Book Review: The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield by Steven J. Lawson

May 31, 2014 9:55 pm

Steve Lawson’s The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield is a short, but powerful biography that looks at the life and theology of the famous evangelist of the 18th century. If you want a book that powerfully captures this man’s life in a short 150 plus pages, then this is the book for you. It will inspire you to be a faithful evangelist, adherent to the word of God, and a man of God. The book is simply laid out in its chapter divisions, the first chapter being a recap of the history of Whitefield’s life in his upbringing and preaching to the lost. The second chapter regards his passion and devotion to the Word of God, which happens to be one of the most inspiring chapters in the entire book, especially if one wants to go into ministry. The third chapter speaks about Whitefield’s devotion to the Doctrines of Grace and how it influenced his approach to ministry and his evangelism to the lost. The fourth chapter speaks about his philosophy of evangelism. The fifth chapter spoke of his passion for the lost, and the last chapter speaks about the important call of doing the work of the Lord, which we as the church must take heed to, which is the Great Commission.

 The book as a whole is very inspiring and well-written. It is like Lawson’s past books on Spurgeon and Calvin in that it captures the life of the man as well as his theology and what made the man so unique. With Whitefield, it is no different. The formula that made Whitefield an effective man of God is biblical and necessary. He was a man in the word, a man of prayer, a man who believed in the sovereignty of God and His personal responsibility to preach the word and reach the lost. His zeal for evangelism is utterly contagious. Anyone who needs to have a passion for the unsaved should be encouraged to read this book, because all Christians are called to reach the lost, since this is the mission of the church. This is why this book may be one of the most important ones for both preachers and laypeople to read. For this I highly recommend this book, not only because of the efficient and extraordinary content, but also for the potential impact that it could have in inspiring a generation of Christians to evangelize even as Whitefield did back in the days.

 Note: I received this book as a complimentary copy from Reformation Trust. I was not obligated to write a positive review, but only my honest opinion. 

 

Book Reviewed by Steve Cha, author of Hollywood Mission: Possible:

Ask Steve: The Church’s Authority

May 28, 2014 6:10 pm

Question: Steve, what authority, if any, does the church have over individuals and the counseling process?

Answer: The church has the right of authority over individual believers in that the church has the obligation to nurture, shepherd, and edify them in love and truth. In turn, believers are expected to obey and submit to church authority (Hebrews 13:17). This church-laity relationship is very similar to that of parent-child and husband-wife based on the Trinitarian model of the Father-Son leadership-submission practice prevalent throughout all eternity: the church is to lovingly and faithfully rule over the body of Christ as the members of the church faithfully submit to the church government. The church’s authority includes teaching, nurturing, exhorting, rebuking, and holding believers to accountability to use their gifts and talents to contribute to the body.

The church also has rightful authority to exercise church discipline/restoration on any member living in unrepentant sin or rebelling against church authority, in which God grants the church the right to exercise proper judgment in dealing with sin and allowing two to three people to bind or loose sin, and God would support that decision (Matthew 18:15-20). The purpose of church discipline is not display the haughty or unjust authority of the church over the laity, but for the purpose of lovingly restoring a sinning brother back to spiritual health and fellowship according to the mandates of Scripture.

As I have mentioned, the church is not to abuse their authority and impose extra-biblical demands on individuals. A church officer is one who has been publicly recognized as having the right and responsibility to perform certain functions for the benefit of the whole church. Therefore, the church’s authority must be in check. Failure to do so would be grounds for church discipline on the sinning elder. If the church acts in accord with God’s word, then the individual is expected to obey and faithfully abide by the church’s wisdom and guidance, as Scripture commands (1 Cor 16:16; 1 Thess 5:13).

The church should have and be closely aligned with a counseling ministry, in which it calls members in the church to seek help from its counseling department and not from psychologists. The biblical counseling department should be part of the church, since church teaching and biblical counseling have their common foundational core in biblical truth. The church’s counseling programs should not be done off premises (with unqualified, unaccounted for counselors) as totally disconnected from the life and program of the church. Counseling must not be based on some other form of wisdom, such as psychology or pop-culture wisdom.

Like all edification done in discipleship, counseling must be based on Scripture. The church must see to it that official counseling is done by qualified men and women who have proper education in the word of God, a solid theological foundation in line with the church’s statement of faith, and practical training to counsel sinning believers. If the counseling programs base their practices on secular psychology or any form of human wisdom apart from Scripture, the church has the right to intervene and institute correction based on what Scripture teaches, since the counseling programs would be openly defying the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word (John 8:31-32, Psalm 119:60). A major goal of biblical counseling is to affirm the teachings of the church, which should theoretically be based on Scripture, and therefore call counselee’s to submit to God’s Word and the church’s counsel.

 

Ask Steve: What is the Church?

May 25, 2014 10:24 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I have heard different definitions of what the church is according to my readings. Can you explain to me what the church is and when it began? Would you include a good succinct definition of the church, too?

Answer: The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which stands for “called-out ones” or “an assembly.” The church does not call itself or initiate itself to come to God, but is providentially called out, or elected, by God Himself before the foundation of the world (Jn 17:24; Eph 1:4; 1 Pet 1:20) to be the people of God and the bride of Christ (Eph 5:25-27; 2 Cor 11:2). It is because of this that the members of the church come to saving faith in Christ and make up the body of the church throughout history until the time that Christ comes for His bride in the rapture (1 Thess 4:17; 1 Cor 15:52).

This biblical definition tells us much about what the church is and what the church is not, despite what history and contemporary pop culture tell us about the nature of the church. First I will briefly explain what the church is not. The church is not a building or an inanimate establishment, such as a cathedral or a chapel. Rather, the church, as I explained earlier when I defined the word church in Koine Greek, is a group of Christians, however large or small, who are followers of Jesus Christ. The church is characterized as a specific group of followers, those who have experienced the saving grace of God in their lives and have an active relationship with Jesus Christ. They are specifically Christians. Therefore, the assemblies of Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses,Church of Latter Day Saints, Scientology, Unitarians, and all other gatherings or institutions that claim to be Christians or “churches” are not churches according to the New Testament standard.

Even within the evangelical gatherings, there is what is called the visible church (which is comprised of the saved and the unsaved attendees) and the invisible church (the saved only). The Scripture always speaks of the invisible church as the true church of Jesus Christ, since the church can never be made up of unregenerate followers. For practical purposes, the gathering of the saints constitutes the visible church and is called a church by name and reputation, but the true church (known only to the Lord) are the ones who have repented and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Unbelievers, though they may profess faith, are not included in the kingdom of God and do not experience Christ’s reign in their hearts, therefore they cannot be deemed as part of the assembly until they come to salvation. This does not mean that they are not elect, but that they are not part of the church yet until they experience saving faith.

Christ is the head of the church, and Christians constitute the entire body underneath Him, with each individual contributing a divinely given gift to the body. The church is composed of the local church, which individual Christians are a part of, and the universal church, which comprises the entire Christian population that make up the body of Christ, who will one day be presented as a bride onto the Bridegroom Jesus Christ upon the rapture of the church (Eph 5:22-23). The church exists for three main reasons: worship of God, edification of the saints, and evangelization of the lost in the world.

There is a definite time as to when the church began. It was birthed at Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. During Jesus’ three year ministry, Christ declared to Peter that “I will build My church.” The future tense indicates that the church didn’t already exist or was in progress at the time. Rather, it was something that was future. The church began at Pentecost, with the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit paving the way. The work of the Holy Spirit, who took on a new indwelling ministry in the NT era, is responsible for initiating the church program. This is so because a believer enters the church (the body of Christ) only by means of Holy Spirit baptism (regeneration). Without this work of the Spirit, there is no entrance into the church. Therefore, the church’s foundation is the apostles and prophets of the NT, which Christ as the cornerstone.

This fact is important to establish because there are evangelicals who believe that the church did not start at Pentecost. They believe that Israel and the church are one and the same, implying that the church began as early as possibly the time of Abraham. This is the theory of supercessionism (replacement theology), which states that the church is the new Israel and the benefits and promises of Israel transferred over to the body of Christ. This view is especially entertained by those who hold strongly to covenant theology. However, careful exegesis and examination of the text informs us that the church is a distinct entity from Israel. The church had a definite beginning and was not built on Old Testament personalities like Abraham, Isaac, or even Moses. This is why the Apostle Paul describes the church as a mystery (Eph 3:1-12;Col 1:26-27), which was a plan of God not revealed in the Old Testament. This was a truth hidden from men and did not become apparent until God instituted the new dispensation of the church age, revealing facts about the church, creating it, and sustaining it to this day.

The church and Israel have distinct characteristics, and Scripture never gives clear evidence that the church replaced or is a continuation of Israel. In fact, Romans 9-11 indicates that God still has a plan for ethnic Israel, and will carry out His eternal covenant promises with the nation in the last days. When Paul speaks regarding Israel, he always made a clear distinction between Israel and the church, calling Israel by its name or as “kinsmen” rather than the church. The entity of Israel was made up of predominantly Jews (although with a few Gentiles proselytes in the Old Testament), but the church is a unique entity that is made up of both believing Jews and Gentiles.

In this day, Jews who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, do not make up Israel, but rather are included in the body of Christ (the church). However, God’s program with the church will end upon the rapture of the church, when Christ takes His bride out of the earth before the 7-Year Tribulation. During the Tribulation, God finishes His program with national Israel and they finally come to repentance, believing in the Messiah.

In conclusion, the church is not a building, a false sect of “Christianity,” or a continuation of Israel. Rather, the church is composed of Christians – all those who have repented and have been baptized into the body of Christ. This group is made up of all people in the world, including Israelites. The church is the unique, mysterious group of believers (of both Jew and Gentile) that characterize this dispensation, with specific tasks and responsibilities that are different than Israel of the OT. 

The Authenticity of 2 Peter

May 25, 2014 10:09 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE AUTHENTICITY OF 2 PETER

by Steve Cha

 

INTRODUCTION

All 27 books of the New Testament are generally accepted by the evangelical community to be canonical. They are considered inerrant, inspired, and infallible. However, history attests to the fact that there are some books that have been disputed as to their authenticity and inspiration. No New Testament book has generated more controversy over its authorship and rightful place in the canon than 2 Peter. Some scholars, both historical and contemporary, deem the book of 2 Peter to be a pseudepigraphic work, which means that is was not written by the Apostle Peter or one of his associates. This would make 2 Peter a work of forgery on a near same level as an apocryphal book. This claim has major implications for the Christian faith because it questions not only the reliability of a New Testament book for Christian edification, but also the integrity of the canonization process and the work of the Holy Spirit in formulating the words of Scripture. It is the intent of this essay to disprove the claims of the skeptics and to uphold the authenticity of 2 Peter, validating the trustworthiness of 2 Peter and arguing for its inspiration and rightful place in the canon. This essay will seek to establish the orthodox view of 2 Peter, the arguments against Petrine authorship as set forth by skeptics, a solid apologetics for the authenticity of 2 Peter, and will conclude with a brief analysis of what implications this lesson has for the Christian faith and living.

 

THE BACKGROUND OF 2 PETER 

Before we examine the pseudepigraphy theory and provide a fitting case against it, it is best to begin by briefly surveying the orthodox background of the book’s composition. The author of 2 Peter is, quite simply, the Apostle Peter, whom the book is named after. It should be noted that the Apostle Peter is also known as Simon Peter, or Simeon Peter as the writer identifies himself in 2 Peter 1:1. This is the same Peter who also penned the book of 1 Peter. 2 Peter was written shortly before Emperor Nero’s death in AD 68, placing the book’s composition around AD 67-68, since tradition has it that Peter died during the time of Nero’s persecution.[1]

Although 2 Peter does not explicitly say where he was writing from, the Apostle Peter most likely authored his work from the city of Rome while in prison, facing imminent death. 2 Peter also does not mention the audience whom the Apostle wrote to. The epistle was probably written to the same recipients as that of the first letter (1 Peter), which were those “who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pe 1:1). These provinces were located in an area of Asia Minor.[2] It was written as a follow up to 1 Peter, an epistle which was written 2 to 3 years prior. Whereas 1 Peter was written by the Apostle to comfort the people of Asia Minor facing persecution from the Roman Empire, 2 Peter was written to warn the church to be on guard against apostates and false teachers. This made 2 Peter a noticeably difference work than 1 Peter in thematic material.

Because it was written by a disciple of Jesus Christ, the book of 2 Peter contains all the hallmarks that qualify it as God’s word. It is canonical because it is inspired, inerrant, infallible, and sufficient for the Christian faith. Since its composition, 2 Peter was used, quoted, and even regarded as canonical by many of the church fathers such as Jerome, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianus, and Augustine.[3] It is as much God’s word as are the books written by Paul, James, and Jude, not to mention the writings that comprise the Old Testament.

 

THE SKEPTICISM 

Despite the book’s self identification and widespread community acceptance concerning the authorship of 2 Peter, there are some who do not believe what the evangelical world has come to establish with the canonization of 2 Peter as one of the 66 books of the Bible. There are people (both believers and unbelievers) who claim that neither the Apostle Peter nor one of his secretaries wrote 2 Peter, and that the book was a pseudonymous work that originated in the post-apostolic times. This would make 2 Peter a work of forgery that does not meet the criteria for acceptance into the canon of Scripture, since apostolic authority was necessary for works to be accepted as inspired Scripture.[4] Skeptics cite a few main reasons for their theory, which can be divided into the three categories of attestations problems, historical problems, and stylistic problems.

 

Attestation Problems

The first reason why skeptics find the authenticity of 2 Peter to be a problem is that there was doubt concerning its acceptance as Scripture throughout history. Though many accepted it as canonical, there were also some who questioned its authenticity. The first time the book was ever mentioned was by Origen (c. 182-251) at the beginning of the third century.[5] Critics claim that there was very little, if no, trace of the epistle being cited before that time. Although Origin accepted 2 Peter as the word of God, he recognized that there are others who had doubts as to the book’s genuineness. Eusebius perfectly captures the sentiment of this doubt, in which he stated that the majority of the church during his time accepted 2 Peter as authentic, although he himself had some uncertainties about it. These uncertainties stemmed from the fact that writers he respected did not affirm the book’s canonicity and that it was not to his knowledge quoted by the “ancient presbyters.”[6] Eusebius placed 2 Peter in the list of “Disputed Books” along with James, Jude, 2 and 3 John, although not among the spurious books like the Apocalypse of Peter.[7] In summation, critics claim that 2 Peter is not the word of God. At the very least, they believe that the book had dubious amount of authority before Origen’s time.

 

Historical Problems

Skeptics claim that the authenticity of 2 Peter has historical problems as well. One of the objections is the reference in 2 Peter 3:16 to “all” of Paul’s letters. Critics see this as indicating that the Apostle Peter had already died since the text indicates that all of Paul’s letters had been written by that time. The full collection of Pauline writings would not have been complete and widely distributed until after Peter’s death in A.D. 68. Moreover, critics do not believe that Paul’s letters could have achieved the status of inspired and canonical status so quickly that it became as authoritative as the Old Testament.[8] They reason that Peter could not have been alive because time had to have lapsed for the New Testament authority to have developed and for Paul’s letters to have been gathered and regarded by the Christian community to be on the same level of authority as the Old Testament writings.

The skeptics also believe the references to the “false teachers” in 2 Peter to be the second-century Gnostics and not just general apostates in the first century. 2 Peter’s reference to “your apostles” in 3:2 is thought by the skeptics to be the same as the “fathers” of verse 4, which the skeptic’s interpret as the apostles of Jesus. This would seem to suggest that the apostles had already died when 2 Peter was written, therefore the “fathers” cannot be a reference to Old Testament patriarchs.

Another historical objection is that since 1 Peter 1:14 makes reference to Christ’s prediction of John’s death (which is mentioned in John 21:18), 2 Peter must have exercised literary dependence. Critics believe that 2 Peter directly borrowed from the book of John, which was composed after Peter’s death. They reason that it is impossible for the author to have known such specific details concerning the nature of Peter’s death and had to have a reference before he could record it down first.[9] The book of John needed to be composed before the book of 2 Peter did. By then, Peter had already passed away.

 

Stylistic Problems

The last, but not least, objection to the traditional authorship of 2 Peter is the differences in written style between 1 and 2 Peter. Critics claim that the literary style of 2 Peter is different than that of 1 Peter. They perceive 2 Peter to be pseudepigraphic because it explores different themes and contain different vocabulary than 1 Peter.[10] Many of the words that are in 1 Peter do not appear in 2 Peter, which causes skeptics to be doubtful as to whether or not the epistles originated from the same author or were even composed within the same time period.

Proponents of the pseudepigraphic theory contend that the addition of the Jewish name ‘Simeon’ to the Greek name ‘Peter’ in the superscription (1:1) is a conscious attempt to identify the Peter of the second epistle to the Peter of the gospels and Acts. This is the only instance of this double name identification occurring in a non-Gospel book, which seems quite unusual.[11] The usage in 2 Peter is unexpected, especially in light of the absence of ‘Simeon’ or ‘Simon’ from the salutation of 1 Peter. Skeptics conclude that 1 Peter and 2 Peter had different authors who employed the same apostolic name in their writings.

Skeptics even claim that the feel and the tone of 2 Peter is unlike that of 1 Peter. 1 Peter appears more polished and simple in style while 2 Peter is more grandiose and pretentiously elaborate with difficult syntactical constructions.[12] The writing of 2 Peter also appears to be more stilted than that of 1 Peter. The vocabulary is characterized as ‘ambigious’ and its extraordinary list of repetitions makes the book seem ‘poor and inadequate’ compared to 1 Peter.[13] On an interesting note, critics contend that the Apostle Peter is not the author of the epistle because the scribe of 2 Peter possesses an unusual knowledge of Greek culture and philosophy beyond what simple Galileans know. Peter comes from too “simple” of a Galilean background to make the observations that he does in 2 Peter.

Finally, critics argue against the authenticity of 2 Peter because of the different doctrine that 2 Peter explores in contrast to 1 Peter. The emphasis of 2 Peter is on the parousia (Christ’s second coming) while 1 Peter focuses much on the cross, resurrection, ascension, baptism, and prayer. Many would consider that the change in approach to the parousia presupposes a considerable delay after the publication of 1 Peter.[14] However subjective this assessment may be, skeptics still see the difference of subject matter to be too wide of a gap for them to firmly believe that the writer of 1 Peter also wrote 2 Peter.

To sum it up, critics use the attestation, historical, and stylistic problems to contend that a different author, during a post-apostolic period, used the name of Simeon Peter to write 2 Peter and pass off a work that has become a credible document in the Christian community to this day, when in reality it should be no more authoritative than an apocryphal work or a lost epistle.

Now the question is: Is this true? If so, why hasn’t the Christian church detected it? If it is not true, how can we know for sure that Peter penned this document? These are what the remainder of the essay will set out to explore.

 

A DEFENSE FOR THE AUTHENTICITY OF 2 PETER 

The opponents of the traditional view raise some interesting points concerning the reliability of 2 Peter. Although some of their arguments seem to be valid and thought provoking points in favor of non-apostolic authorship, there are many problems with their theories, especially in light of the historical evidence in favor of Petrine authorship. This is not to say that every mystery or difficult issue can be thoroughly solved. But the traditional, orthodox position is still strong to this day. It is credible to the point where we can have confidence of the inspiration and authorship of 2 Peter, trusting in its rightful place in the canon of Scripture. The remainder of the essay will provide a critique of the skeptic’s points of contention and give a defense for the authenticity of 2 Peter.

 

The Process of Canonicity

Before we examine the issue of the identity of 2 Peter (whether it is authentic of pseudepigraphic), it is appropriate to begin by discussing the historic process of canonicity in the church. The issue of canonicity is important because it informs us about the integrity of all books in the Bible and why they are there (in contrast to the countless “gospels” and “epistles” that have been rejected from the canon starting from the second century onward).

Let us first begin by explaining what pseudepigrapha is. The American Heritage College Dictionary defines pseudepigrapha as spurious writings, especially writings falsely attributed to biblical characters or times.[15] To explain it more thoroughly, these documents were not written by the biblical characters themselves or by their associates during the times that they were actually alive. Pseudepigraphers use the name of biblical figures, such as the apostles, on their documents in order to present their work as genuine and credible. Pseudepigraphic works do, at times, have some elements of historic and doctrinal truth inherent in it, but in the end, it is ultimately an uninspired work containing unprofitable doctrine, usually used by false teachers and apostates to promote their heresies. Pseudepigraphies, no matter how well intentioned they may appear at times, are ultimately an oxymoron to the biblical principles of adherence to truth (1 Tim 2:7; Rom 3:7; 2 Cor 4:2) and rejection of error (Gal 1:6-9; Jude 1:3).

With this in mind, we now tackle the big question of church history: Can a pseudepigraphic epistle actually make it into the canon, even though it is entirely accurate in its presentation of Christian theology? If one follows the ethical principles of Scripture, then a Christian must say no. However, there are some people who would argue that accepting pseudepigraphic work into the canon was a common and accepted literary device in the early church, and was not considered deceptive or immoral. One such person is scholar P.N. Harrison, who says that the author of a pseudepigraphy was “not conscious of misrepresenting the apostle in any way; he was not consciously deceiving anybody; it is not; indeed, necessary to suppose that he did not deceive anybody.”[16] Richard Bauckham also writes, “The pseudepigraphal device is therefore not a fraudulent means of claiming apostolic authority, but embodies a claim to be a faithful mediator of the apostolic message.”[17]

Regardless of why pseudonyms were used for Christian or non-Christian documents, history shows that only documents penned by the apostles have weight of acceptance in the church. Therefore, pseudepigraphy was not a welcomed practice within the church, especially as it relates to canonization.[18] In fact, it was dangerous to the Christian faith and to the life of the individual believer, since it could lead believers astray through its false teaching. If the early church only accepted apostolic work into the canon, then that means all New Testament documents that bear the apostles’ names must have been written by the apostles, or at least by a secretary who wrote per dictation. The Apostle Paul speaks against the practice of falsehood by stating in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3: “…that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you…” Paul also assures the congregation of the authority, uniqueness, and genuineness of his writing when he says in 2 Thessalonians 3:17: “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write…” The New Testament constantly places a premium on truthfulness, as seen in verses like John 19:35. Romans 3:7, 1 Corinthians 13:6, Colossians 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:7, and Ephesians 4:15. Since the Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 1 John 5:6), He can never inspire a forgery, even if such pseudepigraphy contained orthodox teachings meant to clarify ambiguous passages or pay homage to biblical personnel.

Because the Spirit of truth moves the church, we see throughout history how the body of Christ responds against error, especially in relation to false documents. 2 Peter was accepted as canonical, but The Gospel of Peter, The Preaching of Peter, The Teaching of Peter, The Apocalypse of Peter, The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles, The Epistle of Peter to Philip, and The Letter of Peter to James were all rejected. They were declared to be non-inspired works. This demonstrates the early church’s incredible discernment on the matter and how seriously they regarded inspired testimony as opposed to false works. Elders were even removed from office for trying to pass off epistles as inspired documents. One such example is the author of an apocryphal work titled The Acts of Paul and Thecla. This author was removed from his position as presbyter by Tertullian because of his blasphemous deed, though this elder claimed that he had the best of intentions, claiming he greatly respected the Apostle Paul.[19] This historical example teaches us that one does not have liberty to add to the words of Scripture, no matter how orthodox or reverential his contributions may be (Rev 20:18).

Another example of the church’s commitment to the integrity of the canon, and rejection of pseudepigraphy, is the case of the spurious epistles to the Laodiceans that were among the rejected books in the Muratorian Fragment. The two rejected documents from the second century claimed to be written by the Apostle Paul, but were eventually discovered to be forgeries. They were immediately taken out of the canon since the church did not see it “fitting that poison should be mixed with honey.”[20] The church’s commitment to the inspired word of God makes it difficult to imagine that the church fathers accepted something they knew as pseudepigraphic and not worthy of canonization. This should give us sound confidence that 2 Peter is not an apocryphal book, since the church recognized that the epistle had the foundational characteristics necessary to qualify it as a canonical book. If this is true, then we can also have confidence that 2 Peter was written in the first century (A.D. 67-68) to have been qualified for inclusion in the New Testament. This means that 2 Peter existed and was accessible to the early church, even before Origen directly identified the book by name in his writings, which now leads to the discussion of attestation in the early church.

 

The Authority of 2 Peter before Origen

If 2 Peter is God’s word, then you would think that it would be more widely discussed and quoted in the first and second century, much like the Gospels and Paul’s popular epistles. However, this is not the case. This does not automatically prove that 2 Peter did not exist before the time of its first mention. It only means that tangible evidence is scarce. The canonicity issue that we discussed in the last section is already a healthy indicator of 2 Peter’s existence, inspiration, and canonicity before the time of its first extra-biblical reference. In this section, we will examine 2 Peter in the writings of first century historians, and document the views of various theologians of the third and fourth century regarding the authenticity of 2 Peter.

As I have mentioned, Origen is the earliest discovered historian to reference 2 Peter in his writings. He recognized that some Christians had doubts concerning the authenticity of the book, but he clearly regarded it as Scripture.[21] The fact that he believes it to be Scripture shows that it may have been widely accepted as canonical by this time, and not a recent development as some critics would suggest. There is much evidence to demonstrate that 2 Peter existed before the time of Origen and was both authoritative in and necessary to the apostolic church.

Ireneaus (c. 130-200) is one of the earliest pre-Origen church figures who used 2 Peter verses in his writings. In his work Against Heresies, Ireneaus produced a near exact quote from 2 Peter 3:8: “…that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years…” Justin Martyr (c. 115-165) also makes a reference to 2 Peter 2:1 in Dialogue with Trypho when he states, “And just as there were false prophets contemporaneous with your holy prophets, now there are many false teachers among us, of whom our Lord forewarned us to beware.”[22] Now read 2 Peter 2:1: “But false teachers also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you…”

A comparison of documents shows that apocryphal works based their writings on 2 Peter. If this is true, then this would indicate that 2 Peter predated the writings of second century documents, placing the composition of 2 Peter in the first century. On such example is The Apocalypse of Peter, which shows extraordinary literary, structural similarities, and dependence on 2 Peter. Scholar J.A.T. Robinson states that “it seems quite clear that the Apocalypse is the later document.”[23] Most people agree that 2 Peter is the superior work in terms of literary craft and spiritual perspective. Because it is unlikely that an inferior work can arise from a superior work, it appears likely that 2 Peter was written first, which means that it came from the first century during the apostolic era.[24]

Arguably the earliest and most impressive record is that of 1 Clement (c. 95-97), which gives us a clue as to the existence of 2 Peter during the end of the first century. In speaking of an unidentified portion of Scripture, Clement states in 1 Clement 23:3, “We have heard these things even in our Father’s times, and, see, we have grown old and none of them has happened to us.”[25] This verse is very similar to 2 Peter 3:4, which reads, “For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” The choice of vocabulary may be different, but the general idea is the same. There seems to be a discussion of doubt and the nearness of Christ’s Second Coming in Clement’s quote and the 2 Peter verse.

Two phrases in 2 Peter are also used by 1 Clement in the exact same manner: 1). 2 Peter 1:17 and 1 Clement 9:2 refer to the “magnificent glory,” and 2). 2 Peter 2:2 and 1 Clement 35:5 speaks of the “way of truth” using the exact same Greek word. B.B. Warfield comments that it is unlikely phrases so unlikely and so distinctive could appear in both places by coincidence. In this case, Clement borrowed a peculiar phraseology from 2 Peter.[26]

These are reasonable indications that 2 Peter existed from as early as the first century, and was highly regarded by the church fathers. It was treated as inspired and canonical, despite the lack of consensus that surrounded it in the years to come, probably because of the many apocryphal works that developed around the early 2nd century. Regardless, 2 Peter was providentially preserved throughout history. It eventually found full acceptance into the canon of the church by the fourth century, as confirmed by its appearance in various early manuscripts such as The Bodmer Papyrus (3rd century), Codex Sinaiticus (4th century), and Codex Vaticanus (4th century).

 

The Historical Problems Addressed

Some of the historical problems brought up by critics concern words in 2 Peter that supposedly have vague or unintelligible meaning. Critics believe these words point to historical references in the second century, thereby precluding the possibility of Peter being the scribe of the book. For example, I mentioned earlier that 2 Peter 3:16 made a comment regarding the Apostle Paul and “all his letters.” Skeptics believe that “all his letters” refers to the totality of the canonized letters (the book of Romans to 2 Timothy) in circulation around the churches, which happened after Peter’s time. The skeptics do not believe that Peter could have declared Paul’s writings to be canonized Scripture in the same league as the Old Testament. However, we do not need to understand “all” in this way. Rather, “all” can refer to total number of Paul’s letters that were in existence at the time 2 Peter was written. It is also not unfathomable to think that Peter would consider Paul’s immediate writing to be an addition to the canon of the Bible, or additions to the Old Testament. Peter fully recognized Paul’s gift of prophecy and that he clearly spoke forth revelation from God. In essence, Paul had the authority to write Scripture (2 Thes 3:14; 1 Cor 2:16; 7:17), which was what 2 Peter 1:19-21 affirmed.

Another historical argument that skeptics pose is the issue of “false teachers.” They claim that the false teachers constantly mentioned in the book were not referring to apostates or heretics from the first century, but to second century Gnostics. There is quite simply not enough evidence to support this argument. The text does not make direct reference to these particular heretics nor give the specific details that would describe the characteristics of the typical Gnostic (e.g., cosmological dualism, secret knowledge, matter is evil and spirit is good, etc.). Charles Bigg writes,

Every feature in the description of the false teachers and mockers is to be found in the apostolic age. If they had “eyes full of adultery,” there were those at Corinth who defended incest. If they “blasphemed dignities,” there were those who spoke evil of St. Paul. They profaned the Agape [the love feast or communion service], so did the Corinthians. They mocked at the Parousia [the return of Christ], and some of the Corinthians denied that there was any resurrection.[27]

If the thesis proposed by the skeptics is correct, it would be logical to believe that the author of 2 Peter would speak about more of the pressing spiritual concerns and attacks of the second century. Some of the issues, along with Gnosticism, would include Montanism, the role of bishops in church government, and chiliasm (especially in light of unclear millennial references that could use clarification, like 2 Peter 3:8). However, all of these discussions are missing, and are indicative that the writer and audience are still within the historical and cultural framework of the mid first century.

Third, skeptics contend with the meaning of the word “fathers” in 2 Peter 3:4. They interpret this word to mean the first generation Christians who died at the time of 2 Peter’s composition. If this is true, then the date of the epistle can be pushed back to the late first, if not second century. However, the “fathers” in view in 2 Peter 3:4 were not the first generation of Christians who died along with Peter, but the Old Testament patriarchs. Both the context (the subsequent global flood discussion; vv.5-6) and the usage of the phrase “the fathers” support the interpretation.[28] In the New Testament when the word father (or pater in Koine Greek) is used, the phrase refers not to the first generation of Christians, but to the Old Testament patriarchs. This interpretation makes more sense since the scoffers of verses 4-6 refer to the uniformity of life since the beginning of time. In keeping with this parallel, the fathers should be properly identified with those from the time of Noah. The interpretation of the OT patriarchs is more fitting than the Christian apostles, who had just passed recently.

The final problem to consider in this section is 2 Peter 1:14, where Peter mentions the imminence of his death. Critics say that this proves that 2 Peter was written after Peter’s death because there is no way that he could have predicted his death or have known the details of it. Only after the Gospel of John was written did the author (who was not Peter) read the account of Peter’s death and added the details in 2 Peter 1:14. This, once again, is unsubstantiated.

Why is it hard to believe that Peter knew about the details of his own death when Jesus revealed it to him before His departure? Did Peter really need for John to write it down in a Gospel account when Peter heard Jesus’ words personally many years prior? If the author of 2 Peter was Peter himself, then there is nothing unusual about this proclamation of his death. How Peter knew about the exact timing of his death is somewhat of a mystery, but it is not an unsolvable issue. It is possible that God the Spirit may have revealed it to him sometime before his death. Another explanation offered by some scholars on the meaning of John’s prediction is that the Greek word for ‘soon’ to be better translated as ‘swift,’ which is the meaning it must sustain in 2:1 of this epistle.[29] If this is the true, then the Apostle John would not be speaking of imminence, but on the manner of his death. Whatever the case, we must not be dogmatic on this point to discredit the authorship of 2 Peter. If God inspired the apostles with divine knowledge to write the whole New Testament, then Peter’s knowledge of imminent death is no big issue.

 

The Stylistic Problems Addressed

Another major area of concern that needs to be addressed is the stylistic and literary problems that critics bring up concerning 2 Peter. As I have stated earlier, skeptics do not believe that Peter wrote 2 Peter because the vocabulary, writing style, and themes are different that that of 1 Peter, leading them to speculate that 2 Peter is a literary work from another author and time period. This appears to be a good possibility, yet the differences can be justified. For as many differences that are evident in 1 and 2 Peter, there are also many similarities.

The first issue we will look at is the use of ‘Simon Peter’ in contrast to the more common appearance of ‘Peter’ found in other epistles. The literal translation of Simon in 2 Peter 1:1 is Simeon, which is a Hebrew name (in contrast to the Greek construction, Simon). The only other time that Simeon is used is in Acts 15:14. Critics would see this inconsistency as a certain sign of a pseudepigrapher, but conservative scholars do not conclude it as such. M.R. James, who disputed the authenticity of 2 Peter, admitted that this was one of the few features which made for the veracity of the epistle.[30] If a pseudepigrapher wrote 2 Peter, then it is more probable that he would have followed the model of the salutation in 1 Peter, since in 3:1 the author implies that his present letter is in the same sequence as the first. It is best to assume that the author used the name ‘Simeon’ as a deliberative device to give the letter a greater sense of authenticity. The author either studied the book of Acts or else cited ‘Simeon Peter’ because it was a familiar name that had independently survived orally in the author’s own circle.[31] Whereas the pseudepigrapher would be constrained to follow a predictable pattern to pass his work off as credible, Peter would have greater liberty in varying the form of his name. If the recipients of 2 Peter were predominantly Jewish, then it might be possible to explain the Hebrew form of the name (Simeon) on the grounds that such readers would find it more appropriate and familiar.

The question about differences in Greek style between the two books can also be satisfactorily answered. In 1 Peter 5:12, the Apostle Peter mentioned that he employed an amanuensis (secretary) in writing the book, who is Silvanus. For 2 Peter, Peter either used another amanuensis or he wrote the book himself since he was in prison with minimal amount of access to human resources. The differences in vocabulary between the two letters are obviously explained by the differences in themes characterized by the different historical circumstances that Peter was in. 1 Peter was written to encourage Christians suffering persecution during Nero’s burning of Rome while 2 Peter was written to warn Christians against false teaching because of the rise of dangerous apostates. It would seem peculiar if the two epistles were virtually alike, and possibly even redundant since the aim of Scripture is to educate believers on a wide variety of topics for their edification.

It is undeniable that there are differences in choices of words between 1 and 2 Peter. 2 Peter seems to exhibit rarer and unusual vocabulary such as those found in verses 2:4 and 3:10,[32] and many of the common words found in 1 Peter (such as agathos, upakon, and elpis) are not to be found in 2 Peter. 1 and 2 Peter have 153 words in common, which amounts to 38.6%. That means that 61.4% of the words in 2 Peter are exclusive to the letter alone.[33] It is an interesting statistic, but this does not prove to be conclusive evidence for another author, since the same case can be made concerning the Apostle Paul and 1 Timothy and Titus. 1 Timothy and Titus share 161 common words, which amounts to 40.4%, making 59.6% of words unique to the book of Titus alone.[34] Another example is 1 and 2 Corinthians, both written by the Apostle Paul. The two epistles have 49.3% words in common, with 50.7% of words unique to 2 Corinthians.[35]

On the other hand, there are remarkable similarities between 1 and 2 Peter. The opening salutation in the two books demonstrates this point. 1 Peter 1:2 reads: “May grace and peace be yours…” and 2 Peter 1:2 states: “Grace and peace be multiplied t you…” The Apostle Peter also uses many of the same words in both of the epistles, such as arête (“excellence”’ 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 1:2,5), apothesis (“removal,” ‘laying aside”; 1 Peter 3:21; 2 Peter 1:14), philadelphia (“love of the brethren,” “brotherly kindness”; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7), anastrophe (“behavior,” “way of life,” conduct”’ 1 Peter 1:15, 2 Peter 2:7; 3:11), and aselgeia (“sensuality”; 1 Peter 4:3; 2 Peter 2:2, 7, 18).[36]

In addition to the grammatical similarities, the two epistles also share many thematic similarities. Both books speaks about the new birth (1 Peter 1:34; 2 Peter 1:4), God’s sovereign choice of believers (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:10), the requirement for personal holiness (1 Peter 2:11-12; 2 Peter 1:5-7), the day of judgment for unbelievers (1 Peter 4:2-5:2; 2 Peter 2:10-22); and the second coming of Christ (1 Peter 4:7, 2 Peter 3:4).

 

The Motive behind the Forgery

In providing clarity to these issues, we are now faced with one of two options: either the Apostle Peter wrote 2 Peter during the first century, or a forger (using Peter’s name) wrote 2 Peter around the end of the first century or beginning of the second century. The second option would be an interesting dilemma because the writer would essentially be writing a document that rebukes himself. Because the theme of 2 Peter is about condemning false teachers, hypocrisy, and liars, the author would have put himself under this category, therefore his reputation would have been in jeopardy. The work of any forged document during the apostolic era, no matter how theologically immaculate and well intentioned, would characterize the writer as unscrupulous.

So what is the motive of the forger? In other words, why did the author write the epistle using Peter’s name if the epistle did not advance any new or unorthodox teachings? It would have been unusual at the time for false teachers, apostates, and heretics to unjustly use apostolic names to give credence to works which were entirely orthodox in teaching. All false teachers taught false and damning doctrine to some degree, and 2 Peter does not exhibit any false or questionable teaching that contradicts 1 Peter or any of the New Testament for that matter. In fact, 2 Peter is a warning for the church to be on the alert against false teaching and heretics, which would make the epistle a dread to false teachers, and even pseudepigraphers. Since the epistle is entirely orthodox, there is no reason why it should not have contained the author’s own name, even it if were written in the second century AD. Pseudonymous works were sometimes written because people were fascinated to know more about the biblical figures in history. But the problem is that 2 Peter does not contain any new “biographical” information about Peter that is characteristic of apocryphal writing. The only conclusion we can draw from this is that there was no motive, because there was no forger to begin with.

 

CONCLUSION

The authenticity of 2 Peter continues to a matter of debate in the evangelical community. However, a survey of the factors in favor of the authorship of 2 Peter gives us confidence that the Apostle Peter was indeed the author of the epistle and that the book was written around the year AD 67-68. The traditionally accepted view is trustworthy. Although the archaeological and internal evidence is not as optimal as we would like, the evidence that we do have, along with the various factors that we have explored, give tremendous weight to the fact that 2 Peter is rightly an inspired document that is not only written by an apostle, but one that is rightly included in the canon of Scripture. Understanding this fact is crucial because it upholds the integrity of the Bible and assures us of what 2 Timothy 3:16 and Matt 5:18 state – all Scripture is God-breathed and will never pass away. We are given confidence of God’s sovereignty, the ability of His word to edify, and solidifies our commitment to the truth of Scripture, especially amidst gross error in the world. In a time when false doctrine and theories abound (in this case against 2 Peter itself), it is important that 2 Peter is preserved for the good of the church’s instruction, which is to combat false teaching and to uphold the glorious truth of the gospel in a dying world. Without it, the church is bereft of instruction concerning the importance of upholding truth and rejecting error, which becomes the basis for combating such practices as pseudepigraphy to begin with.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1 Clem 23:3.

Bauckham, Richard J. Jude, 2 Peter.Waco,TX: Word, 1983.

Bigg, Charles. A Critical Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude, The International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1902.

Blum, Edwin A. “2 Peter.” In Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol 12, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein.Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981. 

Bruce, F.F. The Canon of Scripture.Downers Grove: InteVarsity, 1988.

Chase, F.H. The Credibility of the Book of Acts of the Apostles: Being the Hulsean Lectures for 1900-1901.Ann Arbor,MI:University of Michigan Library, 1902.

Costello, Robert B. ed. The American Heritage College Dictionary: Third Edition.Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993.

Eusebius, Hist. Eccl.

Green, E.M.B. 2 Peter Reconstructed.London: Tyndale, 1960.

Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction: Revised Edition. 1961.Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1990.

Harrison, P.N. The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles, 12, quoted in E.M.B. Green, 2 Peter Reconstructed.London: Tyndale, 1960.

Kasemann, E. Exegetische Versuche und Besinnngen, 1969 (Eng. tr. Essays on New Testament Themes, 1964).

Kruger, Michael J. “The Authenticity of 2 Peter.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological   Society 42:4 (1999): 645-671.

MacArthur, John. 2 Peter & Jude. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary.Wheaton,IL: Moody, 2005.

__________. ed. The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible: Updated Edition. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006.

Martyr, Justin. Dialogue with Trypho.

Mayor, Joseph B. The Epistles of Jude and II Peter.Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979.

Meade, David G. Pseudonymity and Canon.Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance.Oxford: Clarendon, 1987.

Origen, Numer. Hom, 2.

Oss, Doug, and Thomas R. Schreiner. “2 Peter.” In ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version, 24152423. Wheaton,IL: Crossway, 2008.

Robinson, J.A.T. Redating the New Testament.Philadelphia: Westminister, 1976.

Smith, Terrence V. Petrine Controversies in Early Christianity. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1985.

Tertullian. On Baptism, XVII; The Ante-Nicene Fathers vol 3. reprint;Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973.

Thielman, Frank. “The New Testament Canon: Its Basis for Authority.” WTJ 45 (1983): 400-410.

Warfield, B.B. “The Canonicity of Second Peter.” In Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, vol. 2, edited by John E. Meeter.New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973.

Ask Steve: The Holy Spirit’s Guidance

May 18, 2014 3:34 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, how does the Holy Spirit guide Christians? What means or methods does He use?

Answer: Both the Old and New Testament give ample support that the Holy Spirit guides Christians. This was even the promise of Christ to His disciples in the upper room (Jn 16:33) on the eve of His crucifixion. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit guided believers by speaking to them (Acts 8:29) and even doing miraculous deeds of miracles, signs, and transportations (Acts 8:39-40) to accomplish His salvific purposes. However, the role of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life today is that He sanctifies them with the word of God and leads them to carry out His desires (Galatians 5:16-26). He grants Christians the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and various gifts for serving in the ministry (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).

The Holy Spirit guides Christians in that He reveals certain truths to God’s people and illumines them so that they can understand His desire. God the Spirit does this by means of His word (John 14:26), which is found in Scripture. It is through Scripture that the Holy Spirit enlightens Christians and guides them to accomplish God’s will. Without the Holy Spirit, a professing Christian can never really be guided or convicted to do God’s work properly, no less fully understand the meaning of Scripture and have it applied to their lives.

The means, or methods, that the Holy Spirit uses to guide Christians is: 1). using the Bible and ministering its word to the believer’s heart, and 2). Bringing strong internal impressions and convictions upon a believer, sometimes in correlation to what the believer has learned in Scripture (Rom 8:14).

Scripture is the only means by which God uses to instruct people concerning His will and is therefore sufficient (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:19-21). God does not work in competing ideological systems to bring out His salvific and sanctifying work in a sinner’s life. This includes other religions, psychology, rational thinking, personal opinions, “prophetic” revelations, etc. Lost sinners must turn to Christ alone for salvation, and feed on His word alone in order to grow in faith, battle temptation, find healing, and do the will of God in all matters of life.

In terms of the strong internal impressions and convictions, the Holy Spirit is said to use a method of filling the believer with Himself. Being Spirit-filled is another way of saying that a Christian is led by the Spirit or putting on the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:10; 16). The person who is led by the Spirit allows the word of God to dwell richly in his heart. So the Spirit guides primarily through the illumination and application of the Scripture to the believer’s life. Certain internal impressions, which are not explicitly stated in Scripture, are issues that are more along the lines of Christian liberty and personal choice than moral imperatives from God’s Word. In such cases when Scripture is unclear (ex. who to marry, where to go for missions, which ministry to serve in), the Spirit will usually make an impression upon the believer’s life by a general set of guidelines, including: 1). Spiritually profitable (1 Cor 10:23), 2). Glorifying to God (1 Cor 10:31), 3). Stumbling block (Rom 14:13). This, along with a general sense of holy interest or desire for a certain course of action (Ps 37:4), constitutes the sovereign work of God in a believer’s life toward a purposeful end, and the means that the Holy Spirit uses to guide the believer.

 

Recommended Resource: The Holy Spirit by Charles C. Ryrie

Ask Steve: Who is the Holy Spirit?

May 15, 2014 6:05 am

Question: Steve, who or what is the Holy Spirit? What role does He play in the believer’s life?

Answer: The Holy Spirit is essentially God. He is not an impersonal force, a glob of energy or merely an attribute of God (ex. love). He is a living divine Being like the Son and the Father, with attributes of personality. He is the third Person in the Godhead, being equal to the Father and the Son ontologically, but subordinate economically. That means the Holy Spirit submits to both the Father and the Son in His particular role, responsibility, and ministry, but He is co-equal with the Father and the Son in essence, since the Holy Spirit is not partial God, but fully God.

The Holy Spirit is omnipotent, omnipresence, omniscient, loving, holy, righteous, just, faithful, and gracious as is the Father and the Son. He has an intellect (1 Cor 2:10-13), emotions (Eph 4:30), volition (1 Cor 12:11). He has all the eternal attributes of God, since the Holy Spirit is fully and irreducibly God in His essence. Yet He is a distinct Person from the Person of the Father and the Son. God exists eternally through the Holy Spirit as much as through the Father and Son. Yet they are one God, attested by Deuteronomy 6:4 to the fact that only one God exists and that the one true God is the God of believers.

The Holy Spirit’s divinity and personhood can be attested to the fact that He thinks and knows (1 Corinthians 2:10), He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), He makes decisions according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The Holy Spirit is said to interact like a person by being able to be grieved (Eph. 4:30), obeyed (Acts 10:19-21), blasphemed (Mark 3:28-29), resisted (Acts 7:51), lied to (Acts 5:3), and insulted (Heb. 10:29). This Person of the Godhead is send by both the Father and the Son to be the Christian’s Counselor and Comforter (John 14:16, 15:26). As such, the Holy Spirit is heavily involved in the Christian’s sanctification process and ministers the word to the believer’s heart by illuminating Scripture, bringing conviction, and producing fruit in his life.

The Father is the One who planned the regeneration, sanctification, and glorification of all believers, but it is the Holy Spirit who applies these to the believer (Titus 3:3-7). This is the Holy Spirit’s primary ministry in the life of a believer, contrary to the misconception by charismatics that He is mainly an instrument that causes believers to speak in tongues, heal, prophecy, cast out demons, or bring about uncontrollably euphoric praise sessions. Since God is a God of harmony (1 Cor 14:33) and truth (Jn 4:23; 14:6), He does not create chaos within church services or do anything that is out of accord with what He has inspired the biblical writers to record in Scripture. Since Scripture is complete, the Spirit’s ministry is complete in regards to apostolic sign gifts, His predominant ministry now is to regenerate and sanctify the believer, leading him away from sin and into obedience to God in truthful and holy worship. 

 God the Spirit has multiple roles in the life of believers. As previously stated, He is generally responsible for applying the regeneration, sanctification, and glorification to the believer. When the sinner repents, the Holy Spirit applies the finished work of Christ to his life, takes up permanent residence in the sinner’s heart (Romans 8:9). He baptizes the heart of the sinner in that He deadens their sin nature and regenerates them onto newness of life and desire. The Holy Spirit justifies the sinner and seals them (2 Cor 1:21:22) until the day of glorification. Until glorification, He works to brings about progressive change in the believer’s life.

There are many ways that the Holy Spirit serves to conform the believer to Christlikeness. The Holy Spirit functions in the believer’s life as a Comforter, Counselor, and Guide according to John 14. One of God the Spirit’s main functions is that He reveals truth to the believer, enabling them to understand, interpret, and apply God’s truth in their lives (John 16:13). He reveals to believers the whole counsel of God as it relates to worship, doctrine, and Christian living. To each individual believer, the Holy Spirit endows certain spiritual gifts (Rom 12:16; 1 Cor 12:14; 1 Pet 4:10-11), empowers them to serve God (both in evangelism and in the church) (2 Cor 3:6; Acts 1:8), helps them to pray God’s will with strength (Rom 8:26-27; Eph 6:18), convicts them to abandon sin (Rom 8:12-13), produces spiritual fruit (Gal 5:22-23), and leads by “filling” (Rom 8:14).

An understanding of the Holy Spirit plays an important role especially in the counseling process much in the same way as the doctrine of perseverance. The Holy Spirit grants not only perseverance, but also the comprehensive ability for believers to worship God, resist sin, desire the things of God, and follow His counsel. Counselors can have assurance that if a counselee has the Holy Spirit dwelling within his heart, the counselee will be receptive to God’s Word and will apply God’s truth to his life. The Holy Spirit uses God’s truth in His Word to convict a sinner and conform him to Christlikeness (Jn 14:26; 1 Jn 2:20, 27).

However, if the Holy Spirit does not dwell within a counselee, biblical counseling will not be effective in the counselee’s life. This is the counselor’s cue for understanding the condition of his counselee and to devote the session to pre-counseling evangelism instead. Since the work of the Holy Spirit is crucial to biblical counseling, much prayer and dependence on His Word is necessary, since the Spirit and the Word are inseparable in bringing change to a person’s life (Eph 6:11-18). No biblical counseling can ever be impact, successful, and effective without acknowledge of and dependence on God the Spirit during the entire process of a counseling term, since sanctification is, first and foremost, the work of God.

Book Review: Raised by Jonathan K. Dodson & Brad Watson

May 9, 2014 5:12 pm

Raised by Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson explores the question, “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?” It is an apologetics books that is short and to the point, delving into Scripture, as well as going into philosophical points from time to time that argues for the resurrection of Christ. It is divided into four chapters, beginning with the issue of Doubting the Resurrection, to how the Resurrection shaped History and How the Resurrection Changed Everything.

 As a whole, this little book is a neat little primer on the resurrection. I wouldn’t say that it is the best book I’ve ever read on the resurrection of Christ (simplistic at times), nor the best evidence or argument ever presented, but it presents some good food for thought for a short presentation that would be a good opener or a good introduction. For that, I would give it a good recommendation. 

Note: This book was provided as a complimentary copy by Booklookbloggers.com

Ask Steve: Perseverance of the Saints

May 7, 2014 7:46 pm

 

Currently Reading:

Captured by Grace: No One is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God

by Dr. David Jeremiah

Category: Christian Living

2006, Thomas Nelson

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I have heard debates about whether true Christians can fall away from the faith. Do Christians persevere, and what relationship does this have to counseling?

Answer: The subject of Christian perseverance is covered in the historic doctrines of grace, which affirms the teachings of the perseverance of the saints. Scripture gives ample support that true Christians who have been regenerated and are united with Christ by faith will be successfully sanctified, and will not apostatize or fall away from the faith (John 6:38-40, Ephesians 1:13-14). In other words, they will persevere in the faith and have control over the power of sin, doubt, and unbelief because of God the Spirit who indwells and empowers them to be sanctified in holiness (Romans 8:2-6). Although it is the believer who perseveres in his faith, it is God who preserves them in the faith through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. If someone is born of the Holy Spirit, God the Spirit dwells with them forever, guiding them in the process of sanctification and completing it upon his death and the Lord’s return for the church (Ephesians 1:13-14). This is the glorious truth behind election, that all whom God has foreknown before the beginning of time will be saved, persevere, and go to be with Him (Rom 8:28-30). Those who apostasize from the faith, or do not persevere, demonstrate that they were never saved to begin with, since this action would be out of accord with God’s promise from Scripture (Jn 8:31; Rom 2:7; Jn 6:37-47).

An understanding of perseverance of the saints is crucial in counseling because it defines how effective or applicable counseling will be in the life of the counselee. If the counselee is truly regenerated and saved, counselors can have assurance that the counselee will submit to God’s Word and be properly edified (Ephesians 4:12). That will be a life pattern no matter what circumstances or struggles the counselee is dealing with. The doctrine of perseverance can also provide great assurance to the counselee that they will remain in faith to the end, because it is God who is working in them to perfect His plan (Phil 2:12). It will give them comfort that despite their many pains and trials, they will find supernatural strength to endure, and find comfort and edification in God’s Word. They will continue in the faith and even be receptive to counseling that seeks to remove sinful patterns from his life.

If the counselee is not regenerated and saved, then counselors have a better understanding of how that affects his practice. They understand that the counselee will most likely not persevere in the midst of sin, or even in faith. The counselee may not even be receptive to hearing God’s Word ministered to them in the counseling sessions. In that case, the counselor must see this as an opportunity to evangelize more so than to edify.[1] Perseverance of Christians is an important indicator of the spiritual condition of professing believers and how counselors are to approach each counselee’s case.

 

Ask Steve: Union with Christ

May 5, 2014 9:02 pm

 

Currently Reading:

The Jesus Quest: The Danger from Within

Editors: Norman L. Geisler & F. David Farnell

Category: Biblical Studies / Apologetics

2014, Xulon Press

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I heard that sanctification is said to be past, present, and future. Can you tell me the idea of “union with Christ.”

Answer: Sanctification has implications for a Christian’s past, present, and future life since it is an indispensable part of a Christian’s life and is connected to the doctrine of union with Christ. Sanctification is defined as a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives. This definition relates to the Christian’s post-conversion / pre-glorification experience. Since sanctification means to “set apart” or to “consecrate as holy” onto God, it rightly has three stages in a saint’s life. This can also be dubbed the three meanings of sanctification.

In regards to the past, positional sanctification is the removing of the sinner from the penalty of sin and setting him apart onto holiness because of Christ’s righteousness reckoned to his account (1 Cor 6:11; Rom 6:11, 14). In other words, positional sanctification happens when we are saved. Progressive sanctification is the lifelong process of putting off the old sinful nature and putting on the new holy nature of God, day by day (2 Cor 3:18;Col3:10). It is the life long process of growing in the Christian faith. And then there is final sanctification, in which believers are finally and fully set apart from the presence of sin when they receive their glorified bodies and dwell with God forever (Phil 3:21; 1 Cor 15: 35-49).

When we are saved and regenerated in the Holy Spirit, God works in us to conform us more to Christ’s likeness, which is made complete when we die and are completely shed of our sinful nature. Until then, we still have our sinful nature and struggle with it (1 John 3:9), but the Holy Spirit empowers and guides us to be set apart from sin and be more like Jesus.

The sanctification process is a lifelong process. It begins at regeneration, when the sinner is justified in God’s sight by faith and given new life through the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5, 1 Corinthians 6:11). At this stage, he is fully and forever united with Christ. Sanctification increases throughout life, in which the sinner is being sanctified from the power of sin and will continue to be sanctified until death (Philippians 3:13-14, Hebrew 12:14). Finally, sanctification is completed at death (for our souls) or for our living bodies when the Lord returns. At this stage, we are completed set apart from the presence of sin and are made perfectly holy, fully conformed to the image of Christ (Philippians 3:21, 1 Corinthians 15:23). Perfection is something we will never attain while in the unglorified flesh (1 John 1:8), however we are commanded to strive in the direction of holiness, guided always by God the Spirit in the process (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2).

We can only be properly and biblically sanctified if we are in Christ, or united with Christ. As I stated earlier, union with Christ is by faith alone, which justifies a sinner. The four crucial points of “union with Christ” as: 1) We are in Christ, 2) Christ is in us, 3) We are like Christ, 4) We are with Christ. In Christ, Christians receive every benefit of salvation. This includes regeneration, sanctification, and glorification. There is no such thing as being in Christ and rejecting sanctification in one’s life. If we are united with Christ, we experience all the benefits and trials of sanctification, because Christ is the source from which all our righteous obedience derives from (1 Corinthians 1:30, Philippians 3:9). This sanctification culminates in our glorification and eternal walk with God (Colossians 2:12), which is the end goal of our union with Christ.

Ask Steve: Temptation of Christ

May 1, 2014 10:40 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I want to know how the verse, “He was tempted in all things as we are” (Heb. 4:15) is related to Christian edification and counseling?

Answer: Hebrews 4:15 is a significant principle for edification because it shows us the strength and sufficiency we have in Christ when we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. We have real instructions on how to not only to be saved from the penalty of sin, but how to overcome the temptations of sin in our lives. This is especially more powerful considering that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came in the flesh and experienced the fullness of human frailty (although without sin), therefore He can relate to and give counsel to our pain and suffering.

Jesus was fully God, but He was also fully man upon His incarnation. As such, Jesus experienced the limitations and frailty that is common to mankind, which includes the ability to be tempted in all things. Though Jesus was tempted, He never fell into sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), which distinguishes Jesus from us. He proved to be the perfect human being, the model human being that Adam should have been, how all humans should be in general, and what Christians will be one day. Christ proved to be the sinless Son of God, therefore being the one and only person qualified to atone for the sins of humanity and to intercede for them as their High Priest.

Jesus’ lifelong victory over temptation was not only His qualification to be the spotless offering onto the Father at the cross, but also provides an encouraging and necessary model for overcoming temptation, the enticement of sin, and putting on holy characteristics such as love, holiness, justice, righteousness, and truth. 1 Corinthians 10:13 states that no one is tempted beyond what he can bear, and God provides the redeemed with all they need to overcome the power of sin and live a holy, righteous life. The main agent in the sanctification process is the Holy Spirit. Though we are regenerate, we are still in the flesh, which is why we are still tempted and fall into sin. However, Jesus understands our struggles because His incarnation allowed Him to feel what we felt. He is a sympathetic Lord. His humanity also allows Him to be our human High-Priest (Hebrews 4:15), continually interceding to the Father on our behalf for our daily forgiveness and sanctification in Christlikeness.

This affects edification in that it appropriately identifies the plight and ability of men, though they are regenerated and redeemed. It gives the counselees a proper perspective to never depend on their own strength or wisdom to overcome sin and temptation, but to rely on God’s Word and the Spirit with all perseverance. It also informs counselees that, if they are truly saved, then they are not hopeless in their battle against certain sinful habits, but that they have the tools necessary by applying God’s word and submitting to accountability (Rom 14:19; Jas 5:16). Our dependence as Christians must not be on other religions, on ourselves, or human reasoning, but always be on Christ. We are also not called to wallow in our failures, for in Christ, we have both a sympathizer who understands our struggles and One who grants us strength through the Spirit to overcome sin.