2 Minute Seminary: Dispensational and Covenant Theologies

2 Minute Seminary: Dispensational and Covenant Theologies

Here are several differences between dispensationalism and covenant theology in a 2 minute or so read.

Dispensational Theology

Dispensational theology centers around the idea that God has dealt with mankind differently throughout history based on that time period’s “dispensation” of revelation (i.e. pre-Fall, conscience, promise, Law, grace, etc.). While there are different thoughts on how many dispensations there are, most adherents believe in seven. Dispensationalists also hold to a very literal interpretation of Scripture. This literal approach is the reason most dispensationalists believe in a clear distinction between Israel and the Church—God’s specific promises to Israel in the OT were for the Jews, and some have yet to be fulfilled.

Covenant Theology

Covenant theology believes that God has worked in covenants rather than dispensations. Most covenant theologians believe in two distinct covenants: a covenant of works (pre-Fall) and a covenant of grace (post-Fall). The idea is that in the Garden of Eden, Adam’s eternal life was dependent upon his perfect obedience to God. After the Fall, mankind’s eternal life was only obtainable by grace through faith. It is important to note that many covenant theologians believe that God did not abolish the covenant of works, rather Christ came and fulfilled it to make the covenant of grace possible.

What Do I Believe About...Angels and Demons?

What Do I Believe About…Angels and Demons?

I believe that angels are spiritual beings created by God to be His messengers. Whether they are around the throne room of God, or ministering here on the earth, they are ceaseless in their worship and obedience towards the LORD. Angels, while glorious in nature, are not created in the image of God. They are, however, powerful warriors with God as their commander, and have been given the capacity to take on human form. Angels were also given the important roles of ministering to the saints of God and bringing about judgement on the wicked (Ps 103:19-21; Matt 1:20-23; Heb 1:14; Rev 7-8).

I believe that like mankind, angels were created as moral creatures. They have the capacity for sin. Unlike mankind, however, angels who rebelled against God have no hope of salvation. Their fate has been eternally sealed by Him. These fallen angels are better known as demons, with Satan (Lucifer) being their leader (1 Tim 5:21; 2 Pet 2:4; Rev 12:7-12).

I believe that Satan and his demons are enemies of God and His people. Satan has been deceiving mankind from the very beginning, starting with Eve. Before we are born again and made children of God, we are children of a different father, the Devil. Satan is currently the prince of this fallen world, but one day he and his demons will be judged and cast into the lake of fire. Believers should be watchful and aware of demonic activity, but they have no reason to fear the powers of darkness because Christ defeated them on the cross. Satan has never been, nor will he ever be God’s equal (Gen 3; John 8:44-45; Eph 2:2; Rev 20:10).


I hope this helps aid you in your study of God’s Word. Please don’t shy away from asking any questions you might have. Also, if you see something that concerns you from a theological standpoint please let me know. I am not inerrant. 

What Will Heaven Be Like? Part 2

What Will Heaven Be Like? Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote briefly about how there is no sin or death in heaven. Today I want to talk about some of the implications of this reality. How does the absence of sin affect the nature of our eternity in heaven? What does this look like exactly? Here is part 2:

There is so suffering or pain in heaven.

Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

While there is much we don’t know about the reality of heaven, we do know that it is a place of eternal happiness. According to this verse, there are no saints in heaven crying about anything. There are no saints dealing with back pain or emotional trauma from their past. Furthermore, there is no indication that the saints of God will be haunted by their sins for all eternity either. Truly, the former things have passed away. In heaven, every wrong will be made right. Every sickness and pain will be healed. That is why it is important that we set our minds upon the things that are above (Colossians 3:1-2). Perhaps the Lord will heal us of some physical ailment here on earth. Even if He does, we could get sick again. And eventually we will die. But, when when we “wake up” in heaven we will never have to worry about pain, sickness, or sorrow ever again.

Have you ever stopped to think about the unemployment rate of heaven? There won’t be any work for nurses or doctors because we will be completely healed by the Great Physician. Counselors won’t have any clients because every saint will talking with the Wonderful Counselor. Even florists will be out of a job because there will be no headstones to put flowers on. We will be alive forever singing praises to the Resurrected Savior.

In other words, there will be no hindrances to our eternal worship of God. In fact, we will have even more to thank God for once He wipes away every tear from our eyes. The wiping of our tears won’t be His dismissal of our pain and suffering experienced in this fallen world, it will be the comforting touch of our Father who says, “Come here, my child. Everything is going to be alright.” What an incredible promise Revelation 21:4 is for those who are in Christ Jesus. Amen? I will leave you with the words of Charles Wesley in his hymn entitled, “Away with our sorrow and fear.”

Our mourning is all at an end,
When, raised by the life-giving Word,
We see the new city descend,
Adorned as a bride for her Lord;
The city so holy and clean,
No sorrow can breathe in the air;
No gloom of affliction or sin,
No shadow of evil is there.

What Will Heaven Be Like?

What Will Heaven Be Like? Part 1

I am sure that many of us have asked this question at some point. We all want to know what it will be like when we go to be with Jesus. I know that there are a lot of stories and movies out there about people’s near death experiences. Heaven is For Real is one that comes to mind. I find it interesting that so many Christians will go to see a movie about heaven instead of reading with God has already revealed about heaven to us in His Word. This week I will be sharing a few things that every Christian should remember when thinking about heaven. Here is part one:

There is no sin or death in heaven.

We know that the wages of sin is death, according to Romans 6:23. Death is the result of mankind’s sin. God created us as eternal creatures, made in His image. If Adam and Eve had not disobeyed God, they would have lived forever with God. Death entered the world in order the prevent them from living eternally in disobedience and rebellion towards God. God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden so that they would no longer have access to the tree of life.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24 (emphasis mine)

Notice that the Lord stopped Himself in mid-sentence. It is as if He couldn’t bear the thought of not being with His people for all of eternity. But, if nothing is done about our sin, we will still be separated from Him. This is why Jesus died for us. Eternal life can only be found in the One who suffered the eternal punishment for our sins, in six hours on the cross. If Jesus had not died and rose again, we would have no hope of heaven; we would still be in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).

But, because Jesus Christ is alive, we can live forever with Him if we repent of our sins and believe upon His name in faith. But make no mistake, if we do not trust in Jesus, we will not go to heaven when we die. We will go to a place of eternal torment called Hell. And it won’t be undeserved. Even one sin against the eternal, holy Judge of the universe demands an eternal, holy judgement. John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

Heaven is holy because it is where our Holy God dwells. The reason that there is no sin in heaven is because there are no sinners in heaven, only saints (Revelation 21:27). Will your name be found in the Lamb’s book of life? Will I see you in heaven one day? If you aren’t sure, please send me a message. I would love to explain to you how you can be sure.


If you liked this post, come back tomorrow for Part 2: There is No Sorrow or Pain in Heaven.

 

Not Every Miracle is Holy

Not Every Miracle is Holy

So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. Exodus 7:11-13


If you were a kid growing up in the early 2000’s, you probably saw this scene play out in the movie The Prince of Egypt. There is a song in the movie called “Playing With the Big Boys” where the magicians and sorcerers of Egypt go head to head with Aaron and Moses. In reality, it was a match up between the Egyptian gods and Yahweh, the God of Israel—unholy vs. holy.

Aaron’s staff turning into a serpent was nothing special to these magicians. They were able to do the same thing by appealing to their occult practices. Recently, I have heard similar testimonies from my Thai Christian friends. One friend said that he knew someone who had severely broken his arm in an accident. Instead of going to the hospital, this man visited the local witch doctor. According to my friend’s testimony, the man’s arm was at least visibly, if not completely, healed.

As we read through the 10 plagues in Exodus, we see that the magicians were able to duplicate several miracles that Aaron and Moses did. They were able to turn water into blood and bring frogs up onto the land. However, once the third plague (gnats) came, the magicians were no longer able to recreate the miracles. In Exodus 8:19, they tell Pharaoh that “this is the finger of God.” The magicians realized that they were outmatched. But, they should have realized it when their serpents were swallowed up before.

Satan has some power and lots of tricks. He is able to do some miraculous things, but he never does them with good or holy intentions. So, why does he do them exactly? Because this is what people want to see (Matthew 16:1). They want the miracles without Jesus. They want healing without having to call Jesus, “Lord Luke 17:12-18).” They want power to carry out their own sinful will and desires (Acts 8:18-19); whereas, the Holy Spirit gives us power to do the will of God. Satan will try do whatever he can to deceive people all the way to their destruction. And the miraculous things the devil is doing in the world shouldn’t be thought of as counterfeits. They are so real and believable that even the elect will be led astray by them, according to Jesus (Matthew 24:24).

As pastor David Guzik has said: “Miracles can prove that something is supernatural, but they cannot prove that something is true.” The only thing we can trust is the goodness and truthfulness of God’s Word. Everything he does is holy and righteous (Psalm 145:17). Trust Him in everything. Seek His face more than His hand. Test every miracle against the Word of God because even our senses are affected by our fallen nature. Today as you reflect on the wonder-working power of our holy God, remember the words of the psalmist, Asaph:

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

Psalm 77:11-15

Martin Luther’s "The Freedom of a Christian"

Every Christian Should Read: Martin Luther’s “The Freedom of a Christian”

Don’t let the title or length of this blog post intimidate you. I know it looks very academic and wordy, but if you will stick with it I believe you will come understand some essential truths of the Christian faith that will truly free you to live as a servant to all people. This paper was originally submitted for my Church History class at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary.


Introduction to Martin Luther

Martin Luther was a German monk, theologian, and perhaps, the most influential figure of the Reformation. Luther’s name was thrust into the limelight “in 1517 with his Ninety-Five theses criticizing the abuse of indulgences (The New Westminster Dictionary of Church History, 399).” In addition to his emphasis on the priesthood of every Christian, Luther stressed the Bible as the “only source of religious authority (sola Scriptura),” and grace though faith, not works “as the sole means of human salvation (sola fide)” in his writings (www.brittanica.com, “Martin Luther”). One of his greatest contributions was the translation of the Bible into German, the vernacular of the common people. While Martin Luther was by no means a perfect man, his works have helped myriads understand how we can approach the One who is.

Introduction to the Document

Luther’s The Freedom of a Christian, sometimes referred to as, “A Treatise on Christian Liberty” was written in 1520 (class notes, 43). By the time it was released, Luther had written two other important books (Address to the Christian Nobility and The Babylonian Captivity of the Church) calling for drastic reform and had developed a significant following (329). Dedicated to Pope Leo X, the document came out just a year before Luther was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church (class notes, 43). Although “it was written in a conciliatory spirit,” Luther makes it apparent that he views the Pope “as an equal (329-330).” In The Freedom of a Christian, Luther presents his “evangelical views” on the relationship between faith and works (330). Ultimately, he “makes clear that a believing Christian is free from sin through faith in God, yet bound by love to serve his neighbor (330).”

Summary

  1. Dedication and Open Letter to Pope Leo X
  2. Introduction
    1. The freedom of the spirit
    2. The bondage of the spirit
  3. Considering the inner man
    1. Righteousness through faith alone
    2. Priests and kings
  4. Considering the outer man
    1. What good are good works?
    2. Criteria for truly good works
  5. A middle course vs.
    1. Ceremonialists (lacking faith)
    2. Weak in the faith
  6. Final words on ceremonies

Luther’s treatise is preceded by a brief letter to the mayor of Zwickau, Herman Mühlphordt, making mention of their mutual friend, Johann Egran; Luther esteems both gentlemen as learned and wise (333). Luther explains that Egran has described Mühlphordt as a man with a great “love for and pleasure in Holy Scripture,” who stands in stark contrast to those “who oppose the truth with all their power in cunning (333).” In order to honor their new friendship, Luther dedicates the “treatise” in German to him, whereas the Latin version was dedicated to the pope (333).

In his open letter to the pope, Luther assures Pope Leo X that he still has the highest respect for him, despite what others may have said. Luther refers to him as “most blessed father,” “Your Blessedness,” even “a Daniel in Babylon (334).” Luther hopes that the letter will “vindicate” him in Leo’s eyes, as well as, properly explain what he is actually taking issue with (335). For Luther, the point of contention is actually the Roman Curia, which he claims, “is more corrupt than any Babylon or Sodom ever was (336).” He goes as far to say that the Roman Curia deserves to have Satan as its pope, instead of a righteous man like Leo (337). Luther adds that Johann Eck was another enemy of the pope, furthermore “a notable enemy of Christ” Himself (338). According to Luther, Eck’s debating only made matters worse (340). And though Eck would have him to be silent out of fear of the pope, Luther makes clear that he has “more courage than that (340).” Luther concludes the letter by once more blessing Leo; however, he makes obvious that he does not view him as a “demigod,” or the “lord of the world” as some would believe (341). He instead, refers to Leo as a “servant of servants,” following the tradition and example of the apostles (341-342). As such, Luther prays that Leo would put a stop to those who “have been too literally [Christ’s] vicars,” for Christ is not absent, but dwells in the hearts of His servants (342).

Luther begins his treatise on Christian Liberty by presenting the “two propositions” he seeks to make clear for the “unlearned (344).” First, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none;” second, “A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all (344).” Luther acknowledges that these may seem to contradict one another at first glance. However, he notes that they are simply a reiteration of what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:19 and other places in his letters (344). In order to explain this dichotomy of being a “free man and a servant” more fully, Luther transitions into a discussion about the “twofold nature” of man (344).

Luther starts by examining the nature of the inner man, and how it is that a man can become free. He claims that external things have no way of “producing Christian righteousness or freedom, or in producing unrighteousness or servitude (345).” How one dresses, eats, prays, etc. play no part in making a person righteous, for even wicked people can do these things (345). Luther says there is one thing that has the power to make a man free, and that is the “holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ (345).” Furthermore, Luther states simply that the soul is “justified by faith alone and not any works (346).” And this faith, according to Luther, takes place within the inner man alone (347).

He then goes on to explain that the commandments and promises found in Scripture cannot be kept or claimed through any kind of work (348). He writes, “God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing (349).” Luther summarizes this idea by saying that there is no work that can equal the power of faith (349). There are three main aspects to the power of faith, says Luther. First, it makes “the law and works unnecessary for any man’s righteousness and salvation (350).” Second, it enables the Christian to regard God as truthful and trustworthy (350-351). Third, Luther states that faith “unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom (351).” Luther repeats himself once more by saying that works are incapable of accomplishing such things; however, they are not useless to him. He argues, “they can, if faith is present, be done to the glory of God (353).”

Luther then describes how every Christian is both a priest and a king, not by blood, but by faith (354). He argues that Christians are exalted even higher over things than earthly kings are, for “nothing can do [them] any harm (354).” Luther makes sure to note that this does not mean Christians are free from suffering, rather it means, by faith, a Christian can say, ‘all things are working together for my good’ (355).” As good as this kingship is, Luther believes that each Christian’s priesthood “is far more excellent” in nature (355). Unlike unbelievers, priests have the privilege to go before God, even pray for and teach others (355). For Luther, such freedom, liberty, and honor in the inner is the result of faith, and faith alone (356-357).

Luther now turns to address the outer man, specifically answering the question: “If faith does all things and is alone sufficient unto righteousness, why then are good works commanded (358)?” To this Luther replies that works are not done to obtain righteousness, instead they are done “freely only to please God (360).” Luther uses the analogy of a tree and its fruit to explain also that any “good” things done prior to becoming a Christian amount to nothing (361). He claims that the tree must precede the fruit. Furthermore, the fruit does not make the tree good or bad; instead, the tree dictates what the fruit will be (361). Luther tags on that a “tree” is only made good through faith, and evil through unbelief—works have nothing to do with it (362). Yet, Luther wants to make clear that he does “not reject works;” he simply does not view their role the way the, as he calls them, “blind leaders of the blind” view them (362-363).

He states that good works are not done for oneself, but out of love for one’s neighbor (364). Luther argues that the Christian is to follow Christ’s example in becoming a servant to all, for this is how “God through Christ has dealt and still deals with him (366).” Sadly, writes Luther, most people are taught to only look out for themselves and desire the praise from men (368). The purpose of doing good works, according to Luther, is to either keep one’s body in control or to serve one’s neighbor, anything else is neither “good [nor] Christian (370).” Luther sums up by saying a Christian “lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love (371).”

At this junction, Luther explains two errors in some people’s understanding of “the freedom of faith (371).” Some people use it as an opportunity to do whatever they want, disregarding everything “that pertains to Christian religion (372).” Others focus so much on ceremonies that they “do not care a fig for the things which are the essence of our faith (372).” Luther proposes that Christians “take a middle course (373).” In other words, Christians should joyfully exercise their freedom in Christ, while being mindful of those who are weak in the faith, citing Paul in Romans chapter 14 (373-374).

Luther concludes his treatise with some final thoughts on ceremonies (374-377). Luther argues that ceremonies, although people can be “imprisoned” by them, are not wrong in themselves (375). He likens them to a builder’s plans— “they are prepared, not as a permanent structure, but because without them nothing could be built or made (376).” Once the building has been completed, the plans are no longer needed (376). Luther makes obvious that it is not ceremonies or works that he has problems with. His problems lie with those who hold to a faulty understanding of how and why a Christian does them, as well as what they actually accomplish (376-377).

Significance of the Document

The significance of Luther’s The Freedom of a Christian cannot be overstated in terms of its effect on the Protestant Reformation. Luther, as he made clear in his introduction of the treatise, set out to make these essential theological truths understandable to the common people. Protestants today welcome doctrines such as righteousness by faith alone, the priesthood of every Christian, and good works done out of love for one’s neighbor largely because of Luther’s work here. Also, we see in the way that Luther addresses Pope Leo X in The Freedom of a Christian that he is applying the truths he has found in Scripture to his own life. In this way, this treatise is very pastoral in its nature, not simply a theological exercise. This is perhaps why it is still being read and admired by Christians hundreds of years later. Martin Luther’s The Freedom of a Christian is not only an important historical document of the Reformation; it is a wealth of knowledge and truth for Christians today who desire to understand biblically the relationship between faith and works.

What Do I Believe About...

What Do I Believe About…Christology?

Hey everyone! I didn’t have much time to write today, so I am posting something I wrote for one of my seminary classes. I have had many people ask me what I believe over the years, so I plan to post some academic posts like this every now and again. Please don’t shy away from asking any questions you might have. Also, if you see something that concerns you from a theological standpoint please let me know. I am not inerrant. Blessings to you and yours!

Christology Confession

I believe that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the only begotten Son of God. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man can approach the Father except through Him. He has eternally existed as the second person of the Holy Trinity; He is the Alpha and Omega. Jesus is the Word made flesh and the Creator of all. Jesus is the promised Messiah and the Savior of the World. Jesus is the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords (John 1:14; 14:6; 1 John 4:14; Revelation 19:16; 22:13).

I believe that the Son of God can be seen in the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament. The Son of God appeared at various times prior to His incarnation, carrying out the will of the Father. In addition, the prophets of God foretold of Jesus’ coming, life, death, and resurrection hundreds of years before His birth (Genesis 3:15; 22:11; Psalm 22:1; Isaiah 53; Daniel 3:25).

I believe that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man. Jesus is not simply a good teacher or a great prophet. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary. He grew in stature and wisdom as any earthly man would. Jesus was tempted in every way that humans are tempted, yet He never sinned. Jesus Christ is the only person who successfully and perfectly fulfilled the Law. During His ministry, Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, cast out demons, made the lame to walk again, and raised the dead from the grave. He taught and spoke as one with the authority of God. Jesus is the only one with the power and authority to forgive people’s sins (Matthew 1:18-24; 5:17; 9:1-8; Luke 2:52; Hebrews 4:15).

I believe that Jesus laid down His own life that the world might be saved through His death and resurrection—no one took His life from Him. Jesus was falsely accused by the Sanhedrin, and condemned to death by Pontius Pilate. He was beaten beyond recognition, then was nailed to a Roman cross. Jesus suffered the wrath of God the Father for the sins of the world—past, present, and future. He truly bled, died, was buried, and rose again victoriously from the dead three days later (Matthew 28:5-6; Luke 23; John 3:17; 10:17-18; 1 John 2:2).

Following His resurrection, I believe Jesus appeared to His disciples and many others. He ascended into Heaven where He sat down at the right hand of the Father. Now and forevermore Jesus Christ intercedes on behalf of God’s children to the Heavenly Father. He is the only mediator between God and man. Jesus Christ will one day return to judge the world and destroy evil. He will one day cast the Devil, demons, and every person whose name is not in the Book of Life into the lake of fire. He will make a new heaven and a new earth where the redeemed of the Lord will dwell with Him for all of eternity (Matthew 25: 31-46; Romans 8:34; 1 Corinthians 15:3-7; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 10:12).