Joseph’s Sons, Jesus, and Jehovah

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In the past, when looking for apologetics for Jehovah’s Witnesses I have come across a certain one on multiple occasion.

Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that Jesus was the first thing directly created by Jehovah and use Colossians 1:15 to support their case.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” – Colossians 1:15
So the apologetic I normally see is that “firstborn” is a term of preeminence and is transferable, not a term designating as the “first created”. This much is true.

The next part of the apologetic is to reference in Genesis 41 regarding Manasseh being Joseph’s firstborn and Ephraim being the second.
“Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house. The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” – Genesis 41:51-52
Then compare this with Jeremiah 31:9 where Ephraim is called the firstborn:
“With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” – Jeremiah 31:9
The apologetic ends by showing how the title of “firstborn” was changed from Manasseh to Ephraim. I don’t quite believe this is an accurate way of dealing with this issue with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

If we look at the actual context of the passage and see who is speaking, we see it is God who is the one speaking:
“For thus says the Lord…” – Jeremiah 31:7a
Therefore, this can’t be speaking of Joseph’s son.

What I think is even better about this verse is that God says it, “For thus says the Lord…” God…the LORD…Yahweh…JEHOVAH.

In fact, here is the actual quotation from the New World Translation:
“For this is what Jehovah says: ‘Cry out to Jacob with rejoicing.Shout for joy because you are over the nations. Proclaim it; offer praise and say, “O Jehovah, save your people, the remnant of Israel.” I am bringing them back from the land of the north. I will gather them together from the remotest parts of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, The pregnant woman and the one giving birth, all together. As a great congregation they will return here. They will come weeping. I will lead them as they beg for favor. I will guide them to streams of water, On a level path that will not make them stumble. For I am a Father to Israel, and Eʹphra·im is my firstborn.’” – Jeremiah 31:7-9 (New World Translation)
Now here’s the problem for the Jehovah’s Witness; how can Ephraim and Jesus both be Jehovah’s firstborn? They cannot. They must abandon their position on “firstborn” meaning “first created”.
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What’s So New About the New Covenant?

new…”Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers…For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord”

Baptists tend to argue from Jeremiah’s prophecy that the attributes promised in God’s declaration of the New Covenant are altogether new and exclusive to the elect in the New Covenant and that because this is true, no one outside of the elect can be members of this covenant.

1. The law being written on one’s heart is not what makes the New Covenant new.

I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts…” Hebrews 8:10

It is not true that the New Covenant is new because matters of faith and religion are now internal rather than external. This occurs prior to the New Covenant:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. Deuteronomy 6:4-6

I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” Psalms 40:8

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. Psalms 37:30-31

The law being on someone’s heart is not something radically new and exclusive to the New Covenant; it is something that had been realized within the true religion and the true faith.

2. Knowledge of the Lord is not what makes the New Covenant new.

And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,‘ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. Hebrews 8:11

It is nothing new that God’s people should and did know the Lord, I don’t think there is much debate on this. However, this characteristic of the New Covenant is stated in the negative, “they shall NOT teach…” So we see here that one attribute is the cessation of some sort of teaching.

We know that the type of teaching that ceases with the New Covenant is not the teaching which is a gift which was given to the Church as mentioned in Ephesians 4:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, Ephesians 4:11

…nor it is a cessation of parents to stop teaching their children in the way of the Lord as Paul also mentions in Ephesians 6.

3. The membership of those in the New Covenant does not change, and therefore is not what makes the New Covenant new.

And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. Hebrews 8:11

Baptists argue not just regarding the essential nature of the covenant, but also of its membership. Their position is that “they shall all know me…” means that everyone in the New Covenant is saved. However, it is not the case that everyone in the New Covenant is saved and is of the elect. This would be contrary to all the warning passages in the New Testament which speak of covenant members breaking the covenant and falling away.

Take a look, for example, at this passage:

How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

In this passage:

1. Who was sanctified by the blood of the covenant?   The one who trampled underfoot the Son of God.
2. In what manner were they sanctified?   Covenantally. God does not take vengeance on his elect.
3. Who profaned the blood of the covenant?   The one who was sanctified – covenantally.
4. Who outraged the Spirit of grace?   The one who was sanctified – covenantally.
5. Who trampled underfoot the Son of God?   The one who was sanctified – covenantally.
6. Who will the Lord repay with vengeance?   His people.

In what way are these whom the Lord will repay with vengeance his people? It can only be in the manner of being members of the visible body of professing believers – members of the New Covenant. They cannot be the elect of God because the Lord’s wrath was taken out on Jesus Christ and God would be unjust to require double punishment from someone whose sins have already been paid for. Covenant member ≠ elect.

So that leaves us with the burning questions, “What is new about the New Covenant?”

1. The external ceremonial aspects once practiced are no longer observed.

How does this actually tie in with the passage? In light of point #2 above, in what way do we not teach one another “know the Lord”? Surely this doesn’t refer to any form of evangelism, for when did you ever see an Israelite tell his brother or fellow citizen to know the Lord?

I would argue that this teaching had to do with the Levitical priesthood. The Levitical priesthood held a certain relationship to God that no other Israelite did. They knew the Lord in an intimate way in being the people who ministered from the people TO God and FOR God to the people.

then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the offspring of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me.” Jeremiah 33:21-22

The priests were the go-betweens – the priests would represent the people before God -, and were given the task of teaching the people of Israel. Speaking of Levi, God says,

They shall teach Jacob your rules and Israel your lawthey shall put incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar. Deuteronomy 33:10

and communicate from God,

So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. Malachi 2:4-7

*What about “the least to the greatest”?

This phrase is used throughout the book of Jeremiah and always refers to classes and ranks, not an expression of complete totality of every single person as Baptists would like to believe. It would be similar to me saying, “They all saw me preach, from the homeless man to the president.”

Holiness Outside the Church

country-churchThe doctrine of justification in Holiness theology very much resembles the Roman Catholic Church’s position on the doctrine. Both Roman Catholics and adherents to Holiness theology believe that faith is necessary for justification and for receiving salvation. However, they both err in their respective positions as they both deny that justification is by faith alone. 

In Roman Catholic teaching, good works must accompany faith in order for one to be justified and therefore saved in the end. If a Catholic commits a sin they lose some of their justification before God which can lead them into a stay in purgatory or Hell depending on the severity of the sin committed. In the event that one does sin, there is the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance which is available to help them make restitution and restore their righteousness for their justification.

Likewise, adherents of Holiness theology must necessarily demand that justification comes through good works and faith. Their teaching may not be as explicit as Roman Catholic theology, but it necessarily follows. According to Holiness theology, when one is baptized with the Holy Spirit, they are entirely sanctified. They are fully enabled to never commit another act of sin as long as they live. This doesn’t mean that they won’t sin, but a true believer has the full capacity not to sin. In fact, if one does sin they lose their justification before God and unlike Roman Catholicism, there is no means of reconciliation. Once he has sinned he has no hope whatsoever of ever being saved. So to this effect, one must maintain righteous works all his life following his baptism of the Holy Spirit, for if they fail to do so they will be condemned eternally. This is quite the burden to bear.

As Protestants we separate ourselves from Roman Catholicism in many areas of doctrine and for many reasons, but especially due to their denial of justification by faith alone. This was the issue that was at the heart of the Reformation.

By this understanding of the Holiness view of justification and realizing that they also do not hold to justification by faith alone, we must declare them to be in the same state as the Roman Catholic Church…lost and in desperate need for true saving faith in the savior and resting on Him alone for salvation.

Sola fide!

Not Again Perry! Why I Now Believe Perry Noble is a False Prophet

perry1This comes in late as far as this blog goes, but I actually discussed this on Facebook shortly after it happened.

The reason I wanted to add this about Perry Noble is because by-and-large, the most popular post on this blog is my article on Perry Noble and why I call him a false teacher. I thought it would be nice if I could supplement that post with more information.

Well, well, well. Perry Noble has denied that the Ten Commandments are actually commandments. Rather, they are “promises”. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; this guy is a false teacher who preaches garbage. This one incidence shows his ignorance of Hebrew, Greek, the New Testament, God himself, the Mosaic covenant, and covenant structure just for starters. Don’t be fooled by this guy.

They are indeed commandments given by God which man is required to obey and these commandments and are still binding today.

I’d like to say one more thing about the whole Perry Noble incident. If you’ll recall, he claims that God told him to preach that certain message that morning.

The message centered around a Jewish friend of his telling him that there is no Hebrew word for “commandment”. He then goes on to explain how the ten commandments aren’t commandment at all, rather they’re promises. :-/

I just want to take a second to look at one passage from the New Testament. Ephesians 6:2, “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise).

What!? Paul just called this a commandment? And he said it is the first to come work a promise? Paul just distinguished between two Greek words, one referring to promise and one referring to commandments. They can’t and are not the same thing. Perry disagreed with Paul in his Christmas Eve sermon and claims it came from God. This has officially made him a false prophet in my eyes.

Perry Noble, repent.

After this he did issue an apology. He did apologize for being wrong about the word in Hebrew, and for some of the other things he said, but he didn’t repent from his claim that God told him to preach this false information which is contradictory to scripture. So he’s still a false prophet.

10 Reasons I’m Not a Preterist

70ad1. Preterists fail to properly understand the two-age model–this age and the age to come.

2. Preterists make the assumption that because John says that “the time is near” the events about to be depicted are to happen really soon. The problem with that is Revelation ends the same way stating that “these things must soon take place” after just describing Christ’s second coming and the resurrection.

3.Preterists make the claim that Revelation is in a sense a covenant lawsuit against Israel, but if this is the case, why is the book addressed to the seven churches and not Israel? Anytime a prophet announces God’s coming judgment on Israel in the Old Testament, they specifically addressed Israel by name.

4. Preterists wrongly interpret “all the tribes or peoples of the earth” as “tribes or people of the land”. Especially in Chapter 1 which is pulled directly from Daniel 7 which is talking about people, nations and languages serving him. Also, one reason I believe this does not refer to Israel is because John is not afraid to use that reference if needed in Revelation. He does so later.

5. Preterists interpret from Chapter 3, “time of trial that is coming on the whole world” and coming on the “whole land [of Israel]”. But the church in Philadelphia is 600 miles away by air from Israel and closer to 1000 miles by foot. The Romans did not cut a 600+ miles wide path on their way to destroy Jerusalem and there is no evidence to suggest that they did so. Also, Philadelphia was being persecuted by the Jews at that time so what concern would it really be of theirs anyway?

6. In Chapter 6, God tells his people to wait until the full number of martyrs has been achieved before he judges those who dwell on the earth and we know that there are still martyrs today, even much more so than in the 1st Century AD and therefore the full number has not been reached.

7. Preterists pick and choose when to use “land” or “earth” and they choose “earth” in Rev. 6:15 when speaking of the “kings of the earth”. It seems very inconsistent. Also, how would the kings of the earth be affected by this anyway?

8. Preterists interpret the locusts in Chapter 9 as a time when Roman soldiers attacked and killed 3600 citizens. David Chilton cited Josephus for this reference. However, verse 5 says that they were permitted to torment but not to kill. This would be a direct contradiction of Scripture.

9. Chapter 11 states that a tenth of the city [of Jerusalem] fell, but for the preterist case to be correct, it would need to be the whole city, 100%, not a tenth.

10. Preterists interpret the number of the beast, 666, as being a reference to Nero and work out the spelling of his name using Hebrew gematria to arrive at this calculation. The problem is that John wrote in GREEK not Hebrew! When John wants his readers to understand something in Hebrew, he is sure to mention it (Rev. 9:11; 16:16). There are also numerous ways to spell Nero’s name and the way used most popularly by Ken Gentry is misspelled.

The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism: Part 1

ccibAs I am reading through the book The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism, I want to take time to mention some of the important concepts that I come across chapter-by-chapter. I won’t take the time to develop the full ideas of each point, rather I want to just mention some elements in passing that I could use to reference later and that my readers could use to further study the doctrine. The following notes come from Chapter 1 of the book entitled “A Pastoral Overview of Infant Baptism” by Bryan Chapell

1. The Lord promised Abraham an everlasting covenant before he could qualify for the blessings therein. It was a decree, sovereignly administered by God to Abraham. The promises come to Abraham through faith and it is this same faith that includes us today as believers in this very covenant. Believers are blessed in accordance to God’s promise to Abraham. If you are a child of God, then you are included in Abraham’s covenant.

2. Physical circumcision pointed toward spiritual circumcision.

3. The household principle is seen throughout the Old Testament. The idea of the head of the household being the representation of that household makes sense when considering that women were not excluded from the covenant though they themselves were not circumcised in the flesh. By virtue of their household head, they were included in the covenant community.

4. The sacramental seal was/is the visible pledge of God that when the conditions of his covenant are were met, then the blessing which he had promised would apply.

5. Nowhere in Scripture is the Abrahamic covenant annulled. The covenant remains to this day since it is an everlasting covenant. The covenant remains, but the sign changes from circumcision to baptism to reflect what God has done to maintain his promises

My Way or the Haddaway

my-way-frank-sinatraRecently, on my local Christian radio station, a song was played that caught my attention. The portion which captured my attention was actually not the lyrics, but a brief recitation of a passage from The Message bible. By no means do I endorse The Message bible; I wouldn’t even call it a valid translation since in many cases it is not at all faithful to the text. However, something powerful and true can be gleaned from the passage. It comes from a loose translation of 1 Corinthians 13:

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”

Oh, how true this is, especially for those of us who are of the Reformed persuasion. How easily we become “the frozen chosen”. It is easy to become so absorbed in God’s Word and so consumed by right doctrine, correcting error, and so many other things that we neglect something critically important–love. We get so consumed in doing this primary thing, following the great and first commandment, ” love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, that we so often neglect what Jesus says is the second great commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself.”

I’ve witnessed cases where theology became somewhat of an idol to people. Studying and studying to the point that they was greatly neglecting their wives–whom they have made an oath to God to love and to cherish. These are not mutually exclusive commandments, they go hand in hand.

We cannot neglect those whom we are called to love and especially not those whom we are in covenant with. We must love and show love to our spouses and children. God has given them to us and we must cherish these gifts and blessings. We are obligated to love them as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her. Help your spouse clean the house, help her prepare meals, wash the dishes, do the laundry, whatever it is that could be helpful rather than neglectful.

I’ve encountered people who also have greatly neglected their spouses and children as I have with my wife, and it honestly downgraded my perception of them. To me, it doesn’t matter how much they know or how much they serve, without love they know nothing and do nothing. They are nothing more than a leaking cup of water or a drop in the ocean.

Live up to your end of the covenant; fulfill the obligations.

Love them, because otherwise, you’re nothing.