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JESUS, SCRIPTURE, AND ERROR: An Implication of Theistic Evolution

By Simon Turpin

Bible opened image

Abstract

Within the church, the creation vs. evolution debate is often looked upon as a side issue or as unimportant. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Because of the acceptance of evolutionary theory, many have chosen to re-interpret the Bible with regards to its teaching on creation, the history of Adam and the global catastrophic flood in Noah’s day. Consequently, the very teachings of Jesus are being attacked by those who state that, because of His human nature, there is error in some of His teaching regarding earthly things such as creation. While scholars admit that Jesus affirmed such things as Adam, Eve, Noah and the Flood, they believe that Jesus was wrong on these matters.

The problem with this theory is that it raises the question of Jesus’s reliability, not only as a prophet, but more importantly as our sinless Savior. These critics go too far when they say that because of Jesus’s human nature and cultural context, He taught and believed erroneous ideas.


Keywords: Jesus, deity, humanity, prophet, truth, teaching, creation, kenosis, error, accommodation.

IntroductionIn His humanity, Jesus was subject to everything that humans are subject to, such as tiredness, hunger, and temptation. But does this mean that like all humans He was subject to error? Much of the focus on the person of Jesus in the church today is on His divinity, to the point where, often, aspects of His humanity are overlooked, which can in turn lead to a lack of understanding of this critical part of His nature. For example, it is argued that in His humanity Jesus was not omniscient and that this limited knowledge would have made Him capable of error. It is also believed that Jesus accommodated Himself to the prejudices and erroneous views of the Jewish people of the first century AD, accepting some of the untrue traditions of that time. This, therefore, nullifies His authority on critical questions. For the same reasons, it is not only certain aspects of Jesus’s teaching, but also those of the apostles that are seen as erroneous. Writing for the theistic evolutionist organization Biologos, Kenton Sparks argues that because Jesus, as a human, operated within His finite human horizon, then He would have made errors:

If Jesus as a finite human being erred from time to time, there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, John [sic] wrote Scripture without error. Rather, we are wise to assume that the biblical authors expressed themselves as human beings writing from the perspectives of their own finite, broken horizons. (Sparks 2010, p. 7)

To believe our Lord was able to err—and did err in the things He taught—is a severe accusation and needs to be taken seriously. In order to demonstrate that the claim that Jesus erred in His teaching is itself erroneous, it is necessary to evaluate different aspects of Jesus’s nature and ministry. First, this paper will look at the divine nature of Jesus and whether He emptied Himself of that nature, followed by the importance of Jesus’s ministry as a prophet and His claims of the teaching the truth. It will then consider whether Jesus erred in His human nature, and whether as a result of error in Scripture (since humans were involved in its writing) Christ erred in His view of the Old Testament. Finally, the paper will explore the implications of Jesus’s teaching allegedly being false.

The Divine Nature of Jesus—He Existed Before CreationGenesis 1:1 tells us thatIn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In John 1:1we read the same words,In the beginning . . . which follows the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. John informs us in John 1:1 that in the beginning was the Word (logos) and that the Word was not only with God but was God. This Word is the one who brought all things into being at creation (John 1:3). Several verses later, John writes that the Word who was with God in the beginning became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Notice that John does not say that the Word stopped being God. The verb “. . . ‘became’ [egeneto] here does not entail any change in the essence of the Son. His deity was not converted into our humanity. Rather, he assumed our human nature” (Horton 2011, p. 468). In fact, John uses a very particular term here, skenoo “dwelt”, which means he “pitched his tent” or “tabernacled” among us. This is a direct parallel to the Old Testament record of when God “dwelt” in the tabernacle that Moses told the Israelites to construct (Exodus 25:8–933:7). John is telling us that God “dwelt” or “pitched his tent” in the physical body of Jesus.

In the incarnation, it is important to understand that Jesus’s human nature did not replace His divine nature. Rather, His divine nature dwelt in a human body. This is affirmed by Paul in Colossians 1:15–20, especially in verse 19, For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,” Jesus was fully God and fully man in one person.

The New Testament not only explicitly states that Jesus was fully God, it also recounts events that demonstrate Jesus’ divine nature. For example, while Jesus was on earth, He healed the sick (Matthew 8–9) and forgave sins (Mark 2). What is more, He accepted worship from people (Matthew 2:214:3328:9). One of the greatest examples of this comes from the lips of Thomas when he exclaims in worship before Jesus, My Lord and my God! (John 20:28). The confession of deity here is unmistakable, as worship is only meant to be given to God (Revelation 22:9); yet Jesus never rebuked Thomas, or others, for this. He also did many miraculous signs (John 2; 6; 11) and had the prerogative to judge people (John 5:27) because He is the Creator of the world (John 1:1–31 Corinthians 8:6Ephesians 3:9Colossians 1:16;Hebrews 1:2Revelation 4:11).

Furthermore, the reactions of those around Jesus demonstrated that He viewed Himself as divine and truly claimed to be divine. In John 8:58, Jesus said to the Jewish religious leaders, Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”. This “I am” statement was Jesus’s clearest example of His proclamation “I am Yahweh,” from its background in the book of Isaiah (41:4; 43:10–13, 25; 48:12—see also Exodus 3:14). This divine self-disclosure of Jesus’s explicit identification of Himself with Yahweh of the Old Testament is what led the Jewish leaders to pick up stones to throw at Him. They understood what Jesus was saying, and that is why they wanted to stone Him for blasphemy. A similar incident takes place in John 10:31. The leaders again wanted to stone Jesus after He saidI and the Father are one, because they knew He was making Himself equal with God. Equality indicates His deity, for who can be equal to God? Isaiah 46:9 says: Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. If there is no one like God and yet Jesus is equal to God (Philippians 2:6), what does this say of Him, except that He must be God? The only thing that is equal to God is God.

In the Incarnation Did Jesus Empty Himself of His Divine Nature?Kenotic Theology—(Philippians 2:5–8)

A question that needs to be asked is whether Jesus emptied Himself of His divine nature in His incarnation. In the seventeenth century, German scholars debated the issue of Christ’s divine attributes while He was on earth. They argued that because there is no reference in the gospels to Christ making use of all of His divine attributes (such as omniscience) that He abandoned the attributes of His divinity in His incarnation (McGrath 2011, p. 293). Gottfried Thomasius (1802–1875) was one of the main proponents of this view who explained the incarnation as “the self-limitation of the Son of God” (Thomasius, Dorner, and Biedermann 1965, p. 46). He reasoned that the Son could not have maintained His full divinity during the incarnation (Thomasius, Dorner, and Biedermann 1965, pp. 46–47). Thomasius believed that the only way for a true incarnation to take place was if the Son “‘gave himself over into the form of human limitation.”’ (Thomasius, Dorner, and Biedermann 1965, pp. 47–48). He found his support for this in Philippians 2:7, defining the kenosis as:

[T]he exchange of the one form of existence for the other; Christ emptied of the one and assumed the other. It is thus an act of free self-denial, which has as its two moments the renunciation of the divine condition of glory, due him as God, and the assumption of the humanly limited and conditioned pattern of life. (Thomasius, Dorner, and Biedermann 1965, p. 53)

Thomasius separated the moral attributes of God: truth, love, and holiness, from the metaphysical attributes: omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. Thomasius not only believed that Christ gave up the use of these attributes, (omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience) but that He did not even possess them during the incarnation (Thomasius, Dorner, and Biedermann 1965, pp. 70–71). Because of Christ’s self-emptying in Philippians 2:7, it was believed that Jesus was limited essentially by the opinions of His time. Robert Culver comments on the belief of Thomasius and other scholars who held to a kenotic theology:

Jesus’ testimony to the inerrant authority of the Old Testament . . . is negated. He simply had given up divine omniscience and omnipotence and hence didn’t know any better. Some of these scholars earnestly desired a way to remain orthodox and to go with the flow of what was deemed to be scientific truth about nature and about the Bible as an inspired book not necessarily true in every respect. (Culver 2006, p. 510)

It is critical, therefore, to ask what Paul means when he says that Jesus emptied Himself. Philippians 2:5–8 says:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

There are two key words in these verses that help in understanding the nature of Jesus. The first key word is the Greek morphē (form). Morphē

covers a broad range of meanings and therefore we are heavily dependent on the immediate context to discover its specific nuance. (Silva 2005, p. 101)

In Philippians 2:6 we are helped by two factors to discover the meaning of morphē.

In the first place, we have the correspondence of morphē theou with isa theō. . . . “in the form of God” is equivalent to being “equal with God.” . . . In the second place, and most important, morphē theou is set in antithetical parallelism to μορφην δουλου (morphēn doulou, form of a servant), an expression further defined by the phrase εν ομοιωματι ανθρωπων (en homoiōmati anthrōpōn, in the likeness of men). (Silva 2005, p. 101)

The parallel phrases show that morphē refers to outward appearance. In Greek literature the term morphē has to do with “external appearance” (Behm 1967, pp. 742–743) which is visible to human observation. “Similarly, the word form in the Greek OT (LXX) refers to something that can be seen [Judges 8:18Job 4:16Isaiah 44:13]” (Hansen 2009, p. 135). Christ did not cease to be in the form of God in the incarnation, but taking on the form of a servant He became the God-man.

The second key word is ekenosen from which we get the kenosis doctrine. Modern English Bibles translate verse 7 differently:

New International Version/Today’s New International Version: rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness.

English Standard Version: but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

New American Standard Bible: but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

New King James Version: but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

New Living Translation: Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form.”

It is debatable from a lexical standpoint whether “emptied himself,” “made Himself of no reputation,” or “gave up his divine privileges” are even the best translations. The New International Version/Today’s New International Version translation “made himself nothing” is probably more supportable (Hansen 2009, p. 149; Silva 2005, p. 105; Ware 2013). Philippians 2:7, however, does not say that Jesus emptied Himself of anything in particular; all it says is that he emptied Himself. New Testament scholar George Ladd comments:

The text does not say that he emptied himself of the morphē theou [form of God] or of equality with God . . . All that the text states is that “he emptied himself by taking something else to himself, namely, the manner of being, the nature or form of a servant or slave.” By becoming human, by entering on a path of humiliation that led to death, the divine Son of God emptied himself. (Ladd 1994, p. 460)

It is pure conjecture to argue from this verse that Jesus gave up any or all of His divine nature. He may have given up or suspended the use of some of His divine privileges, perhaps, for example, His omnipresence or the glory that He had with the Father in heaven (John 17:5), but not His divine power or knowledge. “The humiliation,” of Jesus is not therefore seen in His becoming man (anthropos) or a man (aner) but that “as man” (hos anthropos) “‘he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8)” (Culver 2006, p. 514).

The fact that Jesus did not give up His divine nature can be seen when He was on the Mount of Transfiguration and the disciples saw His glory (Luke 9:28–35) since here there is an association with the glory of God’s presence in Exodus 34:29–35. In the incarnation Jesus was not exchanging His deity for humanity but suspending the use of some of His divine powers and attributes (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus’s emptying of Himself was a refusal to cling to His advantages and privileges as God. We can also compare how Paul uses this same term, kenoo, which only appears four other times in the New Testament (Romans 4:141 Corinthians 1:17;9:152 Corinthians 9:3). In Romans 4:14 and 1 Corinthians 1:17, it means to make void, that is, deprive of force, render vain, useless, or of no effect. In 1 Corinthians 9:15 and 2 Corinthians 9:3it means to make void, that is, to cause a thing to be seen to be empty, hollow, false (Thayer 2007, p. 344). In these instances it is clear that Paul’s use of kenoo is used figuratively rather than literally (Berkhof 1958, p. 328; Fee 1995, p. 210; Silva 2005, p. 105). Additionally, in Philippians 2:7 “to press for a literal meaning of ‘emptying’ ignores the poetic context and nuance of the word” (Hansen 2009, p. 147). Therefore, in Philippians 2:7 it is perhaps more accurate to see “emptying” as Jesus pouring Himself out, in service, in an expression of divine self-denial (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus’s service is explained in Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” In practise, this meant in the incarnation that Jesus:

  1. Took the form of a servant

  2. Was made in the likeness of men

  3. Humbled himself becoming obedient to death on the cross.

In His incarnation Jesus did not cease to be God, or cease in any way to have the authority and knowledge of God.

Jesus as a ProphetIn His state of humiliation, part of Jesus’s ministry was to speak God’s message to the people. Jesus referred to Himself as a prophet (Matthew 13:57Mark 6:4Luke 13:33) and was declared to have done a prophet’s work (Matthew 13:57Luke 13:33John 6:14). Even those who did not understand that Jesus was God accepted Him as a prophet, (Luke 7:15–17Luke 24:19John 4:196:147:409:17). Furthermore, Jesus introduced many of His sayings by “amen” or “truly” (Matthew 6:2516). I. Howard Marshall says of Jesus:

[Jesus] made no claim to prophetic inspiration; no “thus says the Lord” fell from his lips, but rather he spoke in terms of his own authority. He claimed the right to give the authoritative interpretation of the law, and he did so in a way that went beyond that of the prophets. He thus spoke as if he were God. (Marshall 1976, pp. 49–50)

In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 13:1–5 and 18:21–22 provided the people of Israel with two tests to discern true prophets from false prophets.

First, a true prophet’s message had to be consistent with earlier revelation.

Second, a true prophet’s predictions always had to come true.

Deuteronomy 18:18–19 foretells of a prophet whom God would raise up from His own people after Moses died:I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him (Deuteronomy 18:18). This is properly referred to in the New Testament as having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ (John 1:45Acts 3:22–237:37). Jesus’s teaching had no origin in human ideas but came entirely from God. In His role as prophet, Jesus had to speak God’s word to God’s people. Therefore He was subject to God’s rules concerning prophets. In the Old Testament, if a prophet was not correct in his predictions he would be stoned to death as a false prophet by order of God (Deuteronomy 13:1–518:20). For a prophet to have credibility with the people, his message must be true, as he has no message of his own but can only report what God has given him. This is because prophecy had its origin in God and not man (Habakkuk 2:2–32 Peter 1:21).

In His prophetic role, Christ represents God the Father to mankind. He came as a light to the world (John 1:98:12) to show us God and bring us out of darkness (John 14:9–10). In John 8:28–29 Jesus also showed evidence of being a true prophet—that of living in close relation with His Father, passing on His teaching (cf. Jeremiah 23:21–23):

When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.

Jesus had the absolute knowledge that everything He did was from God. What He said and did is absolute truth because His Father is “truthful” (John 8:26). Jesus only spoke that which His Father told Him to say (John 12:49–50), so it had to be correct in every way. If Jesus as a prophet was wrong in the things He said, then why would we acclaim Him as the Son of God? If Jesus is a true prophet, then His teaching regarding Scripture must be taken seriously as absolute truth.

Jesus’s Teaching and Truth

Since God himself is the measure of all truth and Jesus was co-equal with God, he himself was the yardstick by which truth was to be measured and understood. (Letham 1993, p. 92)

In John 14:6 we are told that Jesus not only told the truth but that He was, and is, truth. Scripture portrays Jesus as the truth incarnate (John 1:17). Therefore, if He is the truth, He must always tell the truth and it would have been impossible for Him to speak or think falsehood. Much of Jesus’s teaching began with the phrase “Truly, truly I say . . .” If Jesus taught anything in error, even if it was from ignorance (for example, the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch), He would not be the truth.

To err may be human for us. Falsehood, however, is rooted in the nature of the devil (John 8:44), not the nature of Jesus who speaks the truth (John 8:45–46). The Father is the only true God (John 7:288:2617:3) and Jesus taught only what the Father had given to Him (John 3:32–338:4018:37). Jesus testifies about the Father, who in turn testifies concerning the Son (John 8:18–191 John 5:10–11), and they are one (John 10:30). The gospel of John shows emphatically that Jesus’s teaching and words are the teaching and words of God. Three clear examples of this are:

And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. (John 7:15–17)

I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father. . . . But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. (John 8:37–3840)

For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.(John 12:49–50)

In John 12:49–50 “Not only is what Jesus says just what the Father has told him to say, but he himself is the Word of God, God’s self-expression (1:1)” (Carson 1991, p. 453). The authority behind Jesus’s words are the commands that are given to Him by the Father (and Jesus always obeyed the Father’s commands; John 14:31). Jesus’s teaching did not originate in human ideas but came from God the Father, which is why it is authoritative. His very own words were spoken in full authorization from the Father who sent Him. The authority of Jesus’s teaching then rests upon the unity between Himself and the Father. Jesus is the embodiment, revelation, and messenger of truth to mankind; and it is the Holy Spirit who conveys truth about Jesus to the unbelieving world through believers (John 15:26–2716:8–11). Again, the point is that if there was error in Jesus’s teaching, then He is a false and unreliable teacher. However, Jesus was God incarnate, and God and falsehood can never be reconciled with each other (Titus 1:2;Hebrews 6:18).

Jesus’s Human NatureIt is important to understand that in the incarnation, not only did Jesus retain His divine nature, He also took on a human nature. With respect to His divine nature, Jesus was omniscient (John 1:47–514:16–1929), having all the attributes of God, yet in His human nature He had all the limitations of being human, which included limitations in knowing. The true humanity of Jesus is expressed throughout the gospels, which tell us that Jesus was wrapped in ordinary infant clothing (Luke 2:7), grew in wisdom as a child (Luke 2:4052), and was weary (John 4:6), was hungry (Matthew 4:4), was thirsty (John 19:28), was tempted by the devil (Mark 4:38), and was sorrowful (Matthew 26:38a). The incarnation should be viewed as an act of addition and not as an act of subtraction of Jesus’s nature:

When we think about the Incarnation, we don’t want to get the two natures mixed up and think that Jesus had a deified human nature or a humanized divine nature. We can distinguish them, but we can’t tear them apart because they exist in perfect unity. (Sproul 1996)

For example, in Mark 13:32 where Jesus is talking about His return, He says, But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Does this mean that Jesus was somehow limited? How should we handle this statement by Jesus? The text seems straightforward in saying there was something Jesus did not know. Jesus’s teaching shows that what He knew or did not know was a conscious self-limitation. The God-man possessed divine attributes, or He would have ceased to be God, but He chose not always to employ them. The fact that Jesus told His disciples that He did not know something is an indication that He did not teach untruths and this is confirmed by His statement, if it were not so, I would have told you (John 14:2). Furthermore, ignorance of the future is not the same as making an erroneous statement. If Jesus had predicted something that did not take place, then that would be an error.

The question that now needs to be asked is this: Was Jesus in His humanity capable of error in the things he taught? Does our human capacity to err apply to the teaching of Jesus? Because of His human nature, questions are raised about Jesus’s beliefs concerning certain events in Scripture. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982) states: “We deny that the humble, human form of Scripture entails errancy any more than the humanity of Christ, even in His humiliation, entails sin.” Arguing against the position, Kenton Sparks, Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University, in his book God’s Word in Human Words, states:

First, the Christological argument fails because, though Jesus was indeed sinless, he was also human and finite. He would have erred in the usual way that other people err because of their finite perspectives. He misremembered this event or that, and mistook this person for someone else, and thought—like everyone else—that the sun was literally rising. To err in these ways simply goes with the human territory. (Sparks 2008, pp. 252–253)

First of all, it should be noted that nowhere in the gospels is there any evidence that Jesus either misremembered any event or mistook any person for another, nor does Sparks provide evidence for this. Secondly, the language used in Scripture to describe the sun’s rising (for example, Psalm 104:22) and movement of the earth are literal only in a phenomenological sense as it is described from the viewpoint of the observer. Moreover, this is still done today in weather reports when the reporter uses terminology such as “sunrise tomorrow will be at 5 a.m.”

Because of the impact evolutionary ideology has had in the scientific realm as well as in theology, it is reasoned that Jesus’s teaching on things such as creation and the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch was simply wrong. Jesus would have been unaware of evolution as it relates to the critical approach to the authorship of the Old Testament, the Documentary Hypothesis. It is reasoned that in His humanity He was limited by the opinions of His time. Therefore, He could not be held accountable for holding to a view of Scripture that was prevalent in the culture. It is argued that Jesus erred in what He taught because He was accommodating the erroneous Jewish traditions of His time. For example, Peter Enns objects to idea that Jesus’s belief in the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is valid, since He simply accepted the cultural tradition of His day:

Jesus seems to attribute authorship of the Pentateuch to Moses (e.g., John 5:46–47). I do not think, however, that this presents a clear counterpoint, mainly because even the most ardent defenders of Mosaic authorship today acknowledge that some of the Pentateuch reflects updating, but taken at face value this is not a position that Jesus seems to leave room for. But more important, I do not think that Jesus’s status as the incarnate Son of God requires that statements such as John 5:46–47 be understood as binding historical judgments of authorship. Rather, Jesus here reflects the tradition that he himself inherited as a first-century Jew and that his hearers assumed to be the case. (Enns 2012, p. 153)

Like Enns, Sparks also uses the accommodation theory to argue for human errors in Scripture (Sparks 2008, pp. 242–259). He believes that the Christological argument cannot serve as an objection to the implications of accommodation (Sparks 2008, p. 253) and that God does not err in the Bible when He accommodates the errant views of Scripture’s human audience (Sparks 2008, p. 256).

In his objection to the validity of Jesus’s belief in the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, Enns is too quick in downplaying the divine status of Jesus in relation to His knowledge of the authorship of the Pentateuch. This overlooks whether the divinity of Christ meant anything in terms of an epistemological relevance to His humanity, and raises the question of how the divine nature relates to the human nature in the one person. We are told on several occasions, for example, that Jesus knew what people were thinking (Matthew 9:412:25) which is a clear reference to His divine attributes. A. H. Strong gives a good explanation as to how the personality of Jesus’s human nature existed in union with His divine nature:

[T]he Logos did not take into union with himself an already developed human person, such as James, Peter, or John, but human nature before it had become personal or was capable of receiving a name. It reached its personality only in union with his own divine nature. Therefore we see in Christ not two persons—a human person and a divine person—but one person, and that person possessed of a human nature as well as a divine. (Strong 1907, p. 679)

There is a personal union between the divine and human nature with each nature entirely preserved in its distinctness, yet in and as one person. Although, some appeal to Jesus’s divinity in order to affirm Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (Packer 1958, pp. 58–59), it is not necessary to do so, since:

There is no mention in the Gospels of Jesus’ divinity overwhelming his humanity. Nor do the Gospels refer his miracles to his divinity and refer his temptation or sorrow to his humanity, as if he switched back and forth from operating according to one nature to operating according to another. Rather, the Gospels routinely refer Christ’s miracles to the Father and the Spirit . . . [Jesus] spoke what he heard from the Father and as he was empowered by the Spirit. (Horton 2011, p. 469)

The context of John 5:45–47 is important in understanding the conclusions we draw concerning the truthfulness of what Jesus taught. In John 5:19 we are told that Jesus can do nothing of Himself. In other words, He does not act independently of the Father, but He only does what He sees the Father doing. Jesus has been sent into the world by God to reveal truth (John 5:3036) and it is this revelation from the Father that enabled Him to do “greater works.” Elsewhere in John we are told that the Father teaches the Son (John 3:32–337:15–178:2837–3812:49–50). Jesus is not only one with the Father but is also dependent upon Him. Since the Father cannot be in error or lie (Numbers 23:19Titus 1:2), and because Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30), to accuse Jesus of error or falsehood in what He knew or taught is to accuse God of the same thing.

Jesus went on to acknowledge that the Old Testament required a minimum of two or three witnesses to establish the truthfulness of one’s claim (Deuteronomy 17:619:15). Jesus produces several witnesses corroborating His claim of equality with God:

Jesus told the Jewish leaders that it is Moses, one of the witnesses, who will hold them accountable for their unbelief in what he wrote concerning Him, and that it is he who will be their accuser before God. New Testament scholar Craig Keener comments:

In Palestinian Judaism, “accusers” were witnesses against the defendant rather than official prosecutors (cf. 18:29), an image which would be consistent with other images used in the gospel tradition (Matt 12:41–42Luke 11:31–32). The irony of being accused by a person or document in which one trusted for vindication would not be lost on an ancient audience. (Keener 2003, pp. 661–662)

In order for the accusation to hold up, however, the document or witnesses need to be reliable (Deuteronomy 19:16–19) and if Moses did not write the Pentateuch, how then can the Jews be held accountable by him and his writings? It was Moses who brought the people of Israel out of Egypt (Acts 7:40), gave them the Law (John 7:19), and brought them to the Promised Land (Acts 7:45). It was Moses who wrote about the coming prophet that God would send Israel to whom they should listen (Deuteronomy 18:15Acts 7:37). What is more, it is God who puts the words into the mouth of this prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18). Moreover, Jesus

opposed the pseudo-authority of untrue Jewish traditions . . . . [and] disagrees with a pseudo-oral source [Mark 7:1–13], the false attribution of Jewish oral tradition to Moses. (Beale 2008, p. 145)

The basis for the truthfulness and inerrancy of what Jesus taught does not have to be resolved by appealing to His divine knowledge (although it can be), but can be understood from His humanity through His unity with the Father, which is why His teaching is true.

Furthermore, the New Testament strongly favors the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (Matthew 8:423:2Luke 16:29–31John 1:1745Acts 15:1Romans 9:1510:5). However, because of their belief in the “overwhelming evidence” for the documentary hypothesis, scholars (for example, Sparks 2008, p. 165) seem to come to the New Testament believing that the evidence of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch must be explained away in order to be consistent with their conclusions. The simple fact is that scholars who reject the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and embrace an accommodation approach to the evidence of the New Testament, are as unwilling as the Jewish leaders (John 5:40) in not wanting to listen to the words of Jesus on this subject.

The accommodation approach to the teaching of Jesus also raises the issue of whether He was mistaken on other such issues, as Gleason Archer explains:

Such an error as this, in matters of historical fact that can be verified, raises a serious question as to whether any of the theological teaching, dealing with metaphysical matters beyond our powers of verification, can be received as either trustworthy or authoritative. (Archer 1982, p. 46)

The accommodation approach also leaves us with a Christological problem. Since Jesus clearly understood that Moses wrote about Him, this creates a serious moral problem for Christians, as we are told to follow the example set by Christ (John 13:151 Peter 2:21) and have his attitude (Philippians 2:5). Yet, if Christ is shown to be approving falsehood in some areas of His teaching, it opens a door for us to affirm falsehood in some areas as well. The belief that Jesus accommodated His teaching to the beliefs of his first century hearers does not square with the facts. New Testament scholar John Wenham in his book Christ and the Bible comments on the idea that Jesus accommodated His teaching to the beliefs of His first century hearers:

He is not slow to repudiate nationalist conceptions of Messiahship; He is prepared to face the cross for defying current misconceptions . . . Surely He would have been prepared to explain clearly the mingling of divine truth and human error in the Bible, if He had known such to exist. (Wenham 1994, p. 27)

For those who hold to an accommodation position, this overlooks the fact that Jesus never hesitated to correct erroneous views common in the culture (Matthew 7:6–1329). Jesus was never constrained by the culture of his day if it went against God’s Word. He opposed those who claimed to be experts on the Law of God, if they were teaching error. His numerous disputes with the Pharisees are testament to this (Matthew 15:1–923:13–36). The truth of Christ’s teaching is not culturally bound, but transcends all cultures and remains unaltered by cultural beliefs (Matthew 24:351 Peter 1:24–25). Those who claim that Jesus in His humanity was susceptible to error and therefore merely repeated the ignorant beliefs of His culture are claiming to have more authority, and to be wiser and more truthful than Jesus.

Much of Christian teaching focuses, rightly, on the death of Jesus. However, in focusing on the death of Christ we often neglect the teaching that Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father. Jesus not only died for us; He also lived for us. If all Jesus had to do was to die for us, then He could have descended from heaven on Good Friday, gone straight to the cross, risen from the dead and ascended back into heaven. Jesus did not live for 33 years for no reason. Whilst on earth Christ did the Father’s will (John 5:30), taking specific actions, teaching, miracle-working, obeying the Law in order to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Jesus, the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), came to succeed where the first Adam had failed in keeping the law of God. Jesus had to do what Adam failed to do in order to fulfill the required sinless life of perfection. Jesus did this so that His righteousness could be transferred to those who put their faith in Him for the forgiveness of sins (2 Corinthians 5:21Philippians 3:9).

We must remember that in His humanity, Jesus, was not superman but a real man. The humanity of Jesus and the deity of Jesus do not mix directly with one another. If they did, then that would mean that the humanity of Jesus would actually become super-humanity. And if it is super-humanity, it is not our humanity. And if it is not our humanity, then He cannot be our substitute since He must be like us (Hebrews 2:14–17). Although the genuine humanity of Jesus did involve tiredness and hunger, it did not prevent Him from doing what pleased His Father (John 8:29) and speaking the truth He heard from God (John 8:40). Jesus did nothing on His own authority (John 5:19306:387:16288:16). He had the absolute knowledge that everything He did was from God, including speaking what He had heard and had been taught by the Father. In John 8:28 Jesus said:“I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.” New Testament scholar Andreas Kostenberger notes that,

Jesus as the sent Son, again affirms his dependence on the Father, in keeping with the Jewish maxim that “a man’s agent [šālîah] is like the man himself.” (Kostenberger 2004, p. 260)

Just as God speaks the truth and no error can be found in Him, so it was with His sent Son. Jesus was not self-taught; rather His message came directly from God and, therefore, it was ultimately truth (John 7:16–17).

Scripture and Human ErrorIt has long been recognized that both Jesus and the apostles accepted Scripture as the flawless Word of the living God (John 10:3517:17Matthew 5:182 Timothy 3:162 Peter 1:21). Unfortunately, this view of Scripture is attacked by many today, mainly because critics assume that since humans were involved in the process of writing Scripture, their capacity to err would result in the presence of errors in Scripture. The question that needs to be asked is whether the Bible contains error because it was written by human authors.

Many people are familiar with the Latin adage errare humanum est—to err is human. For instance, what person would ever claim to be without error? For this reason, the Swiss, neo-orthodox, theologian Karl Barth (1886–1968), whose view of Scripture is still influential in certain circles within the evangelical community, believed that: “we must dare to face the humanity of the biblical texts and therefore their fallibility . . .” (Barth 1963, p. 533). Barth believed that Scripture contained error because human nature was involved in the process:

As truly as Jesus died on the cross, as Lazarus died in Jn. 11, as the lame were lame, as the blind were blind . . . so, too, the prophets and apostles as such, even in their office, even in their function as witnesses, even in the act of writing down their witness, were real, historical men as we are, and therefore sinful in their action, and capable and actually guilty of error in their spoken and written word. (Barth 1963, p. 529)

Barth’s ideas, as well as the end results of higher criticism, are still making an impression today, as can be seen in Kenton Sparks’s work (Sparks 2008, p. 205). Sparks believes that although God is inerrant, because he spoke through human authors their “finitude and fallenness” resulted in a flawed biblical text (Sparks 2008, pp. 243–244).

In classic postmodern language Sparks states:

Orthodoxy demands that God does not err, and this implies, of course, that God does not err in Scripture. But it is one thing to argue that God does not err in Scripture; it is quite another thing that the human authors of Scripture did not err. Perhaps what we need is a way of understanding Scripture that paradoxically affirms inerrancy while admitting the human errors in Scripture. (Sparks 2008, p. 139)

Sparks’s claim of an inerrant Scripture that is errant is founded

in contemporary postmodern hermeneutical theories which emphasize the roll [sic] of the reader in the interpretive process and human fallibility as agents and receptors of communication. (Baugh 2008)

Sparks attributes the “errors” in Scripture to the fact that humans err: the Bible is written by humans, therefore its statements often reflect “human limitations and foibles” (Sparks 2008, p. 226). For both Barth and Sparks, an inerrant Bible is worthy of the charge of docetism (Barth 1963, pp. 509–510; Sparks 2008, p. 373).

Barth’s view of inspiration seems to be influencing many today in how they understand Scripture. Barth believed that God’s revelation takes place through His actions and activity in history; revelation then for Barth is seen as an “‘event”’ rather than coming through propositions (a proposition is a statement describing some reality that is either true or false; Beale 2008, p. 20). For Barth, the Bible is a witness to revelation but is not revelation itself (Barth 1963, p. 507) and, although there are propositional statements in Scripture, they are fallible human pointers to revelation-in-encounter. Michael Horton explains Barth’s idea of revelation:

For Barth, the Word of God (i.e., the event of God’s self-revelation) is always a new work, a free decision of God that cannot be bound to a creaturely form of mediation, including Scripture. This Word never belongs to history but is always an eternal event that confronts us in our contemporary existence. (Horton 2011, p. 128)

In his book Encountering Scripture: A Scientist Explores the Bible, one of the leading theistic evolutionists of today, John Polkinghorne, explains his view of Scripture:

I believe that the nature of divine revelation is not the mysterious transmission of infallible propositions . . . but the record of persons and events through which the divine will and nature have been most transparently made known . . . The Word of God uttered to humanity is not a written text but a life lived . . . Scripture contains witness to the incarnate Word, but it is not the Word himself. (Polkinghorne 2010, pp. 1, 3)

Like Sparks, Polkinghorne seems to be following Barth in his view of the inspiration of Scripture (misrepresenting the orthodox view in the process), which is opposed to the idea of revelation to divinely accredited messengers (the prophets and apostles). Therefore, in his view the Bible is not God’s Word but is only a witness to it with revelation seen as an event rather than the written Word of God (propositional truth statements). In other words, the Bible is a flawed record of God’s revelation to human beings, but it is not revelation itself. This view is not based on anything within the Bible, but is based upon extra-biblical, philosophical, critical grounds with which Polkinghorne is comfortable. Unfortunately, Polkinghorne offers a straw-man argument regarding the inspiration of Scripture as being “divinely dictated” (Polkinghorne 2010, p. 1). For him, the idea of the Bible being inerrant is “inappropriately idolatrous” (Polkinghorne 2010, p. 9), and so he believes he has a right to judge Scripture with his own autonomous intellect.

However, contra Barth and Polkinghorne, the Bible is not merely a record of events, but also gives us God’s interpretation of the meaning and significance of the events. We do not only have the gospel, but we also have the epistles which interpret the significance of the events of the gospel for us propositionally. This can be seen, for example, in the event of the crucifixion of Christ. At the time of Jesus’s ministry, the high priest Caiaphas saw the event of the death of Jesus as a historical expedient in that it was necessary for the good of the nation for one man to die (John 18:14). Meanwhile the Roman centurion standing underneath the cross came to believe that Jesus was truly was the Son of God (Mark 15:39). Yet, Caiaphas and the Centurion could not have known apart from divine revelation that the death of Christ was ultimately an atoning sacrifice made to satisfy the demands of God’s justice (Romans 3:25). We need more than an event in the Bible, we must also have the revelation of the meaning of the event or the meaning simply becomes subjective. God has given us the meaning and significance of these events through His chosen medium of the prophets and the apostles.

Furthermore, the charge of biblical docetism (that it denies the true humanity of Scripture), moves too quickly in presuming genuine humanity necessitates error:

Given an understanding of the Spirit’s work that superintends the production of the text without bypassing the human author’s personality, mind or will, and given that truth can be expressed perspectivally—that is, we do not need to know everything or to speak from a position of absolute objectivity or neutrality in order to speak truly—what exactly would be doecetic about an infallible text should we be given one? (Thompson 2008, p. 195)

What is more, the adage “to err is human” is simply assumed to be true. It may be true that humans err but it is not true that it is intrinsic for humanity to necessarily always err. There are many things we can do as humans and not err (examinations for example) and we must remember God created humanity at the beginning of creation as sinless and therefore with the capacity not to err. Also, the incarnation of Jesus Christ shows sin, and therefore error, not to be normal. Jesus

who is impeccable was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, but being in “fashion as a man” still “holy harmless and undefiled.” To err is human is a false statement. (Culver 2006, p. 500)

One could argue that both Barth’s and Sparks’s view of Scripture is in fact “Arian” (denial of the true deity of Christ). What is more, Sparks’s contention that God is inerrant but accommodates Himself through human authors (which is where the errors in Scripture come from), fails to see that if what he says is true, then it is also possible that the biblical authors were in error in stating that God is inerrant. How in their erroneous humanity then would they know God is inerrant unless He revealed it to them?

Furthermore, orthodox Christianity does not deny the true humanity of Scripture; rather it properly recognizes that to be human does not necessarily entail error, and that the Holy Spirit kept the biblical writers from making errors they might otherwise have made. The assertion of a mechanical view of inspiration (God dictates the words to human authors) is simply a canard. Rather, orthodox Christianity embraces a theory of organic inspiration. “That is, God sanctifies the natural gifts, personalities, histories, languages, and cultural inheritance of the biblical writers” (Horton 2011, p. 163). The orthodox view of the inspiration of Scripture, as opposed to the neoorthodox view, is that revelation comes from God in and through words. In 2 Peter 1:21we are told that: “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Prophecy was not motivated by man’s will in that it did not come from human impulse. Peter tells us how the prophets were able to speak from God by the fact that they were being continually “moved” (pheromenoi, present passive participle) by the Holy Spirit as they spoke or wrote. The Holy Spirit moved the human authors of Scripture in such a way that they were moved not by their own “will” but by the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that human authors of Scripture were automatons; they were active rather than passive in the process of writing Scripture, as can be seen in their style of writing and the vocabulary they used. The role of the Holy Spirit was to teach the authors of Scripture (John 14:2616:12–15). In the New Testament it was the apostles or those closely associated with them whom the Spirit led to write truth and overcome their human tendency to err. The apostles shared Jesus’s view of Scripture, presenting their message as God’s Word (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and proclaiming that it was not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches (1 Corinthians 2:13). Revelation then did not come about within the apostle or prophet, but it has its source in the Triune God (2 Peter 1:21). The relationship between the inspiration of the biblical text through the Holy Spirit and human authorship is too intimate to allow for errors in the text, as New Testament scholar S. M. Baugh demonstrates from the book of Hebrews:

God speaks to us directly and personally (Heb. 1:1–2) in promises (12:26) and comfort (13:5) with divine testimony (10:15) to and through the great “cloud of witnesses” of OT revelation . . . In Scripture, the Father speaks to the Son (1:5–6; 5:5), the Son to the Father (2:11–12; 10:5) and the Holy Spirit to us (3:7; 10:15–16). This speaking of God in the words of Scripture has the character of testimony which has been legally validated (2:1–4; so Greek bebaios in v. 2) which one ignores to his peril (4:12–13; 12:25). This immediate identification of the biblical text with God’s speech (cf. Gal. 3:822) is hard to jibe with the reputed feebleness of the biblical authors. (Baugh 2008)

In the same way Jesus can assume our full humanity without sin so it is that God can speak through the fully human words of prophets and apostles without error. The major problem with seeing Scripture as erroneous is summed up by Robert Reymond:

We must not forget that the only reliable source of knowledge that we have of Christ is the Holy Scripture. If the Scripture is erroneous anywhere, then we have no assurance that it is inerrantly truthful in what it teaches about him. And if we have no reliable information about him, then it is precarious indeed to worship the Christ of Scripture, since we may be entertaining an erroneous representation of Christ and thus may be committing idolatry. (Reymond 1996, p. 72)

Jesus’s View of ScriptureIf Jesus’s acceptance and teaching of the reliability and truthfulness of Scripture were false, then this would mean that He was a false teacher and not to be trusted in the things He taught. Jesus clearly believed, however, that Scripture was God’s Word and therefore truth (John 17:17). In John 17:17, notice that Jesus says: Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” He did not say that “your word is true” (adjective), rather He says “your word is truth” (noun). The implication is that Scripture does not just happen to be true; rather the very nature of Scripture is truth, and it is the very standard of truth to which everything else must be tested and compared. Similarly, in John 10:35 Jesus declared that Scripture cannot be broken the “term ‘broken’ . . . means that Scripture cannot be emptied of its force by being shown to be erroneous” (Morris 1995, p. 468). Jesus was telling the Jewish leaders that the authority of Scripture could not be denied. Jesus’s own view of the Scripture was that of verbal inspiration, which can be seen from His statement in Matthew 5:18:

For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

For Jesus, Scripture is not merely inspired in its general ideas or its broad claims or in its general meaning, but is inspired down to its very words. Jesus settled many theological disputes with His contemporaries by a single word. In Luke 20:37–38 Jesus “exploits an absent verb in the Old Testament passage” (Bock 1994, p. 327) to argue that God continues to be the God of Abraham. His argument presupposes the reliability of the words recorded in the book of Exodus (3:2–6). Furthermore, in Matthew 4, Jesus’s response to being tempted by Satan was to quote sections of Scripture from Deuteronomy (8:3; 6:13, 16) demonstrating His belief in the final authority of the Old Testament. Jesus overcame Satan’s temptations by quoting Scripture to him “It is written . . .” which has the force of or is equivalent to “that settles it”; and Jesus understood that the Word of God was sufficient for this.

Jesus’s use of Scripture was authoritative and infallible (Matthew 5:17–20John 10:34–35) as He spoke with the authority of God the Father (John 5:308:28). Jesus taught that the Scriptures testify about Him (John 5:39), and He showed their fulfilment in the sight of the people of Israel (Luke 4:17–21). He even declared to His disciples that what is written in the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled (Luke 18:31). Furthermore, He placed the importance of the fulfillment of the prophetic Scriptures over escaping His own death (Matthew 26:53–56). After His death and resurrection He told His disciples that everything that was written about Him in Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled (Luke 24:44–47), and rebuked them for not believing all that the prophets have spoken concerning Him (Luke 24:25–27). The question then is how could Jesus fulfill all that the Old Testament spoke about Him if it is filled with error?

Jesus also regarded the Old Testament’s historicity as impeccable, accurate, and reliable. He often chose for illustrations in his teaching the very persons and events that are the least acceptable today to critical scholars. This can be seen from his reference to: Adam (Matthew 19:4–5), Abel (Matthew 23:35), Noah (Matthew 24:37–39), Abraham (John 8:39–4156–58), Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:28–32). If Sodom and Gomorrah were fictional accounts, then how could they serve as a warning for future judgement? This also applies to Jesus’s understanding of Jonah (Matthew 12:39–41). Jesus did not see Jonah as a myth or legend; the meaning of the passage would lose its force, if it was. How could Jesus’s death and resurrection serve as a sign, if the events of Jonah did not take place? Furthermore, Jesus says that the men of Nineveh will stand at the last judgement because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, but if the account of Jonah is a myth or symbolic, then how can the men of Nineveh stand at the last judgement?

Jesus and the Age of the UniverseFig. 1. Jesus’s view of the creation of man at the beginning of creation is directly opposed to the evolutionary timeline of the age of the earth.

Moreover, there are multiple passages in the New Testament where Jesus quotes from the early chapters of Genesis in a straightforward, historical manner. Matthew 19:4–6 is especially significant as Jesus quotes from both Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24. Jesus’s use of Scripture here is authoritative in settling a dispute over the question of divorce, as it is grounded in the creation of the first marriage and the purpose thereof (Malachi 2:14–15). The passage is also striking in understanding Jesus’s use of Scripture as He attributes the words spoken as coming from the Creator (Matthew 19:4). More importantly, there is no indication in the passage that He understood it figuratively or as an allegory. If Christ were mistaken about the account of creation and its importance to marriage, then why should He be trusted when it comes to other aspects of His teaching? Furthermore, in a parallel passage in Mark 10:6 Jesus said, ‘But from the beginning of creation, God ‘made them male and female’.” The statement “from the beginning of creation” (‘άπό άρχñς κτíσεως;’—see John 8:441 John 3:8, where “from the beginning” refers to the beginning of creation) is a reference to the beginning of creation and not simply to the beginning of the human race (Mortenson 2009, pp. 318–325). Jesus was saying that Adam and Eve were there at the beginning of creation, on Day Six, not billions of years after the beginning (fig. 1).

In Luke 11:49–51 Jesus states:

Therefore the wisdom of God also said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,” that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.

The phrase “from the foundation of the world” is also used in Hebrews 4:3, where it tells us God’s creation works were finished from the foundation of the world. However, verse 4 says that “God rested on the seventh day from all His works.” Mortenson points out:

The two statements are clearly synonymous: God finished and rested at the same time. This implies that the seventh day (when God finished creating, Gen. 2:1–3) was the end of the foundation period. So, the foundation does not refer simply to the first moment or first day of creation week, but the whole week. (Mortenson 2009, p. 323)

Jesus clearly understood that Abel lived at the foundation of the world. This means that as the parents of Abel, Adam and Eve, must also have been historical. Jesus also spoke of the devil as being a murderer “from the beginning” (John 8:44). It is clear that Jesus accepted the book of Genesis as historical and reliable. Jesus also made a strong connection between Moses’s teaching and his own (John 5:45–47) and Moses made some very astounding claims about six-day creation in the Ten Commandments, which He says were penned by God’s own hand (Exodus 20:9–11 and Exodus 31:18).

To question the basic historical authenticity and integrity of Genesis 1–11 is to assault the integrity of Christ’s own teaching. (Reymond 1996, p. 118)

Moreover, if Jesus was wrong about Genesis, then He could be wrong about anything, and none of His teaching would have any authority. The importance of all this is summed up by Jesus in declaring that if someone did not believe in Moses and the prophets (the Old Testament) then they would not believe God on the basis of a miraculous resurrection (Luke 16:31). Those who make the charge that the Scriptures contain error find themselves in the same position as the Sadducees who were rebuked by Jesus in Matthew 22:29: Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God’.” The implication by Jesus here is that the Scriptures themselves do not err, as they speak accurately concerning history and theology (in context the Patriarchs and the resurrection).

The apostle Paul issued a warning to the Corinthian Church:

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Satan’s method of deception with Eve was to get her to question God’s Word (Genesis 3:1). Unfortunately, many scholars and Christian lay people today are falling for this deception and are questioning the authority of God’s Word. We must remember, however, that Paul exhorts us that we are to have “the mind” (1 Corinthians 2:16) and “attitude” of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Therefore, as Christians, whatever Jesus’s belief was concerning the truthfulness of Scripture should be what we believe; and He clearly believed that Scripture was the perfect Word of God and, therefore, truth (Matthew 5:18John 10:3517:17).

Jesus as Saviour and the Implications of His Teaching being FalseThe fatal flaw in the idea that Jesus’s teaching contained error is that, if Jesus in His humanity claimed to know more or less than He actually did, then such a claim would have profound ethical and theological implications (Sproul 2003, p. 185) concerning Jesus’s claims of being the truth (John 14:6), speaking the truth (John 8:45), and bearing witness to the truth (John 18:37). The critical point in all of this is that Jesus did not have to be omniscient to save us from our sins, but He certainly had to be sinless, which includes never telling a falsehood.

Scripture is clear is that Jesus was sinless in the life he lived, keeping God’s law perfectly (Luke 4:13John 8:2915:102 Corinthians 5:21Hebrews 4:151 Peter 2:221 John 3:5). Jesus was confident in His challenge to His opponents to convict Him of sin (John 8:46), but His opponents were unable to answer His challenge; and even Pilate found no guilt in him (John 18:38). The belief that Jesus was truly human and yet sinless has been a universal conviction of the Christian church (Osterhaven 2001, p. 1109). However, did Christ’s true humanity require sinfulness?

The answer to that must be no. Just as Adam, when created, was fully human and yet sinless, so the second Adam who took Adam’s place not only started his life without sin but continued to do so. (Letham 1993, p. 114)

Whereas Adam failed in his temptation by the Devil (Genesis 3), Christ succeeded in His temptation, fulfilling what Adam had failed to do (Matthew 4: 1–10). Strictly speaking, the question of whether Christ was able to sin or not (impeccability)

means not merely that Christ could avoid sinning, and did actually avoid it, but also that is was impossible for Him to sin because of the essential bond between the human and the divine natures. (Berkhof 1959, p. 318)

If Jesus in his teaching had pretended or proclaimed to have more knowledge than he actually had, then this would have been sinful. The Bible tells us that “we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Scripture also says that it would be better for a person to have a millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned than to lead someone astray (Matthew 18:6). Jesus made statements such as “I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me” (John 14:10) and “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6). Now if Jesus claimed to teach these things and then taught erroneous information (for example, regarding Creation, the Flood, or the age of the earth), then His claims would be falsified, He would be sinning, and this would disqualify Him from being our Saviour. The falsehood He would be teaching is that He knows something that He actually does not know. Once Jesus makes the astonishing claim to be speaking the truth, He had better not be teaching mistakes. In His human nature, because Jesus was sinless, and as such the “fullness of the Deity” dwelt in Him (Colossians 2:9), then everything Jesus taught was true; and one of the things that Jesus taught was that the Old Testament Scripture was God’s Word (truth) and, therefore, so was His teaching on creation.

When it comes to Jesus’s view on creation, if we claim Him to be Lord, then what He believed should be extremely important to us. How can we have a different view than the one who is our Saviour as well as our Creator! If Jesus was wrong concerning His views on creation, then we can argue that maybe He was wrong in other areas too—which is what is being argued by scholars such as Peter Enns and Kenton Sparks.

ConclusionOne of the reasons today for believing that Jesus erred in His teaching is driven by a desire to syncretize evolutionary thinking with the Bible. In our own day, it has become customary for theistic evolutionists to reinterpret the Bible in light of modern scientific theory. However, this always ends in disaster because syncretism is based on a type of synthesis—blending together the theory of naturalism with historic Christianity, which is antithetical to naturalism.

The issue for Christians is what one has to concede theologically in order to hold to a belief in evolution. Many theistic evolutionists inconsistently reject the supernatural creation of the world, yet nevertheless accept the reality of the virgin birth, the miracles of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the divine inspiration of Scripture. However, these are all equally at odds with secular interpretations of science. Theistic evolutionists have to tie themselves up in knots in order to ignore the obvious implications of what they believe. The term “blessed inconsistency” should be applied here, as many Christians who believe in evolution do not take it to its logical conclusions. However, some do, as can be seen from those that affirm Christ and the authors of Scripture erred in matters of what they taught and wrote.

People say, “they do not accept the Bible’s account of origins in Genesis when it speaks of God creating supernaturally in six consecutive days and destroying the world in a global catastrophic flood.” This cannot be said, however, without overlooking the clear teaching of our Lord Jesus on the matter (Mark 10:6Matthew 24:37–39) and the clear testimony of Scripture (Genesis 1:1–2;3:6–9Exodus 20:112 Peter 3:3–6), which He affirmed as truth (Matthew 5:17–18John 10:25;17:17). Jesus said to His own disciples that those “who receives you (accepting the apostles’ teaching) receives me” (Matthew 10:40). If we confess Jesus is our Lord, we must be willing to submit to Him as the teacher of the Church.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Simon Turpin has a B.A in Theology and Inter-cultural Studies from All Nations Bible College UK (2010) and works full-time for an Evangelical Church in St. Albans. Previous to his studies Simon spent a year as part of a missions team working in North America, India and Germany sharing the gospel. Through his time in the church in England and overseas he saw the increasing need to use the creation message to share not only the truth of the Bible, but the full story of the message of redemption through our Creator and Saviour Jesus.Acknowledgment

The author is grateful for the helpful comments from AiG Research Assistant Lee Anderson, Jr., which were used to improve this paper.

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Culver, R. D. 2006. Systematic theology: Biblical and historical. Fearn, Ross-Shire: Christian Focus Publications Ltd.

Enns, P. 2012. The evolution of Adam: What the Bible does and doesn’t say about human origins. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press.

Fee, G. D. 1995. Paul’s letter to the Philippians: The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

Hansen, G. W. 2009. The letter to the Philippians: The pillar New Testament commentary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

Horton, M. 2011. The Christian faith: A systematic theology for pilgrims on the way. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Keener, C. S. 2003. The gospel of John: A commentary. Vol. 1. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Kostenberger, A. J. 2004. John: Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker.

Ladd, G. E. 1994. A theology of the New Testament. Rev. D. A. Hagner. Cambridge, United Kingdom: The Lutterworth Press.

Letham, R. 1993. The work of Christ: Contours of Christian theology. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Marshall, I. H. 1976. The origins of the New Testament christology. Downers Grove: Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

McGrath, A. E. 2011. Christian theology: An introduction. 5th ed. Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishing Limited.

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Packer, J. I. 1958. “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God. Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

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SOURCE: (OCTOBER 30, 2013) http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/arj/v6/n1/jesus-scripture-and-error

ISSN: 1937-9056 Copyright © 2013 Answers in Genesis. All rights reserved. Consent is given to unlimited copying, downloading, quoting from, and distribution of this article for non-commercial, non-sale purposes only, provided the following conditions are met: the author of the article is clearly identified; Answers in Genesis is acknowledged as the copyright owner; Answers Research Journal and its website, http://www.answersresearchjournal.org, are acknowledged as the publication source; and the integrity of the work is not compromised in any way. For more information write to: Answers in Genesis, PO Box 510, Hebron, KY 41048, Attn: Editor, Answers Research Journal. The views expressed are those of the writer(s) and not necessarily those of the Answers Research Journal Editor or of Answers in Genesis.

 

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SUNDAY NT SERMON: “SIGNS OF THE KING” BY TIMOTHY KELLER – ACTS 2:37-47

Series: The King and the Kingdom – Part 4 

Tim Keller preaching image

Preached in Manhattan, NY on August 13, 1989

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – ACTS 2:37-47

Last week we began a series of messages, of talks, on the church. Have you noticed how often I talk about us launching a church? Why do I like to use that word launching? Is it just because I’m a frustrated sailor? No. Actually, I think of a rocket ship, and I think of how important liftoff is, because if you’re aiming at the moon and your rocket ship down here is just a silly millimeter off, it could be thousands of miles off when it gets there.

Therefore, if this church is not going to join the thousands and thousands of cultural institutions that are totally ineffective in this country within just a few years, it is vital we strain every nerve to think about the church aright, to envision it, to see exactly what it is and what it can be. Now last week we said there was a central fact, the most important thing you have to understand if you’re going to understand what the church is. That central fact is the church is the place where God dwells, where God comes down as it were and meets us in all of his transcendent love and light and fire and majesty.

That’s what the Bible says, and the church has known this for years. Not programs. Not busyness. Not work, but that. You know, one of the greatest hymns ever written about the church was written by John Newton. It says,

Glorious things of thee are spoken,

Zion, City of our God!

He’s talking about the church.

He, whose word cannot be broken,

Formed thee for his own abode.

The first thing Newton says in that hymn is the church is the place where God dwells. Now this particular passage is very critical because it gives us the birth of the New Testament church. You see, there’s a little group of people. Jesus, when he left, had only left a small handful of people. Peter preaches this remarkable message on the day in the history of the church we have always called the day of Pentecost, and on that day, Peter preached a message, and the message that formed that church, that gathered those 3,000 souls that first day, was through Jesus Christ you can have the presence of God in your life.

We’ll look at that just for a minute because I want to show you that was his message. That’s what formed the church. We see that in verses 37–41. That’s the message that formed the church. Then in verses 42–47 we see the marks of the life of this early church. In other words, if a group of people actually come together and build their lives on that reality that God is present in the midst, if a group of people come together and actually take that seriously (not cynically) and say, “This is what we’re going to build our lives on,” the presence of God expresses itself.

There is a cosmic vitality that expresses itself through a church like that, and I want to show you the signs of it. It’s right there in verses 42–47. There are five signs of that cosmic vitality. It’s the way you can tell whether a church is realizing the presence of God. What we’re trying to show and what this passage tries to show is first of all, before we can run off to our busyness and run off to our ministries and our programs, we have to stand before God and realize his presence and know it and yearn for it.

Then it’s the presence of God that becomes like the motor or the driveshaft for everything else the church does, and that’s what we’re going to see. First, the message that forms the church is that Jesus Christ is the way to know the presence of God. Secondly, the five signs of life that flow out of that should characterize every good church. Let’s look at the message and then let’s look at those five signs which are the evidences of that kind of vitality.

First, the message. In a way we talked about this last week, but I just want to show you again what it is. Peter says to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” He says, “Repent and be baptized …” That is virtually the same thing Jesus said when he came out of the wilderness and first began to preach in Mark 1:15 and said, “Repent, and believe the gospel.”

Those two things are always there: repentance and trust. Repent and trust your sins can be put away through Jesus Christ so they are no longer a barrier between you and God. Repent and believe. Those are not two different things; that’s one thing. It’s repentant faith, turning from your old ways, resting and trusting in Christ, and making him your only hope in life and death.

They are really two sides to the same coin, and that’s how you receive Christ as Savior and Lord, through repentance and faith. Obviously, we could spend quite a bit of time talking about repentance and faith, but right now let’s move on to how this creates the church. If a person receives Christ as Savior and Lord, Peter says you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Now let’s take that apart for a moment. Give me a 90-second tangent for some of you.

Even though you have repented and believed, the Holy Spirit comes in as a gift. Your repentance and your faith do not earn the Spirit; it is a gift. Now the only reason I say that is because I continually meet people who don’t know where they stand in the Christian faith, and they say, “I know you’re not saved by your efforts and your good deeds. You’re saved strictly by faith alone, but I don’t know whether my faith is good enough. It just doesn’t seem to be very strong. It doesn’t seem to be very pure.”

Repentance and faith receive the gift. Your repentance and faith don’t have to be pure enough to earn it. Then it wouldn’t be a gift. Let me put it this way. It’s the fact of your repentant faith, not the purity of it, that brings it in, and anyone who is worried and always saying, “I don’t know if I repented well enough. I wonder if I repented well enough.” I can clear that up for you right now. You haven’t. Nobody has ever repented well enough. Who in the world has ever been sorry enough for the things they’ve done wrong?

You say, “I don’t know whether my faith is good enough.” I can clear that up, too. My friends, here is the bad thing. If you’re worried about it, there is pride in there. As humble and as despairing as you seem, what you’re saying is, “Oh, I have to get good enough. I have to be pure enough. I have to be faithful enough so Jesus Christ can give me his Spirit.” My friends, receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is a gift. Eternal life is a gift. The Holy Spirit is a gift. Your faith receives it; it doesn’t earn it. It can’t. Don’t you see?

Now it’s the gift of the Holy Spirit I want to look at here for a second. Peter is telling us something I’m afraid most of us here cannot really understand the momentous nature of. (How do you like that for a sentence?) I don’t think anybody in this room can understand how momentous a statement this was unless we spend some time reflecting on it. Peter didn’t just preach this sermon. Years later, he wrote a couple of epistles which are in the back of this Book. He wrote a couple of letters to some other churches.

In this sermon he says there is a tremendous promise. He says, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off …” You can come near to God. You can come near. You’re far off. You can come into the presence of God and receive the Holy Spirit. Now he says it a different way in his second epistle (letter) in 1:4, where he says, “Through his great and precious promises, we participate in the divine nature.” That’s the same thing.

See, what is the Holy Spirit? It’s the glory of God. It’s the lifeblood of God. I’m sorry. You see, this promise beggars description. It’s his very glory, and Peter is saying that, through receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, can flood into your life. Now get the hang of this. Remember Moses said, “Show me your glory.” What he was saying was, “Oh, Lord, I want your glory to come into my life. I want to see it,” and God said, “You can’t. It will kill you. Your poor, bitty, little soul would crack under the strain of it, so I’m going to let you see the gleam of my brightness through the back door,” in a sense.

He said, “I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock, and I’ll let my hind parts go by you.” We don’t know what in the world that means except God was saying to Moses, “Moses, you can’t take my glory.” When Isaiah got just a glimpse of God in the temple, what did he say? He said, “Woe is me! for I am undone …” which is a good King James Version way of saying, “I feel unzipped! I feel I’m being unbuttoned. I’m unraveling.” Why? He said, “… for mine eyes have seen the King …” “The King is here, and even getting this close, I feel like I’m coming apart.”

The glory of God (his face, his royal presence, his raw presence, what in the Old Testament they called the shekinah, the glory cloud of God) dwelt in the Holy of Holies in the center of the tabernacle in the temple behind the veil over the ark of the covenant. Who could get there? Who could go back there? Who could get near the presence of God? Only the high priest, the holiest person (supposedly) in Israel, one day a year on the Day of Atonement after spending days purifying himself in body and soul.

Then he would go back there with a blood atonement, sprinkling incense everywhere so he didn’t see anything that might kill him. He had bells on the tassels on his robe so the people outside could hear him moving around so they knew he was still alive. Now why was the presence of God so fatal to people? One of the problems is we have movies, and I know in a way Steven Spielberg wasn’t really trying to depict this, but you know in the Raiders of the Lost Ark, the power of God that comes out of the ark of the covenant is depicted as a completely abstract thing.

You remember, don’t you, through great special effects, the nasty Nazis opened the lid and they looked in? If I remember correctly, Harrison Ford and Karen Allen closed their eyes. Isn’t that right? You get the impression first of all, because they closed their eyes while the Nazis were looking at it, and secondly, you also get the impression because the Nazis are nasty and because Harrison Ford and Karen Allen were kind of good people, they didn’t get melted down the way all the other people did with all those great special effects.

In other words, the ark of the covenant is depicted as a kind of cosmic mouse trap, and the power is abstract. If you push the right buttons and you do the right things, you see, it won’t harm you; it will harm somebody else. My friends, that is not at all the way the Bible depicts the glory of God. The glory of God was fatal to people, and the reason it was fatal to people was because of the holiness and sin issues. Maybe the best way to understand it is the old orbit analogy.

God, because he’s completely pure, and he’s completely holy, and he’s completely just, everything he is and does and thinks centers on what is good and what is holy and what is just and what is pure. That’s why he does what he does. Now let’s think about ourselves for a moment. Remember everything we do centers on … let’s face it … our happiness and our comfort. We will take the good, the true, and the holy into consideration, but we reject it if it looks like its not comfortable, right?

Let’s be honest. What do we center on? Why do we do the things we do? Why do we make the decisions we make? What do we center on? We center on our own comfort and our own happiness, and here is God centering on what is good and what is true and what is right. My friends, when two planets have the same center, you have a solar system, and you have harmony.

When two planets come together and they have two different centers, you have an accident looking for a place to happen. It’s inevitable there will be cataclysm, and when a holy God and human beings who make everything revolve around their own pride and themselves … When a holy God comes into the presence of sinful man, there is trauma. There is clash.

When Moses said, “Show me your glory,” God said, “I can’t.” Even all through the Bible, you see, though Moses knew he needed the presence of God and we were all built for it, and he knew it would fulfill something deep in every human soul, he couldn’t have it. In the Bible, whenever it says, “Come into his presence with singing,” we know that was a relative command because the people could not come into the presence of God. They could come relatively into the presence of God.

They could come into the outer courts, but nobody could go into the presence of God except that poor high priest with his knees knocking. Then Peter has the audacity to say, “Through his great and precious promises, we are made partakers of the divine nature.” Through receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, because he is the real High Priest, because he is the final sacrifice, when Jesus died that veil was ripped and the barrier between the presence of God and the people was gone because Jesus is the door, and when you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, the very presence of God comes into your life.

The Holy Spirit comes in with all of his unconquerable mirth. Mirth! The Holy Spirit has enough joy in him to set a whole kingdom laughing. Why not? God is the center of joy. The Holy Spirit, with his absolute purity and boundless love and dynamic energy and strength, comes in and we’re never the same again. Don’t you see this is radical and this is what the church is built on? This is what the people responded to. Now just before we move on, quickly one thing.

You can’t have something like that coming into your life without turmoil. See, some of you are fairly new Christians, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here in New York to meet people like you. It depends on how new you are. I would say if it’s been a few weeks, if it’s been a couple of months, somewhere in there you experience the tough side of being a Christian. There are all sorts of tough sides, and I don’t have time to go into a catalogue of them now, but some of you are out there saying, “If God is my Savior and if my sins are forgiven and he accepts me and all these great things are true, why are all these problems happening to me?”

Some of you are saying, “If the Holy Spirit has come into my life like this, why does it seem to be taking so long for me to get better? Why in some ways do I feel like I’m actually doing worse? Am I really a Christian?” For something of this kind of power and magnitude to come into your life, it just does not sneak in. It doesn’t slip in. If you think of the Christian life as one unbroken, smooth road of peace from here on in, look out.

Suppose we were in the middle of a tremendous heat wave. I mean, we haven’t had heat waves this year, but like last year. Worse than last year. Day after day after day of 110 degrees. People are dying. Imagine being in a heat wave like that, and you start to say, “We are going to perish if we don’t get a cool, Canadian high.”

Then we find out there is one on the way. Well, how will it come and release us and deliver us from this heat? A thunderstorm, right? You see, a cold air mass coming and hitting that heat wave, the only way to move it out before everything clears off and the haze is gone, things get worse before they get better. Before the haze is gone so we can finally see the blue sky, things have to get a lot worse. That’s a normal approach.

My friends, when God’s presence comes into your life full of selfishness with his love, full of power with your anxiety, there’s going to be a clash. It has to happen. There will be, but don’t worry. The haze will clear out. That’s the only thing I need to tell you. Somebody says, “If God is a loving God, why is it he is showing me so many bad things about my life? Why is it that everything is going like this?” Well, listen, remember who he is. He is light, and he is love, and he is wise, and he is holy.

There is this tremendous quote I got out of C.S. Lewis’ book, The Problem of Pain, in which he says just be careful when you ask the living God into your life. He says, “In awful and surprising truth, we are objects of his love. You asked for a loving God; you have one. The great spirit [God] you … invoked … is present …” Now listen to every word here. “… not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not with the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate … but [he is] the consuming fire himself, the love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work … as provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.”

Yes, God has come in with his love. It’s a holy love. It’s a powerful love, and it’s going to renovate you, and it’s going to remake you, but nobody ever renovates someplace without a lot of dust and a lot of dirt and a lot of inconvenience, without it getting uglier before it gets more beautiful? Right? That’s normal! How can you expect it to be any other way? Trust him, though, you see. You trust in him, of course, but recognize when something like this comes into your life, there’s going to be a cloud of dust.

Now verses 42–47 tell us these people who took hold of this truth with both hands and said, “All right. We’re going to build our lives on this. Though we were far away from God, we can be brought near right into the presence of God and have the Holy Spirit in our lives.” I want to show you there are five signs of this vitality. Let me put it this way. Every one of you in this room who has received Christ as Savior and Lord have access to the presence of God when you sit down and pray, when you say, “Because of what Jesus Christ did, O Father, hear my prayer.”

You have access to his presence, but the Bible also says, “For where two or three [of you] are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of [you].” What that means, among other things, is when several Christians get together, though they individually have access to the presence of God, the presence of God expresses itself in corporate ways in the corporate life of those people. Here is what they are, five of them, and I want you to keep this in mind.

I’m going to go through them quickly because every one of them at some future date will get an extended treatment. I guarantee you. I want you to see at this point the importance is they all have to be together. Having one or two or three will not do the trick, and I’ll explain why. The five things are teaching, community, social compassion, evangelism, and worship. Let’s go through them quickly.

1. Teaching

It says here in verse 42, they were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. Devoted. A vital church understands truth is not just a subjective thing. Of course, it’s subjective, but we also believe there is a body of truth (the teaching of the apostles and the prophets) deposited here, and that truth not only gives us guidance for every area of our lives, but the truth isn’t an abstract thing. The Bible says about itself that it’s alive and active. It’s a transforming power that comes in and changes us.

For a church to honor the truth does not just mean people flock to hear the great teacher, nor does it mean the people of the church just run by their Bibles in the morning for five minutes and just expect inspiration to jump out of it onto you somewhere to take you through the day. Rather, it says the people of a church like this are devoted to the apostles’ teaching. They devoted themselves, you see. They dug in. They spent the time. They reflected. They thought. They meditated. They wrestled.

They said, “How do I get this truth into my life? What does this truth mean?” You see, they thought about it. One of the hard things to explain in a place like New York, especially in a place like Manhattan, is that wherever God’s presence is, there is an insatiable hunger for truth. Now the reason it’s harder to show in a college town or a big city is there are a lot of people around who are already predisposed to enjoy reading and studying. You become Christians and you continue to enjoy reading and studying.

It’s starkly obvious when you go to a place where people hate reading and studying. When the presence of God comes down in their midst, it’s amazing to see the change. I took a church in Virginia that, when I got there, as far as I knew, virtually none of the officers had finished high school. Especially the males in that particular blue-collar, southern community felt readin’ and writin’ were feminine.

I remember a man who came to Christ just before I got there. He had been an alcoholic. He had been a career army sergeant. He was a tough, rough person. He became a Christian, and this man who had only finished eighth grade (I don’t know how in the world he got that far) became hungry to study the Word of God.

He could barely read, and he would spend hours reading a passage, having to look everything up in the dictionary. After a while, he came to me and said, “I want to teach.” I said, “I don’t know how you’re going to do that.” He said, “Give me a chance.” So we gave him a Sunday school class. His wife told me absolutely for sure that he spent 45 hours a week preparing his lesson. He would spend hours just reading with the dictionary through the Sunday school teacher’s guide.

Then he would write out what he was going to say. He would speak it into a tape. He’d take the tape to some friends, and they would listen. He would say, “Now am I pronouncing these words right?” and “What does this word mean?” What did he turn out to be? A good teacher. Nothing spectacular. A mediocre teacher, but it was unbelievable to see what happened in this man’s life, and he changed. I remember after being there for nine years, one of the last days I was there, this man came up to me and said something.

He said, “Do you know what? Before you came to this town, before I came under your teaching, I was a racist.” Now I had never ever talked to this man. Of course, he was a racist! Everybody in town was a racist, and frankly, I had never talked to this man about it ever. That is one of the last things a blue-collar, Southern male over the age of 50 will ever say. What happened to him? Whenever God is present, the truth shines. Some of you may up till now have been saying, “I don’t even know I’m sure what you mean when you talk about access to the presence of God.”

Let me tell you what the sign of it is. Let me give you the most common way to experience it only through Jesus Christ, of course. You’re reading a passage you’ve read 100 times before and suddenly it shines like somebody plugged it in and you’re looking for the cord. You’re saying, “Why didn’t I ever see that before?” You see, the truth gets real. Real! When we talk about the presence of God, we mean it gets real. For example, the promise of God’s love becomes more real to you than the rejection you’re getting in your life, so you’re just not walking around with your head hanging down.

The promise of God’s protection, the truth of that, becomes more real to you than the things you’re afraid of, the threats that are coming to you. Do you see? That’s why Peter can say, “Through his great and precious promises, we participate in the divine nature.” It’s the promises. It’s devoting yourself to the Word. It’s getting and understand the truth. It shines only when God does it. You experience the presence of God when he becomes real to you through the Word, and that’s a sign of the presence of God. That’s the first sign, and that’s a mark of real Christianity. It’s the essence of a real Christian, and it’s the mark of a church like this.

2. Community

It says there they had everything in common and they didn’t claim anything they had was their own. Now I know the example it gives here is economic sharing, giving a lot of money and resources to each other, but let me just say they devoted themselves to fellowship and community. Community exists to the degree people are saying to one another, “What’s mine is yours.” We’re not just talking about money at all. As a matter of fact, you can have communism without any community at all, right?

You can have a forced redistribution of wealth without any community. Community has to do first of all with what is in the heart. For example, in the church if somebody comes to me and says, “Do you know what? I don’t like the way in which you are treating your children.” What if I say, “That’s none of your business?” I have no concept then of community, no concept of what the Bible says the church is. I’m a radical, American individualist, but I have no idea about this, because you see, my sins are your business.

The Bible says, “… confess your sins to one another …” “Bear one another’s burdens …” That means we don’t just share our bucks, though we do. We share our joys. We share our mistakes. We share our sorrows. Now this can be done in a very icky way, and you can very artificially press this kind of community on people. It grows, and it has to grow in an organic, natural way, but I tell you, we in America are absolutely against this. In his book, Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah says the one thing Americans hold dear is the idea I am not accountable to anybody but myself for the meeting of my own needs.

That, my friends, is worldliness. I know many churches have said what worldliness means is, “We don’t smoke, and we don’t chew, and we don’t go with girls who do.” That’s worldliness. My friends, that’s not worldliness. Worldliness is saying, “I don’t want to be accountable to anybody.” The only thing that can really create community is the presence of God. I saw The Abyss the other night. It was pretty good. I’m just a frustrated film critic, so I won’t say anything about the movie.

That movie is a typical adventure movie in that you have a bunch of people who, for one reason or another, don’t like each other, but because they go through the same incredible experience that sets them apart from everybody else in the world, by the end they are lifelong pals. It’s like The Dirty Dozen. They all hated each other, but then they got on this great mission in the end. It had male bonding stuff. Oh, how great it is. Any two people, no matter how different they are in every other way, who through Jesus Christ have experienced the presence of God, there is community there.

The relationship between two Christians outweighs any other relationship you have on the basis of your race, on the basis of your gender, or on the basis of your social status. You are a Christian first and you’re white second. You’re a Christian first and you’re black second. You’re a Christian first and you’re wealthy or poor second. You’re a Christian first and you’re an American second. Do you see what I’m saying? Community can only be based on the presence of God.

3. Social compassion

It says here these people were unbelievably generous to anybody who was in need. The difference between a real Christian and a moralistic person is not that Christians repent of their sins. My friends, lots of moralistic people repent of their sins. The difference between Christians and non-Christians, the difference between real Christians and moralistic people is Christians also repent of their best deeds.

In other words, they also recognize even the best things they’ve ever done are filthy rags in God’s sight, and I have to rest wholly and completely in what Jesus has done for me. Now if you are a moralist, if you’re basically a Pharisee, if you basically believe God saves you and loves you because you’re a pretty good person, you’re going to look at needy people, and you’re going to say, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. I did.”

If, on the other hand, you know you’re a sinner saved by grace, when you look at a person who smells terrible, who has no resources, no mind, nothing left, you say, “I realize I’m looking in a mirror. I realize this is what I look like to God spiritually, and you’re generous.” Only an encounter with God through Jesus Christ can you have that kind of spirit, and any church that understands and realizes the presence of God in its midst is compassionate like that.

4. Evangelism

Notice it says they enjoyed the favor of all the people and they grew every day. Now can I point out to you, though it says the radiance and the responsibility and the beauty of this Christian community was so great that people were attracted to it (they loved it), non-believers said, “What is going on here?” They had the favor of all the people. Don’t forget 2 Timothy 3:12. It says, “All who live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

Now somebody is out there saying, “What do you mean, ‘Don’t forget’? Those two things seem to contradict. How can you keep them together?” It’s really pretty simple. Anybody who is living a consistent, Christian walk will polarize people. That means there will be some people who will say, “You are remarkable. You are amazing. You are fascinating to me. I want to talk to you about my problems. I want to find out what’s going on in your life. I want to get to know you better.” Or you’ll have people who are extremely upset with you, offended by you, and angry at you.

You may go through seasons where there is a lot of popularity and seasons where there is persecution. It might be happening at the same time, but only if you are absolutely not living a consistent, Christian life will nobody notice. The fact is, whenever the church is the church, it’s getting both: a terrific amount of growth through attraction and persecution.

I knew a man who was a college kid when I was a college kid. One summer he was going to work for the post office. He said to me, “The thing I want to know is how can I be a Christian postal worker?” So we sat down and said, “Okay. How do we integrate our Christianity into our postal working service?” We started to say to ourselves, “Okay. Does the Christian put the stamp on any different than a non-Christian?” “No.”

We finally figured out all he could do was get in there and do eight hours of a hard day’s work. In just one brief summer, he polarized that office because on the one hand he had people saying, “I like your style. I like your hard work. I like your savvy. I like your attitude.” Yet, other people were coming and saying, “You might get roughed up if you don’t slow down. You’re making us look lousy. You’re just a kid. You’re here for three months. We have to work here all of our lives. Your production is making us look bad. It’s putting heat on us. Cut it out!”

He polarized the place just by doing eight hours of good work. What I want to know is why that’s not happening to you and why it’s not happening to me and why it’s not happening to us. All I know is if you’re walking the way you ought to walk, there will be that polarizing, and the church will grow.

5. Worship

They praised God in the temple and in their homes. Verse 43 says there was awe, and intimacy and glad, generous hearts. You know, real worship is characterized both by an awe and an intimacy at the same time, not just sober dignity that eventually makes the place seem like a funeral home, and not just “gee, wish, golly, and God’s a wonderful guy who makes us feel warm and fuzzy,” but both together. There is both an awe and an intimacy, and the reason for that is God will reveal his face to us as a group when we come together and worship him.

That’s not an easy thing to understand, and I can’t explain it. All I know is I exist in this entire field of space right here. Six foot four of it and 220 pounds of it, I exist in this whole field of space, but if you come up and try to talk to me, you probably won’t talk to the back of my kneecap, will you? Why? Because that’s not the way in. This is the way in. Isn’t that weird? The front of my head is the way in. You’re going to talk to the front of my head. You’re going to talk to my face, because that’s the way to make contact.

God is a spirit. He is everywhere, you see. In fact, he’s more than everywhere. It says, “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you,” which is pretty hard to figure out. He’s bigger than everywhere. The greatness of God! The place to communicate with him is at his face. How do you find his face? Well, how do you find my face? It’s pretty easy. It’s up here at about six foot four. How do you find the face of a spirit? He has to reveal it to you, and he promises to reveal it to those in worship who receive Christ as Savior and Lord.

In conclusion, let me just say how can any church be a church like this? The answer is on the one hand, we do have to be careful to balance our programs. Yeah, we do. If you don’t have all five of those things, do you realize how bad it can be? It’s possible to have social compassion not because of the Spirit of God … listen to this … but just out of a pride and a humanism, a pride in human beings. A social compassion like that, which arises out of humanistic pride, will not go along with teaching, and it won’t go along with evangelism.

You can have a church or group who loves great teaching and indoctrinating people because it likes tidy systems, and it likes telling people they’re wrong, but there won’t be a lot of fellowship or celebration in that church. You can find people who love celebration. They love great music. They love to get together, and they say it is worship, but it’s probably just an emotional catharsis because there is no truth and teaching in that church. You see what I mean? You can have a church that seems like its full of fellowship and full of community where people love each other because they’re lonely, but there is no outreach and there is no social compassion.

What I’m trying to say is only if you have all five is that a sign that the Spirit of God is there, and you have to work for balance in your programs, yeah, but ultimately, my friends, you and I have to create little altars in our own lives for the fire to come down on us if we expect a church to be a big altar on which the fire can fall. That little altar is right there in verse 42. I suggest you circle it. I suggest you take it home with you. It says you have to be devoted to three things. “They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching.” That’s study. “They were devoted to fellowship.” That’s real communication and accountability to other believers. “They were devoted to prayer.”

My friends, if you give those things short shrift, do not expect the fire to come down. In the Old Testament, you built the altar. You put the sacrifice there, and the fire came down, you see. The fire is the reality and presence of God. I have three sons, and I can’t spend all of my time in their faces. I’d love to do it. I love at night to climb into their bunk beds, to read them a book, to communicate my undying love and affection, to hug them, to touch them. I can’t do that all the time.

I love to buy them gifts, and I love them to hug me. I can’t do that all the time, but I do tell them this: “If you listen to me, if you obey me, if you love me, if you follow me, those times will become more and more frequent.” God says the same thing to you, and you have to look at your life, and if you say, “This reality is just not part of my understanding, my knowledge at all,” dare I say it … you really have no excuse. There is a three-pronged tripod there. They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching, to prayer, and to fellowship.

Look at yourself. Is there anybody in fellowship you are accountable to for your life who you really talk to, not just in general about the weather, but about what God is doing in your life? Do you have anybody like that? Can you really be said to be devoted to study? Can you really be said to be devoted to prayer? If not, you can forget about access to the presence of God. It’s not automatic.

Lastly, if there is anybody in this room who has had a religious experience, has had maybe God answer prayers, has asked God for help in changing some bad habits and you’ve changed them, and you say, “Well, I think I’m a Christian,” let me tell you this: The purpose of Jesus Christ is not just to give you a lift, just to help you overcome your bad habits, just to answer your prayers. He does all that, yes, but the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to give you something that enables you to stand before God face to face today and on the day of your death. If you don’t know you can do that, then you still don’t understand what the gospel is.

Jesus Christ, if you repent and believe in him alone and receive him, then you can look at him face to face. To stand in the presence of God, that is what the gospel is. The gospel is not primarily about forgiveness. It’s not primarily about good feelings. It’s not primarily about power. All those things are byproducts, sparks. It’s primarily about the presence of God. Do you know that in your life? Let’s pray.

Our Father, we thank you this is available, and we ask you would enable every person in here to realize it. Now many of us belong to you, yet we’re dry as a bone. We’re cold, and we need your fire, and we see there is an altar we have to build. Enable us to build it. Father, there are people here tonight, I believe, I know, who have never actually received you in repentant faith and therefore, do not know.

 ABOUT THE PREACHER

In 1989 Dr. Timothy J. Keller, his wife and three young sons moved to New York City to begin Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In 20 years it has grown to meeting for five services at three sites with a weekly attendance of over 5,000. Redeemer is notable not only for winning skeptical New Yorkers to faith, but also for partnering with other churches to do both mercy ministry and church planting.  Redeemer City to City is working to help establish hundreds of new multi-ethnic congregations throughout the city and other global cities in the next decades.

Dr. Tim Keller is the author of several phenomenal Christo-centric books including:

Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It (co-authored with Greg Forster and Collin Hanson (February or March, 2014).

Encounters with Jesus:Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. New York, Dutton (November 2013).

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. New York, Dutton (October 2013).

Judges For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (August 6, 2013).

Galatians For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (February 11, 2013).

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World. New York, Penguin Publishing, November, 2012.

Center ChurchDoing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, September, 2012.

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. New York: 10 Publishing, April 2012.

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. New York: Riverhead Trade, August, 2012.

The Gospel As Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (editor and contributor). Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York, Dutton, 2011.

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (Retitled: Jesus the KIng: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God). New York, Dutton, 2011.

Gospel in Life Study Guide: Grace Changes Everything. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010.

The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York, Dutton, 2009.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Priorities of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York, Riverhead Trade, 2009.

Heralds of the King: Christ Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney (contributor). Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009.

The Prodigal God. New York, Dutton, 2008.

Worship By The Book (contributor). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1997.

 

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Review: Preaching and Teaching the Last Things by Walter Kaiser

Walter Kaiser is a gifted Old Testament scholar who has the keen ability to be able to communicate well among lay people and scholars alike. In this new offering Dr. Kaiser does not disappoint. This book is especially geared toward pastors, but is also extremely helpful for all those who teach and desire to understand the Old Testament and it’s connections to the New Testament and the ultimate promise plan of God.

Dr. Kaiser lands somewhere between a “covenant” and “dispensational” theologian – in my opinion he is very balanced and makes an excellent case for each passage he exegetes. He definitely leans dispensational – taking passages and promises to Israel literally unless there is a textual indicator deeming otherwise.

The book is composed of six parts – covering different aspects of the end times. Each of these parts contains two or three passages of Scripture, and is broken down in this way:

1)   A discussion of the topic.

2)   Specific exegetical and sermonic helps for the specific passage being taught including: the text; title; focal point; homiletical key word; interrogative question; and teaching aim.

3)   A teaching outline for the passage.

4)   An exegetical discussion of the passage.

5)   Practical conclusions based on a thorough exegesis of the passage.

Here are the topics that Kaiser addresses in the book with thorough exegetical and insightful precision:

Part 1: The Individual and General Eschatology of the Old Testament

  1. Life and Death in the Old Testament (Psalm 49:1-20)
  2. The resurrection of Mortals in the Old Testament (Job 19:21-27)

Part 2: The Nation of Israel in Old Testament Eschatology

  1. The Everlasting Promises made to Israel (Jeremiah 32:27-44)
  2. The Future Resurrection and Reunification of the Nation (Ezekiel 37:1-28)
  3. The Future Return of Israel to the Land of Promise (Zechariah 10:2-12)

Part 3: The New Davidic King and the City of the great King in the Old Testament

  1. The Branch of the Lord and the New Zion (Isaiah 2:2-5; 4:2-6)
  2. The Extent of Messiah’s Rule and Reign (Psalm 72:1-17)

Part 4: The Day of the Lord and the Beginning of the Nations’ Struggle with Israel

  1. The Arrival of the Day of the Lord (Joel 2:28-3:21)
  2. God and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39)

Part 5: The Events of the Last Seven Years and the Arrival of the Western Confederacy

10. The Seventy Weeks of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27)

11. The New Coming Third Temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40:1-41:26; 43:1-11)

12. The Coming Antichrist (Daniel 11:36-45)

13. The Battle of Armageddon (Zechariah 14:1-21)

Part 6: The Coming Millennial Rule of Christ and the Arrival of the Eternal State

14. The Millennial Rule and Reign of God (Isaiah 24:1-23)

15. The New Creation (Isaiah 65:17-25; 66:18-24)

I think this book is a welcome addition to any Bible student’s collection – especially due to the neglect of roughly 20-25% of the Bible being of a prophetic nature. Those of us who teach and preach God’s Word are required to teach the “whole counsel of God.” My only complaint is that I would have liked to have seen him draw more parallels in the passages to Christ and how the gospel applies to believers in the here and now – and not solely in the past or future (read Tim Keller or Paul Tripp for excellence in this matter). Overall, I think it’s an excellent resource with wise insights into God’s Word and how His promise plan will ultimately be fulfilled.

*Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is the distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Kaiser has written over 40 books, including Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; A History of Israel; The Messiah in the Old Testament; Recovering the Unity of the Bible; The Promise-Plan of God; Preaching and Teaching The Last Things; and coauthored (with Moises Silva) An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics. Dr. Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside at Kerith Farm in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. Dr. Kaiser’s website: www.walterckaiserjr.com

 

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