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Book Review: John and Jude by Vic Reasoner

Dr. Vic Reasoner is one of my favorite Arminian theologians today.  His writings are biblical and yet he has in his mind the average preacher of God’s Word as he writes.  Dr. Reasoner writes with a conviction that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God and that all doctrine must flow from the Word of God (Titus 2:1).

In this work, Dr. Reasoner goes verse by verse through the epistles of John and Jude.  Dr. Reasoner leaves no stone uncovered as he writes.  He deals with his text while also including sound Arminian theology in there as well.  I appreciate how Dr. Reasoner is willing to deal with tough texts and along the way includes everything from doctrines of salvation, sin, holiness, sanctification, and even end times.

In regard to debated texts such as 1 John 2:1-2 within the Arminian/Calvinist debate, Dr. Reasoner does two things.  First he deals with the text in regard to propitiation and then he looks at how Calvinists have understood John’s words in 1 John 2:2 in regard to an unlimited atonement.  To the average reader 1 John 2:2 seems to teach that Jesus died for the entire world.  John Wesley, for example, taught that Christ’s atonement was as extensive as the curse of sin.  In other words, sin has extended to the entire world and likewise the work of Christ is powerful enough for the sins of the entire world.  Sinners who go to hell go to hell because of their own sins and the fact that they have not repented and placed their faith in the Lord Jesus who alone can appease the wrath of a holy God by His graceful work of the cross.

The good thing about Dr. Reasoner’s commentaries are that while it is clear that Dr. Reasoner is a sound theologian and knows his content, he writes with the average preacher in mind.  As a man who loves expository preaching and practices this art himself, Dr. Reasoner is offering his commentaries to help the preacher preach the text.  He wants preachers to work through the text.  Therefore his commentaries, as any good commentary will do, works through the letters.  I read this work as a devotion.  It is that easy to read and follow.  So while Dr. Reasoner does dive into the Greek text or the history behind a debate over a text, he writes with the average preacher in mind.

Overall I once again am impressed by this commentary.  I pray that Dr. Reasoner will write more biblical commentaries.  While I praise God that we have so many good commentaries out there, we need more solid Arminian commentaries and this one fits the bill.

You can find more information about obtaining a copy of this commentary here.

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Short Thoughts on “Rhema” Words From God

Recently I visited a Pentecostal church and once again I heard the old teaching that “logos” is the written Word of God but “rhema” is the “revelation to the heart from God.” In other words, “logos” is the Bible and “rhema” is a personal revelation from God the Holy Spirit.

A few thoughts are in order.  First, the Greek usage of “logos” and “rhema” here is horrible.  Not one Greek scholar (barring perhaps someone from the Word-Faith camp) would try to build this case.  Every Greek lexicon and Greek word study book I own doesn’t offer this distinguish between the Greek words “logos” and “rhema.”

Secondly, while this Pentecostal teacher would not admit to this, the teaching undermines the authority of the Bible.  When “logos” is reduced to “the written Word” but “rhema” is a fresh revelation from God, how does this not undermine the authority of the Bible?  Instead of opening up the Bible and hearing directly from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), the believer instead believes they have to pray and wait on the Spirit to give them a fresh, divine revelation from heaven.  So what happens is simple: people want to hear from God so they don’t open the Bible to hear from God since they are taught that while the “logos” is good, “rhema” is better.  This undermines the authority of the Bible and makes the revelation from God via direct communication through so-called “rhema” words more important.  I know that most Pentecostals would reject such a view but they don’t see that their teaching is not helping people hear from God (which they can by simply reading the Bible) but is undermining the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17).

In reality, a good Greek study tool will easily clarify the issues related to “logos” and “rhema” and one need only go to a study site online.  It would only take a few minutes to see the error of trying to make “logos” as the “written Word” and “rhema” as “a personal word from God.”  This is misleading and false.

Finally, I repeat here again that if you want to hear from God you need only to read your Bible.  That is it.  I don’t need a personal vision, revelation from God.  I have His Word and His Word is inerrant and infallible and true.  I point again to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the Word of God is breathed out by God (ESV) and makes us “competent, equipped for every good work” (v.17 ESV).  Peter the Apostle pointed not to his personal experience but the Word of God in 2 Peter 1:16-21.  The Word of God is our sure foundation.

To hear from God is easy and only takes seconds.  Take your Bible.  Open it.  Read it.  You’ve now heard from God.  Congratulations.

Sermon Worth Hearing on Racism

I’m not always the biggest Jordan Hall fan but this sermon he preached on racism is worth hearing.  I subscribe to his podcast and enjoyed this sermon very much.  I agree with him.  The answer to our national troubles (and world for that matter) is simple: the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Nothing else can transform like the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:17).

My prayer is that the Church will preach the gospel.  The answer is not found in summits, endless articles on race, giving in to socialists like #blacklivesmatter but rather the answer for the Christian is simple: preach the gospel.  Preach the gospel to all men (Matthew 28:19-20) and make disciples of all men.  Jesus died so that all colors of people can come and be one in Christ Jesus.  Just as the Lord divided the people because of their sins in Genesis 11 so the Lord reunited His people in Acts 2.  That is the power of the gospel.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/17/2016 at 12:43 PM

Makes Me Wonder Again…

Memes.com

Rhema, Logos, and “Words from the Lord”

From time to time I feel it is important to address the use of the Greek terms “Logos” and “Rhema” which are often translated in our English Bibles as “Word.”  In many charismatic circles, the “logos” is used for the Bible but the “rhema” is used for a “personal word from the Lord” or sometimes its where the Holy Spirit makes the Bible “a personal word.”  Often I have found this doctrine is taught by those in the Word-Faith movement but that is not always the case and many godly charismatics have fallen prey to the teaching.

The teaching often goes like this:  The Bible is important and it is the Word of God (logos).  But God wants to speak to us personally and give us a “rhema” word where He reveals His heart to us.  Sometimes this “rhema” word will come while reading the Bible (logos) but sometimes God will send His “rhema” word to our spirit.  The “rhema” word is a “now word from heaven.”

What happens is that this doctrine undermines the authority of Scripture.  It also undermines the sufficiency of Scripture.  But it also misuses the Greek words.  For example, the word “logos” is most notably used in John 1:1 where Jesus is called the Word of God.  Oneness Pentecostals jump on the term “logos” as meaning “the thought of God” so that they can deny the eternality of the Son.  Oneness Pentecostals teach that only God the Father (whom they name Jesus) is eternal but Jesus the Son is only eternal in the sense that He was in the mind of God the Father.  The context does not allow for this (John 1:1, 14, 18).  The word “logos” certainly is used here for Jesus but the word “logos” can also just mean “a word” such as in Matthew 8:8, 16; Luke 7:7.  “Logos” can mean a saying or discourses or conversation such as in Matthew 12:37; 15:12; 19:22; 22:15; 26:1; John 4:39; Acts 5:24.  “Logos” can mean a report or rumor (Matthew 28:15; Luke 5:15; 7:17).  It can mean a common saying or proverb (John 4:37).  “Logos” can also mean the Word of God whether the law or the gospel (Matthew 13:19-23; Mark 2:2; 7:13; 16:20; Acts 8:4; 2 Timothy 4:2).  It can mean “the ability to speak, utterance” as in Ephesians 6:19.

The word “rhema” is used in many ways interchangeably with “logos.”  For example, Jesus (who is the logos of God in John 1:1) says in John 3:34, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words (rhema) of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.” And again Jesus says in John 8:43, “Why do you not understand what I am saying?  It is because you cannot hear My word (logos)” and then our Lord says in John 8:47, “He who is of God hears the words (rhema) of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

Notice in the above texts that the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus, uses the words interchangeably.  In context, rhema is not a subjective, personal word from God but is the Lord Jesus speaking to us.  The Bible is the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) and reveals the words of God to us.

In 1 Peter 1:23-25 we read (NASB):

23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word (logos) of God. 24 For,

“All flesh is like grass,
And all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,

25 But the word (rhema) of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word which was preached to you.

If “logos” is the written Word and “rhema” is the personal word from God, why does the Holy Spirit use them both here referring to the same thing?  Again, it is because the New Testament writers use the Greek terms interchangeable at times.  We must examine the context.

What is clear from 1 Peter 1:23-25 is that Peter has the Scriptures in mind.  He is not pointing us to a subjective personal word.  He is pointing us to the sufficient, inerrant, infallible Word of God and he quotes from Isaiah 40:6.

In conclusion, the teaching that the “logos” is the written Word and “rhema” is the subjective personal word is not found in the Bible.  If you want to hear from God, open your Bible and read it.  The Bible is all you need to hear from God.  The Bible is breathed out from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and is useful for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (ESV).  This “word” is what we are to preach (2 Timothy 4:2).  We need no other.  2 Peter 1:16-21 is clear that we have the sure foundation if we heed the Word of God.  Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

In order for people to accept “words from God” apart from Scripture, the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is attacked.  People are taught that the Bible is a “dead book” but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6 misused).  Other “holy” books such as the Quran or the Book of Mormon will attack the Bible itself and mock it.  In the end, if you want to hear from God read the Bible for the Bible is the Word of God.  The Bible is sufficient.  Open it up, read it, and you are hearing from God.

The Arminian Affirmation of the Atonement

The Bible is clear that Jesus died for sinners.  No one denies this.  Both Arminians and Calvinists acknowledge that Jesus shed His blood for the souls of lost sinners.  Matthew 1:21 is clear that Jesus came to save His people from their sins.  The key question in this debate over the atonement is whether the atonement is for all sinners period.  Many Calvinists insist that the atonement is indeed for all people on some level.  For example, Dr. John MacArthur believes that the atonement provides benefits for all people while only having the power to save the elect.  MacArthur goes on to state, “Jesus Christ made a sufficient sacrifice to cover every sin of every one who believes (John 3:16-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2.”

I do not disagree.  MacArthur states the following on 1 John 2:2 and the “whole world”:

This is a generic term, referring not to every single individual, but to mankind in general.  Christ actually paid the penalty only for those who would repent and believe.  A number of Scriptures indicate that Christ died for the world (John 1:29; 3:16; 6:51; 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:9).  Most of the world will be eternally condemned to hell to pay for their own sins, so they could not have been paid for by Christ.  The passages that speak of Christ’s dying for the whole world must be understood to refer to mankind in general (as in Titus 2:11).  “World” indicates the sphere, the beings toward whom God seeks reconciliation and has provided propitiation.  God has mitigated his wrath on sinners temporarily, by letting them live and enjoy earthly life (1 Timothy 4:10).  In that sense, Christ has provided a brief, temporary propitiation for the whole world.  But he actually satisfied fully the wrath of God eternally only for the elect who believe.  Christ’s death in itself had unlimited and infinite value because he is Holy God.  Thus his sacrifice was sufficient to pay the penalty for all the sins of all whom God brings to faith.  But the actual satisfaction and atonement was made only for those who believe (John 10:11, 15; 17:9, 20; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32, 37; Ephesians 5:25).  The pardon for sin is offered to the whole world, but received only by those who believe (1 John 4:9, 14; John 5:24).  There is no other way to be reconciled to God.

A few thoughts here about this.  First, I appreciate Dr. MacArthur much.  He preaches salvation to all.  He never fails to call all to repent and believe the gospel.  In this sense, he follows in the steps of men such as George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon in calling all sinners to repentance.  He is no hyper-Calvinist in this regard.  There has probably never been a man who has done more for expository preaching than John MacArthur.  Having personally met him, I found him to be gracious and kind.  So by no means do I present my case against him as an enemy.  I come as a brother.

Now the Arminian can read the above words from MacArthur and agree with most of what he wrote.  I agree that Christ died for the elect.  I agree that Christ died for His sheep.  I agree that Christ died for His Church.  I agree that Christ died for Paul the Apostle (Galatians 2:20).  I agree that Christ died for us (Galatians 1:4).  But I also go one step further and believe that Christ died for all.  I agree that no one is saved apart from being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  I agree that one has to believe to be saved (John 5:24; Acts 16:30-31).  I agree that repentance is necessary for eternal life (Acts 2:38).  But I also believe that all can be saved and there is no limit on this number.

I agree that the world is opposed to God (1 John 2:15-17).  Ironically, MacArthur never limits “world” in 1 John but here in 1 John 2:2.  The world is indeed sinful, God-hating, rejecting the truth of the gospel.  I agree.  But what we find in the gospel is God calling out to the whole world to repent and be saved.  God, who is the one that the world hates, is calling to His enemies to come and be reconciled through faith (Isaiah 1:18).  This is the message of the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47).

You’ll notice in MacArthur’s statement above also that he wants to make sure that we understand that he believes the atonement is powerful enough to cover the sins of the world if God wanted it to.  He doesn’t use those words but it seems implied by this reader.  He wants us to see how powerful and vast the work of Christ is.  I would agree.  In the cross, we do find God the Son dying for the world and shedding His precious blood for the lost.  If God wanted to, He could indeed reconciled the world through the powerful blood of Jesus.  I have no doubt.  Instead, God calls to lost sinners through His love that He demonstrated on the cross (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9).  This is not a forced love.  This is not a forced relationship.  This is a loving relationship where the repenting sinner comes to God through His Son to be saved (Romans 2:4).  This is a genuine relationship that God initiated and not man (Ephesians 2:4-6; 1 John 4:10).  But this message, this good news is for the whole world (Luke 2:10-11; 1 John 4:14).

It is true that the atonement is only effective for those who believe.  Christ died for His enemies and He even prayed for His enemies at the cross (Luke 23:34).  MacArthur even acknowledges that Christ is praying for His enemies at this passage and adds:

Some of the fruit of this prayer can be in the salvation of thousands of people in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:41).

Notice he adds in his note that “some of the fruit” and not all.  If it is true that Christ is dying only for the elect, why pray for the world?  Why pray for the sinners who are killing Him?  Many Calvinists point to John 17:9 as proof that Jesus does not pray for the world but only for the elect.  Yet MacArthur acknowledges that Luke 23:34 is for the lost.  He also is clear that God heard His prayer and saved some of those who perhaps killed Jesus at Pentecost in Acts 2:41.

Let us be clear here though.  None were saved by Jesus praying for them in Luke 23:34.  They had to appropriate the work of Christ just as we all do through faith.  That Jesus shed His blood saves no one.  Even Calvinists agree with this while insisting that the sins of the elect were placed on the Son.  All agree that we are saved by faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).  And even if we allow for Calvinists to believe that faith is a gift given by God to His elect, we must still acknowledge that the wrath of God is against us till we believe.

This would mean two things.  First, those who are in cast into hell are cast into hell because they rejected the sacrifice of the Son of God for their sins.  Do we have passages of Scripture that speak of Christ dying for their sins while they rejected His sacrifice?  Yes e do.  Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Peter 2:1.  In context all these Scriptures speak of those whom Christ died who may not share in eternal life.  Even MacArthur does acknowledge that 2 Peter 2:1 is referring to false teachers who claimed Christ and so Peter mocks them by saying that they refuse to submit to the Lordship of Christ whom they claimed bought them.

What is clear is that people who go to hell go to hell because of their rejection of God and His truth.  The person is to blame and not God who gave His Son for their reconciliation.  Calvinism would place the blame on God.  God chose to reject sinners even before time began and even if you allow for the sinner’s punishability for their sins, they are sinning because God has predetermined that they be sinners in the first place by His own sovereign will (Romans 9:22-23).  If I were a Calvinist, at this point I would preach hard annihilation since the sinner is in hell tormented day and night forever because God willed that they never be saved in the first place.  Annihilation is at least charitable toward sinners who are being tormented for God’s glory in the first place in the Calvinist view.

Secondly, the application of the atonement is through faith.  Even MacArthur doesn’t preach the doctrine of eternal justification.  Consistent Calvinists such as John Gill see the truth that the elect are born sinless.  How else can it be?  If God placed the sins of the elect on Christ and He ensures that the elect will believe by His own sovereign choice from eternity past, who can one argue that God ever sees the sins of the elect?  If Christ died for my sins at the cross and God placed my sins on Him at the cross, when was the wrath of God against my sins appeased?  Gill would answer the cross.  MacArthur would answer the cross but add that I must receive it by faith.  And I would answer: Yes and this is biblical Arminianism!

Romans 3:21-26 in the ESV is beautiful (with my emphasis):

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Faith is the design of God to come into a saving relationship with Himself.  This is the sovereign will of God.  This is the sovereign decree of God.  All who repent and believe will be saved.  There is no limit to the sacrifice of the Son of God.  I have heard many Calvinists preaching like Arminians to the lost by preaching that Christ shed His blood so that they might be saved.  They call out to lost sinners to repent and believe the gospel (as if sinners could actually do this by their command).  They call to sinners to turn from their sins and be saved through faith in Christ.  And I agree!  In fact, I believe that every person whom the Calvinist evangelist is preaching to can be saved and there is no limit to the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).  If God can have mercy on me, He can have mercy on my lost neighbors and co-workers who despise Him at this time (1 Timothy 1:15; 4:10).

As Paul the Apostle wrote above in Romans 3:24, this salvation is a gift to be received by faith.  The sinner does not earn this salvation.  There is nothing we could add to the work of Christ to be saved.  In fact, what a wicked thing to do to add to the cross of Christ by saying that we must also do our part to be saved.  We are justified though faith alone in Christ alone by His grace alone (Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:15-16; 3:13-14).  This is true of us as children of God as well as the lost sinners we are preaching to.  Salvation is the gracious work of God (John 1:12-13; Titus 2:11-14; 3:5-7).  We are saved by the work of Christ alone.

Thankfully both Calvinists and Arminians preach that truth.  Some Calvinists try to assert that we Arminians preach that we can save ourselves or we preach a works-righteousness system but this is not the truth.  Arminius wrote:

“I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.”

Adam Clarke wrote:

The doctrine of justification by faith is one of the grandest displays of the mercy of God to mankind. It is so very plain that all may comprehend it; and so free that all may attain it. What more simple than this-Thou art a sinner, in consequence condemned to perdition, and utterly unable to save thy own soul. All are in the same state with thyself, and no man can give a ransom for the soul of his neighbor. God, in his mercy, has provided a Saviour for thee. As thy life was forfeited to death because of thy transgressions, Jesus Christ has redeemed thy life by giving up his own; he died in thy stead, and has made atonement to God for thy transgression; and offers thee the pardon he has thus purchased, on the simple condition that thou believe that his death is a sufficient sacrifice, ransom, and oblation for thy sin; and that thou bring it, as such, by confident faith to the throne of God, and plead it in thy own behalf there. When thou dost so, thy faith in that sacrifice shall be imputed to thee for righteousness; that is, it shall be the means of receiving that salvation which Christ has bought by his blood.

And I end with John Wesley:

But there is an undeniable difference between the Calvinists and Arminians, with regard to the three other questions. Here they divide; the former believe absolute, the latter only conditional, predestination. The Calvinists hold, (1.) God has absolutely decreed, from all eternity, to save such and such persons, and no others; and that Christ died for these, and none else. The Arminians hold, God has decreed, from all eternity, touching all that have the written word, “He that believeth shall be saved: He that believeth not, shall be condemned:” And in order to this, “Christ died for all, all that were dead in trespasses and sins;” that is, for every child of Adam, since “in Adam all died.”

Needed: Biblical Discernment

Proverbs 2:3-5 (NKJV) reads:

3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.

I am convinced that we need a revival of biblical discernment.  How often do I hear sermons, songs, books, movies, etc. that claim to be Christian but lack any sound doctrine?  Sound doctrine is neglected as pragmatism now reigns over the churches.  We truly need a revival of discernment.

We need to question everything and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  How do we learn to discern?  Discernment comes by heeding the Word of God.  We must learn to hide the Word in our hearts so that we have the sword of the spirit to cut through false teachings (Hebrews 4:12).  This comes by faithful reading and studying of the Word of God (Hebrews 5:11-14).  As we hide the Word in our hearts, the Lord gives us the ability to discern based on His truth (John 17:17).

Proverbs 2:3 above states that we are to cry out for discernment and lift our voice for understanding.  John MacArthur writes:

This shows the passionate pleading of one who is desperate to know and apply the truth of God.  The least bit of indifference will leave one bereft of the fullness of wisdom.

I often pray for God to give me discernment according to His Word.  I want to judge all things by the truthfulness of the Word of God (1 John 4:1-2).  God’s Word is perfectly sufficient to provide all we need in hearing from God and learning discernment.  We don’t need the Bible plus an inner voice or plus hearing “the voice of God” by subjective means.  We need to open the Bible, learn the Bible, and through the Bible we get discernment to judge all things.

If this were to take place in the Church of Jesus Christ at large can you imagine what would take place?  “Christian music” would turn from shallow, narcissistic lyrics to sound doctrine.  Sermons also would turn from shallow stories, poor eisgesis, toward sound doctrine with unction.  Evangelism would be focused on the gospel and preaching the truth of the gospel instead of trying to make friends with the world.  The church would turn from its entertainment drive toward truth proclaiming.  Pragmatism would be replaced with sound doctrine and biblical discernment of Bible teachers.  False teachers would be turned away as the Church embraced the sufficient of the Word of God and learned how to rightfully divide the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15).

All the things the church is now known for from the love of money to the willingness to accept false teachers who fleece the saints to using worldly entertainment to feed the goats, this would all clear up if biblical discernment were sought after diligently.

Where do we begin?  First, we must pray for discernment (Proverbs 2:3).

Secondly, we must seek discernment from the hidden treasures of God’s Word.  This will in turn lead to a holy fear of the Lord and we will find the knowledge of God.

I want both the fear of the Lord in my life as well as the knowledge of the Lord.  I want to know Him more and more (Philippians 3:7-10).  I know that only in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).  I want to know the Word of God not just to point out false teachings but for the good.  I want to hear from God (John 8:47) and I know that I hear from God when I read and study His Word.  His Word is the voice of God (Hebrews 1:1-3; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17).  I need no other voice.

Lord give me discernment.

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