The Holy Spirit: HE is God

To be sure, the Holy Spirit is God–and He is sent by our Lord Jesus Christ (the Son of God, the only begotten son of our Heavenly Father).  The inerrant Scriptures are clear that the Spirit of Christ is a He; not  a she.  For example, John 16 is clear in this:

[5] But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ [6] But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. [7] Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. [8] And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: [9] concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; [10] concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; [11] concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. [12] “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. [13] When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. [14] He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. [15] All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

(John 16:5-15 ESV, emphasis mine.)

Any preacher who is not sure about the gender of the Holy Spirit ought simply to read his Bible plainly.  No need to pretend to know the Greek, just a plain literal reading of the English.  KJV, NIV, NLT, HCSB, even The Message paraphrase. The Holy Spirit–He is God.

The Present State of Nature: The “Already” of Eschatological Fulfillment (Colossians 1:20)

D.J. Moo, “Nature in the New Creation: New testament Eschatology and the Environment,” JETS 49 (2006), 473-474:

We may now, finally, ask about the role of the natural world in this universal peace. Two points suggest that, while clearly not dominant in Paul’s argument here, a restoration of the natural world is included. First, to reiterate a point made earlier, verses 15–20 explicitly emphasize the cosmic dimension of Christ’s lordship. If the natural world is included in the scope of the “all things” that Christ rules as mediator of creation, it must also be included in the scope of the “all things” that he rules as mediator of reconciliation. Second, Rom 8:19–22 demonstrates that the world of nature has in some manner been effected by the Fall and is, therefore, in need of restoration. At the minimum, therefore, Col 1:20 confirms our findings from Rom 8:19– 22 and projects them into the present: the eschatological fulfillment of God’s promises continues, according to the NT witness, to include the “land,” expanded to the entire cosmos; and that program of fulfillment has been inaugurated already. But what will this “reconciliation” look like? With humans, as we have seen, reconciliation involves especially a restored relationship with God. With evil spiritual beings, on the other hand, it involves subjugation. What is involved is a restoration (with eschatological intensification) of the original conditions of God’s first creation. God’s people will be brought back into a relation of harmony with their creator; evil will be judged and banished; the earth itself will be “liberated from its bondage to decay.”[95] Furthermore, while the “vertical” dimension of reconciliation is clearly to the fore in verse 20—God has reconciled all things “to himself”—a horizontal aspect is probably included as well.[96] This is because the pacification of spiritual beings has specific implications for Christians’ relationship to them: because God has subjugated them to himself, they have been “disarmed” and no longer have the power to determine the destiny of God’s people. Therefore, we might suggest that the reconciliation secured by Christ means that nature is “already” restored in principle to that condition in which it can fulfill the purpose for which God created it and thereby praise its Creator (cf. Rev 5:13). At the same time, reconciliation may also imply that Christians, renewed in the image of God (see below), are both themselves brought into harmony with creation and, in light of the “not yet” side of reconciliation, are to work toward the goal of creation’s final transformation.

cf. Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, PNTC (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2008), 133-137.

95 Somewhat similar is Thomas Torrance’s notion of redemption as a “reordering” of the cosmos, a restoration of the God-given order present in creation (cf. Divine and Contingent Order [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981] 138; see also McGrath, Nature 175–76).

96 Several scholars suggest, indeed, that Paul’s notion of reconciliation here might be at least partially indebted to Greek and Jewish notions of the need for a cessation of the strife that char- acterizes the world (see Eduard Schweizer, “Versöhnung des Alls (Kol 1,20),” in Jesus Christus in Historie und Theologie: Festschrift für Hans Conzelmann zum 60. Geburtstag [ed. Georg Strecker; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1975] 487–501; Hartman, “Universal Reconciliation” 109–21).

A Portratit of Biblical Womanhood

In the Epistle of Paul to Titus, the apostle Paul writes to his disciple  and young pastor Titus, giving him directions that deal directly with a pastor’s work in a local congregation. Having first explained the qualifications of elders in chapter 1 and contrasted the differences between good religious leaders (vv. 5–9) and bad religious leaders (vv. 10–16), the apostle then switches to a paraenesis in Titus 2:1-15 on ethical commands and their theological foundation–namely, how the gospel demands believers to live rightly in this world.

As can be clearly delineated in Titus 2:1-10, we see Paul exhorting Titus to call his church to proper Christian living by age and gender.   Older men are first addressed, then older women, then younger men, and then slaves in general.  In light of the recent uproar of discussions in evangelicalism about gender roles, I took some time recently to examine Titus 2:3-5 to see what the Bible says about biblical womanhood.  Let’s read what the text says:

3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

What the Bible does not say

What is most heart-piercing to many women today are probably the biblical commands to be “submissive to their own husbands” and “working at home”.  The value and equality of women to men are often touted as the reasons why they needed to be afforded the same opportunities for educational and career advancement; after all, many argue that it would be a waste to forgo using all these gifts, talents that are useful in the workplace, add to the fact that it’d be a waste to not use all that education that they have spent their money on.

But notice that Paul does not prohibit women/wives working outside of the home (cf. Proverbs 31:16, 18, 24).  I know of many wives who carry jobs outside of the home, many even seminary wives, and even some being the primary money-earner while the husband is loving sacrificially by studying hard in seminary.  To say that Paul does not permit wives to be in a career that earns money is to put into Paul’s mouth something he clearly does not say at all.

What the Bible does say

What the text does say is that the apostle “Paul expects wives to carry the primary responsibility of the day-to-day care of their homes and children” [[ Ray Van Neste, ESV Study Bible ]] .  This is what the command to be “working at home” (2:4) implies practically.  Further, this of course is to be done in joyful support of their husbands’ leadership role in the family (hence, “submissive to their husbands”; cf. Eph 5:22-24) [[ Ray Van Neste, ESV Study Bible ]] .  The emphasis is on older women helping younger women learn about being godly wives and mothers, viz., displaying a portrait of biblical womanhood.

The reason that women should know, exercise and pass on to the next generation this portrait of biblical womanhood is clear from the subsequent verse: so that “they will not bring shame on the word of God” (2:5, NLT).

Universal Command

Now many have argued that hermeneutically speaking, this is not a universal principle, that this command is culturally bound to the first century and therefore does not apply to us today. (They would even argue that such commands are only given in response to the gospel being shamed by a few extant, misbehaving women in that area, in that time, and thus Paul commanded Titus to avoid causing offense to the gospel.) However, when this section is exegeted properly, one will see that Titus 2:1 roots all of 2:3-5 in “sound doctrine”:

But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine
(Titus 2:1, NASB)

Paul’s primary command is to the type of living that corresponds with the gospel–viz., to “sound doctrine”, and not just cultural or localized opinions about how men and women should live.  Just as false teachers were prevalent back in Titus’ time, so it is also false teachers are prevalent in our times when evangelical feminism is promoted along with wholly egalitarian views of gender roles.  However, the Scriptures clearly remind us that wholesome teaching was especially urgent on account of these false teachers who have wreaked havoc on whole families.  And oh how evangelical egalitarianism has wrecked havoc on whole families!

From the beginning, the role and purpose of man and woman have been clearly defined.  In Genesis 2:18, we see that Eve was to assist and help Adam in carrying out God’s order to rule and subdue the earth.  However, she sinned and failed God when she led Adam to join her in submitting to Satan.  Satan deliberately tempted Eve first, not because she was necessarily the weaker of the two, but knowing that God has created a certain kind of order in the home and family–an order in which the man leads, guides, protects, lovingly and sacrificially, and the wife compliments him by lovingly, joyfully, helps, assists, supports, and submits to her husbands work of biblical leadership.

I will close with a quote from Dorothy Patterson, wife of Dr. Paige Patterson (President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary).  In chapter 22 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, she writes about the high calling of wife and mother in biblical perspective:

Few women realize what great service they are doing for mankind and for the kingdom of Christ when they provide a shelter for the family and good mothering—the foundation on which all else is built. A mother builds something far more magnificent than any cathedral—the dwelling place for an immortal soul (both her child’s fleshly tabernacle and his earthly abode). No professional pursuit so uniquely combines the most menial tasks with the most meaningful opportunities. …

Many people are surprised to discover how much time it actually takes to run a household and care for a family. Having a career was far easier for me than being a homemaker! None of my former positions required my being on the job twenty-four hours every day. None of my varied professional pursuits demanded such a variety of skills and abilities as I have exercised in homemaking. Automatic, labor-saving devices save much physical work, but increased mobility and multiplied outside activities add to the overall time demands so that the preparation and care of the family shelter are important enough for God Himself to assign that responsibility. Of course, much of the world would agree that being a housekeeper is acceptable as long as you are not caring for your own home; treating men with attentive devotion would also be right as long as the man is the boss in the office and not your husband; caring for children would even be deemed heroic service for which presidential awards could be given as long as the children are someone else’s and not your own. We must not be overcome by the surrogacy of this age, which offers even a substitute womb for those so encumbered by lofty pursuits that they cannot accept God-given roles and assignments.

This portrait of biblical manhood and womanhood is not just a matter of personal opinion; this is the God-created and God-given roles. Man and woman both equally valued, both made in the image of God, but with different roles. When it is exercised appropriately in the home and in the family, it is a the beautiful portrait of the gospel–of the covenant love relationship between Christ and His church.

Spiritual Blessings in a Modernized Vernacular

1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.
I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.
2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own[d] by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

(Ephesians 1:1-14, NLT)

Finding Permanence in the Light and Momentary

I recently wrote an article for Evangelical Village on 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 about Finding Permanence in the Light and Momentary.  Here’s the introduction:

Every time I read about the suffering that the Apostle Paul had to endure during his life, I am continually humbled to the point of shame.  For I feel like I have suffered so much in the last year, having my faith put to the test by intense personal affliction and heartache.  I often think that the difficulties I have had to go through could not be any worse, that there could not be a darker abyss of despair than the valley I found myself in.   But the Scriptures tell us that the Apostle suffered even worse, and yet he did not despair.

Paul was a man who had truly experienced hardship in ministry: beaten and whipped; stoned and shipwrecked; lost and adrift at sea; attacked by Christians and unbelievers alike; and facing death threats from Gentiles and even his own Jewish people (cf. 2 Cor 11:16ff).  In all these respects, he was no ordinary disciple of Jesus Christ.  And yet, he was just a regular minister of the gospel in many respects.  The only thing different between Paul and me was that he understood the necessity of suffering in gospel service and in his personal spiritual pilgrimage.

Read the entire article.

The Difference between False Teachers and Scoffers

In 2 Peter, what are the differences between false teachers (2:1-3; 10-22) and scoffers (3:1-4), both in content and function?

False Teachers

Alongside authentic prophets and after a passage that has asserted the reliability of prophecies regarding Christ, (1:20-21), Peter now describes that there have always been false prophets who receive God’s judgment. His use of the future tense in 2:1-3 (i.e. “there will be”) does not imply that false prophets had not yet come, but it alludes to Jesus’ prediction that false teachers would arise (cf. Matt 24:11, 24; Acts 20:29-31).  The false teachers who had arisen fulfilled that very prediction.

Content and Function

The false teachers parade themselves as Christian pastors, teachers, and evangelists (cf. Jude 4) who secretly bring in destructive heresies. Such self-designed religious lies lead to division and faction (cf. 1 Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20) in churches that make a virtue out of tolerating unscriptural teachings and ideas in the name of love and unity.  Continue reading

The Unique Role of Elders

Continuing my series on 1 Peter, let us examine The Unique Role of Elders from 1 Peter 4:12-5:14.

Identifying with Elders

Peter ends his second epistle with final exhortations to elders (5:1-4), to younger men (5:5), and to the church as a whole (5:5-11).  He explains that elders (5:1) have a unique role in the function of the church. Writing in the plural (elders), Peter indicated that it was usual to have a plurality of godly leaders who oversaw and fed the flock.  Elders were the spiritual leaders of the early churches (cf. Acts 14:23; 20:17; 1 Tim 5:17-19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14).  By calling himself a fellow elder, Peter identifies with them in their responsibilities and with the charge that he gives them, for he is able to give relevant exhortation to the spiritual leaders as ‘one of them.’

Furthermore, by noting that he had been an eyewitness of Christ’s suffering, Peter was affirming his apostleship and authority in giving this motivational exhortation (cf. Luke 24:48; Acts 1:21-22).  The fact that Christian leaders will one day receive from the hand of Christ a reward for their service should be stimulant to faithful duty.  The basis of this anticipation was Peter’s experience in observing the Transfiguration of Christ (cf. Matt 17:1-8; 2 Pet 1:16).  For at that momentous event, he did partake of the Lord’s glory. Continue reading