Hope in Seasons of Adversity

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It’s not a matter of if we will face adversity; it’s only a matter of when we will, so the question now becomes what will we do when faced with challenges and trials of life?

How will we be able to maintain our hope when life seems to be falling apart at the seams and instead of breakthroughs all we experience are breakdowns? Who will we turn to and what will we do when faced with impossible situations?

Remember what Paul said in Romans 8:24: “For we are saved through hope, but hope that is seen is not hope, for why does a man still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Patience leads to perseverance!

The last thing Satan wants is for us to persevere and that’s why he will do whatever he can to steal our focus as we strive to serve Christ.

I love what Phil Daniels says, “Satan can’t defeat us, but he can hinder us by using: accusations, deception, distraction, and discouragement.”

The very things in our life that the devil tries to use to discourage us or make us think God can’t or won’t ever be able to use us are the very things God will use to bring about restoration and wholeness in our life, when we surrender them to the Lord.

Romans 8:28 promises, … That God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (NLT)

There are times in each of our lives where we are instructed in God’s Word to have faith and to maintain our hope, by simply trusting in God’s will and His timing.

It doesn’t matter what has happened in your past, present, or future; God is bigger than anything we will ever face, but we have to put our hope and faith in Him and then allow His will to unfold in our life.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)

F. F. Bruce explains how, “The author of Hebrews first encourages his readers further by reminding them of examples of faith in earlier days. In Old Testament times, he points out, there were many men and women who had nothing but the promises of God to rest upon, without any visible evidence that these promises would ever be fulfilled; yet these promises meant so much to them that they regulated the whole course of their lives in their light. The promises related to a state of affairs belonging to the future; but these people acted as if that state of affairs were already present, so convinced were they that God could and would fulfill what he had promised. In other words, they were men and women of faith. Their faith consisted simply in taking God at his word and directing their lives accordingly.”[1]

This passage of Scripture is the only place in the Bible that clearly defines faith. It describes faith as being an act of both the mind and heart.

Essentially, our heart and mind both believe something and we then have the assurance and conviction that it is true.

So what we put our hope and faith in drives our very being.

I tell you this because many of us are either currently in a season of despair and drought, or the effects of that season still fester like open wounds. Who or what is the ointment that will bring relief?

How can we get back to a place where we put our hope and trust in God while we are in the valley of the shadow of death and how can we restore our fellowship with Him as we wander aimlessly in the desert?

It begins with prayer.  (Great pastor, what are you going to tell me next? Is step two reading the Bible?) Yes, and diet and exercise will make you healthy!

This may sound so basic, but it is!

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Daniel. This book of Scripture came alive to me as I studied it and reading how God acted showed His complete sovereignty and His compassion towards those who put their hope and faith in Him.

In Daniel chapter 6 king Darius had risen to power and his officials, in an attempt to rid themselves of Daniel, came up with a plan to prevent any subject from making any prayer or petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to king Darius. This of course would prevent Daniel from dropping to his knees three times a day in order to pray and give thanks to God.

I don’t know about you, but I want the Lord to be familiar with the sound of my voice, so that every time I pray to God it’s not in some sort of crisis mode.

Praying to God is our lifeline and connection to God and it’s crucial in maintaining our fellowship with Him. Daniel understood this truth and would not let the king’s edict prohibit his dedication to this practice.

As a result, in verse seven we read, Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him.
Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.” Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”
Daniel 6:11-16 (ESV)

Gleason Archer describes the dilemma for Daniel was whether, “he was going to please man or obey God. Daniel had to choose between loyalty to his Lord and obedience to a sinful government commanding him to perform idolatry. So he was willing to risk his life for the Lord, trusting him for deliverance even as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had been delivered years before.”[2]

Daniel cast himself on the Lord, in fact in verse ten the word prayed is found only two places in Scripture.

Hebrew word: ‏צְלָה‎

Transliteration: ṣelâ.           Phonetic Pronunciation: tsel-aw’

The word carries the sense of bowing but also means to “limp as if one-sided.”[3] On his own strength, Daniel knew he would not be able to walk the path laid before him and only by casting his burdens on the Lord would his hope remain.

Like the manna from heaven, God will supply exactly what we need exactly when we need it.

He gives us what we need for the step in front of us, which teaches us reliance upon God and trust in His plan.

Remember, some of God’s greatest gifts have been unanswered prayers.

For many of us, we have not because we do not ask. Even as a pastor, when I read Daniel prayed three times a day, I’m like man Daniel sure prayed a lot!

What I want you to know and what I want you to get in the habit of doing to talking to God and not being afraid of asking Him for help. It doesn’t have to be out loud and it doesn’t have to be in front of people, but I promise you as you become readers and doers of the Word and when you begin to commune with God through prayer, you will begin to see breakthroughs in your life.

The Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon we have against the principalities of this dark world, but when we harness prayer with God’s Word, we become more than conquerors.

Jesus in the desert: Matthew 3:13 – 4:11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple

and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.

And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

I don’t know exactly what Daniel prayed, but I know I would have been terrified at the prospect on dying in a lion’s den.

One of my favorite parts of this story is how God chose to act by closing the lion’s mouth because it was not likely the prayer Daniel lifted up or sort of help Darius had hoped Daniel would receive.

Having the edict overturned or praying to have the courage to die bravely for the glory of God would have seemed like an answer to prayer, but instead, God miraculously chose to shut the lion’s mouth, which shows God acts in such a way that He will receive the most glory.

The world in which we live is a lion’s den. There are people in our life like the high officials of king Darius who would seek to have us taken out. There are jobs and circumstances of life that make us feel like we are living in captivity like a modern-day Babylon.

But, there is also the God who awaits our prayer and plea for help who can save us from whatever and whomever we face. Victory can be ours when we walk according to the will of God and keep our hope in His plan.

Hope takes the word impossible and allows us to say I’m possible.

Helen Keller, who accomplished much in her life, did so not in spite of her blindness but because of it. When asked what would be worse than being blind, she said having eyesight but no vision.

It can be very easy to allow our flaws or past mistakes in life to snuff out any sense of hope. The moment we think we see light at the end of the tunnel, we fall to our knees in surrender when we find out that light is just another speeding train on an intercept course. Wave after wave of disappointment breaks down our resolve as we struggle to keep our head above water.

When God miraculously shows up, He does so in a way that declares His sovereignty and brings Him the most glory.

Maintaining our hope in season of despair, especially when our previous mountaintop experiences feel like a lifetime away is a skill we must master.

Several years ago, I heard a story that was triggered in my mind, when I was reading about Daniel praying and how that word praying was translated as limping as if being one-sided.

The story involved a family that was involved in a serious automobile accident. The mother and father were in the front seat and their 5-year-old boy was in the back. The mother and father escaped with just minor injuries but their son required immediate surgery. When the surgeon finally emerged, he said he had good news and bad news. The good news was their son was alive, but the bad news was their son’s left arm had to be amputated.

For many of us the thought of losing a limb you certainly test the limits of our hope and for me being an avid runner the thought of not being able to do what I love anymore is hard to imagine.

Despite the adversity and challenges that this boy was now forced to face, he did not let it slow him down. In fact, he became fascinated with martial arts especially Bruce Lee, so much so that he convinced his dad to let him take lessons. The father told the son mastering martial arts was hard enough to do with two arms and that he shouldn’t get his hopes up.

After visiting several dojos, they finally found a sensei willing to teach the boy if he agreed to do two things: 1) Don’t ask any questions and 2) Do exactly what he was told to do. For days, weeks, and months the boy practiced only one move, which became very frustrating because he saw newer students learning different takedowns and combo moves. This was hard for the boy to understand, but he remembered the promise he made to the sensei so he kept practicing.

After a year had passed, the sensei told the boy he was going to be enrolled in an upcoming regional tournament. Surprised, the boy said, “But sensei, I only know one move,” to which the sensei replied, “if you perfect this move you will never need another.” When the tournament finally arrived, he saw the competition and grew very anxious, as did his parents.

To his surprise, he won his early matches and advanced to the semi finals. With each match, the opponents grew larger and more skilled, but he remembered his training and stuck to his one move. He would eventually advance to the finals, which looked like a David vs. Goliath scenario. The boy’s opponent quickly scored some early points in the match after landing some hard blows. Shaken, the boy looked over to his sensei and then to his parents in the stands and he got back up. The next time his opponent launched an attack the young boy did his one move and pinned him, making him the champion of the tournament.

After the match, the young boy couldn’t believe he won and he asked his sensei if the competitors took pity on him because he only had one arm. “No,” the sensei told him. He then went on to tell the young boy that the move he had been practicing for the last year was one of the hardest moves in judo to master and that the only known defense was to grab the opponents left arm, which he did not have.

You see, the greatest weaknesses in our life have the opportunity to become one of your greatest strengths, when we trust the Lord and put our hope in Him. When we do, we only need one move. In the case of Daniel, his one move was prayer because he knew those persevere recognize their limitations, but focus on their strengths. Our strength comes from the Father and the same power that rose Jesus from the dead dwells inside every believer. When we pray, Jesus who is seated at the right hand of God, takes our petitions and intercedes on our behalf.

The word sensei is an interesting word. It means those who came before and each of us has a role to play in the body of Christ, the church. The circumstances of our life and the hurts, habits, and hang-ups of our past allow us to speak life and truth into peoples’ lives that are going through similar trials. The time has come to stop allowing yourself to be defined by the mistakes of your past. The very things or accusations the devil uses to make you think you aren’t good enough or that God could never use you are lies straight from the pit of hell and they are in fact exactly what God wants you to use to minister to other people, so they can find restoration and wholeness and so God will receive the honor and glory He so richly deserves.

[1] F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Hebrews, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 276.

[2] Gleason L. Archer, Jr. and Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 7: Daniel and the Minor Prophets, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985), 79.

[3] James Strong, Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary, (Austin, TX: WORDsearch Corp., 2007), Under: “6739”.

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Is the Spiritual Gift of Tongues Still Available to the Church Today?

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Sadly, the very spiritual gifts and move of the Spirit that once drew the early church together are currently being used to drive a wedge between the universal church and various denominations of faith today. Thus, the focus of this paper is to demonstrate how the Holy Spirit continues to empower people through the spiritual gift of tongues. By examining what took place on the day of Pentecost, by analyzing Paul’s epistles and address to the church in Corinth, and comparing other uses of glossolalia, this paper will demonstrate the spiritual gift of tongues has not ceased. If the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues is still available to all followers of Christ to: edify the church, to build up the speaker’s spirit, to serve as a sign to unbelievers, and to bring glory to God, then all followers of Christ should seek the gift. Followers of Christ who possess the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues are better equipped to edify the church, themselves, and bring glory to God. Therefore, all Christians should seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.

OT DEMONSTRATES HOLY SPIRIT RESTED ON SPECIFIC PEOPLE

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was not regular or consistently active, but He was certainly not random either. The Holy Spirit regularly occurred upon the transfer of leadership (Numbers 11:17, 25; Deuteronomy 34:9; 1 Samuel 10:9-10, 16:16 & 2 Kings 2:15-19), as a sign of authentication (1 Samuel 10:1; 2 Samuel 23:2), and for the empowerment of service (Exodus 28:31, 31:3, 35:31). The Holy Spirit would come upon prophets, priests, kings, and judges and some would be gifted with wisdom, military prowess, or strength, but many were also gifted with inspired utterance or prophecy.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Spirit would come “on” people, but in the New Testament, the Spirit would take up residence “in” the believer. Regarding the foreshadowing of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Isaiah 11:2 says, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him;” Isaiah 42:1 says, “I will put My Spirit on Him;” and Isaiah 61:1 says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me.” The entire ministry of Jesus was Spirit-anointed, Spirit-led, Spirit-filled, and Spirit-empowered. Jesus would bring the new covenant referenced in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:14; 26-27. Here, the shift moves to the Spirit being “in” you, as an indwelling Spirit. Joel 2:28 prophesied, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” Since all the disciples and people gathered were already Christians with the Spirit already dwelling inside them, this reference by Peter only makes sense if the Spirit coming “on” them was to further equip them, as was the pattern in the Old Testament. In contrast to the Old Testament, the Spirit was now continuous and available to all, the transfer of leadership was from Jesus to the church, the authentication of God’s call was evidenced by the Spirit’s presence, it was observable by the wind, fire, and tongues, and it was functional, as three thousand people were added to their number that day. The gifts of the Spirit remain appropriate to the calling, and the gifts must always be viewed as tools and not trophies.

NT REVEALS HOLY SPIRIT DWELT INSIDE ALL BELIEVERS

How one reads the book of Acts dictates how he or she will understand the Bible as a whole. Some, such as cessationalists believe Acts was a historical document of the way the early church used to be, but if believers today do not hold the same power of those in Acts, which was prophesied about, (Joel 2:28; Luke 24:49; John 14:26) what power is available to believers today? Ultimately, Luke must be viewed as both a historian and a theologian and while some try to make the distinction between being baptized in the Holy Spirit and being Spirit-filled, Stephen Clark points out, “The Holy Spirit is a He, [so] we are talking about an experience that brings a relationship.”[1] Others, like extreme dispensationalists contend speaking in tongues ceased at the close of the New Testament canon, where they believe “perfection” came. However, this “perfection” and “change” being spoken of will only happen at resurrection when, “We shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12). As Howard Ervin asserts, “Until then, prophecy, tongues, and other gifts of the Spirit will still function through those who, in faith and obedience, are open to the Spirit’s enabling.”[2] On the Day of Pentecost, Peter, empowered by the Spirit, told the people to repent and be baptized and upon receiving forgiveness of their sins, they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ervin illustrates, “To this promise, he added, ‘[It] is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call’ (Acts 2:38-39). [Therefore,] Spirit baptism is available to all today, since the call to salvation is still going forth wherever the gospel is preached.”[3] As a result of the events at Pentecost, three thousand Jews from all over received Christ and were baptized in the Holy Spirit, making them among the first converts who would carry the gospel message around the world. Clinton Arnold further shows how, “Peter, at this point, may not realize it, but the intent of the application of this promise is for Gentiles as well. God will show him this by a vision and by involving him in the conversion of the Gentile household of Cornelius (Acts 10). Paul will also apply this prophecy to the inclusion of Gentiles into the one body of Christ (Ephesians. 2:13).”[4]

In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Gordon Fee illustrates Paul is saying what each one is given in this case is not a gift, but a manifestation of the Spirit, so “One should not make too much of this change of words. The change reflects Paul’s own emphasis throughout these chapters, which is on the Spirit Himself, not on the ‘gifts’ as such. Thus each gift is a manifestation, a disclosure of the Spirit’s activity in their midst.”[5] Gaebelein further explains, “Paul goes on to declare that many spiritual gifts are given by the Spirit for the total good or profit of his church. Different gifts are given different people—not all have the same gift. The gifts given to each person are clearly intended to be used for the common good.”[6] While one would think Paul’s epistles would have much to say about Spirit baptism, this is not the case because it was something most first-century Christians had already experienced. However, Paul, in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 and Ephesians 1:13 does speak of a seal and a deposit. By putting His Spirit in believer’s hearts as a deposit, it can be seen as the first installment of something greater yet to come, which is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Paul Barnett demonstrates, “The ‘seal’ is nothing less than the Spirit Himself, by whom God has marked believers as His own ultimate possession.”[7]

In 1 Corinthians 14, Horton explains, “With love in mind, [Paul] goes on to give practical directions for the exercise of two spiritual gifts – tongues and prophecy… [Edification is the key.] Paul wanted to see the gifts manifest in such a way as to build the Church both spiritually and numerically.”[8] F. F. Bruce adds, “Paul did not rule out glossolalia as a phenomenon inspired by the Spirit but he was anxious to convince his Corinthian friends that there were other charismata which, while not so impressive as glossolalia, were much more helpful in building up the Christian fellowship.”[9] The power of speaking in tongues allows the Holy Spirit to use the speaker as a conduit reaching directly to the throne room because when a believer speaks in tongues, he or she speaks directly to God. The spiritual gift of tongues continue to baffle scientists due to MRI scans revealing the frontal lobe, where the speech and language center are located not being engaged when people speak in tongues.[10] This further demonstrates the Holy Spirit creates a direct pathway to God so the speaker can pray, praise, or express thoughts beyond the limits of a human’s finite understanding and inability to see all and know all.

THE CONTROVERSY OF PENTECOST AND SPIRITUAL GIFTS

At Pentecost, as Peter said, “This is now what the prophet Joel spoke,” Gaebelein shows, “God’s covenant people were primarily in view. Joel went on to point out that what the Lord intended is that His Holy Spirit would be poured out, not on selected individuals for a particular task, but on all believers, young and old, male and female alike, regardless of their status. It would be a time of renewed spiritual activity: of prophesying, of dreams, and of visions.”[11] As Peter quoted Joel 2:28; the outpouring of the Spirit predicted by Joel occurred on Pentecost. Acts becomes so much more than history here, as speaking in tongues was the sign of a new and mighty act of God. This is that and that which was is, so if God is truth and His Spirit speaks truth, why not ask for the fullness of His Spirit? Many reject Acts as grounds for theology or doctrine, but as Horton explains, “Luke uses history to present divine truth with Jesus as the center and the advancement of the church’s mission by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit as an important theme.”[12] Luke saw the sign of the age to come being the presence of the Spirit. In the past, God’s Spirit was only available to prophets, priests, kings, and judges; however, Joel envisioned a time when the Spirit would be available to every believer. Ezekiel also spoke of an outpouring of the Spirit (Ezekiel 39:28, 29). With the coming of the Spirit, Luke uses a variety of terms to suggest a receiving and active taking of a gift (Acts 2:38); a falling upon (Acts 8:16; 10:44; 11:15); and a pouring out of the gift (Acts 10:45). Horton emphasizes, “With this variety of terms, it is impossible to suppose that the baptism is any different from the filling.”[13] These can also mean a continuous infilling of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:2, Gaebelein explains, “In OT times, prophetic utterances were regularly associated with the Spirit’s coming upon particular persons for special purposes”[14] and as Bruce demonstrates:

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. The spiritual baptism foretold by John and promised by the Lord were now an accomplished fact. Being filled with the Spirit was an experience to be repeated on several occasions, but the baptism in the Spirit, which the believing community now experienced, was an event, which took place once for all.[15]

In Christianity, cessationism is the doctrine that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing ended with the apostolic age. However, Jack Deere asserts, “The doctrine of cessationism did not originate from a careful study of the Scriptures. The doctrine of cessationism originated in experience.”[16] Many scholars trace this belief back to Augustine of Hippo, who in his homily The Epistle of Saint John, referred to the tongues at Pentecost as a sign “adapted to the time” that had passed away.[17] Despite this early belief, Eddie Hyatt demonstrates, “Augustine’s interest in the miraculous has led some writers to conclude correctly that, in later life, he changed his views on the miraculous ministry of the Holy Spirit.”[18] [19] Nevertheless, the seed was planted and many influential leaders of the time chose to adopt his earlier views. In many religious circles and academia, the spiritual gift of tongues is mocked and simply dismissed. Christopher Moody, professor of systematic theology at Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world laughs as he tells his students to disregard the book of Corinthians because, “It is a book written to the black sheep of the church who had all sorts of problems and that tongues is not an ecstatic utterance, but merely babblings in one’s made-up private prayer closet language.”[20] While making doctrine out of only several verses goes against all hermeneutical practice, to say various chapters in Corinthians must be ignored because they teach about spiritual tongues being a private prayer language seems excessive and makes for bad theology. If anything, the decrease in the use of tongues is to be attributed to spiritual apathy and the institutionalization of the church following Constantine’s conversion in A.D. 312.

Gary McGee illustrates, “As Pentecostals affirmed the twofold usage of speaking in tongues, they struggled to articulate the way in which the gift of interpretation worked. They needed to distinguish the perceived personal function of tongues in the Lukan literature, from the Pauline.”[21] While Luke emphasized the Spirit baptism had occurred and remained in the life of the seeker, Paul taught it was a requirement that a manifestation of the gift of tongues in a church service needed interpretation. As a result, McGee demonstrates questions naturally arose: “Should the personal utterance of tongues be interpreted? Does the public use of the interpretive gift, expressed when people are gathered in worship, parallel the gift of prophecy in a way that makes their purposes virtually identical? The faithful generally answered, “yes” to both questions.”[22] Of the four types of tongues mentioned in the New Testament, two are for private and two are for public. The two private tongues are tongues for intercession (Romans 8:26-28) and tongues for personal prayer, which result in personal edification (1 Corinthians 14:4). The two public tongues are tongues for interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:5) and tongues as a sign to the unbeliever (1 Corinthians 13:22).

Stephen Chester addresses the issue of interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:20-25 asserting, “Tongues do serve as a sign for unbelievers in the straightforward sense that they alert the outsider to the presence of divine activity among the Corinthian believers [however,] from Paul’s perspective, they do not signify enough [since] tongues do not communicate the gospel.”[23] Paul states, “Tongues are a sign for unbelievers and prophecy is for believers, yet it is prophecy that converts the unbeliever and tongues that fail to do so.” Chester further concludes that the, “Examples seem to prove the opposite of what was stated in v. 22, and this exegetical puzzle has provoked much disagreement and considerable displays of exegetical gymnastics, [but] the solution to this puzzle is best pursued by focusing our attention on the reaction to hearing tongues of the outsider, described by Paul in v. 23.”[24]

Blaine Charette demonstrates “The presence of both the Holy Spirit and fire at Pentecost serves as a reminder that God’s activity is often a double-edged sword. This event marks a meaningful and complex moment in God’s program from which ensues both blessing and judgment.”[25] To this statement, one could argue one of the Holy Spirit’s main functions is to convict people of sin (John 16:8), so “Discussions of Pentecost that focus exclusively on the blessings of the occasion are not only one-sided, but run the risk of misrepresenting the role of the Spirit in the world and in the community of God’s people.”[26] Charette maintains:

The judgment in view is directed against those who fail to respond appropriately to the Word of God present in the redemptive revelation centered in Jesus. The positive response of obedient disciples results in their experience of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the language of another tongue that characterizes this experience serves to demonstrate the divine judgment that has come upon the disobedient.[27]

THE HOLY SPIRIT EQUIPPED EARLY CHURCH FOR MINISTRY

When looking at the role of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal Movement, Richard Bliese explains, how many facets of the Pentecostal Movement seem to create doctrinal anxiety, specifically: “The gift of tongues, a second baptism, private prophetic experiences, and the spirit-filled. Like those first congregations in Corinth, [many faiths] are a divided community when it comes to the experience of the Holy Spirit, yearning both for the fullness and freedom of the Spirit and yet scared that the Spirit’s work will lead to serious mistakes and communal chaos.”[28] Paul instructs the Romans the final ministry of the Spirit is intercession by asserting, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26). Robert Brandt and Zenas Bicket seek to illustrate, “Never is a believer more effective and assured than when praying by virtue of the indwelling Spirit… The Spirit joins us in intercession to fashion prayer that cannot be grasped by human understanding… Just as Christ intercedes in heaven for the child of God (Romans 8:34), the Holy Spirit intercedes within the believer on earth.”[29] The word “συναντιλαμβάνεται” or “sunantilambanetai” is an interesting word, which means “joins in to help” or “to come to the aid to.” The only other mention of the word for “help” occurs in Luke 10:40. In this passage Gaebelein illuminates, “Martha had more than she could handle in the preparation of the meal and asked the Lord to bid her sister Mary come to her aid. Everything that is said relates to the activity of the Spirit on our behalf, culminating in the declaration that He intercedes for the saints.”[30] This is a perfect representation of what the indwelling presence of the Spirit does and A. C. George further explains, “To argue that Charismatic gifts were necessary only for the first century church and that they are not needed today in our individual and corporate worship is contrary to the teachings of Scripture, as well as the experience of millions of Pentecostal and Charismatic believers who are living in all continents of the world.”[31]

When looking at the gift of tongues as a prayer language, J. Ford Massingberd illustrates, “The gift of tongues is essentially a gift of prayer, especially of praise and love. Usually the mind is not active but the prayer is one of simple, loving regard – often accompanied by the experience of God’s presence.”[32] This tracks with spiritual gift’s primary function being bringing unity and love within the church, so “To see why the gift of tongues may be productive of ‘touches of infused contemplation’ and contribute to the building up of spiritual characteristics, one may measure the constructive power of love in the gift of tongues against the destructive, demolishing power of the tongue.”[33] “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21). Anything God has established, Satan will always try to destroy, counterfeit, or pervert, so the spiritual gift of tongues must always be held to a high standard.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES IS NORMAL, BUT NOT NORMATIVE

Russell Spittler captures the tension over the debate when he wrote, “Tongues is a broken speech for a broken body of Christ till perfection comes.”[34] What God meant to bring unity and love into the body of Christ has caused division. Frank Macchia demonstrates how this statement “Falls like a bombshell on one-sidedly triumphalistic Pentecostal spiritualties. In this weak groaning of glossolalia, we already gain a foretaste of eschatological transcendence and bridge-crossing as we flow from ourselves to others. Tongues symbolize this self-transcendence and bridge-crossing.”[35] If Scripture is not available to determine what is normative, the question then becomes, “Do we allow experiential evidence to take precedence in places where Scripture is silent?” Ultimately, the debate over the speaking in tongues being the initial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit raises a bigger issue for those who do not hold to this position. The larger question being raised is, “Does the baptism in the Holy Spirit happen at conversion or after conversion.” It is this writer’s belief there are two distinct baptisms: one which happens at the moment of salvation, and a second infilling that empowers the believer to fulfill the Great Commission. Taking narratives and making them normative can be dangerous, so the goal must always be to understand the narrative in the context of redemptive history. While mighty moves of God have happened without the presence of speaking in tongues, experiential displays of the Holy Spirit, like the Pentecostal Azusa Street Revival in 1906 cannot be ignored either.

Anthony Palma lists three reasons God ordained glossolalia for the Day of Pentecost: “First, it was a new thing signaling a new era; second, it drew attention to the Great Commission to spread the gospel to all nations; and third, he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.”[36] Bruce demonstrates how, “Paul insists that it is not the phenomenon of ‘tongues’ or prophesying in itself that gives evidence of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit, but the actual content of the utterances.”[37] In Ephesians 5:18, Gaebelein shows the theological implications of “be filled” plerousthe, “Are crucial for a biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The imperative makes it clear that this is a command for all Christians. The present tense rules out any once-for-all reception of the Spirit but points to a continuous replenishment. Nor does it appear that Paul is urging his readers to enter into a new experience. Rather, he is inviting them to go on as they began.”[38]

Clark Pinnock also illuminates, “The gift of speaking in tongues is related to renewal but suffers from polemics. Some exaggerate its importance by claiming it as sole initial evidence of Spirit filling, while others, in reaction, refuse to take it seriously.”[39] On this assumption, Pinnock believes, “It is best to say that speaking in tongues is normal rather than normative, [since] the Spirit is given in baptism and is realized in experience throughout life.”[40] Harm Hollander shows; “In order to understand Paul’s different approaches to glossolalia and prophecy as spiritual phenomena in the context of the Christian gatherings, a detailed analysis of the text is appropriate. [Paul’s] starting-point is all things should be done for the edification of the body, and everything, including glossolalia and prophecy, should be done decently and in order.”[41] Hollander reveals Paul, “Argues that the gift of prophecy is to be preferred to the gift of glossolalia; whereas those who prophesy speak to other people for their edification, encouragement, and consolation; people who speak in a tongue only edify themselves. In fact, glossolalia does not benefit anyone else unless somebody is able to interpret these tongues.”[42] Paul’s main concern is utilization of the spiritual gifts. He seeks to demonstrate their primary purpose is to edify the church, to bring unity, and advance the gospel. However, since both prophecy and glossolalia are gifts of the Spirit, Paul urges the believers in Corinth to seek them, to not forbid speaking in tongues, to be eager to prophesy, and that all must be done in order.

A 21ST CENTURY PERSPECTIVE ON SPIRIT BAPTISM

Jacob Dodson illustrates, “For many Christians in Pentecostal churches in the United States today, the role of prophecy and speaking in tongues is ambiguous. While these two practices have been integral for the Pentecostal tradition since its origin at the Azusa Street Revival, a pervasive shift has taken place in Pentecostal piety and ecclesial life.”[43] In the year 2000 there were, worldwide, 66 million denominational Pentecostals, 176 million Charismatics, and more than 295 million independent neo-Charismatics. However, despite over one-third of the world’s full-time Christian workers (38%) being Pentecostal/Charismatics/Neo-Charismatics,[44] Dodson believes, “The apparent declining interest in prophecy and speaking in tongues in American Pentecostal churches is misleading because it does not adequately acknowledge ecumenical developments in the broader Pentecostal theology of charismatic gifts.”[45]

Jack Hayford believes that, “The experience of Spirit baptism grants one the capacity to pray in tongues but that there is no guarantee that someone would use that gift.”[46] Macchia then concludes, “There is strong evidence in early Pentecostal literature that, for the Pentecostals, the highest expression of the Spirit’s indwelling is the love of God [and] a number of authors have defined Spirit baptism as a baptism of divine love.”[47] Amos Young demonstrates how, “Baptism in the Holy Spirit as a metaphor for Christian salvation calls attention to the process of humans experiencing the saving graces of God along with the presence of crisis moments when such grace is palpably felt as transformative.”[48] While there is much debate over doctrine versus experience, it is hard to deny what takes place during revivals around the world. Del Tarr speaks of such an example in Burkina Faso, West Africa where the national pastors had prayed and fasted for weeks asking God for the Holy Spirit to be poured out. Tarr claims, “When God answered their prayers, meetings continued day and night for three months. Even Muslims were converted and baptized in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and the church soon grew to over 400,000 members.”[49] Macchia would claim this clearly fits in with Luke’s “Assumption about tongues as the most significant sign of the bringing together of Jew and Gentile in the one mission of God.”[50]

CONCLUSION

It is tragic that the very things that drew the early church together are what cause such division today. There is no doubt people misuse spiritual gifts, much like those in Corinth did, but there are also those who doubt or quench the Holy Spirit’s gifts, essentially putting God in a box and limiting the impact He can have in and through a Christian’s life and ministry. To say there are no miraculous gifts today is to say that God is not supernatural. Only as a believer taps into the power of the Holy Spirit, first received at salvation, does he or she have the opportunity to experience that same Spirit overflow from within for the empowerment of ministry. The gifts of the Spirit bring unity and love, so to deny their use hinders God’s will, and dangerously approaches blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Paul affirms, “Do all people speak in tongues?” No. “Should all seek the gift?” Yes. As much as Christians should seek the gifts of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, specifically love and self-control must also be sought (Galatians 5:22-23) because the church desperately must maintain a healthy balance between all of these gifts.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arnold, Clinton E., ed., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary on the New Testament – John, Acts. USA: Zondervan, 2002.

Barrett, D. B. and T. M. Johnson, “Global Statistics” in Stanley M. Burgess, ed. The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.

Bliese, Richard H. “Speaking in Tongues and the Mission of God, Ad Gentes.” Journal Of Pentecostal Theology 20, no. 1 (2011): 38-47. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 24, 2017).

Brandt, Robert L. and Zenas J. Bicket. The Spirit Helps Us Pray: A Biblical Theology of Prayer. Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 2006.

Bruce, F. F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988.

_________. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1977.

Carey, Benedict. “A Neuroscientific Look at Speaking in Tongues.” The New York Times. November 7, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/07/health/07brain.html (accessed July 1, 2017).

Charette, Blaine. “Tongues as of Fire: Judgment as a Function of Glossolalia in Luke’s Thought.” Journal Of Pentecostal Theology 13, no. 2 (April 2005): 173-186. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 25, 2017).

Chester, Stephen J. “Divine Madness? Speaking in Tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:23.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 27, no. 4 (July 2016): 417-446. DOI: 10.1177/0142064X05055747 (accessed May 25, 2017).

Clark, Stephen B. Confirmation and the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” (Pecos, NM: Dove Publishing, 1969.

Colle, Ralph Del et. al. Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: 5 Views. Edited by Chad Owen Brand. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 2004.

Deere, Jack. Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1993.

Dodson, Jacob D. “Gifted for Change: the Evolving Vision for Tongues, Prophecy, and Other Charisms in American Pentecostal Churches.” Studies In World Christianity 17, no. 1 (January 2011): 50-71. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 24, 2017).

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Ervin, Howard M. “These Are Not Drunken as Ye Suppose.” Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1968.

Fee, Gordon D. God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 1994.

________. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

Gaebelein, Frank E. ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 9: John and Acts. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981.

_________. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 10: Romans through Galatians. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976.

_________. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 11: Ephesians through Philemon. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981.

George, A. C. Dimensions of Spirituality. Chennai, India: Bethesda Communications, 1997.

Hayford, Jack. The Beauty of Spiritual Language: My Journey Toward the Heart of God. Dallas, TX: Word, 1992.

Hollander, Harm W. “Prophecy and Glossolalia and Paul’s Concern for Order in the Christian Assembly.” The Expository Times 124, no. 4 (July 2012): 166-173. DOI: 10.1177/0014524612464189 (accessed May 25, 2017).

Horton, Stanley M. and William W. Menzies. Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective. Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 2010.

Horton, Stanley M. I & II Corinthians: A Logion Press Commentary. Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 1999.

_________. The Book of Acts: The Wind of the Spirit. Springfield, MO: Gospel House Publishing, 1996.

_________. What the Bible Says about the Holy Spirit. Rev. ed. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2007.

Hyatt, Eddie L. 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity: A 21st Century Look at Church History From a Pentecostal/Charismatic Perspective. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2002.

Macchia, Frank D. Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.

_________. “Groans Too Deep for Words: Towards a Theology of Tongues as Initial Evidence.” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 1, no. 2 (July 1998): 160-167.

_________. Justified in the Spirit: Creation, Redemption, and the Triune God. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Massingberd, J. Ford. “Toward a Theology of Speaking in Tongues.” Theological Studies 32, no. 1 (March 1971): 3-29, (accessed May 25, 2017).

McGee, Gary B. “The New World of Realities in Which We Live: How Speaking in Tongues Empowered Early Pentecostals.” Pneuma: The Journal Of The Society For Pentecostal Studies 30, no. 1 (March 2008): 108-135. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed May 24, 2017).

Moody, Christopher. “Miraculous Gifts.” Filmed [2015], Liberty University Website, THEO 530, Systematic Theology II, Course Content, Week Three Video Presentation, 16:50. (accessed June 30, 2017).

Palma, Anthony D. The Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Perspective. Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 2001.

Spittler, Russell P. “Glossolalia,” Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Edited by S. M. Burgess and G. B. McGee. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988.

Sullivan, Francis. Charism and Charismatic Renewal. Dublin, Scotland: Gill and MacMillan Publishing, 1982.

Sumrall, Lester. The Gifts and Ministries of the Holy Spirit. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2005.

Tarr, Del. “The Church and the Spirit’s Power” in Benny C. Aker and Gary B. McGee, Signs and Wonders in Ministry Today. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1996.

Pinnock, Clark H. Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

Wenham, David. Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.

Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, Volumes I-III. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.

Young, Amos. The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.

[1] Stephen B. Clark, Confirmation and the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” (Pecos, NM: Dove Publishing, 1969), 11.

[2] Howard M. Ervin, “These Are Not Drunken as Ye Suppose” (Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1968), 218-221.

[3] Ibid., 37-39.

[4] Clinton E. Arnold, ed., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary on the New Testament – John, Acts (USA: Zondervan, 2002), 237.

[5] Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 589.

[6] Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 10: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), 262.

[7] Paul Barnett, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 112.

[8] Stanley M. Horton. What the Bible Says about the Holy Spirit. Rev. ed. (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2007), 223-224.

[9] F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1977), 260.

[10] Benedict Carey, “A Neuroscientific Look at Speaking in Tongues,” The New York Times, November 7, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/07/health/07brain.html (accessed July 1, 2017).

[11] Gaebelein, Frank E., ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 7: Daniel and the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985), 255.

[12] Stanley M. Horton, Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: 5 Views, ed. Chad Owen Brand (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2004), 56.

[13] Ibid., 59.

[14] Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 9: John and Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981), 271.

[15] F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 51.

[16] Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1993), 99.

[17] Augustine, The Epistle of Saint John, vol. 12 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, 497-498.

[18] Eddie L. Hyatt, 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity: A 21st Century Look at Church History From a Pentecostal/Charismatic Perspective (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2002), 45.

[19] Francis Sullivan, Charism and Charismatic Renewal (Dublin, Scotland: Gill and MacMillan Publishing, 1982), 147.

[20] Christopher Moody, “Miraculous Gifts,” Filmed [2015], Liberty University Website, THEO 530, Systematic Theology II, Course Content, Week Three Video Presentation, 16:50. (accessed June 30, 2017).

[21] Gary B. McGee, “The New World of Realities in Which We Live: How Speaking in Tongues Empowered Early Pentecostals,” Pneuma: The Journal Of The Society For Pentecostal Studies 30, no. 1 (March 2008): 124. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed May 24, 2017).

[22] Ibid.

[23] Stephen J. Chester, “Divine Madness? Speaking in Tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:23,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 27, no. 4 (July 2016): 445-446. DOI: 10.1177/0142064X05055747 (accessed May 25, 2017).

[24] Chester, “Divine Madness?” 445.

[25] Blaine Charette, “Tongues as of Fire: Judgment as a Function of Glossolalia in Luke’s Thought,” Journal Of Pentecostal Theology 13, no. 2 (April 2005): 185. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 25, 2017).

[26] Ibid., 185.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Richard H. Bliese, “Speaking in Tongues and the Mission of God, Ad Gentes,” Journal Of Pentecostal Theology 20, no. 1 (2011): 38-47. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 24, 2017).

[29] Robert L. Brandt and Zenas J. Bicket. The Spirit Helps Us Pray: A Biblical Theology of Prayer (Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 2006), 270.

[30] Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 10: Romans, 96.

[31] A. C. George, Dimensions of Spirituality (Chennai, India: Bethesda Communications, 1997), 27.

[32] J. Ford Massingberd, “Toward a Theology of Speaking in Tongues,” Theological Studies 32, no. 1 (March 1971): 23, (accessed May 25, 2017).

[33] Ibid.

[34] Russell P. Spittler, “Glossolalia,” Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, ed. S. M. Burgess and G. B. McGee (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988), 341.

[35] Frank D. Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 281.

[36] Anthony D. Palma, The Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Perspective (Springfield, MO: Logion, 2001), 137.

[37] F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1977), 260.

[38] Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 11: Ephesians through Philemon (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981), 72.

[39] Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 172.

[40] Ibid., 172-173.

[41] Harm W. Hollander, “Prophecy and Glossolalia and Paul’s Concern for Order in the Christian Assembly,” The Expository Times 124, no. 4 (July 2012): 172-173. DOI: 10.1177/0014524612464189 (accessed May 25, 2017).

[42] Ibid., 172.

[43] Jacob D. Dodson, “Gifted for Change: the Evolving Vision for Tongues, Prophecy, and Other Charisms in American Pentecostal Churches,” Studies In World Christianity 17, no. 1 (January 2011): 50-51. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 24, 2017).

[44] D. B. Barrett and T. M. Johnson, “Global Statistics” in Stanley M. Burgess, ed. The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 285-287.

[45] Dodson, “Gifted for Change,” 50.

[46] Jack Hayford, The Beauty of Spiritual Language: My Journey Toward the Heart of God (Dallas, TX: Word, 1992), 95-98.

[47] Frank D. Macchia, Justified in the Spirit: Creation, Redemption, and the Triune God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 89.

[48] Amos Young, The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 105.

[49] Del Tarr, “The Church and the Spirit’s Power” in Benny C. Aker and Gary B. McGee, Signs and Wonders in Ministry Today (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1996), 9-10.

[50] Frank D. Macchia, “Groans Too Deep for Words: Towards a Theology of Tongues as Initial Evidence,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 1, no. 2 (July 1998): 164.

Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? By Phillip Yancey

Prayer_Does it Make Any Difference?

When asked why he writes about sensitive topics with irony and such honest skepticism, Phillip Yancey says, “I write books for myself, [since] I am a pilgrim, recovering from a bad church upbringing, searching for a faith that makes its followers larger and not smaller. I feel overwhelming gratitude that I can make a living writing about the questions that interest me. My books are a process of exploration and investigation of things I wonder about and worry about.”[1]

Yancey begins each day spending an hour reading God’s Word, praying, and meditating, which he claims helps align his will for the day with that of the Lord’s. While prayer is the intimate place where God and His children can meet, it also can also be an extremely frustrating and confusing place to be, unless the person praying has the right frame of reference and proper understanding of how prayer works. To address these issues, Yancey answers fundamental questions like: “Is God listening? Why should God care about me? If God knows everything, what is the point of prayer? How can I make prayer more satisfying? Why do so many prayers go unanswered? Do prayers for healing really matter? And does prayer change God?”[2] By studying all 650 prayers in the Bible, Yancey views prayer not so much as a way of getting God to do his will but as a way of being available to get in line with what God wants to accomplish on earth. This reading analysis will evaluate Yancey’s approach to the topic of prayer being a privilege and not a journey or duty and will define areas of personal application derived from the reading.

SUMMARY

Yancey breaks up Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference into five concise parts. In part one, Yancey demonstrates, “Every faith has some form of prayer… We pray because we want to thank someone or something for the beauties and glories of life, and also because we feel small and helpless and sometimes afraid. We pray for forgiveness, for strength, for contact with the One who is, and for assurance that we are not alone.”[3] Yancey approaches prayer from a universal perspective in its ability to “define who [and Whose] we are.”[4] For anyone searching to know God, prayer is the means, but as Yancey illustrates, “Everywhere, I encountered the gap between prayer in theory and prayer in practice.”[5] Time, skepticism, and prosperity are all reasons listed for why people believe there is power in prayer, but still choose not to engage in the practice. C. S. Lewis conveys, “The prayer preceding all prayers is, ‘May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.’” Many people associate prayer with confession of sins and guilt, but prayer is so much more than helpless cries to the Lord. God wants His children to come before Him as they are. Scriptures affirm, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16; Ephesians 3:13). This boldness and confidence when approaching the throne must also be done in humility because as Yancey explains, “It accurately reflects the truth… It means, that in the presence of God I gain a glimpse of my true state in the universe, which exposes my smallness, and at the same time it reveals God’s greatness.”[6] Being created in the image of God is one of the many reasons, as children of God; His followers should not be afraid or worry about being completely honest with Him. The Lord sees the heart of the matter and His heart also breaks when His children experience pain, rejection, loss, and every other emotion that attempts to make His children feel insignificant. While it is hard to approach prayer without some form of preconceived notions or preunderstanding, Yancey illuminates the most important thing is to make time for God because what one makes time for is most important to the person. Even if anger is what draws one to God, the main point is God is not being excluded from the individual’s life. Yancey demonstrates, “That God allows, even encourages, such gust of passion, which shows the strength of God’s alliance with us… From the Bible’s prayers, I learn that God wants us to keep it in the alliance, to come in person, even with our complaints.”[7]

After addressing how prayer gets the believer into a right perspective, part two addresses what the point of prayer is and establishes, “To discount prayer, to conclude that it does not matter, means to view Jesus as deluded.”[8] In this section, Yancey sets out to unravel the mystery of prayer by looking at unanswered prayers and explains, “For most of us prayer serves as a resource to help in a time of testing or conflict. For Jesus, it was the battle itself. Once the Gethsemane prayers had aligned Him with the Father’s will, what happened next was merely the means to fulfill it. Prayer mattered that much.”[9] After establishing there is power in prayer, Yancey addresses the difficult questions pertaining to unanswered prayers and whether or not prayers can move God to act. Yancey claims, “I cannot, nor can anyone else promise that prayer will solve all problems and eliminate all suffering. At the same time, I also know that Jesus commanded His followers to pray, certain that it makes a difference in a world full of opposition to God’s will… [However,] God often allows things to play out naturally.”[10] Yancey then compares and contrasts prayer being a wrestling match and prayer being a partnership with God, using the Patriarchs as primary examples.

Part three looks at the language of prayer, its hindrances, and various styles. Yancey says, “Even when prayer seems like a duty, like a homework assignment, we sustain the hope that it could grow into something more.”[11] Given the difficulty of prayer, Yancey attributes this to, “A media-saturated culture [that] conditions us to expect a quick fix to every problem.”[12] As Yancey tackles the language of prayers in the Bible, he demonstrates how the prayers being offered often elevated the needs of others above the one who was praying and demonstrated the Lord’s will being done. Next, he talks about the multiplicity of reasons why people do not pray: they feel unworthy, they are easily distracted, they are too concerned about doing it correctly, but as Yancey reminds the reader, “[Even when we do not know what to pray,] the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express”[13] (Romans 8:26-27).

Part four looks at prayer dilemmas and as Emily Dickinson wrote, “There comes an hour when begging stops, when the long interceding lips perceive their prayer is vain.” The first part of this section appears to be a continuation of the previous chapter on what to do when God is silent and it seems like one’s relationship with God is nothing more than two ships passing in the dark. While silence is definitely a dilemma, Yancey now looks specifically at unanswered prayers and whose fault it is. As Yancey demonstrates, “Unanswered prayer poses an especially serious threat to the faith of trusting children.”[14] When dealing with the inconsistency problem, Yancey provides multiple instances where God chose to act and answer the prayers of some, while not answering the prayers of others. The story of the couple from India who happened to be in separate towers in the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001 was a perfect illustration. They both prayed and somehow both made it down the stairwells before the towers collapsed, which so impressed them that they converted to Christianity and the husband became a full-time evangelist. Along with Yancey, this writer cannot help but think of the other three thousand people who died, many of whom were probably praying for the same safety and rescue.[15] This is just one more case that the Lord’s ways and thoughts are higher than mans. Another interesting point Yancey brings out is, “In answering prayers, God normally relies on human agents and in ministries and answered prayers, I learned that many began with a crisis of faith, and a crisis of prayer.”[16] Yancey then shows how sin and unforgiveness hinders prayers.

Part five investigates the practice of prayer and the necessity of making time to commune with God. Yancey clearly defines prayers ability to lift up one another’s burdens, provide peace, lighten one’s mood, and offer liberation from anxiety. Being faithful in prayer also leads to patience in God’s timing and His plan, which further results in perseverance. This section especially highlights how prayer is able to sustain the follower of Christ and deepen his or her relationship with God. One of the best quotes Yancey uses comes from F. B. Meyer who said, “The greatest tragedy in life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.” God is love and He wants the best for His children, so when a Christian intercedes on the behalf of another Yancey believes, “In short, prayer allows me to see others as God sees them (and me): as uniquely flawed and uniquely gifted bearers of God’s image. I begin seeing them through Jesus’ eyes, as beloved children whom the Father longs to embrace.” This observation was quite profound.

CRITIQUE

 The story of young Megumi being abducted by North Koreans was heart wrenching, but Yancey brilliantly uses this story to parallel what happened to Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and Paul who were aliens swept into a new and strange culture. Prayer for each of them served as a channel of faith and here, Yancey teaches the importance that prayer, “Becomes a realignment of everything, restoring the truth to the universe, and gaining a glimpse of the world through God’s eyes.”[17] Trusting God to use us however He sees fit is the key principle to be mindful of.

The story of Dovid Din of Jerusalem in The Hasidic Tales was also a great demonstration of God’s willingness to be there even in one’s anger. When he said, “All my life I have been so afraid to express my anger to God that I have always directed my anger at people who are connected with God. But until this moment I did not understand this.”[18] This illustration was profound as Reb Dovid instructed Dovid Din to follow him to the Wailing Wall near the ruins of the Temple. At this holy site, Reb instructed Dovid to express his anger toward God and Dovid, for more than an hour struck the wall of the Kotel with his hands and screamed from his heart. Shortly after, those screams turned to cries, which later turned to sobs, but ultimately became prayers/praise to the Lord. God would much rather His children express anger than shut Him out.

Yancey concludes, “I used to worry about my deficiency of faith. In my prayers, I expect little and seem satisfied with less. Faith feels like a gift that a person either has or lacks, not something that can be developed by exercise, like a muscle. My attitude is changing though, as I begin to understand faith as a form of engagement with God.”[19] When looking at what difference prayer makes, especially when people are facing tragedies and persecution, Yancey states, “We pray because against such forces we have no more powerful way to bring together the two worlds, visible and invisible.”[20] When answering whether prayer has the ability to change God, Yancey contrasts Origen’s view that prayer is in vain because God is changeless, to Calvinistic thought, which places its emphasis on God’s sovereignty shifting the focus of prayer from its effect on God to its effect on the person praying.[21] Yancey then uses Charles Finney’s model to resolve God’s unchanging qualities by illustrating, “God changes course in response to the sinner’s change in course, and does so because of those eternal qualities.”[22] While this book is an invitation to communicate with God the Father who invites His children into an eternal partnership through prayer, it seems Yancey is not afraid to ask the tough questions, but some of his questions are a bit lacking, when it comes to the answers or responses provided. While he undoubtedly answers some of the key questions about prayer, it seems he often lands somewhere in the middle of the two opposing views, leaving the conclusion up to the readers. Some may enjoy this style, but this writer would rather have a clear answer provided with biblical proof.

PERSONAL APPLICATION

Yancey calls the book of Psalms a virtual practicum in prayer with 150 psalms, so that when he is feeling inarticulate before God, he turns to this ready-made prayer. This is a great idea, especially since Psalms covers virtually everything from Genesis to Revelation and has prayers for practically every emotion and situation imaginable. Traveling to Israel last year and visiting the Wailing Wall was a profound experience, but to imagine only praying specific prayers from the Torah seemed to put God in a box. I agree with Yancey on using the psalms as a place to go to engage in prayer, but this writer also believes in the importance of allowing the Holy Spirit to intercede through us, just as Christ intercedes on our behalf to the Father.

The story about Karl, the lieutenant colonel from the Air Force really hit home with me. I too had dreams of entering the service, but was in a very similar accident breaking multiple discs in my neck and lower back. It took five surgeries to put me back together again, but my dreams had been shattered; or so I thought. I never blamed God or the individual who hit me, but I could not see the future playing out how I had envisioned it. The accident happened on the very day I received my ministerial credentials, so it was almost as if the enemy was trying to take me out before I could start my ministry. I spent much time in prayer as I was confined to the bed and began to commit whatever my future held to serving the Lord. I am thrilled to say, God has healed me and opened some doors I never thought would be opened and by this time next year, I should be an Army Chaplain. Going through five surgeries and never-ending physical therapy could have easily crushed my spirits and left me in despair, but I used ever encounter I had to tell people all about the awesome things God was doing in my life. I was blessed to have amazing neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons, but even they are amazed at my recovery and see it as a miracle. It is common to pray for things people want, but in part five, Yancey tells the story of how, “C. S. Lewis prayed every night for the people he was most tempted to hate, with Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini heading the list. Lewis did this because he realized Christ died for them as much as for him and that he himself was not so different from those ghastly creatures.”[23] This is powerful and if we truly believe in the power of prayer, we must engage in it continuously, especially for our leaders and those who oppose Christianity and/or the nation of Israel.

CONCLUSION

Yancey’s approach to prayer clearly establishes even when one might think he or she is in control they are not. This realization may be frightening for some, but for anyone who embraces the intimacy of prayer with the Father will gladly surrender complete control to His perfect will and timing because they know His ways and thoughts are far above their own. This book would be well suited for anyone looking to have a deeper understanding of prayer and the impact it has on the believer’s life. As Henri Nouwen illustrates, “The paradox of prayer is that it asks for a serious effort while it can only be received as a gift. We cannot plan, organize, or manipulate God; but without a careful discipline, we cannot receive Him either.” In the end, when someone does not know what to do, they should pray, and even when they know what to do, they should still pray. Prayer is the believer’s lifeline to God and, “Prayer that is based on relationship and not transaction may be the most freedom-enhancing way of connecting to a God whose vantage point we can never achieve and can hardly imagine.”[24] Just as the Spirit intercedes through the believer, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God interceding on the believer’s behalf when prayers are being lifted up.

Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? By Phillip Yancey, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2006, 359 pp. $16.99 (Paperback).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Phillip Yancey Website, http://philipyancey.com/about (accessed June 27, 2017).

Yancey, Phillip. Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2006.

[1] Phillip Yancey Website, http://philipyancey.com/about (accessed June 27, 2017).

[2] Phillip Yancey Website, http://philipyancey.com/books/prayer-does-it-make-any-difference (accessed June 27, 2017).

[3] Phillip Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2006), 13.

[4] Ibid., 13

[5] Ibid., 15.

[6] Ibid., 37.

[7] Ibid., 68.

[8] Ibid., 80.

[9] Ibid., 86.

[10] Ibid., 87.

[11] Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference, 158.

[12] Ibid., 159.

[13] Ibid., 193.

[14] Ibid., 216.

[15] Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference, 221.

[16] Ibid., 242 & 244.

[17] Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference, 29.

[18] Ibid., 68.

[19] Ibid., 98.

[20] Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference, 118.

[21] Ibid., 131.

[22] Ibid., 134.

[23] Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference, 311.

[24] Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference, 55.

Can You Be Gay and Christian?

Westboro Protest

Michael Chiavone is correct in his assertion that the ecclesiology of the 21st century looks much different than centuries of past, largely in part due to the success and increase of alternative church’s arrangements. Through the use of technology, specifically multi-site and streaming churches, it is now extremely challenging to offer an all-encompassing universal definition of the church. At the forefront of controversial topics regarding the church’s relationship to the state is homosexual marriage, which continues to be an area of much debate. This topic leaves many people with a poor perception of the church, and in many settings serves to demonstrate more what the church is against than what she is for. As the boundaries of religious freedom continue to be tested, Michael Brown offers perhaps the most appropriate response to the question, “Whether one can truly follow Jesus and practice homosexuality at one and the same time” (Brown 2014, xi).

In chapter ten, Brown attempts to balance grace with the truth of God’s Word, illustrating, for “gay Christians,” there is often an experiential claim associated with their argument, which attempts to justify the homosexual practice being perfectly acceptable because a committed relationship exists between two individuals. The biblical response recognizes it is possible to be a devoted follower of Christ, while also having same-sex attractions, as long as those thoughts and attractions are not affirmed. The problem arises when those attractions are acted upon making it then impossible to live a holy life.

To God, sin is sin, but humanity takes the process one step further and ranks various sins, much like crimes and classifies them as misdemeanors or felonies, with each having various degrees of offense and penalties or judgments. For many Christians, the very thought of being gay or acting upon those attractions would be equated to a crime of premeditated murder, but to God, homosexuality is no different than idolatry. Idolatry, by definition is anything placed before God in one’s life, and this can be a person, place, or thing that comes before God. In the Old Testament, certain sins required specific sacrifices and some sins affected the individual and/or the community. To advance this thought, a few of the texts that speak of homosexuality use the term תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה (tôʿēbâ) to mean abomination, which indicates, “That these sins are not simply something that God peevishly objects to, but that produces revulsion in Him” (Erickson 2013, 526). The result of any sin is separation from God, but Erickson furthers this thought and illuminates, “We are not simply sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners [and] sin is any lack of conformity, active or passive, to the moral law of God. This may be a matter of act, of thought, or of inner disposition or state. [Ultimately,] sin is failure to live up to what God expects of us in act, thought, and being” (Erickson 2013, 528-529). Jesus, in Matthew 5:28 clearly establishes the mere thought of a sinful act is the same as committing it, which demonstrates the effect desires have over the propensity to sin.

In recent years and through various human rights groups, the paradigm now perpetuated is God versus gays, meaning homosexuals must either be condemned or affirmed. Currently, as this assignment is being written, members of the Westboro Baptist Church are across the street waving “God hates fags” posters in the air as the people are gathering in the church for Sunday morning service. A much more accurate sign should read, “God hates sin.” Just as sinners should not be defined by his or her past/present sin, the universal church should not be defined by the actions of extremists like those outside telling homosexuals a fiery-hell awaits them. Brown demonstrates, “The problem is many gay-affirmative people will say their sexuality is ‘who they are’ and ‘essential to their being’ and ‘very core’” (Brown 2014, 205-206). Humanity’s fallen nature leads to one’s inclination to sin, so as Brown suggests, “Rather than saying, ‘I am gay, and Jesus died to help me fulfill my sexual identity,’ they should say, ‘I struggle with the sin of homosexuality, but by God’s grace I will not be defined by it or ruled by it’” (Brown 2014, 209).

Homosexuals should not be defined by their actions, nor should their desires enslave them to feeling as though change is impossible. Brown asserts, “You can [abstain from sex,] be single, but you cannot live without God” (Brown 2014, 221). Instead of focusing on one’s sexuality or allowing sin to define someone, the emphasis must always be trying to redirect the individual’s focus back to Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior. Some churches shun people for being gay, while others make it known gay people are not welcome, but acting on homosexual desires, in God’s eyes, is no different than gossipers who gossip or thieves who continue to steal. The right does not belong to humans to say homosexuals are not welcome in the house of God and it surely does not instruct followers of Christ to treat homosexuals with disdain and demoralizing insults. When God says something is wrong, and despite His warning and commandment, the individual still chooses to sin, the body of Christ should come alongside and stake themselves next to the lost sheep until Jesus Christ, through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit produces such a radical encounter, that the person repents and turns away from a life of sin. This “God, and by default the church versus homosexuals” rhetoric must stop. We all are children of the Most High God, and Jesus Christ gave His life for everyone, regardless of what sin someone struggles with.

Another major issue that must be addressed is whether homosexuals should be ordained or serve in a ministerial capacity. Millard Erickson asserts, “While a homosexual orientation combine with a celibate lifestyle, does not seem to be sinful, the consistent biblical proscriptions of homosexual practice (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:27-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) seem to disqualify practicing homosexuals from holding such positions” (Erickson 2013, 1007-1008). Reading about Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, and home of the largest “gay Christian” denomination was bizarre. This lifestyle choice was very reminiscent of the book of Judges, where each person did what was right in his or her own eyes. Perry’s early homosexual childhood encounter was surely traumatizing, but as Brown proposes, “Could you imagine a heterosexual Christian leader describing his first youthful sexual encounter with a little girl as being an ‘innocent time of religious and sexual discovery’” (Brown 2014, 215). While the Bible does say, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” this does not justify homosexual relationships. God promises to neither leave nor forsake His children, just as He promises in Him one will find escape from the corruption of the world and everything needed to live a life of godliness. Brown rightly concludes, “[God] will either satisfy you with His presence, He will provide you with godly friends and companions, or He will help to bring change in your attractions, so you can marry a fitting, lifelong companion” (Brown 2014, 219). The message of the gospel must not be watered down, but the church needs to embrace people despite the presence of sin. If church were only for those without sin in their life, the chairs or pews would be empty, so to cast judgment on homosexuals, and not others living in sin is hypocritical and ungodly. So, can you be gay and be a Christian? In this writer’s opinion, yes, but only by recognizing those attractions being contrary to God’s design and resisting them as sinful” (Brown 2014, 213). Being a disciple of Christ begins with dying to oneself daily and denying sinful desires because being gay and a Christian does not work when those sinful attractions are acted upon. God loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave this way, regardless of what area of sin attempts to sever the relationship between God and His children. If we, the church, the body of Christ are not a part of the solution, then we are a part of the problem and this is not a place anyone wants to find themselves when he or she must give an account to God during final judgment. Love, acceptance, and forgiveness must be the motivation to reach those in need of God’s grace, mercy, and truth.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brown, Michael L. Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding With LOVE & TRUTH to Questions About HOMOSEXUALITY. Lake Mary, FL: FrontLine Publishing, 2014.

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ – Book Critique

Believer's Baptism

Shawn D. Wright, professor of theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and member of the Evangelical Theological Society[1] teams up with Thomas R. Schreiner, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary[2] to co-edit a compilation of scholarly and theological essays on the history and doctrine of baptism. Using exegesis of Scripture, a detailed history of the theology and practices of early church, and with the ultimate goal of restoring baptism to its rightful place as a central liturgical act of Christian worship, the authors set out to advocate credobaptism (the doctrine that Christian baptism should be reserved solely for believers in the Lord,) over the beliefs and practices of Reformed paedobaptists (those who practice infant baptism).[3] This critique will largely agree with the author’s conclusions that credobaptism is biblically supported and will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses behind the authors’ claims, which assert baptism must be reserved strictly for believers and how baptism remains relevant to the church today.

SUMMARY

The main premise of Believer’s Baptism is to clearly articulate the history and practice of baptism and to affirm: who should be baptized, when he or she should be baptized, and what the act of baptism actually accomplishes in the life of the believer. Schreiner and Wright set out, with the aid of an additional eight highly esteemed Baptist theologians and scholars to demonstrate baptism should only be reserved for those who have believed, repented, and maintained his or her faith. Each of the author’s conclusions and findings presented are rooted in rich biblical truth, and offer practical application for the believer today, while also presenting potential reasons for how and why paedobaptists came to believe infant baptism should be linked to the covenant relationship, specifically found in the Old Testament, and early church practices.

Schreiner and Wright further seek to show how paedobaptists associate the covenant of grace with the Abrahamic Covenant, in an attempt to reduce the Abrahamic Covenant to its most basic spiritual components. While this argument presents no middle ground, Schreiner and Wright successfully demonstrate baptism must be reserved for believers who have received Christ as his or her personal Savior, have turned away from a life of sin, and seek to make a public profession of faith, thus fulfilling the command found in Scripture. While the doctrine of baptism has increasingly become a topic of debate in denominational circles, the secondary objective of Schreiner and Wright is to provide pastors and leaders with a practical resource when faced with many of the questions surrounding the practice of baptism e.g., Does baptism save the believer? Does baptism forgive one’s sins? Does baptism have an age requirement? And how should one respond when challenged with any of the above questions?

A tertiary goal of Schreiner and Wright is to cultivate a greater sense of unity within the body of Christ. To many, how, when, or why someone should be baptized may seem like a minor issue but as Timothy George demonstrates, “Baptism is important precisely because it is tied to the gospel, and to the saving work that Christ accomplished in His death and resurrection.”[4] Within Christianity, there are doctrinal hills worth dying on and the practice of baptism is one of those hills, as Paul Jewett demonstrates, “To baptize infants apart from faith threatens the evangelical foundations of evangelicalism.”[5] Believer’s Baptism combines biblical exegesis, history and theology, and practical application to provide a powerful argument for credobaptism.

CRITICAL INTERACTION

Beginning with the Gospel accounts, Andreas Köstenberger provides concise historical context into the practice of credobaptism. While there are not a great deal of passages that deal with baptism, the ones which do clearly establish the rite of baptism: “Is designed for believers who have repented of their sin and have put their faith in God and in His Christ, is an essential part of Christian discipleship, most likely consisted of immersion in water, and presupposes spiritual regeneration as a prevenient and primary work of God in and through the Holy Spirit.”[6] The Gospels each clearly demonstrate the believer’s baptism is the intended teaching and A.T. Robertson further demonstrates, “the Gospels provide no evidence or support for the baptism of infants, the notion of baptismal regeneration, nor does the principle of believer’s baptism enunciated in the Gospels allow for such a practice.”[7]

Robert H. Stein then analyzes Luke and Acts, illustrating God’s intimate role in the process and counters claims of baptismal regeneration and belief that the act of baptism forgave sins. Despite household conversions and baptisms taking place, Stein answers the question, exactly who can be baptized, by asserting “Those baptized… have heard the gospel preached, as responding with repentance and/or faith, and proceeding on their own to the place of baptism.”[8] Robertson further illustrates, “Baptism, as taught in the New Testament, is the picture of death and burial to sin and resurrection to new life, a picture of what has already taken place in the heart, not the means by which spiritual change is wrought. It is a privilege and duty, not a necessity. It is a picture that is lost when something else is substituted in its place.”[9] Stein adequately advances the position for credobaptism, but in a climate where many congregations are seeking to go back to an early church model, some practical and modern-day application of the credobaptism principles would have been a nice companion to this chapter.

Next, Schreiner examines the epistles and reveals how, “Baptism relates to washing, to sealing, to redemptive history, and [answers] whether baptism should be confined to believers.”[10] Schreiner’s main emphasis is on the act of baptism only being for those who have confessed his or her sins and trusted in Christ for salvation. Paul, in Ephesians 4:5 asserts there is one baptism, which unifies all believers. Paul’s emphasis here is to bring balance to the rite of baptism, with his primary focus being on unity within the body of believers, while also making it known baptism is not restricted from any ethnic or social group. Galatians 3:27 is a prime example, illustrating, “Believers who are baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This verse denotes the close connection between one’s faith and the practice of baptism. Ronald Fung further demonstrates, “Baptism is here regarded as the rite of initiation into Christ, that is, into union with Christ, or, what amounts to the same thing, of incorporation into Christ as the Head of the new humanity.”[11] These passages counter the singular claim of paedobaptists regarding God’s grace and illuminates how God’s grace must be combined with the human response.

Despite there being no record or command of infant baptism in the canon of Scripture, Stephen J. Wellum explains, “At the heart of the doctrine of infant baptism is the argument it is an implication drawn from the comprehensive theological category of the covenant of grace.”[12] To address this claim, Wellum looks at the relationship between the covenants and explains, “[Only] if the interpretation of the covenant of grace, along with its understanding of the continuity between Israel and the church can be maintained do we have a strong case for infant baptism.”[13] Despite paedobaptists’ argument for infant baptism, Wellum verifies the key problem is rooted in a, “Failure to understand correctly the proper relationship between the biblical covenants, [since] a truly covenantal approach to Scripture… demands an affirmation of believer’s baptism.”[14] Another important contribution is Wellum’s response to paedobaptist assertion that, “Circumcision and baptism carry essentially the same spiritual meaning and that in the new covenant era baptism is the replacement of circumcision as a covenant sign.”[15] Ultimately, baptism and circumcision carry two very different meanings and Paul could not be clearer that circumcision was no longer a covenant sign. Wellum rightly concludes, “[Baptism] signifies a believer’s union with Christ, by grace through faith, and all the benefits that result from that union.”[16] Wellum’s contribution for the defense of credobaptism was a key component.

Steven A. McKinion looks to the early church fathers and patristic writings to conclude, “Baptism had less to do with the age of the baptized person than with the role of repentance, profession of faith, and entrance into the full life of the church.”[17] The main issues facing those in the third and fourth century were the high infant mortality rate and debate over whether infants needed forgiveness of sins. Despite these issues, McKinion demonstrates why early church fathers like Tertullian rejected the defense of infant baptism on two counts: “First, infants are innocent, guiltless, and not in need of forgiveness; second, faith alone is sufficient for salvation. [Thus,] baptism should follow faith, and since young children do not need forgiveness and cannot possess faith, baptism is unnecessary.” Despite few supporters, the early centuries of the church are often cited in defense of paedobaptist belief, predominantly since it was the practice of some churches, but it was never universally practiced and those in favor of paedobaptism seemed to have a more refined view on the doctrine of original sin.

With the rise of Anabaptists, Jonathan Rainbow contrasts Ulrich Zwingli and Balthasar Hubmaier’s views explaining, “For Zwingli, baptism was a mere sign, [while] for Hubmaier it was more than a sign. [Ultimately,] Baptists consider, on the basis of an open and personal confession, that the person coming to the water believes in Jesus Christ, and that there is an inner reality to which baptism corresponds… This was the heart of Reformation Anabaptists…”[18] Rainbow offers profound insight between Zwingli and Hubmaier’s viewpoints by illustrating, “There is a fear of allowing water baptism to come too close to the work of grace in the sinner’s heart; there are raised eyebrows and puzzled looks at the New Testament texts that closely associate baptism with salvation; and many would rather not baptize at all than leave room for the impression that baptism is an integral part of the conversion experience.”[19] This assertion is exactly what paedobaptists have done in their departure from biblical doctrine. Making too much or too little of baptism are both dangerous roads to travel, so Rainbow is correct in his word of caution. With this word of warning, Timothy George highlights, “It is important to [remember] and recognize that in the Reformation tradition of believers, baptism was forged in the context of persecution and martyrdom.”[20] Looking back in time at the formation of doctrine and tradition, it can be easy to forget exactly what was going on at that time to warrant the beliefs and practices, which resulted. Rainbow does a great job advancing the credobaptism position in this section.

Shawn D. Wright presents the logic of Reformed paedobaptists in an attempt to examine and understand their logic. Calvin, Murray, and Marcel all hold to the covenant of grace, but as Wright demonstrates, “Their biblical exposition is oriented toward the Old Testament with a lack of attention to the New Testament’s teaching. [Further,] by using the Westminster Confession of Faith as evidence for infant baptism… it is neither ‘good’ nor a ‘necessary’ deduction.”[21] Each of these Reformed paedobaptists seemed to believe God regenerates the infant at baptism, but without faith, this process cannot begin. Another doctrinal error in this vein of theology occurs by paralleling circumcision with baptism, which Wellum has previously covered in depth.

Duane A. Garrett then looks at the Israelite traditions and shows Meredith Kline’s “Error is in taking Old Testament events that are retrospectively and metaphorically called ‘baptism’ and enlisting them as guides to the ritual mode of actual baptism. [Ultimately,] by interpreting baptism under the rubric of a suzerainty treaty means that a Christian must require all persons under his authority to be baptized, [which] validates the Constantinian vision of Christianity.”[22] In Cornelis Bennema’s critique of Believer’s Baptism, he cites, “Kline’s defense of paedobaptism being closely connected with the idiosyncratic theology of the covenant and whenever historic divergences exist within the church, it is best to engage the arguments that have historically been most influential and decisive; this can hardly be said to hold true for Kline’s formulations.”[23]

Baptism was a source of division amongst early Christians, as Ardel B. Caneday explains, by using Paul’s letters to the churches at Corinth and Galatia to show, “All who have put on Christ with all who are baptized into Christ, as though the two are fused into one. To be baptized into Christ by submission to the symbolic foot washing called for by the gospel is to be clothed with Christ Jesus.”[24] Paul seems to be equating those who are baptized into Christ Jesus share in part with the redeeming effects of His death. Caneday further demonstrates, “While Paul warns the Galatians that submission to the ritual act of circumcision would be to sever oneself with Christ (5:2-6), he identifies Christian baptism as the ritual act that marks one as clothed with Christ.”[25] This is a significant contribution to the difference between the ritual acts.

In the context of the local church, Mark E. Dever illustrates, “Only forty percent of baptisms in cooperating churches are ‘first time’ baptisms of converts, [attributing this trend to:] confusion, ignorance, prejudice, and a misplaced and distorting cultural conservatism that besets most churches today in their practice of baptism.”[26] Dever successfully brings together the culmination of previous chapters to answer questions like: Who should baptize? How is baptism to be done? Who is to be baptized? When are baptisms to be done? And should unbaptized individuals be excluded from: the Lord’s Supper, church membership, and should baptisms from other churches be accepted. Bennema adds, “Though it may well be that many Reformed churches have not lived up to their covenant theology, it is hardly the case that this theology diminishes the obligations of faith and repentance in respect to the children of believers. On this point, the claims of several authors in this volume seem to be overstated.”[27] Overall, the predominant Baptist background of the authors limits the scope of this work. Had other denominations of faith been included, the book would become more relevant to a larger number of people, but Schreiner and Wright are quite clear their goal was simply to promote credobaptism over paedobaptism, and this goal was adequately accomplished.

CONCLUSION

Schreiner and Wright have also clearly established baptism requires the public profession of faith, which acknowledges one’s salvation and honors Christ’s atoning sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection. In a time where the world seems to know more what the church is against than what she is for, Believer’s Baptism is a treasure-trove of wisdom and practical application, which has the ability to bridge the gap and produce unity and love within the body of Christ. Baptism plays a pivotal role in the fulfillment of the Great Commission and is vital in advancing the kingdom of God. Ultimately, God wants His followers to live in unity and love, but as Timothy George demonstrates, “Unity in love must also be unity in truth, else it is not genuine unity at all.”[28] Upon this premise, Schreiner and Wright are to be commended for producing a work that brings clarity to the practice of credobaptism over paedobaptism and this work would be well suited for anyone interested in understanding not only the history of baptism but also how this practice should be applied to the church today.

 Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ. Edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright, Series Edited by E. Ray Clendenen, B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2006, 364 pp. $29.99 (Hardcover).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bennema, Cornelis P. A Review of Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ., by Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright, ed. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 3 (September 2009): 655-61, (accessed June 12, 2017).

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Fung, Ronald Y. K. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Galatians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.

George, Timothy. “The Reformed doctrine of believers’ baptism.” Interpretation 47, no. 3 (July 1993): 242+. Academic OneFile (accessed June 12, 2017).

Jewett, Paul K. Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978.

Robertson, A. T. “Baptism, Baptist View,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Edited by James Orr (Chicago: IL, Howard-Severance Co., 1915), 1:416-417.

Schreiner, Thomas R. and Shawn D. Wright, ed. Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ. Series Edited by E. Ray Clendenen. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2006.

[1] The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Website, http://www.sbts.edu/academics/faculty/shawn-d-wright/ (accessed June 8, 2017).

[2] The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Website, http://www.sbts.edu/academics/faculty/thomas-r-schreiner/ (accessed June 8, 2017).

[3] Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright, ed. Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, Series ed. by E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2006), 6.

[4] Timothy George, Believer’s Baptism, 1.

[5] Paul K. Jewett, Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), 162.

[6] Andreas Köstenberger, Believer’s Baptism, 32-33.

[7] A. T. Robertson, “Baptism, Baptist View,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Chicago: IL, Howard-Severance Co., 1915), 1:416-417.

[8] Robert H. Stein, Believer’s Baptism, 65.

[9] Robertson, “Baptism, Baptist View,” 417.

[10] Thomas R. Schreiner, Believer’s Baptism, 68.

[11] Ronald Y. K. Fung, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 172.

[12] Stephen J. Wellum, Believer’s Baptism, 68.

[13] Ibid., 124.

[14] Ibid., 160.

[15] Ibid., 153.

[16] Ibid., 159.

[17] Steven A. McKinion, Believer’s Baptism, 186-187.

[18] Jonathan H. Rainbow, Believer’s Baptism, 206.

[19] Ibid., 205.

[20] Timothy George, “The Reformed doctrine of believers’ baptism,” Interpretation 47, no. 3 (July 1993): 242. Academic OneFile (accessed June 12, 2017).

[21] Shawn D. Wright, Believer’s Baptism, 254.

[22] Duane A. Garrett, Believer’s Baptism, 281.

[23] Cornelis P. Bennema, Review of Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, by Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright, ed. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 3 (September 2009): 660, (accessed June 12, 2017).

[24] Ardel B. Caneday, Believer’s Baptism, 285.

[25] Ibid., 286.

[26] Mark E. Dever, Believer’s Baptism, 329.

[27] Bennema, “Believer’s Baptism,” 661.

[28] Timothy George, Believer’s Baptism, XIX.

Role of Christ and Spirit in Salvation and Security of Believer

salvation_is_found

The distinctive work of the Son of God and the Spirit of God in the procurement of salvation begins with an understanding of the oneness and unity, achieved between Christ and the new believer. Millard Erickson demonstrates, “All that the believer has spiritually is based on Christ’s being within. Our hope of glory is Christ in us [and] our spiritual vitality is drawn from His indwelling presence” (Erickson 2013, 878). Christ Himself came into the world and took on human nature (John 1:1, 1:14). He then paid the ultimate sacrificial price for all of humanity, with His life, and through His vicarious atoning death on the cross. Christ’s sinless life, His suffering, and His death satisfied the demands of God’s divine justice (1 Peter 3:18) and restored the severed relationship between God and His children (Romans 5:10). Humanity’s problem was, “Our sinful acts have alienated us from your God; and our sins have caused Him to reject us and not listen to our prayers” (Isaiah 59:2). However, “God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ’s death ultimately provided salvation and as Erickson shows, “Christ: (1) gave us a perfect example of the type of dedication God desires of us, (2) demonstrated the great extent of God’s love, (3) underscored the seriousness of sin and the severity of God’s righteousness, (4) triumphed over the forces of sin and death, liberating us from their power, and (5) rendered satisfaction to the Father for our sins” (Erickson 2013, 729). The satisfaction theory or atonement as compensation to the Father best encapsulates the role Christ played in procuring humanity’s salvation.

At the moment of salvation, there is a union the new believer attains with Christ, one made up of several parts, and one in which can never fully be comprehended, due to the union being a profound mystery (Ephesians 5:32). Erickson defines the act of salvation as, “The application of the work of Christ to the lives of humans” (Erickson 2013, 826). The first part of this union is of a judicial nature and recognizes believers as being righteous because Christ dwells within. Erickson illustrates, “God does not say, ‘Jesus is righteous but the human is unrighteous.’ [Instead,] He sees the two as one and says in effect, ‘They are righteous’” (Erickson 2013, 881). As the parable of the vine and branches demonstrates, one’s union with Christ is also vital (John 15:4). Leon Morris explains, “The two ‘abidings’ cannot be separated, and ‘abiding’ is the necessary prerequisite of fruitfulness. No branch bears fruit in isolation. Every fruitful branch has vital connection with the vine. So to abide in Christ is the necessary prerequisite of fruitfulness for the Christian” (Morris 1995, 595). In this union, the life of Christ flows into the life of the believer providing both spiritual strength and renewing the believer’s inner nature. The final union is spiritual in nature and in large brought on by the Spirit of God, as Erickson reveals, “Not only is our union with Christ brought about by the Holy Spirit; it is a union of spirits” (Erickson 2013, 881). The union with Christ, as a result of salvation, seems to have the most impact with regards to justification or how God views sinners as now being righteous in His sight. While justification is a single act, occurring at salvation, sanctification and regeneration are an ongoing exercise of faith, with the ultimate goal of becoming more like Christ in one’s thoughts and actions.

The Spirit of God or Holy Spirit plays a major role with conviction of sin, which leads to repentance (John 16:8-11). This divine call or prompting that leads to salvation is an act of God, and is called efficacious grace since it is an effective operation of grace. Charles Hodge explains:

There are three classes into which all events of which we have any knowledge may be arranged. First, those, which are produced by the ordinary operations of second causes as, guided and controlled by the providential agency of God. Secondly, those events in the external world, which are produced by the simple volition, or immediate agency of God, without the cooperation of, second causes. To this class all miracles, properly so called, belong. Thirdly, those effects produced on the mind, heart, and soul, by the volition, or immediate agency of the omnipotence of God. To this class belong, inward revelation, inspiration, miraculous powers, as the gift of tongues, gift of healing, and regeneration” (Hodge 2011, 683).

To this third class belongs the work of efficacious grace, so while the Spirit of God plays a major part in pre-conversion, the Spirit is also the driving force behind regeneration. Erickson describes this process as, “God’s transformation of individual believers, His giving a new spiritual vitality, and direction to their lives when they accept Christ” (Erickson 2013, 872). The Spirit of God facilitates God’s renewing work in the life of the believer and this is a never-ending process. After conversion, the Spirit of God continually works to sanctify the believer (Galatians 5) and Erickson describes this process as, “The Holy Spirit’s applying to the life of the believer the work done by Jesus Christ” (Erickson 2013, 897).

When looking at the assurance, evidence, and security of believers, there are several key components to each of these terms. The assurance of salvation refers to the question, “How do I know I am saved/rescued from my sin.” This is rooted in God’s ability to see the heart of His children and there is no middle ground; He is either Lord of one’s life or He is not. 1 John 5:11 says, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” This is a propositional truth, meaning we are saved by grace, through faith, based upon on our own beliefs/faith. I. H. Marshall explains, “The question whether we accept God’s testimony or not is not a merely academic one. On our answer too it changes the question whether or not we participate in eternal life. For what God’s testimony means is that he has given us eternal life; but this life is given only in His Son” (Howard 1978, 241). Assurance also is reflected in one’s behavior, meaning, “Do we look like and act like out Father?” One’s faith must be rooted in the blessed assurance of salvation and no amount of good works will ever satisfy.

When referring to evidences of salvation, the key difference between this and the assurance is now the focus is placed on whether someone else is saved. The book of James, specifically 2:17 establishes faith must be expressed and lived, by walking the talk. Frank Gaebelein explains, “James states the proposition he intends to demonstrate in the following verses: ‘Faith… not accompanied by action is dead. Action is the proper fruit of living faith. Because life is dynamic and productive, faith that lives will surely produce the fruit of good deeds. Therefore, if no deeds are forthcoming, it is proof that the professed faith is dead” (Gaebelein 1981, 183). The distinction James is making is not to deny faith; rather, he is indicating it is not the right kind of living faith, which does not possess the power to save. Only by inspecting the fruit in other peoples’ lives can the evidence of salvation be determined, but one must be careful not to solely base the assurance of salvation on what he or she does, but instead on what Christ Jesus has already done in their lives.

The security of the believer answers the question, “How secure is one in his or her salvation?” This is a highly debated subject matter amongst theologians and has become dogma and/or doctrine for many denominations of faith. In this writer’s opinion, an adopted child of God cannot be disowned. Paul, in chapter 5 of his letter to the Romans says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Douglas Moo explains, “By believing in Jesus Christ, the divine agent in God’s climactic act of deliverance, Paul and the Christians of all ages and places, have been declared innocent of all charges justly brought against those who sin and fall short of God’s glory. Paul presents this declaration of justification as a past act, which brings to the believer a new and permanent status and acquits the sinner” (Moo 1996, 298). A more reformed theology views justification as God’s declaration of one’s righteousness on the merits of Jesus Christ. Proponents of Arminianism warn falling away from Christ is possible citing passages such as: Hebrews 6, 10, Matthew 24, and 1 Corinthians 10. Ultimately, as Erickson illustrates, “It is possible to fall away and by relying on our own strength we surely will. However, if we are secure in Christ it is because of the work of the Holy Spirit, and the work of God in our lives that keeps us from falling” (Erickson 2013, 919-922). Essentially, this means a true follower of Christ we will not fall away despite the warnings that a believer can fall away. The warnings in Scripture serve in many ways like a fence, to keep believers committed to serving the Lord, without removing their free will to choose.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Gaebelein, Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 12: Hebrews through Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981.

Marshall, I. Howard. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistles of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978.

Moo, Douglas J. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Morris, Leon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.

Christology, Person and Work of Christ, & Atonement

jesus-paid-it-all-wallpaper-from-sofie-scott

The doctrine of salvation and the study of exactly how Christ’s death secures the salvation of those who believe remains a highly debated topic amongst theologians. Ultimately, one’s view of Christology and biblical understanding of Soteriology sets Christianity apart from any other religion, in that Christianity is the only religion that bases one’s salvation on faith alone, by grace alone, and through Christ alone. Millard Erickson emphasizes, “In the history of the church, the most heated debate in Christology has been over the understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ” (Erickson 2013, 603). In the early history of the church, the person and work of Christ were viewed as one and the same, but during the medieval period, there arose a shift in scholastic theology, which began to separate the doctrine of the person of Christ: (His divinity, humanity, and the unity of the two) from the offices and work of Christ (Erickson 2013, 617). This quickly led to disputes over the deity of Jesus and ultimately estranged the average Christian from having an impactful or experiential relationship with Christ, because the theological questions caused Christology to no longer be relevant to the average follower of Christ. An opposing view and the second shift in the view of the person and work of Christ would occur during the nineteenth and twentieth century, defined by Philipp Melanchthon’s statement: “To know Christ is to know His benefits” (Pauck 1969, 21-22). Luther further emphasized Christ’s saving activity for the believer, while Friedrich Schleiermacher stressed the importance of the experience of what Christ does in the believer. Paul Tillich would synthesize these views and assert, “Christology is a function of Soteriology. The problem of Soteriology creates the Christological question and gives direction to the Christological answer” (Tillich 1957, 2:150). Erickson illustrates how in this theory, “The theological answer is correlated with the existential question. Accordingly, we should concentrate upon the symbolism of the biblical materials, since it stresses the universal significance of the Christ event” (Erickson 2013, 617). By approaching the person of Christ through the work of Christ, it creates a greater unity between Christology and Soteriology and demonstrates the significance of the doctrine of Christ. Regardless of which view is taken, it is virtually impossible to separate the work and person of Christ and any effort to do so has the potential to lead to heresy. Erickson does demonstrate there is an acceptable way of beginning Christology with Christ’s work. However, he cautions, “While it must not be allowed to set the agenda, it can be used as a point of contact for more elaborate discussions of His nature” (Erickson 2013, 618).

Through a proper understanding of Christ’s work, it aids the believer in understanding exactly how Christ fulfilled the offices of: prophet, priest, and king, which leads to the three major functions of Christ being: revealing, ruling, and reconciling. The life and ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ then provide the framework for the doctrine of atonement, which Erickson explains, “Is the transition point from the objective doctrines of God, humanity, sin, and the person of Christ to the subjective doctrines. This transition point is the key element in balancing Christian theology to make it relevant to the believer” (Erickson 2013, 713). Just as there are multiple views pertaining to the person and work of Christ, the doctrine of atonement is no different and over the years, many inadequate theories have been presented. Ultimately, as Erickson emphasizes, “The example of Christ, the demonstration of the extent of God’s love, the severity of God’s righteousness and the seriousness of sin, the victory over sin and death, and the satisfaction for our sins are all truths, and should all be included in the explanation of the atonement” (Erickson 2013, 713). Thus, when looking at the atonement, there is an immediate shift from Christ’s nature to His work on the behalf of all sinners.

The Socinian Theory and the Moral-Influence Theory both emphasize the primary effect of Christ’s death is on humans. Both theories fail to recognize retributive justice and minimize God’s justice, holiness, and righteousness. The Governmental Theory or atonement as a demonstration of divine justice views that God does not inflict punishment as a matter of strict retribution. Sin is not punished simply because it deserves to be, but because of the demands of moral government. This view theorizes the sufferings of Christ are an atonement for sin. In stark contrast, the Satisfaction Theory, popularized by Anselm, reasoned the death of Christ was an actual penalty inflicted on Him as a substitute for the penalty that should have attached to the breaking of the law by sinners (Erickson 2013, 721). Anselm argued that it was necessary the atonement took place, in order to satisfy the justice of God. This view recognized the atonement was not primarily directed at humans, nor did it involve any sort of payment to Satan (Erickson 2013, 727). The only other theory that maintained a large following was the Ransom Theory, which viewed the atonement as victory over the forces of sin and evil. Origin and Gregory of Nyssa popularized this view, but the main problem arises as Origen viewed Satan, rather than God, being the one who demanded Christ’s blood as atonement. Another major problem with this view is that the direct effects of Christ’s atoning death were neither on God nor on humans; instead, it was directed towards Satan, making Christ’s work in relationship to God secondary (Erickson 2013, 727).

Christ, being both God and sinless human did not deserve death and it seems clear Anselm’s view of atonement, being the compensation to the Father, best encapsulates that Christ’s death: “(1) gave us a perfect example of the type of dedication God desires of us, (2) demonstrated the great extent of God’s love, (3) underscored the seriousness of sin and the severity of God’s righteousness, (4) triumphed over the forces of sin and death, liberating us from their power, and (5) rendered satisfaction to the Father for our sins” (Erickson 2013, 729). Anselm’s view of atonement also grew out of his understanding of the doctrine of sin, which is failing to render God His due. By failing to give God his due, “We take from God what is rightfully His and we dishonor Him. As sinners, we must restore to God what we have taken, but it is not sufficient merely to restore to God what we have taken away. For in taking away from God what is His, we have injured Him; and even after what we have taken has been returned, there must be some additional compensation or reparation for the injury that has been done” (Anselm 1098, 1.7). Only Christ could satisfy these requirements, and only through His atoning sacrifice could reparation be made between God and His children. Paul goes as far as to describe Christ’s work of atonement as propitiation or the appeasement of God’s wrath for the sins of humanity, so as Erickson suggests, “We must understand how the atonement involves sacrifice, propitiation, substitution, and reconciliation in the relationship of God to humanity and why it is the penal substitution theory that best describes this relationship of atonement” (Erickson 2013, 732). To fully understand atonement, one must also understand the nature of God, the status of God’s moral and spiritual law, the fallen nature of humanity, and the Old Testament sacrificial system, which demanded the blood from a sin offering for the remission of sins. The animals to be sacrificed had to spotless, without any imperfection, to atone or to cover one’s sin. Jesus’s humanity and sinless life made His vicarious atoning sacrifice applicable to all people, and as Erickson explains, “The iniquity of sinners is transferred to the suffering servant, just as in the Old Testament rites the sins were transferred to the sacrificial animal. The laying on of hands was an anticipation of the believer’s active acceptance of Christ’s atoning work” (Erickson 2013, 736). Christ’s atoning death was substitutionary, as He took our place, and took the weight of world’s sin and curses on His shoulders.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anselm of Canterbury. Cur Deus homo, “Why God Became a Man?” 1098.

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Pauck, Wilhelm ed. Melanchthon and Bucer. Library of Christian Classics 19. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1969.

Tillich, Paul. Systematic Theology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1957.

Doctrine of Sin: Where Did it Come From & Why Does it Exist?

what-is-sin

Sin, in its very essence, is contradictory to the nature of God, creating separation in the intimacy between God and man; however, it is allowed and even used by God in the provision of man’s free will, but is ultimately conquered by God’s grace, in the ultimate redemptive plan, through Jesus Christ. However, several questions still remain: “Why did God allow sin to enter the world,” and “why does He continue to allow it, especially considering, ‘The wages of sin is death’” (Romans 6:23). The problem or doctrine of sin continues to be a highly debated topic amongst scholars, because to fully understand the grace of God; one must first comprehend the depth of despair rooted in sin and its origin. Furthermore, one must also comprehend the nature of God, in order to offer a proper apologetic response to theological questions like: “If God made everything in creation good, how did evil and sin enter the world? If God is good, why does He allow evil and sin to exist? Why, if humans are created in the image of God, is there an inherent propensity to sin? And what purpose could evil and sin serve in accomplishing the will of God?” Ultimately, the sovereignty of God is on trial when people question the mystery of how and why evil and sin entered the world, so one must know sin’s origin and purpose to defend the faith. The thesis of this paper will show God allows sin in order to establish the freedom of mankind to freely choose Him.

By examining the introduction of sin into the world, it will be established sin was first found in Satan because of his desire to seek something contrary to what God intended. While God is sovereign in and over all things, He did not create sin, so it will then be revealed how evil originated in the created and not the Creator. The rejection of God’s will leads to spiritual death and this was played out in the lives of Adam and Eve, leading to the fall of mankind and all future generations. Working from the Old Testament to the New Testament, it will be displayed, God was not surprised or caught off guard by anything that has happened or will happen. In Old Testament times, animal sacrifices were continually offered at the Temple. These sacrifices showed the Israelites the seriousness of sin because: “Blood had to be shed before sins could be pardoned” (Leviticus 17:11). But the blood of animals could not fully remove sins (Hebrews 10:4). The sacrifices could only point to Jesus’ future sacrifice, which paid the final penalty for all sins. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, asserts the law failed only because “It was weakened by the flesh.” Douglas Moo illustrates, “In light of this criticism of the law in Romans, and the focus on liberation from sin and death in, ‘what the law could not do’ is not to condemn sin, but to break sin’s power—or, to put it positively, to secure eschatological life. It is God Himself who has done what the Law could not do, and He has done it through the sending of His own Son.”[1] When sin corrupted the world, God first provided the law as a means for sinners to know just how sinful they were and how far they had deviated from God’s standards. Before the law was given, sin existed (Romans 5:13). However, after the law was given, sin could be quantified and each act and could then be identified as an offense of a specific commandment found within law.

In the New Testament, God then provides a way for mankind to restore communion with the Father, which came through Jesus Christ. Ultimately, sin stands in the way of God’s best, and modern-day culture has become numb to its very presence, leading many to just do what feels good. However, the ripple effect of “original sin” still carries immense consequences. Lastly, it will be shown how Satan uses sin to isolate and condemn people, while God uses it to redeem and make His children whole. Sin has corrupted the world; so only by understanding how to counter Satan’s strategy will followers of Christ be able to use what the enemy meant for harm, for ultimate good (Genesis 50:15-21).

ORIGIN OF SIN

When most people think of sin’s origin, Adam and Eve’s choice to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is often what is stated. However, while this was mankind’s first sin, it was actually Satan’s prideful fall from grace, which would set events in motion, ultimately leading to Adam and Even’s banishment from Eden and mankind’s separation from God. When the serpent in the garden tempted Eve, this created a death sentence for all future generations, because God had previously told both Adam and Eve, “For when you eat from it, you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). Millard Erickson explains, “One of sin’s obvious results is death and this death we have deserved has several different aspects: physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death.”[2] Paul, in Romans 5:12 says; “Yet while death entered the world through Adam’s sin, it spread to all humans because all sinned.” Here, Paul is alluding to physical death, while spiritual death relates to the separation created between God and man. Because sin is contrary to the very nature of God, it acts as a barrier and condemns man to face both condemnation and judgment. Erickson, then further illustrates the final component in death: “Eternal death is the extension and finalization of spiritual death. If one comes to physical death still spiritually dead, separated from God, that condition becomes permanent. As eternal life is both qualitatively different from our present life and unending, so eternal death is separation from God that is both qualitatively different from physical death and everlasting in context.”[3]

Pride was the root of Satan’s sin and he would be consumed by it, causing him to desire both God’s authority and dominion. Satan no longer wanted to serve and worship; he wanted to be worshipped like God. These same desires and schemes can be seen played out in Satan’s attempt to have Eve first question God’s command and then make her think by eating the fruit she would be like God. While the serpent deceived Eve, Adam made a choice, which led to mankind’s curse, estrangement from God, guilt, and shame (Genesis 3:1-7, 12-13). Because of the fall, John Frame explains sin is not only a disruption in the personal relationship with God, but that it is also disruptive in authority. “In God’s order, He is the ultimate authority. Adam is a subordinate authority, to whom Eve is to be submissive (Ephesians 5:22). Together, Adam and Eve are to have dominion over all the animals, but in the story of the fall, the woman submits to an animal, the man submits to his wife, and both claim to be judges of God’s behavior.”[4] Anything God stands for or has created, Satan attempts to pervert, counterfeit, or destroy. While the Bible does not fully explain the fall of Satan and his angels, both Isaiah 14:3-21 and Ezekiel 28:2-19 contrast the defeat and fall of the kings of Babylon and Tyre. The imagery used in both passages portrays the ramifications of pride. In Isaiah, John Oswalt illustrates how pride was:

Seen in the fact that it would prefer the world to be a desert in its own hands than a garden in the hands of someone else. In fact, the capacity to destroy and oppress becomes a source of pride. This is perversion at its plainest. But again the poet has turned the boast back upon the boaster. He who had exiled hundreds of thousands from their homes and would not let them return now is himself homeless, and in a much more profound sense. This man is a spiritual exile. His pride has driven him from the home, which the Father has given in trust to all his children. Because pride denies God it must deny us what God has given, ultimately life itself.[5]

The passage in Ezekiel similarly depicts the king proclaiming himself to be divine in nature, authority, and intelligence. As a result of these proclamations, Daniel Block shows:

The assault on the prince involves three actions, which, while directed at a human monarch, reflect the treatment that images of a deity in the temple would receive from an attacking army. If the king of Tyre would claim the status of a god, then let him put up with the treatment of a god at the hands of invaders. First, the nations will attack the source of the prince’s pride, the symbols of his wealth and glory. Second, the invaders will desecrate and profane the prince’s radiant splendor. Third, the strangers will send the prince down to the Pit and the prince will exchange his falsely secure position “in the heart of the seas” for the world of the dead. The one who dares to claim the status of deity and demands to live among the gods must join the dead in Sheol. For this man the way up led down.[6]

Some scholars have viewed this text as being related with the fall of humanity, while others have chosen to interpret the text strictly as being mythological, due to Mesopotamian influences in the text. Block maintains the imagery of these oracles point to Eden, the Garden of God and, “Like the king of Tyre, the first man (1) was created by God, (2) was divinely authorized to rule over the garden as king, (3) not being satisfied with the status sought or claimed divinity, and (4) was punished for this hubris by humiliation and death.”[7] William Harrison believes, while this passage may be addressed to the king of Tyre, it in no way describes any human king, or other man. Instead, Harrison asserts, “The great angel was originally the sum of wisdom and perfect in all his ways until he sinned. This sin resulted from the fact that his mind was set on his own beauty rather than on the glory of the Creator. The ensuing pride led him to determine to follow his own will rather than submit to God.”[8] Oliver Crisp further explains, “There is no single, agreed-upon definition of original sin in the Christian tradition – no hamartiological analogue to the person of Christ given in the canons of the Council of Chalcedon. Instead, there are various versions of doctrine that attend to a common set of theological themes, which differ about dogmatic shape of original sin.”[9]

NATURE OF SIN

Sin is caused by ignorance, error, inattention, and pride. It is then characterized by missing the mark, irreligion, transgression, rebellion, treachery, perversion, abomination, and lack of integrity.[10] These causes and characteristics of sin have detrimental results and consequences, which lead to guilt, wickedness, and evil. In Psalm 51, David becomes convicted of his sin with Bathsheba after his confrontation with the prophet Nathan making both this confession of sin and pleading for forgiveness a prime example of what all sinners should do. In v. 2, David laments, “Cleanse me from my sin.” David uses several different forms for the word sin and here חַטָּאת or ḥaṭṭāʾt is used, which literally means missing the mark deliberately and purposefully disobeying God’s Word. In v. 3, David calls upon the Lord to blot out his transgressions, wickedness and rebellion. Here, David uses ‏פֶּשַׁע or pešaʿ, which essentially means forgiveness for knowing what God’s Words says, but choosing to revolt or rebel against His commands. In v. 9, David asks God to, “Blot out all my iniquities.” In this verse, David chooses the word עָוֹן‎ or ʿāwon to signify the crooked thinking and living that results when one acts against God’s Word. In each of these examples, David assumes responsibility for his sins and he knew that only repentance and forgiveness would cleanse his perverted inner state.[11]

A similar model can be found in Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter five. In v. 12, Paul is dealing with the topic of sin coming into the world through one man: Adam, but through the obedience and sacrifice of Christ, all believers might know the righteousness of God. Paul uses the word hamartia or ἁμαρτία, which is synonymous with the Old Testament חַטָּאת or ḥaṭṭāʾt, meaning a purposeful missing of the mark and of God’s standards, His holiness, and His Word. In v. 14, parabaseōs or παράβασις is used to describe sinning as going beyond or over and disregarding or overstepping God’s Word. As humans, it is part of one’s fallen nature to test limits and boundaries of what is acceptable and allowed, but here the sin is to put one’s foot over the line to test what the consequences are and this is exactly what Adam and Eve did. In v. 19, parakoēs or παρακοή is used to define disobedience or the willful choice not to hear. Selective listening never fares well, especially when people hear what he or she wants to hear. In vv. 15, 17, and 18 paraptōma or παράπτωμα is used to describe the offense or trespass. Another deviation of this word means falling sideways or false stepping, which means instead of doing what is necessary or right, one chooses to go around. In this particular passage, Paul is addressing not only the problem of sin, but also the issue of continuing to sin. Before Paul could teach about the new life believers had in Christ, his listeners had to know the definition of sin.[12]

L. Thomas then demonstrates, “The biblical understanding of sin is not only an act of wrongdoing, but a state of alienation from God. [While] the origin of sin is indeed a mystery and is tied in with the problem of evil; the sin is personal and social, individual and collective. The effects of sin are also moral and spiritual bondage, guilt, death, and hell.”[13] The Bible has multiple words relative to sin, all of which convey its causes, its nature, and its consequences. As Robert Eagan illustrates, “Sin – that is, alienation from self-transcendence due to failure to be attentive, intelligent, reasonable, and responsible – results in faulty apprehensions of value, and subsequent false judgments of value, and ultimately in poor decisions and wrong actions. This notion of sin takes into account the role of feelings in the apprehension and judgment of value.”[14] Crisp asserts, “Original sin is a real moral corruption or deformity of soul that affects all human beings with the exception of Christ.”[15] This view is rooted in the bedrock of Anglicanism, and Article 9, which states, “Original Sin is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit and in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation.”[16]

PURPOSE OF SIN

Temptation exists when something or someone attempts to influence another person to sin. Jesus Himself was tempted, so the act of being tempted is not sin, but acting on those thoughts is. God does not tempt His children, (James 1:13-15) but Satan does. In an attempt to corrupt the world, Satan wants everyone to live in total depravity, but as Frame demonstrates, “The corruption of sin remains until death, but it grows weaker and weaker, through the continual strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ. Scripture promises victory in Jesus, so the final word about the believer is not corruption, but overcoming. Paul said, ‘For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace’” (Romans 6:14).[17]

The doctrine of sin reveals man’s fallen nature and often can be difficult to identify. Frame shows, “Many people are unable to grasp the concept of sin as a inner force, an inherent condition, a controlling power. People today think more in terms of sins as wrongful acts. Sins are something external and concrete, logically separable from the person. On this basis, one who has not done anything wrong [generally conceived of as an external act] is considered good.”[18] In today’s society, sins are often ranked by a variety of manmade circumstances. In the judicial system, there are felonies and misdemeanors and each crime will carry with it a sentence or judgment. In a like manner, Christians often do the same thing with sin, but in God’s eyes all sin is still sin. While there can be some argument that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was considered an unpardonable sin, a proper understanding of the historical context and environment Jesus was speaking in reveals His authority came from the Spirit of the Father.

Joseph Haven provides two logically possible suppositions on the existence of sin in the world: “(1) That God cannot entirely prevent sin and (2) That for some reason, He does not choose to prevent it. Each of these propositions supposes what the other denies; and, as such, by the laws of contradiction, and of excluded middle, while they cannot both be true, one or the other must be true.”[19] It is the view of this writer that God chooses not to prevent sin based on four principles highlighted by Haven: (1) Because its existence is in itself desirable; (2) because, though not in itself desirable, it is still the necessary means of the greatest good; (3) because, thought not in itself tending to good, it may be overruled to that result; or (4) because, in general terms, its permission will involve less evil that its absolute prevention. The most valid response is the permission of sin serves the greater good and that God allow its presence, under specific restrictions. Haven then asserts, “It is not sin, but the purpose on the part of God not to do more than He is doing to prevent sin, that is for the best. [This view] puts the existence of sin, not in the light of a greater good, but only of a lesser evil.”[20] Harrison further demonstrates how, “The consequences of sin are so terrible that in permitting it the righteous and just God must see it as essential to the achievement of a purpose who benefits are of supreme importance to Himself.”[21] Upon this premise, Harrison claims sin entered the creation for three primary reasons: (1) God desired His creature to know Him and receive His blessings; (2) The freedom to choose exercised without any influence by God was the direct cause of sin; and (3) Sin and all of its consequences were necessary to show His love and holiness, and the inability of man and angel apart from God, not only to be redeemed, but so every creature would understand.[22]

EFFECTS OF SIN

Sin always leads to more sin, and ultimately suffering, but even in this state, God uses suffering, according to His good purposes to: transform and to save the sinner. Kenneth Himma, when dealing with the continuing-sin response, illustrates this premise claiming, “There is no wrong any person can do in this life that merits an infinite punishment and hence that punishment would be disproportionate to his or her worldly wrongdoing.”[23] [24] King David and his sin with Bathsheba is a prime example (Psalm 51 & 2 Samuel 11). To cover up the sin of adultery, David ultimately ends up committing murder by sending Uriah to the front lines to die at the hands of his enemies in battle. Himma then explains, “The most likely response by traditionalists is to deny that punishment in hell is disproportionate to the sum of one’s worldly sins and to embrace some form of the controversial thesis that sin against an infinite being is infinite.”[25] Mattias Gockel illustrates four claims which shows evil and suffering to be essentially two sides to the same coin: “(1) Evil is defined by events in which someone experiences ills, not by an act of the will or an evil intention; (2) One must distinguish carefully between suffering and various forms of evil; (3) Suffering is not always and in every case evil; and (4) From a Christian perspective, evil is something God has overcome through good.”[26] According to Friedrich Schleiermacher, “The existence of sin with and besides grace is ordered for us by God, since a consciousness of sin continues to exist besides a consciousness of grace.”[27] However, due to the consequences of sin and the effects of the fall, guilt, punishment, and corruption are the results. Erickson adds, “The impact of sin has several dimensions. There are effects on the sinner’s relationships with God and fellow humans, as well as oneself.”[28] Sins against God lead to guilt, punishment, and death; sins against oneself cause denial, strongholds, enslavement, and selfishness; and sins against community cause rejection, isolation, and inability to care about the needs of others. Octavio Esqueda demonstrates how, “Sin permeates our entire being and alienates us from ourselves, other people, our world, and most importantly from our Creator.”[29] The more people look to the world for answers; Esqueda explains the more culture continues to play a dominant role in determining what is right and wrong. Esqueda then explains sin’s primary role is to diminish God’s plan for His creation, leading to lives being corrupted, isolated, and prideful. These traits are detrimental because each is contrary to God’s nature. Esqueda explains because, “We are communal beings as our triune God is, our sinful pride makes us focus only on our self-interest and [this causes one to] neglect God and others. The more we pursue our own happiness by our own efforts and for our own benefits, the more lonely and isolated we become. This is the fallacy of sin!”[30]

Everyone is born into the world as sinners because of Adam’s sin. David Wilcox explains, “Adam’s sin is and was therefore indeed our sin – for Adam’s sin is embedded in those who make us human, and they can only make us after their image. Adam’s rebellion has come down to us generation after generation – culturally transmitted, and neurologically inevitable.”[31] Ian Boyd, when dealing with the issue of self-destroying sin, demonstrates how the problem of sin and evil is often contested when it affects the unwilling suffering of innocents. Boyd explains, “The problem of self-destroying sin can lead a Christian to doubt God’s power or God’s goodness toward the one who sins self-destructively. God appears to betray and be unable to save and redeem, which calls Christianity itself into question because of the central promise of redemption from sin.”[32] Despite this view, the justice and love of God work in conformity.

DEFEAT OF SIN

The law was ultimately incapable of providing life to those who adhered to it, as Dirk Venter explains, “All sin was collectively condemned by God in the flesh of Jesus Christ, and He bore that condemnation out in the destruction of His flesh. Those who partake of this reality through their participation or inclusion ‘in Christ’ by faith can boldly proclaim with Paul that ‘there is now no condemnation for me’” (Romans 8:1).[33] Thomas further explains the mission of Christ and how, “Christian faith teaches that sin cannot be overcome through human ingenuity or effort. The solution to the problem lies in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The penalty for sin is death, judgment, and hell, but the gospel is that God has chosen to pay this penalty Himself in the sacrificial life and death of His Son, Jesus Christ.”[34] The vicarious atonement Christ provided at Calvary made a way not only to restore fellowship with the Father, but also to provide payment in full for all past, present, and future sin. Only an infinite God could cover the multitude of sin found within mankind’s fallen nature.

In 1 Corinthians 15:55-56, Paul wrote, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” Here, Gordon Fee shows, “The law not only makes sin observable as sin, but also, and more significantly, shows that one’s actions are finally over against God, and thus leads to condemnation. The law, which is good, functions as the agent of sin because it either leads to pride of achievement, or reveals the depth of one’s depravity and rebellion against God, becoming either death-dealing or life-giving.”[35] Ultimately, Jesus conquered and defeated sin, through his death, burial, and resurrection. The fashion in which He did it bears mention. 1 Peter 2:24 declares, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” Peter Davids illustrates, “Because of its use in Deuteronomy 21:22, the idea that the one so hung was cursed by God cannot be far from the author’s mind, but without explicitly mentioning this he points out that this death was vicarious, for it was “our sins” that he bore.”[36] This curse is reminiscent of the curse that fell upon mankind as the result of “original sin” in the Garden of Eden. In 1 John 2:2, Jesus is referred to as, “The atoning sacrifice or the propitiation for our sins.” These two translations represent an atonement made for sin and a sacrifice made to God. Howard Marshall explains Jesus was acting as our advocate before God, and, “Jesus is pleading the case of guilty sinners before a judge who is being petitioned to pardon their acknowledged guilt. He is not being asked to declare them innocent, i.e. to say that there is no evidence that they have sinned, but rather to grant them pardon for their acknowledged sins.”[37]

CONCLUSION

The existence of sin and the mystery of why a good God would allow its presence in a creation in which He declared as being good is a direct result of mankind’s free will. While sin did not originate with man, its effects and curse are still felt throughout time. As a result of the fall, sin has plagued humanity, leaving many to question God’s motives. While the problem of evil is a moral problem,[38] the problem of sin is the process of death at work in the lives of God’s children. C. S. Lewis suggests, God in His omniscience “Saw that from a world of free creatures, even though they fell, He could work out… a deeper happiness and a fuller splendor than any world of automata would admit.”[39] Norman Geisler advances this theory by suggesting, “The ultimate goal of a perfect world with free creatures will have been achieved, but the way to get there requires that those who abuse their freedom be cast out.”[40] Lewis then adds, “The freedom of a creature must mean freedom to choose: and choice implies the existence of things to choose between.”[41] While free will makes it possible to choose wrong, Geisler emphasizes, “Forced love is rape; and God is not a divine rapist.”[42] God desires everyone to be saved, but He will never do anything to coerce one’s decision. Lewis put it best, “The door of hell is locked on the inside. [All who go there choose to] because there are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”[43] When Christ died for all of humanity’s sins, Ravi Zacharias articulates how, “God’s justice demands that sin be punished, but His love compels Him to save sinners, [so] surely justice and mercy kissed on the cross at Calvary.”[44]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Betenson, Toby. “Evaluative Claims within the Problem of Evil.” Religious Studies 51, no. 3 (09, 2015): 361-77, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1703895888?accountid=12085 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Boyd, Ian T. E. “The problem of self-destroying sin in John Milton’s Samson Agonistes.” Faith and Philosophy 13, no. 4 (October, 1996): 487-507. (accessed May 10, 2017).

Block, Daniel I. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 25-48. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976.

Crisp, Oliver D. “On Original Sin.” International Journal of Systematic Theology, 17, (June 2015): 252–266. doi: 10.1111/ijst.12107 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Davids, Peter H. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle of Peter (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990.

Durden, John. “The Doctrine of Sin.” Filmed [2015], Liberty University Website, THEO 525, Course Content, Week Seven Video Presentation. 12:48. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_351169_1&content_id=_16910176_1 (accessed May 11, 2017).

Egan, Robert. “Epistemological Foundations for A Theology of Sin.” The Heythrop Journal, 57, (May 2016): 553–567. doi: 10.1111/heyj.12318 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Esqueda, Octavio Javier. “Sin and Christian Teaching.” Christian Education Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 164-176. General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA254754469&sid=summon&asid=7cd444ab8fa87f29079655e13d84de39 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Fee, Gordon D. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

Geisler, Norman L. The Problem of Evil, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 1999.

Geisler, Norman L. and Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics Ask. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1995.

Gockel, Matthias. “‘Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’: an orientational approach to suffering and evil.” Modern Theology 25, no. 1 (January 2009): 97-105. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 10, 2017).

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Harrison, William K. (William Kelly). “Origin of Sin.” Bibliotheca Sacra 130, no. 517 (January 1973): 58-61. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 10, 2017).

Haven, Joseph. “Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose.” Bibliotheca Sacra 020, no. 79 (July 1863): 445-488. (accessed May 10, 2017).

Himma, Kenneth Einar. “Eternally Incorrigible: The Continuing-Sin Response to the Proportionality Problem of Hell.” Religious Studies 39, no. 1 (2003): 61-78. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20008447 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Lewis, C. S. The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics: The Problem of Pain. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002.

Marshall, I. Howard. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistles of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978.

Moo, Douglas J. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Oswalt, John N. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976.

Schleiermacher, Friedrich. Der christliche Glaube, nach den Grundsätzen der Evangelischen Kirche im Zusammenhange dargestellt. Zweite Auflage 1830/31 (Kritische Gesamtausgabe 1/13), ed. Rolf Schäfer (Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 2003), vol. 1     (§ 80).

The Church of England Website, “Article IX Of Original or Birth-sin.” https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/book-of-common-prayer/articles-of-religion.aspx#IX (accessed May 11, 2017).

Venter, Dirk J. “Romans 8:3-4 and God’s resolution of the threefold problems of sin, the incapability of the law and the weakness of the flesh.” In die Skriflig 48, no. 1 (2014). Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA406163579&asid=6a1e0a7a5321bc7b9c4c11a1a02b29d6 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Wilcox, David L. “A proposed model for the evolutionary creation of human beings: From the image of God to the origin of sin.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 68, no. 1 (2016): 22-43. Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA486164679&sid=summon&asid=e80c6aa2b9a2eae051ab74327ee96e56 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Zacharias, Ravi and Norman Geisler. Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

[1] Douglas J. Moo, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 477-478.

[2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 557.

[3] Ibid., 560.

[4] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 852.

[5] John N. Oswalt, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 323.

[6] Daniel I. Block, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 25-48 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 98.

[7] Block, TNICOT, The Book of Ezekiel, 117.

[8] William K. Harrison, “Origin of Sin,” Bibliotheca Sacra 130, no. 517 (January 1973): 60. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 10, 2017).

[9] Oliver D. Crisp, “On Original Sin,” International Journal of Systematic Theology, 17, (June 2015): 256. doi: 10.1111/ijst.12107 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[10] Erickson, Christian Theology, 517-529.

[11] John Durden, “The Doctrine of Sin,” Filmed [2015], Liberty University Website, THEO 525, Course Content, Week Seven Video Presentation, 12:48. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_351169_1&content_id=_16910176_1 (accessed May 11, 2017).

[12] Durden, “The Doctrine of Sin.”

[13] R. L. Thomas, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 1103-1104.

[14] Robert Egan, “Epistemological Foundations for A Theology of Sin,” The Heythrop Journal, 57, (May 2016): 553–567. doi: 10.1111/heyj.12318 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[15] Crisp, “On Original Sin,” 258.

[16] The Church of England Website, “Article IX Of Original or Birth-sin,” https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/book-of-common-prayer/articles-of-religion.aspx#IX (accessed May 11, 2017).

[17] Frame, Systematic Theology, 870.

[18] Erickson, Christian Theology, 516.

[19] Joseph Haven, “Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose,” Bibliotheca Sacra 020, no. 79 (July 1863): 472. (accessed May 10, 2017).

[20] Haven, “Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose,” 481 & 483.

[21] Harrison, “Origin of Sin,” 60.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Kenneth Einar Himma, “Eternally Incorrigible: The Continuing-Sin Response to the Proportionality Problem of Hell,” Religious Studies 39, no. 1 (2003): 69. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20008447 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[24] See also William Wainwright, “Original Sin,” in Thomas V. Morris (ed.) Philosophy and the Christian Faith (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988), 34-35.

[25] Himma, “Eternally Incorrigible,” 77.

[26] Mattias Gockel, “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good: an orientational approach to suffering and evil.” Modern Theology 25, no. 1 (January 2009): 97. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 10, 2017)

[27] Friedrich Schleiermacher, Der christliche Glaube, nach den Grundsätzen der Evangelischen Kirche im Zusammenhange dargestellt. Zweite Auflage 1830/31 (Kritische Gesamtausgabe 1/13), ed. Rolf Schäfer (Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 2003), vol. 1, p. 488 (§ 80).

[28] Erickson, Christian Theology, 548.

[29] Octavio Javier Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” Christian Education Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 164. General OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA254754469&sid=summon&asid=7cd444ab8fa87f29079655e13d84de39 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[30] Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” 166.

[31] David L. Wilcox, “A proposed model for the evolutionary creation of human beings: From the image of God to the origin of sin.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 68, no. 1 (2016): 22-43. Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA486164679&sid=summon&asid=e80c6aa2b9a2eae051ab74327ee96e56 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[32] Ian T. E. Boyd, “The problem of self-destroying sin in John Milton’s Samson Agonistes,” Faith and Philosophy 13, no. 4 (October, 1996): 489. (accessed May 10, 2017).

[33] Dirk J. Venter, “Romans 8:3-4 and God’s resolution of the threefold problems of sin, the incapability of the law and the weakness of the flesh,” In die Skriflig 48, no. 1 (2014). Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA406163579&asid=6a1e0a7a5321bc7b9c4c11a1a02b29d6 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[34] Thomas, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1106.

[35] Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 806.

[36] Peter H. Davids, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle of Peter (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 112.

[37] I. Howard Marshall, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), 118.

[38] Toby Betenson, “Evaluative Claims within the Problem of Evil.” Religious Studies 51, no. 3 (09, 2015): 361. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1703895888?accountid=12085 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[39] C. S. Lewis, The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics: The Problem of Pain (New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002), 561.

[40] Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1995), 73.

[41] Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 562.

[42] Geisler and Brooks, When Skeptics Ask, 73.

[43] Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 120.

[44] Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler, Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 31.

 

Charles Spurgeon’s Ministry and Role in the “Down Grade” Controversy

Charles Spurgeon

Throughout the history of the church, God has called and equipped individuals to stand opposed to apostasy and indifference, which attempts to cause moral and doctrinal decay. During the late nineteenth century, such an occasion arose as many so-called English Baptist pastors became so infatuated with worldly pursuits that many churches stopped engaging in prayer meetings and some even went as far as hosting dramas in the house of God. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was the man God called and equipped to shine the light of truth on the moral and doctrinal decay of the nineteenth century, which sought not only to “downgrade” the Baptist denomination, but also the life-saving gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Spurgeon was a man of humble beginnings, but someone who the Lord used greatly to preserve and spread the Word of God. This paradigm is seen throughout Scripture, which always leads one to the conclusion that it could only have been God working through the individual to accomplish what had been done. By looking back to Spurgeon’s upbringing, influences, and calling to ministry, the aim of this paper will detail how Spurgeon developed his faith, which led to his strong convictions and captivating preaching style. In addition to the many contributions Spurgeon made to Baptists, this paper will also look at the climate of Darwinism and Liberalism and how these theories and philosophies impacted the church. Lastly, this paper will highlight the long-lasting impacts of the “Down Grade” controversy and the legacy Spurgeon has left behind. The commitment, exhibited by Spurgeon, to moral and doctrinal purity is just as relevant to the church today as it was during the nineteenth century. Just as there was a multiplicity of factors attempting to oppose or water down the message of the gospel, the climate of the present-day church is much the same, if not worse. It will take men and women with the zeal and commitment of Spurgeon to combat these forces, in an effort, to transform the world, instead of being conformed by it. There are some hills worth dying on and for Spurgeon this was evident in everything he practiced, preached, and his resolve in the “Down Grade” controversy.

HIS CALLING

Born into an Anglican household in Kelvedon, Essex, in 1834, Spurgeon would experience a life-changing conversion at a young age. God would use general revelation, in the form of a snowstorm to force Spurgeon to take shelter in Newtown, Colchester and it would be in a Methodist chapel that God illuminated the special revelation of His word, thus opening Spurgeon’s heart to the life-saving message of salvation. John Pitt further enlightens how, “Spurgeon’s conversion was as dramatic as any found in the history of Christian centuries and was entirely true to the evangelical tradition. Although only sixteen when the great transaction took place, young Spurgeon was under very deep conviction of sin – much like John Bunyan’s conversion experience, it was an emotional crisis of the most severe kind.”[1] Spurgeon believed salvation required a radical change and, “This change is a thorough and sweeping one, and operates upon the heart, and life of the convert… [And] the Bible is meant for mankind, and our text refers to any man, of any country, and any age.”[2] An early Scripture which captivated Spurgeon was Isaiah 45:22: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Spurgeon and John Oswalt reveal how this passage illustrates, “There is a call to experience the same salvation that the Israelites have experienced. To be sure, that experience is predicated on a turning around and looking to the Lord in trust.”[3] As a show of trust in God’s plan, Spurgeon moved to Cambridge, England where he engaged in teaching Sunday school. Not knowing what the future held for Spurgeon, his first sermon actually occurred by filling in for a friend and it was given in a small cottage in Teversham. Shortly after, Spurgeon would become the pastor of a small Baptist church in Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire, which is where his first published gospel tract was produced in 1853. Early in his ministry, his preaching style and ability stood him apart from his contemporaries and by the age of nineteen, Spurgeon would become the pastor of London’s largest Baptist congregation, the New Park Street Chapel. Over the course of his life, it is estimated Spurgeon preached close to four thousand sermons and has close to fifty published works ranging from commentaries to sermons and devotionals. Spurgeon’s style of preaching attracted crowds of up to ten thousand people at the young age of twenty-two. Each week, he would write out his sermons and at the pulpit he would simply use an outline of the message, while stenographers transcribed the sermon, which would later be sold for a penny. To this day, these publications remain one of the most widely circulated and best selling publications.

CONTRIBUTION TO BAPTISTS

Spurgeon practiced what he preached and he taught believers how to find instruction everywhere and even how to gather lessons from unpleasant circumstances. Spurgeon illustrates, “Many are stung by nettles, but few are taught by them. Some men are hurt by briers, but Solomon was improved by them, so do not begin stinging yourself with nettles, grip them firmly, and then use them for your soul’s health. Trials and troubles, worries and turmoils, little frets and little disappointments, may all help you if you will look upon them and receive instruction.”[4] During his ministry, Spurgeon came under fire when he challenged the Church of England on the matter of baptismal regeneration, but due to his resolve, he never backed down. Craig Skinner reveals, “Theologically, Spurgeon’s greatest facility was his ability to declare the paradox of God’s will working in conjunction with man’s… reaching into heights and depths of argument and illustration well beyond many of his contemporaries.”[5] He had an overly compassionate heart and believed firmly in the missional responsibility of the local church and Spurgeon was very good friends with James Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission. He was also very active in opposing slavery, which was a major issue facing America, which ultimately caused him to lose the support of the Southern Baptist Convention. Spurgeon believed:

Not so very long ago our nation tolerated slavery in our colonies. Philanthropists endeavored to destroy slavery; bat when was it utterly abolished? It was when Wilberforce roused the church of God, and when the church of God addressed herself to the conflict, then she tore the evil thing to pieces. I have been amused with what Wilberforce said the day after they passed the Act of Emancipation. He merrily said to a friend when it was all done, ‘Is there not something else we can abolish?’ That was said playfully, but it shows the spirit of the church of God. She lives in conflict and victory; her mission is to destroy everything that is bad in the land.[6]

Just because something was popular or just because the majority was of the opinion the action was justified did not mean it was so in God’s eye and the debate over slavery was such an instance. Gregory Wills illuminates how Spurgeon’s ecclesiology rested squarely on the experience of regeneration. Wills explains, “[Spurgeon’s] commitment to the centrality of regeneration (new birth) shaped his ecclesiology from local polity to evangelical union. [Additionally,] Spurgeon’s church polity included three commitments: regenerate church membership, believer’s baptism, and congregational church polity.”[7] These three pillars of the church were fundamental in Spurgeon’s organizational methods and he believed each of these was revealed in Scripture. Regeneration was where Spurgeon’s Baptist identity grew out from, but because of his stand for orthodoxy, he would eventually withdraw from the Baptist Union in 1887. This was in part due to the Baptist Union allowing modernist ministers in its membership, which Spurgeon believed weakened regeneration. Wills further demonstrates, “As modernism grew more popular, American Baptists based their ecclesiology increasingly on evangelical essentials, [so] when Spurgeon withdrew, the hailed him as a great Baptist Champion.”[8]

Spurgeon believed Christ established the church according to a pattern, which made the polity of the church a matter of revelation and not one of expediency. This led to a Tabernacle process, which examined the life, character, and testimony of applicants before membership was granted. Spurgeon also held to the notion that Christ required congregational church government or independency. This would allow a certain level of autonomy, thus allowing churches the capability of exercising all the functions of a church of Christ. Spurgeon also believed each church should be able to appoint a minister instead of the common ordination process. He also believed in the distinction between elders and deacons of the church. Elders, he believed, should counsel others and help those searching for the way to salvation and also care for the sick and needy. Deacons, then, should be responsible for the finances, logistics of the service, and the maintaining of church discipline. Pitts adds, “Spurgeon’s ministry was Christo-centric, [because] for him, every road led to Christ. However he dealt with a text – and he was a master of the art of homiletics – it was always full of the gospel; and no sermon ended without bringing the hearers face-to-face with the claims and challenge of the Lord of all Good Life.”[9] Interestingly, Spurgeon would not offer a traditional altar call at the conclusion of his services; instead, he would invite them to come back on Monday to visit him in his office. However, he would invite those down who had already made a commitment to following and serving the Lord.

DOWN GRADE CONTROVERSY

William Estep illuminates how, “Spurgeon lived in an age conditioned by an intellectual and a religious climate quite different from our own.”[10] With his tremendous fame and the high-demand for his sermons, he encountered some harsh criticism, especially in the climate and landscape of Darwinism and Liberalism. Spurgeon saw through the facade and recognized how these theories and philosophies were attempting to weaken the Baptist faith. These were hills worth dying on and Spurgeon believed, “Assuredly the New Theology can do no good towards God or man; it, has no adaption for it. If it were preached for a thousand years by all the most earnest men of the school, it would never renew a soul, nor overcome pride in a single human heart.”[11] Leon McBeth cites the “Down Grade” as being the most serious controversy faced by the English Baptists in the late nineteenth century. McBeth then reveals how, “The controversy broke out in London and swirled around two outstanding Baptist leaders, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and John Clifford. Historians reckon that the controversy ended with the death of Spurgeon in 1892, but its consequences have still continued.”[12] The controversy led to a split from the Union, resulting in Spurgeon’s church being the largest self-standing church. Against this backdrop, Dennis Swanson explains, “At the height of the Down-Grade Controversy Spurgeon and others created and signed a statement of faith stating the doctrines that distinguished them from those in the Baptist Union who were on the “down grade.” In 1891, The Sword and Trowel published the statement, which dealt with the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures.”[13] Swanson then expounds how the “Down Grade” Controversy might have begun with the publication of two articles in Spurgeon’s widely distributed monthly journal, The Sword and Trowel, but were actually the product of Spurgeon’s close friend Robert Shindler. It was in this publication that Spurgeon, “Inserted a footnote on the first page of each of the “Down Grade” articles where he called for ‘earnest attention’ on the part of the readers, with the urgent warning that ‘we are going down hill at break-neck speed.’”[14] The first article addressed the issue of nonconformist churches falling prey to theological error and despite the churches being established as Calvinistic in faith, rarely would any last past two to three generations. Swanson then shows how, “The second article continued the discussion of theological “Down Grade” concentrating on the Baptist churches [pointing out] earlier church leaders, although themselves sound in doctrine, had not been sufficiently bold to confront error.”[15] Spurgeon and Shindler believed, “The first step astray is a want of adequate faith in the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures. All the while a man bows to the authority of God’s Word, he will not entertain any sentiment contrary to its teaching.”[16] On the last point of a departure from Calvinistic doctrine, Shindler and Spurgeon seem more concerned about adhering to core evangelical truths and biblical inspiration than adhering to Calvinism. It also seems clear that Spurgeon had no aim in reopening old wounds over the Calvinist-Arminian debates. In fact, Spurgeon actually wrote, “The present struggle is not a debate upon the question of Calvinism or Arminianism, but of the truth of God versus the inventions of men. All who believe the gospel should unite against that ‘modern thought’ which is its deadly enemy.”[17] During the entire controversy, Spurgeon is consistently seen striving for unity, but not at the expense of compromising the gospel message or core doctrinal beliefs. Even when he withdrew from the Union, it was done in an endeavor to maintain unity. The Union did not feel the same and issued a vote of censure against Spurgeon as a final blow in the controversy, leading many to revere him as a martyr to the faith.

Throughout the Down Grade controversy, Swanson explains how the charge was made that “Spurgeon was motivated by his desire to force conformity within the Union to his Calvinistic theology.”[18] At this point in the controversy, Spurgeon was surprised by the reaction his articles had received and in many ways by the lack of any reaction. Spurgeon grieved, “A new religion has been initiated, which is no more Christianity than chalk is cheese.”[19] However, Spurgeon steadfastly refuted this charge, declaring: “Certain antagonists have tried to represent the ‘Down-Grade’ controversy as a revival of the old feud between Calvinists and Arminians. It is nothing of the kind. Many evangelical Arminians are as earnestly on our side as men can be.”[20] Even when other Separatist Baptists tried to convince him to start a new denomination, he declined saying, “There are denominations enough. A new denomination would not be any safer than the old – heretics could enter a new one as well as an old.”[21] Battling the moral and doctrinal decay within the denomination took a toll on Spurgeon, as Estep further explains how, “The Down Grade Controversy took a greater toll on Spurgeon’s life and ministry than any other similar experience, [yet] when the Baptist leaders asked for documentation [proving Spurgeon’s claims,] he promised to protect the anonymity of his informer, Samuel Harris Booth, Secretary of the Union.”[22] Sworn to confidentiality, Spurgeon was a man of his word and never named names. McBeth believes, “Spurgeon’s refusal to name those who had embraced heresy may have grown out of Spurgeon’s belief if he named them, it would have introduced personalities into the discussion. Further, he pointed out that the Baptist Union had no doctrinal standard except a belief in immersion. [Ultimately,] Spurgeon wanted the Union to adopt a doctrinal statement.” This would have ended the controversy, united the Union, and quite possible extended the life of Spurgeon who died in 1892 at the age of fifty-seven.

In the second article, Spurgeon gave specific examples of how tolerance had led to disaster, writing that the, “Tadpole of Darwinism was hatched in a pew of the old chapel in High Street, Shrewsbury, where Charles Darwin had received his religious training and was first introduced to skepticism by a pastor who was enthralled with Socinianism.”[23] Shindler and Spurgeon attributed the common denominator for those caught up in the “Down Grade” being:

The first step astray is a want of adequate faith in the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures. All the while a man bows to the authority of God’s Word, he will not entertain any sentiment contrary to its teaching. ‘To the law and to the testimony,’ is his appeal concerning every doctrine. He esteems that holy Book, concerning all things, to be right, and therefore he hates every false way. But let a man question, or entertain low views of the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and he is without chart to guide him, and without anchor to hold him.[24]

Swanson explains, “During the years of the Down Grade Controversy, Spurgeon repeatedly warned of six areas of “down grade” in evangelical doctrine:

(1) The denial of the verbal inspiration (that is, the inerrancy) of Scripture. (2) The denial of eternal punishment and the affirmation of universalism. (3) The denial of the Trinity, mainly in terms of the rejection of the personality of the Holy Spirit. (4) The movement toward Socinianism or the denial of the deity of Christ and original sin. (5) The denial of the creation account in Genesis in favor of evolution. (6) The unhealthy influence of higher criticism on biblical scholarship, particularly as it relates to the Old Testament.[25]

Spurgeon then summarized his position on the theological trends of his day, stating:

Look at the church of the present day; the advanced school, I mean. In its midst we see preachers who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. They talk of the Lord Jesus, but deny his Godhead, which is His power; they speak of the Holy Spirit, but deny His personality, wherein lies His very existence. They take away the substance and power from all the doctrines of revelation, though they pretend still to believe them. They talk of redemption, but they deny substitution, which is the essence of it; they extol the Scriptures, but deny their infallibility, wherein lies its value; they use the phrases of orthodoxy, and believe nothing in common with the orthodox.[26]

In the third article, the tone took on a sense of urgency, as Shindler continued firing volleys against those engaged in apostasy and Spurgeon warned how this new religion had turned the church into a playhouse, as many were being used for dramas and entertainment purposes. There was plenty of blame to go around; however, Spurgeon placed it firmly on the preachers and modernists, who he believed were destroying the church. MacArthur explains how the focus of the controversy changes because now Spurgeon was suggesting that true believers might have reason to sever ties with those who were propagating the new theology. “In [Spurgeon’s] estimation, the truth of the Word had been so seriously compromised that true Christians needed to consider the command of 2 Corinthians 6:17: ‘Come out of their midst and be separate; and do not touch what is unclean.’”[27] After this, Spurgeon had become utterly obsessed and consumed by the controversy, leading to a decline in his physical health, which the Union used to attack Spurgeon, claiming his rants were that of a desperate and sick man. These personal attacks only fueled Spurgeon’s tenacity, especially considering, an answer or response to the allegations had still not been given by the Union. Spurgeon, a master of illustrations equated what was going on to, “The house is being robbed, its very walls are being dug down, but the good people who are in bed are too fond of the warmth, and too much afraid of getting broken heads, to go downstairs and meet the burglars; they are even half vexed that a certain noisy fellow will spring his rattle, or cry, ‘Thieves!’”[28] The final compromise would revolve around the Union Council adopting a creed. The once popular “no creed but Christ” was no longer enough because as Spurgeon highlighted, “The objection to a creed is a very pleasant way of concealing objection to discipline, and a desire for latitudinarianism. What is wished for is a Union which will, like Noah’s Ark, afford shelter both for the clean and for the unclean, for creeping things and winged fowls.”[29] However, even when a doctrinal statement was adopted, it was vague and bland, due to last minute modifications. MacArthur further demonstrates how, “Just as Spurgeon had warned all along, nothing was to be gained by compromising with the enemies of the gospel. The Baptist Union’s decline was, if anything, accelerated and those who embraced the ‘New Theology’ were emboldened after the Union Assembly, as they now held the reins of the Union.”[30] The ripple effects of this controversy have lasting impacts to this day.

HIS LEGACY

The prince of preachers has left a rich legacy behind. Spurgeon never sugarcoated any message and he always spoke to the heart of the matter. He wanted his listeners to understand, “There is a disease upon you which has already brought you down to spiritual death, and will bring you down to hell. The most moral of you, the most amiable of you, unless Jesus shall look upon you in love, is carrying about within himself a plague of the heart which will be your eternal ruin; Jesus must save you, or you are lost. Man’s only home is to come from Him.”[31] In many of his sermons, illustrations were used to allow light to shine upon the biblical truth being conveyed. Spurgeon said, “There exists no reason why the preaching of gospel should be a miserable task either to the speaker or the hearer. Pleasantly profitable let all our sermons be. A house must not have thick walls without openings, neither must a discourse be all made up of solid slabs of doctrine without a window of comparison or lattice of poetry.”[32] Out of Spurgeon’s immense devotion to God arose a charitable heart towards social concerns. Rooted in this construct, David Duke demonstrates, “The three pillars of Spurgeon’s social concern rest upon: his call for absolute devotion to God in Christ; his concern for the salvation of individual souls; and his emphasis on Christian character which develops from the new nature found in Christ.”[33] Duke reveals how Spurgeon’s life was lived so deeply in Scripture that, “He could not escape the powerful calls for justice and peace, [and] while his primary concern was for individual souls, his compassion for all souls in every dimension of their lives compelled him to speak fervently for radical changes in the attitudes of his society and Union.”[34] Spurgeon always sought the moral high ground in this fight against modernism, but the Baptist Union would never be the same. Spurgeon’s cost in this fight was great, as his friends turned against him, his health declined, and the church he loved was corrupted. While some questioned Spurgeon’s departure from the Union, MacArthur equates Spurgeon staying in the Union to Abraham staying in Ur, in the hope of converting the entire household out of which he was called. Following Spurgeon’s passing, Shindler brilliantly encapsulates the heart and desire of Spurgeon when he wrote, “May the Lord graciously purge His Church of all false doctrine, all false teachers, and all who are traitors in the camp of Israel! And may the Spirit from on high be poured out upon all flesh, that all the ends of the earth may see, and own, and rejoice in, the salvation of our God!”[35]

CONCLUSION

During the late nineteenth century, as many so-called English Baptist pastors became so infatuated with worldly pursuits that many churches stopped engaging in prayer meetings and some even went as far as hosting dramas in the house of God, Charles Haddon Spurgeon arose as the man of God who was called and equipped to shine the light of truth on the moral and doctrinal decay. The “downgrade” of the Baptist denomination, was a hard fought war, one in which ultimately took years off the life of the protagonist. Spurgeon himself warned everyone, “There is truth and there is error and these are opposite the one to the other. Do not indulge yourselves in the folly with which so many are duped-that truth may be error, and error may be truth, that black is white, and white is black, and that there is a whitey-brown that goes in between, which is, perhaps, the best of the whole lot.”[36] Following Spurgeon’s passing, Estep illuminates how “Thomas Spurgeon was reported to have remarked to a Baptist leader that the Union had killed his father, whereupon, the leader replied, ‘and your father almost killed the Union.’”[37] This controversy serves as a stark reminder that if one fails to stand for doctrinal purity, he or she will fall for anything. In today’s climate, tolerance and compromise have become the weapons being used to downgrade the moral and doctrinal purity of the gospel message.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Crocker, Lionel. “CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON’S THEORY OF PREACHING.” Quarterly Journal Of Speech 25, no. 2 (April 1939): 214. Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

Duke, David Nelson. “Charles Haddon Spurgeon: social concern exceeding an individualistic, self-help ideology.” Baptist History And Heritage 22, no. 4 (October 1987): 47-56. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 5, 2017).

Estep, William Roscoe. “The making of a prophet: an introduction to Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Baptist History And Heritage 19, no. 4 (October 1984): 3-15. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

Hixson, Elijah. “NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM IN THE MINISTRY OF CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 57, no. 3 (09, 2014): 555-70, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1565535207?accountid=12085. (accessed May 4, 2017).

MacArthur Jr., John F. “Spurgeon and the Down Grade Controversy,” The Spurgeon Archive Website, http://www.romans45.org/spurgeon/downgrd.htm#16 (accessed May 5, 2017).

May, Lynn E. “The impact of one life: Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Baptist History and Heritage 19 no. 4(1984): 2.

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

Oswalt, John N. Oswalt. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976.

Pitts, John. “Genius of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Theology Today 6, no. 4 (January 1950): 524-530. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

Shindler, Robert. From the Usher’s Desk to the Tabernacle Pulpit: The Life and Labors of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. New York, NY: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1892.

Skinner, Craig. “The preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Baptist History And Heritage 19, no. 4 (October 1984): 16-26. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. “A powerful reason for coming to Christ.” Bibliotheca Sacra 99, no. 393 (January 1942): 68-86. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

________. Art of Illustration. Auckland, NZ: The Floating Press, 2013. ProQuest ebrary. (accessed May 4,, 2017).

________. Is Conversion Necessary? Pensacola, FL: Generic NL Freebook Publisher, n.d., 1874 eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), (accessed May 4, 2017).

________. Talks To Farmers. Auckland, NZ: The Floating Press, 2013. ProQuest ebrary. (accessed May 4, 2017).

 

________. The Best War Cry. March 4, 1883. (accessed May 5, 2017).

________. The “Down Grade” Controversy. Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 2009.

________. The “Down Grade” Controversy: Collected Materials Which Reveal the Viewpoint of the Late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

________. The Essential Works of Charles Spurgeon: Selected Books, Sermons, and Other Writings, Edited by Daniel Partner. Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 2009.

________. “The Form of Godliness without the Power,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon in the Year 1889, repr. ed. Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1975.

________. “A Fragment on the “Down Grade” Controversy.” The Sword and Trowel 23 (1887): 560-565.

________. “Notes,” The Sword and Trowel (April 1887): 190-196

Swanson, Dennis. “The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries: Some Lessons from Spurgeon’s Battle for Evangelical Orthodoxy.” Faith and Mission 20, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 20-33.

_________. “The Millennial Position of Spurgeon.” Master’s Seminary Journal 07, no. 2 (Fall, 1996): 200-211.

Wills, Gregory A. “The ecclesiology of Charles H. Spurgeon: unity, orthodoxy, and denominational identity.” Baptist History and Heritage 34, no. 3 (1999): 67-79. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA94161024&sid=summon&asid=f18c26f68eff860fdfd2b2c98d45a42e (accessed May 5, 2017).

            [1] John Pitts, “Genius of Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” Theology Today 6, no. 4 (January 1950): 524. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

[2] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Is Conversion Necessary? (Pensacola, FL: Generic NL Freebook Publisher, n.d. eBook Collection, 1874), 4. EBSCOhost, (accessed May 4, 2017).

[3] John N. Oswalt, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 223.

[4] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Talks To Farmers (Auckland, NZ: The Floating Press, 2013), 5. ProQuest ebrary. (accessed May 4, 2017).

[5] Craig Skinner, “The preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Baptist History And Heritage 19, no. 4 (October 1984): 22. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

[6] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Best War Cry, March 4, 1883. (accessed May 5, 2017).

[7] Gregory A Wills, “The ecclesiology of Charles H. Spurgeon: unity, orthodoxy, and denominational identity,” Baptist History and Heritage 34, no. 3 (1999): 67. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA94161024&sid=summon&asid=f18c26f68eff860fdfd2b2c98d45a42e (accessed May 5, 2017).

[8] Wills, “The ecclesiology of Charles H. Spurgeon,” 68-69.

[9] Pitts, “Genius of Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” 529.

[10] William Roscoe Estep, “The making of a prophet: an introduction to Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” Baptist History And Heritage 19, no. 4 (October 1984): 3. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

[11] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The “Down Grade” Controversy (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 2009), 2.

[12] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 302.

[13] Dennis Swanson, “The Millennial Position of Spurgeon,” Master’s Seminary Journal 07, no. 2 (Fall 1996): 200.

[14] Dennis Swanson, “The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries: Some Lessons from Spurgeon’s Battle for Evangelical Orthodoxy,” Faith and Mission 20, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 20.

[15] Swanson, “The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries,” 22.

[16] Robert Shindler, ‘The Down Grade,” The Sword and Trowel (March 1887): 122.

[17] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Notes,” The Sword and Trowel (April 1887): 196.

[18] Swanson, “The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries,” 22.

[19] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The “Down Grade” Controversy: Collected Materials, Which Reveal the Viewpoint of the Late Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 513-514.

[20] Swanson, “The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries,” 22.

[21] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “A Fragment on the “Down Grade” Controversy,” The Sword and Trowel 23 (1887): 560.

[22] Estep, “The making of a prophet: an introduction to Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” 13.

[23] Christian George, The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon Volume I: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854 (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2017), 332.

[24] John F. MacArthur Jr., “Spurgeon and the Down Grade Controversy,” The Spurgeon Archive Website, http://www.romans45.org/spurgeon/downgrd.htm#16 (accessed May 5, 2017).

[25] Swanson, “The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries,” 29.

[26] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Form of Godliness without the Power,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon in the Year 1889, repr. ed. (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1975), 308.

[27] MacArthur Jr., “Spurgeon and the Down Grade Controversy, the final compromise.”

[28] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Our Reply to Sundry Critics and Enquirers,” The Sword and the Trowel (September 1887), 461.

[29] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Baptist Union Censure,” The Sword and the Trowel (Feb. 1888), 83.

[30] MacArthur Jr., “Spurgeon and the Down Grade Controversy, the aftermath.”

[31] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “A powerful reason for coming to Christ,” Bibliotheca Sacra 99, no. 393 (January 1942): 73. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

[32] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Art of Illustration (Auckland, NZ: The Floating Press, 2013), 7. ProQuest ebrary. (accessed May 4,, 2017).

[33] David Nelson Duke, “Charles Haddon Spurgeon: social concern exceeding an individualistic, self-help ideology.” Baptist History And Heritage 22, no. 4 (October 1987): 47. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 5, 2017).

[34] Duke, “Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” 55.

[35] Robert Shindler, From the Usher’s Desk to the Tabernacle Pulpit: The Life and Labors of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (New York, NY: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1892), 274.

[36] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Three Sights Worth Seeing,” in the MTP 1887, 476.

[37] Estep, “The making of a prophet: an introduction to Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” 13.

Psalms of Lament

psalm-13-lament

Fifty or one-third of the Psalms are classified as laments. Gary Yates further explains, “Laments are times when the psalmist prays to God in times of trouble, distress, sadness, and in life-threatening situations.”[1] Walter Brueggemann classifies laments as psalms of disorientation as the relationship between the psalmist and God is conducted in an honest engagement, and where pain and hurt are acknowledged rather than denied and avoided.[2] The basic elements of the laments consist of: (1) an opening address or an introductory cry out to God in a very personal way; (2) a lament where the psalmist gives a description of present troubles, often in a very figurative, extreme, and over the top way, to make God aware of the dire circumstances; (3) a petition or prayer, which consists of what the psalmist is actually asking God to do; (4) a confession of trust and faith that God will act; and (5) a vow of praise where thanksgiving and sacrifice are offered when the Lord delivers the psalmist from his trouble.  Logan Jones describes the depth of pain in laments, “was the characteristic way of expressing and voicing the hurt, [but] the distinctive movement from plea to praise [demonstrated] an act of boldness. This movement does not stay stuck in the plea of brokenness and grief; [it] moves beyond to praise and unparalleled transformation with joy, wisdom and hope.”[3] This transformation did not deny the reality of brokenness or grief. Instead, the lament provided trust, confidence, and gratitude towards God.

Yates also illustrates, “The Bible does not command us to fake joy; it promises us a deep and real joy that is so satisfying because we know God is with us, regardless of what we are facing in life, [enabling us to] come to Him with complete honesty, especially in times of desperation.”[4] Jones adds, “By praying the laments, Israel had a way of directly facing the hurtful dimensions of human life. Israel did not try to explain them away, deny them, or avoid them. Instead, Israel held to the premise that all of life – even the hurtful dimensions – was embraced by it covenantal relationship with God.”[5] The psalmist’s relationship with God is deep, personal, and authentic. In Psalm 13, Nancy deClaissé-Walford et al. explain:

The prayer is spoken from a situation of severe crisis… The original crisis may have been a physical, emotional, social, or economic crisis. But two things are clear. First, the psalmist definitely understands the crisis as a spiritual and theological crisis — the relationship with God. Second, the psalm is now available to any believer for reuse in a variety of life situations.[6]

Craig Broyles further demonstrates, “This psalm allows believers to voice the mixed emotions often felt toward God while in the midst of hardship, namely complaint and trust.”[7] In Psalm 79, the lament depicts a community crying out for help and most likely refers to the Babylonian exile in 586 B.C. Everything the nation of Israel had believed and trusted in was gone and the people had no hope. However, in every lament, there is a wonderful transformation that occurs, where heartache, pain, and misery turn into joy, thanksgiving, and praise.

Laments are cries for help and Yates makes a valid point that “Part of dealing with pain is being able to express it.”[8] As Roland Murphy demonstrates, “The psalms are about honest dialogue where nothing is held back. The words of the psalms speak to the very core of human experience in ways other language cannot begin to approach. In this way, the psalms teach us how to pray, how to stand faithfully before God, asking and even demanding response, action, and answers.”[9] The psalms also teach us to bring our hopes, praise, and joy to God and they call us to bring our fear, pain, and sorrow before God. In desperate times, Jones illustrates “the psalmist gives voice to the anguished part of our human experience, [where] questions are asked that have no answers: How long will God forget? How long will God be hidden? How long must pain be born? How long will the enemy be exalted?”[10] These are valid questions, which every believer has wrestled with. Jones suggests some of the greatest reasons for the laments are to help believers make it through seasons where there is no hope and a cry for deliverance, for healing, for life, for mercy, for forgiveness, for help, for vengeance, for relief, for hope, for attention, for presence, and for strength.[11]

Jones then explains, “bad things happen, circumstances change, loss occurs, and grief and sorrow break the heart, [which] leads to the first movement [as] the cry of lament speaks of the terrible truth of disorientation.”[12] However, when the pleas and petitions reach God, Jones illustrates disorientation does not last forever. Instead, the laments petition God to be true to His character and as a new orientation emerges, blessings and breakthroughs in life are witnessed and praise and worship are given for all God has done. However, spiritual growth does not happen over night; it is a life-long pursuit of trusting and praising God, despite the circumstances.

By praying the laments, individuals will be able to face any hurt, betrayal, or anxiety, by looking to God and embracing the covenant relationship he or she has with Him. Jones explains, “The movement from orientation to disorientation to new orientation… is a way to move deeper into a faith which is transformative, where God indeed makes a difference.”[13] Laments illustrate why it is important to lift one’s petitions before God because as Jones explains, “Our pain can be spoken and named, our hurt can be lifted up and heard, our cries can come from our heart, and we can rest assured nothing, nothing at all can separate us from the love of God.”[14] The believer must simply understand and trust that God hears every prayer and He is continually working in the lives of His children, according to His perfect plan.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Broyles, Craig C. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Psalms. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 1999.

deClaissé-Walford, Nancy, Rolf Jacobson, and Beth Tanner, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Psalms. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014.

Jones, Logan C. “The psalms of lament and the transformation of sorrow.” The Journal Of Pastoral Care & Counseling 61, no. 1-2 (2007): 47-58. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 3, 2016).

Murphy, Roland. “The Faith of the Psalmist,” Interpretation 34, (1980): 235-238.

Yates, Gary. “The Lament Psalms: Part 1.” Filmed [2011], Liberty University Website, OBST 660 Course Content, Week Two Video Presentation, 17:54. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_328279_1&content_id=_14949919_1 (accessed November 1, 2016).

________. “The Lament Psalms: Part 2.” Filmed [2011], Liberty University Website, OBST 660 Course Content, Week Two Video Presentation, 14:18. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_328279_1&content_id=_14949919_1 (accessed November 1, 2016).

 


[1] Gary Yates, “The Lament Psalms: Part 1,” Filmed [2011], Liberty University Website, OBST 660 Course Content, Week Two Video Presentation, 17:54. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_328279_1&content_id=_14949919_1 (accessed November 1, 2016).

[2] Logan C. Jones, “The psalms of lament and the transformation of sorrow,” The Journal Of Pastoral Care & Counseling 61, no. 1-2 (2007): 47. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 3, 2016).

[3] Jones, “The psalms of lament and the transformation of sorrow,” 48-49.

[4] Yates, “The Lament Psalms: Part 1.”

[5] Jones, “The psalms of lament and the transformation of sorrow,” 49.

[6] Nancy deClaissé-Walford, Rolf Jacobson, and Beth Tanner, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014), 158.

[7] Craig C. Broyles, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 1999), 87.

[8] Gary Yates, “The Lament Psalms: Part 2,” Filmed [2011], Liberty University Website, OBST 660 Course Content, Week Two Video Presentation, 14:18. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_328279_1&content_id=_14949919_1 (accessed November 1, 2016).

[9] Roland Murphy, “The Faith of the Psalmist,” Interpretation 34, (1980): 235.

[10] Jones, “The psalms of lament and the transformation of sorrow,” 52.

[11] Ibid., 52.

[12] Ibid., 51.

[13] Jones, “The psalms of lament and the transformation of sorrow,” 50.

[14] Jones, “The psalms of lament and the transformation of sorrow,” 54.