1 John 3:16

"By this we perceive the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Trinity

God exists in trinity. The trinity is one of the mysteries of God. The Bible does not explain where God comes from. The Bible just claims that God “was, is and ever will be” (Rev 22:13). This is a mystery to the human mind. It cannot be understood intellectually. We believe it because the word of God declares it. The trinity is likewise a mystery.

“Let us make man in our image” is not the “royal we” as the British monarch uses, for the Hebrew monarchs did not use it. The phrase is not referring to God and the angels, for the angels were not involved in God’s creation (Gen 1:26). Man was not made in the image of angels. “Us” refers to Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

The New Testament says that God made all things through Christ and Genesis 1 shows the Holy Spirit was present in creation. At Jesus’ baptism and again later in the discourse of Jesus in John 14-17 the Father, Jesus and the Spirit are all individually identified. The trinity means one God in unity, in three persons. It is not polytheism, for the three are one God. The creeds say one substance. The creeds speak of the hierarchy in the trinity. Jesus claimed the Father was greater than He (John 14:28).

The Hierarchy

This is a voluntary hierarchy, as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all equally God. The Spirit’s submission to Christ enables us to test the spirits, for any spirit that does not place Christ at the forefront is not the Spirit of God (1 John 4:2). Trinity in hierarchy serves to the benefit of the redeemed.

Jesus’ submission to the Father likewise demonstrates to us a faithful heart. “The Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28). Jesus is called the true and faithful witness (Rev 3:14, where “beginning” means Head). He had no personal agenda. Jesus’ prayer, “Not My will but Yours be done”, shows the fellowship that exists in the trinity (Matt 26:39). It is not a relationship of control.

God is love and love cannot exist on its own (1 John 4:8). Love must exist in relationship and in sharing. Love must give. Just as we cannot love God on our own, but in fellowship with the church, so God always existed in fellowship. God must exist in trinity – in fellowship.

God’s creation is for the same purpose, to share His life with others. He created because love must share. God wanted to share the fellowship He had in the family of His Godhead with His people. Creation and redemption are to the praise of His glory and to call us into His eternal fellowship (Eph 1:6, 1 John 1:3).


There is a form of trinity that takes a separation of the persons of the Godhead too scientifically. The Holy Spirit in a believer is the Spirit of Christ. It is wrong to treat the Holy Spirit in any way, even as a fuller second experience, as separate from receiving Christ.

We do not believe in oneness theology that denies the trinity. But the concept of the separability of the persons is also dangerous to theology. Deut 6:4 claims “The Lord our God is unity.”. The Hebrews knew of the trinity, but they expressed it as a unity.

Hellenistic Christian theology has departed from this. This is another example of the early Hellenisation of the church that we have not yet recovered from. The Hebrew were Trinitarian, but not in the Greek sense. The Hebrew knew of the Son, the Seed of woman. The Pharisees rejected the Son, but witness to Him is throughout the Old Testament. They knew of the Spirit.

Isaiah 9 claims among the titles of Christ mighty God and everlasting Father. Yet Jesus clearly related to the Father as a distinct person. All we can say is that it is a mystery. The relationship is too dynamic to be separated. The truth is somewhere between Western scientific separation and oneness theology. We have not looked into Tertullian’s Trinitarian theology, but here we might find roots of Pentecostal thought.

Jesus said, “I send you another comforter.”. In Greek the word means another the same. The unity is more than one mind, purpose and substance. The Hebrew did not have to explain it scientifically, rationally or philosophically. They just accepted the biblical revelation. Hebrew thought is holistic. The Three are One! It is the same with the nature of Christ. He is human and God. But He is one inseparable nature.

It is not possible to have Christ without having the fullness of the Spirit. In Christ the fullness of the Godhead dwells (Col 2:9). “Of His fullness have we all received.” (John 1:16). “You are complete in Him.” (Col 2:10). This does not mean that all the manifestations will happen at once when we are born again. But we cannot receive Christ without receiving the Father and the Spirit in His fullness.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Man Does Not Rule

Another belief in this area is that Christians are mini-gods and have creative power. Moses was as a god to Pharaoh in that he was God’s mouthpiece; but Moses had no right to choose his own words. He spoke as God directed him. Even Jesus only followed and obeyed the Father (John 5:19).

Today, Christ leads His church through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and in earth is given to Me, go therefore and make disciples…” (Matt 28:18). If Jesus has all authority, it follows that there is no authority left for Satan or for us. The only authority we exercise as believers is by the will of God.

Some claim that by visualisation or confession we can create, but the blessings of God are of grace, not of works. For example, Abraham did not receive the Promised Land because he visualized it. God brought him to stand in the centre of the land to show him what He had already given him. He told Abraham to look to the east, west, etc and said all you can see I have given to you (Gen 15:18).

Abraham received the land as a gift, by grace, provided by God from before the foundation of the earth. We do not confess our own thoughts to create what we choose. We confess what God has done in us already. Paul said “we believe, therefore we speak” (2 Cor 4:13). We speak according to God’s gift of faith, which is received by grace. God gives us the faith first and we speak what He is doing.

Similarly, when God told Joshua, “wherever your foot treads I have given you”, it was because God had brought Joshua to the place that He had already given to Abraham and Israel (Josh 1:1-9). The key was not Joshua’s foot, but what God had already given. The boundaries were already marked. If Joshua stepped out of those boundaries his foot would not have helped him much!

If God has not done it, speaking or visualisation will not achieve anything of lasting value. This is occultism. This was Eve’s temptation, “You shall be like God.”. Occultism is an attempt to use God’s power apart from God’s grace. Visualising and self-encouragement are good in the sense of planning and then working towards those plans, but this has nothing to do with God’s power. They are just normal life principles that apply to everyone, Christian or not.

Using visualisation to manipulate the spiritual realm is Buddhism, not Christianity. Man and Satan can make their plans, but God is sovereign (Pr 16:9, 19:21). The gospel is a gospel of grace in what Christ has done through His merits. This is not to undermine faith, which “calls things that are not as though they were” (Rom 4:17). When we take away God’s sovereignty and place man at the fore it is not faith.

God sees all and knows all, even the thoughts of our hearts. Nothing is hidden from Him (Psalm 139). He does not need counsel for He has all knowledge and wisdom. God is omnipotent (has all power), omniscient (has all knowledge) and is omnipresent (is everywhere). This corrects teachings on the devil and human will. This is the first lesson of faith. As God is omnipotent, there can be no other power.

With the Ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding. With Him is wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding. Behold, He breaks down and it cannot be built again: He shuts up a man and there can be no opening. (Job 12:12-14).

I know that, whatsoever God does it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, or anything taken from it: and God does it, that men should fear before Him. (Ecc 3:14).

When Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom, He was speaking of the gospel message (Matt 16:19). He was not speaking of Peter’s personal authority. The Pharisees earlier had the keys, but tried to keep the kingdom locked up, meaning they changed the message of God into works and kept the truth away from others (Luke 11:52). Then they tried to force their way into the kingdom without repentance (Matt 3:7-9, Matt 11:12).

When Jesus said whatsoever the apostles loose on earth is loosed in heaven He was referring to the fruits of the gospel in the forgiveness of sins (Matt 16:20). It was not their personal authority, but the Lord working with them through His gift of faith in the gospel. When people are set free on earth by new birth it is evident that their name is written in heaven. Jesus was speaking of the operation of Christ in the New Covenant.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

God as Governor

God’s sovereignty continued after the Fall. Some have said that God gave the earth to man when He told man to have dominion before the Fall and when Adam sinned Adam handed the earth over to Satan. The Bible does not state this. Adam’s dominion was under the Lordship of God, so long as he obeyed God’s commands. The Psalms claim that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” (Ps 24:1). God still exercises full dominion over His creation.

Nebuchadnezzar claimed that he built Babylon by the power of his own hand and for that reason God removed from him His grace, to show Nebuchadnezzar that he was able to do nothing by himself. He lost his mind and ate grass with the cattle for seven years (Dan 4:34-37).

In God’s time, his mind returned to him and Nebuchadnezzar’s first thought was that “God reigns in all the earth and puts in power whomsoever He wills and brings down one king and raises up another.” (Dan 4:32). Some say today that territorial spirits rule certain districts of the earth. God rules the earth, not the devil or anyone else. Anyone who claims someone other than God rules is “eating grass with Nebuchadnezzar”.

God said concerning Pharaoh, “For this reason I have raised you up.” (Rom 9:17). Pharaoh thought his wisdom and his gods gave him power, but it was God’s sovereign will to raise up Pharaoh, that He might show His power to His elect people Israel. The book of Colossians says that all powers and dominions are subject to Jesus Christ (Col 1:16-23). This means spiritual powers and human governments. They are all in place by His permission and for His purpose.

Does this mean that God is responsible for the evil that they do? No, they do evil out of the depravity of their own nature. But God works all things together according to the counsel of His own will (Eph 1:5). He can even harden the heart of a sinner if its suits His purpose, as He did with Pharaoh (Rom 9:18).

Some have argued that Satan rules the nations because he is called the prince of the power of the air, which now rules the sons of disobedience (Eph 2:2). Satan does this by God’s permission and under His supervision. The supervision of God over Satan’s works is clear from Job, where God gave Satan permission to test Job, but under a clear limitation that Satan was not able in the least bit to resist (Job 2:1-6).

It is even seen in the Old Testament that God once summoned a lying spirit to take a wicked king in his own folly (1 Kings 22:22). 1 Cor 10:13 says there is no temptation that God will not oversee and give sufficient grace to escape. Jesus said not one hair falls from our head without our Father’s knowledge (Matt 10:30). God has knowledge of every single event, no matter how minor, which means that He is everywhere at the same time.

Satan Does Not Rule

It is further argued by some that because Satan tempted Jesus saying that he ruled the kingdoms of the earth and could give them to Jesus, then this must have been true, or it would not have been a temptation. It is true that Satan had a fleeting power over the disobedient, those who follow the fashions of the world in their desires, but this is under God’s sovereign control. Jesus was not fooled by this temptation and He knew that:

1. Satan is a liar.

2. Authority cannot be had unless the Father gives it.

What Satan said was not true. Jesus said to Pontius Pilot, “You can have no authority unless it is given you from above.” (John 19:11). The Bible is clear; Satan has nothing that God has not given him and God can take it away without the slightest dispute. Satan does not even rule fallen men. Fallen man is ruled by the law of sin and death. He is governed and held captive by His own sin nature, under God’s sovereignty.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Fall

In Genesis 3 it is clear that sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. There was nothing poisonous in the forbidden fruit, for all God made was “very good” (Gen 2:17, Gen 1:31). The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was so-called because, if Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and eat from it, they were choosing to be their own judge in good and evil.

Satan introduced Post-Modernism here. Eve was invited to interpret God subjectively. The serpent said Eve would be as God, knowing good and evil. Adam and Eve would be wise in their own sight and decide for themselves between right and wrong. They would be their own god (Gen 11:4, Is 14:13, Dan 3:5, 4:30). This was how Jesus was tempted (Matt 4:3). He could make His own way, rather than obey the Father. Jesus chose obedience, not self-will.

As a result of Adam’s sin, self became the centre of man’s nature. This brought separation from God, physical death, sickness and the entire curse we see upon the earth today. Wars are the fault of man, not of God. God pronounced the curse, not Satan and God uses the curse as a catalyst to bring His people to Christ (Rom 8:20).
This means that fossils are not leftovers of animals that existed before the Fall of man. God did not use the process of death and murder to create life by a long cycle of evolution and self-centred survival of the fittest. That would have been inconsistent with His nature. God is good and His creation was very good.

Theistic evolution (the idea that God used evolution to create) is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If death did not come through the sin of Adam, there is no need for Christ to come to save us from sin by dying on the cross. Christ died for sin and thus to put death to death. He has the keys of hell and of death and is the resurrection from the dead. It is evident that Adam’s sin resulted in physical and not just spiritual death:

1. Paul spoke of physical death coming from Adam, when speaking of the resurrection of the body in 1st Corinthians 15.

2. Adam’ sin resulted in the curse, which includes death and sickness. The snake “eating” dust, the thorns, thistles, sweat, labour pains increased and the reduced age of man in the years ahead, are all aspects of physical death which followed as the Fall and curse impacted upon all creation (Gen 3:14-19).

3. God slew an animal to clothe Adam and Eve after they sinned. The physical death of the animal was a result of Adam’s sin and foreshadowed Christ’s physical death for our sin. Adam could see in the death of the animals the consequence of his sin. “The soul that sins must die.” (Ezek 18:20).

4. Christ died physically for our sin. “He bore our sin in His body on the tree.” (1 Pet 2:24).

5. Physical death is an enemy of God, so He did not use it to create the world slowly through evolution (1 Cor 15:26).

Some say that autumn leaves died before the Fall, because there were seasons (Gen 1:14). There was the sun, moon and stars, but the seasons mentioned here were only to measure day, night and years. Other seasons, as we know them today (including cold, heat, summer and winter), were not mentioned until after the Flood (Gen 8:22). We do not know what happened in those earlier days, or the biological and horticultural changes that followed and cannot make assumptions.

So God in His power created man and though He did not author sin or tempt Adam, He allowed the temptation, to give man free will. Adam had free will and in no way was his decision to sin controlled by God. It was Adam’s free choice.

God chose to allow Adam to sin so that He could redeem His chosen people to be His church. In this way, salvation would be by God’s free grace. This was God’s plan before creation, since Christ was “crucified from before the foundation of the earth” (Rev 13:8).

Some ask, why does God allow wars and suffering? Because they are the result of man’s sin and this condition has not changed. Why then does not God change this? He has, through sending Jesus Christ and raising Him from the dead, but man does not accept this.

This tendency of shifting blame to God is exactly what Adam did after he fell, “The woman You gave me, gave me to eat…” (Gen 3:12). The Bible so accurately describes human nature.

Friday, 27 August 2010


There is one God who is sovereign. He has total power in the entire universe. None can come against Him. He is not in battle against anything. No creature in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth can exist one moment beyond divine permission. God is the creator. He made all things, all creatures, all powers and all governments.

No creature can do the slightest thing in opposition to the will of God. The worlds were made through Christ, by whom He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:2-3). God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them in six days and rested on the seventh day. This is where we get the period of a seven day week.

God said “let there be light” and there was light, before He made the sun. This indicates the futility of sun worship, or worship of any creature. While Genesis does not provide scientific details, it does provide statements of historical fact. The text in 2 Pet 3:8, “To the Lord a day is a thousand years,” has no application to Genesis. Peter is speaking about God’s long suffering, His patience in withholding punishment and does not make any reference to creation.

Genesis 1 is the chronological account of creation while Genesis 2 is a thematic account of the same event, not chronological or contradictory. This is Hebrew form, where a matter is introduced in one section and expanded in the next section. Most verses in the Proverbs follow this form, as do other historical accounts in the Old Testament.

Adam and Eve lived in harmony with the animals and none ate meat. Lions were not created to eat meat, as many animals today have large teeth, but are not meat eaters. Meat was given to man to eat after the Flood of Noah and therefore vegetarianism cannot be justified on biblical grounds.

This may have had something to do with changed conditions reducing the nourishment or range of plant life. Human life span was significantly reduced after the Flood, with a presumed increase in the variety of diseases. It seems apparent that it did not rain before the Flood and that instead a mist went up from the earth that watered plant life (Gen 2:5-6). This would result in a greater greenhouse affect, with no polar ice and very limited U.V. radiation from the sun with a denser atmosphere.

There are so many other possible differences regarding pre-Flood conditions, including a lack of oceans and mountain ranges and a possible dividing of continents after the Flood. We do not make conclusions about these things here, for each point in itself would require a lot of research into biblical language and other matters. God knew the Fall would occur and may have made provision for that in His original creation.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Theological Centre

Theology is to do with framework. If we are building a house we have materials and we have a framework around which we erect the materials. Theology is the same. People may have similar materials (similar doctrines), but arrange them differently and end up with completely different theologies, meanings and practices.

In theology our starting point is vital. What is at the centre of our framework? What do we build our doctrines around? What gives meaning and definition to our doctrines? What is our central focus that gives meaning to all the doctrines that we interpret?

People can have similar doctrines. We can believe in the divinity of Christ, His virgin birth, atoning death and resurrection. But the significance of these doctrines can be very different. Likewise, our theology will be very different. Doctrine is not the only important thing, but our central focus or how we organise that doctrine, is of vital importance.

The Bible puts God at the centre, not man. There are three main central points one can have in theology. These are:

1. God.
2. Man.
3. The devil.

With a God centre we will see God as the Saviour and Keeper of His people. With a man centre we will see ourselves as the chooser and keeper of our faith. With a devil centre we will see not our own sin, but the plans of others responsible for our fall. We will see original sin as an attack of Satan and salvation in terms of spiritual warfare.

We cannot say that all of these centres are true and that we appreciate one or the other according to where we were brought up. Each centre brings an entirely different meaning to scripture. We cannot have three different views and say they are all true. Only one is true according to scripture. We need to adopt the same central focus that the scripture adopts.

There are several organising factors in good theology. The first is the sovereignty of God. Grace is also a main centre. Paul in his epistles states that grace is the organising principle around which a sovereign God fulfils His plan of salvation, “…it is of faith, so that it might by grace…” (Rom 4:16). All of this is fulfilled through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The total depravity of man is a main organising principle of theology. It is only in correctly understanding the nature of man in the Fall that the true nature of salvation can be seen. The distinction between the Old and New Covenants is essential in focusing correctly on both the Old and New Testament scriptures and relating them to our lives today.

To be Christian means we put Christ at the centre of theology. He is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets. In Him is the fullness of the Godhead (Col 2:9). We are complete only in Him (Col 2:10). All theology focuses around these biblical statements in Colossians. That is what “Christ-ian” means. We are disciples of Christ. He is first in all things.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Theological Groups

There are five main groups in Western theology:

1. Roman Catholic: Catholicism recognises the authority of scripture, but also adds to it the apocrypha and Roman Catholic tradition as equal with scripture. They claim that we must use the Catholic catechism to interpret the Bible. It also holds to allegory and authority through personal works-holiness.

2. Reformed Theology: This claims that only scripture is authoritative in theology. It further claims that the Bible interprets itself in its own context. It claims that the authority for Christian life is faith, empowered by God’s Spirit.

3. Liberal Theology: This claims that rationalism is the only authority, not accepting anything by faith or on the authority of scripture. It only accepts what is natural and seems logical.

4. Fundamentalism: Authority is in the scripture, but this is a Cessationist, non-Pentecostal authority. It also holds to allegory and Dispensationalism to reinterpret scripture in the light of science.

5. Neo-Orthodoxy: This claims that experience, culture and religious community are the authorities for theology. It claims theology is progressive and the scripture is not authoritative.

Pentecostalism has its main heritage in Reformed Theology, but with Pietism, Wesleyanism, Fundamentalism, Restorationism and more recently Neo-Orthodoxy integrated. Neo-Pentecostalism today is in some places shifting away from sola scriptua to Neo-Orthodoxy with its human experience centre, embracing more animist and anthropological sources of interpretation.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Date of Authorship

Evolutionary theories are used by some to support the idea that the New Testament was orally passed down and not written until much later. Some suggest that the written form of the New Testament did not exist until 325AD. At the Council of Nicaea the Canon was confirmed, but this was because it had already been accepted by the church for hundreds of years. It seems apparent from the internal evidence within the New Testament that it was all written in its final form before 70AD, for the following reasons:

1. None of the books in the New Testament mention the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, though Matthew, Luke, Mark, Thessalonians and Revelation all prophecy of it. The Gospels, Acts, Hebrews and Revelation 11 also assume the temple was still standing at the time they were written.

2. Paul often quoted from the Gospels, as though he had them available at the time in a written and widely known form (1 Cor 7:10, 11:24, 1 Thes 4:15).

3. Paul called the Gospels scripture (1 Cor 15:1-3).

4. Paul instructed that his epistles be copied and read in other churches (Col 4:16).

5. Peter in his epistles called the New Testament scripture, referring to the Gospels and Paul’s writings (compare 2 Pet 1:19-21, 3:1-2, 15-16).

6. In Acts, the disciples “continued in the Apostle’s doctrine” showing the earliness and spread of the record of the words of Jesus. With such a wide and early circulation of texts it would have been impossible to corrupt any one text without detection.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Fenton Hort against The Majority Text

Fenton Hort

This was fine until the 19th Century when Fenton Hort introduced the Alexandrian Texts into translation work. Hort was an Englishman and had sympathies for the Arian position denying Christ’s divinity. He was asked to review the KJV due to his expertise in language. However, instead of reviewing it he embarked on a project to adopt the Alexandrian Text.

The Bishops of England told Hort not to use the Alexandrian Texts to this extent, but he ignored them. He claimed that because the two Alexandrian texts were older than the 5,500 manuscripts which support the Textus Receptus they must be more original or better. Evolutionists and liberal scholars in British universities supported this idea.

Many modern English translations then began to use the Alexandrian Texts. Some English translations use them in part while using the Byzantine Texts in part also. To the degree they rely on the Alexandrian Texts, several verses are left out. Some of these modern English translations will leave out many verses and even sections of scripture, which are included in the KJV.

The Majority Text

In recent years scholarly opinion is moving back in favour of the Byzantine Texts and away from the Alexandrian Texts. A new Majority Text has been made from the older Byzantine texts, which is almost the same as the Textus Receptus editions. The Majority Text also does not include the two Alexandrian Texts. There are three strong reasons to discount the Alexandrian Texts and accept the Byzantine Texts as the correct Bible:

1. There is agreement with all scholars that the church has accepted the Byzantine Texts at least since the early 4th Century. Until Hort, this was 1,500 years of undisputed acceptance.

2. The writings of the church fathers, as far back as the early 2nd Century, include the disputed verses the Alexandrian Texts have deleted. Ignatius (35-116AD), Justin Martyr (100-165AD), Irenaeus (130-202AD), Hippolytus (170-236AD), Tertullian (160-221AD), Cyprian (200-258AD) and Dionysius (3rd Cent.), for example, all quote verses that are found in the Byzantine Texts but not in the Alexandrian texts.

3. Translations into other languages known to be before the 4th Century are shown to correspond with the Byzantine Texts. These include strong support from Armenian, Ethiopian, Gothic, Old Latin, Anglo-Saxon and Syriac translations. The Papyrus Bodmer II (also called P66) dating from between 125-200AD verifies many of the disputed passages in the Byzantine Text.

There are counter claims that deny the above points. It is a complicated field of research, but it would appear that the church has not been so stupid all these years as to reject the Alexandrian and other heretical copies without good reason. We also believe that God would not leave the church for 1,500 years with the wrong text.

Matters that Impact Translation

1. The translation work of Wycliffe and Tyndale (later compiled into the KJV) was made with great care, dedication and knowledge.

2. These were also men who loved Jesus and gave their lives for the gospel. Despite claims, today translators do not have more knowledge and may not always have the same level of dedication.

3. The theology that the translator holds impacts upon their translation work. In our view the theological knowledge of the Puritans who compiled the KJV was superior to that held by some in our current day.

4. A strong market or profit motive can affect the work of modern publications. For example, the NKJV had to meet a copyright law demanding a certain number of words be changed.

This is not said to support a KJV only debate. The KJV does have faults. It is good to read many translations to help with perspective. This discussion claims that the manuscripts we use and the theology we maintain impact upon the translation work we do. It is good to compare many translations, while being aware of the textual issues. It is good to avoid watered down translations as texts in church.

Due to a lack of knowledge of old English, we can misunderstand the KJV. We do believe that for the reasons outlined here it is one of the best English translations and educating others in English is better than dumbing down translations. For example, the old English uses different words for the plural and singular of you, reflecting usage in Greek texts, which we miss in modern works.

Translation works are not inspired (without error), although God’s providence has guided the work. We support continued efforts to research original Greek texts and matters that relate to a proper understanding of them in our own languages. Hebrew and Greek are not difficult to be acquainted with and there are many sources that can help us study the original languages and it helps to be aware that these also are affected by the theological persuasions of the authors.

For more information on this topic see: G. W. and D. E. Anderson, in A Textual Key to the New Testament, A list of Omissions and Changes (Trinitarian Bible Society, 2002); and in What Today’s Christian Needs to Know About the NIV (TBS, 1998); both of which raise several important issues that people may not always be unaware of. The issue in Bible reading is not to take the easiest way, but to become educated.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The New Testament

The number of manuscripts we have for the New Testament is even greater. The ancient Greek copies we have today number into the thousands, some dating back to the 4th Century. We have copies of the early Latin Vulgate (not the inferior Jerome Vulgate) and Syriac translations, both dating to the 2nd Century. These help us to confirm the authenticity of the New Testament we have today.

We have two main sets of early manuscripts. One group is called the Byzantine Text, sometimes referred to as Textus Receptus (the Received Text), or the similar Majority Text. There are over 5,500 old Greek manuscript text portions in this group, which come from a variety of regions.

Then we have the Alexandrian Texts, which number only two copies. One of these was found in a monastery (in a rubbish bin) in the Sinai Desert. Origen, who had Gnostic and pre-Arian ideas (counting Christ as a lower god) and his disciples Pamphilus and Eusebius, altered the traditional text. The other Alexandrian class text is in the Vatican library. This copy has alterations marked by old scribes on every page. These two texts have many variations between them.

It is believed that the two Alexandrian copies are older than any of the Byzantine copies, dating back to the 4th Century AD. They may be the oldest most complete texts, but there are many older text portions. There are some major differences between the Alexandrian Texts and the Byzantine Texts. In the Alexandrian Texts the last 12 verses in Mark are missing, the story of the woman caught in adultery is missing and several verses referring to the divinity of Christ are missing, along with many other verses.

Early Fathers & Erasmus

Until modern times these two Alexandrian Texts were not considered authentic. Early church fathers claimed corrupted copies were made by Gnostics, Arians and other heretical groups. Arians denied the divinity of Christ. These groups had influence in the Egyptian region where it is believed the Alexandrian texts originated. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, who deny Jesus is God, today applaud these texts.

Erasmus was a scholar of ancient Greek, who was a contemporary of Luther during the Reformation in the 16th Century. Erasmus used the Byzantine texts to compile a Greek version called the Textus Receptus, meaning the text received from the ancient church. This version has been updated several times by reference to other Byzantine texts.

The Reformers used the Textus Receptus to translate the scriptures into their various languages. Luther used it for the German Bible and Tyndale for an English Bible, on which later the KJV was based. Erasmus was aware of the Alexandrian Texts, for he had access to the Roman Catholic library. However, Erasmus refused to use the Alexandrian text in his work. He said it was inferior and was not the correct text.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Inerrancy & Textual Transmission


Inerrancy means that the scripture is without error, whether with regard to matters of faith or history. The doctrine holds that:

1. The original copies of scripture were inspired by God to the extent that they were recorded without error with regard to all matters on which they speak.

2. The copies of scripture we have today, both of the Old and New Testaments, contain no significant transmission (copying) errors.

Over the centuries, especially during the modern era, many scholars have attacked this doctrine. So far none of the critics have stood the test of time. Some people focus on apparent contradictions in scripture, but these are merely different accounts. Others have tried to discredit the history in scripture, but up till now archaeology has never shown the biblical record to be wrong.

Textual Transmission

Textual transmission has to do with how the copies of the original Bible came down to us today many years later. No other documents in the world have been so faithfully handed down through the generations in such good original order and with such strong proof of authenticity.

Starting with the Old Testament, the Hebrew nation had a class of scholars that worked on textual copying. They worked out a systematic way of copying scripture before the old copies deteriorated. They used mathematical checks to ensure that the transmission of the text from one copy to the next was without errors.

They also had the Old Testament translated into Greek before the time of Jesus. This Greek translation is called the Septuagint, which means 70, because there were 70 qualified translators involved. Jesus often used the Septuagint when He preached. So, we not only have Hebrew copies, but also ancient Greek copies, by which we can check the authenticity of our current Bibles.

This means allegations that early Christians tampered with the Old Testament texts to insert prophecies after Jesus came are impossible. The Old Testament was already in wide circulation in different languages before Jesus came.

The oldest surviving Old Testament text until 1947 dated back to about 1,000AD. This text was copied about 1,000 years after Christ, but all texts older than that had disappeared. In the 20th Century a boy herding goats in the desert near the Dead Sea discovered many sealed clay pots in different caves containing ancient texts. These were put there by the Essenes who dwelt in the region before Christ. The texts had been preserved for more than 2,000 years due to the dry conditions.

These texts, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, contain almost every book in the Old Testament. They therefore serve as an invaluable opportunity to verify the authenticity of the Old Testament we use in our time. Inspections of the Dead Sea Scrolls, by experts, have shown that there are no significant differences between those ancient texts of the Old Testament and the one we use today.

Today we have copies of the Septuagint. We have copies of the Old Testament going back to 1,000AD. We have the Dead Sea Scrolls with copies of most of the Old Testament books dated at 100BC. We have quotations from the Old Testament in many other sources, including old New Testament manuscripts. There are no significant differences between so many copies from so many different sources.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Sources of Theology

It has already been shown that everyone has theology – everyone thinks about God. How do we know whether what we think about God is correct? This is determined by the source of our theology. We go wrong in what we think about God when we draw on the wrong places.

So what are your sources of theology? Where do we draw our information about God from? Common sources are our own judgement, traditions, experiences, reason, culture, science, nature, testimonies, feelings, emotion, conscience, religion, a religious leader or scripture. Most often people use a mixture of these things.

What is the basis of authority in theology? Everything people say about God has a basis which they assume has authority to make it valid. It is important to know whether what we say and think about God is correct. One way to find out is to ask what the authority of our position is. Why do we believe what we believe?

In this section we explore authorities that people advocate. Traditionally, Evangelicals/Pentecostals hold that scripture is the only basis of authority, but in practice this position is not always maintained. The traditional doctrine of the authority of scripture is based on the doctrine of inerrancy. So we will first explore inerrancy and textual transmission to our current day.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Practical Theology

Practical theology refers to the practice of the Christian faith, either in personal life or in ministry. It is the application side of study. We apply what we have learned from scripture to practical matters in daily life. Typical modules of study in this area include marriage and family, missions, evangelism, worship, preaching, teaching, church administration and pastoral ministries.

Practical theology is vital, as we must live the Christian life and lead others to live it also. We must reach all people with the gospel and pass on all aspects of the Christian faith in our homes and churches. We must be salt and light in our nations and influence all parts of the world in which we live.

It is important to notice the order. Practical theology comes last, after a full study of scripture. Practical theology must be built upon the foundation of what God says. What we do in life must be based upon biblical truth. The danger in moving too quickly to practical theology, before a robust and adequate biblical theology, is that other foundations will be substituted into our practice from anthropology (human culture).

We must have a theoretical basis for our practice. Everybody does. We always act from a foundation of theory. If we say that theology is not spiritual or practical and is a waste of time, then we will inevitably build our practice on human ideas. We build on what God says, or we build upon what man says.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Historical Theology

Historical theology is a study of church history, which looks at theological development in the church fathers, creeds and councils. It is an important field of study for all pastors. We are not the first people to study the Bible. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we should learn from those who went before us. This appears to us to be basic common sense and humility.

We should learn from history. The same errors come around every generation. We can study their consequences in history. Historical theology will show us what the church has believed and taught in the past. This will put present day beliefs in a much broader perspective. While a doctrine may be popular today, it may not have enjoyed popularity on the whole throughout church history. If not, then why?

It takes effort to gain more than a superficial view of history. Some books about the past available today have been re-edited, so in order to get a reliable historical view we have to know earlier editions. A problem occurs when we repeat what we have heard from others concerning history, without really knowing much about it.

Everybody has an historical understanding. Every person’s life style is affected by their theological view and their theological view is affected by their perceptions of history. Everybody thinks about history and our thinking is important to how we live. If history was not important, why are so many people trying to rewrite it? The attitude of let others study history and tell us their views on what happened will depreciate our Christian influence in society. We must participate in the process.

There are pragmatic comments like “Some make history, others study it”. Those who say this are more likely to make a historic shipwreck. God told us to take counsel. If we do not know where we have come from, we will not know where we are going to. We will not have the values that we learn from history.

Historical theology includes a study of those the Lord has used before us. We look at their strengths and weaknesses. We look at main historical church movements and assess their fruits and failures. We see how recent trends developed in history and understand how our current thought patterns were developed.

We also get an understanding of the debt we owe to those who stood firm in the past and this, in turn, causes us to live for future generations and not for our self. People in the past gave their lives for our benefit. We should find out why they did so, lest it be in vain as far as we are concerned.

Past church creeds and early church councils are important. The early Nicaea council of 325AD, made up of independent church leaders from all over the world, addressed important issues of the day. Its theology is not a local or isolated expression. Every Bible student should be familiar with the major church creeds, such as the Nicene, Apostles and Athanasian creeds. These are available in book stores and on the Internet.

If our teaching today is contrary to any of these creeds, then it is likely there is a problem with our teaching. These creeds are not inspired like scripture, but neither are they to be taken lightly. The creeds afford us the opportunity to reflect on scripture. We do not fellowship just with our own generation, but also with those before us. This is vital study.

The Westminster Confession was formulated over a 10 year period with leaders from many nations, whom God used in significant ways, who sought to stay in tune with scripture and with historical positions in the church. The confession became the basis for much of the revival that occurred in the 17th – 19th Centuries.

Many in early 20th Century Pentecostalism claimed they did not need history. They claimed to have no historical connections. This was partly due to the restorationist nature of the movement, believing that all history except the original church in Acts was wrong. While they were correct to avoid liberal theology, they were not correct to think they had it all. They had taken on more traditional baggage than they realised.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Systematic Theology

Systematic theology is the next stage. It is bringing together all our findings from our previous exegetical studies. We systemise, or synthesis all the key passages we looked at, into a whole or complete statement on the topic that we are studying. This is where we make general conclusions on the theology of the subject.

Systematic means holistic, not in the sense of including knowledge from non-inspired sources (other than scripture), but holistic in the sense of including all the biblical data from all the books of the Bible. In systematic theology, we get the total overall picture on the subject.

This process of systematic theology assumes scripture does not contradict itself when we compare one passage with another. It assumes that God is consistent in His revelation of Himself and His revelation is sensible. God does not reveal Himself in different ways that are conflicting. In scripture there is a consistent revelation of His nature and person.

This presupposition in Bible study is due to the claim of scripture: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine…” (2 Tim 3:16). Jesus took scripture as historical and literal and interpreted it by its plain intention (Mk 10:5-9). The doctrine of scripture, meaning that scripture is God inspired, reliable and has a common sense meaning, is throughout the Bible: Matt 26:56, Luke 24:27, John 13:18, John 19:28, Acts 17:11, 1 Cor 15:3, Gal 3:8, 22, 2 Pet 3:16.

Ezra demonstrated how scripture should be read in its plain sense (Neh 8:8). In Hebrew thought, God’s revelation is supposed to make sense and be understood by its plain historical and grammatical meaning. In Ezra’s example we see plain exegetical and expositional teaching. Expositional means teaching verse by verse from the plain meaning of the passage.

Deut 6:4 says, “The Lord our God is one Lord”, (in Hebrew meaning the Lord is unity) showing there is one revelation from God, which is not self-contradictory. This means our interpretation of scripture should make sense. It is a matter of God’s integrity. He says what He means. He is not leading us astray. He wants us to understand.

If the Bible contradicted itself, that is, did not mean what is said, or could be given several meanings of equal value, then any genuine teaching from scripture would be impossible. It would also mean that any duty on our part, in understating or living truth, would be meaningless.

The commandments “you shall not lie, steal, or commit adultery” are meaningless if we can give a different meaning to them. They assume objectivity in knowledge, a standard of truth that is external to our self, by which we shall be judged. Truth is not culturally relative. There is a universal standard given by one God.

Systematic theology goes by the principle of the analogy of faith. This principle states that scripture has one meaning, one message and one faith. It is not contradictory. James Packer said it like this:

Scripture must interpret scripture. The scope and significance of one passage is to be brought out by relating it to others. Our Lord gave an example of this when He used Gen 2:24 to show that Moses’ Law of divorce was no more than a temporary concession to human hard-heartedness (Matt 3:8 and Deut 24:1).

The Reformers termed this principle the analogy of Scripture. The Westminster Confession states it thus: “The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture, it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.”…the various inspired books are dealing with complementary aspects of the same subject.

In theology we start by examining each passage independently and then relate them together for a common meaning. If the scripture is sensible then this process does not lead to contradiction. God intends us to employ all our faculties, mind and spirit, by His guiding grace.

There are mysteries in scripture, at least to the human mind and there are limitations to our knowledge on the context of some of the passages, particularly given our individual learning at any time, but God nevertheless makes its intended message plain to us, as we study it in humility and diligence, guided by the Holy Spirit.

In studying both exegetical and systematic theology there are sources that we should utilize. These include original language lexicons, biblical commentaries and theological dictionaries. We do not have to agree with all the content of these sources, but can benefit from the expertise of people in their own field, whenever they are correct and helpful.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Biblical Theology

Biblical theology means studying scripture one passage at a time. This is also called exegetical theology, taking one passage and interpreting it exegetically. Theological education begins with the study of exegesis and hermeneutics, teaching students the principles of interpreting passages of scripture, to serve as the tools of their work. These are basic essential skills for any believer and for any future pastor.

When we study a subject in the Bible, we start by finding the main passages that relate to that subject. We take each passage, one at a time and look at the meaning of that passage. Each passage must be studied apart from the other passages, on its own merits, or in its own context. In this first step we do not use one passage to interpret another passage. We compare passages later.

We interpret the passage by its plain intention, not allegorically (figuratively). The passage is interpreted by plain common sense and not by looking for a hidden or spiritual meaning. There are figurative passages in the Bible, especially in the prophets, but these are intentional in that they relate to Christ. We are not free to interpret scripture figuratively otherwise.

There are different genres of scripture. A genre is a type of literature. For example, there are the poetic and apocalyptic styles and the historical narrative. Apocalyptic is a type of prophetic literature, like Revelation. Each genre has principles for interpreting it. It is wrong to interpret symbolic language literally and wrong to interpret literal language symbolically. We always look for the scripture’s stated intent.

Biblical or exegetical theology involves looking at the literary (grammatical), cultural and historical contexts of each passage, as well as the original language, whether Hebrew or Greek. Exegetical theology is inductive, which means that we move from the particular to the general. We look for actual, particular, evidence of meaning within the passage and do not start with general ideas about a doctrine.

If we are studying a topic on the Holy Spirit, we might have a passage in Ezekiel, a passage in John and several other passages. It is important that we complete every relevant passage, or our study will not consider all that the Bible has to say about the issue. When we have completed each individual passage, we are ready to move onto the next stage.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Two Steps

There are two steps in interpreting scripture. The first is seeing what it meant then. The second is applying that today. When we rush over step one, to piously (devotionally, pragmatically) get to step two, we corrupt the gospel message and bring others into bondage to religion. The other pitfall is not getting to step two at all. We must get the true gospel and then apply it to today.

When the Old Testament was written it was not written to us, but to those under the law. John the Baptist and Jesus did not speak to 21st Century Pentecostal/Evangelicals, but to 1st Century Jews. When Paul wrote his epistles he wrote to the Jewish/Hellenist world of his time. Understanding that day is vital in understanding the message.

Some claim that understanding the Bible is just a matter of having the right attitude of heart, loving Jesus, praying and being led by the Holy Spirit. These are necessary, but they do not replace the need to read the Bible properly. God in His love gave a message to people when the Bible was written. But if we misinterpret that message, then it has lost its intended value for us.

It is when we have the original meaning that we can move to the second step – applying the original message to our own life and circumstances today. Application, or practical theology, comes second. An honest, open and thorough biblical study comes first.

Saturday, 14 August 2010


There are verses that look like they have double or multiple applications, but more careful exegesis shows a Christological (fulfilment in Christ and the gospel) intention. For example, Matthew quoted Jer 31:15 in regard to the massacre of children by Herod, “The voice was heard in Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children.” (Matt 2:17-18).

Ramah was close to Bethlehem. Some have said this text was about the captivity to Babylon, for Ramah was the depot from which the exiles of Judah were taken away to Babylon (Jer 40:1). This application would mean that those children would be returned from exile and so Rachel should not weep, so applying it also to Jesus’ time would be a double application. It could also be applied to our day in another return of the Jews, if we liked.

Viewing texts this way allows multiple applications, or Post Modern interpretations, the blain of Dispensational hermeneutics. That is, the text is said to be fulfilled in our own last-days generation. While the principles of scripture relate to every generation, the intended historical fulfilment of them does not.

While Jeremiah is speaking at length about the return of Israel from Babylon, he shows that the purpose of the return is their real deliverance from sin, through the New Covenant. It is this New Covenant return to God that Jeremiah is addressing in Jer 31:15-19, not from the Babylonian captivity. Matthew rightly therefore applies this passage to the birth of Jesus Christ and redemption from their enemy (and our enemy), sin. The passage further states:

Turn me and I shall be turned; for You are the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented…(Jer 31:18-19).

This word translated turn refers to changing of the heart (Ps 80:19, Lam 5:21). Israel did not repent after their return from Babylon, but soon went back into sin. This was a prayer that was answered in the New Covenant. It also shows that it is God who must turn our heart and that repentance and faith follow this regeneration or new birth.

We also know that Jeremiah was not referring to the children taken in captivity for they were not killed, as those under Herod in Jesus’ time were. Jeremiah said they were not, which Matthew said meant they were killed. In that Jeremiah said they would be returned, he meant deliverance would come to the seed of Rachel (the children of faith) through Jesus Christ. This is Jeremiah’s intended Messianic meaning.

Friday, 13 August 2010

The First Apostles

In the New Testament, the apostles referred to Old Testament scriptures without changing the original meaning of them. Matthew referred to Jesus fulfilling Old Testament prophecy without spiritualising the passages. In Is 7:14, Isaiah refers to the virgin birth of the Messiah.

While Isaiah 7 made reference to Isaiah’s time, the Holy Spirit inserted a prophecy that referred only to Christ. Some say the prophecy was first fulfilled in Isaiah’s time by a woman who was a virgin when Isaiah prophesied and later married and had a child. In that case the birth would not have been an unusual sign.

The Hebrew word used in Is 7:14 translated “virgin” always means “virgin” and never just a young woman. The prophecy was not to king Ahaz in Isaiah’s time, but to “the House of David”. Calvin, Gill, Henry, Clarke and scholars from every era claim that Is 7:14 was purely messianic.

This calls into question a principle of interpretation called “double fulfilment”. This principle claims that one verse can be fulfilled two, or even more, times. This brings into question the whole process of hermeneutics. If we can interpret a text in some way, unknown to the author or unauthorised by the Holy Spirit in the original context, then we can apply almost any imagination to almost any passage.

Getting back to Is 7:14, if the prophecy about the virgin birth was fulfilled in Isaiah’s day, then what authentic basis does Matthew have for applying it again to Jesus? The Jews would easily have denied its application to Jesus as an afterthought. Jesus would have been seen as a normal man with a messianic complex, looking for some backing in the religious writings of the day.

The Jews of Jesus’ time did know that verses like Is 7:14 had a singular messianic purpose, but later denied this when they refused to accept Jesus. The point is that a verse in Isaiah could not mean to Matthew afterward what it did not mean when Isaiah wrote it. Isaiah did not have a full understanding when he wrote about Christ, but he did know that the Holy Spirit was referring to Christ when he wrote and not to his own time.

To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to us they did minister the things, which are now reported to you by them that have preached the gospel to you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Pet 1:12).

Claiming that Old Testament prophecies have a double meaning weakens their power in referring to Jesus Christ. Accepting the principle of double fulfilment means that we interpret scripture subjectively rather than by its original intention. We know Is 7:14 was speaking about Christ, because the Holy Spirit said so in Is 9:6-7 and all the way through the book of Isaiah. We can only interpret a text the way the Holy Spirit intended us to in the original context of the passage.

Peter said, when referring to certain aspects of the Psalms, that they were fulfilled by Christ alone and not also by David. Peter specifically denied a double reference in order that the Jews could not escape the conclusion that the text spoke of Christ alone and was fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth. Peter specifically denied a double reference to prophecy. Peter said that:

1. David knew he was not speaking of himself.

2. That the texts were not fulfilled by David in his own time.

3. That David knew he was speaking of Christ, who was to come.

Men and brethren, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried and his sepulchre is with us to this day. Therefore being a prophet and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.

He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in hell, neither His flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. (Acts 2:29-32).

In this passage we see Peter’s hermeneutics. The Jews who listened to Peter would have surely mocked at any loose exegesis, or double fulfilment. The church of Christ is not built on such flimsy hermeneutics. Peter said that the prophets knew that some sections of their work were speaking of Christ and not of their own time.

So how do we read the Bible? We do not read it “devotionally”, which is bringing personal or private meanings to the text. We read it contextually or exegetically. Do we apply the text to our lives in a devotional way? Yes absolutely! Devotional means loving God and living His way by His Spirit.

But application is the second step. Interpretation is the first step. Passages in the Bible must be interpreted exegetically. Meaning must always be what comes out of the passage, never what we bring into the passage through preconceived ideas or subjective persuasions. This is just common sense. A text means what it says, not something else.

Once we admit to a principle of double reference we apply it in all manner of cases, whenever it suits our purposes. We call it looking for the spiritual or deeper meaning of a text, which is not intended by the original draft. Spiritualisation of texts is a major weakness of devotional and some Pentecostal approaches to study and preaching.

Thursday, 12 August 2010


In the century following the Reformation some scholars became cold and ungodly and were not born again. A movement called Pietism arose to correct this, emphasising the new birth and personal faith in the Lord Jesus. Some in the movement went too far, playing down the need for rigorous learning of the scripture. Catechisms began to be shunned, as well as careful teaching of scripture to children.

Catechisms are a formal presentation of the main doctrines of the word of God, which are useful in class studies. Pietism led to the possibility of “faith” being overly subjective, based on personal views and feelings rather than knowledge of the word of God. Pietism also emphasised holiness through personal devotion, like the Catholics before the Reformation. A form of Pietism came into modern Christianity.

Part of the heritage this has bequeathed us is that righteousness is often seen in terms of what we do not do. That is, the righteous do not dance, do not go to movies, do not drink, do not play cards, do not smoke, do not swear, do not...Jesus certainly did not live like this (Matt 11:19). This is the self-righteousness of the Pharisees.

This causes us to draw away from society, universities, media, arts and politics, rather than occupying in it. This results in a decline of godliness in our societies, when the church that should be salt, light and leaven instead has no voice except to itself. It has also misled people as to salvation. True righteousness is based on the renewing of the nature by the Holy Spirit, not on rules.

These tendencies in Pietism have influenced hermeneutics, sometimes emphasising the devotional, personal interpretation and playing down more rigorous approaches to Bible study as less spiritual. Pietism has bestowed many benefits upon Christianity, including Spirit filled ministers of the gospel and missionaries around the world. It has awoken many from formalism, but it can also stray into legalism.

“Devotionalism” is existentialism, in so far as it substitutes personal or subjective “truth” for objective truth, rational logical reason and justice. What we feel becomes more important than what is the reality. In a Post Modern world, reality is shifted to a mystical centre. It means “reality” is whatever we define it to be.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


Shallow devotional studies can present a problem, but in recent times people have shied away from scholarly studies because many in the scholastic field were liberal scholars who did not believe in miracles and did not believe that the scripture is the word of God. Liberal scholarship is wrong.

But scholarly studies are required to interpret the scripture. Scholarly studies are studies that reveal and open up the context of scripture. Such studies include literary (grammatical) studies, Hebrew or Greek cultural studies, historical background, Hebrew or Greek language studies and theological studies, which all focus on unearthing the original meaning of the text. This is valuable study if we want to know the Bible.

“Devotional studies” tend to take a short cut form and interpret scripture subjectively. The excuse is that it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth through the Biblical context, not apart from the biblical context. Scripture interprets itself by its context. This is what exegesis means.

Exegesis comes from the Greek word meaning “out of”. We see exit signs in buildings, which show the way out of the building. Exit comes from the same Greek word. In interpretation this means that we seek to bring the meaning out of the text itself, by considering all aspects of the text’s own context. This means that we derive the meaning from the text, rather than import our own preconceived meaning into the text.

Some may preach by taking their inspiration (meaning) from psychology, culture or from motivational or business principles and then import these ideas into various passages of the Bible, reinterpreting those passages. This process always misinterprets the Bible, but some people may not realise it so long as the Bible is at least used to speak from. A great deal of preaching is like this.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation. The word is derived from the name of the Greek god Hermes, who in mythology interpreted the message of the gods to the people. Today the word is related to the correct interpretation of scripture.

Everybody interprets, whether we realise it or not. The question is, are we interpreting correctly? If it is settled that God is truth and the scriptures are His word, then the only remaining matter is how we interpret the scriptures. We do not want a dynamic equivalent, meaning an understanding of scripture that just sounds right. God said that we should work, to find out if it is right.

A common practice is to interpret scripture “devotionally” or “privately”. By “devotional interpretation” we mean reading the scripture assuming what it means to us personally, without taking the trouble to see if that is the intended meaning of the passage. Devotional study is a positive practice, but the casual use of it is what we are referring to here. Devotion to God must be based on what God actually says.

The Holy Spirit speaks to us from scripture. He reveals the original intended meaning of scripture, as we come to understand its historical and literary (grammatical) context. When scripture was first written, God gave a message to those it was written to, intending that it be understood the same way by generations that would follow. The purpose of study is to read the Bible in its original meaning.

We may give random meanings to the Bible when preaching. We study to help us avoid doing this. The first step in applying the scripture is to understand what it meant to the generation when it was written. Scripture does not mean what we think it means, because we feel that God has spoken to us from it in a particular way. The scripture means what it meant to the generation it was addressed to.

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet 1:20-21).

“Private interpretation” means we interpret the Bible personally, without first finding out what it means contextually (in its own context). The meaning of prophetic scripture is not arbitrary, according to our view, but it is according to what the Holy Sprit originally said.

An example of this may be taken from Hebrews 12. The Hebrew believers were told to “lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets them...”. We might read that text today and apply it to a hobby which we feel that we should lay aside. While that may be beneficial, it is not the message of the text.

Hebrews was written to exhort believers not to go back to the Law of Moses, but to go on in Christ. The law was the weight; and disobedience to the New Covenant (unbelief) was the sin that beset them. Hebrews 12 is telling us not to go back to the law, or back to ritual. A “devotional” interpretation may apply a text in a way not intended, while a contextual study looks for the original exhortation.

This is our duty, or God was not serious when He said study to rightly divide the word of truth. A devotional assumption may give us a meaning opposite to the scripture, in the case of Hebrews 12, a legalistic view of a hobby, when the passage was exhorting against legalism. An innocent mistake is fine, but when these assumptions build over time they cause us real problems without us realising it.

When we study contextually we ask questions like: “Who was this passage written to? What was the purpose of the letter? How does this passage fit into the message of the whole letter? How would the people at that time have understood this then?”. We need to slow down and have a careful look before we think we know what the passage means, even if we have already read it many times before.

The first question is not what does the passage mean now, but what did the passage mean then?

Monday, 9 August 2010


The first step in bible study is to settle the issue of who determines truth. We cannot judge God’s truth in terms of whether we accept it or not. It is still true. Education begins with stripping away our personal, cultural, denominational and emotional preferences, to discover how God speaks for Himself. When we see something in God’s word is true, our response should not be, “I do not like that. Others will not like that”.

Jesus said, “I am the truth…” (John 14:6). He prayed, “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17). Something is true because God said it. Truth is not truth just because we understand it or agree with it, but because God has spoken it. Whether we understand it or not does not make it true or not true. The point is did God say it? “Obedience comes before understanding.” That is what our parents told us when we were young!

The trinity is true because the Bible teaches it, not because we understanding it rationally. We accept it on the basis of faith, because God’s Self-revelation declares it. It is the same with regard to election. We do not reshape a doctrine to fit with what seems reasonable, as if to rescue God’s reputation. God’s word is straight forward; “Who are you O man to reply against God.” (Rom 9:20).

This acceptance of God’s word as the absolute truth is the beginning point in study.
Learning involves paradigm shifts. It means that we are not the centre of all things. It means that God does not have to “play” according to our human rules. It means that we accept some things by faith and that our reason is not king. It means that we do not make rules in our own mind about what God should be like and then use “study” to confirm what we already “knew”.

We must be open to learn. New insights may appear wrong simply because the thought processes we have become accustomed to need looking at. This makes education an exciting process, but also challenging. We have developed a network of interdependent thoughts that can take time to unravel.

Learning can put us outside the camp (Heb 13:13). It is like the prophets found, sweet to the mouth, but bitter to the stomach, meaning the truth of God is so wonderful, but the results of following Him are not humanly acceptable (Jer 1:9, Ezek 2:6-3:3, Rev 10:9-11).

When we go out into life or ministry without study we can fall for every new thing that comes along. We can lead people more by culture and religious tradition than by the gospel. In doing so, many can lose sight of the true gospel. Theological education is important in order to:

1. Give a proper foundation for Christian life and for ministry.

2. Protect people against popular fads.

3. Show the difference between personal/cultural views and biblical truth.

4. Ensure ministry is not business, church growth or pragmatism, but is gospel.

5. Direct us to a divine perspective of truth.

Sunday, 8 August 2010


Paul admonished Timothy concerning study:

Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15).

And from a little child you have known the scriptures, which are able to make you wise to salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ. All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished for all good works. (2 Tim 3:15-17).

If we agree that the scripture is the word of God, here there is a command from God to study the scripture. The one who studies is called a workman, meaning it is something that we work at. It is not just a casual look. We must work to rightly divide the word of truth, which means to interpret it correctly. We are not just to assume our interpretation.

Some have said, “Well the first disciples were just uneducated fishermen”. Paul studied under Gamaliel, the greatest of the scholars of his time. Paul counted his achievements as “dung” compared to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, but his study was used by God. Paul wrote down most of the doctrines for the church. He did this by the revelation of the Holy Spirit and he also knew the scripture more than any apostle.

This does not mean that the word of God is shut up to only a select few. It means that all of us should study and especially those who preach the word. It does not mean that God cannot speak to His children unless we understand the scripture fully. God moves through His Spirit, His love and faith that are in us, according to the priesthood of all believers. Nevertheless, He still commands us to study.

Luther was not given his first church until after he earned his doctorate and in his day they were not easy to obtain. He had to master most areas of theology as well as the biblical languages. People often discount this, as though it is of no use, saying that only faith benefited Luther. Luther did not say this. Faith made Christ his Lord, but his knowledge of the scripture was essential to his calling in Christ.

The early Puritans and Dissenters in the 17th Century, though also men of the Spirit, were scholars of the word of God. Our societies today are still greatly indebted to their achievements in all fields. Studying for the ministry in Jonathan Edwards’ day in colonial America was equally as comprehensive. His students were people of the Spirit, who did not treat the study of theology rashly.

Ministers of the gospel were once the most educated people in town. Today we are often less educated than those in other professions and among the least educated in the history of the church. This lack of education has resulted in a lack of knowledge in the pulpits and has harmed lives. Would we allow an uneducated doctor to operate on us? How much more important is the soul?

A look at church history would quickly reassure us of our lack of education. Take, for example, the Roman Catholic documented response to the Council of Chalcedon in 451AD, regarding the nature of Jesus Christ. (This is available via a Google search on the Internet.)

The knowledge, expertise and Spirit of Christ in this document are challenging. The Catholics at this time had had a mini-reformation afforded them by Augustine and despite the persecution and heresy, the early church had the fastest mission expansion in history. They were not inept in power, knowledge or missionary impact.

In our modern era things changed around the end of the Second Great Awakening in America, in the middle of the 19th Century. A move to ecumenicalism and to what were considered more practical matters in ministry meant the study of theology took a back seat. This has brought a decline in gospel education in our day.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Shifts in Evangelical Views

The 19th Century saw many influences which helped form the background to modern Pentecostalism. These influences were seen particularly in American and British revivalism, from which the modern Pentecostal movement came.

The motto of the Four Square Pentecostal Church, founded by Aimee Semple McPherson, depicts the main themes that came out of the 19th Century: Christ the Saviour, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Healer and soon coming King. It also shows some of the changes in Christian thought over the period.

This motto expressed the developing themes of subsequence or second blessing, made popular through the Methodist revivals; Restorationism, made popular through Edward Irving and John Alexander Dowie; and pre-millennialism, made more popular by Dispensationalism. We will discuss these below.

Here we introduce just a few of the main factors that bear on Evangelical and Pentecostal movements today:

1. Wesleyanism

John and Charles Wesley were gifts from God. Their ministry was a great blessing to the church and many nations. Charles passed on inspiring gospel truths through his hymns. John had many influences in his background. He started in a High Anglican holiness group, which tried to earn salvation through works.

He claims to have been born again after meeting with Moravian Pietist Christians who told him about faith in Christ. He was also influenced by the Reformed Puritans of England. There was a mixture of teachings in his ministry.

John advocated a second blessing experience which he said promoted sanctification. We call this the doctrine of subsequence, meaning a work of sanctification in the believer after being saved. This was not seen as just a progressive work, but a subsequent instantaneous miracle. In many people’s minds this blessing came about when the believer adhered to religious requirements.

19th Century Methodist and Baptist revivalism in America and Britain emphasised different forms of this teaching in meetings and publications. They may not have all agreed to the Methodist model, but held to similar revivalist concepts to promote Christian sanctification and growth. Charles Finney, Phoebe Palmer, Dwight Moody and the English Keswick movement all emphasised Wesleyan type themes of Christian Perfectionism.

2. Humanism

Modern humanism stems from the Renaissance (14th – 17th Century), which refers to a period of re-birth of knowledge in European history. People freeing themselves from Papal authority and church dogma emphasised the importance of the individual. In secular communities humanists were generally also atheists. In church communities, humanists such as Philip Melanchthon, Erasmus, Huldrych Zwingli and Jacobus Arminius and the Pietists, emphasised compassion for all individuals.

Arminius (1560-1609) noted that cold Reformed churches cared little for humanity, while he respected Calvin’s publication, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, as “second only to the Bible”. Wesley later entered the Arminian dispute, but he was also careful in the matter. Wesley claimed that the new birth was a sovereign creative act of God, not man’s decision, but emphasised the human role in seeking God for salvation and sanctification.

The major change with regard to modern Christian humanism came through Charles Finney (1792-1875). One must go back to early publications to appreciate this. He claimed that new birth was a human decision made from a person’s own will and did not require a change of nature and that it was not a miracle of God. This period caused the biggest shift in church theology and practice since the Reformation and brought in a form of Arminianism that would be unrecognizable by John Wesley.

3. Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism has impacted a huge number of modern Evangelicals and Pentecostals. Many may not be aware of what the term means, but would nevertheless be Dispensationalist in several beliefs they hold. Dispensationalism is a way of interpreting scripture that relates particularly to end-times teaching.

Early Dispensationalism was founded by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), who was an elder in a very legalistic and Cessationist church denomination in England. Edward Irving also promoted some Dispensationalist ideas at the same time.

Later Cyrus Scofield (1843-1921) popularized the teachings in his reference Bible. We will look at Dispensationalism more later on. It denies historic Covenant Theology and scripture, which shows that no man has been justified by any means other than by the faith of the Messiah (Rom 4:1-16, Gal 3:18), whether before or after the cross.

Before the cross believers in Israel were justified by a free gift, which they acknowledged by the offering of blood. We are justified the same way, which we acknowledge by the Holy Sprit who is within us. They were under the law, not for justification, but to keep them as a guardian as they awaited the promise, the gift of the Spirit. The law offered righteousness by works, but all fell short of that.

Dispensationalism holds that man is justified by various means in changing dispensations that God imposes. The view is that after the church age, God will return to justification by the law when, it is claimed, Jesus will reign in Jerusalem on earth. Dispensationalism has the following outcomes:

(a) It sees the evil in the world as an indication of the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

(b) It views the evil somewhat fatalistically, claiming there is little the church can do about it.

(c) It sees the church’s task as to withdraw from society and await the rapture into heaven.

(d) It claims a special role for the nation of Israel in our day, meaning that God has two separate covenant people including the church and Israel.

(e) It claims the Law of Moses will be reinstituted in Jerusalem after the Second Coming of Christ, resulting is an antichrist position on the atonement.

Though early Dispensationalists were Cessationists, some Evangelicals and Pentecostals found the teaching attractive because it related to our Restorationist ideas, the belief that God is restoring the gifts of the Spirit in the last-days for a final world harvest before the Second Coming of Christ. Dispensationalism is also attractive because it relates to our Piestist background of withdrawal from the world.

4. Animism

Animism relates to native or natural religion, occultism, or witchcraft religions, found in all cultures of the world. The pagans of the Celtic tribes in the UK were called Druids. In some parts of Africa these practices are referred to as Ju Ju. Animism holds to certain views about truth, the spirit world and holiness that are formed out of experience.

Initially, missionary work in nations around the world did not entertain these views, but as the modern world moves closer towards multi-culturalism the views are embraced more freely and today are having a big influence on Christian belief worldwide.

5. Post Modernism

Post Modernism means after the modern scientific era. It considers the scientific age as objective and impersonal, while the Post Modern age today is viewed as subjective, experiential and relational. There is a denial of absolute truth and a concern for relationships, experience and emotion, which fill the need in people that materialism cannot satisfy.

Churches that hold doctrinally sound positions may be seen as impersonal and non-relational to the world around them and this may often be true. Jesus is both the truth and a person, so in Him we have both truth and relationship because we are Spirit filled.

Post Modernism, in elevating the personal and emotional, claims that there is no one correct view on truth and considers correction of others impolite and dogmatic preaching harmful. It believes therapeutic (softly spoken, healing) style ministry improves a person’s self-image and life style.

This has suited a current trend called Neo-Orthodoxy. Neo-Orthodoxy, founded by Karl Barth in the 20th Century, holds theology less rigidly than Orthodoxy, claiming truth is more subjective and adjustable to personal and cultural preferences.
These terms may seem new, but all Christians today are affected by them.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Evangelical/Pentecostal Heritage

Evangelicals/Pentecostals claim to be children of the Reformation. The principles that were most important to the Reformation include these below. Notice they are power doctrines. They are not Fundamentalist, meaning the scripture works by dead letter. The work of God is done by His Spirit:

1. Sola Scriptua – Theology comes from the word of God alone, not from nature or philosophy. Only God’s word is truth.

2. Interpretation – Scripture is understood in its plain meaning, not rationalised or allegorized contrary to its intent.

3. Sola Fide – Salvation is by faith alone, not faith and works. Saving faith is shown by its works. Works cannot produce faith.

4. Christ Authors Faith – Saving faith is God’s gift. It is not man’s faith. It is the faith of Jesus Christ.

5. Authority – Authority is in the word of God alone, not in the Pope, experience, human reason, culture, church community or collective human opinion.

6. The Depravity of Man – The Fall and depravity of man is total. Any goodness is due to grace alone. Man in his natural state does not seek God and cannot come to God.

7. Christ the Mediator – The Father draws man through the Lord Jesus Christ, without a human priesthood. No human, angel, pastor or ancestor is a mediator between man and God. (1 Tim 2:5)

8. Sovereignty – God is Creator and Governor over all His creation. His power cannot be challenged. There is no dualism, meaning there is no other power than God’s.

9. Preaching – Church services must focus on the preaching of the word of God, not on ritualism such as statues, candles, relics, beads, superstitions and not on entertainment.

10. One Sacrifice – Christ died once for sin at Calvary and is not re-sacrificed every Mass by priests. This applies to charms, some uses of point of contact, seed sowing and the Holy Land.

11. Finished Work – Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient. Nothing can be added to it by man, religion or tradition. Salvation, sanctification and perfection are by the blood of Christ alone.

12. Regeneration – The blood of Christ dealt with both justification (forgiveness of sin) and sanctification (the power of sin). Regeneration makes us complete in Christ.

13. New Birth – Man is saved by an instantaneous experience of new birth, without which we cannot know the Father. The new birth is not in man’s power. It is a creative act of God.

14. Indulgences – Man cannot buy salvation or any other gift from God. Neither does giving money initiate the grace of God. We can give to support ministry, but not give for ministry. The ministry of the Spirit is free, gratis, by grace alone.

15. Ministry – Ministry is a calling by God. The minister’s duty is first and foremost the sound communication of the gospel through the scripture, by the power of the Spirit. He or she must also be well trained in the knowledge of the doctrines of Christ.

Thursday, 5 August 2010


The last of the Minor Prophets is Malachi.

Behold I send My messenger and he shall prepare the way before Me; and the Lord whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant…behold He shall come says the Lord. But who shall abide the day of His coming?…And I will come near to you in judgement…(Mal 3:1, 2, 5).

Here we see the coming of John the Baptist, the messenger (Is 40:3), the coming of Christ to the temple in Jerusalem, to announce the New Covenant and the judgement that would accompany the end of the Old Covenant era. These scriptures cannot refer to Christ’s Second Coming. They refer to the New Covenant established in His first coming. Jesus stood in the temple when He came. It was in the days of John the Baptist.

Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. (Mal 4:5).

This was the last word of the prophets before the 400 silent years of the Intertestamental period. The next prophet Israel would hear would be John the Baptist with the exact same message, “Repent or go into the day of fire.” (Mal 4:1). Jesus said that John was Elijah, that is, the one Malachi spoke of that would come in the spirit and power of Elijah (Matt 11:14).

When these scriptures are taken out of their Hebrew context and misapplied to a future fulfilment and a Second Coming, this is foreign to biblical intent. Jesus did not do this. The New Testament did not do this. The prophets are all to be taken in context, as speaking of the end of the Old Covenant and the coming of Christ to establish the New Covenant.

Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of the prophets. Jesus is in the prophets, speaking of Himself before His incarnation and then He fulfilled them exactly. Just as Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58). It is all about Him. Dispensationalism has twisted these texts from the clear meaning.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Zechariah continued...

Note this again, “I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day…In that day shall you call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.”. Statements about Israel dwelling permanently in the land represent our redemption, the fulfilment, security and victory in Christ.

Such statements are found throughout the prophets. They do not mean that Israel as a nation will forever be settled in Canaan. They speak of Christ who gives us eternal rest. This point is clearly outlined in another chapter of this book, showing in particular from the book of Hebrews that this is the mind of the prophets. In chapter six Zechariah continues the Messianic theme:

Then take silver and gold and make crowns and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest; and speak to him, saying, Behold the man whose name is the BRANCH; and He shall grow up out of this place and He shall build the temple of the Lord.

Even He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne and the council of peace shall be between them both. (Zech 6:11-13).

This passage shows the following:

1. Joshua was the priest but he was also crowned king. Joshua was not actually made king, but this was acted out only as a prophecy of the Messiah.

2. God shall bring forth the Branch, which is the Messiah and He shall build the temple and bear the glory.

3. Here we see the fulfilment of the promises to David, that a king shall not fail from his seed and that He shall build the house of God.

4. In Christ we see the joining of the offices of priest and king in one person. This was not allowed under the law, but the two offices have peace (are together) in Christ, as they were in Melchizedek.

The prophets clearly taught that the return of Israel to Jerusalem from Babylon was for the purpose of the coming of Messiah who would take away our sin and build the temple or household of faith. This household would consist of Jews and Gentiles, of all those redeemed under the New Covenant.

In the light of all this it is clear that the church was one of the main foci of the Old Testament. The church was a major theme of all the prophets from Jacob in Gen 49:10, to the wilderness, to Nathan in 2nd Samuel 7 and throughout all the Major and Minor Prophets. This was the whole purpose of the coming of Christ from the beginning.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, your King comes to you; He is just and having salvation; lowly and riding upon an ass and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zech 9:9).

Jesus fulfilled this when He rode into Jerusalem.

And I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications; and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced and they shall mourn for Him. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem…(Zech 12:10-11).

Some of Israel would be restored through grace and others would mourn because of what they did to Christ. This refers to both the New Covenant and the judgement that fell upon Jerusalem and the surrounding nations in “that day” after Christ had risen, 70 A.D.

On the destruction of Jerusalem a Jewish writer Terentius Rufus said, “An officer in the army of Titus, with a ploughshare tore up the foundations of the temple”, to fulfil Mic 3:12, “Zion shall be ploughed as a field.”. Is there a non-Christian Jew today who does not interpret the prophesied return from captivity as referring only to the return from Babylon and all the nations in those days? In that day the New Covenant was established:

In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David (the gift of the Spirit) and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness…And one shall say, What are these wounds in Your hands? Then He shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends. (Zech 13:1, 6).

And His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives…And it shall be in that day that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem…And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. (Zech 14:4, 8, 9).

Jesus stood upon the Mount of Olives when He came. His sacrifice allowed living waters to go out to all nations. He reigns over the heathen today, as Psalm 2 says. The rest of Zechariah 14 shows the calamity that was to befall the Jews and the surrounding nations and the safety in the New Jerusalem for those in the Messiah. This is all fulfilled in the kingdom of Christ.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010


Zechariah continues the theme of the temple, the church and the one who rules over it, the Messiah. The whole idea of the return of the captivity to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem was to await the coming of Messiah. The encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah to those who had returned from the captivity was that although the rebuilt temple had no glory compared to Solomon’s temple, Christ would come to it and this was what their work was for, a far better restoration.

Just as Zerubbabel was a type of Christ, so too was Joshua, the high priest in Jerusalem after the return from Babylon. Israel had been in Babylon because of judgement. They had broken the law. When God returned them to Jerusalem Satan stood to oppose them claiming that by the law they should not return. They were still guilty. God answered showing that He was doing this through Messiah, not by law. This would be a temple of grace, not of law (Zech 4:6, 7).

And He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said to Satan, The Lord rebuke you, O Satan; even the Lord that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you; is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?

Now Joshua was clothed in filthy garments and stood before the angel. And He answered and spoke to those who stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And to him He said, Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you and I will clothe you with a change of raiment…

Hear now Joshua the high priest and your fellows that sit before you; for they are men wondered at; for, behold, I will bring forth My Servant the BRANCH. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua…I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day…In that day shall you call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree. (Zech 3:1-10).

This passage shows several things:

1. It shows what spiritual warfare is. Once Joshua’s clothes were cleansed Satan was unable to oppose him. That is, once we are made righteous by the New Covenant Satan’s opposition is defeated.

2. The stone laid before Joshua was a sacrifice stone common in those days. Animals were killed for sacrifice on the stone. By presenting the stone, God was telling Joshua that He would provide the sacrifice for Joshua’s sin and for the sin of the whole land.

3. This sacrifice was the Messiah, the Branch, meaning the stem or branch of Jesse’s household, the Seed of David. He would take away the sin of that land in one day, just as Daniel said (Dan 9:24).

4. Every man sitting under his fig tree (i.e. is secure in the land) is a symbolic picture of the redemption under the New Covenant, as it is in all the prophets. This redemption (Christ) is our land. The day that Jesus takes away our sins is the day we inherit our land.

5. This is the clothing Rev 19:8 speaks of, given to the bride through the gospel.

Monday, 2 August 2010


Haggai and Zechariah prophesied after God had returned Israel from their captivity in Babylon and from all the nations. These two prophets encouraged the Jews, who had been discouraged from rebuilding by the enemies Sanballat and Tobiah (Ezra 5:1).

Haggai encouraged Israel saying the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the former house (Hag 2:9). This was not literally fulfilled in their day. The temple they rebuilt in Zerubbabel’s day was very poor compared to the glory of Solomon’s temple. Later King Herod improved the temple, but even then it was never as great as the temple that Solomon built.

But the true glory of it was much greater, because Jesus came to this temple that Herod completed and walked in it, which He did not do in Solomon’s temple. This is the point!

So the temple that Haggai was really referring to was the church. The Jews who returned after the captivity would not have understood this fully then. They were discouraged by the poor temple they saw being rebuilt in those early days. So Haggai encouraged them by speaking of the glory of Christ and the New Covenant that was ahead.

This is why they had returned to Jerusalem, to prepare for the coming of Messiah. They should not be feeble:

For thus says the Lord of hosts; yet once, it is a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all nations and the desire of the nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory…(Hag 2:6-7).

According to Heb 12:26 this prophecy of Haggai related to the bringing in of the New Covenant in Christ. Haggai said the same thing here as Isaiah said: the Gentiles would be included in Israel in their restoration through Christ in the gospel age.

Zerubbabel was the governor in Jerusalem when the captivity was restored from Babylon in those days. Because Zerubbabel was in the lineage of David and was governor, Haggai used him to speak of the coming of Christ. Haggai speaks of the day when all nations would be overthrown, including Israel, when God would make Christ the signet ring, or chosen Seed, who would establish His kingdom and church.

In that day, says the Lord of hosts, will I take you, O Zerubbabel, My Servant…and will make you as a signet: for I have chosen You…(Hag 2:23).

This verse speaks of the fulfilment of the promise to David through Christ. Zerubbabel’s grandfather Coniah was an evil king. God had said even if Coniah was a signet ring on His right hand He would throw him away due to his evil heart (Jer 22:24). Now in Christ God has made David’s descendant His signet ring, giving us redemption in Him. Zerubbabel was used to represent Christ.

In the day when God would make Christ His signet ring all nations would come against Israel, according to Joel 3 and Zechariah 14. The nations were all those that were part of the Roman Empire that then covered the known world. This was the time of the latter days, hundreds of years after the time in which the prophets spoke. It was fulfilled in the days when the church was born, as stated by Peter (Acts 2:16-21).