Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Gospel



"The Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures - and is still alive! - and he was seen by Cephas, and then by the twelve disciples."

(1 Corinthians 15:3b-5, International Standard Version)

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Two Aspects of Forgiveness

Recently I have been defending the doctrine of divine forgiveness over at Antonio da Rosa's Free Grace Theology blog. Antonio has been writing a series of articles titled "God's Forgiveness" in which he argues for a new view of forgiveness that he learned from Zane Hodges. According to this view, forgiveness is never used in the judicial sense but only in the parental sense. In other words, Antonio believes that forgiveness is only for the purpose of fellowship, not justification. However, the Bible clearly teaches both aspects of forgiveness: judicial (Acts 10:43; Rom. 4:7-8; Col. 2:13-14; etc.) and parental (Ps. 32:5; James 5:15; 1 Jn. 1:9; etc.). Although I do not agree with Antonio's parental-only view of forgiveness, I have found the topic interesting and the dialogue helpful in understanding his position. But then in the middle of our dialogue something really strange happened and one of my comments suddenly disappeared without a trace! I am going to post the missing comment here to enable further discussion should Antonio choose for that to continue.

In the comment below I am responding to Antonio and arguing for the judicial aspect of forgiveness. In the first part of my comment I discuss Zane Hodges' exegesis of Acts 13:38-39. Then in the second part of my comment I note that justification has two sides: the positive side and the negative side. I explain that God's judicial forgiveness is the negative side of justification. Here's the dialogue:1

Antonio said...

"Jonathan,

I have responded to your point and answered your questions.

you asked:
-----------
Could you please explain to me Antonio how forgiveness of sins is not equated with justification in this passage?
----------
I did this in the 3 part comment, and my last comment.

You said:
----------
It seems to me from the text that forgiveness of sins is an integral part of justification. Furthermore, the language here is judicial. This seems to be a clear example in which forgiveness is used in the judicial and legal sense.
----------
I responded to these points in my 3 part comment and the last comment.

As for your request for more information about Acts 13, check my answers out via any grammar. I don't think that I am unclear on it. If you have taken any koine Greek, you have the resources to verify my statements. Zane Hodges was a Greek Professor, and he didn't make the same connection that you do in Acts 13.

If there are points or questions that I have failed to answer or comment on, please bring those things to my attention. I believe that I have been quite responsive to your comments.

Please show how the context demands your interpretation. Please use the principles of biblical interpretation and the laws of reason and logic to present an argument from this text supporting your position.

I understand the wishy washy nature of the traditional understanding -- some say it is the same as justification, others say it is like justififation [sic]. You seem to have taken both positions in this comment thread.

Again, if I haven't been compliant to answer and respond to your questions and points, please be so kind as to let me know as to which ones you refer. 

Thanks for hanging in there. 

Antonio

July 18, 2011 3:24 PM"


(Below is the missing comment.)


Jonathan Perreault said... 

"Hi Antonio,

I respect Hodges work on the Greek text, but in regards to Acts 13 I believe his exegesis is somewhat shallow. What do I mean? I am referring specifically to his article 'Justification: A New Covenant Blessing,' in which he uses the American Heritage Dictionary - an English dictionary (as opposed to a Greek lexicon) - in distinguishing between forgiveness and justification. He also bases his distinction/non-equation between the two terms on the word 'and' (Acts 13:39, NKJV), but even he admits that this word is only found in certain Greek manuscripts (i.e. only in the Majority Text). Hodges then says that even without the 'and' the passage in Acts 13:38-39 is broken down into two sentences, which apparently supports his distinction? (But if that is true, wouldn't the use of the word 'and' then disprove his distinction? The two arguments appear somewhat self-refuting.) It all seems so - to use your words: 'wishy washy'. Maybe Hodges has offered other exegetical insights on the passage that I am not aware of? I was asking you about these (if there was any?), and also about what OTHER Greek scholars have to say about the exegesis of the passage in Acts 13?

Now concerning the passage in Romans 4, when I asked you how forgiveness and justification are not to be equated, I was using your words, not offering a complete or blanket endorsement of that position. I felt that I was unclear on that, and that is why I offered my clarification saying that I don't think the two terms are EXACTLY equivalent, although I do believe that forgiveness is involved or inherent in justification (being the negative aspect of it). Justification involves forgiveness but goes beyond it to the actual imputation of Christ's righteousness (this is the positive aspect and full meaning of justification). Justification is not merely being without sin (i.e. forgiven), but it is being declared, in fact, righteous. We see both the negative and the positive aspects of justification in the passage in Romans 4. Using the example of Abraham the apostle Paul gives the POSITIVE aspect of justification, namely being declared righteous (Rom. 4:3,5). Then in giving the example of David "side by side with Abraham" (so says Godet) Paul highlights THE SAME POINT - justification by faith alone (see Rom. 4:6a where 'the conjunction of comparison kathaper is more forcible than kathos: it indicates an intrinsic and striking agreement: exactly as' - Godet) from the NEGATIVE aspect of justification, namely the forgiveness of sins, the covering of sins, and the non-imputation of sin (Rom. 4:7,8). Commenting on Romans 4:7-8 and the example of David, Godet summarizes: 'Here, then, is the negative side of justification, the evil which it removes; while in regard to Abraham it was only the positive side which was under treatment, the blessing it confers. Thus it is that the two passages complete one another.' (Godet, Romans, 172.) Anyway, I know you have a limit on the length of the comments so I will cut off my comment there, but these are some of the exegetical insights that I have come across in my studies. 

Thanks! 

JP

July 18, 2011 6:27 PM"

JULY 25, 2011 UPDATE: Antonio just sent me a kind e-mail to follow up on our online discussion and to clarify any misunderstandings. I will be continuing my dialogue on divine forgiveness over at his blog as time allows.



ENDNOTES:

1 The entire discussion with the exception of the missing comment can be read in the comment thread of Antonio's post: "God's Forgiveness Part 2: A Working Thesis".
     For more information on the two aspects of forgiveness see the chart: "Two Aspects of Forgiveness" by George Zeller. Also see the article: "Forgiveness of sins: What is it?" by C. H. Mackintosh.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

In Defense of the Gospel, Part 3

Continued from "In Defense of the Gospel, Part 2".


Question: "What if a preacher says that the gospel has only 3 points instead of 4 points? Is that wrong?

Answer: I would say that it's perfectly acceptable to outline the gospel in 3 points as long as the preacher doesn't remove any of the content from the gospel (leaving some of the content to be implied is okay as I will go on to explain - as long as no part of the good news is denied from being included in the gospel). The simplest way I've found to explain this is to say that the content of the gospel can be rearranged but not redefined.1 In other words, the various points of the gospel can be outlined and arranged in one way or another but the gospel itself cannot be changed (see 1 Peter 1:23-25, NKJV).2 Quoting 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, Michael Ramsey affirms: "The Gospel was one. The same framework of events underlies the primitive preaching in Jerusalem, the preaching of Paul, the final presentation of the Gospel in the four written Gospels. There were of course differences of emphasis....But there was one Gospel. In it, amid whatever varieties, the Passion and the Resurrection had the pre-eminent place."3

Notice the following biblical examples showing how the gospel can be variously outlined and arranged using 1, 2, 3, or 4 points:

The Gospel in 1 Particular

Christ's substitutionary death:

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" 4


The Gospel in 2 Pillars

Christ's substitutionary death and resurrection:

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" and 
"He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" 5


The Gospel in 3 Points

Christ's substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection:

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, 
and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" 6


The Gospel in 4 Parts

Christ's substitutionary death, burial, resurrection, and appearances:

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, 
and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 
and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." 7

The problem comes in when people start contradicting the Word of God for the sake of their tradition by saying that Christ's burial and resurrection appearances are not part of the gospel.8 Beware of this new gospel that is not like the others!

The Gospel in 1/2 Portions

Christ's substitutionary death, burial, resurrection, and appearances:

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried
and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." 9


Let me summarize by giving three axioms that I have found helpful in regards to the question at hand:

1) The truths of the gospel can be rearranged but not redefined
2) The truths of the gospel can be emphasized but not excluded 10
3) The truths of the gospel can be implied but not denied 11

These three statements highlight the difference between affirming the Word of God and contradicting it. There are grave dangers in contradicting Biblical truth (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:5-6; Jer. 26:2; Matt. 5:17, 15:9; Lk. 11:52, NIV; Rev. 22:18-19). "So dangerous a thing it is to meddle ever so slightly with the words of - GOD."12 Christians must always be careful to "hold fast" to the Word of God and to the truth of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-2; cf. Col. 1:22-23; 2 Thess. 2:14-15).

Continue on to "In Defense of the Gospel, Part 4".


ENDNOTES:

1 Sadly, some in the Free Grace movement have taken it upon themselves to redefine the gospel. For more information see  the articles "Getting the Gospel Right" and "The Strange Beliefs of Stegall's System".

2 In other words, the biblical gospel of 1 Corinthians 15:3b-5 can't be tampered with or done away with - as the Word of God it will remain forever (1 Pet. 1:23-25, NKJV; cf. Gal. 1:11-12). For more information on the exegesis of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15, see the article "Getting the Gospel Right".

3 A. Michael Ramsey, The Resurrection of Christ [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1947], p. 13, ellipsis and italics added; cf. Ibid., pp. 21, 44, 73-74. NOTE: Ramsey says that in the Gospel "the Passion and the Resurrection had the pre-eminent place" (Ibid., 13). Another way to say this would be: The Gospel emphasizes Christ's death and resurrection without excluding His burial and appearances.

4 1 Cor. 15:3; also see, for example: 1 Cor. 1:17, 18, 23; 2:2. NOTE: Christ's burial, resurrection, and appearances are implied in the gospel, not denied in the gospel.

5 1 Cor. 15:3, 4; also see, for example: 1 Thess. 4:14; 2 Cor. 5:15. NOTE: Christ's burial and appearances are implied in the gospel, not denied in the gospel. ALSO NOTE: The Gospel in 2 Pillars is sometimes outlined and explained like this: 1.) Christ's substitutionary death + burial, 2.) Christ's resurrection + appearances.

6 1 Cor. 15:3-4; also see, for example: Matt. 12:38-41; Col. 2:12. NOTE: Christ's appearances are implied in the gospel, not denied in the gospel. ALSO NOTE: The Gospel in 3 Points is sometimes outlined and explained like this: 1.) Christ's substitutionary death, 2.) Christ's burial, 3.) Christ's resurrection + appearances.

7 1 Cor. 15:3-5; also see, for example: Psa. 22:1-22; Isa. 53:1-12; Acts 2:22-36, 10:38-43, 13:29-31.

8 For more information see the article "Beware of the Wolves Within Free Grace".

9 No Bible verses teach this subtle perversion of the true gospel! However, several passages tell believers to watch out for it: 2 Cor. 11:3-4; Gal. 1:6-10. NOTE: Christ's burial, resurrection on the third day, appearances to Cephas and the twelve, and the twice repeated phrase "according to the Scriptures" are all denied in the new no-burial gospel!

10 That is, excluded from the content of the gospel.

11 That is, denied in the content of the gospel.

12 Ivan Panin, Editor, The New Testament From The Greek Text (Toronto: The Book Society of Canada, 1979), p. xiii, italics and caps his.