Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Determination of the Father (Eph. 1:5)

“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”

The word predestined (proorisas—aorist active participle) is a late and rare word, meaning to determine or decide beforehand. It is a compound word meaning to set a boundary and beforehand, thus to set boundaries beforehand. It refers to God’s predetermined plan and purposes. It is used twice in Ephesians (1:5, 11). It points clearly to believers being the objects of His predestination. God has predestined us to something. The emphasis is not on whom, but to what one is predestined. Predestination is an act of God the Father. He determined and decreed it. Election deals with Gods selection, while predestination deals with God’s determination or plan for those whom He selects. Thus, election and predestination are not the same, but they are connected. The object of predestination is “us,” i.e. believers. Unbelievers are never said to be predestined.
The preposition eis (to or unto), indicates direction or appointment and “adoption as son.” The object of the preposition is adoption. The Greek word is huiothesia, a compound word meaning a son and a placing, and “signifies the place and condition of a son given to one to whom it does not naturally belong.” (Vine, Expository Dictionary, 1:32). It is a term used only by Paul, and first employed and developed by him (cf. Rom. 8:15; 9:4; Gal. 4:5). There is good reason for this; it is a term that Jews know little or nothing about, for it was borrowed from Roman law. The term is not found in the Old Testament (LXX). Paul is a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28), he was raised under the Roman system in Tarsus. It is from his Roman background, not his Jewish background that inspired him to use the term. He is writing to Gentiles who knew and lived under Roman law. The word is rich in meaning for the believer. Barclay tells us how adoption under Roman law was carried out:
It was carried out by a symbolic sale in which copper and scales were used. Twice the real father sold his son, and twice he symbolically bought him back; finally he sold him a third time, and at the third sale he did not buy him back. After this the adopting father had to go to the praetor, one of the principal Roman magistrates, and plead the case for the adoption. Only after this was the adoption complete.
When the adoption was complete it was complete indeed. The person who had been adopted had all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family and completely lost all rights in his old family. In the eyes of the law he was a new person. So new was he that even all debts and obligations connected with his previous family were abolished as if they had never existed (DBS: Ephesians, 78).
What a picture this presents to us as believers. Notice the following aspects of the term adoption:
·        It is a forensic or legal term. This makes it very binding. The term and act provides security. A Roman father had the legal right to disinherit his natural children, but not his adopted child.
·        The term does not center upon the nature of the Christian, but upon the status and rank of the believer, our new position in Christ. “The point is that the one adopted acquired a new status, privilege, and property that would not have been available under his old father(Hoehner, Ephesians, 197).
·        It was a twofold process. First, the son was released from the control of his natural father. Second, he came under control of his new adopted father. The old is done away with, now things are new. There is a new relationship and benefits. We are now sons (notice our text says “as Sons”) of God. The new father now has the right to control our lives and property. With this comes new responsibility to our new father—God.

The agency of the believer’s adoption is “through Jesus Christ to Himself.” The Greek preposition is dia (through), and has the idea “of passing between two objects through another object(A.T. Robertson, Gramar, 581). This is in keeping with Jesus as the way to the Father (John 14:6). We come to God only through Jesus Christ. The words “to Himself” apply to God the Father, not to Jesus Christ. The whole context is what God the Father is doing and how He is doing it. God the Father is the subject (1:4). This action of the Father comes through Jesus Christ. The preposition through indicates the work of Christ on our behalf.
God choose and predestined us “according to the kind intention of His will.”  The proposition (kata, according to) denotes the standard of the Father’s action. It denotes that the action taking place conforms to the standard—“the kind intention of His will.” The Greek word translated kind intention is eudokia, meaning good pleasure or delight in. God acts in accordance to His own delight or pleasure of His will. His will is not arbitrary, but is controlled by His absolute positive character. God will never contradict His character. Nor can His will be influenced by something outside of Himself, this is especially true in the present context since these events were before the act of creation. The standard of God’s choosing and predestinating is the pleasure and satisfaction of His own holy, loving, and perfect will.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Matthew 2:15 says the fleeing of Jesus to Egypt was to fulfill the Word of God: Hosea 11:1. It is charged that Matthew forces an interpretation to the words of Hosea that was never intended.  Barclay claims that Matthew “in his eagerness…finds prophecies in the Old Testament where no prophecies were ever meant[Matthew, 1:27]. To many, Matthew’s interpretation appears to be arbitrary and have caused much discussion. Hosea 11:1 speaks of a historical event: the people of Israel going down to Egypt. Matthew’s method is to draw a comparison between the nation and the King of the nation. Dale DeWitt tells us, “The Old Testament is sometimes applied in an adaptive, expanded, or equivalent sense to both Israel and the church; when this is done, real visible or conceptual connections with the Old Testament source appear, so that a sense of historical reality and meaning continuity is sustained.[DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY IN AMERICA DURING THE 20TH CENTURY, 109].  Roy Zuck notes that “fulfilled” in some context like this one, points to an enlarging or heightening of Old Testament passages. That there are places were fulfillment is “not in the sense of prophecies being realized but in the sense that they are ‘filled with more meaning’[BASIC INTERPRETATION, 269] Matthew compares and connects the history of Israel and Jesus:

Born in the land
Born in the land
Fled to Egypt
Fled to Egypt
Baptized at the Red Sea
Baptized in the Jordan
40 years in wilderness
40 days in wilderness
Heard law from Mountain
Gave law from mountain
Experienced miracles
Performed miracles
Disobedient to God's Word
Obedient to God's Word

It is clear from the context that Hosea is not strictly a prophecy, but it is certainly a historical event.  Thus, the question that must be faced is how this passage can have a fulfillment?

First, notice the word fulfillment. It is the Greek word pleroo, which means to fill up or complete, thus fulfill. It does not necessarily need to be tied to a reference of predictive fulfillment. It can be taken in the sense of accomplishment or completion, such as an obligation or duty (cp Matt. 3:15). Thus, the word has a “broader significance than mere one-to-one prediction.” [D.A. Carlson, MATTHEW, 92]. Matthew takes the broader significance to make it appear that Hosea is predictive, thus a fulfillment of prophecy. That is not the case.

The answer how this is a fulfillment is simple. It is not a fulfillment or completion of predictive prophecy, but of a type. Types have to be completed, just as future prophecies must be. A “type is an Old Testament institution, event, person, object, or ceremony which has reality and purpose in Biblical history, but which also by divine design foreshadows something yet to be revealed.” [Donald K. Campbell quoted by Paul Lee Tan, THE INTERPRETATION OF PROPHECY, 167]. A type is never spoken of as future, yet it speaks of future things. Paul Lee Tan is correct when he reminds us that:
            Prophecies and types both point to things future and are predictive in their natures. Types, however, are to be distinguished from prophecies in their respective forms. That is, a type prefigures coming reality; a prophecy verbally delineates the future. One is expressed in events, person, and acts; the other is couched in words and statements. One is passive in form, the other active [Tan, 168].

Types are indirect pictures of Christ or New Testament truth. They are found in Old Testament events, places, and individuals that make historical connections between the two testaments. Such examples are the Passover, the brazen serpent, the temple, Melchizedek, among many, all of which find fulfillment in the person of Christ, actions and events in the life of Christ, or truths found in the New Testament. The fulfillment is not directly predicted in the type, but is clearly seen in retrospect through the eyes of inspiration by the writers of Scripture. Matthew does not say Hosea is in direct fulfillment of prophecy, but he is saying it is a fulfillment or completion of a type by means of a historical connection. Christ going to Egypt and being called out of Egypt is connected with the history of Israel. Matthew’s key seems to be not only the historical event, but also Jehovah’s expression “my son.” In this expression, Matthew saw a correspondence of God’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the history of Israel anticipated the life of Israel’s Messiah. Jesus was the “typological recapitulation of Israel[Carson, 91]. Matthew interprets the passage correctly. He did not use it as a springboard for an unrelated homily. He did not exegete Hosea in a way that is unrelated to the original meaning. Instead, Matthew drew a relationship between the two events. For Matthew, Israel’s history is connected to Jesus’ history by the means of sonship (Exodus 4:12, Matthew 2:15). This does not deny the historical-grammatical understanding of the passage in Hosea, but affirms it so that the correspondence can be made. John Walvoord observes about the correspondence between the two events: “In both cases, the descent into Egypt was to escape danger. In both cases, the return was important to the providential history of the nation Israel[Matthew, 23]. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011



There seems to be two trends in the study of the Gospels. First, the Q Hypothesis is being abandoned among many scholars. Second, there is a new look on the subject of Markan Priority. This book does both. It is an introduction to what Black calls the Four Gospel Hypothesis. It makes a case for a return to Matthew as the first Gospel written and interdependence of the Gospel tradition. He calls for a return to taking the Patristic witnesses seriously, and stop paying lip service to their writings. For too long scholars have devalued, ignored, or denied these sources. He relies heavily on these witnesses, which “utterly fails to support the priority of Mark at any point” [p.32]. He sees the synoptic Gospels springing from what he classifies as phases of the apostolic period, with John being a late supplement to the other Gospels. He maintains that each phase provided circumstances and the need for each Gospel. The essence of this hypothesis:

  • The Jerusalem Phase (30-42 AD; Acts 1-12). He views the Gospel of Matthew was the manifesto of the mother church of Jerusalem.
  • The Gentile Mission Phase (42-62 AD; Acts 13-28). This Gospel of Luke was written to (1) to produce a version of Matthew’s Gospel that would meet the spiritual needs of the Gentiles. (2) To make sure the modified version would be acceptable to Peter and the Twelve.
  • The Roman Phase (63-67 AD). Written by Mark as a joint action by Peter and Paul to help verify Luke’s Gospel. The Gospel of Mark was Peter’s record to add another eyewitness of the written record.
  • The John supplement. Written to make clear the primary objective of Jesus throughout his public ministry is to win over the spiritual authorities in Jerusalem. John supplements what is not in the synoptic Gospels.
Black views Matthew as the priority Gospel, and states that this hypothesis does away with the need for the so-called Q document, as well as Markan priority. He sees Luke using Matthew and Mark using both Matthew and Luke. The weakness is that the presentation is brief and concise [only 78 pages]. Also it is not clear how he comes to some conclusions or speculations concerning Mark. The detail for support is limited, giving only the major arguments. This is because it was written as an introduction or handout for teaching a course. However, there is enough to whet the appetite of the student and stimulate his thinking. I hope he expands his views in a deeper in further publication of the hypothesis. There is a good biography for students to use to explore the synoptic problem. The present work was written for his students, pastors and well studied laymen. However, most laymen will have a hard time understanding this complicated subject of the synoptic problem. For those who have an interest in this subject this work should not be overlooked, even if there is little or no agreement with his views. I found the ideas interesting and worthy of consideration. It also left me with questions and a desire for more study of the subject. It is a succinct alternative position to the popular view of the synoptic problem.

Spurgeon Quote

A man who fears not God, will break all his laws with an easy conscience, but one who is the favorite of heaven, who has been indulged to sit at royal banquets, who knows the eternal love of God to him, cannot bear that there should be any evil way in him that might grieve the Spirit and bring dishonor to the name of Christ. A very little sin, as the world calls it, is a very great sin to a truly awakened Christian.

From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled "Self-Humbling and Selfsearching," delivered January 15, 1871

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Notes on the SABBATH

We are often told by certain religious teachers that worship on Sunday is wrong, or that Sunday is the new Sabbath. Neither is true. In the Bible we see:

The Creation Sabbath (Gen. 2:3)
After the six days of work on creation we are told that God rested. The Hebrew word Sabbath, meaning “to cease, or to rest.” However, nowhere in this passage is there any instruction to keep the Sabbath. It was not a commandment until Israel became a nation, hundreds of years later.

The Beginning of the Sabbath as a Day of Worship (Ex. 16:23)
The first mention of the Sabbath is on the occasion of the giving of the manna while Israel was on their wilderness journey. It is a command given to Moses for the nation Israel to observe. The language of the text indicates this is a new step in God’s relationship to Israel. There is no indication that Israel had a previous understanding of the Sabbath. Nor is the Sabbath said to be observed before this point in time by man. The purpose of the Sabbath:
  • It is a sign between God and Israel (Ex. 31:13). It is clear that the Sabbath was not given to all mankind, but to the nation Israel. Its purpose is NATIONAL in scope.
  • It is a memorial of their deliverance from Egypt (Deut. 5:15). It is a memorial to God, not as Creator, but as Deliverer. He Delivered the nation of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt.
  • It is for the purpose of worshiping God by the nation of Israel (Lev. 23:3).

The Sabbath in the Gospels.
Those who promote Sabbath keeping try to prove that Jesus taught that it was for all mankind. Their proof text is Mark 2:27—“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” They falsely conclude that since it was made for man and not just the nation Israel, we must obey and observe the Sabbath. It must be pointed out that the only mankind that was commanded it keep the Sabbath was the people of the nation of Israel. No Gentile nation or person was given such a command. Christ was speaking to the nation of Israel when he made the observation. Jesus Himself kept the Sabbath because He was a Jew, “born under the Law” (Gal. 4:4).

The Sabbath in Acts
In the book of Acts there is no mention of the Sabbath except in connection with the Jews and Jewish evangelism (Acts 13:14, 27, 42, 44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4). Notice in each case it a Jewish synagogue that the meeting is taking place, never a church meeting. Paul met on the Sabbath in established Jewish synagogues to preach Christ to them. In contrast, when Paul meets with believers, he does so on the first day of the week (Acts 10:7). Here they had assembled to “break bread” (i.e. communion) and hear the Word. This Scripture points out the fallacy that the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday around 300 AD by Constantine. Scripture indicates otherwise; while the Jews met on the Sabbath, believers and the church met on Sunday.

The Sabbath in the Epistles
Paul mentions the Sabbath only twice. First, in Colossians 2:16-17 there is a list of which we are not to let anyone judge us, including “a Sabbath day.” Note it is found in the context of legalism. Paul explicitly condemns those who would judge people on the basis of the keeping of the Sabbath and other legalistic rituals (cf. Gal. 4:9-11). There are two reasons for this:
  • The Law has been nailed to the cross and “cancelled” the ordinances against us.
  • The foods, festivals and Sabbath were “a mere shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ (Col. 2:17). Thus to cling to a prophetic shadow after the reality of substance came is wrong. The substance replaces the shadow.

The other reference is Hebrews 4:9. Sabbath keepers point to this verse in pride: “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” (While the KJV translates it only as rest, the Greek word is Sabbath—“sabbatismos”). They maintain this means we are to obey and keep the Sabbath. However, notice the following:
  • The main subject of the passage is not the Sabbath, but the subject of rest. The word rest is found nine times in this chapter. The Sabbath rest remains, but not the Sabbath. There is a difference.
  • The Sabbath rest is identified as “His rest” (Heb. 4:1). This is the rest Israel failed to enter into because of unbelief (Heb. 3:12-19). It could not be the rest of the Sabbath (Saturday), for they had entered and observed it faithfully. Rather, it was the true spiritual rest offered by God of which the Sabbath was a shadow of “His rest.” His rest can only be entered into by faith, not by an outward observance.
  • True believers have entered this rest (Heb. 4:3).
  • The true Sabbath rest remains (Heb. 4:9). It is not found in a special day of the week, but in Christ. He is the substance. Why is this a Sabbath rest? Because believers have found rest from work (Heb. 4:10). Just as God rested from his work of creation, we can rest in His work of redemption. It is a true rest. We have ceased to work for our salvation and do not depend on our own works to keep our salvation (Titus 3:5; Eph. 2:8-9). Our faith rests in Christ, not in a day of the week.