to point out our wrong doings? He will by grace, but it’s not His job. Yes, God is the one with the spotlight, and it’s by His light that we see light, but should Johnson walk blindly thinking everything is fine and dandy? One can have good actions, but what are the motivations behind those actions?

Why shouldn’t Johnson examine his motives? Does he want to cast a blind eye to his own heart? Doesn’t Romans 1.23-24 say that “God gave up” those who “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man”? Can Johnson really say it’s God’s job to point out his own sins? If Johnson ignores that correction, then what? He’s not going to point out his own motivation errors.

Yes, God is the one who knows our truest motives (Ps. 17.3; Heb. 4.12) and we can’t always be 100% sure of our motives (Jer. 17.9), but that’s without the light of God’s word and Christ, according to Eph 5.13-14. It’s after these verses in Ephesians where Paul then goes on to say that we are to walk wisely, not in foolishness, because the days are evil. How do we walk wisely? We examine our motives and make sure we are loving God and loving our neighbor.

If Johnson doesn’t examine his motives, how does he know he loves God unselfishly? You’ll recognize your motives by reading God’s Word, not some new age perception of a supposed grand, ethereal experience of ‘His presence.’ You read His word using reason and knowledge and, by seeing God’s character, you admit that your motives were not correct. The Word of God is the foundation for how we live in this world, and to be able to decipher what is true and what is false.

Ps. 36.1-2 says, “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.”


Conclusion

Paul is not against the Spirit, but he knows that God’s Spirit builds up the body and points us to Christ, not to ourselves. We are not to use our gifts to promote ourselves, but to glorify God. Johnson is guilty of twisting Paul’s words to fit his own desire of how he believes the Spirit should work. The infant Church’ at Pentecost ‘hadn’t learned enough to try and control God.’ And Paul took no issue with the 120 in the upper room. It was the Corinthian church that was trying to control God, and Paul had to put a stop to it. It’s Johnson who’s trying to control God. But, by not examining his motives, he’ll never admit to this wrong. He wants to give jobs to God and the Spirit, jobs they are not required to fulfill. Instead of putting in the work, Johnson expects God to point out his sins and the Spirit to fulfill his wildest dreams and show him exactly what his Bible says (which, of course, is a theology that doesn’t jive with pain).

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple”  – 1 Cor 3.16-17.


“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.”2 Peter 3.15-17

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New Times Ahead

Though not something I’ll post about often, I thought I’d fill you in on a life event of mine. On Tuesday, November 4th, my girlfriend and I went up for a few hours to Whitby, a seaside town in North Yorkshire. It’s home to the Whitby Abbey and to a slipping geological fault. Cpt. James Cook served there during his apprenticeship, and it is the home of the Magpie Cafe, which, supposedly, serves the best fish-n-chips in England. Also, part of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula was set in Whitby.

whitby

We had lunch and went up the 199 steps leading to the Whitby Abbey, though viewing for the actual Abbey was closed for the day. We made our way back down the 199 steps (we counted this time) and down to an outer walkway into the ocean. It was there, in the final beams of sunlight, that I popped the question and asked my best friend to marry me, “Vil du gifte deg med meg?”

Engaged Lighthouse

She said ‘Yes’, of course. For now, we’re going to finish this semester in York. I’ll finish teaching 2 Corinthians and then we’ll see what the next semester will bring. One thing’s for certain, there will be plenty of planning to do for our Norwegian wedding.

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Review: When Heaven Invades Earth; Pt III

When Heaven Invades Earth

This is a continuation of my review series on Bill Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth.
You can read my first and second posts here.

The Spoiled Milk

Off the Map

The more pronounced His presence, the more unique the manifestations of our God encounters become. Although the manifestations we experience while encountering Him are important, it’s God Himself we long for.

It’s difficult for most to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit because we are so limited in our experience with Him….The bottom line is we are not accustomed to recognizing the Holy Spirit’s actual presence. We are acquainted with a small list of acceptable manifestations that sometimes happen when He shows up, such as tears, or perhaps a sense of peace when our favorite song is sung. But few recognize just Him alone. To make matters worse, many unknowingly reject Him because He either shows up in a way that they are unaccustomed to, or He failed to come as He has in the past. (Consider the arrogance of automatically rejecting everything that we don’t understand, or have never recognized the Scriptures to say. It implies that if God hasn’t done it or shown it to us first, He wouldn’t possibly do it to someone else) (p. 83).

Somewhere out there is a small list of acceptable manifestations that sometimes happen when He shows up (e.g., tears, a sense of peace’). Let’s set aside the fact that I can get a sense of peace’ ‘when [my] favorite song is sung’ by R.E.M. or how I shed tears’ while watching Homeward Bound, and we’ll say that Johnson is right that those are on our small list of acceptable’ manifestations. Sometimes, then, He shows up in unfamiliar ways or ‘fails’ to come as He has done before. Does that mean we show arrogance’ by automatically rejecting everything that we don’t understand,’ especially if it’s something we have never recognized the Scriptures to say’?

Yet in this next paragraph Johnson states that “His voice” will always line up with Scripture.

Jesus did not say, “My sheep will know my book.” It is His voice that we are to know. Why the distinction? Because anyone can know the Bible as a book—the devil himself knows and quotes the Scriptures. But only those whose lives are dependent on the person of the Holy Spirit will consistently recognize His voice. This is not to say that the Bible has little or no importance. Quite the opposite is true. The Bible is the Word of God, and His voice will always be confirmed by scripture. That voice gives impact to what is in print. We must diligently study the Scriptures, remembering that it is in knowing Him that the greatest truths of Scripture will be understood (p. 84).

Is it be Scripture that we know His voice’ or is it by His voice’  that we know Scripture? And what is His voice’? Is it a small, subjective, emotional feeling I have deep down in my heart? I believe what Freisen says about John 10.3-4, 16, and 27 is telling,

Using the imagery of a shepherd and his sheep, Jesus spoke repeatedly of the sheep “hearing” and “knowing” the shepherd’s voice. According to proponents of the traditional view [i.e., feeling some inner confirmation from God on His direct will], this parable teaches that Jesus conveys His individual will to those “sheep” who “hear His voice.” The closer I walk to the Shepherd, the clearer I will be able to hear the Shepherd’s specific directions revealing His individual will.

The parable is not difficult to follow. It is a response to the conflict between Jesus and certain Pharisees over the healing of a blind man (John 9). The parable is addressed to Jesus’ opponents (9:40-10:1). He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (10:11); He is also the “door” to salvation (10:9). They are thieves, robbers (10:1,8), strangers (10:5), and hired hands (10:12-13). The sheep are those who believe Him.

So what does Jesus mean when He says, “My sheep hear My voice”? Is He speaking solely of auditory recognition? No. In the context, Jesus is explaining a grim reality. There are others who would permit or do harm to the sheep. These others call out to the sheep, and the sheep hear them, in a literal sense. But the sheep do not “hear” the imposters (10:8) the way they hear the shepherd in confident trust. The subject of the parable is not guidance, but salvation. and the point is that only Jesus is the true shepherd and all who are true sheep believe Him, follow Him, and receive eternal life (10:26-28).

Those who do not recognize God’s leading, it is said, are too far away from the Shepherd. In contrast, John 10 teaches that all God’s sheep, all believers, hear clearly and accept the words of His voice (10:4-5, 16). Because the sheep hear and believe, they are given eternal life (10:26-28)….Jesus is referring to His actual spoken words [not heart impressions] and His message of salvation

(Friesen, Decision Making and the Will of God, p. 63-65)

So Johnson says this ‘voice’ ‘will always be confirmed by scripture.’ But says we are arrogant when we automatically [reject] everything that we…have never recognized the Scriptures to say.’ So, while John 10 says all of the Good Shepherd’s sheep hear His voice, follow after Him, and are led to the salvation of eternal life, Johnson says this voice is an inner impression. Yet even if there is an inner voice, it will always be confirmed by scripture.’  Yet why do we exude with arrogance when we reject something we have never recognized the Scriptures to say’? What’s the use in studying the Scriptures if the Holy Spirit will lead us off the map?

Following the leading of the Holy Spirit can present us with the same dilemma. While he never contradicts His Word, He is very comfortable contradicting our understanding of it. Those who feel safe because of their intellectual grasp of Scriptures enjoy a false sense of security. None of us has a full grasp of Scripture, but we all have the Holy Spirit. He is our common denominator who will always lead us into truth. But to follow Him, we must be willing to follow off the map—to go beyond what we know. To do so successfully we must recognize His presence above all (p. 76).

Bill Johnson, you’ve fallen off of the map. The Holy Spirit will not ‘lead’ us to do something the Bible does not say. He will always lead us into truth’, but we know this truth because of the Bible, not some subjective voice.

Holy Jumping Verses, Batman

….you’ve been reading the Bible, and a verse jumps out at you.…initially you couldn’t teach or explain that verse if your life depended on it. What happened is this: Your spirit received the life-giving power of the word from the Holy Spirit. When we learn to receive from our spirit, our mind becomes the student and is therefore subject to the Holy Spirit (p. 47).

Johnson tells us to learn to receive from our spirit,’ but he never tells us how. Yes, a verse may jump out at someone, and that one may have some idea of what it might mean, but how does he know? The Spirit told him? What if he later found out that the interpretation doesn’t fit with the author’s context? If the Spirit leads us to all truth [Jesus], and yet his interpretation was wrong, then perhaps he didn’t hear from the Spirit. Perhaps his brain made a ‘connection’, and rather than study to show himself approved, rather than put in the extra work to make sure the connection was legitimate, he became too excited to figure out if the connection was legitimate.

Perhaps we can become too excited to see if the connection is legitimate.

Perhaps Johnson has become too excited. Too excited to sit down and cognitively understand what the Bible is really saying, not by some mystical understanding, but by the means and methods that God has provided us to learn His word: work. We read, we think, we pray, we mull it over, we throw out any old conceptions and notions that don’t not line up with the Bible. Rinse and repeat.


Conclusion

His Spirit is working in us, and it’s for our obedience to His commands. Walking in the Spirit isn’t to be led by a subjective feeling, but to walk in line with God’s moral character: to be loving, gentle, patient, kind, long-suffering, joyous, peaceful, faithful, and self-controlling.

Beware of those who implicitly (and explicitly) undermine the Bible. Or those who claim that the Holy spirit manifests Himself as a cloud in our midst. Or those who claim He manifests Himself in new ways through fire tunnels, barking like dogs, holy rolling laughter fits, or sucking up the Holy Spirit’s power from dead revivalists.

It’s wrong. God will not be mocked.

Next Time

Since this section ended up being longer than I expected, in my next post I’ll talk about how Johnson pits Paul against the Holy Spirit’s work (at Pentecost and in Corinth). I may talk about Johnson’s misuse of the word ‘power’ and/or how he purposely doesn’t examine his motives.

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